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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 04/03/2005 - 04/10/2005
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, April 09, 2005

At last...The all-too-rare voices of sanity...

from reno, of all places...
Clergy group outraged over unprecedented act of Congress

We [...] believe that the unprecedented act of Congress on the Schiavo legislation was irresponsible, and we express outrage especially toward those who took advantage of Schiavo for political gain. While a vigorous debate of the complex issues raised is certainly needed, rhetoric that fuels animosity, violence and even death threats is deplorable and in no way helpful.


Clergy United for Moral Dialogue is a group of religious leaders in Northern Nevada addressing relevant issues on religion and society.

Members include:

The Rev. Jim Jeffery, Trinity Episcopal Church
Pastor Tom Butler, Sparks United Methodist Church
Rabbi Myra Soifer, Temple Sinai
The Rev. Noel Tiano, congregational minister
The Rev. Richard Dalton, Metropolitan Community Church of the Sierras
Pastor Bruce Taylor, Spanish Springs Presbyterian Church
The Rev. William Bartlett, St. Mary’s Health Network
The Rev. John Auer, Reno First United Methodist Church
The Rev. Carl Wilfrid, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd

we need a LOT more people like this who are willing to speak up... thanks to this group and to the reno gazette-journal for carrying it on pg. 3...

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Captain Obvious...

david brooks...
It's become increasingly clear that the Republicans are bumping into some limits.


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The NYT doesn't get it...

in an editorial from today...
[T]he Bush administration pays lip service to the goal of "ending chronic homelessness" - while undermining the very programs that keep poor people from ending up in the streets. The Housing and Urban Development Department is proposing unreasonable cuts in federal subsidies, which would make it harder for underfinanced housing authorities to keep their developments livable and safe. And a proposal in Congress would make it harder for the poor to get rental subsidies from Section 8, the public-private partnership that underwrites rents for nearly two million of the country's low-income families and encourages builders to develop affordable housing.

urging this administration to show compassion for the poor is an incredible waste of breath... the guiding ideology of bush, rove and the other theocratic robber-barons is that if you're poor it's because you're lazy and no damn good...

the strategy of this crowd from day one has been to divert money to the wealthy through massive tax cuts, drive the budget deficit into the stratosphere, hack the national budget into kindling (to address the deficit, of course), and wipe every social program out of existence... the notion of a "social contract" between the governors and the governed that recognizes the value of good, honest hard work and citizenship in making the country run is now, like the geneva convention, "quaint..."

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And that would mean what, precisely...?

After DeLay Remarks, Bush "Says" He Supports 'Independent Judiciary'

Bush "Says" - cynical quotes are mine...
"I believe in an independent judiciary. I believe in proper checks and balances. And we'll continue to put judges on the bench who strictly and faithfully interpret the Constitution."

yeah, and i suppose he's gonna say he "doesn't" support an independent judiciary...? gimme a break...

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They hafta be pod people... Nothing else makes sense...

Phyllis Schlafly, doyenne of American conservatism, said [Supreme Court Justice Anthony] Kennedy's opinion forbidding capital punishment for juveniles "is a good ground of impeachment."

say fucking WHAT...???

i gotta stop rolling out of bed and hitting my head on something like this right off the bat... at least i made it to the john and got some coffee before reading this crap...

"sanctity of life...?" "culture of life...?" yeah, ok, it doesn't make any sense to you and me but as i learned the other day, the pro-"life" crowd intends "sanctity" to apply to "good" folks, the "saved" folks, not the "bad" folks, the "evil" folks... so, following that line of reasoning, if somebody's done something "bad" enough to deserve the death penalty, that must mean, de facto, that they are "evil," never mind that the poor son-of-a-bitch is only fourteen years old... un-fuckingly-believable...

phyllis was one of several on the agenda of "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" (see post, "Where does it stop...?," Monday, April 4), a conference that drew a number of fellow pod people... The conference was organized during the height of the Schiavo controversy by the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration (see post, "Scarier and scarier...," Friday, April 8)...
Conservative leaders meeting in Washington yesterday for a discussion of "Remedies to Judicial Tyranny" decided that Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan appointee, should be impeached, or worse.

other WTF quotes..
Michael P. Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said Kennedy "should be the poster boy for impeachment" for citing international norms in his opinions.

[L]awyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."

the supreme court in its decision on the death penalty for juveniles reviewed other countries' legal opinions and laws relating to the same issue...

more eye-popping snippets from the washington post story...
Richard Lessner of the American Conservative Union, opened the discussion by decrying a "radical secularist relativist judiciary."

Schlafly called for passage of a quartet of bills in Congress that would remove courts' power to review religious displays, the Pledge of Allegiance, same-sex marriage and the Boy Scouts. Her speech brought a subtle change in the argument against the courts from emphasizing "activist" judges -- it was, after all, inaction by federal judges that doomed Schiavo -- to "supremacist" judges. "The Constitution is not what the Supreme Court says it is," Schlafly asserted.

Former representative William Dannemeyer (R-Calif.) followed Schlafly, saying the country's "principal problem" is not Iraq or the federal budget but whether "we as a people acknowledge that God exists."

Farris then told the crowd he is "sick and tired of having to lobby people I helped get elected." A better-educated citizenry, he said, would know that "Medicare is a bad idea" and that "Social Security is a horrible idea when run by the government." Farris said he would block judicial power by abolishing the concept of binding judicial precedents, by allowing Congress to vacate court decisions, and by impeaching judges such as Kennedy, who seems to have replaced Justice David H. Souter as the target of conservative ire. "If about 40 of them get impeached, suddenly a lot of these guys would be retiring," he said.

Vieira, a constitutional lawyer who wrote "How to Dethrone the Imperial Judiciary," escalated the charges, saying a Politburo of "five people on the Supreme Court" has a "revolutionary agenda" rooted in foreign law and situational ethics.

in a triumph of understatement, the washington post concludes...

An anti-judge furor may help confirm President Bush's judicial nominees, but it also has the potential to turn ugly.


Upholds "satanic principles"

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Scarier and scarier...

some interesting background from rolling stone i hadn't seen before... you can read the full story for yourself here but i've lifted some of the more illuminating material for your reading "pleasure..."
Christian evangelicals are plotting to remake America in their own image.
Their ultimate goal is to plant the seeds of a "faith-based" government that will endure far longer than Bush's presidency -- all the way until Jesus comes back.
The godfather of the Dominionists is D. James Kennedy, the most influential evangelical you've never heard of.
"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost," Kennedy says. "As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."
"We have a right, indeed an obligation, to govern," says David Limbaugh, brother of Rush and author of Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity.
It helps that Dominionists have a direct line to the White House: The Rev. Richard Land, top lobbyist for the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention, enjoys a weekly conference call with top Bush advisers including Karl Rove.
While the dominionists rely on grass-roots activists to fight their battles, they are backed by some of America's richest entrepreneurs. Amway founder Rich DeVos, a Kennedy ally who's the leading Republican contender for governor of Michigan, has tossed more than $5 million into the collection plate. Jean Case, wife of former AOL chief Steve Case -- whose fortune was made largely on sex-chat rooms -- has donated $8 million. And Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, is a major source of cash for Focus on the Family, a megaministry working with Kennedy to eliminate all public schools.
The most vivid proof of the Christianizing of Capitol Hill comes at the final session of Reclaiming America. Rep. Walter Jones, a lanky congressman from North Carolina, gives a fire-and-brimstone speech that would have gotten him laughed out of Washington thirty years ago. In today's climate, however, he's got a chance of passing his pet project, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, which would permit ministers to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, effectively converting their tax-exempt churches into Republican campaign headquarters.

holy scripture, batman...! we can't let the joker take over the WHOLE WORLD...!

and, by the way, congressman jones, referenced above, is the same congressman who took perle to task in the armed services committee hearing yesterday (see post, "Iraq redux...," Friday, April 8)

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Iraq redux...

i'm not gonna quote anything from this washington post story about yesterday's House Armed Services Committee hearing... best go read it for yourselves...

(tell me again why perle still has a job...?)

