Saturday, October 27, 2007

Top Ten Cloves: Things that are confusing to people about Taco Bell's "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" baseball promotion

News Item: Taco Bell promotion is off base to some

By J. Thomas Duffy

10. Can I steal other things from Taco Bell, along with the taco?

9. October 30th isn't good for me... Can I steal a taco on another day?

8. Are there any trans-fats in tacos?

7. I don't get it... Do we have to steal a baseball player first?

6. Is this part of the immigration problem? Are illegal immigrants stealing tacos?

5. I heard it on Fox Sports -- Does that mean only Republicans get the free tacos?

4. Only baseball players are getting the free tacos?

3. Do they allow substitutions? Can I get a burrito instead?

2. I don't like tacos... Can I steal something from McDonald's?

1. This isn't a fake offer, is it?... Something like that FEMA news conference thing?

Bonus, but Stolen, Links

Red Sox Player Earns You a Free Taco; World Series Stolen Base Means Everyone Can Get a Freebie

Coco and Clayton ring Taco’s bell with dougout chat

Free Taco Promotion at Taco Bell

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Not worth another soldier's life

By Edward Copeland

"They just know back there what the higher-ups here tell them. But the higher-ups don't go anywhere, and actually they only go to the safe places, places with a little bit of gunfire. They don't ever [expletive] see what we see on the ground."

-- Staff Sgt. Richard McClary

The Washington Post today has an illuminating story about a U.S. Army division who has spent 14 months on the ground doing, what they eventually realized, was little more than helping sectarian cleansing in the town of Sadiyah:

"When we first got here, all the shops were open. There were women and children walking out on the street," Sgt. Victor Alarcon said this week. "The women were in Western clothing. It was our favorite street to go down because of all the hot chicks."

That was 14 long months ago, when the soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, arrived in southwestern Baghdad. It was before their partners in the Iraqi National Police became their enemies and before Shiite militiamen, aligned with the police, attempted to exterminate a neighborhood of middle-class Sunni families.

The story shows a rare, on-the-record glimpse from the people in the line of fire, who have the best view of what a nightmare our occupation of Iraq has become, who can tell it as it is free of Dubyaland spin. The division is more nervous than usual as their tour of duty nears its finish:

"The closer we get to leaving, the more we worry about it," said Alarcon, 27, sitting at a plastic table with several other soldiers outside their outpost in Sadiyah. "Being here, you know that any second, any time of the day, your life could be over."

The realization that they are actually acting as proxies for the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government to cleanse areas of Sunnis have left the soldiers bitter and cynical:

"It's just a slow, somewhat government-supported sectarian cleansing," said Maj. Eric Timmerman, the battalion's operations officer.

Sgt. Alarcon summed up the feelings of the battalion, which has lost 20 soldiers in its mission, best:

"I don't think this place is worth another soldier's life."

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We're full up!

By Carl

This is really bad news, because carbon sequestration was one possible way to prevent a worsening global warming crisis:

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere have risen 35% faster than expected since 2000, says a study. International scientists found that inefficiency in the use of fossil fuels increased levels of CO2 by 17%.

The other 18% came from a decline in the natural ability of land and oceans to soak up CO2 from the atmosphere.

About half of emissions from human activity are absorbed by natural "sinks" but the efficiency of these sinks has fallen, the study suggests.

Imagine a sponge. Drip water on the sponge when it's dry and not much of it gets out. The sponge absorbs a lot of the water.

Now imagine that sponge is as full as it's going to get. The water basically just rolls off the sponge.

That's what we've done with our carbon sinks. What are those sinks? Well, the oceans, for one. Remember, carbon isn't only created in the form of carbon dioxide. We've been dumping megatons of carbon in other forms into our oceans in industrial and human wastes.

Yup. You crap carbon.

Carbon has an unique ability to bond with other elements. In a balanced system, this can work miracles.

For example, take one atom of carbon and one of calcium, and you have the building blocks of a coral reef.

But, take TWO carbon atoms and one calcium atom and you get calcium bicarbonate, which works great on your stomach acid, but actually destroys coral.

Too, the oceans do a massive job of scrubbing the atmosphere. Plankton, which are probably the simplest form of vegetation on the planet, commit photosynthesis, taking carbon dioxide out of the air, and converting it to oxygen, absoring the carbon for use in their calcium carbonate skeletons. Thus starts the oceanic carbon cycle, ultimately sequestering massive amounts of carbon at the bottom of the ocean in decaying dead fish.

But look what has happened: as global warming has intensified the weather patterns over the oceans, winds have picked up. There's still plenty of carbon dioxide to go around, but it's harder for plankton to get at...after all, do you find it easier to eat when the boat is rocking?

Too, increasing carbon levels, particularly in the form of carbon dioxide, makes the oceans more acidic, which kills off the plankton. So you have fewer plankton, more carbon, and it's harder to get at.

Worse. Right now, the carbon that is sequestered deep in the ocean stays deep in the ocean because of temperature and density differences between the top and bottom waters, effectively forming a wall that mostly prevents mixing except where the oceans upwell and then over geologic time scales. If temperatures begin to rise higher in the ocean, the forces that created this halocline will cease functioning, which means that the oceanic waters will start mixing up more, bringing more carbon up to the ocean surfaces.

Which sinks (pardon the pun) any chance of using the deep oceans to store carbon that we might scrub out of our wastes.

Another sink, of course, is vegetation, which absorbs carbon dioxide as well as carbon in the soil (this is partially how burned forests bounce back so quickly). Any vegetation will do this, but trees are particularly efficient at scrubbing carbon out of the air and ground: extensive canopies, root systems, and large energy needs combine to make them oxygen factories.

Here, too, weather has played a prominent part, because as the earth warms...well, let's take a quick look at the hydrological cycle: temperatures rise, water evaporates, clouds form, rain falls. Basic physics tells us that warmer air can absorb more moisture, so literally, evaporation starts to suck the moisture out of the ground, parching the land. Now you have plants dying of thirst. Too, you have a higher risk of wildfires (we've seen that this week), which destroy vegetation outright.

Remove vegetation, either through clearing land or burning it out or simply creating a new desert, and you remove a major carbon sink.

We've reached, and passed, a tipping point in global warming, and I think there are some problems man cannot solve.

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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Tracking the Loonie

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Our dollar is doing well -- very well -- but that's much better news for some (like consumers) than for others (like exporters). Here's the latest:

The Canadian dollar briefly shot above US$1.04 on Friday for the first time in 33 years, and is inching closer to the currency's all-time high set more than half a century ago.

The loonie's strength has been bad news for Canada's battered manufacturing sector, which has been sideswiped by a currency that has risen by about 20 per cent this year alone and seems poised to surpass its all-time high of 106.14 cents US.


