Sunday, July 31, 2005

Grand Theft Auto: Washington

Senator Hillary Clinton has called for more truth in labeling for video games (Mature vs. Adults Only) in the aftermath of the "secret" sex scene patches for "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas." Apparently it was OK for kids to practice killing and maiming, only now if they practice video sex, it's wrong? As the NYT and others have noted, there's a little hypocrisy here. Where was Clinton when this game and others like it came on the market? Having a little coffee?

And another point - violence seldom creates scandals, but sex usually does. Clinton herself should know this all too well. After all, her husband was impeached due to his lying about oral sex. Bush has not (and will not) be impeached for lying about anything to do with Saddam's WMD, the true extent of the Patriot Act, or anything else that's happened in the past four and a half years that's been illegal, but has had no consequences for this Administration. Violence and war, humdrum. But sex! Heaven forbid!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Never thought I'd hear this from France

France cracked down on radical Islamic clerics, moving to expel twelve angry men. Also this nugget:
French ministers and commentators have long expressed exasperation at British handling of individuals who support terrorism, arguing that greater emphasis is being placed on their human rights rather than on security interests.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Brothel? I don't need a brothel in my town.

Berlin's mayor, Klaus Wowereit, is opposed to plans for a giant brothel to serve the 2006 World Cup. After a litle research, now I see why:

Thursday, July 28, 2005

If I had a hammer

Secretary Rumsfeld arrives in Baghdad to inform the troops they can all go home, and that Sean Penn, Jane Fonda and Michael Moore will take over rebuilding Iraq.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Can't all those Iraqis just learn English?

The BBC reports that British troops are getting extensive training in learning Arabic. Makes sense:
"The Arabic-speaking soldiers are there to win the confidence of the local population. Their role is to build up their trust to ensure that the insurgents are working on their own rather than with the cooperation of the local population," Lt Col [Anthony] Rabbit says...Many British soldiers learn Arabic at the Defence School of Languages in Buckinghamshire, southern England, before heading out to Iraq. Some soldiers come to the school for one week to learn basic greetings and phrases. Others spend over a year here, training to become interpreters, often for intelligence purposes.

Wonder if US troops are getting anything similar - if they aren't, they need it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Spam killer

From Russia:
Vardan Kushnir, notorious for sending spam to each and every citizen of Russia who appeared to have an e-mail, was found dead in his Moscow apartment on Sunday, Interfax reported Monday. He died after suffering repeated blows to the head.

Unknown at this time is whether his assailants attempted to collect a famous apple crumb cake for their efforts. Spam is annoying but legal in Russia.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Bio of Robert Novak on Free

Bio of Robert Novak with this ad next to it: Priceless

Friday, July 22, 2005

Unchilled and Plain Speaking

Previously, I posted about the Cleveland Plain Dealer's hesitation to run a series on government corruption due to the fact that it might expose the paper to a lawsuit and jail time for its journalists. This was in the wake of the Supreme Court's refusal to over turn the DC Court of Appeals ruling on the Miller / Cooper / Plame case.

Now that a weekly paper, the Scene, has gone ahead with its story both on the corruption and on the Plain Dealer's hesitation, the Plain Dealer has gone ahead and published its original story.

Making matters more complicated is the question of how an FBI report wound up in the hands of reporters.

Now, do you think the press will focus on the leak? Or the alleged corruption? Hmmmm.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Plame Game

But does this mean Karl Rove is off the hook? Nope.

I think Rove is guilty as sin of at least one violation of security policy by saying anything at all to Bob Novak, whether it's "Valerie Plame," "Mrs. Wilson," "Joe Wilson's wife" or "um, yeah, I heard that too." He exposed an intelligence source, plain and simple. And as for Bob Novak, I'm very curious as to why it was necessary to mention Valerie Plame's name - and the fact the she was a CIA operative on WMD - in his article.

And as the DC Court of Appeals stated in their Miller ruling:
On the record before us, there is at least sufficient allegation to warrant grand jury inquiry that one or both journalists received information concerning the identity of a covert operative of the United States from government employees acting in violation of the law by making the disclosure.
So it's not just "those crazy liberals" leveling accusations against Rove. Don't forget Scooter Libby and John Hannah of Vice President Cheney's office are also possibly involved, too.

Flip-Flop? Sorry, not this time

A major story in the blogosphere is President Bush's "backtracking" and "flip-flopping" of what he'd do if someone in his Administration was involved in leaking a covert operative's name. It's a question of responses over three years:

September 20, 2003: "... if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

June 10, 2004: When asked at a post G-8 Summit News Conference if he stood by his statement of September 20, 2003, Bush said, "Yes. And that's up to the U.S. attorney to find the facts."

July 18, 2005: "I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

After selective editing, this is the resulting AP story:

President Bush qualified his pledge to dismiss any White House official found to have leaked the name of a CIA operative, saying Monday that "if someone committed a crime" he would be fired.

In September 2003, the White House had said anyone who leaked classified information in the case would be dismissed. Bush reiterated that promise last June, saying he would fire anyone found to have disclosed the CIA officer's name.

