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December 29, 2005

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

 

Wednesday's Links


Activism

Help Set MoveOn's Course. You have ideas on how to change the system, but chances are, you alone don't have the capital or influence to make those changes happen. That's where MoveOn comes in. They've created an online forum for you to voice suggestions as to what their next major focus should be. Election reform? Presidential law? What's it going to be, America? Log on now and write your recommendation.

News

Top 12 Media Myths and Falsehoods on the Bush Administration's Spying Scandal. Media Matters has compiled a list of 12 "media myths and falsehoods" regarding Bush's illegal wire-tapping. Everything from "timeliness necessitaed bypassing the FISA court" to "the Clinton administration conducted domestic spying," this article debunks every Republican argument for wire-tapping. Our president clearly feels that the law is beneath him, and this article will certainly make you mad enough to do something about it.

Abortions Rare In South Dakota. Will Others Follow? Although we're not willing to grant Hilary Clinton the reigns to the country, she does have some policies that just make a whole lot of sense. One of them is her stance on abortion; while Clinton is obviously a pro-choice proponent, she also agrees that just having abortions legal isn't enough. More must be done to discourage the need for abortions, through education programs (yes, including, but not limited to, abstinence). But for every step forward we take, states like South Dakota take three steps backwards. There's one clinic in the state of South Dakota that provides abortions, and they do it one day a week. The reason that it's only one day a week is that no doctor in the state of South Dakota will provide an abortion, and so one of four doctors flies in from Minnesota every week. Some people in the state, one of three to only have one clinic state-wide, have to travel as much as 700 miles roundtrip in this mostly rural, poor state. It's not that all doctors in SD are morally opposed to giving abortions; they are, however, concerned about "their careers and community standing." We talk about "letting the terrorists win" by hiding in fear; how is this any different?

Fear Destroys What in Laden Could Not. And speaking of "letting the terrorists win," the Miami Herald has an analysis of how bin Laden's actions have, in fact, helped him accomplish what he set out to do: put fear into the hearts of Americans. Bin Laden's fear has changed the face of this country, and whether you consider that the changes were a direct result of bin Laden or a result of Bush doing things that he wants, and using bin Laden as a convenient excuse, the fact remains that this is a very different country than it was 5 years ago. Yet we spend our time arguing about a "war on Christmas." No wonder the face of this country is changing.

Editorials

Power That Bush Can't Just Take. Eugene Robinson is of one mind with the Still Fighting crew. Even if you believe, in some bizarro universe, that Bush has done evrtyhing he's done for the betterment of the country (the Patriot Act, the Iraq war, etc.), you still cannot believe that his decision to wire-tap Americans is a good one. There is just nothing to justify this "administration's usurpation of power." If Bush wants go full-tilt against terrorism, he could have policemen on every corner doing random profile searches. He could have "the White House lawyers to draw up yet another thumb-on-the-scale legal opinion explaining how torture isn't really torture, and have at it," in order to preserve freedom. He could eavesdrop on every American email, telephone call and letter, and bring in anyone who looks "suspicious." But we don't do these things because they are, after all, absurd. "There can be no freedom without some measure of risk." This president has single-handedly taken away America's values, freedoms and ethics and created the image of a society that just doesn't give a damn; a society that will do anything to survive. That's why we're here, and that's why you're reading this. Because you care about America, and you're not willing to let one man throw away 230 years of history because "he can."

Blogger Commentary

Ted Koppel: "If 9/11 Had Happened on Bill Clinton's Watch, He Would Have Gone Into Iraq." This is about as dumb as dumb can be. Ted Koppel is a celebrated and respected newsman, but for him to even consider that Bill Clinton would have done the same thing is absurd. As Steven Brant writes, Clinton would have done exactly what the American people would have expected him to do; he would have sent 10 times the number of troops we sent to find bin Laden. Period. And even if Clinton somehow believed that Iraq had WMDs (a lie which we know now to be fabricated by this administration), you can bet that Clinton would not have wavered from finding bin Laden until he had him (or his corpse) in captivity. Americans expected nothing less, and he would have delivered nothing less. Bush had the chance to unite this country, to get Americans from both sides of the divide solidly behind him, and instead of working to better the country, eh chose to mislead the country into a useless war. Koppel should have known better.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

 

Tuesday's Links


Activism

Letter Advising the President of Censure and Steps to Begin Special Committee Investigation. Representative John Conyers has written a letter to our illustrious president, telling him that we're extremely unhappy with his gross misuse of power, and "calling upon Congress to form a Special Committee to investigate your administration's abuses of power and report any offenses which rise to the level of impeachment." Although this letter alone won't spurn the president into action (really, what will?), this is an extremely good first step in showing our country that we won't stand for a president who feels that law is beneath him.

News

U.S. Allies in Iraq Want Out, Adding to Bush Pressure. Read it and rejoice. Other countries are getting the message from their citizens that they need to get out of Iraq. Italy and South Korea are just two of the countries that are pulling out of the so-called "coalition of the willing." Now, when will our president heed the call? Sending home 7,000 troops by the end of 2006 is not exactly "bringing the troops home."

Media Matters for America Applauds CNN Decision to Drop Robert Novak. Astute readers will recall Robert Novack's obscene outburst on CNN last August, when he got into a bit of a spat with James Carville, swore on the air (live), and stormed off the set. Novack is universally reviled by liberals, for his insincerity, his skewing of the facts, and, lest we forget, his unexplained role in leaking Valerie Plame's name. This is the same columnist who demanded Clinton be impeached for his lying under oath about Lewinski, yet sees no problem with Bush's thorough abuse of power. We're glad he's off the air. Now, other media outlets need to see Novack for what he is, and drop his syndication.

