Saturday, January 31, 2009

Zimbabwe Power Sharing A Losing Proposition for Tsvangirai

After months of talks, Morgan Tsvangirai will become the prime minister of Zimbabwe on February 11, while Robert Mugabe will remain president despite his loss in an election ten months ago.

Tsvangirai did not win as many concessions from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party as he had hoped. Zanu-PF and the MDC, Tsvangirai's party, will share the post of home-affairs minister, which controls the police, and Zanu-PF's extensive power network will remain in place.

During the months of deadlock, Mugabe seized the chance to reinforce his power. Last month, he reappointed Gideon Gono, the governor of the Reserve Bank, for another five-year term. Gono, who one diplomat called the "destroyer of Zimbabwe's economy", has been a central figure in the country's collapse. Under his leadership, the Reserve Bank has printed money with abandon, helping to cause hyperinflation and wreck confidence in its decisions. By keeping Gono, Mugabe may succeed in shutting the MDC out of economic policy and blocking reforms, even if an ally of Tsvangirai becomes finance minister.

Currently, 94 percent of Zimbabwe's population is jobless, and 80 percent depend on food aid.

Meet Natlalie Dylan

From the Daily Beast:

I’m a 22-year-old woman who recently earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Women’s Studies, and soon I’ll be entering a Masters Degree program in Marriage and Family Therapy. During the time in between, in addition to my regular 9-to-5, I’ve been exploring my upcoming thesis project: the value of virginity. To be more specific, I’ve put my own virginity up for auction on the Moonlight Bunny Ranch website, and I recently received my highest bid so far: a cool $3.8 million.

Like most little girls, I was raised to believe that virginity is a sacred gift a woman should reserve for just the right man. But college taught me that this concept is just a tool to keep the status quo intact. Deflowering is historically oppressive—early European marriages began with a dowry, in which a father would sell his virginal daughter to the man whose family could offer the most agricultural wealth. Dads were basically their daughters’ pimps.

When I learned this, it became apparent to me that idealized virginity is just a tool to keep women in their place. But then I realized something else: if virginity is considered that valuable, what’s to stop me from benefiting from that? It is mine, after all. And the value of my chastity is one level on which men cannot compete with me. I decided to flip the equation, and turn my virginity into something that allows me to gain power and opportunity from men. I took the ancient notion that a woman’s virginity is priceless and used it as a vehicle for capitalism.

If your interested, check out the full story to get into the mind (and perhaps more) of Natalie . . .

Grand Old Preventers

According to most sources, the GOP is thrilled to death that they have prevented urgent economic recovery for the middle class.

From the New York Times:

Republicans profess to be unconcerned. House Republicans on Thursday headed off to a retreat at The Homestead, a Virginia resort, still celebrating their unanimous stand — despite Mr. Obama’s visit to the Capitol to seek their support — against a package that in their view has too much big-government spending and too few tax cuts. Their unsuccessful substitute was entirely of tax cuts.

From the Washington Post:

The bill passed easily despite the opposition of all 177 Republican House members, but party leaders delighted in what they considered a victory after two straight electoral drubbings and much soul-searching about what the party stands for.

From The Hill:

House Republicans still elated from their unanimous vote againt the Democratic stimulus package think they will be able to work with President Obama on future bills despite the partisan vote

What kind of people would be happy to stand by and thumb their noses at the average American while the country slides further into a full-scale depression? How did King George put it year ago? "If you're not with us, you're against us"

Dems Restoring Civility To Constitutional Rights

Congress has given final approval to a civil rights bill providing women, blacks and Hispanics with powerful new tools to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace. It is likely to be the first significant legislation signed by President Obama.

The 250-to-177 vote in the House came five days after the Senate passed the bill, 61 to 36.

The bill, named for Lilly M. Ledbetter, a longtime supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama, would make it easier for workers to win lawsuits claiming pay discrimination based on sex, race, religion, national origin, age or disability. Under the new law, the statute of limitations would be redefined, making clear that each new paycheck is a violation of the law if it results “in whole or in part” from a discriminatory pay decision made in the past.

Ledbetter became a champion of women’s rights and an outspoken supporter of Mr. Obama after the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision in 2007, rejected her lawsuit against Goodyear. A jury had found that the company paid Ms. Ledbetter less than male supervisors, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court did not deny that she had suffered discrimination, but said she should have filed her claim within 180 days of “the alleged unlawful employment practice” — the initial decision to pay her less than men. Despite the wide publicity given the case, the Bush administration and the GOP congress failed to act on the matter.

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 6

Friday, January 30, 2009

PETA Vegetarian Ad Banned By NBC

NBC notified PETA this week that their 2009 Superbowl Commercial ‘depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards at NBC’. I found it to be right in line with mine-- check it out:

Killers Finally Kicked Out Of Iraq

Iraq will not allow Blackwater Worldwide to continue providing security protection for U.S. diplomats in the country, Iraqi and U.S. officials said Thursday. Blackwater had been protected from such action by the Iraqi government while Bush remained in office.

Blackwater's image in Iraq was irrevocably tarnished by the September 2007 killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisoor Square. Five former Blackwater guards pleaded not guilty Jan. 6 in federal court in Washington to manslaughter and gun charges in that shooting.

The decision not to issue Blackwater an operating license was due to "improper conduct and excessive use of force," said Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf.

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 5

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Court: OK To Expel Girls From High School Based On Sexual Orientation

Folks-- it looks like bigotry will live on for a while in a court system still chock-full with Bush appointees. A California appeals court has ruled that a Christian high school can expel students because of an alleged lesbian relationship.

The 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside on Monday upheld California Lutheran High School's right as a private, religious organization to exclude students based on sexual orientation.

Two girls sued claiming they were discriminated against after they were expelled from the Wildomar school in 2005. A lower court said the school isn't bound by the same anti-discrimination laws as a business establishment.

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 4

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bolivia Continues Its Turn To The Left

Exit polls suggest that 60% of Bolivia has approved a new constitution backed by President Evo Morales that he says will empower the country's indigenous majority.

Planned reforms include greater state control of natural resources, reductions in future land holdings and the creation of state assemblies. President Morales, an Aymara Indian, has pursued political reform but has met fierce resistance from some sectors.

Opponents concentrated in Bolivia's eastern provinces, which hold rich gas deposits, argue that the new constitution would create two classes of citizenship - putting indigenous people ahead of others. Morales has said the new constitution will pave the way for correcting the historic inequalities of Bolivian society, where the economic elite is largely of European descent.

The new constitution was made possible only after Morales agreed to seek only one more 5-year term if re-elected this December. The new constitution also includes a bill of rights, increases state control over the economy, limits the size of big land holdings and redistributes revenues from the important gas fields in the east to poorer parts of the nation.

Indigenous people would be granted autonomy over their traditional lands and a "priority" share of the revenue from natural resources. But many of the areas where natural resources are found are governed by the opposition and would also be granted greater autonomy. Analysts say it remains unclear how some of the constitution's articles can be reconciled.

Heavy Load

They say that you're a few pounds lighter after dropping a load, but now it's possible to verify if it’s true. Designer Haikun Deng has designed a toilet seat with a built-in digital scale, but her rationale for doing so was equally dubious. The "butt scale" was apparently designed for women who are constantly monitoring their weight. The need to feel skinny is satisfied every time they finish their "business".

What a crappy reason for designing a produc. Excuse me while I take a dump.

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 3

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Western Pills = Developing World Ills

When researchers analyzed vials of treated waste water taken from a plant near Patancheru, India-- where about 90 Western drug factories dump their residues-- they were shocked. Enough of a single, powerful antibiotic was being spewed into one stream each day to treat every person in a city of 90,000.