The dollar traded as high as 104.10 cents US during the day Friday -- the highest since May 1974 -- before closing the session at 103.93 cents US.

For more on the Loonie's rise to parity and beyond, including an analysis of what this means to Canadians psychologically, see here, here, and here.


Meanwhile, ex-PM Tony Blair thinks Canada will become one of the world's most powerful countries. And, of course, he's never wrong.


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Friday, October 26, 2007

Managing the message

By Creature

I'm not a reporter, I just play one at FEMA press conferences. If that sounds too strange to be true, it's not.

Today the Washington Post reports that Tuesday's FEMA California wildfire response press conference was pure disaster theater. A press conference staged from the start with little press notice, an 800 number where one could listen but not speak, and a press room filled with FEMA staffers asking all the right questions. Incredible, quite Orwellian, and possibly illegal.

Larisa Alexandrovna:

This is a violation of several laws, including the Hatch Act, and domestic propaganda (National Security Act 1947, Section 503 (f)). This is also censorship and a direct assault on freedom of the press.

Will it be prosecuted? Do I even have to ask?

Update: Interestingly enough the White House did not try to sweep this story under the rug. They are mad, Chertoff is mad, and FEMA has issued an apology.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said, "It's not something I would have condoned. And they — I'm sure — will not do it again."

Perino sounds like she's scolding a child, except, once again, the administration has broken the law and the only consequence will be FEMA going to bed without their supper.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Irish need not apply

By Capt. Fogg

Although most of the polemics I hear concerning immigrants in the US stress the lazy, dirty, illiterate, prone to crime, and too dumb to learn English stereotype, the only real difference between the hoard of immigrants that arrived in the US in the 19th and early 20th century and those now here has been a change in the law. All those accusations were leveled against the Irish, the Germans, Italians, Poles and others, but there was really no law keeping them out. The truth is that millions congregated in dirty, disease and crime ridden slums where their native languages were spoken and assimilation for the most part was only achieved by their children and grandchildren, often to the great benefit of the nation.

The public case, of course, is that they're breaking the law and lawbreakers are not to be tolerated, but the real issue is fear and always has been fear. We really don't want anything but "real" Americans as Archie Bunker used to call the descendants of previous generations of immigrants. We don't want them even if they've lived here all their lives; gone to school, learned English as their native tongue and don't remember the "old country."

That's fully illustrated by
the failure of the whimsically named Dream Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) in the Senate yesterday.

I do not believe we should reward illegal behavior,

sneered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who led the fight to kill the measure and whose ancestors without a doubt suffered humiliating treatment and were thought of as subhuman and infectious in this land of dreams. Of course, many of the kids who would have benefited (along with the country, in my opinion) from this act only became aware of their legal status as teens and as minors transported by their parents, really didn't break any laws and we really wouldn't be rewarding them.

In fact to be allowed to aspire to citizenship, the applicant would be given only provisional status until he had completed high school and at least two years of college or military service. That's more than many native born quasi-literates will ever achieve. Not enough for Mitch, though. Punishment for these kids, who never knew another country but the US, must be swift, unreasonable and everlasting and I wish no less for Mitch himself.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Roger Ailes is slipping ... Blows wildfire scoop for new biz network

By J. Thomas Duffy

Who would have thunk it!

The man behind the unfairness and unbalancing completely blew it.

"You think that uber-newsman Roger Ailes would be on top of his game, especially this week, with the launch of the Faux Business Network. That they would be bellowing and hawking everything in the name of FBN. From Wall Street mergers to Kool-Aid stands (Republican, Red State Kool Aid stands, of course).

So what happens?

They leave the scoop of the week - that Al Qaeda may be behind the California wildfires - to their sappy, dopey Morning Show crew. 'Fox & Friends'.

To read the complete post, please click here

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Election round-up

By Carl

I'm going to cherry pick some updated poll numbers from
Rasmussen Reports:

1) Holy crap! The telling statistic?

For what it’s worth, the overall numbers show Hillary Clinton at 45%, Rudy Giuliani at 35%, and Colbert at 13%.

The other match-up shows Clinton at 46%, Thompson at 34% and Colbert at 12%.

Meaning, Colbert is eating away REPUBLICAN VOTERS more than Democrats! Could it be that people take his show seriously?

2) No surprise here that the former governor of the state next door would have a pretty big lead. It should be bigger, and probably speaks to Romney's flip flopping. In many ways, it's harder on Republican candidates when the showcase primary is in a Northeastern state which is split fairly evenly between conservative and liberal constituencies.

3) Mike Huckabee... MIKE HUCKABEE???!?!?!... is making a
serious run. Eesh.

4) Assuming she survives a primary challenge, Liddy Dole
should cruise to re-election. It's an odd contrast, Dole to Clinton, since both were elected at roughly the same time. Where Clinton has made herself an effective senator and legislator, Dole has, well, been a Dole.

5) Really, the only question regarding the Democratic presidential primaries is if
Hillary can top 50%. I know there are an awful lot of deeply progressive people out there for whom voting for Hillary would be like voting for Bush. Again. Sorry.

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Insanity at 1600: Secrets, lies, and the "public health benefits to climate change"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You want to know just how crazy the Bush White House is? Do you?

I know, there's already an astonishing amount of evidence to back up that assessment, so much delusion, so much apparent insanity, but consider what White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said on Wednesday in response to allegations "the White House 'eviscerated' Center for Disease Control director Dr. Julie Gerberding's Senate testimony on the 'Human Impacts of Global Warming,'" as TP put it.

First -- and I take this from the transcript posted at TCR -- she said that "the decision was made on behalf of CDC to focus that testimony on public health benefits," a decision made by the White House. "Well," she continued, "there are public health benefits to climate change, as well, both benefits and concerns."

Second -- back to the transcript posted at TP -- she said this in response to a follow-up question regarding her claim, the supposed "health benefits to climate change": "In some cases, there are -- look, this is an issue where I'm sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals. There are also concerns that it would increase tropical diseases and that's -- again, I'm not an expert in that, I'm going to let Julie Gerberding testify in regards to that, but there are many studies about this that you can look into."

No, she's not an expert, but neither she nor the White House in which she works is about to let Gerberding testify truthfully about global warming. And her own argument -- and she speaks for the president, remember -- is that global warming would reduce "cold-related deaths," a supposed health benefit. She pulled a face-saving 180 at yesterday's briefing, asserting that "climate change is real" and that "humans are largely responsible," but the crazy comments of the previous day, along with the evisceration of Gerberding's testimony, reveal where the White House stands on global warming. It is not "working on a way to solve the problem," it is working to block efforts to address the problem" at every step, both domestically and internationally, and doing so by controlling what government officials say and by misrepresenting the facts, by lying about the climate crisis.

