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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tom the Dancing Bug: GODMAN! - Mysterious Ways

Click title above to read the rest.

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Friday, September 30, 2005

The 34 Scandals of George W. Bush

Here's a partial list of GOP incurred scandals as of Jan. 2005. It's missing at least a few I can think of readily, and of course, doesn't list this years batch. I will update what I can, when I can. But it's a good starting point when you need to smackdown some Freeper apologist or Clinton hater. --pseudolus
The Scandal Sheet
By Peter Dizikes

Tuesday 18 January 2005

Print it out, send it to Harry Reid, or just read it and weep. Here are 34 scandals from the first four years of George W. Bush's presidency - every one of them worse than Whitewater.

Once upon a time - about five years ago - conservative pundits often talked about "scandal fatigue." Remember scandal fatigue? It was an affliction supposedly either turning voters against Democrats or, alternatively, a weariness in the body politic preventing Republicans from pursuing even more grievances against Bill Clinton. By any objective measure, however, after four years of George W. Bush's presidency, the entire nation should be suffering from utter scandal exhaustion.

Consider the raw materials of scandal that this administration has produced: False claims about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction. Torture in Abu Ghraib. The virtually treasonous exposure of a CIA agent by White House officials. And those are just the best-known examples.

After all, how many citizens can name all the ongoing investigations of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm? Who remembers that the administration illicitly diverted $700 million from Afghanistan to Iraq? Or that, on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans stole strategy memos from Democrats, while a House Republican said he was offered a bribe during a crucial vote? Even a conscientious citizen cannot be expected to keep score, so Salon has compiled a list.

If the next four years of Bush and the GOP running the federal government are anything like the previous four, however, potential scandals will lead to few political consequences for the Republicans. Bush opponents will likely be disappointed if they are waiting for a renewal of the supposed "second-term scandal jinx" dogging Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Clinton.

After all, Washington Republicans are insulated by a rabidly partisan Congress with no interest in investigating the executive branch (and little taste for disciplining itself). By contrast, presidents Nixon, Reagan and Clinton each faced an adversarial Congress. As the late Senate Watergate Committee counsel Sam Dash noted in 2003 about congressional oversight: "Although it worked then, it doesn't mean it would work now."

Moreover, Congress allowed the independent-counsel statute, the law that brought us Ken Starr, to expire as Bush assumed office. And the right-wing media - cable news, talk radio, several newspapers - are not about to replicate the drumbeat of scandal they pounded out while Clinton held office. Thus scandals are not a defining part of the GOP's current identity.

The Democrats, terminally cautious even in the minority, seem unlikely to change this dynamic - although Harry Reid, the Democrats' new Senate leader, has announced his party will hold monthly oversight hearings, beginning this January, on "unasked and unanswered questions" about the Bush administration. Reid's project, however, is an uphill battle. The Democrats cannot compel anyone to testify, unlike standard congressional committees, and memorable rhetoric is not a party strength. "This is about honesty and accountability and reforming our federal government," Reid said in the prepared statement the Democratic Policy Committee released about its oversight plans.

Just think: Someone prepared that quote. To put it more bluntly than Reid did: This is about the dozens of scandals occurring while the Republican Party has enjoyed almost complete control over the federal government. This is about the GOP's utter disrespect for the laws of the United States. This is about stopping greed, bribery and influence-peddling.

Indeed, here are 34 Republican scandals worthy of further attention, gathered into one place. The list focuses on scandals involving apparently illegal activity or violations of ethics codes. Not everything that is politically, legally or ethically scandalous constitutes a scandal. It is scandalous, for instance, that House Republicans have further weakened their own ethics committee. But that is not, properly speaking, a political scandal. It is just contemptible governance.

This list is also limited to events of the past four years, or those coming to light in that time. It covers both the executive branch and the Congress, since the latter, especially the Senate, is increasingly a mere adjunct to the White House. However, the items are not arranged in terms of moral or historical gravity. Abu Ghraib might create years of anti-American hatred abroad, but it and some other headline-generating events appear near the end of the list, to help familiarize readers first with lesser-known or now-overlooked scandals. Recall how John Ashcroft broke the law? Know why Dick Cheney wants to keep those energy task force documents secret? Read on. You too, Harry Reid.

1. Memogate: The Senate Computer Theft

The scandal: From 2001 to 2003, Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee illicitly accessed nearly 5,000 computer files containing confidential Democratic strategy memos about President Bush's judicial nominees. The GOP used the memos to shape their own plans and leaked some to the media.

The problem: The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act states it is illegal to obtain confidential information from a government computer.

The outcome: Unresolved. The Justice Department has assigned a prosecutor to the case. The staff member at the heart of the matter, Manuel Miranda, has attempted to brazen it out, filing suit in September 2004 against the DOJ to end the investigation. "A grand jury will indict a ham sandwich," Miranda complained. Some jokes just write themselves.

2. Doctor Detroit: The DOJ's Bungled Terrorism Case

The scandal: The Department of Justice completely botched the nation's first post-9/11 terrorism trial, as seen when the convictions of three Detroit men allegedly linked to al-Qaida were overturned in September 2004. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft had claimed their June 2003 sentencing sent "a clear message" that the government would "detect, disrupt and dismantle the activities of terrorist cells."

