Friday, May 13


Juan Cole reports on the protests occurring in Afghanistan and Pakistan against the desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo and includes this little gem:

A friend of mine with Pentagon contacts tells a tragicomic story. The Pakistani government complained to the US Department of Defense about the desecration of the Koran. The Pentagon passed the protest to the Southeast Asia division. It looked into the matter in East Asia and responded that it could find no evidence that the US military had flushed a Korean down the toilet.

Folks, this is becoming a nightmare of steamrolling protests in Saudi Arabia, Gaza, Afghanistan, and across the Muslim world. The abysmal ignorance of and disrespect for other cultures and nations that has been a hallmark of this administration and the wingnuts allied with it are one of the most serious dangers this country faces. American exceptionalism becomes a dangerous notion in the hands of those who believe it extends to a sense of American moral superiority, that "we" are "better" than other peoples.

Now look, it's not that I don't think the USA is the greatest country in the world. I love my country, I feel privileged to have been born here. But my citizenship doesn't automatically confer upon me some special grace -- the Bible says that God loves us all, that "he is not willing that any should perish," so why do the wingers ignore that? They do to our peril, as witness the outcry of Muslims across the world at our insensitivity regarding their holy scriptures, the Koran. Whatever happened to the core Christian teaching, "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also unto them." The Golden Rule, remember?

They're going to reap what they sow. I just don't want anyone I love to be around to be singes by their bad karma.


I really do like the way Keith Olbermann thinks. His idea for what to do with the space vacated by the destruction of the World Trade Center is exactly right. See if you agree.


Whoo-ee. What fun! The Houston Chronicle takes on Bill O'Lielly.


Fascinating article in The New Yorker about neocon Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. This is the guy General Tommy Franks called "the f---ing stupidest guy on the face of the earth."

When I asked, for instance, if the Administration was too enamored of the idea that Iraqis would greet American troops with flowers, he argued that some Iraqis were still too intimidated by the remnants of Saddam’s Baath Party to express their emotions openly. “But,” Feith said, “they had flowers in their minds.”


Unfreakingbelievable. The Air Force Academy has lost its bloody minds. It takes a CHAPLAIN, a woman in God's service, and fires her because she has the gall to agree with the findings of an academy-appointed commission. And to think that I once, as an Air Force brat myself, had the ambition to attend the Academy (women weren't allowed until after I started college).

"I may be toast."

An Air Force chaplain who complained that evangelical Christians were trying to "subvert the system" by winning converts among cadets at the Air Force Academy was removed from administrative duties last week, just as the Pentagon began an in-depth study of alleged religious intolerance among cadets and commanders at the school.

"They fired me," said Capt. MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran minister who was removed as executive officer of the chaplain unit on May 4. "They said I should be angry about these outside groups who reported on the strident evangelicalism at the academy. The problem is, I agreed with those reports."
As part of its response to the sexual assault charges, the academy asked a team from Yale Divinity School to visit the campus during the summer training for incoming freshmen.

"We were asked to study the quality of cadet-centered pastoral care," said Yale Prof. Kristen Leslie. "What we found was this very strong evangelical Christian voice just dominating. We thought that just didn't make sense in light of their mission, which was to protect and train cadets, not to win religious converts."
Morton, 48, said that, having criticized the religious atmosphere at the academy, "I may be toast" in terms of an Air Force career. She said her next duty station is said to be a pleasant spot. "But serving in Okinawa as the most hated chaplain in the Air Force might not be so great."

Thursday, May 12


Greg Palast meets with Ecuadors President Palacio -- It's the oil and the bonds, stupid.

George Bush has someone new to hate. Only twenty-four hours after Ecuador's new president took his oath of office, he was hit by a diplomatic cruise missile fired all the way from Lithuania by Condoleezza Rice, then wandering about Eastern Europe spreading "democracy." Condi called for "a constitutional process to get to elections," which came as a bit of a shock to the man who'd already been constitutionally elected, Alfredo Palacio.
"Sucio Lucio" (Dirty Lucio, as the graffiti tags him) had won election in 2002 promising to break away from the supposedly voluntary austerity plan imposed by the World Bank. Then, within a month of taking office, Gutierrez flew to Washington. There he held hands with George Bush (a photo infamous in Quito), and US Treasury officials instructed him in the financial facts of life. Lucio returned to Quito, reneged on his campaign promises and tightened the austerity measures, including raising the price of cooking gas. The public, after a dispirited delay, revolted. After Lucio fled last month, the nation's congress recognized the vacancy in Ecuador's Oval Office and filled it with the elected vice president, in accordance with the Constitution.