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Maureen had DeLay's number early on...

i've been reading bushworld by maureen dowd, the nyt columnist... it's kind of tacky of her, in my opinion, to peddle a book of her past columns, particularly when it says "includes new material" on the cover when all that really means is more recent columns have been added to the printing run... ~sigh~ but i digress... i was struck by her column (archived abstract only) of june 20, 1999, written shortly after the columbine h.s. tragedy, in which she nails our boy delay on precisely the kind of crap he's been dishing out lately... some of what she has to say sounds eerily familiar...
After Columbine, the politicians in Congress assembled, worked up their nerve and pounded together some legislation to help stop horrific high school shootings.

Their solution: Take two tablets, slap them above every blackboard in American classrooms.
They could have gone with the obvious approach - do something to make it harder for teenagers and crazy people to get guns. But noooooo. [...]
So they went the craven (i.e., the usual) route, passing a measure to allow the Ten Commandments in classrooms.[...]
get ready, here it comes...
After linking Columbine to the culture of abortion and the teaching of evolution, Mr. [Tom] DeLay went to a rally of ministers waving bibles [...] and blamed separation of church and state for the tragedy. "All of this knee-jerk lawmaking is a waste of time," he said. [...]
Mr. DeLay has so debased the discourse that he included this charming anecdote as proof of the culture crisis. "I got an e-mail this morning that said it all. The student writes, Dear God: Why didn't you stop the shootings at Columbine? And God writes, Dear student: I would have, but I wasn't allowed in school."
pardon me while i go shower for the second time today...
Before they hang the Ten Commandments in the schools, they should make sure they are hanging where they are broken daily: Congress and the White House.

don't say we weren't warned...

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WHAT, pray tell, is it gonna take...?

how much garbage and documented shadiness has to be unearthed on "the hammer" before the rats start leaving the ship... does the old saying that the "rats who leave first are usually the best swimmers" imply, in this case, that delay has been the one propping 'em all up and, if he goes down, they all go down with him...? sorta looks that way if ya read between the lines in this chicago tribune story...
Speaker Dennis Hastert [...] has the greatest influence over whether DeLay's GOP colleagues in the House will continue to back the embattled leader. [... ] "The speaker supports Majority Leader DeLay and he has the backing of the Republican conference," Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said. "Time and again the majority leader has helped the leadership and its work in successfully implementing the Republican agenda for Americans." [...] Asked under what circumstances Hastert might be compelled to ask DeLay to step down, the aide said the Republican leadership hasn't even considered the possibility.
"He [Hastert] hasn't said anything against him but he hasn't said anything for him, either," said one senior GOP aide who also asked not to be identified.

hmmmm... ~scratches chin~

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the german publication, spiegel, reports that, at the funeral of the pope this morning in rome, when a huge monitor set up for the masses to view the ceremony panned to president bush, whistles and boos erupted from the crowd... (something i just learned - in europe, whistling is a form of booing...)

ya know ya gotta be pretty intensely disliked when you get booed at a funeral, ferchrissake...

President Bush and his wife, Laura, speak with President and Mrs. Chirac at the funeral of the Pope this morning in Rome.

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Items of note...

some developments that caught my eye... they're carried in most of the msm but, for my own convenience, these squibs are from the nyt...

WASHINGTON, April 7 - Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, escalated his talk of a battle between the legislative and judicial branches of government on Thursday, saying federal courts had "run amok," in large part because of the failure of Congress to confront them.

"Judicial independence does not equal judicial supremacy," Mr. DeLay said in a videotaped speech delivered to a conservative conference in Washington entitled "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith."

note to tom: a cardinal rule when finding oneself in a hole is to STOP DIGGING...

btw, the "judicial war on faith" conference is the one where mr. delay's featured prominence as a speaker mysteriously disappeared (see earlier post) from the pre-conference advert as did, later on, sens. brownback and coburn...

from an editorial opposing the confirmation of john bolton as u.s. ambassador to the u.n...

Mr. Bolton stands out because he is not only bad in a policy sense, but also unqualified for the post to which he's been named. [...] When the country chooses an ambassador to the United Nations, it ought to avoid picking someone whose bullying style of leadership symbolizes everything that created the current estrangement between the United States and most of the world. [...] Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee are fighting to actually kill Mr. Bolton's nomination; all eyes are on Lincoln Chafee, the moderate Republican swing vote who has a record of being very supportive of the United Nations.

mexico city mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a charismatic socialist who has led more than one violent protest and, fittingly, belongs to the PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party), would like to run against vicente fox for president next year but...

Andrés Manuel López Obrador
[Yesterday]hundreds of thousands of people were gathered in Mexico City's central square throughout the day to [...] a "desafuero," in which Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador was stripped of his official immunity so he could stand trial in a minor land dispute.

In terms of political rights, the Mexican Constitution holds suspects guilty until proved innocent, so Mr. Lopez will be banned from politics until the end of a trial. [...[ Mr. López, 51, called the action against him a farce, staged for political reasons, not legal ones, from the offices of the president. Indeed, cases like the one Mayor Lopez is facing rarely warrant prosecution, let alone imprisonment. [...] The case against the mayor has polarized Mexico, raising concerns about civil unrest here and worrying Wall Street. Mr. López's spending on social programs and public works projects has made him popular among the poor and the struggling middle class. [...] "Nothing of violence," [Mr. ] told the crowds on Thursday. "No falling to provocation." [...] Mr. López has said he would remain in jail throughout the trial, rather than posting bail, as an act of civil disobedience.

we wouldn't want to worry WALL STREET, now would we...?

be sure to note the "guilty until proved innocent" comment in the 2d para, a little twist that makes a BIG difference, as you can well imagine...( mexico's justice system is modeled on the napoleonic code...)

i am reminded of the day when, tending our business in mexico, i heard band music and, when i looked out, saw a parade passing by... i asked simon, who worked with us, what the occasion was... he didn't know but said he would find out... he came back a few minutes later..."it's constitution day" he reported. "we're celebrating 80 years of bad government..."

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Argentina update


when i was in BsAs in march, there was a lot of talk of rising prices... president kirchner traded on his high approval ratings by publicly berating shell oil for raising the price of gasoline... he also got the poultry, meat and dairy producers to agree to a price-rollback, citing the need for families to be able to afford to eat, which they then promptly ignored...

now it looks like things aren't getting much better... i've got my fingers crossed for 'em... there are some really good people there who deserve a break...

(from the buenos aires herald, april 7)

March inflation was a worst case scenario in many ways — the highest forecast (1.5 percent, as bad as January) with basic food prices (where the main effort at price restraints had been made) rising twice as fast in an election year. The latter factor compounds the problem, not only because election year spending makes it harder to fight inflation but also because the poor suffer most — thus double-digit inflation (which now seems inevitable with first-quarter inflation reaching four percent, half the 2005 budget forecast for the entire year) drives some two million people below the poverty line. The government’s price pacts have proved useless with beef, chicken and dairy produce all going up by almost 10 percent despite agreed cuts.


One thing is for sure — the "Argentine miracle" of simultaneously juggling low prices, modest interest rates and a high dollar is rapidly ending. All three factors are likely to change this year, especially with interest rates also rising globally.
The four percent inflation for this year’s first quarter has already outstripped the 3.7 percent for all 2003 (6.1 percent last year).

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Time for some perspective on Bush and 'bidness...'

it matters less to me that tsurumi dumps on dubya than that he's saying something that needs to be said loud and clear if not shouted from the rooftops... having long taught part-time in mba programs and having spent enough time in corporate america to risk having my very soul stolen, i know the truth of what tsurumi says...

what tsurumi DOESN'T say is that this is precisely the culture and value system (if you can say the robber-baron business model HAS a culture and a value system other than greed) that the u.s. is working day and night to force down the collective throats of the rest of the world... that we're succeeding, i believe, is creating perhaps the biggest tragedy ever perpetrated on this earth...

excellent, excellent, excellent... thank you, professor tsurumi... thank you very much...
(from the Harvard Crimson)

Hail to the Robber Baron?

Thirty years ago, President Bush was my student at Harvard Business School. In my class, he called former president Franklin D. Roosevelt, Class of 1904, a “socialist” and spoke against Social Security, unemployment insurance, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other New Deal innovations. He refused to understand that capitalism becomes corrupt without democratic civic values and ethical restraints.

In those days, Bush belonged to a minority of MBA students who were seriously disconnected from taking the moral and social responsibility for their actions. Today, he would fit in comfortably with an overwhelming majority of business students and teachers whose role models are celebrated captains of piracy. Since the 1980s, as neo-conservatives have captured the Republican Party, America’s business education has also increasingly become contaminated by the robber baron culture of the pre-Great Depression era.

