Filtered news 10/18

Humor relief Colbert used to illustrate the mounting Republican scandals. He shows that as long as each prior scandal is overshadowed by a new larger one, the others effectively no longer exist. He also gives the GOP some suggestions on the next one that's needed to swallow Foleygate. -WMP -QT

Another reason for the world to hate us China is passing laws to end worker abuse (sweatshops, etc) and American corporations are complaining about it -- even threatening to pull their business out of China. Now what picture do you suppose that paints of Americans for the Chinese people?

Americans get a chance to speak up for impeachment From Vermont to Illinois to California, voters this fall will be deciding the fate not just of candidates for Congress but of and Vice President Cheney. The proposal is to the point in tiny Pittsville, Wisconsin -- population 866 -- where voters will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" on a local resolution that declares: "The U.S. House of Representatives should start an impeachment investigation against and Vice President Richard Cheney now." More here:

Believabilty You may the sordid of United Health Group CEO William McGuire that I clipped and pasted earlier. In an age of obscene CEO pay, McGuire put every other executive to shame: At the end of 2005, his stock options were worth 1.8 billion dollars. Unfortunately, those options were backdated -- the dates were forged to begin at the lowest point for the stock, so the holdings would be worth more. And now everyone hates the guy.

What's so infuriating about McGuire's compensation package, however, wasn't the malfeasance that went into augmenting it, but the grotesque and inexplicable wealth it offered in the first place. A couple billion for a CEO beyond his salary? That must be some productivity. Possibly the best for the cash came compensation committee member Mary Mudlinger:

"We're so lucky to have Bill," Ms. Mundinger, a longtime compensation-committee member, told the [Wall Street Journal] earlier this year. Of his rising pay, she said: "He needs to be compensated appropriately so that his business model has believability in the market."

So to justify McGuire's business model -- ceaseless premium increases on members, tons of underwriting, and an expansion into low-cost, low coverage plans -- he had to be compensated in the billions. Otherwise, his strategy would have lacked "believability" on Wall Street. I wonder how my employer would react if I wandered into the next board meeting and explained that I need a six-figure salary to burnish the credibility of my writing. Yeah. I wonder.

Election corruption begins anew Anyone wonder who sent out this ?

The state attorney general's office is investigating a letter received by some Southern California Hispanics that says it is a crime for immigrants to vote and tells them they could be jailed or deported if they go to the polls next month.[...] The letter, written in Spanish, tells recipients: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

Of course, naturalized immigrants, of which there are millions, can legally vote. It's just that some folks don't want them to.

Hard hitting ad -WMP -QT "Here's an ads that tells the truth about the pounding we take and what can make it stop. From the maker of the Kinky-Friedman-Action-Figure and the ad that put MasterCard's knickers in a twist, Bill Hillsman's anti-Pounding ad is not only entertaining, it's frightening lobbyists across the state."

In what twisted sense can this be right? “Gerry Studds, the nation’s first openly gay congressman, pushed the country to another landmark development when he died Saturday: the federal government for the first time will deny death benefits to a congressman's gay spouse.” Studds and Dean Hara were partners for 15 years and .

Homeland insecurity A Government Accountability Office report found the Homeland Security Department "ignored its own tests" showing radiation detectors at ports and border crossing “could not meet a standard of detecting enriched uranium 95 percent of the time.” “When the nuclear material was shielded, .”

And we're doing what about it? around the world still live in extreme poverty. The “share of children now living in extreme poverty ranges from 5 per cent in some SEE (South Eastern Europe) countries to a startling 80 per cent in the poorest Central Asia countries.”

Cheney: Iraq is going "remarkably well" Rush Limbaugh interviewed Vice President Cheney on his show yesterda. At one point, Limbaugh asked Cheney to respond to growing frustration over U.S. efforts in Iraq. Cheney acknowledged there is a “natural level of concern out there” because fighting didn’t end “instantaneously.” (Next month, the war will have lasted longer than U.S. fighting in .) Cheney then pointed to various news items to paint a positive picture of conditions in Iraq and concluded, “If you look at the general overall situation, they’re doing remarkably well.”

What liberal media? A University of Wisconsin study of TV coverage found that Midwest broadcasters “allocated an average of per 30-minute news broadcast to election coverage” compared to “two minutes for crime stories, seven minutes for sports and weather, and 10 minutes for advertising.” And this, mind you, is in my home town of Madison, where -- according to O'Reilly -- we commune with Satan.

