Sunday, April 30, 2006

Poor Chimpy’s feelings were hurt last night. Boo. Fucking. Hoo.

Recommended at Daily Kos and front paged at My Left Wing

It seems as though our spoiled brat frat-boy vindictive alcoholic pouter baby in chief didn’t like being made fun of at last night’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner. And in a classic “I’ll take my ball and go home” moment, we find that:
As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and handshakes, and left immediately.


Those seated near Bush told E&P's Joe Strupp, who was elsewhere in the room, that Bush quickly turned from an amused guest to an obviously offended target as Colbert’s comments brought up his low approval ratings and problems in Iraq.


Well, you know what? Boo Fucking Hoo.


I’m not going to get into Colbert’s performance since I didn’t see it, and it was already covered with around 75 diaries so far. If you want to read some of his funnier quotes and haven’t already checked out this diary then you can get more fix from the Editor & Publisher article I linked to above.


But this is more of a commentary on how obnoxiously spoiled and arrogant this douchebag who hijacked our country and Constitution is. Lest we forget the wholly inappropriate and offensive slideshow from a couple of years ago where he made fun of not finding WMD? ESPECIALLY in light of the increased exposure to the lies and knowledge that they knew they were lying about WMD in Iraq. Yeah, Georgie, that’s real fucking funny. Try telling that to the families of the civilians that you bombed into oblivion or the families of the now 2,400 “coalition” forces killed by your illegal and immoral war.


Oh, you don’t think that jokes about your failing administration and unproductive self serving photo-ops are funny? Sorry, I guess we don’t have as good a sense of humor as you when you make jokes about leaking classified information for political purposes. Not to mention the fact that this leak conveniently sets up your newest fucktarted idea of a war nicely.


Still not funny? Oh, I’m so sorry….maybe you thought that it was funny to say that you “sometimes had too much fun” in New Orleans when you finally went there weeks after your neglect caused the utter destruction of a major US city and thousands of lives. But I guess it was all in fun, and since you are “the Decider”, then you can say what you want, no matter how inappropriate.


Fucking jackass.


Out of all of the reporting that I have seen about last night, there has been no mention of how this petulant loser’s poor fragile ego can’t take the truth, even (or especially) in joke form but he can so easily dismiss death, destruction, lies and ruined lives with that fucking smirk that makes you want to smack the taste out of his mouth.


What a tool. A petty, sadistic frog killer (and I mean the amphibious kind) who always thought that his smarmy ass jokes and insults were at all acceptable. But when the tables are turned, well that is off limits.


Immature asshole. What an embarrassment to humankind and just a waste of space.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

clammyc's photoessay of today's NYC peace march

Recommended at Daily Kos, Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Linked at michaelmoore.com

I just got back from today's March for Peace, Justice and Democracy in NYC and all I can say is, "wow, what a day".


The weather was perfect, the mood was spirited, the people were psyched and passionate, and I was choked up more than once at what I heard and saw. Luckily for me, I was meeting my buddy Lawrence at his sister's place which was right at the start of the march route on 22nd and Broadway. And somehow, I remembered to not only bring a camera but also a pad and pen so I could capture what I thought was going to be an eventful, emotional and all around good day.


And I was certainly not mistaken nor let down. I hope you enjoy the pictures as well as my little commentary (sorry, dial-up users, there are a lot of photos...) For anyone else who was there, I would love to hear your stories, comments and pictures too.


The march was supposed to start around noon at 22nd and Broadway, but by 11:15 or so, the streets were packed. I got to the meeting place around 10:45 or so, and was able to get this picture of Cheney, Bush, Rummy and Rice's heads on the ground - these heads were put on bodies in prison jumpsuits as you can see from the two pictures.



That was when everyone was setting up, and there were still around 100 people on the corner. Below is around an hour later:



Our early estimates were that there were around 50,000 people at the start of the march. Being a math geek, I guessed that each intersection had around 8,000 people, with another 1,000 - 2,000 on Broadway. Since 18th Street through 23rd Streets were closed off, that was our initial guess. As it turns out, I think we were way, way, WAY off as the pictures will show.


Around 11:45 or so, the crowd started getting real thick, and there were so many good signs, as you can see:



This was a great sign:



Osama Bin Forgotten: one of my favorite signs ever:



And Darth Cheney the puppeteer with King Chimpy too:



From behind (notice the target on Cheney's back and "The Lying King" on Dear Leader's back:




This is Lawrence, his buddy Matt and yours truly with a great sign - the other side said "How Many Gallons Per Life?"



And one of me and Lawrence, before the march started:



I thought of you, nyceve when I took this one:



All this was before we even got started. As we were waiting to get started, there were tons of people chanting, young kids with their parents, veterans, college and high school aged people, and many twenty and thirtysomethings. Chants like "racist, sexist, anti-gay...George Bush go away!!" and "George Bush, we know you, your daddy was a killer too".


Off in the distance, we heard a lone trumpet playing "Give Peace A Chance" and I got chills up my spine. Totally surreal.


Finally, a bit before 1 PM we started our way down Broadway on our journey. And it became pretty obvious by all of the people streaming into the streets that there were closer to 100,000 people by then. Also, one thing I must point out is how great the police were. You could barely sense their presence, as if they almost were in agreement with the marchers. In fact, many of the people marching, including me, thanked them for the great job they were doing.


Off topic for you football fans, my buddy Lawrence is a Jet fan, and he got a call from his friend early in the march who told him that the Jets passed on Leinart. When I told him that they Jets will regret that for years to come, I got the typical Jet fan comment - "we don't need Leinart, we have Ramsey and Pennington". As Nelson Muntz would say, "HA...ha".


Anyway, back to the march. We were towards the front third when it started, and couldn't believe how many people were still in front of us. A couple of the pics below will hopefully give an idea of how far this stretched. We estimated at one point that it had to be at least 20 blocks or so - 13 or so in front of us and 7 or so behind us.



This was somewhat close to the beginning of the march. And here are a few other views:



Looking up Broadway:



And some more real good signs - "Draft the Bush Twins"



This one needs no explanation. Best. Sign. Ever.



Around halfway through the march, we decided to get some lunch at Whole Foods in Union Square. While we were walking, a bus rode up the east side of Union Square, and there was one man on board the bus. He was around 80-90 or so, and flashed the peace sign to us as he rode by. I couldn't get a picture, but man, what a great moment that was.


By the time we stopped, got some food and ate, around 20 minutes went by, and Union Square was still packed. I snapped this picture from the window at Whole Foods looking out on Union Square and you can see that there are still a ton of people marching, even 20 minutes later:



There were also people lining the sidewalks, a few people deep at some points too. This was someone who put a few signs in her window and was cheering as we walked by:



I'll leave you with 2 more pictures - one against bombing Iran and the other was "the backbone platform", which was around 40 feet long and had slogans like "strengthening social security", "troops out of Iraq", "college for all" and many others.




All in all, it was a very moving and emotional day. When we got down to the park in City Hall at the end of the march, there were booths set up for protecting labor, healthcare, womens' rights, no nukes, the environment, and around 15 others. People were out on the lawns just having a good time relaxing after a long march.


It was truly a great scene, and a great day.


And when I was done, I had more hope than I did when I started the march.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Colbert: "Great" smackdown, or "Greatest" smackdown ever?

On last night's Colbert Report, there was one of the greatest smackdowns ever. Video is here, courtesy of the good folks at Crooks and Liars.

Colbert tears Bill Kristol a new one, he of Project for a New American Century fame, whose goal in the 90s was basically to militarily take over the Middle East. While acknowledging that this would take time, they did say that it could be sped up by a "cataclysmic event such as a new Pearl Harbor".

And conveniently, we got that event on 9/11/01.

PS - look at the other members of PNAC (scroll halfway down the page on the link above). Coincidence? Of course it is......

Did Conrad Burns just threaten to violate FEC laws?

Recommended at My Left Wing

I saw this interesting little tidbit earlier today regarding Conrad Burns' "little legal issues" arising from his buddy Jack Abramoff. What jumped out at me immediately was his comment that:
Burns had hired [DC white collar criminal defense attorney Ralph] Caccia to "review the facts" in the Jack Abramoff matter. Klindt said Wednesday that Burns has hired Caccia's firm as his personal lawyer but may choose to have his re-election campaign pay the bill "due to the partisan nature of it," referring to Democrats' attempts to link Burns to Abramoff.


Now, forgetting the stupid, petty, scummy comment about it being so partisan. Actually, I take that back, this IS a partisan issue - ONLY the Republicans are showing up as being entangled with this scandal and have been linked to criminal matters with Abramoff. But, the fact that he would blatantly indicate that he would have his re-election campaign pay for his personal attorney got me wondering if this is legal.


And based on a quick read of the Federal Campaign Finance Laws, it looks as if "the other evil Mr. Burns" may be in more legal trouble if he goes along with his threat.


Now, I am no attorney, but I deal with attorneys a lot in my line of work (and the missus is one herself), but it looks like something of this nature would fall within the violations of the "acceptable use" rules for campaign funds.


