Friday, February 11


Terrifying, hair-raising: Oregonian Rep. Earl Blumenauer said on the floor yesterday:

"If this provision, the waiver of all laws necessary for quote improvements of barriers at the border was to become law, the Secretary of Homeland Security could give a contract to his political cronies that had no safety standards, using 12-year-old illegal immigrants to do the labor, run it through the site of a Native American burial ground, kill bald eagles in the process, and pollute the drinking water of neighboring communities. And under the provisions of this act, no member of Congress, no citizen could do anything about it because you waive all judicial review."

All the things Blumenauer mentions are genuine possibilities with regard to Smuggler's Gulch; part of the project really does go through a Native American burial ground. Not only that, but according to the Congressional Research Service the provision really does apply to all border areas, and not just Al Capone's old boot-legging route. (I should note here that there are theoretically limits (pdf) on what Congress can waive and pull out of any court's jurisdiction; calling this the "murder at will" provision is probably constitutionally a stretch, but the question is open enough that that's a fair moniker.)

Amidst it all, though, here's possibly the most bizarre part: Smuggler's Gulch is apparently extremely secure according to the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Patrol. I was just told by their public affairs office that it was "not on a very high priority"; since Operation Gatekeeper in the early to mid-'90s, they've "put a stop to the vehicular traffic" and where "it used to take 15-20 agents to have an impact in that area, today we benefit from having possibly one or two agents."

So why the focus? Beats me. As I was told by a House aide:

"I’d have to say that that really baffled us. Just trying to imagine what could possibly be the reason -- there’s got to be a reason here other than the border fence. They’re trying to set a precedent here. … The reason for this coming to Congress is much larger than 3 miles in San Diego. … It’s just inconceivable that we’re using all of this might for these three miles."

If bloggers are getting all hyperbolic and tin-hatted on this one, it's only because the pros are too.

More on this pending legislation here. It should be setting people's hair on fire. We know these people know no bounds, and I've come to the conclusion that they'll do ANYTHING for a price. Question is, what's the price and who's paying it? Gun owners are among the most loyal Republicans; are the Bushies really willing to take them on? Has Bush's "mandate" (not) really convinced him that he's king of the world now that he doesn't face re-election? And how long will Repug legislators go along with his insane notions -- THEY face re-election, even if he doesn't.


Senate votes to curb class-action suits in state courts.

Mr. Bush issued a statement praising the vote, his first legislative victory of his second term.

"Our country depends on a fair legal system that protects people who have been harmed without encouraging junk lawsuits that undermine confidence in our courts while hurting our economy, costing jobs and threatening small businesses," the president said. "The class-action bill is a strong step forward in our efforts to reform the litigation system and keep America the best place in the world to do business."

The legislation has long been promoted by large and small businesses, particularly manufacturers and insurance companies, and failed by a single vote in the Senate in 2003. It could have an especially significant effect on cases involving accusations of defective products, like drugs and cars; plaintiffs in such cases have had success in bringing large class actions in state courts. Automakers and drug makers have worked for years with manufacturers and insurers to press Congress to adopt the bill.

Yeah, let's protect those small businesses that are "threatened," such as automakers and drug manufacturers -- small businesses, all. Let's get real. How many "small businesses" actually have the power to adversely affect enough people to warrant a class-action lawsuit? This is all about big business, and shielding them from the results of their own malfeasance. Goodbye to the Erin Brockovich-es of the world, fighting to hold corporate America accountable. Unbelievable.
"This bill is one of the most unfair, anticonsumer proposals to come before the Senate in years," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader. "It slams the courthouse doors on a wide range of injured plaintiffs. It turns federalism upside down by preventing state courts from hearing state law claims. And it limits corporate accountability at a time of rampant corporate scandals."

