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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 04/10/2005 - 04/17/2005
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Scarier and scarier

this is w-a-a-a-a-y too long to copy here... however, i HIGHLY recommend reading it in its entirety... excellent background on what could possibly lie down the road...

here's a taste...

Cass Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago (and a longtime colleague of Epstein's), will soon publish a book on the Constitution in Exile movement called ''Fundamentally Wrong.'' As Sunstein, who describes himself as a moderate, recently explained to me, success, as the movement defines it, would mean that ''many decisions of the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and possibly the National Labor Relations Board would be unconstitutional. It would mean that the Social Security Act would not only be under political but also constitutional stress. Many of the Constitution in Exile people think there can't be independent regulatory commissions, so the Security and Exchange Commission and maybe even the Federal Reserve would be in trouble. Some applications of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act would be struck down as beyond Congress's commerce power.'' In what Sunstein described as the ''extreme nightmare scenario,'' the right of individuals to freedom of contract would be so vigorously interpreted that minimum-wage and maximum-hour laws would also be jeopardized.

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Robert Crumb

stumbled across the website for one of the greatest cartoonists of all time today... i had forgotten his name and, lo and behold, there he was... anywayz, something lighter for a sat nite...

robert crumb - history of america

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Bush calls for energy conservation...????

uh-oh... he's been smokin' that funny stuff again...
In his radio address, he said he wanted energy legislation to encourage the use of technology to improve conservation.

"We must find smarter ways to meet our energy needs, and we must encourage Americans to make better choices about energy consumption," he said.

The energy legislation, he said, must also encourage more production of energy at home, diversify the energy supply by developing alternative sources such as ethanol or bio-diesel and find better, more reliable ways to deliver energy to consumers by upgrading transmission lines and pipelines

holy shit on a stick...! he wouldn't know "alternative sources" if they snuck up and bit him in the ass...
"That means more of our energy is coming from abroad. To meet our energy needs and strengthen our national security, we must make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy," he said.

O-h, m-y g-o-d, tell me it's not TRUE...!

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Cheney's still rakin' it in from Halliburton

Vice President Dick Cheney may be No. 2 at the White House, but he surpassed his boss last year when it came to earnings and taxable income.

On their 2004 federal income-tax returns, which the White House released Friday, the vice president and his wife, Lynne Cheney, reported $1,328,678 in earnings last year, which produced a $393,518 tax bill. They paid $290,855 through withholding and estimated tax payments. They paid the remaining $102,663 when they filed their return Friday.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush reported $672,788 in taxable earnings for 2004 and paid $207,307 in federal taxes, according to their returns. The Bushes' earnings were less than the $822,126 in adjusted gross income they reported for 2003, on which they paid $227,490 in federal taxes.


On their return, the Cheneys listed his $203,000 government salary and $194,852 in deferred compensation he received from the Halliburton Co., where he was chief executive officer from 1995 to 2000.

Cheney struck a deal with the oil giant in December 1998 to have his 1999 salary paid in fixed annual installments - including interest - over a five-year period after his retirement from the company.

The White House stressed in a written statement that Cheney's decision to defer compensation was final and unalterable "before Mr. Cheney left Halliburton."

oh... well, then... never mind...

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Condi thinks John's just the guy for the job...

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the UN cannot "survive as a vital force" if it does not reform.


She said John Bolton, a long-time critic of the UN and nominated as the next US ambassador to the body, would help update, reform and strengthen it.

yep, bolton's in trouble all right... they wouldn't be wheeling her out on a saturday with a speech like that if he wasn't...

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The U.S. and the IMF are all the same in Buenos Aires

About 200 members of the Martín Fierro Grouping and the December 19 Neighbourhood Front yesterday burned a US flag in downtown Buenos Aires during a protest against the International Monetary Fund, which is pressing Argentina into making a new offer to creditors who were left out of a controversial debt swap.

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Abramoff's tentacles snare Hastert

Signatures restaurant, the expense-account haven owned by super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has hosted at least 60 GOP fund-raisers since it opened on Washington's Pennsylvania Ave. NW in early 2002. But the June 3, 2003, lunchtime gathering was special: The guest of honor was House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and the event was a relatively intimate gathering dominated by lobbyists from Greenberg Traurig, the law and lobbying firm where Abramoff then worked.

The problem? Nobody paid for the lunch -- or reported it in disclosure documents as an in-kind contribution -- as federal election law requires, BusinessWeek Online has learned. The tab -- which Hastert's office would not disclose -- was paid only this month, around the time that BusinessWeek Online began to investigate fund-raisers for Republican politicos held at Signatures. Hastert's office says his staffers uncovered the oversight.

s-u-u-u-r-e they did...

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terrorism...? what terrorism...?

The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.

the claim is that the way statistics were generated for use in the report was flawed which was what led to the number of terrorism incidents in last year's report being undercounted... gosh, i'm just a hick from the sticks, but it would seem to me that between last year and this year, there would have been ample time to FIX the goddam report rather than scrubbing it outright... but wait...!

U.S. intelligence officials said Rice's office decided to eliminate "Patterns of Global Terrorism" when the counterterrorism center declined to use alternative methodology that would have reported fewer significant attacks.

~smacks forehead~ silly me...

ok, i know this is snarky but one of the things that sticks in my mind about condi is that she will only wear ferragamo shoes...

A Ferragamo shoe

Condoleezza Rice

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maybe bolton isn't a shoo-in after all

in the grasping-at-straws dept...
Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska signaled Friday that his support for the nomination of John R. Bolton as U.N. ambassador was wavering after new reports that Bolton ordered an intelligence analyst removed from his job.


Until Friday, the only Republican believed to be wavering in support of President Bush's U.N. nominee was Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who had said he was inclined to vote for Bolton but had not made up his mind.

A majority of the committee is required to recommend the nomination to the full Senate. If Chafee or Hagel switched, it would create a tie and block the nomination. The committee chairman could ask members to send the nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation, but that action also would require a majority vote.

hopefully, the committee also takes the time to talk to melody townsel whose horrifying encounter with bolton some years ago in moscow hit kos last night... there was a post later in the evening that melody was going to be interviewed on air america as a result of the kos post but i haven't heard how it went...

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One lump or two?

LAST YEAR the Bush administration negotiated a free-trade agreement with the five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic. It has yet to submit the deal to Congress...

[A] coalition of special interests has seized Congress by the throat.

raise your hand if you find this at all surprising...

U.S. sugar policy stands for all that's bad about our political system. The government restricts imports through a series of quotas, pushing U.S. sugar prices to between two and three times the global market rate. As a result, a handful of sugar producers, notably in Florida, a battleground electoral state, pocket $1 billion a year in excess profits. To protect this cozy arrangement, the sugar barons plow a chunk of their revenue back into the political system. During the 2004 election cycle, two Florida sugar companies gave a total of $925,000 to election coffers.

what's good for jeb and george (and the sugar producers) is good for jeb and george (and the sugar producers)...
Producers' enviable profits come straight out of consumers' wallets, so that ordinary supermarket visitors are made to subsidize welfare for corporations. At the same time, efficient foreign sugar producers, many of them in poor countries, are denied a fair chance to export their way out of poverty. Meanwhile there is an environmental cost: In Florida, sugar cane production has contributed to the degradation of the Everglades.

as an aside, carl hiaasen, a reporter for the miami herald, has authored a number of wacky murder mysteries set in florida that expose in hilarious fashion the blatant political corruption that is florida's hallmark... in his book, strip tease, he offers a very funny but also very sobering look at florida's sugar mafia...

