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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 12/18/2005 - 12/25/2005
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Rumsfeld visits the troops he sent to fight in Iraq

i don't give a toot for this guy, his ideology, his arrogance, his rude behavior and, least of all, his delusionary thinking... however, credit where credit is due... two years in a row, he's taken himself to precisely where he should be - with the folks who are doing his dirty work and dying because of it...

Rumsfeld helped serve the soldiers a dinner of rib-eye steak, lobster, crab legs, Cornish game hens and all the seasonal fixings. Grinning widely and wearing a white cooks hat, he worked his tongs as many of the soldiers snapped pictures of him and politely asked for their helpings.

"Steaks the big seller tonight," he declared after the first several dozen soldiers had gone through the line.

It was the second straight year that Rumsfeld served Christmas Eve dinner to troops in Iraq.

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Noche de Navidad in Buenos Aires

i'm heading off soon to spend the rest of the evening with the family of friends, eating asado (b-b-q) and homemade empanadas, drinking sidra (hard cider) and, at midnight, shooting off a ton of fireworks while trying not to lose a digit or two in the process... christmas eve is THE BIG DEAL here and, like every other social event in this city, doesn't start until at LEAST 10 p.m...! honest, most clubs don't even OPEN until 1 a.m...! i sometimes wonder just when these people SLEEP...! anyway, merry christmas everybody...!!

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"I love you, grandpa...!"

the highlight of the just-concluded christmas eve phone call wishing everyone at home the merriest of christmases...

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David Mamet and Dick Cheney's Christmas

too funny...

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The establishment business community is suggesting impeachment...?

well, gol-ll-leee... i guess they figure they can't afford to hang their asses over the fence with bush any more than they already have... kinda gives you an idea of how serious things are getting... and, btw, you don't get much more business establishment than barron's... they're right up there with the financial times, the wsj, etc...
Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

(thanks to mydd via john at americablog...)

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Robert Kuttner would like Bush to learn from Lincoln

admirable as the idea might be, the notion of bush learning anything from anyone seems extremely far-fetched given the evidence of the past 5 years...
Lincoln deliberately included in his Cabinet the prominent leaders of different factions of his party who had opposed him for the 1860 nomination. Some, like his treasury secretary, Salmon Chase, a fierce abolitionist, wanted Lincoln to proceed much more aggressively. Others feared that Lincoln was moving too fast and alienating border states like Maryland and Kentucky that permitted slavery but had voted not to leave the Union.


Can you imagine Bush including in his inner Cabinet such Republicans as John McCain, who opposes Bush on torture of prisoners, or Chuck Hagel, who challenges the Iraq war, or Lincoln Chafee, who resists stacking the courts with ultra-right-wingers? Not to mention Democrats, a group Lincoln also included among his top appointees.

no... i can't...
Lincoln gained incomparably in wisdom over four years. Does anyone think George W. Bush is wiser now than in 2001?

i certainly don't and i can't imagine that many others do either...
but kuttner holds out hope and i suppose that's the least i can do as well, particularly in the spirit of the holiday season...
President Bush believes in redemption, and so do I.

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Tancredo goes mainstream

nutcases are tough enough to tolerate under ordinary circumstances... when they get elected to congress, it's ever so much worse... and when they become the heroes of the moment, you've just gotta wonder what the hell is going on that somebody like ted tancredo is even given the time of day...
"I would have said to you a month ago or so, 'Yeah, it's definitely the case that I am a pariah,' " Mr. Tancredo, 60, said. "And a lot of people don't want to get near me for fear of being tainted or something."

"But it has changed, and I have had the greatest feeling of respectability lately," he said, laughing. "I joke with people all the time now. I say, 'I've got to find a new issue because I'm way too mainstream.'

"I'm, like, respectable and respected. I mean, it leaves me speechless."

speechless would be wonderful because this is the kind of man we're talking about...
In 2002, he read a front-page article in The Denver Post about parents who were struggling to send their son to college. They were ineligible for financial aid because they were illegal immigrants. Outraged that the family felt comfortable enough to appear in plain view, Mr. Tancredo called the immigration authorities and asked to have them deported.

a good friend of mine was the vice-consul for mexico in denver at the time... he intervened to help the young man and his family and was subsequently slimed by tancredo... it was disgusting and revealed just what kind of despicable being lurks under the veneer of a u.s. congressman...

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More spying revelations and Echelon revisited

this isn't the most uplifting post for a christmas eve...

i commented last week that i believe the most staggering revelations about the bush administration are yet to come... i shudder to think of what they might be...

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

i posted briefly this past week on the echelon program... many liberal bloggers have pegged this program as dating from the clinton administration and claimed that, during clinton's tenure at least, it was operated fully within the law...

my understanding of echelon, as supported by aclu and european parliament research, is that, one, it has been evolving since WWII and that, two, it has operated outside of legal constraints and sans oversight since its inception... let me quickly don my tin-foil hat and say that i am fully inclined to believe the worst and, unfortunately, i don't associate extra-legal surveillance activities by the u.s. government with a specific political party... i strongly recommend that, as responsible citizens, you conduct your own research into an enormous operation that hasn't received nearly the public scrutiny it deserves...

Menwith Hill, UK

here's a snippet from an echelon review by Duncan Campbell, author of the European Parliament's 1999 "Interception Capabilities 2000" report...
The system was established under a secret 1947 "UKUSA Agreement," which brought together the British and American systems, personnel and stations. To this was soon joined the networks of three British commonwealth countries, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Later, other countries including Norway, Denmark, Germany and Turkey signed secret sigint agreements with the United States and became "third parties" participants in the UKUSA network.

Besides integrating their stations, each country appoints senior officials to work as liaison staff at the others' headquarters. The United States operates a Special US Liaison Office (SUSLO) in London and Cheltenham, while a SUKLO official from GCHQ has his own suite of offices inside NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, between Washington and Baltimore.

the sheer scope and secrecy of echelon is hard to comprehend...
The scale and significance of the global surveillance system has been transformed since 1980. The arrival of low cost wideband international communications has created a wired world. But few people are aware that the first global wide area network (WAN) was not the internet, but the international network connecting sigint stations and processing centres. The network is connected over transoceanic cables and space links. Most of the capacity of the American and British military communications satellites, Milstar and Skynet, is devoted to relaying intelligence information. It was not until the mid 1990s that the public internet became larger than the secret internet that connects surveillance stations. Britain's sigint agency GCHQ now openly boasts on its [extern] web site that it helps operate "one of the largest WANs [Wide Area Networks} in the world" and that "all GCHQ systems are linked together on the largest LAN in Europe ... connected to other sites around the world". The same pages also claim that "the immense size and sheer power of GCHQ's supercomputing architecture is difficult to imagine".

here's what the brits have to say about their technology... you can only imagine what their u.s. counterpart would have to say about THEIR capabilities...
It's hard for an outsider to imagine the immense size and sheer power of GCHQ's supercomputing architecture. Our systems range from simple PC networks to the latest supercomputer complexes.

Technologists at GCHQ will encounter the latest state of the art Cray systems, Tandem based storage and high-end Sun workstations. D-RAID (Distributed Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) architectures are used for the storage of very large amounts of data. Indeed, GCHQ has one of the largest long-term bulk near line storage systems in the world.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

State Dept. takes over Iraq reconstruction from Defense

oh, how very typically bush... slip shit like this by and hope nobody notices... what a slimeball...
After a thousand days of widely acknowledged failure in the job of rebuilding Iraq, the Department of Defense has quietly been relieved of that responsibility, with the State Department taking over as America's lead reconstruction agency and coordinating the work of all other government departments.