What, after all, are these "many studies" Perino mentions. Has she read these studies? Do they even exist? And, if they do, who wrote them? Furthermore, although climate change means aggregate global temperature increases, or what is generally referred to as "global warming," it is not exclusively about temperature increases, and different parts of the world would be affected differently. Melting ice and rising seas would lead to mass flooding, and perhaps millions of deaths, but it could also mean dramatic changes to the earth's hydrologic cycle, including to the so-called Ocean Conveyor, which regulates the Gulf Stream, the flow of warm water up into the North Atlantic. If the Conveyor slows down significantly as a result of more and more fresh water coming down from the north, temperatures would cool significantly in Europe and elsewhere in the region, and, more dramatically, much of the Northern Hemisphere could be plunged back into another ice age. Researchers have already discovered remarkable changes in oceanic salinity levels. It is real. It is happening. No matter what Perino and the White House would like to believe.

You know, maybe they're not crazy, maybe they're not delusional. Whatever the appeal of a psychological explanation, let's not be too easy on them. They're insane in a broad sense, but what this all amounts to is both willful ignorance born of unmitigated self-interest, and, where they do know what's really going on, a propensity for evil. Although I generally object to such terms -- the Manichaean categories of "good" and "evil" that so influences the child-like thinking of the president and those like him -- I can think of no better word for it.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Good news, sort of, on the Mukasey front

By Creature

A few days ago I posted about the need for Senate Democrats to take a stand and oppose the nomination of the Constitutionally confused Michael Mukasey for attorney general. Today we learn that his nomination is not as assured as it appeared to be last week.

Judge Michael Mukasey's nomination for attorney general ran into trouble Thursday when two top Senate Democrats said their votes hinge on whether he will say on the record that an interrogation technique that simulates drowning is torture.

Senators Leahy and Durbin seem to be willing to take a stand here, however, as Atrios astutely points out, the Democrats may play hardball and get a tortured concession out of the soon to be AG, but then "that sorta means he's obligated to start prosecuting people."

And back to square one we go.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Zzzzz... $2.4 trillion... zzzzz

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As you may have heard already, Dick Cheney was caught on video nodding off during a Cabinet meeting on the California wildfires yesterday. Not "meditating," as his people suggested (and as CNN dutifully reported), but dozing. Think Progress has the video here.

I realize that it is often difficult to stay awake during meetings -- I work for the government, after all -- but I'm not sure that's much of an acceptable excuse in this case.

He's the vice president. Large parts of Southern California are on fire.

He may have been tired, but, seriously, does he just not give a shit?


Meanwhile, as Edward reported yesterday, the projected estimate of the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now stands at $2.4 trillion -- yes, trillion. Put another way, that's $8,000 per man, woman, and child in the U.S.

Jack Cafferty addressed this astounding figure on the Cafferty File on CNN. Watch it here:

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Bush to world: "SoCal is white!"

By Carl

No, he didn't really say that, but you have to know it's part of the subtext...

Determined to avoid the mistakes made with Hurricane Katrina, U.S. President George W. Bush toured fire-ravaged Southern California on Thursday and promised to do everything possible to help the region recover.


Bush brushed aside comparisons between the federal response to Katrina and the California wildfires.

"There's all kinds of time for historians to compare this response or that response," he said. "I'm thinking about people whose lives turned upside down. The experts can try to figure out if the response was perfect."

However, Bush is notorious for his lack of... enthusiasm when it comes to history and historians, probably because he realizes that when history is written, the Bush name will be at best a footnote.

There's a much bigger issue at stake in comparing this to Katrina: in addition to the socioeconomic issues, Bush had a comparatively leisurely time here to respond. After all, from the time Katrina re-formed in the Gulf of Mexico and was clearly aiming dead center at New Orleans, there was a window of about 24 to 36 hours.

Not nearly as much time to be seen as not doing anything.

The wildfires, however, had been burning for about a week before the magnitude of the problem became critically apparent to even a dumbshit like George W. This meant that he had to at least give the appearance of doing something or suffer a tsunami of criticism.

Oops. Another disaster he was slow on the uptake to react to, and involving non-white poor folks!

You don't think... maybe... he's just a stinkin' bigot, do you?

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A few tidbits out of the rice bowl

By Carol Gee

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is not doing terribly well on the Middle East this week. Rice has barely gotten back into town and she is having to go before Congress.

Condoleezza Rice's relations with the Legislative branch have always been difficult. The Secretary has never been very interested in giving the Senators and Members of the House any more than she can get away with. Her typical testimony is what I call the "Rice stonewall." It consists of sentence after sentence of detail in answer to any question, leaving questioners time for very few beyond the first inquiry. Recently Congress has been inquiring into the actions of contractors in Iraq, and the Blackwater scandal may have some rather serious consequences for our head diplomat. The military may get control of the contractors in Iraq, according to MyWay News. To quote:

Congress is moving to put all armed contractors operating in combat zones under military control, acting on a Pentagon recommendation that could run into resistance at the State Department.

The Senate this month included such a requirement in its 2008 defense authorization bill. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Wednesday he is confident the House will go along with the idea and include it in a final bill sent to President Bush.

. . . Rice was to testify Thursday about the subject before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Shades of the Cold War -- A Red Menace: Though Secretary Rice's expert credentials have always been heavy towards the Russian arena, this time I am not talking about Vladimir Putin. Secretary Rice's adversary in this event was a United States resident. However, according to the New York Post, Secretary Rice did pretty well yesterday when a Code Pink member and antiwar protester -- a 51 year old former teacher from Arlington , Texas -- accosted her yesterday prior to her appearance at a Congressional hearing. To quote:

Unflappable Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice kept her cool yesterday as a frightening war protester with "bloody" hands menacingly confronted her before a congressional hearing.

"The blood of millions of Iraqis is on your hands," Desiree Ali-Fairooz screamed in the packed committee room as she rushed Rice with her hands raised high.

When she reached Rice, Ali-Fairooz waved her blood red, dripping hands (actually, it was paint) within inches of the secretary of state's face.
Rice never flinched.

Rice warned that the two state solution for Israel and Palestine may be in jeopardy, during her testimony at the hearing . And it has been in jeopardy ever since the Bush administration came into power, because of the Neocons' bias towards Israel. If just a tiny fraction of the time, effort, thought and money poured down the black hole of Iraq had been put towards the peace effort between Palestinians and Israelis, the entire Middle East would now look vastly different. The Boston Globe had the story, from which I quote:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that a "two-state solution" in the Middle East is in jeopardy and described a narrow window of opportunity to push Israel and the Palestinians toward peace.

In a House hearing interrupted by antiwar protesters, Rice said an upcoming peace conference in Annapolis, Md., is needed to give hope to moderate Palestinian forces. She blamed Iran for fanning flames in the region, including what she called "troubling" new support for Hamas militants.