Editorials

What Bush Could Learn From Lincoln. Much has been made about Doris Kearns Goodwin's new book, "Team of Rivals." Licoln's presidency was filled with many good things. He was a model for the Republican Party (although not the current version of the party, for sure). He stocked his cabinet with his political opponents, to keep himself honest. He helped unite a country divided, not by blue and red, but blue and grey. Robert Kuttner explains what more Bush could learn from Lincoln. We'd love to buy a copy of the book for our president, but we're afraid that the only thing he'd emancipate is the top 1%.

Blogger Commentary

A Fitting Epilogue. The Cunning Realist is back with a collection of quotes surrounding Dr. Rihab Rashida Taha (Doctor Germ) and Dr. Huda Ammash (Doctor Anthrax). Both were caught and arrested in 2003, for their efforts in creating Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" program. Last week, U.S. forces in Iraq released the two "following the failure to find weapons of mass destruction." When will the president admit that he took us to war under false, manufactured pretenses? History will show that he did, but that doesn't help us in the here and now.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

 

Thursday's Links


We would like to apologize for the sporadic posting. December has been extremely rough on both of us, schedule-wise. We are still actively seeking other writers, so if you're interested, drop us an email to the links above. Thanks!

Activism

This Divided State. A documentary by Steven Greenstreet. Looking at the screenshots, you might think that this is a documentary of "Michael Moore vs. the World," but it's far more than that. From the filmmaker's website: "A raw and riveting examination of the heated "red versus blue" rift in the nation, This Divided State begins in September 2004 with the presidential election fast approaching and the State of Utah ready to declare itself "Bush Country" once again. However, this complacent state of Republican majority was rocked when Utah Valley State College announced that liberal filmmaker Michael Moore would speak on their campus two weeks before the election. Within 24 hours of the announcement, a media frenzy descended upon the school as angry community members and religious leaders shouted protests, pointed fingers, and quoted Mormon scripture. Some even claimed Moore's arrival would bring the Apocalypse." This Divided State is a gripping look at how politics can tear apart a state. The link above will allow you to watch the first 26 minutes of the film, and we're fairly sure that, after seeing it, you'll want to buy the whole film.

News

Paradise Lost. For the vast majority of us, the war on gay rights in this country isn't very concrete. We know that it's unjust, but even if you're gay, it doesn't necessarily have an impact in your daily lives. The story of Barbara and Tibby, two Virginia lesbians, probably isn't going to change anyone's minds on gay rights and the gay marriage issue. But the important lesson is to understand that decisions made for political reasons do impact real people's lives. In this case, Virginia's passing of the "Affirmation of Marriage Act" basically forced these women to leave their home and community behind, because they could no longer be assured of rights they counted on, such as visiting rights and property co-ownership. Read the quote from State Sen. R. Edward Houck (D), who voted for the law: " 'I can't always just vote my conscience and my convictions,' he says. Houck also insists that Barbara and Tibby, whom he doesn't know, don't have to leave Fredericksburg, that the law refers not to wills and medical directives, but 'the rights and responsibilities of marriage.' But what are those? 'I can't answer that,' he says. 'I don't know all these things.' " When you make policies based on ignorance and hate and intolerance, real people get hurt.

Editorials

Their Own Patriot Act. Although E.J. Dionne's editorial is from earlier this week was written before Congress authorized the Patriot Act to be extended by one month, his point is still valid. Four Republicans Senators crossed party lines to continue debate on the Patriot Act, one of the most heinous pieces of legislation to pass our government. True, some parts of the act are beneficial. But overall, Senator Russ Feingold's (D-WI) initial displeasure with the bill has turned the Patriot Act into something which is being scrutinized more closely. Debate rages on, and we'll find out in January what the ultimate resolution will be.

Blogger Commentary

Bush Lies, Again (Surprise, Surprise). There's been a lot of flap (and rightfully so) surrounding the bombshell that Bush authorized wire-tapping. In this commentary, mcjoan, writing for Daily Kos, prints a quote from Bush about how wire-tapping in 2001 would have helped capture al-Qaeda operatives in San Diego. Unfortunately for Bush, the NSA already knew about these operatives and were listening to their phone calls, and should have alerted the FBI as to their presence in the U.S. But the NSA didn't. This isn't about wire-tapping; it's about what the 9/11 commission wrote: the bungling and dropped information between intelligence agencies. This article, by DHinMI (of Daily Kos), cries foul on Republicans who tried to cry foul on Democrats. See, Congressmen Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller both wrote letters to the White House when they learned about this spying, and Republicans called Rockefeller out, saying that if he was so concerned, he should have gone public. News flash: if the Distinguished Gentleman from West Virginia had gone public, he would have been breaking the law. "As a member of the so-called 'gang of four' which includes the top Republican and Democrat of the Senate and House intelligence committees, Rockefeller was one of four members of Congress who received those briefings. . .The 'gang' -- Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan and Democrats Rockefeller and Rep. Jane Harman of California -- is virtually gagged from discussing anything from meetings with anyone outside the group -- not even other senators, staffers or lawyers with security clearance on the intelligence committees. 'You can't discuss it with anybody as long as you live,' Rockefeller said Monday." How convenient for Republicans, who conveniently leave out the fact that if Rockefeller had gone public, he'd be facing crimes far worse than treason.

Humor

Special Address from the President. This may be a few years old, but it gives you an accurate portrayal of how our president thinks of science. You'll need Quicktime for it. Thanks to Mike Sese for the link.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

 

Wednesday's Links


Activism

Make Your Freedom of Information Act Request. Today's post is mostly devoted to Bush's illegal wire-tapping. Yes, illegal. And by the time you finish today's post, you'll agree with us. We start with today's activism (above). The Democratic Party has created a nifty petition for George W. Bush. You see, Bush's buddies over at Justice created memos that contain legal justification for Bush's wire-tapping. But those documents are still classified, though it's been over two years. DNC leader Howard Dean has created a request for this information, under the Freedom of Information Act. Sign his petition, and help us discover what sort of lies the Justice Department has created to spin this as "legal."