While supporters of the policies of President George W. Bush dismiss the change as an administrative adjustment, others suggest it is symbolic of a decades-old turf battle between the two departments, and the administration's increasing frustration with the reconstruction performance of the DOD and its contractors.

They also point to the switch as an example of how the president goes about making policy changes in Iraq: exhorting the public to "stay the course" while changing it without fanfare.

honest to god, i think this guy is genetically incapable of being upfront with anything...

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I finally get it

Reading Molly Ivins this morning and she says:
This is the same pattern we have seen with Bush when it came to the Geneva Conventions for handling prisoners and to using torture. Not only does he consider himself above the law, he has surrounded himself with people who keep inventing perverse readings of the Constitution to justify him. Makes it especially nice to hear him go on about the importance of bringing democracy to Iraq.

Well of course! These are the same people that have come up with The Rapture, a bastardized reading of disconnected scriptures and a book of the the Bible based on a dream. You know what this reminds me of? I used to work in Palo Alto as a waiter and we often had street people come in. One fellow who loved to sit at the counter would come in and have very lucid conversations with you. He would tell you about the nice pair of shoes that he got from Payless, etc. Then someone else at the counter would get up and leave and Joe would, in the same matter of fact language, tell you "that guy has been following me for the last thirty years." This fellow would also take disparate news events and tie them together ala "A Beautiful Mind" and write one page explanations of them, which he would then attempt to sell to support himself. At one point the Stanford paper ran an article on him, as though he were some sort of modern day prophet complete with a beatific picture. I feel like I am living it all over again...except now Joe is George Bush and the Stanford paper has morphed into the American press. And now the stakes are life threatening.

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No holiday season for Africa's homeless kids

it may be worse in africa but it's not just there that it's a problem... it's a worldwide phenomenon - latin america, particularly brazil and colombia, the balkans, the "'stans" (uzbekistan, turkmenistan, etc.) s.e. asia... but worst of all is the glue... after not very many of years of use, glue-sniffing turns the brain to mush and life expectancy drops dramatically...
The morning call to prayer echoed through the city as Ahmed Abdulraham, 14, a small boy with cloudy, yellowing eyes, rose from his version of a mattress: a pile of trash spread across a gutter.

He rubbed some murky brown water over his face. He prostrated himself and prayed, he said, for a day when he would be safe and earn a lot of money. Then he took turns with his five friends sniffing glue.

After they got high, the boys took off across a rocky escarpment on the recent morning, over some aging train tracks and into the choking traffic of downtown Khartoum. They were ready to work.

Ahmed, known in local slang as a "mouse," is one of an estimated 35,000 minors who live and work on the streets of this dusty capital city. Some, like him, have been here less than a year, since fleeing the Darfur conflict in the west. But most are runaways from rural poverty, forced to support their families or orphaned by AIDS.

They are part of an unprecedented and growing phenomenon of homeless youths in Africa's exploding urban centers, according to studies by UNICEF and Save the Children. There is no reliable estimate of their total number, but studies indicate it could be as high as 1 million.

children are our future and they're being thrown out with the trash...

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Merry Christmas to unlawful detainees and Katrina's child victims

with bushco, there is simply no end to the ability to spread warmth and the goodwill of humankind over this holiday season... i wonder if they're having holiday parties at gitmo...?
U.S. District Judge James Robertson criticized the government's detention of Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Hakim, who have been jailed at Guantanamo for four years; they have been cleared for release because the government has determined they are not enemy combatants and are not a threat to the United States. But Robertson said his court has "no relief to offer" because the government has not found a country to accept the men and because he does not have authority to let them enter the United States.

and pity the kids, orphaned after the katrina disaster, and now abandoned by their "compassionate conservative" government...
Efforts to locate 500 children still classified as missing after Hurricane Katrina are stalled because the Federal Emergency Management Agency, citing privacy laws, has refused to share its evacuee database with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to investigators tracking the cases.

no mom or dad, brothers or sisters with whom to exchange gifts or share the love of hearth and home...

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Bush tried and failed to gain authorization to wage war on U.S. soil

this fits perfectly with all i've thought, suspected, said and written over the past years of bush's black reign... at the very top of the agenda of bush and his cronies has been the accumulation of total and unobstructed power... they've gotten plenty already but it's a relief to see there has been at least some token resistance along the way...
The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority "in the United States" in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today's Washington Post.

Daschle's disclosure challenges a central legal argument offered by the White House in defense of the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. It suggests that Congress refused explicitly to grant authority that the Bush administration now asserts is implicit in the resolution.

as long as we're officially "at war," and as long as george can hold on to that coveted title, "commander-in-chief," he is going to claim the right to do whatever he damn well pleases... that is precisely why his aim is to keep the country in a permanent state of war and why the announcement was made (if we can remember back that far) that the war on terror might last for decades... how very, very convenient...

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Bush's spying: mistaking Quakers, Unitarians and vegetarians for terrorists

in her own unique way, molly ivins sums up what we already know...
Here is a curious fact about the government of this country spying on its citizens: It always goes wrong immediately. For some reason, it's not as though we start with people anyone would regard as suspicious and then somehow slip gradually into spying on the Girl Scouts. We get it wrong from the beginning every time. Never seem to be able to distinguish between a terrorist and a vegetarian.

The Department of Defense has just proved this yet again with its latest folly of mistaking a flock of Florida Quakers for a threat to overthrow the government. A few months ago, a student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth tried to check out a copy of Mao's "Little Red Book" and wound up being interviewed by two feds. Cointelpro and all those misbegotten Nixon-era spy programs were always making ludicrous mistakes.

The usual suspects, like that silly congressman Dan Burton, solemnly try to scare us with the dread specter of war, as though they alone are the hard-headed pragmatists, while only woolly minded liberals care about the Constitution. "Don't these people realize we're at war?" Well, yes. Why that justifies treating Unitarians like Islamofascists is beyond me.

and the nyt is not responsible for how badly george, the boy-king, is conducting his war on terror...
Bush just could not resist that especially nasty little fillip at the end: blaming the people who reported the problem. As though the sin were telling the people of this country what is happening, what is being done in our name with our money, as though we have no right to know.

molly ivins has one of the best senses of humor of anyone i know... the terribly sad part of reading her columns these days is that what she is writing about is so terribly un-funny... a lot of her material in the past was driven by political escapades and sleazy personalities that, while often south of the law, at least were humorous in their blatancy... the bushco crowd, however, as engaged as they are in such massive destruction of an entire country, make it fairly hard to point and giggle...

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

MSNBC Poll: 85% favor Bush impeachment

an msnbc live poll as of 7:55 p.m. EST, showed that, out of 107,832 responses, 85% believe bush's actions warrant impeachment...

go register your vote here...

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More rings found circling Uranus

why am i posting this...? aw, c'mon... you must be joking... i have NEVER met a straight line i didn't like...! :)
Astronomers aided by the Hubble Space Telescope have spied two more rings encircling Uranus, the first additions to the planet's ring system in nearly two decades.

The faint, dusty rings orbit outside of Uranus' previously known rings, but within the orbits of its large moons, said Mark Showalter, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who made the discovery.

i have heard that the condition can now be medically treated...

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Whaddaya think...? Is Abramoff gonna sing like a canary...?

i t'ot i taw a puddy tat... I DID, I DID... I TAW A PUDDY TAT...!
Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under indictment for fraud in South Florida, is expected to complete a plea agreement in the Miami criminal case, setting the stage for him to become a crucial witness in a broad federal corruption investigation, people with direct knowledge of the case said.


Mr. Abramoff's lawyers and prosecutors in the Florida case appear closer to resolving several of the central issues in the plea deal, in which the defendant would receive a reduced prison sentence - most likely in the range of five to seven years, though that is fluid - in exchange for pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against his former associates.