"Our concern is growing that without a serious political prospect for the Palestinians that gives to moderate leaders a horizon that they can show to their people that indeed there is a two-state solution that is possible, we will lose the window for a two-state solution," Rice said.

This administration is to be faulted because of the weak and ineffective diplomatic efforts it has mounted in the Middle East. The entire region is poorer for that. And no one has ever been held accountable in any way. At the very least there might be some chagrin in the State Department if this is jerked back to the military, where control always should have resided.

And not related to anything in particular, here is a great new resource. Thanks to Maud Newton for this heads up: One of my old favorites from abroad, Guardian Unlimited, is now in a U.S. edition.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Another way to get rid of Bush and Cheney

By Carl

For many months now, I've dangled the "
psychosis" trope on my blog about Bush & Co., calling them magical children whose grasp of reality is driven by fear of inadequacies.

From out of the west in supoport of these themes comes
Rosa Brooks, riding from the fires of Malibu and San Diego like Carter Slade in Ghost Rider:

Forget impeachment.

Liberals, put it behind you. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney shouldn't be treated like criminals who deserve punishment. They should be treated like psychotics who need treatment.

Because they've clearly gone mad. Exhibit A: We're in the middle of a disastrous war in Iraq, the military and political situation in Afghanistan is steadily worsening, and the administration's interrogation and detention tactics have inflamed anti-Americanism and fueled extremist movements around the globe. Sane people, confronting such a situation, do their best to tamp down tensions, rebuild shattered alliances, find common ground with hostile parties and give our military a little breathing space. But crazy people? They look around and decide it's a great time to start another war.

That would be with Iran, and you'd have to be deaf not to hear the war drums. Last week, Bush remarked that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III . . . you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." On Sunday, Cheney warned of "the Iranian regime's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and to gain hegemonic power . . . [we] cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions." On Tuesday, Bush insisted on the need "to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat."

By the way... is that "Old Europe" or "New Europe," Mr. President? You know, like how there was New Coke and Coke Classic and everyone turned on New Coke so that Coke Classic ended up dominating our palates for decades beyond?

Of course, New Coke didn't have your marketing genius behind it, now, did it?

But I digress:

Huh? Iran is now a major threat to Europe? The Iranians are going to launch a nuclear missile (that they don't yet possess) against Europe (for reasons unknown because, as far as we know, they're not mad at anyone in Europe)? This is lunacy in action.

I want to take a few paragraphs here to delve a bit more into the probable cause of this psychosis, at least in my mind opinion.

Here we have a man of whom it was once famously quipped, "He was born on third base, thinking he'd hit a triple."

Life should have been easy for him, and it was, until he went to school. Suddenly, learnin' became hard werk. Dodging the draft became hard werk. Skipping out on the Champagne Squadron of the TANG became hard werk. Runnin' a bidness became hard werk.

And all this time, Poppy and Bar were right there to hold his little hand and march him along past all these obstacles like the good l'il soldier he was (say that in a Shirley Temple voice. It's a lot funnier.)

So here, in his immortal hubris, he's locked himself into his own worst nightmare: a job that he so desperately needs his father's help with... gee... did you ever imagine looking back at Bush the Elder nostalgically?...but who he has pushed away publicly in favor of men who would exploit his power at the drop of a hat to advance an agenda that is not only unacceptable to a free society, but is antithetical to that very foundation of freedom.

They say the Presidency is the loneliest job in the world, and given Bush's "attaboy" cheerleader attitude about his socializations, one can only imagine the depths of his soul that are aflame with fear and even terror.

But there is no Al Qaeda there. There is only a mirror and when Bush looks into it, all he sees is his own reflection and hovering over him like a wraith, Dick Cheney.

Too, Cheney himself has his own reality to deal with. This is a man who's ignorance and ego prevent him from taking even the simplest steps to preserve his own health (after all, with all those stents in his bloodstream, we should probably start thinking of him as more an Erector set and less as a human). This is a man who wouldn't consider an opposing opinion if Jesus himself came down, shook him by the shoulders and said "Listen, man!"

We all know people like Dick. He's as officious as a DMV clerk (a job more suited to his talents, anyway). It's nearly OCD how compartmentalized his thinking has become: no matter what, he must cause a war. My daughter's a lesbian mommy? Threaten war. My wife wrote a lesbian porn novel? Threaten war. I had a heart attack? Threaten war.

I can't imagine that the Founding Fathers ever had it in their heads that a small cadre of completely psychotic wackjobs would ever occupy the highest levels of government (remember, our earliest elections saw the second place finished in the Presidential election become Vice President, which forced a tamping down of ambitions. That was changed in 1803).

Since clearly both men are physically able to execute their offices, there is no recourse beyond impeachment to bring sanity back to the White House (and you'd need to impeach both and then deal with Condi Rice, about whose sanity I have some reservations.)

Ah, but our Ms. Brooks has an out:

In Washington, the appropriate statutory law is already in place: If a "court or jury finds that [a] person is mentally ill and . . . is likely to injure himself or other persons if allowed to remain at liberty, the court may order his hospitalization."

Anyone want to file the commitment papers?

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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This Just In! Romney backs McCain in wanting to "Shoot Obama"

Says Consulted Sons About Using Deadly Force; Hopes Opportunity Comes Before Primaries

By J. Thomas Duffy

Jumping sharks and strapping dogs to the roof of the family car just don't seem quite enough.

For the second straight day, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney brought up the name of a Democratic rival, this time, saying he would back fellow candidate John McCain in "shooting Barack Obama".

Romney was following up on a McCain appearance yesterday, at the Thompson Center Arms in Rochester, New Hampshire, where the Arizona Senator was pandering for support, telling workers at the small arms factory that "I will follow Osama Bin Laden to the gates of hell and I will shoot him with your products."

Romney, not wanting to stumble again on using force, as he did in the Republican debate last week, quickly supported his rival, and attempted to top him, saying "I wouldn't wait to get to the Gates of Hell, I would go to the ends-of-the-earth to shoot Barack Obama."

Romney then, jokingly, added "I just hope it the opportunity comes before the primaries."

Just yesterday, Romney, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Greenwood, South Carolina, and discussing the latest audio tape release of the still-on-the-loose Al Qaeda leader, told a stunned audience that "Actually, just look at what Osam - Barack Obama - said just yesterday. Barack Obama, calling on radicals, jihadists of all different types, to come together in Iraq. That is the battlefield ..."

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden brushed off the name stumble, highlighting it was the first time, since the debate, that Romney could reach out for "good advice" from his sons.

"Notice," Madden asked the assembled media, "that the Governor didn't say he would consult with lawyers before shooting Obama? Notice how decisive he was ... How he didn't hesitate to say he would use deadly force ... He'll be just as strong, just as quick, when he is the President."

