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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Will it stick this time? To Delay that is.

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/26/2005 12:13:00 PM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

Via Preemptive Karma

The Raw Story reports that the National Journal will have an article today reporting that Tom (the bugman) Delay has once again been caught with his hand in the forbidden cookie jar.
National Journal has obtained a copy of an expense voucher that Abramoff filed the law firm where he was then a leading lobbyist, Stone reports.

"Among the big-ticket expenses that Abramoff listed for reimbursement was a bill for the DeLays at the Four Seasons Hotel in London in the amount of $4,285.35," Stone writes. "The voucher shows that the total reimbursement for expenses was $13,318.50. For some reason, it shows that both Abramoff and Buckham were owed that amount.

"The voucher shows that Abramoff was accompanied by DeLay and his wife; Hirschmann and her husband; and Ed Buckham, DeLay’s former chief of staff who had also become a lobbyist," Stone continues.

"Abramoff's voucher lists the purpose of the trip as "client relations" and names "MS Choctaw" as the client account to which the expenses were allocated," Stone notes. "At the time, Abramoff and Preston Gates were representing the Mississippi Choctaws, a tribe that runs casinos. "

Stone notes that Abramoff and his wife personally have personally contributed $40,000 to DeLay's campaigns and his political action committee in the last eight years, citing the Center for Responsive Politics.

House rules stipulate that members or members' employees cannot accept payment from a registered lobbyist to cover travel costs.
Will it stick? There are rumblings that many Republicans have had about enough of Delay's nonsense and are beginning to look at him as a liability. He who lives by hubris eventually dies by hubris. Is the "bugman's" time up?

Enough to make a grown man cry.

posted by Jazz at 2/26/2005 11:01:00 AM

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Hat tip to "anonymous" in our comments section.

Last bottle of world's oldest single malt whisky leaves Scotland.

LONDON (AFP) - The last remaining bottle of the world's oldest single malt whisky left its distillery in Scotland bound for Hong Kong, where it will be the star attraction at an airport shop.

The bottle of Glenfiddich Rare Collection 1937, left to mature in a cask for 64 years before being bottled, is heading for Hong Kong's Chep Lap Kok Airport, where it will be available for a well-heeled buyer, but only at a steep cost.

Previous bottles sold direct by the family-owned Glenfiddich Distillery fetched 10,000 pounds (14,500 euros, 19,000 dollars) each, but the price levied by the airport is expected to be higher still.

"There are a lot of mixed emotions here," said the distillery's "malt master" David Stewart of the bottle, claimed as the oldest single malt whisky in the world.

"On the one hand, we're extremely proud of having produced a whisky of such a fantastic quality that's stood the test of time and on the other, there's a tinge of sadness at saying goodbye."

Disclosure: I'm not a Scotch drinker. I hold nothing against Scotch drinkers... it's just one of those "acquired tastes" which I never managed. When it comes to whisky (or whiskey for you Americans) I prefer Jack Daniels, Seagrams, Knobb Creek, or one of a few others.

Just as often, though, if hard liquor is on the bill, I'll lean towards a martini mixed with good quality gin.

I am familiar, however, with the obsessions that Scotch drinkers can develop. The wars rage between the single malt and blended camps, and I've seen arguments go on for hours over the relative merits of various imported bottles of liquid with names that I can't pronounce, say nothing of spell.

Still, $19K for a single bottle of hooch is pretty much beyond what I can comprehend. If you have Warren Buffet type money, then sure. You can throw it away. But for most people, spending more on one bottle of booze than many hard working people spend on their cars is rather nuts.

That said, if it were offered, I'd have to give it a try. As John Travolta said in Pulp Fiction, "I just had to know what a five dollar milkshake tastes like. That's God damned good. I don't know if it's worth five dollars, but it's fucking good."

Pataki and the Governator look at the "Clear Skies" plan.

posted by Jazz at 2/26/2005 09:55:00 AM

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"Excuse me, Mr. President, but our major cities appear to be drowning in toxic crap pits."

That's not exactly what they said, but the message was clear. In this article, "Clear Skies' plan: the battle heats up", a number of people, including ten State Attorneys General, raise complaints about the various and well documented shortcomings of Bush's environmental policies.

The congressional fight over the Bush administration's clean air plan has turned into a political knock-down, drag out at several levels.

Ten state attorneys general are publicly opposing it. Environmental activists and labor unions are at odds over the measure, illustrating the classic split over jobs versus the environment. State and local air-pollution control officials and agencies have weighed in, prompting the chairman of the Senate environment committee to question their motives and investigate their possible connection to activists.

Two prominent Republican governors - George Pataki of New York and Arnold Schwarzenegger of California - have urged Washington to make sure that states be allowed "to have stronger pollution controls than those set for the nation as a whole," as is the case under current law. Their recent letter to congressional leaders was polite, but it made an important point: That heavily populated areas like New York City and Los Angeles may need stronger laws than those favored by the Bush administration and polluting industries.

The president's proposal "is rife with loopholes for polluters and litigation," says Sen. James Jeffords, (I - Vt.) the senior minority member of the Senate committee. It "rewrites major portions of the Clean Air Act to delay attainment of the health-based standards - leaving millions of Americans to breathe dirty air longer."

I've been waiting for the backlash on this to start. A lot of the claims that Bush makes about this initiative, are either heavily distorted or flat out lies. (Particularly on the mercury claims.)

I'm not sure what sort of response this will get in the rest of the Senate, and I'm not hopeful that the bull headed administration will even listen, but it is very good to see somebody raising the flag on this. Environmental concerns in this country have been swept under the rug by the flood of attention paid to terrorism and national security.

Powerblogs Move Update

posted by Jazz at 2/26/2005 08:42:00 AM

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Last weekend I mentioned that Running Scared would be moving to Powerblogs. No, we haven't forgotten about it or dropped the idea. The move is proceeding full speed ahead. The new blog has been purchased and the initial build is underway. There's still some stylesheet and template work to finish, and the migration of the archives from this site should be done by the excellent Chris, from Powerblogs, very shortly. We're also waiting on the new domain name registration to come through. Just hang in there and bear with us, please. We'd rather have everything tuned up and "ready for prime time" before we make the move. I assure you that the options provided by Powerblogs will offer a much richer reading experience in terms of categorization of posts, chain posting for related topics, improved comment and trackback functions, and more.

I'm so excited! (Oh, great... now I've got seventies disco music stuck in my head.)

Here we go: Smash, Jazz, Ron, Joe, lock stock and two smoking barrels

posted by Jazz at 2/26/2005 06:20:00 AM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

I will give full and fair warning right here. This one is going to drag on for a long, long time. So if you're going to read it, you may want to pour yourself a big cup of coffee, get your most comfortable seating arrangement and settle in. This post, for those of you not following the story to date and associated comments, is the fallout from a previous post by Ron about a post over at Joe Gandelman's blog, The Moderate Voice, which made reference to a long post on Citizen Smash. (Is that enough links in one sentence for you?)

Ron's initial point seemed to be that he felt that Smash's post was offensive and that Joe shouldn't have posted to it in an endorsement type fashion. I have since exchanged e-mails with both Joe and Smash, and the story has gone in two decidedly different directions on two very unrelated issues. I am pleased to say that I engaged in an extremely civil exchange of e-mails and information with Smash which included no cursing, vulgarities, rhetoric or mean spirited partisan bashing. Joe, as always, was civil and polite.

The first of the two points was one where I think that everyone found agreement. Ron still respects Joe very highly, and Smash and I agreed that he's top notch. He points to material on the left and right, far and near, all the time. This doesn't mean that he personally endorses the message or emotion of the destination - simply that it is of interest on the current news spectrum.

The story, however, took the expected turn of events and I wound up reading the post on Smash's site which originally got Ron riled up and talk to Smash about it. This is where we came to a parting of the ways. Having read the material, heard Smash's explanation, and listened to the audio tape in question, I'm definitely on Ron's side on this one. Possibly even more so than if I'd never exchanged e-mails with Smash.

Assuming you either clicked on or already knew about the previous posts linked above, here comes the follow-up. With no changes other than some spelling corrections, (I was typing off a fast e-mail before dinner) here is the e-mail I sent to Smash: (Please note... the first paragraph deals with the fact that I didn't agree with Ron about taking Joe Gandelman to task for linking to Smash's post - not disagreeing with Ron about the content of Smash's post.)

