Monday, July 31, 2006

Sunday, July 30, 2006

From Truthdig

No wonder: USA Today reports that our Congress is on track to spending fewer days in session than the infamous 1948 “Do Nothing” Congress.

Washington Post:

Unable to agree on major lobbying and ethics legislation, Senate and House leaders have made plans to adopt vastly scaled-back versions of the measures as part of their rules so that lawmakers can claim that they responded to recent congressional scandals.

Congress promised fast action on lobbying reforms in January, but the two chambers cannot agree over a number of provisions, including one in the House bill that would rein in independent organizations that have spent millions of dollars, mostly on behalf of Democrats, to sway federal elections. House Republicans are insisting that the groups, nicknamed 527s, be curtailed, but Democratic senators and a handful of Senate Republicans have vowed to oppose the change as part of the lobbying bill.

As a result, Congress may adjourn this year without agreeing on legislation to tighten restrictions on lobbyists’ dealings with lawmakers. The House has not yet named negotiators to work with the Senate to devise a compromise package, even though its bill passed May 3. “It’s on life support,” Jan W. Baran, a leading Republican ethics lawyer, said of the final bill.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Political Commentary Through Images

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From Playboy, August 2006. P. 58

"The Pentagon has refined its control of the media to an unprecedented level. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the media watchdog group, looked at the nightly newscasts on NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS in the week leading up to Secretary Powell's appearance before the UN Security Council and in the week afterward. During that period 393 interviews were conducted about war. Of those, only three featured anti-war voices. Three of 393 - that is not a balanced media. That is a media cheerleading for war."

-Amy Goodman, Host, Radio talk show Democracy Now

Friday, July 28, 2006

Political Commentary Through Images

From the "Dizzy" Blog

One Pissed Off Veteran: Christian Reconstructionists :

"Long story short, these assholes want nothing less than doing away completely with American democracy and substituting in its place a fundo Xian theocracy that believes in slavery ('it's in the Bible!') and stones to death all unbelievers, abortionists, homosexuals, fornicators and pornographers (just for starters). They also believe that democracy is heresy, public schools are satanic and evolution is demonic. And they call for the assassination of 'tyrants' -- which under their definition I suppose would include public school teachers, 'activist' judges, Democrats, liberals, film producers, nuns, agnostics, ACLU-ers, etc etc.

Ordinarily they'd be considered way out on the lunatic fringe on the American religio-political scene, right up there with the Branch Davidians and the Ramtha cult, but these fuckers have some powerful allies at the top of the Xian Right: James Focus-on-the-Fetus Dobson, world champion strongman Pat I-Can-Lift-a-Sherman-Tank Robertson, Jerry Tinky-Wink-is-a-Homo Falwell, among others."

From the J-Walk Blog

At the Washington Post, an article about U.S. troops in Iraq: Waiting to Get Blown Up .

Army Staff Sgt. Jose Sixtos considered the simple question about morale for more than an hour. But not until his convoy of armored Humvees had finally rumbled back into the Baghdad military base, and the soldiers emptied the ammunition from their machine guns, and passed off the bomb-detecting robot to another patrol, did he turn around in his seat and give his answer.

"Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat," he said. "Then ask how morale is."

Another soldier said:
"It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you."

Another one sums it up nicely:
"I mean, if you compare the casualty count from this war to, say, World War II, you know obviously it doesn't even compare," Fulcher said. "But World War II, the big picture was clear -- you know you're fighting because somebody was trying to take over the world, basically. This is like, what did we invade here for?"

"How did it become, 'Well, now we have to rebuild this place from the ground up'?" Fulcher asked.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

From the NY Times

The Christian Right will soon own your soul...

The PBS documentarian Ken Burns has been working for six years on “The War,” a soldier’s-eye view of World War II, and those who have seen parts of the 14-plus hours say they are replete with salty language appropriate to discussions of the horrors of war.