[P]rosecutors in Washington have been sifting through evidence of what they believe is a corruption scheme involving at least a dozen lawmakers and their former staff members, many of whom worked closely on legislation with Mr. Abramoff and accepted gifts and favors from him. Although Mr. Abramoff is also in negotiations in that case, it is unclear whether a settlement can be reached in time for both agreements to be announced at once...

wouldn't it be completely fabulous if rove got indicted, abramoff fingered delay, ney and half a dozen others, impeachment proceedings were initiated against bush, and rumsfeld and cheney both resigned as we started the new year... i'd be so happy, i would just shit...

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Special Christmas Programming

among my other little involvements, i am helping put together the first english-language radio station in buenos aires, argentina... the station will be offering two special christmas programs repeated over the next three days...

friday (tomorrow), saturday (christmas eve) and sunday (christmas day), at 11 p.m. gmt (u.k.), 8 p.m. art (argentina regional time), 6 p.m. est (u.s. eastern time), and 3 p.m. pst (u.s. pacific time), we will be airing truman capote's "A Christmas Memory," as originally presented by Minnesota Public Radio and read by mr. capote himself... the next hour (midnight GMT, 9 p.m. art, 7 p.m. est, 4 p.m. pst), i will be reading selections from charles dickens' "A Christmas Carol..."

you can listen via the internet at B.A. Today Radio... join us as we present these holiday traditions for our listeners around the world...

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More judges hanging George out to dry

This is incredible. I guess when someone has a lifetime appointment, they don't feel such a need to kiss Bush's ass. From the NYT:
A federal appeals court delivered a sharp rebuke to the Bush administration Wednesday, refusing to allow the transfer of Jose Padilla from military custody to civilian law enforcement authorities to face terrorism charges.

In denying the administration's request, the three-judge panel unanimously issued a strongly worded opinion that said the Justice Department's effort to transfer Mr. Padilla gave the appearance that the government was trying to manipulate the court system to prevent the Supreme Court from reviewing the case. The judges warned that the administration's behavior in the Padilla case could jeopardize its credibility before the courts in other terrorism cases.

What made the action by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., so startling, lawyers and others said, was that it came from a panel of judges who in September had provided the administration with a sweeping court victory, saying President Bush had the authority to detain Mr. Padilla, an American citizen, indefinitely without trial as an enemy combatant.


Prof. Carl W. Tobias of the University of Richmond Law School, who has written about the government's legal strategy in terrorist cases, said that the ruling on Wednesday was an extraordinary rebuff to the Bush administration by the judicial branch.

"It's obvious that the government thought that its motion to transfer Padilla would be perfunctory," Professor Tobias said. But administration lawyers had not counted on the possibility that the appeals court judges would feel ill used in expending their institutional capital in support of Mr. Bush's action only to have the government decide that it no longer wanted the authority that it had sought so strongly.

This whole case had chapped my hide from day one. Padilla has been used from the beginning (remember the sudden announcement by Ashcroft regarding his arrest . . . one month after the fact?) At this point they don't even want to try him on the original charges.
Government officials initially portrayed him as someone who was considering a plot to explode a radioactive "dirty bomb" in some American city and then to destroy gas lines to destroy public buildings.

In the criminal indictment issued by a grand jury in Florida, the government no longer asserted either of those charges and instead charged him with fighting against American forces alongside Al Qaeda soldiers in Afghanistan.

Bush's judges are not having any of his BS. Between Robertson resigning and Luttig's snark, it seems that Bush is left to twist in the wind.
Although Judge Luttig was careful in his opinion to avoid flatly asserting that the government had misbehaved, his skepticism about its behavior was unmistakable. He used the word "appearance" several times in explaining why he believed the government's approach in the Padilla case raised suspicions.

Judge Luttig said the government might not have fully considered the consequences of its approach, "not only for the public perception of the war on terror but also for the government's credibility before the courts in litigation."

He said the government "must surely understand" that it has left the impression that Mr. Padilla may have been held for more than three years by mistake.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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"breathtaking inanity"

If you haven't checked out the judge's decision in the Dover Board of Education case, do so. It is one delicious dope slap. Here is one snippet.
Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

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Nice little election y'all had...

Uh, George, what were you saying about that wonderful corner the Iraqis just turned?

Sunnis, Secular Shiites Threaten Boycott
Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups threatened Thursday to boycott Iraq's new legislature if complaints about tainted voting are not reviewed properly.

A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that competed in last week's elections said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw the ballot, should be disbanded.

It also said the more than 1,250 complaints about fraud, ballot box stuffing and intimidation should be reviewed by international organizations such as the United Nations.

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Jim Hightower wants a political party for Christmas

if i could have my heart's desire realized, it would take care of my christmas wishes for years to come...
Dear Santa: There are so many toys I'd love to find under my tree this year! All kinds of new kitchen gizmos have caught my eye, and a bunch of CDs have caught my ear. Oh, I love gardening stuff, too. Plus, I hear there's a little robot that goes to the fridge and gets a beer for you -- could I have one of those? Pleeeeeze. There are so many things, and I know I can't be greedy and ask for them all, so I've been making a list of my very top favorites.

But last night as I was looking over my list ... I suddenly tore it up! Ripped the whole thing to bits and trashed it. I still like toys, mind you, but well, we live in a weird time, don't we Santa?

Even if I got everything on my list, by Christmas afternoon I'd be asking myself: Is that all there is? I don't mean I'd want more stuff. Stuff is the problem! Stuff is an insidious diversion, and it's so ... so ... so unsatisfying.

"stuff" is just and only that - "stuff..." i've leaned up on stuff to the extent that i have very little left... (i can hear my son at this very moment expostulating on the boxes i continue to store in his garage...!) but i came to the conclusion some years back that you don't "own" stuff, it "owns" you... anyway, back to jim...
As I wrote when Bush first began to run for president in 1999, "George W is an absolute corporate wet dream" and an ardent "practitioner of crony capitalism." Throughout their careers, BushCheney&Company have always been loyal corporate servants and always will be. That's why they were put there. Santa, here's the question people ask me everywhere I go: "Where the hell are the Democrats?"

With no strong national voice, Democratic officials in Congress now proclaim themselves to be the leaders and conscience of the party. God help us.

yes, indeed, jim, god help us...
So, Santa, bring me no stuff. Instead, the one and only thing I want is this: A REAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY, ALIVE AND KICKING!

all right, i can buy that... however... MY heart's desire is to see bush, his vp, and his entire damn cabinet RESIGN... and, barring that, i want the s.o.b. IMPEACHED...!

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It's all about gratitude...

some food for thought this holiday season from alternet...
It's not enough to pull drowning victims out of the river; we need to walk back upstream and find out who's throwing them in.

Two caveats: I don't care so much about how much you give, but about how much of what you have that you give. America gives a lot of money overseas, but it's actually the next to the stingiest industrialized country in the world. So it's not the dollars that matter to me, it's what portion of what you have do you give and what does it do to your soul?

Second of all, I will really beg your indulgence and ask your permission to be just a wee little bit religious, because that's who I am and I can't tell my story without bringing that into it.

Guilt is a terrible reason for giving, but gratitude is an extraordinary reason for giving. I don't care what religion you are or if you have no religion at all. The spiritual health of your soul is measured by how blessed you feel.

i couldn't agree more...

Note: The author of this speech, the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, in 2003 was elected the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.