Bush is the first president of the United States with a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA). Yet, he epitomizes the worst aspects of America’s business education. To privatize Social Security, he is peddling a colossal lie about its solvency. Furthermore, Bush, along with today’s business aristocrats, shows no compassion for working Americans, robbing them to benefit big business and the very rich. Last year, due to Bush’s tax cuts, over 80 of America’s most profitable 200 corporations did not pay even a penny of their federal and state income taxes. Meanwhile, to pay for his additional tax cuts for the very rich, Bush is drastically cutting back several social services, such as federal lunch programs for poor children.

Business education has also produced former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling and other MBAs behind the malfeasances of Tyco, HealthSouth, Haliburton, AIG, and WorldCom. Many executives of corporate America who hold MBAs have also been engaged in the unethical acts of raiding their corporate treasuries at the expense of employees and stockholders. Emulating President Bush’s hubris, a multitude of CEOs in corporate America give themselves obscenely large bonuses that have little to do with their performance. In 1980, the CEOs of Fortune 500 large corporations received, on average, 70 times larger annual compensations than their average employees. Under the Bush Administration, comparable CEOs have come to give themselves 600 to 1,000 times larger annual compensations than their rank-and-file employees whose pay has stagnated. To pay for such self-dealt compensations, corporate aristocrats layoff their workers, cut ordinary employees’ health benefits, and outsource jobs abroad. Under the Bush Administration, over five million Americans have lost their health benefits, and the U.S. has lost over 2.7 million quality manufacturing jobs. President Bush and his rapacious “captains of piracy” of corporate America are destroying America’s democracy built up since Roosevelt’s New Deal era.

Meanwhile, American economics study has increasingly become a pseudoscience of mathematical formula manipulation that is devoid of humanity. This economics has conquered America’s business education and become fused with the robber baron culture of greed supremacy. American MBAs are taught to treat ordinary employees as disposable costs and to swallow uncritically the gospel that corporations exist only to reward abstract stockholders. MBAs are taught the pretend-science of manipulating accounting, finance, employees, customers, and stock prices. Financial games and hostile takeovers of competitors are taught to accomplish corporations’ sole objective—to make money and manipulate stock prices. Such a mistaken view of corporations has caused the dismal decline of American auto manufacturers while Toyota and Honda widen their market shares and profits in America, pursuing their goals of expanding employment and technological innovations.

To justify the robber baron culture, America’s business educators and economists falsely cite their demigod of laissez-faire market economics, Adam Smith. Little do they know that Adam Smith in fact scathingly castigated Bush’s type of government: business collusion and unfair taxes, Wal-Mart’s exploitations of labor and communities, and robber barons’ hubris. Nowhere in his 900-page book, The Wealth of Nations, does Smith even imply that those who knowingly harm others and society in their pursuit of personal greed also benefit their society. He rejects the notion that a corporation exists to make money without ethical constraints.

Yoshi Tsurumi is a professor of international business at Baruch College. He earned his Doctor of Business Administration from Harvard in 1968, and he taught at Harvard Business School from 1972 to 1976.

Copyright © 2005, The Harvard Crimson Inc. All rights reserved.

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Ok, Harry... Now let's see if it does any good...

(from my email and the DNC blog)

Dear ,

Today I stood in front of the Supreme Court and collected more than 1 million petitions from people all across America. Standing there, I heard your voices urging the Senate to reject any attempt to do away with the system of checks and balances our founding fathers created to protect the rights and voices of all Americans.

I want to say thank you for standing up and lending your voice to this debate.

Republicans want to go "nuclear" and turn the Senate into a rubber stamp for President Bush. They want to silence Senate Democrats -- the one remaining check on President Bush's power. If they can do away with debate in the Senate, they can get whatever they want -- right-wing Supreme Court Justices, Social Security privatization, and tax breaks for the wealthy that will plunge us deeper in debt.

But Senate Democrats are going to fight them every step of the way. And this fight will be different than any other fight in the history of the Senate -- because it will include you.

The Republicans are arrogant with power. If they don't like the rules, they break them. If they don't like someone standing in their way, they attack them. We have some Republicans in the Senate that are considering throwing out 200 years of Senate history in order to pack the courts with right wing judges. And we have a Republican Leader in the House of Representatives who attacks judges who don't agree with him and corrupts our government by running roughshod over the ethics committee.

It's a complete abuse of power by the Republicans and if they can get away with this on judges, they will get away with this on legislation like Social Security too. There is no distinction.

This is about more than a few unqualified judges, this is about protecting the rights of disabled Americans to work, the rights of minorities to vote, the rights of every American to have clean air, safe drinking water and be heard in Washington.

Thank you,
Harry Reid

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Reality really sucks, doesn't it, Mitch...?

Administrators: budget will cut 6,000 teachers
Indianapolis, April 6

Parents, teachers, and students packed the Indiana Statehouse Wednesday to sound off. They filled the rotunda, stairwells and balconies to protest proposed cuts to education.

Melanie Wright is an educator. "I am furious. We are a small school corporation. We have already lost our Title One money this year. Now we are losing dollars next year and for the following year."


Protesters backed up their talk with signs reading "show me the money", "I love my school" and "stand up for public education." Crowd members chanted "No more Mitch. No more Mitch," referring to Governor Mitch Daniels.

State budget proposals include little increases for education. School administrators believe it will cost almost 6,000 teachers their jobs over the next two years.

aw, mitch... boo-hoo... cry me a river, build a bridge and GET OVER IT...! it's time for you to flip the digit to norquist, cato and any other morons who are putting pressure on you to toe the ideological line... you were elected governer of INDIANA, my man, and you better start figuring out how you can best serve the people who live THERE rather than listening to some pointy-headed coaches reading out of the playbook for a game that can't be won...

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This kind of trash talk is getting REALLY old, REALLY fast...

(from the washington post)
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a Judiciary Committee member and DeLay ally, said in an interview: "That kind of judge needs to be worried about what kind of role Congress will play in his future." King said it is not clear what steps his committee might take, but he said most people do not realize the power Congress can exert over courts if it chooses.

"We have the constitutional authority to eliminate any and all inferior courts," he said, referring to district and circuit courts. King said some federal judges refuse to answer questions from Congress unless they are being impeached, so "that may force our hand."

he needs to stop watching wwe or at least cut back on his testosterone supplements...

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The World Bank tiptoes but does not reassure...

Francois Bourguignon

of all the potential crises facing the u.s. and the world, one of the least visible to most of us is the potential financial melt-down of the u.s. dollar as the preferred currency reserve of central banks in many major countries... the ballooning u.s. deficit, says Francois Bourguignon, the chief economist of the World Bank, and the "[a]ccumulation of dollar reserves by some Asian countries could spark a systemic foreign exchange crisis."

he continues:
"Some countries, particularly Asian ones, have no interest in the parities of major currencies being modified. As a result, they are financing the enormous American current account deficit.

"Today, the danger is that some dealers are starting to think they must change the rules of the game, play dollar depreciation and move toward the yen and the euro. That would confront us with a real systemic risk."

Cutting the U.S. deficit was key, Bourguignon said. The World Bank foresaw an orderly adjustment with the United States announcing a progressive reduction in its budget deficit accompanied by interest rate rises.

ok, so much for economist-speak... here's where i start to get nervous...

"Today, no catastrophe is anticipated in the coming six to nine months. So I am not yet totally pessimistic," Bourguignon added.

when an economist says, "i am not yet TOTALLY pessimistic," you better listen for the air-raid sirens...

oh, damn... i forgot... bourguignon is FRENCH... what do they know...? oh, yeah...! and wolfie's coming on board... phew...! not to worry... bourguignon will soon be toast and everything will be just FINE...!

"in the long run, we're all dead..." -john maynard keynes

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Just wait... There'll be more...

i hate to sit around like a cynic, waiting for bad things to happen... i also hate to constantly read negative things in to events... but, sure enough, i no more than finished my minuteman tirade yesterday when this appears... while it's relatively mild, it could be a bad sign of things to come... (shit, i just read over what i wrote... "MILD...????" since when is humiliation MILD...???? i guess i figured it was mild-"er" than someone being shot... anyway, that's my story and i'm stickin' to it...)
Minuteman Project Volunteers Face Probe

By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN, Associated Press Writer

TUCSON, Ariz. - Three volunteers patrolling the border for illegal immigrants were being investigated after a man told authorities he was held against his will and forced to pose for a picture holding a T-shirt with a mocking slogan.

