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Saturday, December 25, 2004

Kerry Demands Recount in Ohio (finally)

Seems like the heat being applied to John Kerry's posterior by the African-American community is working. The Green Party and the Libertarians have been suing the State of Ohio over voting irregularities and demanding a recount, but under Ohio law they needed to demonstrate that there was a likelihood that a recount might render either of them a winner, which they could not do. But Kerry could. So now he has joined the suit as an "intervenor-defendant":

Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc., hereby join the motion of defendants/counter-plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction requiring counter-defendant Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell to prescribe and require the eighty-eight Boards of Election to use adequate, fair and uniform standards and instructions for conducting the state-wide recount in Ohio to ensure that they accurately, fairly and finally determine the results of the 2004 election for the President of the United States.

You can download their filing here (warning: PDF).


News Story They Hoped to Bury in the Christmas News Cycle

George Bush will seek an authorization to spend $80 billion more in Iraq after the first of the year. "In early February, there will be ... a supplemental appropriation in addition to the 2006 budget for defence submitted to Congress." So said Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the House of Representatives appropriations committee, while visiting in Baghdad. Kolbe also said there has been "little planning" in the way funds are being spent. "My subcommittee has raised serious concerns," he noted.

No shit.


Friday, December 24, 2004

Happy Holidays

from Poodle Mount Rushmore (photo: Kate Rousos)


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Courts to CIA: Cough 'Em Up

Since the Abu Graib prison scandal broke, Rummie and his hooligan pals have contended that the crimes committed there were little more than oversights, acts committed by a couple of unsupervised stressed-out soldiers on night shift who were simply "having a good time" and needed to "blow off some steam" (according to Rush, who subsequently earned Media Matters’ award for the stupidest thing said in 2004 for this pearl).

As noted earlier this week, the ACLU has forced various branches of the government to turn over documents related to the torture under the Freedom of Information Act. Thousands of pages of documents are now being examined, and they prove that Rummie and his band of evil henchmen are full of shit. The Washington Post is now referring to these events as "war crimes," and they state, "the new documents establish beyond any doubt that every part of this cover story is false":

...documents detail abuses by Marines in Iraq, including mock executions and the torture of detainees by burning and electric shock. Several dozen detainees have died in U.S. custody. In many cases, Army investigations of these crimes were shockingly shoddy: Officials lost records, failed to conduct autopsies after suspicious deaths and allowed evidence to be contaminated. Soldiers found to have committed war crimes were excused with noncriminal punishments. The summary of one suspicious death of a detainee at the Abu Ghraib prison reads: "No crime scene exam was conducted, no autopsy conducted, no copy of medical file obtained for investigation because copy machine broken in medical office."

The judge in the case seems to have shown remarkably little sympathy for the CIA's claims that it couldn't turn over internal documents until they conducted their own investigation, and on Tuesday the court ordered the CIA to hand 'em over. We will keep you posted.

And what is Congress doing, you ask? Well, it has been sitting on its collective fat ass on this one. The WaPo says it has "abdicated its responsibility under its Republican leadership: It has been nearly four months since the last hearing on prisoner abuse."

Mainstream media have turned a blind to this for way too long, too. After the initial thrill of it all, l guess they just got bored. The internet and the blogosphere kept the Ohio voting scandal in the zeitgeist when the mainstream media wouldn’t dirty their hands with it; now it looks like Kerry is jumping into the fray, and will file documents tomorrow to compel a recount in Ohio. We need to do the same thing until the crooks behind the Abu Ghraib scandal are in jail where they belong.

It is so completely absurd to remember how Washington came to a standstill and spent $72 million to impeach Bill Clinton for a frigging blow job and then think about the fact that nobody in Congress wants to touch this thing. I have no joke for this. The political cowards on all sides are beneath contempt. Email your friends. Please keep this alive!


Democrats Lurching Toward Huge Abortion Miscalculation

The Los Angeles Times reports today that "after long defining itself as an undisputed defender of abortion rights, the Democratic Party is suddenly locked in an internal struggle over whether to redefine its position to appeal to a broader array of voters." This as abortion foe and former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer (who should be disqualified for his frightening looks alone) gets ready to challenge Howard Dean for the Chairmanship of the DNC.

