Filtered news 11/29

"The level of violence in Iraq is so extreme, 
  it far surpasses most civil wars since 1945." 
     -- Nicholas Sambanis, 

Getting off to a great start (from ) ...

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon.

Can he vote on bills from Gitmo?

So where do we stand on Net Neutrality? Here's an .

When will you Jesus-loving Hippies learn?  ...Christmas is about shopping and kitschy music, not the :

DENVER A homeowners association in the southwestern Colorado town of Pagosa Springs has told one of its residents to take down a Christmas wreath shaped as a peace sign, because it's "divisive." The association's president says three or four residents have complained the wreath is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan. He says some of those complaining have children serving in Iraq. The association has threatened Lisa Jensen with a fine of 25-dollars a day until she complies. Jensen says she wasn't thinking about the war when she hung the wreath, calling it "a spiritual thing." She says she doesn't want to be bullied and won't take it down until after Christmas. Jensen says she doubts the association will be able to make her pay the fine.

The print version of this story I saw today related that the association president ordered his board to fine Jensen, and when they didn't comply, fired them all. Is it just me, or is this a little nuts? Setting aside the hyper-politicization of a freaking wreath, how about the wreath as a "symbol of Satan"? I think I'd fight this too. Of course, I'd also drop Bill O'Reilly a line about it, but that's just me.

Update:  Apparently this story grew long legs in a short time, went national, and Monday night the homeowner's association board, under the sudden and brilliant glare of public scrutiny, voted to rethink their anti-peace wreath position.  On Monday night they issued a letter to the couple stating there was a "misunderstanding" about their holiday decoration, and they apologized.  On Monday, the president of the homeowner's association reportedly changed his phone to an unlisted number, too!

"There are two ways to build a legacy as president. You can do a great job in office 
  or you can hire some people to rewrite history after the fact in the hopes that you'll 
  come off better later.  Bush seems to have chosen the latter path.  He hopes to raise 
  $500 million to build a presidential library.  Bush's institute will hire lying Nazi whores
  and 'give them money to write papers and books favorable to Bush,' one insider said. 
  We thought Fox News was already doing that job for free."  
     -- Tim Grieve,   

Polonium 210   Newspaper reports suggest it is hard to come by and traceable - not so sure, the dose might have been as small as a millicurie or two, and you could for about half a million dollars - it is $690 per microcurie retail. This who would seem to know what he's talking about. At first glance I thought -- hey, maybe you shouldn't be able to buy this stuff from a that proudly proclaims "No NRC license required! All our radioactive isotopes are legal to purchase & own by the general public." But then again, sure you could kill someone by buying $500 grand worth of Polonium 210 and using it as a poison but why would you? Put this together with the and it certainly looks like someone in Russian intelligence circles really enjoys showing off their ability to find obscure ways of trying to kill people.

Mirror Image Suppose you were a US government official and you read the following in a Russian or Chinese state-owned newspaper op-ed page:

One of the most intriguing ideas is the creation of a treaty-based "Concert of Autocracies" that, like COMECON or the Warsaw Pact, would admit members only if they met strict requirements. The new institution would allow the authoritarian states to work together as a concerted force within such institutions as the United Nations and could eventually replace the United Nations as a forum for legitimizing international security actions if the United Nations itself proved resistant to reform.

Holy shit, right? New Cold War! Right there in the newspaper. So how are Russian and Chinese officials supposed to react to in The Washington Post?

Speaking of necons, Newsweek is on Elliott Abrams: The Perfect Neocon, . Dishonesty (Indicted for lying to Congress, and disbarred as a lawyer) fighting for primacy with incompetence (just look at the fate of "democracy" in the Middle East, oh, and your boy Ortega is back in power), plus he got most of his jobs through family connections. ... maybe will write a book about him too, or his father in law, or his brother-in-law -- you know, the one who called 60-something Hillary Clinton "." I'm sure the is very proud of her son for that.

"It's easier to deny that this is a civil war, when you live in the most heavily fortified place 
  in the country within the Green Zone, which is true of both the prime minister, the national 
  security adviser for Iraq and, of course, the top U.S. military commanders. However, for the 
  people living on the streets, for Iraqis in their homes, this is civil war."
     -- Michael Ware, the bravest bastard in Baghdad,  

What liberal media? 