And it wasn't just ciprofloxacin being detected. The supposedly cleaned water was a floating medicine cabinet — a soup of 21 different active pharmaceutical ingredients, used in generics for treatment of hypertension, heart disease, chronic liver ailments, depression, gonorrhea, ulcers and other ailments. Half of the drugs measured at the highest levels of pharmaceuticals ever detected in the environment, researchers say.

Those Indian factories produce drugs for much of the world, including many Americans. The result: Some of India's poor are unwittingly consuming an array of chemicals that may be harmful, and could lead to the proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria.

Last year, the Associated Press reported that trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals had been found in drinking water provided to at least 46 million Americans. But the wastewater downstream from the Indian plants contained 150 times the highest levels detected in the U.S. While India's environmental standards are being met at Patancheru, screening for pharmaceutical residue at the end of the treatment process is not required.

Researchers are finding that human cells fail to grow normally in the laboratory when exposed to trace concentrations of certain pharmaceuticals. Some waterborne drugs also promote antibiotic-resistant germs, especially when — as in India — they are mixed with bacteria in human sewage. Even extremely diluted concentrations of drug residues harm the reproductive systems of fish, frogs and other aquatic species in the wild. In the India research, tadpoles exposed to water from the treatment plant that had been diluted 500 times were nonetheless 40 percent smaller than those growing in clean water.

Larsson's research, which has gained wide acceptance in the scientific community, has also created a stir among environmental experts. "That's really quite an incredible and disturbing level," said Renee Sharp, senior analyst at the Washington-based Environmental Working Group. "It's absolutely the last thing you would ever want to see when you're talking about the rise of antibiotic bacterial resistance in the world."

The more bacteria is exposed to a drug, the more likely that bacteria will mutate in a way that renders the drug ineffective. Such resistant bacteria can then possibly infect others who spread the bugs as they travel. Ciprofloxacin was once considered a powerful antibiotic of last resort, used to treat especially tenacious infections. But in recent years many bacteria have developed resistance to the drug, leaving it significantly less effective.

"It's a global concern," said Dr. A. Kishan Rao, a medical doctor and environmental activist who has been treating people near the drug factories for over 30 years. "European countries and the U.S. are protecting their environment and importing the drugs at the cost of the people in developing countries."

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 2

Monday, January 26, 2009

Newspapers Hard-Pressed For Credibility In France

Nicolas Sarkozy has announced $770M in emergency aid for France's troubled newspaper industry and declared that every 18-year-old in France would get a year's free subscription to the paper of their choice to boost reading habits.

The crisis-hit French press is among the least profitable in Europe, stifled by rigid communist print unions, a lack of kiosks selling papers and a declining readership far below that of the UK or Germany.

The public's trust in the media is at an all-time low in a climate where politicians rewrite their own interviews for publication and the president's powerful business friends, from construction to arms manufacturing, own several major papers or TV stations. Sarkozy has also been likened by his political opponents to Silvio Berlusconi for his recent moves to tighten state control of public TV.

The press remains largely the preserve of the elite and as a result there is no popular mass-market newspapers. The biggest daily seller in France is the sports paper L'Equipe. In addition, regional papers sell far more than the nationals.

Blind Justice

A Texas death row inmate with a history of mental problems pulled out his only good eye and told authorities he ate it.

25-year-old Andre Thomas had been convicted and condemned to death in 2004 for stabbing his estranged wife and two children and then ripping their hearts out. While in the Grayson County jail awaiting trial, Thomas plucked out his right eye before his trial. A judge subsequently ruled he was competent to stand trial.

In the most recent incident, a death-row officer at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice found Thomas in his cell with blood on his face and took him to the infirmary. "Thomas said he pulled out his eye and subsequently ingested it," agency spokesman Jason Clark said.

"He will finally be able to receive the mental health care that we had wanted and begged for from day 1," Bobbie Peterson-Cate, Thomas' trial attorney, told the Sherman Herald Democrat. "He is insane and mentally ill. It is exactly the same reason he pulled out the last one."

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 1

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dowd Out Loud About Kennedy-Paterson Cloud

NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd has a pretty lively op-ed on why she loves Blago the Serbian Cowboy and despises the "goofball" NY Governor over his handling of the NY Senate appointment:
So now we have an N.R.A. handmaiden in Bobby Kennedy’s old seat? Kirsten Gillibrand, a k a Tracy Flick, accepting the honor with her Republican pal Al D’Amato beside her on stage? Gross.

. . . . .

Paterson’s five weeks of dithering let the jealous vindictiveness of the Clintons and friends — still fuming over Caroline’s endorsement of Obama and Teddy’s blocking Hillary from a leading health care role in the Senate — poison the air. With his usual sense of entitlement and aggrievement, Bill Clinton of Arkansas did not want Caroline Kennedy of New York to have the seat that Hillary Clinton of Illinois held.

Paterson wasn’t thinking of New York, only of how an upstate ally who was a woman would bolster his own chances for re-election. We can only hope that an avenging Andrew Cuomo takes him out in a primary.

. . . . .

Chuck Schumer embraced Gillibrand because at long last he can be the best-known senator from New York, something that would have been impossible with Kennedy.

Bush's Iraq Legacy?

Vatican Spews More Hate

A senior Vatican official attacked President Barack Obama for "arrogance" for overturning a ban on state funding for family-planning groups that carry out or facilitate abortions overseas.
It is "the arrogance of someone who believes they are right, in signing a decree which will open the door to abortion and thus to the destruction of human life," said Archbishop Rino Fisichella.

"What is important is to know how to listen... without locking oneself into ideological visions with the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death," he added.

Sounds to me like that last paragraph is referring to Bush, not Obama. And speaking of Bush, the Pope didn't have any problem embracing him-- despite his may sins (unjustified war, torture of humans, disregard for the poor and needy). As long as Bush was pro-life and anti-gay, he passed the Pope's ethics test.

Bash Brother Buffeted By Brother's Book

Mark McGwire's brother Jay is set to spill the beans on the his steroid used in an upcoming book. Check out a few of the juicy details below:

Dad is an extremely private person. In his mind, if a problem arose, you kept quiet about it and sooner or later the problem would just go away. Psychiatrists earn handsome livings from said suppressed philosophy. Mark would later become a national disappointment for living my father's example of being such a private person. Mark even took it a step further by sticking his head in the sand at the Congressional Hearings while addressing steroid use in Major League Baseball.

. . . . .

My high coincided with Mark's low. Injuries began to derail his career with back, ankle, and knee injuries. Plantar fasciitis served as the primary culprit. He only played in twenty-seven games in 1993 and forty-seven in 1994. When you get hurt like that, you start questioning whether you can come back. The negatives flooded him. He even thought about retirement. The idea of retirement made him more open to the idea of steroids. He'd been known as a home run hitter his whole life; he was making a good living, people knew who he was—one of the Bash Brothers—only he was hurt and his career was suffering. Nothing is worse than an athlete who's hurt. He knows he's better than anybody on the field, but he can't play. It's really frustrating. The fans are expecting you to go out there, but you just aren't able to go.

. . . . .

Steroids promote muscle growth and healing, just what Mark needed. So I began selling the idea to Mark that steroids would boost his career. Major League Baseball did not have testing back then, and using the right combination of drugs would add muscle and aid his recovery power from the many dings and bruises of being a professional athlete. Clearly the use of steroids would allow him to avoid the injuries while adding the right amount of strength. I went to him and I said, "Mark, you have to do something about this."

I wasn't thinking about altering baseball history; I only wanted to help my brother. I told him, "Mark, it's no problem to get the stuff. All you need is some cash and I'll get it for you."

He definitely wanted to look into it.

. . . . .

