Saturday, December 31, 2005

Harness Racing Results for 12-31-05

Record since 04-26-05

Win (295)

Place (82)

Show (19)

Out of the Money (74)

Balmoral Park

Race # 3

Horse: MOXIE (Out of the Money)

Post Position: # 2

Pompano Park

Race # 2


Post Position: # 2

Harness Racing Picks for 12-31-05

Record since 04-26-05

Win (294)

Place (82)

Show (19)

Out of the Money (73)

Balmoral Park

Race # 3

Horse: MOXIE

Post Position: # 2

Pompano Park

Race # 2


Post Position: # 2


Conservatives are having fun e-mailing around the sex scenes in Barbara Boxer's new novel, "A Time to Run." A particular favorite is the equine entwine on Page 210, when "these two fierce animals were coerced into their majestic coupling by at least six people."

"The stallion approached, nostrils flared, hooves lifting with delicate precision, the wranglers hanging on grimly," Ms. Boxer wrote with her co-author, Mary-Rose Hayes. Soon, "the stallion rubbed his nose against the mare's neck and nuzzled her withers. She promptly bit him on the shoulder and, when he attempted to mount, instantly became a plunging devil of teeth and hooves."

The mare's owner remarks that she's hotblooded because she's from Argentina.

Ms. Boxer's literary alter ego, Ellen Fischer, the liberal 5-foot-2 senator from California, also has her share of ecstatic biting and nuzzling.

As when Greg kisses Ellen "long and deep."

"Ellen had never tasted such pent-up, aggressive determination and desire. ... She bit at his lips, heard her own gasping breath - and she knew she really must stop this. ... She felt his competent hands undressing her, and they fell together through the darkness onto his bed. Greg's naked body was long and elegant, and they meshed with ease and grace."

Reading pols' strained attempts at steamy scenes is discomfiting. Like thinking about your parents and sex, it gives you the heebie-jeebies.

"You just don't want to imagine any of these people in their underwear," one Democrat said, laughing.

Besides, Washington types are more consumed with the line-item veto than majestic meshing. The modern history of sex in the capital has been more maladroit du seigneur than droit du seigneur.

From Bob Packwood to Clarence Thomas, the men in the middle of sex scandals always seem more dysfunctional than sensual.

The adolescent Bill and Monica pantry trysts were anything but sultry. The president was tormented, dismissing the dalliance as a mere antidote for Oval Office tension.

Monica described their final rendezvous in drab terms: "This was another one of those occasions when I was babbling on about something, and he just kissed me, kind of to shut me up, I think."

Even the most glamorous hookup - J.F.K. and Marilyn Monroe - lost some of its film noir allure after a report of how Marilyn had robotically described it to her shrink: "Marilyn Monroe is a soldier. ... The first duty of a soldier is to obey her commander in chief."

A decade ago, Clintonites had fun passing around passages from Newt Gingrich's thriller "1945," written with William Forstchen, featuring such titillations as biting foreplay, "pouting sex kitten," "exotic mistress" and "after-bout inhalation."

At one point, the mistress of the president's chief of staff sits "athwart" her lover's chest and hisses that he must tell her a secret "or I will make you do terrible things." (Kinkier than the Contract With America?)

When Scooter Libby got in trouble over Valerie Plame, The New Yorker dug out his 1996 book, "The Apprentice," and reviewed its sex scenes. Lauren Collins took note of its homoeroticism and incest, and compared some passages to Penthouse Forum.

Scooter had his own animal erotica: "At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest."

Proving that conservatives are not as prudish in fiction as in legislation, Lynne Cheney's 19th-century Wild West book, "Sisters," a sort of distaff "Brokeback Mountain," featured lesbian romps and, oddly, a Republican vice president who dies of a heart attack during sex with his mistress.

In Mrs. Cheney's 1981 novel, a woman says of her lesbian lover: "How well her words describe our love - or the way it would be if we could remove all impediments, leave this place and join together. ... Our lives would flow together, twin streams merging into a single river."

William Cohen and Gary Hart, a bipartisan team who wrote the 1985 "Double Man" novel, used similar imagery for the coupling of a senator and a lovely covert C.I.A. agent: "It was fierce, two rivers of energy rushing together, gloriously, powerfully."

Water metaphors can be hazardous to literature, especially when they flood the Potomac.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Harness Racing Results for 12-30-05

Record since 04-26-05

Win (294)

Place (82)

Show (19)

Out of the Money (73)

Flamboro Downs

Race # 10


Post Position: # 5


Race # 12

Horse: CHARTER LANE (Place)

Post Position: # 1

US government warns it's running out of cash

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Treasury Secretary John Snow has warned that unless Congress raises the national debt limit, the US government will run out of cash to finance its daily work in two months.

In a letter to Senate leaders Thursday, Snow said the statutory debt limit imposed by Congress of 8.184 trillion dollars would be reached in mid-February and the government would then lose its borrowing power.

"At that time, unless the debt limit is raised or the Treasury Department takes authorized extraordinary actions, we will be unable to continue to finance government operations," said the letter, seen by AFP.

Snow warned that even if the Treasury took "all available prudent and legal actions" to avoid breaching the ceiling, "we anticipate that we can finance government operations no longer than mid-March. Accordingly, I am writing to request that Congress raise the statutory debt limit as soon as possible."

UC Chancellor asks lawmakers to look into alleged spying on campus

Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ — UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton has called on federal elected officials to investigate the alleged secret monitoring on college campuses, including a protest of military recruiters here in the spring.

Denton wrote in a memo sent Wednesday to the campus community, "It is especially disquieting that political dissent would be considered threatening." In the memo, Denton criticized what she called "the expansion of executive power."


Calls and e-mails from Denton went out Wednesday to the offices of U.S. Reps. Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-Campbell; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Harness Racing Picks for 12-30-05

Record since 04-26-05

Win (293)

Place (81)

Show (19)

Out of the Money (73)

Flamboro Downs

Race # 10


Post Position: # 5


Race # 12


Post Position: # 1


A year ago, everyone expected President Bush to get his way on Social Security. Pundits warned Democrats that they were making a big political mistake by opposing plans to divert payroll taxes into private accounts.

A year ago, everyone thought Congress would make Mr. Bush's tax cuts permanent, in spite of projections showing that doing so would lead to budget deficits as far as the eye can see. But Congress hasn't acted, and most of the cuts are still scheduled to expire by the end of 2010.

A year ago, Mr. Bush made many Americans feel safe, because they believed that he would be decisive and effective in an emergency. But Mr. Bush was apparently oblivious to the first major domestic emergency since 9/11.

According to Newsweek, aides to Mr. Bush finally decided, days after Hurricane Katrina struck, that they had to show him a DVD of TV newscasts to get him to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

A year ago, before "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" became a national punch line, the rising tide of cronyism in government agencies and the rapid replacement of competent professionals with unqualified political appointees attracted hardly any national attention.

A year ago, hardly anyone outside Washington had heard of Jack Abramoff, and Tom DeLay's position as House majority leader seemed unassailable.

A year ago, Dick Cheney, who repeatedly cited discredited evidence linking Saddam to 9/11, and promised that invading Americans would be welcomed as liberators - although he hadn't yet declared that the Iraq insurgency was in its "last throes" - was widely admired for his "gravitas."

A year ago, Howard Dean - who was among the very few prominent figures to question Colin Powell's prewar presentation to the United Nations, and who warned, while hawks were still celebrating the fall of Baghdad, that the occupation of Iraq would be much more difficult than the initial invasion - was considered flaky and unsound.

A year ago, it was clear that before the Iraq war, the administration suppressed information suggesting that Iraq was not, in fact, trying to build nuclear weapons.

Yet few people in Washington or in the news media were willing to say that the nation was deliberately misled into war until polls showed that most Americans already believed it.

A year ago, the Washington establishment treated Ayad Allawi as if he were Nelson Mandela. Mr. Allawi's triumphant tour of Washington, back in September 2004, provided a crucial boost to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

So did his claim that the insurgents were "desperate." But Mr. Allawi turned out to be another Ahmad Chalabi, a hero of Washington conference rooms and cocktail parties who had few supporters where it mattered, in Iraq.

