Thursday, May 31, 2007

RNC fires entire phone banking staff

I found this through Daily Kos user Hekebolos, and it even surprised me. So I went over to the original source, The Washington Times:

The Republican National Committee, hit by a grass-roots donors' rebellion over President Bush's immigration policy, has fired all 65 of its telephone solicitors, Ralph Z. Hallow will report Friday in The Washington Times.

Faced with an estimated 40 percent fall-off in small-donor contributions and aging phone-bank equipment that the RNC said would cost too much to update, Anne Hathaway, the committee's chief of staff, summoned the solicitations staff last week and told them they were out of work, effective immediately, the fired staffers told The Times.

The national committee yesterday confirmed the firings that took place more than a week ago, but denied that the move was motivated by declining donor response to phone solicitations.

"The phone-bank employees were terminated," RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt wrote by e-mail in response to questions sent by The Times. "This was not an easy decision. The first and primary motivating factor was the state of the phone bank technology, which was outdated and difficult to maintain. The RNC was advised that we would soon need an entire new system to remain viable."

Fired employees acknowledged that the committee's phone equipment was outdated, but said a sharp drop-off in donations "probably" hastened the end of the RNC's in-house phone-bank operation.

"Last year, my solicitations totaled $164,000, and this year the way they were running for the first four months, they would total $100,000 by the end of 2007," said one fired phone bank solicitor who asked not to be identified.

There has been a sharp decline in contributions from RNC phone solicitations, another fired staffer said, reporting that many former donors flatly refuse to give more money to the national party if Mr. Bush and the Senate Republicans insist on supporting what these angry contributors call "amnesty" for illegal aliens.

"Everyone donor in 50 states we reached has been angry, especially in the last month and a half, and for 99 percent of them immigration is the No. 1 issue," said the former employee.

The RNC spokeswoman denied that the committee has seen any drop-off in contributions.

"Any assertion that overall donations have gone down is patently false," Miss Schmitt said. "We continue to out raise our Democrat counterpart by a substantive amount (nearly double)."

So what happened here? Back in 2006, the Republican Party decided to concentrate on immigration reform. The Republicans thought that if they could create a simple immigration reform package, they could sell that legislative package to the rapidly-growing Hispanic vote. Therein lies the problem. First, immigration reform is not going to be simple, but rather complicated. How do you create an amnesty program for long-term illegal aliens? How do you reform the border control? Guest worker programs? Or even the current problem of companies hiring illegal aliens? Building a 700-mile fence across the 2000-mile US-Mexican border? But the bigger problem for the Republicans is that as they started working on this immigration reform bill, it resulted in huge protests and counter-protests on the immigration bill H.R. 4437. I don't think the Republicans ever anticipated the level of controversy and protests when they started this immigration reform during a midterm election year of 2006. Which brings us to this little comment by a former employee, "Everyone donor in 50 states we reached has been angry, especially in the last month and a half, and for 99 percent of them immigration is the No. 1 issue," The Republicans angered their small-doner base. This base opposes any form of an amnesty program for long-term illegal aliens, and they have been making their anger known to the Republican Party by not just complaining to the phone-bank employees, but also not contributing to the GOP. This anger with the small doner base for the Republican Party contradicts the Republican Party's desire to court the Hispanic vote. If you go over to The Free Republic, you can read the raw anger of the comments on this story.

And how is the Republican Party responding to this anger? They fired their entire phone-banking staff for soliciting the grass-roots doners. In a sense, the Republicans are abandoning the fundraising for their small-doner base, and shifting their attention to the wealthy doners, business and corporate donations. The Republican Party has now shown itself to be the party of corporations.

Daily Headliners--U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Economic Growth, Cult of Fred Thompson, Forced labor used to build U.S. embassy in Iraq, Tim Griffin resigns,

Here is today's Daily Headliners.

Minnesota case fits pattern in U.S. attorneys flap: This Los Angeles Times story on Minnesota's Tom Heffelfinger's leaving is a must read. A potential reason Heffelfinger's name came up on the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired may be because Heffelfinger "tried to protect voting rights for Native Americans." According to the LA Times;

At a time when GOP activists wanted U.S. attorneys to concentrate on pursuing voter fraud cases, Heffelfinger's office was expressing deep concern about the effect of a state directive that could have the effect of discouraging Indians in Minnesota from casting ballots.

Citing requirements in a new state election law, Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer directed that tribal ID cards could not be used for voter identification by Native Americans living off reservations. Heffelfinger and his staff feared that the ruling could result in discrimination against Indian voters. Many do not have driver's licenses or forms of identification other than the tribes' photo IDs.

Kiffmeyer said she was only following the law.

The issue was politically sensitive because the Indian vote can be pivotal in close elections in Minnesota. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area has one of the largest urban Native American populations in the United States. Its members turn out in relatively large numbers and are predominantly Democratic.

Heffelfinger resigned last year for personal reasons and says he had no idea he was being targeted for possible firing. But his stance fits a pattern that has emerged in the cases of several U.S. attorneys fired last year in states where Republicans wanted more vigorous efforts to legally challenge questionable voters.

The LA Times story also reports that the Justice Department's former White House liaison Monica Goodling testified before the House Judiciary Committee hearings, saying she had heard Heffelfinger criticized for "spending an excessive amount of time" on Native American issues. This is another damning example of the Bush administration's attempt to politicize the U.S. Attorney's Office, and surpress voting in favor of the Republican Party.

U.S. Economic Growth Weakest in Over 4 Years: This New York Times story reports that the first quarter U.S. economic growth advanced by just 0.6 percent, "the slowest rate of expansion since the end of 2002." The initial estimate of first quarter growth was to be 1.3 percent.

Chart showing revised U.S. economic growth. From New York Times

The NY Times reports the reason for this sudden slowdown was a combination of revised estimates of stronger imports into the U.S., and businesses cutting production to reduce their stockpile of unsold inventory. Bonddad actually wonders if we have dodged a recession here, saying that business activity may start to expand after bottoming out of this first quarter. Because so far, the only thing keeping us out of a recession has been consumer spending, which advanced by 4.4 percent this first quarter--compared to the initial estimate of 3.8 percent. We'll have to see if consumer spending continues to stay strong over the next quarter--especially considering the housing slump.

Cult of Personality: The Carpetbagger Report has an interesting story regarding the GOP's Cult of Personality. It appears that the Republicans have decided that Fred Thompson is "the right man for the presidency because, well, he’s Fred Thompson." It is not about Fred Thompson's record, his views on the issues, or even his policy ideas. It is almost like the GOP wants to go back to the good ole days of the high school student body election, where the winner of class president was either the most popular student, the most liked, the most dreamily, the football quarterback, the homecomming queen--you get the picture. Of course, Glen Greenwald delves even deeper into this "Cult of Fred Thompson," looking at Thompson's "Tough Guy," and "Folksy Cultural Conservative" image.