When alerted to Romney's comments, Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton sighed.

"That means," said a weary Burton, "that we'll have to go out and get our own body armor ... If we wait for this administration to provide it ... Well, I don't want to think about that."

Surprisingly, Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey injected himself into the Romney gaffe.

When asked by reporters to comment on one candidate shooting another candidate, Mukasey paused before answering, and then offered that "If it amounts to shooting, then it is not Constitutional... Unless it's the President doing the shooting."

McCain, after hearing Romney's remarks snapped that Romney's sons "should be thrown out of the country."

Bonus Fric-and-Frac Links

Retro Garlic ... That Madcap McCain Is At It - Again!

More Bad News For McCain; Death Cat Curling Up Next To His Campaign Photos; Senator and Presidential Hopeful Drops F-Bomb, As Feline Grim Reaper Maintains Streak, Giving Signal That McCain Effort Over

Top Ten Cloves: Things About Mitt Romney's Announcement To Run For President

Retro Garlic: I'm Surprised It Wasn't Headlined As "Mormon Candidate Ties To Cosmetic Industry Exposed"

30 Rock - Jenna on Politics

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Following the Rule of Law -- Part II

By Carol Gee

Following the rule of law is a principle about which I posted yesterday. That post focused on the admirable support for civil liberties and the rule of law that has been given by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of my home state of Texas. Today's post, about former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, focuses on his own courageous support for the rule of law within the current Bush administration.

Judging from the facts -- I would venture to guess that Representative Jackson Lee and Jack Goldsmith are very far apart on the political spectrum. But they are very close on the integrity spectrum, in my opinion. Most of us first met Mr. Goldsmith when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month. returning to former Assistant Attorney General Goldsmith's story - told at a Senate hearing three weeks ago. His riveting (10/2/07) testimony can be seen again on C-SPAN: Senate Hearing on "Preserving the Rule of Law While Combating Terrorism" - Jack Goldsmith, Harvard Law School, Professor and former Asst. Attorney General testifies before the Senate Judiciary Cmte. on FISA and counter terrorism efforts. 10/2/2007: WASHINGTON, DC: 1 hr. 55 min.

Goldsmith appeared as a single witness. Now out of the government, he testified about his prior service in the Bush Justice Department. No doubt the members of the Judiciary Committee had very fresh memories of what has gone on inside the Justice Department, according to two brave officials who told the truth to the committee during previous testimony. The first was James Comey, who originally revealed the attempts of Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card to coerce ailing Attorney General Ashcroft into authorizing illegal wiretapping. During 2003-04 the second, Jack Goldsmith, worked in the Office of Legal Counsel for the current administration, where he worked at the time of this episode . His current book is titled, "The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration."

Judiciary Committee Hearing Notes for 10/02/07 "Preserving the rule of law. . .":
As my regular readers know I sometimes take notes during congressional hearings. Following are a few of my notes which paraphrase, as best I can, the gist of participants' significant remarks made at that time.

Senator Feinstein, to Goldsmith regarding the torture law, asked: Why go beyond the UCMJ? Goldsmith explained that there was great pressure to get intelligence information. Regarding the law and counter terrorism, Goldsmith asserted that it is not the Supreme Court's job to do counter terrorism policy.

Senator Sessions: Goldsmith on the hospital room confrontation. Jim Comey, "No legal basis for the program in question." His legal analysis was at the bottom of all this. New attorney General nominee - going up to the line but not entitled to break the law. There are the Geneva Conventions and what Congress passed, the criminal torture statute in 1994. This was the controlling authority to the extreme. It prohibited "severe," etc. The CI A had 100 + lawyers and they were worried about their own culpability. The Hamdan decision mad Common Article 3 applicable to torture. The CIA went up and down over the years with risk aversion, and then not risk averse. They have needed very clear standards. Goldsmith was the one who rescinded the torture memo as "severely flawed."

Senator Feingold: "This is very important testimony." He asked if there were any administration programs not briefed to the "Gang of 8." Goldsmith was not sure how much was briefed. Feingold asserted that the PAA could be very broadly interpreted. Congress should write the law in the way we want it to be interpreted.

Mr. Goldsmith asserted that some of the drivers in the department was hostility towards the FISA court and deep fear of bombs killing U.S. citizens. Goldsmith wrote memos to replace the one he rescinded. And he was prepared to resign. He kept notes about his actions. Regarding the TSP, very few people were provided the legal opinion justifying it. (Goldsmith was willing to testify to the committee in closed session). Asked who was in on it, he named himself, Baker, Comey and Gonzales. He also stated that his book was "pre-cleared" for classification purposes. He also admitted to being self-constrained in what he disclosed in the book.

Senator Cardin: Most concerning is the administrations dealings with Congress. The disdain for the FISA court system is also my concern. "We need an independent FISA court." Goldsmith: "They have been independent. We need to to integrate detainees into the justice system because they are dangerous. We'll have to detain members of the enemy until the war is over.And that could be endless. They don't wear uniforms. They are not members of a criminal system, either. We need something else, legally."

Senator Whitehouse: Returned to the issue of the Gonzales/Card visit to the hospital room of Attorney General Ashcroft. Stated his opinion that, "James Comey and Bob Mueller were among the most level-headed people in government, not given to exaggeration. But you and Comey rushed with red lights on across town to the hospital room, Comey bounded up the stairwell, and Mueller called his FBI agents with instructions not to leave Gonzales and Card alone with Ashcroft in that room. You saw it as an emergency, the White House trying to take advantage of a very sick man." Goldsmith characterized the episode as, " It was extremely inappropriate." Senator Whitehouse stated his belief that the Office of Legal Counsel should really follow a set of internal norms and practices, and that the new Attorney General should examine the state of those norms and practices left by Gonzales. "Do a thorough scrub to protect the Justice Department. Those norms were bypassed, degraded and ignored by Alberto Gonzales, John Yu, David Addington and the like. There were no limits on the President's prerogatives. That policy has been hurtful."

Mr. Goldsmith related the "messages" he got about the terrorist threat situation, with some attribution to David Addington in the Vice President's office. Nothing should "tie the President's hands. That would be hurtful to the country. You don't want the blood of 100,000 people on your hands." He was stirring up fear, of course, but Goldsmith did not think the level of threat was exaggerated, however. There are "tens of billions of phone calls and e-mails that equal a daily matrix of threats." He said that Bin Laden "declared war" in 1996, but the administration was timid back then. But even today officials still fight over "do everything you can versus operate within the law." This produces extraordinary anxiety for decision makers. There is a great need to legislate very clearly, with oversight but not prosecution. There needs to be accountability. Right now agents all carry lots of liability insurance. We need new laws, perhaps a good faith statute? The threat was real. But the more viewpoints we get with these extremely difficult decisions, the better. Congress, indeed has the right to know how the President will interpret any new legislation.
Regarding the idea of retroactive immunity for telecom companies, he thought that was "sensible." And regarding the practice of torture, he "does not know if it has been abandoned. . . Signing statements can be operationalized. The real fear is getting hauled into court."

