Friday, March 31, 2006

A strange new GOP commercial

I found this post on the Daily Kos. What is especially interesting in this post, is the link to a new GOP commercial, marketing to the voter that they must vote Republican because the Democrats want to impeach Bush in time of war.

Here's the link to the GOP commercial, which contains a transcript of the commercial.

And here is the link to the web video commercial.

I've watched this commercial four times now, and I'm so puzzled by it. Is this the Republican strategy for why the voters should choose the Republicans in maintaining control of Congress--if the Democrats can control of Congress, they're going to impeach the president? If that is it, then they don't have much of a strategy here--especially now when you've got the polls saying around 37 percent of the American public supports the president. It is incredulous.

Now I can guess as to who the Republicans are targeting these commercials to. These commercials are trying to shore up Bush's conservative base--especially the conservatives who have been disillusioned by the ongoing disaster in Iraq, and the administration's failure to resolve the problems in Iraq. These commercials have been designed to strike fear into the Republican base--if you don't keep us in control of Congress, the evil Democrats will impeach Bush. But I have to wonder if the Republican Party is also making a strategic blunder with this commercial? By trying to shift this debate towards the idea that the Democrats want to impeach Bush, the Republicans are giving an opportunity to the Democrats to list the scandals and laws that Bush has repeatedly broken. The Democrats can use the issue of the Republican impeachment commercials to channel the anger of their own base supporters towards the voting booths. And from the current political polls, there is a clear majority of people who do not support Bush.

Looking back at that RNC memo, sent to RNC chairman Ken Mehlman from Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen, there is an interesting nugget of information that we should again look at. I want to look at the second and third points in this memo:

2. My read of the current environment is that our problem will be turnout. '06 could become an election like '82 or '84. In '82 Republicans showed up at relatively normal turnout rates, while Democrats, because they were angry, showed up at abnormally high turnout rates. In '94, Republican turnout was elevated, while Democratic turnout was depressed. We have every reason to believe '06 could become the inverse of '82. We don't see signs of a depressed Republican turnout yet, but we have every reason to believe Democrats will turn out in high numbers. Anything we do to depress turnout, by not running as a unified party for instance, could very well lead to serious consequences in November.

3. The President is seen universally as the face of the Republican Party. We are now brand W. Republicans. The following chart shows the extremely close correlation between the President'™s image and overall ratings of the party.

These two points actually complement each other. First, President Bush is certainly seen as the universal face of The Republican Party. The Republicans have aligned themselves completely with Bush's neoconservative foreign and domestic policies. The Republican-controlled Congress has become nothing more than a rubber-stamp for Bush. There is no opposition within the Republican Party. Since the war in Iraq has gotten worst, with American public worried that there is no defined parameters on what constitutes a victory in Iraq, or even an exit plan for pulling American troops out. The Iraq war has become President Bush's war, and the Republican Party's war. It is probably the single issue that's driving the president's poll numbers down.

This brings us to the second point. Van Lohuizen is worried that if the situation in Iraq remains the same or worsens, then these events are going to keep those Republican voters, who are dismayed at Bush's failures in Iraq, away from the voting booths. Von Lohuizen knows that the Democrats are angry at Bush, and that the Democrats may be able to channel that anger into the voting booths. His worry is that those angry Bush Republicans will stay home and depress voter turnout. And at this point with Bush's declining poll numbers, the Republican Party needs to turn out its party base, in order to maintain control of Congress. It is the reason for this commercial's existence--stand with us for '06, or we all sink.

Friday Fun Stuff

Author’s note: When reading some of the other blogs here, I’ve noticed that authors have created postings that contain a common thread at times, to break up the continuity of daily individual posts and to give their blogs some structure. Some of these common threads have been Friday Cat Blogging, Open Thread, Blog Whoring, Cheers & Jeers, and there’s probably a host of others that I’ve forgotten.

I do have some common threads here, but the threads are based on ongoing news events—The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour, The Jack Abramoff Show, The F-Files. I really haven’t created a common thread with the likes of Friday Cat Blogging (Although I could if I wanted to, considering that I do own a cat). So why not create a new common thread, something a little out of the ordinary. So say hello to Friday Fun Stuff.

I don’t know what the content of Friday Fun Stuff will be. Perhaps I’ll write a small story, or play with some weird news story, or set up a link to an unusual website. Friday Fun Stuff will be about postings to break up the monotony of the news, analysis, and criticisms that bombard us each week. It will be the equivalent of a brain fart. I’m sure we can all use a brain fart now and then.

And for this first edition of Friday Fun Stuff, I’m posting a small story that I’ve written five years ago. It is sort of a sarcastic story about rabbits. I’m not sure what I can say, except it was an idea that was swirling around in my head for a while, before I decided to place it down in words. So kick back, relax, and enjoy a brain fart here. Welcome to Friday Fun Stuff. EAH

Time: A spring day.
Place: A forest meadow.

He sits quietly to listen to the sounds of nature—birds chirping in the birch and oak trees, bees hum around the wildflowers as the collect honey, wind rustling through the pine trees, the slow babble of a tiny creek flowing over rounded rocks. These sounds are good. These sounds are safe. It is safe for the moment, but that moment is fleeting and quick—as fleeting as the piercing screech of death raining down from the sky, a screech that can paralyze your body in pure fear in an instant before you rush in panic to escape the blackness of death. He looks up into that sky—a mixture of blurred blue and white images. He cannot hear the screech of Black Death in the sky. It is safe for the moment.

He hops through the tall green grass and wildflowers, knowing there is protection in that grass. He wrinkles his nose constantly…smelling the sweet fragrance of the wild flowers. He hops over to a stalk of grass, and then starts to nibble away. Instinct says it is time to eat. He is a creature of instinct. Instinct tells him when it is time to eat….time to sleep…time to procreate…instinct. Time to nibble. He takes two bites of that grass stalk, and then hops over to a wildflower. He tastes the wildflower, and then wrinkles his nose at its bitter taste. He hops over to another wildflower, and then nibbles quickly on the rosy petals. His nose wrinkles as he sniffs the air. He listens for another moment—birds chirping, bees humming, wind rustling, creek babbling. He finishes the petal, then hops over to another patch of green grass, then nibbles on a stalk.

A sudden rustle of grass. He hops into the green grass he was nibbling, then freezes…silently watching…silently listening. He spies the grass ahead of him rustling. He wrinkles his nose. The grass parts. She hops out of the grass, and then nibbles on a stalk. He hops out of the grass to look at her. She freezes for a moment, and then slowly hops over to him. She wrinkles her nose for a moment, then moves closer to him. He sniff her reddish brown fur…exploring her smell. Instinct. She sniffs at him. Their eyes meet. Wrinkled noses. She rubs her nose up against his nose, then turns to hop into the lush grass. Instinct says it is time to chase. He hops into the grass after her. The green grass becomes thick. Crickets fly away from the grass chirping in annoyance. He is ignorant of the crickets. Instinct says to chase her. He cannot see her. He stops for a moment, listening….smelling. He can feel her close. Another rustle of grass….Her smell flows through the grass. He hops towards the rustle.

The grass parts into a small patch of clearing. He sees her nibbling on a partially exposed carrot. She looks up at him, and then hops over to him. She rubs her nose against his nose. She then hops over to the carrot. He moves closer to her, away from the grass and into the clearing.

The air becomes still. He stops, listening. He can hear nothing. The birds no longer chirp in the oak and birch trees, the bees no longer hum in the wildflowers. The creek no longer baubles. Silence in the meadow. He looks up at the sky to see nothing but a bluish-white haze…and a little black dot. He wrinkles his nose. The dot grows in size. Instinct says to run. Instinct says to hide. He looks over to her. She nibbles on the carrot. He looks up in the sky. The black dot becomes larger…it starts to move in the sky.

A piercing screech fills the meadow, sending a spasm of fear inside him. The instinctive urge to run almost overwhelms him. His legs quiver in flighty panic. He looks up at the dot. The dot suddenly changes form, transforming into a hideous creature--a black arrow of death diving down, an arrow with coal-black eyes and a sharp, curved beak. Another screech. He looks over at her. She sits in frozen terror…suspended in that moment of blind panic. He looks up. The arrow of Black Death dives towards her, extending sharp claws. Soon those sharp claws would tear into her reddish brown fur as she would be enveloped into the Black Death, crying in shock and pain. Then that hideous arrow of death would take her up to the sky…to disappear. He would never see her again—his last memory of her would be that final moment of her death.