What liberal media? Part II 

What liberal media? Part III

What liberal media? Part IV

Judge strikes down Bush on terror groups     Excerpt: A federal judge struck down Bush's authority to designate groups as terrorists, saying his post-9-11 executive order was unconstitutionally vague. The Humanitarian Law Project had challenged Bush's order, which blocked all the assets of any groups or individual he designated "global terrorists." "This law gave the president unfettered authority to create blacklists," said David Cole.  "It was reminiscent of the McCarthy era."

Don't believe . Just read this paragraph:

So says the Pew Research Center, reporting this week that 68 percent of U.S. Christians -- including 56 percent of those belonging to white mainline churches (Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc.), 60 percent of white Catholics and 84 percent of black Protestants -- enjoyed the Democrats' KO of the Republican Congress. This includes 41 percent of white evangelicals, members of the famous and dreaded "Bush base." The big issues for those Christians who were polled: Iraq, the economy, "values," terrorism.

Seriously. The rest of the article or post or whatever it is, is pretty stupid. This, however, is interesting. Where's that religion gap now, biznatch?

: "There is one thing I’m not going to do. I am not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete."

During his annual TiVo cleanout, Colbert frantically tries to erase the history of the Iraq War/World War II analogies rejected by Cheney but promoted by Hannity, Condi and "Talking Points" Mehlman. If only it were that easy. WMP  |  MOV 

HOLY CRAP: Polish exchange student writes of …World Nut Daily bleating over the …the…Faith-based

Since I've only been listening to the liberal media I thought Iraq was on a slippery slope to hell. Turns out it's on the .

  Via , filmmaker Mark Manning goes inside the home of a civilian family in Fallujah that has lost loved ones in the war. Very powerful stuff.

OK, not that it's a surprise. But let's just stipulate for the record that the election results earlier this month didn't mean jack to the president when it comes to Iraq. Here's a in the Times with the president not only blaming everyone but himself for the disaster he's created in Iraq but specifically laying the whole thing on al Qaida.

Said the president: "There’s a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented, in my opinion, because of the attacks by Al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal[s]."

To the extent that we can read 'al Qaida' as a gloss for 'people blowing things up' this is no doubt true to a certain extent. But that's sort of like the president saying not to blame the Katrina debacle on him when it was mainly the hurricane's fault.

The Times piece does a pretty good job explaining how everyone in the military and intelligence circles now agrees that 'al Qaida' (whatever that means in Iraq exactly) is not the real issue in what's happening. But to the president, it's still us versus al Qaida. Possibly with outside support from Dr. Evil and . I really never thought this country could be run for a significant period of time by a president who seems captive of dingbat conspiracy theories and the strategic complexity of a children's bedtime story.

The illusory couple-week post-election window of non-denial has closed.

Free speech for sale!  John Aravosis had a righteous of Newt Gingrich’s proposal for a “different set of rules” and the need to “reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.” Aravosis rightly pointed out the irony of Gingrich’s proclamation being made at a dinner honoring freedom of speech in New Hampshire. But there’s yet a further irony in the event. While real, live speech would be monitored if Gingrich were in charge, there’s one so-called “speech freedom” which Gingrich wants entirely unsupervised, unrestricted and de-regulated, according to the coverage of the same event:

MANCHESTER, N.H. --Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Monday that First Amendment rights need to be expanded and cited the elimination of McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms as one solution.  Gingrich, a Republican, suggested allowing people to give any amount to any candidate as long as the donation is reported online within 24 hours. ... Passed in 2002, the campaign finance law known as McCain-Feingold banned unrestricted donations from labor, corporations and the wealthy to the political parties. Gingrich said the reforms have failed and only led to more negative campaign ads via e-mail, television, direct mail and phone calls.

Got that? Shut your mouth and let the rich and corporate donors open their wallets. It’s the American way. If this isn’t one of the sickest perversions of the original intent of the First Amendment, I don’t know what is.  As Aravosis writes:  "I have had it with Republicans who hate America, who hate our freedoms, who hate what this country stands for, and who think that the only way to save our freedoms from the terrorists is for us to destroy those freedoms first. Honestly, how do these scaredy-cat, quaking-in-their-boots, America-haters even dare call themselves patriotic Americans? They are terrified of their own shadow, these Republicans."

