culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Monday, October 20, 2003
Fire Boykin. The reasoning is provided by
Fareed Zakaria:
His [Boykin's] dissembling gets almost comic over another one of his comments. Boykin routinely told audiences that God elevated George W. Bush to the presidency. "Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him," he would say. "I tell you this morning that he’s in the White House because God put him there." Boykin now explains that he believes God routinely decides American elections and has done the same thing for "Bill Clinton and other presidents." This is surely the first time a conservative evangelical has argued that Clinton’s election was caused by divine intervention.

When asked about these remarks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to condemn them, explaining, “We’re a free people.” But the issue is not whether the general is free to express his views, but whether Secretary Rumsfeld wants someone who holds such views in high office. After all, were the general to have expressed his opinion that the Iraq war was a blunder, he would have been fired. Were he to have made an anti-Semitic comment (like the noxious ones Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir made last week), he would have been fired. Why? Because those freely expressed views would contradict the Bush administration’s basic philosophy. So are we to assume that Boykin’s views do not contradict administration policy? No one is urging that Secretary Rumsfeld muzzle Boykin, merely that he allow him to enter the private sector, where he may express his views even more freely. He could even sit in for Rush Limbaugh.

This is not simply a matter of symbolism, though that is important because this story is now being broadcast across the globe. The position Boykin holds—deputy undersecretary for intelligence—is one in which he would have to interact routinely with Pakistanis, Egyptians, Afghans, Indonesians; Muslims from all over the world. Will he be effective in establishing close working relationships with these officials, who have all watched him slur their religion? Is this a man who will be able to objectively sift through intelligence and analysis about the state of Muslim societies, the difference between moderates and extremists, the distinctions among various fundamentalist groups? Or does he look at them all and see ... Satan?
Link and further observations by Matt Yglesias.
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Friday, October 17, 2003
"Around here we're for tax cuts for working people, paid for by tax hikes for the relatively-rich."
MaxSpeak guides us to Class Warfare: Fact and Fiction, a series of papers that expose the myths behind Bush tax policy:
To help correct myths and misleading claims that have appeared in the media during the current "class warfare" debate, and to defend the idea that we must consider the fairness of economic policy, this series provides basic facts that demonstrate why particular assertions are wrong.

Myth #5 - In good economic times, benefits flow to all strata of society.

Myth #4 - Over the course of lifetimes, Americans are highly likely to enjoy upward economic mobility.

Myth #3 - Stock ownership and other wealth is much more evenly distributed today than it was in the past, so cuts in taxes on investment income benefit everyone.

Myth #2 – Cutting taxes on dividends and other capital income will generate new investment essential for economic growth.

Myth #1 – The rich deserve most of the tax cuts because they pay most of the taxes.
I have difficulty with the word "Myth" and its literary connotations that ennoble the strategy behind the tax thievery.

The word should stress the intentional, coordinated attack on economic justice. The word should be "Lie."
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Fake cowboy disappoints real president. Clinton
knew:
Speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the History Channel on Wednesday, Clinton said he discussed security issues with Bush in his "exit interview," a formal and often candid meeting between a sitting president and the president-elect.

"In his campaign, Bush had said he thought the biggest security issue was Iraq and a national missile defence," Clinton said. "I told him that in my opinion, the biggest security problem was Osama bin Laden."

[...]

At Wednesday's luncheon, Clinton said his inability to convince Bush of the danger from al Qaeda was "one of the two or three of the biggest disappointments that I had."

Clinton said that after bin Laden, the next security priority would have been the absence of a Middle East peace agreement, followed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"I would have started with India and Pakistan, then North Korea, and then Iraq after that," he said. "I thought Iraq was a lower order problem than al Qaeda."
Clinton knew, because Clinton was known to actively read newspapers as opposed to being a vapid, intellectually passive baby — spoon-fed by advisors.
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Christianity on the offense. For a non-Christian, I spend a good deal of time complaining about Christianity, at least in its highly politicized American incarnation. Avedon Carol at
The Sideshow has articulated the inconsistency that is so offensive, even to a nonbeliever:
...as someone who has actually read the Gospels several times, and who really did teach Sunday school, I seem to remember Jesus saying a whole lot more about loving your neighbor and having charity (of both heart and wallet) than about killing fags. I remember the story of the Good Samaritan, the Loaves and Fishes, and the Widow's Mite, but I don't actually remember the story of The Good Rich Polluter Who Destroyed the Unions and Prevented Universal Healthcare. And I remember that the one person in the Bible to whom Jesus promised paradise was not a king, not a president, and not an attorney general or a Supreme Court Justice, but a man who was about to receive the death penalty.

The "traditional" religious nuts are lost in an orgy of greed and self-righteousness and public piety — all things Jesus preached against — and calling the rest of us bad Christians. Yes, it offends me.
The most serious problem I have with the concept of God is its continual use as a weapon of mass destruction. In this regard, the White House and the Vatican are no different from Al Qaeda.