Given the oil windfall, Palacio sees no need to follow Gutierrez's path to economic asphyxiation. "It is impossible that they condemn us not to have health, not to have education," he told me. He made it clear that handing over 90 percent of his nation's new oil wealth would not stand.

That's not what the Bush Administration wanted to hear.

Read the whole thing.


The morality police are ready to take on another foe: couples who are shacking up.

"We think that it's good to have a law against cohabitation because the studies show that couples that cohabitate before they're married, that their marriages are more prone to break up, there's less stability in the marriage," said Bill Brooks, executive director of the conservative North Carolina Family Policy Council.

But the Rev. Jack McKinney of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, which counts gay couples among its 900-person congregation, said: "I think the state's got better things to do than try to dictate people's private lives to that degree."

Hat tip to Xpatriated Texan.


Drudge is developing the story.


Two congressional Democrats called Wednesday for an investigation into recent activities by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, suggesting that efforts by the Republican chairman of the private nonprofit to add more conservative programs onto PBS may violate federal law.

In a letter released Wednesday evening, Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., asked CPB Inspector General Kenneth A. Konz to investigate the contracting, hiring and policies of the corporation, which distributes federal funds to public television stations. Both congressmen are ranking Democrats on committees that have oversight of public television.

They called recent actions taken by CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson ``disturbing'' and ``extremely troubling.''

A CPB spokesman could not be reached for comment. But in a recent interview with the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Tomlinson defended his efforts to expand conservative perspectives on PBS, saying he merely wants to increase the network's audience.


Pat Buchanan is verbally flayed for comments he made regarding WWII.

Former Mayor Ed Koch offered this blunt rebuttal: "I believe that no decent human being should ever sit down at the same table with Pat Buchanan and I am shocked that otherwise responsible, respectable citizens share platforms with him on Sunday shows."


The righteousness of the man who wrote the "minority report" that caused the FDA to reject over-the-counter emergency contraception is exposed.

This man's star is still rising among conservatives. His story is a warning about the deleterious influence one smug, hypocritical a--hole can exert, and the thousands, even millions of lives, he affects by doing so.

In December 2003 the FDA advisory committee of which he is a member was asked to consider whether emergency contraception, known as Plan B, should be made available over the counter. Over Hager's dissent, the committee voted overwhelmingly to approve the change. But the FDA rejected its recommendation, a highly unusual and controversial decision in which Hager, The Nation has learned, played a key role.
By 1995, according to Davis's account, Hager's treatment of his wife had moved beyond morally reprehensible to potentially felonious.
As disturbing as they are on their own, Linda Davis's allegations take on even more gravity in light of Hager's public role as a custodian of women's health. Some may argue that this is just a personal matter between a man and his former wife--a simple case of "he said, she said" with no public implications. That might be so--if there were no allegations of criminal conduct, if the alleged conduct did not bear any relevance to the public responsibilities of the person in question, and if the allegations themselves were not credible and independently corroborated. But given that this case fails all of those tests, the public has a right to call on Dr. David Hager to answer Linda Davis's charges before he is entrusted with another term. After all, few women would knowingly choose a sexual abuser as their gynecologist, and fewer still would likely be comfortable with the idea of letting one serve as a federal adviser on women's health issues.


Oh, yeah. Things are getting better in Iraq.

An accidentally declassified Pentagon report about a killing on the road to Baghdad airport at the beginning of March shows quite clearly how much worse the overall situation is than the Bush administration would like us, or even its allies in the Coalition forces, to believe.

“The U.S. considers all of Iraq a combat zone,” says the report, which was wrapped up at the end of April, three months after the elections that were supposed to have turned the tide in this conflict. “From July 2004 to late March 2005,” says the document, “there were 15,527 attacks against Coalition Forces throughout Iraq.” Then comes one of several paragraphs marked S//NF (secret, not for distribution to foreign nationals): “From 1 November 2004 to 12 March 2005 there were 3306 attacks in the Baghdad area. Of these, 2400 were directed against Coalition Forces.” In a span of four and a half months, which included the election turning point, that’s not only a hell of a lot of hits in the capital city, it’s just pure hell.