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a more "open" church...?

i raised this same issue in the context of honesty nearly two weeks ago...
As 115 cardinals prepare to enter a conclave Monday to elect the next pope, dissidents are calling for a new openness and willingness to debate such topics as the ordination of women, condom use to fight HIV/AIDS and the morality of homosexuality.


John Paul created a "medieval atmosphere" at the Vatican by emphasizing ritual for ordinary believers while restricting discussion on important issues to his inner circle.

the 'inner circle,' the curia, has long been viewed as the "ss" of the catholic church, the real power behind the papacy... a conservative like jpII, combined with his distaste for administrative matters and recent years of diminished capacity, pretty much gave the curia full rein...

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thank you, nyt

Right-wing Christian groups and the Republican politicians they bankroll have done much since the last election to impose their particular religious views on all Americans. But nothing comes close to the shameful declaration of religious war by Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, over the selection of judges for federal courts.


We fully understand that a powerful branch of the Republican Party believes that the last election was won on "moral values." Even if that were true, that's a far cry from voting for one religion to dominate the entire country.

damn right...

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Frist's jihad (on kos)

things are spinning out of control...

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The antidote to 'Justice Sunday'...?

A coalition of progressive religious leaders and organizations today expressed outrage that Republican leaders are attacking the faith of Democrats and progressives in a cynical, partisan effort to win support for a handful of extremist judicial nominees. [...] The Clergy and Laity Network will sponsor a national prayer vigil on April 24 and is inviting citizens of all faith traditions to protest this unprecedented attack, which is add odds with America's religious traditions.

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Valerie...? Valerie Plame...? Do I know her...?

Democrats on the House of Representatives intelligence panel have asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to explain why no government officials have been charged in a federal probe into the 2003 disclosure of a CIA operative's identity.

damn good question... what was that date again...? 2003...?? truckin' right along... but, don't worry, alberto says everything's cool...
>"I have every confidence in the world that [special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is] proceeding on a basis that he thinks is appropriate, and that at the appropriate time (the) matter will come to a head," Gonzales said.

unless of course, the whole thing is just a partisan ploy...
Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Democrats had not sent him a copy of their letter and dismissed the action as a political stunt.

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Senator Reid takes a strong stand

my respect for reid notches up every day... thanks, atrios...
Reid Statement

I am disappointed that in an attempt to hide what the debate is really about, Senator Frist would exploit religion like this. Religion to me is a very personal thing. I have been a religious man all my adult life. My wife and I have lived our lives and raised our children according to the morals and values taught by the faith to which we prescribe. No one has the right to judge mine or anyone else’s personal commitment to faith and religion.

God isn’t partisan.

As His children, he does ask us to do our very best and treat each other with kindness. Republicans have crossed a line today. America is better than this and Republicans need to remember that. This is a democracy, not a theocracy. We are people of faith, and in many ways are doing God’s work. But we represent all Americans, regardless of religion. Our founding fathers had the superior vision to separate Church and State in our democracy. It is a fundamental principle that has allowed our great, diverse nation to grow and flourish peacefully. Blurring the line between Church and State erodes our Constitution, and our democracy. It is a blatant abuse of power. Participating in something designed to incite divisiveness and encourage contention is unacceptable. I would hope that Sen. Frist will rise above something so beyond the pale.

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Letter from Iraq

Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11. I understand fighting for freedom when it’s necessary, and Afghanistan was necessary, but not Iraq.


Don’t bash others because they think this mission is complete crap, because it is. It’s stupid and we’re risking other soldiers’ lives. For what? Iraqi liberation? Weapons of mass destruction?

i'd sure hate to be sitting in iraq right now struggling with my committment as a soldier and knowing what could happen to me at any moment... this is where "support our troops" really means something...

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The 'Recruiting' of Children into Accepting Homosexuality: How Homosexuality in Schools Furthers an Agenda

the words of the authors (Timothy J. Dailey, Ph. D., Don Schmierer, and Peter Sprigg) of this Family Research Council paper are well-chosen... any parent, myself included, would shudder at the thought of his or her child being unknowingly "recruited" into anything... but the inference, if you take the time to read the entire piece, is that, whether or not you approve or disapprove of homosexuality, there should be no requirement or expectation that homosexuals be treated with tolerance and respect... they tackle that issue obliquely ...
[Being] inclusive of all kinds of families ... is presented as protecting the self-esteem of students whose adult caretakers have non-traditional lifestyles. (Of course, similar respect should be granted to children whose parents are alcoholics, drug dealers, or criminals--but such respect does not imply that it's necessary to be affirming of the choices made by the adults in their lives.)

but what if it's the KID who's making the choice...? hate the sin and not the sinner...? doesn't sound like it...

it's not until the last paragraph that they make clear what they mean by "recruitment..."

But in at least one sense, pro-homosexual activists in our schools do indeed "recruit children." What they seek to do is "recruit children"--100 percent of our children, "gay" or straight--as soldiers in their war against truth, common sense, and traditional moral values. That's one recruitment drive that has no place on the campuses of America's public schools.

"war against truth, common sense, and traditional moral values..." like i have any interest in waging war against truth... ~rolls eyes~

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Guidance for impeaching activist judges

(from the family research council website)
Is there a way that we can impeach activist judges?

Thank you for inquiring about the very important issue of impeaching judges. I assure you that Family Research Council and our allies are investigating this issue.

In fact, the impeachment process for judges can be extremely difficult, and the laws for state judges vary from state to state. Additionally, considering the fact that there are so many activist judges, it will take a great deal of time to impeach each of them. However, you can still write your senators, congressman, and President Bush, letting them know about your disappointment in certain judges and ask about impeachment.

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This is terrifying...

Welcome to the fight against filibuster abuse! Justice Sunday, scheduled for April 24, 2005, is a unique event designed to remind our U.S. Senators that the opportunity of public service must be fully open to people of faith. Screening potential nominees to the federal bench on the basis of their religious views and moral convictions violates the American sense of fair play.

and selecting federal judges on the basis of their intent to tear down the wall of separation between church and state does NOT "violate the American sense of fair play?"

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Ted Tancredo, my worst nightmare...

teddy has come out against delay which i find absolutely hilarious - one slimeball turning on another... i briefly crossed paths with that racist bastard while conducting some unrelated business with the mexican vice-consul in denver... i'll have to dig up the stuff that was printed at the time and diary it here and in kos... meanwhile, kos has two nice rundowns on ted and his nefarious doings here and here...