He hops back a step, then reaches down to pull up an olive-drab colored steel helmet. He places the helmet on his head. The ground rumbles, and then cracks apart. A 40-mm anti-aircraft gun rises from the ground. The dust parts. He hops over to the gun, and then rams a shell up into the breech. He elevates the olive-drab muzzle up into the sky, and then peers into the sight. He sights the black arrow—a war hawk of power and blood. He adjusts the muzzle slightly, the hawk filling his sights as it screams its war cry at him. He pulls the trigger. The muzzle belches fire and smoke in its own screaming boom. He is recoiled by the shock of the gun’s power. He hops over, and then looks into the sights. The hawk is momentarily stunned, and then slowly flies away from the meadow, black smoke trailing from the rear. The blue sky is clear.

He removes his helmet. She hops over to him. She rubs her head up into his furry chest, and then nuzzles her nose for a long moment on his nose. He wrinkles his nose. As the sun slowly dips into the horizon, they hop off together in the golden meadow.

Cries for Help Edited Out of 9/11 Tapes

Rosemary Cain, left, and Barbara Hetzel listen to compact discs of emergency calls from Sept. 11, 2001 that were released in New York, Friday March 31, 2006. Nearly nine hours of emergency calls, some made from inside the doomed World Trade Center, were released Friday by city officials, detailing the responses of 911 operators to frantic calls made in the chaos following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

This is from Yahoo News:

NEW YORK - Emergency operators listening to trapped callers' heartbreaking pleas from the burning World Trade Center repeatedly said help was on the way while they struggled with crashing computers, utter confusion and their own emotions, several hours of 911 calls released Friday show.

In releasing the 130 calls, city officials edited out the voices of those who sought help. But the police and fire dispatchers often repeated the callers' words, reflecting the fear and chaos of the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Now continuing further down the story:

The transcripts and nearly nine hours of audio recordings were released after The New York Times and relatives of Sept. 11 victims sued to get them. An appeals court ruled last year that the calls of victims in the burning twin towers were too intense and emotional to be released without their families' consent.

As a result, the transcripts held long blank spaces where the callers' words would have appeared.

Often, it was clear from conversations between police and fire department operators that they were not sure what had occurred. At one point a police operator told a fire dispatcher that a helicopter had hit one of the towers.

The operators managed generally to maintain their composure even as word spread that what initially appeared to be a tragic accident was actually a choreographed terrorist attack involving two planes and both towers.

Sirens screamed in the background as the callers pleaded for help. Although there were no voices, their desperation was evident in heavy, audible breathing on the other end of the operators' calls.

People run from the collapse of World Trade Center Tower in this file photo of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, in New York. New York City is scheduled to release phone calls Friday, March 31, 2006, made during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, from 28 people trapped in the burning towers to the emergency 911 phone number. (AP Photo/Suzanne Plunkett, File)

Okay, I can understand that some of these calls may be too traumatic for family members who do not want to have their loved ones' voices, and their terror, publicized. And yet, I also understand that these recordings are an enormous treasure trove of information for future historians to objectively study the 9/11 attacks. I hope this information does not become lost, or deleted. So I'm conflicted here between the rights of the victim's families, and the desire to preserve history.

I hope there can be a compromise here. It may still be too early for some of these calls to be released. So I think the best thing is to allow the tapes, which the families had refused consent, to remain unpublished for an extended period of time--say fifty years. Then have either another review of the tapes, or to release them to a research library, or a university, for historical use. My greatest fear is that these tapes will be lost, deleted, or erased, at a time when the memory of 9/11 is still too fresh in the minds of the American public.

Former DeLay Aide Pleads Guilty

Tony Rudy, a former deputy chief of staff to Rep. Tom Delay, leaves Federal Court in Washington, Friday, March 31, 2006. after pleading guilty to conspiracy and promised to cooperate with the governments investigation of lobby fraud. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

Folks, it's time for another exciting episode of The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour! From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - A former top aide to Rep. Tom DeLay pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and promised to cooperate with a federal investigation of bribery and lobbying fraud that has so far netted three convictions and prompted calls for ethics reform in Congress.

Tony Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff, admitted to conspiring with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff both while Rudy worked for DeLay and after he left the lawmaker's staff to become a lobbyist himself.

He faces up to five years in prison, but could receive much less based on the extent of his help with the investigation, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle told Rudy at a court hearing in Washington.

As a top aide to DeLay in his role as House majority leader, Rudy took payments from Abramoff in 2000, then helped stop an Internet gambling bill opposed by Abramoff's clients, according to court papers.

Later, while working as a lobbyist, Rudy also was extensively involved in arranging a golf trip to Scotland for Rep. Bob Ney (news, bio, voting record), described as Representative 1, and congressional staffers, the court papers said.

The plea agreement contains no allegations that DeLay, who it describes as Representative 2, did anything wrong.

As part of the deal, Rudy pleaded guilty to the single conspiracy count and prosecutors agreed not to pursue other possible charges against him or his wife.

This is big news here. In other words, Tony Rudy decided to save his own skin and cooperate with the feds. Even more amazing, this story is coming on the heels of Jack Abramoff's sentencing yesterday. This corruption case is starting to break open. What is happening here is that the people involved carrying out the details of these scandals--Tony Rudy, Michael Scanlon, and even Jack Abramoff--have had to face a really stark choice from the federal prosecutors: Either tell us what you know about this corruption scandal, or we're going to pin this on you for the maximum jail time allowed. None of these aids want to spend 5-10 years sitting in a prison cell. So they are talking.

Will Tony Rudy be able to implicate Tom DeLay in this scandal? I can't say, although I'm pretty sure Rudy can provide some juicy details regarding DeLay's involvement. Rudy's greater asset may be in providing details that will allow the feds to go after other congressional aids and lobbyists. Consider this:

Ney's lawyer, Mark Tuohey, said a guilty plea by Rudy doesn't change Ney's situation. The congressman continues to maintain his innocence. Tuohey said he hadn't seen the court papers filed Friday and couldn't comment in detail on them.

Court papers say Rudy sent an e-mail inviting Ney and his then-chief of staff Neil Volz to Scotland in 2002, promising golf and "drinking and smoking Cubans." Ney contends he thought the trip was properly paid for by a GOP policy group for a legitimate international parliamentary event.

"Mr. Rudy had nothing to do with Mr. Ney's Scotland trip at all, nothing," Tuohey said. When asked whether Rudy could have sent the e-mail invite, he said, "If he did, I haven't seen it."

Ney is cooperating with Justice Department requests for information. For example, Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said the Ohio Republican has provided prosecutors with stacks of receipts to prove he and his staff paid for their own food at Abramoff's downtown Washington restaurant. Ney also has said he was duped by Abramoff into entering statements on the Congressional Record in support of Abramoff's purchase of a fleet of Florida casino boats.

After leaving DeLay's office, Rudy first joined Abramoff's lobbying team at the Greenberg Traurig law firm. Soon after, he signed on with another former DeLay staffer, Ed Buckham, at the Alexander Strategy Group.

Rudy sent an email inviting Bob Ney and his then-chief of staff Neil Volz to Scotland in 2002. Whatever details Rudy gives regarding this Scotland trip, could allow federal prosecutors to pressure Volz into cooperating. And you can bet the feds will be interested in Rudy's relationship with Ney. Not only that, but Rudy also worked at the Alexander Strategy Group with another former DeLay staffer, Ed Buckham. I'm sure the feds would like to know what was going on over at the Alexander Strategy Group.

Everything is inter-connected. This corruption probe that has been coming is based on the cozy relationships between the Republican congressmen, their congressional aids, and the lobbyists. And the congressional aids are really the glue that holds this corruption scam together. They develop the relationships with their Republican senators and representatives while working on the Hill. It is this marketability of their relationships that allows these former Hill staffers to land the plum jobs with the top lobbying and legal firms. The staffers become the conduits in cementing their relationships between the Republican congressmen and the lobbying groups. Money--and the power that comes from its access--becomes the incentive for all three interests. For congressmen, it is campaign contributions to fund their continued congressional careers. For the staffers, it is the multi-million salaries and the lifestyles of the ubber-rich and powerful. And for the lobbying firms, it is the hundreds of millions in lobbying fees they can charge their business clients, and expand their lobbying business. The more successful all three have become in this relationship, the more money and power they all seek to desire.

Power corrupts.

