Filtered news 1/28

As always: No claim to original writing or reporting. I'm just harvesting from the Internet's fertile fields. --RKing


Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.

One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.

What liberal media? Look at this Yahoo headline of a Reuters story:

"Bush critic"? That's the best descriptive Yahoo can think of to give Pelosi?

Not "Speaker of the House" Pelosi? Not "Third in Line for the Presidency" Pelosi?

Not even "California Congresswoman" Pelosi?

But, yes, all you lurking Freepers, keep crying that the media is liberal.

Tell you what, when Yahoo News refers to Bush as "" George W. Bush or "" George W. Bush, you might just have a point.

On his radio show today, right-wing host Rush Limbaugh criticized the military for allowing women to fight for the United States, asking what “it says about a cultured civilized society that it will and send them off to the foxholes.”

Chuck Norris chops Hannity Conservative "actor" filled in for Sean Hannity last night on Hannity & Colmes. (He should really stick to martial arts, in which he was a genuine champion.) Norris commented on Hannity’s plans to , “The Path to 9/11.” In one , which ABC acknowledges was “,” former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger is shown refusing to give the order to the CIA to take a clear shot at Osama bin Laden. Last night, Norris said, “I hate to see a movie used as a political platform, whether it’s leaning right” — which he said while gesturing to the left — “or leaning left” — said while gesturing to the right. Moreover, he said, if the Berger scene did not happen, it “should not have been in the film.” It’s one thing for Fox News to provide their usual biased political commentary. It’s another thing to promote discredited fiction as news. Click to send a message to Sean Hannity. Demand that he .

"Bush is right. Everyone deserves a seventh chance."
-- Jon Stewart, on Bush asking us to
give his latest Iraq strategy a chance

These new Dems are a new breed! With encouragement from the , Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) now posts his schedule online at the end of each day. “Whether it’s a visit to the gym, a meeting with the founder of the Montana Meth Project, or an interview with Wolf Blitzer, staff for Tester post his entire schedule online each workday — .” Check it out .

The long arm of the unlawful :

Dutch authorities say an Iraqi-born Dutch citizen, suspected of plotting attacks on American forces in Iraq, has been extradited to the United States. Wesam al-Delaema was put on a plane and flown to an undisclosed location in the US after losing his final appeal against extradition in December. He is set to become the first suspect tried in a US court for allegedly plotting attacks on US forces in Iraq.

A Dutch reader emailed to point out this passage from the BBC story: "[A] Dutch judge said there was 'no reason to believe that the US authorities will not abide by the commitments they have given or... deprive the suspect of his fundamental rights.'" The reader asks, "Probably the Dutch judge (and minister Hirs Balin) had no time to read about recent developments in the US?"

The web of deceit An EU inquiry has concluded that knew about the hundreds of across the continent. MEPs lambasted politicians and senior officials for failing to co-operate with an inquiry into .

"I don’t support the President’s surge plan. Bush’s plan is not tied
to a specific strategy and will only needlessly endanger more soldiers."
-- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Amen brother.

What liberal media? Part II On TV last week, Charles Krauthammer repeated the claim that Joe Wilson lied about Cheney sending him to Niger. I think he said that was the important thing about the Libbey trial, that Wilson lied. I looked up the Times Op-Ed "What I Didn't Find in Africa". It says "I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions" and "agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response". It does not claim that Cheney sent Wilson. Why does Krauthammer repeat this lie? Why did no one on the panel call him on it?

Complete morons are running the place -4066"> Excerpt: Could an attacker create a working key from the [Diebold website] photograph? Ross [Kinard of SploitCast] decided to find out. Here’s what he did: I bought three blank keys from Ace. Then a drill vise and three cabinet locks that used a different type of key from Lowes. I hoped that the spacing and depths on the cabinet locks’ keys would be similar to those on the voting machine key. With some files I had I then made three keys to look like the key in the picture.

Congress needs to pass laws mandating a paper trail for votes cast. Let's out these Diebold crooks out of business..

