Now it’s Republicans putting our nation “at risk?”

Events | Posted by admin
Mar 01 2011

Just how close is Bush willing to take us toward a government of the Decider, by the Decider, and for the Decider?

Bush Says G.O.P. Rebels Are Putting Nation at Risk – New York Times (New York Times):

President Bush made an impassioned defense on Friday of his proposed rules for the interrogation and prosecution of terrorism suspects, warning that the nation’s ability to defend itself would be undermined if rebellious Republicans in the Senate did not come around to his position.

Speaking at a late-morning news conference in the Rose Garden, Mr. Bush said he would have no choice but to end a C.I.A. program for the interrogation of high-level terrorism suspects if Congress passed an alternate set of rules supported by a group of Senate Republicans.

Those alternate rules were adopted Thursday by the Senate Armed Services Committee in defiance of Mr. Bush. Setting out what he suggested could be dire consequences if that bill became law, Mr. Bush said intelligence officers — he referred to them repeatedly as “professionals” — would no longer be willing and able to conduct interrogations out of concern that the vague standard for acceptable techniques could leave them vulnerable to legal action.

“Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that Al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland,” he said. “But the practical matter is if our professionals don’t have clear standards in the law, the program is not going to go forward.”

The administration has said the Central Intelligence Agency has no “high value” terrorism suspects in foreign detention centers, having transferred the last of them this month to military custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But officials said they considered the program crucial to efforts to foil attacks.

“This enemy has struck us, and they want to strike us again,” Mr. Bush said, “and we’ll give our folks the tools necessary to protect the country. It’s a debate that, that really is going to define whether or not we can protect ourselves.”

It was also a debate Mr. Bush had hoped to have this week exclusively with Democrats as he and his party’s leadership set out to draw unflattering distinctions between Republicans and Democrats on fighting terrorism for the fall elections.

Instead, Mr. Bush spent Friday in a second day of heavy debate, casting some of the most respected voices on military matters in his own party as hindering the fight against terrorism. As of late Friday there seemed to be no break in the impasse, even as White House officials worked behind the scenes to build new support in the Senate for the legislation the president wants.

So now it is some Republicans who are getting in Bush’s way of bypassing the Geneva Conventions to allow his administration to compel our troops and intelligence officers to torture people.

Bush is trying to convince people that Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is vague and fuzzy, that all he is trying to do is clarify it. For your information, take a look at that article:

Article 3 (Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, UNHRC)

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

“Vague” my fuzzy cat’s backside. Take another look at Section 1, parts (a), (c), and (d) and tell me that Bush and his backers aren’t trying to make an end-run around them to rationalize and legalize inhumane treatment and remove due process. Is it any wonder why old warhorses such as Senators McCain and Warner and our military’s legal eagles are digging in their heels? Bush may see them as rebels in his party, but it is he who is rebelling against customs, rules, and laws that keep our democracy healthy.

Why does this president hate America’s self-professed values of human rights, civil rights, due process, and constitutional checks and balances?

Oh, and some advice to the president, who firmly believes the Congress will stay in Republican hands after the election despite the crappy economy, the wars, the federal deficits and debt, and the degradation of individual civil rights and even civil political discourse: Don’t bet on it. Five years of a War President running amok with no Congressional oversight is five years too many. Get ready to be called to account for your actions.

You can’t make this stuff up

Events, Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Aug 29 2007

Like something out of Kafka, the families of the trapped and likely dead miners in Utah are being denied the right to appoint the United Mine Workers as their representative in upcoming federal investigations. Not because this is a non-union mine, of course, but because the trapped and likely dead miners did not sign the forms themselves:

The federal agency tasked with investigating the Utah mine collapse denied a request by the families of six trapped miners that the United Mine Workers represent them in the probe of the matter, the union said Monday.

All six of the families had signed documents designating the union as their representative in the investigation, UMWA spokesman Phil Smith said. The Mine Safety and Health Administration told the union’s attorneys on Monday that the agency would not heed the request.

“MSHA requires that miners sign these papers, but the miners in question were unable because the are trapped inside the mine,” Smith said.

Of course, if the trapped miners could get out and sign the papers themselves, there wouldn’t need to be an investigation.

Rally Report: More Like “Soak My Bones.”

Interesting, Local | Posted by admin
Aug 19 2007

As things stand, the 2007 Rattle My Bones Scooter Rally in the Twin Cities, is wrapping up. Visitors from out-of-town, including someone from Kansas City and a couple from Winnipeg, are motoring home. At last count, the rally had one-hundred and seventy registrants. That was with full knowledge that a lot of (300 accessories) rain would try to dampen spirits. Far from it, however. The numbers were on the high-side of rally attendees over the past eight years running. Some of us speculated how many more would have come out had the forecast been for clear skies and mid-70ºs.