Church fires photog over Scalia picture: Freelancer pays for ‘right thing’

The front page photo of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in yesterday’s Boston Herald.

This story has just taken a turn into The Twilight Zone. This is from The Boston Herald:

A freelance photographer has been fired by the Archdiocese of Boston'’s newspaper for releasing a picture of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia making a controversial gesture in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sunday.

Peter Smith, who had freelanced for The Pilot newspaper for a decade, lost the job yesterday after the Herald ran his photo on its front page. Smith said he has no regrets about releasing it.

Smith wouldn'’t give up the photo earlier this week but chose to release it when he learned Scalia said his gesture had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald. Smith, who was standing in front of the judge, said the Herald "“got the story right."”

Scalia's famous gesture. (Herald exclusive photo by Peter A. Smith)

The simple fact of the matter here is that Scalia screwed up. He made an obscene gesture at the reporters who were asking questions to him. He got a little hot, and then said something he shouldn't have. Okay, that's understandable--we all make mistakes. At this point, it is not a big story. Yes, the press will probably print a small story in their papers, and there is plenty of liberal blogs that will make a big deal of it. If Scalia had simply admitted his mistake and apologized for his behavior, the whole thing would have blown over in two days. Even if he ignored it, it may have blown over, considering his past behavior with the press. And you know what? The picture would have never have been published.

But Scalia didn't admit his mistake. He didn't ignore it. He decided to fight it by sending a letter to the Herald, providing some long-winded explanation that his gesture was not obscene, and that the Herald's staff was watching too many episodes of the Sopranos. This was hubris coming out of Scalia's mouth. And it was this hubris that forced freelance photographer Peter Smith to publish that photo. We also learn that not only did Scalia make such a gesture, but that he also said a rather obscene Italian word as he was performing his gesture. That's not something you want to do Mr. Scalia.

Now for the Archdiocese of Boston'’s newspaper The Pilot, and the subsequent firing of Peter Smith. My first question would be, why did they fire him? From the Herald's story:

Smith wouldn'’t give up the photo earlier this week but chose to release it when he learned Scalia said his gesture had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald. Smith, who was standing in front of the judge, said the Herald "“got the story right."”

Smith said the Pilot had an obligation at that point "“to bring some clarity to it."

"“I felt that same obligation,"” Smith said. "“I had to say what I knew and come forward with it.."

The weekly Catholic newspaper made a "“journalistic decision"” not to run or release the photo, said Archdiocese spokesman Terry Donilon. "“Because he breached that trust with the editor, we will no longer engage his services as a freelance photographer,"” Donilon said.

"“It'’s nothing personal,"” added Pilot editor Antonio Enrique. "“I need to try and find people I can trust."”

While news outlets from across the country sought Smith'’s photo yesterday, the archdiocese said there'’s no proof that Scalia uttered an obsenity in the church. Smith said Scalia said, "“To my critics, I say, "‘'Vaffanculo,' "while making the gesture. That'’s Italian for (expletive) you.'"

Because he breached that trust with the editor? This is a complete cop-out by both the Archdiocese, and the Pilot! Smith was not willing to release the photo to the public. It was only until after Scalia sent his letter, practically accusing the Herald of making this story up, that Smith decided to release it. Scalia was lying in this case--lying to cover his ass on something so trivial and stupid. What is more amazing is that the Archdiocese, and the Pilot newspaper, are willing to side with Scalia here, and force Smith out for exposing the truth. The Pilot newspaper is willing to breach the public's trust, and their own journalistic integrity, in order to save their political standing with a Supreme Court Justice. And all this talk by the Pilot's editor Antonio Enrique of Smith breaching the trust with the editor is pure baloney. Smith didn't sell his photos of Scalia to the National Inquirer. He was willing to keep those photos private, even though every newspaper in the country was clamoring for them. He only released them after Scalia publicly lied about the incident. There was no breach of trust here. This is just an excuse by the Archdiocese, and the Pilot, for punishing Smith due to his exposing Scalia's lies.

Another though had just occurred to me. What if Scalia was also putting political pressure on both the Archdiocese, and The Pilot after discovering his mug shot plastered on the front page of the Herald? Who did Scalia talk to in the Church’s hierarchy, after Smith published his picture? This is just an off-the-wall conjecture here, considering Smith was immediately fired after the picture was published. I have no evidence or proof to back this conjecture up. It may be that Scalia didn't talk to anyone within the Catholic Church's leadership regarding this scandal. But it is an interesting thought.

I doubt that there is any loss to Peter Smith, since now he can take his pick on the freelance photo jobs, and perhaps get hired to any newspaper in the country. How much do you want to bet that The Boston Herald would snatch him up for future freelance work?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Photographer: Herald got it right

First, here is the famous Scalia pic:

Antonin Scalia gestures inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. (Herald exclusive photo by Peter A. Smith)

Now for the story. This is from The Boston Herald:

Amid a growing national controversy about the gesture U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made Sunday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the freelance photographer who captured the moment has come forward with the picture.

"“It'’s inaccurate and deceptive of him to say there was no vulgarity in the moment," said Peter Smith, the Boston University assistant photojournalism professor who made the shot.

Despite Scalia'’s insistence that the Sicilian gesture was not offensive and had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald as obscene, the photographer said the newspaper "“got the story right."

Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.

“The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”

Tony....Tony....Tony--what were you thinking of? You've insulted the Church, you've insulted the photographer, and you've insulted the American people with your innocent Sicilian gesture. You screwed up Tony--screwed up big time! What is even more funny is that you know you screwed up, otherwise, why would you have asked for the photographer not to print that picture? All you had to do was to be courteous to the reporters, smile, and keep your mouth shut. But I guess you couldn't do that. Even after this controversial mess started, you still had to flap your mouth by accusing the Boston Herald staff of watching too many Soprano episodes? Tony, you've insulted the Sopranos now--and that's not good for business. Keep this juvenile behavior up, and you're going to be paid a visit by a couple of traveling shoe salesmen, offering you a free sample:

We'd like you to try on this pair of cement shoes here....

Courtesy of the Sopranos.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Iraq's Premier Asserts His Right to Stay in Office

Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari during an interview in his office in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Christoph Bangert/Polaris, for The New York Times

I found this off of Americablog, so I decided to go back to the original source. The actual source of the story is from the New York Times:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 29 — Facing growing pressure from the Bush administration for him to step down, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of Iraq vigorously asserted his right to stay in office today and warned the Americans against undue interference in Iraq's political process.

Mr. Jaafari also defended his recent political alliance with the radical anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, now the prime minister's most powerful backer, saying in an interview that Mr. Sadr and his thousands-strong militia were a fact of life in Iraq and need to be accepted into mainstream politics.

Mr. Jaafari said he would work to fold the country's myriad militias into the official security forces and ensure that recruits and top security ministers abandon their ethnic or sectarian loyalties.

The existence of militias has emerged as the greatest source of contention between American officials and Shiite leaders like Mr. Jaafari, with the American ambassador arguing in the past week that militias are killing more people than the Sunni Arab-led insurgency. Dozens of bodies, garroted or executed with gunshots to the head, turn up almost daily in Baghdad, fueling sectarian tensions that are pushing Iraq closer to full-scale civil war.

It appears that Jaafari has every intention to remain in office--regardless of what the Bush administration wants. And the Bush administration feels that they can control whatever "puppet government" they can create in Iraq. What we have here is a good old "clash of civilizations."

The problem here is that Bush is in a politically weak position. Jaafari was "elected" by the people of Iraq through both the parliamentary elections last December, which chose the political parties that make up the Parliament, and through the secret ballot process last month among the majority Shiite Party members in the Parliament, which chose Jaafari as the Iraqi prime minister. If Bush attempts to replace Jaafari with someone more accommodating towards the White House political line, this is only going to reinforce the perception among the Iraqi people that their US-imposed constitutional government is nothing more than a puppet to the US. This is only going to fuel greater violence in the Iraqi insurgency against the American occupation forces.

The best thing that President Bush can do is to stay out of the emerging Iraqi political process. Let the Iraqis form their own government, without Washington's interference. This is going to be a big problem for the Bush White House since the Bush neocons of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and others want nothing more than to control and use Iraq as a springboard for imposing American political and military power throughout the Middle East. They want Iraq to be a puppet and do Washington's bidding. Jaafari doesn't want to deal in that way.

That's the clash we're heading towards.