Boy, am I liking that Harry Reid. How in the world do those 18 Democrats who voted with the Repugs justify this action to themselves? Here are their names:

Bayh (IN)
Bingamon (NM)
Cantwell (WA)
Carper (DE)
Conrad (ND)
Dodd (CT)
Feinstein (CA)
Johnson (SD)
Kohl (WI)
Landrieu (LA)
Lieberman (CT)
Lincoln (AR)
Nelson (NE)
Obama (IL)
Reed (RI)
Rockefeller (WV)
Salazar (CO)
Schumer (NY)

UPDATE: Another Bush deception:

Bush appeared at the Commerce Department with what he pretended was an independent expert to push his fight against class-action lawsuits. That person, Walter E. Dellinger III, is no independent expert who has seen the light on this issue: he and his law firm are paid lobbyists, receiving $780,000 in the last few years to push for the legislation. Can you imagine? Bush made a point of saying Dellinger had worked for the Clinton Administration -- as if that proved his bona fides -- but didn't mention the guy was a shill for the people pushing to change the laws. The President lied. This should be scandalous. But they've done it so often it was blown off in an inside story in the New York Times.


Paul Krugman on the reality of the Bush budget:

t's like that all the way through. On one side, the budget calls for program cuts that are small change compared with the budget deficit, yet will harm hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable Americans. On the other side, it calls for making tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, and for new tax breaks for the affluent in the form of tax-sheltered accounts and more liberal rules for deductions.

The question is whether the relentless mean-spiritedness of this budget finally awakens the public to the true cost of Mr. Bush's tax policy.


Now this is journalism the way I was taught it in college. The Kossacks have put together a fascinating timeline on the Gannon/Guckert/Plame memo story.

Thursday, February 10


I listened to Greg Knapp on Dallas radio KLIF this afternoon on the commute home. Greg's first rant was against the NY Times article, "9/11 Report Cites Many Warnings About Hijackings." Greg claimed he was giving his listeners the facts so they wouldn't have to read the article but could still argue with their "liberal friends." But among the important points in the article that he neglected to include in his "facts" were:

(1) Greg made it sound like the warnings the FAA received prior to 9/11 were few and non-specific; however, he failed to mention that "...leaders of the F.A.A. received 52 intelligence reports from their security branch that mentioned Mr. bin Laden or Al Qaeda from April to Sept. 10, 2001." It is true that, as Greg claimed, the article stated that, "Five of the intelligence reports specifically mentioned Al Qaeda's training or capability to conduct hijackings, the report said. Two mentioned suicide operations, although not connected to aviation," but the sheer number of warnings should have sent up red flags.

(2) Greg didn't inform his listeners that, "The Bush administration has blocked the public release of the full, classified version of the report for more than five months, officials said, much to the frustration of former commission members who say it provides a critical understanding of the failures of the civil aviation system." I'd have liked to hear his explanation for the administration's suppression of the information, but his call screener informed me that "Greg has moved on from that story and doesn't want to revisit it."

(3) Greg emphasized that the article stated that civil aviation authorities were more concerned about an attack on foreign soil than a domestic attack (shades of Condi's PDB defense!) but he omitted this key sentence from the article: "The report discloses that the Federal Aviation Administration, despite being focused on risks of hijackings overseas, warned airports in the spring of 2001 that if 'the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable."'

Greg spent at least half of his time blaming Clinton/Gore, thanks to his trusty friends at NewsMax. "Same old, same old," he remarked about the Times article. I could say the same about his methodology. I used to consider Greg Knapp one of the less objectionable right-wing talk radio hosts, but increasingly he is taking his talking points directly from NewsMax and the Bush apologists, thinking less and being less honest with his listeners.

But then, that's how Rush and Sean made their fortunes, isn't it?


Heard on CNN this morning (I forgot the name of the reporter, and this is a paraphrase): "President Bush continues to campaign for his social security reforms, which some Democrats oppose."

I am so sick of this kind of sloppy and inaccurate reporting. SOME Democrats? How about, "almost all Democrats and some Republicans"????


I hope you're keeping up with the Gannon/Guckert story on AmericaBlog. The whole thing would be hysterically funny if it weren't so disturbing.

Actually, elements of it are still pretty funny.


Heard on Darrell Ankarlo's radio show this morning: Ankarlo was spreading the Brit Hume distortion of FDR's remarks about Social Security.

This is going to become the new wingnut mantra until some responsible newspeople correct it publicly and often. I won't hold my breath until that happens.


