Friday, February 17, 2006

UPDATE: New Abu Ghraib Photos

UPDATE: The entire Australian TV documentary, including reaction from the Arab street, will be aired on Democracy Now! and is available from their website.

Also, has obtained the entire portfolio of images and has selected a dozen or so (none of which are posted here), and says that there are more, even more disturbing images to come.

I Think We're Getting It Wrong

Bush shows he believes he is above the law

Marie Cocco

Who needs the Patriot Act? Not President Run-amok.

The president has now admitted to secretly authorizing what amounts to an end-run around the law that is meant, specifically and determinedly, to keep intelligence agencies from snooping on Americans at home.

This is a president who believes no law applies to him.

He long ago violated a 1971 statute that bars the detention of U.S. citizens "except pursuant to an Act of Congress." In his "war on terror," Bush has nonetheless thrown American citizens into the clink and asserted he has the right to hold them there indefinitely, without charge and without showing any evidence against them.

He failed to comply with U.S. and international laws against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners - his political apparatchiks at the Pentagon and in the Justice Department instead concocted justifications for violating them. The president relented only days ago, and only after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) forced submission by engineering overwhelming votes in Congress to bring a measure of sanity to our detention schemes.

The Geneva Conventions have been tossed aside like wastepaper. They are replaced by gross violations of basic human rights at U.S. detention facilities, secret and semi-secret, around the world. The Pentagon, supposedly restricted from gathering information on the American citizenry, has compiled a vast database of information on anti-war protesters and those opposed to military recruitment practices.
I've seen a lot of this type of thinking going on around the Net and around blogtopia (©SkippyTheBushKangaroo). I think it's wrong. I think it's diagnosing the symptoms while overlooking the underlying cause.

What causes hubris? What causes this overweening arrogance and elitism?

These come not from a sense of entitlement, even if you might draw that line, but from fear. Panic. A sense of imminent failure.

Some forms of arrogance stem from entitlement, to be sure. Like Bush running for President in the first place draws from a deep well of "it's mine, I should have it." That kind of arrogance, that is a classist, elitist sentiment. But not since 9/11 have we seen that form of arrogance.

Why would Dick Cheney need to hide the fact that he had a simple hunting accident? Why would George Bush feel the need to hide the domestic spying program if he felt he had the right to spy on us? There's an underlying sense of shame to these processes that is unspoken but palpable.

We can rail on and on about "will they stop at nothing?" but the simple fact is, they're too afraid to stop! They've climbed on the back of the tiger and are now riding it for all their worth, because the tiger is angry and hungry and he knows what he has to do. The tighter they grip on the mane, the harder the tiger flails about. That "tightened grip" is what we're perceiving as their arrogance, but it's nothing but pure panic.

I'm going to work more on this topic and present a full essay on it in the coming weeks. It's a doozy. I think I figured out how to stop the madness.

Who Will Be His Sancho Panza?

Suozzi to announce bid for governor

Thursday, February 16, 2006

So Why The Delay, Dick?

Some have speculated that it was because it was unclear whether Whittington would live or die.

Actually, there's an even more lurid possibility.

According to the NY Daily News' columnists, Rush and Malloy, Cheney and Ambassador Willeford are a little more than shooting buddies, or rather, rifles aren't the only weapons Dick points at his hunting companions...

Vice President Cheney appears to have dodged the buckshot of gossip-hunters. Radio host Alex Bennett yesterday floated the rumor that Cheney delayed reporting his shooting accident Saturday in an effort to "hide or spin" the presence of Pamela Willeford, ambassador to Switzerland. Huffingtonpost blogger Bob Cesca wrote, "The rumor goes that Lynne Cheney isn't happy with Cheney's close relationship with Willeford." Trouble is, the Dallas Morning News reports that the ambassador's husband, Dr. George Willeford III, was also in the hunting party, but shooting in a different field, about a mile away.

As if that's ever stopped two determined lovers from doing the dirty, the husband being nearby...and maybe Lynne should stop researching her next lesbian Western and start servicing her husband's needs?