I rode to the Friday night shindig, whacked-out back and all, on a newly-decorated Stella, courtesy of a fine artist who had experience painting an “art-car” or two… that’s Michelle. I went with a partial racing stripe upwards from the ground to the name badge, with retro-1950s stars, the kind that look similar to jacks, filling out the top of the legshield. Some fellow scooterists commented that they thought the work consisted of stick-on vinyl decals. They were surpirsed and impressed that she had done it, by hand, just the night before.

While Friday was dry, Saturday and Sunday alternated between rain and drizzle. Instead of falling back on the wimp-out excuse of my fear of getting wet, I had a novel, equally lame, wimp-out excuse courtesy of my back muscles. Friday morning I did the totally freaky “sneeze while bending over to pick up my boots” act and hit the floor like a bug caught under a shoe. My back muscles snapped like a rubber band in that moment. Whoa… That was painful. I’m still nursing it back to health and have even resorted to opening the medicine cabinet. All is well if I a) sit up, b) lie down, or c) stand up, but any angle that is between one and eighty-nine generated a lot of low-volume “ow… ow… ows” from me.

Since going to work was out of the question, I rested up for Friday night and rode there on my scooter, only to experience another freaky problem: My headlight kept going out when I shifted into third and fourth gear. It’s a common problem on scoots with gear shifters on the left-hand side of the handlebars, because that’s where the low-high beam switch also happens to sit. Periodically, a wire will work itself out after a certain number of twists up and down the gears. With a little electrical tape, a tiny swiss-army knife screwdriver, and five or ten others watching or assisting, we fixed the problem… mostly… it still flickers a little in fourth gear. Hey, it’s better than driving in the dark with no lights.

Someone commented on the Saturday ride (a.k.a. “The Big Ride”) that there were two kinds of scooterists out there in the driving rain: Scooterists with rain pants, who were happy, and scooterists without rain pants, who were not happy.

Seven or eight bands played each evening over the course of events. We had both kinds of music… no, not “country and western”… more like punk and ska. Michelle and I made it to those.

Overall, a good weekend was had by all… even with bad backs, mechanical problems, and weather-related inconveniences.

Compare and contrast

Interesting | Posted by admin
Aug 18 2007

Mitch Perlstein, Center for the American Experiment and consistent “No new taxes” proponent, in a column today in the StarTribune’s Opinion section:

It would have to be demonstrated, for instance, that decisions by the Minnesota Department of Transportation about what to do about the bridge — whether to repair it, how to repair it, when to repair it — were made on the basis of what such steps might cost. But I know of no evidence that money played any role in determining what state officials or anyone else did or didn’t do in maintaining the bridge.

StarTribune front page news story, same metro edition:

Dorgan and senior engineer Gary Peterson denied in interviews that money was a factor in deciding what to do with the Interstate 35W bridge, which was not due for replacement until 2022. They provided a written timeline showing that MnDOT supervisors on Nov. 1, 2006, funded the reinforcing project for $1.5 million, with work to begin in January 2008.

But at least three internal documents suggest that money was a consideration.

On using cost/benefit analysis in determining whether to repair or replace the bridge:
Perlstein:

Likewise, to draw any suspect connection between the collapse and the consistent preference of large numbers of Minnesotans to hold the line on taxes, one would have to assume that inspectors and other officials charged with protecting and serving allowed anything other than their professionalism to determine how they gauged the sturdiness and fragility of the state’s infrastructure. Without a morsel of evidence that any of them compromised their integrity, it’s slanderous to imply that any of them did.

News story:

Earlier, when MnDOT and its consultants were zeroing in on reinforcing the bridge, an internal MnDOT “investment strategy” meeting was held on July 24, 2006, in which officials debated various approaches.

* * *

The “risk” of that approach was described this way: “Must pay approximately 2 million dollars to get the job done.”

* * *

A logistics and financial issue also was discussed. MnDOT officials said that if the bridge was simply inspected, the benefit would be: “Don’t have to pay for steel, stockpile steel, or install steel.”

On the timing of repairs:
Perlstein:

And then, of course, even if Pawlenty broke his no-tax pledge 20 minutes after taking office in 2003, and even if MnDOT’s budget doubled in a single bound, does anyone really believe that federal, state and local bureaucracies would have moved fast enough so that anything other than maybe talking about a new 35W bridge would have happened by now?

News story:

The men and women whose job was to ensure the safety of Bridge 9340 were meeting once again. Just after noon on Dec. 6, they filed into a conference room in Roseville to divvy up the final prep work for a dangerous steel reinforcement project high above the Mississippi River.