The volunteers said they were members of the Minuteman Project — a monthlong effort that has people from around the country fanned out along the border to report undocumented migrants and smugglers. Law enforcement officials have said they fear the project will lead to vigilante violence.

Border Patrol agents called in deputies from the Cochise County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday afternoon to report that an immigrant was detained by three men who identified themselves as project volunteers.

Carol Capas, a sheriff's office spokeswoman, said the 26-year-old Mexican man told agents he was physically restrained and forced to hold a shirt while his picture was taken and he was videotaped.

The shirt read: "Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this T-shirt."

Barton is one of the three volunteers. He told agents that they waved the man over to them, offered him food and water, and gave him the T-shirt and money before the Border Patrol arrived.

"All they did was provide water and wait for the Border Patrol," Minuteman spokesman Grey Deacon said. "What's the big deal?"

Deacon said project organizers were told by sheriff's officials that the incident wasn't a problem. But Capas said the investigation was continuing and authorities were reviewing a videotape that Barton provided to deputies.

"We do not have the time nor the patience for anyone attempting to turn this situation into a three ring circus," Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said in a statement.

i sure as hell wouldn't want to be in THAT sheriff's shoes...

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Baghdad Burning - A Blog

what's so badly needed in the u.s. is a better sense of the realities of day-to-day life in other countries... so many people here have either no sense of it at all or a warped and stereotyped view patched together from news stories, movies and hearsay...

to be sure, iraq is one of the central stories of our time and most of us do not have a clue about what it's really like to live there... riverbend, the 25 year-old iraqi woman behind Baghdad Burning, is based in baghdad... her insights are of the sort we can all relate to, getting up in the morning, staying in touch with friends and loved ones, trying to keep up with what's happening...

and guess what...? keeping up with what's happening is now possible through ~drum roll~ U.S. TELEVISION...! that's right, folks... the same crapola that's being shoved down our throats is now available LIVE via satellite in the living rooms of baghdad...!

Two years ago, the major part of the war in Iraq was all about bombarding us with smart bombs and high-tech missiles. Now there’s a different sort of war- or perhaps it’s just another phase of the same war. Now we’re being assailed with American media. It’s everywhere all at once.

and i thought i felt sorry for the iraqis BEFORE i read this...! but she gets down to some pretty serious stuff too...

I’ve been enchanted with the shows these last few weeks. The thing that strikes me most is the fact that the news is so… clean. It’s like hospital food. It’s all organized and disinfected. Everything is partitioned and you can feel how it has been doled out carefully with extreme attention to the portions- 2 minutes on women’s rights in Afghanistan, 1 minute on training troops in Iraq and 20 minutes on Terri Schiavo! All the reportages are upbeat and somewhat cheerful, and the anchor person manages to look properly concerned and completely uncaring all at once.

About a month ago, we were treated to an interview on 20/20 with Sabrina Harman- the witch in some of the Abu Ghraib pictures. You know- the one smiling over faceless, naked Iraqis piled up to make a human pyramid. Elizabeth Vargus was doing the interview and the whole show was revolting. They were trying to portray Sabrina as an innocent who was caught up in military orders and fear of higher ranking officers. The show went on and on about how American troops never really got seminars on Geneva Conventions (like one needs to be taught humanity) and how poor Sabrina was being made a scapegoat. They showed the restaurant where she worked before the war and how everyone thought she was “such a nice person” who couldn’t hurt a fly!

and, if fox wants to do a focus group on ideas for new shows, they gotta be sure to include riverbend...

I have a suggestion of my own for a reality show. Take 15 Bush supporters and throw them in a house in the suburbs of, say, Falloojeh for at least 14 days. We could watch them cope with the water problems, the lack of electricity, the check points, the raids, the Iraqi National Guard, the bombings, and- oh yeah- the ‘insurgents’. We could watch their house bombed to the ground and their few belongings crushed under the weight of cement and brick or simply burned or riddled with bullets. We could see them try to rebuild their life with their bare hands (and the equivalent of $150)…

I’d not only watch *that* reality show, I’d tape every episode.

i'd get tivo for that alone...

she's well worth checking out..

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Wow! The past few hours have been intense!

Time to chill out.

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The Real Memo, The Whole Memo and Nothing But The Memo!

How sweet it is!

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Text is boring... Time for a visual...

A picture is worth, etc., etc...

(credit to Steve Bell, the Guardian)

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Holy crap...! Another one...!

up until about an hour ago, this had been a fairly slow day...!


Martinez admits his staffer wrote Schiavo talking points memo


WASHINGTON (AP) — A one-page unsigned memo that became part of the debate preceding Congress' vote ordering a federal court review of the Terri Schiavo case originated in Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez' office, Martinez said Wednesday.

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Yikes...! Time to break out the hip waders...

and the hits just keep on comin'...

a "disturbing discovery," he says...! ~duh~ what i'd like to know is why he decided to go ahead and go to d.c. instead of calling his local newspaper and blowing the whistle on such blatantly fraudulent fund-raising tactics...

thanks, atrios

April 5, 2005 — The good news reached the Jamestown, N.Y., office of Dr. Rudolph Mueller in a fax from a congressman in Washington. Mueller had been named 2004 Physician of the Year.

"My secretary came running in and said, 'Dr. Rudy, look at what you've won, you're Physician of the Year,' " said Mueller, an internist.

But to receive the award in person at a special two-day workshop in Washington last month, Mueller found out that he would have to make a $1,250 contribution to the National Republican Congressional Committee. It was a disturbing discovery, he said.


To see what the award process was all about, Mueller sent in his $1,250 contribution and ABC News paid for his travel to Washington for the scheduled events March 14-15, which included a tax-reform workshop as well as appearances by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and President Bush.

Mueller soon found he was not the only winner. There were hundreds of Physicians of the Year present, many of whom found the criteria for being selected equally as opaque.

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Tell us how you REALLY feel, Congresswoman Pelosi...

i love it, i love it, i love it, i love it... a woman after my own heart...

congresswoman nancy pelosi speaking at a press conference today

(from the DCCC weblog)


Q Chairman Dreier this morning was talking about efforts by the GOP leadership to reach across the aisle to Democrats. He cited the vote on the class action bill and the bipartisan bankruptcy bill next week where there would be a strong vote. Do you see it that way? Do you think they are reaching across? How do you see the House running in terms of this major legislation?

Ms. Pelosi. Let me say it in four words: Ha, ha, ha, ha.

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Lautenberg Blasts Attacks on Judiciary

once again, thanks to john at americablog for the tip to this excellent piece from raw story reporting on senator lautenberg's speech on the senate floor... as john so strongly puts it, "This is good stuff. We need more of it. And we need the groups to start including this message in everything they write and send." i couldn't agree more... thanks again, john


REMARKS BY SEN. LAUTENBERG: Mr. President, I rise today to respond to some recent remarks by a member of this body, and the Majority Leader of the House, about the judges who preside in our federal courts.

Article III, Section One of the United States Constitution says:

The Judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

That seems pretty clear to me. Judicial power is vested in our courts – not in Congress.

The Constitution gives the Senate a role in the appointment of judges. We are supposed to provide advice and consent.

But once a judge is seated on the bench, his or her decisions are not subject to our approval.

And the Founding Fathers set up that way on purpose. They wanted to make sure that court decisions would be based on legal grounds - not political.

Today there is an orchestrated effort to smear the reputation of the judiciary, especially federal judges.

This effort is being waged by Republicans in Congress, as a prelude to an attempt to change the rules for confirming judicial appointments.

In order to justify the “nuclear option,” they are trying to paint judges as “activists” and “out of control.”

In reality, it is the leadership of this Congress that is out of control and endangering the future of a fair court system.

Mr. President, in this chamber yesterday, one of our colleagues said Americans are becoming “frustrated” by the rulings of judges and accused them of making “raw political or ideological decisions."

Our colleague then went on to say:

“I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public … that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence.”

These remarks are almost unbelievable.

Yet they echo the words last week of the House Majority Leader.

Speaking of the judges in the Schiavo case, the House Majority Leader said, “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."