The problem: The DOJ's lead prosecutor in the case, Richard Convertino, withheld key information from the defense and distorted supposed pieces of evidence - like a Las Vegas vacation video purported to be a surveillance tape. But that's not the half of it. Convertino says he was unfairly scapegoated because he testified before the Senate, against DOJ wishes, about terrorist financing. Justice's reconsideration of the case began soon thereafter. Convertino has since sued the DOJ, which has also placed him under investigation.

The outcome: Let's see: Overturned convictions, lawsuits and feuding about a Kafkaesque case. Nobody looks good here.

3. Dark Matter: The Energy Task Force

The scandal: A lawsuit has claimed it is illegal for Dick Cheney to keep the composition of his 2001 energy-policy task force secret. What's the big deal? The New Yorker's Jane Mayer has suggested an explosive aspect of the story, citing a National Security Council memo from February 2001, which "directed the N.S.C. staff to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the 'melding' of ... 'operational policies towards rogue states,' such as Iraq, and 'actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.'" In short, the task force's activities could shed light on the administration's pre-9/11 Iraq aims.

The problem: The Federal Advisory Committee Act says the government must disclose the work of groups that include non-federal employees; the suit claims energy industry executives were effectively task force members. Oh, and the Bush administration has portrayed the Iraq war as a response to 9/11, not something it was already considering.

The outcome: Unresolved. In June 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to an appellate court.

4. The Indian Gaming Scandal

The scandal: Potential influence peddling to the tune of $82 million, for starters. Jack Abramoff, a GOP lobbyist and major Bush fundraiser, and Michael Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), received that amount from several Indian tribes, while offering access to lawmakers. For instance, Texas' Tigua tribe, which wanted its closed El Paso casino reopened, gave millions to the pair and $33,000 to Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio) in hopes of favorable legislation (Ney came up empty). And get this: The Tiguas were unaware that Abramoff, Scanlon and conservative activist Ralph Reed had earned millions lobbying to have the same casino shut in 2002.

The problem: Federal officials want to know if Abramoff and Scanlon provided real services for the $82 million, and if they broke laws while backing candidates in numerous Indian tribe elections.

The outcome: Everybody into the cesspool! The Senate Indian Affairs Committee and five federal agencies, including the FBI, IRS, and Justice Department, are investigating.

5. Halliburton's No-Bid Bonanza

The scandal: In February 2003, Halliburton received a five-year, $7 billion no-bid contract for services in Iraq.

The problem: The Army Corps of Engineers' top contracting officer, Bunnatine Greenhouse, objected to the deal, saying the contract should be the standard one-year length, and that a Halliburton official should not have been present during the discussions.

The outcome: The FBI is investigating. The $7 billion contract was halved and Halliburton won one of the parts in a public bid. For her troubles, Greenhouse has been forced into whistle-blower protection.

6. Halliburton: Pumping Up Prices

The scandal: In 2003, Halliburton overcharged the army for fuel in Iraq. Specifically, Halliburton's subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root hired a Kuwaiti company, Altanmia, to supply fuel at about twice the going rate, then added a markup, for an overcharge of at least $61 million, according to a December 2003 Pentagon audit.

The problem: That's not the government's $61 million, it's our $61 million.

The outcome: The FBI is investigating.

7. Halliburton's Vanishing Iraq Money

The scandal: In mid-2004, Pentagon auditors determined that $1.8 billion of Halliburton's charges to the government, about 40 percent of the total, had not been adequately documented.

The problem: That's not the government's $1.8 billion, it's our $1.8 billion.

The outcome: The Defense Contract Audit Agency has "strongly" asked the Army to withhold about $60 million a month from its Halliburton payments until the documentation is provided.

8. The Halliburton Bribe-Apalooza

The scandal: This may not surprise you, but an international consortium of companies, including Halliburton, is alleged to have paid more than $100 million in bribes to Nigerian officials, from 1995 to 2002, to facilitate a natural-gas-plant deal. (Cheney was Halliburton's CEO from 1995 to 2000.)

The problem: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials.

The outcome: A veritable coalition of the willing is investigating the deal, including the Justice Department, the SEC, the Nigerian government and a French magistrate. In June, Halliburton fired two implicated executives.

9. Halliburton: One Fine Company

The scandal: In 1998 and 1999, Halliburton counted money recovered from project overruns as revenue, before settling the charges with clients.

The problem: Doing so made the company's income appear larger, but Halliburton did not explain this to investors. The SEC ruled this accounting practice was "materially misleading."

The outcome: In August 2004, Halliburton agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle SEC charges. One Halliburton executive has paid a fine and another is settling civil charges. Now imagine the right-wing rhetoric if, say, Al Gore had once headed a firm fined for fudging income statements.

10. Halliburton's Iran End Run

The scandal: Halliburton may have been doing business with Iran while Cheney was CEO.

The problem: Federal sanctions have banned U.S. companies from dealing directly with Iran. To operate in Iran legally, U.S. companies have been required to set up independent subsidiaries registered abroad. Halliburton thus set up a new entity, Halliburton Products and Services Ltd., to do business in Iran, but while the subsidiary was registered in the Cayman Islands, it may not have had operations totally independent of the parent company.

The outcome: Unresolved. The Treasury Department has referred the case to the U.S. attorney in Houston, who convened a grand jury in July 2004.

11. Money Order: Afghanistan's Missing $700 Million Turns Up in Iraq

The scandal: According to Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," the Bush administration diverted $700 million in funds from the war in Afghanistan, among other places, to prepare for the Iraq invasion.

