It is a time of freedom and fear, of Gaia and of borders, of many paths and the widening of a universal toll road, emptying country and swelling cities, of the public bought into privacy and the privacy of the public sold into invisible data banks and knowing algorithms. It is the time of the warrior's peace and the miser's charity, when the planting of a seed is an act of conscientious objection.

These are the times when maps fade and direction is lost. Forwards is backwards now, so we glance sideways at the strange lands through which we are all passing, knowing for certain only that our destination has disappeared. We are unready to meet these times, but we proceed nonetheless, adapting as we wander, reshaping the Earth with every tread.

Behind us we have left the old times, the standard times, the high times. Welcome to the irregular times.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Of the plenty Howard Dean remixes, my personal favorites: (With Star Trek Feeling) (Super Cheesy Piano Music) (Kokomo with Dean as backup singer) (I Feel Good!)

Posted by Matthew Cook at 4:50 PM. # (permalink)

The good ol' boy network at it again
Friday, January 23, 2004
Guess who was behind bypassing Congress to get former segregationist Charles Pickering appointed to the federal appeals bench? None other than fellow "former" racist Trent Lott. Here's what Trent had to say about the sneaky recess appointment of Pickering:

"While temporary recess appointments certainly are not a preferred means of getting quality judges on the bench, in this exceptional case, Judge Pickering's record deems this recess appointment fully appropriate." (Source: CNN, 1/16/04)

Well, come on Trent. What exactly about Pickering's record makes this appropriate? Does it have anything to do with the reason why, had Strom Thurmond been elected president, we wouldn't have all these problems we have now? Out with it.

Will somebody please tell these guys Jim Crow has left the house?

Posted by Doctor Theopolis at 4:42 AM. # (permalink)

Mincing Words with the Bushmeister
Thursday, January 22, 2004
According to Bush's 2004 State of the Union speech, there is evidence Iraq had "weapons of mass-destruction-related program activities."

A slick piece of verbal packaging, this. It's carefully crafted to lull the casual listener into concluding that weapons of mass destruction were found after all. It sounds like a kinda fancy way of saying we found Saddam's WMD. But look a little closer, and you'll discover the fancy phrasing obscures Bush's claim, rather than making it clearer. It's supposed to sound like weapons-inspector technicalese, but it's actually cover-your-ass legalese.

It's like the wording on those cans of bogus cheese in the supermarket. Take a close look at the fine print under the word "Cheez" (note the change in spelling--we never claimed it was cheese)--it'll say something like "processed cheez product." Why split hairs, you nutty left-wing deconstructionist? What's the difference between "processed cheez product" and cheese? Well, to put it bluntly, "processed cheez product" ain't cheese. It's just slick packaging designed to cover the company's ass while deceiving the consumer.

The phrase "weapons of mass-destruction-related program activities" is just too vague to be meaningful. For instance, we know Saddam had gas masks ready to distribute to at least some of his troops during the war. At the time, the U.S. claimed it was because he had poison gas and was planning to use it on our troops. Iraqis said it was because they feared the U.S. would release chemical weapons and claim the Iraqis had done it. Who knows what the truth is? Simple fact is, a gas mask is a fairly standard piece of military equipment--that the Iraqis would have some just doesn't prove much. Now, is the stockpiling of gas masks an "activity" "related" to a "weapons of mass destruction" "program." Absolutely. The "activity" of stockpiling and distributing gas masks was undertaken as part of a "program" to protect Iraqi soldiers from (protection from constitutes a "relation"ship to) "weapons of mass destruction." So there we have it: "weapons of mass-destruction-related program activities." By the same logic, if you bought plastic sheeting and duct tape during last year's Terrorist Scare, you too were engaged in "weapons of mass-destruction-related program activities."

By now, those of you that are still reading are probably pretty sick of me splitting too many verbal hairs. I mean, come on. I'm stretching word analysis to the point that words just become meaningless, right? Well, yeah. But I didn't start the word games. Bush and his crew started them, by trying to pull the wool over my eyes with this slick little phrase.

This especially annoys me because of Bush's carefully cultivated public image as a straight-talking rural Texan. But he ain't. What if two ranchers from Texas were talking, and one asked: "So, do you have any cattle up on that ranch?" And the other one answered: "We have bovine quadruped-related program activities." The first guy's going to say, "Hell, man, do you have cows or not?" The reason rural Texans, by and large, don't speak intentionally obfuscatory legalese is because they don't have a full-time staff of advisors team-writing for them.