As we've proved so recently in the United States, the politicization of religion guarantees that irrationality will serve as the basis for armed conflict and public health policy. This overextension beyond the spiritual into the political realm is the point at which faith becomes offensive — in the military sense of the word.
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Thursday, October 16, 2003
Shit-soaked carcasses. mmw at
bad things explains the sad state of meats in the USA, both imported and domestic:
What is interesting domestically is that the FDA may have more power to inspect meat plants than the FSIS (USDA), which is responsible for making sure that the meat is safe now. So agribusiness will still be free to sell us shit-soaked carcasses, while the FDA can shut them down if one of their minimum wage indentured servants looks fishy.
In other words, safety last.
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War as year-end bonus. Privatizing our national defense may actually stimulate permanent war, because it provides financial incentives for chaos. A new book, Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, reviewed in the
Christian Science Monitor spells it out:
[Author P.W.] Singer worries that the current rush to privatize runs the risk of cutting crucial corners. For-profit firms, he warns, may be cost-effective, but they are largely unaccountable, with plenty of incentives to pad their payrolls and hide their failures. Government can be notoriously inefficient, to be sure. Even so, its constitutional duty is to provide for the common defense. Those responsible for this fundamental public service, Singer says, should be fully accountable to the public. He's exactly right.
The cost-effectiveness of privatized military solutions is yet to be demonstrated.

But "unaccountable"? "Incentive to pad payrolls and hide failures"? Does that bring the monumentally incompetent Dick Cheney to mind?

Links via Cursor, October 16.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Arnron, cyborg from California's dystopian future. To protect their future, the same present-day humans who went after Gray Davis arnronare going after Schwarzenegger (
San Diego Channel):
WASHINGTON -- California governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger must explain the substance of his private May 2001 meeting with Enron chief Ken Lay, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights wrote in a letter to Schwarzenegger Tuesday.

FTCR, which was the state's most vocal critic of Governor Gray Davis' handling of the energy crisis, said that if the governor-elect did not recount the meeting by the time of his inauguration, the group would ask state lawmakers to open an investigation to uncover the substance of the meeting, including any information that might further the state's efforts to return billions of dollars that taxpayers and consumers overpaid for electricity during the energy crisis.

"A meeting with the biggest corporate crook in recent memory, while he and his firm were in the midst of ripping off the state, should not be taken lightly," FTCR wrote. "As Governor, you must explain to Californians what you were doing at that meeting, what information Ken Lay shared with you and how the meeting has influenced your thinking on energy issues."

In addition to calling on Schwarzenegger to come clean about the meeting with Lay, the group highlighted key aspects of the governor-elect's energy program that reflect an Enron perspective on energy policy. In the letter, FTCR asked Schwarzenegger to rewrite his energy policy and remove his push for further energy deregulation.

The policy proposals, available online at www.joinarnold.com, call for the expansion of California's failed experiment with electricity deregulation, including a dramatic ceding of power from state regulation to federal control.
Lay also attended secret conferences with another Republican on the topic of energy policy in 2001 — truth-challenged cardiac cyborg Dick Cheney.

Is this garden-variety Republican greed, or something more?
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Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Prognosis: grim. Xymphora paints
a startling picture of the near future. After predicting Cheney's resignation "for health reasons," (read "for Valerie Plame reasons"), he [?] suggests the following scenarios:
2. Rumsfeld made the remarkable political faux pas of admitting that he'd been punked by Condi and was angry about it. If you get dissed in the power game, you're never supposed to admit that it happened, and you're especially never supposed to show that you care (and Condi was caught lying again). It would appear that he is not long for this Administration. Presumably the plan is to replace him by Wolfowitz (who has already started to make nice with the army in preparation for his new role), and replace Wolfowitz by Feith, thus completely putting the American military under the control of the Israeli cabinet.

3. Condi has been elevated to Grand Vizier of Iraq, with the accompanying rise in stature and visibility in the Administration. So you can see what's coming. She will be Bush's Vice President. Black and women voters will see a black woman Vice President only a pretzel away from the Presidency. At the same time, a black woman VP makes Bush completely assassination-proof, as the right-wing nuts would never dare shoot him.
Those are just two of eleven points from a fascinating list.
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Second Amendment Darwinism. Survivor: Harris County is now shooting, so to speak, in Texas (
Houston Chronicle):
A suspected burglar shot and critically wounded in north Harris County early today turned out to be the brother-in-law of the homeowner who shot him, officials said.

The incident happened about 3 a.m. when a homeowner in the Riverwood subdivision heard someone breaking into his house on Countryside, authorities said.

The homeowner fired on the intruder, who officials say also was armed, and struck him at least once in the leg.

The homeowner then learned the identity of the intruder, with whom there apparently had been problems previously, deputies said.

The suspect is in critical condition at Ben Taub Hospital.
Guns don't kill people. Brothers-in-law kill people.
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Monday, October 13, 2003
Army of One. It's not just a slogan (
The Olympian):
WASHINGTON -- Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.

And all the letters are the same.

A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Rock," in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash.

The Olympian received two identical letters signed by different hometown soldiers: Spc. Joshua Ackler and Spc. Alex Marois, who is now a sergeant. The paper declined to run either because of a policy not to publish form letters.