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Six month Patriot Act extension

i'm not sure how i feel about this... the original is so flawed, i hate to see it extended for 6 hours, much less 6 months... on the other hand, it sure beats rushing through debate and passing something worse, loaded with even more abridgements of civil liberties... guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens... maybe, god willing, bush and his cronies won't be around any more by the time the 6-month extension expires...
A much-debated domestic surveillance law won a reprieve last night when senators agreed to continue it for six months to allow House and Senate negotiators to resume efforts next year to rewrite it for the longer term.

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Saying nothing at all earns Bush's highest praise

tell me... does anyone at all find this surprising...?
On the Thursday morning after his reelection in November 2004, President Bush bounded unexpectedly into the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where about 15 members of his communications team were celebrating. He just wanted to thank everyone for their hard work on the campaign, he said, before singling someone out.

"Is Scotty here? Where's Scotty?" Bush asked, half-grinning, according to two people who were in the meeting but asked not to be quoted by name because they were discussing a private event. Bush scanned the room for Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary.

"I want to especially thank Scotty," the president said, looking at his aide. "I want to thank Scotty for saying" -- and he paused for effect. . . .

" Nothing."

At which point everyone laughed and the president left the room.

This is one of those quips that distill a certain essence of the game. In this era of on-message orthodoxy, the republic has evolved to where the leader of the free world can praise his most visible spokesman for saying nothing.

let me close with a single three-letter word - GAG...

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FISA judges concerned over Bush-authorized eavesdropping

after yesterday's announcement that one of the fisa judges had resigned, apparently in protest over the bush administration's illegal spying activity, the chief fisa judge is now convening the other judges to discuss their concerns in the matter...
The presiding judge of a secret court that oversees government surveillance in espionage and terrorism cases is arranging a classified briefing for her fellow judges to address their concerns about the legality of President Bush's domestic spying program, according to several intelligence and government sources.

Several members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in interviews that they want to know why the administration believed secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails of U.S. citizens without court authorization was legal. Some of the judges said they are particularly concerned that information gleaned from the president's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to gain authorized wiretaps from their court.

george... even your best friends are now telling you, your ass is hanging out so far, it's impossible not to notice...

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Santa RAT-zinger

PARENTAL WARNING...! Not for viewing by small children...!

When Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the popemobile for his weekly audience in St Peter's Square, onlookers could have been forgiven for thinking Santa Claus was in town.

To keep warm against the bitter cold, the pontiff wore a red velvet cap, trimmed with white fur which, together with his scarlet cape, gave him the look of Father Christmas.

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Blair visits British troops in Iraq for the 4th time; George lets Uncle Dick do it

george has made only one visit to iraq when he served cardboard turkey to the troops on thanksgiving 2003...
Tony Blair flew into Basra today for a surprise Christmas visit to British troops in Iraq.


Mr Blair has visited Iraq at least four times since the end of the 2003 war, three times in the run-up to Christmas.

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Argentina's shocking trend of attacking, robbing and murdering the elderly

the past few weeks in the capital have seen a series of brutal murders of elderly pensioners... robbery and murder is horrifying under any circumstances but attacking and killing defenseless senior citizens is particularly heinous... that some of the perpetrators are law enforcement officers is beyond comprehension...
The series of attacks on aged men and women, probably seen as easy targets and suspected by the violent prowlers of keeping their pension money in a jam jar in the kitchen, is a disturbing reflection of the absence of security and the lengths to which burglars — including one case of a gang operated and manned by off-duty police — are prepared to go in their pursuit of the cash to fund their homes and habits. The raids suffered by elderly people run into several dozen, and the recent murders reach about 40.


The problem hinges mainly on the availability of drugs, and the increasing levels of drug addiction. Drug use in Argentina is now at unprecedented levels, and the country is considered by international analysts as one of the main areas of consumption and transshipment in Latin America.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Saddam Hussein claims torture at U.S. hands

i gotta tell ya, i don't believe a damn thing any more... i don't care who's doing the talking...
Saddam Hussein has been beaten and tortured by the Americans, he has alleged at his trial in Baghdad.

"I have been beaten on every place of my body, and the signs are all over my body," he told the court.

Christopher Reid of the US Embassy in Baghdad rejected the allegation, telling CNN it was "absolutely bogus".

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Something lighter: When Santas go bad - next on Springer

PARENTAL WARNING...! this may be too intense for young children...!
Drunken Santas on a rampage in New Zealand, armed German robbers in Santa disguises, a British St. Nick wanted for flashing, and a Swedish vandal in a Santa outfit are giving the big man in red a bad name this year.

Reports of "Bad Santas" breaking the law or otherwise wreaking havoc have been circulating around the world.

Armed with a gun, a man in a Santa outfit held up a furniture store in the German town of Ludwigshafen Saturday and forced two cashiers to open the safe. He filled his sack with cash, locked the two women in the safe and escaped.

He is still on the loose, but police in Tuebingen were able to nab a bank robber armed with a machine gun in a Santa costume with the aid of an infrared camera and helicopter. They found him hiding in a ditch in a nearby forest.

"The machine gun was fake," a police spokesman said. Dressed in a Santa cap, beard and wearing sun glasses, he was wanted for stealing 500,000 euros in four separate bank robberies.

One Santa was stopped by police for driving 150 kph (90 mph) on a northern German motorway, 50 kph over the speed limit.

"He said he was in a rush because he still had packages to deliver," said a spokesman for the police. They gave Santa a fine and took away his license.

Last week an inebriated half-naked Santa disrupted a Christmas market in Dabringhausen before police intervened.

That incident paled in comparison to what happened in Auckland Saturday when 40 drunken Santas rampaged through the city center, stealing from stores and assaulting security guards in a protest against Christmas becoming too commercial.

In Britain, police said they were looking for a Santa acting suspiciously -- a flasher who exposed himself to women.

Officers in Swanage on the south coast of England said the flasher had struck a number of times since December 6, and a week later exposed himself whilst wearing a Santa Claus outfit.

A British agency recently issued a code of conduct to root out substandard Santas. "Santa is a magical and cuddly man, not a fat, smelly slob," said James Lovell of the Ministry of Fun agency in London. "He must not smell of drink or body odor."

it's one thing to believe or not believe... it's something else altogether to believe and be nauseated, grossed out, injured, robbed, molested or run over...

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Congress is incapable of shame, empathy or goodwill toward men

bah, humbug... too bad the "war on christmas" didn't include a revival of the true spirit of the holidays - sharing - rather than an ideological war over words...
"An exercise in budget discipline," acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) called the agreement to save close to $40 billion in mandatory spending over the next five years. An exercise in self-delusion and the power of special interests is more like it. Start with the pretense that this Congress has buckled down to tackle the deficit. It hasn't. The $40 billion in budget cuts -- much of which doesn't consist of cuts at all but of money raised by things such as selling off the broadcast spectrum -- is, if Republican leaders get their way, to be followed by an even greater amount in tax cuts next year. So the 109th Congress will have added to the deficit, not trimmed it. Lawmakers got around their self-imposed spending caps by labeling expenses such as flu preparedness as emergency spending. Some discipline.

Moreover, the cuts themselves underscore the absence of congressional will to inflict real pain -- especially on those who write campaign checks. Gone in the final version were provisions that made cuts at the expense of insurance companies and drugmakers. When Ohio House Republicans threatened to walk over Medicare cuts that would hurt a home-state manufacturer of medical oxygen tanks, those were stripped out as well, The Post's Jonathan Weisman reported. Remaining, though smaller than originally envisioned, were cuts in Medicaid and child support enforcement.

the pre-conversion scrooge would be proud... meanwhile, the cratchit family is left to wonder what kind of holiday it's going to be without a tree, presents or figgy pudding...