This alarmaing shift in Democrat thinking couldn't be more wrongheaded.  At its heart it presumes that if we simply opened the door and were more tolerant of the anti-abortion crowd, we would swell the number of Democrats and defeat the opposition.

But that presumes that you would not alienate the pro-choice crowd in the bargain, and that if their only other option were to vote Republican you would get their votes anyway.


The anti-abortion movement is first and foremost about fear and hatred of women, their bodies, their sexuality, and their right to choose their own destinies.  It is a movement designed to keep them chained to the oppressive roles of the past.  If anyone actually CARED about reducing pregnancies in this country, and therefore abortions, RU-486 would be available over the counter for the price of Advil, and would effectively decimate the number of abortions needed.  Instead it is embattled over notions of "women's health," as if anyone who brings that up (Chimp and Co.) actually gives a shit about women's health.  The risk of dying in childbirth is far greater than any risk brought on by the "morning after" pill, but you don't hear anyone crowing about the mother's "right to life."  The underlying conceit?  She dropped her drawers and spread her legs, let her live (or die) with the consequence of her actions..

So we find ourselves in a nation who has brought the discussion over "right to life" down to the level where we must count blastula so small you can't see them in a Petri dish as "life" so as to continue to chain women to their biology and punish them for engaging in sex.  If anyone thinks for ONE MINUTE that a party which tolerates this kind of ideology, which implicitly seeks to make women second class citizens, is one that is going to continue to be embraced by intelligent, educated, progressive thinking MEN AND WOMEN then they need to stop hitting the crack pipe.  

Such a policy shift is doomed to backfire.  It will instantly eject the backbone of progressive liberalism that the party depends on for is best ideas and morality compass, trading them for a bunch of ignorant yahoos who have been duped by poor education and an expensive Republican advertising budget.  

Foolish.  Just foolish.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Messianic Complex 101

Up until now I have refrained from further publicizing Bill O'Reilly's absurd campaign to "save Christmas." But now, according to Media Matters, O'Reilly claims that "somewhere Jesus is weeping" over the slings and arrows he's endured in his holy crusade.

"All right, where am I going wrong here? All these people hate me....And all I'm doing is sticking up for the baby Jesus. So what's the deal?"

And you thought he was just another dumb, belligerent perv.


Social Security, Obama and Ford

Over and over again, the conservative media -- fueled by the Cato Intitute, whose Project on Social Security Choice works tirelessly for the privatization of social security -- refer to Barak Obama (D-Ill) and Harold Ford, Jr. (D-Tenn) as two Democrats sympathetic to the privatization cause. Specifically, on December 1, the Cato Institute said:

The challenge is to bring this nationwide, bipartisan support for individual accounts inside the Beltway. That will require Republicans to reach out to sympathetic Democrats -- taking into account their concerns that any reform plan be fiscally responsible -- and for Democratic moderates to be willing to break with the entrenched "do nothing" wing of their party. In this regard, it is promising that two of rising stars of the Democratic Party, Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.) and Senator-elect Barack Obama (D-Ill.), have both indicated a willingness to consider personal accounts.

Is there any truth to these allegations? Well, in the case of Obama, it seems that they are referring to is his proposal for Working Families Savings Accounts. According to the AP:

[Obama] said his plan would give people making less than $50,000 a year a 50 percent tax credit for contributions of up to $2,000 to an IRA or 401(k)....

Which seems to have nothing to do with Social Security, and Obama has said in the past he opposes any attempt to privatize Social Security and wants to use Social Security to "insure the solvency of the system, not plug other budget gaps."

Yet when he appeared on Meet the Press on November 14 of this year, Cato and other pirate-izers were cheering when he added fuel to the "Social Security is Sick and Dying" myth:

The Democratic Senator-elect from Illinois, Barack Obama, gave proponents of PRAs cause for optimism when host Tim Russert asked if common ground could be found between Democrats and Republicans on Social Security. Obama answered: I think that when it comes to Social Security, all of us want to make sure that our senior citizens can retire with dignity and respect. And everybody has to be openminded in thinking how do we firm up a system that, in fact, is going to be in difficulty in the coming years. So I absolutely think that it’s possible for us to find common ground.

(I have stated my emphatic belief that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Social Security system, so I won't go into it here. But if you want to, you can read more in here and here.)

