Monday, October 31, 2005

Now We Fight

Poor Harriet Miers having crept back to her office in the White House, Bush has unveiled his loony right-wing choice for the Supreme Court, and it's pretty loony. We ought to be able to make a case against this guy merely by pointing out how insanely out of touch he is with the vast majority of Americans. It's Scalito!

Alito, 55, is nicknamed "Scalito" because he reminds analysts of ultraconservative Justice Antonin Scalia. He once voted to uphold a law requiring a wife to get her husband's permission to get an abortion.

According to "Scalito," women not only don't have the right to choose, they don't have the right to think for themselves either.

Part Two

The second part of the Toledo Blade's four-part article on GOP funding in Ohio is up. It's a must-read.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Tom Noe the Tip of the Iceberg

Over the next four days the award-winning Toledo Blade, my old home-town paper, is going to rip the covers off the rest of the vile crew who "won" Ohio for the Shrub; the Repug anti-government loonies who backed Bush so they could milk the taxpayers for every possible dime while at the same time piously claiming that government should be "drowned in a bathtub." Sure, but only after it's totally and completely broke. A taste of what's to come:

They were executives, lobbyists, evangelical Christians, political veterans and rookies, and a rare-coin dealer from Maumee. They bankrolled a president.

Thirty Ohioans collected at least $4.1 million for George W. Bush's re-election campaign last year - exceeding Sen. John Kerry's entire take from the state. They raised $2.4 million more for the Republcan National Committee.

They are Ohio's "Pioneers" and "Rangers," President Bush's most prolific fund-raisers. Most Ohio voters have never heard of them, but the White House knows them well.

They have sat on crucial policy committees and won choice appointments. In the last five years, their firms have conducted more than a billion dollars of business with the state and the federal government.

One was Tom Noe.

Prepare to meet the rest.

And we do.

On April 24, 2003, the President announced his economic agenda at the Timken Co.'s research facility in Canton, Ohio.

"The greatest strength of the American economy is found right here, right in this room, found in the pride and skill of the American work force," the President said. "Here at Timken, last year, productivity rose 10 percent, which means that America can compete with any nation in the world because we got the finest workers in the world."

W.R. "Tim" Timken, Jr., who inherited the manufacturer's chairmanship in 1975, hosted Ohio fund-raisers for the President.

A Ranger in 2004, he became the U.S. Ambassador to Germany last month.

Even though Mr. Bush praised Timken Co. as an example of a thriving American business, the company had relied on government handouts worth $259 million since 2001.

In a 2003 claim to the federal government, Timken requested subsidies because France, Germany, Italy, China, Japan, and even Romania "dumped" ball bearings on the American market. Timken reported damage in excess of $63 billion.

The U.S. government paid Timken $109 million in 2003, almost three times the company's profits.

Timken was the primary recipient of a 2000 federal anti-dumping and subsidy law, according to a September report by the Government Accountability Office.

The law was proposed by U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula (R., Navarre) in 1999. Timken is headquartered in his district.

Two weeks later, Ohio's Mike DeWine presented the legislation to the U.S. Senate. Mr. Regula and Mr. DeWine have received $30,700 and $46,750 respectively in contributions since 1989 from Timken employees and members of the Timken family.

Why do we call what we have now "capitalism?" In fact it's a form of socialism that profits only the wealthy.

This is going to be another award-winning series from The Blade. Check it out!

Friday, October 28, 2005

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

Fitzmas. The first present? Scooter goes down. Couldn't happen to a better guy (and what idiot in his fifties still goes by "Scooter," for Pete's sake?).

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was indicted Friday on five charges that include obstruction of justice, making false statements and perjury in the investigation into the leak of a covert CIA agent’s name.

Moments after the indictment was announced, the White House said that Libby had resigned.

The five-count indictment accuses Libby of lying about how and when he learned about CIA official Valerie Plame's identity in 2003 and then told reporters about it. The information was classified.

“The charges allege that Libby lied to FBI agents who interviewed him on October 14 and November 26, 2003; committed perjury while testifying under oath before the grand jury on March 5 and March 24, 2004; and engaged in obstruction of justice by impeding the grand jury’s investigation,” prosecutors said in a news release.

Though I should be celebrating, I'm a little hesitant. The right wingers are going to argue that these are "junk" charges, and they have a point; not one of them accuse Libby of blowing Valerie Plame Wilson's cover, all of them are related to the investigation itself. It's worrisome to think that this investigation could end with a lot of indictments, but not a single solid one related to the central fact.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Malfeasance at NASA!