These are inflammatory words.

They ignore the fact that our Founding Fathers wanted judges to be insulated from political pressure.

And they are words that could easily incite violence against judges.

On Sunday, a columnist in the House Majority Leader’s hometown newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, wrote:

“It is time for him to stop sputtering ill-tempered threats, not only at the judiciary but also at the U.S. Constitution, which he repeatedly has sworn to uphold.”

Mr. President, to make matters worse, there have been two recent episodes involving violence against judges.

In Chicago a man fatally shot the husband and mother of a federal judge who had ruled against him in a medical malpractice suit.

And in Atlanta last month, a man broke away from a deputy and killed four people, including the judge presiding over his rape trial.

Were these judges who suffered terribly because of their official duties “activists”? Were they “out of control”?

The message being sent out to the American people by the other side of the aisle is not only irresponsible, but downright dangerous to our nation’s judges.

Like the nuclear option, the goal here is to have judges make political decisions rather than legal. They are trying to intimidate sitting judges. And they are trying to change Senate rules to get bad judges on the bench.

I vow to fight this nuclear option as well as these irresponsible threatening statements.

In my view, the true measure of democracy is how it dispenses justice.

In this country, any attempt to intimidate judges not only threatens our courts, but our fundamental democracy as well.

I call on every member of this Senate to repudiate these attacks against the federal judiciary and the United States Constitution.

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The Minuteman Project

gosh, my blood pressure was all nice and low until i read this...

The Minuteman Project
Americans doing the jobs Congress won't do.

is a grassroots effort to bring Americans to the defense of their homeland, similar to the way the original Minutemen from Massachusetts (and other U. S. colonies) did in the late 1700s. Like them, we want to bring to this effort only what few personal possessions we can our heart, mind and spirit.

This call for volunteers is not a call to arms, but a call to voices seeking a peaceful and respectable resolve to the chaotic neglect by members of our local, state and federal governments charged with applying U.S. immigration law.

It is a call to peacefully assemble at the Arizona-Mexico border to bring national awareness to the decades-long careless disregard of effective U.S. immigration law enforcement. It is a reminder to Americans that our nation was founded as a nation governed by the "rule of law", not by the whims of mobs of ILLEGAL aliens who endlessly stream across U.S. borders.

Accordingly, the men and women volunteering for this mission are those who are willing to sacrifice their time, and the comforts of a cozy home, to muster for something much more important than acquiring more "toys" to play with while their nation is devoured and plundered by the menace of tens of millions of invading illegal aliens.

Future generations will inherit a tangle of rancorous, unassimilated, squabbling cultures with no common bond to hold them together, and a certain guarantee of the death of this nation as a harmonious "melting pot."

The result: political, economic and social mayhem.

Historians will write about how a lax America let its unique and coveted form of government and society sink into a quagmire of mutual acrimony among the various sub-nations that will comprise the new self-destructing America.

excuse ME...????????? as if we didn't have enough things going on in this country to frighten any thinking person right out of their wits, now we have an armed militia, appointing themselves to keep the "rancorous, unassimilated, squabbling" riff-raff out... and what the hell is "melting pot" code for...? white, english-speaking, european origin, christian, and a few other characteristics tossed in for good measure just to insure the doors to the "club" remain closed...???

here's a couple of personal vignettes that put a more human face on the "quagmire" of "sub-nations..."

scene: sitting outside at mcdonalds playland with my 3 year-old grandson

at the table next to me was an attractive hispanic woman eating and watching over a young boy just a little older than my grandson... i assumed she was his mother... she was trying to get him to eat something but he kept running back to the slide... she had her back to me so when i said something to her in spanish, she didn't immediately realize that i was talking to her or that it was a gringo speaking spanish... it turned out that she was the boy's sister and only 17 years old... a very nice conversation ensued... she came to this country from el salvador when she was 10, illegally crossing three different borders to get here... she had a tough time in school at first because she didn't know english but, like most kids, picked it up fast... she is just getting ready to graduate from high school and has her fingers crossed, hoping the paperwork to establish her legal presence in the u.s. comes through in time for her to be able to register for the fall semester at the university here... she's a nice, intelligent and obviously dedicated woman who will no doubt do very well.. i wished her the best of luck and encouraged her never to lose sight of her dreams...

scene: a mexican "colonia" (unincorporated barrio) on the "wrong" side of a resort town

about 5 years ago, a young friend of mine in mexico asked me to be padrino (godfather) to his daughter... being a padrino in the latino culture is considerably more of an honor than it is in the anglo culture... it is also considerably more of a committment... i was greatly honored and i accepted... a little less than two years ago, my friend crossed illegally into the u.s. to work construction with his brother... he wanted to be able to better provide for his wife and family... his idea was to work for a few years here, send money home, and then head back and use the money to establish a business... his wife was against it, not for reasons of money, but for the time it would keep him away from his young daughter... last october, he was killed in a tragic car accident... he was a very good man, a dedicated father, and trying to do the best thing for his family... now, as padrino and as a person with little to no means, i am nevertheless committed to seeing that his daughter is provided for... i am honored to do whatever i can...

think about this... if every person in the u.s. of hispanic/latino origin, legal, illegal or otherwise, stopped working at precisely the same time, this country would shut down on the spot... big sign: CLOSED, WILL RE-OPEN TOMORROW... i remember a study done back in the middle-70's... what sticks with me is the study's claim that, if the border between mexico and the united states was to be sealed, a revolution would take place in mexico within six months...

all this blab about hordes of illegals taking away jobs from decent american citizens... bullshit... they are doing the jobs decent american citizens don't WANT and WON'T TAKE because decent american businesses are so fucking invested in the profit motive that they won't pay a living wage... and so you have 10 illegal hispanics sharing the rent on a small apartment cuz, for one, not one of them could afford to pay the rent by himself and, two, they want to minimize their expenses so that they will be able to send most of what they make back home...

THEN, when they go to send it back home, western union charges for sending the money AND takes a commission off the currency exchange rate up front... then the operator on the other end takes ANOTHER cut off the currency exchange and possibly a service charge before handing over what's left to the recipient... each transaction of $200 nets western union about $40+ and the operator on the other end nets pretty much whatever traffic will bear... 40 bucks... that's 20%, folks, just to western union...!!!

another big item that escapes most people's notice is that illegals working in this country have provided an estimated $21B SUBSIDY to the social security system in the form of the ss contribution that comes out of their paychecks, a contribution they will very likely never recover...

are they exploited...? hell, yes, they are... is bush under pressure from his wealthy contributors to keep the border porous...? damn right... (check out what the meat-packers and the fast-food industry, two of the heaviest users of immigrant labor, have contributed to bush over the last 5 years...) is he under pressure from right-wing, "america-first" groups to stop the flow...? oh, yeah...!

are mexico and other countries culpable in the fact that so many of their citizens want to come to the united states just so they can earn a living wage...? you bet they are... there's a huge gap in mexico between the have's and the have-not's... HUGE... the obscenely rich (example: carlos slim, in the top 5 of the world's billionaires) sit in their posh estates in d.f., play tennis at the club, ski in colorado, kick back in their haciendas in the country, or lounge at their seaside villas... the hardest work they do is calling the office a couple of times a day to see how their money is doing... is mexico fixing that...? no.. furthermore, i'm not even sure it CAN (see post under "Items of note...," Friday, April 8) any more than we seem to be able to fix the problem of OUR super-rich dictating how OUR country will be run...

ok, i've ranted enough but this is the kind of stuff that goes through my mind when i see despicable and dangerous things like the "minutemen" unfolding...

~takes a deep breath and goes for more coffee~

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A slow(er) morning...

thank goodness... time for a breather...

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Write when you get work...


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A disappearing act worthy of Harry Houdini... ~scratches head~ Now, WHERE did that man GO?

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

~rubs hands together in glee~


i'm sorry... i don't delight in anyone's downfall... i've scraped bottom too many times myself... but................................

(from Raw Story)

DeLay Russian trip paid for by firm lobbying Russian gov't

Washington Post Page one copy leaked: EXCERPTED DOWN TO COMPLY WITH COPYRIGHT LAWS

By R. Jeffrey Smith and James V. Grimaldi
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - A six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the trip arrangements.