According to Section 439a(b) of the Federal Campaign Finance Laws, the following is prohibited (emphasis mine):

Prohibited use.

(1) In general. A contribution or donation described in subsection (a) shall not be converted by any person to personal use.


(2) Conversion. For the purposes of paragraph (1), a contribution or donation shall be considered to be converted to personal use if the contribution or amount is used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign or individual's duties as a holder of Federal office, including--

(A) a home mortgage, rent, or utility payment;

(B) a clothing purchase;

(C) a noncampaign-related automobile expense;

(D) a country club membership;

(E) a vacation or other noncampaign-related trip;

(F) a household food item;

(G) a tuition payment;

(H) admission to a sporting event, concert, theater, or other form of entertainment not associated with an election campaign; and

(I) dues, fees, and other payments to a health club or recreational facility.


Now, granted that Burns is in legal hot water because he misused his official position to get favors, Super Bowl tickets and other "goodies" from Abramoff in exchange for his efforts to help Abramoff's clients.


But if he is going to argue that this is related to his "duties as a holder of Federal office", well that would be a treat. I can hear the argument now: "I broke the law in my capacity as a holder of Federal office, so it is only logical that I use campaign funds to pay for my defense".


However, regardless of whether his crimes (or "alleged crimes") occurred, it is clear that he would have had to hire a personal criminal defense attorney regardless of whether he was seeking reelection or not. This certainly is vastly different from the "Tom DeLay defense fund" or the "Scooter Libby defense fund" - I don't think that DeLay was directing his campaign funds towards his defense (but with him, who knows...)


Even more interesting at this point is that Burns hasn't been formally contacted by the Justice Department. And the Democrats have been quick to point this out:

The Justice Department has never said which members of Congress are part of the investigation, and Klindt said Wednesday neither the senator nor his lawyer has been contacted by the agency.


Democrats said the fact that Burns has hired a criminal defense attorney shows he is more involved in the Abramoff investigation than he has let on previously.


"If Burns really believed he'd done nothing wrong and this was all 'just politics,' he wouldn't have one of the best white-collar crime lawyers money can buy," said Matt McKenna, a spokesman for the Montana Democratic Party.


But no one at this point is addressing the larger issue of whether the use of his campaign funds to pay for his personal legal defense is a violation of federal election laws.


And wouldn't that be a treat if he just threatened to violate these laws in an attempt to redirect the spotlight from him to "those evil partisan Democrats"....

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

funniest cartoon ever

Well, maybe not ever but it certainly stacks up with the "Amendment to be" from the Simpsons.

But, being the HUGE fan of School House Rock that I am (I have the greatest hits on VHS and the 2DVD set) this cartoon parody of School House Rock is just too fucking funny. I think it only played once on SNL's "TV Funhouse".

It may take a while to load but trust me, it is WELL worth it.

(hat tip to MamasGun at Dkos for pointing this out).

Big Pharma payoffs to generic drug co's gouging consumers

Nyceve deserves a medal for her coverage of the health care industry horrors, and as a supplement to her must read diary today, there is this report from today's WaPo which highlights the resurgance of a very disturbing trend between Big Pharma and its payoffs to generic drug makers in exchange for agreements that would significantly slow the release of generic drugs to the market.


This is a practice that had essentially been dormant for years until last year - in fact, before 2005, this practice was ruled as anti-competitive and unfair to consumers by the Federal Trade Commission.  As a result, Big Pharma gets to retain its patent for drugs longer, and therefore charge the higher prices for such drugs, and the generic drug companies get millions of dollars in exchange for not challenging the patent in order to bring a less expensive version of the drug to market.


And similar to the Medicare D(ebacle), We the People get the shaft.


First, a bit of background.  Even though it is obvious that brand-name drugs are considerably more expensive than the generic counterparts, we have reports from the AARP indicating how bad the impact of these higher prices are.  Not even considering the Medicare D(isaster), we have 2 studies that show how bad the situation has gotten.  For starters, a recently released study indicates that, for the sixth year in a row, prices of brand name drugs increased more than the overall rate of inflation.


In fact:

The latest results of the survey by AARP's "Rx Watchdog" were released today and show the average price increase of 193 brand-name drugs was 6 percent last year, when inflation was just 3.4 percent. Generic drugs actually experienced a price decrease.


That increase is nearly DOUBLE the rate of inflation.  But wait, it gets worse.  In response to the 2005 price increases AARP Director of Policy and Strategy John Rother said:

"Prices for brand name drugs have jumped 40 percent on average over the past six years, compared to inflation of only 17 percent. Since these price increases charged to wholesalers are generally passed on in the prices consumers ultimately pay, brand name drugs have become substantially less affordable for consumers at the same time they are becoming ever more essential to good medical care."


"These prices are reflected both in higher premiums for drug coverage as well as in higher out of pocket costs at the pharmacy counter," he added.


Here is a chart that shows the increase of brand-name drug prices vs. the rate of inflation:



Here is a more detailed study done by the AARP with respect to 2005.


Conversely, a study by the AARP noted here shows that the average price of generic drugs paid by senior citizens (defined as Americans 50 and older) actually dropped by nearly 1% after being indexed.  So, keeping in mind not only that many seniors are living on fixed incomes and are getting screwed by the Medicare D program but many Americans in general are fighting to make ends meet, and would gladly pay less for the same medication.  That rate of decrease is one-quarter the rate of inflation (decrease of 0.8% vs. inflation rate of 3.4%)


In fact, an article from last Friday indicates indicated that:

A Consumers Union analysis found taxpayers, insurers and Medicare Part D beneficiaries would save $8.2 billion in 2007 alone if concerted efforts were made to shift statin users to lower-cost generic statins.


$8.2 billion less.  In 2007 alone.


Another study shows that consumers can save around 50% by using the generic version of certain drugs.


And that is why this deal is so disgusting.  To switch gears back to these deals between the generic drug companies and Big Pharma, I want to first reiterate that these deals had occurred in the early to mid 90's but were not very common, and were stopped altogether in the late 90's.


The WaPo article gives some good background on generic drugs vs. brand name drugs:

Generic drugs, which generally cost a fraction of the brand-name original, come to the market after the product's 20-year patent expires. The law and business practices governing patents can be complicated, however, and many generics become available only after successful court challenges.


[W]hen brand-name and generic companies agree to end their patent litigation, both generally benefit but the public suffers. The agreements allow the branded companies to maintain their patent exclusivity for longer periods, while the generic company receives money for, in effect, dropping its challenge. The generic companies also often enter into agreements to produce lower-priced versions of the brand-name company's drug at a predetermined date -- far in the future.


Sounds fair enough, at least to the consumer.  After 20 years, a generic version of a drug is available, and while the brand name drug is still available (and still widely used), a lower cost version is also made available, so as to (1) let the Big Pharma company that invested the resources to manufacture the drug get exclusive rights for a prescribed period of time and recoup some (or all and then some) of their investment and development costs and (2) allow consumers to be able to afford a less-expensive but exactly the same version of the drug once that 20 year period has lapsed.


The market for generic drugs is huge, as you would expect.  Additionally, the amount of overall spending on generics is very low - mainly due to their lower cost.  According to WaPo:

More than 53 percent of prescriptions are now filled with generic drugs, and that percentage is expected to climb as employers and government programs seek to control health costs. Because generics are so much cheaper, they account for only about 12 percent of drug purchases.


But what these deals are doing is allowing the Big Pharma companies to retain exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute the drugs, thereby being the only player in the market and setting the price at whatever level they choose.  It also allows the generic drug companies to pocket many many millions while sitting on their hands.


And it also results in We the People paying 50% or more for drugs that would otherwise (and up until last year) have been on the market sooner in order to ease some of the pain that arises from the fact that one is sick enough to have to shell out lots of money for the drugs to begin with.


Two of the recent examples of "screw the people, we want our money" are as follows:

Cephalon Inc. made deals to get four generic companies to drop challenges to its patents on the sleep-disorder drug Provigil. All four generics agreed to stay out of the market until 2011, and together they will receive licensing payments of $136 million from Cephalon.


Also this year, the two makers of the blood thinner Plavix (Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Sanofi-Aventis) agreed to pay a generic challenger to defer its entry to the market until November 2011 in exchange for dropping its patent challenge.


So why is this coming up now, if it was deemed to be unfair to consumers and anti-competitive?  Well, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Schering Plough last year, reversing the FTC's ruling.  The FTC is pushing back by:

[asking] the Supreme Court to reverse an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in a similar case involving the drug company Schering-Plough.


The FTC said last month it planned to subpoena nearly 200 pharmaceutical companies as part of a probe of possible anticompetitive practices in the prescription drug industry.


The subpoenas, which require Office of Management and Budget approval, would form part of an investigation into whether pharmaceutical companies are stifling competition by releasing authorized generic copies of their own brand-name drugs to coincide with the debut of generic challengers made by competitors.


It [the FTC] indicates that if the Supreme Court doesn't, it could give brand-name and generic companies "carte blanche to avoid competition and share resulting profits," FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz said.