More on cowardly Repugnecons  Oh boy. Robert Gates, Bush's choice to replace Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, is another crazy neocon.

In 1984, Robert Gates, then the No. 2 CIA official, advocated U.S. airstrikes against Nicaragua's pro-Cuban government to reverse what he described as an ineffective U.S. strategy to deal with communist advances in Central America, previously classified documents say.  Gates, President Bush's nominee to be defense secretary, said the United States could no longer justify what he described as "halfhearted" attempts to contain Nicaragua's Sandinista government, according to documents released Friday by the National Security Archive, a private research group. In a memo to CIA Director William Casey dated Dec. 14, 1984, Gates said his proposed airstrikes would be designed "to destroy a considerable portion of Nicaragua's military buildup" and be focused on tanks and helicopters. He also recommended that the United States prevent delivery to the Sandinistas of such weapons in the future. The administration, he said, should make clear that a U.S. invasion of the country was not contemplated. The target of Gates' anxieties was Nicaragua's leftist president, Daniel Ortega.

Take a look at what had Gates quaking in his boots:

Gates saw a calamitous situation in Central America in December 1984. Congress had ordered a halt to U.S. support for the Contra rebels, leaving Ortega free, as Gates saw it, to establish Nicaragua as a "permanent and well-armed" ally of the Soviet Union and Cuba. He said the United States should acknowledge that the existence of a Marxist-Leninist regime in Nicaragua closely allied to Moscow and Havana "is unacceptable to the United States and that the United States will do everything in its power short of invasion to put that regime out." In addition to airstrikes, he recommended withdrawal of U.S. recognition of the Nicaraguan government and recognition of a Nicaraguan government in exile that would be entitled to U.S. military support. Economic sanctions should be considered, "perhaps even including a quarantine," Gates wrote.

Lots of parallels.  Republicans just aren't complete without a scaaaaary enemy to keep them up at night, and happy visions of "shock and awe" to salve their terror.  Gates is just another conservative coward.  As for Nicaragua, Ortega was defeated in elections four years later. And a few weeks ago, he staged a comeback and was elected once again president of Nicaragua. Funny, that thing called "democracy".

  That's the in the Washington Post, describing how the National Science Teachers Association rejected an offer to send 50,000 free copies of Al Gore's shockumentary to schools. The NSTA claimed that it didn't want to distribute materials from "special interests" and besides, the film offered "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members." And, oh yeah—it might tick off the :


But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp. That's the same Exxon Mobil that for more than a decade has done everything possible to muddle public understanding of global warming and stifle any serious effort to solve it.

While the NSTA won't distribute science-based documentaries like Gore's, it does promote curricula from companies including Exxon:


And it has been doing so for longer than you may think. NSTA says it has received $6 million from the company since 1996, mostly for the association's "Building a Presence for Science" program, an electronic networking initiative intended to "bring standards-based teaching and learning" into schools, according to the NSTA Web site. Exxon Mobil has a representative on the group's corporate advisory board. And in 2003, NSTA gave the company an award for its commitment to science education. So much for special interests and implicit endorsements.

Exxon may be funding more than just innocuous science materials. Laurie reports that its free lesson plans for teachers include "propaganda challenging global warming."

San Francisco Values   Did you hear that O'Reilly "San Francisco values"? Yeah, he also thinks he invented sliced bread and fire. But let's talk about "San Francisco values" -- you know, tolerance, entrepreneurship, and creativity.

Since O'Reilly boycotts everything he hates, I look forward to his boycott of all Bay Area-origin products. Same with every conservative who bashes San Francisco and the Bay Area. So no iPods or anything Apple. No HP computers. No Google. No Yahoo. No eBay. Those conservative bloggers using Blogspot, MovableType, or TypePad? Sorry. Those products are Bay Area-based.

Also no Adobe or Macromedia products. No computers, either, since most run on AMD or Intel. No tax preparation using Intuit products. Cancel your Netflix subscription. Cancel your TiVo subscription. Remove your Network Associates or Symantec virus protection software from your computer. Unplug your Netgear wifi router.