The people are mad as hell :

The president’s approval ratings are at their lowest point in the poll’s history—30 percent—and more than half the country (58 percent) say they wish the Bush presidency were simply over . . .

Public fatigue over the war in the Iraq is not reflected solely in the president’s numbers, however. Congress is criticized by nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans for not being assertive enough in challenging the Bush administration’s conduct of the war. Even a third (31 percent) of rank-and-file Republicans say the previous Congress, controlled by their party, didn’t do enough to challenge the administration on the war.

The also found that 67 percent of respondents believe Bush’s decisions about policy in Iraq and other major areas are influenced more by his personal beliefs regardless of the facts. But will we do anything about it?



It turns out Ari Fleischer will be the next witness, once court resumes Monday. (Damn, just missed him!) The defense team wants to note—for the jury's benefit—that Fleischer demanded immunity before he would agree to testify, because this might cast Fleischer's testimony in a different light.

And here Fitzgerald makes a nice little chess move: Fine, he says, we can acknowledge that Fleischer sought immunity. As long as we explain why. Turns out Fleischer saw a story in the Washington Post suggesting that anyone who revealed Valerie Plame's identity might be subject to the death penalty. And he freaked.

Via .

What? The gub'mint lied to us?! The initial report from the U.S. military about an incident in Karbala last weekend said five U.S. service members were killed repelling an attack by an armed group disguised as an American security team. The AP reported that four of the five were actually abducted and found dead or dying some 25 miles from the compound where they were captured. Larry Johnson has .

There's your other shoe dropping. Karl Rove and White House 'counselor' Dan Bartlett have both to testify at the Scooter Libby trial. How much do Rove and Bartlett want to testify under oath, in public, as hostile witnesses, on this topic?

"Bush has the lowest presidential approval rating since Nixon. Here's another coincidence.
Nixon had a dog named 'Checkers.' Bush plays checkers with his dog"
-- David Letterman

Why feed the hungry? From the :

Most arguments for reducing poverty in the U.S., especially among children, rest on a moral case for doing so-one that emphasizes the unfairness of child poverty, and how it runs counter to our national creed of equal opportunity for all.

But there is also an economic case for reducing child poverty. When children grow up in poverty, they are somewhat more likely than non-poor children to have low earnings as adults, which in turn reflects lower workforce productivity. They are also somewhat more likely to engage in crime (though that's not the case for the vast majority) and to have poor health later in life. Their reduced productive activity generates a direct loss of goods and services to the U.S. economy.

What's more, any crime in which they engage imposes large monetary and other personal costs on their victims, as well as the costs to the taxpayer of administering our huge criminal justice system. And their poor health generates illness and early mortality which not only require large healthcare expenditures, but also impede productivity and ultimately reduce their quality and quantity of life....

The upshot: Our results suggest that the costs to the U.S. associated with childhood poverty total about $500B per year, or the equivalent of nearly 4 percent of GDP.

More specifically, we estimate that childhood poverty each year:

* Reduces productivity and economic output by about 1.3 percent of GDP
* Raises the costs of crime by 1.3 percent of GDP
* Raises health expenditures and reduces the value of health by 1.2 percent of GDP.

Is he delusional, lying or both? In a , Vice President Dick Cheney falsely claims that President Bush’s Iraq delivered on Jan. 10 “shored up his position…specifically on Iraq”:

CHENEY: My sense of it is that what’s happened here now over the last few weeks is that the president has shored up his position with the speech he made a couple of weeks ago, specifically on Iraq. And I think the speech, frankly Tuesday night, the State of the Union address was one of his best. I think there’s been a very positive reaction of people who saw the speech. And I think to some extent that’s helped shore us up inside the party on the Hill.

Cheney’s claim is false. Polls taken after the Iraq escalation address indicate that public support for the Iraq war and for Bush’s strategy continue to fall.