I put the idea of steroids into his head and educated him about their use. Jose (Canseco) really had nothing to do with it. So it does not make any sense that a guy like Mark would go in a bathroom stall and shoot steroids with a guy like Jose; Mark never trusted him and his character. Mark has told me that in so many words throughout the years. Mark has always acted the same when dealing with issues with his family, friends, or girlfriends, and even with Jose: if there is no trust, or if there's hurt, he cuts you off.

We advised him to take low dosages. You don't want to just go and take a bunch of steroids and get huge, because it's going to affect your swing. There were a lot of elements to it. He gradually grew. He didn't become the Hulk overnight. He was educated about steroids.

What Is The GOP Smoking These Days?

From the National Republican Congressional Committee's website:

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inaugural Hat Trick

Bush Brings Down Another Regime

And he did it without killing thousands of innocent victims.

Thailand To United Nations: F**f Off

Thailand says 126 asylum-seekers from the Burmese Rohingya minority who were detained by the military a week ago have been sent back out to sea to face certain danger. The UN Refugee Agency had asked to see the detainees three days ago, but was ignored.

Last month, almost 1,000 Rohingyas were detained and then towed out to sea by Thai security forces in boats with little food and no motors. Only a few hundred of those refugees have been rescued, with the rest still missing and feared lost at sea.

Final Bush Cartoon (Well, Maybe)

Haggard Haggard Over Laggard Charges

Disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard's former church has now revealed that the gay sex scandal that caused his downfall involved a relationship with yet another man. This time, a young male church volunteer is reported as having a sexual relationship with Haggard — a revelation that comes as Haggard tries to repair his public image.

In 2007, the church had claimed there was no evidence that Haggard had sexual relations with anyone but Mike Jones, a former male prostitute. Haggard confessed to undisclosed "sexual immorality" after Jones' allegations and resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and from New Life Church.

Friday, January 23, 2009

From The Mouths Of Babes

Rock On, Obama

"Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former president wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the white house counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so; it will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well-grounded in the Constitution. Let me say it as simply as I can: transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Warrin' Over Warren's Words

Rick Warren's inaugural invocation received mixed reviews the other day-- raising eyebrows by invoking Jesus' name and concluding with the Lord's Prayer -- both distinctly Christian practices on an occasion that Obama said should be for Muslims, Jews and Hindus as well.

The choice of Warren to deliver the invocation generated controversy from the start -- triggering protests by civil rights groups angered by his support of Proposition 8, the California measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state. wrote:
You'll notice that Warren also went out of his way to talk about Jesus, even naming him in different tongues. That was again Warren's way of taking a poke at Jews, Muslims, and probably even non-evangelical Christians, who aren't Christian anyway, according to evangelicals. Rev. Lowery, on the other hand, gave a benediction about God that could have been given by any person of faith, that could be read in a mosque, a synagogue, or a church, and fit right in. That's what a true religious leader does. That's why Lowery is a civil rights hero. And it's why Rick Warren will be remembered as nothing more than a smooth-talking pop preacher who couldn't resist using Obama's big day to take a dig at whoever he was busy judging on that particular day.

Debilitated Dame Deters Dastardly Dick's Dirty Deed

A naked man broke into the home of 88-year-old woman but then fled the home after she fought back and grabbed his dick. Officers arrested 46-year-old Michael Dick on charges of burglary, harassment and private indecency.

According to reports, the naked Dick entered the house through an unlocked sliding door at about 6:30 am and pushed the elderly woman face-first into a chair. The invading Dick didn’t say a word-- he just followed her around the room and kept pushing his dick against her.

After the woman exclaimed, 'Holy mother!', the marauding Dick paused-- and that's when the victim reached around and grabbed Dick by the dick.

Dick pulled his dick free, ran out the door, and jumped into his car (the Dick mobile?) and fled the scene.

A tip on a license plate seen near the scene lead the police to Dick's car (a stick shift?), which was still in the area. After questioning Dick, the police arrested him. The elderly woman wasn't hurt and the intruder didn't make off with dick.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Topping Off The Inauguration Coverage

Comments from the internet on Aretha Franklin's millinery choice:

Ggreg Taylor is proud Aretha is supporting renewable energy by wearing a wind turbine on her head.

Andrew Fox would like his civil rights, but might settle for Aretha's hat.

Jarrett Nolan is thankful someone gift wrapped Aretha.

The Daily Dude thought that Aretha could put it on top of the Christmas tree after she was finished.

Anonymous: Is that thing supposed to light up during the final chorus?

Another Inauguration Anecdote

Stacy Kerr from Speaker Pelosi’s office was standing by the coat rack, trying to stay out of the way, when the congressional leadership was greeting then-President Bush on his arrival at the Capitol. All of a sudden, the President came over, holding his coat. When Stacy realized no one was taking his coat, she asked, "Mr. President, may I take your coat for you?" He responded: "No, thanks. I’m tryin’ to learn to do things myself."

Fucking Up The Oath Of Office

From the great state of Maine:

I, Chief Justice John Roberts do solemnly swear:

That I royally f**ked up trying to administer the presidential Oath of Office from memory.

That I embarrassed myself and the nation by getting something so simple---something memorized by every boy and girl in, like, second grade---so excruciatingly wrong.

And, in so doing, came within a butt hair of accidentally making Sasha Obama President of the United States-- not that that would necessarily be a bad thing, but you have to admit juggling first grade and the presidency might be a bit much for a seven year old.

But I digress.

Most important, I do solemnly swear that four years from now, when I'm swearing in Barack Obama for a second term-- in fact, any time I'm swearing anybody in for anything, whether it's President of the United States or notary public-- I will execute, wait!...

I will faithfully execute the Herculean task of doing what Justice John Paul Stevens had the good sense to do, given the gravity of the moment, by bringing an index card---which I can get a whole pack of for a buck over at The Dollar Store---on which I will have scribbled, legibly, the words to the Oath of Office, so that I don't f**k up again, unnecessarily reminding the world once more that I am an appointee of former President Bush.

So help me God. Faithfully.

Inaugural Musings

I was reading the full text of the inaugural address today, and I was struck by several passages:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus--and non-believers.
First use of the word "Muslim" in an inaugural speech-- and it's great that in politics we have broken the barriers of religious rhetoric and (hopefully) will start to acknowledge those in our country who choose to not to adhere to any particular faith.

Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age . . . On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. . . . We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things . . . our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed . . . [Earlier generations] understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
To me, these all read as slams against the ex-president. During many of these sections, Bush and Cheney were observed as not reacting along with the rest of the crowd.

It has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom . . . For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Finally, a president that is not afraid to invoke the Vietnam War-- a war seen by many as our first major military failure.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
If you want one paragraph that sums up Obama's first-term policy goals, that looks to be it.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man.
In other words, Bush is inept-- if our Founding Fathers can guarantee our safety without compromising our constitutional protections, than so can we.

And finally, what I consider the money section of the entire speech:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

If You Travel To Thailand, Don't Talk About The King

An Australian author has been sentenced to three years in prison in Thailand after falling foul of a Thai law that makes it a crime to insult the country's royal family.

According to the CNN story, the author was arrested last August over a 2005 book which includes a paragraph about the king and crown prince that the authorities deemed a violation of the Lese Majeste law. Only 50 copies of the book (written in English) were printed, and only seven copies were sold. During the trial, the Thai government was not able to establish that any Thai national had even purchased the book.

As the author was escorted to court for his sentencing, he spoke to foreign journalists with tears in his eyes. "Truth is stranger than fiction," he said. "It's been an ordeal for months. It feels like a bad dream." The Thai Criminal Court originally sentenced Nicolaides to six years in jail but cut the punishment in half after he plead guilty. The author listened calmly as the verdict was translated to him. After hearing his verdict, he said: "I wish my family the best."

Western news sources have voluntarily self-censored themselves in shocking deference to the Thai government. In its article, CNN said that it chose not to repeat the allegations made by Australian author because it could result in CNN staff being prosecuted in Thailand.