Dr. O’Reilly will see you now. “On his radio show, Bill O’Reilly falsely claimed that during pregnancy because ‘you can always have a C-section and do those kinds of things.’”

"We've got a big responsibility. Forget about 2008. Forget about the politics.
Just go out and find somebody and look them dead in the eye and say
'You know, this is not right'...This is America. We can do better..."
-- Big Dog, attacking the thugs that ruined America's reputation,

¿Y tu Mexico? Over the last few years, Mexico has been rolling out a universal health care system focused on access to preventative care and free enrollment for the bottom income quintile. The ?

The number of cases of malaria have dropped by 60%, six times more people are receiving antiretroviral therapy, TB mortality has fallen by 30%, and Mexico is only one of seven countries on track to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015; the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG4). The reforms have also led to a 17% reduction in the proportion of male teenagers who smoke, a 17% increase in the use of mammography, and a 32% increase in the number of pap smear tests over the past 5 years.

Beyond preventative care, new data shows that childhood cancer mortality is plummeting as well. In addition, the Mexican government has vastly updated their health infrastructure, building 1,700 new facilities, enrolled 22 million residents in the plan, and is on track for universal coverage by 2010. Last month, representatives from 45 countries flew out to hear how they've carried all this out. Sadly, I don't think Mike Leavitt was one of them. It's going to be quite a day when Mexico has extended coverage to their entire population, and its richer neighbor to the north is tipping past 50 million uninsured.

The head spins at the thought… :

A prominent member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is under fire for publishing an essay in which he argues that Africans were fortunate to have been sold into slavery, and the civil rights movement was "irrational."

"There is another way, or other ways, to look at the race issue in America," writes Gerald Schoenewolf, a member of NARTH's Science Advisory Committee. "Africa at the time of slavery was still primarily a jungle… Life there was savage … and those brought to America, and other countries, were in many ways better off."

NARTH is a coalition of psychologists who believe it's possible to "cure" homosexuality, a position rejected by the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association. The controversy over Schoenewolf's apology for slavery has battered the so-called "ex-gay" movement with accusations of racial bigotry for the first time. The movement's leaders and their close allies at Christian Right powerhouses like Focus on the Family have failed to condemn Schoenwolf's inflammatory arguments.

It's unbelievable to me that there are people out there this out of touch with history, psychology…aw hell, this out of touch with reality. As a resident of San Francisco, I'd love to see this guy spout off his theories in a couple of neighborhoods I could mention. I doubt that he'd find my fellow San Franciscans as tolerant as our reputation would suggest.

"Nukes in North Korea, war in Iraq, earthquake in Japan...
Bush keeps asking, 'Where is Superman?'"
--Dave Letterman

Keith on Our Day of Infamy Today, 135 years to the day after the last American President (Ulysses S. Grant) suspended habeas corpus, President Bush the Military Commissions Act of 2006. , the legislation allows President Bush or Donald Rumsfeld to declare anyone — US citizen or not — an enemy combatant, lock them up and throw away the key without a chance to prove their innocence in a court of law. In other words, every thing the Founding Fathers fought the British empire to free themselves of was reversed and nullified with the stroke of a pen, all under the guise of the War on Terror. -WMP -QT joined Keith to talk about the law that would be seen as "a stain on our nation's history."

Turley: "People have no idea how significant this is. Really a time of shame this is for the American system.—The strange thing is that we have become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. The Congress just gave the President despotic powers and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to Dancing With the Stars. It's otherworldly..People clearly don't realize what a fundamental change it is about who we are as a country. What happened today changed us. And I'm not too sure we're gonna change back anytime soon."

Going Forward with Liberal Talk Radio. Mike Malloy is back!

We the People, It is with great excitement and optimism that I announce today the formation of a new progressive talk radio network. Myself along with my partners, Anita and Sheldon Drobny; the original cofounders of the Air America Radio Network, want to be the first to tell all you "truth seekers" that the original truth seeker himself Mike Malloy will be born again live on the public airwaves. The planned second coming (barring any apocalypse) is scheduled for October 30, 2006.

Is this the October surprise in waiting? :

A suspected al Qaeda leader, accused of being involved in September 11 and planning the 2004 Madrid train bombings, has been imprisoned in a secret U.S. jail for the past year, Spain's El Pais newspaper reported on Sunday.

Mustafa Setmarian, 48, a Syrian with Spanish citizenship, was captured in Pakistan in October 2005 and is held in a prison operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistani and European security service officials told El Pais.