A year ago, when everyone respectable agreed that we must "stay the course," only a handful of war critics suggested that the U.S. presence in Iraq might be making the violence worse, not better.

It would have been hard to imagine the top U.S. commander in Iraq saying, as Gen. George Casey recently did, that a smaller foreign force is better "because it doesn't feed the notion of occupation."

A year ago, Mr. Bush hadn't yet openly reneged on Scott McClellan's 2003 pledge that "if anyone in this administration was involved" in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, that person "would no longer be in this administration." Of course, some suspect that Mr. Bush has always known who was involved.

A year ago, we didn't know that Mr. Bush was lying, or at least being deceptive, when he said at an April 2004 event promoting the Patriot Act that "a wiretap requires a court order. ...When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so.

"It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

A year ago, most Americans thought Mr. Bush was honest.

A year ago, we didn't know for sure that almost all the politicians and pundits who thundered, during the Lewinsky affair, that even the president isn't above the law have changed their minds. But now we know when it comes to presidents who break the law, it's O.K. if you're a Republican.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Austrian Billboard of Bush and other leaders having sex removed

Artists remove Austria sex poster

Controversial images of Queen Elizabeth II, George W Bush and Jacques Chirac apparently having sex have been removed from billboards in Austria.

The posters, shown as part of a public arts project ahead of Austria's EU presidency, had provoked wide outcry.

British Ex-envoy to Uzbekistan goes public on torture


...Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has defied the Foreign Office by publishing on the internet documents providing evidence that the British Government knowingly received information extracted by torture in the "war on terror".

Mr Murray, who publicly raised the issue of the usefulness of information obtained under torture before he was forced to leave his job last year, submitted his forthcoming book, Murder in Samarkand, to the Foreign Office for clearance. But the Foreign Office demanded that he remove references to two sensitive government documents, which undermine official denials, to show that Britain had been aware it was receiving information obtained by the Uzbek authorities through torture. Rather than submit to the gagging order Mr Murray decided to publish the material on the internet.

Reid plans tour of 'red states' to discuss Republican scandals

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to take on Republicans in their own backyards when he visits five "red states" next month to promote a theme that Republican-led Washington is corrupt and needs to be cleaned up, a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

Reid, the Senate minority leader, has scheduled a three-day tour with stops in Phoenix; Denver; Salt Lake City; Pocatello, Idaho; and Omaha, Neb. All are in "Republican red" states that President Bush carried in the 2004 election.

"He wants to take his message to some of these red states that the Democrats want to clean up Washington," spokeswoman Tessa Hafen said. "He will be talking on the theme that America can do better and just letting these red states know who the Democrats are.

"The primary message will be the corruption in Washington and needing to change Washington," Hafen said.


The more things change...

Emerson said: “There are people who have an appetite for grief. Pleasure is not strong enough and they crave pain.”

I know who those people are. They are fans of the New York Jets, and I’m one of them.

On Sept. 21, 1970, the Jets played in the first “Monday Night Football” game on ABC and lost to the Cleveland Browns, 31-21. This week they played in the last “Monday Night Football” game on ABC and lost to the New England Patriots by exactly the same score, 31-21.

In between, the Jets have lost many more games than they’ve won.

The world has changed in remarkable ways during those three and a half decades. But in some very important ways, like my Jets, it hasn’t changed much at all.

Richard Nixon was president when that Monday night game was played, and the nation was in a schizoid frenzy over Vietnam.

Words like “fast-food,” “hype” and “rip-off” were gaining footholds in the national conversation. Blackberries were still something you ate. Newspaper articles were typed on cranky Underwoods and edited with the help of straight edges and glue pots.

Walter Winchell, Harry Truman and Pablo Picasso were still alive.

What struck me when I hit the digital files for information about 1970 was how easy it was to get the data, but how little we seem to have learned since then.

Americans were split like the Hatfields and the McCoys over the war. But its opponents did not yet have the muscle to bring it to an end. Many thousands more would have to die, each death more pointless than the last.

In May 1970, during a series of encounters at Kent State University in Ohio, members of the National Guard bayoneted and ultimately opened fire on students (not all of whom were antiwar protesters). Four students were shot to death.

Days later, in Lower Manhattan, flag-waving, helmeted construction workers broke up a student antiwar demonstration and beat up several protesters. As The Times reported:

“The workers then stormed City Hall, cowing policemen and forcing officials to raise the American flag to full staff from half staff, where it had been placed in mourning for the four students killed at Kent State University on Monday.”

The hawks claimed the flag and branded the opponents of the war as cowardly and unpatriotic. Nixon invited the leaders of New York’s construction unions to the White House and thanked them for their support.

Kathy Huppe was treated somewhat differently. She was Miss Montana in the Miss America beauty pageant that year. While carrying a bouquet of roses in her right hand, she raised her left and made a fist to show her opposition to the war. Pageant officials, as Life magazine noted, were not amused. They barred her from the finals.

On the same day that The Times was reporting on the Jets’ Monday night defeat in Cleveland, it ran a freelance column by Walt Rostow, one of the ultimate hawks from the Johnson administration, who warned that the sky would fall if the U.S. were to “cut and run” in Vietnam.

Said Rostow:

“Contrary to every short-run political and personal interest, three successive American presidents decided over the past decade that the events set in motion by a prompt withdrawal of our forces and commitment from Vietnam and the Asian mainland would risk a larger war there and create dangerous instability elsewhere.”

In other words, we have to keep feeding the flames of war with the healthy bodies of our kids because if we were to stop something bad might happen.

Sound familiar?

The main lesson that should have been learned from the 60’s, the 70’s and every other decade is the lunacy of sending young people to die in unnecessary wars. It’s a lesson the species seems incapable of learning.

Another important lesson was offered by James Reston of The Times, who wrote in his column of Sept. 9, 1970, about the alarming number of U.S. citizens “who seem to feel that voting is not the answer to their grievances.”

He noted that many Americans, “troubled and eager for change, but skeptical that their votes have any relevance to their problems,” had essentially thrown up their hands and asked: “What difference would my vote make?”

Like my Jets, the more things change...


I first realized the enormous pressures on American journalists in the Middle East when I went some years ago to say goodbye to a colleague from the Boston Globe.

I expressed my sorrow that he was leaving a region where he had obviously enjoyed reporting. I could save my sorrows for someone else, he said. One of the joys of leaving was that he would no longer have to alter the truth to suit his paper's more vociferous readers.

"I used to call the Israeli Likud Party 'right wing,' " he said. "But recently, my editors have been telling me not to use the phrase. A lot of our readers objected." And so now, I asked? "We just don't call it 'right wing' anymore."

Ouch. I knew at once that these "readers" were viewed at his newspaper as Israel's friends, but I also knew that the Likud under Benjamin Netanyahu was as right wing as it had ever been.

This is only the tip of the semantic iceberg that has crashed into American journalism in the Middle East. Illegal Jewish settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land are clearly "colonies," and we used to call them that.

I cannot trace the moment when we started using the word "settlements." But I can remember the moment around two years ago when the word "settlements" was replaced by "Jewish neighborhoods" — or even, in some cases, "outposts."

Similarly, "occupied" Palestinian land was softened in many American media reports into "disputed" Palestinian land — just after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, in 2001, instructed U.S. embassies in the Middle East to refer to the West Bank as "disputed" rather than "occupied" territory.

Then there is the "wall," the massive concrete obstruction whose purpose, according to the Israeli authorities, is to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from killing innocent Israelis.

In this, it seems to have had some success. But it does not follow the line of Israel's 1967 border and cuts deeply into Arab land. And all too often these days, journalists call it a "fence" rather than a "wall."

Or a "security barrier," which is what Israel prefers them to say. For some of its length, we are told, it is not a wall at all — so we cannot call it a "wall," even though the vast snake of concrete and steel that runs east of Jerusalem is higher than the old Berlin Wall.