[...]

A seventh soldier didn't know about the letter until his father congratulated him for getting it published in the local newspaper in Beckley, W.Va.

"When I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said: 'What letter?' " Timothy Deaconson said Friday, recalling the phone conversation he had with his son, Nick. "This is just not his (writing) style."

He spoke to his son, Pfc. Nick Deaconson, at a hospital where he was recovering from a grenade explosion that left shrapnel in both his legs.
It isn't enough that they're taking soldiers' lives and limbs — they want soldiers' signatures on Bush astroturf too. Stolen, if need be.

Found at Atrios and elsewhere.
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Friday, October 10, 2003
Etiquette tips by Paul Krugman. Maestro Krugman teaches us to
value truth above politeness.
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Last night's program
"Truth, War and Consequences" on the botching of the Iraq invasion effort was FRONTLINE's usual excellent job, forcing me to reconsider my opinon of Jay Garner as perhaps too harsh and my opinion of Ahmed Chalabi as not harsh enough.

Chalabi came off as the super-evil, super-lying brother of his evil, lying identical twin Dick Cheney. The fraudulence, the incompetence, the arrogant air of privilege — all in full view. Like Cheney, Chalabi is less shocking than disgusting in his bald banality.

See the Washington Post review of the program.
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For our Austrian friends in California, and for our Californian friends in Austria, we are proud to present the joke site Fuckbush in the original
German, or in Google's hilarious automated translation offering something that sort of resembles English:
The UN Ambassador of Saudi Arabia terminated and goes a straight speech to outside into the lobby where he president Bush meets.

They vibrate themselves the hands and as them together continue, ask to the Saudi: "knowledge you, I has a question because of something, which I saw in America."

President Bush says: "now, I want to do your Eminenz, which always I can also do fur you, gladly."

The Saudi whispers: "my son saw this" Star Trek "series, and therein it gives but no Arabs to Russians, black ones and Asians. It is very applied over it. He does not understand, why there are no Arabs in Star Trek."

President Bush laughs, leans more near to the Saudi near and fluesetert back: "comes along, because it plays in the future..."
That Bush! Always vibrating the hands with the Saudis!
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Thursday, October 09, 2003
Condoms prevent Catholics. Sure to slaughter thousands in developing countries, there's a global epidemic of a menacing new virus — logic-resistant Catholic leaders (
Yahoo News):
LONDON (Reuters) - The lives of Roman Catholics in some of the countries worst hit by HIV/AIDS are being put at even greater risk by advice from their churches that the use of condoms does not prevent transmission of the disease, according to a British television program.

[...]

"The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon," Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, told the program.

"The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom."

[...]

The Archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Nzeki told the program: "AIDS...has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms."

While in Luak near Lake Victoria, Gordon Wambi, director of an AIDS testing center, said he had been prevented from distributing condoms because of church opposition.

[Steve] Bradshaw [reporter on the BBC Panorama program "Sex and the Holy City" that will be aired in Britain on Sunday night] told Reuters the program team did not go out looking for the story, but stumbled across it during research.

"We heard the same line so many times from different people in different places that we decided to approach the Vatican," he said.

[...]

"These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million," the WHO told the program.

It conceded condoms could break or be damaged and permit passage of semen, but said they reduced the risk of infection by 90 percent and were certainly secure enough to prevent passage of the virus if not torn.

Panorama said scientific research had found intact condoms were impermeable to particles as small as sexually transmitted infection pathogens -- a view rejected by Trujillo.

"They are wrong about that...this is an easily recognizable fact," he told the program.

From Nicaragua to Kenya and the Philippines, the Panorama team found the same tale from the Catholic church -- that condoms can kill.
"Condoms can kill."

In yet another Catholic irony of cause and effect, condoms can also kill the chances for parishioners to make the children that priests can sodomize and church leaders can pretend not to know about.

The willingness to endanger or kill people in distant countries by propagating the most blatant of lies is one more total collapse of moral leadership — most recently political leadership in the United States, now Catholic leadership in the Vatican.

Good Catholics, like good Americans, must rise up and demand accountability from the murderous liars who have seized control of their respective credibility — as a world religion, and as a world power.

Every condom is a killer. Here's the BBC story. Every sperm is sacred. Here's Monty Python.
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More where that came from. Dick Grasso, disgraced chairman of the NYSE, isn't alone in his self-directed generosity (
WSJ, sub. req'd):
The New York Stock Exchange's two top remaining executives have accumulated retirement pay totaling about $30 million apiece during their respective 30-year careers at the Big Board, according to people familiar with the matter.

The pay of the executives, Catherine Kinney and Robert Britz, the NYSE's co-chief operating officers, could cause a stir at the exchange, which has been roiled by last month's ouster of former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Dick Grasso after disclosures that he had accumulated retirement pay of nearly $190 million in his 36-year exchange career. A NYSE spokesman declined to comment.

[...]

