Thursday, June 30, 2005

We're Scared!

Hey, check out the new "improved" Freedom Tower! It looks better, but see that 200 foot steel and concrete pedestal it's built on? Let's paint that part yellow! Nicolai Ouroussof, writing in the NYT, agrees:

The most radical design change is the creation of the base, which will house the building's lobby and some mechanical systems. Designed to withstand a major bomb blast, the base will be virtually windowless. In an effort to animate its exterior, the architects say they intend to decorate it in a grid of shimmering metal panels. A few narrow slots will be cut into the concrete to allow slivers of natural light into the lobby.

Uh oh! Prepare to hear whining Repugs as Ouroussof whips out a Nazi reference:

But if this is a potentially fascinating work of architecture, it is, sadly, fascinating in the way that Albert Speer's architectural nightmares were fascinating: as expressions of the values of a particular time and era. The Freedom Tower embodies, in its way, a world shaped by fear.

Indeed it does. As Speer's work was the outward expression of tyranny, so the Freedom Tower and its pedestal are the expression of fear and cowardice. Bin Laden won, you know.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Hm. Bush's ratings in the toilet and the press getting titterpated about shark attacks. Ah, the summer of 2001....

CoinGate

Jeez, this thing just keeps getting better and better. For Ohio Democrats, it should be the scandal that keeps on giving. Let's see what Tom Noe was up to as the vultures began to circle:

Three days before a judge barred coin dealer Tom Noe from selling personal assets, he collected a $35,000 windfall May 24 by selling a vintage sports car won in a raffle.

As Mr. Noe’s troubles have mounted in recent months, the Republican activist has sold a boat, a car, and a pair of houses.

But his efforts to raise cash, some of them authorized by a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge to pay for future living and legal expenses, have been met with scrutiny by investigators looking into a shortfall of up to $13 million in rare-coin investments Mr. Noe managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

Lawyers for Attorney General Jim Petro, who obtained the order prohibiting most asset sales, said they may try to reverse transactions that took place in the weeks leading up to the May 27 court action.
...
A lawyer representing Mrs. Noe has told the court she is “destitute,” said D. Michael Grodhaus, a top deputy to Ohio’s attorney general.
“Yet it is our understanding she is living in Florida in a $4 million house,” he said.

Wow, now that's what I call destitution! Noe way!

Turns out Repug pals are helping the Noes in their time of, uh, need:

“If we demonstrate the transfer of those assets was fraudulent and with a purpose to evade creditors, we may be able to undo those transactions,” Mr. Grodhaus said.

They include the May 26 sale of the Noes’ Lake Erie resort home at Catawba Island for $990,000 to a firm headed by Donald P. Miller, a Republican activist and retired chairman of rubber products producer Roppe Holdings of Fostoria.

A reporter who went to Mr. Miller’s home and office yesterday was told he was unavailable, and he did not return phone calls.

Records in Wood County show that Mr. Miller also bought a 1961 Chevrolet Corvette convertible that Mr. Noe won last July in a raffle sponsored by a Tiffin-based charity that assists abused and neglected children.

The vehicle was worth $50,000, said Judy Reiter, director of the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program of Seneca, Sandusky, and Wyandot counties.

When it was sold 10 months later, it fetched $35,000. Used car guides say such a car is worth between $25,000 and $57,000, depending on the condition.

Hey, maybe Noe can get Randy Cunningham to buy some of his stuff!

More seriously, if Ohio Dems don't take this gift and run with it, they don't deserve to win.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

You Knew it had to Happen

There's a weird inevitability to the fact that my two favorite Australians are friends:

CROWE: Look, you know, reality is, mate, I‘m not—I‘m not tough at all. I don‘t get scared very easily, but, you know, my wife terrifies me.

I think, in Australia, we have a mythology about the Outback, you know, which is really readily accepted, you know, but is not necessarily all truth. I mean, the reality is, the Australian Outback is a tough place.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: “Crocodile Dundee.”

CROWE: Tough place.

MATTHEWS: The guy who goes in and gets a cold one, tells some jokes, rowdy jokes, gets in a fight.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWE: I‘m very good friends with Steve Irwin, and apart from the last bit, he says that, you know, Steve very much epitomizes that. And sometimes Australians are embarrassed about that, because he is so enthusiastic about it, his life.

He‘s—you know, and often people misunderstand what Steve does.

Steve is a conservationist.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CROWE: You know, he saves things. He doesn‘t kill things or hurt things, you know. He will move an animal to a more protected area. You know, he operates, you know, hundreds of acres of conservation land for all different types of creatures, from echidnas to koalas to platypus.

In fact, I‘m working on a project with him at the moment. I‘m on a river in Australia where we‘re trying to regrow the native plants right near the river bank, so the platypus will thrive. I mean, it‘s just he has a great care for that. And so do I. And I think that‘s all embodied in what it really means to be an Australian, because you can‘t live in a country that‘s so unique and have so many unique animals without really respecting that environment, you know?

Russell Crowe and Steve Irwin. Wouldn't you like to see that episode of The Crocodile Hunter?

The Speech

A few things stood out about Dubya's speech last night: his Praetorians didn't seem too thrilled, interrupting him with applause only once (and there's a report that even this one instance was staged by a White House staffer who started applauding to encourage the troops to do so as well); he waved the bloody flag of 9/11 over and over and over; and he half-smiled throughout, which was inappropriate and weird given the subject. Why do we tolerate this dime store dummy and his lies?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Getting Rid of Us

David Neiwert has for some time been tracking the increasing amount of eliminationist rhetoric in conservative circles, and has an update:

As I've gone on to explain elsewhere, the emergence of Manichean totalism in the American electorate has become unmistakable in recent months. The open embrace of eliminationist rhetoric by the Bush administration, after years of propagandization by right-wing agitators that made this possible, raises the stakes to genuinely serious levels.