Maybe we should start referring to him as Slick Dick? *snark*

Wow...I Mean, Fucking Wow!

From Wampum:
In 1998 (the last year for which I have figures), Federal Grand Juries indicted a few more than 76,000 persons. The population of the United States in that year was about 271,000,000 people. That works out to about one person indicted for each 3,500 people Thus, in a randomly selected group of 1,000 people, the expectation is that about person from the group will be indicted by a Federal grand Jury every three years.

Let's look at a not randomly selected group of people. A search for Bush Rangers (who bundled at least $200,000 for the Bush campaign) and Pioneers (who bundled at least $100,000 for the campaign) for both the 2000 and 2004 elections returns a list of 940 people.
...which includes five indictments, and five others who shortly will be or have been under investigation.

That's five times the national average for indictments, and eventually, possibly higher by a factor of ten.

Fucking wow...

For All You True Conspiracy Theorists Out There....


This is too funny, but too true...

'One Of The Worst Days Of My Life'

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney said in a broadcast interview yesterday that he accepts full blame for mistakenly shooting a hunting partner last weekend, abandoning his tight-lipped stance on an accident that has drawn sharp criticism and proved damaging to the Bush administration. In his first public comments on the incident, Cheney called the day of the shooting "one of the worst days of my life," appearing somber and shaken as he described having shot Harry M. Whittington, a 78-year-old Austin lawyer, Saturday afternoon.
It would be easy to focus on the fact that it took 18 hours for the news to come out (and I will in a different post, coming to a VDT near you soon).

I have a different question: does Cheney-- who dodged the draft five times during Vietnam, not even bothering to enroll in the National Guard (like his chickenshit boss did) and fire a real weapon, yet rushed our boys and girls into combat-- now get it? Does he get the horror our soldiers face each and every day?

Imagine Mr. Cheney, if that had been Ayman al-Zawahiri, and he had a gun pointed right at you, and he hit you just as you hit Harry Whittington, but blew your face off rather than put a few new blackheads in it? Or it was a thirteen year old boy, raging at you because you've invaded his homeland and it was either you or him? Hell, imagine if the quail you were hunting had been armed, and your Hummer subject to an IED blast?

Do you see now what you've done to countless thousands of young men and women? Not only the ones who have died for your imperialistic hubris, but the ones who, worse, survived to bring the horror of an unjust war against an uncooperative enemy (damn them for not throwing their weapons down and surrendering like they did in Gulf War I!), in which women and children are targets because the enemy has made them easy prey for your boys and girls?

All you did was pepper a old man's face with some pellets that, but for one travelling to his heart, wouldn't have kept him from a day's work.

These kids, you've killed. Do you get it NOW?


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Some Flicker Of Hope In The Country

Frankly, I was surprised this story didn't get more airplay:
Joey Cheek wins speed skating gold


February 14, 2006

TURIN, Italy -- Gold was on his mind. What good would a gold medal do, after all, when the applause died down? So, two days before his race, Joey Cheek had coffee with Johann Olav Koss in the Olympic Village, an American speed skater and his Norwegian inspiration.

Koss won four gold medals in speed skating, then devoted his life to the children of the world. Cheek did not ask Koss how to win the race. He asked how he could help others if he did.

"He was talking that he wanted to do something big," Koss said. "I was so humbled to meet such a person. The most important race of his life is coming up in a couple days, and he's talking about what he can do to give back."
So what did Joey do?
Minutes after he won the men's 500-meter race yesterday, he announced that he will donate $25,000 so children in African refugee camps might have a chance to play sports.

"For me to walk away with a gold medal is amazing," Cheek said, "and the best way to say thanks that I can think of is to help somebody else."

The $25,000 represents the prize awarded by the U.S. Olympic Committee to all gold medalists. Cheek donated his to Right to Play, the organization led by Koss that provides recreation programs to underprivileged children in 20 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Cheek, citing the U.S. government finding of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, said he wanted to sponsor programs for what he said were 60,000 children forced into neighboring Chad. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) wrote last week in the Baltimore Sun that more than two million people had been displaced from Darfur during the last two years.