A rare moment: Repug is right; sort-of Dem is wrong This morning on Fox News, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D?I?-CT) and claimed that people who oppose escalation in Iraq are emboldening terrorists. “[I]t will discourage our troops, who we’re asking to carry out this new plan, and it will encourage the enemy,” Lieberman said. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), who announced on Friday he will , pointed out the obvious: “I don’t see this enemy as needing any more emboldening or getting it from any resolution. They’re emboldened now.”

1972 all over again? :

As the 2008 presidential campaign began last week, there was something inauspicious and even spooky in the political atmosphere, with strange echoes of ugly deeds committed more than 35 years ago.

On Tuesday, Watergate felon E. Howard Hunt passed on into history at the age of 88. But even while he lay dying in Miami, not far from the late President Nixon's Florida retreat, Hunt's spiritual heirs were orchestrating a classic Watergate-style dirty trick against both Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Not coincidentally, the perpetrators included certain veterans of the old Nixon gang, whose baneful influence on American politics has only grown over the decades.

At first glance, the trick was merely an ordinary right-wing smear, twisting a small fact torn from context into a sinister accusation. Almost 40 years ago, little Barry Obama -- who would grow up to become a stellar law student, a bestselling author, a U.S. senator and a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination -- spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, where he lived with his mother and stepfather. During those years he attended an elementary school run by Muslims, long before the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and then as an adult joined a Christian church in Chicago.

Yet on the far right, poisonous propaganda can be concocted from the most innocent ingredients. That is precisely what the Unification Church's Insight magazine proceeded to do on Jan. 19, with the eager assistance of Fox News Channel and right-wing Web sites such as Insight portrayed the Indonesian school as a "madrassa," suggesting the Saudi-financed institutions that allegedly train Wahhabi terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere, indicated, to incite religious prejudice, that Obama had been "raised Muslim" -- and then attributed these fabrications to political operatives in the Clinton camp.


Almost 40 years since President Richard Nixon first said it, there is a new "great, silent majority" of Americans. This time, however, the silent types aren't supporting the president, and they aren't in favor of the war.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 65 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq, 59 percent would support an attempt by Congress to block a troop surge and 52 percent are ready to leave before the situation stabilizes. Almost two-thirds now say the invasion was a mistake, the highest that number has been since the war began.

So where are the riots? The marches? The sit-ins? The arrests?

What's the opposite of "groovy, man"?

Merchants of death :

The military calls its new weapon an "active denial system," but that's an understatement. It's a ray gun that shoots a beam that makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire.

Apart from causing that terrifying sensation, the technology is supposed to be harmless - a non-lethal way to get enemies to drop their weapons.

Military officials say it could save the lives of innocent civilians and service members in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The weapon is not expected to go into production until at least 2010, but all branches of the military have expressed interest in it, officials said.

Note that the military is interested in its use in Iraq and Afghanistan despite the fact it will not go into production for another 3 years. That's no Friedman unit we're talking about.

One of our most enduring myths In a story about Chuck Hagel and John McCain's friendship and differing views on Iraq, says of the Vietnam era

(Returning GIs were sometimes jeered and even spat upon in airports; they learned to change quickly into civilian clothes.)

There's a small problem with that: Despite the widespread belief these days that troops returning from Vietname were spat on, there's not a shred of evidence from that time period that this ever happened. In his book The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam, the sociologist Jerry Lembcke looked for evidence of episodes of spitting. As he wrote in a 2005

STORIES ABOUT spat-upon Vietnam veterans are like mercury: Smash one and six more appear. It's hard to say where they come from. For a book I wrote in 1998 I looked back to the time when the spit was supposedly flying, the late 1960s and early 1970s. I found nothing. No news reports or even claims that someone was being spat on.

What I did find is that around 1980, scores of Vietnam-generation men were saying they were greeted by spitters when they came home from Vietnam. There is an element of urban legend in the stories in that their point of origin in time and place is obscure, and, yet, they have very similar details. The story told by the man who spat on Jane Fonda at a book signing in Kansas City recently is typical. Michael Smith said he came back through Los Angeles airport where ''people were lined up to spit on us."