"Liberal hunting licenses" are only the ground-level expression of this rhetoric. If these sentiments were confined to a few bumper stickers by a handful of nutjobs, they might not be cause for concern. But there's a clear connection between Limbaugh's eliminationism aimed at liberals and its more explicit manifestations, just as there's a connection between Limbaugh's rhetoric and Rove's.

This is an important topic, and thank God David is keeping a watchful eye out.

Norquist Watch

"Barf Bag" is babbling again:

...party strategist Grover Norquist lambasted three Republicans who broke party ranks over the issue of judicial filibusters. He referred to them as "the two girls from Maine and the nut-job from Arizona" – Sens. Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and John McCain.

I might point out that, unlike Grover, the "nut-job from Arizona" actually served his country, where Barf Bag is trying to destroy it. And Norquist's angst about McCain may have more to do with the growing scandal ol' Barf Bag finds himself embroiled in:

Jack Abramoff, who lobbied for the Tribe, and Michael P. Scanlon, whose Capital Campaign Strategies public-affairs firm worked for the Tribe, are at the center of a growing Washington lobbying scandal. The scandal ultimately may engulf such leading conservative figures as House Majority Leader Tom Delay of Texas, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed and Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist.

The Saginaw Chippewas paid Abramoff about $4.5 million, and Scanlon more than $10 million over two years. That's part of the nearly $80 million the pair collected from six different Tribes, all with highly profitable gambling operations.
...
These e-mails also detailed how Tribal clients funneled money through Norquist's anti-tax group to Reed's fundamentalist Christian groups. Members of those groups, who had no idea their campaign was funded by gambling profits, worked against gambling expansion that would have competed against Abramoff and Scanlon's clients.

The "nut-job from Arizona" happens to be the head of the Senate committee investigating this vile little scheme. Hm.

Trafalgar 200

The celebrations surrounding the bicentennial of Trafalgar will kick off today with the Trafalgar 200 Naval Review at Portsmouth. The Queen and Prince Phillip will view the ships from HMS Endurance. The French are displaying "no hard feelings" by sending the largest unit in their fleet, the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, to participate. The US Navy is sending all of one ship, the assault carrier USS Saipan, to this major naval review. Presumably too busy at the Mess in Mesopotamia.... A fake battle will end the day in which the "red team" will fight the "blue team" (!); one of Nelson's descendents is unimpressed:

Anna Tribe, 75 and the great, great, great granddaughter of the admiral, criticised a mock-up of the 1805 sea battle as "politically correct".
...
"I am sure the French and Spanish are adult enough to appreciate we did win that battle."

Indeed! Also joining in the festivities will be around 200 Nelson descendents who have gathered for the event.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Phil Carter Called Up

Phil Carter of Intel Dump has been called up for the Mess in Mesopotamia, where he will deploy with the 101st Airborne. Good luck, Phil. Watch your back...and every other angle.

Bush and the Praetorians

I'm sure we're all looking forward to Dubya's "major speech" tomorrow from Fort Bragg. Presumably he'll be surrounded by a mob of hooah-ing Praetorians. Definitely a diverting spectacle.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Another Success!

Yes, Dick Cheney, you son of a bitch, the war in Iraq is a real effing success story:

A suicide car bomber slammed into a 7-ton U.S. military vehicle in Fallujah, killing five Marines and a Navy sailor, Marine Corps sources told NBC News, adding that at least three of the dead were female Marines and that 13 others were wounded.

What more can one say?

Good Lord

Just when you think the Repugs can't get any crazier, Dick Cheney comes up with this:

"We will succeed in Iraq, just like we did in Afghanistan. We will stand up a new government under an Iraqi-drafted constitution. We will defeat that insurgency, and, in fact, it will be an enormous success story."

Hm. Let's think about that. We succeeded in Afghanistan, eh, where bin Laden "got away," the country is ruled by a mixture of warlords and resurgent Taliban, the growing of opium poppies is flourishing, and an American-sponsored figurehead with a cool hat sits in Kabul ruling little but the room around him? As for the Iraqi insurgency, there is no sign we will defeat it, there is no sign that the government we have pasted together will survive, and no, Iraq will likely not be "an enormous success story," any more than we were greeted with flowers as liberators, as Cheney claimed earlier.

Do these people live on the same planet we do? Or is it the drugs?

The Dinosaurs Among Us

With all the madness around us, it's refreshing to read a blog that looks at something other than politics. Darksyde over at Daily Kos looks at the dinosaurs among us. There are some in your back yard right now!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

It's a Feature, Not a Bug!

I have no idea why posts are appearing waaaayyy down at the bottom of the page. If it doesn't do it for you, feel happy. The rest of us have to scroll....

A Stinking Decision

For once the Right was indeed right; the most conservative justices supported property rights, and the liberals all voted to give your house to Wal-Mart. Prepare to move, peasants!

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses — even against their will — for private economic development.

It was a decision fraught with huge implications for a country with many areas, particularly the rapidly growing urban and suburban areas, facing countervailing pressures of development and property ownership rights.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as handing “disproportionate influence and power” to the well-heeled — represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex.
...
O’Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

“Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random,” O’Connor wrote. “The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.”

She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Thomas filed a separate opinion to argue that seizing homes for private development, even with “just compensation,” is unconstitutional.

“The consequences of today’s decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful,” Thomas wrote. “So-called ’urban renewal’ programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted.”