After a lengthly search, the Daily Dude was able to find a copy of the book on the internet. The "offending" paragraph is reproduced below:
From King Rama to the Crown Prince, the nobility was renowned for their romantic entanglements and intrigues. The Crown Prince had many wives-- major and minor-- with a coterie of concubines for entertainment. One of his recent wives was exiled with her entire family, including a son they conceived together, for an undisclosed discretion. He subsequently remarried with another woman and fathered another child. It was rumoured that if the prince fell in love with one of his minor wives and she betrayed him, she and her family would disappear with their name, familial lineage and all vestiges of their existence expunged forever.

Lèse majesté is a weapon that has long been used to defend the perceived honour of Thailand’s royal family. Among several recent cases was a well-publicized December 2006 incident in which a man was charged with the offense after defacing images of the king in Chiang Mai during a drunken spree. He was held for four months without bail, and after a quick trial was sentenced to ten years in prison. Jufer served another few weeks before he was pardoned by the king and deported to his native Switzerland.

At the time, outrage about his draconian treatment for an act of immature vandalism led to even more outlandish attacks on the Thai monarchy. There was a flurry of provocative and childish online protests that used the global reach of the YouTube video-sharing website to mock the Thai royals. In response, the Thai government banned YouTube. This sparked further international bemusement and condemnation. To conform to local expectations of fair comment, YouTube is today only available in Thailand in filtered form.

Thailand is not the only country practicing this outrageous infringement on basic freedom of speech. Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Brunei, Kuwait and Poland all have laws against insulting heads of state.

In January 2005, Jerzy Urban was fined $6,000 by the Polish government for having insulted Pope John Paul II, a visiting head of state. The same month, 28 human rights activists were temporarily detained by the Polish authorities for allegedly insulting Vladimir Putin, a visiting head of state. In October 2006, a Polish man was arrested in Warsaw after expressing his dissatisfaction with the leadership of Lech and Jarosław Kaczyński by farting loudly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Learning The Lessons From A Loser President

Now that Obama is in charge, let's hope that he is taking some lessons from the Bush presidency, as outlined in a recent opinion piece from Wapo's Bob Woodward (excerpted below):

1. Presidents set the tone. Don't be passive or tolerate virulent divisions.

After a fall 2002 briefing of the National Security Council on the Iraq war plan, Rice wanted to hold on to a copy of the Pentagon briefing slides. "You won't be needing that," Rumsfeld said, reaching across the table and snatching the Top Secret packet away from Rice -- in front of the president. "I'll let you two work it out," Bush said, then turned and walked out. Instead of a team of rivals, Bush wound up with a team of back-stabbers with long-running, poisonous disagreements about foreign policy fundamentals.

2. The president must insist that everyone speak out loud in front of the others, even -- or especially -- when there are vehement disagreements.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell had correctly concluded that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden did not work together. But Cheney and Powell did not have this crucial debate in front of the president -- even though such a discussion might have undermined one key reason for war. Cheney provided private advice to the president, but was rarely required to argue with others and test his case.

3. A president must do the homework to master the fundamental ideas and concepts behind his policies.

The president should not micromanage, but understanding the ramifications of his positions cannot be outsourced to anyone. General Casey, the commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq in 2004-07, knew early on that Bush (who kept asking for enemy body counts) lacked a basic grasp of what the Iraq war was about--viewing the war as a conventional battle, rather than the counterinsurgency campaign.

4. Presidents need to draw people out and make sure that bad news makes it to the Oval Office.

On June 18, 2003, before real trouble had developed in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Garner, the first official to head the Iraqi reconstruction effort, warned Rumsfeld that disbanding the Iraqi army and purging too many former Baath Party loyalists had been "tragic" mistakes. But in an Oval Office meeting with Bush later that day, none of this came up, and Garner reported to a pleased president that, in 70 meetings with Iraqis, they had always said, "God bless Mr. George Bush." Bush should have asked Garner whether he had any worries -- perhaps even kicking Rumsfeld out of the Oval Office and saying something like, "Jay, you were there. Don't hold anything back."

5. Presidents need to foster a culture of skepticism and doubt.

Doubt is not the enemy of good policy; it can help leaders evaluate alternatives, handle big decisions and later make course corrections if necessary.

6. Presidents get contradictory data, and they need a rigorous way to sort it out.

In 2004-06, the CIA was reporting that Iraq was getting more violent and less stable. But the Pentagon remained optimistic . . . As best I could discover, the president never insisted that the contradiction between "hell" and "self-reliance" be resolved.

7. Presidents must tell the public the hard truth, even if that means delivering very bad news.

For years after the Iraq invasion, Bush consistently offered upbeat public assessments. "Absolutely, we're winning," the president said during an October 2006 news conference. "We're winning." His confident remarks came during one of the lowest points of the war, at a time when anyone with a TV screen knew that the war was going badly. The president later told me that he knew that the Iraq "strategy wasn't working." So how could the United States be winning a war with a failing strategy?

8. Righteous motives are not enough for effective policy.

But this high purpose often blinded Bush and his aides to the consequences of this mad dash to democracy. In 2005, for example, Bush and his war cabinet spent much of their time promoting free elections in Iraq -- which wound up highlighting the isolation of the minority Sunnis and setting the stage for the raging sectarian violence of 2006.

9. Presidents must insist on strategic thinking.

In the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the quality of the planning for combat operations ranged from adequate to strong, but far too little attention was devoted to what might come after the fall of the Taliban and the Baath Party. Some critical strategic decisions -- to disband the Iraqi army, force Baathists out of government and abolish an initial Iraqi government council -- were made on the ground in Iraq, without the involvement of the NSC and the president.

Bill Clinton began his presidency in 1993 after having promised to cut the federal deficit in half in four years. The initial plan looked shaky, and Clinton took a lot of heat for more than a year. But he and his team stuck to their basic strategy of cutting federal spending and raising taxes, which laid a major part of the foundation of the economic boom of the Clinton era.

10. The president should embrace transparency.

Some version of the behind-the-scenes story of what happened in his White House will always make it out to the public -- and everyone will be better off if that version is as accurate as possible. Presidents . . . should run an internal, candid process of debate and discussion with key advisers that will make sense when it surfaces later. This sort of inside account will be told, at least in part, during the presidency. But the best obtainable version will emerge more slowly, over time, and become history.

Inauguration Update

The Daily Dude was among the million or so present at today's historic inauguration of Barack Obama, and he can report that ex-President Bush was greeted by a roundhouse of jeers and boos from the crowd as he was introduced to the crowd.

The Hill's Briefing Room has also reported that the crowd packed on the west side of the Capitol grounds serenaded President Bush in mocking fashion when he took to the inaugural stage alongside Vice President Dick Cheney.

"Nah nah nah nah, hey hey, good-bye," a section of the crowd chanted.

Even the ticketed crowd seated immediately below the podium received Bush in stony silence when he took his seat on the stage surrounding the podium where Barack Obama took the oath office.

The jeers are among the final public feedback Bush will receive as president-- he is leaving office with an historically low 22% approval rating.

UPDATE: Various reports have come in about unexpected bridge and Metro station closures, etc. The Daily Dude can report that the 14th Street bridge was temporarily closed for a 30-45 minute period around 8 or 9 am this morning-- but early on, things looked to be going smoothly. At around 9:15 am, officials (as expected) closed off entry to the parade route (due to the size of the crowd already assembled there). There were also reports of thousands of ceremony ticket holders who were stuck in line in the 3rd street tunnel for over 4 hours without safety or security officers at the scene, and who eventually were shut out of the event altogether. During the ceremony, there were also several technical glitches with the audio which resulted in the Jumbotron video going out of sync with the audio coming from the speakers. If you just closed your eyes and listened to Barack's words however, the speech came through with even more emotional impact.