(from the Drudge Report)

Ethical questions surrounding House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas intensify... A six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the trip arrangements.... Developing..

john at americablog says:

Oh my God. He is so OUT OF HERE. Jesus, they set the guy up. The GOP friggin set the guy up for a hit. My God.

i agree john.. he was set up... it's so crystal clear... and ya know what gives me super cold chills...? all clues point to beelzebub karl... this means his satanic majesty is vastly more entrenched and powerful than we even imagined... phew...! not good stuff to sleep on tonight even if we can be happy that it looks like delay's goin' down...

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give 'em HELL, Harry...!!!

Reid Accuses GOP of Arrogance on Courts

"If they don't get what they want, they attack whoever's around," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "Now they're after the courts, and I think it goes back to this arrogancy of power."

You go, girl...!!

Republicans said judges' rejection of efforts to keep Schiavo alive was a separate issue from the dispute over the filibuster.

"I don't associate the two issues directly," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

Bill, Bill, Bill...! Tsk,tsk. Do you think we just fell off the turnip truck?

But Democrats said it all comes back to Republicans wanting things their way, including Frist's plan to change Senate rules to stop Democrats from filibustering Bush's nominees.

"If people don't get what they want with judges, they change the rules. I think it's an arrogancy of power," Reid said.

You bet it is, Harry!

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Hey, this is cool...

It looks like Jeffrey Feldman over at Frameshop has been a busy boy.

FRAMESHOP LOCAL provides an individual blog thread for each of the 50 states (plus DC), a bulletin board and alert center where people all over the country can report what is happening in their local news.

FRAMESHOP LOCAL is entirely user drive. While each of the threads will be monitored by a Frameshop site manager, each thread belongs to the users.

FRAMESHOP LOCAL is a new form of media monitoring and political strategy. The more people participate, the more we will be able to control--rather than being controlled by--the media.

Welcome everybody! FRAMESHOP LOCAL is open for business.

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Could someone KINDLY put this man out of my misery...?

(from Media Matters)

Reading from a prepared address about judges that he touted as "prophetic", Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson conflated state circuit judges whose decisions he opposed with federal judges in order to rally support for President Bush's federal bench nominations; misstated the political leanings of several judges in order to support his flawed contention that the judiciary is out of step with "American opinion"; and called for the impeachment of six U.S. Supreme Court justices, including four Republican political appointees, as well as the abolition of a federal appeals court in San Francisco.


"The troublesome 9th Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco could be abolished and then staffed by different judges immediately. But the Congress has not had the political gumption to take any such action. Consequently, the courts arrogantly thumb their noses at other co-equal authorities."

This guy just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Maybe he'll eventually get so full of himself, he'll explode. If you have the stomach for it, here's a link to Dobson's full screed.

As long as I'm already nauseous, here's some more from Jimmy-boy.

"Pope John Paul was an uncompromising voice on the sanctity of life - in fact, his was one of the greatest contributions of the 20th century to that cause. The 'culture of life' will forever be indebted to the man who championed the value of all human life, even to his last breath."

Retch, gag, vomit.

And, fercryinoutloud, this horrible man and his wretched organization are based in my home town! ~rolls eyes~

P.S. I have disowned my home town. It always was a haven for dingbats and Ollie North types but it's gotten ever so much worse since god-knows-how-many Christian fundamentalist groups decided to headquarter there after Focus on the Family led the way. Now, even if I'm just driving through, I get queasy in the pit of my stomach. Sad.

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puh-leeeeeeze... if only there WAS one...

The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President--and Why They'll Try Even Harder Next Time

As a former colleague of mine used to say, "Is that "vast" or "half-vast?"

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Argentina and the IMF

Flag of the Republic of Argentina

While we sit around wringing our hands over the already horrific domestic situation, the rest of the world moves on. One of the interesting stories-in-progress comes from Argentina. The Argentine monetary collapse in 2001 was devastating to the economy and to a large number of Argentine citizens. Their currency was pegged to the U.S. dollar, 1-to-1, but sank to 3-to-1 after the collapse. Simple math tells you that overnight: 1) the cost of virtually all imports at least doubled, 2) anybody lucky enough to be holding U.S. dollars in cash or investments was worth a lot more (domestically, at least), 3) income from exports plunged, and 4) the country's IMF and World Bank debt moved from being a burden to being a massive dead weight. The resulting loan default, naturally, created a firestorm in the global financial community. The fine print to all this, however, is that, in Argentina, like everywhere it seems, the rich got richer and the poor got one hell of a lot poorer. Of course, the sanctimonious world press, smelling blood, rushed in. At least there was some, albeit grudging, admission of IMF culpability but, as one could predict, not for the right reasons.

Floating or sinking?
Feb 11th 2002
From The Economist Global Agenda

WATCHING the inevitable can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience: and so it was for most Argentines when the peso was finally floated on Monday February 11th. As trading got under way, the peso sank (in spite of central bank intervention): not surprising in view of the economic and financial crisis facing Argentina, but still a painful development for citizens watching the value of their assets shrink. For more than ten years, the peso was fixed by law at par with the American dollar. That link was finally abandoned last December. The subsequent temporary dual exchange-rate has now gone as well; and the peso's international value is significantly less than half the level of a few weeks ago.

Painful it may be: but the sharp depreciation of the peso is widely seen as an essential prerequisite of economic recovery. Not that there can be much hope of any early improvement in the lot of the average Argentine. The country is now in its fifth year of recession and unemployment is reckoned to be around 20%, perhaps more. When President Eduardo Duhalde took power on January 1st, he was the country’s fifth president in a fortnight. His task was, initially, to stop the economic and political crisis worsening; and then, to take a grip on the enormous problems facing Latin America’s largest economy.


After his short-lived dalliance with isolationist talk, Mr Duhalde and his government seem committed to engaging with the IMF. They need the IMF’s help and Mr Remes expressed disappointment on February 6th that the Fund had offered little in the way of public support for the government’s economic plan. But the government is in contact with the Fund, whose officials have been in Buenos Aires. Mr Remes is due in Washington, DC, on February 12th, though the Fund has stressed that, as yet, no talks are planned on specific new loans.

But there is another broader reason for the IMF’s current softly-softly approach. The Fund is acutely conscious that the finger of blame is already pointing at it for failing to prevent the crisis in Argentina. After all, it provided new financial assistance as recently as last August. Some critics have asked why it did not urge more radical reform on Buenos Aires. The IMF is always in a dilemma in such crises. If it provides help to a country whose policies are insufficient, in the Fund’s view, to stabilise the economy, it is failing its duty to member governments and, ultimately, the taxpayers around the world who underwrite its resources. But if it withholds support, it risks driving the target economy into an even deeper slump, for which it will surely get the blame.

More radical reform, indeed! Up to that point, Argentina had been IMF's "poster child," diligently putting in place all of the reforms conditional to the loans. Unfortunately, the self-centered world financial community refused to see that it was the IMF-mandated reforms that caused most of the trouble in the first place.

Note: IMF policy and loan conditions have been creating economic distress in countries around the world for years. I am not anywhere close to being an expert, even an aspiring one, so I won't attempt to get wonkish here. Perhaps the best analysis and most illuminating insights have been set forth by Joseph Stiglitz in his book, Globalization and Its Discontents. The publisher's comment sums up the book rather well.

This powerful, unsettling book gives us a rare glimpse behind the closed doors of global financial institutions by the winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics. Renowned academic economist Joseph E. Stiglitz served seven years in Washington, as chairman of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers and as chief economist at the World Bank. In this book, Stiglitz recounts his experiences in such places as Ethiopia, Thailand, and Russia. He finds repeatedly that the International Monetary Fund puts the interests of its "largest shareholder," the United States, above those of the poorer nations it was designed to serve.

Under the conditions of IMF loan agreements (the money comes from investors - major banks, countries and investment groups - Citi, HSBC, the U.S. Treasury, pension funds in various countries, etc.), when loans get risky enough to be called, the lenders are the first to get their money back. (Stories of lines of armored trucks lined up in front of the Argentine central bank after the collapse, transporting money out of the country, still circulate among Buenos Aires taxi drivers.) This sad scene has been replicated numerous times in other countries and is perhaps the most distressing symptom of historically bad IMF policy. Needless to say, sanctioned looting of this sort does not go over well with the local folk. (And we here in the U.S. are always so very puzzled about why we are so disliked around the world.)

