More filtered news

  In State of Denial, Bob Woodward recounts a conversation between then-Gov. George W. Bush and then-Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Prince Bandar, in which Bush wonders . “I get these briefings on all parts of the world,” Bush said, “and everybody is talking to me about North Korea.” 

Was the test a dud? Arms Control Work says .   "Don't despair over North Korea's . It's part of Our Leader's plan to for bombing Iran. Why would Our Leader bomb Iran to punish North Korea? For the same reason he attacked Iraq to punish Al Qaeda. It's what emperors do."

What the GIs are saying  A Marine officer writes home to his family and friends about life in Iraq.

Most Profound Man in Iraq — an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied "Yes, you."

....Biggest Hassle — High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and "battlefield" tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no effect on their preconceived notions of what's going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they've been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here. Biggest Outrage — Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest Offender: Bill O'Reilly.

This business of parachuting into Iraq for a day or three and then "reporting" on conditions there is surely one of the more egregious examples of hackdom around. It's not enough time to learn anything, and — miraculously — virtually no one who does this ever seems to see anything that doesn't jibe with what they already thought. Amazing, isn't it?

The great risk shift  On a per-person basis, our economy has nearly doubled over the past 30 years, but that growth has been wildly uneven. Instead of everyone seeing their incomes double, the poor and the middle class have seen almost no growth, while the rich and the super-rich have seen their incomes skyrocket.
But just as bad — or possibly even worse — is the fact that not only are middle-class incomes stagnant, but they're far more unstable than in the past. This is the theme of a new book by Jacob Hacker. Here's a summary from the book's introduction:

We all know something about rising inequality in the United States....Yet we have heard much less about rising insecurity, the growing risk of slipping from the economic ladder itself.

....Consider some alarming facts. Personal bankruptcies has gone from a rare occurence to a routine one....Since the early 1970s, the mortgage foreclosure rate has increased fivefold....Meanwhile, the number of Americans who lack health insurance has increased with little interruption over the last twenty-five years.

....Perhaps most alarming of all, American family incomes are now on a frightening roller coaster, rising and falling much more sharply from year to year than they did thirty years ago....And this rising insecurity does not come with any obvious silver liings. The chance that families will see their income plummet has risen. The chance that they experience long-term movement up the income ladder has not.

US media now lower than humor  A recent study shows that

"He knows he's running on his own. If you don't need my help, that's just fine. Then you can go ahead and do whatever you need to."  -- Sue Ann Thompson, quoted in WisPolitics Report, on husband Tommy's alleged run (spare us!) for President. That response was characterized as being supportive.

From the annals of catastrophic success. This graf from Glenn Kessler's in the Post tells the tale ...

Yet a number of senior U.S. officials have said privately that they would welcome a North Korean test, regarding it as a clarifying event that would forever end the debate within the Bush administration about whether to solve the problem through diplomacy or through tough actions designed to destabilize North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's grip on power.

Translation: The Cheneyites have always wanted a policy of force and confrontation with the NK's. They deep-sixed the Agreed Framework (which kept the plutonium out of commission from 1994-2002). Now they feel confrontation is a fait accompli.

Remind you of anything?


What separation of church and state?  :

The NY Times has a long article that is basically . A church-based daycare, for instance, has none of the licensing requirements of a private daycare, and doesn't have to meet any of the standards of a non-religious establishment, nor does it have to worry about civil rights requirements…and it's protected from lawsuits.–I say we should revoke the tax-exempt status of all religious organizations. They can ask for exemption for their charitable efforts (and only that part of their work; I don't consider evanglism or missionary work to be charity) just like any secular organization, but simply having "Christ" in their name and mission statement and having a few guys running around with clerical collars is not sufficient justification. It's time to end the sacred scam.

Amen to that brother. When and the extreme CHrisitian right can be an extension of the GOP's GOTV there's something deeply disturbing going on.


Korean screw up  More from Fred Kaplan in the Washington Monthly in 2004 on how in North Korea.


Corruption watch: 
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has a much larger home than county assessor records indicate -- a discrepancy that has saved Hunter plenty in taxes. (San Diego Union-Tribune)


 "You don’t give away anything, but, in my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies." -- Former Secretary of State James Baker, quoted by .


Polling data  The "Balance of Power Scorecard" now shows the Republicans short of a majority of seats in both chambers.


How stupid can one man be?   From :

North Korea's probable test of a nuclear weapon on Monday has triggered the second nuclear crisis in 13 years on the Korean peninsula.

In 1993, North Korea announced it would pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, leaving it free to divert nuclear material from its energy reactors to make a nuclear weapon and setting off a round of crisis diplomacy led by the Clinton administration. The result was the so-called agreed framework, which - in return for supplies of fuel oil to North Korea - froze most aspects of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme for the rest of the decade.