The problem: Article I, Section 8, Clause 12 of the U.S. Constitution specifically gives Congress the power "to raise and support armies." And the emergency spending bill passed after Sept. 11, 2001, requires the administration to notify Congress before changing war spending plans. That did not happen.

The outcome: Congress declined to investigate. The administration's main justification for its decision has been to claim the funds were still used for, one might say, Middle East anti-tyrant-related program activities.

12. Iraq: More Loose Change

The scandal: The inspector general of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq released a series of reports in July 2004 finding that a significant portion of CPA assets had gone missing - 34 percent of the materiel controlled by Kellogg, Brown & Root - and that the CPA's method of disbursing $600 million in Iraq reconstruction funds "did not establish effective controls and left accountability open to fraud, waste and abuse."

The problem: As much as $50 million of that money was disbursed without proper receipts.

The outcome: The CPA has disbanded, but individual government investigations into the handling of Iraq's reconstruction continue.

13. The Pentagon-Israel Spy Case

The scandal: A Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, may have passed classified United States documents about Iran to Israel, possibly via the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a Washington lobbying group.

The problem: To do so could be espionage or could constitute the mishandling of classified documents.

The outcome: A grand jury is investigating. In December 2004, the FBI searched AIPAC's offices. A Senate committee has also been investigating the apparently unauthorized activities of the Near East and South Asia Affairs group in the Pentagon, where Franklin works.

14. Gone to Taiwan

The scandal: Missed this one? A high-ranking State Department official, Donald Keyser, was arrested and charged in September with making a secret trip to Taiwan and was observed by the FBI passing documents to Taiwanese intelligence agents in Washington-area meetings.

The problem: Such unauthorized trips are illegal. And we don't have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

The outcome: The case is in the courts.

15. Wiretapping the United Nations

The scandal: Before the United Nations' vote on the Iraq war, the United States and Great Britain developed an eavesdropping operation targeting diplomats from several countries.

The problem: U.N. officials say the practice is illegal and undermines honest diplomacy, although some observers claim it is business as usual on East 42nd Street.

The outcome: Little fuss here, but a major British scandal erupted after U.K. intelligence translator Katherine Gun leaked a U.S. National Security Agency memo requesting British help in the spying scheme, in early 2003. Initially charged under Britain's Official Secrets Act for leaking classified information, Gun was cleared in 2004 - seemingly to avoid hearings questioning the legality of Britain's war participation.

16. The Boeing Boondoggle

The scandal: In 2003, the Air Force contracted with Boeing to lease a fleet of refueling tanker planes at an inflated price: $23 billion.

The problem: The deal was put together by a government procurement official, Darleen Druyun, who promptly joined Boeing. Beats using a headhunter.

The outcome: In November 2003, Boeing fired both Druyun and CFO Michael Sears. In April 2004, Druyun pled guilty to a conspiracy charge in the case. In November 2004, Sears copped to a conflict-of-interest charge, and company CEO Phil Condit resigned. The government is reviewing its need for the tankers.

17. The Medicare Bribe Scandal

The scandal: According to former Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.), on Nov. 21, 2003, with the vote on the administration's Medicare bill hanging in the balance, someone offered to contribute $100,000 to his son's forthcoming congressional campaign, if Smith would support the bill.

The problem: Federal law prohibits the bribery of elected officials.

The outcome: In September 2004, the House Ethics Committee concluded an inquiry by fingering House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), saying he deserved "public admonishment" for offering to endorse Smith's son in return for Smith's vote. DeLay has claimed Smith initiated talks about a quid pro quo. The matter of the $100,000 is unresolved; soon after his original allegations, Smith suddenly claimed he had not been offered any money. Smith's son Brad lost his GOP primary in August 2004.

18. Tom DeLay's PAC Problems

The scandal: One of DeLay's political action committees, Texans for a Republican Majority, apparently reaped illegal corporate contributions for the campaigns of Republicans running for the Texas Legislature in 2002. Given a Republican majority, the Legislature then re-drew Texas' U.S. congressional districts to help the GOP.

The problem: Texas law bans the use of corporate money for political purposes.

The outcome: Unresolved. Three DeLay aides and associates - Jim Ellis, John Colyandro and Warren RoBold - were charged in September 2004 with crimes including money laundering and unlawful acceptance of corporate contributions.

19. Tom DeLay's FAA: Following Americans Anywhere

The scandal: In May 2003, DeLay's office persuaded the Federal Aviation Administration to find the plane carrying a Texas Democratic legislator, who was leaving the state in an attempt to thwart the GOP's nearly unprecedented congressional redistricting plan.

The problem: According to the House Ethics Committee, the "invocation of federal executive branch resources in a partisan dispute before a state legislative body" is wrong.

The outcome: In October 2004, the committee rebuked DeLay for his actions.

20. In the Rough: Tom DeLay's Golf Fundraiser

The scandal: DeLay appeared at a golf fundraiser that Westar Energy held for one of his political action committees, Americans for a Republican Majority, while energy legislation was pending in the House.

The problem: It's one of these "appearance of impropriety" situations.

The outcome: The House Ethics Committee tossed the matter into its Oct. 6 rebuke. "Take a lap, Tom."