Smash,

I'd like to have a copy of that file. I want you to know that I consider Joe a friend of mine, and I did not endorse what Ron posted and said so in the comments section. But also I don't censor my other authors. I just rebut when I don't' agree.


You say "a few people clapped." How many people were there? If there were dozens and dozens and only a few clapped, then it sounds like the majority didn't agree with the speaker. If there were only three or four people there, then you were dealing with a handful of insane wingnuts who do not, in my opinion, represent the majority of the anti-Iraq-war crowd.


(I specify "Iraq" because I'm not anti-war. I'm ex-military. I supported the Bush I gulf war AND the invasion of Afghanistan and marched in favor of them both.)

Smash was nice enough to respond with a very polite letter and a copy of the audio file. (I have not altered the file in any way except to shorten the file name for ease of file browsing. For any reference to this file, please credit Smash.) For those who want to make a full judgment of this story, I encourage you to listen to it. I have uploaded it here and checked it for any virus problems. It's clean, and it's fairly short. And now, Smash's reply. I will make no edits or emphasis to any portion of it for this full insert, but rather leave it to stand on its own.

Jazz,

Thanks for writing back.
I've attached the file. It's been eleven months, but as I recall there were about 700 people at the beginning of this rally, but by Rebecca spoke later in the program, when only about 200 or so were left. Some fog had rolled in, and many of the protestors weren't dressed for the cold, so they left early.

Not everyone was paying attention to the speakers. Some were chatting with friends, and many others were checking out the various booths and displays around the perimeter. I was up close to the stage, sitting on the grass along with a few dozen other people. Most of them applauded during her speech, and just about everyone took part in the chanting at the end.


I noticed that the speakers became more and more radical as the day wore on. A few of the speakers after Rebecca (ANSWER types, mostly) were openly calling for revolution -- although they were so rabid that it was difficult to take them seriously. The thing about Rebecca was
that seemed quite sane and earnest.

At many rallies since, I've heard similar speeches -- but this is the only one I managed to catch on tape. I also saw this "strategy" spelled out on fliers from the International Socialist Organization, of which Rebecca is a member.
You can see the argument for supporting the Iraqi resistance featured prominently in such publications as the Socialist Worker, the official newspaper of the ISO:

(ED. Note: Link to socialist newspaper snipped.)

But the interesting thing is that Rebecca was, and still is, an active member of the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice, the group that sponsors most of the major rallies in San Diego. She rarely misses an event, and I've never witnessed a single person confronting her for making overly provocative speech, or otherwise discrediting the organization. In fact, after this tape went public, they rallied around in her defense!


Honestly, I have no problem with people who want to debate policy. That's part of being in a democracy. But when people start to advocate support for our enemies, or actively try to undermine our military (which is another topic entirely), that's where I draw the line.
Thanks again for taking the time to discuss this respectfully.

Cheers,


SMASH
Before we get into my commentary, I will also provide you with my response to Smash. (Which, I will confess, includes some commentary.) See? I told you this was going to be ungodly long, but if you are interested in the topic and hang in there, I think it may become worth your while.


Hi Smash.

Thanks for the tape. I just finished listening to it twice. (The wife and I went out to dinner before your e-mail arrived.) I guess I don't have enough to go on without asking more questions.

To somebody not familiar with the event, here's what it sounded like to me:
There was a crackpot girl on stage at this rally who, while being a member of the CPJ, is also a freaking socialist. She wasn't just an anti-Bush speaker. She wasn't just an anti-war speaker. She was anti-Kerry. She was anti-pretty much everything.

The interesting thing was the crowd response. Were you moving around while taping that or pretty much in one place? The reason I ask is that when she made the specific statements about supporting the insurgents against the Americans, it sounded to me like I heard not a single person clapping and a lot of chatter of people talking among themselves. Then she moved on to say that "we need to support US resistance in the military. Soldiers..." At that point, when she
finished that statement, I clearly heard the sound of exactly ONE person clapping.

Then she goes on to talk about how the US Military was "brought down in Vietnam because there was a fierce resistance in Vietnam and the soldiers refusing to fight." At that point, it sounded like possibly three to five people clapped. Next she moved on to talk specifically about George Bush and how "we're not going to convince him to have sympathy for the people of Iraq, and we need to mobilize."
At that point, I heard a fair number of people clapping. Hard to say with the tape quality but it could easily have been dozens. Then she goes on to trash BOTH Bush and Kerry, saying that there is "no good way to run an occupation" which gets even louder applause.

The fruitcake then goes on and asks everyone to become a socialist. Did you catch that part? She's a socialist. She ends up leading a chant which, I'll admit, a lot of people seem to have jumped in on just before it gets cut off. The chant, however, is a very typical of any peace rally. No matter who was leading it, they would join in. It was "No justice, no peace. US out of the Middle East."
The chant had nothing to do with supporting enemies who attack US troops. It's a chant for people who don't want America fighting these wars in the sand for no reason.

Now here's why I asked about whether you were sitting in one place or moving around. If you were taping from far off at first, maybe your tape recorder only caught the sound of no people, then one person, then a few people clapping, and later if you were up close you caught lots of clapping and then the chanting. However, your previous e-mail said that you were "... up close ot the stage, sitting on the grass."
If that's where you were for the recording of the entire tape, I would venture to say that almost nobody was paying attention to this loon, and virtually nobody clapped for her or supported her words until she got to the very general stuff about opposing George W. Bush's overall plans for war in the middle east and the need to demonstrate and protest.

When she said that everyone else should join the socialist party, you could hear a pin drop. Nobody cheered or applauded.
I went and looked at your post which started all of this. I will admit that Ron had a point to be upset. I want to ask you, person to person, if you don't feel that you were being very disingenuous.

After you described your taping session and how the tape ended up on
Rush Limbaugh's show.... (catch me. I may faint from shock that Limbaugh would pick that up) here is exactly what you wrote:

"IN A FREE SOCIETY, the best way to fight speech is with more speech. I took the momentum I had gained from the Rebecca tape, and used it to build an organization to counter the extreme left-wing groups that had sponsored that rally."


Did you catch that plural there? The "extreme left wing groups" (plural.. groupS) that had sponsored that rally." You lumped Rebecca in with CPJ and several other groups of real Americans who oppose the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and do so peacefully, but apparently
did not applaud or cheer or, it sounds, want any part of the lone wacko from the ISO (socialist party) who was spouting off violent crap.

This apparently didn't slow you down, however, as you tell your tale of how you then ganged up with a bunch of other guys to do down and intimidate a peaceful war protest, (no mention of Rebecca made there) but decided to punish them for Rebecca's insane socialist views.


No, Smash. I've investigated everything I've been given from both sides thus far, and I can't say I'm proud of you at all. It sounds like you began running a smear campaign based on a tape of one freaky socialist who nobody wanted to hear talk and used her to paint the entire Iraq war opposition movement with the same brush.


If there's more information I'm missing (tapes or video again, please) please do let me know and I'll keep an open mind.
I'm involved enough in this now that I'm probably going to cobble together a post on RS about this, ensuring that I leave your full side of it in without editing you, but I'd rather wait and hear from you for your side again before I decide to or not. Frankly, to me, it looks like a right wing smear job, but that might just be me, the tape quality, or a lack of information.

Cheers,


Jazz
Congratulations if you're still hanging in there, and I promise that we're getting down near the finish line. However, before making a closing argument about this, to be completely fair and keep things in context, I will include Smash's final response.

Jazz,
(ED.NOTE: A small portion of Smash's final response has been edited out. This is not to hide anything or change his meaning. It was unrelated to the discussion and involved his personal schedule for the weekend and seemed unsuitable to re-print in a public forum.)
Suffice it to say that I've heard similar complaints before. Let me be clear: I'm not trying to smear the entire anti-war movement, the Left, or the Democratic Party. In fact, I am currently registered as a Democrat (I'm actually an independent at heart, but I registered to take part in the 2004 primary election).

My efforts are very specifically targeted at a radical subset of the anti-war movement that is working to undermine the US military through counter-recruitment, encouragement of shirkers and deserters, and propaganda efforts targeting the morale of military members and their families. Most of the events we've held have been non-confrontational, with signs expressing support for our military and their families.