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Mixed signals on Argentina debt restructure

if you've been following my posts on the argentina bond swap (here, here and here), there's more news today... the buenos aires herald says:
Just one day ahead of the G7 summit, and two days before the IMF annual Spring meeting, pressure is mounting on the Argentine government to develop a "realistic" negotiation strategy with those bondholders that did not enter the recent debt restructuring swap, which closed on February 25.
Meanwhile, US Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor said on Sunday that major industrialized countries so far accept Argentina's debt-restructuring tactics, effectively contradicting comments made earlier by Japan's finance minister.
At this point of time, (Argentina's) policy has been good one to take, and the 76% of participation rate is characteristic of that arrangement based on good, transparent discussions between the debtor and creditors.
Earlier, Japan's Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said
Argentina's strategies lack sincerity, and risk setting a "bad example" for other debtor countries. ... Tanigaki told a press briefing that he didn't think well of the high acceptance rate because Argentina has achieved it by "basically leaving investors no other choices" than to take the offer.
IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato was less ambiguous:
Argentina needs to address creditors who chose not to participate in the nation's $104 billion debt swap earlier this year before the International Monetary Fund can resume lending, [he] said.
Given past pronouncements, Argentina's response was predictable:
Argentina's foreign minister, Rafael Bielsa, told Radio America in Buenos Aires yesterday that President Nestor Kirchner won't reopen the debt swap, which pays creditors 30 cents on each dollar they were owed. At stake is an IMF loan arrangement worth $13.3 billion.
But Kirchner isn't just saying no. It sounds more like "Hell, no!"
``The IMF always seems to find a new problem to make our journey more difficult,'' Kirchner said. ``The IMF, as it works now, doesn't have a destiny and doesn't have a future.'' ... Kirchner said the country's economy has grown 20 percent over the past two years.
This is the part I REALLY like.
``There is life after the IMF,'' [Kirchner] said, adding Argentina has repaid the IMF $11.5 billion since 2003. ``We've lowered our debt and our exposure.''
But de Rato doesn't sound like he will be easily deterred.
``The Argentinean authorities have to put forward a realistic approach, a realistic strategy regarding the unrestructured debt,'' de Rato said. ``Whatever solution there is to debt'' will have to take into consideration the nation's debt sustainability as well as the IMF's lending into arrears policy.
Kind of fascinating, isn't it...? Stay tuned...

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A "trial balloon" in Mexico...?

gosh, first it was the president of argentina adjusting course in response to public outcry and now maybe mexico...? remember back when people spoke up in THIS country (other than the nutcases, that is)...? remember back when our elected officials LISTENED to the public (other than the nutcases, that is)...?
The day began with comments from a spokesman that President Vicente Fox was considering pardoning Lopez Obrador, who is expected to face relatively minor charges that could send him to jail and keep him off the 2006 presidential ballot. [...] Minutes later, ... Fox's office issued a written statement saying that the spokesman who said Fox was thinking about a pardon was not authorized to do so. [...] But as criticism builds in newspaper editorials from the United States to Europe, analysts said Fox might be reconsidering. Several said hints about a pardon probably showed he was looking for a politically acceptable way out of the controversy.

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no good news...

Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees. [...] Dr. Frist's spokesman said the senator's speech in the telecast would reflect his previous remarks on judicial appointments. In the past he has consistently balanced a determination "not to yield" on the president's nominees with appeals to the Democrats for compromise. [...] Asked about Dr. Frist's participation in an event describing the filibuster "as against people of faith," his spokesman, Bob Stevenson, did not answer the question directly.

of COURSE he didn't "answer the question directly..." while i've said i thought rove might be putting the pressure on frist, speculation about frist's presidential ambitions certainly add weight to his motivation for so publicly aligning himself with the r's most extreme elements...
The House overwhelmingly approved a major overhaul of the nation's bankruptcy laws on Thursday, completing Congressional action on the measure and sending it to President Bush.
For the fourth time in four years, the House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for the permanent repeal of the federal estate tax. The Senate should put a stop to this silliness. The only thing driving the push for repealing the estate tax is ideology. It sure isn't sound tax policy.
with the r's, it's ALL ideology...
The Bush administration has signaled that it will not pressure Congress to enact limits on government payments to big farmers this year. [...] They have run into heavy resistance in some parts of the Farm Belt. Southern cotton and rice growers in the GOP's political base would be hit particularly hard.
if it isn't ideology, it's the BASE... oh, wait... silly me... ideology IS the base...
The major stock market gauges fell yesterday to their lowest levels this year, as investors worried about slower growth.
a thriving economy would ease a number of woes for the workin' folk... ah, but it's ALWAYS thriving for some...

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tom DeLay's House of Scandal

pretty cool... the dems are finally figuring out how to use flash...

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going nuclear or russian roulette...?

frist is feeling rove's hot breath down his neck...
"I think Senator Frist has backed himself into a corner where I don't see how he can avoid pulling the nuclear trigger," said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. In terms of a presidential race, Cook said, "it hurts if he doesn't come up with the votes. But it also hurts him if the Senate comes to a grinding halt and can't get anything done. I think the guy's in a real jam."

Conservative activists are giving Frist little wiggle room. "If Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist hopes to capture the Republican nomination for president in 2008, then he has to see to it that the Bush judicial nominees are confirmed," Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union, wrote in a recent article. "If he fails, then he is dead as a presidential wannabe."

Frist says he is basing his decision on constitutional principles, not politics. "I just want a reasonable up-or-down vote on the judicial nominees that come to the floor," he said this week, so that senators can "give advice and consent, which is our constitutional responsibility. It is something that we absolutely must have."

Frist had mixed results yesterday in his scramble to find 50 Republicans who will promise to vote for the rule change (Vice President Cheney could break a 50-50 tie in Frist's favor). Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said he will side with his party's leader, but Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told MSNBC, "I will vote against the nuclear option . . . because we won't always be in the majority."

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More claims of torture - this time "severe"

if you go back and read the post on "approved" torture techniques, it's easy to see how the boundaries of "technique" could be stretched...
The complaint centers on Mustafa Ait Idir, an Algerian who was arrested in Bosnia in October 2001. Idir was interviewed in February of this year during a trip to Guantanamo by two Boston attorneys, Oleskey and Rob Kirsch, who took on the case of six Algerians suspected of conspiring to blow up the US embassy in Sarajevo. The United States brought the six to Guantanamo after Bosnian courts dismissed charges against them for lack of evidence.

According to a draft of the complaint obtained by the Globe, Idir alleges he faced torture at Guantanamo: Guards once held his face under water in his cell's hole-in-floor toilet and flooded his mouth with a hose, making him feel like he was drowning. He was handcuffed at the time, he said.

Another time, the complaint said, guards harassed prisoners on religious grounds by forcing them to give up their pants so they could not pray according to Muslim custom, which requires that worshipers be fully covered. Idir refused to disrobe and struggled with guards, who tear-gassed him. Eventually he was put in handcuffs, after which a guard bent his finger until it broke.

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Rich states "Don't give a damn..."

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Thursday harshly criticized his own country and other wealthy states for being stingy with foreign aid and said in rich countries "We really don't give a damn."

In a speech to a human rights conference in Atlanta, Carter said increasing financial assistance was critical to battling malaria, AIDS and other common diseases that disproportionately affect the poorest parts of the world.

"Unfortunately, in the rich countries like ours, we really don't give a damn," said Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981 and who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

what's really ironic is how much of the 0.18 percent of gross national product that constitutes u.s. foreign aid ("the lowest of any G-7 nation and far below a 0.7 percent United Nations target that 22 of the world's developed nations have agreed to meet by 2015") ends up staying in the countries for which it was intended... a lot of the money is "repatriated" to the u.s. in the form of fees and salaries paid to u.s. staff and consultants hired to administer the foreign aid projects...

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Murdoch...? Worried...?

he oughta be worried... with the "45 percent of Americans [who] believe little or nothing in their daily newspapers, up from 16 percent two decades ago," (see post, " Nearly 45% believe zero, zip, zilch, nada...," tuesday, april 12), people are being DRIVEN to blogs and message boards...
In a speech to American editors in Washington, Mr Murdoch issued a stark warning to the industry, arguing that the web was "a fast-developing reality we should grasp".

He said consumers wanted "control over the media, instead of being controlled by it", pointing to the proliferation of website diaries known as "blogs" and message boards.

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"...separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution..."