The Onion strikes again:

A report issued Monday by NASA's Oversight Commission indicates a cumulative 1.8 million miles unaccounted for on the Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavor shuttles. In addition, shuttle pilot James Kelly reported numerous occasions on which he found the pilot seat "adjusted for someone else."

The report also revealed that radio presets on the shuttles had been changed to receive various talk-radio stations from across the country, and that the cargo bays contained foreign items such as an old pair of sneakers, "aviator"-style sunshades, two empty Big Gulp Los Angeles Dodgers collector cups, and CDs that shuttle astronauts say are not theirs.

Griffin's apparent joyrides came to light last week, when sharp-eyed patrons at Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club spotted Discovery in the club's parking lot. Within hours, NASA employees began coming forward with their own observations.

"Every now and then on a Friday, Mr. Griffin would stop by Launch Complex 39B and say, 'Well, I'm off early today, taking the wife shopping on Fifth Avenue,' and I wouldn't think twice about it," said assistant fuel-cell technician Lawrence Clemmons. "But about half an hour later, the ground would shake, I'd hear this earsplitting roar from the pad, and then the shuttle would fly off."

The Onion is never better than when they take on the space program.

Now Comes the True Nominee

Harriet "Cool!" Miers having withdrawn to go hide, I presume we'll now find out which Nazi the Bushites have had in mind all along during their little diversionary maneuver.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Scotty was RIGHT!

Transparent aluminum? You bet:

Engineers here are testing a new kind of transparent armor -- stronger and lighter than traditional materials -- that could stop armor-piercing weapons from penetrating vehicle windows.

The Air Force Research Laboratory's materials and manufacturing directorate is testing aluminum oxynitride -- ALONtm -- as a replacement for the traditional multi-layered glass transparencies now used in existing ground and air armored vehicles.

Note the illustration accompanying the article! (via)

Waiting for Fitzkrieg to Break Out

I'm on vacation this week, but have no doubt I'm waiting for Patrick Fitzgerald to reveal indictments as much as the rest of you. Hopefully it will become clear to all that the US is run by a cabal of power-greedy protofascists who ought to be put up against a wall, but as usual these bastards have defenders including, weirdly, Nicholas Kristof, who ought to know better but evidently checked his brain at the door. As David at Blue Mass. Group put it aptly:

...now Nicholas Kristof, the usually-sensible NY Times op-ed writer, has lowered himself to the embarrassing level of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) in launching a preemptive strike against Novak-Plame-Rove-Libby-gate special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Hutchison, as you'll recall, disgraced herself on the Sunday talk shows by trivializing the possibility of perjury or obstruction of justice indictments, on the ground that those crimes really aren't so bad after all (for a real good laugh, check out Hutchison's comments when Bill Clinton was the one facing perjury charges).

So now comes (sub. req'd, sorry) Kristof, casting aspersions in Fitzgerald's direction without any basis for doing so.

Indeed, to see Kristof throwing in his lot with people like the cretinous Judy Miller and the bunch of criminals running things is just pathetic. David suggests it's because Kristof was tangentially involved; I think it's part of this dumbass shoot-yourself-in-the-foot liberal "fairness" crap. Whichever, it's just foul to see Kristof suggesting that the Repugs outing a CIA agent for revenge is the same as Bill Clinton lying about a blow job, something all men do or would do if they had the chance.

Meanwhile, Rosa Parks has passed. She is the sort of person we were privileged to share the planet with. Too bad people have forgotten how to quietly yet firmly speak up when injustice invades their lives.

And cripes, how 'bout them White Sox? Not looking very good for the halfAstros at the moment...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Screw the Workers

George Will tells us that American workers are just going to have to settle for being poor again, a hundred years after Henry Ford realized he could sell more cars by lifting his employees up with a decent living wage. Not anymore. Another company joins the stampede to screw their employees:

In a sweeping overhaul to combat declining profits, Dana Corp. yesterday announced it would sell three business units, close factories, make employees pay more for health insurance, freeze wages, and cut benefits.

The moves, hailed by shareholders, means Toledo's largest corporation will pare 700 of its 1,950 area jobs, affecting virtually every operation it has in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

I know it's not popular to say this, but stockholders are the biggest parasites in the world. Who deserves the wealth of a company, a bunch of rich layabouts who buy stock, or the people who work and sweat to create that wealth? To me, the only truly valuable stockholders are the venture capitalists. They actually create jobs; the rest merely are vampires.