Bush Is Finally Gone!

One (Well, a Half) Day To Go

Still no word on further pardons from Bush, but speculation is so rampant that Politico has issued odds. My money is that there will be some pardons or commutations, but your guess is as good as mine. I'm wondering why there hasn't been any mention of pardons for Rumsfeld or Cheney, since it has been established that they did authorize torture . . .

UPDATE: Bush issued two commutations yesterday afternoon (see below), with a White House official saying that no further pardons would be forthcoming. Nevertheless, there's still less than 6 hours to go . . .

1. Pardon Prospects: Military and CIA interrogators of war-on-terror prisoners

There have been recent signs that people could face investigation and prosecution (either by Congress or Holder's DOJ) for use of harsh tactics in post-9/11 interrogations. Likely to require a “blanket” pardon which describes conduct, but does not name individuals-- but legal experts downplay the possibly of last-minute, surprise, blanket pardons for war crimes. Odds: 4 to 1

2. Pardon Prospect: Darth Cheney's former Chief of Staff “Scooter” Libby

Convicted in 2007 of obstruction of justice, false statements, and perjury in investigation into leak of identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. 30-month prison sentence already commuted by Bush, was also fined $250,000 and disbarred. Bush risks public outcry for leaving full pardon for final days of presidency when it could have been done sooner. Odds: 1 to 2

3. Pardon Prospect: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

Still unemployed after leaving office under a cloud. Being investigated for misleading Congress and interfering with inquiries into the firings of U.S. attorneys. He’s also being investigated for preparing false after-the-fact notes of 2004 congressional briefing about warrantless surveillance. Odds: 1 to 1.

4. Pardon Prospects: Former American Israel Public Affairs Committee Lobbyists Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, Former Pentagon Analyst Lawrence Franklin

Franklin pled guilty in 2005 to passing national secrets to Rosen and Weissman; also admitted to passing secrets to Israeli officials; Rosen and Weissman pled not guilty to conspiring to obtain and distribute classified information; trial set for April 2009. Pardons would please Jewish activists, but undercut Bush's anti-leak campaign. Odds: Rosen/Weissman, 10 to 1; Franklin: 20 to 1

5. Pardon Prospect: Former Justice Department official Bradley Schlozman

Former Bushie who is widely known to have chased career lawyers out of the Civil Rights Division and replaced them with politically-vetted GOP supporters-- and then lied to Congress about it. Odds: 4 to 1

6. Pardon prospect: Former junk bond king Michael Milken

Pled guilty in 1990 to six tax and securities-related felonies and served 22 months on a 10-year sentence. Out of prison for 16 years, he has engaged in extensive philanthropy since then. Odds: 2 to 1

7. Commutation Prospects: Former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean

Convicted in 2006 of shooting fleeing drug smuggling suspect who was illegal alien; Compean sentenced to 12 years in prison; Ramos to 11 years. Crusade for clemency led by CNN anchor Lou Dobbs and supported by conservative lawmakers. Odds: 3 to 1


8. Commutation Prospect: Former Governor George Ryan (R-Ill.)

Convicted in 2006 of corruption charges; serving six-and-a-half year prison sentence; set for release in 2013. 74-year-old Ryan has a wife in ill health, but has served only about a year of his sentence. Odds: 4 to 1

9. Commutation Prospect: Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard

Pled guilty to espionage in 1986; sentenced to life in prison without parole. Commutation would please Israel and Jewish groups, but strongly opposed by defense and intelligence communities. Odds: 20 to 1

10. Commutation Prospect: Randall “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.)

Pled guilty in 2005 to conspiracy and tax evasion as part of $2.4 million bribery scheme; sentenced to eight years four months. Suffering from prostate cancer at the age of 67, Bush once publicly called Cunningham’s scheme “outrageous”. Odds: 50 to 1

Monday, January 19, 2009

Events Spiralling Further Out Of Control In Ethiopia

An Islamist militia has executed a Somali politician who they accused of betraying his religion by working with non-Muslim Ethiopian forces.

Abdirahman Ahmed, who was shot dead last Thursday, was also accused of spying for Ethiopian forces. He is believed to be the first politician executed by the Islamists.

At the same time, Ethiopian forces were pulling out of Somalia, two years after they intervened to try to oust Islamists from the capital Mogadishu. Their mission to prop up the interim government is widely regarded as a failure as various Islamist groups have recently advanced and once again control much of the country.

In Mogadishu, thousands of people gathered at the football stadium, a former Ethiopian base, to celebrate the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces.

Two More Days To Go

Let's take a trip down memory lane, and remind ourselves of the early signs (eight years ago) of what an intellectually-challenged president Bush is:

"I am mindful of the difference between the executive branch and the legislative branch. I assured all four of these leaders that I know the difference, and that difference is they pass the laws and I execute them." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 20, 2000

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2000

"Dick Cheney and I do not want this nation to be in a recession. We want anybody who can find work to be able to find work." --George W. Bush, 60 minutes II, CBS, December 5, 2000

"The legislature's job is to write law. It's the executive branch's job to interpret law." --George W. Bush, Austin, Texas, Nov. 22, 2000

"They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it's some kind of federal program." --George W. Bush, Nov. 2, 2000

"It's important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It's not only life of babies, but it's life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet." --George W. Bush, Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000

"It's your money. You paid for it." --George W. Bush, LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000

"Mr. Vice President, in all due respect, it is --" I'm not sure 80 percent of the people get the death tax. I know this: 100 percent will get it if I'm the president." --George W. Bush, third presidential debate, St. Louis, Mo., October 18, 2000

"If I become president, we're going to have emergency-room care, we're going to have gag orders." --George W. Bush, third presidential debate, St. Louis, Missouri, Oct. 18, 2000

"There a huge trust. I see it all the time when people come up to me and say, 'I don't want you to let me down again.'" --George W. Bush, Boston, Mass., Oct. 3, 2000

"I will have a foreign-handed foreign policy." --George W. Bush, Redwood, Calif., Sept. 27, 2000

"It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas." --George W. Bush, Beaverton, Ore., Sep. 25, 2000

"America better beware of a candidate who is willing to stretch reality in order to win points." --George W. Bush, aboard his campaign plane, Sept. 18, 2000

"We'll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers." --George W. Bush, Houston, Texas, Sept. 6, 2000

"Well, I think if you say you're going to do something and don't do it, that's trustworthiness." --George W. Bush, in a CNN online chat, Aug. 30, 2000

"We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile.'' --George W. Bush, Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 21, 2000

"I think we agree, the past is over." --George W. Bush, on his meeting with John McCain, Dallas Morning News, May 10, 2000

"I think anybody who doesn't think I'm smart enough to handle the job is underestimating." --George W. Bush, U.S. News & World Report, April 3, 2000

"I understand small business growth. I was one." --George W. Bush, New York Daily News, Feb. 19, 2000

"If you're sick and tired of the politics of cynicism and polls and principles, come and join this campaign." --George W. Bush, Hilton Head, S.C., Feb. 16, 2000

"This is Preservation Month. I appreciate preservation. It's what you do when you run for president. You gotta preserve." --George W. Bush, speaking during "Perseverance Month" at Fairgrounds Elementary School in Nashua, New Hampshire, Jan. 28, 2000

"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." --George W. Bush, Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000

"If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow." --George W. Bush, Jan. 2000

"One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures." --George W. Bush, Jan. 3, 2000

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chavez's Financial "Booty" Call

President Hugo Chávez, buffeted by falling oil prices that threaten to damage his efforts to establish a Socialist-inspired state, is having to "eat crow" and beg for foreign investments from western oil companies once again.

Until recently, Chávez had pushed foreign oil companies here into a corner by nationalizing their oil fields, raiding their offices with tax authorities and imposing a series of royalties increases.