(rep. tom delay in an interview with the washington times)
The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them.

a little background on the separation of church and state...

The establishment clause of the First Amendment:

The first phrase in the First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." is called the establishment clause.

The courts have the responsibility to interpret the U.S. Constitution in specific instances. In 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled:

"The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever from they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State'."

and furthermore...
Thomas Jefferson, as president, wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut on 1802-JAN-1. It contains the first known reference to the "wall of separation". The essay states in part:

"...I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State..."

During the 1810's, President James Madison wrote an essay titled "Monopolies" which also refers to the importance of church-state separation. He stated in part:

"Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history."

the interview concludes...
Mr. Coombs: In today's Republican conference, you're saying they are solidly behind you?

Mr. DeLay: I feel their support. It is absolutely incredibly energizing and confidence-building, and more importantly heartwarming, the expressions of support members have given to me, not just individually but corporately in the conference.

Mr. Coombs: You don't see a lessening of support?

Mr. DeLay: Not at all.

it ain't over 'til, etc., etc...

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"34 percent of Americans agree that Europe should be running the show..."

Flag of the European Union

as we continue to live in our own little world...

(from alternet)
Okay, they hate us. So what's new?

A new poll conducted by GlobeScan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) reveals that citizens in twenty out of twenty-three countries would like to see Europe become more influential than the United States in world affairs. The survey tested attitudes toward the five permanent members of Security Council and Europe as a whole. The majority of citizens in only six countries (including my friend's South Korea) view the U.S. role in the world as mainly positive -- a dismal popularity rating comparable only to that of Russia. Here's how bad it is: even China rated higher than the United States in popular assessments of its global conduct. The United States also took the top prize as the country most widely viewed as having a negative influence on the world (in 15 countries), with Russia coming a close second (14 countries). And this in a poll that did not include countries in the Middle East, who would have likely put us way ahead of Russia.

but getting back to the 34%...
[O]ne-third of Americans want Brussels, not Washington, to be calling the shots on the global arena. This trend is a good bit more significant than the six-fold increase in traffic to the Canadian immigration website immediately after the November elections. It buttresses the findings of previous polls that have shown clear majorities of Americans dissatisfied with U.S. unilateralism (and a much higher rate of disapproval of U.S. foreign policy in other countries).

the eu has made no secret of the fact that it intends to be the world's "most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy by the year 2010..."
The U.S. media may not have noticed it but Europe is looking more and more like the winning team. U.S. outlets barely covered one of the most significant indicators of Europe's expanding power -- the inclusion of ten new members in the EU in 2004. The price of this lack of attention will become clear fifty years from now, when American workers are paid in euros and sales from Doner Kebab Hut surpass that of McDonalds. As Norwegian foreign minister Jan Peterson made clear in a recent speech in Oslo, the future belongs to Europe:

"One of eight UN countries is an EU member state. The EU generates about 20 per cent of the world's total GNP. The internal market is the world's largest multinational market. The euro has become the world's strongest currency after gaining 50 per cent in relation to the dollar during the three first years of its existence. There is even a European space agency, which has 200 satellites orbiting the Earth and which is planning to make a European the first human being to reach Mars."

And this from the foreign minister of a non-EU country!

(as a side note to this story, there has been an ongoing, complicated dicussion between norway and the eu about membership which is detailed here...)

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And a-w-a-a-a-a-y we go...

yeah, i know... argentina's gettin' a lotta space these days but it sure beats watchin' soap operas...
‘No way,’ says K

President nixes idea of reopening bond restructuring for holdouts.

BERLIN — President Néstor Kirchner, on the second day of a five-day visit to Germany, yesterday reaffirmed that his government "in no way" will make a new offer to creditors that rejected a "take-it-or-leave-it" bond swap proposal that cut Argentina’s debt from 191 to 125 billion dollars in February.
Kirchner says he ‘didn’t know’ e-control decree violated privacy

President Néstor Kirchner yesterday justified his decision to suspend a decree requiring telecommunication companies to monitor customers’ calls and Web-surfing habits, saying that he did not know when he signed it that it implied violation of privacy rights protected by Argentina’s Constitution.

yeah, ok, whatever... i'm just glad it's been dumped...

one of the reasons software is so extensively pirated is that the folks in developing economies just can't afford to pay the tariff for windows xp, etc... so microsoft is now releasing an "economy size" xp...
Microsoft’s XP Starter Edition

Low-cost Windows reaches Brazil

SAO PAULO — Microsoft Corp. launched a scaled-back version of its Windows operating system in Brazil yesterday, hoping to get more people using computers in Latin America’s largest country while cutting down on rampant software piracy.
Brazil becomes the first country in the western hemisphere to get the low-cost XP Starter.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Harry Reid...

harry's havin' to do some heavy lifting these days... so far, he's lookin' good...
Harry Reid's strategy: let the GOP punch itself out.
By Howard Fineman

April 18 issue - There's nothing fancy about Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate. Sartorially, he is a symphony in brown. He hails from a Nevada eye-blink called Searchlight, but isn't at ease in the spotlight. "I would just as soon never have a press conference," he says. An amateur boxer in his youth, the 65-year-old Reid's idea of a good time is to watch reruns of famous bouts on ESPN Classic. A favorite was on the other night: the 1955 epic between Archie Moore and Rocky Marciano. "Moore flattened Rocky early," Reid said. "Had him down, almost out. But by patience and sheer determination Marciano came back, round by round, and won. Both guys were cut and bloody when it was over."

As the Senate waits for the opening bell in one of the biggest legislative bouts of recent years—over the rules for confirming federal judges—there's mounting evidence that Reid could be the Rocky in this show. President George W. Bush started 2005 in triumph, with lofty poll numbers, sweeping goals, a tightened grip on both houses of Congress and a united Republican Party. Now those numbers are falling, his domestic programs are in trouble and the GOP is increasingly divided and wary of igniting an Armageddon-like confrontation with the Democrats over rules by which the Senate votes on presidential nominees for the federal bench. "Some of our guys are getting a little bit nervous," said a GOP strategist with close ties to Bush. "And with good reason."

Reid, with 37 years in politics, is prospering partly by doing what shrewd boxers do in the early rounds to survive: let the other guy overreach. Proudly unphilosophical, he thinks the Democratic Party needs no soul-searching. "I believe in simplicity," he says. "Health care, pensions, energy independence—that's my agenda." Meanwhile, he's glad to watch the president travel the country, attempting to sell his theory of Social Security personal savings accounts. "The more he talks about it, the less popular it gets," Reid says.

He also happily cedes the limelight to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who has upset some fellow Republicans with threats of vengeance against the federal judiciary in the aftermath of the Schiavo case. DeLay remains a hero to the GOP's pro-life right, arguing that judges are "out of control" and wantonly oblivious to moral appeals. But the distancing-from-DeLay roster now includes Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and GOP Senate leader Bill Frist—all of whom have praised an independent judiciary.

While Reid himself is low-key, the allies he organizes throughout the city—polltakers, consultants, liberal lobbyists—are not. He has commissioned virtual "war rooms," which coordinate the use of focus-grouped attack language in ads and speeches on two main issues. The first was Social Security. Now comes the war of words over the Senate's hallowed "filibuster rule," which allows a minority of 41 members to use the privilege of talking endlessly to kill any legislative action—such as a judicial nomination they don't like. Reid's poll-tested line of attack: ending the filibuster rule would destroy the separation of powers envisioned by the Founding Fathers. It's not clear whether Frist has the support—or the nerve—to press for a vote on ending the rule. His own advisers are divided.