Many countries when faced with similar economic crises have attempted to continue to toe the IMF line which, as Stiglitz points out, puts the interests of the lenders above the welfare of the country's citizens. When Argentina, under tremendous pressure, devalued the peso and defaulted on its loans, there were dire predictions and some threats as well.

Argentina's imploding banks
Should I stay or should I go?

Jan 17th 2002 | BUENOS AIRES
From The Economist print edition

FURIOUS at the continuing freeze of their savings, Argentines attacked bank branches—notably foreign-owned ones—this week. The freeze was imposed last month, after the country's deepening crisis had triggered a run on the banks. After violent protests had brought down two presidents, the present one, Eduardo Duhalde, decreed that, while all deposits denominated in dollars (as most are) would be refunded in dollars, loans of under $100,000 would be converted to pesos at the exchange rate of one-for-one that Argentina had maintained since 1991. Since the peso was devalued immediately afterwards, the banks are sure to suffer huge losses from this, on top of those caused by the government and many private borrowers defaulting.

Ah, but it was the foreign banks that the Economist was most concerned about.

No wonder that foreign banks are thinking of abandoning their Argentine subsidiaries, leaving the country to its fate. Faced with the extinction of the financial system, Mr Duhalde's economic team was this week bargaining desperately to persuade the banks to stay and even to inject fresh capital. The banks have already been promised compensation, to be financed by a tax on oil exports, but the $700m a year that this might raise seems unlikely to be anywhere near enough.


Although some foreign banks, such as America's Citibank, now part of Citigroup, have been in Argentina for decades, others were attracted more recently by the country's liberalising reforms in the 1990s. They are certainly big enough to withstand losing their entire investment in Argentina. Some analysts reckon that HSBC of Britain might have to take a charge of more than $1 billion, or over one-tenth of annual pre-tax profits, if it decides to stay and recapitalise its Argentine subsidiary. Two Spanish banks, Santander Central Hispano (SCH) and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), have committed themselves more heavily. They stand to lose $1.5 billion and $750m, respectively, if they leave. If they stay, they would need to inject several billion dollars more between them. But even this would not seriously dent their capital.

If they listened to their shareholders, though, foreign banks might well pull out. Peter Shaw, an analyst at Fitch, a credit-rating agency, says that banks' institutional shareholders are furious at the way Argentina is treating them; they will take a lot of convincing that the banks should risk throwing fresh money after bad. On the other hand, if banks withdraw—especially if Argentine depositors are not fully repaid—they risk denting their international reputations, especially in other Latin American countries, notably Brazil and Mexico, where they have big operations.

You can see where the sympathies of the financial community fell and they WEREN'T with the Argentine people who were now struggling just to feed their families and keep current with the rent.

The repercussions of this move have been most interesting, particularly in that Argentina has not succumbed to the disaster scenarios of either the IMF or the global financial community. Last year (2004), Argentina's economy grew by a brisk 9% and foreign investment has begun to flow back in. Current account balances and cash on hand grew dramatically to the point where, it was speculated, enough existed to pay off the loans outright with some left over. Being no fools, however, the Argentine government decided not to do that. Instead, they went to the global financial market earlier this year and offered investors a bond swap. In return for the bonds that were rendered worthless by the default, the Argentine government would issue new bonds worth roughly one-third of the original bond value. Needless to say, the shit hit the fan. Investors around the world, particularly those in Italy and the U.S. were outraged not only at the proposed "haircut" but also at what they felt was the unbridled arrogance of the Argentine government. All too rarely did media coverage include the fact that "vulture investors" had already picked up many of the bonds for pennies on the dollar. A coalition of investors in the U.S. decided to litigate. (Why are we not surprised?)

(from the BBC)
Argentina plays 'chicken' with IMF
Monday, 8 March, 2004

A key date in Argentina's sometimes tense relationship with the International Monetary Fund is 9 March.

Then, the country is due to make a repayment of $3bn under an earlier IMF loan. And there have been suggestions from Buenos Aires that they might refuse to pay.


The principal concern is Argentina's relations with its private foreign creditors. When the crisis came to a head around Christmas 2001, Argentina announced the suspension of payments on its debts, or bonds. The bondholders haven't received a cent since.


Finance Minister Roberto Lavagna and Finance Secretary Guillermo Nielsen presented a proposal [at the 2003 IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Dubai] that bondholders should accept new terms that amount to loss - or haircut as it's called in financial circles - of 75 cents in every dollar they owed.


The creditors say that since that opening offer, Argentina has not budged. And that, they argue, is not negotiating in good faith.

But who are these bondholders? There are investment funds. Some of them are sometimes pejoratively called vulture investors, who buy the bonds of companies or countries in financial distress.

They buy them very cheap with a view to making a large profit when some of the money owed is finally paid.

But there are also hundreds of thousands of private individuals involved.


[T]hey didn't think it was particularly risky.


Ralph Stone of the New York law firm Shalov Stone and Bonner is trying to sue Argentina.

He says his clients are just trying to enforce the contractual rights that Argentina has already agreed to that enabled it to borrow their money in the first place.


In the meantime, Argentina continues a game of financial chicken with the IMF. If it does miss that payment due on Tuesday, it could further delay Argentina's rehabilitation in international financial circles.

Many countries with IMF loans were watching Argentina carefully to see if they were going to get away with thumbing its nose at the powerful global financial establishment. The bond swap offer ended February 25 and, in spite of the sneering prognostications of financial soothsayers, was roundly hailed as a success with 76% of the original bonds tendered for swap. Kirchner and Lavagna were elated. Financial markets, however, were not amused.

(from the Financial Times)
Argentina sets a dangerous precedent
Published: March 7 2005 03:00 | Last updated: March 7 2005

Argentina gambled, and the gamble paid off. By bullying private creditors into accepting a pitiful settlement on its $100bn (£52bn) debt restructuring it has rewritten the rules of the game in emerging market finance. It proved that debtor countries have a lot of power in their dealings with bondholders. This increases the risk involved in lending to emerging markets and should push up interest rates on emerging market debt.

Argentina and the International Monetary Fund now have to decide where to go next. The fund should make it clear that it will resume lending to Argentina only under strict conditions. Argentina should quit gambling while it is ahead and make its peace with the international financial system. Without normalisation of financial relations abroad and structural reforms at home, its triumph will prove short lived.

The IMF, however, was diplomatic and perhaps even a trifle warm in its response.

Transcript of a Press Briefing by Thomas C. Dawson
Director, External Relations Department
International Monetary Fund
March 3, 2005
Washington, D.C.

I would reiterate what I have said on a number of occasions, that Argentina has established a strong macroeconomic performance recently, and this leads us to the view that this presents an important opportunity for Argentina to move forward since there is a lot of work remaining for the country ahead to achieve a sustainable growth path in the years ahead. And we are committed to continuing to work closely with the authorities in the period ahead.

That initial euphoria has now taken a somber turn. Why? The litigation process in the U.S., of course. With 24% of bondholders who represent over $20B of the debt (excluding interest) still sitting out there, questions remain "as to whether this allows the government to leave all holdouts empty-handed or whether these holdouts are not both obliged and entitled to follow the majority." (See today's full Buenos Aires Herald editorial.)

The Financial Times weighed in last week.

(from the Financial Times)
Argentina $100bn debt swap in doubt
By Adam Thomson in Buenos Aires
Published: March 30 2005 19:41 | Last updated: March 30 2005

Argentina’s plans to seal its record $100bn debt restructuring on Friday have been thrown into doubt after a US judge handed a reprieve to creditors seeking to “attach” – or seize – the defaulted bonds.

Late Tuesday, Judge Thomas Griesa of New York’s Southern District court ruled in favour of the Argentine government’s demands to lift a preliminary freeze granted to creditors last week on $7bn of the defaulted bonds.

But, as the Herald points out in the same editorial, "[T]he bond swap cannot move for now as the result of injunctions in New York courts (despite the favourable wording of the ruling of Judge Thomas Griesa). Clearly the vulture funds knew what they were doing when they decided to opt for litigation (at a modest legal cost so far) rather than accept a two-thirds haircut even if the government was confident of having no overseas assets vulnerable to seizure."