News

Bush's Snoopgate. Jonathan Alter, writing for Newsweek, notes that we "finally" have a scandal that goes beyond sex or bribes. In Bush's televised speech on Sunday night, he "came out swinging," warning us all that if we didn't stand with him, we supported the terrorists. Not only is such a claim ludicrous, but it's not working anymore. Any blind fear that Americans had after 9/11 has been lost, courtesy of a president who is more concerned with advancing his own agenda than the country's. In fact, you can easily see how 9/11 turned Bush from president to "dictator," as Alter calls him. Bush didn't try to keep the story submerged within the New York Times because of "national security." He tried to keep the story submerged because he was breaking the law, pure and simple. Although we're ultimately pleased that the story finally ran, the New York Times isn't off the hook for sitting on it for a year.

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest. U.S. District Judge James Robertson resigned on Monday, from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court). Robertson resigned in protest of Bush's wire-tapping, which he says undermined the work of the court these last four years. Although Senators and Congressmen on both sides share Robertson's sentiment, there are still some Republicans who can't understand what the fuss is about. "I am personally comfortable with everything I know about it," Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-MO) said. That's probably because he's not under surveillance. Here's Robertson's beef, and it's fair: Since 1979, the FISA court has approved tens of thousands of eavesdropping requests and rejected only four. There was no indication the existing system was slow-as the president seemed to claim in his press conference-or in any way required extra-constitutional action. So why undermine FISA? Why break the law? We'll still be scratching our heads in outrage at this one for years.

Editorials

Why Didn't He Ask Congress? Wow. As a self-billed conservative, how badly do you need to screw up to have George F. Will call you out? Apparently, wire-tapping crosses that line. Will makes some excellent points, including the idea that Congress would probably have approved this, if Bush had come to them. Will also argues that the "legal justification" memos (see above) should be declassified and discussed. Will is nothing if not a historian, and our government was created the way it was so that one branch would not be able to run amok. You may remember the phrase "checks and balances" from your high school civics class. By circumventing Congress, Bush has shown that he's going to do what he wants, when he wants. Only, with this story, Bush may have picked on someone just a little bigger then he: Congress. How is Congress supposed to take Bush seriously now? How are any of us?

Fear Distorting the Rule of Law. H.D.S. Greenway, writing for the Boston Globe, draws on a unique parallel between Bush and Roosevelt. Well, perhaps parallel isn't the right word. In Roosevelt's most famous speech, he said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Perhaps you've heard those words before. Roosevelt was leading the greatest country in the world against the greatest threat that the world had seen. He urged the country to not be blinded by their fear; don't allow the fear to cloud your judgment, in other words. But Bush seems to be allowing a conception of fear to cloud his judgment. Surely he can't really believe that going to war in Iraq, creating a color-coded system for warnings and wire-tapping thousands of Americans will make this country safer, can he? A President threatening to veto a ban on torture? A Vice-President actively lobbying for torture? Greenway writes that "I have no doubt that one day the Bush administration's curtailment of civil liberties, especially the torture of prisoners, will be looked back on as a national shame." Bush is using people's fear to try and promote his agenda. Only, that fear is now dissipating into anger.

Enough. Let's Try 'Accountability.'. Richard Cohen echoes a sentiment we've been preaching since we started this blog. Bush ran in 2000 on the "responsible" ticket. And boy, has he been responsible for some doozies. The Iraq war. The failed Social Security non-plan. Katrina's non-relief. But nothing is more shocking, appalling, or close-to-the-bone as the revelation that Bush authorized wire-taps. Cohen lays out how Bush has repeatedly used the word "responsibility," and yet each time, no one holds him accountable for that responsibility. Well, he's now crossed a line that can't be uncrossed, and it's time to demand action.

Blogger Commentary

S.O.S.. Katherine, over at Obsidian Wings, uses Monday's press conference as a jumping off point for the case that this administration is out of control. Creating legal justification for anything the President wants, like the wire-tapping, is only one part of it. Secret prisons. Torture of innocents. This isn't the America that we grew up with, and we sincerely hope that it's not the America we'll see in 10 years. Bush steamrolling over the 4th amendment is but the tip of the iceberg. Folks, this is just going to keep happening until we do something about it. Write your Senator today and ask them to demand that the "legal justification" memos be declassified. If this was being done by a Democratic president, he'd be facing impeachment proceedings right now. What does it say about our country when Bill Clinton is put on trial for lying about a blow job, but Bush, who is so deliriously drunk with power that he flaunts the law like a trophy wife, walks around free?

Florida Elections Director Now Believes '2000 Presidential Election Hacked'! Yes, there is other news out there besides wire-tapping! Brad, of BradBlog fame, is nothing if not eager. But he's also immersed himself into spreading the truth about the Republican machine. This time, he discusses the voter problems in the state of Florida. Based on a "hack test" last week, in which results of a mock election were changed with no discernable evidence, election officials were stunned. The machines were made by, you guessed it, Diebold, who are slowly but surely finding their market squeezed smaller and smaller as more and more examples of their treachery come to light. It's hard enough to get people to come out and vote in the first place. By supporting Diebold, states are telling their citizens that their votes really don't matter anyway.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

 

Monday's Links


Activism

The Innocence Project. The Innocence Project is a group (based at Yeshiva University) whose mandate is to "exonerate the wrongfully convicted through postconviction DNA testing; and develop and implement reforms to prevent wrongful convictions." We've seen a few cases over the last few weeks where the wrong people have been prosecuted due to DNA evidence that wasn't properly handled, or despite evidence that will clear them, based on newer technology. Witness the story of these two Virginia men, or this man in Ohio, for example. The Innocence Project is a not-for-profit group, and they need support to help those that cannot afford to help themselves; those to whom the system has given no hope. Make a donation today, and help us straighten out the legal system in this country. Even one wrongfully incarcerated person means that the system isn't working as it should be.