21. Busy, Busy, Busy in New Hampshire

The scandal: In 2002, with a tight Senate race in New Hampshire, Republican Party officials paid a Virginia-based firm, GOP Marketplace, to enact an Election Day scheme meant to depress Democratic turnout by "jamming" the Democratic Party phone bank with continuous calls for 90 minutes.

The problem: Federal law prohibits the use of telephones to "annoy or harass" anyone.

The outcome: Chuck McGee, the former executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, pleaded guilty in July 2004 to a felony charge, while Allen Raymond, former head of GOP Marketplace, pleaded guilty to a similar charge in June. In December, James Tobin, former New England campaign chairman of Bush-Cheney '04, was indicted for conspiracy in the case.

22. The Medicare Money Scandal

The scandal: Thomas Scully, Medicare's former administrator, supposedly threatened to fire chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster to prevent him from disclosing the true cost of the 2003 Medicare bill.

The problem: Congress voted on the bill believing it would cost $400 billion over 10 years. The program is more likely to cost $550 billion.

The outcome: Scully denies threatening to fire Foster, as Foster has charged, but admits telling Foster to withhold the higher estimate from Congress. In September 2004, the Government Accountability Office recommended Scully return half his salary from 2003. Inevitably, Scully is now a lobbyist for drug companies helped by the bill.

23. The Bogus Medicare "Video News Release"

The scandal: To promote its Medicare bill, the Bush administration produced imitation news-report videos touting the legislation. About 40 television stations aired the videos. More recently, similar videos promoting the administration's education policy have come to light.

The problem: The administration broke two laws: One forbidding the use of federal money for propaganda, and another forbidding the unauthorized use of federal funds.

The outcome: In May 2004, the GAO concluded the administration acted illegally, but the agency lacks enforcement power.

24. Pundits on the Payroll: The Armstrong Williams Case

The scandal: The Department of Education paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote its educational law, No Child Left Behind.

The problem: Williams did not disclose that his support was government funded until the deal was exposed in January 2005.

The outcome: The House and FCC are considering inquiries, while Williams' syndicated newspaper column has been terminated.

25. Ground Zero's Unsafe Air

The scandal: Government officials publicly minimized the health risks stemming from the World Trade Center attack. In September 2001, for example, Environmental Protection Agency head Christine Todd Whitman said New York's "air is safe to breathe and [the] water is safe to drink."

The problem: Research showed serious dangers or was incomplete. The EPA used outdated techniques that failed to detect tiny asbestos particles. EPA data also showed high levels of lead and benzene, which causes cancer. A Sierra Club report claims the government ignored alarming data. A GAO report says no adequate study of 9/11's health effects has been organized.

The outcome: The long-term health effects of the disaster will likely not be apparent for years or decades and may never be definitively known. Already, hundreds of 9/11 rescue workers have quit their jobs because of acute illnesses.

26. John Ashcroft's Illegal Campaign Contributions

The scandal: Ashcroft's exploratory committee for his short-lived 2000 presidential bid transferred $110,000 to his unsuccessful 2000 reelection campaign for the Senate.

The problem: The maximum for such a transfer is $10,000.

The outcome: The Federal Election Commission fined Ashcroft's campaign treasurer, Garrett Lott, $37,000 for the transgression.

27. Intel Inside ... The White House

The scandal: In early 2001, chief White House political strategist Karl Rove held meetings with numerous companies while maintaining six-figure holdings of their stock - including Intel, whose executives were seeking government approval of a merger. "Washington hadn't seen a clearer example of a conflict of interest in years," wrote Paul Glastris in the Washington Monthly.

The problem: The Code of Federal Regulations says government employees should not participate in matters in which they have a personal financial interest.

The outcome: Then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, spurning precedent, did not refer the case to the Justice Department.

28. Duck! Antonin Scalia's Legal Conflicts

The scandal: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refused to recuse himself from the Cheney energy task force case, despite taking a duck-hunting trip with the vice president after the court agreed to weigh the matter.

The problem: Federal law requires a justice to "disqualify himself from any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

The outcome: Scalia stayed on, arguing no conflict existed because Cheney was party to the case in a professional, not personal, capacity. Nothing new for Scalia, who in 2002 was part of a Mississippi redistricting ruling favorable to GOP Rep. Chip Pickering - son of Judge Charles Pickering, a Scalia turkey-hunting pal. In 2001, Scalia went pheasant hunting with Kansas Gov. Bill Graves when that state had cases pending before the Supreme Court.

29. AWOL

The scandal: George W. Bush, self-described "war president," did not fulfill his National Guard duty, and Bush and his aides have made misleading statements about it. Salon's Eric Boehlert wrote the best recent summary of the issue.

The problem: Military absenteeism is a punishable offense, although Bush received an honorable discharge.

The outcome: No longer a campaign issue. But what was Bush doing in 1972?

30. Iraq: The Case for War

The scandal: Bush and many officials in his administration made false statements about Iraq's military capabilities, in the months before the United States' March 2003 invasion of the country.

The problem: For one thing, it is a crime to lie to Congress, although Bush backers claim the president did not knowingly make false assertions.

The outcome: A war spun out of control with unknowable long-term consequences. The Iraq Survey Group has stopped looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

31. Niger Forgeries: Whodunit?

The scandal: In his January 2003 State of the Union address, Bush said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The problem: The statement was untrue. By March 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency showed the claim, that Iraq sought materials from Niger, was based on easily discernible forgeries.