Still puzzling over the Resident's bulge? Jerome at Bad Attitudes leads us to the answer.


Suburban Guerrilla introduces us to the new boss, same as the old boss:

A safe house in Baghdad for abused and threatened women — a refuge that a Nashville Army Reserve major helped establish — has fallen.

But rebels didn't take it. Instead, with no advance warning, the interim Iraqi president ordered the eviction of the women and staff, according to a U.S. Embassy daily report.
"The President's office also questioned why there was a women's refuge inside the Green Zone and complained that it could become a center for a 'homeless mafia.'"

The green zone is an area in Baghdad that is heavily secured by the military. Three women and a 5-year-old child forced to leave the safe house were given temporary shelter by a U.S. Army civil affairs unit, the memo said.
Many officials had wanted the house, according to the embassy memo.


I have listened with dismay over recent weeks as my formerly-favorite Dallas radio station, KRLD 1080, has modified its format from all-news to news-and-talk. Initially this meant that talk show wingnuts such as Mike Gallagher were added to the lineup, but recently even reporters have begun editorializing as they read the news, offering right-wing comments to the very news they broadcast.

There is now not a single radio station in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex that offers a dissenting opinion from the wingers.

When I hear Democrats disparage the campaign that John Kerry waged (and I understand their frustration), I'm forced to reply that I'm amazed we did so well, considering the dearth of opposition voices to be heard in the media.

UPDATE: Corrente has a great post on the subject. A must-read.


Astounding and horrifying. What have we become?

IMPEACH GEORGE BUSH and try him and Dick Cheney as war criminals before they completely destroy our nation.

Where is Superman when we need him to fight for "truth, justice and the American way"?

Rendition was originally carried out on a limited basis, but after September 11th, when President Bush declared a global war on terrorism, the program expanded beyond recognition—becoming, according to a former C.I.A. official, “an abomination.” What began as a program aimed at a small, discrete set of suspects—people against whom there were outstanding foreign arrest warrants—came to include a wide and ill-defined population that the Administration terms “illegal enemy combatants.” Many of them have never been publicly charged with any crime. Scott Horton, an expert on international law who helped prepare a report on renditions issued by N.Y.U. Law School and the New York City Bar Association, estimates that a hundred and fifty people have been rendered since 2001. Representative Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, said that a more precise number was impossible to obtain. “I’ve asked people at the C.I.A. for numbers,” he said. “They refuse to answer. All they will say is that they’re in compliance with the law.”
The Bush Administration, however, has argued that the threat posed by stateless terrorists who draw no distinction between military and civilian targets is so dire that it requires tough new rules of engagement. This shift in perspective, labelled the New Paradigm in a memo written by Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, “places a high premium on . . . the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians,” giving less weight to the rights of suspects. It also questions many international laws of war. Five days after Al Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Vice-President Dick Cheney, reflecting the new outlook, argued, on “Meet the Press,” that the government needed to “work through, sort of, the dark side.” Cheney went on, “A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in. And so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the fiercest internal resistance to this thinking has come from people who have been directly involved in interrogation, including veteran F.B.I. and C.I.A. agents. Their concerns are as much practical as ideological. Years of experience in interrogation have led them to doubt the effectiveness of physical coercion as a means of extracting reliable information. They also warn that the Bush Administration, having taken so many prisoners outside the realm of the law, may not be able to bring them back in. By holding detainees indefinitely, without counsel, without charges of wrongdoing, and under circumstances that could, in legal parlance, “shock the conscience” of a court, the Administration has jeopardized its chances of convicting hundreds of suspected terrorists, or even of using them as witnesses in almost any court in the world.
Others in the Administration worried that the President’s lawyers were wayward. “Lawyers have to be the voice of reason and sometimes have to put the brakes on, no matter how much the client wants to hear something else,” the former State Department lawyer said. “Our job is to keep the train on the tracks. It’s not to tell the President, ‘Here are the ways to avoid the law.’” He went on, “There is no such thing as a non-covered person under the Geneva Conventions. It’s nonsense. The protocols cover fighters in everything from world wars to local rebellions.” The lawyer said that Taft urged Yoo and Gonzales to warn President Bush that he would “be seen as a war criminal by the rest of the world,” but Taft was ignored. This may be because President Bush had already made up his mind. According to top State Department officials, Bush decided to suspend the Geneva Conventions on January 8, 2002—three days before Taft sent his memo to Yoo.