Yep, I agree with the minority on this one. Remember, our buddy Dubya was enriched by just such a sweetheart deal, when peoples' homes were seized to build the new ballpark for the Texas Rangers. Eminent domain is such a powerful tool that it should be used very carefully, with moderation. This ruling ensures that it's now Katy-bar-the-door. Bought and paid-for politicians now have a new favor to hand out. Expect poor people's homes to be bulldozed for mansions, office parks, gated neighborhoods...there is now no limitation so long as a locality can claim it's doing it to "raise revenue." Kiss your property rights goodbye, friends. You no longer have any.

...And Neither Will Karl Rove!

The useless Karl Rove jumped on the "traitors" bandwagon when he accused Democrats of wanting to fling rose petals and cotton wool buds at the 9/11 hijackers:

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Mr. Rove, the senior political adviser to President Bush, said at a fund-raiser in Midtown for the Conservative Party of New York State.

Citing calls by progressive groups to respond carefully to the attacks, Mr. Rove said to the applause of several hundred audience members, "I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt when I watched the twin towers crumble to the ground, a side of the Pentagon destroyed, and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble."
...
Mr. Rove also said American armed forces overseas were in more jeopardy as a result of remarks last week by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who compared American mistreatment of detainees to the acts of "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others."

"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?" Mr. Rove asked. "Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

No mention of the fact that Dubya et al have done a pretty shitty job of running down anyone actually tied to the 9/11 attacks including former Republican Best Boy Osama "Mujahadeen" bin Laden.

Of course unlike sniveling Democrats, Repugs do not need to apologize:

White House press secretary Scott McClellan came to Rove’s defense, saying the president’s chief political adviser was “simply pointing out the different philosophies and different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism.”

“Of course not,” McClellan said when asked by reporters whether President Bush will ask Rove to apologize.

Accusing people of treason is not "pointing out the different philosophies and different approaches" of the war on terror. And if the Repugs want to stand on their record of actually fighting terror, it stinks.

He Won't Apologize

Bill O'Reilly goes way off the deep end, but HE won't be forced to apologize:

O'REILLY: And when he [Durbin] went out there, his intent was to whip up the American public against the Bush detainee policy. That's what his intent was. His intent wasn't to undermine the war effort, because he never even thought about it. He never even thought about it. But by not thinking about it, he made an egregious mistake because you must know the difference between dissent from the Iraq war and the war on terror and undermining it. And any American that undermines that war, with our soldiers in the field, or undermines the war on terror, with 3,000 dead on 9-11, is a traitor.

Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care, couldn't care less.

Yes, send the stormtroopers to arrest the dissidents, that's well within the American tradition....

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Why?

Why Dick Durbin thought he had to apologize is beyond me, but the wingnuts did a perfect job of twisting his words and turning them into what they claimed was treason. Richard Cohen puts it best:

Those of us who have read accounts of the gulag or of the interrogation methods of the Nazis and similar barbaric regimes are familiar with the infinite varieties of torture.

Maybe for that reason I did not feel it was anything of a stretch for Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to refer to those regimes when reciting what an FBI agent had seen at Guantanamo: detainees “chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water,” or deprived of a bathroom, or kept in extreme heat or cold. One was found “almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out.” Whatever that is, it is not America.

This was Durbin’s point. He was right, although not necessarily politically prudent or elegant, when he said that if you did not know these descriptions came from an FBI agent, you “would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime ... that had no concern for human beings.” I certainly might have thought so – although, in general, these regimes were usually capable of far worse than that, and Durbin should not have said “most certainly.” A “possibly” would have done just fine.
...
Durbin apologized Tuesday for comparing American interrogators at Guantanamo to Nazis and other historically infamous figures.

But prior to the apology, Bill Frist, the Republican leader of the Senate, sought an apology – although he himself did nothing of the sort when his videotaped patient, Terri Schiavo, turned out to be horribly brain-damaged and not, as he suggested to the Senate, potentially treatable – smiling, laughing and all the rest. Frist has lost the ability to blush, but not to mischaracterize. He said Durbin “called Guantanamo a death camp” – words that do not appear in the text.
...
The practice of the Bush White House and its supporters is to go right at its critics – to hell with fairness – and shout them down. This is what the Swift-boaters did to John Kerry and this is what the White House itself did to Newsweek. That magazine’s story about reported abuses of the Koran at Guantanamo was admittedly wrong on one specific, but we did learn later that the military itself had investigated reports of Koran abuse. There’s smoke, if not fire, there.

The vitriol being heaped on Durbin would almost be funny if it weren’t so mean. The man, after all, is the virtually invisible Dick Durbin. And yet he is being tarred and feathered for saying something that has occurred to many of us: Guantanamo makes the U.S. look bad.

Yep. I have said before and will say again: Gitmo and Abu Ghraib guarantee that thousands of innocent Americans will die horribly in future terrorist outrages. We should be above this kind of penny ante crap, but we've lowered ourselves to the level of those we once considered our deadly enemies, and earned everlasting shame in the process.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Clark 08!

Interestingly, retired General Wesley Clark is currently winning the Daily Kos 08 straw poll by a good margin....

Worth More Dead than Alive

Although the families of the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing received nothing, 9/11 became a cash cow, at least for certain families. The families of workers at Windows on the World got very little, for example. Partners of gay and lesbian victims received nothing. But Kathy Trant, whose husband worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, made out big time, and her response has been to go on a shopping spree:

KATHY TRANT, LOST HUSBAND IN 9/11 ATTACK: First of all, this is not 9/11 cash, it's my cash. I signed on the dotted line for money for my family because my husband was murdered by terrorists.