And do we really want to hang our hat on this Supreme Court to do something in favor of the American public at the expense of Big Pharma?


I think we know and fear how that would likely turn out.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Did US indifference on recent Iraqi prison torture flame civil war?

Recommended at Booman Tribune

So much for a "few bad apples" or no civil war in Iraq. According to today's WaPo, we have this news about more torture at several Iraqi prisons:
"At one of the sites, thirteen detainees showed signs of abuse that required immediate medical care. The signs of abuse included broken bones, indications that they had been beaten with hoses and wires, signs that they had been hung from the ceiling, and cigarette burns.


"There were several cases of physical abuse at one other inspection site. These included evidence of scars, missing toenails, dislocated shoulders, severe bruising, and cigarette burns. At the time of the inspection, most of the apparent injuries were months old; however, there were indications that three cases of abuse occurred within a week of the inspection.


And it looks like the US turned a blind eye towards this last year because of political pressure from Shiites before the December 15 Iraqi elections.


So much for "winning the hearts and minds" in Iraq. And a tidbit in the WaPo article provides some real damning proof that the administration's willful actions with respect to ignoring the prison torture (for political reasons due to the December 15 Iraqi elections) may have greatly increased the likelihood and contributed to the civil war, which broke out in earnest with the February bombing of a mosque.


These new revelations come on the heels of a joint US/Iraq inspection and tour of six Iraqi torture chambers "detention facilities" since last November. Among the signs of extreme abuse and torture (in addition to what was noted above) include:

"Numerous bruises on the arms, legs and feet. A lot of the Iraqis had separated shoulders and problems with their hands and fingers too. You could also see strap marks on some of their backs."


Now, it is unclear as to whether the torture is being done by the US, by the Shiite Iraqi guards, or both. But it certainly is clear that there is not nearly enough being done to stop this from happening. The US is supposed to be training the Iraqi corrections officers, is responsible for perpetuating the torture with the examples set for the past few years, as well as the lack of oversight in the prisons.


In fact, we have this incredible exchange by Rummy and Lt. Col. Kevin Curry, spokesman for U.S. detention operations late last year:

This practice of leaving the detainees in place has raised concerns that detainees now face additional threats. It has also prompted fresh questions from the inspectors about whether the United States has honored a pledge by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that U.S. troops would attempt to stop inhumane treatment if they saw it.


Pace said at a news conference Nov. 29 with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, "It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it." Turning to Pace, Rumsfeld responded: "I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it."


"If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it," Pace answered.


The Iraqi official familiar with the joint inspections said detainees who are not moved to other facilities are left vulnerable. "They tell us, 'If you leave us here, they will kill us,' " said the Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because, he said, he and other Iraqis involved with inspections had received death threats.


What makes matters worse is that this seems to be at least a partial direct result of the lack of planning or outright denial of a civil war brewing. If you deny the problem exists, that doesn't mean that people aren't killing or torturing each other. In fact, today's news finds 7 car bombs exploding in Baghdad - at a university, a marketplace, near police patrols and by government buildings and at least 20 bodies found that were killed as a result of "sectarian violence" (read: civil war). The torture found in the prisons are mainly found at prisons run by the Interior Ministry, which just so happens to be "Shiite-dominated".


In the WaPo article, there is a very disturbing comment that indicates that the US not only knew about the torture and abuse, but did nothing to stop it because the Iraqi elections were coming up and they didn't want to interfere until after the elections. However, even after the elections, nothing was done to help these prisoners.


Holy shit.


So does this mean that the fa├žade of "free and fair" elections was more important to Dear Leader and his merry band of criminals than actually stopping an environment of killing, torture and civil war.


Actually, don't answer that.


Since the elections were in mid-December, and the first true sign of a civil war occurred a couple of months later when the mosque was bombed in February, you wonder if this wasn't something that could have increased the ill-will between the Sunnis and Shiites that ultimately led to the full blown civil war that we are starting to see. According to the article:

The two sources involved in the joint inspections said the visits after November included an Interior Ministry detention center in Baghdad, which was inspected twice; a Defense Ministry site near the Green Zone; an Interior Ministry site in the city of Kut; an Interior Ministry site in the Muthanna neighborhood of Baghdad; and a "maximum crimes facility" in Baghdad.


The two sources said that at three of those sites, prisoners were being held by the Wolf Brigade, one of the Interior Ministry commando forces most feared by Sunnis.


The inspections occurred within a 2 to 5 week increment between early December through the end of March, and as expected, were pretty much dismissed by the administration's "spokesman":

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the main U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, broadly denied in remarks to U.S. reporters in Baghdad that any abuse had been found at any of the centers since the initial raid on Nov. 13.


"In these facilities that we did inspect unannounced, we saw no signs of abuse," Lynch told reporters at a briefing March 30. "The facilities were, by our standards, overcrowded, but the people being held at those facilities were being properly taken care of; they were being fed, they had water, they were taken care of. So no abuse, no evidence of torture in those facilities."


Unbelieveable. It is one thing to ignore warnings that a civil war was likely to break out. It is another to actively (or passively) assist in exacerbating the already volatile situation in Iraq by ignoring prison torture and doing nothing to get the prisoners out of the way of more torture.


Another day, another set of war crimes that we find out about.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tony Snow's many lies make him an unacceptable press sec'y

Recommended at Daily Kos and My Left Wing

Let's go under the assumption for now that The Decider isn't pulling another bait and switch with the press secretary position, and that Fox News commentator Tony Snow will at least be offered (if not will accept) the position as White House Press Secretary.


And let's pretend that there is even a hint of concern that at least the White House wants to put on some sort of credible face towards a press corps(e) that has started to arise from the dead. Since no one trusted Puffy McMoonface and no one trusts the blathering bullshit that is coming out of this administration, you would think that at least Josh Bolton would want to have someone that is not a blatant proven liar spew and spin the crap set out by Dear Leader and his merry band of criminals.


But more importantly, the left blogosphere has proven its ability to make enough noise at times to expose and derail some of the appointments, lies, plagiarisms, nominations and candidacies of the lying liars. And with Tony Snow, there is a wealth of his own lies that must be used to stop this before it starts.


The good folks over at Mediamatters.org have compiled not one but two lists of the "many falsehoods of Tony Snow". Not surprisingly, they range from areas as supporting the Swift Boat Liars to dismissing evolution to Bush's going AWOL from the National Guard to immigration to Gitmo to Joe Wilson.


Of course, we have to assume that anyone involved with this administration is, at BEST, a lying jackass, what purpose does it really serve to have someone that is proven to be a lying shill jackass before going into a position where he/she has to answer questions every day? Why not just have no press secretary and just issue one page of talking points each day? That will at least save some time and money.....


Anyway, before even talking about what crap and nonsense Chimpy and the Gang want to be heaped upon the press, Snow should be called to the carpet on his own words and lies that make him unfit to even lie with a straight face. At least Scotty could do that. Besides, Scotty had a couple of years head start of lying before the shit really hit the fan.


So Snow (or whatever other talking meatstick they would get instead to take Scotty's place) is already walking into a situation of the lowest approval ratings ever, civil war in Iraq, lies being exposed left and right about Iraq, a lunatic crash course with dropping nuclear bombs (I still can't believe I am typing those words) on Iran, indictments over Republican felon Abramoff and the corruption scandal that could be the greatest congressional scandal ever, people "leaving" their jobs within the administration, calls for Rummy to leave, more info about torture and rendition, possible Fitzmas indictments, hurricane season coming, a potential disaster with midterm elections and I am sure at least 500 more scandals that I am forgetting off the top of my head.


No wonder he is tentatively thinking about accepting the job.


Anyway, the 2 mediamatters links are good and have lots of links themselves, but I'll put some of the bigger doozies below so you can see how this assclown should be laughed out of consideration for Press Secretary (remember, we are still pretending that there will some semblance of credibility at this "face of the administration" position).


Since there are so many, I'll try to lump them into categories, just so your head doesn't explode too quickly.


Blatant Dumbass Republican Shilling Hackery


Jeez, where to begin here. Not that this won't make him a "darling" to these losers, this guy knows he has stiff competition with Falafel-man O'Reilly, Hannity, Mann Coulter, and the pill-popping Rush Limbaugh. So he has a few gems of his own:


Swift Boat Liars


Here, Snow is a strong defendant of the blatant un-American lies to attack a war veteran for sick political purposes. According to his own comments on the O'Reilly Factor (sorry, transcript no longer available), he had this gem:

"there has been no documentary contradiction of the swift boat stuff."


Besides the fact that there was this, this, this and a dozen other supporting stories and documents linked here, it has long since passed the point where it is even debatable as to whether these jackasses had any credibility with their accusations of Kerry. Just the fact that he vehemently supported them is enough to show how much he hates our troops and America.


Shrub's going AWOL


Once again, on the O'Lielly Factor, Snow is at his lying shilling best when he had this to say:

And now, it [CBS News] also has the fuller problem of if the documents are forgeries, how do you make the claim that the story itself was true? After all, the story itself hinges upon what? Somebody finding out whether the president showed up for a physical.