The outcome: The identity of the forger(s) remains under wraps. Journalist Josh Marshall has implied the FBI is oddly uninterested in interviewing Rocco Martino, the former Italian intelligence agent who apparently first shopped the documents in intelligence and journalistic circles and would presumably be able to shed light on their origin.

32. In Plame Sight

The scandal: In July 2003, administration officials disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative working on counterterrorism efforts, to multiple journalists, and columnist Robert Novak made Plame's identity public. Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had just written a New York Times opinion piece stating he had investigated the Niger uranium-production allegations, at the CIA's behest, and reported them to be untrue, before Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.

The problem: Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act it is illegal to disclose, knowingly, the name of an undercover agent.

The outcome: Unresolved. The Justice Department appointed special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to the case in December 2003. While this might seem a simple matter, Fitzgerald could be unable to prove the leakers knew Plame was a covert agent.

33. Abu Ghraib

The scandal: American soldiers physically tortured prisoners in Iraq and kept undocumented "ghost detainees" in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The problem: The United States is party to the Geneva Conventions, which state that "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever."

The outcome: Unresolved. A Pentagon internal inquiry found a lack of oversight at Abu Ghraib, while independent inquiries have linked the events to the administration's desire to use aggressive interrogation methods globally. Notoriously, Gonzales has advocated an approach which "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." More recently, Gonzales issued qualified support for the Geneva Conventions in January 2005 Senate testimony after being nominated for attorney general. Army reservist Charles Graner was convicted in January 2005 for abusing prisoners, while a few other soldiers await trial.

34. Guant�namo Bay Torture?

The scandal: The U.S. military is also alleged to have abused prisoners at the U.S. Navy's base in Guant�namo Bay, Cuba. FBI agents witnessing interrogations there have reported use of growling dogs to frighten prisoners and the chaining of prisoners in the fetal position while depriving them of food or water for extended periods.

The problem: More potential violations of the Geneva Conventions.

The outcome: An internal military investigation was launched in January 2005.

The 34 Scandals of George W. Bush

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Daily Kos: Bush Supporters of the Far Right: Cries from the Lake of Fire

Bush Supporters of the Far Right: Cries from the Lake of Fire
by Hunter
Thu Sep 29th, 2005 at 15:18:21 PDT

At Blogs For Bush, which bills itself as the Whorehouse... er, "White House" of the Blogosphere, the ever effervescent Mark Noonan writes about the DeLay indictment:

As our Sister Toldjah noted earlier, the "indictment" of Tom Delay is entirely bogus - from what I've read, Tom Delay didn't know about the perfectly legal transaction he is accused of conspiring to make. We have now left entirely the field of normal political conflict and entered a twilight world where fantasy is presented as fact and the only standard of conduct is "will it work?". This is not the actions of a political Party engaged in seeking a majority - it is the action of a Party determined to destroy its opponents entirely and sieze all power for is, in short, the stuff from which civil wars are made...

I really do urge our Democrats to step back from the edge - you are sitting in a lake of gasoline and you are playing with fire. We on our side will only put up with so much before we start to pay back with usury what we have received. If you can't defeat Tom Delay in the electoral field, then you will simply have to accept him as Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives - and you'd better start accepting political reality before things get really bad.

Mark... may I call you Mark? I feel when someone has shown me the insides of their own rectum, we're pretty much on a first name basis... I have some words for you.

Whitewater. Rush Limbaugh. "Drug Dealer" Bill Clinton. Swift Boats.

Vince Fucking Foster.

Read the rest...

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Soldiers still waiting for armor reimbursements - Conflict in Iraq -

Man, they sure know how to hand out muti-billion dollar no-bid contracts to GOP cronies, but they can't figure out how to armor or reimburse our fighting men and women whom they so adore. This is just sickening. --pseudolus

Soldiers still waiting for armor reimbursements - Conflict in Iraq -

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j a c k *: Armies of Straw...

Thanks to the Liberal Avenger I have a new favorite Blog. It's JackAsterisk. Here's a sample:
Armies of Straw...

The term "straw man" gets thrown around a lot lately. Is everyone just obsessed with scarecrows and Guy Fawkes, or have bloggers been going to too many "Burning Man" events? It turns out a straw man is a particularly poetic image for describing a simple rhetorical technique. Since the technique is intended to mislead and confuse, it's not surprising that those who rely on it the most try to muddy the waters by misapplying the term. We are told constantly by loudmouths on the right that this or that liberal position is a straw man. Since they are often wrong it behooves us to know exactly how to recognize and defuse it.

Imagine two professional wrestlers getting ready for a bout. We'll call them Lefty and Righteous. In his pre-game event Lefty pumps up his fans by telling jokes about Righteous and making fun of his past fights. Humiliated, Righteous has a life-sized straw effigy made of Lefty which he takes to his fan event, and he brings down the house by pointing out all the weaknesses and flaws in his straw mock-up. The night of the big fight arrives and the excited fans are a bit surprised to see Righteous dragging the straw man into the ring with him. They are quite taken aback as the bell rings and Righteous body-slams the doll, ignoring his flesh and blood opponent, but they are driven to astonishment as Righteous breaks the dummy's little matchstick arms and legs and pounds it into a broken, twisted mass on the mat. The referee raises Righteous' arm and declares him the winner. Lefty shrugs, uncertain exactly how he lost, but vows to fight better next time.