And the lefty blogs, I notice, have little to say about this, proving that what passes for the Democratic intelligentsia has completely lost touch with the party base. For example, a few days ago a diarist at Kos implied that illegal immigration is bad. This person got swamped by a mob of dumbass lefties claiming that he/she was OBVIOUSLY a Republican. Illegal immigration is one of the prime causes driving down American wages and benefits, and I'll repeat what I've said before, that illegal immigrants do NOT take jobs "Americans won't do." In Columbus they take jobs in the construction industry, displacing well-paid American carpenters who once could support their families and now are looking for work. Jesus, what crap. What we need are two things: a stop to illegal immigration and the return of tariffs. Free trade is a chimera, a particularly ugly one if you're working class. It's time we got off our asses and realized that.

Trafalgar 200

Today, Britain celebrates the battle of Trafalgar, the final victory of Lord Nelson and the one that really put paid to Napoleon's extra-Continental hopes. Aboard HMS Victory tonight, the Queen will offer the traditional toast to "the Immortal Memory." Lots of good links on the BBC page here.

In the morning hours as the British fleet approached the combined French and Spanish fleets, Nelson retired to his cabin for a few moments and wrote this beautiful prayer which I would like to share:

May The Great God whom I worship grant to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious victory; and may no misconduct in anyone tarnish it; and may humanity after victory be the predominant feature of the British Fleet. For myself individually I commit my life to Him who made me, and may this blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Shot by a French sniper, the great admiral died hours later at the moment of victory. Probably there could have been no more appropriate end to the battle and to Nelson's remarkable life.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Norquist Watch

This is kind of funny, in a way:

A number of conservatives are seething over the fact that Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), was the featured speaker at a fund-raising event for a group of homosexual Republicans last weekend. One pro-family leader called Norquist's appearance "an act of utter betrayal."

Norquist was the main attraction at the "Grand Ol' Party," the largest fund-raising event of the year for the Dallas, Tex., chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual advocacy group within the GOP.

On the other hand, it certainly reveals in stark detail the fault line between the "cultural conservatives," who are mostly just nuts, and the "business Republicans" who use them to win elections. Luckily for the "business Republicans," the crazies are mostly too stupid to notice they're being used and then hung out to dry.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Goss Destroying CIA

Porter Goss, Dubya's choice to "lead" the CIA, is busily destroying it:

A year later, Goss is at loggerheads with the clandestine service he sought to embrace. At least a dozen senior officials -- several of whom were promoted under Goss -- have resigned, retired early or requested reassignment. The directorate's second-in-command walked out of Langley last month and then told senators in a closed-door hearing that he had lost confidence in Goss's leadership.

The turmoil has left some employees shaken and has prompted former colleagues in Congress to question how Goss intends to improve the agency's capabilities and restore morale. The White House is aware of the problems, administration officials said, and believes they are being handled by the director of national intelligence, who now oversees the agency.

But the Senate intelligence committee, which generally took testimony once a year from Goss's predecessors, has invited him for an unusual closed-door hearing today. Senators, according to their staff, intend to ask the former congressman from Florida to explain why the CIA is bleeding talent at a time of war, and to answer charges that the agency is adrift.

"Hundreds of years of leadership and experience has walked out the door in the last year," said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), "and more senior people are making critical career decisions as we speak."

On a recent visit to a large CIA station in the Middle East, Harman, the ranking Democrat on the same House intelligence panel where Goss once presided, said she asked for a show of hands from those who understood where Goss was leading the agency. "The vast majority didn't know, and they are worried," Harman said in a telephone interview during her trip.

If Goss' answers during the hearing are not convincing, the Senators need to march to the White House and tell Shrub that Goss has to go, now. We can't afford a CIA in turmoil at this time.

Explosive Growth

Explosive hurricane growth in the Gulf of Mexico will undoubtedly provide rich fodder for research in the quiet months to come, but for now, it's a catastrophe in the making:

...AIR FORCE RECONNAISSANCE PLANE REPORTED 884 MB...THE LOWEST MINIMUM PRESSURE EVER MEASURED IN A HURRICANE IN THE ATLANTIC BASIN...THIS VALUE SHOULD BE USED WITH CAUTION UNTIL CALIBRATED...
...
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 175 MPH...280 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. WILMA IS A CATASTROPHIC CATEGORY FIVE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE. SOME FLUCTUATIONS IN INTENSITY ARE EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS.