Meanwhile, even though I am far from having the money to do it, I am still helping a couple of familes in Buenos Aires whose working-age adults cannot either find jobs or make enough money working to meet their month-to-month food and rent expenses. I'm no saint, I'm not trying to break my arm patting myself on the back and I'm sure not doing it out of guilt. I do believe, however, that we, in this privileged country of ours, ought to be a lot more aware of how we impact good people elsewhere.

Stay tuned.

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Tell me it's all just a dream... (Update)

I'm already over 55 but god help the rest of you.

i just rolled out of bed and read this... before i go relieve myself, let me relieve myself - fuck you very much, karl, you megalomaniac son-of-a-bitch... (ah, that feels sooooo much better...)

Rove Says Social Security Overhaul Must Have Private Accounts

April 5 (Bloomberg) -- Private accounts must be part of any permanent Social Security fix, said Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's deputy chief of staff, expressing optimism Congress will end a partisan standoff and pass such a measure this year.

"The personal retirement account has to be part of the long- term solution," Rove, Bush's chief political and policy adviser, said in an interview in Washington yesterday. "The public and Congress are becoming aware that it's a serious problem."

go read the polls again, karl... they make good bathroom reading while you're playing with yourself...

in a less acid vein, it's not a good sign that beelzebub himself is starting to show his face on the social security issue... or maybe it is... he's been doing some of the road shows too... i noticed he was in helena last week... since he's managing the campaign and it's his ass on the line, he may be getting worried... anyway, let's hope so... if he thinks that he can mandate private accounts simply through the weight of his clout, let's show him that he's as seriously deluded as we've long suspected... what has always struck a chill in my heart with this guy, however, is the nightmarish combo - genius and delusion...

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Where does it stop...?

this scares the shit outta me... it's a friggin' crusade against the judiciary, just exactly what delay and bush had in mind when they jumped on the schiavo bandwagon... where does something like this stop...? never mind... i don't wanna know the answer...

March 31, 2005
For Immediate release
Media Contact: Don Feder (866) 522-5582


Rick Scarborough, acting chairman of the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration, expressed sadness at the death of Terri Schiavo and offered his heartfelt condolences to the Schindler family.

“Terri Schiavo’s suffering is over, God rest her soul,” Scarborough commented. “Now our mission is to ensure that there will be no more Terri Schiavos -- that no other disabled person is subjected to her cruel fate.”

“The Schiavo case demonstrates the mortal danger of giving judges the unbridled power of life and death,” Scarborough charged.

In just one week, the Council’s first conference – Confronting The Judicial War On Faith – will convene at the Washington Marriott in Washington, DC. Confronting The Judicial War On Faith will address the rising tide of judicial despotism, of which the Schiavo case is the latest and most poignant example.

Keynote speakers will include House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was instrumental in moving the Schiavo legislation through Congress, and David C. Gibbs, Esq. of the Christian Law Association, who represented Terri’s parents in their valiant efforts to save her life.

[As of today, April 5, Rep. DeLay mysteriously "disappeared" from the Conference agenda. Do you suppose it had anything to do with the NYT and Washington Post front page stories on more of his dirty dealings? Hmmmmm... Nah... Couldn't be...]

Other speakers at the Confronting The Judicial War On Faith conference (April 7-8) include: Senator Sam Brownback, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, Alan Keyes, former Vatican Ambassador Ray Flynn, Rep. Steve Chabot, Rep. Todd Akin, Phyllis Schlafly and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

[What? No James Dobson?]

The conference also will consider Ten Commandments displays and the right of Americans to publicly acknowledge God, judicial nominations, the judicial assault on marriage and remedies to judicial tyranny.

Scarborough stressed: “This will be an action-oriented conference. Our purpose is to draw up a plan of action to oppose the liberal judges who have abrogated our most precious human rights – including Terri Schiavo’s right to life. Out of it will come a coalition of family groups, ministries and churches dedicated to restoring constitutional rights and liberty.”

For more information on the Confronting The Judicial War On Faith Conference – including a complete list of speakers, program and information on registration – go to or call 866-522-5582

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U.S. Rep. John Conyers Takes a Stand

representative conyers wasted no time in responding to senator cornyn on his blog... this is the kind of immediate, clear, no-nonsense response that should be forthcoming from every semi-sane person in this country and we should be thankful that there are congressmen like john conyers who will stand up and be counted... the irresponsibility of senator cornyn is staggering... a retraction from him at this point would be laughable... he said it and he meant it... the only honorable thing for him to do is resign at once...

The War on Judges
Irresponsible Rhetoric Can Lead to Tragic Results

During the protracted coverage and debate of the Schiavo matter, I was struck by the disrespectful and reckless language being used against judges. One by one, my Republican colleagues took the House floor to attack judges as "unconscionable," lacking "human compassion," needing to be held in "contempt," and having "answering to do." I remember thinking that such dehumanizing rhetoric is especially dangerous in these times towards anyone, let alone judges.

Outside the halls of Congress, words flew even more recklessly and the House Majority Leader Tom DeLay called the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube an "act of medical terrorism." The Reverend Pat Robertson called it "judicial murder."

I remember thinking about Judge Rowland Barnes of Georgia, who less than a month ago, was shot to death by an angry litigant in his courtroom, along with two other court employees. I remember thinking that irresponsible words can lead to tragic results. I thought of Judge Joan Lefkow, whose husband and mother are thought to have been murdered by an aggrieved litigant. Since then, I have been trying to think of the most appropriate forum to gently call this to my colleagues' attention, and to remind them that -- no matter how strong our feelings about individual decisions and cases, we need to be cognizant of the influence we may have -- especially on those that may be disturbed, and we always need to know that -- as elected officials -- our words have consequences.

That was to be a subtle message. It is unfortunate that today my message must be less subtle because things are very quickly spinning out of control.

First, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, made the outrageous statement, and apparent threat, that "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." When given repeated opportunities to disavow the interpretation of his comments as a threat or incitement to violence, DeLay has repeatedly declined to do so.

Tonight, my staff showed me a quote from Senator John Cornyn (found on Americablog) that speaks for itself: "And finally, I – I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news. And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in -- engage in violence. Certainly without any justification but a concern that I have that I wanted to share."

This apparent effort to rationalize violence against judges is deplorable. On its face, while it contains doubletalk that simultaneously offers a justification for such violence and then claims not to, the fundamental core of the statement seems to be that judges have somehow brought this violence on themselves. This also carries an implicit threat: that if judges do not do what the far right wants them to do (thus becoming the "judicial activists" the far right claims to deplore), the violence may well continue.

If this is what Senator Cornyn meant to say, it is outrageous, irresponsible and unbecoming of our leaders. To be sure, I have disagreed with many, many court rulings. (For example, Bush v. Gore may well be the single greatest example of judicial activism we have seen in our lifetime.) But there is no excuse, no excuse, for a Member of Congress to take our discourse to this ugly and dangerous extreme.

My message is not subtle today. It is simple. To my Republican colleagues: you are playing with fire, you are playing with lives, and you must stop.

Senator Cornyn and Congressman DeLay should immediately retract these ill considered statements.

(written and posted by Congressman Conyers)

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Cornyn Justifying Terrorism...?

thanks to john on america blog for this... we may end up having to take up arms but it's gonna be to save our country from insanity like this, not attacking federal judges...

BREAKING: GOP Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) says violence against judges is understandable
by John in DC - 4/4/2005 06:29:00 PM

Senator John Cornyn should resign immediately.

Just about one hour ago on the Senate floor, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) gave an astounding account of the recent spate of violence against judges, suggesting that the crimes could be attributed to the fact that judges are "unaccountable" to the public. Sources on the Hill went and pulled the transcript of what Cornyn said, and it read:

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN: "I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence." [Senate Floor, 4/4/05]

We now have Republican Senators making excuses for terrorists. Explaining why terrorism is understandable. Why terrorists have legitimate concerns. Justifying why the victims of terrorism are really to blame for these heinous crimes. Wonder what Senator Cornyn thinks of rape victims?

This is utterly outrageous. Outrageous. The GOP is now embracing domestic terrorists who are trying to undermine our democracy. And they're doing it so they can take down the judges who "killed" Terri Schiavo, and instead impose some Pat Robertson-like theocracy on our country. This is absolutely utterly beyond contempt.

And the ultimate irony is that it is people like John Cornyn who now risk inciting violence against judges by giving aid and comfort to these homicidal maniacs. Cornyn should resign immediately.

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