U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Built with Forced Labor: I found this story through TPM Muckraker, which links to the original source blog called Iraq Slogger;

n the months following September 2005, complaints began coming in to the US State Department that all was not well with its most ambitious project ever: a sprawling new embassy project on the banks of the ancient Tigris River. The largest, most heavily-fortified embassy in the world with over 20 buildings, it spans 104 acres-- comparable in size to the Vatican.

Soon after the State Department awarded $592-million building contract to First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting in July 2005, thousands of low-paid migrant workers recruited from South Asia, the Philippines and other nations poured into Baghdad, beginning work to build the gargantuan complex within two years time. But sources involved in the embassy project tell Slogger that during First Kuwaiti’s rush to the finish the project by this summer on schedule, American managers and specialists involved with the project began protesting about the living and working conditions of lower-paid workers sequestered and largely unseen behind security walls bordering the embassy project inside the US-controlled Green Zone.

The Americans protested that construction crews lived in crowded quarters; ate sub-standard food; and had little medical care. When drinking water was scarce in the blistering heat, coolers were filled on the banks of the Tigris, a river rife with waterborne disease, sewage and sometimes floating bodies, they said. Others questioned why First Kuwaiti held the passports of workers. Was it to keep them from escaping? Some laborers had turned up “missing” with little investigation. Another American said laborers told him they were been misled in their job location. When recruited, they were unaware they were heading for war-torn Iraq.

The story was written by David Phinney, whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, ABC and PBS. I can't say if this story is accurate or not, but I will say that this is a story the American corporate media would probably never touch.

Tim Griffin Resigning As Arkansas U.S. Attorney: I found this story through The Daily Kos user Hose B, with the original source being the Arkansas Times. The Justice Department has announced that interim U.S. attorney Timothy Griffin will resign, effective on June 1, 2007. Griffin was originally an aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove, before being appointed as interim attorney by the Bush administration, replacing outgoing U.S. attorney Bud Cummings. Griffin became the poster child for the U.S. attorney scandal. Interestingly enough, TPM Muckraker is also reporting that Griffin is in talks with the Fred Thompson campaign on taking a job there.

More politicized hirings at Justice Department's Civil Rights Division: I found this story through Think Progress, which links into this McClatchy story. According to McClatchy, Bradley Schlozman, who was the former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, hired attorneys based on their political affiliations;

However, former employees of the division's Voting Rights Section, whose decisions can affect the outcome of elections, told McClatchy that eight lawyers had been hired there since 2004 largely because of their Republican or conservative connections.

Two former department lawyers said that when they'd applied for jobs elsewhere in the division in early 2005, Schlozman had asked them to delete mention on their resumes of Republican affiliations and resubmit them. Both attorneys were hired.

One of them, Ty Clevenger, said Schlozman "wanted to make it look like it was apolitical." Clevenger also said that when he'd passed along a resume from a fellow Stanford University Law School graduate, Schlozman had asked, "Is he one of us?"

Think Progress also links to this Boston.com story, reporting;

Half of the 14 career lawyers hired under Schlozman were members of the conservative Federalist Society or the Republican National Lawyers Association, up from none among the eight career hires in the previous two years, according to a review of resumes.

Finally, both the McClatchy story and the Boston.com story connect Schlozman's conservative hiring practices with the U.S. attorney scandal, and the Bush administration's desire to limit minority voting through politicizing investigations into Democratic voter fraud.

Bush in a bunker?

I've seen this story posted on four different blogs--Carpetbagger Report, Crooks and Liars, McJoan at Daily Kos, and Digby. The original source is a Dallas Morning News column by Georgie Anne Geyer on the subject of terrorism spreading throughout the Middle East. Geyer argues that terrorism is spreading throughout the Middle East because of "weakened societies" that are "vulnerable to the 'new answers' of 'new insurgencies,'" and Iraq has been "set up as a school for terrorists with American troops and policy providing the constant inspiration for their fight." In other words, the historical, societal and political environment of the Middle East has set up this breeding ground for terrorism. Geyer then points out that the Bush administration rejects this argument, claiming that terrorists are "Born, not created by history, bearing the mark of Cain, not the mark of circumstance. There is a scarlet "T" written on their foreheads at birth and the only answer is to destroy them. This kind of thinking, of course, relieves the thinker of any responsibility for the presence of the insurgent-terrorist-whatever in our innocent midst."

That is the contrasting arguments of the reasons why terrorism is spreading. Geyer then writes:

What's more, there is not much real give in the administration's policies. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other American diplomats met Memorial Day weekend with the Iranians in Baghdad (a good first move but limited, since the Iranians have most of the power because of our incredible stupidity in Iraq). But by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness.

Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny." [Emphasis is mine.]

This is beyond President Bush becoming the Bubble-Boy President, or even the Bunker-Boy President. I fear that President Bush has gone into a state of delusional thinking here, practically screaming that not only does he want to be remembered as "the war president," but also for maintaining a permanent U.S. occupation--and a permanent war--in Iraq. In a sense, this delusional thinking does provide and explanation to yesterday's post on President Bush's envisioning the U.S. occupation of Iraq to be similar to South Korea. President Bush can not admit that he was wrong in invading Iraq--even as the analysis, the news reports, and the public opinion polls, all show otherwise. If Geyer is correct with this Bush rant, then I fear it is going to get worst for our country, over the next couple of months. Remember, September will be the next round of war funding before 2008 and the elections. If there are 25 GOP senators who are worried more about their political careers than Bush's war, and who pass a veto-proof funding bill which includes withdrawal timetables, I can't even speculate what President Bush's state of mind would be in September, or even what irrational acts he may commit (Attack Iran?).

Think Progress picked up on this story, and included another interesting piece of information. Apparently this is the second time that President Bush has lashed out in response to criticism on his Iraq policy during private meetings. Think Progress posted an article sourcing a subscription-required Nelson Report story:

[S]ome big money players up from Texas recently paid a visit to their friend in the White House. The story goes that they got out exactly one question, and the rest of the meeting consisted of The President in an extended whine, a rant, actually, about no one understands him, the critics are all messed up, if only people would see what he’s doing things would be OK…etc., etc. This is called a “bunker mentality” and it’s not attractive when a friend does it. When the friend is the President of the United States, it can be downright dangerous. Apparently the Texas friends were suitably appalled, hence the story now in circulation.

This is scary.

Fred Thompson moving towards presidential candidacy

Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson attends the Prescott Bush Awards Dinner, in this May 24, 2007 file photo, in Stamford Conn. Thompson will take a step toward a formal presidential candidacy next week, an official with knowledge of the plans said Wednesday May 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Douglas Healey, File)

Well, it appears that actor/politician Fred Thompson is starting his own 2008 presidential run. From MSNBC News:

Fred Thompson makes it (more) official. According to a campaign source, the former Tennessee senator and actor on NBC’s “Law & Order” will file his FEC papers officially on Monday June 4.