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Sex-ed in Massachusetts = A-B-S-T-I-N-E-N-C-E

A-B-S-T-I-N-E-N-C-E = B-A-L-O-N-E-Y
The Romney administration plans to introduce a new abstinence education program in Massachusetts schools beginning next month, the state's most aggressive effort yet to use a controversial method of teaching Bay State teenagers about sex.

The campaign, scheduled to last through June 2007, will only target certain schools and will be aimed especially at teens in black and Hispanic communities, who tend to have higher rates of sexual activity.


The campaign would be funded by a $50 million federal abstinence-only grant program, which provides money to states for initiatives that teach abstinence but deliberately do not address condoms and other methods of contraception.

look, i'm not a proponent of promiscuous sex, ok...? i'm also not a fan of teen pregnancy nor am i a fan of aids... i've seen enough of both to last me a lifetime... and, ya know what...? i'm also not a fan of ignorance...

there's this fundamental reality about us humans... we're, among other things, sexual beings... and ya know what else...? sex ain't a bad thing... in fact, it's a gift, but it's also like any of our other drives, appetites, and desires... it's to be respected, understood, and used in constructive, dignified, healthy, and wise ways... fostering the notion that a) sex is a bad thing that should be avoided and b) human beings either shouldn't or mustn't engage in sexual behavior are both patent baloney... a) is simply not true and b) simply ain't gonna happen...

keep in mind that behind all this nonsense are the fundamentalist christian extremists who, in their righteous ideology, want to impose their rigid belief system, via government, on all of us... but not all governments are as susceptible to such crap as the various governmental entities in the u.s. currently seem to be... some actually take their responsibility to the common good much more seriously...

there's a big flap over sex education here in argentina, not so much in schools but in society in general... the government has developed and widely promoted a condom and aids awareness program that's clever, informed and, in my view, right on the money... but guess who's fighting it...? yep... the catholic church... but the government ain't buyin'it... for right now, the government's winning...

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Buh-bye, Chalabi

too bad, so sad... the crook and liar can fool us but evidently not his own people...

(from juan cole and the la times...)
[T]he secular Iraqiya list of Iyad Allawi so far seems only to have 8% of the seats in the new parliament, though that tally may increase slightly when the 230,000 or so votes of expatriates are counted. (I doubt it will increase much). Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress did not get enough votes even to win a single seat, so far.

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When a FISA judge resigns in protest, you know you're in deep doo-doo

all i want to know is when is it going to get deep enough to galvanize congress and our good citizens to remove this bunch from office...? oh, wait... i know... silly me... we're waiting for the blow job...
A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

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United, the learning-disabled airline

the final sentence in this snippet says it all... and, pathetically, it's precisely the same problem united had when it was the biggest airline in the world and making money hand over fist... they staff and equip for the lowest average load factors... why...? can you say M-O-N-E-Y...? and then when traffic picks up, the wheels come off the wagon... the self-serving crowd that is an excuse for a senior management at that sad, has-been airline seems constitutionally unable to learn how to take care of their customers... instead, they have perfected the questionable skill of shooting themselves in the foot - repeatedly and with great vigor...
UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, the second-biggest U.S. carrier, said it failed to prepare for a deluge of holiday travelers that left customers waiting in subfreezing temperatures at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport last weekend.

"We disappointed our customers by not being prepared, as we should have been, for the extraordinary volume of passengers," Chief Executive Glenn Tilton said in a message to employees Sunday. "We will identify and we will resolve the cause."

The city provided four "warming buses" outside United's O'Hare terminal Saturday for travelers waiting in lines that stretched out the airport doors, said Wendy Abrams, a spokeswoman for Chicago's aviation department. Police were sent to help the airline direct the crowds, Abrams said.


"They may have trimmed their system too low," said Tom Parsons, who monitors fares and service for online travel agent "It can't handle it when things go wrong. Everyone is trying to push the system as if it's a perfect day 365 days a year."

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It pays to be DeLay

i'm not going to offer snippets from this article... suffice it to say it's a chronicle of over-the-top luxury enjoyed by a congressman who's selling the best elected representation money can buy...

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The spy spooks speak about spying on your own

(thanks to atrios...)
A few current and former signals intelligence guys have been checking in since this NSA domestic spying story broke. Their reactions range between midly creeped out and completely pissed off.

"It's drilled into you from minute one that you should not ever, ever, ever, under any fucking circumstances turn this massive apparatus on an American citizen," one source says. "You do a lot of weird shit. But at least you don't fuck with your own people."

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Select Committee to investigate Bush misconduct; censure resolutions introduced for both Bush and Cheney

as i posted yesterday, house democrats, led by representative john conyers, have today released the following document... the release of the document has been accompanied by twin resolutions introduced to censure both president bush and vice president cheney...

(from representative conyers' post at daily kos...)

The report finds there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice-President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration.

The Report concludes that a number of these actions amount to prima facie evidence (evidence sufficiently strong to presume the allegations are true) that federal criminal laws have been violated. Legal violations span from false statements to Congress to whistleblower laws.

The Report also concludes that these charges clearly rise to the level of impeachable conduct. However, because the Administration has failed to respond to requests for information about these charges, it is not yet possible to conclude that an impeachment inquiry or articles of impeachment are warranted.

In response to the Report, I have already taken a number of actions. First, I have introduced a resolution (H. Res. 635) creating a Select Committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush Administration with regard to the Iraq war and report on possible impeachable offenses. In Watergate, for example, the Congress did not begin matters as an impeachment inquiry, but investigated matters ? through the Ervin Committee ? and referred impeachable evidence to the Judiciary Committee.

Second, I have introduced Resolutions regarding both President Bush (H. Res. 636) and Vice-President Cheney (H. Res. 637) proposing that they be censured by Congress based on the uncontroverted evidence already on the record and their failure to respond to Congressional and public inquiries about these matters and have never accounted for their many specific misstatements in the run up to War.

As you know, taking these steps means that I am likely to be criticized by the political and media establishments in Washington and attacked by the right wing noise machine. There is a school of thought among Washington political consultants that criticizing the President about Iraq will make Democrats appear to be weak on national security. There is a media establishment that marginalizes politicians for espousing beliefs held by the majority of Americans. The right wing noise machine in turn retaliates against the President's critics.

Be that as it may, I just could not be silent any longer. The title of the report is exactly right: the Constitution is in Crisis. There are serious and well-substantiated allegations that the Executive Branch has usurped the sole power of the Congress to declare war by deceiving the Congress about the evidence for war. There are serious and well-substantiated allegations that the Executive Branch has deceived the American people to manufacture the people's consent for war.

If you agree with me, I am going to need your help like never before. Please go to my website,, where you will find an action center, including a copy of the Report via Raw Story, and ways you can help. Also visit to join with other activists who want to move this issue forward.

it's vitally important that we do not let representative conyers stand alone on this... let him know you're behind him... it's WAY past time that something serious is done to get those bastards out of office...

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AMERICAblog rocks...!

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Cheney fills his pants (and the entire airplane) onboard Air Force Two

Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday vigorously defended the Bush administration's use of secret domestic spying and efforts to expand presidential powers, saying "it's not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years."

if you hold the opinion, as some - including myself - do, that the whole reason we are witnessing the destruction of our constitution is BECAUSE of 9/11, that 9/11 BENEFITTED the bushco agenda enormously, and that NOT apprehending osama and MAINTAINING the u.s. in a perpetual state of both fear and war is proving ENORMOUSLY SUCCESSFUL in continuing to advance their agenda, i would have to say that, yes, it's certainly "not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years..." why in the world would you want to mess with such a good thing...?
Talking to reporters aboard his government plane as he flew from Islamabad, Pakistan to Muscat, Oman on an overseas mission, Cheney said a contraction in the power of the presidency since the Vietnam and Watergate era must be reversed.