Like many stories of the spat-upon veteran genre, Smith's lacks credulity. GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports, and protesters could not have gotten onto the bases and anywhere near deplaning troops. There may have been exceptions, of course, but in those cases how would protesters have known in advance that a plane was being diverted to a civilian site? And even then, returnees would have been immediately bused to nearby military installations and processed for reassignment or discharge.

Lembcke goes on to cite a 1971 poll finding that more than 90% of Vietnam veterans said they had met a friendly homecoming. Unless someone can step up with some actual evidence, reporting from the time the spitting was supposedly happening, not unsubstantiated rumors, supposedly reputable media outlets like Newsweek need to avoid making these misrepresentations and retract the ones they've already engaged in.

The never-ending war Garry Wills has a in the NYT today on the overuse of the term "commander in chief" as a sign of the militarization of our politics:

When Abraham Lincoln took actions based on military considerations, he gave himself the proper title, “commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” That title is rarely — more like never — heard today. It is just “commander in chief,” or even “commander in chief of the United States.” This reflects the increasing militarization of our politics. The citizenry at large is now thought of as under military discipline. In wartime, it is true, people submit to the national leadership more than in peacetime. The executive branch takes actions in secret, unaccountable to the electorate, to hide its moves from the enemy and protect national secrets. Constitutional shortcuts are taken “for the duration.” But those impositions are removed when normal life returns.

But we have not seen normal life in 66 years. The wartime discipline imposed in 1941 has never been lifted, and “the duration” has become the norm. World War II melded into the cold war, with greater secrecy than ever — more classified information, tougher security clearances. And now the cold war has modulated into the war on terrorism.

Exactly. A case in point was revealed in yesterday's New York Times in a on the extraordinary steps the Justice Department is taking to control legal proceedings with national security implications. As reported by Adam Liptak:

The Bush administration has employed extraordinary secrecy in defending the National Security Agency’s highly classified domestic surveillance program from civil lawsuits. Plaintiffs and judges’ clerks cannot see its secret filings. Judges have to make appointments to review them and are not allowed to keep copies.

Judges have even been instructed to use computers provided by the Justice Department to compose their decisions.

Instructed by whom? DOJ? The article suggests judges are only now beginning to resist these "instructions."

But here's the most chilling part:

In ordinary civil suits, the parties’ submissions are sent to their adversaries and are available to the public in open court files. But in several cases challenging the eavesdropping, Justice Department lawyers have been submitting legal papers not by filing them in court but by placing them in a room at the department. They have filed papers, in other words, with themselves.

Congress and the Judiciary have allowed themselves to be steamrolled by the Executive. The mid-term elections forced Congress to change. There is no such external corrective mechanism for the Judiciary, which is at it should be. So judges and justices will have to stand up to defend an independent judiciary. Will they? The record so far is mixed, at best.

How the ugly game is played I was just reading over a few of the articles about the Libby trial and Vice President Cheney's central role in orchestrating the attack on Joe Wilson in order to cover-up Cheney's complicity in and essential authorship of one of the central lies at the core of the Bush administration's case for war. The truth, though, is that we are not really examining the cover-up in this case so much as we are still living within it. Most of the key facts of this episode either remain entirely concealed or buried under a mass of government produced misinformation. The Senate intelligence committee report, authored by Republicans, but shamelessly and with great cowardice okayed by senate Democrats? I've been asked many times why the Democrats signed off on this fraudulent document. I think there are two basic reasons -- or two categories of reasons.

First, as hard as it is to say, shallow and poor staff work on the Democratic side, abetted, caused and hopelessly bound up with senators unwilling to get their noses dirty or their ribs bruised. Second, there was a more specific and complex error. In so many words, the Democrats agreed to let the Republican authors of the report lie and deceive as much as they wanted on the Niger/Uranium and Wilson/Plame fronts in exchange for allowing a semi-revealing look at other instances of flawed Iraq intelligence. For the minority party to bargain for lies in some areas and portions of the truth in others is a tactic with rather inherent drawbacks. But in this case it displayed a telling obliviousness to the political context of that moment.