Bush Blames Saddam for Iraq Instability

President Bush gestures during an address before the Freedom House in Washington, Wednesday, march 29, 2006. Freedom House, a more than 60-year-old independent organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world. The president said that Saddam Hussein, not continued U.S. involvement in Iraq, is responsible for ongoing sectarian violence that is threatening the formation of a democratic government. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

This is from Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - President Bush said Wednesday that Saddam Hussein, not continued U.S. involvement in Iraq, is responsible for ongoing sectarian violence that is threatening the formation of a democratic government.

In his third speech this month to bolster public support for the war, Bush worked to counter critics who say the U.S. presence in the wartorn nation is fueling the insurgency. Bush said that Saddam was a tyrant and used violence to exacerbate sectarian divisions to keep himself in power, and that as a result, deep tensions persist to this day.

"The enemies of a free Iraq are employing the same tactics Saddam used, killing and terrorizing the Iraqi people in an effort to foment sectarian division," Bush said.

The president also pushed Iraq to speed up the formation of a unity government, seen as the best option to subdue the violence gripping several Iraqi cities

"I want the Iraqi people to hear I've got great confidence in their capacity to self govern," Bush said. "I also want the Iraqi people to hear — it's about time you get a unity government going. In other words, Americans understand you're newcomers to the political arena. But pretty soon its time to shut her down and get governing."

"Iraq is a nation that is physically and emotionally scarred by three decades of Saddam's tyranny," Bush said in a speech to Freedom House, a more than 60-year-old independent organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world.

Bush said Iraq's instability "is the legacy of Saddam — a tyrant who exacerbated ethnic divisions to keep himself in power."

Here is the link to Bush's speech.

Can't President Bush accept any sense of responsibility for his mistakes? Come on! Bush is blaming Saddam for the continued violence in Iraq--even though the U.S. has Saddam in custody now? And I don't believe there was any sectarian violence in Iraq before the U.S. invasion. I'm dumbfounded at this sorry state of an excuse by the president--it even goes beyond the White House spin that I've gotten use to hearing from them. Yes, Saddam was a brutal dictator. Yes, Saddam used violence to divide and suppress his people. But to have Presdident Bush blame Saddam Hussein for the White House and neocons own incompetence in pre-invasion planning, post-war occupation and reconstruction, and for failing to anticipate an Iraqi insurgency movement and possible civil war between the ethnic and religious sects, is outrageous--it is even beyond absurdity. It is like having Bush blame Saddam, after Bush obviously "broke" Iraq.

You broke it Mr. President. You're responsible for it. You get to keep it.

Abramoff Gets Almost 6 Years in Prison

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff walks outside Miami's courthouse in Miami March 29, 2006. Abramoff, a disgraced lobbyist at the heart of a Washington influence-peddling scandal that has rattled top Republicans, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison on Wednesday for fraud in the purchase of a Florida casino cruise line. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Folks, we just might have the Season Finale here for The Jack Abramoff Show! This is off Yahoo News:

MIAMI - Disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison in a Florida fraud case, the minimum sentence allowed.

Abramoff and former partner Adam Kidan pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud stemming from the ill-fated purchase in 2000 of the SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet.

The sentence won't start immediately so the pair can continue cooperating in a Washington corruption investigation and a Florida probe into the murder of former SunCruz owner Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis.

In the Florida case, Abramoff and Kidan admitted concocting a fake $23 million wire transfer to make it appear they had made a large cash contribution to the $147.5 million purchase of SunCruz Casinos. Based on that fake transfer, lenders provided the pair with $60 million in financing.

A courtroom sketch shows Jack Abramoff, center, standing before U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck, far left, at the federal justice building in Miami where he plead quilty to two of six counts of wire fraud and mail fraud stemming from the 2000 purchase of SunCruz Casinos, Jan. 4, 2006. AP FILE PHOTO/Jeanne Boggs

Six years--and this is just for the conspiracy and wire fraud charges regarding the SunCruz Casinos scandal. We haven't even gotten into the federal charges regarding the corruption probe investigating congressional Republicans. Consider this:

The same week Abramoff pleaded guilty to the SunCruz fraud, he entered guilty pleas to three federal charges as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe that could involve up to 20 members of Congress and aides, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. No date has been set for his sentencing in that case.

We'll just now have to see what happens when the federal prosecutors start handing down indictments against the congressional Republicans.

Scalia seeks Justice over gesture

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's letter to the Boston Herald. (From the Boston Herald)

This is too much! This is from the Boston Herald:

Famously feisty Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia yesterday denied that he made an obscene gesture Sunday inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, accusing the Herald staff of “watching too many Sopranos episodes.”

In a letter to the editor, an almost unheard-of step for a Supreme Court justice, Scalia said a reporter misinterpreted the gesture he made when she asked whether his participation in Sunday’s special Mass for lawyers might cause some people to question his impartiality in matters of church and state.

“Your reporter, an up-and-coming ‘gotcha’ star named Laurel J. Sweet, asked me (o-so-sweetly) what I said to those people. . .,” Scalia wrote to Executive Editor Kenneth A. Chandler. “I responded, jocularly, with a gesture that consisted of fanning the fingers of my right hand under my chin. Seeing that she did not understand, I said, ‘That’s Sicilian,’ and explained its meaning.”

In his letter, Scalia goes on to cite Luigi Barzini’s book, “The Italians”: “ ‘The extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin means: “I couldn’t care less. It’s no business of mine. Count me out.” ’ ”

“From watching too many episodes of the Sopranos, your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene - especially when made by an ‘Italian jurist.’ (I am, by the way, an American jurist.)”

Unlike most of his colleagues, Scalia is not shy about taking on the media, and has a penchant for doing so in a way that has caused some critics to question his decorum, if not his maturity.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia denied making an obscene gesture. (Boston Herald File Photo)

It is amazing--the more Scalia flaps his mouth, the more trouble he gets into. Now he's attacking the Boston Herald staff, claiming they've been watching too many Soprano episodes? Gee Scalia--who are you suppose to be? Tony Soprano? If you can't use your Sicilian hand gestures on Boston Herald reporters, then what else can you use--a 9mm Beretta?

Here's the link to Scalia's letter.

Justices Hint That They'll Rule on Challenge Filed by Detainee

This is from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, March 28 — As the justices of the Supreme Court took their seats Tuesday morning to hear Osama bin Laden's former driver challenge the Bush administration's plan to try him before a military commission, one question — perhaps the most important one — was how protective the justices would be of their jurisdiction to decide the case.

The answer emerged gradually, but by the end of the tightly packed 90-minute argument, it was fairly clear: highly protective.

At least five justices — Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens — appeared ready to reject the administration's argument that the Detainee Treatment Act, passed and signed into law after the court accepted the case in November, had stripped the court of jurisdiction.

It was less certain by the end of the argument how the court would then go on to resolve the merits of the case, a multipronged attack on the validity of the military commissions themselves and on their procedures. Lawyers for the former driver, a Yemeni named Salim Ahmed Hamdan who is charged with conspiracy, also argue that he cannot properly be tried before any military commission for that crime because conspiracy is not recognized as a war crime.

Now I'm not going to try and make any guesses as to how the Supreme Court will rule in this case. But I do find it interesting that Justice Kennedy my be filling Sandra Day O'Conner's shoes as the crucial swing voter in these close decisions. If the court does rule on the detainee matter in this way--with Breyer, Ginsburg, Kennedy, Souter and Stevens striking down the law, while Thomas, Scalia, and Alito could rule to uphold the detainee law, Chief Justice Roberts will abstain from ruling, since he was a member of a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court that rejected Hamdan's challenge to the military commissions last July. If the ruling goes this way, then Kennedy is going to have enormous power in shaping the decisions for this court. Kennedy will become the most scrutinized justice for the Roberts Court, just as O'Conner was scrutinized during the Rehnguist Court.

According to the Post, here is what Kennedy had questioned:

Justice Kennedy was questioning Mr. Clement on the government's position that even if the court had jurisdiction, it should abstain from ruling on the validity of the military commission until after Mr. Hamdan's trial.

Justice Kennedy said he found the argument troubling, pointing out that Mr. Hamdan was arguing that because the commissions lacked the procedures required by the Geneva Conventions, they were invalid. "The historic office of habeas corpus is to test whether or not you're being tried by a lawful tribunal," Justice Kennedy said. "And he says, under the Geneva Convention, as you know, that it isn't."