SCARBOROUGH: But they say that you blew $5 million. We talked before you came on the air here, and you actually said that your children get $2.5 million of it. You invested in $1.5 million in real estate, your own home, also, which of course has been appreciating. So where do they get this $5 million figure from?

TRANT: That's how much money I got all together.
...
Every day, when I read something that really bothers me, I start making about 100 phone calls a day. When I get nowhere, I get so frustrated, I go out and I shop, because it's the only thing that makes me feel good, because I run into a brick wall with city hall.

I suspect it is only a matter of time before we start hearing of victims' families who have blown their entire pile of compensation money and are broke.

This woman needs to get a job or a hobby or something. Going on spending sprees will never replace her husband, and will never heal the wounds of 9/11.

Monday, June 20, 2005

It's a Slam Dunk!

A new installment in the long line of excuses why we haven't caught or killed bin Laden, courtesy of new CIA chief Porter Goss:

The director of the CIA says he has an "excellent idea" where Osama bin Laden is hiding, but that the United States' respect for sovereign nations makes it more difficult to capture the al Qaeda chief.
...
Asked whether that meant he knew where bin Laden is, Goss responded: "I have an excellent idea where he is. What's the next question?"

Uh huh!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Norquist Watch

Presumably with a big ol' clothespin on his nose, US News and World Report's Dan Gilgoff sat down with Grover "barf bag" Norquist for a Q&A. Some snippets:

Q: While Americans for Tax Reform's "no new taxes" pledge has been signed by almost every Republican in Congress, state lawmakers have been slower to sign up.

A: We're pushing the Reaganization of the Republican Party from the federal level to the states. The consensus that the Republican Party is the party that will never raise your taxes exists now at the federal level–we have won that fight. I'd thought you could educate state people more quickly, based on the failure of Bush senior [who broke his pledge by signing a 1990 tax increase]. Evidently, state legislators consider Washington such a completely different world that few of them seemed to go, "I got the memo."

Q: So George H. W. Bush lost because he broke his ATR pledge?

A: Having won the war in Iraq, managed the collapse of the Soviet Union and its pullout of Eastern Europe–the successful foreign policy that any president would have given his eyeteeth to have managed–there was one hole in the bottom of his boat: He raised taxes. So he loses to some nobody out of Arkansas with a zipper problem.
...
Q: Some state lawmakers say avoiding tax increases under any circumstances, even as education and Medicaid costs skyrocket, is unrealistic.

A: Sometimes the left goes, "The tax movement is antigovernment." No, we are pro-reform; we are for governing. There are two things a politician can do: raise taxes to do everything we used to do, or he can govern. Governing begins when you say, "I am not raising taxes. That is not an option."

That's like saying during a flood "I'm not going to higher ground. That is not an option." Norquist's stupidity is profound - and his influence is destructive. Fortunately, his personal corruption will in the end turn out to be self-destructive, and the sooner the better.

Bush's Bizzaro World

He's an idiot, isn't he? It's mindbending to watch Dubya lurch through life with that dumbass smirk on his face, glowing with his own self-belief while anyone with half a brain sees a naked buffoon making chimp noises. Robert Kuttner, unsurprisingly, sees the chimp:

In a decade, historians will ponder how the American people could possibly have reelected a president who lives in a fantasy world and who is doing such damage to the real world.

It may take longer than a decade; I'm still waiting for some honesty on Reagan. But would that I could be frozen to see what's being written a hundred years from now about what historians will probably refer to as something like "the crazy years."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Shame

Even the honorable Kos is unknowingly working towards the Fuhrer:

Why are dozens of people emailing me that Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has introduced an Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 22nd Amendment?

Who cares? That kind of amendment is introduced all the time. Amendments take years to get through the states. People act as if it's the precursor to the apocalypse. Really weird.

I actually think it's a good idea. Term limits for our presidents is undemocratic.

In his defense, I suspect Kos didn't think this through to its logical conclusion....

Eeeeeeuuuuuwwwwww

This isn't good:

Mountaineers who ascend North America's loftiest peak are often brought down to earth by "virus-laden poo" left behind by previous climbers, a medical report says.

The unsanitary conditions created by piles of human feces on Mount McKinley can cause diarrhea among climbers, which can lead to widespread problems when combined with the physical stress of a mountain expedition, according to the report in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.

Of 132 climbers interviewed on the 20,320-foot (6,200-meter) peak in the summer of 2002, more than a quarter reported having trouble with diarrhea, said the report, which was conducted by officials with the Alaska Division of Public Health.

Hm. If I can clean up after my dog, surely these climbers could, um, clean up after themselves? Take poo bags, folks. Please.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Dictator for Life

It's not a particular surprise that House Repugs have introduced legislation to attempt to repeal the 22nd Amemdment - the one that limits the President to two four year terms. This one kind of slid by without notice in February and I'm not sure what's happened to it since, but we'd better stay alert.

And, incredibly, some of the cosponsors of this bill are Democrats. Democrats working towards the Fuhrer.

Microsoft: Happy to Help Tyranny

How wonderful that amoral Bill Gates and his amoral company are helping the Chinese government maintain their dictatorship:

Civil liberties groups have condemned an arrangement between Microsoft and Chinese authorities to censor the internet.

The American company is helping censors remove "freedom" and "democracy" from the net in China with a software package that prevents bloggers from using these and other politically sensitive words on their websites.

The restrictions, which also include an automated denial of "human rights", are built into MSN Spaces, a blog service launched in China last month by Shanghai MSN Network Communications Technology, a venture in which Microsoft holds a 50% stake.