The semantic effect of this journalistic obfuscation is clear. If Palestinian land is not occupied but merely part of a legal dispute that might be resolved in law courts or discussions over tea, then a Palestinian child who throws a stone at an Israeli soldier in this territory is clearly acting insanely.

If a Jewish colony built illegally on Arab land is simply a nice friendly "neighborhood," then any Palestinian who attacks it must be carrying out a mindless terrorist act.

And surely there is no reason to protest a "fence" or a "security barrier" — words that conjure up the fence around a garden or the gate arm at the entrance to a private housing complex.

For Palestinians to object violently to any of these phenomena thus marks them as a generically vicious people. By our use of language, we condemn them.

We follow these unwritten rules elsewhere in the region. American journalists frequently used the words of U.S. officials in the early days of the Iraqi insurgency — referring to those who attacked American troops as "rebels" or "terrorists" or "remnants" of the former regime.

The language of the second U.S. pro-consul in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, was taken up obediently — and grotesquely — by American journalists.

American television, meanwhile, continues to present war as a bloodless sandpit in which the horrors of conflict — the mutilated bodies of the victims of aerial bombing, torn apart in the desert by wild dogs — are kept off the screen.

Editors in New York and London make sure that viewers' "sensitivities" don't suffer, that we don't indulge in the "pornography" of death (which is exactly what war is) or "dishonor" the dead whom we have just killed.

Our prudish video coverage makes war easier to support, and journalists long ago became complicit with governments in making conflict and death more acceptable to viewers. Television journalism has thus become a lethal adjunct to war.

Back in the old days, we used to believe — did we not? — that journalists should "tell it how it is."

Read the great journalism of World War II and you'll see what I mean. The Ed Murrows and Richard Dimblebys, the Howard K. Smiths and Alan Moorheads didn't mince their words or change their descriptions or run mealy-mouthed from the truth because listeners or readers didn't want to know or preferred a different version.

So let's call a colony a colony, let's call occupation what it is, let's call a wall a wall. And maybe express the reality of war by showing that it represents not, primarily, victory or defeat, but the total failure of the human spirit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Kurds Are Flocking to Kirkuk, Laying Claim to Land and Oil


KIRKUK, Iraq - Clusters of gray concrete houses dot the barren plains surrounding this city, like seedlings scattered here by winds blowing down from the mountainous Kurdish homeland to the north.

The villages are uniformly spartan, except for the red, green and white flag of Iraqi Kurdistan sprouting from many rooftops, even though this province is not officially part of the Kurdish autonomous region.

The settlements' purpose is as blunt as their design: they are the heart of an aggressive campaign by the Kurds to lay claim to Kirkuk, which sits on one of the world's richest oil fields. The Kurdish settlers have been moving into the area at a furious pace, with thousands coming in the past few months, sometimes with direct financing from the two main Kurdish parties.

The campaign has emerged as one of the most volatile issues dogging the talks to form a new national government. In this region, it has ignited fury among Arabs and Turkmens, adding to already caustic tension in the ethnically mixed city, American and Iraqi officials say.

It could also be contributing to a complex web of violence. In the past three months alone, American commanders say, at least 30 assassination-style killings have happened in the area, making Kirkuk one of the deadliest midsize cities in Iraq.


Mother Jones: The myth of conservative competence

Mother Jones


--The myth of conservative competence persists as uncontested verity, allowing George Schultz to sigh in public relief, post–9/11, “Aren’t we lucky the adults are in charge?” and New York Times columnist David Brooks to froth recently, concerning the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, that “I love thee with the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach,” because Roberts was what the headline called “A Competent Conservative”—a “practitioner,” Brooks said, instead of a “theoretician,” “the sort of person who rises when a movement is mature and running things.”

Except that the opposite is true. The longer the conservatives have run things, the less mature—and more ideological, theoretical, and divorced from practicality—they have shown themselves to be. An unheralded ground shift of modern American governance is the great do-si-do of left and right in their devotion to core competence. The right has abandoned common sense in favor of ideologically driven utopianism, while governing liberals have become the get-it-done, incremental pragmatists. They have proved effective not only in forwarding such progressive pet causes as the environment and racial and gender equity; if you want to lower abortion rates, shore up the family, improve student performance, reduce violent crime, achieve energy independence, support small business, strengthen the economy, ratchet down the deficit and the flow of illegal drugs, as most conservatives say they do, you’ll have a hard time voting for the current crop of conservatives. They don’t know what they’re doing......


Senator Patrick Leahy:Take 30 seconds to protect your civil liberties

I hope you and your family are enjoying a safe and happy holiday season. While many of us are visiting family and friends this week, I wanted to take just a moment to update you on our fight for striking the right balance between national security and civil liberties -- and ask for your help.

Thousands of members of the Green Mountain PAC community have already emailed President Bush, demanding that he end his program of secret domestic wiretaps without court review -- a program that the President admitted reauthorizing dozens of times since 2001.

But now, in just the past few days, we've learned that the practice was even more widespread than President Bush initially admitted. Indeed, it appears that the National Security Agency gained access to huge volumes of information traveling through centralized telecommunications "switches," gateways that route voice and data through networks across the U.S. and around the globe.

These new revelations only multiply and intensify the growing list of questions and concerns about President Bush's warrantless surveillance of Americans -- and we should tell him to end it at once.

Tell President Bush to end this violation of our civil liberties now!

Last week, Vice President Cheney claimed that Congress granted President Bush the authority to conduct warrantless domestic wiretaps in the 2001 resolution authorizing military force against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle thoroughly debunked this claim in an op-ed on Friday in The Washington Post. Senator Daschle talked about the negotiations over the 2001 resolution, and his refusal to include explicit language proposed by the White House that would have granted President Bush expansive powers here in the United States.

The White House must come clean about the scale and scope of its illegal domestic wiretap program -- and it needs to put an end to it now.

Tell President Bush to stop his secret domestic wiretap program immediately!

Fortunately, there is bipartisan support for protecting our civil liberties. In recent weeks, a handful of Congressional Republicans have joined with Democrats to balance national security with civil liberty.

Thanks to your help, even in the face of strong White House opposition, we were able to pass a short-term extension of the PATRIOT Act to give us the time to build in greater civil liberty protections in the PATRIOT Act reauthorization.

Now it's time for President Bush to get the message.

A wiretap that short-circuits our laws and safeguards is no more effective than a legal wiretap. It will not get us better intelligence and it will not make us any safer as a nation. It only excuses the government from having to justify its conduct through constitutional checks and balances.

Europe launches Their Own GPS System


Europe launches Galileo satellite

A new era in satellite navigation has begun with the launch of Giove-A.

The 600kg spacecraft was lofted into orbit on a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, at 1119 (0519GMT).

Giove-A will demonstrate key technologies needed for Galileo, the 3.4bn-euro (£2.3bn; $4bn) sat-nav system Europe hopes to deploy by 2010.

The new network will give EU states guaranteed access to a space-borne precise timing and location service independent of the United States.


We start the new year with the same old fear: Dick Cheney

The vice president, who believes in unwarranted, unlimited snooping, is so pathologically secretive that if you use Google Earth's database to see his official residence, the view is scrambled and obscured. You can view satellite photos of the White House, the Pentagon and the Capitol - but not of the Lord of the Underworld's lair.

Vice is literally a shadow president. He's obsessive about privacy - but, unfortunately, only his own.

Google Earth users alerted The Times to this latest bit of Cheney concealment after a front-page story last week about the international fears inspired by free Google software that features detailed displays of things like government and military sites around the world.

"For a brief period," they reported, "photos of the White House and adjacent buildings that the United States Geological Survey provided to Google Earth showed up with certain details obscured." So Google replaced those images with unaltered photographs taken by a private company.

Even though the story did not mention the Cheney residence - and even though it's not near the White House - The Times ran a clarifying correction yesterday that said, "The view of the vice president's residence in Washington remains obscured."

Fitting, since Vice has turned America into a camera obscura, a dark chamber with a lens that turns things upside down.

