Monday, February 28, 2005

Howard vs. Pat:
Wouldn't I love to be a fly on the wall for this event (bottom of the page).


Organizers hope for best

When Howard Dean won the Democratic National Committee chairmanship this month, his schedule tightened. Organizers of Friday's Michigan Political Leadership Program breakfast in Grand Rapids feared he wouldn't make the 7 a.m. breakfast at Meijer Gardens. As polpourri reported in January, Dean was booked as the liberal counterpart to commentator Pat Buchanan. "We (are) hoping he wouldn't cancel," said Amy Baumer, spokeswoman for the MPLP. Cost is $125. Call (517) 255-6672.

Hope the Press covers it. These two probably have more in common nowadays than anyone would think.
It's All About Blogger:

...making me insane this morning.

I've found it helps to close the window and re-start the computer. Aaaarg.

Yahoo! News - U.S. Pushes U.N. on Abortion Declaration
UNITED NATIONS - Ten years after the world's nations pledged to achieve equality for women, a follow-up meeting has become embroiled in controversy over a U.S. demand that its final declaration state that women are not guaranteed the right to abortion.

In informal consultations ahead of Monday's meeting to take stock of progress in implementing the landmark platform adopted at the 1995 U.N. women's conference in Beijing, the United States raised the abortion issue as a first order of business.

So the very first thing we did at a conference for women's rights is to declare that women don't have the right to control what happens to their own bodies. Nice. Kind of makes all the other rights irrelevant, doesn't it?

The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, which organized the high-level meeting, had hoped the two-week session would focus on overcoming the roadblocks to women's equality in 12 critical areas from health, education and employment to political participation and human rights.

But the dispute over abortion is likely to dominate the headlines and the closed-door debate on the final declaration.

But of course. Instead of addressing the issues that might eliminate the need for abortion, such as reproductive education, access to birth control, poverty, abuse, medical care, etc. etc, we will just ignore the causes and declare that women have no right to their bodies. That will stop it, right?

The Commission on the Status of Women drafted a short declaration which it had hoped to have adopted by consensus before Monday's opening session.

It would have nations reaffirm the Beijing platform and an accompanying declaration, welcome progress toward achieving gender equality, stress that challenges remain, and "pledge to undertake further action to ensure their full and accelerated implementation."

But at an informal closed-door meeting on Thursday, the United States said it could not accept the declaration because of its concerns that the Beijing platform legalized the right to abortion as a human right, according to several participants.

On Friday, the United States proposed an amendment to the draft declaration that would reaffirm the Beijing platform and declaration — but only "while reaffirming that they do not create any new international human rights, and that they do not include the right to abortion," according to the text obtained by The Associated Press.

Once again I find myself rooting for the rest of the world to tell the US to "fuck off".

A majority of Americans support abortion rights, but here we have a delegation stating that the US believes the opposite. How can that be possible? Who appoints these people to speak in our name on the world floor? (Don't tell me, I know the answer to this one.)

The Beijing platform is a policy document with specific recommendations that all nations agreed to, she stressed, not a legally binding treaty which is where human rights are enshrined.

"It's not a human rights convention," Kang said. "It's a policy document. In that sense, I personally as chair do not think it should be seen as creating any new human rights."

But Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said "These amendments are consistent with U.S. government views."

But they are not consistent with the American public's views. They certainly aren't consistent women's rights groups here in the US. I hope the rest of the world realizes that.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Yahoo! News - Russia to Deliver Nuclear Fuel to Iran
BUSHEHR, Iran - Russia and Iran signed a deal Sunday that would deliver nuclear fuel to the Middle East country for the startup of its first reactor — a project the United States had for years pushed Moscow to drop, claiming Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb.

Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh and Russian Atomic Energy Agency chief Alexander Rumyantsev signed the agreement at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. The signing, which was delayed by a day, came after the two senior officials toured the $800 million complex.

The signing came a few days after a summit between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovakia, which touched on American concerns over Russian support for Iran's nuclear program.

Washington accuses Tehran of covertly trying to build a nuclear bomb, which Iran denies. Putin has said he is sure Iran's intentions are merely to generate energy, not create weapons, and that Russian cooperation with Tehran would continue.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Thursday's Bush-Putin summit had delayed the signing, which had been expected Saturday, but Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said "the Bush-Putin talks did not have an effect on the agreement. Our talks (with the Russians) have been successful."

Was this a big "F-You" to Bush? There is an interesting alignment going on here, one that might keep"aspirations" in check. If Russia (and to some extent, China, by virtue of their big oil contracts) is aligning with the Iranians, who are aligning with the Syrians, doesn't this set up a stalemate of sorts as far as further military action in the region goes?

I guess my question is: Would the Russians come to either Iran's (or Syria's) aid should the US (or Israel) decide to act? Is anyone but me starting to think that the Cold War was actually a good thing that perserved balance in the world?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Your Brain is 46.67% Female, 53.33% Male

Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female

You are both sensitive and savvy

Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed

But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve

It's All About Me:

Sometimes the words escape me.

I attribute it to burnout from anger, and the anxiety that causes the anger in the first place. So many things to be disturbed about, so little time. You reach a point where you just become numb to everything or else your head will explode.

I could blog about the current media craze entitled "Pope Death Watch", but I find that I really, truly, deep-down just don't care right now. After all, the guy is coming out with a book that calls gay marriage part of the "ideology of evil." And once again I find that I'm supposed to "rise above", be more Christian than the Christians as it were, and find compassion in my heart for this sick old man. Nah. Never mind. Get kind of tired of being the one who has to be "understanding" while they persecute people. Fuck it.

A diarist at Kos put together a very scary story of all the fundies who would have us dead. Seriously. Quotes and everything. That is what these people advocate. Wow.

So, you just get numb to that, and as a consequence, to everything.

My mind this morning turns to my "miracle fish". Fred, the surviving half of the duo once known as "LaVerne & Fred", had been feeling poorly this past week; not eating, just sitting at the bottom of his fishbowl. I thought for sure his time was just about up. A little Internet research pointed to a cure- salt in the water. I happened to have some non-iodidezed (sp?) salt and -waa laa!- this morning Fred is swimming around and eating his food. He's not out of the woods yet, but an amazing improvement from yesterday.

Why care about the fish? Well, Kristin got him for one. He was a replacement for "Shirley", who was murdered by Baby. (It's a long story.) I've had him for four years, and he has come to symbolize a happier time in my life, the time when everything was going good and I had all the hope in the world. Before it all came crashing down, piece by piece. Before the "Dark Times". Before the "Empire". (stealing from Obi-Wan)

Who will live longest, the Pope or my fish? Probably the Pope. Something tells me they will hook that guy up to every known machine to keep him going, glorify his suffering, while my fish will probably just die and have a little toilet-side ceremony of thanks for the joy he brought me.

Which is more than I can say for the Pope.

Hang in there, Fred.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Yahoo! News - Salt Should Be Regulated Food Additive, Group Says
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A consumer group sued the federal government Thursday, saying that salt is killing tens of thousands of Americans and that regulators have done too little to control salt in food.

Despite advisories to take it easy on sodium, Americans are now consuming about 4,000 milligrams a day -- nearly double the recommended limit to keep blood pressure under control, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said.

So the CSPI renewed a lawsuit first filed in 1983 to ask federal courts to force the Food and Drug Administration to declare sodium a food additive instead of categorizing it as "generally recognized as safe." This would give the agency the authority to set limits for salt in foods.

"There is no way the FDA can look at the science and say with a straight face that salt is 'generally recognized as safe,"' CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said in a statement.

"In fact, salt is generally recognized as unsafe, because it is a major cause of heart attacks and stroke. The federal government should require food manufacturers to gradually lower their sodium levels."

Damn! There goes the Stouffers!!! Is nothing sacred?

Connecticut News - State, National and World News from The Hartford Courant - Legislators Back Same-Sex Unions
A key legislative committee made history Wednesday by endorsing a measure that would make Connecticut the second state in the nation to adopt civil unions for same-sex couples.

After a lively two-hour debate, the judiciary committee approved the civil unions bill by a 2-1 ratio in a largely bipartisan vote.