Cheek, who lives in Park City, Utah, also said he will ask his sponsors -- Nike and Oakley -- and "all of the Olympic sponsors that give hundreds of millions of dollars" to match his donation. And, if he wins the 1,000 meters Saturday, he said he will donate that $25,000 as well.

In the traditional post-competition news conference, gold medalists generally describe the thrill of victory and the agony of previous defeats. But Cheek would not address that lighter side until he had made his announcement, well aware that the world might never again pay attention to him.
This is a 26 year old, applying (finally) for college, turned down already by Harvard (meaning he wasn't making it on an academic scholarship, and obviously his speed-skating credentials couldn't get him an athletic scholarship,) so he probably needed the money. He had his fifteen mintues of fame, and he didn't try to land yet another endorsement contract. So, his first thought after winning?

Give to people who truly need it. People who's government has abandoned them, with no hope and little future in a country torn by war and division. Ain't that America?

Now, I could have been describing New Orleans, but in truth, they at least stand a chance of a Democrat being elected President and finally helping them. What's really embarassing is the Sudan is a country we've targeted for...well, influencing...and yet here's a skater reaching out to the people we're about to..."influence" back to the Stone Age for harboring terrorists! He has it right: this is about a carrot to go with the stick. Let's show the world what America really is about: a kind and generous people who help people who need help.

Hey, I can dream, right?

The other flicker of hope in this country? Admittedly, it's a dim one:
Breaking Ranks

Posted Monday, Feb. 13, 2006
President Bush may wave away Democratic critics of domestic eavesdropping, but one challenger is proving harder to dismiss: Heather Wilson, a plainspoken Air Force veteran from New Mexico and four-term G.O.P. Congresswoman little known outside of national-security circles. As chair of the House subcommittee that authorizes technical intelligence, she has waged a behind-the-scenes battle for access to information about the controversial surveillance program since word of it leaked in December. She won a significant victory last week. After she called for a full investigation of the spying, the White House ended 54 days of stonewalling and briefed the full House Intelligence Committee.

Two days later, at the House G.O.P. retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore, after Bush told lawmakers that he had resisted briefing them to keep more program details from getting leaked, Wilson retorted that the original leak appeared to have come from his Administration and that Congress has a right and a duty to exercise oversight. "The men who wrote the Constitution feared most a strong Executive with control of a standing army," Wilson tells TIME. "Our Constitution is set up to protect all of us from tyranny."
She gets it. Imagine. A Republican, and a former military serviceperson, who gets it.

Why is this a bit weaker flicker of light? Well, she's in a dead heat in her district for re-election, up against a popular state attorney general, in a state run by Bill Richardson, the former UN Ambassador under President Clinton, so she's got to tack a bit left of her party to stay alive here.

But there's more to it that cynical politics here. That she had the audacity to say the "T" word in front of a friendly audience speaks volumes to me about her anger at Bush.

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tags technorati :

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Funniest. Valentine's. Joke. Ever

Hat tip to Miss Cellania

A guy walks into a post office one day to see a middle-aged, balding man standing at the counter methodically placing "Love" stamps on bright pink envelopes with hearts all over them. He then takes out a perfume bottle and starts spraying scent all over them.

His curiosity getting the better of him, he goes up to the balding man and asks him what he is doing. The man says, "I'm sending out one thousand Valentine cards signed, 'Guess who?'"

"But why?" asks the man.

"I'm a divorce lawyer," the man replies.

An Interesting Analysis

Lost in all the talk about torture and interrogation over the past few days was the turn that Hillary Clinton pulled, attacking W. on the way he's handled Iran, among other things.

One might think this plays right into Bush's (and therefore, the GOP's) hands, but guess again:
Clinton-Bush clash beneficial for both?


February 10, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's winter offensive against President George W. Bush has provoked the expected GOP counterattack - but the conflict just might pay off handsomely for both politicians.

The two most polarizing figures in American politics are locked in a co-dependency of sorts. Their recent skirmish carries distinct advantages for both, according to allies and analysts.