John Podesta presents the Center for American Progress approach to tax reform.

The Center for American Progress proposes a comprehensive tax reform plan that rewards hard work and promotes shared prosperity.  We propose a plan that would tax each kind of income according to the same rate schedule, whether the income is derived from wages, salaries, capital gains, or dividends.  Our plan shifts the share of taxes away from the regressive payroll tax and onto a restructured income tax.  It reduces complexity by establishing a simpler, more progressive three-rate structure and it eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, in addition to closing corporate and individual loopholes.  Our plan enhances opportunity by reducing the deficit to strengthen the economy and it promotes retirement savings for millions of Americans who currently receive no savings incentives through the tax code.  Furthermore, our plan improves the Earned Income Tax Credit and expands the number of families eligible to receive the federal child tax credit.  Ultimately, the Center for American Progress's reform plan increases the take-home pay of low- and middle-income families and generates the funds our country needs to meet its vital domestic and national security commitments.


Finally, a little Democratic outrage about the secret Downing Street memo that gives authenticity to the argument that Bush was determined to go to war with Iraq long before he admits and the administration was fixing the "intelligence and the facts" around that policy.

I think "shock," though, is a silly word for the Dems to use. How could anyone be shocked after all we've already discovered about those liars? "Outrage" would have been a better term.


What's a president to do?

US President George W. Bush has said on more than one occasion during the war on terrorism that "those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves." ABCNews reports that this statement will be put to the test by a case involving Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban who sneaked into the US recently seeking political asylum.

The New York Times reported Monday that the Cuban government accuses Mr. Posada of being involved with the bombing of a Cuban passenger jet in 1976. Posada has also admitted to "plotting attacks that damaged tourist spots in Havana and killed an Italian visitor there in 1997," and he is also wanted in Venezuela on terrorism charges.

The whole situation is complicated by the fact that Cuban Americans, who are extremely anti-Castro, reliably vote Republican. And we all know how Bush and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez feel about each other. Handing Posada over would be a triumph of a kind for Chavez and Castro that would sit ill on Georgie Boy's stomach.

If Mr. Posada has indeed illegally entered the United States, the Bush administration has three choices: granting him asylum; jailing him for illegal entry; or granting Venezuela's request for extradition.

A grant of asylum could invite charges that the Bush administration is compromising its principle that no nation should harbor suspected terrorists. But to turn Mr. Posada away could provoke political wrath in the conservative Cuban-American communities of South Florida, deep sources of support and campaign money for President Bush and his brother Jeb, the state's governor.


Unions threaten "crisis strikes" against United Airlines. Good for them. It's an appropriate response to the outrageous default on their pension plans. Sure shows how much better off we'd all be if we relied on the private sector for our retirement security instead of Social Security, doesn't it?

This article helps answer the question, "Is your retirement money safe?"


Wingnut radio is furious at Clinton-stalker Kenneth Starr, who evidently appeared on some TV show (I didn't catch which one) and condemned the "nuclear option" and the conservatives' attack on the independent judiciary.

Maybe the guy is trying to atone for his sins.

UPDATE: From The Roots has the details:

"This is a radical, radical departure from our history and our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government." Starr went on to say that, "It may prove to have the kind of long-term boomerang effect, damage on the institution of the Senate, that thoughtful Senators may come to regret." [CBS Evening News, 5/9/05]

Wednesday, May 11


George Bush learned all he needed to from Texas.

Despite offering limited tax relief for some of the poorest people, a Senate tax overhaul would raise taxes for most Texans, at least initially, legislative analysts reported Monday.

Only households with incomes of more than $140,853 a year would realize a net tax cut — an average of 1.52 percent — under the swap of higher state taxes for lower school property taxes in fiscal year 2007, when the trade-off is fully in place.

This bill is such a ripoff. I pay extraordinarily high property taxes and would love to see them come down, but under this plan my net "relief" will be zip. It's all smoke and mirrors, like everything the Republicans propose.