The proposal needs the approval of the full House and Senate and Gov. M. Jodi Rell to become law. But if that happens - and several lawmakers predicted it would - Connecticut would join Vermont as the only other state to extend nearly all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

"We have an opportunity to provide a huge step forward for equal rights," said state Sen. Andrew McDonald, a Democrat from Stamford and co-chairman of the committee. McDonald, one of several gay legislators in Connecticut, noted that unlike Vermont, Connecticut lawmakers are acting without a court order.

It's good to hear news of progress. Love them blue states!

Yahoo! News - Government Paying Ever More Health Costs -Report
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Within a decade, the public sector will be paying nearly half the cost of U.S. health care, which is also swallowing an ever-larger chunk of the nation's resources, government economists reported on Wednesday.

The new Medicare drug benefit for seniors -- which has alarmed lawmakers with its rising cost projections -- is contributing to the shift toward more public funding, said the report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Overall, health spending is seen hitting a record 18.7 percent of U.S. gross domestic product by 2014, up from 15.4 percent in 2004, according to the annual projection of future U.S. health spending.

The public sector's share of these health care costs will reach 49.4 percent by 2014, up from 45.7 percent in 2004, the report said. This includes spending on Medicare, the government health insurance plan for the elderly, as well as federal, state and local spending on the Medicaid program for the poor.

We are heading towards government run health care whether we want it or not. As insurance becomes more expensive, pushing more people off the private roles, Medicaid/Medicare use will soar. I can foresee a time when treatment will be denied because of cost. Already in Michigan people who have been denied dental care have ended up in the emergency rooms. Will we go the same way with general health care also?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Cubs to retire Ryne Sandberg's #23
The Chicago Cubs today announced that they will retire the uniform number - #23 - worn by former Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg. The special pregame ceremony will take place prior to the Cubs' Sunday, August 28, affair against the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field.

Sandberg will become the fourth player to be so honored by the Cubs, joining Ernie Banks (#14), Billy Williams (#26) and Ron Santo (#10).

Sandberg, who played for the Cubs from 1982-1994 and from 1996-1997, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place July 31 in Cooperstown, NY.

Yea for Ryno! Sure would like to be at that game.

Yahoo! News - Official: Bird Flu Pandemic Is Imminent
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - World Health Organization officials urged governments on Wednesday to act swiftly to control the spread of the bird flu, warning that the world is in grave danger of a deadly pandemic triggered by the virus.

The bird flu has killed 45 people in Asia over the past year, in cases largely traced to contact with sick birds, and experts have warned the H5N1 virus could become far deadlier if it mutates into a form that can be easily transmitted among humans. A global pandemic could kill millions, they say.

"We at WHO believe that the world is now in the gravest possible danger of a pandemic," Dr. Shigeru Omi, the WHO's Western Pacific regional director, said Wednesday.

He said the world is "now overdue" for an influenza pandemic, since mass epidemics have occurred every 20-30 years. It has been nearly 40 years since the last one.

Can't talk now! Must rattle sabre at Iranians!

We will probably ignore this like we ignore all other major health issues. I've often wondered if "The Stand" would happen in my lifetime.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

AMERICAblog: Guckert's military escort domain names up for sale, for thousands of dollars
Assuming Guckert owns these names, and that seems a safe assumption - he told CNN he bought them for clients, and they are still owned by the same company that owns his personal Web address, and the same company that he used to pay for the construction of his gay escort site - his alleged concern for all this publicity taking a toll on his family doesn't appear to be stopping him from continuing to add to the fire over this story each and every day.

According to a great story from, now he's apparently selling the gay escort domain names for thousands of bucks each, and using language in his ad for the names that makes clear he's trying to profit off of the recent publicity, in a cheeky way no less.

And by the way, Jeff, how's that invasion of privacy lawsuit going? I mean, you're obviously suffering a lot judging by the fact you're crowing over how much money you're going to make, the new book, the interviews, etc.

I think that maybe we are starting to give this guy too much publicity now. He's obviously going to turn this into a career....and the WH just stays silent. - The great TV shows on the bubble - Feb 22, 2005
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- "Arrested Development" star Jason Bateman and the sitcom's creator, Mitchell Hurwitz, were assessing the cuddle quotient in a show that viewers may soon lose the chance to embrace.

"There are a surprising number of hugs in the show. We just make jokes about how they (the characters) never hug," said Hurwitz. "So even when Michael's mother hugs him, he says, 'What are you doing? Why are you squeezing me with your body?' "

Bateman, who stars as Michael in the acerbic Fox comedy about the dysfunctional Bluth family, offers a solution: "You've got the Pax network if you want a good hug."

But he and the rest of the "Arrested Development" clan might be in need of comfort: Fox is halting production after 18 episodes, shy of the usual 22, bringing the season -- and maybe the series -- to a premature end April 17. For its sophomore season to date, "Arrested Development" is averaging 6 million weekly viewers, down from last season's average audience of 6.2 million. The lack of interest persists despite rave reviews and awards: a Golden Globe for Bateman in January and a best-comedy series Emmy last year.

I guess today is just "grumble at FOX" day for me. I hate their news.(Wonder why?) I'm really pissed that they have football and playoff baseball. (OK, their football coverage isn't so bad. But I loathe their baseball coverage. It's awful. Please NBC, bid, why don't you?)

Now they are threatening to cancel the last show on network television that shows any spark of creativity. It will officially mark the death of the sitcom in my book. There will be nothing that I go out of my way to watch anymore- this coming from a person whose soul was owned by NBC on Thursday nights for about 20 years. (I still catch Will & Grace when I think of it, but it's really jumped the shark this year, so I don't count it anymore.)

If they cancel Arrested Development, my disconnect from the networks will be complete.

If you like the show, here's a petition you can sign. Love those online petitions!

I thought it was interesting that they actually threw something up at this address- thought it would lead directly back to FOX.

Eh. The episode was only so-so, and in some ways just a cop-out. The Simpsons lost their edge a few years back, but I have to give them points for longevity. Every once in awhile they come up with something good, but most of the time they just tip over into the surreal. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The whole thing was kind of a turn-off from the beginning with their "parental advisory" warning and what not. Funny that in the next half hour Bart could set up a "swingin' bachelor pad" ala Hefner after he found some "Playdude" mags. And at the end, they portrayed James Caan getting shot ala "The Godfather". Nope, no warning there. Guess graphic violence is OK to show the kiddies.
Bored with the News:

Sorry. Got nothing to say this morning. Maybe later.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Yahoo! News - Writer Hunter S. Thompson Kills Himself
ASPEN, Colo. - Hunter S. Thompson, the hard-living writer who inserted himself into his accounts of America's underbelly and popularized a first-person form of journalism in books such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," has committed suicide.

Besides the 1972 classic about Thompson's visit to Las Vegas, he also wrote "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72." The central character in those wild, sprawling satires was "Dr. Thompson," a snarling, drug- and alcohol-crazed observer and participant.

Thompson is credited alongside Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese with helping pioneer New Journalism — or, as he dubbed it, "gonzo journalism" — in which the writer made himself an essential component of the story.

Before "my time". So was Sandra Dee.

Edit: After reading some of the tributes to Hunter, I have to admit I'm having a real hard time right now with the glorification of hard booze and hard drugs. Maybe I'm just jealous that I can't indulge myself, I don't know, because right now it's so tempting to just blot out this shit with chemicals. But after losing so many voices, so many artists and musicians, and after losing my two closest friends to addiction- to hold it in such high esteem seems profane.

I often wonder what the "boomer" generation could have accomplished had they not gone down that route. Perhaps the artistry would not have had the edge it needed to make it's point without the influence of the mind-altering substances. Perhaps that was the fuel that gave them the courage to find their voice. But in many ways I'm angry at them for selling out and bringing us the world in which we live in today. Could the booze and drugs have been the thing that ultimately held them down?