At a securities-industry dinner earlier this year, Mr. Grasso teased his lieutenants about their chances [to succeed him]. Ms. Kinney and Mr. Britz had "suffered" about "60 years collectively of Dick Grasso," the then-chairman said, and were "just a heartbeat away from providing the leadership of the stock exchange that it sorely needs." To drive home the point, Mr. Grasso joked about what Mr. Britz would typically say to his boss on arriving at work at 7:45 each morning: "How's your heart?"
Heart? What heart? These aren't people — they're cyborgs from the future... no, wait, that's not the NYSE, that's California.
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Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Sellers of hope in the Christian afterlife drop 30%. Evangelists' sales production is dropping sharply, as both they and their congregations scrounge for money in America's deteriorating faith-based economy (
Associated Baptist Press):
As the popularity of revivals continues to wane, evangelists must hold out faith that God will provide, their leaders say.

In 25 years as a vocational evangelist, Rob Randall has witnessed a steady decline in the number of churches holding revivals. While it once was common for churches to hold two revivals a year, some congregations now have one every five years at best, Randall said. Countywide revivals are increasingly rare.

The number of Southern Baptist evangelists also is down. There are about 500 on the mailing list of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, down from more than 700, according to Benny Jackson, president of the group.

Consistent work is difficult to come by for an evangelist, and some have picked up part-time jobs or found other full-time positions to support their families, Randall said. Even when a revival opportunity comes along, the evangelist is at the mercy of a congregation's love offering for support.

"The evangelist ... has to live by faith," Randall said. "He doesn't have a regular check. He doesn't have a large support base usually. He is out there to sink or swim based on his own ability to raise money."

[...]

"Our pews are full but full of people who do not want to give," Randall commented. "Our pews are full, but full of people not willing to commit. Our pews are full of people not willing to share their faith."

Hughes agreed that revivals have been cut back, but that's because individuals are "time poor," not because they are uncommitted. People are juggling many things in their lives and don't have time to attend a weeklong series of services.

The gospel message evangelists deliver is badly needed in churches, Randall argued. "There's a newness and a freshness to the evangelists' message," he said. "And the church needs to hear that."

The gospel is needed, Hughes agreed, but the way evangelists deliver it in the future may be different. He noted even Billy and Franklin Graham have altered their approach slightly, choosing not to call their efforts crusades and changing the music a bit.
A crusade by any other name would smell as sweet. Franklin Graham, the guy who called Islam a "wicked religion," runs a series of festivals designed to reach bibleman"uncommitted individuals" that include dazzling guest appearances by superhero Bibleman.

Feeling holier than thou? You can pray for Bush or you can pray for Rush.

A mystery I've yet to figure out: I thought Christians were supposed to pray for sinners. How come they always throw the weight of their worshipful prayers behind privileged Caucasian idols whom they consider beyond reproach, and never pray for those colorful Democrats whose behavior they regard as morally repugnant — even sinful?
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Tuesday, October 07, 2003
A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party.

lincoln   hooverville
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Monday, October 06, 2003
In honor of George W. Bush's
Marriage Protection Week (October 12 through October 18, 2003) dedicated to "building strong and healthy marriages in America," we remind married readers to say to the lump in your bed, "I'm thinking of my future, and you're not in the picture."
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Impeach this poem. He's not only America's worst president, but also its worst
poet:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Oh my, lump in the bed
How I've missed you.
Roses are redder
Bluer am I
Seeing you kissed by that charming French guy.
The dogs and the cat, they missed you too
Barney's still mad you dropped him, he ate your shoe
The distance, my dear, has been such a barrier
Next time you want an adventure, just land on a carrier.
The lump in the White House
for his negligence should
end up in the right house,
that is, prison, for good.
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After Bush policies bring about the End Times, his faith-based constituencies will disappear from the earth via The Rapture.

Thanks to a new service called Rapture Letters, they will be able to send
free email from their privileged positions in heaven to the rest of us infidels left behind.

This service clearly demonstrates that Dubya's fundamentalist supporters are always thinking ahead, except when it comes to reality.
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Friday, October 03, 2003
Lies and the Lying Media Who Broadcast Them. CalPundit summarizes a stunning new survey showing that
the FoxNews audience is more than three times likelier to hold factual misconceptions than the NPR/PBS audience.

But, as usual, he makes a larger point:
With the exception of the NPR crowd, which is both small and unsurprisingly liberal, people who rely on print media were substantially better informed on specific war issues than people who relied on any of the TV newscasts.
The survey comes from PIPA, the Program on International Policy Attitudes.

Update: Daily Kos links to this summary from the Philadelphia Inquirer. This is a must-read.
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"I had people call me up in the middle of the night and say, 'I know where your wife is; I know where your daughter is going to school.'"

From the
1999 Frontline interview with David Kay.
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Thursday, October 02, 2003
Finally some real accountability — too late. Ken Lay's hand in the cookie jar just got smacked (Theo Francis in the
Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
A federal judge in Texas ruled that former Enron Corp. Chairman Kenneth Lay and Northern Trust Corp., trustee of Enron's 401(k) retirement plan, can be sued under federal pension law for allegedly failing to protect Enron employees.