There is no such hesitancy in Reid's corner of the ring. He has all 44 Democrats with him, and is trying to lure defectors from the GOP with a coalition that includes some unlikely names, like the Gun Owners of America and the YWCA. If Republicans push a vote and prevail, he says, he'll shut down virtually all business in the Senate by other parliamentary means. He is aware of what happened to Republicans years ago when they did something similar to Bill Clinton over the budget—they made themselves look unpatriotic, and made Clinton look like a hero. "This is a different situation," he says. "There is much more at stake now. I don't want it to happen, but if it does, so be it," he shrugs. He didn't sound like he was spoiling for a fight—only like he expected to be the last man standing.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

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Worth carrying in full...

Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader
(speeches like this must be kept for the record so that we can refer back to them when the day of accounting finally arrives...)

The Republican majority promised after the 1994 elections to manage the House in a way that fostered "deliberative democracy," which they defined as the "full and free airing of conflicting opinions through hearings, debates, and amendments." They also pledged in their Contract with America to "restore accountability to Congress" and to "end its cycle of scandal and disgrace." Instead of sticking to their word, they have broken their promises, betrayed the public trust, and abused their power. Specifically, they have undermined the ethics of the House, abandoned any principle of procedural fairness or democratic accountability, and overreached into private family matters and the federal judiciary.

Republicans have created a democracy-free zone. In March, Rep. Louise Slaughter, ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee, released an in-depth report on rules abuses by Republicans during the 108th Congress. Under the current House leadership, floor debate is muzzled, votes are cast with fear of retribution and legitimate amendments never see the light of day. They ram thousands of pages of major legislation through with only a few hours for review, permit few if any floor amendments (4 percent in the Democratic amendments submitted in the 108th), and hold open floor votes until enough arms have been twisted to ensure passage. As a result, many Members do not have an opportunity to express the views and values of their constituents -- effectively disenfranchising half the country. Democrats are demanding that Congress return to a deliberative process worthy of the "People's House," where allegiance to the American people outweighs partisan ideology and the influence of special interests.

Republicans effectively shut down the ethics process. Republicans made their first order of business for the 109th Congress to attack the Ethics Committee, rewriting many of its bipartisan rules in favor of rules that will make ethics investigations more difficult to pursue. The new rules seriously weaken enforcement by automatically dismissing any ethics complaint after 45 days unless a majority of the bipartisan committee votes to begin an investigation. The GOP rules change allows one party to block the Ethics Committee from investigating the facts of the complaint. The former Republican chairman of the Ethics Committee said: "The rules package adopted by the House in January stands to undermine the committee's mission, not to mention the integrity of the House." (Congress Daily AM, 3/16/05) That the GOP's first priority for the 109th Congress has been to lower the bar of integrity should be a warning to the American people.

Not only did Republicans undermine the ethics process, but they stacked the Ethics Committee. At the beginning of the year, the Republican Leadership dismissed Republican Members of the Ethics Committee, even the Chairman, who had refused to compromise the ethics rules for the party leadership. And then, the newly appointed Chairman unilaterally fired non-partisan Committee staff who assisted in the ethics work in the last session. In a statement to the press, the departing Chairman of the Committee stated "(t)here is a bad perception out there that there was a purge in the Committee and that people were put in that would protect our side of the aisle better than I did," and a replaced Republican Member noted his belief that "the decision (regarding his dismissal) was a direct result of our work in the last session."

Republicans are protecting Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who has been admonished three times by the Ethics Committee. Last fall, the House Majority Leader was admonished three times by the Ethics Committee for: offering political support in return for a vote on the prescription drug bill; misusing federal resources for partisan political purposes; and offering special access for campaign contributor, Westar Energy. These admonishments were unanimous and bipartisan. The Ethics Committee also warned DeLay that it had identified a clear pattern of misbehavior by him and would be on the lookout for additional instances when he pushed the bounds of acceptable conduct in pursuing his legislative and political goals.

Media stories are raising new questions about the conduct of Majority Leader Tom DeLay. In recent weeks, newspaper articles have detailed trips DeLay took to Russia and Scotland that he had reported were funded by nonprofit organizations, but which were directly or indirectly paid for by lobbyists or foreign agents. House rules prohibit members from taking trips funded by such entities. In both cases, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, was involved in these trips. Tom DeLay's extensive ties with special interest lobbyists are raising serious questions about his conduct.

Even the Wall Street Journal has raised questions. In fact, even conservatives have begun to raise questions about the Majority Leader. As the Wall Street Journal editorial page commented, "The that Mr. DeLay, who rode to power in 1994 on a wave of revulsion at the everyday ways of big government, has become the living exemplar of some of its worst habits. Mr. DeLay's ties to Mr. Abramoff might be innocent, in a strictly legal sense, but it strains credulity to believe that Mr. DeLay found nothing strange with being included in Mr. Abramoff's lavish junkets." They went on to say, "Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or campaign- finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out." (Wall Street Journal, 3/28/05)

Congressional Republicans raise questions about DeLay. Republican leader, Sen. Rick Santorum stated that Majority Leader DeLay needed to "lay out what he did and why he did it" (Los Angeles Times, 4/11/05) House member Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) said, "Tom (DeLay)'s conduct is hurting the Republican Party, is hurting this Republican majority and it is hurting any Republican who is up for re-election," in an interview with the AP calling for DeLay to step down as majority leader. (USA Today, 4/11/05)

Republicans threaten an independent judiciary and assert themselves in private family matters. Republicans have said they believe in limited government, but then the majority brought the entire federal government to intervene in the personal tragedy of just one family. Likewise, their thinly-veiled threats toward federal judges are just an irresponsible attempt to undermine the independence of the federal judiciary. Speaking about the federal judges that allowed the feeding tube to be removed from Terry Schiavo, DeLay said, "The time will come for the men to answer for their behavior."

House Democrats have a better way. House Democrats urge the majority to restore accountability and democratic deliberation to the people's House. Democrats would open up the process by allowing debate and votes on more serious amendments; allow more bills to be considered under open rules; spend more time on major, substantive legislation; bring back regular order; and give Members three days to read conference reports. Further, Democrats would establish a bipartisan committee to make recommendations to restore a bipartisan and effective ethics process. Democrats introduced a resolution to put together a bipartisan task force that would make recommendations that would restore public confidence in the ethics process, but Republicans killed the resolution, without debate. Members of the House should be held to the highest ethical standard, not the lowest.

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No comment necessary...

congresswoman louise slaughter's [Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY-28) Ranking Member, House Committee on Rules] speech to the house ethics committee this morning as posted by rep. slaughter on daily kos...
"Madam Speaker,

A dark cloud of corruption hangs over this House of Representatives
And with no Ethics Committee or reasonable ethical standards to speak of...there is no hope that the dark cloud will recede, and the daylight will be let in.

By systematically dismantling the House Ethics process, the Majority has denied this House the right to investigate its own members and thus betrayed our Core American values.

Honesty...integrity...accountability... Values which should be the hallmark of this government - have instead been thrown under the bus by an arrogant Majority... Casualties in a misguided campaign to shield from accountability those who abuse this House.

This House cannot function without an open, accountable, and independent ethics process... And the molestation of that process by the Majority is an abuse of power that cannot stand.

It is for these reasons I have repeatedly asked The Chairman of the Rules Committee to hold a bi-partisan ethics hearing... As guardians of the Democratic process - our Committee has a unique responsibility to protect the integrity of this hallowed institution.