Guys argue that women tend to stew and hold grudges more, sometimes popping up to blow the whistle on a man's bad behavior years later, like a missile out of the night, as Alan Simpson said of Anita Hill.

Yet look at Cheney and Rummy. Their steroid-infused power grabs stem from their years stewing in the Ford White House, a time when they felt emasculated because they were stripped of prerogatives.

Rummy, a Ford chief of staff who became defense secretary, and his protégé, Cheney, who succeeded him as chief of staff, felt diminished by the post-Watergate laws and reforms
that reduced the executive branch's ability to be secretive and unilateral, tilting power back toward Congress.

The 70's were also a heady period for the press, which reached the zenith of its power when it swayed public opinion on Vietnam and exposed Watergate. Reporters got greater access to government secrets with a stronger Freedom of Information Act.

Chenrummy thought the press was running amok, that leaks should be plugged and that Congress was snatching power that rightfully belonged to the White House.

So these two crusty pals spent 30 years dreaming of inflating the deflated presidential muscularity. Cheney christened himself vice president and brought in Rummy for the most ridiculously pumped-up presidency ever. All this was fine with W., whose family motto is: "We know best. Trust us."

The two regents turned back the clock to the Nixon era, bringing back presidential excesses like wiretapping along with presidential power. As attorney general, John Ashcroft clamped down on the Freedom of Information Act.

For two years, the Pentagon has been sitting on a request from The Times's Jeff Gerth to cough up a secret 500-page document prepared by Halliburton on what to do with Iraq's oil industry - a plan it wrote several months before the invasion of Iraq, and before it got a no-bid contract to implement the plan (and overbill the U.S.). Very convenient.

Defending warrantless wiretapping last week, the vice president spoke of his distaste for the erosion of presidential authority in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam.

"I do believe that, especially in the day and age we live in, the nature of the threats we face, it was true during the cold war, as well as I think what is true now, the president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy," he intoned. Translation: Back off, Congress and the press.

Checks, balances, warrants, civil liberties - they're all so 20th century. Historians must now regard the light transitional tenure of Gerald Ford as the petri dish of this darkly transformational presidency.

Consider this: when Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, supported by President Ford, pushed a plan to have the government help develop alternative sources of energy and reduce our dependence on oil and Saudi Arabia, guess who helped scotch it?

Dick Cheney. Then and now, the man is a menace.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Blog summary of Ritter v Hitchens debate (Yellow Dog Blog)

"This is a war that's not worth the life of one American because it's a war based on a lie. And no amount of revisionism will make those lies true," he said. "And if you support this ridiculous notion that the ends justifies the means, then come up here, throw your passport on the stage and get the hell out of my country because that's un-American."

--Scott Ritter

Read The Summary Here

Former Enron Accountant Strikes Plea Deal

HOUSTON (AP) -- Enron's former chief accounting officer, Richard Causey, has struck a plea bargain with federal prosecutors and will avoid going to trial with the fallen energy company's two top executives, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

Causey, 45, agreed to testify against his former bosses, Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, in exchange for a much lesser prison sentence than he would receive if convicted on all counts. The trial is scheduled to begin next month.


GE and Halliburton who do work in Iran, not on the List.

The US has imposed sanctions against nine companies from China, India and Austria for supplying Iran with military equipment and technology.

The sanctions, which ban the companies from doing business with the US government and US companies, were based on the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, which aims at preventing Teheran from developing nuclear weapons.

The US has accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear arms under the cover of its civilian nuclear energy program.

"These entities will be sanctioned based on credible information that they transferred equipments and technologies referred on the multilateral control lists to Iran," US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said. "They are serial offenders."

The Chinese companies hit were the public company China National
Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation, missile builder China North Industries Corp (Norinco), the chemical equipment group Zibo Chemet Equipment Corp, Hongdu Aviation, Ounion International Economic and Technical Cooperative Ltd, and Limmt Metallurgy and Minerals.

Two Indian chemical groups were also cited: Sabero Organics and Sandhya Organics.

Also cited was Austrian firearms maker Steyr-Mannlicher.


'Last liberal' quits Putin's government in protest

The Scotsman

AN OUTSPOKEN economic adviser to the Russian president Vladimir Putin has quit, saying he could no longer work in a government that had done away with political freedoms.

Andrei Illarionov said that political freedom in Russia has steadily declined and that government-controlled corporations have stifled competition and ignored public interests.

"It is one thing to work in a partly free country, which Russia was six years ago. It is quite another when the country has ceased to be politically free."

Mr Illarionov, who has also criticised what he says is a return to inefficient state control of the economy, complained that he was no longer able to speak his mind. "I considered it important to remain here at this post as long as I had the possibility to do something, including speaking out."

Yevgeny Ikhlov, who leads the group For Human Rights, described Mr Illarionov as "the last liberal in the government" who dared to expose the authorities' crackdown on political freedoms.

After 9/11 fear destroys what bin Laden could not


One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had help.

If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled.

Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat -- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated.

If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas -- and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security -- I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them.

If someone had predicted the president's staff would out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators, and ridicule a 37-year Marie Corps veteran for questioning U.S. military policy -- and that the populace would be more interested in whether Angelina is about to make Brad a daddy -- I would have called the prediction an absurd fantasy.

Chalabi may be shut out of Iraqi Assembly

BAGHDAD, Iraq (UPI) -- One-time U.S.-favored Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi is unlikely to win enough votes to join the new Iraqi Assembly, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

With 95 percent of a preliminary tally from the Dec. 15 vote completed, Chalabi remained almost 8,000 votes short of the 40,000 minimum needed for him or his bloc to win a single seat in the 275-seat National Assembly, election officials said.

Chalabi`s supporters had hoped he would do well among exile voters who were allowed to cast ballots overseas. But results released Monday showed he received 0.89 percent of the special vote.

Even if he fails to reach the plateau to gain a seat, a spokesman, Haider Mousawi, told the newspaper Chalabi would not be idle.

Monday, December 26, 2005

CIA Chief Admits To Torture

LANGLEY, VA—An internal CIA investigation into the possible use of illegal and inhumane interrogation techniques produced a confession from CIA director Porter Goss Monday, with the aid of waterboarding, food and light deprivation, and the application of wire hangers hooked to a car battery to the testicles. "I did it. We did it. We all did it. The president knew. The president did it. Please, God, please stop," said a voice identified as Goss' on recordings produced by CIA auditors. "Stop, please stop. I'm sorry. I won't do it again. The president won't do it again. Please let me die." Critics of the methods used to obtain the information continue to claim that torture is an ineffective means of obtaining intelligence, pointing out that Goss did not sound sorry.

The Onion


Health care seems to be heading back to the top of the political agenda, and not a moment too soon. Employer-based health insurance is unraveling, Medicaid is under severe pressure, and vast Medicare costs loom on the horizon. Something must be done.

But to get health reform right, we'll have to overcome wrongheaded ideas as well as powerful special interests.

For decades we've been lectured on the evils of big government and the glories of the private sector. Yet health reform is a job for the public sector, which already pays most of the bills directly or indirectly and sooner or later will have to make key decisions about medical treatment.

That's the conclusion of an important new study from the Brookings Institution, "Can We Say No?" I'll write more about that study another time, but for now let me give my own take on the issue.

Consider what happens when a new drug or other therapy becomes available. Let's assume that the new therapy is more effective in some cases than existing therapies - that is, it isn't just a me-too drug that duplicates what we already have - but that the advantage isn't overwhelming.

On the other hand, it's a lot more expensive than current treatments. Who decides whether patients receive the new therapy?

We've traditionally relied on doctors to make such decisions. But the rise of medical technology means that there are far more ways to spend money on health care than there were in the past.

This makes so-called "flat of the curve" medicine, in which doctors call for every procedure that might be of medical benefit, increasingly expensive.

Moreover, the high-technology nature of modern medical spending has given rise to a powerful medical-industrial complex that seeks to influence doctors' decisions.

Let's hope that extreme cases like the one reported in The Times a few months ago, in which surgeons systematically used the devices of companies that paid them consulting fees, are exceptions.