9/11 Report Cites Many Warnings About Hijackings:

In the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal aviation officials reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations, according to a previously undisclosed report from the 9/11 commission.

But aviation officials were "lulled into a false sense of security," and "intelligence that indicated a real and growing threat leading up to 9/11 did not stimulate significant increases in security procedures," the commission report concluded.

The report discloses that the Federal Aviation Administration, despite being focused on risks of hijackings overseas, warned airports in the spring of 2001 that if "the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable."

The report takes the F.A.A. to task for failing to pursue domestic security measures that could conceivably have altered the events of Sept. 11, 2001, like toughening airport screening procedures for weapons or expanding the use of on-flight air marshals. The report, completed last August, said officials appeared more concerned with reducing airline congestion, lessening delays, and easing airlines' financial woes than deterring a terrorist attack.

The Bush administration has blocked the public release of the full, classified version of the report for more than five months, officials said, much to the frustration of former commission members who say it provides a critical understanding of the failures of the civil aviation system. The administration provided both the classified report and a declassified, 120-page version to the National Archives two weeks ago and, even with heavy redactions in some areas, the declassified version provides the firmest evidence to date about the warnings that aviation officials received concerning the threat of an attack on airliners and the failure to take steps to deter it.

Among other things, the report says that leaders of the F.A.A. received 52 intelligence reports from their security branch that mentioned Mr. bin Laden or Al Qaeda from April to Sept. 10, 2001. That represented half of all the intelligence summaries in that time.

Five of the intelligence reports specifically mentioned Al Qaeda's training or capability to conduct hijackings, the report said. Two mentioned suicide operations, although not connected to aviation, the report said.
[emphasis mine]

What I want to know is, who did the lulling? The fact that the Bush administration delayed this report for five months makes me suspect that in fact, they were the culprits. What other possible reason could there be for not including this information in the original publication of the report of the 9/11 commission?

Wednesday, February 9


Professor Cole is rightly disgusted with Jonah Goldberg's proposal for a wager:

"Anyway, I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn't want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let's make a bet. I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I'll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there's another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I'm all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat: Because I don't think it's right to bet on such serious matters for personal gain, if I win, I'll donate the money to the USO. He can give it to the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or whatever his favorite charity is. '

I cannot tell you how this paragraph hit me in the gut. I was nearly immobilized by disgust and grief. This man really does see Iraqis as playthings. He is proposing a wager on the backs of Iraqis. Millions of Iraqis are going through winter with insufficient heating oil. They are jobless. The innocent 250,000 Fallujans are homeless. Imagine what $1000 means to them. And here we have an prominent American media star, a man who sets opinion on the Sunday afternoon talking heads shows, betting on them as though they are greyhounds in a race. They are not human beings to him, but political playthings on which to be wagered.

This entire paragraph is an excellent symbol for the entire project of the neo-imperial American Right. They are making their own fortunes with a wager on the fates of others, whom they are treating like ants. Get in their way and they stomp on you. Make an anthill the wrong place and they blow it up.

I would just add, this is the attitude of BushCo towards governing: people (Americans as well as any) are just chess pieces to be moved around at will, and policy is just gamesmanship. To win is all. The costs are irrelevant, both human nor financial.


Heard this morning on Fox & Friends (channel-flipping while CNN was on commercial) during an interview with Tim Roemer, "But Dean is WAY out there as a liberal!" Where do the wingnuts and even some Democrats get such an idea? I think from two things: Dean's opposition to the Iraq war and his support for civil unions in Vermont. Dean is, in fact, a moderate.

Though many among the Democrats' small but influential center-right faction are aghast at the thought of Dean heading the party, it's easy to forget who Howard Dean is. Despite his leadership in opposing Bush's invasion of Iraq, Dean was a moderate Vermont governor.