The ruling could lead to greater protections for workers with employer stock in their 401(k) and other retirement programs. Companies using their own stock in employee-retirement plans, a widespread practice, came under increased scrutiny from Congress and government regulators after Enron's stock collapse devastated its employees' retirement savings.

The wide-ranging, 329-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston came in response to motions brought in lawsuits by former employees of Enron, which filed for bankruptcy-court protection in late 2001. The ruling said Mr. Lay and Northern Trust -- along with others who oversaw Enron's retirement programs -- had a responsibility to ensure that the plans' investments were prudent. This responsibility extended to decisions about how much Enron stock employees held in their retirement accounts, the judge said.

More than 60% of Enron's $2.1 billion in 401(k) assets were invested in the company's own shares at the end of 2000. The plan covered about 20,000 Enron employees, retirees and their beneficiaries. Enron stock, which peaked at about $90 a share in 2000, currently trades for less than 10 cents a share in over-the-counter trading.
This is a wise ruling that demands accountability from those in charge of company retirement plans, who are effectively the stewards of their employees' retirement savings. The attachment of Northern Trust to this ruling only adds credibility to the obvious failure of prudent executive oversight.

Too bad it's too late. With this kind of legal exposure, jusstuffexpect Ken Lay to declare personal bankruptcy, after which Linda "Jus' Stuff" Lay will probably get another chance to weep glycerine tears on television. Ken Lay has had over two years to sequester all his purloined wealth in assets that are often protected from bankruptcy, such as real estate, annuities, and offshore accounts.

What needs to stay at the forefront of this story is not the talk-show punchline of Lay's criminal behavior, but rather the intimate connection between one irresponsible, thieving failure of an executive and another — George W. Bush.
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Wednesday, October 01, 2003
Oil, auditing, baseball, redistricting. We wouldn't need oil if we could only harness the energy contained in Texas circle jerks (
Houston Chronicle):
AUSTIN -- The Republican legislative battle over redistricting may do more than give Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick a new U.S. House seat for his hometown of Midland. It also might send one of President Bush's friends and former business partners to Congress.

K. Michael Conaway -- who was vice president, secretary and treasurer of Bush Exploration for five years -- is the only known Republican poised to run in the proposed Midland-based congressional district if Craddick wins his fight with Senate Republicans on how to redraw West Texas.

Craddick has said he wants a Midland district that Conaway can win.

"I know Tom is way set to get it drawn the way he wants to or it goes down," Conaway, 54, said Tuesday. "Tom's prepared to go either way: not have a bill at all or get it done the way he wants it done."

[…]

Sue Brannon, the Midland County Republican chair, said she is confident Bush would like to see a congressional district created for his former hometown.

"I've talked to him about it, and I know a lot of people out here have talked to him about it," Brannon said. "I know what he thinks about it ... but me commenting publicly on what he thinks about it is not a wise thing to do."

Brannon said she knows of no Republicans who would challenge Conaway in a primary if the new district is created.

Conaway said he met Bush shortly after his 1978 run for Congress. As a certified public accountant, Conaway audited Bush's company for three years before joining it as vice president.

Conaway later was the senior vice president and chief financial officer of the United Bank of Midland, the institution that loaned Bush $500,000 so he could buy his share of the Texas Rangers baseball team.
And it was on that fake "loan" that Dubya made his fake fortune that paid for the fake ranch to support the fake presidency that waged the fake war based on fake intelligence and propped up with fake rhetoric about fake democracy.

He may be a fake cowboy, but he's a genuine horse thief.
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More public funding for evangelism. Even though Valerie Plame is grabbing the headlines, other national scandals are taking place.

This one is very sneaky, and it ain't pretty. Read the article "Pulpit Bully" on
TomPaine.com:
In a radical move largely ignored by national news outlets, the Bush administration has abolished longstanding prohibitions against federal grants for social programs sponsored by churches and religious organizations.

"Faith-based" groups are now eligible to compete with secular organizations for some $28 billion in government money, subsidizing everything from housing to "mentoring" the children of prisoners.

The new rules, announced Sept. 22 at a White House press conference, give bureaucratic teeth to an executive order issued last year that banned so-called discrimination against religious institutions applying for government grants.

The administration has long argued that religious-based organizations can provide needed social services, especially when numerous federal programs are not being fully funded. But there's another, more disturbing facet to this debate that the recipients of these dollars don't want to acknowledge: Federal funding will greatly enhance their evangelizing and conversion activities.

The conversion agenda can be seen in the fine- and not-so-fine print in the new White House rules.

The most controversial change allows religiously affiliated federal contractors to discriminate against job applicants of other faiths. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao disingenuously insisted that the new rule simply "removes the barrier" preventing religious organizations from hiring members of their own faith.

But there never was a barrier preventing Catholic charities from hiring Catholics or Jewish charities from hiring Jews. What the government did do -- in the days when political leaders respected the First Amendment -- was tell federal contractors, "If you want public money, you can't refuse to hire someone simply because he doesn't share your religion."
The Bush administration is now not only actively encouraging religious discrimination, but promoting its public funding.