Senator Whitehouse continued with a discussion of how torture came under such assault; what about "very severe pain? Does that condone burning with cigarettes, which would risk death?" Goldsmith revealed that Where the "Bybee Torture Memo" standards emerged was from health care statutes applied to the requirement to provide health care benefits in emergency circumstances. Whitehouse concluded with a brilliant and important statement about his love for the rule of law. It must not be treated this way. "It has shape and substance and form" deserving better than this.

Senator Leahy told Goldsmith, "We can't trust the administration, if we want to protect those CIA agents under such tremendous pressure.". . . "You kept your conscience."

Following are the related stories during that week.

  • Summary of a Phone call to the C-SPAN Thursday morning program from Scott Shane, the NYT reporter who broke the (new torture memos) story: "Representative John Conyers and Senator Patrick Leahy have asked the White House for copies of the legal opinions. Oct. 17 will be the confirmation hearings for the new AG." (Shane) talked to two dozen officials in and out of government. He noted that Acting OLC Bradbury has been refused confirmation by the Democratic Senators.

  • Senator Kennedy spoke on the floor of the Senate Thursday, October 4: Regarding the NYT story -- "The office of Legal Counsel withdrew its legal opinion on torture. But later in 2005 the administration put 2 new opinions in place. 1) The harsh interrogation techniques were allowed to be used in combination. 2) It declared that the CIA was not violating the law with anything they were doing -- amounting to a declaration that the CIA had not violated any laws along the way. In that way the White House had overruled the OLC. Comey and Goldsmith had been sidelined. Attorney General Gonzales had approved these two opinions and everything else the President wanted. (Kennedy will be introducing a bill that states that the standard of treatment of detainees by anyone in the government will be the Army Field Manual). This is because 2005 Detainee Treatment Act had a loophole in it, allowing the President to define those standards, not Congress. The Executive Order took maximum advantage of the opportunity. This nation cannot stand for the use of brutal interrogation techniques."

  • Statement from our current president (OCP) later that morning -- with a rather defiant tone, "I have put this program in place for a reason. This government does not torture people; we detain and question people looking for actionable intelligence. The techniques were fully disclosed to Congress. The Government sticks to U.S. law and obligations. Highly trained professionals doing this work to protect you. The American people expect their government to take action to protect them. And that is exactly what we are doing."

In conclusion - in addition to Sheila Jackson Lee and Jack Goldsmith, several Senate Judiciary Committee members have also acted admirably throughout this controversy. I include for kudos: Senator Patrick Leahy is the tough chairman. Senator Arlen Specter is the Republican who also loves the law. Senator Diane Feinstein (not an attorney), but as good as many lawyers, her fellow members have declared. Senator Kennedy, who is not afraid to speak out about almost anything. And most of all Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, whose passion for the purity of the rule of law in unmatched, in my opinion. Heroes all, too often in the company of cowards.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Papers please

By Libby Spencer

I just posted on this at Newshoggers, but it's disturbing enough that I want to rewrite it to post it here. Via John Cole's comment section, more proof of the impending police state.

The Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are quietly pushing for a set of crazy new rules. All travellers in the U.S. will be required to get government-issued credentials and official clearance before every flight, both within the United States as well as internationally.

And Monday we received a new political action alert from Edward Hasbrouk, The Practical Nomad blogger who's been fighting the plan (and who testified about it at a TSA hearing). "The international Advance Passenger Information System rules were published, as 'final' effective February 19,2008, with no further opportunity for public comment even on the changes from the original proposal."

That's domestic flights too. How much of a stretch is it really from this, to imagine having to surrender your papers to cross the state line in your car? Or even the city limits?

And then there's this expansion of the terrorist watch list. It has 755,000 names on it right now and it's growing by 200,000 a year. Experts say it's inconceivable that there could be that many terrorists. Judging from the number of academians and other respectable critics of the administration who have been denied entry to the country based on that list, I'd say they were right.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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By Carl

I love Wayne Barrett, and his writing style, so let me punch this right up:

A 15-page "memorandum for the record," prepared by a commission counsel and dated April 20, 2004, quotes Giuliani conceding that it wasn't until "after 9/11" that "we brought in people to brief us on al Qaeda." According to the memorandum, Giuliani told two commission members and five staffers: "But we had nothing like this pre 9/11, which was a mistake, because if experts share a lot of info," there would be a "better chance of someone making heads and tails" of the "situation." (Such memoranda are not verbatim transcripts of the confidential commission interviews, but are described on the cover page as "100 percent accurate" notes taken by staffers, stamped "commission sensitive/unclassified" on the top of each page.)

Asked about the “flow of information about al Qaeda threats from 1998-2001,” Giuliani said: “At the time, I wasn’t told it was al Qaeda, but now that I look back at it, I think it was al Qaeda.” He also said that as part of one of his post-9/11 briefings, “we had in Bodansky, who had written a book on bin Laden.” Giuliani was referring to Yossef Bodanksy, the author of Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, which was published in 1999 and predicted “spectacular terrorist strikes in Washington and/or New York.” Giuliani wrote in his own book, Leadership, that Judi Nathan got him a copy of Bodansky’s prophetic work “shortly after 9/11,” and that he covered it in “highlighter and notes,” citing his study of it as an example of how he “mastered a subject.” Apparently, he also invited Bodansky to address key members of his staff.

Giuliani attributed his pre-9/11 shortcomings in part to the FBI, which was run by his close friend (and current endorser) Louis Freeh, and to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, an FBI-directed partnership with the NYPD. "We already had JTTF, and got flow information no one else got," he explained. "But did we get the flow of information we wanted? No. We would be told about a threat, but not about the underlying nature of the threat. I wanted all the same information the FBI had, and we didn't get that until after 9/11. Immediately after 9/11, we were made a complete partner." He added: "Without 9/11, I never would have been able to send an adviser to FBI briefings."

Why is this important?

Well, because you might have heard in his stump speech... wait, let Barrett tell it...

Rudy Giuliani told an audience at Pat Robertson's Regent University: "Bin Laden declared war on us. We didn't hear it. I thought it was pretty clear at the time, but a lot of people didn't see it, couldn't see it." Other tenets of his standard stump speech include the assertion that he's been "studying terrorism" for more than 30 years, and that "the thing that distinguishes me on terrorism is that I have more experience in dealing with it" than the other presidential candidates.

"Clear at the time"? What "time," Rudy? September 12th, when the rest of us had been sitting with that knowledge for 24 hours? Was this before or after you asked for the briefing on al Qaeda, Rudy?