Now, read the rest:
click here for jack*

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AtomFilms: I Can't Afford My Gasoline

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This Handbasket Earth

Excerpt from jurassicpork over at "Yep, another Goddamned blog":
Say what you want about the Devil but you have to give him his due. He�s slicker at inking a deal than all the executives at Enron, Worldcom and Tyco combined.

It all started with that fishing trip before the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. In attendance was a drifter named George Bush, Karl Rove, assorted Republican kingmakers and, of course, the Devil.

The official secular story is that during that trip, when Rove wasn�t pulling hooks out of Bush�s hair, Junior went to political finishing school. And suddenly, through Turd Blossom�s tender and patient ministrations, transformed a vagrant whose most significant achievement had been in kicking Sammy Sosa out of Texas was turned into gubernatorial material. Mature, polished, politically pragmatic, disciplined.

Someone who could eat a pretzel or ride a bicycle over 90% of the time without injury (but, alas, not simultaneously. Sadly, there are limits even to Turd Blossom�s kingmaking powers.).

With agents like Karl Rove, it�s easy for the Devil to remain anonymous, be above suspicion. The Devil�s greatest trick, as someone once said, was in fooling the human race into believing that he didn�t exist.

And with Karl Rove, who needs a Devil?

read the rest, dammit...
click here

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Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'

Britain, UK news from The Times and The Sunday Times - Times Online

By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its �spiritual capital�. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: �Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

�In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.
read the rest:
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Dispelling a myth of dangerous Navy dolphins

- - Countdown with Keith Olbermann -

Updated: 5:20 p.m. ET Sept. 27, 2005

Keith Olberman:

Everyone knows the cliche about life imitating art. Well, here we go again. Because of Hurricane Katrina, we have learned of a reported factual parallel to one of the most over-the-top ideas ever in one of the most over-the-top movie spoofs ever.1

In "Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery," one of Mike Myers' many characters, Dr. Evil, asks his people to provide him with "Sharks with fricking laser beams attached to their heads."

Now, do we have a case of fiction becoming reality?

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Lonesome DoveBar

R.I.P. Paul Hester

As a big fan of the Split Enz and the Finn brothers, I was moved by this tribute by Margaret Cho, maybe you will be, too.

I�d always wanted to come to Melbourne, ever since I was a kid. I loved Split Enz, new wave wonder from down under, lads who wore commedia dell�arte costumes and sang deceptively poppy songs about obsession, anger, paranoia and the world�s tallest woman. Split Enz broke up, but not before I got to see them on the seminal rock show, Solid Gold. They sang "I Got You," a delicious and vicious anthem for jealous boyfriends all over. Neil Finn wore a lime green sharkskin suit, cut to perfection on his lean frame, and I remember swooning over his sonorous voice and aquiline nose. I thought I never saw such a handsome boy, and such an inaccessible one, who was not only a rock star but also lived at the end of the world in a mythical city called Melbourne. This was where Neil Finn founded his new band "Crowded House," which would soon become legend.

I bought the first Crowded House album on vinyl. Back then, records were such a big, satisfying purchase. First you would tear open the plastic from outside the record, a kind of amniotic sac that held in the very distinctive vinyl smell, a faint whiff of sweetly burnt chemicals and anticipation. Album covers gave us the space to dream about the rock star. You could look to the artwork for meaning and solace. The liner notes on the inner sleeve were like a Koranic script, and I scanned the words for meaning like a devout imam. Neil Finn always wrote devastatingly beautiful lyrics along with haunting melodies that were elusive yet unforgettable. His songs comprise a good portion of the soundtrack of my youth. I listen to them now and I am a young woman again, traveling the world, looking for myself.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Puerile moment of the day: "Oh, no you dih-int!"

I know this is a Chinese naming and has no connection to English, but I just couldn't hold back a horselaugh when I read this one. I'm such a child sometimes.
Typhoon LONGWANG was born in Mariana Islands. It is forecast to move westward for the moment. This makes three typhoons active in the western north Pacific, which means that we are in the middle of the peak season of typhoons. Speaking about the peak season of typhoons, in Japan, today is known to be a unique day in terms of typhoon (landfall). This is because three famous typhoons made landfall at Japan on September 26; namely Toyamaru Typhoon (195415 / MARIE), Kanogawa Typhoon (195822 / IDA), and Isewan Typhoon (195915 / VERA). The list of typhoon damage reveals that these three typhoons are in fact the top three in the ranking of dead or missing people since 1951 -- such huge damage. This typhoon is still tiny just after the birth, and it is difficult to predict the track and intensification of the typhoon at this time of life cycle, but we need to pay attention to the forecast for preparation.

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Everything I have ever promised you...has been a lie.

Hell! I ought to just point to the driftglass link at right and be done with it. But I know you, my pitiful few readers (and there are damn few), need an appetizer before you will click on a link, so here's another one. Sample it, then go read the whole damn thing! --pseudolus

[Preznit Bush speaking:]
So my fellow Republicans, I wanted to take a few minutes out of my busy day to thank you for your unwavering support.

Without your pig-ignorance and blind faith in everything that drops out of my mouth, I might not have been able to weaken our nation, gut our treasury and piss away our international credibility in five short years.