What are we waiting for?

The dark cloud must be lifted, the air must be cleansed and the ethics rules of this House must be fully restored... The very credibility of this government, and its ability to lead the American people, hangs in the balance."

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And those would be...? (item 1) Oh, really...? (item 2)

from an online discussion this morning at the washington post...

item 1...
Reno, Nev.: my impression of Rove is that he's a ruthless megalomaniac... what's yours...?

Michael Kirk: i have been observing individuals involved in public behavior for a long time...they are, like the rest of us, complicated. rarely are they as simple as you suggest mr. rove is...and in his case, those we talked to who have been observing him for decades say that being in the midst of the rough and tumble of many important policy and political choices during his long career--mr. rove has revealed many sides to his personality and a variety of motivations for his behavior.

item 2...
Pittsburgh, Pa.: Why was there no discussion of Rove falsely accusing the opponent of a gubernatorial candidate he was working for of planting an electronic microphone in his office?

Also why were there few interviews of liberal critics of Rove, such as Max Cleland, amongst all the conservative admirers of him?

Michael Kirk: the alleged wire tap incident you describe--while a well known story about rove--wasn't something time would allow us to include in our broadcast.

when we make one of our political biographies we try to interview primary sources close to the subject in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of the motivations and actions of the subject. interviewing political opponents would reveal, from my perspective, less useful information of a partisan nature.

and since the "primary sources close to the subject" are all heavily loyalty-tested, are you saying that you received "useful information" of a non-"partisan" nature...?

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Just the kind of guy you'd like to work for...

Ford called Bolton "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down kind of guy. He's got a bigger kick, and it gets bigger and stronger the further down the bureaucracy he's kicking. And he stands out. I don't have any other example to give you of someone who acts this way," said Ford, who left the State Department in 2003. ... [T]he fact is that the collateral damage and the personal hurt that he causes is not worth the price that had to be paid."

in short, a brown-nosing bully... swell.. oh, john... just one more thing... can you say "d-i-p-l-o-m-a-c-y...?".

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Good call...

how very ODD...! in argentina, the president actually LISTENS to the public...? i'll be damned... (see post, "Who ya gonna call...?" tuesday, april 12)
K to scrap‘big brother’

President...Kirchner is expected to issue a presidential decree voiding...[the] e-mail snooper law, bowing to public outcry. [The] decree requir[ed] telecommunication companies to monitor customers’ calls and Web-surfing habits...

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

After posting portions of the interview

with daniel ortega (see today's post, "Paging John Negroponte..."), i was reminded of a speech i read by fidel castro a few years ago... he was addressing the XIII Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia... what struck me was the simplicity, literacy and obvious erudition of the remarks... then it hit me like a cannonball... this was the first full text i had ever read by castro... how interesting, i thought, that i had never read any more than very short quotes and those only in the context of something else... i guess it's no surprise that we get short-changed by our media here in the u.s. but sometimes the breadth and depth of it catches me by surprise...

last year, i had the opportunity to have dinner with the former yugoslav ambassador to cuba, a fine, delightful, funny, highly intelligent man... he had made a personal study of castro and, when i shared my story from the year before, he nodded knowingly... "there's a LOT you folks don't know," he said... anyway, with that in mind, i dipped into castro's speech archives and came up with the speech that had caught my attention...


These are hard times we are living. In recent months, we have more than once heard scarily words and statements. In his speech to the West Point graduating cadets, on June 1st, 2002, the United States President stated: "Our security will require transforming the military you lead, a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world…"

That same day, he proclaimed the doctrine of a pre-emptive strike, something that no one had ever done in the political history of the world. A few months later, while referring to the unnecessary and almost certain military action against Iraq, he said: "And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States Army."

That statement was not made by the government of a small and weak nation, but by the leader of the richest and mightiest military power that has ever existed, the same that possesses thousands of nuclear weapons –enough to obliterate the world population several times over-- and other fearful conventional military systems and weapons of mass destruction.

That is what we are: "Dark corners of the world." That is the perception some have of the Third World nations. Never before had anyone offered a better definition; no one had shown such despise.

The former colonies of powers that divided the world among them and plundered it for centuries constitute today the group of underdeveloped countries. There is nothing like full independence, fair treatment on equal footing or national security for any of us; none is a permanent member of the UN Security Council with a veto right; none has any possibility to be involved in the decisions of the International Financial Institutions; none can keep its best talents; none can protect itself from the flight of capital or the destruction of Nature and the environment caused by the squandering, selfish and insatiable consumerism of the economically developed countries.

After the latest world carnage in the l940s, we were promised a world of peace, the reduction of the gap between the rich and the poor and the assistance of the highly developed to the less developed countries. It was all a huge lie. We were imposed an unsustainable and unbearable world order. The world is being driven to a dead road and within hardly 150 years, the oil and gas it took the planet 300 million years to accumulate will have been depleted.

In just one hundred years, the world population has grown from 1.5 billion to over 6 billion people that will have to fully depend on energy sources that are still to be researched and developed. Poverty continues its expansion while old and new diseases threaten whole nations with annihilation. The soils are eroded and lose fertility; the climate is changing; breathing air, drinking water and the seas are increasingly contaminated.

Authority is snatched from the United Nations, its established procedures obstructed, and the Organization itself destroyed; development assistance is reduced; there are continuous demands from the Third World countries to pay a 2.5 trillion US dollars debt that cannot be paid under the present circumstances while one trillion US dollars are spent in ever more sophisticated and deadly weapons. Why is that? What is that for?

A similar amount is spent on commercial publicity, sowing consumerist expectations that cannot be realized into the minds of billions of people. Why is that and what for?

For the first time the human species is running a real risk of extinction due to the insane behavior of the very same human beings, who are thus becoming the victims of such "civilization". However, no one will fight for us, that is, for the overwhelming majority, only we will do it.

Only we can save humanity ourselves with the support of millions of manual and intellectual workers from the developed nations who are conscious of the catastrophes befalling their peoples. Only we can do it by sowing ideas, building awareness and mobilizing the world public opinion and the American public opinion.

No one needs to be told this. You know it very well. Our most sacred duty is to fight, and fight we will!

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And, of all people, HE should know...

never let 'em see ya sweat...

if asked about his ethics problems, delay wants the r's to blame democrats... wah, wah, wah... why can't you just stand up like a big boy and 'splain how your fingers got into all those different icky messes, huh, tom...?

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, hoping to hold support among fellow Republicans, urged GOP senators Tuesday to blame Democrats if asked about his ethics controversy and accused the news media of twisting supportive comments so they sounded like criticism.

oh, but the best quote of the day (yes, topping the "suicide" quote in the earlier post) comes from Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss:
"That's the problem, you know, Republicans eat their own..." said Lott, who was ousted as Senate majority leader two years ago after making controversial race-based comments at a birthday party for the late Strom Thurmond."


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Bill Frist's reply..

nothing noteworthy here other than the fact that he did reply...

(from my email...)
Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the judicial nomination process. It is an honor to serve in the United States Senate.

As Majority Leader, ensuring that President Bush's judicial nominees receive fair treatment is one of my top priorities. Each of the President's nominees that has been brought before the full Senate has been well-qualified and deserving of approval. The Constitution's "advice and consent" clause clearly gives the Senate the prerogative to accept or reject any of the President's judicial nominations. Unfortunately, a minority of Senators are using Senate rules to stop the confirmation of many of these nominees and thwart the will of the majority. Their unwise and dangerous efforts are unprecedented and must not be allowed to succeed.