He was a fiscal conservative and friendly to business. Fans of Vermont's progressive hero, congressman Bernie Sanders, say Dean is no liberal. Dean alienated many liberals staking out moderate stands on health insurance, guns, environmentalism, and gay marriage. Vermont became the first state with domestic partnership only because a court ordered the Legislature to approve gay marriage or some equivalent and Dean opted for the more cautious approach.

On defense, where Democrats need to show that they are more serious about national security than Republicans, Dean is no pacifist. He simply believes that the Iraq war, as prosecuted by George Bush, on dishonest premises and with no serious planning for the aftermath, was the wrong way to keep America safe. If, as seems likely, the vaunted Iraq election ultimately leads to an Islamist theocracy, Dean's opposition will be vindicated yet again.
The contrast with the unified Republican machinery is striking, where, as some obscure German didn't say, there is ein Bush, ein Rove, and ein party.

The only way Democrats can compete with this is by energizing activists and building their party. It's a more selfless job than running for president. Let's see what Dean can do.


Battle of the budget:

While budgets typically have an element of smoke and mirrors, the relegating of billions in ongoing war costs "off budget" is a major wild card. Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, says "It wouldn't be responsible for us to take a guess at what those costs are."

I just turned in my department budget today for our next fiscal year. I wouldn't like to see the face of our CFO if I told him, "I can't include my four most expensive areas because it would be irresponsible of me to guess the costs." Hey Bolten, you dolt -- it's not "guessing," it's "projecting," and it's figured on the basis of past expenditures and current and future plans.

Fiscal watchdog groups counter that war costs, along with the expected fix of the alternative minimum tax, will produce persistent annual deficits of about $400 billion. This is way above Bush forecasts - or what Republicans hope to run on in 2006.

Still, expected revenues from programs not yet passed by Congress are counted on the revenue side. These include $1.2 billion in revenue in 2007 from leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a highly controversial proposal in the pending energy bill.

Another cynical Bush ploy. Push a budget that includes revenue from an action not yet authorized, and when the issue rises cry, "We can't reduce the deficit or meet our numbers unless we raise more revenue, so we HAVE to pass ANWR!"

While the new initiatives and program increases are featured in the opening pages of the proposed 2006 budget, there's no list of programs taking a hit, perhaps for a reason: Many target the Republican heartland in rural America. "We expected to fight cuts to rural programs under the Clinton administration. But those who are currently advocating these draconian cuts would not be in office today if it weren't for rural America," says Rep. John Peterson (R) of Pennsylvania, co-chair of the Congressional Rural Caucus.

I have a feeling that 2006 might just be a good year for Democrats.


Nicholas Kristof: Bush Bites His Tongue.

North Korea is particularly awkward for Mr. Bush to discuss publicly because, as best we know, it didn't make a single nuclear weapon during Bill Clinton's eight years in office (although it did begin a separate, and secret, track to produce uranium weapons; it hasn't produced any yet but may eventually). In contrast, the administration now acknowledges that North Korea extracted enough plutonium in the last two years for about half a dozen nuclear weapons.


Why is anybody surprised that the White House is now estimating the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost nearly twice as much as originally projected? After all, BushCo has a history of lying about this issue. See "Inquiry Confirms Medicare Chief Threatened Actuary" and "Foster: White House Had Role In Withholding Medicare Data".

This bill has been a scandal and an outrage since before it was passed. Consider that it not only outlaws the importation of cheaper Canadian drugs, it goes so far as to forbid the HHS from negotiating cheaper prices with pharmaceutical companies. What possible justification can there be for the latter? It merely points out that the purpose of this bill has always been the enrichment of the pharmaceutical industry, even if the outward pretense was to benefit seniors. It's completely in line with the cynical and fraudulent Bush budget.

Tuesday, February 8


Lots of interesting speculation going on in comments at Political Animal as to the identity of Bob Woodwards's Watergate source, Deep Throat.

And does anyone have any idea if the frequent commenter who goes by the name of Keanu Reeves (No, Really!) is, indeed, the actor?


Professor Cole's final smackdown of Jonah Goldberg is not only brilliant, it's devastating. Great reading.

Why isn't Juan a regular member of This Week's roundtable to rebut the likes of George Will and Richard Perle? Does cable news prefer Americans to be uneducated?