But faced with the plunge in prices and a decline in domestic production, senior officials here have begun soliciting bids from Chevron, Royal Dutch/Shell and Total of France — promising them new access to some of the world's largest petroleum reserves.

Chávez's about-face with foreign oil companies comes after he nationalized their oil fields in 2007. Two companies, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips, left Venezuela and are still waging legal battles over lost projects.

As embarrassing as it is, Venezuela has little choice but to form new ventures with foreign oil companies. Nationalizations in other sectors, like agriculture and steel manufacturing, are fueling capital flight, leaving Venezuela reliant on oil for about 93 percent of its export revenue in 2008, up from 69 percent in 1998 when Chávez was first elected.

We can only hope that that these new ventures fall through-- Venezuela needs a less polarizing leader; one that can bring the country together instead of ruling by fear and divisiveness.

Three More Days To Go

If you've only got a precious few days left to rule the country, why not take the time to piss off the French?

That seems to be the logic of the Bush administration, who has sparked anger across the Atlantic by tripling the import duty rate on roquefort cheese to 300%, a move which the U.S. hopes will "shut down trade" in the sheep's milk product by making it prohibitively expensive.

The decision, part of Washington's attempts to force the EU into dropping its ban on hormone-treated beef, was greeted with disbelief by the French government and by farmers in the south-western Aveyron region who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.

The tariff on roquefort, condemned as "incomprehensible and inadmissible" by the French government, will probably have a minimal effect, given exports to the U.S. accounts for just 2% of annual sales. French farmers said it would mean "the end" for roquefort in the US and vowed to take "symbolic actions" in return.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

In Case You Weren't Paying Attention, Your Constitutional Rights Just Went Down The Drain

I'm sure that many folks weren't worried about the recent Supreme Court ruling which said that evidence obtained from defective/bogus search warrants were still admissible in courts. In their minds, they must be thinking "oh-- the police would never fake a search warrant-- that only happens in the movies". Well think again.

Just days after the ruling was announced, it was reported that 11 police officers in California were fired for lying to judges to obtain search warrants. So, yes-- it happens everyday. And yes, one has to consider that it could happen to us-- in this day and age of rampant suspicious of terrorism, illegal immigrants, religious intolerance, sexual puritanism and racial divisiveness, it's very probable that the government would be interested in searching your home or computer records. And all it would take is one eager, ethically-challenged bureaucrat . . .

Four More Days To Go

Friday, January 16, 2009

Holy Cocksuckers!

A group of 43 Alaska Natives who say they were sexually abused by Catholic priests and church volunteers have sued the Jesuit order, alleging that remote Alaska villages became a worldwide dumping ground for clergy with histories of abuse.

The lawsuit contends that pedophile priests unsuited to serve anywhere else were dumped on Alaska and put in remote villages with little or no law enforcement, making it virtually impossible for anyone to report them.

There was a calculated effort at the highest levels of the Jesuit order to "'dump' these 'problem priests' in a location in which the priests could avoid detection and continued to sexually abuse countless Native children," the suit says.

Problem priests from seven Jesuit provinces in the United States as well as four other countries ended up in the rural villages, mostly in Western Alaska, according to Patrick Wall, a former monk and priest who works as an advocate for sex abuse victims. "They were specifically targeting the Athabascan and the Yup'ik cultures, because they wouldn't talk," he said in a telephone interview.

But don't worry everyone-- the Vatican thinks that it has been successful in "cracking" down on all that immoral sodomy going on in the seminaries! For that story, click here.

You know-- if the Catholic church is so worried about gay priests, why don't they let them get married and have kids?

Five More Days To Go

I've been reading a lot of Bush farewells and valedictories, and they are coming off as particularly nostalgic. Last night, Bush asked us not to judge him by his disastrous results, but instead by what's inside him (either a black heart or a black hole in his head, I"m not sure which). Anyway, the Economist had a particularly informative essay on his legacy.
[Bush] leaves the White House as one of the least popular and most divisive presidents in American history. At home, his approval rating has been stuck in the 20s for months; abroad, George Bush has presided over the most catastrophic collapse in America’s reputation since the second world war. The American economy is in deep recession, brought on by a crisis that forced Mr Bush to preside over huge and unpopular bail-outs.

America is embroiled in two wars, one of which Mr. Bush launched against the tide of world opinion. The Bush family name, once among the most illustrious in American political life, is now so tainted that Jeb, George’s younger brother, recently decided not to run for the Senate from Florida. A Bush relative describes family gatherings as "funeral wakes".

The three most notable characteristics of the Bush presidency [are] partisanship, politicization and incompetence. Mr. Bush was the most partisan president in living memory. He was content to be president of half the country—a leader who fused his roles of head of state and leader of his party. He devoted his presidency to feeding the Republican coalition that elected him.

This being the Economist, however, there comes late in the essay an attempt to throw Bush a bone. You can read it for yourself-- it doesn't amount to much, really.
Mr. Bush’s presidency is not without its merits. He supported sensible immigration reform. He proposed tighter regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the now-nationalised mortagage agencies (note from the Daily Dude: not sure I agree with that assessment, but both efforts failed anyway, so big deal!) . . On trade, too, Mr. Bush’s heart was in the right place, though policy was at first subverted by political or strategic priorities . . .His administration’s handling of the financial crisis alternated between shaky and competent . . . The president’s legendary stubbornness paid off in one area: his decision to ignore Washington’s wise men and increase troop levels in Iraq, rather than preparing for withdrawal.

And in the end, Bush gets slammed on his economic record:
Meanwhile, his policy of cutting taxes while increasing spending—of simultaneously pursuing big government and small government—dramatically swelled the deficit . . Mr. Bush’s biggest failure, however, is on entitlements. In the end he achieved few cost savings, while adding a staggering $8 trillion to Medicare’s unfunded liability. Between the Medicare drug benefit and the failure to restore solvency to Social Security, the long-term unfunded cost of America’s programs for the elderly had last year reached a stratospheric $43 trillion.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Daily Dude Responds To Bush's Farewell Speech

So you have gratitude, huh George? You better thank God that you won't be prosecuted for war crimes.

You say you remember standing in the rubble? Do you remember paying attention to the briefing on August 6, 2001 when you were warned that terrorists were going to hijack planes?

Vowed to do everything to keep us safe? Our infrastructure has been horribly neglected; you failed to get Bin Laden.

Afghanistan has improved? They're still the world's leading heroin producer and girls are still getting acid thrown in their faces.

Seven years without another terrorist attack? What about the anthrax attacks-- did we ever solve those cases?

You think it's an honor to the military and their families by letting conditions at Walter Reed get so deplorable? How about eavesdropping on the phone sex of overseas military?

You say that people who live in freedom do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror? What about Hamas?

You say America is promoting human liberty, human rights and human dignity? What about Guantanamo? Renditioning? Do you think Americans like being spied on?

Expanding opportunity and hope you say? You failed at immigration reform! More people are without health insurance than when you entered office eight long years ago . . .

Do you really think air and water are cleaner? You muzzled scientists at EPA and gutted environment regulations!

You say the federal bench has "wise" new members? They just voted yesterday that the police can make up bogus search warrants and still use the illegal evidence against us in court.

You safeguarded the economy? You nearly destroyed the economy! Unemployment skyrocketed during your eight years in office. You let spending get completely out of control!

Yes, sir-- you did have setbacks. Your prescription drug program is a mess; you failed to fix social security.

And no, sir-- our nation/the world is not safer. The world is more at war than eight years ago; more countries openly despise and oppose the U.S. than ever before

You like to speak of "moral clarity"-- what about lying to us to justify going to war? What about committing war crimes by torturing detainees?

You say murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time-- does that include murdering innocent Iraqis to advance Cheney/Rumsfeld's neocon ideology?