From cheering on tax cut for billionaires during a time of record debt, to still believing � even two years after I myself was forced to admit I had lied � that Saddam caused 9/11, to tuning out unpleasant Reality and tuning in Rush every single day so we can tell you which slogans to shout and which groups to hate, you have made it possible for me to inflict more long-lasting damaged on the United States � pound for pound � than any enemy we have ever had.

And don�t just think it�s all domestic stuff either: you have also been immeasurably helpful when it comes to flopping my dick out at the International House of Tyrants as well. When Kim Jong Il throws down some brag about his fanatic, propaganda-fed followers who are so completely truth-starved that they believe that the U.S. started the Korean War, I just whip out the Bush Fadayin: my loyal base. I lay a little of the Southern Baptist Convention upside his dorky head, some Creationism, Terry Schiavo and a few other choice cut of dumbass and my, my, my if that doesn�t shut him the fuck up.

After all, he has to force his slaves to remain ignorant. He has to wall them off from the rest of the world and use bayonets, machine guns and razor wire to keep them from the truth.

What a pussy!

I mean, how much cooler is it that my Loyal Thralls actually choose to be dead-mule stupid. That rather that read a book or change the channel, they exercise their right as free Americans to voluntarily dumb themselves down to the point where I can serve them shit as sheetcake year after year and they just keep gobbling it up, licking their plates clean and lining up for more.

I also am deeply thankful for the limitless depths of your hypocrisy: it is the single feature that elevates you all above ordinary numbnuts and into the rarified heights of Cartoonish Superidiocy.

You are, after all, the same Righteous Mob that hunted Bill Clinton for seven long years -- over what turned out to be nothing -- under the banner of demanding Absolute Truth. That a President, regardless of Party, must be rigorously investigated if there is even the slightest whiff of the possibility of wrongdoing, no matter how small.

You were the one who set that standard: That it doesn�t matter how inconvenient or how debilitating it might be, how nakedly partisan the Prosecutor is, how long a fishing expedition he goes on, how many innocent lives are destroyed, how reckless the process becomes, how many millions it might cost...holding a President to account for his actions � no matter how trivial they may be or how many mitigating circumstances might obtain � is the Most Important Thing Ever.

Go! Just go, read the whole thing...

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Monday, September 26, 2005

funny pages

Fun with Falling Polls?

enter the MSMatrix...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

driftglass: But God Told Me To.

Driftglass is one of my favorite bloggers. He tells it like it is. Read his latest and see if you don't agree. (And check the comments, I'm in there. Some la-di-da new ager commented and I couldn't let her remarks go unchallenged.) --pseudolus

�Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid...�

That�s the start of a quote by Robert Heinlein that came to mind as I read this from the L.A. Times:

A Mother's Denial, a Daughter's Death
By Charles Ornstein and Daniel Costello Times Staff WritersSat Sep 24, 7:55 AM ET

Christine Maggiore was in prime form, engaging and articulate, when she explained to a Phoenix radio host in late March why she didn't believe HIV caused AIDS.

The HIV-positive mother of two laid out matter-of-factly why, even while pregnant, she hadn't taken HIV medications, and why she had never tested her children for the virus.

"Our children have excellent records of health," Maggiore said on the Air America program when asked about 7-year-old Charlie and 3-year-old Eliza Jane Scovill. "They've never had respiratory problems, flus, intractable colds, ear infections, nothing. So, our choices, however radical they may seem, are extremely well-founded."

Seven weeks later, Eliza Jane was dead.


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Bush & Media: Normalizing the Abnormal

Bush & Media: Normalizing the Abnormal

By Robert Parry
September 21, 2005

What�s been so surprising about the U.S. news media�s coverage of George W. Bush�s Katrina debacle is that leading journalists finally have broken with a five-year pattern of protecting both Bush and his presidency.

Until Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans � highlighting Bush�s weakness as a crisis manager, his skewed budget priorities and cronyism at key federal agencies � the national press corps had been held in sway by a mix of White House spinning and the bullying of the occasional critic.

From Election 2000 to the 9/11 terror attacks to the invasion of Iraq, the press corps often acted as if its principal duty to the nation was to normalize Bush�s often abnormal behavior, like the enabling family of a drug addict insisting nothing is wrong. While traditionally journalists play up the unusual, in Bush�s case, the media did the opposite.

This pattern can be traced back to Campaign 2000 when Al Gore became a favorite whipping boy of the national press corps, apparently still annoyed by Bill Clinton�s survival of the impeachment battles of 1998-99.

As a article on Oct. 16, 2000, noted, �the national news media have altered the course of Campaign 2000 � perhaps decisively � by applying two starkly different standards for judging how Texas Gov. George W. Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, handle the truth versus how Vice President Al Gore does.

�Bush and Cheney have gotten almost a free pass. They have been allowed to utter misleading statements and even outright falsehoods with little or no notice. By contrast, Gore�s comments have been fly-specked and every inconsistency trumpeted to support the media�s �theme� � reinforced by Republicans � that Gore is an inveterate liar.� [For details, see
�Protecting Bush-Cheney.�]

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Blackwater Down: Fresh From Iraq, Private Security Forces Roam the Streets of an American City With Impunity


by Jeremy Scahill

The men from Blackwater USA arrived in New Orleans right after Katrina hit. The company known for its private security work guarding senior US diplomats in Iraq beat the federal government and most aid organizations to the scene in another devastated Gulf. About 150 heavily armed Blackwater troops dressed in full battle gear spread out into the chaos of New Orleans. Officially, the company boasted of its forces "join[ing] the hurricane relief effort." But its men on the ground told a different story.