Users who try to include such terms in subject lines are warned: "This topic contains forbidden words. Please delete them."
Even the most basic political discussion is difficult because "communism", "socialism", and "capitalism" are blocked in this way, although these words can be used in the body of the main text. Many taboo words are predictable, such as "Taiwanese independence", "Tibet", "Dalai Lama", "Falun Gong", "terrorism" and "massacre". But there are also quirks that reflect the embryonic nature of net censorship and the propaganda ministry's perceived threats.

The word "demonstration" is taboo, but "protest" is all right; "democracy" is forbidden, but "anarchy" and "revolution" are acceptable. On MSN Space, Chinese bloggers cannot use the name of their own president, but can comment on Tony Blair. "Tiananmen" cannot be mentioned.

A Microsoft spokesman said the restrictions were the price the company had to pay to spread the positive benefits of blogs and online messaging.

"Even with the filters, we're helping millions of people communicate, share stories, share photographs and build relationships. For us, that is the key point here," Adam Sohn, a global sales and marketing director at MSN, told the Associated Press news agency.
...
For Microsoft, it appears to be a concession to authoritarianism on the net. It comes only months after Microsoft's boss, Bill Gates, praised China's leaders, who have mixed market economics with rigid political control. "It is a brand new form of capitalism, and as a consumer it's the best thing that ever happened," he said.

Uh huh! Tyranny is the "best thing that ever happened." The Chinese are bigger butchers than Hitler, but they're our friends.

Anyone want to bet that Microsoft has some similar agreement with the US government, not to censor, but report?

Weirder and Weirder

The CoinGate thing gets stranger by the minute. The latest: someone "burgled" a former employee of Tom Noe's Denver home and made off with a considerable amount of property:

Chris Nelson, an investigator with the Colorado sheriff’s office, said several officers and lab technicians spent the entire night at Mr. Storeim’s home after the burglary was reported.

“There were immediately some red flags when you have a house of a suspect in a high profile case getting burglarized,” he said. “We are very aggressively pursuing this in light of the other ongoing investigations.”

On Monday night, Mr. Storeim and his wife told police they were returning from a two-day vacation when they first noticed that two of their cars — a Toyota Sequoia and Lexus G300 were missing.

Then, they noted items missing throughout their home, including weapons, 10 boxes of 12-gauge ammunition, four tubs of rock-climbing gear, several lithographs and paintings, stereos, and jewelry. Additionally, guitars — one autographed by B.B. King and another by Stevie Ray Vaughan — were reported stolen, police said.

Hm. Storeim has had stuff "stolen" before, including two rare gold coins valued at over $300,000 that were part of Tom Noe's coin investment fund.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

"We're Being Picked On!"

At long last the INS is enforcing at least a few immigration laws, and that's not popular with the people being busted:

Soul Khalil woke with a start. Her split-level home in Burke was shuddering, and the oppressive hum of a helicopter filled the room. Then she heard the pounding on the front door. "Police!" the voices yelled. She shook her husband. "Hassan! You hear that banging?" she later recalled saying.

Her husband, in his shorts, stumbled into the hallway. At the end of it was a masked agent, his gun drawn. "Get down!" he yelled, according to the husband's recollection. The Lebanese immigrant dropped onto his stomach, and the officers cuffed his hands behind his back.

The charge: lying on his immigration documents.

Authorities rarely go to such lengths to snare an immigrant accused of fraud. The dawn raid last month was carried out by Homeland Security and FBI agents from a local Joint Terrorism Task Force, working with a SWAT-style team -- dispatched because federal officials had information that Khalil, 36, had had weapons training.

Khalil's arrest is part of a broad anti-terrorism effort being waged with a seemingly innocuous weapon: immigration law. In the past two years, officials have filed immigration charges against more than 500 suspects who have come under scrutiny in national security investigations, according to previously undisclosed government figures. Some are ultimately found to have no terrorism ties, officials acknowledge.

Whereas terrorism charges can be difficult to prosecute, Homeland Security officials say immigration laws can provide a quick, easy way to detain people who could be planning attacks. Authorities have also used routine charges such as overstaying a visa to deport suspected supporters of terrorist groups.

Remember, several of the 9/11 hijackers were here on expired visas. But certain groups wail that they're being discriminated against:

"It's an incredibly important piece of the terrorism response," said Michael J. Garcia, who heads Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. And although immigration violations might seem humdrum, he said, "They're legitimate charges."

Muslim and civil liberties activists disagree. They argue that authorities are enforcing minor violations by Muslims and Arabs, while ignoring millions of other immigrants who flout the same laws.

Well, that's unquestionably true. On the other hand, Mexicans tend to come here to work, not to fly airplanes into buildings. Most Muslims do too, but a tiny minority of them come here for, shall we say, other reasons. Unfortunately, this is a case where profiling is probably legit. And the fact is, if you're here legitimately, that's fine. If not, well...you knew the rules.

We Heart Dictators

America: we heart dictators! Here's another moment to be proud of, so get that flag out:

Defense officials from Russia and the United States last week helped block a new demand for an international probe into the Uzbekistan government's shooting of hundreds of protesters last month, according to U.S. and diplomatic officials.

British and other European officials had pushed to include language calling for an independent investigation in a communique issued by defense ministers of NATO countries and Russia after a daylong meeting in Brussels on Thursday. But the joint communique merely stated that "issues of security and stability in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan," had been discussed.

The outcome obscured an internal U.S. dispute over whether NATO ministers should raise the May 13 shootings in Andijan at the risk of provoking Uzbekistan to cut off U.S. access to a military air base on its territory.