Mr. Clement replied that Mr. Hamdan could raise that argument later, before the military commission itself. He predicted that the argument would fail and said that in any event, there was no reason "why that claim has to be brought at this stage."

This is going to be an interesting Supreme Court decision.

Ferrari Owner Is Minus His Second Car

Cue the creepy music. It's time for another mysterious episode of The F-Files! This is from the Los Angeles Times:

Stefan Eriksson's famous exotic car collection keeps shrinking.

First, the former European videogame executive's rare Enzo Ferrari was destroyed in a mysterious crash Feb. 21 on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

hen, on Sunday, he lost his 2005 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, valued at more than $400,000. Beverly Hills police confiscated the vehicle after Scotland Yard said the car might have been stolen.

CAUGHT ON TAPE: Police in Beverly Hills stopped Nicole Persson, 33, Sunday afternoon after she was spotted driving this Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren with a European license plate. (Spyder Dobrofsky)

The officers stopped Eriksson's wife, Nicole Persson, 33, about 2:30 p.m. on the corner of Beverly Drive and Wilshire Boulevard because an officer found the car's European license plate suspicious.

The officer then discovered that Persson lacked a driver's license and that the car was not registered in the United States.

"We contacted Scotland Yard and subsequently learned that the car was perhaps stolen" out of the United Kingdom, Lt. Mitch McCann said.

The entire incident was caught on tape by a 13-year-old exotic car buff who has filmed Eriksson's vehicles in the past.

Beverly Hills authorities said they didn't have details of the British police case.

But Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Phil Brooks said that an unidentified financial institution says it owns the Mercedes and that a financial institution in Scotland says it was the owner of the Enzo.

This leaves Eriksson with only one of the three exotic cars he imported to the United States late last year, Brooks said.

"He brought in through San Diego two Ferraris and the Mercedes and said they were show cars and that he was not going to drive them on the streets," Brooks said.

Last month's crash prompted both an accident investigation and a probe by the Sheriff's Department's Homeland Security Division.

Although no one was injured in the crash, the investigation has generated significant attention because of the strange circumstances and the fact that it destroyed one of only 400 Enzo Ferraris ever built.

DRIVER: Persson is the wife of Stefan Eriksson, a former European videogame executive whose Ferrari was totaled last month. (Paul Bogosian)

Oh NO! Eriksson has lost not only his Enzo Ferarri, but also his 2005 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren? And the thief who stole his Mercedes was his wife? Are we sure that the Nicole Persson who was driving that Mercedes in Beverly Hills, is really Eriksson's wife, and not a space alien / human hybrid? Perhaps the real Nicole Persson and her Mercedes was taken by the space aliens, and replaced by this Nicole-clone. If that's the case, then Eriksson is telling the truth--his Mercedes was stolen! It's just that the Mercedes was stolen by the space aliens.

But the mystery deepens. Continuing on:

According to Car & Driver magazine, the Mercedes SLR McLaren is capable to going 200 mph and can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds.

The car didn't just capture the eye of Beverly Hills police.

Spyder Dobrofsky, a 13-year-old car enthusiast, happened to be at the scene of Sunday's traffic stop and switched on his camera.

The teenager has photographed cars in Eriksson's collection before and knew immediately that the McLaren was his.

"The car really stands out because of the British plate," Spyder said.

Spyder said Eriksson's wife was with a young child when she was pulled over.

On the tape, Spyder asks the tow truck operator called to remove the Mercedes where he's taking it.

The man jokes: "To my house."

So when the Beverly Hills police pulled the Nicole Persson / space alien hybrid, in Eriksson's stolen Mercedes, Persson was also with a young child? Who is this young child? Could this be "The Star Child," of 2001: A Space Odyssey? If so, then The Star Child is a little late getting here, now that it is 2006. Of course, we know that the space aliens could be having some transportation problems, considering that they may be using the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority to transport disabled members from their homes, to the grocery stores, and back again. And now the space aliens could have more problems, since their Mercedes has been impounded by the police, Nicole Persson / space alien hybrid has been taken into police custody, and The Star Child could have been placed into foster care by the state!

Tune in for the next exciting episode!

Not Quite What We Had in Mind

This is a fun NY Times editorial regarding President Bush's replacement of Andrew Card with Joshua Bolten for chief of staff. It is wicked--that's really all I can say about it. So relax, enjoy, and crack a good smile.

From the New York Times:

For months now, people have been urging President Bush to shake up his inner circle and bring in fresh air. Perhaps in response, the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card Jr., resigned yesterday. Mr. Bush opened the window — and in climbed his budget director, Joshua Bolten, who used to be Mr. Card's deputy.

If this is what passes for a shake-up in this administration, the next two and a half years are going to be grim indeed. This is a meaningless change, and it simply sends the message that Mr. Bush lacks the gumption to trade in anyone in the comforting, friendly cast of characters who have kept him cocooned since his first inauguration.

It's hard to figure out what unmet need this change is supposed to fill. There's been a lot of talk about how exhausted the original Bush team is. But Mr. Bolten ought to be as pooped as everybody else. It takes just as much energy to put together an out-of-whack, fiscally ruinous budget as it does to mess up an invasion or ignore a cataclysmic hurricane.

Mr. Bolten has been giving the president advice for years, and the result has been a deficit estimated at $371 billion. Perhaps he'll come up with a better approach in his new job. We've heard that under Mr. Card's watch, aides wound up showing Mr. Bush videos of TV news coverage of Hurricane Katrina to convince their boss that it really was a problem. Maybe Mr. Bolten can start the next budget discussion with some audiovisual aids — like an abacus.

Actually, an abacus might just be a little too complex of an audiovisual aid for both Mr. Bush and Mr. Bolten. Perhaps I can recommend this:

Alphabet Arabic Frame (wooden learning toy ) From Online-Islamic-Store.Com.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

DeLay Says Justices 'Don't Get' Criticism

Hey, we've got ourselves another fun episode of The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour! This is from Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - Republican Rep. Tom DeLay said Tuesday that former and current Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg "don't get it" when they complain about conservative criticism of judges.

"All wisdom doesn't reside in ... people in black robes," DeLay said.

In recent weeks, O'Connor has said the criticism has threatened judicial independence to deal with difficult issues such as gay marriage. Ginsburg said in a speech that a Web threat against her and O'Connor was apparently prompted by Republican proposals in Congress that tell judges to stop relying on foreign laws or court decisions.

Ginsburg said such actions by Congress "fuel the irrational fringe."

"Didn't you see the comments of Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Ginsburg over the last couple of weeks?" DeLay, R-Texas, asked reporters after a speech to a group of Christian conservatives. "There's still a problem, they don't get it. There are three branches of government. All wisdom doesn't reside in ... people in black robes."

Earlier, the former House majority leader told activists he agreed with their premise that there is a "war on Christianity.

"Our faith has always been in direct conflict with the values of the world," DeLay said. "We are, after all, a society that provides abortion on demand, has killed millions of innocent children, degrades the institution of marriage, and all but treats Christianity like some second-rate superstition."

DeLay was forced to abandon his job as majority leader while facing indictment on charges that he improperly funneled corporate donations to Republican candidates for the House and amid questions about his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay speaks during a news conference regarding federal funding to help Houston law enforcement Tuesday, March 21, 2006, in Houston.

I can't even make this stuff up. O'Conner and Ginsburg don't get it? All wisdom doesn't reside in people in black robes? Our faith is in direct conflict with the value of the world, which treats Christianity like a second-rate superstition? A "War on Christianity?" How much Kool-Aid has DeLay been drinking?

What really scares me is that DeLay is screaming this extremist rhetoric towards a group of Christian conservatives. And that is what this stuff is--hate-filled rhetoric. It worries me that this hate-filled rhetoric is being drilled into some Christian right wing-nut ideologue, who will then commit a heinous crime--such as the assassinating a Supreme Court justice. We've seen pro-life extremists and ideologues assassinate doctors who have performed abortions, bombed abortion clinics, and have even placed wanted posters on pro-life websites of abortion doctors which included private details such as home addresses and phone numbers. Even now, both O'Conner and Ginsburg have received death threats--the links to these stories can be found here, here, here, and here. And it is not just DeLay that is responsible for instigating these threats. In this Editor & Publisher news story, published in January 27, 2006, conservative columnist Ann Coulter joked that, "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee." This is absolutely uncalled for. And it is this type of rhetoric from DeLay, Coulter, Pat Robertson, and others within the Republican right wing-nut faction that reinforces their brainwashed followers to commit crimes such as the murder a federal judges' family in Chicago by a white supremacist.