Some patrolled the streets in SUVs with tinted windows and the Blackwater logo splashed on the back; others sped around the French Quarter in an unmarked car with no license plates. They congregated on the corner of St. James and Bourbon in front of a bar called 711, where Blackwater was establishing a makeshift headquarters. From the balcony above the bar, several Blackwater guys cleared out what had apparently been someone's apartment. They threw mattresses, clothes, shoes and other household items from the balcony to the street below. They draped an American flag from the balcony's railing. More than a dozen troops from the 82nd Airborne Division stood in formation on the street watching the action.

Armed men shuffled in and out of the building as a handful told stories of their past experiences in Iraq. "I worked the security detail of both Bremer and Negroponte," said one of the Blackwater guys, referring to the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer, and former US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte. Another complained, while talking on his cell phone, that he was getting only $350 a day plus his per diem. "When they told me New Orleans, I said, 'What country is that in?'" he said. He wore his company ID around his neck in a case with the phrase Operation Iraqi Freedom printed on it.

In an hourlong conversation I had with four Blackwater men, they characterized their work in New Orleans as "securing neighborhoods" and "confronting criminals." They all carried automatic assault weapons and had guns strapped to their legs. Their flak jackets were covered with pouches for extra ammunition.

When asked what authority they were operating under, one guy said, "We're on contract with the Department of Homeland Security." Then, pointing to one of his comrades, he said, "He was even deputized by the governor of the state of Louisiana. We can make arrests and use lethal force if we deem it necessary." The man then held up the gold Louisiana law enforcement badge he wore around his neck. Blackwater spokesperson Anne Duke also said the company has a letter from Louisiana officials authorizing its forces to carry loaded weapons.

"This vigilantism demonstrates the utter breakdown of the government," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "These private security forces have behaved brutally, with impunity, in Iraq. To have them now on the streets of New Orleans is frightening and possibly illegal."

Blackwater is not alone. As business leaders and government officials talk openly of changing the demographics of what was one of the most culturally vibrant of America's cities, mercenaries from companies like DynCorp, Intercon, American Security Group, Blackhawk, Wackenhut and an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International (ISI) are fanning out to guard private businesses and homes, as well as government projects and institutions. Within two weeks of the hurricane, the number of private security companies registered in Louisiana jumped from 185 to 235. Some, like Blackwater, are under federal contract. Others have been hired by the wealthy elite, like F. Patrick Quinn III, who brought in private security to guard his $3 million private estate and his luxury hotels, which are under consideration for a lucrative federal contract to house FEMA workers.

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Bush plea for cash to rebuild Iraq raises $600

Here's another fine example of the Bush wing of the American public. You know, those folks who want your children to fight the Bushies' war? The folks who want your grandkids to pay for this war? The folks who won't lift a finger for this war unless it's to lay the verbal smackdown on the dirty traitor liberals? Yeah, those folks! The Bush voters, the brown people haters, the poor people drowners. Well it seems those folks won't contribute a nickle of their GENEROUS tax breaks to supporting the Iraqui peoples' rebuilding efforts.

READ all about it...

From the presses of The Guardian:

Mark Townsend in Houston
Sunday September 25, 2005
The Observer

An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (�337), The Observer has learnt. Yet since the appeal was launched earlier this month, donations to rebuild New Orleans have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars.

The public's reluctance to contribute much more than the cost of two iPods to the administration's attempt to offer citizens 'a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq' has been seized on by critics as evidence of growing ambivalence over that country.

This coincides with concern over the increasing cost of the war. More than $30 billion has been appropriated for the reconstruction. Initially, America's overseas aid agency, USaid, expected it to cost taxpayers no more than $1.7bn, but it is now asking the public if they want to contribute even more.

It is understood to be the first time that a US government has made an appeal to taxpayers for foreign aid money. Contributors have no way of knowing who will receive their donations or even where they may go, after officials said details had be kept secret for security reasons.

USaid's Heather Layman denied it was disappointed with the meagre sum raised after a fortnight. 'Every little helps,' she said.

In the past 12 months, Americans raised some $250bn for charity, including other foreign causes such as the Asian tsunami victims. Layman said: 'There is no financial goal. People are looking for a way to help rebuild Iraq and this is a way to facilitate that.'

The fundraising comes amid concern that some US projects in Iraq will be scrapped or only partly completed because of rising costs. Some officials fear that money may run out before key projects are completed.

Last week, the number of US troops killed in Iraq rose above 1,900.

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Zogby responds to call for new impeachment poll

Says he would consider poll if paid

A defiant blogger has taken U.S. pollster John Zogby to task, saying he flip-flopped after stating he would survey the American public again on whether they thought President George W. Bush should be impeached.

Zogby, in turn, told RAW STORY his poll questions are meant to respond to the vagaries of public opinion, not to become part of a �cause celebre.�
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Zogby polled Americans in June as to whether they would support impeaching President Bush if it were proved he had misled the nation about his reasons for going to war in Iraq. Forty-two percent said they would support impeaching the president under that condition.

The day the poll was released, Zogby went on MSNBC�s Countdown with Keith Olbermann. When asked whether he would raise the question again, he said: �We'll test it periodically, probably in a month from now. Again, no-one is really talking about it, but it is a good barometric reading.�

Zogby did not poll on impeachment again."

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