Saturday, April 30, 2005

DeLay Out to Undo Checks and Balances

In case there's any lingering doubt as to his intent, there's this old news item, from the aftermath of the Terry Schiavo media circus, which contains the following quote:

"We've got jurisdiction over the courts. We set up the courts, and we can unset the courts,"

Sometimes I think a high-school civics course would be a good pre-req for Congressional office..

Friday, April 29, 2005

Chalabi Named Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq

And head of the oil ministry, too. You can't make stuff like this up.
Didn't the Iraqis have a warrant out for him a few months ago?
Oh, and his nephew's the minister of finance! Which gives the two of them control of the Iraqi economy.

FBI Linguist 'Won’t Deny' Intelligence Intercepts Tied 911 Drug Money To U.S. Election Campaigns

She's gone so far as to write a special 'non-denial' letter, specifically declining to deny the claim that "laundered drug money linked to the 911 attacks found its way into recent House, Senate and Presidential campaign war-chests.". One thing that is known is that in October of 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft asked the court to dismiss Edmonds’ case on grounds it would compromise national security.

Guckertgate Keeps Rolling On

Though never on CNN, unless they're covering the journalism conference to which he was recently an invited guest - he spoke on a panel on 'blogging', of all things. The Raw Story records some interesting tidbits - 200 visits to the White House, even on days when no press events were held, comings and goings apparently unrecorded - he often signed in but not out and vice-versa, despite 'tightened' White House security - and use of 'uncommon' entrances and exits.

EDIT: Perhaps I spoke too soon. The Washington Post, despite being 'done' with this story, recently picked up an AP summary of these events. Check here for their watered down version, if you like. The two make an interesting contrast, actually: the AP version is all of three short paragraphs long. The Raw Story story is two pages+, and links directly to scores of White House documents..

Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Taking Liberty" by William A. Galston

William Galston refers back to the 2004 inaugural address to provide commentary on liberal and conservative political strategies.

...the idea of freedom is at the heart of our nation's creed. Edmund Burke famously observed that Americans “sniff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.” Even today, the extraordinary value Americans place on individual liberty is what most distinguishes our culture, and the political party seen by voters as the most willing to defend and expand liberty is the one that usually wins elections. Conservatives have learned this lesson; too many liberals have forgotten it.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Rumsfield and Tenet Should Be Investigated For Torture

Now that the show trials are over and a few low-ranking nobodies have been ritually sacrificed, Human Rights Watch has issued a report implicating the entire chain of command in the atrocities at Abu Ghraib.
See the full report here.

The Nation : : DeLay's Grab for NASA

Oh, joy. Look who's holding NASA's pursestrings.

The scandal-scented Republican House majority leader has invaded NASA, grabbing its biggest outpost and taking a rather personal interest in the agency's budget. He has established himself as the go-to guy on Capitol Hill regarding NASA. And given the way Washington works, this means he can influence how the agency carves up its $16 billion pie and how it resolves critical policy debates--matters of keen interest to aerospace and military contractors, who often look to make contributions to friendly or feared legislators.

Friday, April 22, 2005

What If Everybody Is Listening And Nobody Is Transmitting?

Jill Tarter, Director of the Center for SETI Research, addresses the possibility of active transmission ETI probing:

...we justify our asymmetrical listen only strategy by recognizing our asymmetrical position amongst galactic civilizations. We are among the very youngest!"

Thursday, April 21, 2005

t r u t h o u t : : Special Interests "Giddy" Over Bankruptcy Victory

As well they should - they're having their cake and eating it, too:

Supporters of the legislation beat back a variety of attempts to force lenders to cut fees, expand disclosure and curtail what critics have called the abusive marketing tactics of banks and credit card companies. The supporters also fended off a series of amendments that would have curtailed what critics said were the abusive bankruptcy practices of corporations like Enron and WorldCom...
...When it takes effect, six months after it is signed by the president, the new law will disqualify many families from taking advantage of the more generous provisions of the current bankruptcy code, which since 1898 has permitted bankruptcy filers to extinguish their debt for a "fresh start."