Turns out, his secret testimony was corroborated by then-fire chief Thomas van Essen and disgraced then-police commissioner Bernard Kerik: NO BRIEFINGS ON AL QAEDA PRIOR TO 9/11!

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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How would you have spent your $8,000?

By Edward Copeland

$8,000: that's the total it is estimated each man, woman and child in the U.S. has "paid" for the debacle in Iraq, according to new figures reported today in USA Today:

The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could total $2.4 trillion through the next decade, or nearly $8,000 per man, woman and child in the country, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate scheduled for release today.

A previous CBO estimate put the wars' costs at more than $1.6 trillion. This one adds $705 billion in interest, taking into account that the conflicts are being funded with borrowed money.

More startling and discouraging numbers from the estimates from the Congressional Budget Office:

The CBO estimates assume that 75,000 troops will remain in both countries through 2017, including roughly 50,000 in Iraq. That is a "very speculative" projection, though it's not entirely unreasonable, said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the non-partisan Lexington Institute. As of Sept. 30, the two wars have cost $604 billion, the CBO says. Adjusted for inflation, that is higher than the costs of the Korea and Vietnam conflicts, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

For those who have forgotten, prior to the Iraq invasion, the Idiot-in-Chief estimated the cost for toppling Saddam would be only $50 billion.

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Funniest unintentional joke of the day

By Carl

From the New York Daily News:

Rudy's strut about smut

Touting his accomplishments as mayor Tuesday while on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Giuliani crowed, "I took a city that was known for pornography and licked it to a large extent, so I have my own set of qualifications."

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Dwell time

By Capt. Fogg

They call it dwell time; the amount of time at home between military tours and our troops aren't getting nearly enough of it. That's what an Army Captain told Joint Chief Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen at his recent stop at Fort Sill, OK.

"That year we're back, it's just not good enough."

Mullen has been hearing a lot of that sentiment both in the US and at stops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"She has put her whole life, her whole career, and everything, on hold for me... And now I have to say, honey, I just got back, but we're moving. And when we get there, I'm gonna leave again," said a captain of his wife's efforts to return to college. "I can do that. That's what I do," the captain said. "But when it comes to hurting my family, sir, it's repulsive."

"Family considerations don't play a part in the assignment process." That's what another officer was told and that's what made him decide to leave the service.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, some coddled political warriors like Mel Martinez (R-FL) have been telling us that what these men and women who have been fighting for five years want is disgraceful to the troops and Commander Guy, who tells us so often that we have to give them everything they need, save adequate equipment, pay, medical benefits and time off, isn't interested in hearing "phony soldier" talk like that.

Mullen himself says: "I am not willing to see the United States military return to the kind of challenges that we had when I was young. We've got to figure out a way to make sure that family considerations are very much in play."

Just the kind of America-hating talk you'd expect from a guy who thinks our troops are real people rather than painted tin soldiers.

I expect that he will soon be corrected by true Americans like Rush who would most assuredly be over there himself save for his anal problem.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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A barrier to confirmation

By Creature

With the Senate Judiciary Committee expected to give attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey a torture-free pass toward confirmation this week, Jonathan Turley, constitutional scholar and Olbermann favorite, frames what should be the Democrat's line in the sand, but unfortunately is not.

This confirmation vote should be about torture. It is truly a defining issue, not just of the meaning of torture but of the very character of our country. It is the issue that distinguishes a nation fighting for the rule of law from a nation that is a threat to it. If members of the Senate consider torture to be immoral, they must vote against Mukasey.

If the administration is unable to find a nominee who will denounce torture, then it should be left with an acting attorney general who will lead the department without the consent of the Senate. After all, there are worse things than being denied confirmation. You could be water-boarded, for example.

The elephant in the room here, and the reason why there is a need to fight Mukasey's confirmation, is his answer to the water-boarding question. Mukasey stated that he did not "know what is involved in the technique." A truly bizarre answer considering that water-boarded has been part of the national conversation for years now. As Turley points out, there are only two explanations for Murkasey's answer. He is either woefully "ill-informed" or he is "lying."

My money is on the latter, and if the Judiciary Committee accepts this deception, as with former Attorney General Gonzales, and moves Mukasey along to the full Senate they are responsible for the consequences. What the Democrats fail to realize is that a fight on principle is far more acceptable, and, I would argue, politically savvy, than a collapse for the sake of political expediency, which is exactly what giving a pass to Mukasey would be.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Killer Keller Kuts Kross Kountry

By Carl

(hat tip

If you thought that the imperial hubris of Texas Republicans stopped at the front drive of the White House, this will probably make your blood boil:

Four words -- "We close at 5" -- enforced by Texas judge Sharon Keller led to the almost immediate execution of convicted murderer Michael Richard.

Three hours after Keller refused to keep her courthouse open past closing time to receive the condemned killer's request to stay his execution, Richard was executed.

You know, it's not like Michael Richard was late with his homework, or had an appointment to renew his driver's license...his life was on the line! OK, so why was Richard's appeal late?

Richard's attorney's computer broke down, and when they called the courthouse asking for a little more time, just 20 minutes more, Judge Keller ordered the court clerk not to wait for the appeal that could have at least temporarily stopped his execution.

Twenty minutes. Just twenty minutes. Pizza delivery time.

I'm sure Judge Keller had to rush home to watch...Judge Judy? Re-runs of Law and Order? Bob The Builder?

Fortunately, it seems cooler heads are, well, getting fired up:

After the execution, prominent defense attorneys from across Texas signed an official complaint against Keller, asking the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to disciplined or fire her.

[...]It's not just the attorneys complaining. In a rare development, other judges on the appeals court -- three of whom stayed late in the courthouse waiting to rule on Richard's motion -- have criticized Keller's decision.

Judge Cheryl Johnson, who was expecting to rule on the case, told the Austin American-Statesman she was dismayed by Keller's decision. "And I was angry," she told the paper. "If I'm in charge of the execution, I ought to have known about those things … I mean this is a death."

Keller has a history of putting an express lane into Death Row in Texas:

• Keller was in the court majority that allowed the 2003 execution of Leonard Rojas to go forward despite a showing that his lawyer had just two years of experience, had his law license suspended three times and had missed a deadline for federal appeals because of bipolar disorder...saying the lawyer only needed to be competent when appointed. She said the fact the Bar had probated the lawyer's suspensions showed that the Bar "still found counsel to be competent to practice law."

• Prior to the Richard execution, the biggest controversy of her tenure on the court came when Keller wrote an opinion saying DNA evidence did not prove convicted rapist Roy Criner was innocent even though the semen in his alleged victim was not his.

Keller said Criner could have worn a condom during the rape, a theory that was not raised by the prosecution in his trial.

On the PBS program Frontline, Keller was asked how Criner could prove his innocence. She replied: "I don't know."