I was raised on the tail-end of the "counter-culture". I watched as one by one the "kids" that I looked up to then grew up and gave up on their ideals. Maybe they weren't as powerful as they like to think that they were. They didn't "change the world"; they got careers and bought BMW's and elected Reagan and Bush. In my mind a lot of them just got old, gave in, and sold out. Just my perspective, someone at the end of the boom and the beginning of Generation X. Yuck. I was born too early, or too late, I haven't figured out which one yet.

Not all of them sold out, of course. But enough so that I'm kind of pissed off today. It's a struggle for me because I understand the nature of addiction, the desire to "raise a glass" and make the pain go away. It calls to me everyday, especially lately.

But I know where that road leads, and it's not the answer.

So have your drink for Hunter (and Belushi and Cobain and Morrison and Joplin and Hendrix and on and on and on), and think about what "could have been". I'm going to have to fight that desire myself.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Daily Zen Meditation

Day and night the cold wind
Blows through my robe.
In the forest, only fallen leaves;
Wild chrysanthemums can no longer
Be seen. Next to my hermitage
There is an ancient bamboo grove;
Never changing, it awaits my return.

- Ryokan

I am so tired of the snow....

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Yahoo! News - At Least 700 Have Identities Stolen
SAN FRANCISCO - At least 700 people had their identities stolen during a yearlong scam by con artists who had signed up as clients of data-broker ChoicePoint Inc., the Los Angeles task force in charge of the criminal investigation confirmed on Friday.

When word first emerged this week that still unknown scammers had illegally obtained detailed dossiers on 35,000 people by posing as legitimate customers of ChoicePoint, the company portrayed it as a relatively minor criminal case, limited to California.

But by week's end, it was shaping up to be a full-blown scandal with as many as a half million people nationwide potentially vulnerable to identity theft.

Outraged, attorneys general from 38 states demanded that ChoicePoint warn any victims in their states as well, and politicians, consumer advocates and security experts called for more federal oversight of a lightly regulated industry that gathers and sells personal data about nearly every adult American.

An Alpharetta, Ga.-based spinoff from the credit-reporting giant Equifax, ChoicePoint maintains databases that hold 19 billion Social Security numbers, credit and medical histories, motor vehicle registrations, job applications, lawsuits, criminal files, professional licenses and other pieces of sensitive information. ChoicePoint also owns a DNA analysis lab and facilitates drug testing for employers.

But ChoicePoint and other privately owned aggregators of personal information operate with virtually no federal oversight, and critics say the companies haven't done enough to safeguard their information-rich databases.

"There's a serious problem that we as a nation don't seem to grasp — that the public is at risk whenever organizations collect massive amounts of information about us and they don't take extraordinary precautions to ensure that that information is protected," said Dr. Larry Ponemon, who runs a research firm in Tucson, Ariz., dedicated to privacy management in business and government. "People ought to be standing in lines protesting this."

Big Business is watching YOU! But apparently they don't watch the people they give the information to. Ouch.

Jeff Gannon Admits Past 'Mistakes,' Berates Critics (
Jeff Gannon, the former White House reporter whose naked pictures have appeared on a number of gay escort sites, says that he has "regrets" about his past but that White House officials knew nothing about his salacious activities.

"I've made mistakes in my past," he said yesterday. "Does my past mean I can't have a future? Does it disqualify me from being a journalist?"

Gannon chastised his critics, breaking a silence that began last week when liberal bloggers disclosed his real name, James Dale Guckert, and a Web page, which he paid for, featuring X-rated photos of himself. "Why would they be looking into a person's sexual history? Is that what we're going to do to reporters now? Is there some kind of litmus test for reporters? Is it right to hold someone's sexuality against them?"

Geez, I don't know, Jeff, is it? You tell me. Better yet, take a look around at the people you work for, and ask them that question. Go to Florida and try to adopt a child. Come up to Michigan and try to marry your partner. In any number of states you can be denied housing and employment just because of your sexuality. So you tell me Jeff, is that right?

Last night after the interview on 360 with Cooper, I felt a little sorry for the guy. He looked bewildered, nervous, frightened. After thinking about it, and reading this "victim" bullshit from him this morning, I'm pissed. Screw you buddy. You made this bed. You worked for the people who are actively persecuting gays. Nobody made you quit your job. Nobody critized you for "being a Christian". You're just another "pass the buck" Republican, blaming everyone else for your problems, not taking responsibility for your actions. I've heard this song from your "ilk" so many times I'm growing quite bored with it all.

Bye Jeff. Write when you learn how.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Yahoo! News - Bush Signs Bill to Curb Class-Action Suits
WASHINGTON - As President Bush signed legislation Friday aimed at discouraging multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuits, he made clear he had his sights set on much broader restraints.

Next up, Bush said, should be curbs on asbestos litigation and medical malpractice awards.

"We're making important progress toward a better legal system," he said during an East Room signing ceremony for the class-action bill. "There's more to do."

Surrounded by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the president hailed the legislation that had been bitterly opposed by consumer groups and trial lawyers but nonetheless attracted some Democratic supporters.

Is it just me, or is it kind of ironic that on the same day he signs this bill, Vioxx is deemed safe enough to return to the market?

I expect Ford to roll out a new version of the Pinto soon.

CBS News | Rove- Gannon Connection?
Tired and timid are two adjectives never applied to Rove. The architect of the Bush victories in 2000 and 2004 came through the ranks of college Republicans with the late Lee Atwater, and their admitted and alleged dirty tricks are the legends many young political operatives dream of pulling off. So when Jeff Gannon, White House "reporter" for Talon "News," was unmasked last week, the leap to a possible Rove connection was unavoidable. Gannon says that he met Rove only once, at a White House Christmas party, and Gannon is kind of small potatoes for Rove at this point in his career.

But Rove's dominance of White House and Republican politics, Gannon's aggressively partisan work and the ease with which he got day passes for the White House press room the past two years make it hard to believe that he wasn't at least implicitly sanctioned by the "boy genius." Rove, who rarely gave on-the-record interviews to the MSM (mainstream media), had time to talk to GOPUSA, which owns Talon.

Bold editorial from CBS that lays it right at the feet of Karl Rove. Lynch comes right out and says what everyone's been hinting at- but still no solid proof. Need someone to name names soon or this will blow away like all the other Bush scandals.

RedNova News - Can This Black Box See Into the Future?
DEEP in the basement of a dusty university library in Edinburgh lies a small black box, roughly the size of two cigarette packets side by side, that churns out random numbers in an endless stream.

At first glance it is an unremarkable piece of equipment. Encased in metal, it contains at its heart a microchip no more complex than the ones found in modern pocket calculators.

But, according to a growing band of top scientists, this box has quite extraordinary powers. It is, they claim, the 'eye' of a machine that appears capable of peering into the future and predicting major world events.

Got this off of DayPop a few days ago- pretty interesting story. Go read.

Yahoo! News - Senate Passes Ban on Genetic Discrimination
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation to bar health insurers and employers from discriminating against people with a genetic predisposition to disease.

Sponsors said a growing understanding of the human genetic code created a need for protections to make sure scientific breakthroughs were used to promote health, not discrimination. Scientists believe every human has some genetic flaws.

The bill prevents health insurers from excluding people from coverage or charging them higher rates due to a genetic risk or predisposition to a disease. Insurers could not require customers to take genetic tests.

Employers would be barred from making hiring or firing decisions based on genetic information.

Something that protects people instead of business? Wow. Let's hope it makes it through the House this time- last time it was blocked-

The Senate passed nearly identical legislation in 2003, but it died in the House of Representatives.

Lead House sponsor Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, said that a bipartisan majority of House members have publicly supported the bill, and she hopes to overcome opposition from a small group of Republican leaders and business lobbyists. The Chamber of Commerce, for instance, opposes the Senate bill.

"It has been astonishing to me that the Senate can pass this unanimously and the White House supports it, and a couple of outside groups can block this," Slaughter said.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Yahoo! News - Officials Warn of Future Terror Attacks
WASHINGTON - Speaking with one voice, President Bush's top intelligence and military officials said Wednesday that terrorists are regrouping for possible new strikes against the United States.

They said the best defense was for Congress to approve the president's military and anti-terror budget. But some in Congress, including prominent Republicans, were questioning some of that spending.