Still, the drug companies in particular spend more marketing their products to doctors than they do developing those products in the first place. They wouldn't do that if doctors were immune to persuasion.

So if costs are to be controlled, someone has to act as a referee on doctors' medical decisions. During the 1990's it seemed, briefly, as if private H.M.O.'s could play that role.

But then there was a public backlash. It turns out that even in America, with its faith in the free market, people don't trust for-profit corporations to make decisions about their health.

Despite the failure of the attempt to control costs with H.M.O.'s, conservatives continue to believe that the magic of the private sector will provide the answer. (There must be a pony in there somewhere.)

Their latest big idea is health savings accounts, which are supposed to induce "cost sharing" - that is, individuals will rely less on insurance, pay a larger share of their medical costs out of pocket and make their own decisions about care.

In practice, the health savings accounts created by the 2003 Medicare law will serve primarily as tax shelters for the wealthy. But let's put justified cynicism about Bush administration policies aside: is giving individuals responsibility for their own health spending really the answer to rising costs? No.

For one thing, insurance will always cover the really big expenses. We're not going to have a system in which people pay for heart surgery out of their health savings accounts and save money by choosing cheaper procedures.

And that's not an unfair example. The Brookings study puts it this way: "Most health costs are incurred by a small proportion of the population whose expenses greatly exceed plausible limits on out-of-pocket spending."

Moreover, it's neither fair nor realistic to expect ordinary citizens to have enough medical expertise to make life-or-death decisions about their own treatment.

A well-known experiment with alternative health insurance schemes, carried out by the RAND Corporation, found that when individuals pay a higher share of medical costs out of pocket, they cut back on necessary as well as unnecessary health spending.

So cost-sharing, like H.M.O.'s, is a detour from real health care reform. Eventually, we'll have to accept the fact that there's no magic in the private sector, and that health care - including the decision about what treatment is provided - is a public responsibility.


One of the cruelest aspects of slavery was the way it wrenched apart black families, separating husbands from wives and children from their parents.

It is ironic, to say the least, that now, nearly a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation, much of the most devastating damage to black families, and especially black children, is self-inflicted.

You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to know that some of the most serious problems facing blacks in the United States - from poverty to incarceration rates to death at an early age - are linked in varying degrees to behavioral issues and the corrosion of black family life, especially the absence of fathers.

Another devastating aspect of slavery was the numbing ignorance that often resulted from the prohibition against the education of slaves. It was against the law in most instances for slaves to even learn to read.

Now, with education widely (though imperfectly) available, we have entire legions of black youngsters turning their backs on school, choosing instead to wallow in a self-imposed ignorance that in the long run is as destructive as a bullet to the brain.

I remember interviewing a 17-year-old dropout in Brooklyn who had already fathered two children by two different girls. He wasn't working and he wasn't helping to support either child. I asked if he had considered going back to school. He looked at me, puzzled. "For what?" he said.

Most black people are not poor. Most are not criminals. Most are leading productive lives. The black middle class is larger and more successful than ever. But there are millions who are still out in the cold, caught in a cycle of poverty, ignorance, illness and violence that is taking a horrendous toll.

Nearly a third of black men in their 20's have criminal records, and 8 percent of all black men between the ages of 25 and 29 are behind bars.

H.I.V. and AIDS have literally become the black plague. Although blacks are just 13 percent of the overall population, they account for more than half of all new H.I.V. infections. Black women account for an astonishing 72 percent of all new cases among women.

This is frightening.

Black children routinely get a rough start in life. Two-thirds of them are born out of wedlock, and nearly half of all black children brought up in a single-parent household are poor.

Those kids are much more likely to drop out of school, struggle economically, be initiators or victims of violence, and endure a variety of serious health problems.

We can pretend that these terrible things are not happening, but they are. There's a crisis in the black community, and it won't do to place all of the blame on society and government.

I've spent years writing about unfairness and appalling injustices. Society is unfair and racism is still a rampant evil. But much of the suffering in black America could be alleviated by changes in behavior.

What's more, those behavioral changes would empower the community in ways that would make it easier to successfully confront opponents in government and push the society in a more equitable direction.

The problems facing black people today are comparable in magnitude to those of the Jim Crow era of the 20th century. There were leaders in those days who were equal to the challenge.

I believe that nothing short of a new movement, comparable in scope and dedication to that of the civil rights era, is required to bring about the changes in values and behavior needed to halt the self-destruction that is consuming so many black lives. The crucial question is whether the leadership exists to mount such an effort.

A good first step would be a summit meeting of wise and dedicated men and women willing to think about creative new ways to approach such problems as crime and violence, out-of-wedlock births, drug and alcohol abuse, irresponsible sexual behavior, misogyny, and so on.

Addressing issues of values and behavior within the black community should not in any way imply a lessening of the pressure on the broader society to meet its legal and ethical obligations. It should be seen as an essential counterpoint to that pressure.

Most important, it should be seen as a crucial component of the obligation that black adults have to create a broadly nurturing environment in which succeeding generations of black children can survive and thrive.

Despite the sometimes valiant efforts of individuals and organizations across the country, we are not meeting that obligation now. And that's because there's a vacuum where our leadership should be.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


The good news today is that the great 2005 war on Christmas, the conflagration that launched a thousand op-ed pieces and nearly as many battles on Fox News, is now officially over. And yes, Virginia - Christmas won!

Secularists, Jews, mainline Protestants and all the other grinches failed utterly to take Kriss Kringle down. Except at those megachurches that canceled services today rather than impede their flocks' giving and gorging, Christmas is alive and well everywhere in America.

Last night NBC even rolled the dice and broadcast "It's a Wonderful Life" in prime time. With courage reminiscent of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's defiance of Stalin, the network steadfastly refused to redub the final scene's cries of "Merry Christmas!" with the godless "Happy holidays!"

As Michelle Goldberg wrote last month in her definitive debunking for Salon, there was in fact no war on Christmas, but rather "a burgeoning myth of a war on Christmas."

Most of the grievances cited by Christmas's whiniest protectors - red and green banned from residents' wardrobes in Michigan, "Silent Night" censored in Wisconsin - were either anomalous idiocies or suburban legends.

The calls for boycotts against chain stores with heathen holiday trees lost their zing when it turned out that even George and Laura Bush's Christmas card had called for a happy "holiday season."

But like every other chapter of irrational hysteria in America's cultural history, from the burning of "witches" in colonial Salem to the panic induced by Orson Welles's radio broadcast of the fictional "War of the Worlds" on the eve of World War II, the fake war on Christmas was not without its hidden meanings. Or not so hidden.

If you worked at Fox News, wouldn't you want to change the subject from the war in Iraq to a war in which victory is a slam-dunk?

Rabble-rousing paranoia about a supposed assault on Christmas also has a strong anti-Semitic and far-right pedigree.

In Salon, Ms. Goldberg noted that fulmination about supposed Jewish opposition to Christmas dates to Henry Ford's infamous "The International Jew" of 1921.

That chord is sounded in the very first anecdote in the book by the Fox News anchor John Gibson, "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought": a devastated father discovers that his 4-year-old son has brought home preschool artwork showing a Hanukkah menorah and Kwanzaa candles, rather than a Christmas tree.

But Mr. Gibson goes on to add ecumenically that "not just Jewish people" are out to kill Christmas. As he elucidated on Christian radio, all non-Christians are "following the wrong religion," though he reassures us that they will be tolerated "as long as they're civil and behave."

Even so, much of this manufactured war was more banal than malicious. Like Christmas itself, an anti-Christmas scare is an ideal means for moving merchandise.

The first Fox News segment warning darkly of a war on Christmas occurred on Oct. 20 - coincidentally the very day that Mr. Gibson's book hit the nation's bookstores. Many of the five dozen ensuing Fox segments contained lavish plugs for the book or for the Christmas baubles hawked by Bill O'Reilly on his Web site - no yuletide loofahs, alas.

(His wares were initially listed as "holiday" gifts until a Web exposé forced a frantic rebranding.)