The case of Ford is more troubling. In April of this year, at a Social Security reform briefing held by, Morton Kondrake moderated a discussion between Ford and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.). In it, Ford fed the "Social Security is Sick" furor when he noted that "I’m 33 years old, and many in my generation will tell you they’re not expecting to be able to rely on Social Security." He further gave this support for privatization:

KONDRAKE: First, would you be supportive of a bill like Senator Graham’s, with personal accounts in Social Security?

REPRESENTATIVE FORD:  Yes, I would, provided we could pay for the transition costs without running up bigger deficits.  I’m not an expert on all the details, but I think his bill has good anti-poverty protections, and matching funds for lower-income workers.  The personal accounts are progressive, which is good.  And in the long run, it keeps Social Security costs down to about where they are now, which we can afford.  In this budget environment, however, it will be very hard to pay for the transition costs of the accounts.

In addition, Ford came close to co-sponsoring the Social Security Savings Act with Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) earlier this year. In the end, he withdrew his support because he could not agree with DeMint on a way to pay for these changes, but he mad this statement of support for the ideas embodied in DeMint's plan:

Rep. DeMint has a proposal that would allow workers to begin building wealth by investing part of their Social Security taxes in individual retirement accounts. The accounts would be administered within the Social Security Administration. His plan is progressive, allowing low-income workers to invest a larger portion of their taxes. It would allow assets to be passed on from generation to generation.

The reason I single out Ford and Obama is because they are the two that are repeatedly pointed to by privatizers when they claim "bipartisan support" for their measures (see here: The Washington Times, Fox News and The New York Sun). If they are indeed the future leaders of the Democratic Party, and I believe there are many reasons to hope that is true, they need to take a stand on BushCo's push to raid the Social Security piggy bank, and if indeed they are being unfairly trumpeted by conservative media for positions they do not support, they need to put an end to it.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

On the Subject of "Who Cares..."

This probably shows I've got too much time on my hands, but here's my favorite post of the day, from the Media Matters website by Frady, concerning the Wilson/Rumsfeld pissfest (more below):

Just look at the people whinning [sp] about the question the soldier asked Dumbfield; Rush who avoided serving because of a open cyst on his ass, Reagen, we still don't know why he didn't serve. Reagen's only claim to fame is feeding off his fathers name! Coulter might have served in her other life as a man, but that's to scary to think about. Then there's Hannity, if there ever was a picture boy for abortion, he's the one. Hannity was approx 20 years old at the time of the 1st Gulf War, did he join and serve? No he didn't! Have any of these wastes been over to Iraq? You couldn't get any of them within 5,000 miles of the place!

Heh-heh-heh. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a stink bomb to set off in the can.


So Much for Wilson as "Liberal Stooge" Theory

In case you actually care who asked the goddamned question in the first place, from this week's Editor and Publisher:

In his first public account of last week’s controversy, Spc. Thomas Wilson says that he came up with the now famous armor question for Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld on his own, without the help of oft-criticized reporter Edward Lee Pitts. And he adds, "If this is my 15 minutes of fame, I hope it saves a life."

The account appears in next week’s edition of Time magazine.

After his convoy arrived at Camp Arijan in Kuwait, Wilson found hundreds of fully armored vehicles promised to another unit months down the road. Wilson says he asked if the 278th could use them in the meantime, and was told no. That inspired his question about the shortage of armor, which he showed to Pitts.

The reporter, far from being the protagonist, suggested that he find “a less brash way of asking the question," but Wilson “told him no, that I wanted to make my point very clear."

The Time account continues: “As for Rumsfeld's brusque response -- that even a fully armored vehicle ‘can be blown up’ -- Wilson says, ‘Personally, I didn't like that answer.’”

Everyone evidently shook hands and made nice after the encounter, but one officer suggested Wilson should have asked the question in a more "proper forum." Wilson quite astutely replied: “What would the proper forum be?”

Thanks to the always pithy Roger Ailes (no, not that one) who also astutely notes, "Of course, the only thing that matters is the answer to the question, not who asked it. Unless you're a servile, knee-jerk Bush apologist."


Let Them Eat War

Don't say nobody warned you. From yesterday's Dallas Morning News :

The Army National Guard has fallen a shocking 30 percent below its recruitment goals for the past two months and has undertaken an expensive incentives campaign to turn those numbers around. It had better work: Almost 40 percent of the 148,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq are Guard members or Reservists. America cannot carry out its mission in Iraq without them.