In FEC parlance, Thompson is opening a "testing the waters" committee, a technical term that allows Thompson to forgo filing a detailed report on June 30 – though once he's an official candidate, he'll have to file retroactively.

The June 4 filing will be coordinated with a first-day fundraising blitz with 100-plus "First Day Founders" raising a significant one-day sum in order to send a we're-in-the-first-tier message.

The campaign tells me the "first day" blitz totals they report will be "cash" actually raised, not pledges. The source didn't dispute the notion that the one-day goal would be north of seven figures.

As for his "why I'm running" announcement, it is set for sometime later this summer, in July.

A campaign source wouldn't confirm the public reports of a July 4 weekend date.

I'll be honest, it is not a big surprise that Fred Thompson is running for president. Thompson knows that the GOP voters are disgusted with the current crop of candidates running--Rudy Giuliani is too moderate, Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and John McCain is a total GOP ass-kisser. The rest of the candidates don't have the name recognition that the three current front-runners have. When you look at the May 24, 2007 CBS News poll, 57 percent of Republican primary voters want more choices for the GOP presidential candidates, as compared to 35 percent of Democratic primary voters wanting more choices for Democratic presidential candidates. In addition, the CBS News poll reports that 21 percent of Republican voters want someone else, or none of the above, when matched up with the three Republican front-runners. When you look at The Polling Report results on the Republican nomination, Thompson places in third or fourth place at 8-10 percent of the vote--either in front of or behind Mitt Romney. And even going through all the different GOP polls here, there is still a good 18-25 percent of the Republican voters who are still unsure of who to vote for. I should also point out that there have been stories reporting that conservatives are disappointed with the current crop of GOP presidential candidates. So it is no surprise that Thompson is considering a GOP presidential run. What is important to understand here is that Thompson is playing coy with the media on whether he will run or not. In playing this "Well I'm still undecided" game, Thompson can keep the mainstream media political pundits speculating on when will Thompson run, or how a Thompson campaign will affect the current Republican or Democratic races. The mainstream media will keep his name out in the news, while Thompson can concentrate on fundraising, and organizing his campaign staff for the next couple of months. Then on the Fourth of July weekend, Thompson can make his big announcement on running for president.

And we will have 11 GOP presidential candidates running.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Daily Headliners--25 GOP Senators to vote Iraq timetables, Glenn Greenwald and Valerie Plame, Al Gore on Olbermann, Stock market rally

It has been an interesting day posting on a number of subjects. Anyways, let's get into the Daily Headliners.

25 GOP Senators may vote for Democratic Iraq withdrawal timetable in September: I found this off Americablog, which cites a small National Review Online article;

Iraq--the Coming GOP Collapse? By Rich Lowry

Was talking to an influential Republican strategist who thinks if Iraq looks the way it does now in September, Bush will lose about 25 Senate Republicans on a bill with some sort of timetable for withdrawal.

05/30 04:03 PM

If Lowry is correct here, then we could see a veto-proof Senate majority on Democratic legislation regarding U.S. troop withdrawal timetables for Iraq. The question to ask here is how bad will the Iraq war deteriorate before these GOP senators start to worry about their own political careers, over that of toeing the Bush administration's war in Iraq?

Right-wing noise machine--Plame not covert: Glenn Greenwald shows how the Right Wing Noise Machine consistently claimed that Valerie Plame was not a CIA covert agent, even as the evidence shows otherwise. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has even stated that Plame was a covert agent.

Al Gore on Countdown with Keith Olbermann: Former vice president Al Gore was a special guest on Keith Olbermann's Countdown program, where Gore promoted his book "The Assault on Reason." Here is the transcript of Olbermann's interview with Gore. You can also find Olbermann's interview on YouTube.

Here is Part One;



And here is Part Two



Stock market rallies: This MSNBC story about Wednesday's stock market rally. According to MSNBC:

Apparently defying gravity, the market broke new ground again Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average jumping 111 points to close at 13,633.

The Dow's frequent records have grown almost routine in recent weeks, but even more significant Wednesday was that the broader S&P 500 — the benchmark index used by millions of individual investors and their retirement funds — finally surpassed the high-water mark broke through the index broke through its 7-year-old high-water mark to close at a record 1530.23.

Then there is this interesting explanation regarding this stock market surge:

The steady surge in stock prices is being propelled by a flood of money into the global financial markets, fueling a wave of acquisitions that shows no signs of letting up. The binge has been led largely by private pools of capital, so-called private equity funds, that have been buying up public companies and taking them private. As shares of those those companies are removed from the market, there are fewer shares available for institutional and individual investors who are restricted to publicly available stocks. That tends to push remaining stock prices even higher.

The buying binge is the biggest in decades. Some $2.3 trillion in deals worldwide — more than 15,000 of them — have been announced so far this year, according to Thomson Financial. At $857 billion and counting, U.S. private equity buying is more than triple last year's levels.

If this explanation is correct, then the stock market is being propped up not by companies making and selling products, but rather by mergers, acquisitions, stock buybacks, or public companies reverting to private companies. In a sense, we're seeing a form of speculation, where big banks and funds are playing shadow games of merging, or taking companies private for the sake of quick, paper profits. This can't go on forever--not when there are inflation fears within the Federal Reserve, not when gas prices have been going up, not when the housing market has crashed, and not when consumer spending has started to slow in the U.S. I have to wonder when a crash will take place in the U.S. stock market.

Panel of experts criticize Bush interrogation methods

This is off The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, May 29 — As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

[....]

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history.

[....]

But in meetings with intelligence officials and in a 325-page initial report completed in December, the researchers have pressed a more practical critique: there is little evidence, they say, that harsh methods produce the best intelligence.

“There’s an assumption that often passes for common sense that the more pain imposed on someone, the more likely they are to comply,” said Randy Borum, a psychologist at the University of South Florida who, like several of the study’s contributors, is a consultant for the Defense Department.

The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual.

President Bush has insisted that those secret “enhanced” techniques are crucial, and he is far from alone. The notion that turning up pressure and pain on a prisoner will produce valuable intelligence is a staple of popular culture from the television series “24” to the recent Republican presidential debate, where some candidates tried to outdo one another in vowing to get tough on captured terrorists. A 2005 Harvard study supported the selective use of “highly coercive” techniques.

But some of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called “Educing Information,” say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.

“It far outclassed what we’ve done,” said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., “had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly,” and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.

Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts “amateurish” by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.

The Intelligence Science Board study has a chapter on the long history of police interrogations, which it suggests may contain lessons on eliciting accurate confessions. And Mr. Borum, the psychologist, said modern marketing may be a source of relevant insights into how to influence a prisoner’s willingness to provide information.

“We have a whole social science literature on persuasion,” Mr. Borum said. “It’s mostly on how to get a person to buy a certain brand of toothpaste. But it certainly could be useful in improving interrogation.”

Robert F. Coulam, a research professor and attorney at Simmons College and a study participant, said that the government’s most vigorous work on interrogation to date has been in seeking legal justifications for harsh tactics. Even today, he said, “there’s nothing like the mobilization of effort and political energy that was put into relaxing the rules” governing interrogation.