What viewers will see and hear when the series is broadcast in September 2007 is an open question.

A new Public Broadcasting Service policy that went into effect immediately when it was issued on May 31 requires producers whose shows are broadcast before 10 p.m. to adhere to tough editing requirements when it comes to coarse language, to comply with tightened rulings on broadcast indecency by the Federal Communications Commission .

Most notably, PBS’s deputy counsel, Paul Greco, wrote in a memo to stations, it is no longer enough simply to bleep out offensive words audibly when the camera shows a full view of the speaker’s mouth. From now on, the on-camera speaker’s mouth must also be obscured by a digital masking process, a solution that PBS producers have called cartoonish and clumsy.

In addition, profanities expressed in compound words must be audibly bleeped in their entirety so that viewers cannot decipher the words. In the past, PBS required producers to bleep only the offensive part of the compound word.

From the Lexington Herald Leader

WASHINGTON - With gasoline prices near all-time highs, foreign conflicts driving up the cost of crude oil and U.S. congressional elections fast approaching, a group of Democratic Party thinkers offered a strategy Wednesday aimed at curbing what President Bush calls America's "addiction" to oil.

The Center for American Progress, led by many former top officials in the Clinton administration, released a plan that calls for at least 25 percent of the liquid fuels consumed by the United States in 2025 to be produced from renewable energy sources.

The strategy seeks to promote cleaner alternative energy sources as a means to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and to mitigate what scientists warn are clear signs of global warming made worse by gaseous emissions from cars and industries.

The center's Energy Security for the 21st Century plan would:

_Boost government spending on research into ethanol, bio-diesel and next-generation technologies that could convert virtually any plant product into a fuel source.

_Mandate unspecified higher fuel economy standards for automobiles and trucks.

_Require that sources of renewable energy account for 10 percent to 25 percent of U.S. electricity generation by 2025.

_Promote use of liquefied natural gas. This wouldn't reduce dependence on foreign energy sources but it could increase use of a clean-burning fuel.

_Develop an emission credit market that would reward low-pollution power producers and create a system of credit trade-offs to offset dirtier producers. All new coal plants would be subject to this so-called "cap-and-trade system."

The plan also would levy a tax on oil when world prices dip below an unspecified certain point. The price floor would keep oil expensive enough to ensure financial incentives to create alternative fuels.

From Think Progress

In South Dakota male legislators want to own each woman's uterus - now the men want more control at the national level as well.


In a 65-34 yesterday, the Senate criminalized the transportation of a minor across state lines in order to obtain an abortion . The bill, "which would make taking a pregnant girl to another state for the purposes of evading parental notification laws punishable by fines and up to a year in jail," must now be reconciled with a bill passed by the House earlier this year, which includes a provision mandating a doctor provide 24-hour prior notice for the parents of an out-of-state minor seeking an abortion. The legislation is opposed by major medical groups . Women's organizations have also spoken out against the bill, arguing it "could actually force a young woman in such circumstances to go to the doctor alone, rather than be accompanied by a trusted adult," and noting that it lack exemptions even for clergy, grandparents, or other close relatives . "Congress ought to have higher priorities than turning grandparents into criminals," Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) said yesterday.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Political Commentary Through Images

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From the Seattle Times

America will pay for Bush's arrogance with new decades of profound Arab resentment. For half a century, a generation of American leaders, including Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, Cyrus Vance, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright, tried to knit together the forces of moderation and compromise, gradually shifting the parties toward talking, not killing. They found unlikely allies, like Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and King Hussein of Jordan. The Saudis, despite their rabid Islamic fundamentalism, agreed to moderate their voice. Arab moderates wanted peace, and would work with the U.S. and Israel to achieve it. It was a bumpy road, but it saved lives and kept the oil flowing.

Bush has given the back of his hand to those statesmen, advancing a grotesque new theory of politics, a kind of military Darwinism: "Let them duke it out, and let the tough guys prevail."