The situation is so bad that last week, Lt. Gen. James R. "Ron" Helmly, the Army Reserve's top commander, told The Dallas Morning News that if recruitment doesn't turn around soon, a military draft could be around the corner.

This isn't some liberal loudmouth with a two-bit opinion chiming in. This is...let's reiterate...the Army Reserve's top commander. Now according to recent government numbers, the voter turnout rate for under-25 voters was 42.3%. Of those 10.5 million voters, 43% voted for Bush. Which begs the were they thinking?


Monday, December 20, 2004

Andrew Sullivan: Blind Pig

The release of the ACLU documents linking the President with the use of torture in Iraq (see below) should be the lead story on every network...but it won't be. People living in an us-or-them worldview will probably applaud the President for his actions. The presumption is that since THEY use torture, WE should too. This argument only works if torture actually turns out to be an effective method of interrogation. So...while we're on the subject...proving that even a blind pig can find a turnip every now and again...Sullivan had this to say about torture:

There is little evidence to suggest that the torture used by U.S. forces has in any way helped our intelligence efforts. In fact, it may well have proven counter-productive, as experience has shown. Tortured inmates tell you whatever can get them out of torture. They don't often give you really helpful intelligence. Secondly, this is indeed a different kind of war. The critical element in defeating an inurgency is winning over the civilan population that can give insurgents cover and support. But stories of brutality - in Saddam's own slaughter-house no less - and the use of mass round-ups of innocent civilians, the taking hostage of relatives of suspected insurgents and everyday brutality actually hurts your cause and undermines the war. That's why armies try to rein it in. The case against abuse and torture is not just a moral case; it's a practical case. It's helping the enemy. And it is destroying the moral high-ground which we are fighting to defend.

Okay, Sullivan can figure this out. What's wrong with the rest of America?


Scapegoat Pool: Who Wants Wolfowitz?

The ACLU now says it has obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act that show the President authorized the use of torture in Iraqi prisons as a matter of policy that ultimately led to the Abu Graib scandal. One of the documents, an FBI email which was sent in May 2004 from "On Scene Commander--Baghdad" to various senior FBI officials, notes that the FBI prohibits its agents from using the torture as a matter of policy, and wonders how this jibes with the most recent dictum from the President:

Our questions relate to the instruction in the EC to report abuse. The EC states that if "an FBI employee knows or suspects non-FBI personnel has abused or is abusing or mistreating a detanee, the FBI employee must report the incident."

This instruction begs the question of what constitutes "abuse." We assume this does not include lawful interrogation techniques authorized by Executive Order. We are aware that prior to a revision in policy last week, an Executive Order signed by President Bush authorized the following interrogation techniques among others sleep "management," use of MWDs (military working dogs), "stress positions" such as half squats, "environmental manipulation" such as the use of loud music, sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc.

There has been widespread speculation that the methods of torture used by various branches of the military had too much in common to be simply random acts of brutality. These documents suggest that the link between these events goes all the way to the top.

A press release by the ACLU describes the FBI's attempts to cover their collective asses:

Another e-mail, dated December 2003, describes an incident in which Defense Department interrogators at Guantánamo Bay impersonated FBI agents while using "torture techniques" against a detainee. The e-mail concludes "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [sic] the ‘FBI’ interrogators. The FBI will [sic] left holding the bag before the public."

The document also says that no "intelligence of a threat neutralization nature" was garnered by the "FBI" interrogation, and that the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) believes that the Defense Department’s actions have destroyed any chance of prosecuting the detainee. The e-mail’s author writes that he or she is documenting the incident "in order to protect the FBI."

The release of the documents is the result of a federal court order that compelled government agencies to comply with a year-old request filed under the FIA by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. They go to court again today to seek an order compelling the CIA to turn over records related to an internal investigation into detainee abuse, which they have so far refused to do.

The truly sad thing about this is that the 59 million people who voted for His Ignorance would only cheer should the allegations turn out to be true. See the Joseph Darby story, below.

Now we all know that the current Congress would not impeach Bush if he joined Michael Jackson for a bout of serial child molestation on live TV. But it's worth dropping an email to your own congressperson and senator, if only for your own peace of mind. (Thanks to Atrios)