Don't wear Levis (or any kind of jeans), Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, or buy your kids Gymboree. Avoid LeapFrog learning toys. Boycott Pixar movies. Boycott any movie using George Lucas' ILM special effects shop.  Stay away from Treos and other Palm devices. Don't let Charles Schwab manage your portfolio. Don't bank at Wells Fargo.

Yeah, those "San Francisco values" sure are dragging the region down. Making it weak as it falls behind the rest of the country -- the parts that don't share "San Francisco values" -- economically and socially.

Or, maybe -- just maybe -- it's made the region a magnet for the world's smartest, most innovative, most entrepreneurial individuals and an incubator of the world's most dramatic technological advances.

My what a change an election makes  When The Cafferty File starts off with Jack saying "the following story comes from the land of make believe or believe-it-or-not", you know what follows is going to be ridiculous and todays 4 o'clock question was no exception.  The Department of Justice has suddenly decided (surprise surprise) to investigate the legality of the controversial . Jack surmises that it may have something to do with the incoming Democratic majority — led by Judiciary Chairman Sen. Pat Leahy — which is the tough question the GOP has avoided. Gee, ya think? WMP  |  MOV You have to wonder where the DoJ's priorities lie when they decide to investigate that disclosed the program 11 months before they investigate the of it. 

Unca Dickey not quite done  Charlie Savage has a great article over at the detailing Cheneys feverish pursuit of Presidential power and his ultra-secretive nature. Savage traces his roots back to the Ford administration and warns that the Democrats are in for a tough fight and should expect to hear the words "executive privilege" repeatedly over the next two years.

The Iran-contra scandal was not the first time the future vice president articulated a philosophy of unfettered executive power — nor would it be the last. The Constitution empowers Congress to pass laws regulating the executive branch, but over the course of his career, Cheney came to believe that the modern world is too dangerous and complex for a president's hands to be tied. He embraced a belief that presidents have vast "inherent" powers, not spelled out in the Constitution, that allow them to defy Congress.

A close look at key moments in Cheney's career — from his political apprenticeship in the Nixon and Ford administrations to his decade in Congress and his tenure as secretary of defense under the first President Bush — suggests that the newly empowered Democrats in Congress should not expect the White House to cooperate when they demand classified information or attempt to exert oversight in areas such as domestic surveillance or the treatment of terrorism suspects.

  The Washington Post that the Department of Homeland Security has shown complete ineptness in contracting for a host of anti-terrorism services and devices. These include everything from airport screening machines to radiation detectors. The Post notes that DHS has wasted billions of dollars on security stuff, much of which doesn't work. I find these stories especially disturbing because in creating the department, Congress allowed DHS to grant legal immunity to the manufacturers of anti-terrorism products. That means victims of a terrorist attack would not be able to sue a manufacturer if, say, its gas mask failed to filter out anthrax spores as promised.

  Hurray for DNA! Thanks in large part to all those guys who keep getting from death row, the number of death sentences juries have handed down in execution-happy Texas has dropped by in the last ten years, from 40 in 1996 to just 14 this year. That fits the pattern nationwide, where death sentences have fallen from about 300 per year in the 1990s to 125 in 2005. Even Texas' , which has sent more residents to Death Row than any other jurisdiction in America in recent decades, only sentenced three people to be executed this year.

  In his final speech before the invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush that "unlike Saddam Hussein, we believe the Iraqi people are deserving and capable of human liberty." Liberty meaning that you won't be dragged from your home and shot point-blank in the head by a group of soldiers?

That's what happened to Hashim Ibrahim Awad last April, and the soldiers were American. Seven Marines and a Navy corpsman dragged Awad from his home in Hamdaniyah, west of Baghdad. They bound his hands and feet, though Awad is lame, and forced him outside. Four of them then shot him in the face. Afterwards, the soldiers placed a shovel and an AK-47 by Awad's body to make it look like he was an insurgent digging a hole for a roadside bomb. The real motive for the killing remains unknown.

Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. was . He was yesterday to 21 months in jail. That's significantly less than the five-year federal minimum sentence for growing a single marijuana plant. None of Shumate's co-conspirators has received a longer sentence (though some have yet to be tried).

An Iraqi life is worth less than a victimless crime. How much is saving these young soldiers' asses really worth to the military?


December 1, 2006 - 7:58am