Taking on Bush validates New York's junior senator as a kind of shadow president and provides fodder for her fundraising operation. Battling Clinton allows Bush to rally his conservative troops against their arch-enemy and, similarly, shake the shekels from the faithful.[....]

Clinton campaign guru Ann Lewis sent a mass e-mail to donors and supporters late yesterday. It included a New York Post clipping detailing a Wednesday White House confab between Clinton's main GOP re-election rival, former Yonkers mayor John Spencer, and an aide to Bush political adviser Karl Rove.

The missive ended with a discreet "Contributions to Friends of Hillary are not deductible for federal income tax purposes."

A person familiar with the White House meeting said Rove aide Sara Taylor met with Spencer for an hour and suggested that anything "that could defeat Hillary was good" for Bush.
Well, while I really have no choice but to vote for Hillary for Senate, and her obvious positioning towards the White House run in two years has me intrigued by the prospect of Bill/Hill finally running the country out in the open, until she finally comes out and slams Bush on the war in Iraq (even if it's halfheartedly condemning his failed prosecution of it), she really isn't taking Bush head-on.

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If It's Sunday, It's Conservative

I don't post nearly enough stuff from, mainly because I've given them significant ad space on the blog. But this is a brand-new, just-released study of the Sunday morning talk shows, analyzed from 1997 on, that shows a history of conservative bias in our so-called "objective news programming":
The Sunday-morning talk shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC are where the prevailing opinions are aired and tested, policymakers state their cases, and the left and right in American politics debate the pressing issues of the day on equal ground. Both sides have their say and face probing questions. Or so you would think.

In fact, as this study reveals, conservative voices significantly outnumber progressive voices on the Sunday talk shows. Media Matters for America conducted a content analysis of ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press, classifying each one of the nearly 7,000 guest appearances during President Bill Clinton’s second term, President George W. Bush’s first term, and the year 2005 as either Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral. The conclusion is clear: Republicans and conservatives have been offered more opportunities to appear on the Sunday shows -- in some cases, dramatically so.

Among the study’s key findings:

• The balance between Democrats/progressives and Republicans/conservatives was roughly equal during Clinton’s second term, with a slight edge toward Republicans/conservatives: 52 percent of the ideologically identifiable guests were
from the right, and 48 percent were from the left. But in Bush’s first term, Republicans/ conservatives held a dramatic advantage, outnumbering Democrats/progressives by 58 percent to 42 percent. In 2005, the figures were an identical 58 percent to 42 percent.

• Counting only elected officials and administration representatives, Democrats had a small advantage during Clinton’s second term: 53 percent to 45 percent. In Bush’s first term, however, the Republican advantage was 61 percent to 39 percent --
nearly three times as large.

• In both the Clinton and Bush administrations, conservative journalists were far more likely to appear on the Sunday shows than were progressive journalists. In Clinton’s second term, 61 percent of the ideologically identifiable journalists were conservative; in Bush’s first term, that figure rose to 69 percent.

• In 1997 and 1998, the shows conducted more solo interviews with Democrats/progressives than with Republicans/conservatives. But in every year since, there have been more solo interviews with Republicans/conservatives.

• The most frequent Sunday show guest during this nine-year period is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has appeared 124 times. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) has been the most frequent guest since 2003.

• In every year examined by the study –- 1997 - 2005 -- more panels tilted right (a greater number of Republicans/conservatives than Democrats/progressives) than tilted left. In some years, there were two, three, or even four times as many right-tilted panels as left-tilted panels.

• Congressional opponents of the Iraq war were largely absent from the Sunday shows, particularly during the period just before the war began.

In short, the Sunday talk shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC are dominated by conservative voices, from newsmakers to commentators. The data from the Clinton years indicate that the disparity cannot be explained simply by the fact that Republicans currently control the government.
Download the entire report, and read more, here.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Slow, Inevitable Marches On

Bird Flu Found in Italy, Greece, Bulgaria

Associated Press Writer

February 12, 2006, 6:24 AM EST

ROME -- Bird flu has reached Western Europe, with Italy and Greece announcing Saturday they had detected the H5N1 strain of the virus in dead swans.