Before I go, let me address one small part of your letter:
"This apparently didn't slow you down, however, as you tell your tale of how you then ganged up with a bunch of other guys to do down and intimidate a peaceful war protest, (no mention of Rebecca made there) but decided to punish them for Rebecca's insane socialist views."

That "peaceful war protest" was specifically targeting the San Diego Naval Station. The first speaker, a Mr. Carl Muhammed of the Peace and Freedom Party, opened up by chanting "USA out of Haiti... USA out of Iraq... USA out of Afghanistan... USA out of North America!"


Mr. Muhammed was followed up by a taped message from convicted cop-killer Abu Mumia al-Jamal, from his death row cell in Pennsylvania.
Next came a firebrand from the Worker's World Party, Mr. Pete Reilly. Reilly made special notice of my group of 15 counter-protestors standing politely about 100 yards away, labeling us as "jack-booted fascists," etc. Then he launched into a rant about how the US military was racist, and he pledged to "bring down the war machine." For his finale, he whipped himself into a frenzy and stomped around the stage, shouting "Revolution now! We're not going to stop until this red flag flies over the White House!"

You were right about one thing, though -- Rebecca wasn't at that rally. But the ISO did have their little bookstand up, and were selling copies of the Communist manifesto, and various books by and about Trotsky, Castro, Guevarra, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, etc.
These are the people I'm working against. Many of them will be in attendance at the rally on March 19.

Call it a "smear campaign" if it makes you happy.
I'll keep doing what I do, regardless.

Cheers,


SMASH
So, on the surface, it would appear that Smash can make a case that he's not trying to stifle dissent among peaceful people who are simply opposed to the Bush administration and its war mongering policies, right? He's opposed to the communists, socialists, and other anti-government radicals. And if that were the case, I could almost get behind him on this.

Any time there is a peace rally, it inevitably attracts a small but very vocal set of wackos. The RNC in New York was an excellent example. Tens of thousands of peaceful protesters showed up. Unfortunately, the event also attracted a small contingent of anarchists, socialists, skinheads and similar groups. And, of course, who did the media focus on? The radicals. That's because the regular peace activists are too "boring."

However, they show up at these events for only one reason - if they held their own rally, nobody would show up. So they have to try to tag on to somebody else's rally. (When I say "nobody", I mean nobody except their own seven or eight pathetic little members who would drag themselves out of the parents' basements, put on their Guevara t-shirts, though most of them have no idea who the guy was, and go chant for a while alone.)

But Smash isn't doing that. He's not just targeting the communists and socialists and anarchists. He's attempting to disrupt the activities of everyone opposed to the war. Let's take a look at his upcoming "demonstration", shall we? (Taken from Smash's web site.)


FOR THE FIRST TIME in many months, we’ve learned of planned protests targeting military bases right here in San Diego. Our town will be the focus of a "regional mobilization" of the radical left.

I can't wait.

The World Says End the War! Bring the Troops Home Now! Rebuild our Communities! MARCH 19 - REGIONAL MOBILIZATION IN SAN DIEGO, CA Camp Pendleton Marine base, one of the largest bases in the country, has suffered a tragic number of casualties in the ongoing war and occupation of Iraq. CODEPINK will honor the devastating loss of these troops with a peaceful 30 mile, two day procession. Join us on March 18th and 19th as we walk from Oceanside, home of Camp Pendleton, to the massive rally at Balboa Park where we will unite with the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice to mark the second anniversary of the war in Iraq.


So, who is Smash going after? The ISO? The Young Communist League? No.... Code Pink. That's right... those dangerous, radical, America hating militants of Code Pink. (check your sarcasm meter for damage.) And let's see what these radical commies from Code Pink are advocating, shall we?
  • End the war
  • Bring home the troops to safety
  • Rebuild our communities
  • Honor the devastating loss of our troops in Iraq
Yeah, those are some pretty horrible sentiments, eh? Smash better shut those folks down. We certainly don't want a bunch of commies running around trying to honor the war dead.

And this brings us to my last point. What exactly are Smash and his buddies trying to do? Are they simply trying to peacefully assemble and air their views to the public? Well, in some cases they are. They have a program called "Operation Thank You". Here's how Smash describes it.
This is a wonderful, positive, non-confrontational event, where we stand outside the gates of various military bases holding signs that simply read "THANK YOU."
That's great, and I think they should be allowed, encouraged and supported in doing this. Because, unlike Smash, I think everyone should be able to exercise their constitutional right to peacefully assemble and air grievances or show support. But this event coming up on March 19th is nothing like that at all. Let's see how Smash describes that one.

THE BIG EVENT will be on Saturday, March 19, in Balboa Park. This will mark the second anniversary of Iraqi Freedom, and the first anniversary of Rebecca's now-infamous speech.

As you recall, last year at this event I felt that I was surrounded in a sea of anti-American sentiment, and was unable to stand up and denounce the seditious rhetoric of the various speakers.

This year, however, we're going to turn the tables.

Don't let the seditionists take over our park, again.

"Turn the tables." Stop the "seditionists". I'm sure you can see what's going on here. I lived in San Diego for a few years back when I was in the Navy, and I can assure you that there are a lot of parks besides Balboa. If Smash simply wanted to hold a public rally in support of the troops, in support of war, in support of Dubya, or whatever else he wants to support, there's many places to do it, and many days on the calendar to hold his event. But that's not his intent. His intent is, in plain and simple language, to do whatever he can to disrupt the Code Pink rally and silence their dissent. Read his own words, and you will see that there is absolutely no other way to describe what's going on here. Smash is an excellent example of why many liberals call the war hawks "re-thugs", even though Smash is allegedly a registered Democrat.

No, I'm afraid this isn't something that makes me or America proud at all. It's one more example of the creeping fascism that wants to ensure that no dissent against Dubya's administration is allowed, and considers free speech a unfortunate but unavoidable victim of the "war on terror."

Ron, you have my apologies. You were absolutely right to be infuriated by Smash's article, though I still place no fault on Joe Gandelman for linking to it. Nor do I think Joe should have felt compelled to make any comment painting Smash's writings in a negative light. He simply points to highly interesting or provocative items and leaves the reader to judge for themselves. In this case, I judge the activities by Smash to be, quite frankly, unamerican.

EDIT: Since this seems to be getting traffic, this blog has moved. You can find the same post over at:
http://www.runningscared.org/

Same date. Traffic from here is redirected, sorry.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Some thoughts on war, protest and losing your cool

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/25/2005 05:45:00 PM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

I have a great deal of respect for Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice but I did take him to task this morning. I perhaps became upset with Joe because I do respect him after he directed me to and seemingly endorsed an inflammatory post by one Smash at The Indepundit.
I have opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning and know many really good people who did as well. We all do all we can to support the troops. Mr Smash inferred that we were all guilty of sedition which sent me over the edge, and yes I lost my cool. I am not a pacifist and in fact supported the invasion of Afghanistan.
One of my complaints with the mis-adventure in Iraq was it took needed resources away from Afghanistan and allowed it to become a failed narco-state. And that is what it is in spite of a "feel good" election. Most of the country remains under the control of narco-warlords, the Taliban and yes, al-Queda.
The reasons given for the invasion of Iraq have been many and most have evaporated as the truth became known. I remain convinced that the real reason was economic imperialism. America's finest should not be maimed and die for Exxon-Mobile, Halliburton etc. So Joe, I still respect you and will continue to read you but I still think you were wrong when you endorsed Smash's post. I expect some nonsense from the likes of Smash but I must admit I was disappointed in you.

Conflicted at Heart

posted by The One True Tami at 2/25/2005 03:44:00 PM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

10 Voters on Panel Backing Pain Pills Had Industry Ties (free registration required bien sur)
Ten of the 32 government drug advisers who last week endorsed continued marketing of the huge-selling pain pills Celebrex, Bextra and Vioxx have consulted in recent years for the drugs' makers, according to disclosures in medical journals and other public records.
Well, hell. I was really excited about the results of that vote. I don't take any of these medications, but I know plenty of folks who do, some of whom have been taking them for years, and I know what a great job they do on arthritic pain.