"No such thing as global warming." Uh, sure. We can disagree on the cause, but hot water in the gulf leading to incredible storm strengthening seems to be a fact.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Get a Cell Ready for Crashcart

As Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury investigation draws to a close, more and more pointers are aimed directly at the office (bunker?) of the Vice President. Dick Cheney, traitor. We've always known it - he's always put his own personal profit well before the good of his country - but it's likely about to come out in black and white. The "daddy party" my ass - under the leadership of men like Cheney and the Shrub, the GOP has become the party of treason.

The prosecutor has assembled evidence that shows Cheney's long-running feud with the CIA contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame.
...
One former CIA official told prosecutors early in the probe about efforts by Cheney's office and his allies at the National Security Council to obtain information about Wilson's trip as long as two months before Plame was unmasked in July 2003, according to a person familiar with the account.

Indictments need to follow. And soon, before Cheney leads the charge into Iran.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Bee-a-utiful

Check it out, folks; Andromeda in simmering infrared, over at Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog.

Digby Strikes Again

There's been much head-scratching over the appearance of the names "Valerie Flame" and "Victoria Wilson" in Judy Miller's notebook. Conservatives, of course, have their own little spin, but Digby does some searching and finds out that several early reports of the scandal claimed that the outed agent was "Victoria Wilson." Hm.

It's certainly possible that a whole bunch of people made the same mistake about her first name. It's odd, though. One might think that it is more likely that it was one person who consistently referred to her by the wrong name --- who was speaking to a bunch of reporters.

Judy Judy Judy?

Meanwhile, John Aravosis speaks truth to power:

If a senior White House staffer had intentionally outed an American spy during World War II, he'd have been shot.

We're at war, George Bush keeps reminding us. We cannot continue with business as usual. A pre-9/11 mentality is deadly. Putting the lives of our troops at risk is treason.

Then why is the White House and the Republican party engaged in a concerted campaign to make treason acceptable during a time of war? That's exactly what they're doing. On numerous news shows today, Republican surrogates, their talking points ready, issued variations of the following concerning White House chief of staff Karl Rove's outing of a covert CIA agent as part of a political vendetta:

- It's the criminalization of politics
- Is this 'minor' leak really worth all this?
- Political payback is common and should not be criminalized
- Mis-speaking or mis-remembering is not a crime

Yes, the Republicans are now making light of an intentional effort to expose an undercover CIA agent, working on weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, no less, while we are at war in the Middle East on that very issue.

The GOP has become the party of treason.

Indeed it has. Anything goes so long as it advances the aim of the sacred Party, including gutting America's already crippled security apparatus. This needs to be a Democratic message in the upcoming campaigns. The Repugs claim to be the "daddy" party. They're not. They're the "treason" party.

Anaheim Plans Huge Rally Monkey Pyre

OK, that's not true, but maybe they should. How 'bout those White Sox?

Back Home

The Shenzhou VI crew have returned after a five day flight, landing on target in Inner Mongolia. The two astronauts are well, and the flight appears to have been successful. No word just yet on when we can expect the third Chinese manned spaceflight. An invitation to join the ISS team would seem to be in order.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Norquist Watch

Grover Norquist, coward:

If Washington lobbyist and anti-government goon Grover Norquist knows so much about Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, he should debate its merits here in the land of crumbling highways and fading universities and colleges.

Instead, Norquist says he's willing to debate Gov. Owens so long as it takes place in - can you imagine? - Washington, D.C.

Norquist, head of the ingeniously named Americans for Tax Reform, has been awfully free with his advice on how Coloradans should vote on Referendums C and D. He is infamous as the fellow who said he wants to shrink government to where it could be drowned in the bathtub.

Now Norquist has summoned Owens to Washington, with an aide saying Norquist is awfully busy but would try to find time. That's the respect that Colorado gets from folks like Norquist. Imagine if Owens wasn't a card-carrying Republican.

Owens responded Wednesday. "Grover, this is an issue of critical importance to Coloradans," he wrote in a letter. "A discussion of the issues more than a thousand miles away from our state in your office would serve no purpose."

Not that Grover cares, he's just trying to drown Colorado in a bathtub.

Didn't Work the Way They Hoped it Would

Yesterday's scripted love-fest between Bush and some of his praetorians just didn't go as planned, as a somewhat less-supine media let the world know that the setup was fake. I guess the message "if you're not with us, you're against us!" just doesn't have as much effect as reality sets in:

The event, stage-managed for television, came across as carefully scripted and a bit awkward, despite attempts to prepare the soldiers for what they would be asked and to give them time to think through their answers.