Setmarian's 2005 capture was reported in May of this year after the United States put a $5 million bounty on the head of the alleged founder of al Qaeda's Spanish network.

A photograph of the red-haired Setmarian has been removed from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Intelligence's most-wanted Web page.

Pakistan has not answered requests from Madrid about the whereabouts of Setmarian, wanted in Spain for allegedly training September 11 hijackers in Afghanistan and ordering Madrid commuter train attacks that killed 191 people, according to El Pais.

Spain's high court is unable to request his extradition as he has not been officially imprisoned, the newspaper reported.

So they have an Al Qaeda leader in custody for the last year and haven't trotted him out as proof that they are winning the "War on Terror" or prosecuted him for crimes in which he's allegedly been involved during this oh-so-important election season? Hmmmm…..It seems to me that would be a pretty big deal to help the Republicans look tough on national security. Can you guess why they haven't?

"Sources close to John Kerry say they think he's running for president again.
Apparently Kerry's serious, 'cause he's already practicing his concession speech."
--Conan O'Brien,

Governed by idiots Jeff Stein has an op-ed in the New York Times today in which he recounts his adventures asking various mucky mucks if they know the difference between Shiite and Sunni. It was amusing, but I was going to skip blogging about it because it's the kind of gotcha game that probably tells us less than we think. But then Attaturk pointed to a passage I had skimmed over. This is Rep. Terry Everett (R–Ala)

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”

If you don't know the whole Ali/Hasan story from the 7th century, that's one thing. But if you literally don't know that there are different sects of Islam that form majorities in different regions, and that conflict between these sects is as defining as the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland — and you're the vice chairman of the House Intelligence committee — then we're doomed. we are governed by idiots.

As John , today is a dark day for us — the day torture became officially sanctioned government policy. I wrote about Hillary Clinton's waffling on the subject of torture during her interview with the Daily News Editorial Board. Today, a in the LA Times by torture advocate Alan Dershowitz points out that Bill's also equivocating on the subject.

Apparently America's most famous power couple has decided that torture makes a great triangulation topic. Both of them carve out an impossibly nuanced stand against the current bill, but in favor of torture under certain circumstances - circumstances that, as I pointed out yesterday, don't occur in real life. That's why many intelligence experts and US generals both oppose the policy — the intelligence crowd because they know it doesn't work, and the generals because they know it will increase torture against our own troops.

The ex-President's hair-splitting on the topic reminds us that he is the guy who first told the nation about the importance of knowing "what 'is' is." In fact, Clinton himself points out that "we have erred in knowing who a real suspect is."

So why forge ahead with these absurd equivocations? In the mistaken belief that it will help Hillary become President. This is more of a reminder why triangulation, instead of being the Democrats' salvation, could be their doom. Moral equivocation doesn't work - not ethically, not politically. Even Bill Clinton, the most brilliant natural politician of a generation, couldn't win a majority of the popular vote taking that route. How do you think Hillary will do?

All this triangulating only serves to muddy the waters, about a topic that's wrong morally AND tactically. (slightly longer post on the topic . )

Is this guy trying to lose? On a day in which convicted killer and international grifter Don King Michael Steele's foundering plague ship in Maryland, who was the campaign genius who came up with , too? This is a one-two combination of such pure stupid that I'm beginning to believe all those theories about the Diebold machines. No serious political party could possibly believe it could win honestly doing stuff like this.

A little Big Brother to keep you awake at night In one of the scarier I've read this week, an ACLU lawsuit has forced the Defense Department to turn over the information they've collected on anti-war protesters. The revelations are not comforting. The military labeled, for instance, a "Stop the War Now!" rally in Akron, Ohio, a site for "potential terrorist activity" (which, taken very literally, makes sense, as any place where humans can effectively exist has the potential for terrorist activity). Students United for Peace and Justice, an anti-war group at UC Santa Cruz, also made the cut. The reason they were considered a threat to military personnel? They protested recruiters for "don't ask, don't tell." Indeed, such information as weekly planning meetings for protests were collected and distributed across the military, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security. Lest you think this is notable for merely being chilling, it's also against the law. The government, which has to delete non-useful information after 90 days, has been leaving the collected data in computers, in violation of federal statute. "Talon," the database where such information is kept, contains postings about more than 1,500 "suspicious incidents" over the last few years, many of them protests, many of them judged by analysts to "pose no threat." In other words, the government is unlawfully spying and retaining information on peaceful activists opposed to its policies. Feel safer?