Let me talk this out, see how I feel. It's true that a panel of drug advisers with no ties to any of the companies that make any of the drugs is almost impossible to find. It's also true that the restoration of these drugs to the market will mean huge profits for these companies. Thing is, I had already decided myself from the information published that yes, there's a risk there, but it's the sort of risk that can be factored in my your doctor. They can look at you, and your history, and decide if these drugs are too dangerous for you. If your doctor decides that they're not, and that they can significantly improve your quality of life, then I' say go for it.

You know, I'm always glad when I can talk something out in my head like this. Seeing it now, I understand that I think that these drugs should indeed be available to the public. If the vote turned out that way purely because of the greed factor, well, then, I guess I think that the greed factor happened to fortuitously be on the right side of the fence today, and everyone can be happy.

Turmoil in the Senate?

posted by Jazz at 2/25/2005 02:24:00 PM

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Who would have thought that things couldn't go swimmingly in the home of the ten seat majority?
<>
The Senate is headed toward turmoil unless it can resolve its bitter impasse over judicial nominees, a key Republican warned yesterday. But neither party showed signs of yielding as senators scheduled a hearing next week for one of the 10 appointees blocked last year.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), breaking from GOP orthodoxy that blames only Democrats, said both parties have allowed the battle over federal judgeships to escalate to a dangerous point where neither side is willing to back down. He said he is not sure Republicans have enough votes in the full Senate to confirm appellate court nominee William G. Myers III, but he will formally restart the contest by conducting a committee hearing Tuesday.
I'm not sure how it happened, but it seems that the Republican might even be a couple shorts of getting a confirmation of the first Bush re-nominee, say nothing of stopping a fillibuster. Get out the popcorn, folks. We might be in for a show.


Disappointed in Joe Gandelman

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/25/2005 10:07:00 AM

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Jazz and I both have a great deal of respect for Joe Gandelman over at The Moderate Voice, but he has done what we expect Faux News to do, emphasized the very worst of the antiwar movement while giving no mention to the vast majority who are protesting this awful illegal war. He did this by sending his readers over to what sounds like the Iraq version of "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth", The Indepundit. The Indepundit went to an anti war rally in San Diego and allegedly heard the following:
I want to talk today about how we're actually going to stop the occupation. I don't have a plan, but I think there's some key strategies that we need to adopt, that are gonna make this more successful.
And the first thing is that we need to support the resistance of Iraqis in Iraq. These are people who are risking their lives to get the United States out of their country. And we have to see them as our allies. We have to see them as our main allies.

Similarly, we have to support resistance in the US military. Soldiers, and you know, anyone - families who are actually opposing the war, we need to be on their side.

If you recall, there's one time in the last 30 years when the US military machine was brought down, during Vietnam, and it was brought down because there was a fierce resistance in Vietnam, and because the soldiers were refusing to fight...
Now I don't doubt that he heard this but the majority who oppose the war in Irag would find this offensive. The entire anti war movement has been made to look like a bunch of US troop hating wingnuts. I was in the military during the height of the Vietnam War, 1968-1972. I heard stories about troops being cursed and spit on; that was the picture that was painted of war protestors during that illegal war. I don't doubt that it happened but I never saw it. The protestors I saw were caring people who opposed an unwinable war. We have the right wing blogs and Faux news to paint inaccurate pictures of war protestors. We don't need a "Moderate Voice" doing it.
Edit
Follow up above.

Hillary's been drinking the water overseas, I see

posted by Jazz at 2/25/2005 10:07:00 AM

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Mahablog has an excellent take on the recent dodging and weaving of Hillary Clinton, and asks the question, "Can we agree that Hillary Clinton is not going to be the 2008 presidential nominee?"

First, she provides some of the quotes from Senator Clinton's weekend talk show stops as she tours Iraq, Afghanistan and, apparently, Mars. She was asked about the prospect of permanent United States military bases in Iraq.

No, but I think that we should take this sort of one step at a time...



...We are going to be negotiating with the new Iraqi government. The Iraqi government could turn around any time and say, “We want you to leave.” I don't see any indication of that, but it could happen.




The Iraqi government could say, “We want you to be here with a certain kind of footprint.” But until the Iraqi government is stood up and operating, I think it's a little premature for us to be talking about what they and we may decide to do together.

There's some telling insight in those remarks, and Mahablog once again manages to shine a bright light on the cockroaches of politics.

On one hand, she’s not coming out in favor of permanent bases.

But on the other, she’s covering for Bush by saying we’re not already on that path, when we clearly are.

When Hillary brought the "Carpetbagger 2000" campaign into my home state for one of our Senate seats, I opposed her for reasons which I felt, and still feel, were fully valid. However, she won the election fair and square and you have to give the winner a chance. Since then, she's actually managed to do some things which had me wavering and wanting to give her the benefit of the doubt. (Helping out a local soldier who was shafted by the army upon returning home, pushing for some sensible voting reform legislation, etc.) But then she turns around and does something like this.

I leave you with Mahablog's last word on the subject, since I couldn't say it better myself.
No more of this shit. No. more. of. this. shit.

Misdirection 101

posted by Jazz at 2/25/2005 09:47:00 AM

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A typical ploy of the right wing, whenever something bad comes up for the Bushies, is to try to turn the issue into something else entirely. If you can shift the dialogue away from the real problem, you can generate a "Fog of Hype" that provides cover for the guilty by obfuscating the real meat of the story.

You can see another example of this again today at Betsy Newmark's Blog, where she uses the same tactic as many other right wingers on the Guckert story. She continues to preach that the accusations concerning Guckert are about the fact that he's gay and people shouldn't be making "fair game of his sex life." Of course, this has nothing to do with the actual story and why people are upset about it and calling for an investigation.

Also, please take a look at my response in her comments section on that one. It will save me the time and finger agony of saying it yet again here.

Wanker of the Year Award Nominations are Closed

posted by Jazz at 2/25/2005 09:24:00 AM

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You know, we often have a great deal of fun taking apart the seemingly random blathering that emanates from Power Line so very often. But today, our work has been done for us. Check out Apostropher's analysis of this incredible case of Deacon making up a story entirely and then judging the Democrats on it.
Want to see how a bullshit snowball rolls downhill and becomes an avalanche?
Is it any wonder that Atrios has named Power Line Wanker of the day YEAR! Hurrah for Power Line! Congratulations and well done, boys. You make the right wing right proud, ya'll.

The incredible shrinking dollar

posted by Mu at 2/25/2005 08:59:00 AM

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Der Spiegel has a very good article on why having a week dollar is not all what it's cracked up to be (like oil prices at $50 a barrel).

I have just one question about President Bush's trip to Europe: Did he and Laura go shopping?

If they did, I would love to have been a fly on the wall when Laura must have said to George: "George, do you remember how much these Belgian chocolates cost when we were here four years ago? This box of mints was $10. Now it's $15? What happened to the dollar, George? Why is the euro worth so much more now, honey?


Thanks Fark.com for the link.
Disclaimer: Reading "Der Spiegel" will require at least two laps in the baptism pool for purification. Agreeing with anything written in it will irrevocably cancel your rapture ticket.

Blogging and Rapping

posted by Jazz at 2/25/2005 07:51:00 AM

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What do Atrios and Wonkette have in common with P-Diddy and Lil' Kim? Why, simply the fact that bloggers and rappers are the same animal. Don't believe it? We're discussing a Slate article over at Middle Earth Journal which will make you vomit explain everything.

Fishing for women with loose moral values

posted by Jazz at 2/25/2005 06:12:00 AM

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That seems to be the new hobby of Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. Apparently he began his own private fishing expedition last October in the form of a secret investigation where he demanded that abortion clinics in the state surrender the complete medical records of women who had abortions. Up to 90 women may be affected. The reason he gave for this jaw dropping demand?

Two clinics are fighting the request in Kansas Supreme Court, saying the state has no right to such personal information.

But Attorney General Phill Kline, an abortion opponent, insisted Thursday: "I have the duty to investigate and prosecute child rape and other crimes in order to protect Kansas children."

Kline is seeking the records of girls who had abortions and women who received late-term abortions. Sex involving someone under 16 is illegal in Kansas, and it is illegal in the state for doctors to perform an abortion after 22 weeks unless there is reason to believe it is needed to protect the mother's health.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't even play one on TV, but this strikes me as being fundamentally wrong... not just from a moral outrage perspective, but from a legal one as well. Clearly this wingnut is using this as an excuse to go after both women who get abortions and the doctors performing them, but his cover story seems to fail to meet a basic test.