In its place, the bill would impose a means test that would force many people to file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13, which requires a repayment plan. The means test would not be applied to debtors who earn less than the median income in their state. Those who earn more than that, and can pay at least $6,000 over five years, would have to seek protection under Chapter 13, rather than the more generous provisions of Chapter 7.

Of course, now that consumers can no longer declare bankruptcy to rid themselves of debt - why, I'm sure lenders' rates will just drop through the floor!

U.S. Has No Exit Strategy to Pull Out of Iraq, Rumsfeld Says

Listen to this man try to spin his failure:

The U.S. has no exit strategy or timetable for withdrawing its forces from Iraq and a pull-out depends on the readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.

``We don't have an exit strategy, we have a victory strategy,''

U.S. Audit Probes $212 Mln in Halliburton Iraq Work

Under only one of many sweetheart no-bid deals with the military, Halliburton may have overcharged the US by 147%, to the tune of $212,000,000.
In completely unrelated news, Dick Cheney was paid $194,852 by Halliburton this year.

IRS Has Become a Subsidy System For Super-wealthy Americans

More news from our man in the field, Captain Obvious:

People making $60,000 paid a larger share of their 2001 income in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes than a family making $25 million, the latest Internal Revenue Service data show. And in income taxes alone, people making $400,000 paid a larger share of their incomes than the 7,000 households who made $10 million or more.

Armor for Vehicles Still Inadequate

But, you know, we've got to support the troops:

Tom Loftus, reporter for the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal, opened his story Thursday this way: "Kentucky Army National Guard soldiers in Iraq are being put at risk because their trucks are unreliable, poorly armored and lack protective glass, according to a guardsman stationed in Iraq."

Washington Post : : Nuclear Plants Are Still Vulnerable, Panel Says

But Bush is doing a great job:

"There are currently no requirements in place to defend against the kinds of larger-scale, pre-meditated, skillful attacks that were carried out on September 11, 2001...,"

CIA Leak Probe Stalls

Apparently the Plamegate inquiry just can't go on until Matt Cooper and Judith Miller give up their sources publicly. Of course, noone seems to care much where Bob Novak gets his information.

AlterNet : : Wal-Mart's Culture of Crime and Greed

Jonathan Tasini examines some of Wal-Mart's business practices:

In February, those nice family-values people from Bentonville agreed to pay a pathetic $135,000 and change to settle charges of child labor violations. Think about it: a corporate culture that tolerates endangering children. As an aside, when the child labor deal was announced, I wrote that the level of the fine was scandalous; the whole sweetheart deal is now under investigation by the Department of Labor's inspector general.

White House Was Aware of Fake Journalist Payola Scheme

Now that Armstrong William's actions have been officially declared 'not illegal', it's apparently safe for the administration to admit that it was involved in the whole mess.
As with so many other things in this White House, the scandal goes all the way to the top.

More Schiavo Shenanegans

Raw Story reports that, astonishingly, more people were involved in the writing and circulation of the Schiavo talking points memo than the one lone sacrificial lamb already offered up. At this point it's worth revisiting Sen. Martinez's hometown newspaper's comments, upon his ascendance to Congress last year:

When challenged, Martinez was too eager to assign blame to his staff or to groups he said he couldn't control. As a senator, he will need an office and a staff that speaks with the measured and centrist tone he says will be his own. He can't pretend to be above it all if the people he employs are not.

Meanwhile, Edwin Buckham, former chief of staff to Tom DeLay and head of Mr 'Taking One For The Team' Darling's former employer, reassures us in the April 8 issue of The Washington Post that "He is still going to have a bright future in this town."

I don't doubt it.

Monday, April 18, 2005

John Edwards on the Bankruptcy Bill

Subtitled, "The Right Way to Flip-Flop":

Like a lot of Democrats, I voted for a bankruptcy reform bill before. I can't say it more simply than this: I was wrong.

The bill is supposed to crack down on irresponsible borrowers. That's the right thing to do. The problem is that this bill imposes big burdens on families who did everything right but went broke just because they lost a job or lost their health insurance. And, even more than the legislation I supported, this bill doesn't crack down on the real abusers.