"American Taliban" isn't hyperbole — this is a bold move toward theocracy.
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Rumsfeld decimates the Reserves. Can there be any doubt that retention of reservists will plummet after the WMD-free invasion of Iraq for Halliburton's ex-CEO? (
Yahoo News):
Although the Guard and Reserve say their retention rates have not suffered this year, the figures could be misleading. Under an order known as "stop loss," soldiers on active duty are prohibited from leaving the service until their tours end.

Active-duty and Reserve commanders fear that when U.S. soldiers on yearlong rotations come home next year, many will choose to leave the service.
It's safe to conclude that many reservists will leave the service. After completing their work for Halliburton, many older reservists — heads of households with children — are leaving not only the service but life itself.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Cable news — unwatched and unloved. Audiences for the cable news nincompoops are drying up, at least here in Chicago (
Tribune):
This, remember, is all in Chicago, with a nationwide reputation as a very good news town. Here, Ted Koppel's "Nightline" routinely beats Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show."

[...]

Probably the most striking fact in this set of statistics is the illustration of a complaint that television networks have been making for years: that we in the media write way too much about cable news.

At 6 p.m. weekdays in the Chicago area, the audience for all the national cable news programs combined can't equal the viewership of PBS' stodgy old "NewsHour." Way up ahead, like an Olympic miler facing a Sunday jogger, are the numbers that the local news stations draw at the same time, or that the national newscasts do in the preceding half-hour.

The same is true at 7 p.m., where [PBS] WTTW-Ch. 11's newsmagazine "Chicago Tonight" not only kicks Bill O'Reilly's booty but that of all the national cable channels combined.

The most popular evening cable program is O'Reilly's hour of argument at 7 p.m., with 36,250 average viewers over the last four major sweeps months. By contrast, the least popular broadcast news program after 6 p.m. is WMAQ-Ch. 5's "NBC 5 Chicago News at 6," with 186,000 viewers.
Most popular cable show: 36,250 viewers. Least popular broadcast show: 186,000 viewers.

Note to O'Reilly: Shut up!

For confused readers on the east and west coasts — Chicago is Central Time, meaning that our eleven o'clock news is shown at ten. Adjust all showtimes accordingly.
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If Texas is the symptom, as a nation we're becoming more diseased every day. Gubna Dubya did not exactly lead his state to health and prosperity (
Houston Chronicle):
One out of every four Texans lacks health insurance, the highest percentage of uninsured residents in any state in the nation, according to new Census Bureau figures.

The findings are part of a report that shows the ranks of the uninsured nationwide swelled by 2.4 million last year as insurance costs kept rising and more Americans lost their jobs and health care coverage.

[...]

Analysts say numerous factors contribute to the high numbers in Texas, including the state's lack of organized labor and a high percentage of Hispanics, some of whom are immigrants and less likely to hold jobs that offer health insurance.

"They have jobs, but they have jobs at the very bottom of the totem pole that provide no benefits whatsoever," said Stephen Klineberg, a sociology professor at Rice University.

But the lagging economy has also taken its toll.

The bureau report shows significant increases in uninsured rates occurred among whites, blacks, people 18 to 24, and middle- and higher-income earners nationwide.

"You have more unemployed people," said E. Dale Wortham, a board member at the Harris County Hospital District. "The other thing is you have people that are employed but cannot afford health insurance."
But Texas, home of Dubya's fake ranch, isn't the only symptom of what's wrong with bogus approaches to healthcare.

Presidential brother and eventual White House candidate Jeb Bush, using the state of Florida as a test case, has a simplistic one-size-fits-all answer to the insurance crisis: tort reform.
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Banks Republicans. In 1992, for every dollar commercial banks gave to Republicans they gave a dollar to Democrats too.

Not any more. A decade later, as we approach the 2004 election cycle they prefer Republicans by a margin of
more than two to one, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
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Monday, September 29, 2003
The Cheney/Chalabi intelligence — worthless. That's what the Defense Intelligence Agency thinks of Cheney's
barbecue and golf buddy Ahmed Chalabi and his useless intelligence (New York Times):
An internal assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that most of the information provided by Iraqi defectors who were made available by the Iraqi National Congress was of little or no value, according to federal officials briefed on the arrangement.

In addition, several Iraqi defectors introduced to American intelligence agents by the exile organization and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, invented or exaggerated their credentials as people with direct knowledge of the Iraqi government and its suspected unconventional weapons program, the officials said.

The arrangement, paid for with taxpayer funds supplied to the exile group under the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, involved extensive debriefing of at least half a dozen defectors by defense intelligence agents in European capitals and at a base in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil in late 2002 and early 2003, the officials said. But a review early this year by the defense agency concluded that no more than one-third of the information was potentially useful, and efforts to explore those leads since have generally failed to pan out, the officials said.

Mr. Chalabi has defended the arrangement, saying that his organization had helped just three defectors provide information to American intelligence about Iraq's suspected weapons program, and that two of them had been judged to be credible.