The LA Times was a touch more acerbic:

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said he did not think the soldiers had been told what they could or could not say.

"The troops can ask the president whatever they want," he said. "They've always been free to do that."

Bush did not invite the soldiers to ask any questions, however, and none chose to do so.
...
With Iraqi troop readiness at the center of the war debate, Bush's discussion with the troops was questioned by war critics such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who complained that it was "highly scripted," and by military officers.

"Officers are upset that military people would be coached as to how to talk to the president," said a senior military official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's against everything that people in uniform stand for."

Well, yeah, but to Bush those folks in uniform are nothing more than useful chess pieces, and as disposable as dixie cups.

Bloggers, as is our wont, were even less polite. Kevin Drum refers to Dubya as "His Bubbleness," which is a new and good one. Here's Mark Kleiman:

Not only is it obvious that the soldiers are reciting set-piece speeches -- note that when GWB interrupts one of them, she goes back to the beginning of her answer and recites it over in the same words -- but Alison Barber, the deputy chief Pentagon flack who runs the prep session, gives special instructions about what to do "if he gives us a question that's not something we've scripted," treating that as an unexpected occurrence.

The whole thing reminds me of those "spontaneous demonstrations" communist countries are famous for. Just as scripted, just as cretinous.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bumper Sticker Seen

"Where Are We Going, and Why Am I In This Handbasket?"

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ranting and Raving

Capitol Hill Blue is back with more claims that Bush is wacko. This is one of these things we kind of hope and kind of know is probably true, but there's no hard evidence, damn it.

“He’s out of control,” one White House aide says privately. “There’s no other way to put it. His anger spills over in meetings. He berates anyone who brings him bad news but there's not a lot of good news we can bring the President right now. He calls other Republicans 'motherfucking traitors' and it is becoming more and more of a challenge to keep that anger from showing in public.”

Hopefully, if this is accurate, we will see a Bush meltdown live on the tube. Maybe that will shake the remaining True Believers back to sanity.

On the Way

China has launched its second spaceflight. The Shenzou VI spacecraft this time is manned by two astronauts, pilots Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng. A five day flight is planned.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Shrines of the Grape-Juice Christians

There's an interesting photo essay over at Slate dealing with modern churches. What's most striking about the new temples of the fakey-do fundies is that God is not the focus. There's no religious art, not even a simple cross in sight. The center of these churches is the showman - the P.T. Barnum preacher fleecing the flock. Check it out.

Norquist Watch

Grover goes to Alaska, and Larry Persily of the Anchorage Daily News is unimpressed:

Norquist was explaining to his Commonwealth North audience how important it is for Republicans to stick to the no-tax pledge. He was in town, making the rounds, shaking hands and spreading the gospel that taxes are bad, government spending is the problem, and the nation would be much better off with massive overhauls of Social Security, Medicare and education funding. Taxes are nothing more than "mugging" a business and stealing its money, he said with a serious smile.

He told the small audience that consistency is everything for politics, just as in business. People like to know a Coke is going to be the same quality the world over. It makes them feel comfortable about picking up a bottle off the shelf, no matter where they are. And they should feel just as comfortable voting for a Republican, wherever they are.

But what if a rat's head gets into a bottle of Coke? He didn't say how or why that might happen, but that's not the point. What if it happened? People would never be able to trust Coke again. The company would lose business. Its supporters would defect. It would be bad.

It's the same for Republicans, he explained. Republicans anywhere in the nation who vote to raise taxes are like that rat's head in the Coke bottle; they will drive voters away from the party. They will ruin it for all the other tax-fearing Republicans trying to build a crushingly dominant national party.

I don't know what's more offensive: Insisting that everyone who wants to call themselves a Republican must treat taxes as a plague upon the Earth, or that anyone who makes his or her own decision is nothing more than a rat's head.

What does Grover know about rat heads, what with him being the supreme example of a horse's ass?

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Sad Day Out

Even as the new Wallace and Gromit feature seizes a well-deserved #1 at the US box office, a tragedy has left Aardman Animations, the home of the clay inventor and his long-suffering dog, in ruins:

The roof of the Aardman Animations building in Silverthorne Lane, near Temple Meads station in Bristol, collapsed after fire tore through the Victorian building early today.