In order to begin an investigation... any investigation - I was under the impression that you first had to have a specific crime you were working on, don't you? He is supposedly investigating two types of "crime" here... sex with a girl under the age of sixteen and abortions performed after 22 weeks gestation where the pregnancy isn't putting the life of the mother in danger.

Taking the second one first, it would seem that the default assumption when lacking a specific complaint by a woman or her doctor, would be that any abortion performed after 22 weeks *was* because the mother's health was endangered. Barring any specific case of complaint, where do you get the right to scoop up the medical records of all the women who did not complain and had legitimate reasons to get an abortion?

The first one looks a bit trickier on the surface, but I'm guessing it's not. Any time an adult male is having sex with a girl under sixteen, that's just wrong in my personal opinion. And apparently it's against the law in Kansas. Good for them. However, there should still be some sort of complaint filed about the sexual activity itself, not simply looking for such activity because it resulted in pregnancy. How many of those 90 cases were underage girls? Even if we say that it's half of them, do you really think that only 45 teenage girls in the state of Kansas had sex last year? This is effective law enforcement?

Also, what about cases where both of the parties are younger teenagers? (sixteen or under.) I'm not sure how that's handled on a state by state basis, but I'm fairly certain that it is very different than statutory rape where the male is an adult. Barring specific facts indicating that one particular girl was impregnated by an adult male, where is the justification for seizing the records of all girls sixteen and under who got pregnant? Far too wide of a reach.

The State Supreme Court needs to crack down on this wingnut pronto. This kind of wide reaching government investigation, risking the rights and privacy of numerous women for nothing more than political showmanship is to be despised. The AG is the one who needs to be under investigation.

UPDATE: The New York Times has picked up on this story. So have some other bloggers.

No More Mister Nice Blog asks, "Yeah, really. What IS the matter with Kansas?"

Ellen Nagler sees a resemblence between the AG and Torquemada. (Nice graphics here.)

Talk Left sees this as yet another reason to preserve the right to fillibuster judicial nominees.

Friday Double Cat Blogging

posted by Jazz at 2/25/2005 05:46:00 AM

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Happy Friday! This morning we bring you the usual weekly reminder for creature lovers to swing by The Modulator for the Friday Ark, a roundup of animals of all sorts, living and extinct. And then, on Sunday, you feline fanciers should remember to stop by the Carnival of the Cats, which this week will be hosted by Mind of Mog.

Today's photo is a twofer... that is to say, two cats caught where they shouldn't be at one time. Here are Spider and Colin slugging it out for squatting rights on my home office chair. (Ok... perhaps "slugging it out" is a bit of an exaggeration.) Click on image for full size picture.





Thursday, February 24, 2005

Democracy is Messy

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/24/2005 01:37:00 PM

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"The best worst laid schemes o' mice and men
Gang aft a-gley,
And leave us naught but grief and pain
For promised joy."
Robert Burns

Juan Cole has a commentary in The LA Times today, The Downside of Democracy, where he discusses that freedom and democracy in Iraq are not producing what the neocons had in mind. Anyone who had even one foot in the world of reality could have predicted that the "freedom" the Iraqis want does not resemble the "freedom" Bush and the neocons had in mind. They are learning that Rumsfeld was right about at least one thing, "Democracy in Messy".
With the emergence of Shiite physician Ibrahim Jafari as the leading candidate for Iraqi prime minister earlier this week, the contradictions of Bush administration policy in the Middle East have become even clearer than they were before.

President Bush says he is committed to democratizing the region, yet he also wants governments to emerge that are friendly to the U.S., benevolent to their own people, secular, capitalist and willing to stand up and fight against anti-American radicals.

But what if democratic elections do not produce such governments? What if the newly elected regimes are friendly to states and groups that Washington considers enemies? What if the spread of democracy through the region empowers elements that don't share American values and goals?
Well it looks like we are about to find out.
The recent election in Iraq is a case in point. The two major parties in the victorious Shiite alliance are Jafari's party, the Dawa, founded in the late 1950s to work for an Islamic republic, and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, the goal of which can be guessed from its name. To be fair, both have backed away from their more radical stances of earlier decades. But both parties - and Jafari himself - were sheltered in Tehran in the 1980s by Washington's archenemy, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and both acknowledge that they want to move Iraq toward Islamic law and values.
The neocons showed that they were totally divorced from reality when they thought that a freely elected government in the middle east would produce a pro western, pro Israel government. So how will the Bush administration react to what can only be described as setbacks?
Are such outcomes acceptable to the Bush administration? If not, how will it respond? Given the war on terror, it is unlikely to simply take these electoral setbacks lying down.

But if Washington falls back on its traditional responses - covert operations, attempts to interfere in parliamentary votes with threats or bribes, or dependence on strong men like Musharraf - the people of the Middle East might well explode, because the only thing worse than living under a dictatorship is being promised a democracy and then not really getting it.


From Middle Earth Journal

How on Earth did we miss this?

posted by Jazz at 2/24/2005 01:20:00 PM

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I rarely get the opportunity to throw a hat tip to a right wing blog for something so fabulously hilarious, but Betsy Newmark gets the credit for this one. (Of course, she was complaining about it, where I'm looking for an address to place orders.)
Piss Off

A Belgian novelty shows what the good people of Brussels really think about George W. Bush.


by Paul Belien
02/22/2005 8:40:00 AM

WHEN JOHAN VANDE LANOTTE, Belgium's Vice Prime Minister, goes to the toilets today, he finds the urinals in the offices of his ministry decorated with stickers. They show an American flag and the head of George W. Bush. "Go ahead. Piss on me," the caption says.

Vande Lanotte is one of Bush's hosts in Brussels. Is peeing on your guest's head appropriate? In Belgium it is. After all, Brussels' best known statue is that of "Manneken Pis," a peeing boy.
Unless somebody can find an English version of the Belgian Socialist Party homepage, we don't have any information on how to order these. The article claims they are free, but somehow I don't think they printed enough to keep up with the demand that they'd have in the United States. Stay tuned.



Another little piece of perspective

posted by Jazz at 2/24/2005 12:59:00 PM

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Simply because the Bushies simply love to bring up this fact so often...

Q: Which United States Presidential candidate received more votes than any other in American history?

A: George W. Bush (Nov. 2004)

Q: Which United States Presidential candidate received the second most votes of any in American history?

A: John F. Kerry (Nov. 2004)

Kharazi: West ignores realities in Iran

posted by Jazz at 2/24/2005 12:13:00 PM

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This just in from the Iranian press. Iran's foreign minister apparently feels that the United States exercises a "double standard" when dealing with Middle East powers on matters of terrorism, and ignores productive efforts that the Iranians are involved in. Hrmm... I wonder where he could have gotten that idea?

(NOTE: This is a direct English translation site of the Islamic Republic News Agency and the language is not very smooth.)
Tehran, Feb 24, IRNA -- Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said here on Wednesday evening that the West, in particular the US, does not pay attention to the realities in Iran.

In a meeting with Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgessen, he pointed to Iran`s constructive role in the latest developments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Iranian foreign minister criticized double-standard policy of the western countries on the anti-terrorism campaign. Exerting pressure on Iran and Washington`s support for the Zionist regime are examples of the US dual policies with respect to other countries, he said noting that despite the 26 elections held in Iran, Washington claims there is no democracy in the country.

For his part, the Norwegian diplomat termed his current visit to Tehran and his meetings with senior Iranian officials as positive. He further called for expansion of political, economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries.
The "facts on the ground", as it is said, are critical to success in any foreign endeavor. If we didn't learn that from the Iraq invasion, we learned nothing. (See any previous references to hearts and minds, flowers in the streets, etc.) The current reality on the ground in Iran is that this is the news source which a lot of Iranians use for their media input. I wouldn't be expecting too many showers of rose petals in the streets of Tehran if Bush decides to invade, either.