"I believe in a strong, robust executive authority and I think that the world we live in demands it. And to some extent, that we have an obligation as the administration to pass on the offices we hold to our successors in as good of shape as we found them," he said.

trickier dick just tipped his hand... it's all about POWER... and the part about passing on the offices "in as good of shape as we found them" is the biggest pants-load i think i have ever, ever, ever run across... dick cheney is a vile human being...

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Environmental groups to oppose Alito

hey... this is fairly big news... from earthjustice, friends of the earth, greenpeace and the sierra club...
[A] news briefing by national environmental organizations will formally announce their opposition to the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, the first time environmental groups have opposed a Supreme Court nominee since the nomination of Robert Bork. The groups will offer a detailed briefing regarding the reasons why Alito's nomination threatens public health, the environment, and many other rights and protections that Americans hold dear.

the briefing was to have taken place approximately two hours ago...

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What Atrios says...

Time for the president to resign.

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The next Hollywood blockbuster: The Attack of the Vegan Terrorists

"It's clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the F.B.I., to engage in spying on Americans," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director for the A.C.L.U.

and the hits just keep on comin'...
One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The documents, provided to The New York Times over the past week, came as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. For more than a year, the A.C.L.U. has been seeking access to information in F.B.I. files on about 150 protest and social groups that it says may have been improperly monitored.


These networks, which have no declared leaders and are only loosely organized, have been described by the F.B.I. in Congressional testimony as "extremist special interest groups" whose cells engage in violent or other illegal acts, making them "a serious domestic terrorist threat."

i live in mortal fear of being attacked by a crazed mob of vegan terrorists...

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Argentina mandates medicine price cuts

this comes on the heels of the governmentally-mandated 15% reduction in the prices of food items...
The government and the pharmaceutical sector reached an agreement yesterday that will see the prices of over 200 medicines cut by 10 percent as of today. The agreement is to last for 60 days, and besides the 10-percent cut, will also freeze the prices of all medicines during that period.

The agreement was signed at a meeting of the three main pharmaceutical chambers and President Néstor Kirchner "and will be applicable... throughout the country as of today," Health Minister Ginés González García announced.
The agreement comes as the latest in a series of similar agreements that the government has signed with various industrial sectors in recent weeks in an attempt to rein in inflation.

Besides discussing the economy in general and the pharmaceutical industry in particular, the businessmen also asked the government to double the tax reimbursements on exports.

González García and the businessmen admitted that the government’s generic medicines policy has helped prices remain relatively stable.

every day, i walk by the argentina headquarters of novartis, easily one of the nicest corporate campuses i've seen anywhere, in any country... it's clear they ain't exactly counting pennies... i just wish the u.s. government had a even a modicum of interest in protecting u.s. consumers from the incredible profiteering of big pharma...

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Four from the Boston Globe on Bush's abuse of power

a truly astounding FOUR editorials in today's boston globe are devoted to excoriating the bush administration on its jaw-dropping abuses of power and equally jaw-dropping claims of righteous indignation...

first, an editorial from the editorial staff...

President Bush is wrong to sacrifice Americans' civil liberties needlessly by resorting to a secret presidential order to authorize warrantless surveillance of phone calls and e-mails within the United States. The American way of life Bush is sworn to defend rests upon the rule of law and a constitutional separation of powers. No president should be allowed to create a law-free zone in which government agencies spy on people in this country without legal authorization from Congress and warrants from a court.

h.d.s. greenway weighs in...
I never would have thought I would live to see the day when the president of the United States would threaten to veto a bill in Congress to ban torture, or when the vice president would spend his days lobbying Congress in favor of torture. That little shop of horrors, the vice president's office, seems to be the place where fear regularly gains ascendancy over good judgment.

scot lehigh...
The Bush team's polarizing partisan instincts were also on display in the controversy over the secret monitoring the president authorized of US telephone conversations, an order that sidestepped a legal process that already allowed for relatively easy approval of such eavesdropping.

Not only did the president criticize the media for publishing the story, the administration also clearly hopes to box the opposition by forcing Democrats to support the president's action or ''defend positions that could weaken our national security," as a senior administration official put it in both the New York Times and Washington Post.

Both instances show that what we've seen is a change in tone but not in tactics.

and, finally, thomas oliphant...
[I]t's happened again.

The latest abuse of civil rights and the Constitution began with the first round of captures of Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks.

Some of these terrorists were caught in possession of their cellular telephones and laptop computers. Naturally, it occurred to the US agents involved to see where these cellphones and hard drives led -- a perfectly understandable notion.

And then, as night follows day, it all got out of hand, morphing into a system of snooping that can only be justified by authoritarian theories of executive supremacy, complete with legal justifications for a super-secret program that are themselves super-secret.

The clue that even the government recognizes it is doing wrong lies in the almost laughable inability of top officials to discuss all this without resort to the tortured euphemism that authoritarians always rely on.

it's time for regime change at home... no doubt about it...

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What is NSA up to...? It's called Echelon...

kevin drum at washington monthly is groping for an answer to his question...
Lots of people have suggested that the NSA program has something to do with Echelon, a massive project that vacuums up communications of all kinds from all over the globe. The problem is that Echelon has been around for a long time and no one has ever complained about it before — so whatever this new program is, it's something more than vanilla Echelon.

echelon isn't and never has been "vanilla," kevin... freakin' far, far from it...

(from Echelon Watch...)
Echelon is perhaps the most powerful intelligence gathering organization in the world. Several credible reports suggest that this global electronic communications surveillance system presents an extreme threat to the privacy of people all over the world. According to these reports, ECHELON attempts to capture staggering volumes of satellite, microwave, cellular and fiber-optic traffic, including communications to and from North America. This vast quantity of voice and data communications are then processed through sophisticated filtering technologies.

This massive surveillance system apparently operates with little oversight. Moreover, the agencies that purportedly run ECHELON have provided few details as to the legal guidelines for the project. Because of this, there is no way of knowing if ECHELON is being used illegally to spy on private citizens.

there have been many attempts to get governments to either confirm or deny echelon's existence with zero success... some materials on echelon have been archived by the aclu... information on an fbi offshoot of echelon, carnivore, was sought by the aclu in 2001...

Previous inquiries by the European Parliament have resulted in reports detailing the existence of a surveillance system known as ECHELON, which is led by the NSA in conjunction with its counterpart agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. According to the reports, ECHELON has communications receiving stations all over the world and attempts to capture all satellite, microwave, cellular and fiber-optic communications worldwide, including communications to and from North America. Computers then sort through conversations, faxes and emails searching for keywords and other triggers. Communications that include triggers chosen by the intelligence agencies are transcribed and forwarded for further investigation.


"It appears that the NSA is engaged in a surveillance system of epic proportions," Steinhardt said. "If these reports are true, ECHELON dwarfs the extensive surveillance of Americans already conducted by the FBI and other domestic law enforcement agencies."

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Bush's rationale for spying...? "It's a myth."

in an editorial entitled, "the fog of false choices," the nyt takes almost as unsparing a stand as the pittsburgh post gazette (see previous post)...
After five years, we're used to President Bush throwing up false choices to defend his policies. Americans were told, after all, that there was a choice between invading Iraq and risking a terrorist nuclear attack.


But none of these phony choices were as absurd as the one Mr. Bush posed to justify his secret program of spying on Americans: save lives or follow the law.