A spokesman for Aardman said the building housed all the props and sets from the company's history, which has scored a string of successes with its trademark "clay-mation" and gentle humour, beginning with the Morph cartoons on the BBC and going on to huge international success with Nick Park's Creature Comforts, the movie Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit films.
...
Aardman spokesman Arthur Sheriff said: "Today was supposed to be a day of celebration, with the news that Wallace and Gromit had gone in at number one at the US box office but instead our whole history has been wiped out. The early reports are that the whole building has been destroyed.

"For us, it held everything we had done since day one. Everything from Morph to Creature Comforts to Wallace and Gromit was there. It had all the film sets, the props, the models, everything. It was very important to us. We used it for tours and exhibitions. It really is a bit of tragedy. It's turned out to be a terrible day."

Sad indeed. This is a loss not only for Nick Park and his collaborators, but for film history.

Bright Spot?

Could there be a tiny bright spot in the terrible earthquake tragedy that has so afflicted Pakistan?

Is it possible that Osama bin Laden was one of the victims?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Drowning in incompetence

One thing has been a hallmark of the Bush years: we've been drowning in incompetence led by a not over-bright president many of whose supporters seem to believe that it's cool that he's just as dumb as they are. Here's one of them:

This idea that has developed as of late that Supreme Court Justices are or should be "super human smart guys" is just crap and frankly I think its dangerous for the Republic. I think that fundamentally, the nomination of Mrs. Miers is an antidote for that poisonous idea. We've had our quota on the Supreme Court for women and minorities, now we have a slot for the "average American". Yes, she is a lawyer, but she's the least lawyer to be on the court in quiet some time and frankly I find that really refreshing and not a handicap at all. Look, Justice Breyers is at this very time in history out selling a book that purports to convince us of the idea that since the founders of the Constitution couldn't see into the future and predict the rise of "internet based citizen media" and "tee-vee" that their ideas of what is and is not "freedom of the press" are simply null and void and don't deserve consideration. In my opinion, Justice Breyers is a dangerous man, not be cause he's unqualified, but because despite of all his legal background, he doesn't have the common sense that God gives dogs to figure out how dangerous that idea is, and yet, he manages to have a seat on the top court of the land.

Uh, whatever. Frankly, I want to be led by people who are a lot smarter and better educated than I am, not by some dumbass who got gentleman's Cs probably only because he was the son of a wealthy alumnus. I don't want the busboy at the corner deli on the Supreme Court, I want another Robert Jackson. And I want someone with the sense to realize that the Constitution must adapt to the times, not the times to the Constitution. Shall we bring back slavery since it's enshrined in the Constitution? After all, those founding fathers were geniuses!

The fact that Republicans fall for this kind of crap is just another sign of the decadence of their party. We run Rhodes Scholars; they run well-connected dummies. We handle disasters, they send in Michael "Heckuva job!" Brown. And on and on. (via)

Not a Good Week for the Shrub

As the week draws to a close, we can reflect happily on the goings-on that must be causing the Chimp and his supporters much angst: his new Supreme Court nominee is being pretty universally derided, his pal Karl Rove is being called in by Patrick Fitzgerald for more testimony in the Plame outing, Tom DeLay's going down, and, best of all, the much-hated International Atomic Energy Agency and its head Mohamed ElBaradei, have won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.

Heh heh heh.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

1918: It Was Bird Flu

As worries about avian flu busy the medical community, scientists have, after several years of intensive research, unlocked the secret of the 1918 "Spanish Flu" pandemic that killed at least 50 million people: it was a form of bird flu.

The urgency of those questions inspired scientists to embark on a several-year quest to unearth lung tissue from victims of the 1918 flu and to analyze the viruses' genes. The task has been challenging. Some samples came from tissue saved from long-ago autopsies. Others came from people buried in Alaska and frozen by the permafrost.

In both types of samples, however, the amounts of virus were tiny -- usually just a single copy of DNA fragments. As a result, researchers had to use cutting-edge molecular biology methods to read the genetic codes.

Now they have succeeded. In an Oct. 6 paper in Nature, scientists, led by Jeffery K. Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, report that they have read the full genetic sequence of the 1918 virus, along with the codes of scores of other influenza strains, including the avian flu.

DEADLY QUALITIES. Simultaneously, a team at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention wrote in a paper in the Oct. 7 issue of Science that they used the genetic information to recreate the deadly 1918 strain. They proved how virulent the virus was by giving it to mice. The mice quickly died.