But several federal officials said the arrangement had wasted more than $1 million in taxpayers' money and had prompted them to question the credibility of Mr. Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress. Both have enjoyed powerful backing from civilian officials at the Pentagon and are playing a significant role in the provisional government in Baghdad.

Intelligence provided by the defectors that could not be substantiated included information about Iraq's suspected program for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as other information about the Iraqi government, the officials said. They said they would not speculate on whether the defectors had knowingly provided false information and, if so, what their motivation might have been. One Defense Department official said that some of the people were not who they said they were and that the money for the program could have been better spent.
Will we ever discover an end to the ways Dick Cheney has wasted taxpayer money, national credibility, and the blood of thousands of innocents, including our own soldiers?
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Regarding Valerie Plame, a reminder from
Cursor... Speaking at the 1999 dedication of the George Bush Center for Intelligence, George H.W. Bush said (in 1999):
"I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors."
Dare we say it — treason! In his own dynasty!

But wait, there's more! He preceded those remarks with this:
We need more human intelligence. That means we need more protection for the methods we use to gather intelligence and more protection for our sources, particularly our human sources, people that are risking their lives for their country. (Applause)
For an overview of the Plame Affair, see Body & Soul.

See also OS Politics' Plame Roundup by Mark A.R. Kleiman.
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Friday, September 26, 2003
Impeachment is too good for him. I'm currently leaning toward exile...

whoops!

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Thursday, September 25, 2003
A: They're too busy prosecuting Tommy Chong. Q: Why aren't they prosecuting Nancy Victory (
FindLaw/AP)?
Federal investigators have concluded President Bush's former telecommunications policy chief committed three ethics violations by allowing industry lobbyists to throw her a party. The Justice Department, however, is declining to prosecute her.

[...]

Ten days after the catered party in her honor in October 2001, Victory urged a policy change benefiting telecommunications companies that helped pay for the catered $3,000 event with 60 to 80 guests at her home in Great Falls, Va.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, released the findings from the IG's probe, which was triggered by stories last January by The Associated Press.

The party's six hosts were from the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, Cingular Wireless, SBC Communications, Intelsat Global Service Corp., Motorola Corp. and Victory's former law firm, Wiley, Rein & Fielding.

[...]

By accepting the gift, Victory also violated the ethics standard that requires employees to avoid any actions that create an appearance that they are violating the law, the IG said.

On Oct. 24, 2001, Victory asked the Federal Communications Commission to immediately repeal restrictions that SBC, Cingular Wireless and other major cellular companies had long complained about.

The FCC voted two weeks later to phase out by Jan. 1, 2003, the limits on how much of the spectrum individual carriers could own in a geographic area. The agency had put the limits in place in the early 1990s to promote competition.
So the person in charge of Bush's telecommunications policy has a catered party thrown in her house by six of the industry's biggest lobbyists. Less than two weeks later she is repealing the "restrictions" they don't like and phasing out limits that promote competition.

Shouldn't these conflicts warrant the attention of federal prosecutors?

Not in this administration, which lied when it set high ethical standards for itself. But those promises were made back in a more innocent time, months before Osama bin Laden killed 3,000 Americans and gave Dubya his undeserved and temporary 90 percent approval rating — a confidence, born out of fear, that his administration and its deep ties to various industries interpreted as a license to pillage the US Treasury.

The Nancy Victory violations, those long-vanished ethical standards, and even the continuing existence of Osama bin Laden are forgotten now. Federal prosecutors have opted to spend their time and our resources chasing a 65-year-old bong dealer.
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If only all bad CEOs were treated this way, and not just the Democrats (
Page Six, link obsolete by now)...
September 24, 2003 -- Sam Waksal is working out, making friends and working as a janitor at the Schuylkill federal prison in Minersville, Pa. — and he's completely miserable, according to a fellow inmate.

"All in all, his days here are very long and sad. The general consensus seems to be that he won't last long here," Robert C. Lawrence, 39, wrote to PAGE SIX last week, the day before he was released.

"There seems to be a deal in the works that he will be cut loose once he turns over the 'correct' information regarding his dear friend Martha Stewart. If not, he will definitely end up being someone's meal ticket or jail bitch," Lawrence said in a neatly typed two-page letter.

Lawrence, convicted in Maryland of credit card fraud, served a 33-month sentence. Waksal is doing seven years for insider trading of shares in his ImClone cancer drug company.

"I thought layI would write you this letter just to give you and your concerned readers a bit of inside information on the daily routine of our institution's new celebrity inmate, Mr. Sam Waksal," Lawrence begins.

"He starts out his day by engaging in a rigorous workout planned by his personal trainer/bodyguard... a steroid-head from New Jersey who fancies himself as a Steven Seagal/Sylvester Stallone/Soprano wannabe, complete with ponytail and unbelievable mob stories.

"This is usually followed by a quick shower, and then he makes his way back to the common area where he can be found watching the morning news with two gay guys. One of them happens to be an obnoxious fashion designer from New York who struts around like he is a supermodel or something.