Offering few specifics on terror threats, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a House hearing that the government could reasonably predict attacks would come from terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and other means.

Meanwhile, new CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee the Iraq war was giving terrorists experience and contacts for future attacks, and FBI Director Robert Mueller expressed worry that a sleeper operative in the U.S. may have been in place for years, awaiting orders for an attack.

When I read this, my twisted mind jumped to the Violent Femmes song "Prove My Love"-

"Third verse! Same as the first! Just last night I was reminded of, just had bad it had gotten, and just how sick I had become....."

We've all heard this before- "The terrorists are coming! The terrorists are coming! Need more money NOW!"

But wait! What's this? Tom DeLay questioning all the President's men?

Yet the Republican-controlled Congress may exercise its considerable authority over federal spending and reject White House requests to simply sign the checks.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers were questioning billions in foreign aid and State Department spending that Bush requested in an emergency bill this week.

DeLay, R-Texas, said some of Bush's foreign aid proposals "probably do not qualify" for the expedited treatment he's seeking.

*rubbing my eyes* Tell me I did not just read that. Does this mean the Republicans are actually growing a spine? Granted, he was talking about the foreign aid, but still- actually denying a WH request?

Problem is- one of these days the "terrorist threat" will be true. And because they have "cried wolf" so many times, nobody is listening anymore. Duct tape and plastic sheet sales remain stagnant.
Gannongate Breaking Wide Open:

This news is starting to get some legs. You know you've hit the big time when the Daily Show leads off with your story. (As of this posting they don't have the clip up yet, but they will later today.)

John Aravosis was on Court TV with Catherine Crier yesterday. He also wrote this great rant in response to an article in Hotline, a Beltway rag.

"You've got a lot of nerve, Hotline. The entire GOP and its mainstream media sympathizers have a lot of nerve. We're talking about a hooker getting special access to the White House, the president, and intelligence information, and somehow everyone has suddenly discovered a conscience about homosexuals and hookers. Oh how I wish that conscience were real. But it's not. Bash a fag, bash a whore, and the GOP eats it all up. They throw us to their hateful, bigoted religious right buddies for votes with glee, while Mary Cheney cowers in the corner and Ken Mehlman runs for the shelter of the off-the-record quote.

Well newsflash Washington. The GOP is the one that rose gay-bashing and gay-baiting and sex-baiting to an art, and JeffJimGuckertGannon willingly joined the family values parade in print and in passion. They're trying to ban condoms, pornography, AIDS education. They take children away from gays, and want to make our very lives a crime. GOP Senators compare us to kleptomaniacs, alcoholics, and man-dog sex. And they can't even handle a bronze breast on a statue.

And we're the ones picking a fight over sex.

Spare me your sanctimonious bullshit now that those of us in the gay community and on the left have finally - finally - started to fight fire with fire by simply holding you to the very standards you legislate over us. We are simply giving the GOP the sex-less utopia it's always wanted. How does it feel?

Oh, gee, the Hotline warns, this might establish a precedent. Really? You mean the GOP might respond by using our sex lives against us as a weapon to destroy us and curry votes with bigots?"

Heh heh. Good one John.

The columnists are starting to chime in. Maureen Dowd laments that she wasn't allowed a press pass, but this clown gets in?

"I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months."

Frank Rich of the NYT also weighs in- citing the coverage by Keith Olbermann and broadens the picture into the whole propaganda effort by the WH.

"If we did not live in a time when the news culture itself is divorced from reality, the story might end there: "Jeff," you'd assume, was a lapdog reporter from a legitimate, if right-wing, news organization like Fox, and you'd get some predictable yuks from watching a compressed video anthology of his kissing up to power. But as Mr. Olbermann explained, "Jeff Gannon," the star of the montage, was a newsman no more real than a "Senior White House Correspondent" like Stephen Colbert on "The Daily Show" and he worked for a news organization no more real than The Onion. Yet the video broadcast by Mr. Olbermann was not fake. "Jeff" was in the real White House, and he did have those exchanges with the real Mr. McClellan and the real Mr. Bush.

And apparently the Today Show did a short piece this morning. Katie Couric raising her eyebrow. Now you know they're paying attention.

Go get 'em kids.

Yahoo! News - Bush Open to Talks on Raising Payroll Tax Cap
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (Reuters) - President Bush suggested in an interview published on Wednesday he may be open to raising the cap on Social Security taxes paid by high-income earners, but told a crowd in New Hampshire he would reject an increase in the payroll tax rate.

Bush said he was eager for discussions with lawmakers -- so long as the payroll tax rate, now 12.4 percent split evenly between employees and employers, was off the table -- and would not dictate to them a detailed Social Security proposal.

Separately, in a roundtable with newspapers on Tuesday, Bush showed he was open to talks on a change in the $90,000 limit on the amount of income subject to the tax.

Democrats accused Bush of trying to "trick" them into proposing a tax increase.

"The president wants to trick Democrats into making the tough decisions that he isn't making, but we won't be fooled by this smokescreen," said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.

Picture of desperation. From the story last Saturday, the quote was-

"I will work with members of Congress and listen to any good idea that does not include raising payroll taxes," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Notice how thats changed to "payroll tax rate" in a few short days.

"The one thing I'm not open-minded about is raising the payroll tax rate, and all the other issues are on the table and that's important for people to know," Bush told the Birmingham News, one of six newspapers in the interview.

No matter. However you cut it, we still can't afford to do this. He can wiggle all he wants, the plan is still just a giveaway to Wall Street that does nothing to address the solvency issue. Keep dancing, George.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Spring Training!:

...begins TODAY for the Cubs in about 6 hours from now. Pitchers and catchers are to report, first workout tomorrow. Whole team next week. Wooo Hooo! Gives me a bit of life in this deep, dark, depressing February......

White House Turns Tables on Former American POWs
WASHINGTON — The latest chapter in the legal history of torture is being written by American pilots who were beaten and abused by Iraqis during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. And it has taken a strange twist.

The Bush administration is fighting the former prisoners of war in court, trying to prevent them from collecting nearly $1 billion from Iraq that a federal judge awarded them as compensation for their torture at the hands of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The rationale: Today's Iraqis are good guys, and they need the money.

Many of the pilots were tortured in the same Iraqi prison, Abu Ghraib, where American soldiers abused Iraqis 15 months ago. Those Iraqi victims, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said, deserve compensation from the United States.

Congress opened the door to such claims in 1996, when it lifted the shield of sovereign immunity — which basically prohibits lawsuits against foreign governments — for any nation that supports terrorism. At that time, Iraq was one of seven nations identified by the State Department as sponsoring terrorist activity. The 17 Gulf War POWs looked to have a very strong case when they first filed suit in 2002. They had been undeniably tortured by a tyrannical regime, one that had $1.7 billion of its assets frozen by the U.S. government.

The picture changed, however, when the United States invaded Iraq and toppled Hussein from power nearly two years ago. On July 21, 2003, two weeks after the Gulf War POWs won their court case in U.S. District Court, the Bush administration intervened to argue that their claims should be dismissed.

"No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of this very brutal regime and at the hands of Saddam Hussein," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters when asked about the case in November 2003.

"So we're not going to give you any money, but here's a lovely magnet for your car. By the way, your VA medical benefits are about to be cut, too. Support the troops!"

Maybe we should give them Bremer's phone number.

Already frustrated by the turn of events, the former POWs were startled when Rumsfeld said he favored awarding compensation to the Iraqi prisoners who were abused by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib.

"I am seeking a way to provide appropriate compensation to those detainees who suffered grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the U.S. military. It is the right thing to do," Rumsfeld told a Senate committee last year.

By contrast, the government's lawyers have refused to even discuss a settlement in the POWs' case, say lawyers for the Gulf War veterans. "They were willing to settle this for pennies on the dollar," said Addicott, the former Army lawyer.

Boy, you guys are just a recruiter's dream! How in the hell are we going to keep people in the Army when we do shit like this?

Yahoo! News - Study: War on Poverty Sees More Hungry, Homeless
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite a war on poverty that began more than four decades ago, the ranks of the hungry and homeless in the United States are increasing even as government funding declines, a study released on Tuesday found.