The agreed framework was in effect consigned to history when the Bush administration came to power in 2001. The new administration argued that although the road to a plutonium-based nuclear bomb had been frozen, the North Koreans were cheating by attempting to develop a uranium-based bomb that was not explicitly addressed by the agreement.

That five years later, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon will be widely interpreted as a sign of the failure of the tougher approach favoured by the Bush team.

Clinton success, Bush failure. Again.

Maybe Bush can call Jim Baker and Henry the K in for some advice on what to do about N Korea? Set up a commission or something. Better, yet, do it like they do in business. Spend a gazillion dollars on a consultant who will tell you what you already know: talking to people (what we used to call diplomacy) has a role in preventing international crises. Meanwhile, we have N Korea and possibly Iran going nuclear on Bush's watch while we refuse to talk to them.


Standing up (against US) in Iraq 

With the Republican sex-scandal dominating the news and now North Korea claiming they tested a nuke, I don't think people are really up to speed on how out of control Iraq has become just over the last few weeks. Short version: We're now smack dab in in the middle of a raging Civil War.


--The U.S.-led coalition said it killed 30 fighters in a battle with the country's most powerful Shiite militia amid growing American impatience with the Iraqi government's inability to stop militias responsible for escalating sectarian violence. ... A U.S. Abrams tank was seriously damaged when it was hit by rocket-propelled grenades, but no casualties were reported among the U.S. or Iraqi forces. However, the military announced the deaths of five U.S. troops elsewhere in the country. ... The deaths brought to 29 the number of Americans killed in Iraq this month ...

These guys aren't Al-Qaeda, they're not Baathists, they're not fundamentalist Sunni insurgents: They're Shiite militia, many of which American taxpayers paid to arm and train, now employed by the most powerful behind-the-scenes-figure of the very Iraqi government we helped install, Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. They're standing up alright, they're standing up to us.


When it rains it pours. For some more than others. NYT/CBS: . ABC/WaPo: Bush Approval . Gallup: Bush at , down from 44% last month.  There are at least , all of them under 40%.


Let's just sort it all out  Speaker Hastert and his staff still claim that the first they heard of Mark Foley's page problem was in late 2005. Yet since last Friday a series of published reports have come out that have left that story in tatters. A bunch came out over the weekend. And they can be hard to keep track of. So we've put together a brief . Hastert now figures he can brazen this one out because there are so many stories floating around that people won't line them up in order and realize what they show.  Read it over and it's hard to come to any conclusion but that that Hastert and especially his Chief of Staff Scott Palmer have been caught in a lie. If you're following this story, definitely read this . Then ask yourself how it is Scott Palmer still has a job.


You college types, use Facebook to help military recruiters .


What the GIs are saying   This is interesting. That email from a "Marine officer" that It turns out that the officer who wrote it is Col. Pete Devlin, the chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq. You may recall him as the guy who caused some waves several weeks ago by "the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there."

Here are the bits of Devlin's letter that Time left out:

Best Piece of U.S. Gear — new, bullet-proof flak jackets. O.K., they weigh 40 lbs and aren't exactly comfortable in 120 degree heat, but they've saved countless lives out here.

Best Piece of Bad Guy Gear — Armor Piercing ammunition that goes right through the new flak jackets and the Marines inside them.

Bill O'Reilly — what a buffoon.

Biggest Ass-Chewing — 10 July immediately following a visit by the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Zobai. The Deputy Prime Minister brought along an American security contractor (read mercenary), who told my Commanding General that he was there to act as a mediator between us and the Bad Guys. I immediately told him what I thought of him and his asinine ideas in terms that made clear my disgust and which, unfortunately, are unrepeatable here. I thought my boss was going to have a heart attack. Fortunately, the translator couldn't figure out the best Arabic words to convey my meaning for the Deputy Prime Minister. Later, the boss had no difficulty in convening his meaning to me in English regarding my Irish temper, even though he agreed with me. At least the guy from the State Department thought it was hilarious. We never saw the mercenary again.

You can read the whole letter


Fundamentalists running wild: Islamic honor killings Stop and imagine for a moment what it would be like to be stoned to death - buried up to your chest with only your neck and head above ground and pelted with rocks (small ones so you don't die too quickly) until your flesh is ripped open and the pain is unbearable and you finally die. Now think about the fact that such killings, of gays and women who are not virgins or are caught in adultery, are routine in much of the Islamic world. even has a link to a video of an actual stoning, which I cannot watch. And has some suggestions on what we can do to help stop such killings. I have a hard time imagining anything more barbaric than this. The sooner it no longer exists on our planet, the better.