Qualified his pledge? Not at all. There is no flip-flop.

Don’t you hate it when the facts kill a talking point?

Thanks to Skippy for the post title. And for the post that shows the little problem of Valerie Plame's identity being marked as 's' for secret and classified.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What's ahead for Roberts?

As I previously posted, the Alliance for Justice opposed Judge Roberts in 2003. Here's an excerpt from their bio:
Every nominee bears the burden of showing that he or she respects and pledges to protect the progress made in the areas of civil rights and liberties, the environment, and Congress’ constitutional role in protecting the health and safety of all Americans. Mr. Roberts’ record, particularly his record as a political appointee, argues strongly that he would not do so.
That seems to be a fairly restrictive litmus test. It assumes the Justice-to-be is in full agreement with "progress," "civil rights" and "liberties" (as defined by liberals, we assume), and the "environment" and "health and safety" bits can be defined as broadly or narrowly as his supporters and detractors see fit.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) kicked off the Democrats' response by echoing the "burden" test, saying that

"The burden is on a nominee to the Supreme Court to prove that he is worthy, not on the Senate to prove that he is unworthy. I voted against Judge Roberts for the D.C. Court of Appeals because he didn't answer questions fully and openly when he appeared before the committee," Schumer said.

"I hope Judge Roberts, understanding how important this nomination is — particularly when replacing a swing vote on the court — will decide to answer questions about his views," he said.
Of course, that wouldn't include asking this nominee to say how he would vote on a particular hot-button issue, would it?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It's Roberts

And now the sharpening of knives begins. John Roberts was picked by President Bush to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. Roberts has had brief experience on the federal bench, serving on a Federal Appeals court since 2003. At that time, his nomination was approved 16-3 by the Senate Judiciary Committee after a contentious "3-for-1" confirmation hearing which also included two other nominees. The full Senate approved his nomination by a voice vote. Roberts would have been on the bench earlier except for the fact that his 1992 nomination was never granted a hearing and his 2001 nomination was scuttled by Senate Democrats. Should be interesting to see if the Democrats who approved Roberts then will try to backpedal now. Alliance for Justice has a little bio here (hint: they're against him), and here too. On the other hand, over 100 members of the DC bar - including Clinton Administration members - signed a letter advocating his earlier appeals court nomination. Looks like a long, hot August.

Stop Roberts or Women Will Die

...and now it seems likely that Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. will be Bush's nominee. We'll all find out for sure in an hour.

Stop Clement or Women Will Die

I'm sure we'll be seeing this slogan on NARAL and NOW signs in the next 24 hours, regardless of what research on President Bush's Supreme Court nominee reveals. Judge Edith Clement is expected to be Bush's choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. Remember "Stop Souter Or Women Will Die"? I see that didn't quite work out as expected, for either Liberals or Conservatives.

100 People Who Are Screwing Up America

Kind of. I finally caught Jon Stewart's interview with Bernard Goldberg from last week. Goldberg's new book is about - well, what else? - who he thinks are the 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. Stewart didn't agree with Goldberg and argued that "the people in your book are powerless - why not write a book about people in Washington who actually make policy?" and so on. That, and according to Stewart there are only three conservatives in the book, one of whom shot up an abortion clinic. Hm....a little one sided, one might argue.

From the publisher:
A slow poison is running through America’s veins, says Bernie Goldberg. It’s a poison that is turning America into a far nastier place than it ought to be, a more selfish and cynical place, a less decent and civil place. It’s easy to believe that it’s nobody’s fault; that this is just the way society has evolved. But that’s not true. There are specific individuals who, in various ways, are screwing things up in this county - people who are changing America in ways that erode its very ethical and moral underpinnings.

Yet this isn't new. Stewart made the point that as a society, we've been having this argument "since Aristotle." And if you look at the United States specifically, it seems this argument appears every decade in the past fifty years. In the 50s, it was Elvis's hips. In the 60s, it was the Beatles, then the Counter-Culture and drugged-out hippies. In the 70s, it was gender-bending David Bowie, and later, punk. In the 80s, it was 2 Live Crew and Boy George. In the 90s, Robert Bork wrote about the Clinton Administration and friends 'Slouching towards Gomorrah.' In the 00s, it's been Laura Ingraham's 'Shut Up and Sing,' Mona Charen's 'Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help (and the Rest of Us)' and 'Useful Idiots,' and anything by Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage.

Some bloggers compare Goldberg's book to a straw man. I think of it as beating a dead horse, a 200-page version of Mad Libs where you can change the decade but keep the same old template:
[insert name of liberal/communist/hippie/musician] is the latest threat to our moral and decent society. It hasn't been since the days of [insert other liberal/communist/hippie/musician from previous decade] that we have tolerated such filth. The good and honest words of [insert name of patriot/American/country singer] are rarely embraced by the [insert derogatory adjective] media. Ad nauseum. Presto! You've written a book. Ask your friends at Conservative Book Club or American Compass to plug it and you've got some handy bulk sales.