The National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness surveyed 900 providers of emergency food and shelter in 32 states and found that government cuts to social programs caused nearly one-fourth of the emergency food agencies to turn people away. More than three-quarters of shelters had no place for people to stay.

The Bush Administration proposes in its new budget to cut millions of dollars in funding to the three largest federal food programs: food stamps, school lunches and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in an October 2004 report, said that 36.3 million people lived in households without enough food in 2003. The Urban Institute, based in Washington, D.C., found in a 2000 survey that 3.5 million people in the United States were homeless.

The U.S. minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, but a separate survey by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that in 2004 there was no place in the United States where a person earning as much as $9.17 an hour could afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

A quarter of U.S. workers earn $9.17 an hour or less --about $19,000 annually or a little more than the $18,850 that is the official federal poverty level for a family of four.

Instead of the "War on Poverty", we've got the "War on the Poor" now. More hungry and homeless on the way. Watch these numbers grow in the next few years.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Pretty picture from yesterday. Barbara posted a "thank you" and sent the pics. Nice lady. Hope she enjoyed them.

Yahoo! News - Michigan to Cut Free Coffee for Inmates
LANSING, Mich. - Free coffee soon will be off the menu in Michigan's prisons. In an effort to save $250,000 this year, inmates in state prisons and people in boot camps and correctional centers won't be able to get free coffee after March 1, Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan said Monday.

Marlan said inmates still will be able to buy instant coffee at prison stores, but he didn't know how much they charge for coffee.

He said the savings generated by getting rid of free coffee are in Gov. Jennifer Granholm's budget-cutting executive order to help resolve a $375 million shortfall in this year's $8.8 billion general fund. But the department will go ahead with it even if the House and Senate Appropriations committees reject the order, he said.

Yet another reason to avoid jail. Geez, Jen, isn't this cruel and unusual punishment?

AMERICAblog:A couple more thoughts on Gannon/Guckert
Gannon/Guckert/Talon/GOP USA did this right in front of the White House press corps. Gannon used the media last week to create a sob story...those means bloggers are picking on me. He had no compunction about appearing with Wolf Blitzer and denying anything sordid. He thought there were no ramifications. And Howie Kurtz...could he have had any more misplaced sanctimony?

This guy played the media -- including Wolf and Howie -- for fools. And they let him.

Which brings up the question- WHY isn't the mainstream media all over this? Can you imagine if this was going on in the Clinton WH what the response would be? A prostitute in the WH press corps feeding leading questions to Bill? Think about it!

A guy named Digby put it best-

"But, I do know that if this were 1998, we'd be knee deep in congressional investigations into the gay hooker ring in the White House. Every news crew in the DC area would be camped out on JimJeff's front lawn. A wild-eyed Victoria Toensing and panting Kelly Ann Fitzpatrick would be crawling up on the Hardball desk rending their silk teddies and speaking in tongues while Matthews' exploding head spun around on his shoulders."

And where the HELL is Mark Morford when I need him anyway? Back to the story-

Finally, for all the hand wringing about whether this is fair game, let's be honest: the White House and the right wing (of which Gannon/Guckert was a proud member) have made sex an issue. George Bush devotes a lot of time worrying about other people's sex lives. The whole abstinence thing is one of top examples. (I still want to know if the abstinence policy applies to the White House staff and family, too.) The Bushies and the right wingers are obsessed with the relationships of gay people. They have a sex filled agenda. They have made sex an issue. Of course, once again, no one in the mainstream media ever asks if the Bush family and Bush staff practice what they preach. Clearly, some of their biggest supporters don't.

Which brings me again to- Why aren't they covering this? This is what sells, kids! You peddle it all the time. How come we don't have Inside Edition screaming about "shocking new revelations" and FOX News going 24/7 on this story? You can be damn sure if it were a Democrat they would be all over it.

So far the only response has been to attack the bloggers. I just don't get it. A story like this would send ratings through the roof. Big money to be made. I'm not saying that that is the right thing to do, but it's what they usually do.

As a matter of fact, at this very moment the bigs are covering the Michael Jackson story. All three of them. Titillating sex is the name of the game.

So, why the silence for the WH? Are they afraid of something or someone?

Yahoo! News - Bush Renominates 20 Failed Judicial Nominees
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush set up a showdown with Senate Democrats on Monday by renominating 20 failed judicial nominees, many of whom had been denounced by critics as "right-wing extremists."

The renewed battle over the nominees promises to produce plenty of fireworks as Bush begins his second term with an expanded Senate Republican majority and still-defiant Senate Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, has threatened to change the Senate's rules to prevent any more procedural hurdles known as filibusters against judicial nominees.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has vowed Democrats are "not going to cut and run" from any such fight. Democrats have also promised to retaliate against any rule change by invoking other procedural hurdles that could bring the Senate to a standstill.

"Republicans would rue the day they changed the rules," Reid has warned.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said, "It's regrettable that the administration has resubmitted these highly controversial nominees instead of choosing persons more likely to gain a consensus."

"The president knows how to get judges confirmed -- the Senate approved over 200 of them in his first term," Kennedy said.

"But renominating activist extremists that the Senate has already refused to confirm is not the way," Kennedy said. "The president looks like he is still more interested in picking fights than picking judges."

This is the message that the GOP sends- Don't like the outcome of a contest? Change the rules! And then smear your opponent with name-calling! That's playing fair, right? That's that moral, decent thing to do! Ask Tom DeLay. He'll tell ya all about it. Or Schwarzenegger. There are probably others I've missed, but I don't really want to go searching for them. The pattern is pretty obvious.

Monday, February 14, 2005

AMERICAblog: EXPOSE: A man called Jeff

In today's episode- John Aravosis goes on to prove that Guckert/Gannon is a big, fat, lyin' ho.

So in the end, why does this matter? Why does it matter that Jeff Gannon may have been a gay hooker named James Guckert with a $20,000 defaulted court judgment against him? So he somehow got a job lobbing softball questions to the White House. Big deal. If he was already a prostitute, why not be one in the White House briefing room as well?

This is the Conservative Republican Bush White House we're talking about. It's looking increasingly like they made a decision to allow a hooker to ask the President of the United States questions. They made a decision to give a man with an alias and no journalistic experience access to the West Wing of the White House on a "daily basis." They reportedly made a decision to give him - one of only six - access to documents, or information in those documents, that exposed a clandestine CIA operative. Say what you will about Monica Lewinsky - a tasteless episode, "inappropriate," whatever. Monica wasn't a gay prostitute running around the West Wing. What kind of leadership would let prostitutes roam the halls of the West Wing? What kind of war-time leadership can't find the same information that took bloggers only days to find?

None of this is by accident.

Someone had to make a decision to let all this happen. Who? Someone committed a crime in exposing Valerie Plame and now it appears a gay hooker may be right in the middle of all of it? Who?

Ultimately, it is the hypocrisy that is such a challenge to grasp in this story. This is the same White House that ran for office on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. While they are surrounded by gay hookers? While they use a gay hooker to write articles for their gay hating political base? While they use a gay hooker to destroy a political enemy? Not to mention the hypocrisy of a "reporter" who chooses to publish article after article defending the ant-gay religious-right point of view on gay civil rights issue.

Who in the White House is at the center of all of this? Who allowed this to go on in the People's House? Who committed the crime of exposing Valerie Plame? Jeff Gannon has the answers to these questions, and boy we know he loves to talk.

Let him talk to Patrick Fitzgerald.

Bet he's too busy trying to line up an agent for the book/movie rights. If this guy flips there is going to be a huge payday involved for him. Question is, can the Bush people pay him more to keep him quiet?

Daily Kos :: Barbara Boxer to Receive 5,000 Roses!
Senator Barbara Boxer of California will receive a bouquet of almost 5,000 roses from supporters and constituents across the country on Valentine's Day, February 14th, as a loving thank you for her recent outstanding service in the Senate. Organized by Stacy Davies of Claremont, California, the roses will be delivered February 14th to the Hart Senate Building office of Barbara Boxer in Washington DC. at 3:30 p.m. EST.