It is interesting that this NY Times story came out pretty much on the same day as Andrew Sullivan's Verschärfte Vernehmung story showing disturbing similarities between the Bush administration's "enhanced interrogation" techniques, and the torture techniques used by Nazi Germany. I fear that we have entering a period where our fragile democracy is being systematically destroyed by men who crave only raw, totalitarian power, but then show themselves to be incompetent in solving this country's problems once they have achieved that power.

Supreme Court ruling limits suits on pay disparity

Well, the U.S. Supreme Court has given employers a back-door right to discriminate against women. This is from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, May 29 — The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it harder for many workers to sue their employers for discrimination in pay, insisting in a 5-to-4 decision on a tight time frame to file such cases. The dissenters said the ruling ignored workplace realities.

The decision came in a case involving a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire plant in Gadsden, Ala., the only woman among 16 men at the same management level, who was paid less than any of her colleagues, including those with less seniority. She learned that fact late in a career of nearly 20 years — too late, according to the Supreme Court’s majority.

The court held on Tuesday that employees may not bring suit under the principal federal anti-discrimination law unless they have filed a formal complaint with a federal agency within 180 days after their pay was set. The timeline applies, according to the decision, even if the effects of the initial discriminatory act were not immediately apparent to the worker and even if they continue to the present day.

From 2001 to 2006, workers brought nearly 40,000 pay discrimination cases. Many such cases are likely to be barred by the court’s interpretation of the requirement in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that employees make their charge within 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.”

Workplace experts said the ruling would have broad ramifications and would narrow the legal options of many employees.

In an opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the majority rejected the view of the federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that each paycheck that reflects the initial discrimination is itself a discriminatory act that resets the clock on the 180-day period, under a rule known as “paycheck accrual.”

“Current effects alone cannot breathe life into prior, uncharged discrimination,” Justice Alito said in an opinion joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas once headed the employment commission, the chief enforcer of workers’ rights under the statute at issue in this case, usually referred to simply as Title VII.

Under its longstanding interpretation of the statute, the commission actively supported the plaintiff, Lilly M. Ledbetter, in the lower courts. But after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last June, the Bush administration disavowed the agency’s position and filed a brief on the side of the employer.

In a vigorous dissenting opinion that she read from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the majority opinion “overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination.” She said that given the secrecy in most workplaces about salaries, many employees would have no idea within 180 days that they had received a lower raise than others.

An initial disparity, even if known to the employee, might be small, Justice Ginsburg said, leading an employee, particularly a woman or a member of a minority group “trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment” to avoid “making waves.” Justice Ginsburg noted that even a small differential “will expand exponentially over an employee’s working life if raises are set as a percentage of prior pay.”

Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer joined the dissent.

Ms. Ledbetter’s salary was initially the same as that of her male colleagues. But over time, as she received smaller raises, a substantial disparity grew. By the time she brought suit in 1998, her salary fell short by as much as 40 percent; she was making $3,727 a month, while the lowest-paid man was making $4,286.

A jury in Federal District Court in Birmingham, Ala., awarded her more than $3 million in back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, which the trial judge reduced to $360,000. But the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, erased the verdict entirely, ruling that because Ms. Ledbetter could not show that she was the victim of intentional discrimination during the 180 days before she filed her complaint, she had not suffered an “unlawful employment practice” to which Title VII applied.

Several other federal appeals courts had accepted the employment commission’s more relaxed view of the 180-day requirement. The justices accepted Ms. Ledbetter’s appeal, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, No. 05-1074, to resolve the conflict.

This is what happens when Bush selected Samuel Alito to the court--we have an ideological conservative justice legislating from the bench. Only in this case, Alito has decided that companies have the right to discriminate pay against women employees after the first six months of employment. Because that is how long a woman will have to file a pay discrimination case in the first six months of employment--after that, she's SOL! Even worst, companies can maintain a equal pay scale between women and men for similar positions during the first six months of a woman's employment, and then reduce the pay scale for women over the longer term by providing women smaller raises than that of their male counterparts. In a sense, it becomes the women's fault for their employer's discrimination against her. And to top it off, this court decision was decided by five male, conservative justices--Alito, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

Scott Lemieux provides and interesting comment on this decision over at the American Prospect:

The effect of Sandra Day O'Connor being replaced by Alito is particularly stark in this case. O'Connor -- who was offered only secretarial jobs after graduating third from her Stanford Law class -- had a good record on gender discrimination, while Altio's record on both gender issues and civil rights claims more broadly is atrocious. The useful idiots who claimed Alito was a moderate notwithstanding, his vote in this case was inevitable; I held out a shred of optimism that Thomas and Scalia might defer to the EEOC based on the former's opinion in the Morgan case, but this was apparently hopeless optimism. Although these kinds of cases flay under the radar, this is a major way the Alito-fied Court will work to advance bad outcomes. Republicans don't have to modify or repeal civil rights legislation, and the Court's needn't strike it down; the courts and/or the executive branch can just gut the legislation by making it difficult to enforce in ways that don't attract public attention.

Bush envisions U.S. presence in Iraq like S.Korea

I found this through Talking Points Memo, with the original source being Reuters News:

WASHINGTON, May 30 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush would like to see a lengthy U.S. troop presence in Iraq like the one in South Korea to provide stability but not in a frontline combat role, the White House said on Wednesday.

The United States has had thousands of U.S. troops in South Korea to guard against a North Korean invasion for 50 years.

Democrats in control of the U.S. Congress have been pressing Bush to agree to a timetable for pulling troops from Iraq, an idea firmly opposed by the president.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush would like to see a U.S. role in Iraq ultimately similar to that in South Korea.

"The Korean model is one in which the United States provides a security presence, but you've had the development of a successful democracy in South Korea over a period of years, and, therefore, the United States is there as a force of stability," Snow told reporters.

He said U.S. bases in Iraq would not necessarily be permanent because they would be there at the invitation of the host government and "the person who has done the invitation has the right to withdraw the invitation."

"I think the point he's trying to make is that the situation in Iraq, and indeed, the larger war on terror, are things that are going to take a long time. But it is not always going to require an up-front combat presence," Snow said.

"The president has always said that ultimately you want to be handing primary responsibility off to the Iraqis," he said.

"You provide the so-called over-the-horizon support that is necessary from time to time to come to the assistance of Iraqis but you do not want the United States forever in the front."

You have to wonder just how much deeper down the rabbit hole we can go with this administration. Marshall lays out the differences between Iraq and Korea--Korea is an ethnically and culturally homogeneous state while Iraq is not. Korea was a democracy for the last fifteen years, but before that it was a military dictatorship during the Cold War. Iraq is a occupied country with a puppet state, propped up by the U.S. military. U.S. troops are in South Korea to ward off an invasion from North Korea. As Marshall asks, "US troops aren't in Iraq to ward off any invasion. Invasion from who? Saudi Arabia? Syria?"