We don't need this kind of crap.

RNC Memo....

This is off The Hotline on Call: The National Journal's Daily Briefing on Politics. But I have also seen this story posted on both the Daily Kos, and Shakespeare's Sister. It is an incredible memo, that really sneaks up on you.

Here is what Hotline on Call says:

Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen, in a memo written for RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, warns that if members of Congress try to drive a wedge between themselves and Pres. Bush, it'd be akin to adding weight to an anchor. GOpers are "W Brand Republicans" whether they like it or not. And van Louhizen, who has polled (often secretly) for the Bush White House under the RNC aegis for years, is worried about low turnout.

So apparently this Republican pollster van Lohuizen is warning RNC chairman Ken Mehlman that if the Republican members of Congress try to distance themselves from President Bush, then those Republican congressmen could sink within the polls, and perhaps cause the Republican Party to lose control of Congress this November (the "adding weight to an anchor). Van Lohuizen then claims that GOP members are "W Brand Republicans!" Finally van Lohuizen is worried that a low voter turnout among Republicans could also cause control of Congress to be shifted towards the Democratic Party--especially now that the Democrats are focusing on energizing their own base.

Now here is the actual memo, per Hotline On Call:


To: Ken Mehlman
From: Jan van Lohuizen
Date: March 3, 2006
Re: Bush -- Congressional Republicans

Per our conversation, we took another look at the way voters, Republicans specifically, link President Bush and Republicans in the House and the Senate. There are several points worth making:

1. President Bush continues to have the strong loyal support of Republican voters. Despite slippage in approval ratings among all voters, the President's job approval among Republicans continues to be very high. Most members will be elected with between 80% and 100% of their support coming from Republicans. I don't see that Republicans driving a wedge between themselves and the President is a good election strategy.

2. My read of the current environment is that our problem will be turnout. '06 could become an election like '82 or '84. In '82 Republicans showed up at relatively normal turnout rates, while Democrats, because they were angry, showed up at abnormally high turnout rates. In '94, Republican turnout was elevated, while Democratic turnout was depressed. We have every reason to believe '06 could become the inverse of '82. We don't see signs of a depressed Republican turnout yet, but we have every reason to believe Democrats will turn out in high numbers. Anything we do to depress turnout, by not running as a unified party for instance, could very well lead to serious consequences in November.

3. The President is seen universally as the face of the Republican Party. We are now brand W. Republicans. The following chart shows the extremely close correlation between the President’s image and overall ratings of the party.

President Bush drives our image and will do so until we have real national front-runners for the '08 nomination. Attacking the President is counter productive for all Republicans, not just the candidates launching the attacks. If he drops, we all drop.

Bold emphasis in the memo is mine.

When I read this memo, I just have to shake my head. Van Lohuizen's analysis regarding the president's dropping poll numbers, and the dangers that the Republican Party currently faces is correct--but it is correct for the wrong reasons! President Bush is seen as the face of the Republican Party, because the president has governed this country from a neoconservative position. President Bush has governed as a divider within this country--you're either with us, or you're with the terrorists! And as political events have spiraled beyond the White House spin-meister control, President Bush's job performance polls have plummeted. Pretty much the only support that Bush has is the neoconservative and the religious right wing-nuts, but how many of them are going to continue to support him as the war in Iraq continues to go badly for the United States? We are now brand W. Republicans? The Republicans in Congress allowed themselves to be branded W. Republicans. They placed their loyalties to the Republican Party above everything else--including their state's constituents, their country, and the Constitution!. The Republican Congressional leaders refused to investigate any of the scandals that have come out of the White House--misuse of Iraqi WMD intelligence, Valerie Plame, the neocon connection in marketing the Iraq war, Katrina, the illegal domestic spying on Americans by the NSA. Now that these scandals have been publicized, the political damage is hurting not only the White House, but also those same Republican congressmen who decided that party loyalty was more important than their country. And van Lohuizen is worried that the Republican congressmen will try to drive a wedge between themselves and the president? Of course the Republican congressmen are going to drive a wedge between themselves and the president--their own political lives depend upon it! The closer these Republicans congressmen have been to the president, the more damaging the president will be towards their political futures--just look at the the Pennsylvania Senate race, where the number three Republican in Congress, Rich Santorum, is fighting to keep his seat. Van Lohuizen may not like the Republicans attacking the president, but there is not much he can do about it.

Finally, there is this wonderful concluding paragraph:

President Bush drives our image and will do so until we have real national front-runners for the '08 nomination. Attacking the President is counter productive for all Republicans, not just the candidates launching the attacks. If he drops, we all drop.

President Bush drives our image and will do so until we have real national front-runners for the '08 nomination. Van Lohuizen is certainly trying to place a positive spin for this memo. There are serious problems that affect this country--the disastrous war in Iraq is the biggest problem that the Bush administration faces, and they still have no clue as to how to resolve this war, with the exception of stating empty slogans on "Staying the course," or a "Pathway to Victory." But there are economic problems of the budget deficit, the $8 trillion national debt that has been incurred, the health care crisis, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, immigration, job outsourcing. These are all problems that the Bush White House has also failed to resolve, and these problems will only grow in stature, once the candidates start canvassing for the Iowa caucus votes. Even more, if the Democrats do regain control of Congress in November, they are certainly going to start the investigations into the past five years of the Bush administration's scandals. You can bet that any serious revelations into these Bush White House scandals is going to really hurt the Republican Party, perhaps even cost them the White House in '08. What van Lohuizen, and perhaps even Ken Mehlman, don't even realize is that they have aligned the Republican Party behind George Bush's failed domestic and foreign policies. They have forced the Republican Party to submit to complete loyalty for President Bush--for both the early good times, and the current bad times. There is no one to blame, but themselves, for demanding such a lock-step party unity among all of its members--for not allowing any type of dissention or debate on the issues. And now that these failed policies are sinking the Bush White House, they are also causing the Republican Party to sink as well.

Poll: Americans See, Hear More Profanity

Graphic shows results form an APIpsos poll about the use of profanity and swear words; 1 (AP Graphic)

This is an interesting little story. From Yahoo News:

This is a story about words we can't print in this story. You probably hear these words often, and more than ever before. But even though we can't print them — we do have our standards — we can certainly ask: Are we living in an Age of Profanity?

Nearly three-quarters of Americans questioned last week--74 percent--said they encounter profanity in public frequently or occasionally, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. Two-thirds said they think people swear more than they did 20 years ago. And as for, well, the gold standard of foul words, a healthy 64 percent said they use the F-word--ranging from several times a day (8 percent) to a few times a year (15 percent).

Just ask Joe Cormack. Like any bartender, Cormack, of Fort Dodge, Iowa, hears a lot of talk. He's not really offended by bad language — heck, he uses it himself every day. But sometimes, a customer will unleash the F-word so many times, Cormack just has to jump in.

"Do you have any idea how many times you've just said that?" he reports saying from time to time. "I mean, if I take that out of your vocabulary, you've got nothin!'"

And it's not just at the bar. Or on TV. (Or on the Senate floor, for that matter, where Vice President Dick Cheney used the F-word in a heated argument two years ago.)

Are we living in a Golden Age of Profanity? Or have we always been living in a Golden Age of Profanity--the difference being that the nature of the words have changed. I looked into Wikipedia for the word fuck. The word actually has its roots in Middle English, German and the Dutch languages. There are some early references in William Dunbar's 1503 poem "Brash of Wowing," and even William Shakespeare hinted at the term in his plays The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V. DH Lawrence used the word "fuck," "fucked," and "fucking" in his 1928 novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. Even more interesting, the word "fuck" never got into the Oxford English Dictionary until 1972. We could say that while this word "fuck" has ancient roots in the English language, it has only recently become the modern equivalant of an extremely profane word.

Just out of curiosity, I looked into another word from Wikipedia--damn! Interestingly enough, Wikipedia claims that, "Until around the mid-20th century damn was a more offensive term than it is today, and was frequently represented as "D--n," "D---," or abbreviated to just "D." The use of "damn" in Rhett Butler's parting line to Scarlett O'Hara in the film Gone with the Wind in 1939 captivated moviegoers." The use of the word "damn" was far more profane in 1939, than it currently is today? What would have happened had you said the word "damn" in the Middle Ages? Or how about the Spanish Inquisition?