I have already taken several steps to address this attack on our Constitution and judicial system. On June 5, 2003, I proposed a narrow change to Senate rules that would prohibit long term filibustering of judicial nominees. On November 12 - 14, 2003, I held the Senate in session for almost forty straight hours, ”the longest continuous debate in over 10 years,” to force the minority to defend their actions.

Rest assured, I will continue to fight for fair treatment of the President's judicial nominations in the 109th Congress. Anything less is unfair to the nominees, the President, the integrity of the judicial system and the American people.

William H. Frist, M.D.
Majority Leader
United States Senate

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Howard makes a move...

speaking of things being quiet, a number of folks, myself included, have been wondering what howard dean's been up to... well, here's one of the things (from my email)...
Every four years, a few months before the presidential election, the Democratic Party puts staff and resources on the ground in a few battleground states ... and then they're gone. After November the whole operation disappears.

Then, four years later, we do the same thing all over again.

That hasn't worked. And I ran for chairman on a promise to do it another way.

So a few days ago I met with the state party chairs, and we made a decision together. For the first time ever we're going to build for the future by putting staff and resources on the ground early -- starting in 2005, not 2008.


The Republican Party isn't waiting. They have been building for years, and every day that slips by means another opportunity missed.

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btw, it's been

suspiciously quiet over in the direction of the white house recently... it's kind of like when the grandsons are in the house and i suddenly realize something's missing... the ever-present white noise of continuous mayhem is, is... not there...! he's up to somethin', wanna bet...?!?

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Quote of the D(eL)ay...


(from cs monitor)
"Democrats should save their money. Why murder someone who is committing suicide?" said a senior GOP lawmaker, on condition of anonymity.

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Paging John Negroponte, Ollie North and E. Howard Hunt...

oops, almost let this one slip in under the radar screen... are we just REALLY slow learners or what...?
Mr. [Daniel] Ortega, one of United States' fiercest opponents during the cold war and the entrenched leader of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front, has opened his fourth campaign for the presidency.


[T]he Bush administration is taking no chances and has begun concerted efforts to stop him.

The clearest shot across the bow came in March when the United States suspended some $2.3 million in military aid to Nicaragua to put pressure on the government, and an army with roots in the Sandinista movement, to destroy its arsenal of Soviet-made SA-7 missiles.

portraying ortega as a threat to the u.s. and the western hemisphere is as bogus as most of the rest of what passes for conventional wisdom in this country... it always helps when you can read some of what our so-called "enemies" have to say - in their own words... here's ortega himself, in a cnn interview conducted as part of a documentary series on the cold war:

Daniel Ortega in March 2005
[We took power] with great enthusiasm and a great desire to transform the country, but also with the worry that we would have to confront the United States, something which we regarded as inevitable. It's not that we fell into a kind of geopolitical fatalism with regard to the United States, but historically speaking the United States has been interfering in our country since the last century, and so we said, "The Yankees will inevitably interfere. If we try to become independent, the United States will intervene."


[A]round September of '79 I went to the United Nations, and before that I visited Washington and had a meeting with President Carter. During the meeting with President Carter, we proposed the development of a new kind of relationship with the United States. During our exchange, [he said that] the American government was worried about the implications of the revolution and that the conservative sections of the United States perceived it as a threat. We insisted that this was an opportunity, as I said to Carter, for the United States to make good the historical damage they had inflicted on our country. Our national anthem still includes the words "Yankee, the enemy of humanity," and we said to him that the only way to abolish that line would be for the attitude of the imperialist powers to change throughout the world, and specifically towards Nicaragua.


But [he] couldn't respond, because there was a public debate going on in the United States at that moment, and the conservatives were accusing Carter of opening the door to "communism," which was the word they used for these changes.


[Thomas Enders, a U.S. emissary] came to tell us very clearly that the United States was not going to allow a Soviet-Cuban communist bridgehead to be established in this continent. I said that we had a right to maintain relations with any other country, and that they should respect that right. And then he said that I should understand that they had to power to crush us.


The fact is that the United States is behind what has happened in Nicaragua, and what they did was to promote a confrontation between Nicaraguans. And we already know how many millions of dollars and armaments they approved for the war in Nicaragua, and the things that were openly discussed in the U.S. Congress about our ports, the contempt of the United States for international law, for the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the decisions of the International Court of Justice, and so on.


Without the United States it would have been impossible for Somoza's former Guard to regroup, and it was they who started to organize the first counterrevolutionary units. Without the United States, there simply would not have been an armed uprising in our country.


[T]hey trained [the Contras] make the same speech to the people as Somoza had made. Somoza set himself up as dictator of our country in the name of anti-communism and the fight against communism, and according to Somoza, Sandino was a communist, as he was in the eyes of the United States. So the training they gave the Contras -- that whole manual the CIA prepared and all the rest of it -- was aimed at exacerbating an already backward mentality, because a population with more than 60 percent illiteracy is obviously a backward population; and a good part of the Contras themselves come from this same section of the population.


[The United States] invaded Panama, which had a great influence on the elections in our country. ... In December we had 47 percent support, with two months' campaigning still to do; [then] the invasion of Panama took place on December 23rd. And when we did a poll the following January, we had come down 10 points to 37 percent --- by which time we were one month away from the elections. ...

It wasn't a completely free election because there was open interference from the United States, from President Bush, in the form of financial and political support to our opponents, as well as threats that the blockade would not be lifted...

the more things change, the more they remain the same...

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(continuing story) Argentina and the IMF

events continue to unfold in the argentina bondholders' debt swap saga... (see posts, "Argentina and the IMF," tuesday, april 5, and "Argentina update," thursday, april 7...)

from the buenos aires herald)
Speaking on Sunday in Japan at the Interamerican Development Bank’s annual meeting, [Argentina Economic Minister Roberto] Lavagna said the holdouts [the 24 percent of bondholders that refused to enter into the debt swap] would be dealt with in due time, a comment many of his listeners interpreted to mean that Argentina could eventually reopen the swap. But speaking on a local radio programme 24 hours later, the minister said nothing had changed: the government had no plans to reopen the swap and the holdouts might not ever collect (though he did acknowledge they constituted an "eventual liability").


From a tactical standpoint, the minister’s flip-flopping is understandable. On one hand he faces pressures from the IMF and some of its leading shareholder countries that are insisting that Argentina come up with a "realistic" strategy to deal with the holdouts. On the other, the government has staked its reputation at home on not giving ground on the matter. Congress, at the government’s behest, passed a law forbidding any reopening of the exchange or settlements with holdouts.


In other words, we are headed for more of the same endless bickering that characterized the two sides’ relationship before they "suspended" it seven months ago. The difference is that time is no longer on Argentina’s side. International conditions are less favourable, investors are still staying away and, under current conditions, the rapid growth of the last couple of years cannot be maintained without fuelling inflation.

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Nearly 45% believe zero, zip, zilch, nada...

(from the nyt)
A recent report from the Pew Research Center, "Trends 2005," is painful to read. The report says that 45 percent of Americans believe little or nothing in their daily newspapers, up from 16 percent two decades ago.

and why are blogs and alternative news sources takin' off like a rocket...? huh, huh...? and what does this horrible statistic say about how mega-news corporations affect citizens' ability to obtain accurate, objective news...? huh, huh...? (ironically, the name of rupert murdoch's global empire IS "News Corporation" and if you wanna see everything under his umbrella that's driving a lot of world opinion these days, visit here...)

the shame about blogs is the amount of time they require to keep abreast... and that's sayin' nothing about the time required to digest everything so that you can form a coherent picture of what's goin' on... workin' folks don't have the luxury of that kind of time... then there's the internet accessibility problem... even if you do have it, if it isn't high-speed, navigating from site to site is enough to drive a saint to drink...