Protecting our kids  For all the talk we've been hearing lately about how we need to protect our children–please answer me this: How does corporal punishment still exist ?

By all means, let's talk about "a national disgrace." You don't have to look very far for it. In fact, you can find it in this story from the New York Times just over a week ago, a story published on September 30, 2006, and entitled, "—-Anthony Price does not mince words when talking about corporal punishment — which he refers to as taking pops — a practice he recently reinstated at the suburban Fort Worth middle school where he is principal. "I'm a big fan," Mr. Price said. "I know it can be abused. But if used properly, along with other punishments, a few pops can help turn a school around. It's had a huge effect here."…

Fox News magically makes another R into a D (again)

  First and now The Beltway Boys. This is getting ridiculous, If he was leading the polls I wonder if Chafee would be correctly identified? Here's their


 What if it turned out that doing homework ? Why not get rid of it? Nah, the fact that mom and dad had to do it makes its future rather secure.


For the beauty of it I’m pleased to be able to announce the release of an incredible new music app . It’s one of the coolest products I’ve ever been associated with (and warrants that dangling participle). Founders Steve and Pete have built an incredible technology (with the help of great technologists and hundreds of music majors wearing headphones in a gymnasium-size office). They got some fantastic UI and graphical help from the fine folks at . The result is great. Enough words, time for music. So .


And still we do nothing  The scarcity of African Union forces in Darfur has forced them to stop escorting women outside their refugee camps to collect wood for fuel. The result: in one camp, 21 women have been raped in the last two weeks, .


"Why does the government need a list of my phone calls?
  And what business does a democracy have running secret prisons?"
   -- Bob Schieffer, talking smack about his boss,    


Declare victory and go home  A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit in Harrison County, WV, over a picture of Jesus hanging in the hallway of a public high school there. But amusingly, both sides are declaring victory. The ADF, which apparently intervened at some point to represent the school board in negotiations, put out a declaring that the settlement "conforms to the board's consistent position that school officials did not violate the Establishment Clause by having had a painting of Jesus Christ on one of its walls." But Americans United, representing the plaintiffs, put out a congratulating the school board for "agreeing not to display a portrait of Jesus or other unconstitutional devotional art at its high school."  Which is correct? Well, the only one that provided any actual language from the settlement was the AU, and it makes it sound like pretty much a total victory. Here's what they quoted:


  AP :

Guards at Guantanamo Bay bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice, a Marine sergeant said in a sworn statement obtained by The Associated Press.  The two-page statement was sent Wednesday to the Inspector General at the Department of Defense by a high-ranking Marine Corps defense lawyer.

This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one.


What liberal media?   In their coverage of the Foley scandal's political effects, numerous media figures have suggested that conservative Christians are most likely to react negatively to the Foley scandal. In doing so, they presume that so-called "values voters" are more concerned than others with protecting children. The rest of us are just scum. 


Well, we've been trying to tell you...  Yep, it’s official. In the span of a week, the Democratic Party has gone from being the party of dissolute, weak-kneed peaceniks to being the party of morally upstanding security men—according to, of all people, Americans.  A Newsweek released Saturday found that more Americans trust Democrats to “do a better job of handling moral values” than trust Republicans—42 percent vs 36 percent. And a USA Today gave Democrats a 5-point edge on fighting terrorism, which is astonishing considering the so-called War on Terror as been the heart of GOP’s campaign. The lead could evaporate as Republicans dump their huge war chests into attack ads, but for the moment one could be forgiven for feeling a sense of awe: not since well before 9/11 have the Democrats so thorougly socked it to Republicans on the GOP's home turf.


Why you're reading this   Lie to your spouse or partner a few times and experience the joys of single life again very soon. Lie on your resume and you’ll be fired. Lie to your friends and instantly find loneliness. Lie to a cop, judge or the IRS and you’ll go to prison. Lie repeatedly and outrageously in an election and win public office. That’s the pathetic, sick reality this country now finds itself in and will likely lead to its destruction (that’s what “unsustainable” economic and foreign policies mean, by the way). Truth and honesty are two of the most highly prized human character traits in human relationships, and public official lying is going to stop. Not by any efforts of the national “journalism” corps. Our putridly lame “journalism” ethos have devolved into an “he said - she said” absurdity of obfuscation with the truth and facts empirically defined nowhere. I have personally seen this sick model get completely overrun in the last 15 years as the and lied with ever more abandon and United States “journalism” morph into propaganda, prodded on by their corporate masters.


Highly recommended reading   I plead that you all go read it. It simply cannot be summarized. 


"School Prayer" by Diane Ackerman from I Praise My Destroyer. © Vintage Books.

In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.


October 10, 2006 - 12:21pm