But, of course, Bush ain't a rural Texan. He's just a slickly packaged "processed Texaz product."

Posted by Doctor Theopolis at 11:25 PM# (permalink)

Sneaky, sticky Republican fingers

Oh, those Sticky Republican Party Fingers...

On this blog we only rarely cut-and-paste text from news articles in without comment. But this article by Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe is really a must-read:

Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics.

The office of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William Pickle has already launched an investigation into how excerpts from 15 Democratic memos showed up in the pages of the conservative-leaning newspapers and were posted to a website last November.

With the help of forensic computer experts from General Dynamics and the US Secret Service, his office has interviewed about 120 people to date and seized more than half a dozen computers -- including four Judiciary servers, one server from the office of Senate majority leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, and several desktop hard drives.

But the scope of both the intrusions and the likely disclosures is now known to have been far more extensive than the November incident, staffers and others familiar with the investigation say.

The revelation comes as the battle of judicial nominees is reaching a new level of intensity. Last week, President Bush used his recess power to appoint Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, bypassing a Democratic filibuster that blocked a vote on his nomination for a year because of concerns over his civil rights record.

Democrats now claim their private memos formed the basis for a February 2003 column by conservative pundit Robert Novak that revealed plans pushed by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, to filibuster certain judicial nominees. Novak is also at the center of an investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA agent whose husband contradicted a Bush administration claim about Iraqi nuclear programs.

Citing "internal Senate sources," Novak's column described closed-door Democratic meetings about how to handle nominees.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 4:51 PM. # (permalink)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004
The last words of George W. Bush's 2004 State of the Union Address: "May God Continue to Bless America." Beware a President who thinks he can read the thoughts of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 8:32 PM# (permalink)

What really irks me
One line from George W. Bush's State of the Union address last night really stuck in my craw:

"Our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people."

Since this was an address to a joint meeting of the House and Senate, I assume Mr. Bush was referring to his duty as President, the duties of Senators and the duties of Representatives. Members of the Supreme Court were there, too: to be fair, let's include them as well.

Let's actually look at the job descriptions of the President, Senators, Representatives and Members of the Supreme Court as described in two places: the U.S. Constitution and the oaths of office taken by each of these officeholders.

In the U.S. Constitution (read it yourself), the Preamble tells us what the government should be for:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Look in there: "provide for the common defense" is just one of six priorities, and it's stuck in the middle there, like the middling actor in a movie who gets neither the top billing nor the coveted final "and featuring..." spot. Surely (surely!) George W. Bush has read the Constitution. Why, then, does he neglect Union, Justice, Tranquility, Welfare and Liberty?

Moving on through the Constitution to Article I, Section 8 enumerates the responsibilities of the House and Senate in a set of 18 clauses. By my reading, these include
  • imposing taxes
  • paying debts
  • securing common defense
  • promoting general welfare
  • borrowing money
  • regulating foreign and domestic commerce
  • regulating citizenship
  • coining money
  • governing the post office
  • building roads
  • promoting scientific and artistic progress
  • instituting intellectual property
  • maintaining a court system
  • supporting international law
  • declaring war
  • maintaining an Army
  • maintaining a Navy
  • instituting domestic law enforcement
  • governing the District of Columbia
  • writing laws to accomplish all of the above.
In Article V, amending the Constitution is also mentioned as a legislative responsibility. Here too, the whole "defense of the American people" thingy is only one of many duties of the Congress. Is Bush ignorant of these, or does he actively choose to ignore them?

In Article II, Sections 2-3 of the Constitution, the responsibilities of the President are enumerated:
  • serving as commander in chief of the armed forces
  • administrating of the departments of the executive branch
  • granting reprieves and pardons
  • making treaties
  • appointing ambassadors, administrators and judges
  • filling vacancies when Congress is not in session
Yet again, multiple responsibilities are named, most of which are not directly related to military engagement.

In Article III of the Constitution, the responsibilities of the Judiciary are enumerated, and all of them are related to upholding a system of laws. No responsibilities related to military engagement are named.

Finally, Article VI of the Constitution states that "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." (That whole "no religious Test" thing is another story). The oaths of office for all three branches of the U.S. Government are not to engage in "the active defense of the American people," but rather to uphold the Constitution.