News

Health Care for All, Just a (Big) Step Away. In 2004, two-thirds of the 45.5 million Americans who lacked health insurance in 2004 earned less than twice what the federal government defines as poverty ($19,300 for a family of four). The money that the government spends to allow Americans to buy health insurance is in the range of $130 billion (and growing), but that's mostly in the form of tax cuts, and those cuts go straight to the top 1%. Think about that amount of money: $130 billion. Some experts believe that that figure alone can get us to universal health care. Imagine the closing of private companies and extending "Medicaid coverage up to the desired income level and to require people above that point to buy into the system according to a price scale that rose proportionately to income." This analysis is pretty thorough, and it makes sense. After all, while the American Dream is to build yourself up to become rich, that doesn't mean you need to step on those who are trying to follow you up there.

Criminal Probes Entangle Numerous Fund-Raisers. Welcome to Ohio, where Republican corruption seems to be a way of life. But it's not limited to Ohio, where folks like Tom Noe and Larry Householder are giving new meaning to the term "ethics violation." Consider the "Bush Pioneers and Rangers;" individuals who raised at least $100,000 to $200,000 for the 2004 Bush campaign. The money was used for "bribery, money laundering, stock manipulation, and extortion," no exaggeration. In fact, the multiple instances of ethical and legal violations of the law have led one Democrat to speculate that, as investigations continue, there will be "enough [convictions] for their own prison softball team." What would they be called? The Sing Sing Swindlers? But Republican corruption isn't limited to Ohio. From James Tobin in New Hampshire (jamming Democratic phone lines) to P. Nicholas Hurtgen (hospital construction extortion scam) to Brent Wilkes (bribes, money laundering), the corruption isn't limited to those figures in office, but also those Republicans working behind the scenes. Hopefully this will open people's eyes to the ridiculous things Republicans are trying to get away with, and how these actions undermine anything they try to say in public.

Louisiana's Deadly Storm Took Strong as Well as the Helpless. The New York Times has released a study in which they were able to contact 268 families that lost someone in Hurrica Katrina, and of those 268, 260 died after the storm, either becauser they couldn't leave, wouldn't leave, and/or couldn't get help in time. While the fate of these 268 is not necessarily indicative of the 1,100 who died, it's an unsettling thought nonetheless. At this point, the State Department has released the names of less than half the estimated deaths, and no causes. But if the NYT study is any indication, many of those who died did so as a result of the aftermath of the storm, and not the storm itself. Perhaps, if things had been better organized by our illustrious president, FEMA, and state officials, we could have prevented such a large loss of life.

Editorials

The War and the Elections. A few weeks ago, we talked about how the Nation would not endorse any candidate for federal public office "who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign." Given American public sentement, this only makes sense, as Americans are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to get our troops home. And although House Democrats are in line with this idea (Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) did endore John Murtha's plan), the Senate has been in shambles. Some Senators are calling for immediate withdrawal. Some are calling for a phased-out withdrawal. Some are blasting Bush's policies, but don't want to offer an alternative, like exit. And some, like Joe Lieberman, have simply turned their back on the party to become "yes-men" for Bush. This sentence in The Nation's editorial says it all: "The key is to elect the right Democrats, or to force the wrong Democrats to get right about Iraq." There are quite a few Democratic challengers highlighted in this editorial that are on the right path...at the very least, making Bush's war stance their hot issue (if not out and out declaring that we need to bring troops home). If you think that the 2006 elections won't hinge on the war, well, you've got another thing coming.

Spying on Americans. You can be sure that we're going to have plenty of discussion of Bush's latest abuse of his authority in the near future. For now, we present a simple editorial from the Washington Post to set the stage. Why does he need to circumvent courts to secretly spy on Americans? Why should we trust that he won't abuse that authority? If members of his Administration are willing to out covert agents for political revenge, why should we believe he'd use these powers with any sort of discretion? Maybe if the President had any credibility, "Because he's the President" would be a valid answer. But he doesn't, so it isn't.

Blogger Commentary

A Conspiracy Against Organized Labor. Being on the East Coast, we have had no exposure to Ralphs Grocery Company (which owns Southland supermarkets). Well, Ralphs was recently indicted by a federal grand jury for "secretly rehired hundreds of locked-out employees under false names and false social security numbers during the 2003-2004 grocery workers labor dispute." Apparently, Ralphs rehired the locked out employees under illegal names and social security numbers, so as to hide these illegal activites from labor unions, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration and the National Labor Relations Board. Ralphs falsified employment records, tax records and withholding statements, all of which are illegal. In order to actually pay these rehired workers, Ralphs allowed the employees (who had payroll checks made out to the made-up names) to cash their payroll checks in the stores. Ralphs had the rehired workers moved to different stores, had them wear nametags with their fake names, and even moved them from store-to-store. All done to enhance their image and save money during the 2003-2006 strike. We don't blame the workers, most of which are under the poverty line, and needed the work and the money. We blame Ralphs for making this offer to them, and allowing them what essentially come to "no option." And all done for the almighty dollar. Thanks to Greg, over at The Talent Show, for bringing this story to light.

"Crazy Every Now And Then". The Cunning Realist provides a little historical context for our current state of government. Unfortunately, "We live in one of those uniquely 'crazy' periods in American history that seem to come along just infrequently enough that we forget how dangerous they can be." It's up to us to make sure that a) this period ends as soon as possible (2006!), and b) that the American people don't forget the havoc this "craziness" has wrought on our democracy.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

 

Sunday's Links


Activism

Shop For New Orleans. It struck the creators of this website that the best way for New Orleans to get help the city rebuild is for the city to help itself. So, the team created a listing of websites, sorted by catagory, to shop at. Everything from Art to Home Furnishings to Sporting Goods can be found here, and all stores/companies are based in New Orleans. Support the rebuilding of New Orleans, and buy yourself something nice!