"Some inmates say they have seen the three of them watching old Martha Stewart [TV] episodes... If so, that is just wrong.

"But now comes the best part of Mr. Waksal's day, his job. He works as a housing orderly... a janitor. He mops, sweeps and waxes the floors, and the ultimate degradation... he cleans the toilets. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

"Finally... he spends his time putzing around... 'making nice' if you know what I mean. He can be seen chatting to any number of brutal morons on one subject or another that always seems to leave the listener with a glazed look on his face."
No toilet brush for Ken Lay — not only a free man but a very wealthy one who still manages to fly first class, despite having overseen the bankruptcy of his company and the eradication of his employees' retirement savings while he stuffed his pockets and bought millions in Aspen real estate.

Thanks to bad things for the tip.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2003
$300 billion for busywork. In the absence of a real reason for war, soldiers become accountants (
FindLaw):
Before 2nd Lt. Ben Shumaker arrived in Iraq in late April, he expected to be protecting soldiers against chemical and biological weapons attacks by Saddam Hussein's army.

There were no such attacks, so Shumaker and his team were put to work looking for hidden weapons of mass destruction - the primary reason given by the Bush administration for the war in Iraq.

When no such weapons were found, Shumaker, a 23-year-old chemical officer with the 101st Airborne Division, found himself with no mission.

Then he was offered a job he had never imagined - assistant to the division commander's accountant.

"I was supposed to find weapons of mass destruction," said Shumaker, of Clarksville, Tenn. Instead, they made him an accountant, "because I was doing nothing."
With all those mammoth financial interests hovering around the place, it's only logical that an accountant would have more value in post-invasion Iraq than a weapons officer.

Here's a photograph of one reluctant but very expensive accountant, Chemical officer 2nd Lt. Ben Shumaker, with the 101st Airborne Division.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2003
The crony surplus. There's a limitless supply of Texas energy insiders for Iraq (
Houston Chronicle):
Houston's Robert E. McKee III, a former ConocoPhillips executive, has been appointed the new senior adviser to the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

He will replace Philip J. Carroll, the one-time head of Shell Oil Co. who has overseen the often tumultuous effort to jump-start Iraq's oil sector for less than five months.

His selection as the Bush administration's energy czar in Iraq already is drawing fire from Capitol Hill because of his ties to the prime contractor in the Iraqi oil fields, Houston-based Halliburton Co. He's the chairman of a venture partitioned by the giant Houston oil well service and engineering firm.

[...]

McKee's appointment already is coming under scrutiny because of his role as chairman of Houston-based Enventure Global Technology, an oil-field joint venture owned by Shell and Halliburton.

Halliburton's role in Iraq has been highly controversial, since the Corps of Engineers chose the firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney for the job of repairing Iraq's energy infrastructure without seeking bids from competing companies.

"The administration continues to create the impression that the fox is in charge of the hen house," said Rep. Henry Waxman of California, ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee and a persistent critic of the Halliburton contract.

"Given Mr. McKee's close relationship with Halliburton, he's an odd choice to hold them accountable for the billions of dollars they are charging American taxpayers."

[...]

He retired in April, leaving what had become ConocoPhillips a wealthy man. McKee ranked second in the Houston Chronicle's latest list of 100 highest-paid executives, taking home $26.2 million in total compensation last year.
$26.2 million is chump change. McKee can expect to see a sweet payday, given that the US expects to pay over $20 billion for Iraqi ZIP codes and an atrocity museum.
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Conjoined twins: Texas and Iraq. Not even the propagandists can tell them apart (
Yahoo News):
U.S. Army hero Jessica Lynch is Canadian, snipers loyal to Saddam Hussein crouch on a roof flanked by the skyscraper that was home to television's J.R. Ewing and the streets of the Iraqi city of Nassiriya are near downtown Dallas.

Welcome to the world of NBC's made-for-television movie "Saving Jessica Lynch" where Iraq meets Texas in the telling of the 20-year-old Army private's ordeal in Iraq.

[...]

When production officials looked at what they quickly needed to do to get the movie on TV in time for its November airing, Texas emerged as the best locale.

To create the illusion of Iraq, several blocks of warehouses in south Dallas were transformed into Nassiriya by spraying sand-color concrete onto buildings destined to be condemned and creating removable facades for other buildings.

[...]

"I felt this movie should be shot on American soil because the film is about an American icon," [Executive Producer Dan] Paulson said.


The American icon is played by Canadian actor Laura Regan, who said it is an honor for her to portray Lynch.

[...]

The Iraqi street scene in Dallas will remain intact after the movie is aired, and some country music stars indicated they may use it for patriotic music videos that celebrate the war.
Texas and not Hollywood is apparently the best place to go for "removable facades."

Here is Dan Paulson's filmography, a list desperately in need of some cynical publicity.

This will be the second fake TV movie dramatization in three months intended to mythologize the Bush administration — i.e., tell new lies about the previous lies.

So Jessica Lynch will be played by a Canadian. French-Canadian?

And what is it about the intimate connection between country music and blind war-support?
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Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top






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