The roots of damn go back even further. Here is what Wikipedia says on the roots of damn:

Its Indo-European origin is usually said to be a root dap-, which appears in Latin and Greek words meaning "feast" and "expense". (The connection is that feasts tend to be expensive.) In Latin this root provided a theorized early Latin noun *dapnom, which became Classical Latin damnum = "damage" or "expense". But there is a Vedic Sanskrit root dabh or dambh = "harm".

The word damnum had not as yet got exclusively religious overtones. From it in English came "condemn"; "damnified" (an obsolete adjective meaning "damaged"); "damage" (via French from Latin damnaticum). It began to be used for being found guilty in court; but, for example, an early French treaty called the Strasbourg Oaths includes the Latin phrase in damno sit = "would cause harm". From the judicial meaning came the religious meaning.

So the word damn has roots going back to early Latin. We could ask ourselves has the level of profanity really increased, or has the type of words used in a profane context changed, depending upon the history of the word? How many of us would be offended by others saying such mild profane words as "damn?" The more modern the word is in the English language, the more profane it could be? Perhaps in another 70 years, the word "fuck" may become relegated to a mildly profane word--replaced by some new type of swear word?

Now I've only looked at two profane words here--there are so many other racial, ethnic and sexually profane words within both the English language, and certainly througout the world's languages. I can't say if we're living in a Golden Age of Profanity, or if, through our world-wide globalization and inter-communications between the world's multicultural societies and multi-varied languages, we've become more de-sensitized or have accepted differing levels of profanity to express differing levels of emotional communication.

It certainly is an interesting question to dwell upon.

Shiites Say U.S. Is Pressuring Iraqi Leader to Step Aside

This is TOO MUCH! From the New York Times:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 28 — Senior Shiite politicians said today that the American ambassador has told Shiite officials to inform the Iraqi prime minister that President Bush does not want him to remain the country's leader in the next government.

It is the first time the Americans have directly intervened in the furious debate over the country's top job, the politicians said, and it is inflaming tensions between the Americans and some Shiite leaders.

The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, told the head of the main Shiite political bloc at a meeting last Saturday to pass a "personal message from President Bush" on to the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who the Shiites insist should stay in his post for four more years, said Redha Jowad Taki, a Shiite politician and member of Parliament who was at the meeting.

Ambassador Khalilzad said that President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Mr. Jaafari to be the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first "clear and direct message" from the Americans on the issue of the candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taki said.

An American Embassy spokeswoman confirmed that Mr. Khalilzad and Mr. Hakim had met, but declined to comment directly on what they had spoken about.

I don't know what to say about this, but that if this is how the Bush administration defines a democratically elected Iraqi government, then perhaps Bush should step down as president since almost 67 percent of the American public "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" George Bush's latest job performance as President. Where does the White House get off in believing they can decide who will be Iraq's top leaders? And if one Iraqi leader is not toeing the White House's political ideology, then he can be replaced by another Iraqi leader? When I read this story, I think back to the early days of Vietnam, and the Kennedy administration's frustration with the Ngo Dinh Diem government in South Vietnam. In South Vietnam, the Roman Catholic administration that comprised the Diem government was staging a major crackdown against the Buddhist monks, who were protesting against the government's suppressive policies. This resulted in several publicized events of Buddhist monks setting fire to themselves. The problem in South Vietnam was that while Diem and his administration was Roman Catholic, much of South Vietnam was Buddhist. The Kennedy administration tried to pressure Diem in easing up on his crackdown, but to no avail. It was then on November 1, 1963, with the support of the Kennedy administration, that the South Vietnamese military staged a military coup in overthrowing and killing Diem. Ever since the South Vietnamese generals had taken control of South Vietnam from Diem, they were unable to effectively govern South Vietnam, leading to further military coups and countercoups. And as the South Vietnamese generals proved themselves ineffective in ruling the country, President Lyndon Johnson sent American forces in to fight the civil war that was raging in Vietnam.

We certainly know what the outcome was in the Vietnam War.

Now we come to Iraq. We have an Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who was selected by the Iraqi people through a parlimentary election, while their country is under an American occupation. And now that al-Jaafari is embarking on policies that the Bush administration does not find satisfactory, is Bush willing to use the U.S. power to replace al-Jaafari? How is that going to reflect on the Iraqi people, knowing that their democratic leaders are puppets to the White House? Of course, they probably already know their leaders are puppets, but to have such puppets being replaced at the whim of George Bush? You can bet that replacing al-Jaafari isn't going to help the U.S. military in its war against the Iraqi insurgents--such a replacement of al_Jaafari could even help the insurgency in recruiting fighters from the Iraqi population. It is amazing how the Bush administration takes little stock in the historical lessons of Vietnam, and how trying to exert your will against another nation's sovereign government, can result in disaster.

Abramoff Supporters Appeal to Judge for a Reduced Sentence

Folks, this is going to be a really fun episode of The Jack Abramoff Show! This is from the Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON — Whatever his shortcomings, Jack Abramoff still has connections — more than 250 of them, to be precise — including prominent lawyers, religious leaders and even a member of Congress.

They are encouraging a federal judge to give the disgraced lobbyist a reduced sentence Wednesday in a Miami fraud case. They have written letters to U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck, saying that the picture of Abramoff that has emerged through the news media is a gross distortion, and that he deserves a break.

Far from the image of the greedy Beltway operator who stole from Indian tribes, defrauded the Internal Revenue Service and tried to bribe public officials, they say, Abramoff is a man of charity and good works. In their letters, they cite his generosity to others, his deep religious faith and his devotion to his family.

Abramoff boarded underprivileged children in his home, they said. He opened a kosher deli in Washington "so that Jews would have a place where they could dine in comfort."

The sole member of Congress who wrote on Abramoff's behalf is a longtime friend, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach.

"I think when he is being punished for the things he did that were wrong, some of the things that he did that were right and admirable in the past should be taken into consideration," Rohrabacher said in an interview. "I think that balance is necessary for justice. I think even Jack Abramoff deserves that."

In his letter to the judge, Rohrabacher described "a far different Jack than the profit-seeking megalomaniac portrayed in the press."

"Jack was a selfless patriot for most of the time I knew him," the congressman wrote, recalling his friend as an ardent anti-communist during the Cold War.

Rohrabacher said he was concerned that an inordinately stiff sentence might prevent Abramoff from eventually starting a new life with his wife and children.

This is almost laughable. Here is a man who has defrauded hundreds of millions of dollars from his clients--mainly the Indian casinos. Through his lobbying efforts, he has forced the citizens of the Northern Mariana Islands to work in sweatshop conditions with less-than-minimum wages. How much harm did Abramoff give in providing in all those fundraising dinners at his Signatures Restaurant for his Republican friends in Congress--especially for his good buddy Tom DeLay?

I'm sorry, I don't buy it.

Abramoff committed some serious white-collar crimes. And he should go to jail for his crimes--no matter how pious he may seem to be, now that he was caught. In one sense, I can see a lot of hypocrisy among Abramoff's friends--especially those who have connections within the Republican Party. The Republican Party loves to tout how they want to get tough on crime--throw the book at the rapists, murderers, robbers, and others who commit violent street crimes. Three strikes and you're out! But when one of their own members is caught in a white-collar crime, then they will rally around their own and plead to the judge to be lenient--he didn't mean to. He's really a good guy. He has learned his lesson--let him pick up the pieces of his shattered life and live with his family. If you want to get tough on crime, then you have to get tough on both street crime, and white-collar crime. And that includes getting tough on Jack Abramoff. What Abramoff did was to be the instigator in destroying the trust between the American public and its leaders in government. In crimes like these, monetary fines are not enough to deter such criminals--jail time is. And Jack Abramoff is going to have to go to jail for his crimes. If there is going to be any reduced sentence for Abramoff, it is going to have to be up to the federal prosecutors and how much cooperation and information Abramoff is giving to the feds. That is the only way to deter white-collar crime.

And we have been seeing a lot of white-collar crime these days.

DeLay wants concealed handgun permit back

It is time for another fun-filled episode of The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour!
This is from Yahoo News:

RICHMOND, Texas - Rep. Tom DeLay is fighting to regain his concealed handgun permit after it was suspended because of his indictment on felony charges.

A justice of the peace suspended DeLay’s license in January after the former majority leader was indicted last year. A judge dismissed a conspiracy charge, but DeLay still faces a felony charge of money laundering.

Under state law, the Texas Department of Public Safety can suspend a handgun license if its holder has been charged with certain misdemeanors or higher.