News

Bush Authorized Domestic Spying. In what is certainly one of the most important stories of the year, we learned that Bush, back in 2002, authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens and foreign nationals in the U.S. The NSA, under orders from Bush, tapped the phone calls (and other types of communications) of people that this administration suspected are "tied" to al-Qaeda. Instead of getting legal permission to do this (something that would have been dicey, at best), authorities implemented this immediately because they "were worried that vital information could be lost in the time it took to secure a warrant from a special surveillance court." On top of this, the press was asked to sit on this story for a year, because of national security concerns. Was this legal? History would indicate that it's not. But one thing is for certain: In four years, Bush has pushed the envelope of wartime powers, and Americans are sick of it. Don't believe us? Then why was Bush viewed as the least popular, most bellicose, most warlike, worst for the economy, and least effective of the last 10 presidents in a recent survey?

White House Briefing: McClellan Battles Reporters Over Bush Backing DeLay . White House Press Secretary has what could possibly be the worst job in government. He has to spin Bush's foul-ups. Consider the most recent: For months now, McClellan has been saying that he would not comment on any ongoing federal investigation (i.e. Plamegate). Well, earlier this week Bush publically commented that he thought Tom DeLay was innocent. The result led reporters in the White House Press Briefing room to lambast (and we do mean lambast) McClellan over the hypocrisy. Read and chortle: we sure did.

Editorials

Big Brother Bush. Touching on the first news story above, this editorial (originally posted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) shows just how Bush has taken America one step closer to being a police state. Wire-tapping citizens, maintaining criminal files on peaceful anti-war protestors; these are the tactics of an administration gone amock. Are you happy with that? What's your "safety" worth?

Blogger Commentary

The Dirty Little Secrets of Voting System Testing Labs. Avi Rubin chimes in on a recent summit in California to discuss voting issues. The results (both what happened and what didn't happen) were surprising, to say the least. From misrepresentations from the Independent Testing Authority to Diebold codes, electronic voting is in a bad state right now. Rubin's article is a must read.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

 

Friday's Links


Activism

Dobson's Choices: It's Not a Blacklist, It's a Buyer's Guide! "Dr." James Dobson, in his infinite wisdom, has created a list of companies who support gay rights and/or activism. His intent is to have his parishoners boycott these companies. But let's get realistic; are people really going to stop shopping at the Gap and drinking Pepsi? We think not. In fact, with both Microsoft and Apple on the list as well, Dobson's probably a bigger hypocrite than we'd thought (you know, unless he's running Linux on a Dell machine). In point of fact, Dobson's list isn't going to deter anyone but the most dedicated. His list, however, is extremely useful to progressives. Want to support gay activism? Shop at the stores/companies that he's listed! By releasing this self-proclaimed "blacklist," Dobson stands to bring them more business than he will drive away! Thanks to RJ Eskow for bringing this info into the light.

News

Senate Fails to Reauthorize Patriot Act
. That about says it all, right? Big ups to Chuck Hagel, Lisa Murkowski, John Sununu and Larry Craig. They are four of the five Republican Senators who voted "Nay" to the reauthorization. The fifth was Bill Frist, but that was a purely political move (by voting with the "winning side," it allows him to call for a revote at any time). The vote wasn't enough to stop Craig and Russ Feingold from filibustering this stupid act. Republicans didn't help their cause when they allowed Ted Stevens (R-AK) to attach a measure to allow drilling in the Arctic Wildlife National Refuge to a Defense Spending bill. This is called "attaching a measure that has nothing to do with a bill, that has failed a vote time and time before, to a bill that will probably pass." Debate is scheduled to start on that bill tomorrow morning, and it could be much harder to block passage. Thankfully, there is bipartisan support for getting drilling taken off the spending bill, which Harry Reid has threatened to veto. Go get 'em, Democrats!

Congress Doesn't See Same Intelligence As President, Report Finds. Again, we see something we've suspected become fact. This time, it's the Congressional Research Service, who determined that Congress did not see the same intelligence about Iraq that Bush did. Senators have made this claim. Congressmen have made this claim. Now, the CSR has identified the facts, and the fact is that Bush saw more information that Congress. So how could they have made an informed decision to go to war?

Editorials

A Credibility Chasm. The Bush Administration was quick to trumpet the latest opinion poll of the president, saying that it showed a "dramatic increase in support." Forgive us for sounding dim, but it if Bush's approval rating went from 89 to 93, that might be considered dramatic. But going from 35 to 39 is far from dramatic; it's still within the margin of error! Thomas Oliphant lays out how Bush's last four speeches have actually hurt him, and why he's not gaining any credibility with the public.

No Elections Will be Credible While Occupation Continues. As a special to the Guardian, Harith al-Dari notes that elections in Iraq, although well attended, are meaningless while the country is still under occupation. His editorial makes strong, compelling reasons for us to set a timetable to leave Iraq. Now, if only someone would listen.