A Peek Inside David Horowitz's Mind

An interesting article by an attendee at one of the professor's campus lectures. The defining quote: "Arrest those protesters and have them expelled ... they're interfering (with) my right to free speech"

Bolton Accused of Physically Harassing Whistleblower

A letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from one of Mr. Bolton's former co-workers:

Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats.

When US AID asked me to return to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in advance of assuming leadership of a project in Kazakstan, I returned to my project to find that John Bolton had proceeded me by two days. Why? To meet with every other AID team leader as well as US foreign-service officials in Bishkek, claiming that I was under investigation for misuse of funds and likely was facing jail time. As US AID can confirm, nothing was further from the truth.

He indicated to key employees of or contractors to State that, based on his discussions with investigatory officials, I was headed for federal prison and, if they refused to cooperate with either him or the prime contractor's replacement team leader, they, too, would find themselves the subjects of federal investigation. As a further aside, he made unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe and, with a couple of team leaders, my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian (for the record, I'm not).

As a maligned whistleblower, I've learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there.

More about 'serial abuser' Bolton here and here.

With Friends Like These..

From The Independent:

The Bush administration has been accused of ignoring its own arms embargo and overseeing the sale of $7m-worth (£3.7m) of weapons to the Haitian government to equip its police force.

Human rights groups say the police carry out routine executions of dissidents and weapons are often illegally funnelled to armed militia.

Gee, let's not let any silly laws get in the way of exporting death and chaos..

Iraq: The Real Election

A column in the The New York Review of Books:

If the election was to mark the point from which Iraqis would settle their differences through politics and not through violence, it failed; for those responsible for the insurgency— not only those planting suicide bombs but those running the organizations responsible for them and the leaders of the community that has shown itself sympathetic enough to the insurgents' cause to shelter them—did not take part. The political burden of the elections was to bring those who felt frightened or alienated by the new dispensation into the political process, so they could express their opposition through politics and not through violence; the task, that is, was to attract Sunnis to the polls and thereby to isolate the extremists. And in this, partly because of an electoral system that the Sunnis felt, with some reason, was unfairly stacked against them, the election failed.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

But Bush Is Doing A Great Job

Good luck finding this story in your local paper (unless that paper is the Seattle Times):

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

Update: I'm indebted to SirotaBlog for illustrating the pattern - dating back to 2001 - into which this fits all too neatly.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Guardian Unlimited : : Let Them Eat Bombs

Terry Jones reports comments on a recent report to the UN human rights commission, indicating that more Iraqi children are now starving and deprived of health care than under Saddam and UN sanctions.

This, of course, comes as a bitter blow for all those of us who, like George Bush and Tony Blair, honestly believe that children thrive best when we drop bombs on them from a great height, destroy their cities and blow up hospitals, schools and power stations.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Courier-Journal : : Tom DeLay's Jihad

More about Tom DeLay's little crusade against common sense:

What Rep. DeLay is attempting to do is to inflame religious passions to further his reckless and destructive assault on the courts. He argued at the conference that federal courts have "run amok" largely because Congress has failed to control them. He said the proper response "is to reassert (Congress') constitutional authority over the courts."

But Congress doesn't have that authority, beyond narrowly defined roles such as Senate confirmation of federal judges and impeachment powers in the case of criminal behavior. Otherwise, judicial independence is a cornerstone of the constitutional separation of powers that defines the American system of checks and balances. Conservatives should understand that.

For more about Tom DeLay's most recent scandals, look here.

The Nation : : In Contempt of Courts

Right-wing twerps continue to incite violence against judges:

Michael Schwartz must have thought I was just another attendee of the "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference. I approached the chief of staff of Oklahoma's GOP Senator Tom Coburn outside the conference in downtown Washington last Thursday afternoon after he spoke there. Before I could introduce myself, he turned to me and another observer with a crooked smile and exclaimed, "I'm a radical! I'm a real extremist. I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them!"...

...The threatening tenor of the conference speakers was a calculated tactic. As Gary Cass, the director of Rev. D. James Kennedy's lobbying front, the Center for Reclaiming America, explained, they are arousing the anger of their base in order to harness it politically. The rising tide of threats against judges "is understandable," Cass told me, "but we have to take the opportunity to channel that into a constitutional solution."