From Think Progress


Since 2002, the Bush administration has quietly filled the ranks of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division -- the nation's top enforcer of anti-discrimination laws -- with lawyers who have "strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights ." The result, according to William Yeomans, a 24-year division veteran who retired last year, is that "morale among career attorneys has plummeted, the division's productivity has suffered and the pace of civil rights enforcement has slowed." Although a committee of career veterans had made hiring decisions for decades, former Attorney General John Ashcroft changed the rules in 2003 to minimize input from staff, allowing the process to be handled completely by political appointees. Consequently, the "clear emphasis" has been to hire individuals with conservative backgrounds. Only 42 percent of employees hired since 2003 have experience in civil rights, as compared to 77 percent of those hired in the two years before the change. There has also been a "sea change " in the types of cases brought by the division: fewer voting rights abuses are being prosecuted, and instead, more interest has been shown in cases of "reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians." While this was somewhat expected, says Richard Ugelow, who also recently retired, no one "anticipated that it would go this far, that enforcement would be cut back to the point that people felt like they were spinning their wheels."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

From Fox News


A powerful Republican committee chairman says he'll have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue President Bush in federal court.

The flap is over the president's signing statements. In those statements, Bush says he reserves the right to revise, interpret or disregard laws on national security and constitutional grounds.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter says the bill will "authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional."

Specter's announcement comes on the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fun Political Images

From Think Progress

"Wage stagnation, long the bane of blue-collar workers, is now hitting people with bachelor's degrees for the first time in 30 years. Earnings for workers with four-year degrees fell 5.2% from 2000 to 2004 when adjusted for inflation, according to White House economists."

From Think Progress


The nation's premier legal group has denounced President Bush's use of signing statements as "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers." To date, Bush has objected to more than 800 provisions of legislation in "signing statements," which allow the President to claim "the power to disregard selected provisions of bills that he signed ." By contrast, all other presidents combined have had just 600 signing statements. In response, a bipartisan 11-member panel of the American Bar Association (ABA) released a report yesterday condemning this practice as an effective line-item veto which "improperly deprive[s] Congress of the opportunity to override the veto ." The report called for an end to the practice and for more congressional oversight in the event that a signing statement is issued. However, the strongest rebuke came from ABA president Michael S. Greco: "If left unchecked, the president's practice does grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries." Many congressional leaders have also come out against Bush's use of signing statements; Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) called the practice "a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution ."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Read more on Daily Kos

CHRIS MATTHEWS (MSNBC's Hardball): I just wonder, Pat [Robertson], about just the simple history. We know from looking at the Arab world as we've come to understand it, that there is this division there among the Shia who are on the outs and are becoming to be the ins, of course, in Iraq and certainly already control Iran. Taking on the Sunnis that's a world we are only vaguely understanding. That's a thousand year old war. Do you think we are creating another thousand year war by killing so many Arabs? I've been afraid of this war from day one because I've always felt, based on history, every time you kill somebody, you've got his brother, his mother, his family coming back to get you. We've killed 50,000 Iraqi's in a war that was supposed to be a two-day wonder. When are we going to notice that the neocons don't know what they're talking about. They're not looking at this country's long term interest. They're bound up in regional and global ideology and they have had no experience, I'll say it again, in even a school yard fight. They don't know what physical fighting is all about. They went to school and were intellectuals but they want our government to be their big brother. I don't get it. I don't know why we keep falling for it. And the president, you say, is he free of these guys or not?

Read More at OpEdNews

Living in Iraq is becoming absolutely impossible.

The numbers tell part of the story. The United Nations announced Tuesday that, on average, 100 Iraqi civilians died every day in May and June. According to the report, about 2,700 civilians were killed in May and 3,100 were killed in June. Two days later, the Iraqi government announced least 162,000 people have fled their homes over the past five months in an effort to escape the sectarian violence that has swept the country.

Political Commentary Through Images