Destroying the Work of Generations

posted by Mu at 2/24/2005 10:35:00 AM

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Reading through reports of GWB's recent trip to Germany made me realize how badly he has destroyed the immage of the USA in Germany. Everyone has seen Kenedy's famous speach in Berlin in front of a hystric crowd, exstatic about his support in a bad time. 1989 Bush Sr. went to Mainz, the same city his son went to. Bush Sr. got greeted by similarly enthusiastic crowds, a friend of the people. I happened to go to grad school there at the time, and while in some leftist circles at the university people tried to organize anti-american protest they were considered a fringe group.
Now GWB came to Mainz, and what a change. Despite converting the city of Mainz into something similar to Bagdad's Green zone (blocked air trafic, blocked ship trafic on the Rhine river, blocked interstates) tenthousands of people came to jeer at Bush, with everything from accusations of warcrimes to terrorism to comparisons to Hitler.
The damage that man has done will be very hard to overcome for any successor.

Where is the outrage?

posted by Jazz at 2/24/2005 09:35:00 AM

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That's the question which Mark Shields posed this week. At first I was sure that he was talking about Iraq. Or possibly the saber rattling at Iran, Syria and now, apparently, Russia. But no... Shields is talking about Enron.
"Either we are losing our capacity for moral outrage, or George W. Bush is presiding over the ultimate Teflon Administration."
This brings up a question and an observation. First of all, the timing of this column is certainly curious. How long have we known each and every detail of the Enron scandals? This news is years old. I'm not sure what prompted this sudden surge of righteous indignation, though it's certainly worthy of concern. Some of the legal wrangling is still going on over Enron, but it's mostly faded off the radar.

This brings me to the observation. Were was the outrage? Compared to all of the supposed horrors perpetrated by Democrats during the 2004 election - Kerry's "treasonous" war record from the Vietnam years, the "unfair" financing of his campaign by Moveon.org - Enron put them all to shame. So Shields raises a valid question. Why is it that the right wingnuts are so good at motivating the MSM into a frothing rage over anything that a liberal does, but when conservative supporters do something that should really have God Almighty turning them to pillars of salt, the media seems to shrug it off?

I don't know about where you live, but most of my friends were plenty damned outraged over the Enron situation. The only ones who seemed to treat it as a non-starter were the major papers and television. Is it just because we've lowered our expectations of the neocons so far that literally nothing they do can surprise or shock us anymore?

Right wing blogs are tremendously effective at mobilizing the masses of the Bush faithful and getting the MSM to follow them like puppies. Why is it so hard for liberals to do the same? Particularly with the massively "librul" media that we're constantly hearing about, you'd think that the television and news outlets would be reacting in exactly the opposite fashion.

Something's rotten in Denmark, and I don't just mean George W. Bush being in the area this week.

Charles and Camilla

posted by georg at 2/24/2005 09:05:00 AM

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I know we don't go for gossip much here, but I am a die-hard Anglophile who does like to keep track of the doings of the Royals a bit.

I have never been fond of Camilla, nor of Charles for carrying on with a married woman for years. Now that they're both divorced, I won't begrudge them their happiness of getting married, but I am glad they are trying to do it quietly, and doing it in such a way that Camilla will never be Queen.

I have been in favor of their morganatic marriage for some time, even though England does not usually recognize such. It's obvious that they will not be having any children, and we already have the Heir and the Spare, so no need to fuss over bestowing titles and duties on her- She should do what she can to support her beloved and not fuss over the stress of the rest.

More pertinent to our blog is this lovely bit of gossip that that has Bush refusing to allow Camilla to dine with him at the White House because she's divorced. If Bush really did forbid her because of her divorced status, he'd find the dining room thin of company most evenings at the White House. Frankly, I'd love to meet a member of the Royal Family- Camilla or no Camilla.

Things that keep me up at night

posted by georg at 2/24/2005 08:34:00 AM

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A frined mine sent me this link about a list of HIV patients being shared where it shouldn't.

There are rules in place that are supposed to be preventing that sort of thing, which is why the company went overboard trying to recall the company-wide email with the list. But who knows what those 10 people who did receive the information will do with it.

But what it is that should frighten you is the ease of which such information can be spread. Modern technology is a double-edged sword- it's good to have various medical teams sharing information about what you have been through- but it's scary to think of how that can be tapped into and shared.

We may have found the cabana boy

posted by Jazz at 2/24/2005 07:44:00 AM

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Yesterday Ron had an interesting post about the possible discovery of a sea of frozen water on Mars. Following his speculation about building a beach house there, it appears that CNN may have found the first possible rental customers.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A U.S. scientist claims to have thawed out a new life form, which he said raises questions about possible contemporary life on Mars.
The phrase "new life form" might be a bit misleading since, it's been there since the prehistoric era.

The organism froze on Earth some 30,000 years ago, and was apparently alive all that time and started swimming as soon as it thawed, said Richard Hoover from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

The life form -- a bacterium dubbed Carnobacterium pleistocenium -- probably flourished in the Pleistocene Age, along with woolly mammoths and saber-tooth tigers, said Hoover.

Now if this little guy can lay around in a frozen state ever since the Pleistocene, get thawed out and immediately start doing the backstroke, who's to say that there aren't similar beach dwellers "chilling out" up on that ocean on Mars?

The discovery of the living bacteria in Alaska's permafrost raises another possibility, Hoover said.

"The other thing that's exciting: Just like we found in the Fox tunnel of Alaska, frozen biology in the form of unicellular bacteria might even have remained alive, frozen in the Martian sea," he said.

This just in... a microscopic view of the new strain of bacteria may explain a lot about our current stage of evolution.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hillary Clinton--Political Hack?

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/23/2005 05:50:00 PM

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Juan Cole reports that Hillary Clinton made some inappropriate comments while in Baghdad.
Stephen Farrell reports for the London Times that a minor tiff occurred last week between Senator Hillary Clinton and prime ministerial candidate Ibrahim Jaafari:
Last week Hillary Clinton, the New York senator, visiting Baghdad, said that there were ---grounds both for concern and for . . . vigilance--- about Dr al-Jaafari's Iranian connections. Clearly irritated, the candidate --- at present Iraq's Vice-President --- brushed aside the remark yesterday. "We are not at an American traffic light to be given a red or green signal. I am speaking on behalf of a collective decision. I will stop when the Iraqi people say to stop," he said. "Hillary Clinton, as far as I know, does not represent any political decision or the American Administration and I don't know why she said this. She knows nothing about the Iraqi situation.

I take it that Hilary is laying out a Democratic Party strategy for the 2008 elections, which may well argue that Bush lost Iraq to Iran through his incompetence. The argument probably implies that Jaafari as a Muslim fundamentalist is not only close to Iran but will pursue policies and legislation that hurt women.

These points are not without some validity. But maybe Baghdad just after the elections wasn't the best time and place for her to criticize positive feelings toward Iran on the part of Shiite politicians (which, I have pointed out, is sort of like criticizing the Irish for feeling positively about the Vatican). Jaafari is an Iraqi patriot and he has a right to be offended at the idea that he might be a puppet for Tehran. Still, it does seem inevitable that some canny Democrat will figure out that the US public has severe doubts about the Iraq adventure, and find a way to parlay that into political advantage.

Jaafari for his part was ill-advised to lash out at Hilary. If he becomes prime minister, he will need a good working relationship with the US Congress on both sides of the aisle.
Although she is probably correct it was not the right time to say it. I have always seen Hillary as nothing but an opportunist political hack and this is just a further indication of that.

Unpatriotic God Haters

posted by Jazz at 2/23/2005 05:10:00 PM

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Well, there's been far too much good news today. In order to maintain my proper balance of Mao loving anti-Americanism, I'll direct you to a rather frightening post from Dave Johnson over at Seeing the Forest. He seems to believe, as do I, that you need to keep an eye in the enemy camp. In this case, to observe the narrative which is being spun. A small piece of his summary.
Remember, people like this are paid, and paid well to put out this kind of stuff. It is designed to reinforce a "narrative" - an overriding story in which specific things don't even have to be true, as long as they ride along with the larger script. Liberals hate God, aren't patriotic, etc.

More Sugar, Less Vinegar

posted by Jazz at 2/23/2005 01:55:00 PM

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The folks at the Independent Institute have put out the latest issue of The Lighthouse this week. It contains an interesting analysis on our country's current relations with both Syria and Iran, called Saber Rattling Against Syria. It's a good read all the way through, but here's some of the money quotes. (All bold emphasis mine.)