So we investigate college art shows for terrorism links but this is A-OK?

Also, some interesting points regarding 'judicial tyranny' here.

The Snidely Whiplash Administration

There's evil, and then there's cartoonish super-villain evil. In this case, the EPA and its recent plan to spray poor children with pesticide and see what happens.
Ostensibly sane, grownup men came up with this idea. And because they wore suits to work, I suppose, it was taken seriously. If anyone else were to spray children with pesticides it would be assault, and scientific curiousity would not be an excuse. But not only are these men not going to prison, we can expect this program to pop its head up again in about 8 years' time.

Reuters : : Rumsfeld Visits Iraq, Warns Against Corruption

With a straight face, even:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on a surprise visit to Iraq, warned the country's leaders Tuesday against political purges and cronyism that could spark "lack of confidence or corruption in government."

This is too surreal. This can't be our actual government; it has to be some sort of Dadaist performance art. Any minute and they'll start hanging bacon on themselves and doing the chicken dance..

Yahoo! News : : Three Indicted on Terror Charges in U.S.

There's a first time for everything!

Three men have been indicted on charges they plotted to attack financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington.

A four-count indictment unsealed Tuesday accuses Dhiran Barot, Nadeem Tarmohammed and Qaisar Shaffi of scouting the New York Stock Exchange and Citicorp Building in New York, the Prudential Building in Newark, N.J., and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in the District of Columbia.

The three men, already in custody in England, were charged with three conspiracy counts and providing material support to terrorists.

The Brits are, of course, extremely unlikely to extradite them - but as a symbolic gesture I suppose it has a certain cachet.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Incitement to Murder

Senators Cornyn and Delay's recent comments have drawn the media's usual mild criticism. You know, our statesmen are only condoning the murder of a judge's family.

Un-Embed the Media

Amy and David Goodman lament the death of independant media:

Mr. Bush must have been delighted to learn from a March 16 Washington Post-ABC News poll that 56 percent of Americans still thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the start of the war, while six in 10 said they believed Iraq provided direct support to al Qaeda.

Americans believe these lies not because they are stupid but because they are good media consumers.

Who Forged the Niger Documents?

In an interview by Ian Masters, the former CIA head of counterterrorism operations asserts that the Nigerian yellowcake documents were forged in the US, and examines the political climate at the CIA leading up to the invasion:

...there wasn’t very much of a receptiveness at the senior levels of the CIA — at George Tenet’s level, for example, because he was a very political director. And he was very concerned about getting along with the administration. He was formerly a Democrat, appointed by a Democratic President and he had to stay on in a Republican administration. And he had to compete with a secretary of defense, Rumsfeld, who really didn’t want the CIA playing a large role in the intelligence community, and wanted to supplant that role. So, George had a more political bent. He wanted to get along, and therefore he had to play along. And “playing along” really meant to sustain the conceptions of the policy makers — particularly at the Pentagon and the vice president’s office — that Saddam Hussein was a real and imminent danger.

US admits killing Arab journalists in Iraq

Continuing a well established pattern, the US has again been killing non-embedded journalists.

US soldiers were aiming at a different car, a white Volvo that had driven through the checkpoint at high speed, the investigation said. Al-Arabiya's grey Kia car was 50m to 150m down the road, trying to turn when it was accidentally hit, the military said.

So.. while firing at one car, another car a football field's length away got hit, and its passengers were struck by 'accidental' fire. In the head.
An honest mistake. I don't think there's any misunderstanding this incident.

Chosen Behaviors

Orcinus delivers the final word on the argument that homosexuality is a 'chosen behavior' and not subject to anti-discrimination law.

Seriously, just read it.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Gannon And Gosch

Those on whom the Des Moines Register's story "Is He Johnny Gosch?" was inflicted may be interested in Pointblank Des Moines' treatment of the story. Especially, perhaps, in light of this:

The alternative weekly paper that published the Gannon/Gosch piece closed its doors the day the story came out and will not print another issue. The paper will apparently be printing under the name of another alt-type weekly paper in town (cityview) but the writer of the Pointblank piece - the managing editor - was fired. Apparently, the company that owns the new paper is owned by Michael Gartner, a high-powered individual in Des Moines who owns the Minor league baseball team in that town, oversees a state board that disburses funds to big business, and was a former writer for the Des Moines Register and Tribune who once won a Pulitzer. He was also once president of NBC news, but was forced to leave after the debacle when they blew up trucks with rockets to make them look like they exploded on impact.