A senior engineer was going to pull property records in order to contact landowners beneath the bridge. Detours were coming for West River Road. The Coast Guard was about to get heaps of paperwork on what tasks would be done from the river channel. Truck drivers would soon learn of pending weight restrictions.

* * *

• Jan. 17, 2007 The turning point occurs during a conference call. Dorgan and staff opt for inspection only. He says the decision is based on URS assurances that inspectors can detect and isolate cracks before they reach a dangerous length.

* * *

“We regret the additional work this has caused you and others in the district,” Peterson wrote in an e-mail, “but I’m sure you agree that based on this new information it [is] appropriate that we postpone the project until we can determine if another option may [be] as safe and a more cost effective approach.”

On the long-term results here:
Perlstein:

….if we got our priorities straight, enough money would be freed to adequately build what we really need and maintain what we have.

News story, quoting State Bridge Engineer Dan Dorgan:

“You can’t help but ask yourself … what should have been done differently,” he said. “As an engineer you can’t be at peace until the cause is found. And even then I have doubts that will bring peace.”

Quick question: When is $168K not enough?

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Aug 17 2007

I wish I had Tony Snow’s problem.

Financial Pressures Force Snow Departure (Washington Post):

White House press secretary Tony Snow said Friday he’ll leave before the end of the Bush presidency because he needs to make more money.

“I’m going to stay as long as I can,” he said without elaborating on a departure date.

Snow’s comment caught White House colleagues by surprise, and they said they could not hazard a guess about when he might leave.

The 52-year-old Snow, the father of three children, earns $168,000 as an assistant to the president but made considerably more as a conservative pundit and syndicated talk-show host on Fox News Radio. He was named press secretary on April 26, 2006.

White House press secretaries in recent administrations have found the speechmaking circuit to be lucrative once they’ve stepped down. Snow was eagerly sought by Republican audiences before the elections last year, and in a break with tradition he made a number of fundraising speeches for GOP candidates.

How much more moola does Snow need? Maybe we can all band together and chip in a few bucks apiece to help him along, or we could hold a bake sale. Better yet, how about we demand that Congress pass and the president sign a bill allotting a salary that will be able to support a press secretary and his or her family, because a low, six-digit income for spinning the administration’s lines just isn’t cutting it these days.

Gosh, just how does the rest of America get by on dual-income, five-digit incomes?

Do you feel it? A scooter rally approaches.

Interesting, Local | Posted by admin
Aug 16 2007

It must explain why I am wandering into the strange-yet-oh-so-cool offerings on the web.

It’s either that or the results of Michelle’s foray into the art of painting up scooters… particularly mine… with kick-butt, 1950s-jazz-lounge-era stars on the legshield. Pics will be forthcoming.

Who gives a furry rat’s gluteous maximus about fishing openers or deer season. Scooter rally season is where it’s at. Rattle My Bones is its name. Three days of Pabst, Bloody Maries, and two-stroke fumes (especially if you find yourself behind one of those vintage Lambrettas, which can create a heat-island effect without ever leaving first gear.

Check it out. Heck, come on out Saturday morning before The Big Ride and walk among the scooterista. Most hail from our fine Twin Cities, but there are plenty of out-of-towners who make their pilgrimage up here. Most of those come from Chicago (those would be the ones who ride in slouched positions, wearing worn-out Chuckies, and managing to keep their cigarettes in their mouths while at cruising speed) and from Denver (those would be the ones who put their seats up to either air out their gas tanks or keep the sun from baking their black vinyl seats; I haven’t figured out which it is, yet).

(Thanks to Clunkyrobot.com for finding that “rad for so many reasons” video. Enjoy all those hits you’ll get… from all three of my readers.)

Some things just should not be made more efficient.

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Aug 15 2007

The death penalty, as one example, clearly fits this bill.

Gonzales to Get Power In Death Penalty Cases (Washington Post):
Rules Would Expand Fast-Track Authority

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, under political siege for his handling of the U.S. attorney firings and other issues, is to get expanded powers to hasten death penalty cases under regulations being developed by the Justice Department.

The rules would give Gonzales the authority to approve “fast-track” procedures by states in death penalty cases, enabling them to carry out sentences more speedily and with fewer opportunities for appeal if those states provide adequate representation for capital defendants.

Such powers were previously held by federal judges, but a provision of the USA Patriot Act reauthorization bill approved by Congress last year hands the authority to the attorney general.

Under the regulations, death row inmates would have six months, instead of a year, to file appeals in the federal courts, and federal judges would have less time to consider petitions in capital cases.