Blogger Commentary

Are We Really This Stupid? This has gone beyond partisan politics. Cenk Uygur writes "The deficit is careening out of control. Health care costs are through the roof. We’ve started a disastrous war in Iraq that threatens the stability of the whole region. Osama bin Laden has never been caught. The 9/11 Commission says four years after the attacks on this country, we are failing to protect the American people. And what are the Republicans talking about? Tax cuts that go largely to the upper class. The war on Christmas. The gay marriage amendment. Flag burning. Does anyone believe these are the real pressing concerns of the American people? Is our top problem that the rich don’t have enough tax breaks?" No, no one does. Yet that's what captivates our president and Republican leadership. Do everything possible to make the top 1% comfortable, and screw the rest of the country.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

 

Thursday's Links


Activism

Join Congressman Murtha's Call for a Real Debate on Iraq. What would a real debate sound like? It's been so long, we don't even know. These days, what passes for debate is something like this: Dems: "We need to get our troops out of Iraq." GOP: "You are all weak traitor who want to cut-and-run." Dems: "Oh yeah? Then why didn't you ever serve in the war?" GOP: "Stop undermining our troops." Dems: "Shut up." GOP: "No YOU shut up." And on and on. But this country needs and deserves a real, intelligent debate about what to do in Iraq now that we've basically screwed the pooch. So, go sign the petition joining John Murtha's call for a real debate about our troops in Iraq. Who knows? Maybe it'll even work!

News

Bush Takes Blame for Iraq War on Bad Intelligence. Yes, you read that right. George "I can't do wrong and won't apologize if I do" Bush has taken responsibility for going to war over faulty intelligence. Now, reign it in, kids. There's more here than meets the eye. Why would Bush finally decide to make this statement? A leopard doesn't change its spots, after all. It certainly appears to us like Bush is worried about the press sniffing around all that pre-war intelligence, the Downing Street Memo, Plamegate and all the rest, and so he's issuing a public "my bad," in an effort to get everyone to stop digging up the past. But read between the lines. The headline is actually misleading. He didn't say that invading Iraq was wrong, just that it was his responsibility, and the decision was on him. Well, that's great, except that if he doesn't think there was anything wrong with the decision, then why's it a big deal for him to admit the decision was his? He's saying this because he wants the credit for the eventual "victory", not because he acknowledges that any reasonable definition of victory has been made nigh impossible by his actions.

McCain, White House Remain at Impasse. They sure aren't picking out curtains. The White House still maintains that it wants to be able to torture people. McCain says no. That's exactly what this argument comes down to. There should not need to be any discussion. There should be no heated debate. There should be no "chatting," as McCain said. Karen Hughes, self-annointed savior of the Middle East, is on record as saying "The goal is the same here. . .The goal is to make it very clear that the United States is a nation of laws and that we operate our detainee policy within our laws, within our international obligations and without torture." Well, that's not quite true. The goal is to outlaw torture. Our president won't allow that. Her spin is pretty impressive, isn't it? She doesn't say McCain is right (although she implies it). Rather, she indicates that we follow a system of laws. Hughes must believe that the administration has some dirt on McCain that'll force him to capitulate this discourse, because decorated VietNam vet and Hanoi Hilton survivor John McCain ain't gonna roll over and play dead on this one.

Don't Dictate To Me, Canadian Leader Tells U.S. U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, acting as a mouthpiece for the administration, has really made a clusterfrick of things. First, there's the softwood lumber debate, where, in 2001, America raised tarriffs on Canada's softwood lumber to an astonishing 21% (Canada's rate is approximately 1%). America maintained all along that they were in the right, but recently NAFTA ruled that America was, in fact, not in the right, and that the 21% tarriffs were illegal. The decision meant that lumber tarriffs should be cut (which they were, but only in half) and the money America collected on those tarriffs should be returned ($4.1 billion, which hasn't been returned). Now, since that decision a few weeks ago, there's been a vote of no-confidence in Canada, and Prime Minister Paul Martin, along with the rest of government, faces a vote on January 23. In campaigning for that election, Martin has sharply criticized the U.S. several times, both for the above softwood dispute, as well as America's dinosaur-like approach to climate change. Ambassador Wilkins warned Martin not to bash the U.S. while campaigning. Martin's response? "When it comes to defending Canadian values, when it comes to standing up for Canadian interests, I'm going to call it like I see it. I am not going to be dictated to as to the subjects I should raise." In other words, "Screw you, Ambassador Wilkins." And why shouldn't Martin be ticked off? It took several rulings before the World Trade Organization and NAFTA before the softwood dispute reached the point that it's at now. Forestry is an integral and huge part of Canada's economy, and the U.S. doesn't produce enough wood to meet the enormous American demand, so we import wood from Canada. Although Canada likes our cash, they can just as easily not trade with us, and shift focus to China (which they have already begun to look at). In the meantime, Bush, using Wilkins as that mouthpiece, has managed to piss off yet another American ally. What a track record!

Editorials

An Update on Watchdog Reporting Around the U.S. Watchdog reporting? In this day and age? Yes, indeedy! And no, we're not talking about local news fearmongering, in which they reporting that drinking your tap water will kill you instantly. No, we're talking about legitimate press oversight of fraud and abuse going on every day. For instance, did you know about the dangerous cargo that's being hauled through majors cities by rail, and the problems in planning for a related disaster? Or how about the erroneous allocation of homebuying funds that was intended for low income families, and instead went to unqualified middle class home buyers? Or what about rapes and stabbings in high schools that aren't properly investigated? It's important to see that while it seems watchdog reporting at the national level is dying a slow death, there are still local cases where the press is doing its job. The results of these investigations may not be pretty, but if we're going to solve any of these problems, it certainly helps to know about them in the first place.

America's Shame in Montreal. No, this isn't about the Canadiens' 1971 thrilling Stanley Cup series against the Chicago Blackhawks. This is about climate change, and the Bush administration's adamant refusal to admit that the science is actually, you know, right. Instead of requiring companys to regulate and lower their emissions, the Bush administration favors "research into 'breakthrough' technologies," allowing companies to reduce their rates at their own pace. The problem, of course, is that companies just won't do it if the law isn't there. There's no reason (other than, you know, the survival of the human race) for companies to invest the time to make these changes. So, until we get a President who gives a damn, we're stuck with letting companies get a free ride. And if we won't require our companies to reduce their emissions, how can we possibly expect other countries to do the same?