NewDonkey, a fellow Southerner, remarks upon the 140th anniversary of Lee's surrender.

Far beyond elementary school, in the broader southern white culture I grew up in, there was an odd exultancy about Appomattox that had nothing to do with vicarious relief at the end of that brutal war.
...that was the essence of Confederate Nostalgia in those days: a cult of romantic defeat, denial, self-pity and pride. I never quite shared it, even as a child, but never quite understood its pathological depths until its mirror images in Serbian and (some parts of) Arab culture became part of world events in more recent years

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Schiavo Memo Author Steps Forward

The author of the 'Schiavo memo' has been identified: sacrifical lamb Brian H. Darling has accepted responsibility for its authorship.

But watch. A year from now the right will still be insisting it was a forgery.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

MSNBC : : A Wicked Curveball

More on the administration's latest scapegoat here:

But in the Feb. 4, 2003, e-mail—written a day before Powell's U.N. appearance—the senior CIA official sharply rebuked one of those skeptical analysts. "Keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn't say and that the Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he's talking about," the CIA official wrote.

Smoke and Mirrors

Captain Obvious strikes again, this time in the form of John Heilemann, who examines the administration's overt policies and the policies they're meant to distract us from:

As ugly as the Social Security debate has been for Bush and the GOP, it has served--perhaps intentionally--one salutary purpose: distracting Democrats while Republicans legislate, with ungodly brio, the rest of their agenda. Class-action reform, the bankruptcy bill, drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness: Republicans are teeing up pet legislation and knocking it down the fairway like Tiger Woods with a brisk wind at his back. Without Social Security,Grover Norquist, a Rove confidant and head of Americans for Tax Reform, told me, this other stuff would've been the front line of battle. Instead, Democrats are holding us up on Social Security, while we get everything else we want done.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The New York Times : : Curveball the Goofball

Maureen Dowd on Curveball, 'intelligence failures' and sucking up to the boss:

By early 2001, the C.I.A. was receiving messages from our Foreign Service, reporting that Curveball was "out of control" and off the radar. A foreign intelligence service also warned the C.I.A. in April 2002 that it had "doubts about Curveball's reliability" and that elements of the tippling tipster's behavior "strike us as typical of individuals we would normally assess as fabricators."

But Curveball's crazy assertions had traction because they were what the White House wanted to hear.

And the people who told Bush what he wanted to hear got promoted while the ones who told him the truth got the blame.

Chalabi Too Embarassing, New Scapegoat Found

Wait.. so, admitting we were manipulated by an Iranian intelligence agent is too embarassing, but we'll own up to being led along by a drunk?
Seriously... if you let a drunk talk you into doing something stupid, is it really the drunk's fault?
Oh, wait...
The Americans never had direct access to Curveball - he was controlled by the German intelligence services who passed his reports on to the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's spy agency.

So, you see, all this is the intelligence agencies' fault! Stupid intelligence!

Monday, April 04, 2005

In Order To Save It

Marjorie Cohn comments on the Bolton nomination:
As UN ambassador, Bolton would make the world a more dangerous place. Bolton spearheaded a successful campaign to prevent the Senate from ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, clearing the way for increased testing of nuclear weapons. He led both the US withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the US renunciation of the International Criminal Court. Bolton hailed his announcement that Bush was taking the United States' signature off the ICC treaty as "the happiest moment" of his government service.

MSNBC : : Did Bolton Try to Intimidate Spies?

There's no end to this man's bad habits:

Accusations that Bolton pressured intel specialists on Cuba have circulated since at least 2003, when congressional intelligence committees looked into allegations that intel analysts were urged to issue alarming reports about Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons.