Even Fox News's obligatory show Jew - Jackie Mason, ostensibly representing an organization called Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation - seized the mercantile opportunity, using the "war on Christmas" to plug a stand-up booking on Long Island.

But to fully parse the war-on-Christmas myth, it helps to examine it in the larger context of what "The Daily Show" would call This Year in God.

Though religion has always been a fulcrum of culture wars in America, its debased role in that debate has fallen to new lows of lunacy since Election Day 2004.

That's when a single vague exit poll found that 22 percent of Americans considered undefined "moral values" in casting their ballots.

Ever since, politicians of both parties, Fox News anchors and any other huckster eager to sell goods, an agenda or an image have increased the decibel level of their pandering to "people of faith."

An ersatz war on Christmas fits all too snugly into a year that began with the religious right's (unsuccessful) efforts to destroy the box office and Oscar prospects of Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" and "save" Terri Schiavo and that ended with a federal judge banishing intelligent design from high school biology classes.

In his sweeping 139-page opinion, that judge, John Jones III, put his finger on the hypocrisy of many of those most ostentatiously defending faith from its alleged assailants in America.

Referring to the fundamentalists on the Dover, Pa., school board, he wrote that it was "ironic" that those who "so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the intelligent design policy."

That passage fits much of the dishonesty and cynicism perpetrated in the name of religion in America over the past 12 months.

This was the year that two C.E.O.'s charged with wholesale corporate fraud, Bernard Ebbers of WorldCom and Richard Scrushy of HealthSouth, both made a show of public prayer to ward off legal culpability. In Mr. Scrushy's case, the strategy worked.

Faced with the prospect of life in prison and the forfeiture of $279 million, he quit his suburban Birmingham, Ala., church to join a largely blue-collar African-American congregation more in keeping with his potential jury pool, secured his own ordination as a nondenominational minister, and bought local TV time for a prayer show featuring himself, his third wife and various members of the clergy. The jury acquitted him on all 36 felony counts.

"God is good," he proclaimed after his victory news conference. To which one can only add: amen.

A no less unctuous spectacle was provided this year by Bill Frist, the Senate's majority leader and self-infatuated doctor-in-residence.

Mr. Frist played God on national television by giving a quack diagnosis of Ms. Schiavo's condition based on a videotape, and then endorsed a so-called Justice Sunday megachurch rally demonizing "activist" judges - including, no doubt, any who may yet pass on the legality of his brilliantly timed stock sales.

Though the senator's farcical behavior is worthy of Molière, he is hardly unique among his peers with presidential aspirations.

Chastened by a perceived "moral values" deficit that might haunt her in 2008, Hillary Clinton now wears her history as "a praying person" on her sleeve.

In June John Kerry told a gathering that he "went back and read the New Testament the other day" - which presumably will prevent him from erroneously citing Job as his favorite New Testament text, as Howard Dean did in 2004.

Liberals have a lot to learn about the God racket, however. The right is masterly at exploiting religion and religious (or quasi-religious) leaders for its own fun and profit.

Just look at how a few phone calls from Karl Rove flimflammed Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family into serving as a useful idiot in support of the Harriet Miers nomination long after most other conservative leaders had bailed out.

The more we learned about the scandals enveloping Tom DeLay and his favorite lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, this year, the more we learned of how Mr. Abramoff, the founder of a now defunct Washington yeshiva and two defunct kosher restaurants, manipulated a trinity of Billy Sundays to do his bidding: the Christian Coalition's former executive director, Ralph Reed, the Traditional Values Coalition's Rev. Louis Sheldon (dubbed "Lucky Louie" by Mr. Abramoff) and Dr. Dobson.

Though all three are vocal opponents of gambling, they were each recruited for stealth campaigns for the lobbyist's casino and lottery clients.

The campaigns were disguised as "anti-gambling" crusades (often because they were in opposition to casinos competing with Abramoff clients), and these pious gentlemen, Lucky Louie included, have denied any knowledge that they were trafficking in the wages of sin.

If they're actually telling the truth, they are even bigger dupes than Mr. Abramoff took them for.

To those who fear the worst from a born-again president whose base is typified by these holy rollers and the Christmas demagogues of Fox News, a fundamentalist theocracy seems as imminent in America as it does in the "democracy" we've been building in Iraq.

Only last week did Ted Haggard, an evangelical preacher much favored by the White House, fan those fears by insisting to a Jewish television interviewer, Barbara Walters, that anyone who worshiped a different God from Jesus Christ would "unfortunately" be consigned to hell.

But it's also possible that 2005 may turn out to be the year the God card was so wildly overplayed in politics and commerce alike that it began to lose its clout with Americans who are overdosing on the strict speech and belief codes of Christian political correctness.

That the judge who ruled so decisively in Pennsylvania's revival of the Scopes trial is a Republican appointed by President Bush is almost enough to make the bah-humbug crowd believe in Santa Claus.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Alito Memo in '84 Favored Immunity for Top Officials


The attorney general should be immune from lawsuits for ordering wiretaps of Americans without permission from a court,
Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, wrote in a memorandum in 1984 as a government lawyer in the Reagan administration.

The memorandum, released yesterday by the National Archives, made recommendations concerning a lawsuit against former Attorney General John N. Mitchell over a wiretap he had authorized without a court's permission in 1970. The government was investigating a plot to destroy underground utility tunnels in Washington and to kidnap
Henry A. Kissinger, the national security adviser.

The White House said yesterday that the issues discussed in that memorandum were not the same as those posed by President Bush's orders to the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on international communications without warrants.

"Judge Alito's memo regarding a purely domestic threat is completely different from N.S.A.'s efforts to thwart threats from foreign terrorist organizations," said Steve Schmidt, a White House spokesman.

In a letter to Judge Alito, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said yesterday that he would question him vigorously about his current views on whether the attorney general and other top officials "have absolute immunity from suits based on even willful unconstitutional acts."

STEELERS Football Week # 16

The Steelers travel to Cleveland to play the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Saturday, December 24. Kickoff for the game is at 1:00 p.m. EST. The Steelers are 9-5 and coming off a win over the Minnesota Vikings. The Browns are 5-9 after defeating the Oakland Raiders. Steelers-Browns Game Day Coverage

Mitchell, Fineman portrayed bipartisan opposition to Bush as strictly Democratic

On two national security issues that received prominent media coverage this week -- President Bush's authorization of a domestic wiretapping program that appeared to violate provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and Congress' 5-week extension of the USA Patriot Act -- Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman and NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell singled out Democrats for their opposition to the Bush administration's policies, portraying both issues as purely partisan disputes. In fact, several Republican senators have sharply criticized the wiretapping program, and several also joined Democrats in a filibuster of the vote to fully reauthorize the Patriot Act.

CBS' Assuras distorted Harman's domestic spying statement

On the December 22 broadcast of CBS' The Early Show, CBS News national correspondent Thalia Assuras misrepresented a quote from Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), falsely reporting that Harmon expressed "support" for President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program. Assuras claimed that Harman called Bush's recently revealed program "essential to U.S. national security." Harman did, in fact, state in her December 21 press conference that "a highly classified NSA foreign collection program" about which she had been "briefed since 2003" is "essential to U.S. national security." But as Media Matters for America has documented, Harman added that she is "deeply concerned by reports that this program in fact goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."

CNN trumpeted month-old news of Alito abortion memo; dragged feet in covering newly released memo suggesting Alito supports warrantless wiretaps

On December 23, CNN reported the release of a 1985 memorandum in which Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. advocated overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide. But the document CNN hyped, in fact, was the same as a June 3, 1985, memo originally released by the National Archives on November 30 laying out Alito's strategy of slowly eroding abortion rights and received extensive media coverage at the time.