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Do as I say, not as I do...

why is my forehead so flat...? cuz i keep smackin' it with the palm of my hand...
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld landed in Iraq just before dawn on Tuesday, bearing warnings for the country's new leaders of government corruption and civil turbulence that could delay a constitution and national elections.

can you say "h-a-l-l-i-b-u-r-t-o-n...? to quote bugs bunny, "what a maroon...!"

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Who ya gonna call...?

i'm not sayin' argentina is considering a move like this either because they're under pressure from the u.s. or because they think the u.s. has opened the door to such privacy invasions... maybe they're just acting on their own repressive instincts... regardless, it stinks and i hope public outcry forces the legislature to nix such a draconian move...
Government stays quiet as criticism builds
Move on to quash e-control law

A group of deputies will today present a bill to quash a law set to go into effect on July 31 forcing telecommunication carriers to log every activity, including Internet chats, website visits, e-mails and phone calls, made in Argentina.

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Email from Pakistan, pt. 2...


April 12, 2005
Warden Message 2005-14

Due to continuing security concerns the American Consulate General in Karachi will remain closed on Wednesday, April 13. American citizens are advised to avoid the area of the Consulate and the adjacent Marriott Hotel until further notice.

evidently, SOMEBODY thinks SOMETHING is gonna happen...

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Email from Pakistan...


April 12, 2005
Warden Message 2005-12

The American Consulate General in Karachi will be closed on Tuesday, April 12 due to heightened security concerns. American citizens are advised to avoid the area of the Consulate on April 12.

o-o-o-o-o-k... sounds like a plan to me...

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stick a sock in it, dobson...

the interesting thing to me is that this horse's ass has been saying these same things for years but, thanks to the atmosphere created by the theocrats at the top of the pyramid these days, he now gets national press coverage... i suppose at least once a week (see post, "Could somebody KINDLY put this man out of my misery...?" tuesday, april 5), he has to come back to nauseate me...
James Dobson compared Supreme Court justices to the KKK

On his April 11 radio broadcast, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson continued his tirade against what he has termed "judicial tyranny." With Mark Levin, author of Men In Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America (foreword by Rush Limbaugh), as his guest, Dobson likened Supreme Court justices to the Ku Klux Klan:

DOBSON: I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrong to civil rights and to morality. And now we have black-robed men, and that's what you're talking about.

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Sen. Robert Byrd's Iraq Speech

It's been over two years since Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia made his floor speech in the United States Senate, voicing strong opposition to the pending Iraq war. It is perhaps one of the most eloquent, passionate, and truthful things I have ever read. It was good then and it's even better now. His is often a lonely voice and perhaps never more so than on that day in February 2003.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV)
Reckless Administration May Reap Disastrous Consequences

by US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Speech - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war. Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.

We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war. And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world. This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list. High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11.

Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.

This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal. In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders. In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again marshaling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United States as well-intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come. Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy.

Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters >cheering us on. The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far, yet there is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain its hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and unless we secure the peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens of terrorism may yet again >flourish in that remote and devastated land. Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilizing forces. This Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism and yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils much greater than those in Afghanistan. Is our attention span that short? Have we not learned that after winning the war one must always secure the peace? And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in Iraq. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we propose to hand the reigns of power after Saddam Hussein? Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than Iraq? Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language and our callous disregard of the interests and opinions of other nations increased the global race to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even more lucrative practice for nations which need the income?

In only the space of two short years this reckless and arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences for years. One can understand the anger and shock of any President after the savage attacks of September 11. One can appreciate the frustration of having only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting enemy on which it is nearly impossible to exact retribution. But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable from any Administration charged with the awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of the greatest superpower on the planet. Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this Administration are outrageous. There is no other word. Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent.

On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq -- a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate. We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings. To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly must question the judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions of our country". This war is not necessary at this time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time.

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Too good to pass up...

i forgot i had this one in my files... how fitting...

Anti-fascist action - We are being peed on and the press says it is raining.

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Lookin' for good news...

and not findin' any...

here's a run-down on the developing abramoff, ney, delay ethics mess... good background all in one place, nothing new, and no particular reason for optimism...

Inquiry on Lobbyist Casts a Shadow in Congress

some are calling congressman shays (r-ct) comments about delay "shays' rebellion..." (see post, " oops... one more... a goodie...," sunday, april 11...)

inflation continues to stir fear and ire in buenos aires (see post, "Argentina update," thursday, april 7) where the price of meat has doubled since january...

In Buenos Aires, A Friend in Need

an editorial lays out some of my same concerns over the minuteman project (see posts, "The Minuteman Project," wednesday, april 6, and "Just wait... There'll be more...," thursday, april 7...

A West Too Wild

rove continues to arm-twist on social security in spite of the fact that it ain't lookin' so good... sounds like some of the "support" is grudging at best... personal comment: god, i wish that man would fall into a really deep hole somewhere...

Trade Groups Join Bush on Social Security

and if you can manage something REALLY grim, albeit tongue-in-cheek, try this... (here's a clue - "I know that it’s really difficult for us, as Americans, to comprehend, but we are not the only people on the planet.")

Let us pray for pestilence

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

ok, i'll admit it... i'm frightened...

the amount of jaw-dropping things that have come out about the r's over the past 4 1/2 years is staggering and, as each one emerges that's uglier and more damning than the one before, i've told myself, "damn, if THIS doesn't bring down their stinkin' house of cards, NOTHING will..." but nooooooo... and here we sit, outraged over the revelation du jour, hoping that THIS one will be the one...

i've experienced a mental and emotional shift recently... i am past outrage... now, i'm just plain scared... if, for instance, and god forbid, even one federal judge was assassinated, things could go one of two ways... either we, as a country, would be shocked back to reality and start exorcising some of the dangerous, radical elements that seem to be emerging from the woodwork or, and this is almost too chilling to contemplate, a firestorm would be unleashed...

what would that "firestorm" look like...? i hesitate to speculate but certain things come to mind, among them martial law and civil war... i don't wanna see any of that come to pass but i sure as hell don't wanna be around if hell actually freezes over and that's how things evolve...

alysheba on daily kos posted an excellent diary today that takes what i am trying to say and expands on it in very eloquent fashion...

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Goodies tend to show up on sundays...

one more b4 hitting the road... (ok, ok... i can't help myself... so sue me...)

(from msnbc)
Jack Abramoff [...] lashed out in frustration.

"Everybody is lying," Abramoff told a former colleague.


"Those S.O.B.s," Abramoff said last week about DeLay and his staffers, according to his luncheon companion. "DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details."


Will Abramoff attempt to bargain with federal prosecutors by offering up DeLay—and does he really have the goods to do so? Abramoff has at times hinted he wanted to bargain—possibly by naming members who sought campaign cash for legislative favors, says a source familiar with the probe. But Abramoff's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, says, "There have been no negotiations with the Justice Department." Lowell cryptically acknowledges that Abramoff has been "disappointed" and "hurt" by the public statements of some former friends, but insists his client is currently "not upset or angry with Tom DeLay." Still, if Abramoff's lunch-table claims are true, he could hand DeLay his worst troubles yet.

~ crosses fingers ~

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