It is hypocritical for the administration to punish Syria for assassinating a former Lebanese prime minister (assuming the Syrians did it) when the U.S. led its own campaign to kill leaders of the Iraqi regime, including Saddam Hussein and his two sons. It is also duplicitous for the Bush administration to point the finger at Syria for having 14,000 troops in Lebanon, when the United States originally approved that troop presence and when it has 150,000 of its own troops occupying Iraq.

If odious regimes such as Syria are never rewarded for anything positive, they have no incentive to behave better. This does not mean holding them in a tight embrace or condoning their abysmal human rights practices. It does mean treating them with a wary pragmatism and not assuming all they do is evil.

I know that treasonous words like that might come as a shock to the more hawk minded in the crowd, but others might recognize it something we used to call "diplomacy." The article continues.

The Bush administration should follow its own lead and imitate its successful policy with Libya. The administration provided a powerful incentive for Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s despotic strongman who also has been suspected of trying to kill a foreign leader, to give up his nuclear weapons program. It offered Qaddafi an end to international economic isolation in exchange for better behavior.

In contrast, Syria’s and Iran’s efforts at some cooperation with U.S. policies have been shot down in their infancy. In the case of Iran, the regime quit cooperating with the United States when it realized that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan was more or less permanent. Furthermore, President Bush has actually declared that he would not ease relations even if the Iranians gave up their nuclear program. Why should those regimes improve their behavior if they feel that they can do nothing right and the goal posts keep moving back when they take a step, however tentative, in a positive direction? As unbelievable as it may seem, considering the Iraqi debacle, the military threats by the Bush administration against Iran and Syria closely resemble the pre-invasion threats the administration made against Iraq.

A little more sugar and a little less vinegar toward “rogue states” might give these countries an incentive for better behavior.

It's a great piece on peace, if you will. Remember that only this week, standing in Europe, Bush told the world that rumors that he was about to attack Iran were "ridiculous." Just to get it on the record, here's the full quote with no editing.

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous."

Then, with no pause for breath, he turned around and immediately said:

"Having said that, all options are on the table."

I'm still willing to hold out hope and give Bush the benefit of the doubt and say that he might be serious. Time will tell, and with any luck, we'll be here to record it for you.


Link of the day

posted by Jazz at 2/23/2005 12:08:00 PM

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Really... the name says it all.

http://sweetjesusihatebilloreilly.com/

Uncle Buck

posted by Jazz at 2/23/2005 11:00:00 AM

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In this case, we're not talking about an old John Candy movie. At first blush, this story from the LA Times looked to be a non-starter in my opinion. (Annoying but free registration required to view.) Times reporter Walter Roche jr. has published information about a defense contracting firm in St. Louis , one Engineered Support Systems Inc. (ESSI) which has seen a windfall of profits from the Iraq war. The twist to this story, as told by Roche, is that one member of the company's board of directors is a man named William H.T. "Bucky" Bush. Since we're covering this article, you may have already surmised that his last name is no coincidence. He is the uncle of the current President of the United States.
WASHINGTON — The Iraq war helped bring record earnings to St. Louis-based defense contractor Engineered Support Systems Inc., and new financial data show that the firm's war-related profits have trickled down to a familiar family name — Bush.

William H.T. "Bucky" Bush, uncle of the president and youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush, cashed in ESSI stock options last month with a net value of nearly half a million dollars.


"Uncle Bucky," as he is known to the president, is on the board of the company, which supplies armor and other materials to U.S. troops. The company's stock prices have soared to record heights since before the invasion, benefiting in part from contracts to rapidly refit fleets of military vehicles with extra armor.
The reason this story looked to have no legs is simple. Bucky was reportedly a member of the board there before his nephew ever took office. Also, this company has a long history of work as a defense contractor. The armor refit business is, as we've all seen, booming. This is primarily because Iraqi insurgents keep blowing all of ours up. (Along with our troops.) It's really not a surprise that they would be seeing record profits right now, along with most other defense contractors. The company has also been building "Tunners" (heavy supply moving equipment) for the government for some time.

Bush's presence on the board is also not that surprising in and of itself. The company, like most entities doing business with the Federal Government, has influential board members from both the Democratic and Republican parties. It may not be the most pristine of arrangements, but let's face it... most companies with their fingers in the government pie do the same thing. It's how business gets done, sadly. As one company representative put it:
"Having a Bush doesn't hurt," said [ESSI vice president Dan] Kreher, who acknowledged that the company was routinely engaged in Washington lobbying efforts. But, he said, Democrats, including a party fundraiser, also serve on the panel.
Also detracting from the interest of this story is the "profit" seen by the Bush family member. Bucky apparently receives an annual salary of less than $40K for his service on the board, and recently exercised some soon-to-expire stock options for around $480K. As Suburban Guerilla put it, "Oh, come on. Half a million? That's chump change to these crooks."

However, a bit of deeper digging reveals that there just might be more to this iceberg than is sticking out of the water. Bucky Bush was on the board before George W. was elected, but only eight months before. This is apparently not the first time that ESSI has gotten some national ink over questionable contracting activities.
Some of the firm's Defense Department work has included no-bid, sole-source contracts, including a $48.8-million deal to refurbish military trailers.

Last week, Defense Department officials disclosed that ESSI contracts issued in 2002 with a cumulative value of $158 million had been referred to the Pentagon inspector general's office for investigation. The contracts were supervised by a former Defense official who was sentenced to prison for improperly aiding another contractor, Boeing Co.


Pentagon Acting Undersecretary Michael Wynne said he had referred the contracts "that appear to have anomalies in them." Wynne and his aides would not elaborate on those anomalies. Other contracts referred for review included pacts with Accenture (formerly called Andersen Consulting), Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Once again... none of this looks, on the surface, to have any direct fingerprints on it tying the first family to any sort of war profiteering. But the coincidence is certainly worth watching, and we'll have to wait and see the results of the ongoing investigations into irregularities in their contracting arrangements.

File this one under the "wait and see" category. While it could turn out to be of interest, it may still just be business as usual in Washington with no particular connection to Bush.

Assassins Abound

posted by Jazz at 2/23/2005 10:35:00 AM

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That case of the American student of Islam who was allegedly plotting to kill George W. Bush continues to grow in complexity. What first sounded to me like either a harebrained "plot" by some random psychotic, or a case of mistaken identity in homeland security prosecutions, is blossoming into a much more convoluted plot. Joe Gandelman has a ton of up to date details on this story. I'll save cut/paste space and just leave you to read his entire summary.

Throw out your axis. We're going with ideology now.

posted by Jazz at 2/23/2005 10:14:00 AM

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All of you guardians against the spreading, evil malfeasance of the libruls will need to update your bumper stickers and leaflets. His Holiness himself, the Holy See, the Kingpin of Christians, Pope John Paul II, has usurped Dubya's attack on gay marriage and all of the things destroying "decent society." Yes... that's right. No more "axis of evil" for you! Now you have to deal with the "ideology of evil." And as we all know, an ideology is one hell of a lot more frightening than any old "axis" you'd care to name.

ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- Homosexual marriages are part of "a new ideology of evil" that is insidiously threatening society, Pope John Paul says in his newly published book.

In "Memory and Identity," the Pope also calls abortion a "legal extermination" comparable to attempts to wipe out Jews and other groups in the 20th century.

He also reveals that he is convinced the Turkish gunman who shot him in 1981 did not act alone and suggests that the former Communist Bloc may have been behind the plot to kill him.

Okay, campers. There's lots of work to do. All of you who were parading around playing the part of "unamerican traitors" because of the Iraq invasion need to buy all new costumes. Frankly, I'll admit they're wearing me down. I may go back to the Republican party simply because taking on a new personification of evil every week is far too exhausting at my age.

A rebuttal

posted by georg at 2/23/2005 08:18:00 AM

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You cannot blame me for the Christmas cat dishtowels- they were a gift from the parental units, and they seem to like giving holiday things. I just don't see a point in storing things to be used special for only part of the year.