As usual the warmongers at the War Department - past time we just returned it to its original name, ain't it? - are the ones encouraging this policy of the toleration of butchery:

A senior State Department official, who called The Washington Post at the Defense Department's request, denied any "split of views." But other government officials depicted this week's spat over the communique as a continuation of frictions that erupted last summer, when then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell would not certify that Uzbekistan had met its human rights obligations. The decision led to a cutoff of $18 million for U.S. training for Uzbekistan's military forces.

Weeks later, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, and criticized that decision as "very shortsighted"; he also announced that the United States would give $21 million for another purpose — bioterrorism defense.

Go ahead, kill people, here's some more filthy lucre.

And we wonder why people hate us. Interesting.

Bizarro World

The Michael Jackson verdict is more proof, were any needed, that we're living in the Bizarro universe, a universe where the guilty are innocent, the innocent guilty, we start wars on "the whim of a hat," and our President is an unelected cretin.

Such a great place to live.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Memo'd to Death

Yet another British memo shows that the realists were on the wrong side of the Atlantic as Bush and his death-loving necrocons rushed to war with visions of ticker-tape parades and celebrating Iraqis in their pinheads:

Saying that "we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective," the memo's authors point out, "A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." The authors add, "As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point."

If only Tony Blair had had the manhood to tell Bush to take his incipient war and shove it.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Whining "Democrats"

Anyone else want to give Ben Nelson et al a swift kick in the ass? Yeah, me too. Shut the hell up, Ben. Shut up. Where were you when the Repugs were calling us traitors and criminals? Atrios suggests you send some turkee to Howard; I heartily agree. Bonddad at Daily Kos does a sweet job of putting this all in perspective:

FOX's Dick Morris: "[T]here never will be any" moderate Muslim voices

On FOX, Tony Blankley called Soros "a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust"

Sean Hannity: God is "no Democrat"; Dennis Miller: Jesus "prefers Bush to Kerry"

"The Democrats want Saddam back" and other Coulterisms

Republican reverend ignored recent history in condemning only Democrats for atrocities against African Americans

Coulter on MSNBC and FOX: called Americans who don't support Bush "traitors"

Oliver North: "Every terrorist" wants Kerry to win
CAP: Hannity explained that asking "Is it that you hate the president or that you hate America?" is not equal to questioning patriotism

Michelle Malkin defended WWII internment, racial profiling today; said Mineta's view "clouded" by his internment

Coulter blamed Democrats for 9-11, USS Cole attack, embassy bombings

Oliver North denied that atrocities occurred in Vietnam; moments later, anti-Kerry vet said they did occur

Coulter: "Kerry will improve the economy in the emergency services and body bag industry"

Gingrich: George Soros "wants to spend $75 million defeating George W. Bush because Soros wants to legalize heroin"

How would she know? Coulter the latest to claim terrorists support Kerry

Coulter on women: "We're not that bright"

Ann Coulter on tour: "I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days" to talk to liberals

David Horowitz: Democrats, media are "getting Americans killed in Iraq ... because of their pathological hatred of George [W.] Bush"

Radio host Cunningham told Hannity election is over "because Elizabeth Edwards has now sung"

Falwell called NOW "the National Order of Witches"
Coulter labeled Dems who question qualifications of Condoleezza Rice and Clarence Thomas as "racist"

Coulter: Canada is "lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent"; Carlson: "Without the U.S., Canada is essentially Honduras"

FOX peddles false report that California school "banned Declaration of Independence because it mentions God"

Rush Limbaugh on the Abu Ghraib photos: "I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?"

Michael Savage: "When you hear 'human rights,' think gays. ... [T]hink only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son."

Oliver North: "Every terrorist out there is hoping John Kerry is the next president of the United States."

Pat Robertson on gays and lesbians: "[S]elf-absorbed hedonists ... that want to impose their particular sexuality on the rest of America."

Pat Buchanan: "[H]omosexuality is an affliction, like alcoholism."

Bill O'Reilly to Jewish caller: "[I]f you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel."

Jerry Falwell: "And we're going to invite PETA [to "wild game night"] as our special guest, P-E-T-A -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We want you to come, we're going to give you a top seat there, so you can sit there and suffer. This is one of my special groups, another one's the ACLU, another is the NOW -- the National Order of Witches [sic]. We've got -- I've got a lot of special groups."

[update] Some people have commented that Coulter, Rush and Hannity are not party leaders. Bullshit

As for the party leadership, how about Delay and Cornyn threatening judges? Will that do?

Exactly. People who are crying because Howard Dean called the Repugs a "white Christian party" (Duh! Look at their convention crowd!) need to get their flipping priorities in order.

Another Lunatic on the Bench

Thanks to the Democratic cave-in on filibusters, Prez Nit Wit, unlike President Clinton, will likely get all of his nominees to the Federal bench confirmed - including some confirmed lunatics like Janice Brown.

"In the heyday of liberal democracy, all roads lead to slavery," she has warned in speeches.

Brown forgets, of course, that it was liberal democracy that freed African Americans from slavery, not the conservatives who embraced the institution and were willing to start a war to preserve it. If not for liberals, Janice Brown might still be property today.

Her friends and supporters say her views of slavery underpin her judicial philosophy. It was her study of that history, they say, combined with her evangelical Christian faith and her self-propelled rise from poverty that led her to abandon the liberal views she learned from her family.

"We discuss things like, 'How did slavery happen?' " said her friend and mentor Steve Merksamer, a lawyer in Sacramento, Calif. "It comes down to the fact that she believes, as I do, that some things are, in fact, right and some things are, in fact, wrong. Segregation - even though the courts had sustained it for a hundred years - was morally indefensible and legally indefensible and yet it was the law of the land," he said. "She brings that philosophy to her legal work."