The proposed changes, reported yesterday by the Los Angeles Times, would hand new authority to Gonzales as leading Democrats and some Republicans have called for his resignation and questioned his truthfulness. Earlier this month, Congress gave Gonzales greater powers in overseeing the government’s warrantless wiretapping program.

The leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), asked Gonzales in a letter sent earlier this month to delay implementing the new death penalty rules until October at the earliest, “to guarantee adequate representation of death row prisoners before certification occurs.”

If our states and nation insist on having a death penalty for crimes, they better make damn well certain that every aspect of a conviction is thoroughly examined and considered between throwing those switches.

This isn’t so much about the person who committed the crime. It’s more about maintaining our integrity as a nation that professes to stand for liberty and justice, due process, and equal justice under the law. Executing those who are found out to have been innocent of committing a crime, even if as rare as hen’s teeth, completely violates that principle.

Add to that how the current Attorney General has a penchant for refusing to offer any information on almost anything he does at the Justice Department, and we have mapped a path for our nation to add summary executions to secret trials based on secret evidence. I’m not ready to see our nation go that route. Not now. Not ever.

Blogging while oblivious

Interesting | Posted by admin
Aug 12 2007

Shorter Jeff Kouba: “Why, no, I’ve never received anonymous email with images of my face photoshopped onto a mutilated and ejaculate-covered corpse with my home address posted below. Why do you ask?”

It’s worth remembering that the blogosphere is still so new it baffles spell check. For that matter, if I type “blogger” on my screen, my retro software offers alternatives like “loggers,” “floggers,” and “boggler.”

It “boggles” my mind to realize how quickly a piece of Internet terrain has gained power in politics. By now, the political blogosphere is to the left what talk radio is to the right. It is a forceful, sometimes demagogic, message-monger organizing tool for the progressive end of the Democratic Party.

Nevertheless, there is another, less flattering way in which broadband has followed broadcast and the liberal political bloggers mimic the conservative talk-show hosts. The chief messengers are overwhelmingly men — white men, even angry white men.

I began tracking the maleness of this media last spring while I was a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy. An intrepid graduate student created a spreadsheet of the top 90 political blogs. A full 42 percent were edited and written by men only, while 7 percent were by women only. Another 45 percent were edited or authored by both men and women, though the “coed” mix was overwhelmingly male. And, not surprisingly, most male bloggers linked to male bloggers.

Next year, Yearly Kos will undergo a name change. The assembly of progressive bloggers will call themselves Netroots Nation. But when will the members of these netroots look more like the nation?

(not) Dead (yet) Chicks Monday…

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Jun 25 2007

I really need to read these articles more closely:

Israel targets US lad mag market (BBC):

Israel has decided to reach out to young US men by publishing images of semi-clad female former soldiers in US men’s magazine, Maxim.

The pictures are part of a public relations drive to improve the image of the country within the US.

Maxim said it was “pleased” with the result of its collaboration with the Israeli consulate in New York, which came up with the idea.

But some in Israel have said that the images were not appropriate.

“We definitely have public relations problems, and I’m all for creative solutions,” Israeli lawmaker Colette Avital said.

“But there are enough beautiful and interesting things we can use to tap into this demographic than to show a half-naked woman in a magazine of this kind, considered pornographic.”

According to AP, the photo spread will include pictures of Israeli model Nivit Bash – who served in Israeli military intelligence – and former Miss Israel, Gal Gadot.

The Israeli consulate defended its decision, taken after research indicated that Israel meant very little to young US men.

“Males that age have no feeling toward Israel one way or another, and we view that as a problem, so we came up with an idea that would be appealing to them,” said David Dorfman, a media adviser at the consulate.

The photo feature, entitled “Women of the Israeli Defense Forces”, will be published in the July issue of the magazine.

Will someone over at the Anti-Strib please tell me again how low-brow sexism and rambo-esque militarism supposed to “improve the image” of Israel to the American population? I keep forgetting.

- – -
On another note: Hey, Tracy. I saw you interviewed in last week’s paper. When did you sell out and become pro-Strib?

In defense of the free market. Sort of. Ok, not really.

Events | Posted by admin
May 30 2007

“I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”
– Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle”

E coli conservatives and their ostensible devotion to the free market strike again:

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

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

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

We knew that this administration sheds its purported principles whenever it suits their supporters, but to prohibit a small meatpacker from testing for a deadly disease when the small business wants to do so at its own cost is simply insane and shows what the true agenda is. Rick Perlstein offers this comment:

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

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

And in case you’re wondering, you can buy Creekstone Farms meat locally at Kowalski’s.