Newspapers, commentators agree: Virginia, there is no War on Christmas

About this time last year, the media was abuzz with talk of a purported "war" on Christmas, a charge promoted by Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, who blamed the supposed offensive on "secular progressives" who seek to drive religion from the public square. This October, O'Reilly resumed his fight against the "war" -- the same month the book The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought (Sentinel, 2005), written by O'Reilly's fellow Fox News host John Gibson, was published. The allegation of a secular conspiracy against the Christian holiday became a recurring theme on Fox News programs; for example, over the course of a five-day period at the end of November through early December, the network had devoted 58 segments to the topic.


As a Christmas present for our president, who’s been going through a rough time lately, I’m not writing the column this Christmas Eve.

In keeping with a holiday tradition I began last year, I’m giving the space to my conservative brother, Kevin, who delights in turning the Gray Lady a vivid shade of red.

I asked Kevin, a salesman and father of three boys who lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington, to write you, dear readers, a letter with his thoughts on the year.

You will find his meditation a refreshing, or regrettable, change from me, depending on your perspective. Here it is, unexpurgated:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. Maybe it was the extended absence from the stern Franciscan nuns at Nativity grade school. But more likely it was the decorations, the songs, the movies like “A Christmas Carol” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” that filled people with an unbridled joy and an unusual generosity of spirit.

Christmas has generally been celebrated as both a secular and religious holiday in this country. Recently, the P.C. police have decided that the word Christ carries an unbearable religious aura, so they are working hard to strike the word entirely for the more generic Holiday. The battle for the soul of Christmas has heated up.

So first, I’d like to give a big thank you to Speaker Hastert for ordering the renamed Holiday tree to revert to its original title of Christmas tree. And why not? We do not decorate the tree for Easter or the Fourth of July. It is a Christmas tree.

We live in a country of 295 million people. Eighty percent of them are affiliated with religions. Ten percent don’t believe anything at all. Who the hell does Christmas offend?

Go back two generations and you will find the real diversity that made our country the greatest in the world. Immigrants brought their customs with them and were accepted. We were taught by our parents to respect the customs and religious beliefs of other people.

Let’s reach around and give P.C. a swat, like an annoying child in the back seat of a long trip, before Santa and St. Patrick are casualties of war.

My mother hated political correctness. “In my day,” she’d say, “people respected each other and minded their own business.” Still good advice.

To the P.C. Elites: The founding fathers guaranteed Freedom OF Religion, not Freedom FROM Religion. Please go away, you are making my hair hurt.

To Target: You better check the sales and profit numbers that are CHRISTMAS related before you ban the word.

To Michael Moore, Rob Reiner, Barbra Streisand, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Alec Baldwin: When did you get back?

To MSNBC: Susan Estrich, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Lanny Davis.

To Hillary: A hearty welcome to the Republican Party.

To Bill O’Reilly: Thank you for dragging the P.C. crowd into the open. Maybe they will learn that America doesn’t want to be de-Godded.

To Maureen: Of course Men are Necessary; who else could write this column?

To Jesse Jackson, Sean Penn, Snoop Dog, Susan and Tim: Tookie Williams KILLED four people. Community service does not seem enough.

To Judge Jones of Pennsylvania: No Intelligent Design? You are going to be hoping for a Big Bang if St. Peter is checking ID’s.

To President Bush: Stay the Course. The same people that are calling for troop withdrawal were under their beds on 9/12/01 screaming “Kill the Infidels!” Let’s fight them there instead of here and bring our troops home with honor as soon as possible.

To my Mom: Thanks for teaching your children to love Christmas as much as you did.

In the 1950’s, my mother used to take Maureen and me to the sloping hill outside the Church of the Nativity. There, workers had assembled a giant stable, complete with figures at least four feet high, on a bed of real straw.

Driving north on 13th Street, you could see the floodlit display four blocks away. We stood and admired that display with our Jewish and Protestant neighbors. No one seemed offended. Across the top was an angel, holding a sign that said, “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” Let’s save that.

So, my friends, let me wish all of you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Blessed Kwanzaa, Feliz Navidad and to all the rest of you: Have a nice day!

Kevin aka Maureen Dowd

Friday, December 23, 2005

Harness Racing Results for 12-23-05

Record since 04-26-05

Win (293)

Place (81)

Show (19)

Out of the Money (73)

Fraser Downs

Race # 5

Horse: CHUTE AGAIN (Won)

Post Position: # 1


Race # 8


Post Position: # 7


If you want someone to play Scrooge just before Christmas, Dick Cheney is your man. On Wednesday Mr. Cheney, acting as president of the Senate, cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of legislation that increases the fees charged to Medicaid recipients, lets states cut Medicaid benefits, reduces enforcement funds for child support, and more.

For all its cruelty, however, the legislation will make only a tiny dent in the budget deficit: the cuts total about $8 billion a year, or one-third of 1 percent of total federal spending.

So ended 2005, the year that killed any remaining rationale for continuing tax cuts. But the hunger for tax cuts refuses to die.

Since the 1970's, conservatives have used two theories to justify cutting taxes. One theory, supply-side economics, has always been hokum for the yokels. Conservative insiders adopted the supply-siders as mascots because they were useful to the cause, but never took them seriously.

The insiders' theory - what we might call the true tax-cut theory - was memorably described by David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's budget director, as "starving the beast."

Proponents of this theory argue that conservatives should seek tax cuts not because they won't create budget deficits, but because they will.

Starve-the-beasters believe that budget deficits will lead to spending cuts that will eventually achieve their true aim: shrinking the government's role back to what it was under Calvin Coolidge.

True to form, the insiders aren't buying the supply-siders' claim that a partial recovery in federal tax receipts from their plunge between 2000 and 2003 shows that all's well on the fiscal front. (Revenue remains lower, and the federal budget deeper in deficit, than anyone expected a few years ago.) Instead, conservative heavyweights are using the budget deficit to call for cuts in key government programs.

For example, in 2001 Alan Greenspan urged Congress to cut taxes to avoid running an excessively large budget surplus.

Now he issues dire warnings about "fiscal instability." But rather than urging Congress to reverse the tax cuts he helped sell, he talks of the need to cut future Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Yet at this point starve-the-beast theory looks as silly as supply-side economics. Although a disciplined conservative movement has controlled Congress and the White House for five years - and presided over record deficits - public opposition has prevented any significant cuts in the big social-insurance programs that dominate domestic spending.

In fact, two years ago the Bush administration actually pushed through a major expansion in Medicare. True, the prescription drug bill clearly wasn't written by liberals.

To a significant extent it's a giveaway to drug companies rather than a benefit for retirees. But all that corporate welfare makes the program more expensive, not less.

Conservative intellectuals had high hopes that this year President Bush would make up for this betrayal of their doctrine by dealing a death blow to Social Security as we know it.

Indeed, he tried. His proposed "reform" would, over time, have essentially phased out the program. And he seemed to have everything going for him: momentum from an election victory, control of Congress and a highly sympathetic punditocracy. Yet the drive for privatization quickly degenerated from a juggernaut into a farce.

Medicaid, whose recipients are less likely to vote than the average person getting Social Security or Medicare, is the softest target among major federal social-insurance programs. But even members of Congress, it seems, have consciences. (Well, some of them.)

It took intense arm-twisting from the Republican leadership, and that tie-breaking vote by Mr. Cheney, to ram through even modest cuts in aid to the neediest.

In other words, the starve-the-beast theory - like missile defense - has been tested under the most favorable possible circumstances, and failed. So there is no longer any coherent justification for further tax cuts.

Yet the cuts go on. In fact, even as Congressional leaders struggled to pass a tiny package of mean-spirited spending cuts, they pushed forward with a much larger package of tax cuts. The benefits of those cuts, as always, will go disproportionately to the wealthy.

Here's how I see it: Republicans have turned into tax-cut zombies. They can't remember why they originally wanted to cut taxes, they can't explain how they plan to make up for the lost revenue, and they don't care. Instead, they just keep shambling forward, always hungry for more.

Coulter: "[T]he government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport......

Offering several rationales for why she had "difficulty ginning up much interest" in the recent report that the Bush administration secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans and others within the United States, syndicated columnist and right-wing pundit Ann Coulter wrote in her December 21 column: "I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo." A "daisy cutter" is a 15,000-pound bomb with a lethal radius of 300 to 900 feet, making it the largest conventional weapon in the U.S. arsenal.