The note included with the flowers will read: "Dear Senator Boxer: You are a shining example of what a civil servant can, and should, be, and we, your constituents and supporters, deeply appreciate your heroic charge to bring accountability, responsibility and honesty back into our government."

"I received a call from Senator Boxer this past Friday. I told her that the grassroots response had been overwhelmingly positive, that we'd received emails from every state and even a few from abroad. She was gracious and very moved. She said she plans to keep just a few of the roses and will be sending the rest to the VA hospital for the `people who have been casualties of this administration's disastrous policies.'

Happy Valentine's.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Yahoo! News - Bush Says Wants Ideas on Retirement Overhaul
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush promised to listen to "any good idea" for fixing Social Security on Saturday as he sought to coax reluctant lawmakers into joining his effort to overhaul the retirement program.

But Democrats signaled little interest in working with Bush unless he scraps the centerpiece of his plan -- allowing workers to shift up to 4 percentage points of their payroll taxes into private stock and bond accounts.

Bush has conceded that private accounts alone will not solve Social Security's problems and has raised the sensitive issue of reining in Social Security's costs through such means as reducing future benefit growth or limiting benefits for wealthy retirees.

Democrats have hammered Bush for suggesting benefit limitations and many congressional Republicans are squeamish about embracing such ideas, fearing the issue could hurt them in the 2006 midterm elections.

Rather than offer proposals of his own to curtail Social Security's costs, Bush has listed ideas that have been raised in the past that he suggested could serve as a starting point for a discussion on the venerated 1935 program.

"In recent years, many people have offered suggestions, such as limiting benefits for wealthy retirees; indexing benefits to prices, instead of wages; increasing the retirement age; or changing the benefit formulas and creating disincentives for early collection of Social Security benefits," Bush said. "All these ideas are on the table."

Whatsamatta George? Did the "mandate" vanish with the new poll numbers? NOW you're willing to compromise? Uh-huh. I don't quite believe that, either. Note to Dems- watch very carefully- he's lying here, too. I can't prove it, but I just know it.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Wee child.

Flying Gecko.

There was a kite show/ice walk thingee at Reeds Lake today.

Yahoo! News - Democrats Ready to Follow Howard Dean's Lead
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic Party activists, recovering from a stinging November election loss and a fresh round of soul-searching, rallied around Howard Dean on Friday and promised a grass-roots drive to make the party competitive in the South, Midwest and Mountain states.

With the election of the former Vermont governor as chairman set for Saturday, Democrats put aside lingering doubts about the party's future and opened a two-day party meeting with promises to keep the heat on President Bush.

"The time for introspection and second-guessing is over," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a possible Democratic presidential contender in 2008. "It's game time."

Good luck, Howard. The trick is going to be getting past the shallow, echo- chamber corporate media and the inaccurate picture they have painted of you.

If it's true that 58% think this country is on the "wrong track", a positive, populist message might sway some to WAKE THE FUCK UP and actually take a look at what is going on around them and make some changes. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Bush's Class-War Budget
It may sound shrill to describe President Bush as someone who takes food from the mouths of babes and gives the proceeds to his millionaire friends. Yet his latest budget proposal is top-down class warfare in action. And it offers the Democrats an opportunity, if they're willing to take it.

First, the facts: the budget proposal really does take food from the mouths of babes. One of the proposed spending cuts would make it harder for working families with children to receive food stamps, terminating aid for about 300,000 people. Another would deny child care assistance to about 300,000 children, again in low-income working families.

And the budget really does shower largesse on millionaires even as it punishes the needy. For example, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities informs us that even as the administration demands spending cuts, it will proceed with the phaseout of two little-known tax provisions - originally put in place under the first President George Bush - that limit deductions and exemptions for high-income households.

More than half of the benefits from this backdoor tax cut would go to people with incomes of more than a million dollars; 97 percent would go to people with incomes exceeding $200,000.

It'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.

Go read. Now.

The New York Times > Washington > Democrats Want Investigation of Reporter Using Fake Name
Two Democrats in Congress are pressing for investigations into how a Washington reporter who used a pseudonym managed to gain access to the White House and had access to classified documents that named Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative.

The Democrats, Representatives John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Louise M. Slaughter from Rochester, wrote yesterday to Patrick Fitzgerald, the independent prosecutor appointed in the Plame case, seeking an investigation into how the reporter, James D. Guckert, who used the name Jeff Gannon, had access to classified documents that revealed the identity of Ms. Plame.

Until Wednesday when he resigned, Mr. Guckert worked for, a Web site operated by Robert Eberle, a Texas Republican. Mr. Guckert said in a March 2004 interview with his own news service, in which he was referred to as Mr. Gannon, that the classified document had been "easily accessible." The two Democrats questioned how a person with "dubious qualifications" had access to such a document. The Democrats also wrote to the Secret Service seeking an explanation of how someone using a pseudonym was cleared to enter the White House daily press briefings as well as a presidential news conference last month. They said in their letter that allowing such a person in "appears to deviate significantly from heightened security measures you have employed recently."

Senator Frank Lautenberg D-NJ is getting in on the act also.

Fun fact to know and yell- from the Gannon primer-

"In a press briefing on Feb. 10th, White House Press Secretary McClellan claimed that Guckert was granted White House access because he "showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly." (emphasis added).

However, Talon News came into existence on March 29, 2003. It was granted White House Press Corps access just four days (approx. 96 hours) later. During that four-day time period, Talon News published a total of nine "stories."

If these folks have any kind of brains (ha!), they should pull Mr. Gannon/Guckert from doing any more "media" shows before he blows the story. I'm surprised they let him do the ones he did. Kinda thought he would disappear.

Yahoo! News - Senate OKs Bill Curbing Class Action Suits
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate approved a bill on Thursday that was sought by business to curb class action lawsuits and is part of President Bush's drive to overhaul the civil justice system.

The bill would shift most class action suits from state to federal courts, historically less friendly toward such cases. Advocates said the measure would reduce lawyers' forum-shopping for state courts with track records of big settlements.

One lawyer over at Kos pointed out the "myth" of frivolous lawsuits. Smart lawyers don't take cases they don't think that they can win. He said that out of every 100 or so filed, his firm would find merit in only one or two, and even those would be questionable as to whether they would go forward. Most of the cases that you hear about are the rare exceptions. It's not as easy to "just sue somebody" as you think it is.

Opponents, including consumer, environmental and civil rights groups, fear overburdened federal courts will not take many of the class action cases, making it harder to hold big companies accountable for their products and actions.

"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," Bush said in a statement.

It might be the best place to do business, but it certainly won't be the best place to live. Taking away an avenue to address corporate irresponsibility only hurts people and protects big money. But, that's what our government is all about now, right?

"This bill is one of the most unfair, anti-consumer proposals to come before the Senate in years," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada. "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."

The bill also would limit lawyers' fees in so-called coupon settlements — when plaintiffs get discounts on products instead of financial settlements — by linking the fees to the coupon's redemption rate or the actual hours spent working on a case.

Coupons? Are you fucking kidding me? "We're awful sorry that our Bass-O-Matic 3000 ripped you child's arm off, here's a coupon for a discount on a prosthesis and a buy one-get one free Big Mac." Except you won't have any money now to buy the prosthesis. Oh, well, too bad.

Another victory for big business.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Yahoo! News - Report: FAA Had 52 Pre-9/11 Warnings
WASHINGTON - The Federal Aviation Administration received repeated warnings in the months prior to Sept. 11, 2001, about al-Qaida and its desire to attack airlines, according to a previously undisclosed report by the commission that investigated the terror attacks.

The report by the 9/11 commission that investigated the suicide airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon detailed 52 such warnings given to FAA leaders from April to Sept. 10, 2001, about the radical Islamic terrorist group and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

The commission report, written last August, said five security warnings mentioned al-Qaida's training for hijackings and two reports concerned suicide operations not connected to aviation. However, none of the warnings pinpointed what would happen on Sept. 11.

Al Felzenberg, former spokesman for the 9/11 commission, which went out of business last summer, said the government had not completed a review of the 120-page report for declassification purposes until recently.