[W]e can reach a conclusion about Mr. Bush's assertion that obeying a 27-year-old law prevents swift and decisive action in a high-tech era. It's a myth.

speaking of false choices, you don't help your case one iota when you try to shove the blame for illegal spying off on congress... i can only imagine how congressman are feeling about being victims of a "bait and switch..."
Most bizarre was the assertion that Congress authorized the surveillance of American citizens when it approved the use of "all necessary and appropriate force" by the United States military to punish those responsible for the 9/11 attacks or who aided or harbored the terrorists. This came as a surprise to lawmakers, who thought they were voting for the invasion of Afghanistan and the capture of Osama bin Laden.

accumulation of power by any means is and always has been the foremost goal of the bush administration... it's time to dust off the ending to my posts on bush that i used so frequently during the katrina disaster... i thought it had currency then but more so now...


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Actions of a police state

the pittsburgh post gazette doesn't mince words...
The idea that all of this is being done to us in the name of national security doesn't wash; that is the language of a police state. Those are the unacceptable actions of a police state.

i keep asking the same question over and over again - how many outrages is it doing to take before we bounce this criminal gang out of office...? i've lost count of how many it's been so far and attempting to enumerate them would only be a tremendously depressing start to what looks like a gorgeous day here in buenos aires...

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Monday, December 19, 2005

A look at the WTO wrap-up in Hong Kong

the delegates managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat and rescue the trade talks in hong kong from complete collapse but, as i posted last week, perhaps no agreement at all would have been preferable... as predicted, the poorest nations took it in the shorts - again...
The final text salvaged from around-the-clock global trade talks here sets a deadline to end farm export subsidies by rich nations, a long-time demand by developing nations, but also binds poorer countries to more dramatically open their markets to multinational corporations.


The final text sets 2013 as the deadline for dismantling controversial multi-billion-dollar export subsidies given by the European Union and countries like the United States every year.


"This watered-down text leaves out the most important issues for the WTO to address -- agricultural dumping, creating employment, and promoting development," said Sophia Murphy of the U.S-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The United States successfully resisted slashing its domestic support to cotton producers, a setback for Brazil and four West African cotton exporters which had hoped the meetings here would commit the United States, the world's largest producer and exporter of cotton, to eliminate several aspects of its support programme.

The text does allow for a cut in export subsidies, the lesser form of cotton support, by 2006.

On industrial goods, the document proposes to cut tariffs using the so-called Swiss formula, one of the most radical ways to reduce tariffs. Anti-poverty activists say this will open fragile industries in developing countries to unfair competition from powerful multinationals.

"Such steep cuts will have a disastrous impact on developing countries' ability to build up an industrial base and to protect their natural resource base," said Murphy.

The text also obliges developing nations to sweeping negotiations to further open their markets in services like banking, insurance and utilities, which could signal another wave of privatisation and deregulation like that championed by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

let's be brutally honest here... the developed world wants, more than anything else, to have unrestricted access and unabridged control of the world's MONEY... that is precisely why the insistence on open markets in financial services...

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The Constitution in Crisis

(thanks to raw story...)
House Judiciary Committee Democrats, spearheaded by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), are set to release possibly the sharpest congressional critique to date surrounding Iraq, RAW STORY has learned.

The report, titled "The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War," is slotted to be made available to the public Tuesday.

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Short version of Bush press conference:

"I am the President and I can do anything I want, and you can't stop me!"

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Bush: I'm legal so back the hell off...

this guy ain't coppin' to a damn thing...
President Bush, brushing aside bipartisan criticism in Congress, said Monday he approved spying on suspected terrorists without court orders because it was "a necessary part of my job to protect" Americans from attack.

The president said he would continue the program "for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens," and added it included safeguards to protect civil liberties.

Bush bristled at a year-end news conference when asked whether there are any limits on presidential power in wartime.

"I just described limits on this particular program, and that's what's important for the American people to understand," Bush said.

this guy has to go... he hasn't got a clue why people are so pissed off... no matter how many times you insist something's legal doesn't make it legal... but that's the m.o. of bushco... legal, right, correct, true, honest is how THEY define it... never mind what anyone else thinks...

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The U.S. military is easing into Paraguay

Estigarribia Airbase,

back in mid-august, i posted this...
i've been posting for some time now on the u.s. moves to reestablish influence and control in latin america... i talked about how paraguay was being groomed as a new location for u.s. military bases... now, rummy visits asuncion... and, of course, paraguay, with its stunted economy would like u.s. bases... what an economic boost...! but, awwwww, shit...
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, arriving in this South American capital Tuesday, said countries in the region should help strengthen democracy in Bolivia and suggested that governments in Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in Bolivia in "unhelpful ways."

Rumsfeld's brief trip is aimed at reinforcing ties with regional democracies as they fight political instability, terrorism and drug trafficking, defense officials said. Rumsfeld will also visit Peru.

Increasing political problems in Bolivia, which borders Paraguay to the northwest, have been fostered by Cuban and Venezuelan authorities, U.S. officials contend.

is this stage-setting or what...?

looks like things are moving right along...
Controversy is raging in Paraguay, where the US military is conducting secretive operations. 500 US troops arrived in the country on July 1st with planes, weapons and ammunition. Eyewitness reports prove that an airbase exists in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, which is 200 kilometers from the border with Bolivia and may be utilized by the US military. Officials in Paraguay claim the military operations are routine humanitarian efforts and deny that any plans are underway for a US base. Yet human rights groups in the area are deeply worried.

White House officials are using rhetoric about terrorist threats in the tri-border region (where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet) in order to build their case for military operations, in many ways reminiscent to the build up to the invasion of Iraq.

The tri-border area is home to the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world's largest reserves of water. Near the Estigarribia airbase are Bolivia's natural gas reserves, the second largest in Latin America. Political analysts believe US operations in Paraguay are part of a preventative war to control these natural resources and suppress social uprisings in Bolivia.

now, with a leftist elected yesterday in bolivia (see previous post), you can be sure bush and rummy are not going to sit idly by...

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It's time to see if the White House press corps have any 'nads at all

Bush doesn't mind giving a prime-time speech from the safety of the Oval Office, but press conferences are scheduled for mid-mornings when your average American is either at work, or on their way.

True to form, Bush is scheduled to have a year-end press conference this morning at 10:30 EST (7:30 PST).

After the press response I heard last night, I am not too optimistic about them asking any sort of tough question. I don't give a damn whether or not Bush answers them. I would love, just once, to see the WH press corps go after Bush the way they have been hammering Scotty lately. Just once.

I am not holding my breath.

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Iraqi elections over so up go the gasoline prices

juan cole shares this tidbit...
Now that the elections are safely over, the government of Ibrahim Jaafari has tripled the price of gasoline and made substantial increases in the price of gas and heating oil, in contravention of its campaign promises. Hundreds of demonstrators came out in Kut and Karbala to protest the increases, which hit the poor especially hard in the winter. Many Iraqis consider the subsidized prices a way of sharing in the country's oil wealth, which may generate as much as $50 billion this year, and which goes directly into government coffers.

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Bush's speech clearly demonstrates he doesn't get it

i'm not "despairing..." i'm goddam pissed... i've been in a nearly constant state of rage for over 5 years... the only despair i'm feeling is that this criminal gang is still in office...
"I do not expect you to support everything I do," Bush said in remarkably personal terms. "But tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom."

the truly bizarre thing is that the man is getting praised for being "candid..." this may perhaps be one of the few speeches where the arrogant bastard has shown willingness to be anything other than a blustering, over-confident cowboy and he's getting PRAISED for it...? puh-leeeeze...

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Dubya and the "Holidays..."

even the uber-right newsmax has fallen off the wagon... what ever happened to fighting the good fight against the "war on christmas...?"

george, remember what jon stewart says...
"Every time you say 'Happy Holidays," an angel gets AIDS."