The Oath of Office for the President is specifically laid out in Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." The oath of the Constitution makes it perfectly clear what the primary responsibility of the President is. It is not to defend economic security. It is not to defend the people. It is to defend the Constitution of the United States.

The Constitution that the President of the United States is sworn to preserve, protect and defend contains a Bill of Rights (read it yourself). These include:
  • the prevention of the establishment of religion (which Bush proposed doing by providing material governmental support to certain religious groups)
  • freedom of speech (which Bush's spokesman undermined by admonishing Americans to "watch what they say, watch what they do")
  • freedom of the press (which Bush does not bother to read)
  • freedom of peacable assembly for purposes of protest (which Bush undermines in his appearances by keeping opponents out of his line of sight and in distant "free speech zones," outside of which words of protest are forbidden)
  • a right to bear arms (which Bush is OK with)
  • a right to refuse search and seizure without probable cause (undermined by involuntary data mining operations, unregulated surveillance of law-abiding citizens without notification, and random roadside searches)
  • a right to a trial (taken away for those Bush designates as "enemy combatants")

The Bill of Rights does not include a right to national security, or to personal safety. It prescribes liberty and admonishes government leaders including the President to protect that liberty. It requires the President to swear to uphold those liberties by protecting, upholding and defending not the American People, but the American Constitution.

Is Mr. Bush ignorant of his Constitutional duties? Has he forgotten his oath of office? Or is he acting in knowledgeable disregard of them?

None of these possibilities is reassuring. Fortunately, in cases of presidential ignorance and/or active contravention of duty, the Constitution reserves to the people the right to remove a sitting (and this one definitely is sitting) President from office.

Dereliction of Constitutional duty: another reason to boot Bush in 2004.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 12:47 PM. # (permalink)

Find the Black Bush Supporter
Monday, January 19, 2004
It's that time again -- let's play another round of Find the Black Bush Supporter!

And no, the two Black Secret Service Agents don't count.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 7:25 PM# (permalink)

As the case for George W. Bush's war in Iraq disintegrates, apologists for the war have tried to connect support for Bush's war to support for the U.S. military. But a group called Military Families Speak Out shows that it's possible to be in support of the soldiers carrying out Bush's orders and still be firmly opposed to the orders that Bush is giving. As Bush gives his State of the Union address tomorrow, military families, veterans, and citizens in favor of peaceful solutions will gather for a candlelight vigil along Washington, D.C.'s National Mall with the theme of "Remembering Lives Lost to a Lie."

If you live in the D.C. area and would like to join the vigil, here are the details:

PLACE: 3rd Street NW between Constitution and Independence Avenues
TIME: 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm on Tuesday, January 20, 2004
FOR MORE INFORMATION: "Remembering Lives Lost to a Lie."

Pass it on.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 12:54 PM# (permalink)

Will the real Butcher of Baghdad please stand up
The Iraq situation is complicated, delicate, and difficult. Handling it well requires someone who is educated, open-minded, graceful, humble, mindful, helpful, generous, knowledgeable, elegant, refined, and tactful.

And who do we have at the helm? George Blockhead Bush, a fumbling butcher splattered with the blood and gore of thousands of human beings, who stands now at a crossroads with the Shi’a and the U.N., ready to start swinging the sledgehammer of self-righteousness and intolerance. It’s his calling—his God has commanded him to smash the skulls of his enemies and bludgeon their babies. There hasn’t been enough bloodshed for this man. Like a snarling rapist he craves the endorphin-rush of power, the sounds of screams, and the taste of blood with its tangy zing and the warm gush it brings to his cool throat.

And when he’s done he’ll stand before his God and before us, with his teeth and chin drenched with crimson clots and bloody broth and his arms outstretched in triumph. He knows in his heart he is the savior of the free world.

He fucked it up at the beginning, he’s fucking it up now, and he’s going to keep fucking up. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.

Posted by Bob S-K at 11:35 AM# (permalink)

When you get a free moment, I strongly suggest you check out the Take Back America Fund. This independent organization works simultaneously on four fronts:
  • Local Campaigns,
  • Voter Registration,
  • Supporting a Progressive Democratic Party, and
  • the Take Back the Media Group, supporting media voices that dare to mount a challenge to the current nonsense.