Yeah, I'll bet. Five months to go through 120 pages?

Yahoo! News - Doctors Say Loss Can Cause a Broken Heart
Confirming the wisdom of the poets and philosophers, doctors say the sudden death of a loved one really can cause a broken heart. In fact, they have dubbed the condition "broken heart syndrome."

In a study published just in time for Valentine's Day, doctors reported how a tragic or shocking event can stun the heart and produce classic heart attack-like symptoms, including chest pain, shortness of breath and fluid in the lungs.

Unlike a heart attack, the condition is reversible. Patients often are hospitalized but typically recover within days after little more than bedrest and fluids, and suffer no permanent damage to their hearts.

For the first couple weeks after Kristin's death I had times of intense pressure in my chest, and bouts of "flutters" in my heartbeat. It literally hurt, but not enough to run to a doctor. Besides, I can't afford a doctor anyway. - White House reporter's credentials questioned - Feb 9, 2005
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A New York congresswoman asked the White House to explain Wednesday why a man who worked for a news Web site owned by a GOP activist was able to obtain White House press credentials under an assumed name.

James Guckert, who reported from the White House for the Talon News Service under the name "Jeff Gannon," announced he was quitting the business "in consideration of the welfare of me and my family."

In a letter to President Bush, Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Democrat, questioned why Guckert routinely received credentials for White House news briefings. Slaughter linked Guckert's case to recent revelations that two conservative columnists who supported Bush administration policies had received government money.

Slaughter said she was writing at the request of senior editors of the Niagara Falls Reporter in her Buffalo-area district.

The newspaper ran an open letter questioning "how a partisan political organization and an individual with no credentials as a reporter -- and apparently operating under an assumed name -- landed a coveted spot in the White House press corps."

During White House press secretary Scott McClellan's regular briefings, Guckert routinely offered administration-friendly questions.

He became the focus of liberal and media Web sites after Bush called on him during his news conference January 26.

Guckert asked Bush how he could deal with Democratic congressional leaders "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality."

This was the whackjob money quote, exposing himself for the shill that he is (was). Now he's running around crying about the big, bad liberal bloggers. If he was so legit, why would Talon and others pull down all his stories? He's literally becoming an "unperson". What's up with that?

The Boston Globe covers the gay prostitution link, always good to spike interest in a story, but not the real problem here. Hypocrisy runs rampant in this administration, nobody is surprised by it. Starting to wonder if that angle is a smokescreen for this-

Why no mention of the CIA link, hmmm? A diarist at Kos lays out the evidence and comes to this conclusion-

"Jeff Gannon was planted by the administration to disseminate their talking points unfettered by any journalism ethics or investigation shortly after the Iraq war, when the failure to find WMDs was becoming apparent. He became incredibly useful in L'Affaire Plame to continue to push the dual stories that a) Plame's name was already common knowledge and therefore 'outing' her was not a crime and b) to continue to help discredit the CIA and Wilson.

Based on the evidence, I believe the 2002 CIA memo was leaked to Gannon when Novak became unusable and when the 'mainstream' reporters with CIA contacts were not pushing the WH's preferred story line. They needed cover, and they got it.

And as is evidenced by his remarkable access to Scott McClellan and President Bush in the White House press room, to this day, he was rewarded handsomely...

And it continues as business as usual... until today when he became expendable and 'resigned' from Talon News."

Some of the major media players are showing interest in this story, we will see where it goes from here. But, as a wise man said to me, "these are the guys who started a war based on lies and got away with it", so chances are they will get away with this too. Good point.

Still it's fun to expose the frauds wherever we can. Three cheers to the Kossacks!

Heartwell set to lead 'rebellion'
GRAND RAPIDS -- Mayor George Heartwell says he's so mad, he's ready to take on President Bush.

After enduring the "toughest week" of his 13 months in office, Heartwell said Tuesday he wants to "start a rebellion" against Bush's budget proposal to cut federal funding for local communities by 50 percent.

"He has to address the deficit he created with massive tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Americans; and he has to fund a war that is expensive and unpopular," Heartwell said.

"So he targets the poor and the unemployed -- and in most cases the minorities, because racism has rendered them the poorest -- to shoulder the burden of tax relief and funding for the war.

"Well, because the poor are outside our doors -- because they are our neighbors -- local government is once again holding the bag."

Heartwell's rebellion will begin next week when he offers the City Commission a resolution opposing Bush's efforts to cut Community Development Block Grants.

Grand Rapids receives about $6 million a year in block grant funds and doles out much of the money to local nonprofit agencies.

Love my Mayor. He's going to have some big trouble ahead- federal funding cuts, state funding cuts, and Jay VanAndel's death will really put the pinch to our local charity organizations.

Yahoo! News - N. Korea Announces It Has Nuclear Weapons
SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea on Thursday announced for the first time that it has nuclear weapons and rejected moves to restart disarmament talks any time soon, saying it needs the armaments as protection against an increasingly hostile United States.

The communist state's pronouncement dramatically raised the stakes in the two-year-old nuclear confrontation and posed a grave challenge to President Bush, who started his second term with a vow to end North Korea's nuclear program through six-nation talks.

"We ... have manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with the Bush administration's ever more undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the (North)," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Happy now, George?

Sometimes I wonder if North Korea is jealous of all the attention that Iran gets.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Daily Kos :: Gannon: Slaughter Calling for Congressional Investigation
Washington, DC - Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (NY-28), long time champion of media reform and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Rules, sent a letter to President George W. Bush today asking him to explain how discredited "reporter" Jeff Gannon was credentialed as a member of the legitimate media by the White House.

The letter follows:

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

In light of the mounting evidence that your Administration has, on several occasions, paid members of the media to advocate in favor of Administration policies, I feel compelled to ask you to address a matter brought to my attention by the Niagara Falls Reporter (article attached), a local newspaper in my district, regarding James "JD" Guckert (AKA Jeff Gannon) of Talon News.

According to several credible reports, "Mr. Gannon" has been repeatedly credentialed as a member of the White House press corps by your office and has been regularly called upon in White House press briefings by your Press Secretary Scott McClellan, despite the fact evidence shows that "Mr. Gannon" is a Republican political operative, uses a false name, has phony or questionable journalistic credentials, is known for plagiarizing much of the "news" he reports, and according to several web reports, may have ties to the promotion of the prostitution of military personnel.

And just this morning we have learned that "Mr. Gannon" has resigned his post at the, so called, Talon News amid growing concerns over his controversial background and falsified qualifications. In fact, it appears that "Mr. Gannon's" presence in the White House press corps was merely as a tool of propaganda for your Administration.

Go read the whole story. The people at Kos took this guy down with investigative methods using the internet- it's fascinating.

Will the mainstream media pick this up? Stay tuned.

Yahoo! News - Cubs Trade RHP Farnsworth to Tigers
CHICAGO - The Chicago Cubs (news) traded right-handed
reliever Kyle Farnsworth and a player to be named to the Detroit Tigers (news) on Wednesday for pitcher Roberto Novoa and two minor leaguers.

Farnsworth was 4-5 with a 4.73 ERA last season for Chicago. He struck out 78 batters in 66 2-3 innings.

"Kyle Farnsworth is an established major league relief pitcher," Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said in a statement. "He can pitch in many roles out of our bullpen and is a quality addition to our pitching staff."

In six seasons with the Cubs, the 28-year-old Farnsworth went 22-37 with a 4.78 ERA.

Novoa split time between Detroit and Double-A Erie in 2004. In 16 games with the Tigers, the right-hander was 1-1 with a 5.57 ERA.

Chicago also picked up third baseman Scott Moore and outfielder Bo Flowers in the trade.

Moore hit .223 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 118 games at Class A Lakeland last season. Flowers played the majority of the season at Class A Oneonta, hitting .280 with four home runs and 26 RBIs in 66 games.

Bye bye Farnsie. Good luck to ya.