The work of these two teams is more than just a scientific tour-de-force. It also opens the door to understanding why some flu strains are deadlier than others -- and to figuring out how a virus that originally infects only birds is able to evolve to target humans. Soon it should be possible to use this information to learn if today's flu strains are mutating in ways that could bring another pandemic.

Very interesting. Check it out.

Overeating = Bad

I wonder what Steve Irwin would say about this?

The alligator has some foreign competition at the top of the Everglades food chain, and the results of the struggle are horror-movie messy.

A 13-foot Burmese python recently burst after it apparently tried to swallow a live, six-foot alligator whole, authorities said.

Crikey!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Woo Hoo!

Gee, what a crap time to be the Hammer. Life for the Bug Man has gotten very, very bad over the past few days. And he's the scandal who keeps on giving:

A Texas grand jury indicted Rep. Tom DeLay on Monday for alleged money-laundering related to the 2002 Texas election, raising new and more serious allegations than the conspiracy charge lodged against the former House majority leader last week.

The surprising new indictments followed by a matter of hours a motion by DeLay's Texas legal defense team to quash last week's charge on grounds that the Texas prosecutor in charge of the case lacked authority to bring it. The lawyers argued that the crime of conspiracy was not covered by the state election law at the time of the alleged violation.

Later on Monday, a different grand jury -- which had no prior involvement in the case -- brought the new charges, which roughly match allegations made against two of DeLay's political associates one year ago.

DeLay, who had earlier accused the prosecutor -- Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle -- of partisan zealotry, promptly issued a statement accusing him of stooping "to a new low with his brand of prosecutorial abuse." DeLay said Earle "is trying to pull the legal equivalent of a 'do-over' since he knows very well that the charges he brought against me last week are totally manufactured and illegitimate. This is an abomination of justice."

No, Tom. The only abomination here is you.

Hmmmm

It's curious the way the lunatic right is going wacko froth-at-the-mouth nuts over Harriet Miers. Maybe she's not a stealth candidate like I suggested yesterday. Maybe this is Bush's way of indicating that he doesn't want to live in the fundie paradise envisioned by his deluded supporters.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Ike was Right

Also on 60 Minutes last night, Andy Rooney:

I'm not really clear how much a billion dollars is but the United States — our United States — is spending $5.6 billion a month fighting this war in Iraq that we never should have gotten into.

We still have 139,000 soldiers in Iraq today.

Almost 2,000 Americans have died there. For what?

Now we have the hurricanes to pay for. One way our government pays for a lot of things is by borrowing from countries like China.

Another way the government is planning to pay for the war and the hurricane damage is by cutting spending for things like Medicare prescriptions, highway construction, farm payments, AMTRAK, National Public Radio and loans to graduate students. Do these sound like the things you'd like to cut back on to pay for Iraq?
...
We had a great commander in WWII, Dwight Eisenhower. He became President and on leaving the White House in 1961, he said this: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. …"

Well, Ike was right. That's just what’s happened.

Indeed he was.

Chalabi

A really astonishing piece on Chalabi last night on 60 Minutes. It's incredible how this son of a bitch keeps landing on his feet. He obviously has plans to end up as dictator of Iraq, and he's willing to play all sides to do it.

Chalabi then went about his comeback methodically, identifying centers of power and then either aligning himself, ingratiating himself or insinuating himself.

As he did when — just days after the raid on his home and office — he traveled to Najaf to meet with Moqtada al-Sadr, the charismatic young rebel cleric whose militia was battling U.S. forces.

He knew this was dangerous. “We didn’t know whether we were going to be shot at by Moqtada’s people or by the Americans,” he said.

Chalabi, a Shiite like al-Sadr, helped negotiate a ceasefire but then infuriated the Americans by championing al-Sadr’s cause.

Some Americans were shocked when Chalabi aligned himself with al-Sadr, who had encouraged his followers to attack U.S. soldiers.

“I wanted to avert a full-scale battle between the Sadarists, who are all over Iraq, and American forces,” Chalabi said.

Chalabi says one of his greatest achievements was persuading al-Sadr and his followers to give up their weapons and turn to politics. “They are not a threat to American forces now, and you cannot imagine the situation if there is an insurgency in all the south now,” Chalabi said. “It will be a disaster.”

Stahl asked Chalabi about criticisms that he courted al-Sadr because he was just “looking for votes.”

“You know, (critics) use the word ‘opportunist,’” Stahl said.

“Oh yes. Well, the issue is, of course, they are wrong. Opportunism here doesn’t enter into it,” Chalabi replied.