Daily Kos user LarryInNYC also makes an interesting comment regarding President Bush's comparison between Iraq and South Korea. LarryInNYC writes:

Josh Marshall has a quick round-up of reasons why South Korea is different from Iraq (ethnic homogeneity, a history as a military dictatorship) but in my opinion he misses the most critical -- there was no large-scale objection within South Korea to the presence of American forces, and certainly never an active insurgency against them.

One can understand, perhaps, (if one is very generous) that the Bush Administration and members of the Think Tank of Magical Thinking who pushed for the Iraq invasion in the first place may, at one time, have imagined that the situation would develop along the lines of South Korea. Anyone with a modicum of sense would have believed otherwise, but let's grant for the sake of argument that the war supporters thought so.

In the current circumstances, however, it's madness to believe that American soldiers will ever perform a function in Iraq related in any way to the role we've played in South Korea. There isn't any scope of opinion on this issue -- it's a form of lunacy.

LarryInNYC is correct. The Korean War started when North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. On that same day, the United Nations Security Council "immediately drafted UNSC Resolution 82, which was unanimously passed in the Security Council since the Soviet ambassador was boycotting the U.N. at the time. This led to direct action by the United States and other U.N. members." This brought the U.S. into the Korean war under the flag of the United Nations. The Bush administration's Iraq war was really an invasion of a sovereign country to depose Saddam Hussein, to occupy Iraq's oil reserves, and to project American military power in the Middle East as prescribed in the PNAC Doctrine. There was certainly never an objection to the American military intervention by the South Koreans during the Korean War, and the current American military presence is a simple tripwire to keep the North Koreans from invading into South Korea--a presence that has lasted for over 50 years.

There are days that even I can't understand the lunacy of this Bush administration. This linking of the American occupation of Iraq with the American military presence in South Korea does not make any logical or political sense. But there is a perverse PR-logic to this latest Bush statement. The U.S. military presence in South Korea has kept North Korea from invading for 50 years. Since the Bush administration wants to maintain a permanent U.S. military occupation of Iraq, then it makes political sense to equate the U.S. war in Iraq with the Korean War, and hope for a political stalemate that allows the U.S. military to maintain their permanent presence in Iraq. The key factor is who is the Bush administration selling this political argument to? The Democrats, while they've conceded to Bush's blank check war funding without timetables until September, are certainly going to initiate another push for legislation which includes benchmarks and timetables. I would say that this latest Bush argument is a push to keep American public support from further eroding regarding the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

Down the rabbit hole we go....

'"Verschärfte Vernehmung"




I found this Andrew Sullivan story on The Atlantic:

The phrase "Verschärfte Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their "enhanced interrogation techniques" would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

Sullivan lists example after example of similar torture techniques the Bush administration uses with those same techniques used by Nazi Germany. Even more astounding is that the defensive arguments for using these techniques by the Nazis have been resurrected by the Bush administration:

In Norway, we actually have a 1948 court case that weighs whether "enhanced interrogation" using the methods approved by president Bush amounted to torture. The proceedings are fascinating, with specific reference to the hypothermia used in Gitmo, and throughout interrogation centers across the field of conflict. The Nazi defense of the techniques is almost verbatim that of the Bush administration...

Here's a document from Norway's 1948 war-crimes trials detailing the prosecution of Nazis convicted of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the Second World War. Money quote from the cases of three Germans convicted of war crimes for "enhanced interrogation":

Between 1942 and 1945, Bruns used the method of "verschärfte Vernehmung" on 11 Norwegian citizens. This method involved the use of various implements of torture, cold baths and blows and kicks in the face and all over the body. Most of the prisoners suffered for a considerable time from the injuries received during those interrogations.

Between 1942 and 1945, Schubert gave 14 Norwegian prisoners "verschärfte Vernehmung," using various instruments of torture and hitting them in the face and over the body. Many of the prisoners suffered for a considerable time from the effects of injuries they received.

On 1st February, 1945, Clemens shot a second Norwegian prisoner from a distance of 1.5 metres while he was trying to escape. Between 1943 and 1945, Clemens employed the method of " verschäfte Vernehmung " on 23 Norwegian prisoners. He used various instruments of torture and cold baths. Some of the prisoners continued for a considerable time to suffer from injuries received at his hands.


[....]

The victims, by the way, were not in uniform. And the Nazis tried to argue, just as John Yoo did, that this made torturing them legit. The victims were paramilitary Norwegians, operating as an insurgency, against an occupying force. And the torturers had also interrogated some prisoners humanely. But the argument, deployed by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Nazis before them, didn't wash with the court.

Sullivan concludes with this devastating comment:

Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.

Read the entire article. What I find amazing here is that the Bush administration is reiterating the same torture policies and arguments defending these policies that the Nazis used over fifty years ago. President Bush is taking a page from the Nazi playbook on creating a totalitarian state, where individuals have no more freedoms, where illegal domestic spying is warranted for the protection of The State, where torture is used to elicit confessions, and where war is a constant reminder to the public for the The State's need for the expansion of absolute power. This Bush administration doesn't believe in the rule of law--this administration believes itself to be above the law. It is what makes President Bush a destructive individual to our democracy.

Lawyer: Cheney Visitor Logs Not Recorded

I really don't know what to say about this Washington Post article:

WASHINGTON -- A lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney told the Secret Service in September to eliminate data on who visited Cheney at his official residence, a newly disclosed letter states.

The Sept. 13, 2006, letter from Cheney's lawyer says logs for Cheney's residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory are subject to the Presidential Records Act.

Such a designation prevents the public from learning who visited the vice president.

The Justice Department filed the letter Friday in a lawsuit by a private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, seeking the identities of conservative religious leaders who visited Cheney at his official residence.

The newly disclosed letter about visitors to Cheney's residence is accompanied by an 18-page Secret Service document revealing the agency's long-standing practice has been to destroy printed daily access lists of visitors to the residence.

Separately, the agency says it has given Cheney's office handwritten logs of who visits him at his personal residence.

Because of pending lawsuits, the Secret Service says it is now keeping copies of all material on visitors to Cheney's residence. According to the Secret Service document, Cheney's office has approved the agency's retention of the records, while maintaining they are presidential records subject to Cheney's control.

"The latest filings make clear that the administration has been destroying documents and entering into secret agreements in violation of the law," said Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel.

Regarding visitor information, the Secret Service "shall not retain any copy of these documents and information" once the material is given to the office of the vice president, says the September 2006 letter by Shannen Coffin, counsel to the vice president.

"If any documents remain in your possession, please return them to OVP as soon as possible," the letter added.

This is just incredible. Cheney demands that the Secret Service give him the visitor logs to Cheney's official residence, saying that the logs are subject to the Presidential Records Act. In the simplest terms here, Cheney is claiming that the Secret Service visitor logs to his official residence is his own property, in order to keep it secret from the public. We are not to know who has visited Cheney over the past seven years, and there is no doubt that Cheney has destroyed whatever logs are in his possession. The criminality of this administration, the destruction of evidence, is just amazing.