In other words, you have to prove that he wasn't there. Well, that's almost impossible to do.
The doctor is not around. So there's CBS left grasping at straws.


Except for the inconvenient fact that this little document was out there at the time proved that he was, yup, lying out of his ass.


(Un)intelligent Design


Yes, he is one of those tools who doesn't believe in science. And he was willing to put it into writing too, by coming up with this line that must have made Dobson oh-so proud:

Evolutionary theory, like ID, isn't verifiable or testable. It's pure hypothesis -- like ID -- although very popular in the scientific community. Its limits help illuminate the fact that hypotheses are only as durable as the evidence that supports them.


Now, I'm not even going to argue this point but if you are one of the believers that there was a "creator" (other than the flying spaghetti monster, of course), the you can go here. Once again, the guy doesn't even believe in science.


Iraq lies, other administration crimes


Illegal wiretapping lies


Here is where he stands out among the shilliest shillers that have ever shilled. First, we have his lie (first cooked up by fat KKKarl) about the Democrats supporting Al Qaeda:

While speaking to Fox News political analyst Bob Beckel, Snow suggested that "Democratic opposition" to the warrantless domestic surveillance program arose from the belief that "the government should not be able to listen to Al Qaeda people talking to American citizens."


Or this whopper about Carter authorizing the same type of wiretapping that J Edgar Hoover, I mean Richard Nixon, I mean Chimpy has authorized:

President Jimmy Carter had "signed an executive order that authorized the attorney general to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information." Snow went on to claim that this represented "exactly what the president is doing."


Except for the teensy little detail that Carter prohibited the surveillance of US citizens....


But he doesn't stop there. Why settle for a few lies when there are so many more to repeat? How about this one about the FISA rules not allowing the FBI to look at the contents of Zacarias Moussaoui's laptop:

Snow said that FBI agents in possession of Zacarias Moussaoui's laptop "decided not to go ahead and look at the contents because they ... had no definite proof that the guy was a terrorist" and, therefore, couldn't meet the probable cause standard necessary for a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).


This line of bullshit was first shoveled by William Kristol and Gary Schmitt, and was proven wrong nearly two years earlier by the Senate Judiciary Committee.


How about the "proof" that Bush was authorized to eavesdrop on international communications of US residents? Of course there is that inconvenient little "fact" that the Constitution trumps all, and can't be disregarded and that the court didn't even discuss the warrentless spying on Americans (probably because at the time it was so ludicrous to claim that you can violate the Constitution.


Joe Wilson


You can't have a lying shill without the obligatory Joe Wilson lies and smears. So just to be brief, we have this, where he repeated the lie of how Wilson said that Cheney sent him to Niger. Or this one in the same column where he falsely claimed that the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Plame was responsible for Wilson's trip to Niger. Or, of course, this lie about how Wilson claimed that his wife was not covert for six years before being illegally outed by Novakula.


Terrorism lies


For starters, we have the required lie about Gitmo being such a great facility. Coming from someone in the comfort of a cushy TV studio, he goes on to talk about "the good life" that is being led:

more than 400 journalists have been through the facility in the past couple of years, and several hundred Congressional employees (members and staff) have taken the tour as well. To date, the grand total of returnees claiming to have seen, heard of or suspected prisoner abuse is ... zero. Amnesty International embarrassed itself badly when its Secretary General, along the executive director of AI-USA, offered wild accusations about U.S.-conducted tortures before having to confess that they had no evidence to support their assertions.


Contrary to cool-kid wisdom, Guantanamo may be the most humane prisoner-of-war facility in history.
Prisoners get warm meals, cooked in accordance with Muslim food-handling and preparation guidelines; they receive a copy of the Koran in whatever language they prefer. They get prayer mats. Their captors have painted stencils on cell floors, pointing the way to Mecca. U-S personnel have received extensive instruction in appealing to terrorist religious sensitivities. Our guys may handle the Koran only after putting on clean white gloves, and they must carry the holy book with both hands, not just one. Bottom line: The prisoners live in posher surroundings than their captors, who live in tents. They get better meals, too.


Total. Fucking. Douchebag.


Or this gem about Bill Clinton first advanced by king of the total fucking douchebags, Sean Hannity (because all of the world's problems can be linked back to those damn Clintons) he said on February 25, 2006:

Sudan had offered to "hand over" Osama bin Laden to the United States in the 1990s, but that the Clinton administration responded, "Nah, don't want to do it."
.


But, oopsie, the 9/11 Commission itself determined (see page 3 of the link) that this was all bullshit and that there was "no reliable evidence to support [this] claim".


This guy doesn't even have the qualifications for the position of "good liar". And I would think that would be the number one criteria for the position he is being considered for. The only alternative would be to accept the fact that Fox News is now an "official" US Governmental agency.

So does this mean that Bush will threaten to nuke Russia?

Iran and Russia just announced that they reached a deal for a joint uranium enrichment program on Russian soil.


Heckuva job there, Chimpy.


With all your threats to Iran, all of your "nook-you-opshun is on the table" cowboy talk, all of your "bring `em on" yee-haw bullshit - look at the fine mess you have gotten yourself into.


Because now, the basics of a deal are in place for Russia and Iran to jointly enrich uranium.  And if Iran is the enemy that must be destroyed, what does your feeble mind think of a country that is helping them enrich the uranium that can be used by evil terrah-ists?


According to the envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh,

[there is] a basic agreement between Iran and Russia to set up a joint uranium enrichment firm on Russian soil," Iranian state television reported.


It remained unclear, though, whether Iran would entirely give up enrichment at home, a top demand of the West, or whether the joint venture would complement Iran's existing enrichment program. Enriched uranium can be used to fuel nuclear reactors that generate electricity or to make atomic bombs.


"Only issues regarding technical, legal and financial matters remain to be resolved which need more deliberation and exchange of views," the television quoted Soltanieh as saying Saturday in Moscow.


Since there have been numerous reports that all options are still on the table and there has been no agreement for sanctions against Iran by the UN Security Council, now you hav Russia, a member of the UN Security Council not only supporting Iran (if not outwardly), but now they are actively working with them to enrich uranium.


Of course, Bush has blown every shot at any diplomatic resolution and has drawn a line in the sand against Iran and enriching uranium.


So, what's next, Chimpy?  You gonna bomb Russia too?  Looks like you've painted yourself into a corner.


Nice work.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Roundup: Taking a Leak

Haven't done one of these in a while, but now is as good a time as any. Plus, anytime I can use the term "take a leak" works for me.....

So, let's play "good leak/bad leak".

Good leak: Condi Rice can leak classified defense info to foreign lobbyists. This same leak got those very lobbyists long prison terms.

Bad leak: CIA officer fired for leaking information to the press about secret torture prisons that the US runs overseas.

Good leak: Cheney's chief of staff says that Bush told him to leak classified information to the press. Never mind that it was inaccurate and debunked information.

Bad leak: Justice department investigates the leak of the illegal and unconstitutional NSA warrentless spying and wiretapping. Not the program, but the fact that someone leaked that this illegal program exists.

Good leak: Karl Rove leaks the name of a covert CIA operative to the press. That operative just happened to be investigating Iran and its attempt to start a nuclear program.

Bad leak: Sibel Edmonds fired from FBI for disclosing the incompetence and corruption at the Bureau that helped lead to 9/11.

Good leak: Bob Novak(ula) publishes classified CIA information that was leaked for political purposes to cover up lies about reasons for illegal invasion of Iraq.

Bad leak: Homeland security officials threatened with dismissal for revealing major security lapses at, you guessed it, homeland security headquarters.

wow, that was fun.

Friday, April 21, 2006

DHS forcing secrecy pledges to cover up its' security flaws

Recommended at My Left Wing

Boy do I feel good that we have a Department of Homeland Security. If the color code threat levels being manipulated (as per Tom Ridge) or its officials being arrested in a child sex sting aren't enough for you, we now have this bit of news:


The Department of Homeland (In)Security has issued gag orders and made its employees sign non-disclosure releases to cover up its own security lapses (hat tip to TPM).


Unfuckingbelievable. Instead of fixing security lapses, or even better, training its employees up front to ensure that lapses don't occur, the Department in charge of "keeping Murka safer" covers up the lapses, and forces its own to sign secrecy pledges under threat of dismissal or other adverse action.


This all started last month, when a former DHS guard working at its headquarters went on NBC Nightly News to discuss the lapses in dealing with bioterror and inadequate training. According to the March 2006 story:

In a residential area of Washington, D.C., the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security is fenced, gated and patrolled by armed guards.


The guards are employed by Wackenhut Services, a British company that provides security for many sensitive American sites, including many of the nation's nuclear power plants.


But the Homeland Security headquarters is anything but secure, according to more than a dozen former and current Wackenhut employees who signed statements citing everything from unmanned guard stations to inadequate training.


Derrick Daniels is former guard. He says he was never trained on dealing with biohazards, suspicious packages, evacuating a building or any kind of chemical or biological weapon of mass destruction.