Dear me, no.

How Convenient

How convenient indeed that Dubya would pick someone with no judicial record at all to replace Justice O'Connor. The fix pretty clearly is in; the Democrats will have problems finding grounds to oppose her, and she undoubtedly has made various promises.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

State Quarters

Did you know that the Romans had something like state quarters? No, me neither.

One of my hobbies is cleaning Roman coins. You can buy bronze Roman coins, mostly from the Balkans, in lots fairly cheap; they come encrusted from lying in the ground for over 1500 years, mostly date from the period after Constantine, and a decent number of them clean up to be attributable and some of them clean up beautifully.

I bought a lot of 25 lately and picked through them, dumping most of them into water to soak. One was heavily encrusted except for the very center of the reverse, which seemed to show an animal. Perhaps an apis bull coin of Julian the Apostate, I thought, and let it soak for a couple weeks.

Last night I took it out of the water and scrubbed it a little, then starting picking at the encrustation with my thumbnail and a toothpick. Gradually bits started to flake off. A star appeared; that seemed odd. More and more came off until the animal on the back was revealed not as a bull, but a she-wolf, and under her Romulus and Remus - the traditional legend of how the founders of Rome were rescued and nursed by a wolf. Interesting. Under the image was the mintmark of Thessalonica.

The front came clean a little more easily; a helmeted bust facing left, and the words VRBS ROMA. City of Rome.

It turns out that is a commemorative from the reign of Constantine. There was another coin to commemorate Constantinople.

Some things don't change. And I suppose two thousand years from now someone will carefully scrub clean a battered old coin and find the bust of Washington on one side and, say, Crater Lake on the other, and wonder at the fall of empires.

The Brits Looking Forward to the End

Needless to say, the British must be looking forward more than most to the fall of the Bushies, since Dubya's bizarre palship with the peculiar Tony Blair has dragged British forces into the street without joy that is Iraq. One such is Will Hutton, who writes in The Observer today:

American conservatism that has shaped American and British politics for 20 years has been holed below the waterline. It will take a lot more to sink it, but DeLay's indictment is symptomatic of a conservative over-reach and endemic corruption that will trigger, at the very least, a retreat and maybe even more. One-Nation Tories and honest-to-God Labour politicians can take some succour; the right-wing wind that has blown across the Atlantic for nearly a generation is about to ease. Hypocrisies have been exposed. The discourse in British politics is set to change.

It's a good piece. Check it out.

We Were Soldiers

Joe Galloway is a war reporter and the coauthor, with General Hal Moore, of We Were Soldiers Once - and Young, a classic account from the Vietnam war. Here's what Galloway thinks about our latest bright, shining lie:

We've been treated to the spectacle of a Republican-controlled House and Senate abdicating their constitutional responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight of actions and failings of the executive branch of government. This has gone on for the four-plus years that George W. Bush has occupied the White House, and it looks as if we'll get more of the same for three more years and a bit.

There have been 17 separate investigations of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other prisoner abuse scandals. All have gone straight to the bottom of every case. All have consistently claimed that no one higher up the chain of command, including the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, bears any responsibility for any of this.

Hogwash. BS. Nonsense.

If the lowest private fails, then others have failed in training, leading and directing that private. The chain runs from sergeant to lieutenant to captain to lieutenant colonel to colonel to one, two, three and four stars, on to the longest serving, most arrogant secretary of defense in our history, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and beyond him to the commander in chief, President Bush.

It's long past time for responsibility to begin flowing uphill in this administration. It's time for our leaders to take responsibility for what's being done in all our names and under our proud flag. It's time for Congress to do its job if the administration won't do its job.

Chimpeach.

And does anyone - anyone - know why Rumsfeld still has a job?

Going Down

Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the Valerie Plame case is drawing near its end, and the result likely will go to the very top:

...a new theory about Fitzgerald's aim has emerged in recent weeks from two lawyers who have had extensive conversations with the prosecutor while representing witnesses in the case. They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy, the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must have had a criminal purpose.

Lawyers involved in the case interviewed for this report agreed to talk only if their names were not used, citing Fitzgerald's request for secrecy.

It's going to be interesting. What's just as interesting, in kind of a horrible way, is watching righty bloggers and lunatics like the Freepers trying to bat the truth away like a pesky mosquito. These cretins who thought a presidential blowjob was the end of the world can't face the fact that nearly 2000 American soldiers and untold numbers of Iraqis have died for a bloody-minded lie.