The announcement that the disease was detected in five swans in southern Italy came a day after the opening of the Winter Games in Turin, several hundred miles to the north. Italian officials said the virus had only affected wild birds and posed no immediate risk to people.

The European Union said the deadly strain, which has infected at least 166 people and killed 88, most in Asia, also had been confirmed in swans in Bulgaria.

No human infections were reported in the three countries, but the outbreak raised concerns that the spread of the disease could increase chances for it to mutate into a form easily transmissible among humans, who generally catch the disease from domestic poultry.

"It's a relatively safe situation for human health; less so for animal health," Italian Health Minister Francesco Storace said.

Also Saturday, authorities in Nigeria said they were investigating whether the deadly strain, which was discovered in the country last week, had spread to humans after at least two children were reported ill.

The U.N.'s chief bird flu expert said the spread of bird flu, which has been ravaging poultry stocks across Asia since 2003, increased the chance that the virus would mutate into a form transmitted between humans and set off a pandemic. Most human deaths from the disease so far have been linked to contact with infected birds.
I'd go one step farther and say that this spread has guaranteed its mutation to a form that will spread rapidly through the mammalian population. In fact, Ed Bremson reports that we are only one or two mutations away from a full-on mammalian flu.

The spread has sped up in the past several weeks, with new outbreaks in new areas reported weekly, as migratory birds find shelter from the northern winters (and even more overwintering birds like geese and swans flee the terrible cold that mid- and east Europe has suffered through. More on that in another article.)

Once it reaches America (only a matter of time now,) the way we raise poultry is going to have a significant impact on how quickly the virus spreads among birds. And since we cram fowl into tiny pens, we're almost signing a death warrant for mass numbers of chickens and ducks and turkeys. And possibly humans.

Too, while it does seem that this flu in its current form is exterminating birds, keep in mind that there are many many more who come in contact with it, who either don't come down with it, or don't die. Yet, we stuff our birds with so many antibiotics and chemicals, their immune systems are highly vulnerable to any disease we haven't injected them against.

Not going to be fun.



So it's 6 AM, and I've been woken up by the blizzard of 2006, which is currently in its full throes of blanketing the city with snow.

Some odd things about snowfall lately:

1) It only seems to hit NYC on weekends, so we never get snow days off anymore. Even last year, when it did fall on a Sunday night into Monday in sufficient quantities to cancel work, it was President's Weekend...

2) Lately, it's been the fluffy confectioner's sugar type of snow, which means storms have hit us from the west (and not dumped much snow). In the northeast, the really bad snows are the ones that travel up the coast from the south. This seems to be hitting us from the southwest, so should not be as bad, but the ones that form over the Atlantic tend to drop loads of snow quickly (which this one is), with high winds (again, here), and the really heavy dense and wet snow that breaks shovels, backs and hearts. This is the classic nor'easter snow pattern, but something added to it makes me suspect this is not a true nor'easter.

3) I hadn't noticed it much when I was a kid, but we seem to be having many many more thundersnows. Today is no exception (which lends credence to the fact that this is not a true nor'easter.) The worst of the lightning has settled in overhead, and the sky lights up every so often in ways that it does not during a thunderstorm. The snow reflects it and bounces the flash everywhere.

In a couple of hours, I'm heading out to do battle with the snow. Got my brand spanking new $13 ergonomic shovel, a pot of hot coffee, my winter boots, my Oakley snow goggles, and despite any concerns about my heart or my newly-torn quadricep (I ran for a bus and tore open an adhesion from an old baseball injury *shrug* Who has time for pain anymore?), I'll be out there clearing faster than it can snow.

UPDATE: Well it's nearly 3 PM and I seem to be nearly done. One last shovel and my sidewalk should be cleaner than John Kerry's reputation (pre-Swiftboating, of course). The photos I took above are from a fence on my block that had this unusual snow formation on them. As you can see, a LOT of snow fell. I estimate 2 1/2 feet.

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