Wal-Mart Watch In what is only the latest of many such decisions, Pennsylvania courts against Wal-Mart in a 187,000 person class action suit alleging the company forced employees to work extra hours without pay and withheld rest breaks. The damages will reach into the hundreds of millions. Wal-Mart recently paid $50 million in Colorado and $172 million in California for similar suits, and is currently facing the largest gender discrimination case in history. You have to wonder about a corporate culture that seems to so routinely violate labor laws.

Hey California voters! Curious about how much beverage company cash helped influence a vote on bottled-water standards? Wondering which interest groups are especially generous to your state Assembly member? Check out this a Berkeley-based non-profit. It tracks votes on specific bills by state pols and cross-references that info with details on who gave them money, and when. So far, only data from 2003-2004 is available, but the Maplighters claim more recent stuff will be up soon. The impatient can do their own state-level research with the help of , or go federal at . And of course there's always the famous M, one of the very first online sources of campaign finace dirt.

Understanding differences among Muslims is too trivial (for us) to pursue Jeff Stein, the national security editor at Congressional Quarterly, published an op-ed piece in today's New York Times (available, alas, only to TimesSelect members) giving the results of his recent survey of counterterrorism officials. The survey has just one question: What's the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite? Stein was dumbfounded to learn that very few of his interviewees, who play important roles in intelligence and law enforcement communities and Congress, had any idea. And, as Stein writes, he wasn't asking deep, theological questions, "just the basics: Who's on what side today, and what does each want?" For those of you who might—like Trent Lott, who recently , "Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me"—see this as a rarefied inquiry, here's how Stein explains why it matters:

[T]he nature of the threat from Iran [Shiite], a potential nuclear power with protégés in the Gulf states, northern Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, is entirely different from that of Al Qaeda [Sunni]. It seems silly to have to argue that officials responsible for counterterrorism should be able to recognize opportunities for pitting these rivals against each other.

Hostilities between Sunnis and Shiites are on center stage in Iraq, and play an important role in Al Qaeda's motivations. Perhaps if officials knew more about them, better policy would follow? But one of Stein's interviewees—the spokesman for the FBI—took the position that understanding the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite was akin to "memoriz[ing] the collected statements of Osama bin Laden, or be[ing] able to read Urdu [or] playing 'Islamic Trivial Pursuit.'" If there's a game comparison, shouldn't it at least be ?

Who cares what Anthony would do? calls our attention to this excellent piece by , who debunks claims that Susan B. Anthony was a supporter of abortion bans. I find it particularly interesting because Anthony was able to ask questions about whether abortion bans actually accomplish anything even if you agree with the end of inhibiting abortions, a distinction which eludes most contemporary opponents of abortion rights.

Still, there's another question here: what difference would it make if Anthony had supported abortion laws? With respect to Lincoln, recently pointed out:

Many American political and constitutional arguments have something close to the following structure. 1) The following political action/constitutional understanding is wise, benevolent, and prudent. 2) Abraham Lincoln must have favored that political action/constitutional understanding because Abraham Lincoln was a wise, benevolent, and prudent leader. 3) We ought to adopt that policy because Abraham Lincoln favored that policy. I take it that premise 1) does all the work in this argument and that 2) and 3) are just window dressing, accoutrements of American political rhetoric.

The conclusion is obviously correct, as the example of Anthony further demonstrates. Will a single pro-lifer change their position even if made aware that Anthony really didn't agree with them? I rather doubt it. Would hearing that Anthony supported abortion laws 150 years ago convince a pro-choicer that state-coerced pregnancy was a good idea? It certainly shouldn't. We see this through 20th century political leaders as well. The greatest progressive president from the standpoint of domestic policy was Lyndon Johnson, who also presided over the Vietnam catastrophe. His only serious contender for the title, FDR, not only put people in concentration camps based on their race but was in general probably indifferent about civil rights above and beyond his debts to the segregationists in the Democratic coalition. Even the best public figures, for various reasons, get things horribly wrong, and using the accomplishments to provide an independent justification for the mistakes is silly. Even if Anthony had opposed legal abortion (in a context in which abortion was an extremely dangerous procedure, women were second-class legal citizens and third-class economic citizens, etc. etc.), that wouldn't be a good reason to support abortion laws now, any more than Lincoln justifies political corruption or FDR justifies racist internment policies or LBJ justifies disastrous wars. Invoking beloved political figures may be useful rhetoric, but as an argument on the merits it's neither here nor there.

Published

October 18, 2006 - 3:18pm

Author

randomness