In this case, the senate Republicans (and the White House officials who were directing their actions) knew what they were doing; the Democrats didn't. The Niger-Wilson-Plame saga had become a singular one in the larger debate over the administration's use of falsified intelligence in driving the country to war. Whether it merited that singular importance on the merits is certainly subject to debate, though I believe there's a good case that it did. But as the debate had evolved it was that singular.

It was the most damaging to the White House and particularly to Vice President Cheney whose bad acts had tracked the evolution of the story from beginning to end. Killing that story or doing it great damage was critical to the White House. Airing the details of this or that technical discussion about aerosolization of chemical agents or precision machine parts, while important in itself, would count for little in the broader public debate. Bargaining one for the other made perfect sense for the White House and senate Republicans. And the Democrats went along with it because at a basic level they were simply in over their heads. In doing this the Democrats failed twice over -- first on the more substantive level of signing of on a fraudulent report and then second in not even grasping the political context or consequences of the report itself.

As long as that report remains the official word on the matter, the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee remain complicit in the web of official lies about the lead up to war.

And what about the law enforcement investigation of the Niger forgeries themselves. Here too the White House has taken effective steps to prevent any real investigation. I've written at length before about the joke which has been the FBI's investigation of the Niger matter. But roughly a year ago, a colleague and I sat down with two federal law enforcement officials with detailed knowledge of the bureau's investigation of the Niger matter. The trail, of course, led to Italy. So any progress is getting to the bottom of the matter would require the Italians to cooperate with US law enforcement to get to the bottom of what hapened. Only the Italians didn't want to cooperate. That's not altogether surprising given that Italy's lead intelligence agency was implicated in the fraud. But to get action, the FBI needed the US government to make clear to the Italian government that we desired their cooperation. But the Bush administration simply refused to do this. They had a tacit understanding with the Italian government to stonewall the investigation.

The catalog of official lies in this matter goes on and on.

Stacking the deck :

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is transforming the ranks of the nation's top federal prosecutors by firing some and appointing conservative loyalists from the Bush administration's inner circle who critics say are unlikely to buck Washington.

The newly appointed U.S. attorneys all have impressive legal credentials, but most of them have few, if any, ties to the communities they've been appointed to serve, and some have had little experience as prosecutors.

For background on the U.S. Attorney scandal - it's not generally acknowledged to be a scandal, but it should be - see old Mahablog posts and . In a nutshell, the White House is using a provision inserted into the Patriot Act last year to fire U.S. attorneys and replace them without (constitutionally mandated) Senate approval.

What a difference an election makes Can I say again how much I like having a Democratic majority? A hearing to examine protecting individuals against predatory corporate practices. Can you imagine a hearing like this happening during the 109th Congress? Me neither. This almost makes up for the Democrats caving on the . Almost.


It's time the federal government began protecting Americans from unsafe credit cards, like it does from unsafe toasters and cars, consumer advocates contend.

Credit-card companies routinely offer cards that have been loaded with tricks and traps that consumers don't know about or understand, causing millions of Americans to become hopelessly mired in debt, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee during an oversight hearing Thursday on the industry.

Those tricks and traps, Warren said, include hiking interest rates when a cardholder falls behind in payments to other creditors, charging fees for payment by telephone and a practice called double-cycle billing. That's when a cardholder, for example, pays $90 of a $100 charge but then next month the consumer is charged interest on the entire amount rather than just the $10 balance.

It takes a lawyer to figure out the terms and conditions of most credit-card contracts, Warren and other consumer advocates complained. Increasingly, credit-card companies are targeting college students, military personnel, senior citizents and the disabled with pre-approved offers, the critics said.

looks at it closer.


January 28, 2007 - 4:27pm