As for the egg-timer thing, I find it useful. My mother taught me to hard boil eggs for 15-minutes. But is that 15 minutes after the water has started boiling? Or 15 minutes after you put the pan on the stove? And if I forget the timer, oh the disasters! I have had to put up with that ugly green ring around the boiled egg yolk which I dislike intesnsely, and the barely cooked through centers, which are just as off-putting. I've walked into the kitchen too many times and realized there's a boiling pot on the stove, and the conversation usually goes:
"Honey, how long have these eggs been boiling?"
"I don't know."
"Has it been long enough?"
"I'm not sure."
"OK, I'll leave them then, but don't forget them!"
This conversation sometimes happens when I am the one who started the pot of eggs on the stove.

The final straw for me was one time when I forgot the timer, and all of the water boiled out of the pot. Did you know eggshells can burn? That's why I bought the eggtimer.

And I use it.

Egg Zactly

posted by Jazz at 2/23/2005 06:39:00 AM

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I'm engaged in a desperate battle of wills - a contest of gladiatorial proportions... with an egg timer.

No, it's not one of those "sands in the hour glass, so go the days of our lives" type egg timers. This is one of those cool new products made possible by advancements in thermo-sensitive polymers. Here's a photo of it, if only to save a long, tedious description. (Click on image for full size picture)




Yes, you can also get a good look (and laugh) at a portion of one of my wife's "Christmas Cats" dish towels, upon which it is sitting. The timer is a solid chunk of some space age material, red in color, with gradations for "hard, medium and soft" boiled eggs. The idea is that you place the timer in the pot of cold water with the eggs, turn on the heat, and after it reaches the proper temperature to boil eggs (oh Lord, I certainly hope that's the temperature at which water with a little salt in it boils) it begins to turn dark. The dark band moves slowly from the "soft" edge across to the "hard" mark, turning the material a sort of purple color as it goes.

This morning, while preparing to boil up a batch of eggs, I found myself once again staring at the hated egg timer in the drawer and completely failing to take it out and put it in the pan. At that point, I could hear myself speaking in my grandfather's voice inside my head. "I don't need no darned newfangled fancy egg timing thing. Ta hell with it!" You see, the fact is that I hate this egg timer. I resent it. And being fully aware of my resentment, it sits in its drawer and taunts me.

I KNOW how long to boil a batch of damned eggs! When asked by anyone in a non-kitchen setting, I will answer in that haughty, expert voice used by great chefs everywhere (or at least by Mu) "Eight to ten minutes." Of course, the truth is something much closer to, "Ummm... for a while." I've also employed a number of other tried and true timing methodologies in the past - for example, "Until the smoke detector goes off."

On the few occasions that I did try to use the new age timer, it generally sits in the pot boiling merrily away until I come to fetch the eggs. At that point, it's turned entirely black, like some sort of cheap, malfunctioning mood ring from the disco era which constantly determines that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you are about to commit patricide.

I think it's a point of pride that I'm still able to perform this little function of daily life without the help of NASA based technology. And yes, the eggs I made while typing up this entry came out perfectly. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go take the batteries out of the smoke detector again.

Excellent Quote

posted by Jazz at 2/23/2005 06:35:00 AM

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On the subject of the nascent Iraq government and their ties to our new "enemies" in Iran...

"Iraq only has to change one letter and add a 'west' to the beginning..."

From Scott in our comments section.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Iraq to Bush, get lost!

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/22/2005 06:21:00 PM

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The selection of Interim Vice President Ibraham Jafari as the Shiite candidate to be Iraq's next prime minister is an indication of Washington's Waning Influence in Iraq.
The haggling that culminated in the selection of Interim Vice President Ibraham Jafari as the Shiite candidate to be Iraq's next prime minister illustrates the limits of Washington's influence over the country's new government.

After weeks of behind the scenes negotiations, Jafari prevailed over two candidates who had more support in Washington: one-time darling of the Pentagon turned Shiite nationalist Ahmed Chalabi and finance minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.
The administration's first choice was Adel Abdel Mahdi. Mahdi has openly criticized the US media for painting an unflattering picture of the situation is Iraq and was in favor of giving US oil companies a piece of the action in Iraq.

The administration's second choice would have been Chalabi, probably they figure he could be bought.

The winner, Ibraham Jafari, cannot be a happy choice for the Bush administration.
Jafari is the leader of the Dawa Party, "a conservative religious Shiite group that is one of the country's largest political parties," reports Voice of America He gets good press in Iran where he spent 10 years in exile. The conservative Tehran Times recently ran a favorable Agence France Presse profile describing Jafari as a "Shiite modernist" who was "among the first to organize demonstrations opposing the presence of U.S.-led troops on Iraqi soil."
I wouldn't be spending a lot of money on those "permanent" military bases or counting any of that oil money just yet. It would seem that Mr. Bush has pretty limited "political capitol" both here and in Iraq.

Thanks to Bill in DC

Imminent Eminence

posted by Jazz at 2/22/2005 02:41:00 PM

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This is one case, for personal reasons which I'll share below, which I've been waiting to see come to the Supreme Court. It involves a case of eminent domain in Connecticut. The state wants to take away the property of a number of landowners and turn the area over to a private developer who will build more valuable (read: higher tax producing) real estate. Here's the nuts and bolts of it.
At issue is whether governments can forcibly seize homes and businesses, for private economic development. Under a practice known as eminent domain, a person's property may be condemned and the land converted for a greater "public use." It has traditionally been employed to eliminate slums, or to build highways, schools or other public works.
Now there is valid reason for the Constitution to allow for eminent domain in the cause of the greater public good. The applicable portion comes to us from the fifth amendment, which reads in part as follows: "...[no person shall be] deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."

The key phrase here is "public use." Quando Blog has an excellent rundown of the history of such cases in the courts which is well worth reading. The crux of it is that courts have shown a tendency to build upon cases in both state and federal courts, in 1954 and 1981, which seemed to imply that "public use" could be construed to mean "if the public would benefit" to allow government seizures of property for transfer from one private owner to another. This, in my never very humble opinion, is a pile of dingo's kidneys.

I understand that, at times, the land of private citizens may have to be purchased for expansion of the infrastructure... new or improved roads, railroads, public facilities such as waste treatment, etc. However, stretching that definition to include seizing land and kicking off poorer people so you can turn it into a more lucrative development is insanity and goes against the original intent of the constitution.

My first experience with eminent domain came when I was in middle school. I grew up in Upstate New York, with our family's property being right along the banks of the Erie Canal and along a state highway... the only one that runs through that particular section of farmland. About a mile down the road from us was the only bridge in the area which crossed over the canal and into the nearby village.

Across from the bridge was the property of one of my school friends. His family had a large house directly facing the bridge where their family had lived since the 1800's. They didn't have a lot of money, but it was a nice, big house for the area. Unfortunately, the bridge was ancient, built originally for literal horse and buggy traffic. It had been expanded and built up over the years, but it was unsafe. It had to be replaced.

A plan was put in place where the bridge would be torn down and a new, modern, wide bridge would be installed. In order to prevent people from having to make left turns on or off of the bridge, a "cloverleaf" would be put in with ramps on each side of the road. This, unfortunately, meant that my friend's house would have to be torn down. They were upset about it, but eventually sold the state (for a completely lowball, crap amount of money) the front section of their property and agreed to build a new, smaller house up the hill on the back section of the land. (This resulted in them having a long, uphill, twisting driveway that was a nightmare to navigate.)

The state came in when the project was about to start and began, first thing, by grading the sides of the highway and immediately tearing down their home. Then... the project stalled. More than a year went by as various problems in engineering and contracts with the state were ironed out. When they finally restarted the work, the design had changed so there was no cloverleaf, and the highway was only slightly widened near the bridge for turning lanes. During the entire construction, not one vehicle tread upon the land where my friend's house used to stand. Today the state owns a small muddy pit in front of their house that sits deserted.

That was my first introduction to eminent domain, and you can imagine the impression it left on me. Seeing this sort of activity by Connecticut simply makes my blood boil. Looking around the web, I can't find a single blogger who thinks this is a good plan.

Pejmanesque seems to think this will be a big decision with far reaching effects.

Vodkapundit weighs in with some good commentary.
I'll make clearer what the story is trying to say. Eminent domain has been abused in recent years, as a way for politicians and developers to profit at the expense of home- and small business-owners - by way of legally forcing them off their land. Developers get what they want (prime property at cut-rate prices) by force of arms, and government gets what it wants (tax revenue) in exchange.
There's plenty more around the web, but I'll leave you to read and decide for yourselves.