Bush Administration to fight to keep meatpackers from testing all slaughtered cattle for Mad Cow disease

I found this off Daily Kos, and went to the original International Herald-Tribune source. Here is the entire article:

WASHINGTON: The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. U.S. District Judge James Robertson noted that Creekstone sought to use the same test the government relies on and said the government didn't have the authority to restrict it. - A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. The ruling was scheduled to take effect June 1, but the Agriculture Department said Tuesday it would appeal, effectively delaying the testing until the court challenge has played out.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is linked to more than 150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Britain.

Three cases of mad cow disease have been found in the United States. The first, in December 2003 in Washington state, was in a cow that had been imported from Canada. The second, in 2005, was in a cow born in Texas. The third was confirmed last year in an Alabama cow.

Okay, so Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of their slaughtered cows for Mad Cow disease, and show consumers how their cows are safe. And Creekstone is willing to use the same test as the Agriculture Department, and the company is willing to pay for those tests. The big meatpacking companies do not want Creekstone to test their own beef. If Creekstone's testing program results in an increase of beef sales, as consumers want beef that is considered safe from Mad Cow disease, other smaller beef companies will adopt the same testing program as Creekstone. The big meatpacking companies sales, and profits, will start to drop as consumers will demand that these companies also test all of their own beef for Mad Cow. That is the fear within the big meatpacking companies--that they will have to spend a greater share of their profits in testing their own herds.

So what do these big meatpacking companies do? They lobby the Bush administration. And the Agriculture Department comes out with this statement "that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry." This is the same Agriculture Department that can only test less than one percent of the slaughtered cows in the U.S. for Mad Cow disease. If Creekstone is willing to adopt the same testing standards the Agriculture Department uses for testing its beef, then allow Creekstone to initiate the testing program. Have the Agriculture Department monitor the Creekstone testing program. But no. Creekstone cannot perform their own testing program because it will become a threat to the big meatpacking companies' profits. The Bush administration is not fighting to protect the health of the American consumer, or even the health of the free market. The Bush administration is fighting to protect the profits of Big Meatpacking.

Rick Perlstein at .Common Sense wrote this:

Oh, all right. One small comment. First, observe the contempt for liberty. When E. coli conservatives say self-regulation is preferable to government, they're even lying about that. Second, observe the contempt for small business. When a small company want to - voluntarily! - hold its product to a higher standard, the government blocks it, in part because bigger companies have to be protected from the competition, in part because a theoretical threat to the bottom line (false positives) trumps protection against a deadly disease.

There's your conservatism, America: not extremism in defense of liberty. State socialism in defense of Mad Cow.

Government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations....

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Daily Headliners--Ten more U.S. forces killed, Bush taps Zoellick to World Bank, Valerie Plame CIA agent, Cindy Sheehan resigns,

Here is today's Daily Headliners.

At least 10 U.S. forces killed on Memorial Day: MSNBC is reporting that ten U.S. soldiers have been killed by roadside bombs and a helicopter crash on Memorial Day. This has raised the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq to 112, "making May the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops in Iraq."

Bush to nominate Zoellick as World Bank chief: At least that is what MSNBC is claiming. According to MSNBC, President Bush will announce his decision Wednesday to select Robert Zoellick, who is Bush's trade chief and the country’s No. 2 diplomat, to become the next World Bank president after Paul Wolfowitz will step down on June 30. Wolfowitz has been embroiled in a scandal where, in 2005, he arranged a large compensation package to his girlfriend Shaha Riza, a bank employee. Crooks and Liars is reporting that Zoellick has had "a tumultuous relationship with the Bush Administration," although Zoellick is still considered a Bushie. The World Bank presidency is one position that President Bush can nominate without going the Senate confirmation, however Zoellick's nomination will still have to be approved by the Board of Governors. It will be interesting to see if Zoellick's name will be approved by the Bank.

Fitzgerald says Plame was a covert agent: This is off Newsweek. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald asserts that Valerie Plame Wilson "was a 'covert' CIA officer who repeatedly traveled overseas using a 'cover identity' in order to disguise her relationship with the agency." I'm sure the Bush administration, and the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust, will ramp up their own PR-spin in claiming Libby's innocence.

Cindy Sheehan calls it quits: On The Daily Kos, antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan is resigning from being the "face" of the anti-war movement. Sheehan writes:

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

[....]

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children’s children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.

Camp Casey has served its purpose. It’s for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford , Texas ? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, too...which makes the property even more valuable.

This is my resignation letter as the "face" of the American anti-war movement. This is not my "Checkers" moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.

Good-bye America ...you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.

It’s up to you now.

Cindy Sheehan started this antiwar movement when she camped outside of President Bush's ranch in Crawford Texas, in 2005, demanding that the vacationing President Bush would come out from his ranch and provide an explanation as to why her son Casey died in Iraq. Bush refused to meet with Sheehan, thus creating the sparks for this antiwar movement. Sheehan can now retire, rest, and rejuvenate. The movement will continue on without her.

Analysis: Bush looks at public opinion on Iraq and declares it supports his decisions

Read the headline again. I specifically took it off the International Herald-Tribune's website reporting this Associated Press story:

WASHINGTON — Confronted with strong opposition to his Iraq policies, President George W. Bush decides to interpret public opinion his own way. Actually, he says, people agree with him.

Democrats view the November elections that gave them control of Congress as a mandate to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. They are backed by evidence; election exit poll surveys by The Associated Press and television networks found 55 percent saying the U.S. should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq.

Bush says Democrats have it all wrong: the public does not want the troops pulled out — they want to give the military more support in its mission.

"Last November, the American people said they were frustrated and wanted a change in our strategy in Iraq," he said April 24, ahead of a veto showdown with congressional Democrats over their desire to legislation a troop withdrawal timeline. "I listened. Today, General David Petraeus is carrying out a strategy that is dramatically different from our previous course."

Increasingly isolated on a war that is going badly, Bush has presented his alternative reality in other ways, too. He expresses understanding for the public's dismay over the unrelenting sectarian violence and American losses that have passed 3,400, but then asserts that the public's solution matches his.

"A lot of Americans want to know, you know, when?" he said at a Rose Garden news conference Thursday. "When are you going to win?"

Also in that session, Bush said: "I recognize there are a handful there, or some, who just say, 'Get out, you know, it's just not worth it. Let's just leave.' I strongly disagree with that attitude. Most Americans do as well."

In fact, polls show Americans do not disagree, and that leaving — not winning — is their main goal.

In one released Friday by CBS and the New York Times, 63 percent supported a troop withdrawal timetable of sometime next year. Another earlier this month from USA Today and Gallup found 59 percent backing a withdrawal deadline that the U.S. should stick to no matter what is happening in Iraq.