Just great. The people that are supposed to be guarding our country from bioterror, and who knows what else can't even guard their own headquarters. And when the guards who were put in a dangerous position without being properly trained came forward to discuss these serious matters, what happens? The very next day, they are forced to sign this "non-disclosure agreement".


According to Congressional Quarterly, the guards were threatened with being fired (um, this certainly seems to go against the whistleblower rules) if they did not comply:

Security guards at the Department of Homeland Security were forced last month to sign agreements not to disclose information the agency deems sensitive -- an attempt, according to several current guards, to silence them after recent high-profile revelations of security breaches at DHS.


The guards, employed by Wackenhut Services Inc., were told to sign pledges, called "non-disclosure agreements," on March 10, the day after former guard Derrick Daniels appeared on NBC Nightly News alleging security lapses at the agency's Nebraska Ave. complex headquarters in Washington, D.C.


The timing raises questions about whether DHS and Wackenhut misused the agreements and ignored whistleblower protections in an effort to prevent the guards from disclosing additional information about security lapses at DHS headquarters.


According to one guard, Wackenhut supervisors threatened to fire employees who did not sign the non-disclosure agreements. Wackenhut recently lost out on bidding for a new security contract at DHS to Virginia-based Paragon Systems LLC. Nevertheless, Wackenhut guards will continue to provide security at DHS headquarters for the next few months, according to a department spokesman.


Seriously, this is just total bullshit. Derrick Daniels discussed with NBC News how they were woefully unprepared to handle the anthrax scare that recently happened at DHS headquarters, and how, if it was anthrax, could likely have been exposed to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. On top of that, nobody knew how to handle the scare and the building wasn't even evacuated for over an hour.


Daniels says the most frightening example was last fall, when a piece of mail containing white powder set off an anthrax scare. No one, he says, seemed to know what to do. It was more than an hour before the building was evacuated. At one point, he says, the envelope -- later determined to be harmless -- was carried within 20 feet of the office of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.


"Where the secretary of Homeland Security is housed, we should have the best training, the best equipment," says Daniels.


Um, do you think? The friggin Homeland Security Secretary can't even protect himself. And the way to stop this from happening again probably would be better served by training the people that are supposed to be protecting We the People. Not by forcing them to sign a gag order under threat of being demoted, fired or for all we know with this crew, being sent to Gitmo for some lessons on how to protect your bumbling and dangerously incompetent superiors.


As for the cover-up, well what would you expect but more incompetence there. DHS can't even lie well as their story goes against basic and obvious, easily identifiable facts:

He (DHS spokesman Russ Knocke) said DHS requested that Wackenhut have employees sign non-disclosure agreements on March 1, 2006. He contends that the security guards were not under DHS's purview until that time.


That's roughly one year after DHS officially took over control of the Nebraska Ave. complex from the U.S. Navy, which had signed a contract with Wackenhut to provide security in 2002. DHS had been using the Navy contract until they signed a bridge contract March 1.


"We took control of the Wackenhut contract [on March 1, 2006], which then allowed the department to implement the requirements," Knocke said.


That timeline, however, does not mesh with Wackenhut's description of events. According to the company, DHS has had control of the security contract for more than a year.


"When DHS took over the contract April 1, 2005, we had a year remaining on that contract," Bud Blount, a Wackenhut spokesman said. "While [the General Services Administration] entered into the contract, DHS assumed responsibility for it."


Heckuva job you are doing, Chertoff.


What's worse is that, despite the coercion to sign the non-disclosure agreement, the guards STILL aren't getting the training that they need to perform their duties. Not only that, but as I stated above, Wackenhut and DHS could be in some hot water for violating the whistleblower rules.


Senators Byron Dorgan (ND) and Ron Wyden (OR) had previously called for an investigation into the actions of Wackenhut with respect to this matter. And now, the Service Employees International Union and the Governmental Accountability Project have jumped into the fray:

According to SEIU spokeswoman Gina Bowers, the guards' allegations about the non-disclosure agreements could amount to a violation of the law.


---snip---


"If they were coerced into signing these official government documents, and Wackenhut gave them to DHS, then Wackenhut was submitting false documents to the federal government," Bowers said, explaining that employees had signed on to the document despite having not been fully briefed on sensitive but unclassified information.


Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit whistleblower advocacy group unrelated to the Government Accountability Office, also suggested the accusations put Wackenhut, as well as DHS, on shaky legal ground.


Neither Wackenhut nor DHS acted properly in requiring completion of the non-disclosure agreements, he said.


"A cornerstone of whistleblower law is that termination shortly after public dissent is viewed as retaliatory, per se, and it's the most common way to prove a reprisal case under corporate free speech laws, and the same principle applies to gagging after a public breakdown," Devine said. "The clear link is that the contractor doesn't want the public to know any more about what it can't defend in its performance. That's almost kindergarten law by analogy."


Wouldn't it be the height of irony if the Department of Homeland Security had charges brought against it for covering up and muzzling its employees, under threat of termination for discussing severe security lapses for failure to properly train its own employees to protect its own headquarters?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The forgotten ones: 20K Iraqi civilians kidnapped in 2006

Front paged at My Left Wing

It was only a month ago that we came up on the third anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq, when we heard Dear Leader reiterate how much of a success it was going to be. And it was only a few months since the shady elections in Iraq were deemed a "resounding success", even to the point where the Moonie Times derided those "naysayers" who dared to comment on Iraq.


My how things change haven't changed, despite the jackass pigheaded lying of the criminals who are running this country and Iraq into the ground. We find out today that, via a new report released Wednesday that 20,000 Iraqi civilians have been kidnapped ALREADY in 2006 (hat tip to thinkprogress.com for the link).


And you'll never guess what the main reasons are for the kidnappings: political issues and the delay in forming a new government.


Heckuva job, Chimpy. You fucking dolt.


It's not enough for these fuckwad criminals to lie about how well the Iraqis are prepared to defend themselves, or about the reasons to invade Iraq in the first place, or that they are dealing with a civil war. And on the heels of nyceve's diary about civilians in Iraq being "soft targets" we now have another reason to use the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq as toilet paper.


Since "we don't do body counts" anyway, and no one in this administration gives a rat's ass about the innocent Iraqi civilians that were killed as a result of this illegal and immoral "war", then there certainly won't be any reporting of the roughly 5,000 Iraqi civilian women and 2,350 Iraqi children that have been kidnapped this year alone.


Must be a few dead-enders, so there is no need to worry about it. And certainly not to minimize the fact that American journalists, other Americans, or other innocent people from other countries, whether it be people working on humanitarian efforts, contractors or other; but the total of those kidnappings have been in the hundreds over the past few years. Not to mention that these people (somewhat) have voluntarily come to Iraq for whatever reason, noble, to report (the truth or propaganda), commercial or to make a profit.


These people that are completely unnoticed and disregarded, are citizens of Iraq who were born there, grew up there and tried to make a livelihood for them and their families in the country they were born in.


According to the article (I am still unable to find the actual report yet):

The 19,548 people kidnapped includes 4,959 women and 2,350 children, according to the report prepared by a group of 125 non-governmental organisations and made public in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.


In contrast, the thousands of Iraqis being kidnapped are primarily the victims of political rivals and of common criminals seeking ransom.


But wait, it gets worse. Not only do we have all of the families that are dealing with the kidnapping of their loved ones, we have an estimated 6,800 - 10,000 families being displaced from their homes as a result of the violence. Now, I don't know if that is only related to the kidnappings or if it relates to much more but I can't see that number being a result of the war in general since "Cheney the Liberator" and his crew ordered the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah, basically destroying that city forever. Of course, not to discriminate, they did destroy a city here in the United States as well.


The report puts the blame for these kidnappings and ransoms squarely on the failed political process, the factions of warring political parties and the failure to form a government:

Speaking of violence in general, the report says that as much as 80 percent of incidents are politically motivated.


"The violence is generated by armed militias linked to political parties and is fed by the (Iraq's) porous borders and by the delay in forming a new government" following elections in December, it says.


Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, excluded from power by the minority Sunnis throughout the country's modern history, won more seats than any other group in the election. But it has failed to put together a government of national unity amid bickering with Sunnis, Kurds and secular parties over its composition.


Parallel to that has been an explosion of tit-for-tat killings between Sunnis and Shiites since the bombing of a major Shiite shrine in February. Those tensions are also seen as being the cause of many displacements, brought about by intimidation.


Just unbelievable. And to think, Darth Cheney is still wondering why we aren't being greeted with flowers. What did these people do to deserve the life they are being forced to live? The conditions they are being forced to live under? The fear of being kidnapped by "insurgents"? The fear of having troops smash their doors in and take them away for "interrogation"? The lack of electricity, food, water, hospitals, schools, jobs?


And why will this not go reported? If 20,000 innocent people are kidnapped IN LESS THAN FOUR FUCKING MONTHS and no one reports it, it doesn't make it go away.