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Why is it not surprising that the super-rich are less generous than the rest of us...?

i'm of the opinion that bush's so-called "ownership society" actually promotes selfishness and the "i've-got-mine-too-bad- for-you" mentality...
Working-age Americans who make $50,000 to $100,000 a year are two to six times more generous in the share of their investment assets that they give to charity than those Americans who make more than $10 million, a pioneering study of federal tax data shows.

The least generous of all working-age Americans in 2003, the latest year for which Internal Revenue Service data is available, were among the young and prosperous - the 285 taxpayers age 35 and under who made more than $10 million - and the 18,600 taxpayers making $500,000 to $1 million. The top group had on average $101 million of investment assets while the other group had on average $2.4 million of investment assets.

On average these two groups made charitable gifts equal to 0.4 percent of their assets, while people the same age who made $50,000 to $100,000 gave gifts equal to more than 2.5 percent of their investment assets, six times that of their far wealthier peers.

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Bolivia elects indigenous Aymaran, Evo Morales, as President

continuing the leftward move of latin american countries, bolivia elects not only a leftist but also the first indigenous president in its history...
Evo Morales, a candidate for president who has pledged to reverse a campaign financed by the United States to wipe out coca growing, scored a decisive victory in general elections in Bolivia on Sunday.

Evo Morales, 46, a former coca farmer, was mobbed Sunday after winning Bollivia's presidency and receiving up to 51 percent of the vote.

Mr. Morales, 46, an Aymara Indian and former coca farmer who also promises to roll back American-prescribed economic changes, had garnered up to 51 percent of the vote, according to televised quick-count polls, which tally a sample of votes at polling places and are considered highly accurate.


A Morales government would become the first indigenous administration in Bolivia's 180-year history and would further consolidate a new leftist trend in South America, where nearly 300 million of the continent's 365 million people live in countries with left-leaning governments.

Though most of those governments are politically and economically pragmatic, a Morales administration signals a dramatic shift to the left for a country that has long been ruled by traditional political parties disparaged by many Bolivians.

The victory by Mr. Morales will not be welcomed by the Bush administration, which has not hidden its distaste for the charismatic congressman and leader of the country's federation of coca farmers. American officials have warned that his election could be the advent of a destabilizing alliance involving Mr. Morales, Fidel Castro of Cuba and Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, who has seemed determined to thwart American objectives in the region.

In comments to reporters after casting his vote in the Chapara coca-growing region on Sunday , Mr. Morales said his government would cooperate closely with other "anti-imperialists," referring to Venezuela and Cuba. He said he would welcome cordial relations with the United States, but not "a relationship of submission."

good for mr. morales... the last thing latin america needs is more "relationships of submission" to the u.s...

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Play Fair With Mr. DeLay

that's the title of the wapo editorial... you can go read it for yourself... then think long and hard about what they are really trying to say and why they are using editorial space to say it... if you have some thoughts, please leave them as comments to this post...

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Domestic spying by our government is all the rage

nsa, cifa, the fbi... with all the spying going on, i'm sure there has to be a dossier on you and me out there somewhere...
CIFA is a three-year-old [Defense Department] agency whose size and budget remain secret. It has grown from an agency that coordinated policy and oversaw the counterintelligence activities of units within the military services and Pentagon agencies to an analytic and operational organization with nine directorates and ever-widening authority.

Its Directorate of Field Activities (DX) "assists in preserving the most critical defense assets, disrupting adversaries and helping control the intelligence domain," the fact sheet said. Those roles can range from running roving patrols around military bases and facilities to surveillance of potentially threatening people or organizations inside the United States.


CIFA manages the Pentagon database that includes Talon reports, consisting of raw, unverified information picked up by the military services on suspicious activities that could involve terrorist threats. The Pentagon acknowledged last week that the Talon database contained reports on peaceful civilian protests and demonstrations that should have been purged long ago under Defense Department regulations.

i get even more nervous than i already am when i read phrases like "ever-widening authority..."
CIFA's authority is still growing. In a new move to centralize all counterterrorism intelligence collection inside the United States, the Defense Department this month gave CIFA authority to task domestic investigations and operations by the counterintelligence units of the military services.

we all know how bureaucracies work... the more investigators there are, the greater the likelihood that they will work extra hard to find things to investigate if for nothing else than to justify their existence...

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Harry Reid: "Don't lump me in with Jack Abramoff."

ooooooo... fox news gets a dose of the flip side... who woulda thunk it...?
U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called the Republican-led Congress "the most corrupt in history" on Sunday, and distanced himself from lobbyist Jack Abramoff, at the center of an escalating probe.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Jack Abramoff directed illegal payoffs to lawmakers, including Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, who was forced to step down as House Republican leader in September after indicted in his home state of Texas on unrelated charges.

"Don't lump me in with Jack Abramoff. This is a Republican scandal," Reid told Fox News Sunday, saying he never received any money from Abramoff.

don't give an inch, harry... as a matter of fact, now that news will be slowing down in advance of the holidays, the media are going to be looking for juicy comments... keep 'em coming...

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Cheney says insurgency in "last throes...?" Check this headline...

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Cheney takes Hillary's advice and visits Iraq

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) offered Vice President Dick Cheney a little unsolicited advice yesterday: go take a firsthand look at what's going on in Iraq, the New York Post reported Saturday. [...] Cheney, who has not been there since before the war, looked at Clinton but didn't respond to her remark, the source said.

Her spokesman, Philippe Reines, later declined to comment on any "private conversation."

Hours later, Cheney announced a trip next week to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oman, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — opening the door for a stealth visit to Iraq.

looks to me like there might have indeed been a "private conversation" and that hillary was doing a little grandstanding cuz we now learn this from the bbc...
Cheney makes surprise Iraq trip

US Vice-President Dick Cheney visits Iraq in what is thought to be his first post-war trip to the country.

(more from the ap...)
The daylong tour was so shrouded in secrecy that even Iraq's prime minister said he was surprised when he showed up for what he thought was a meeting with the U.S. ambassador only to see Cheney waiting to greet him.

Cheney's tour of the country came on the same day that
President Bush was giving a prime-time Oval Office address to the nation on Iraq.

Cheney's aides said the timing was a coincidence, but regardless, the two events combined in a public relations blitz aimed at capitalizing on the Iraqi elections to rebuild U.S. support for the unpopular war.

unpopular war...? nah... everybody LOVES the war in iraq...! right...? right...??? i can't HEAR you...!

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Soldiers deserting Bush's Congressional army

loyalty and party solidarity are one thing... blind support of a criminal dictator wannabe is another...
The speech stands as one of Bush's most forceful statements, a manifesto calling for enhanced executive power to protect the United States from terrorist plots.

But its unsparing language also reflects an urgency bordering on desperation over the extent to which a Congress dominated by his own party has deserted him on his strongest issue -- fighting the war on terrorism.

now that george is right there, in-your-face, i'm-gonna-do-what- i-damn-well-please, let's-drop-all-the-pretense, screw-you-i'm- the-commander-in-chief, full-tilt arrogant, even the litmus-tested are struggling...
The Senate's rejection of Bush's request for renewal of the Patriot Act followed lengthy but fruitless negotiations with the administration to include more judicial scrutiny of searches of US citizens.

In the past, Bush has been able to count on a rock-solid Republican majority in both chambers to support his most important [outrageous?] initiatives, along with sizable numbers of moderate Democrats.

But on both the Patriot Act and on a measure sponsored by Senator John McCain to ban abusive interrogations of prisoners, the president called his congressional soldiers into action -- and many of them failed to respond.

good, lord... it's about time... the sand is running out in the hourglass... even as it is, the amount of destruction and damage to this country will take a generation to reverse... and where, i'd like to know, are the serious leaders who are willing to undertake the task...?

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