Well, duh!


More scandal about Abu Ghraib

In what amounted to a perversion of the traditional doctor's creed of "first, do no harm," the medical system at the prison became an instrument of abuse, by design and by neglect. As uncovered by legal scholars M. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan Marks, who conducted an inquiry published by the New England Journal of Medicine, not only were some military doctors at Abu Ghraib enlisted to help inflict distress on the prisoners, but also the scarcity of basic medical care was at times so severe that it created another kind of torture.

Bush may cut college program for vets

Now Bush wants to cut programs that enable vets to go to college.

What is he thinking, aside from another way to slash the budget so it continues to favor the uber-wealthy and punish the working poor? The opportunity to attend college is a major, major motivation for poorer Americans to join the armed services (think Jessica Lynch). Removing this incentive would only add to the woes military recruiters are already experiencing.


As usual, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was the program most worth watching on TV today. Jon's guest was Jim Wallis, author of "God's Politics." It's a book I'm going to buy tomorrow. Just a taste: Wallis opined that Republicans seem to believe there are only two moral values -- anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. But as he pointed out, there are more than 3,000 verses in the Bible regarding poverty and caring for the poor, and almost none relating to the abortion and gay marriage issues. Shows you where God's priorities are. Wallis's remarks were nearly a carbon copy of my post a week or so ago, so if you're so inclined, take a look.

UPDATE: Seems Dems are turning to Wallis. Cool.

UPDATE: Because BuzzFlash is now actively promoting the book, I'm bumping this up from January 18, when I first posted it.


Krugman explains simply enough for a moron to understand it, why it's foolish to talk about a "compromise" with Bush on Social Security "reform." It's all about creating an enormous permanent underclass of working poor, really, low-wage fodder for the military and big business.

Jason Furman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the guaranteed benefits left to an average worker born in 1990, after the clawback and the additional cuts, would be only 8 percent of that worker's prior earnings, compared with 35 percent today. This means that under Mr. Bush's plan, workers with private accounts that fared poorly would find themselves destitute.

Why expose workers to that much risk? Ideology. "Social Security is the soft underbelly of the welfare state," declares Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute. "If you can jab your spear through that, you can undermine the whole welfare state."

By the welfare state, Mr. Moore means Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - social insurance programs whose purpose, above all, is to protect Americans against the extreme economic insecurity that prevailed before the New Deal. The hard right has never forgiven F.D.R. (and later L.B.J.) for his efforts to reduce that insecurity, and now that the right is running Washington, it's trying to turn the clock back to 1932.

Medicaid is also in the cross hairs. And if Mr. Bush can take down Social Security, Medicare will be next.

The attempt to "jab a spear" through Social Security complements the strategy of "starve the beast," long advocated by right-wing intellectuals: cut taxes, then use the resulting deficits as an excuse for cuts in social spending. The spearing doesn't seem to be going too well at the moment, but the starving was on full display in the budget released yesterday.


Bush's cynical budget:

President Bush's latest deficit-steeped budget, for all its tough talk of reining in spending, stands out as a monument to misplaced political capital.
Over all, the budget is a sham that takes big cuts out of politically vulnerable programs that have very little to do with the explosion of the deficit in Mr. Bush's tenure.

Programs benefiting low-income citizens, like community development and health care, are destined to bear close to half of the cuts even though they accounted for less than 10 percent of the spending increases during the first Bush term. Some of the cruelest cuts would affect hundreds of thousands of working poor people who rely on child-care assistance and food stamps.

The deficit problem is a reflection of lowered revenue more than high spending - a fact that the president and the Republicans in Congress are determined to ignore. To the contrary, their proposal is to lock the once-"temporary" Bush tax cuts into stone. Meanwhile, expensive outlays will continue for the Pentagon, homeland security and mandated costs like Medicare. With such a lopsided perspective, vital environmental, education and housing programs cannot help but be disproportionately trimmed.

As a political tract, the budget neatly omits any accounting for next year's costs of the Iraq war, lately running at more than $5 billion a month. Nor do the budget figures for later years mention the hundreds of billions in borrowing that would be required to start up President Bush's plan to allow Social Security taxes to be directed into private investments.