Blogger Commentary

On Torture, III: Brutality and Sadism as National Policy, and the Monsters of Our Time. Don't feel cheated that there's only one Blogger Commentary today, because it's not only extremely important, but extremely long. Arthur Silber has a six part series on torture up at the Power of Narrative, and although we're only linking to part III, we encourage you to read the entire thing. Silber's premise for this part is that torture is never, ever, ever, ever acceptable. How can you fault that? This isn't about being "better than them." This is about holding to the morals that this country was founded upon. It's about subscribing to a code of ethics that is accepted the world over. It's about not running from our principles when we get scared. And those who do choose to circumvent difficulty by utilizing torture can be summed up in one word: evil.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

 

Tuesday's Links


Activism

Torture Has No Place on American Soil. That's Why We Have It Done Overseas. Are you tired of the clever parsing and semantic games being played about our torture policy? We sure are. And while it seems a petition on this pops up every other week, the fact is that unless we denounce torture unconditionally, and make it crystal clear to our leaders that it's not ok, in any circumstances, then we shouldn't expect anything different. Hop on over to Amnesty International's site and make your views known. Torture is wrong. It's evil. It's anti-American. And it's got to end. No ifs, ands, or buts.

News

Court Nixes Gay Nups in City. Before you get even more riled up about this, go ahead and read the article. What the court is saying is that gay marriage shouldn't be decided by the courts. The state's legislation makes it very clear that marriage is between a man and a woman, and although the lone dissenter in the ruling stated that the law should not be bound by the "assumptions of previous generations" who also once assumed brides were "chattel," the judge's ruling is essentially correct. The court cannot simply overturn legislation; that's judicial activism. Instead, in an extremely surprising move, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said "I will ask the Legislature to change the state's Domestic Relations Law to permit gay marriage." Although we absolutely support legalizing gay marriage, in this case it was not up to the courts to make that ruling. Now, we'll see if the state's legislature has the grapefruits to change the Domestic Relations Law.

In Iraq, Bush Pushed For Deadline Democracy. Remember that the core argument against setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq is that the insurgents will just "wait us out". Putting aside the lunacy of that argument (um...they live there, by the way), what's stunning about this article is how inconsistent Bush's position has been. For withdrawal, apparently the war will take as long as it takes for "complete victory". But for the political process, that has to adhere to arbitary deadlines set by the inept Paul Bremer, ex-head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. This article gives us a peek behind the scenes of how the U.S. has utterly screwed up its involvement in Iraq on a political level. Just read about all of the vacillating and shifts in power behind the scenes. Why didn't we have a plan going in? Why didn't we have any idea how the three Iraq factions would respond? Add it all up, and throw in the incompetence of Bush, "who instinctively dismisses doubters and abhors changing course", and you get one big, ugly mess.

Supreme Court to Review Texas Political Map. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear several cases about the redistricting in Texas. For example, the Constitution demands redistricting every 10 years. Texas was redistricted in 2000. So why did DeLay spearhead the redistricting (again) in 2002? Simple; to consolidate Republican power and to get Democrats out of the House. Keep in mind that the 2002 plan had to be approved by the Justice Department, which it did. Why would the Justice Department authorize a redistricting so soon after the mandated one? The same Justice Department that overruled legal experts who warned that the plan wasn't legal, that's who. We can't wait to hear this go before the Court. It's way past time to show Republicans that there is accountability for every illegal action they take.

Editorials

It Takes a Potemkin Village. It's pathetic to have to sift through the disinformation that this administration spews forth. But it's even more pathetic that we, as Americans, automatically assume that we're receiving disinformation. Take the "Plan for Victory" Bush laid out recently. A few clever folks (like Scott Shane, at the New York Times) have been able to electronically "figure out," using the actual PDF on whitehouse.gov, that the plan was created by "Peter Feaver, a Duke political scientist who started advising the National Security Council only this June." As Frank Rich points out, Peter Feaver is an expert on war opinion; not on the war itself. How could we possibly be expected to believe that a military strategy to leave Iraq, created by a PR guy, will be effective? 75% of Americans don't think it will be, and at the time that poll was taken, very few people knew about Dr. Feaver. How about the fake, planted news stories in the Iraqi newspapers? The articles were created by the Lincoln Group, who subsequently paid off the newspapers to run them. The "head" of the Lincoln Group? Christian Bailey, who has not only had a sketchy couple of years heading various groups, but she's also a Republican contributor. It's readily apparent that the White House just doesn't care about insulting our intelligence. Only, it's not 2002 anymore, and we're not running scared. It's the dawn of 2006, and the country has caught on.

Can Amtrak Survive Three More Years of Bush? Bush's "War on Amtrak" has taken some disturbing turns over the last few months. First, he recommends cutting Amtrak's budget by 100%. Then, his handpicked Board of Directors ousted longtime president David Gunn. Now, according to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), "Amtrak is now being run by a board made up of members who have virtually no experience in passenger rail. ... Mr. Gunn was fired because he would not agree with 'FEMA-tizing' Amtrak." Is this surprising? For an administration that saw no problem in putting disaster relief in the hands of a horse judge, or Middle East PR in the hands of a white woman from Texas, this shouldn't be at all shocking. Bush wants to break up Amtrak into smaller subsidiaries, which would mean the end of federal operating grants, which would mean turning Amtrak into somthing it was never intended to be: private companies. Bush does so love his private companies. Oh, and let's not forget the states that would have to chip in costs, should this happen. No, should Bush's subsidiary idea actually come to fruition, Amtrak would die a slow, painful death, and leave hundreds of thousands of people who depend on Amtrak to commute to work in limbo. But since we've already documented how Bush just doesn't seem to give a fig about the American people, it's up to us to do something about it.