• In 1996, Keller wrote an opinion that death row inmate Cesar Fierro received a fair trial despite the fact his confession was coerced by threats that Mexican police would torture his parents.

After learning of the coerced confession, the prosecutor and judge in the case called for Fierro to receive a new trial.

"We conclude that the applicant's due process rights were violated," Keller wrote for the court. "But, because we conclude that the error was harmless, we deny relief."

In that last case, Keller decided that Fierro could have been convicted on the basis of a co-defendant's testimony.

You read that correctly: a man died based on hearsay evidence.

A few days ago, at the end of their Fall pledge drive, Free Speech TV broadcast a recent "Keynote" with author Michael Parenti (Real Player only, sorry folks), in which he lays out a case for an imperial America...not just abroad, but internally, where an elite ruling (not governing) class grabs all available resources, leaving the working and middle classes in virtual serfdom, unable to capture any significant property or power for themselves, all in the name of the US Constitution.

You can get a taste of this case in this article.

There is, undoubtedly, in this country a growing and burgeoning elite who believe that privilege and rank grant access to power above and beyond what you might attain. They have theirs, its up to you to get yours, Jack.

Power and wealth are not a zero sum game, however. Never are. When one person grabs power, someone else must give it up. Same with wealth, despite the economic theory that capital creates more capital. It doesn't. It merely converts resources and labor into more capital, but that depletes resources and-- dare I say it?-- exploits labor.

Now, as a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist, I don't have that big a problem with that provided there's an equality or at least an equivalence in the dynamic.

This is supposed to be the role of government: a counter-balance to the predations and exploitations of corporations, run by human beings who are as flawed and id-driven as the local serial killer. They just wear a white collar.

However, the most successful con in American history has been perpetrated upon us in the past sixty years: government's role as protector of innocents has been warped into this bizarre dual-exploitative tag-team match, with citizens on one side, and government and corporations on the other.

Think about the way the Bush administration has emasculated any regulatory oversight in the Federal government by installing corporate lobbyists into positions of power over the industries they lobbied for, and you'll see my point.

It's safe to say the first to pick up on this new paradigm were the Republicans, specifically the Reagan administration, who apparently never met a lobbyist with a checkbook it didn't like. After all, the removal of the Fairness Doctrine paved the way for millions and millions of dollars to flow from corporate coffers into politicians' pockets, with no responsible opposing viewpoint to be found...because they couldn't afford commercial air time.

Our last hope, short of revolution in the streets, is the Democratic party, but even there, the taint of corporate money and greed fills the air, and asking the Democrats to govern without the power of business behind them is like asking you or I to only see out of one eye, despite having two perfectly good ones at our disposal.

Still, we have to insist. We have to start holding feet to the fire. We have to start making sure that, at all levels of government, people come first, not last, and that innocent people can live their lives out without insult from those with power. Starting with local judges like Sharon Keller.

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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Morning oatmeal

By Carl

Hey all! our esteemed ringmaster, Michael JW, suggested I post a brief introduction about myself. I'll try not to make this sound like a beatuy pageant intro.

Some of you in your wanderings have come across this bizarre little blog called
Simply Left Behind.

That's me. I've blogged for the past three years after much nagging urging by my regular guest blogger, katrina. She knows, as my favorite coffee cup puts it, everyone is entitled to my opinion, and I mean that in both senses of the phrasing.

The most important element that you need to know about my writings is that I will try to connect dots for you. I am deeply schooled in a lot of things (my ex calls me a jack-off of all trades... I think that was supposed to be a compliment), and I like to think of my writings as jazz: not everyone is going to like or even read them, but those who do usually drink pretentious wines, smoke too much weed, and speak in loud voices in cafés -- NO! I mean, the people who read it once, and enjoy it, are hooked.

So that's me, in a nutshell: a nut!

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So much for those carbon dioxide "sinks"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I haven't blogged about the climate crisis in some time, except to comment on Al Gore's Nobel win -- as J. Kingston Pierce and J. Thomas Duffy did, too -- but it's been in the news, of course, along with yet more, and more extensive, natural disasters, and the news seems to keep getting worse and worse. There has been Bush's substantial negligence on the political side, including his "victory" at June's G8 summit in Germany, with the U.S. proving yet again to be a malevolent hegemon, proposing a hollow framework for dealing with the crisis that will do nothing of the kind, preferring short-term self-interest, along with the shameful avoidance of reality, to the long-term well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, human and otherwise.

Meanwhile, the evidence keeps pouring in:

The capacity of the world's oceans and land to absorb carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by industrial activity is diminishing, raising the possibility that global warming will happen more rapidly and will be more dramatic than is currently anticipated, a new research paper says.

The paper, by an international team of scientists and published yesterday in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says nature's reduced ability to remove carbon dioxide that humans are adding to the atmosphere, along with surging world economic growth, explain why atmospheric concentrations of the gas rose in the 2000-2006 period at the most rapid seven-year pace since modern record keeping began in 1959.

"All of these changes characterize a carbon cycle that is generating stronger-than-expected and sooner-than-expected climate forcing," the paper concludes.

Carbon dioxide concentrations are at the highest level in the past 650,000 years, and probably the past 20 million years, according to the paper.

About half of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activity is later absorbed by water in the ocean and plants on land, a process that has led scientists to dub them "sinks." This natural process has blunted the full impact of greenhouse-gas emissions from human activity on the world climate.

The failure of the oceans and land to absorb as much carbon dioxide as they once did is being attributed to global warming, and is raising the worrisome possibility that this could lead to a cycle of weather destabilization that could cause the pace of warming to accelerate, according to one of the study authors.

The deniers, and there are still many of them, and they continue to be highly influential, particularly in the U.S., where a denier sits in the Oval Office, will argue that this is all somewhat abstract and theoretical, based on projections, a possibility, cyclical, if anything, hardly certain, little cause for concern. And yet it is the totality of the evidence, the ever-expanding evidence, that matters in this respect, and the totality of the evidence presents an astonishingly clear picture of where we are now and where we are heading in a future that is getting closer and closer. We are not talking about generations down the road, maybe, we are talking about this generation, within decades, if not sooner. We are talking about a steady increase in global temperatures, but also about droughts, storms, flooding, enormous natural disasters, potentially millions dead and many millions more displaced. Yes, we are talking about genocide and chaos.

Our planet has the natural ability to regulate itself, to balance itself out, but that ability has been weakened by irresponsible and excessive human activity and now may be unable to operate effectively. In other words, we have literally destroyed the Earth's own natural defences, and we will have no one but ourselves to blame when we are destroyed in turn.

The evidence is out there. It is clear. It is a call to action. Some are acting, but too many aren't, and too many don't care, and too many live in abject denial and willful ignorance.

It is, as the saying goes, now or never.

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