Yes, I agree with you that our nation inspires immigrants to risk everything for the dream of freedom-- as long as they don't get caught up by cruel, draconian anti-immigrant laws and get shipped out of the country by ICE.

Yes, the citizens of New Orleans have faced danger and trial-- and for them, there is more ahead since you failed to rebuild the levies to withstand another Katrina-level flood.

Goodbye and good riddance. Don't let the Oval Office door hit your ass on the way out.

No Need To Torture Yourself Any Further-- What We All Knew Is Now Confirmed

After years of denials by Bush and Cheney, it has now been confirmed that the Bush administration conducted torture.

The Wapo reported yesterday that the top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

Crawford, a retired judge who served as general counsel for the Army during the Reagan administration and as Pentagon inspector general when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, is the first senior Bush administration official responsible for reviewing practices at Guantanamo to publicly state that a detainee was tortured.

I hope Dick and George don't plan on much international travel, since it's possible that War Crimes tribunals may soon get underway in countries across the globe.

As Bushies Clean Out Their Desks, Things Start Popping Up

The Bush White House has long had a tendency for e-mails to go "missing" when the courts and Congress go looking for them. In several major cases in recent years, including the Valerie Plame investigation, the US Attorneys scandal, and certain moments during the Iraq War, crucial e-mails have turned up "missing" in White House databases. But at long last (perhaps hoping to fly under the pre-inauguration radar), the Justice Department told a federal judge yesterday that the Bush administration, after spending more than $10 million, finally located 14 million e-mails reported missing four years ago from White House computer files.

Government watch groups are still skeptical that everything will be in order, however: "I'll believe it when I see it," the counsel for CREW, Anne Weisman (who sued the administration to demand the preservation of its records) said yesterday. See the full Wapo story here.

It's Camille Time Again

This month, Camille responds to reader mail, and covers a lot of fascinating topics. On the Fairness Doctrine:
If there's anything that demonstrates the straying of the Democratic Party leadership from basic liberal principles, it's this blasted Fairness Doctrine -- which should be fiercely opposed by all defenders of free speech. Except when national security is at risk, government should never be involved in the surveillance of speech or in measuring the ideological content of books, movies or radio and TV programs.

Broadcasters must adhere to reasonable FCC regulations restricting obscenity, but despite the outlandish claims of Democrats like Sen. Charles Schumer, there is no analogy whatever between pornography and political opinion. Nor do privately owned radio stations have any obligation to be politically "balanced." They are commercial enterprises that follow the market and directly respond to audience demand. The Fairness Doctrine is bullying Big Brother tyranny, full of contempt for the very public it pretends to protect.

On global warming:
I became a vocal opponent of the onrushing Iraq incursion when I was shocked by the flimsiness of evidence presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations in 2003. Similarly, I have been highly skeptical about the claims for global warming because of their overreliance on speculative computer modeling and because of the woeful patchiness of records for world temperatures before the 20th century.

In the 1980s, I was similarly skeptical about media-trumpeted predictions about a world epidemic of heterosexual AIDS. And I remain skeptical about the media's carelessly undifferentiated use of the term "AIDS" for what is often a complex of wasting diseases in Africa. We should all be concerned about environmental despoliation and pollution, but the global warming crusade has become a hallucinatory cult. Until I see stronger evidence, I will continue to believe that climate change is primarily driven by solar phenomena and that it is normal for the earth to pass through major cooling and warming phases.

On college eduction vs. vocational training:
Perhaps there's hope of change because of the tens of thousands of liberal arts graduates with expensive degrees who are finding themselves out of work and depressingly marginalized in a society where the manual trades offer guaranteed employment at relatively high wages. A dose of Buddhism might do people good: Sweeping garden sand into oceanic designs around ornamental rocks is considered a spiritual exercise in Asia. I say that landscaping, construction, carpentry, metalworking and all the other trades should be promoted by primary education as worthy careers for both men and women. The pre-college rat race is a sadomasochistic imposition on the young that robs them of free will and saps their vital energies. When will they rebel?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cheney Sheds No Tears Over "The Onion"

The Onion has a nice bit lampooning Cheney's departure:
WASHINGTON—A team of nine specially trained handlers have successfully lured outgoing vice president Dick Cheney into a reinforced steel traveling crate in order to transport him back to his permanent enclosure in Casper, WY, official sources reported Monday. "He's a smart one. Once he sees the crate, he gets pretty nippy, but we've learned a few tricks over the years," chief VP wrangler Ted Irving breathlessly said while applying pressure to a deep gash on his forearm.

See the full piece here.

Warrantless Searches: Not Just For Terrorists Anymore

In the excitement over Obama's inauguration (and Bush's exit), many are forgetting that W's legacy of constitutional disregard will live on as a result of his Supreme Court appointments.

In an unbelievable ruling, the the big court announced today that evidence illegally obtained via a defective warrant is still admissible in court.

Officers in Coffee County arrested petitioner Herring based on a warrant listed in neighboring Dale County’s database. A search incident to that arrest yielded drugs and a gun. It was then revealed that the warrant had been recalled months earlier, though this information had never been entered into the database . . .

Held: When police mistakes leading to an unlawful search are the result of isolated negligence attenuated from the search, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements,the exclusionary rule does not apply

To put it another way-- if the police are targeting you (but can't justify a warrant), they can make one up and later say they made an innocent mistake. The burden will then fall on you to cough up enough money to hire a lawyer and prove "systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements".

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Xbox Made Me Do It"

Although a teenager's obsession with a violent video game may have warped his sense of reality, the boy is guilty of murdering his mother and wounding his father after they took "Halo 3" away from him, a judge ruled this week.

"I firmly believe that Daniel Petric had no idea at the time he hatched this plot that if he killed his parents they would be dead forever," Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge said. Nonetheless, Burge rejected the defense attorneys' argument that Petric, 17, was not guilty by reason of insanity.

The defense didn't contest that Petric shot his parents in October 2007 after they took the game away from him, but insisted that the teen's youth and addiction made him less responsible. Petric may have been addicted, but the evidence also showed he planned the crime for weeks, said Burge, who found the teenager guilty of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and other charges.

Tried as an adult, Petric faces a maximum possible penalty of life in prison without parole.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Getting Inside The Brain Of George Bush (Where Presumably There's Plenty Of Room)

Over on the Daily Beast, psychiatrist Justin Frank has an interesting take on the mind of W. A few choice excerpts:
George Bush’s presidency is the culmination of a lifelong history of sadistic practices that he must deny in order to maintain his fragile psychological equilibrium. Since childhood, Bush was labeled a bad child, a troublemaker, and a delinquent. He stuck firecrackers into frogs and exploded them; he shot and wounded his little brothers with a b-b gun; he branded fraternity pledges at Yale with red-hot coat hangers; he mocked others and was a verbal bully, irreverent about anything serious.

Bush is leaving office immensely satisfied with his presidential accomplishments: Not merely wreaking havoc worldwide – actively destroying Iraq, and passively turning his back on New Orleans – he became feared both abroad and at home, where Congress and the press have yet to muster the courage to confront him. Now, the financial devastation of his policies seems to be hurtling the globe ever faster towards an economic Judgment Day.

Evading responsibility has always been a central element of the pleasure he takes in the suffering of others, and his evasion has taken many forms, from colluding with questioners to let him off the hook, asking “Ken who?” when asked about Enron’s Ken Lay, to making light of his cruel deeds, casually dismissing the fraternity branding as nothing worse than a “cigarette burn,” or insisting that the United States does not torture when confronted by reporters about Abu Ghraib.