And, except for liberals, segregation would still be the law of the land. Clearly Brown's "study of history" has been deficient, to say the least.

This woman should not be a judge. It's because of Democratic failures that she is now on the Federal bench for life.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A Lesson for Democrats

Watching the Ohio coin scandal evolve is like watching a train wreck in slow-mo. More and more parts keep flying off. The latest spin-off is the revelation that another investment fund for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation lost $215 million last year. Yes, that's $215 million down the toilet. As usual, it took the Toledo Blade to dredge out the truth:

Although the bureau has known about the losses since September, it wasn’t revealed until yesterday, a day after The Blade began making calls upon learning that state investigators had uncovered huge losses at the bureau.

A spokeman for Gov. Bob Taft said last night that Mr. Taft had been told in September that there was an investment loss at the bureau — a loss of $10 million to $20 million.

And if you believe this, I have some swampfront property in Toledo to sell you. Read the whole thing; it's a long, damning article.

As well as being a scandal for Ohio and ammunition for state Democrats, this disaster should serve as another weapon in our anti-Social Security privatization arsenal. Because if your Social Security money is invested, it's going to go into crony-operated funds like this one and it's going to disappear.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Yikes!

Truly scary mugshot of the "runaway bride."

Monday, June 06, 2005

What the Right Believes

The coming-out of Mark Felt as Deep Throat has certainly unveiled a lot of conservative craziness for all to watch. Martin Schram has the scoop at Newsday:

Richard Nixon's ex-convicts - who did jail time for their crimes against democracy and then profited from their crimes by writing books and becoming celebrities - had returned to work one more con. Nixon's former senior White House assistant, Charles Colson, and the Nixon team's burglar-in-chief, G. Gordon Liddy, worked the cable news circuit, expressing moral indignation that the FBI's former deputy director, W. Mark Felt, was Deep Throat.

...

"I was shocked because I worked with him closely," Colson said on MSNBC. "And you would think the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, you could talk to with the same confidence you could talk to a priest." Then on CNN: "I was shocked, because ... I talked to him often and trusted him with very sensitive materials. So did the president. To think that he was out going around in back alleys at night looking for flowerpots, passing information to someone, it's . . . not the image of the professional FBI that you would expect."

Ah, image. Conjure Colson, with Nixon and others in the Oval Office, as Nixon orders a burglary at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

Meanwhile on CNN, Liddy tells Paula Zahn: "I view him [Felt] as someone who violated the ethics of the law enforcement profession." Then, back on MSNBC, Liddy brags that not only had he plotted the burglary of the Democratic Party's Watergate offices but, "I planned the Brookings break-in." It wasn't done, Liddy said - "too expensive."

When the face of Nixon's speechwriter Pat Buchanan appeared on our looking-glass/screens, some viewers might have expected a refreshing, ruminative literary perspective about Felt and the Watergate era. Then Buchanan spoke: "I think he's a snake."

"Here is an individual," Buchanan explained, "sneaking around at night leaking things to damage the president of the United States in the middle of a campaign. And I don't see what is heroic about ... that."

...

Lost in the wailings of Nixon's men is the one thing Americans need to know to understand Felt's dilemma. Felt couldn't go to his boss. J.Edgar Hoover had just died and Nixon had replaced him with an unqualified Nixon loyalist - L.Patrick Gray III, who proved his worth by destroying documents and slipping others to officials running the White House cover-up. Felt couldn't go to the attorney general; John Mitchell was attorney general when he presided over the Watergate break-in planning and, after leaving to run Nixon's campaign, was replaced by a Nixon loyalist not trusted by many FBI hands. Felt couldn't go to Congress - the Senate Watergate Committee didn't exist yet. Felt certainly couldn't go to Nixon or all the president's henchmen.

So he helped his young reporter friend, Bob Woodward. And, three decades later, these Nixon criminals popped up on our looking-glass/screens, doing their shtick. They wailed like pro wrestlers pounding the mat in feigned pain.

What Schram doesn't mention and that I find particularly egregious is the fact that the Nixon wailers are trying to lay blame for the Vietnam debacle on Mark Felt. What crap. What's especially amusing about this is that these men are frantically prostituting themselves over the body of a dead president who would now be classified as "insufficiently Republican."

Friedman: Pest

I'm more than a little tired of all the columnists who have been lining up lately to sneer about how awful things are in Europe and how proud we should be for working ourselves to death so people like Paris Hilton can have a teacup Chihuahua. One of the most egregious is Thomas Friedman, who should know better, but doesn't. Avedon Carol gives him a right good whacking:

Someday I'm sure Thomas Friedman will explain why "progress" means working "a 35-hour day". Because according to Friedman, it's just plain backward-looking to want to work a 35-hour week. So, you see, the French just don't know what they're doing because they want to have a real life instead of giving it all up to compete with people who live in mud huts.*

Exactly. How in the hell should anyone who lives in the Western world be expected to compete with someone who can live on a few bucks a day? Instead of sending our jobs and wealth over there, maybe we should keep them here and challenge those countries to get off their dead butts and develop themselves. But nooooo.

We keep being told we have to give up our comfortable little welfare-state provisions in order to join the cut-throat new world the corporate globalizers want to give us, but they never tell us what we're going to win for it other than an endless life of struggle for what we used to have.
See, people aren't stupid. They know there's no grass-roots push for this, so they've waited patiently for leaders to explain what we need it for. Leaders have used words like "modernize" and tried to exploit the fact that right-wing racists oppose it, but this increasingly sounds like a lot of smoke to obscure the fact that they know telling us what they want it for will tell us exactly why we don't want it.