Blogger Commentary

Fox News: Holidays 10, Xmas 0 on a Single Webpage. Bill O'Reilly just isn't feeling the holiday love. First, he slams the ACLU, who apparently seem to exist to help al-Qaeda. Then, he misinterprets the Geneva Convention. (Don't these people have fact-checkers?) But in the biggest "screw you" to Mr. O'Reilly, his own station's website has given him the finger. Yes, we are all aware of Mr. O'Reilly's continued exclamations that "liberals are trying to get rid of Christmas." In fact, Steven Colbert does an extremely good farce on O'Reilly's view. But poor Mr. O'Reilly. You see, as Bob Harris, of Daily Kos, writes in the title link, Fox News's own website is adorned with "Happy Holidays" from stem to stern. But that isn't even the worst of it. Bowing to some sort of cosmic pressure, O'Reilly changed his website to say "Recommended Holiday Gifts," where it intially said "Recommended Christmas Gifts." Even the people at Mr. O'Reilly's website are against Christmas!

It is Not Acceptable to be a Republican Anymore. There. We finally said it. Well, Cenk Uygur finally said it. Sure, initially it sounds a little snarky and partisan, but notice the difference between Republicans and conservatives. Conservatives, if there are any of them left, believe in small government. Republicans believe in torture, lying, greed, and corruption. We're pretty sure that there are many people who vote Republican because they are honest conservatives, but how long are we going to give them the benefit of the doubt for sticking their heads in the sand. As Uygur says, "The only defense Republicans have now is that they're ignorant. If you are ignorant of these facts, I feel sorry for you but I understand you have been manipulated and duped. But if you know these facts and you still support this administration, you are as guilty as they are and you are as un-American as they are." To that, we'd like to add that if you still don't know the facts because you choose to remain ignorant, that's nearly as bad.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

 

Monday's Links


Activism

Ho-Ho-Holiday Donations, Early Edition. Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Well, we sure hope so, but before you get too far, take a moment to think about those less fortunate. The end of the year is the perfect time for you to assess how you've fared, and how lucky you likely have it. Over at The Nation, Katha Pollitt has assembled a short list of some very worthwhile causes that could use your support. Furthermore, these are progressive causes, and ones that don't get a lot of press. The holidays are the time for giving!

News

Family Upset Over Marine's Body Arriving As Freight. Well, that's certainly an understatement. We can see Bush's end of the decision now. "OK, Joint Chiefs, here's the situation. We're appropriating another $700 trillion for y'all to use in Iraq. But you've gotta start watching the books. Don't make any unnecessary spending." So, we give Halliburton, et al, an overabundance of money so that they can line their pockets, but the soldiers who come back from Iraq in coffins are sent to their families in the hold of a commercial airplane, next to Uncle Joe's skis? If you needed any additional sign that this administration doesn't give a damn about our soldiers, then look no further.


Commission Finds Irregularities in Iraqi Voter Registration
. Wow, Iraq really is becoming more and more like the U.S.! With parliamentary elections scheduled for this week, the Iraqi electoral commission has found "irregularities in voter registration." To quote the New York Times, "The commission said experts conducting an audit of voter lists found that there had been an unexpected surge in voter registration in the area. When the experts scrutinized the voter registration forms, the commission said in a written statement, they found that many had been filled out incorrectly. Some had missing signatures and others had more than one signature. In some cases, the same name appeared on several forms." Monkey see, monkey do, we suppose. The "irregularities" occured in the province of Kirkuk, which has no clear dominance of Shiite, Sunni or Kurdish Iraqis. Kinda like Florida, or Ohio. So what better way to ensure that your party will win then by cooking the books? After all, it worked for the GOP here. Twice!

Protesters Placed in FBI Terrorism Files, ACLU Says. From the Bill of Rights, Amendment I. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." However, as the FBI so conveniently notes, it doesn't say anything about amassing a database of those that do choose to assemble. Witness the story above, where 30 people who attended an anti-war event three years ago in Colorado have now been placed in the FBI's "terrorism" files. These were peaceful protestors. They weren't throwing rocks, or threatening policemen. In fact, all they had done was sit in the street. They were told to disperse, did not, and were tear gassed and pepper sprayed as a result. Still feel safer, America, knowing that the FBI is hard at work keeping tabs on these miscreants?

Editorials

Dreaming Big to Keep America Rolling. Do you ever get the idea that America's stagnating? Sure, there's still a lot to be proud of as an American, but sometimes we wonder if a country with this many resources ought to be achieving a lot more. David Ignatius writes about the perils of GM, and wonders if it's "a snapshot of where we're all heading unless people take the country's economic problems more seriously." One of our major industries is lagging behind. We can either throw our hands up in the air, or we can do something about it. Ignatius takes a look at a strategy "proposed last year in a study by Amory Lovins called 'Winning the Oil Endgame: Innovation for Profits, Jobs and Security.' " The title alone seems to encompass all of those things America used to stand for: Innovation, Profits, Security. What are we waiting for?

Blogger Commentary

Conservative? No. Radical, Regressive, and Reckless? Yes. Gary Allen Scott makes a point that we've been thinking about for several months now. The GOP at large (from Bush to O'Reilly) are not conservatives. There are, in fact, very few conservatives left. Conservatives we could work with. No, this new breed of Republican is radical, regressive and reckless. "Webster's Dictionary defines 'conservatism' as the 'disposition in politics to preserve what is established'. It is further defined as 'a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions and preferring gradual development to abrupt change.'" Does that sound like anyone you know? Anyone? Anyone at all? Can you name one Republican politician to whom this definition truly applies? Its not really recent (Reagan wasn't exactly fiscally conservative, was he?), but it's become far more apparent over the last year or two that the mentality of "conservative" has fallen by the wayside, and that the RRRs are taking over.

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