See also: John Bolton: Ally of Drugrunners

...years later, the CIA's own inspector general released two reports that acknowledged the CIA had knowingly worked with contra supporters suspected of drugrunning. Kerry and the others had been right. But the sly spinners of the Reagan-Bush administrations had succeeded in preventing the contra drug connection from becoming a full-blown scandal.

And who was one of the Reagan/Bush officials who strove to thwart Kerry and other pursuers of this politically inconvenient truth? By now you have guessed it: John Bolton.

So he helped fabricate intelligence for the administration, -and- he's implicit in Iran-Contra? That sounds like the perfect Bush II nominee!

Washington Post : : Panel: U.S. Ignored Work of U.N. Arms Inspectors

Another brief from Captain Obvious: the Bush administration does not hear intelligence it does not wish to hear, no matter how loudly the truth is shouted at them:

Of all the claims U.S. intelligence made about Iraq's arsenal in the fall and winter of 2002, it was a handful of new charges that seemed the most significant: secret purchases of uranium from Africa, biological weapons being made in mobile laboratories, and pilotless planes that could disperse anthrax or sarin gas into the air above U.S. cities.

By the time President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein of the deadly weapons he was allegedly trying to build, every piece of fresh evidence had been tested -- and disproved -- by U.N. inspectors, according to a report commissioned by the president and released Thursday.

ABC News : : U.S. Citizen Held in Iraq as Suspected Insurgent

In defiance of the law and specifically of a court ruling, the US has been been detaining its citizens without access to counsel or any pretense of due process. This is just the case we're hearing about:

The US military said on Friday it has held since last year an American citizen without charges in Iraq as a suspected top aide to militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, drawing condemnation from civil rights activists...
...The justices ruled last June that the government cannot hold an American citizen indefinitely in a US military jail without providing a chance to contest the case against him.

"The Supreme Court decided that an alleged enemy combatant who is an American citizen has the right to challenge the factual basis for his detention, and has the right to do that through counsel. This man has clearly been denied both opportunities,"

MSNBC : : Government Wiretaps, Searches Up 75 Percent

Domestic espionage - wiretaps and sneak-and-peek searches and the like - are up 75 percent since 2000. All that Patriot-esque Big Brotherhood, and not one terror conviction.

The Memory Hole : : Senior US Officials Cozy up to Dictator Who Boils People Alive

With friends like these, we've practically done 'The Terrorists's' work for them.

From Amnesty International's 2003 report on Uzbekistan:

The bodies of Muzafar Avazov, a 35-year-old father of four, and Khusniddin Alimov, aged 34, were brought from Jaslyk prison in the Northern Karaklapakstan region to their families in Tashkent on 8 August. Muzafar Avazov was reportedly tortured to death; an eyewitness said the body showed signs of burns on the legs, buttocks, lower back and arms. Reportedly, there was a large wound on the back of the head, bruises on the forehead, and the hands had no fingernails. The authorities reportedly restricted viewing of Khusniddin Alimov's body.

More here, here, and here.

Washington Post : : Democratic Superiority, by the Numbers

Michael Kinsley examines the economic records of Democratic and Republican administrations and documents a 45 year pattern of Republican underachievement. Or 'overachievement', perhaps, at increasing the size and intrusiveness of the government, and the amount of American debt.

Federal spending (aka "big government"): It has gone up an average of about $50 billion a year under presidents of both parties. But that breaks down as $35 billion a year under Democratic presidents and $60 billion under Republicans. If you assume that it takes a year for a president's policies to take effect, Democrats have raised spending by $40 billion a year and Republicans by $55 billion.

Leaning over backward even farther, let's start our measurement in 1981, the date when many Republicans believe that life as we know it began. The result: Democrats still have a better record at smaller government. Republican presidents added more government spending for each year they served, whether you credit them with the actual years they served or with the year that followed.

Dwight Meredith has compiled more detailed information, comparing each administration's record on budget deficits, size of government, economic growth, unemployment, inflation, and job creation.