For Bush, the roots of his bad-boy sadism run deep. He was a ruthlessly-teased, learning-disabled little boy who was criticized by teachers for not being able to keep up in class. And he was left behind by an emotionally distant father who reinforced the message from his mother that it was pathetic for a seven-year-old to show grief about his sister’s death. All of these factors contributed to an unrelenting self-hatred that made him feel weak and ashamed, things he tried to deny by posing as superior, exploiting weakness in others and becoming a bully. This process of externalizing his damaged sense of self, which he then attacked, became so strong later in life that it could only be partly managed by daily exercise and prayer.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Some Unholy War"

As if things in Gaza weren't already seriously fucked up, this week Amy Winehouse and her superstar producer Mark Ronson (both of whom are Jewish) have been targeted by Islamic extremists. U.K. newspaper The Sun reported that called for users to compile "a list of top Jews we can target," and the list included both Amy and Mark's names:

On the forum [a poster with screen name] “Saladin1970″ asks for help compiling “a list of those who support Israel.” Another commenter named “Abuislam” asks: “Have we got a list of top Jews we can target? Can someone post names and addresses?”

Tony Blair’s Middle East envoy and tennis partner Lord Levy, TV’s The Apprentice boss Sir Alan Sugar and Princess Diana’s divorce lawyer Anthony Julius were also reportedly among those mentioned on the site.

British anti-terror expert Glen Jenvey told The Sun that these threats should not be taken lightly: "The Ummah website has been used by extremists. Those listed should treat it very seriously. Expect a hate campaign and intimidation by 20 or 30 thugs."

Note from the Daily Dude: Love the caption from on this one.

The Cost Of Patriotism

An "eternal" flame at Bullhead City's new veterans memorial park lasted only one month until city officials received the first gas bill. The Medal of Honor Memorial at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Park alongside the Colorado River was lit on Veterans Day in November--but when the whopping $961 bill arrived in late December, city officials extinguished it.

"It caught us by surprise," City Manager Tim Ernster told the media. "What we decided to do for the time being is to turn the flame on ... for special events, for Veterans Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day — those types of activities."

After complaints from disgruntled veterans who had worked to pay for and build the memorial, it was relit. No word yet on who would foot the bill for patriotism.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cheney Doesn't Know Dick

In his last official press interview with the AP, Vice President Dick Cheney says he sees no reason for President George W. Bush to pre-emptively pardon anyone who authorized or was involved in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists. (Note from the Daily Dude: unless those folks are ready to give up traveling to any country who might issue indictments for war crimes)

Cheney also said that he has no qualms about the reliability of intelligence obtained from terrorism suspects through waterboarding. (Note from the Daily Dude: I guess all the thousands of scientists who say that torture is an unreliable method of obtaining information are wrong)

The VP said waterboarding has produced much valuable information. (Note from the Daily Dude: despite reports that torture-obtained information will eventually prove to be unusable in detainee trials)

Cheney also said he doesn't think anyone at the CIA did anything illegal during interrogations. He says they followed the administration's legal opinions. (Note from the Daily Dude: Let me get this straight-- because Bush ordered DOJ lawyers to write memos saying torture is OK, that makes it legal for Bush to order others to commit torture. Hmmm . . .)

Jett Travolta Round-Up

While in Costa Rica, the whole Jett Travolta story unfolded in the media. It seems more likely than not to me that Jett did indeed have a mild form of autism, and had his parents not been influenced by their religious beliefs (refusing to accept autism as a real medical condition)-- then his seizure and death could have been avoided.

Check out this blog for an interesting assessment of the entire incident.

Red States Win The Race For Most Teenage Pregnancies

Well, it looks like abstinence-only and bible studies aren't working very well. Many of the same states that went for the GOP in the last election are now leading the nation in teenage pregnancy (check out the two charts below).

According to new stats released by the CDC this week, Mississippi now has the nation's highest teen birth rate, displacing Texas for that lamentable title. Mississippi's rate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006, according to new state statistics released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The teen birth rate for that year in Texas was more than 50 percent higher.

Some experts have blamed the national increase on increased federal funding for abstinence-only health education that does not teach teens how to use condoms and other contraception. They said that would explain why teen birth rate increases have been detected across much of the country and not just in a few spots.

Beer-Goggled Gonzales

I'm sure you all remember disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. When he was chased out of town back in 2007, he claimed that law firms would probably be hesitant to hire him because of the ongoing investigations and the possibility that he would be indicted.

Gonzales-- still out of work and looking for employment-- now blames the economy. In an interview with the Austin-American Statesman, the former Bushie apparently doesn't realize that he's a disgraced former Attorney General:

“It’s a rough economy right now, and it’s a tough time for a lot of law firms right now. Obviously they are very careful about bringing on new people, and they are going to be careful about bringing on people where there are questions about things that may have happened in their past,” he said. “Over time, I’m confident those things will be resolved, and things will work themselves out.”

“Greater opportunities,” Gonzales, 53, said, “will present themselves once the stories are out there.”

Alberto, dude-- the stories aren't going to get any better. If you have to-- get a construction job (like building phony justifications for torture) or run a 7-11 (sorta like selling bullshit to congress) while your pal Georgie still has some pull.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bush Bailout Boondoggle

The Associated Press has found that none of the banks receiving part of the bailout was willing to disclose what they were doing with hundreds of billions of dollars distributed through direct injections of federal money.

"For Treasury to advance funds to these institutions without requiring more transparency further erodes the very confidence Treasury seeks to restore," it said.

Appearing Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren said that Treasury "didn't put any tracking mechanisms on it. They didn't tell the banks what they had to do in order to get the money. It might be used for lending, it might be used to buy other banks ... Or it might just be stuffed in vaults and left there," she said.

And the GOP wants transparency and accountability over the funds in Obama's bailout package??? How about transparency (who the money went to) and accountability (how it was spent) for the money we've already pissed away?

Letterman's Top 10 Moments Of The Bush Years

Thursday, January 8, 2009

While Iraqi Women Suffer, Blackwater Continues To Cash In

While in Costa Rica, news came of another horribly sad story of how Bush has failed to deliver on his promises to provide for a better world to those suffering over in Iraq . . .

Sheelan Anwar Omer, a shy 7-year-old Kurdish girl, bounded into her neighbor's house with an ear-to-ear smile, looking for the party her mother had promised.

There was no celebration. Instead, a local woman quickly locked a rusty red door behind Sheelan, who looked bewildered when her mother ordered the girl to remove her underpants. Sheelan began to whimper, then tremble, while the women pushed apart her legs and a midwife raised a stainless-steel razor blade in the air. "I do this in the name of Allah!" she intoned.

As the midwife sliced off part of Sheelan's genitals, the girl let out a high-pitched wail heard throughout the neighborhood. As she carried the sobbing child back home, Sheelan's mother smiled with pride.

"This is the practice of the Kurdish people for as long as anyone can remember," said the mother, Aisha Hameed, 30, a housewife in this ethnically mixed town about 100 miles north of Baghdad. "We don't know why we do it, but we will never stop because Islam and our elders require it."

Kurdistan is the only known part of Iraq --and one of the few places in the world--where female circumcision is widespread. More than 60 percent of women in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq have been circumcised, according to a study conducted this year. In at least one Kurdish territory, 95 percent of women have undergone the practice, which human rights groups call female genital mutilation.

The practice, and the Kurdish parliament's refusal to outlaw it, highlight the plight of women in a region with a (supposed) reputation for having a more progressive society than the rest of Iraq. Advocates for women point to the increasing frequency of honor killings against women and female self-immolations in Kurdistan this year as further evidence that women in the area still face significant obstacles, despite efforts to raise public awareness of circumcision and violence against women. More details from the Wapo article here.

In the meantime, the Bush administration has failed to act on a State Department panel recommendation that Blackwater (whose contractors murdered 17 unarmed civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square) be dropped as the main private security contractor for US diplomats in Iraq.

Note from the Daily Dude: Mission accomplished, George!


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