Or make it less disgusting and inexcusable. Especially when it is a result of greed and lies by neoconservative thugs and criminals.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

RollingStone cover story: Worst President In History

Recommended at Daily Kos and Booman Tribune; Front paged at My Left Wing

Hot off the presses is the new Rolling Stone magazine and the cover story is by one of America's leading historians who, shall we say, has some not so nice things to say about Dear Leader.


While the general population, and especially us who are `round these parts, have our feelings about Chimpy and his merry band of criminals, I have been interested in what historians have to say about how much he has fucked up this country and world.


In May of 2004, there was a report by a number of historians that put Bush's first term disasters up against other presidents, and even back then the result wasn't pretty. And now, we have another leading historian give an updated (and unbiased) assessment of the hell that "The Decider" has wreaked upon us.


Before we start, why should we care what a guy named Sean Wilentz has to say? Well, according to his bio as a history professor at Princeton University, let's just say that he is very respected and very prolific with many awards, medals, honors and fellowships dating back to 1972.


Here is the cover photo:


Feel free to use it as your wallpaper or screen saver....


Anyway, the article starts off with a bang:

George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.


SMACK!!!! And this is from a guy who admits to many a debate with his colleagues over who was the worst president ever, with the typical names of Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover. Of course, as you can see from the link about, back in early 2004, Georgie-boy was already ranked among the worst by a number of historians in a number of areas. In fact, even back then, over 80% of the 415 historians surveyed called his presidency a failure.


He does caveat that there is some who would say that historians tend to be more liberal, but by taking that to the next step, Reagan, HW Bush and other republican presidencies are generally regarded on a similar basis by historians and the general population. To bring this point home further, Wilentz says the following:

The lopsided decision of historians should give everyone pause. Contrary to popular stereotypes, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgments, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bad or indifferent. Separate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been.


While we can come up with hundreds, if not thousands of reasons why Bush sucks and he is the worst, Wilentz is much more diplomatic than I would be. He puts the failures into four buckets: The Credibility Gap, Bush at War, Bush at Home and Presidential Misconduct.


The article is a long read, but certainly well worth it, and I will put some good snippets below just to whet your appetite.


Credibility Gap


Here, Wilentz talks about how presidents throughout history have either gained, lost or abused the public's trust. He contrasts James Polk's deviousness, as well as problems that caused Reagan, Truman and Clinton to overhaul their policies and staff in order to regain trust. And he says the following:

No previous president appears to have squandered the public's trust more than Bush has.


---snip---


The problems besetting Bush are of a more modern kind than Polk's, suited to the television age -- a crisis both in confidence and credibility.


---snip---


More than half the country now considers Bush dishonest and untrustworthy, and a decisive plurality consider him less trustworthy than his predecessor, Bill Clinton.


---snip---


And given Bush's ardent attachment to loyal aides, no matter how discredited, a major personnel shake-up is improbable, short of indictments. Replacing Andrew Card with Joshua Bolten as chief of staff -- a move announced by the president in March in a tone that sounded more like defiance than contrition -- represents a rededication to current policies and personnel, not a serious change.


Pretty harsh and damning, especially in comparison to Lyndon Johnson and other presidents that have squandered the public trust.


Bush at war


This should be the area where Bush is the strongest, since he has hung his hat on being the "war preznit" and how he has made his entire presidency based on finding weapons of mass destruction and fighting terrorism spreading freedom around the world so we don't have to spread it at home. But Wilentz doesn't seem to think that he is doing such a good job. In contrasting Bush to other "war-time" presidents, especially those in the 20th century, he has this to say:

Bush's simple, unflinching eloquence and his quick toppling of the Taliban government in Afghanistan rallied the nation. Yet even then, Bush wasted his chance by quickly choosing partisanship over leadership.


No other president -- Lincoln in the Civil War, FDR in World War II, John F. Kennedy at critical moments of the Cold War -- faced with such a monumental set of military and political circumstances failed to embrace the opposing political party to help wage a truly national struggle. But Bush shut out and even demonized the Democrats. Top military advisers and even members of the president's own Cabinet who expressed any reservations or criticisms of his policies -- including retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill -- suffered either dismissal, smear attacks from the president's supporters or investigations into their alleged breaches of national security. The wise men who counseled Bush's father, including James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, found their entreaties brusquely ignored by his son. When asked if he ever sought advice from the elder Bush, the president responded, "There is a higher Father that I appeal to."


It gets worse from there. Wilentz issues a scathing indictment of the administration by saying how they

were planting the seeds for the crises to come by diverting the struggle against Al Qaeda toward an all-out effort to topple their pre-existing target, Saddam Hussein. In a deliberate political decision, the administration stampeded the Congress and a traumatized citizenry into the Iraq invasion on the basis of what has now been demonstrated to be tendentious and perhaps fabricated evidence of an imminent Iraqi threat to American security, one that the White House suggested included nuclear weapons.


Bush At Home


This is an area where Bush is chewed up, spit out and stepped on by Wilentz. He starts off by talking about his hollow promise to be a "compassionate conservative" and his end run to the far right. And then he goes on to rip Dear Leader a new one:

The heart of Bush's domestic policy has turned out to be nothing more than a series of massively regressive tax cuts -- a return, with a vengeance, to the discredited Reagan-era supply-side faith that Bush's father once ridiculed as "voodoo economics." Bush crowed in triumph in February 2004, "We cut taxes, which basically meant people had more money in their pocket." The claim is bogus for the majority of Americans...


He talks about how horrible the jobs growth has been, describing it as "anemic", how there has had to be a major increase in federal fees, how real wages are dropping for many Americans, how deficits and borrowing is at record levels, and how business investments have been sluggish.


On the rest of his "domestic agenda", the picture isn't much better. Here are a few more quotes:

The rest of what remains of Bush's skimpy domestic agenda is either failed or failing -- a record unmatched since the presidency of Herbert Hoover. The No Child Left Behind educational-reform act has proved so unwieldy, draconian and poorly funded that several states -- including Utah, one of Bush's last remaining political strongholds -- have fought to opt out of it entirely.


---snip---


White House proposals for immigration reform and a guest-worker program have succeeded mainly in dividing pro-business Republicans (who want more low-wage immigrant workers) from paleo-conservatives fearful that hordes of Spanish-speaking newcomers will destroy American culture.


---snip---


But no president before Bush has allowed the press to disclose, through a close friend, his startling belief that he was ordained by God to lead the country. The White House's sectarian positions -- over stem-cell research, the teaching of pseudoscientific "intelligent design," global population control, the Terri Schiavo spectacle and more -- have led some to conclude that Bush has promoted the transformation of the GOP into what former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips calls "the first religious party in U.S. history."


Don't worry, Katrina, global warming, censoring of scientists'"inconvenient conclusions" by the EPA, the FDA, the Department of Agriculture and other agencies, even calling Bush "hostile to science".


Presidential Misconduct


Here, Wilentz starts off by admitting that many, if not most presidencies are plagued at one time or another by charges of misconduct within the administration. He even cites George Washington (and no, not for illegal wiretapping), Grant, Reagan, Clinton, Nixon and Andrew Johnson.


But with respect to these criminals, he does mention Libby, Larry Franklin and the AIPAC scandal, Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff, David Safavian and how this could be the "largest Congressional corruption scandal in American history".


He holds the strongest words for the disregard of the Constitution's limitation of presidential powers:

History may ultimately hold Bush in the greatest contempt for expanding the powers of the presidency beyond the limits laid down by the U.S. Constitution.


---snip---


By contrast, the Bush administration -- in seeking to restore what Cheney, a Nixon administration veteran, has called "the legitimate authority of the presidency" -- threatens to overturn the Framers' healthy tension in favor of presidential absolutism. Armed with legal findings by his attorney general (and personal lawyer) Alberto Gonzales, the Bush White House has declared that the president's powers as commander in chief in wartime are limitless. No previous wartime president has come close to making so grandiose a claim. More specifically, this administration has asserted that the president is perfectly free to violate federal laws on such matters as domestic surveillance and the torture of detainees.


He also talks about the congressional double standard with respect to how the Repugs acted when Clinton was being impeached - even naming Bill Frist and Tom DeLay as those who were quick to defend Bush while condemning Clinton.


The close of the article is interesting in that it still leaves open the possibility of, well, who knows what for the next few years. But there is not a favorable comparison to Andrew Johnson, Buchanan and Hoover, three that are generally ranked at the top of the "shittiest presidents ever" lists.


And while we all know this and can point to many many things that support it, it is always interesting to see what someone that does this for a living thinks. And to have a new article in a publication like Rolling Stone by a very prominent historian will keep the spotlight on the crimes of this administration.


I know I like to see it from someone of that stature.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cheney's shady charitable contributions net $2 million refund

Recommended at Daily Kos; cross posted at My Left Wing and Booman Tribune

Last week, Darth Cheney released his 2005 tax return, and while this type of thing doesn't generally make waves in the news unless it is a Democrat who is releasing the return, there was something that jumped out at me which prompted me to do a bit of digging, where I found this snippet that led me to do a bit more digging.


Being the tax geek that I am, I noticed something that caught my eye as, shall we say, "interesting" - charitable contributions in excess of $6,800,000 on income of just under $9,000,000. For those who are not familiar with tax rules, let's just say that this is a very high, an unusually high number.