Fred Korematsu, 86

Fred Korematsu died on Saturday. The American son of Japanese immigrants, in 1944 he stood up and resisted internment in a case that ended up before the Supreme Court - which promptly slapped him down and into a camp. The judgement was vacated in 1983 and Mr. Korematsu was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1998. Read his obituaries here and here.
I'm particularly taken with this quote, from the 1983 ruling:

Korematsu [vs. U.S.] remains on the pages of our legal and political history. As a legal precedent it is now recognized as having very limited application. As historical precedent it stands as a constant caution that in time of war or declared military necessity our institutions must be vigilant in protecting constitutional guarantees. It stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny.

Duck And Cover

While we're discussing the nuclear option, here's a useful, concise primer on the subject, and on the odious judicial nominees the administration's ready to use it for.

How would the "nuclear option" eliminate the filibuster?

Legitimately changing the rule that allows a filibuster would require a 2/3 majority vote, and Republican leaders don't have nearly that much support. Instead, the plan calls for Dick Cheney (who, as Vice President, is also technically the `President of the Senate') to simply make a ruling that the filibuster rule no longer applies to judges. If Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist can twist enough arms to get 50 senators to support this "reinterpretation," the filibuster will be history.

Unintended Consequences

Labor Blog, examining some of the possible consequences of eliminating the filibuster, concludes that it would serve progressive interests more than conservative ones. Certainly it would prove dire to some conservative pet causes, like gun rights and abortion restrictions.

Michigan Preparing To Let Doctors Refuse To Treat Gays

In the latest round of 'conscientious objector' legislation, Michigan has passed legislation allowing doctors to refuse to treat patients they disapprove of.
My blood's boiling at this. So I'm indebted to BartCop, for providing the cogent reaction I'm incapable of:

Wait, what about big-nosed Jews?
Do they have to treat big-nosed Jews if they don't want to?
How about faggots and square dancers? Who wants to work on them?
And, as always, do the niggers get singled out for special treatment?
What about dark people from civilized countries, and foreigners in general?
Surely those lazy Mexicans aren't exempt, right? Who wants to work on them?
Old people sometimes have skin like a crocodile - do they have to treat them?
What about screaming kids with runny noses? Who wants that?
And Catholics - nobody likes a wacko Catholic, right?
Oh, the Catholics started this, so they'll be acceptable.
I think the only people who should be treated when they're sick are good-looking, straight white people between the ages of 12 and however old I am at the time.

Read the full text of the Act here.

Democracy Now! : : Naomi Klein Reveals New Details About U.S. Military Shooting of Italian War Correspondent in Iraq

Naomi Klein has recently completed an interview with Giuliana Sgrena, and she discusses it with Democracy Now:

...I think part of what we're hearing is that the U.S. soldiers opened fire on their car, because they didn't know who they were, and they were afraid. It was self-defense, they were afraid. The fear, of course, is that their car might blow up or that they might come under attack themselves. And what Giuliana Sgrena really stressed with me was that she -- the bullet that injured her so badly and that killed Calipari, came from behind, entered the back seat of the car. And the only person who was not severely injured in the car was the driver, and she said that this is because the shots weren't coming from the front or even from the side. They were coming from behind, i.e. they were driving away. So, the idea that this was an act of self-defense, I think becomes much more questionable.

The New York Times : : U.S. Is Set to Sell Jets to Pakistan

A few words about the sale of F-16s to Pakistan. Rigorous Intuition points out that this was one of the demands put forth by Daniel Pearl's kidnappers in 2002. The person who ordered the kidnapping - besides being an associate of Osama's - was a Pakistani intelligence asset.
India is, understandably, piqued. And given that India or China - possibly both - are poised to become global powers in the next century, it would make better sense for future Indian schoolchildren to learn how America befriended them and helped them every step of their way to success, rather than blocking, frustrating, and cheating them. (It's also worth pointing out that India is one of two nations on Earth whose citizens supported Bush's election in 2004.)
Of course, this also applies generally - but perhaps the finer points of foreign policy escape me here.

Early morning, April 4

Rigorous Intuition examines the legacy of the King assassination:

From the White House transcript of January 21, 2002, ironically titled "President Honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.":

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all very much for coming. Mrs. King, thanks for this beautiful portrait. I can't wait to hang it. (Laughter.)
...The laughter is anticipated. He knows what he's saying. And he knows he's gotten away with it again.