Washington hands expect many, if not most, of the president's proposed cuts to be reinstated by Congress. And given Mr. Bush's preoccupation with Social Security, it's hard to imagine him wasting much effort on a leaner Pentagon budget or saner agricultural subsidies. In the end, only the programs with the least political clout - generally aimed at helping the weakest groups in the country - will be pared down or eliminated. That might give some politicians a sense of political cover, but it would be a bad choice and would hardly solve the problem.

Sunday, February 6


Why does Bush hate veterans?

President Bush's budget would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government health care, administration officials said Sunday.

The proposals, they said, are in the $2.5 trillion budget that Mr. Bush plans to unveil on Monday. White House officials said the budget advanced his goal of cutting the deficit, which hit a record last year.
The proposals to increase charges to veterans face stiff opposition from veterans organizations, Democratic members of Congress and some Republicans.

Darn straight. Veterans groups should be screaming bloody murder on every media outlet possible. I'd like to hear every military family in the country cease with the "bless our beloved Prez" rhetoric and face the truth: your sons and daughters, husbands and wives are nothing more than cannon fodder for this despicable administration that thinks it's more important to enrich the already-rich than to treat the men and women of our armed forces with the respect and appreciation they deserve. I'm reminded of Annette Benning's character in American President saying to Michael Douglas something like, "Congratulations for submarining important environmental legislation so you can pass a crime bill that has no chance of diminishing crime." In like manner I say to George W. Bush, "Congratulations on impoverishing more hard-working, worthy Americans so that you can balance a budget that has no chance of balancing as long as you continue to cut taxes on the richest of our citizens."

How does he do it? How does this travesty of a president so mesmerize people to support him when every day comes with a new outrage?


Corrente raises the specter of a frightening trend among juries and asks, "Just how widespread is this?"

On Tuesday, the Colorado Supreme Court heard argument on the issue of whether Harlan's death sentence was correctly overturned by a lower-court judge when it became known that Harlan's jurors researched biblical passages when not in deliberations and then brought at least one Bible into the jury room during sentencing deliberations in order to persuade one holdout juror to vote for death.

Adams County District Judge John Vigil noted at the time that "the biblical passages involved not only encouraged the death penalty but required that it be imposed when another life is taken. The passages also directed jurors to take guidance from and obey the government. They left jurors with no discretion." The passages cited - "fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth"; "whoever kills a man shall be put to death" - contradict Colorado's sentencing scheme in many ways.

As I was confident it would, just a few minutes of Googling official state and local juror instructions demonstrated to my satisfaction that the actions of the above-mentioned jury were egregious violations. Just a sample of what I found:

Illinois State Jurors Brochure:

Jurors are expected to use the experience and common sense they possess, but are not to rely upon private sources of information. Therefore, you should never inspect the scene of any occurrence involved in a case except under supervision of the Court. The jury's verdict can only be based upon the testimony heard and evidence viewed in the courtroom during the trial.

West Virginia state recommended civil jury instructions:

Any personal opinion which you, or any of you, may have as to facts not established by the evidence in this case cannot properly be considered by you as a basis for your verdict. As individuals you may believe that certain facts existed, but as jurors sworn to try this case and to render a true verdict on the law and the evidence, you can act only upon the evidence which has been properly introduced to you at this trial. Any personal opinion which you, or any of you, may have as to facts not established by the evidence in this case cannot properly be considered by you as a basis for your verdict. As individuals you may believe that certain facts existed, but as jurors sworn to try this case and to render a true verdict on the law and the evidence, you can act only upon the evidence which has been properly introduced to you at this trial.

West Virginia state recommended criminal jury instructions:

The evidence in this case consists of the testimony of witnesses who have appeared before you and testified and the exhibits which have been introduced in evidence and which have been shown to you.

You must not permit yourself to be influenced by sympathy, passion, prejudice or public sentiment for or against the defendant or the State. All your deliberations should be based solely upon the evidence presented to you in the trial and the law as given to you by the Court.