Moore played with the 'Caps couple years ago; I thought he was a dud. Big bonus baby that was hurt a lot. Maybe he will grow up. Flowers was with the 'Caps for the end of last season- was looking forward to watching him this year at 5th3rd. Damn.
Dept. of Education Cuts:

Here's a list provided by someone at Kos-

Alcohol Abuse Reduction: $32.7
Arts in Education: $35.6
BJ Stupak Olympic Scholarships: $1.0
Byrd Honors Scholarships: $40.7
Civic Education: $29.4
Close Up Fellowships: $1.5
Community Technology Centers: $5.0
Comprehensive School Reform: $205.3
Demonstration Projects for Students with Disabilities: $6.9
Educational Technology State Grants: $496
Elementary And Secondary School Counseling: $34.7
Even Start: $225.1
Excellence in Economic Education: $1.5
Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners: $8.6
Federal Perkins Loans Cancellations: $66.1
Foreign Language Assistance: $17.9
Foundations For Learning: $1.0
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs: $306.5
Interest Subsidy Grants: $1.5
Javits Gifted and Talented Education: $11.0
Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships: $65.6
Literacy Programs for Prisoners: $5.0
Mental Health Integration in Schools: $5.0
Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers: $2.3
National Writing Project: $20.3
Occupational and Employment Information: $9.3
Parental Information and Resource Centers: $41.9
Projects With Industry: $21.6
Ready To Teach: $14.3
Recreational Programs: $2.5
Regional Educational Laboratories: $66.1
Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities State Grants: $437.4
School Dropout Prevention: $4.9
School Leadership: $14.9
Smaller Learning Communities: $94.5
Star Schools: $20.8
State Grants for Incarcerated Youth Offenders: $21.8
Supported Employment State Grants: $37.4
Teacher Quality Enhancement: $68.3
Tech-Prep Demonstration: $4.9
Tech-Prep Education State Grants: $105.8
Thurgood Marshall Legal Educational Opportunity Program: $3.0
TRIO Talent Search: $144.9
TRIO Upward Bound: $312.6
Underground Railroad Program: $2.2
Vocational Education National Programs: $11.8
Vocational Education State Grants: $1,194.3
Women's Educational Equity: $3.0

Will all these go through? Probably not. But I just wanted to show where Mr. Bush's "priorities" are.

Granholm's Vision: Boost State Economy: $2 billion wanted for tech investing
LANSING -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants to sell $2 billion in state bonds over 10 years to invest in high-tech industries that she said are the economic salvation for an automotive-reliant state with one of the nation's worst unemployment rates.

Granholm, in her State of the State address Tuesday, said the $2-billion infusion to private industry and universities would generate 72,000 new jobs and is the centerpiece of a plan to diversify the state's economy, while maintaining its historic connection to the auto industry.

The bond money would be aimed largely at research for the auto industry -- particularly the development of fuel-cell power -- as well as health-related technology and products used for homeland security to prevent terrorist acts and other threats to the nation, Granholm said.

The bond sale plan and Granholm's speech reflected her concern that a major jolt is needed to jump-start a state economy that economists say is chronically underperforming and which poses political hazards for Granholm midway into her first term as governor.

In California, voters approved a $3-billion bond for stem-cell research in November, and states all over the country -- including New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Maryland -- are at various stages of developing programs they believe will make them leaders in a new biotech economy.

Some vehicle futurists consider fuel cells, which generate electricity by combining oxygen with pure hydrogen, as an ultimate power source for cars that are both clean-burning and could wean the United States from relying on foreign oil.

"Michigan, the Great Lakes state, could be the state that finally makes the United States independent of foreign oil," she said.

Good luck, Jennifer. It's a great proposal. I hope that the "More tax cuts! Squawwwwk!" Republicans in this state can pull their heads out of their asses and get on board with this forward-moving legislation.

Granholm acknowledged the state's economic doldrums, while she also touted her accomplishments in maintaining health care for the needy and streamlining state government, while avoiding $3 billion in budget deficits.

More details of Granholm's agenda will come on Thursday, when she presents her budget proposals for next year and pins dollars on programs, as she attempts to avoid both tax increases and deep cuts to favored programs in health care and education. Parts of Granholm's speech were met with stony silence by Republican lawmakers in the House chamber, and by outright hostility afterward.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, offered scathing criticism of the governor's plan to seek voter approval of $2 billion in bonds.

"The fundamental vision here is a very troubling one," Sikkema said. " This is not 'jobs today and jobs tomorrow' but 'debt today and debt tomorrow.' "

But I bet Mr. Sikkema has no problem with Mr. Bush's 'debt today, debt tomorrow' policies.

And, how can the "fundamental vision" be a troubling one? Competing with other states that are already moving forward into new technology is troubling? Creating good paying jobs is troubling? Providing more incentives for education of Michigan workers is troubling? How about the $3 billion dollars already slashed from state spending? Isn't "less spending" your tune? Or are you just troubled that she's done a great job while you guys have no new ideas? Or how about those 32 tax cuts that we have already passed? How about the big tax cut coming for businesses, is that troubling also? Why were you guys sitting on your hands when she announced something that you tout?

What do you propose, Mr. Sikkema? I'll bet it's yet more tax cuts for the wealthy, isn't it? Just a hunch.

It's pretty obvious that the Republicans in Michigan would like to turn this into a low-wage state, make more money for their buddies while the citizens of Michigan grow poorer and sicker. As on the national level, they don't give a shit about people. They only care about protecting their big-money contributors.

ABC News: Cable Companies Provide Porn While Funding Politicians
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2005 — While its previous owners considered adult entertainment "immoral," Adelphia Communications Corp., the country's fifth-largest cable television provider, last week became the first to offer hard-core adult films on pay-per-view to its subscribers.

Viewers can watch such sexually explicit movies in the Hilton and Marriott hotel chains on video services like LodgeNet or on "On Command," which is owned by Liberty Media, formerly a part of AT&T; at home via DirecTV, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp; or via virtually every cable company, including Cox, Time Warner and Comcast.

Adelphia's programming decision is being applauded by the adult film industry.

"I think they made a really smart business decision," said Tim Connelly, publisher of Adult Video News, the trade journal of the adult entertainment industry. "So today Adelphia, tomorrow Wal-Mart."

While the corporations generate millions in profits from providing adult content, their political contributions are often given to those elected, in no small part, because of their stance on "moral values."

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Comcast Cable has given millions in political donations since 1998. The national Republican Party committees are its biggest organizational recipient, with donations totaling $851,000. President Bush is its biggest individual recipient with $109,000 in donations.

Adelphia has given $166,000 to Republican committees, $17,000 to conservative Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., and $12,000 to Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., one of the most conservative members of the Senate.

Family values, indeed!

Hypocrisy, thy name is Republican.

I can't keep up with this stuff anymore. Seriously. The lies, the hypocrisy, the low-ball numbers on the spending....

The New York Times > National > New White House Estimate Lifts Drug Benefit Cost to $720 Billion
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 - The Bush administration offered a new estimate of the cost of the Medicare drug benefit on Tuesday, saying it would cost $720 billion in the next 10 years.

That is much more than the $400 billion Congress assumed when it passed legislation creating the benefit in late 2003.

But administration officials said the numbers were not comparable. The original estimate was for the years 2004 to 2013. The new estimate covers the period from 2006, when the drug benefit becomes available, to 2015.

So, by shifting the estimate two years it changes it by $320 billion dollars? Why wasn't that information provided before passage of the bill, hmmmm?

Passage of the Medicare bill was a major political achievement for President Bush and the Republican leaders of Congress. It squeaked through the House by a vote of 220 to 215, and it would probably not have been approved in its current form if lawmakers had thought the cost would exceed a half-trillion dollars.

Mr. Emanuel said: "The new cost estimate destroys the credibility of the Bush administration. Officials were so far off in estimating the cost of the Medicare law. Why should we believe what they say about the financial problems of Social Security?"

Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said: "I told you so. We can't trust numbers provided by administration officials. They'll say anything to get a bill passed. And if the new drug benefit costs more, the extra money goes to their friends in the pharmaceutical industry, not to senior citizens."

Are we seeing the pattern here, kids? Didn't they say the same thing about the war? Shouldn't this give you a clue about what his "piratization" of SS will cost?