Bush aides say poll questions are asked so many ways, and often so imprecisely, that it is impossible to conclude that most Americans really want to get out. Failure, Bush says, is not what the public wants — they just do not fully understand that that is just what they will get if troops are pulled out before the Iraqi government is capable of keeping the country stable on its own.

Seeking to turn up the heat on this argument, Bush has relied lately on an al-Qaida mantra. Terrorists remain dangerous, and fighting them in Iraq is key to neutralizing the threat, he says. "It's hard for some Americans to see that, I fully understand it," Bush said. "I see it clearly."

Independent pollster Andrew Kohut said of the White House view: "I don't see what they're talking about."

"They want to know when American troops are going to leave," Kohut, director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, said of the public. "They certainly want to win. But their hopes have been dashed."

Kohut has found it notable that there is such a consensus in poll findings.

"When the public hasn't made up its mind or hasn't thought about things, there's a lot of variation in the polls," he said. "But there's a fair amount of agreement now."

The president did not used to try to co-opt polling for his benefit. He just said he ignored it.

This is just amazing! We have a president who is delusional. When you look at the CBS News poll, the American public are not saying that they want the U.S. to win the war in Iraq, but rather that 76 percent--that is three-quarters of Americans--say that the war is going badly for the U.S. Not only that, but 64 percent of Americans support withdrawal timetables for the U.S. getting out of Iraq, 71 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq, and 61 percent of Americans say that we should never have invaded Iraq. You can find a wealth of polling data on Iraq through the Polling Report. The American public want the troops withdrawn out of Iraq. They want benchmarks for success. They want withdrawal timetables. They do not want the same old, open-ended, blank check commitment that the Bush White House is insisting on. And now we have President Bush claiming that the polling data supports his claim that the American public wants the U.S. to win the war in Iraq, rather than leave? I would certainly be curious to see what polling data the administration is cherry-picking in order to support this delusional claim.

I went back through the Iraq polls on The Polling Report, and found some interesting data the administration could cherry-pick to support their claims. According to this May 15-16 Fox News poll, 33 percent of Americans surveyed say that the U.S. "can still be successful in Iraq," 31 percent of Americans say that the U.S. "is losing but has not lost" the war in Iraq, and 26 percent of Americans "has lost the war in Iraq." There is also a May 4-6 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll which asks "Do you think that the U.S. war in Iraq is lost, or don't you think so?" The results of this single question are 41 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. war in Iraq is lost, 55 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. war in Iraq is not lost, and 4 percent have no opinion. Now these are minor survey questions here. The reason I included them here is to show just how the Bush administration may be cherry-picking the opinion polls to support their own delusional claims, while ignoring the more important public opinion results regarding benchmarks, timetables, or even Bush's own handling of Iraq. Of course, this is what I could find while I was writing this post. It is even more likely that President Bush is making these outrageous claims without providing any supporting data to back up these claims--it is all just more PR-spin provided by the Bush White House.

Boy, 11, bags Monster Pig!

In this photo released by Melynne Stone, Jamison Stone, 11, poses with a wild pig he killed near Delta, Ala., May 3, 2007. Stone's father says the hog weighed a staggering 1,051 pounds and measured 9-feet-4 from the tip of its snout to the base of its tail. If claims of the animal's size are true, it would be larger than ``Hogzilla,'' the huge hog killed in Georgia in 2004. (AP Photo/Melynne Stone)

I'm just going to post this entire Yahoo News story as is:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Hogzilla is being made into a horror movie. But the sequel may be even bigger: Meet Monster Pig. An 11-year-old boy used a pistol to kill a wild hog his father says weighed a staggering 1,051 pounds and measured 9 feet 4, from the tip of its snout to the base of its tail. Think hams as big as car tires.

If the claims are accurate, Jamison Stone's trophy boar would be bigger than Hogzilla, the famed wild hog that grew to seemingly mythical proportions after being killed in south Georgia in 2004.

Hogzilla originally was thought to weigh 1,000 pounds and measure 12 feet long.
National Geographic experts who unearthed its remains believe the animal actually weighed about 800 pounds and was 8 feet long.

Regardless of the comparison, Jamison is reveling in the attention over his pig.

"It feels really good," Jamison said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "It's a good accomplishment. I probably won't ever kill anything else that big."

Jamison, who killed his first deer at age 5, was hunting with father Mike Stone and two guides in east Alabama on May 3 when he bagged Monster Pig. He said he shot the huge animal eight times with a .50-caliber revolver and chased it for three hours through hilly woods before finishing it off with a point-blank shot.

Through it all, there was the fear that the animal would turn and charge them, as wild boars have a reputation for doing.

"I was a little bit scared, a little bit excited," said Jamison, who lives in Pickensville on the Mississippi border. He just finished the sixth grade on the honor roll at Christian Heritage Academy, a small, private school.

His father said that, just to be extra safe, he and the guides had high-powered rifles aimed and ready to fire in case the beast, with 5-inch tusks, decided to charge.

With the animal finally dead in a creek bed on the 2,500-acre Lost Creek Plantation, a commercial hunting preserve in Delta, trees had to be cut down and a backhoe brought in to bring Jamison's prize out of the woods.

It was hauled on a truck to the Clay County Farmers Exchange in Lineville, where Jeff Kinder said they used his scale, recently calibrated, to weigh the hog.

Kinder's scale measures only to the nearest 10, but Mike Stone said it balanced one notch past the 1,050-pound mark.

"It probably weighed 1,060 pounds. We were just afraid to change it once the story was out," he said.

The hog's head is being mounted by Jerry Cunningham of Jerry's Taxidermy. Cunningham said the animal measured 54 inches around the head, 74 inches around the shoulders and 11 inches from the eyes to the end of its snout.

"It's huge," he said. "It's just the biggest thing I've ever seen."

Mike Stone is having sausage made from the rest of the animal. "We'll probably get 500 to 700 pounds," he said.

Jamison, meanwhile, has been offered a small part in "The Legend of Hogzilla," a small-time horror flick based on the tale of the Georgia boar. The movie is holding casting calls with plans to begin filming in Georgia.

Jamison is enjoying the newfound celebrity generated by the hog hunt, but he said he prefers hunting pheasants to monster pigs: "They are a little less dangerous."

That's some pig!

U.S. Military censors journalists from taking pictures of wounded American soldiers

This is censorship by the American military. I found this New York Times story through Americablog. Here is the NY Times story:

Many of the journalists who are in Iraq have been backed into fortified corners, rarely venturing out to see what soldiers confront. And the remaining journalists who are embedded with the troops in Iraq — the number dropped to 92 in May from 126 in April — are risking more and more for less and less.

Since last year, the military’s embedding rules require that journalists obtain a signed consent from a wounded soldier before the image can be published. Images that put a face on the dead, that make them identifiable, are simply prohibited.

If Joseph Heller were still around, he might appreciate the bureaucratic elegance of paragraph 11(a) of IAW Change 3, DoD Directive 5122.5:

“Names, video, identifiable written/oral descriptions or identifiable photographs of wounded service members will not be released without the service member’s prior written consent.”