While this is not illegal, by exploiting a loophole in the Katrina tax relief laws passed regarding charitable donations, Dead Eye Dick was able to obtain a refund of at least $1,000,000 MORE than he would be able to get in any other year.


The best part? None of the charities were Katrina related at all.


As part of the overall Katrina relief laws passed, there was a clause regarding charitable donations. This obviously was to spur people to make donations that would benefit victims of Katrina, but was not overly specific. As we already know, Barbara Bush directed her donations to her son Neil's company, which she was an investor in. According to the law passed last year we have the following:

Encourages cash donations by individuals. Under current law, individuals may deduct charitable donations up to 50 percent of their adjusted gross income. Deductions for charitable donations are further limited by the phase-out of itemized deductions. Under the proposal, cash donations to charities are exempt from the 50-percent income limitation and the phase-out of itemized deductions if the donations are made before January 2006.


What this means is that, except for last year, one could only make donations that were up to half their income. Not only that, but if your income was over $146,000, the deductions would be "phased out" until you could only deduct 20% of the donation. But for last year, there was no limit on (1) how much you could donate, and (2) there was no "phase out" of these donations.


So by looking at Dick's return, you can see that he took these deductions for 77% of his income, and had no limit as to how much he could deduct.


The donations were from the exercise of Halliburton stock options which, back in 2001, were directed to be donated to three charities. This I don't have a problem with (other than the fact that he has repeatedly lied about not haveing any financial ties to Halliburton), since it does (sort of) take the control of the Halliburton money out of his hands. And in any other year, while he would have received a nice size tax break from the donation, it would have been something that is available to anyone.


But, just "coincidentally" the following things happened in 2005:


  • The stock options were exercised (there was no direction as to what year or when the options were exercised), resulting in nearly $7,000,000 in income to the Cheney's;



  • Darth Cheney actually wrote a personal check in December 2005 to the gift administrator in the amount of $2,331,400 in order to "maximize the charitable gifts in 2005".


Now, while the price of Halliburton stock has gone up significantly in the past year and a half, if the income from exercising the options were donated to charity, then the timing wouldn't matter to Cheney, other than the tax benefit. In fact, there was no rush to exercise the options, since they don't expire until 2007, at the earliest. Not to mention the lies that Dickie has told about severing his ties to Halliburton, as you can see from the link above.


Confused yet? Well, don't feel bad because the White House is referring questions about Cheney's tax return to their tax lawyers.


You may think that this isn't too unusual, but when you look at what Darth Cheney donated to charity in years past, you will see that it looks pretty sketchy, given the timing and the supposed "non-impact" on their personal financial situation.


In 2004, their donations were around $300,000, mainly from Lynne's book proceeds.


In 2003, their donations were around $320,000, also mainly from Lynne's book proceeds.


In 2002, their donations were around $120,000, you guessed it, mainly from Lynne's book proceeds.


On top of that, the White House Press Release just flat out lies about this not impacting their tax situation:

To enable the gift administrator to maximize the charitable gifts in 2005, the year in which the options were exercised, the Cheneys wrote a personal check in December 2005 to the gift administrator in the amount of $2,331,400. That amount, combined with the net proceeds from the stock options, was given to the three designated charities by the gift administrator. As a consequence, the Cheneys are entitled to a refund of $1,938,930. This refund returns the Cheneys to a neutral position of no personal financial benefit or financial detriment resulting from the transactions under the Gift Administration Agreement. Thus, the Cheneys received no financial benefit from the stock options. The transactions were tax neutral to the Cheneys. The amount of taxes paid by the Cheneys from their income, other than the income from the exercise of the stock options,was the equivalent of what they would have paid if the options had not been exercised.


Technically, the part that is underlined is correct in that they would "otherwise" be in the same position financially. But there is no income to them by just holding onto stock options without exercising them. And based on a 35% tax rate, the exercise of the options and the ability to have no limit on the tax benefit from their donation for 2005 ONLY would give them a cool $1,000,000. Not to mention the fact that they would STILL get a refund of $300,000 - $400,000 on their donation in any other year.


So, other than the cool million or so that they netted, there is no financial impact to them.


Once again, lies about not benefiting financially from Halliburton. Whether they donated the money or not, they are benefiting in a big way from either a tax standpoint or from an income standpoint. Not to mention the fact that it must be nice to have over $2,000,000 sitting around so you can write a check in December in order to get a refund of pretty much all of it a couple of months later.


So, to bring this all back and to summarize, we have this:


  • By exploiting a law that was meant for people to donate to Katrina relief, Cheney was able to net a $2,000,000 tax refund.



  • At least half, if not more if this refund was solely due to their exploiting of this law.



  • In order to do this, they had to write a personal check for over $2,000,000 at the end of 2005.



  • None of the donations were to any Katrina relief organizations.



  • The donations were from income related to Halliburton, which Cheney supposedly had no financial ties to.



  • In any other year, they still would have received a few hundred thousand in tax refunds from this "non-financial tie" to Halliburton, if they donated the proceeds to charity.



  • In each of the prior three years, their donations were never more than 4%-5% of their 2005 totals, the only year that this law applies to.



  • Once again, they flat out lie in their press release by obscuring the million or so that they personally benefited from this transaction.



  • The timing, while not illegal, is extremely self serving and shady, especially in light of the fact that they should not be benefiting financially from any ties to Halliburton.


I fucking hate him. Scheming, selfish, arrogant, lying, smug, law breaking, law exploiting war criminal.

Monday, April 17, 2006

BushCo being slammed in TV plot lines, movies lately

Yes, comedy shows like Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, Colbert Report, and late night shows like Letterman and that other guy who annoys me to no end have made their living, at least in part, off of poking fun at whoever the current president, administration or congressional leaders are.


But lately, there seems to be a number of instances where TV shows and movies that really aren't politically charged, including the Sopranos, 24, Scary Movie 4 and others are directly hitting the administration on some pretty serious issues.  In certain situations, it was at the point where it seemed as if a separate part of a minor plot line were being used to make a powerful statement against the crimes of Dear Leader and his merry band of criminals.


It even made me wonder of the creators of The Sopranos, or some of these other shows/movies have been directly impacted by some of the "policies" to the point where they are inserting specific scenes to get a serious dig in.


Now, I am not talking about shows like I named above, as they have been doing this for years.  Nor am I talking about shows like The West Wing, which are political in nature to begin with, or even Boston Legal, which I don't watch but have seen columns allude to some of the more political issues raised there.  Follow this link if you want to see a recent example, and a bonus of some wingnuts getting their collective panties in a bunch about it.  And no, I am not talking about movies that are supposed to make a political point, like "V" for Vendetta.


But one of the best examples lately is on 24, where a dramatic shift from the popular and not overly political David Palmer as president to the current scheming, unsure of himself, bumbling fool of a president that is now Charles Logan.  From a decisive, "do what is right" president to the fool that thinks too much of what impact his legacy will have before thinking through the consequences.  Not to mention the fact that his own people don't like or trust him, and is personally involved in the terrorist mess that was created, or his Vice President that was hell bent on imposing martial law on an entire city or a Department of Homeland Security that was more interested in pulling rank than it was on actually working on "making Americans safer".  


Another couple of examples that is from a show that really stays as far away from politics as possible is The Sopranos.  For starters, there was the situation earlier in the season when Tony was recovering from the gunshot wound he took in the gut.  When he was recovering, there was a very interesting exchange with someone from his insurance company which seemed to be forced into the script, just to make a point.  The link will give you more detail, but the cliff's notes version is that the insurance company wanted to send him home earlier than he was physically able to go, referred to his luck in being at the hospital to begin with because they did a "wallet biopsy" to find out if he had coverage at all, and then denied him post-operation therapy.  The exchange is below:

Brunette: How are you feeling, Mr. Soprano?


Tony: [eyes twinkling] I just started feeling a whole lot better, doctor! Where have they been hiding you?


Brunette: I'm not a doctor. I'm the [insert appropriate euphemism for cost controller] from your health insurance company. I'm here to see when we can send you home.


Tony: I just got outta surgery and you wanna send me home? It's all about the money. Why don't you people think of me once in a while?


Brunette: Actually, you're lucky that we're involved. If the paramedic hadn't done the wallet biopsy in the ambulance, you would have had to go to the county receiving hospital. Instead, you were able to come here and receive much better care.


Tony: Wallet biopsy? What the hell are you talking about?


Brunette: The paramedic checked your wallet and found your insurance card. If he hadn't found one, you would have gone straight to Martin Luther King--


Tony: Git outta my room, ya sick c**t!


Certainly not something that you would see in any previous season, other than the obligatory vulgarities.....When I first saw it, I immediately turned to my wife and we both were shocked (but psyched) that a swipe at the insurance company's dictating of medical service would be in that show.  