Making a contribution to the TBAF is a way to avoid encouraging possibly counter-productive intra-Democratic fratricide; instead, you'll be helping to get the message out against George W. Bush and his radically dangerous presidency.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 10:43 AM# (permalink)

EPIC breaks story on Northwest Airlines violations of passenger privacy
A breaking story as of last night, with lots more to come:

Northwest Airlines, in spite of repeated denials, has been exposed for handing over millions of files full of information on passenger habits to the Bush Administration. Justified as a part of the "war on terror", the Bush Administration's scanning of passenger information included bizarre research into "non-invasive neuro-logic sensors".

This activity was in clear violation of the Northwest Airlines privacy policy. If you were a Northwest Airlines passenger around the time of or in the years just prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, we suggest that you give the customer service people at Northwest a phone call demanding to know what kinds of information about you they gave to government agents. The telephone number is 1-800-692-6955.

More to come, but in the meantime, we suggest that you visit EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, to find out more about this startling betrayal of Americans' privacy by the Bush Administration and Northwest Airlines.

Posted by J. Clifford Cook at 7:43 AM. # (permalink)

Whose heart's bleeding now?
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Remember when conservatives used to call liberals "bleeding hearts?" I haven't heard that one recently, and it got me wondering. How come nobody calls us "bleeding heart liberals" anymore? What does it mean to call someone a "bleeding heart" anyway?

As far as I can figure, "bleeding heart" was used to accuse us of two things: 1) You're too sensitive to the suffering of others, and 2) You're letting your feelings get in the way of your better judgment. Sometimes you've got to say, "You know what? Tough!"

Some fish species is going to go extinct because a dam is built? Tough!
Women make less than men for the same work? Tough!
Rich get all the tax breaks when the working poor get the short end of the stick? Tough!
African American infant mortality rate twice that of European Americans? Tough!
A million Iraqis die as a result of our bombings and sanctions? Tough!
Three thousand people die in a terrorist attack? Tough! --No, no! Wait a minute! That's just wrong! We can't stand for that!...

On September 11, I don't think any American could say, "You know what? Tough!" That's when the conservative rhetoric shifted. It just wasn't fashionable to preach indifference to the suffering of others as though it were some kind of lofty virtue anymore.

But conservatives let their feelings get in the way of their better judgment. In the months leading up to Iraq War II, liberals pointed out that there was no connection between Saddam and the September 11 attacks. A common conservative response was, "Well, we can't just sit around and do nothing! We have to do SOMETHING!" That's the kind of argument somebody makes when they're just so overcome with emotion they can't think straight. That's the kind of bleeding-heart conservatism that got us into this mess in Iraq.

Well, it's nice to know conservatives have feelings too. But it's striking how suddenly, when compassion came back in style, they forgot all their paternalistic preaching about how feelings can distort your judgment.

For what it's worth, I'm glad it's hip to care now. And it would be ideal if we could care and still be level-headed in response to our feelings.

But I don't know. Lately, when I mention to conservatives that thousands of Iraqi civilians have died in Iraq War II, the typical response I get is: "You know what? Tough!"

Posted by Doctor Theopolis at 11:57 AM# (permalink)

Iraqi Democracy or Bush Re-election?
Encountering widespread popular Iraqi opposition to its plans for a new government in Iraq, the Bush Administration now says that it is willing to do extensive replanning of the process of turning over the sovereignty of Iraq to Iraqis, given the popular Iraqi rejection of its current plan. Yet, George W. Bush insists that he will not alter the timetable for the transfer of sovereignty.

The transfer of sovereignty is essential, but it's also essential that the transfer be done right, so that the civil situation in Iraq doesn't go from bad to worse. This is not the kind of job that should be rushed.

When circumstances change, the timetable for the transfer of sovereignty needs to be changed. Otherwise, Iraq will end up with nothing but the facade of democracy.

You see, such a facade is just what the Bush Administration had originally planned. They said that they would set up a democratic government in Iraq, but one that would not hold direct elections! Instead, a caucus system that could easily be rigged with American controlled "security" forces was suggested. However, it seems that most Iraqis saw right through the fake democracy that Bush had plannned - they have lots of experience with fake democracy over there and don't want any more of it.

Bush and his representative rulers of Iraq explained that gosh, there just wasn't enough time to hold real elections - and still get a new Iraqi government up in place before the American Election Day in 2004.

George W. Bush and his advisers seem to value the political necessities of an election year more than the welfare of the Iraqi people. Those kinds of priorities will be strengthened if rewarded through re-election. Are you going to reward George W. Bush for a sloppy job in Iraq?

Posted by J. Clifford Cook at 7:53 AM. # (permalink)

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