Muskegon, Michigan county instructions:

Do not conduct your own investigation of the case. It would also be a violation of your duty as a juror to conduct any investigation of the case. As a juror you must not become an amateur detective. For example, you must not visit the scene of an accident, an alleged crime, or any event or transaction involved in the case. You should not conduct experiments or consult any other person or reference works for additional information.

A few years ago I was foreman of a jury in Dallas, Texas, that was considering a verdict on a $180 million+ class-action lawsuit by insurance agents against a third-party insurance company. We walked into the jurors room with most of the jury ready to hand over the millions to the agents, most of whom were small-town Alabama, Mississippi and north Florida reps with little or no education beyond high school and who had been persuaded by their employer company to invest their residuals in a kind of pyramid scheme. When the company failed, they were out their invested residuals. They seemed very sympathetic people compared to the $1000 suits sitting at the defense table. But our instructions were very clear, and the plaintiff's case was based on practically nothing more than their inability to collect from the company that actually employed them and their recourse to the deep pockets of the company that eventually bought the policies. As juror after juror related their personal sob stories about evil insurance companies, I had to continually remind my fellow jurors that our verdict had to be based strictly upon the evidence presented in court and not our personal prejudices or private knowledge. I did that because I'm a progressive who believes in the rule of law. We eventually returned a verdict in favor of the defense, but my experience leads me to believe that Corrente may be correct in assuming that this happens a great deal more often than is suspected.

"Nullification is generally not a clearly-defined right protected by legal statute. Rather, it is an inherent aspect of the jury system under common law, sometimes justified as a safeguard of last-resort against wrongful imprisonment and government tyranny." (More here.) In such cases, I might be inclined to be a rebellious juror myself.

The Colorado case hardly fits that description and scares the bejesus out of me.


This is too good not to pass along. Courtesy of Bad Attitudes:

Yesterday was Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address. It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of limited intelligence for prognostication and the other involves a groundhog.


This should work about as well as Bush's abstinence-only education programs for teenagers.

The United Nations agency responsible for the global fight against drugs has been forced to abandon its campaign to reduce Aids infection by giving clean needles to heroin addicts after threats by America to end its funding, The Observer can reveal.

The Bush administration opposes any programme that appears to condone the continued use of drugs, and wants the UN to seek abstention by users, combined with an end to narcotics production.

Drug experts believe that if the UN shelved its so-called 'harm reduction' strategy in favour of an outright war on drugs, it could contribute to a rise in the rate of infection with HIV/Aids through shared needles and unsafe sex, as well as increasing the number of addicts.


Finally a Tom Friedman op-ed I can agree with:

First, both of these guys are obviously megalomaniacs, who think the world is just hanging on their every word and waiting for their next video. All we are doing is feeding their egos, and telling them how incredibly important they are, when we not only put a $25 million bounty on their heads, but in the case of bin Laden, double the figure. We are just enhancing their status on the Arab street as the Muslim warriors standing up to America, and only encouraging other megalomaniacs out there who might have similar fantasies to follow suit. We should be doing just the opposite - letting these two losers know that we don't think they are worth more than a penny or a pistachio.

But there is an even more important issue of principle at stake. We should not be paying Iraqis or Arabs or Pakistanis to get rid of their problem. Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are a curse on their civilization. Their capture will have meaning or real value to them, to us and to the world, only if it is done by Arabs and Muslims for the sole purpose of purging their civilization of these two cancer cells.


How the NY Times killed the Bush bulge-under-the-jacket-during-the-debate story.

The "newspaper of record" has disgraced itself over the course of the last decade, both in its biased and discredited reporting on Clinton and its gullible and sycophantic coverage of the Chimp. In coming years I expect journalism schools will use it as a prime example of how quickly the reputation of a major media outlet can be ruined by lazy investigating, questionable ethics, poor quality control, and too-cozy relationships with "anonymous sources" and the objects of its reporting.


Congratulations, George Bush. You've just expended $300 billion, nearly 1500 American lives and upwards of 10,000 wounded and maimed to create an Islamic constitution in Iraq guaranteed to place under the severe repression required by Shariah, or Koranic, law, what were formerly the freest women in the Arab world. Women all over the free world will applaud you for that.