[....]

Ashley Gilbertson, a veteran freelance photographer who has been to Iraq seven times and has worked for The New York Times, (along with Time and Newsweek among others), said the policy, as enforced, is coercive and unworkable.

“They are basically asking me to stand in front of a unit before I go out with them and say that in the event that they are wounded, I would like their consent,” he said. “We are already viewed by some as bloodsucking vultures, and making that kind of announcement would make you an immediate bad luck charm.”

“They are not letting us cover the reality of war,” he added. “I think this has got little to do with the families or the soldiers and everything to do with politics.”

[....]

Until last year, no permission was required to publish photographs of the wounded, but families had to be notified of the soldier’s injury first. Now, not only is permission required, but any image of casualties that shows a recognizable name or unit is off-limits. And memorials for the fallen in Iraq can no longer be shown, even when the unit in question invites coverage.


The U.S. military has decided that journalists covering the Iraq war must "obtain a signed consent from a wounded soldier before the image can be published. Images that put a face on the dead, that make them identifiable, are simply prohibited." If a reporter wants to take a picture of a wounded American, then the reporter has to get a signed consent form from that wounded American, who, at that moment on the battlefield, couldn't care less about signing consent forms, but would rather get to the hospital and have the doctors treat the soldier's wounds. It is a back-door approach to censorship on the American media. The Bush administration, and the Pentagon, knows that the American public is turning against the war. The only way to continue the war is to censor whatever information comes out of Iraq--keep the war sterile to the American public. The Pentagon has banned the media from taking pictures of flag-draped American coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base from Iraq. Now it is time to ban the American media from taking pictures of wounded Americans--keep the war sterile to the American public.

Can't take pictures like these anymore:

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kimberly Kemp, left, and Maj. Craig Stanaland wheel a U.S. Marine who was wounded during an assault near the Syrian border into a hospital in Balad, Iraq, on Monday. Jacob Silberberg / AP

A wounded American soldier lay on the hood of a Humvee on Tuesday in Baghdad as she was moved after a missile attack on an Iraqi police station. The missiles were fired from a nearby apartment building. Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times

And let's not forget the flag-draped coffins of American dead here:













America--This is what is happening in Iraq.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoons--What's Opera Doc?

Okay, I'll admit it--I'm a cartoon fan! Some of the strongest memories that I have was getting up on Saturday morning, with my brother and sister, and watching The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show, while Dad fixed his famous pancakes. The Saturday morning cartoons is a childhood ritual for the Gen-Xers and perhaps the Gen-Yers. Some of the cartoons we use to watch in the late 1970s were The Bugs Bunny Show, Scooby Doo, Speed Buggy, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Superfriends, and even Land of the Lost. The cartoons that I remember growing up didn't just come from Saturday morning, but for the whole week, including Rocky and Bullwinkle, Woody Woodpecker, Popeye, Mighty Mouse, Tom and Jerry, Spiderman, and Underdog.

So let's enjoy some Saturday morning cartoons. One of the great classics that I remember watching on Saturday morning is the famous Bugs Bunny film What's Opera Doc? The animation quality is incredible, with rich colors, shadows, and details. The music is fantastic. And this is one of the few times that Elmer Fudd actually kills Bugs Bunny. From YouTube:



Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Star Wars turns 30 today

This is off MSNBC News:

LOS ANGELES - More than 20,000 “Star Wars” fans are expected to converge on downtown Los Angeles during the next few days to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary.

In recognition of the May 25, 1977, opening, series creator George Lucas’ Lucasfilm production company and convention organizer Gen Con are presenting “Star Wars Celebration IV” at the Los Angeles Convention Center, which will be open to the public Friday through Monday.

The event — which kicked off Wednesday with a marathon screening of all six films — includes live entertainment, cast-member appearances, film and video presentations and an exhibit of movie props and costumes.

Carrie Fisher (a.k.a. Princess Leia) will attend, but Lucas is out of the country, said Tom Warner, senior director of marketing at Lucasfilm.

Well, that's the news of the Star Wars 30th anniversary celebration. Of course, if you're a real fan of Star Wars, I would suggest checking out this YouTube video I found from Bonddad. It is hilarious. This is the story of what happened after the Death Star blew up:



What the Hell is an Aluminum Falcon?

Daily Headliners--Sadr Surfaces, Growing Pay Gap between CEOs and Top Lieutenants, Bush's Delusions, Candidates wanted for U.S. Attorneys

Well, it has been a fun news dump day for President Bush regarding Iraq. Not only has a CIA intelligence report been released, showing that the Bush administration ignored the CIA's worst-case scenario predictions before the invasion of Iraq, but also that President Bush may be thinking about going "Back to the Future" in reviewing the Iraq Study Group's report, and the recommendations.

But there is more....

Shiite Cleric Resurfaces With Anti-U.S. Sermon: In this New York Times story, Shiite cleric cleric Moktada al-Sadr appeared in public for the first time in months to deliver an anti-American sermon. Sadr spoke to 1,000 worshipers at a mosque in Kufa, a Shiite holy city about 100 miles south of Baghdad. It is interesting that as American casualties increase for this month, now at 90 Americans killed for May, and as the latest NY Times/CBS News poll show even greater deteriorating American support for the war, Sadr is now resurfacing to make speeches attacking the American occupation of Iraq.

More Than Ever, It Pays to Be the Top Executive: This is a fascinating New York Times article showing how the gap in earnings between the CEOs and their number two executives has also been rapidly growing. The NY Times reports that "the gap in the executive suite between No. 1 [executive] and No. 3 [executive] had swollen to 260 percent." The Times also reports that CEOs can drive their own pay, "in part by manipulating directors they work closely with and encouraging the use of consulting firms that have a built-in incentive to increase pay packages for those who hire them." It seems like the rising tide is only lifting up the CEO's mega yacht--everyone else's boats have been sunk!

Hyping al-Qaida: Slate Magazine's Fred Kaplan destroys President Bush's argument, from yesterday's press conference, that if the U.S. doesn't fight the al Qaida terrorists in Iraq, then we'll fight the al Qaida terrorists here. Kaplan's reply: First, the Iraqi insurgents are fighting a sectarian war with themselves, and have nothing to do with al Qaida. Second, the true global terrorist could attack the U.S. anytime they want whether or not U.S. troops stay or leave Iraq. And third, Bush's bombast of the U.S. attacking Iraq so the terrorist can't attack us at home is both angering and alienating our allies. It is an incredible read.

Candidates Wanted for U.S. Attorneys: This McClatchy story is bringing up a whole new problem for the Bush administration--recruiting applicants to fill the 22 open U.S. attorney positions. These positions are currently being held by interim prosecutors without Senate confirmation. There is an irony here with the Bush administration first trying to politicize the U.S. Attorney's Office, only to have the office face a shortage of qualified applicants due to their political meddling.