It's happening here again with the push for CAFTA. It seems simple enough for anyone to understand, but the truth is that we cannot compete with people who are always willing to undercut us. Free trade means lost jobs and a destroyed economy, nothing more, nothing less. The pundits and professors can support free trade and outsourcing all they like and they will - until the day the Brad DeLongs of the world are replaced by Indian professors willing to work for a sixth of what he makes. They'll learn, then. The hard way, like the rest of us.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Suddenly Tom Noe Isn't Their Buddy Any More

Ohio and national Repugs are frantically falling over themselves returning donations from Tom Noe, the former go-to guy in Ohio who, it turns out, is, like a lot of Repugs, a major league rip off artist. The Toledo Blade - a good newspaper for years that escaped notice until it won a Pulitzer last year - has been on the case, much to the dismay of at least one Repug reader:

After seeing the Tom Noe coin scandal dominate your headlines for the past month, I have had enough. I wonder what The Blade would have done if this was a Democrat in the same position. The obvious answer would be that your liberal newspaper would have failed to print the story, or thrown it on the back page of the Second News where no one would have noticed.

What are you trying to prove with your two-plus pages of daily investigation? Everyone already knows that this paper hates anything and everything that deals with Republicans or our party.

Get over this story and move on printing the news like a newspaper should. While you're at it, go ahead and change that slogan from "One of America's Great Newspapers" to simply "America's Most Liberal Newspaper."

Hard cheese, old chap! Repugs who cheered when the media crucified Bill Clinton for lying about a blowjob - something most men do or want to do - get all titterpated when the truth comes out about one of their own. "Get over it!" Yeah, sure. As soon as your lot is the hell out of office.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Amazing

It's pretty damn amazing that the right wing is now blaming Mark Felt, the erstwhile source known as Deep Throat, for, get this, losing the Vietnam War, displaying as usual their incredible knowledge of history.

I hate to point it out to the fighting keyboard brigade out there, but Vietnam was lost on Day One. It was lost when the French were there (read Street Without Joy). It was lost when we were there. It was lost when we left the South Vietnamese on their own. Absent the will to slaughter tens of millions of North Vietnamese with nuclear weapons, it was unwinnable. And even that might not have worked.

So shut the hell up and go away.

It's All Going Wrong

Chargrove over at Daily Kos writes about something I was coincidentally talking with my partner about a few days ago, that everything seems to be going comprehensively wrong and that positive outcomes seem utterly impossible. The economy is really down the toilet in spite of what Bush says, the housing market is about to collapse, we're stuck in Iraq and Bush is clearly looking lustfully at Iran, countries are starting to look elsewhere rather than finance our debt, oil is about to peak out...it goes on, and on, and on, and from none of these is there a soft landing.

Hard times are ahead, I suspect.

Shorter David Brooks

Bobo in the NYT this morning:

The core fact is that the European model is foundering under the fact that billions of people are willing to work harder than the Europeans are. Europeans clearly love their way of life, but don't know how to sustain it.

Translation: Europeans should work themselves to death and live like Indians and Chinese. Uh huh!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dubya Babbles

A few prime quotes from Dubya's press conference yesterday:

But Iraq has -- have got people there that are willing to kill, and they're hard-nosed killers. And we will work with the Iraqis to secure their future.

Hm. Good to know....

I -- and we'll continue to work. Condi just -- Condi Rice, our Secretary of State, just came back and she briefed me that she had a very good discussion with Vladimir about the merits of democracy, about the need to listen to the people and have a government that's responsive.

Yes, I'm sure "Vladimir" was quite convinced of the merits of democracy by talking to Condi Oil Tanker.

Stretch. You mind if I call you Stretch in front of --

Yes, whip out a cutesy nickname. Does "Vladimir" do this?

The other question that -- one of the other issues that is important is the equipping issue, and the equipment is now moving quite well. In other words, troops are becoming equipped.

It's good to know that two years after the war started, "troops are becoming equipped."

But I'm an optimistic fellow -- based not upon my own economic forecast -- I'm not an economist -- but based upon the experts that I listen to.

The carefully selected "experts" who tell Dubya what he wants to hear.

There's plenty more; read the transcript.

WHAT a Surprise!

Amongst the items confiscated during a search of Tom Noe's coin shop were wooden nickels! Seems appropriate, doesn't it?

Huh?

This is interesting. Jeb Magruder on Deep Throat in the NYT:

I thought Mark Felt was probably the one, which made sense because what he told Woodward was mainly the stuff the F.B.I. would have had. What he didn't tell Woodward was really anything critical about us. It wasn't inside the White House stuff, it was inside the F.B.I. stuff."

What makes it interesting is that Magruder was on a local Columbus TV channel last night (he lives around here) and said he didn't believe Felt was Deep Throat. So which is it, Jeb?

Buy a Jag

If you're gay and can afford it, buy a Jaguar and thumb your nose at the loonies:

A week after they declared victory over Walt Disney Co., Christian activists have fired another missile in their long war against companies they think are destroying traditional American values.

The target this time is Ford Motor Co., which Christians should boycott as “the company which has done the most to affirm and promote the homosexual lifestyle,” the American Family Association says on a Web site it put up Monday, boycottford.com.

The AFA, the nonprofit group run by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, criticized Ford for donating money to gay-rights organizations — Ford promises to give up to $1,000 to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination for every Jaguar and Land Rover it sells to gays and lesbians. The group also complained that Ford sponsored gay pride celebrations, advertised in gay-oriented publications and was “redefining the definition of the family to include homosexual marriage,” Randy Sharp, the organization’s director of special projects, said Tuesday.

I drive a Ford. I'm proud to. Can't afford a Jaguar, though.