DeLay, a vocal gun rights proponent, has appealed the suspension and has asked for a new hearing after missing a Jan. 26 court date.

What the frack is Tom DeLay doing, running around Texas with a concealed handgun?

Fed Boosts Key Interest Rate for 15th Time

Here is another monkey wrench to throw into the American economy. From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve on Tuesday boosted a key interest rate to the highest level in five years as new Chairman Ben Bernanke followed the
Alan Greenspan inflation-fighting formula.

The action, the 15th consecutive quarter-point move, left the federal funds rate at 4.75 percent, its highest level since April 2001.

Fed officials, who were holding their first interest rate meeting under Bernanke, left the door open for further rate increases although private economists believe only one or two more rate hikes are likely.

The Fed's latest move will mean higher interest rates for both consumers and businesses. Commercial banks were expected to quickly follow the Fed's lead by raising their prime lending rate by a quarter-point to 7.75 percent. The prime is the benchmark for millions of business and consumer loans.

The Fed's goal has been to reach a neutral level for the funds rate, the point where interest rates are neither stimulating nor depressing economic growth.

Many analysts believe the Fed is very close to that level but may feel the need to push the funds rate up one more time to 5 percent from moving to the sidelines for the rest of the year.

However, other analysts who are more worried about inflation pressures said the Fed may feel the need to boost rates not only at the next meeting on May 10 but also at perhaps two more meetings after that, leaving the funds rate at 5.5 percent.

Analysts who believe the Fed will push rates higher are more worried that the surge in gasoline prices and tight labor markets will soon start showing up in increased inflation pressures.

We'll have to see what happens.

Consumer Confidence Highest Since 2002

I'm not sure where this story is going, but I will make a note of it. This is from Yahoo News:

NEW YORK - Americans' optimism in the economy rebounded in March, sending a widely followed barometer of consumer sentiment to a near four-year high, a private research group said Tuesday.

The Conference Board said that its consumer index shot up 4.5 points to 107.2, the highest level since May 2002, when the reading was 110.3. Analysts had expected a reading of 102.

The latest measure was up from a revised 102.7 in February, which was down 4.1 points from January and broke a three-month rebound from last year's Gulf hurricanes.

The component of the consumer confidence index that assesses views of current economic conditions rose to 133.3 from 130.3. Another component, which measures consumers' outlook over the next six months, improved to 89.9 from 84.2 in February.

The Conference Board index is derived from responses received through March 21 to a survey mailed to 5,000 households in a consumer research panel. The figures released Tuesday include responses from at least 2,500 households.

So this private research group, the Conference Board, says that consumer confidence has shot up by around 4.5 points, to its highest level since 2002. Is this a short-term spike in improving consumer confidence, or is it a long-term trend? And how do we explain this improvement in consumer confidence, when just yesterday I worte a post regarding a Commerce Department's report on new home sales and prices have plunged? Or perhaps there is yesterdays post on consumer demand for home loan mortgages falling--how can I explain that?

We have been getting so many conflicting signals from this economy, that it is almost impossible to determine what is going on here. Home sales drop, but consumer confidence goes up? Jobless claims seem to go down, but consumers seem to believe they are optimistic in finding jobs. Consider this from the Yahoo story:

The report from the Conference Board said that consumers' overall assessment of current conditions remains favorable, but their views on labor market conditions was mixed. Consumers saying jobs are "plentiful" increased to 28.4 percent from 27.4 percent, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" moved up to 20.7 percent from 20.2 percent.

Consumers' outlook for the next six months improved moderately in March. Consumers expecting business conditions to worsen decreased to 9.9 percent from 10.9 percent, while consumers expecting business conditions to improve increased to 18 percent from 16.2 percent.

The outlook for the labor market was also more upbeat. Those expecting fewer jobs to become available in the coming months decreased to 16.6 percent from 19.9 percent in February, while those expecting more jobs edged up to 13.9 percent from 13.4 percent.

We have a mess of economic contradictions here. These contradictions are certainly causing confusion, and perhaps some worry among consumers. Each new positive economic statistic encourages and reinforces hope that the economy is improving by economists, investors, and consumers, while each negative economic statistic sows their recessionary doubts. I'd say we're going to see more of these contradictory statistics, more of these wild mood swings with consumers. There are serious fundamental problems within this economy that have not been addressed--the budget deficit is one. The almost $9 trillion federal debt that we've incurred is another huge problem. Credit card debt on the American public is a third problem. All three of these are potential land mines, just waiting to explode and wreak havoc on the U.S. economy. We have a housing bubble that is now starting to collapse. We've had mortgage companies really pushing to sell adjustable-rate mortgages to consumers and sub-prime homeowners--what is going to happen when the interest rates start to dramatically increase, as the Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates? We've been in the midst of a job-outsourcing craze. And now the issue of immigration has become the front-and-center topic in Washington, where the debate is shifting towards illegal immigrants taking American jobs at less-than-minimum wages. All of these problems will have an adverse effect on the American economy.

I'm just not sure when.

Andrew Card Resigns as White House Chief of Staff

U.S. President George W. Bush (C) announces the resignation of his Chief of Staff Andrew Card (L) and names Josh Bolten (R) as Card's replacement, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington March 28, 2006. Bolten was announced on Tuesday to replace long-term Chief of Staff Card, who will resign effective April 14. REUTERS/Jason Reed

This is off the Washington Post:

White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. announced his resignation this morning after nearly 5 1/2 years as President Bush's top aide. Bush said Card will be replaced by Joshua B. Bolten, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Card will serve until April 14 to provide a transition period. The move could presage broader staff changes as Bolten takes over an operation hobbled by political problems heading into a crucial midterm election season.

Card has held the top staff job at the White House longer than any person since Sherman Adams under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and had earned enormous respect within the building and around Washington for his calm professionalism and stamina. But his stewardship of the Bush team had come under question in recent months after a series of mishaps, including the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, the bungled federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the slow public disclosure of Vice President Cheney's shooting accident and the unexpected Republican revolt over a plan to turn over management at a half dozen ports to an Arab-owned company.

Bush said Card had approached him earlier this month about the possibility of stepping down, and Bush accepted his offer this weekend, when the two were at Camp David.

"He's been here 5 1/2 years. The average tenure of chief of staff is two years," said a senior administration official, who spoke before the announcement, but refused to be named so as not to upstage the president.

I'd say that what you have here is that Andrew Card just got burnt out after 5 1/2 years as chief of staff. Toss in the constant pressures of scandal after scandal pounding the White House--Valerie Plame, Katrina, Iraq WMDs, Cheney's shooting accident, Portgate, the war in Iraq, the president's falling poll numbers--and they pretty much pounded Card. Even more, with the disastrous war in Iraq, the Bush White House has failed to sell its message to a skeptical American public that the U.S. is actually winning the war in Iraq. If there is any issue that would have caused a job burnout with Andrew Card, it would have to be Iraq.

With Andrew Card gone, will there be a major shake-up? I doubt it. Bush is replacing Card with another White House insider of Joshua B. Bolten. In other words, Bush is again rewarding political loyalists with plum jobs. Consider this from the Post story:

Bolten is among the most respected officials within the administration and a trusted confidant of the president's--not at all the kind of independent, outside voice that some pundits have said the White House should bring on board.

Bolten served as deputy White House chief of staff in Bush's first term and then was moved over to head the budget office at a time when spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Medicare benefits and the recovery from Hurricane Katrina pushed up deficits. In an attempt to deal with the new spending demands, Bolten oversaw two consecutive budgets that actually cut overall non-security discretionary domestic spending. But many Republicans in Congress have complained that the administration has not done enough to tighten the federal belt.

Bolten is a party loyalist within the Bush administration. He served long enough in the Bush administration, followed the Republican mantra, and remained loyal to Bush. His transition to chief of staff is not going to cause any major shake-ups in the Bush White House. Instead, we're going to see the same lock-stop, goose-stepping marching we've seen in this Bush administration for the past five years. In fact, I wonder if Bolten is going to be hamstrung in his job due to his inexperience as a new chief of staff, and as a result of Vice President Cheney's enormous political power and influence within the White House. I don't know what the working relationship, or power balance between Card and Cheney is like within the White House, but I would say that Card could hold his own against the likes of Dick Cheney. Card survived for five years as chief of staff. How will the working relationship, or power balance, be defined between Josh Bolten and Dick Cheney?

I can't say.