Then last night, there was a swipe at the "post 9/11 world" line of horseshit as it related to an Afghani family whose son was rounded up and taken away for no apparent reason.  Meadow (Tony's daughter for those who do not watch) is working at a legal services office and launches into a tirade at her fiancee about how this Administration has eroded our rights and freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism.  Later in the show, Tony asks his nephew about 2 Arabs that they are dealing with and they decide that they are not "Al Qaeda types" for a number of reasons.


It was beautiful to see, especially in a show that is so highly watched and so non-political.


Another recent jab on generally non-political shows includes "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" where a recent episode was about a crooked lobbyist for Indian tribes whose wife shows up with her head caved in by a Ping putter.


It also looks like 2 movies that are just released or set to be released this week have taken the spoof route, however neither movie has much to do with politics.  Both American Dreamz (an American Idol-style spoof) and Scary Movie 4 (hardly a political movie) have jumped into the mix too.  Not that I have seen either of these movies, or plan to, there is this snippet about Scary Movie 4:

This weekend's top movie, horror spoof Scary Movie 4, has Leslie Nielsen as a president who, while sitting in a classroom during story time, ignores an aide's warning that the country is under attack by aliens because he wants to "see what happens to the duck." It's a jab at the minutes Bush lingered in a Florida classroom after being told of the second attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.


And that cuts to the entire crux of the Bush-is-a-strong-leader line of crap.  In a movie that, if it is anything like the prior 3, has absolutely nothing to do with politics.


Sometimes having shows and movies like the above make these kind of statements are more powerful than any talking meatstick on Sunday AM talkshows, or serious political shows, or even late night hosts and people such as Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert or Bill Maher.


And it certainly is nice to see.

Iran: The "Charm Offensive"

It's so fucking obvious, yet I haven't heard it much until just today, when I read this column by Barry Rosen in today's Daily News.  For those who haven't heard of Barry Rosen (and I didn't until I read his column), he is one of the hostages who was held for 444 days in Iran years ago.


And I read a small snippet in Seymour Hersh's article in the New Yorker, but it was really in passing.  I guess I never really stopped to think too much about it but the solution for what is going on in Iran is really quite simple.


No bombs, maybe sanctions, who knows what other international pressure, but the best way to effectuate "regime change" - the way that would be helpful, ESPECIALLY in a country like Iran, can be summed up in 2 words:  Charm Offensive.


Putting aside the debate over how far off Iran is from obtaining a nook-you-lur weapon, or that this whole mess could have been avoided if Dear Leader didn't reject overtures by Iran in 2003 to open up dialogue.  Or that the Plame leak seriously impeded the ability to track Iran and nuclear weapons.


It is no secret that the general population of Iran is pretty "westernized".  Hell, if you want some proof, check this out from earlier this year:

The steps are obvious: Communicate directly to Iran's very westernized population, through radio, the Internet and other media; organize international support for unions and human rights and other civic groups, as well as religious groups that oppose the regime; provide covert support to those willing to use it; and impose sanctions, not so much to stop the nuclear program -- since they probably won't -- but to squeeze the business elite that supports the regime.


---snip---


This doesn't mean giving up on diplomacy. A strategy aimed at changing the Iranian regime is entirely compatible with ongoing diplomatic efforts to slow Iran's weapons programs. It might even aid diplomacy, since Iran's leaders fear internal unrest more than external pressure.


Or this from Hersh's New Yorker article:

Other European officials expressed similar skepticism about the value of an American bombing campaign. "The Iranian economy is in bad shape, and Ahmadinejad is in bad shape politically," the European intelligence official told me. "He will benefit politically from American bombing. You can do it, but the results will be worse." An American attack, he said, would alienate ordinary Iranians, including those who might be sympathetic to the U.S. "Iran is no longer living in the Stone Age, and the young people there have access to U.S. movies and books, and they love it," he said. "If there was a charm offensive with Iran, the mullahs would be in trouble in the long run."


Or this comment from Thomas Friedman on PBS Newshour in 2002 about Iran's population and attitude towards the US:

Well, basically what's happened, there's enormous longing there. I would say generally speaking for resumption of relations with the US and again particularly among young people. Part of that, I think, Margaret, is a reaction to the failed reforms of Khatami, President Mohammed Khatami. He was really elected to represent that base of reformers. He's been kind of a bust for people.


He really hasn't confronted that hard line, you know, those hard-line clerics. People hoped he would be Gorbachev. He turned out to be Khrushchev, if anything. But at the same time -- so the failure of Khatami has really left a lot young Iranians very disappointed and looking for a kind of deus ex machina... something that will magically make all those reforms happen.


Many of them have seized on America or American relations as a thing that will reverse everything. The unemployment, the isolation, the over, you know, over, you know, the intense theocracy of the country. And so that's what people are really longing for.


---snip---


Iran is a country getting younger, poorer, less Islamic, more pro American, because young Saudis are reacting to a regime that they see as corrupt, irreligious and pro American, and because they see that regime in bed with America and they don't like the regime, they're reacting the other way. Iranians look at their regime as anti-American, overly religious and young Iranians are reacting just the opposite. And so it's quite interesting. There's a huge cohort there of potential support for America.


Of course, that didn't work out quite the way that was expected, with another hardliner but more theocratic, more conservative (and more crazy) being in charge....But the point is, there are numerous accounts that point out how the Iranian population, especially the younger people, like a lot of things associated with American pop culture.  


Take this for an example from last month:

Well there's a real tension in Iran between a youthful population and the dead hand of the theocratic state, and that tension manifests itself in sometimes contradictory ways. One of the more puzzling things that emerges when you survey opinion in Islamic countries, is that while they say they hate the United States, they like a lot of things that we tend to associate with American popular culture. And so you have the paradox really of the quasi-Americanised young, say, Palestinian, who might listen to Eminem but then becomes a suicide bomber. And I think this is something that's really hard to grasp about what's going on in these societies. If you're a teenager in the Islamic world, you have a very, almost schizophrenic attitude towards the West. You may be attracted by its pop culture because so many aspects of it are irresistibly cool, but you have a tremendous sense of inferiority and under-achievement in terms of your national culture. And of course economically you're doing pretty miserably. You may well be unemployed or in a lousy job, and you may think economically, `Gosh wouldn't it be great to go to the Untied States and become part of the most dynamic and wealth-creating society on earth. And at the same time you feel God, how arrogant these Americans are, how I'd like to give them a bloody nose. I think perhaps the inherent tension which is at work here, and it could of course flip either way, I mean in a really happy ending type scenario, ultimately the attraction of the West is just more powerful than the sense of frustration and inferiority that pushes in the other direction. But right now, I don't feel optimistic, it seems to me that the other tendency is gradually prevailing in conditions of relative economic instability.


And therein lies the issue.  It can still go either way - but there is little time.


Rosen's piece is very good - I recommend that you read it (it is short...).  He makes these points better than I can, so I will give you a few snippets.  He is realistic as well, so this is no "pie in the sky" approach either:

Make no mistake. The news out of Iran is a setback for the longstanding attempt to dissuade the country's officials from expanding the scale of its uranium enrichment program. But Ahmadinejad's bluster was more a political statement than a big step toward an atomic bomb.


And we arrived at this point because Secretary of State Rice failed to get the UN Security Council to step up and impose heavy sanctions on Iran.


Nice.  Just getting it out there that (1) this is pretty serious and not to be taken lightly, and (2) it could have been avoided, at least to a degree but for the fuckups we have in charge here.


He continues:

Now, the Iranian president's nationally televised stage show needs to be challenged - but not by bunker-busting bombs from the American military. This demands a reinvigorated and unrelenting UN Security Council program of aggressive diplomatic intervention that steadfastly supports the human rights movement in Iran.


This is the key to isolating the regime, weakening its totalitarian hold over the Iranian people and creating a united front of Iranians calling for a more open society.


Far more than military threats from a hated superpower, that would be Ahmadinejad's worst nightmare.


How about that?  Actually using the UN for something that is beneficial, and to help the human rights movement in Iran.  What a novel idea - not starting a pissing match to aggravate pretty much everyone.


His nuclear sideshow is a convenient ploy to distract the unemployed poor from their own serious needs. Rattling sabers about using force - or actually using it before absolutely necessary - would only strengthen that ploy.
 


Fairly obvious, but something that needs to be said.  And the more obvious conclusion:

What we have to realize is that we are unable to control the world with our weaponry. Unless we use diplomacy and other forms of social, economic and diplomatic pressure more effectively, the best we can expect is the status quo.


The charm offensive.  So simple.  The people there, as much as they hate what we are doing in Iraq, like what our country (used to) stand for - or what many of us still do stand for.  The people in Iran have, by and large, been looking to have a dialogue with the US for years now.  Put simpler, they like our stuff.  In Hersh's article, the Administration's idea of bombing Iran until the leadership was so ashamed that the people would rise up and revolt is as stupid an idea as I have heard since, well, the reasons to invade Iraq.  But, to help the human rights effort there, and to show Iran what We the People are REALLY about, is what will have a much better chance of "making the people rise up" in Iran.


Not bombs, but charm.  Even if our leadership has none, We the People still do.  And done right, we can maybe start to do things the right way......