Toensing "called in" to CNN, falsely equated Clinton's searches in Ames case with Bush wiretapping

On the December 21 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer held a one-on-one discussion with CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin regarding recent efforts by numerous conservatives to falsely equate President Bush's authorization of warrantless domestic surveillance with the Clinton administration's use of physical searches without warrants. In the middle of this discussion, Blitzer informed his viewers that Republican attorney Victoria Toensing "has called us ... and wants to weigh in." Once on the air, Toensing repeated the claim that Clinton "did carry out the same authority" as Bush, citing as evidence Clinton's handling of the Aldrich Ames case and 1994 congressional testimony by Jamie Gorelick, then a deputy attorney general. Blitzer made no effort to challenge Toensing's highly misleading argument.

Fox's Angle distorted Rep. Harman's statements on warrantless spy program

On the December 21 editions of both Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson and Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle misrepresented remarks by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) to falsely state that she agreed with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra's (R-MI) positive assessment of the Bush administration's congressional briefings on its use of domestic surveillance, without judicial oversight, on U.S. persons. By omitting a portion of Harman's statement, Angle indicated that she agreed with Hoekstra's assessment of the briefing sessions that "as we walked out in a bipartisan basis, we thought that this was essential and a necessary and the right thing to do to keep America safe." In fact, in her comments, Harman explicitly expressed concern that the surveillance program "goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."

Harness Racing Picks for 12-23-05

Record since 04-26-05

Win (291)

Place (81)

Show (19)

Out of the Money (73)

Fraser Downs

Race # 5


Post Position: # 1


Race # 8


Post Position: # 7

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Harness Racing Results for 12-22-05

Record since 04-26-05

Win (291)

Place (81)

Show (19)

Out of the Money (73)

Freehold Raceway

Race # 1


Post Position: # 4

Blair Visits Troops In Iraq, Bush Goes on Vacation.....

Blair makes surprise Iraq visit

Tony Blair has paid tribute to British troops after flying into Iraq for a surprise pre-Christmas visit.
Mr Blair told them: "I just want you to know how grateful we are for the work you are doing here."

He said they were helping to build democracy and they could return home when Iraqi forces were up to strength.


Bush gave a quick speech and went on Vacation

Fox News affiliate quietly promotes white supremacist website

A South Carolina Fox News affiliate ran a story appearing to cheer a white supremacist website -- and the leader of the group says that Fox News staff are members of his white supremacy forum, RAW STORY can reveal.

The story was picked up by Jesus' General Dec. 18.


The story, which profiled white supremacist website, ran on Fox Carolina's WHNS website in late November. It is still available in Google's cache.

Read more here….


Edwin "E. J." Duncan was a young man from a decent family who spent a great deal of time with his friends in an amateur recording studio his parents had set up for him in the basement of their home in the Dorchester neighborhood.

It was in that studio that Duncan, along with three of his closest friends, was murdered last week, shot to death by a killer or killers who have yet to be found. Whoever carried out the executions, it seems clear enough to me that young Duncan and his friends were among the latest victims of the profoundly self-destructive cultural influences that have spread like a cancer through much of the black community and beyond.

I keep wondering when leaders of eminence will step forward and declare, unambiguously, that enough is enough, as they did in the heyday of the civil rights movement, when the enemy was white racism.

It is time to blow the whistle on the nitwits who have so successfully promoted a values system that embraces murder, drug-dealing, gang membership, misogyny, child abandonment and a sense of self so diseased that it teaches children to view the men in their orbit as niggaz and the women as hoes.

However this madness developed, it's time to bring it to an end.

I noticed that Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, Snoop Dogg and other "leaders" and celebrities turned out in South Central Los Angeles on Tuesday for the funeral of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the convicted killer and co-founder of the Crips street gang who was executed in California last week.

I remember talking over the years to parents in Los Angeles and elsewhere who were petrified that their children would be killed in cold blood - summarily executed, without any possibility of a defense or an appeal - by the Crips or some other gang because they just happened to be wearing the wrong color cap or jacket or whatever.

The enthusiastic turnout at Tookie Williams's funeral tells you much of what you need to know about the current state of black leadership in the U.S.

The slaughter of E. J. Duncan, who was 21, and his friends - Jason Bachiller, 21; Jihad Chankhour, 22; and Christopher Vieira, 19 - was all but literally accompanied by a hip-hop soundtrack. Duncan, Bachiller and Vieira were members of a rap group called Graveside, which favored the rough language and violent imagery that has enthralled so many youngsters and bolstered the bottom lines of major entertainment companies.

This mindless celebration of violence, the essence of gangsta rap, is a reflection of the nihilism that has taken root in one neighborhood after another over the past few decades, destroying many, many lives. The authorities here have not suggested that Duncan or his friends were involved in any criminal behavior. But the appeal of the hip-hop environment is strong, and a lot of good kids are striving to conform to images established by clowns like 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg.

The members of Graveside wanted badly to make it as rappers. Said one police officer, "They probably didn't even know they were playing with fire."

The Rev. Eugene Rivers, who has been fighting for years to reduce youth violence in Boston and elsewhere, was a neighbor of E. J. Duncan's. "My son Malcolm knew E. J. well," he told me.

He described the murders as a massacre and said he has long been worried about the glorification of violence and antisocial behavior. "Thug life," he said, "is now being globalized," thanks to the powerful marketing influence of international corporations.

This problem is not limited to the black community. E. J. Duncan and his friends came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. But it is primarily a black problem, and it is impossible to overstate its dimensions.

I understand that jobs are hard to come by for many people, and that many schools are substandard, and that racial discrimination is still widespread. But those are not good reasons for committing cultural suicide.

I'll paraphrase Sam Cooke: A change has got to come. Reasonable standards of behavior that include real respect for life, learning and the law have to be re-established in those segments of the black community where chaos now reigns.

This has to start with a commitment to protect and nurture all of the community's children. That may seem at the moment like a task worthy of Sisyphus because it will require overcoming what the Rev. Rivers has described as "the sins of the fathers who have cursed their sons by their abandonment and neglect."

Sisyphean or not, it's a job that has to be done.

CNN, Fox tout ABC/Post poll showing increase in Bush approval ratings, ignore own polls showing no improvement or a decrease

In discussing President Bush's approval ratings in the wake of his recent public appearances, radio address, and televised address, commentators and reporters on CNN and Fox News emphasized the results of a December 15-18 ABC/Washington Post poll showing an improvement in the president's approval rating while not mentioning polling from their own news organizations showing that the president's approval ratings were either unchanged or lower.

O'Reilly admits he falsely accused Plano of banning red and green clothing

On the December 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly retracted his false claim that the Plano Independent School District (Texas) banned red and green clothing. As Media Matters for America reported at the time, the legal complaint filed against the school district did not allege any ban of red and green clothing.

Kessler dismissed "paranoid conspiracy theories" that military recently spied on anti-war groups; missed NBC report on leaked Pentagon database

On the December 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, author Ronald Kessler discounted as "paranoid conspiracy theories" any suggestion that "the government wants to spy on us" or "go after anti-war protesters," falsely claming that "the fact is there's never been one instance of that found." But a December 13 NBC Nightly News report suggests such theories are far from "paranoid." According to NBC, which referred to a "secret" Pentagon database, military intelligence agents are "collecting information on American peace activists and monitoring protests against the Iraq war."

Media conservatives wrongly claimed provisions in FISA authorized Bush's domestic spying

Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh and Bay Buchanan, president of conservative group The American Cause, claimed that Bush's authorization of domestic surveillance by the National Security Administration (NSA) without warrants is legal under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). However, FISA contains provisions that limit such warrantless surveillance to communications "exclusively between foreign powers." Those provisions do not apply to Bush's conduct, as he authorized domestic surveillance of communications between persons inside the United States and parties outside the country. FISA specifically states that the president may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order only if there is "no substantial likelihood" that the communications of "a United States person" will be acquired.