[poster's note - I have Goldberg's earlier books 'Bias' and 'Arrogance' and plan on buying this one, too - as soon as it hits the bargain bin]

Monday, July 18, 2005

Candid camera and preventing transit terror

In the wake of London's terror bombings, San Francisco and other major US cities are looking at ways to prevent such attacks here. But because the Bush Administration has shunted most anti-terror funds to airports, it's unlikely that there will be major changes to local transit security. For a look at the surveillance industry, check out Security Info Watch.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Kentucky: No longer Mr. Friendly

Kentucky's "Mr. Friendly" license plate will be dropped soon according to the AP. Some disgruntled motorists defaced the smiley face or covered it up.

Who says the news is all bad?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Rove vs. Wilson vs. Novak vs....

First, we hear that Karl Rove told a grand jury that journalists told him that Valerie Plame was an undercover operative of the CIA, not vice versa. If true, then Karl's off the hook. If false, he committed perjury.

Complicating matters is Joseph Wilson's recent interview on CNN, where he said:
"My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity"
But isn't that the whole point of this battle? Hey Joe, maybe you should just shut your trap if it's going to undermine your case. And if that's true, Joe, thanks for lying to us and making us look like idiots.

[updated 7/21/05 - from Media Matters comes this correction:
In an interview Friday, Wilson said his comment was meant to reflect that his wife lost her ability to be a covert agent because of the leak, not that she had stopped working for the CIA beforehand.]

Next up: Novak's article cited two Bush administration officials. If Novak went to the other government source first, then confirmed his first conversation with Rove, and Rove replied "he had heard something like that" - presto, Novak is comfortable going with the story because two sources have verified his information.

I find it very unlikely that the conversation with Novak would have presented Rove with his first knowledge of Valerie Plame's name...but that's for a grand jury to decide. Maybe

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Don't forget jaywalking, too

Is it just me, or is the INS incapable of doing its job? The New York Times reports that a New Hampshire police chief had to resort to a charge of criminal trespass in order to hold an illegal worker overnight. The regional INS office apparently had no resources to ship the gentleman back to Mexico. The crux of the problem of using criminal trespass:
Judge Runyon deferred his decision on whether to dismiss the case until he could hear similar motions in the cases from Hudson. But his questions to both sides underscored the combustible and sensitive nature of immigration enforcement in a post-9/11 world.

On the one hand, he said to defense lawyers, "in this day and age when everyone is so worried about having terrorists in our midst, if a local law enforcement person is dealing with somebody that can't show some basis for their lawfulness of being here," and "they can't get any kind of response that seems to answer their questions from Immigration, are they just hamstrung?"

On the other hand, he told the prosecutor, some immigrants might "have a driver's license from Germany or France but don't have any other papers" with them. "Are you suggesting that those people are going to be charged criminally," he said, "because the police can't figure out that they're supposed to be where they are?"

Noting that if Mr. Ramírez was found guilty, he would be sentenced to nothing more than a $1,000 fine, not jail time, the judge also asked the prosecutor, "How is national security or even local security enhanced by giving someone a citation?"
Back in June, I posted an article about how citations in Harlingen, TX are routinely ignored. I don't see how this would work in New Hampshire, but local law enforcement is clearly annoyed at having to handle a federal matter when they really shouldn't have to. It really begs the question of how Homeland Security resources are allocated - something that still needs to be urgently addressed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I'm sure Allah would be proud

Another suicide bomber...more casualties, mostly children. Somehow I don't think that's going to spread support for the insurgents. Not a good day.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Back at the V.A.

Curious what our troops are facing when they come back here after getting injured in Iraq and Afghanistan? Corrente describes an article from Harper's about the V.A.'s funding issues and the unusual trauma faced by troops in these new fronts here. What's causing the high injury rate is ingenuity - of both the bastards who plant IEDs to kill women, children and soldier alike, and of the heroic field doctors who save lives that would probably be lost 40, 50 or 60 years ago.

I'm gonna take my gavel and go home...and play judge, too

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, he of the infamous "close the hearing/take the gavel/turn off the mikes" episode is back in the news. Skippy reports that Sensenbrenner recently wrote to a judge complaining that an appeals panel had sentenced a drug offender to only 97 months, not the maximum stipulated by statute. The congressman demanded an explanation for the decision. Um, whatever happened to separation of powers, folks?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A chilling effect? You bet.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has reportedly shelved two investigative reports in light of the Miller/Cooper source decision. Editor Doug Clifton said that because the reports involved illegally leaked documents, publication could lead to jailing of his reporters. Talk about a chilling effect.

The Plain Dealer's website features a special report about ""Your Right to Know," a Plain Dealer feature designed to help you find the tools to become a better informed citizen." Clifton himself has an open letter on this general subject here here. The site also features special reports on Iraq, Coingate, and other in-depth topics. I doubt more will be added in the near future. In fact, you may want to read these reports while you still can. I assume the Plain Dealer and many other papers are doing reviews to see if they may be liable for something already published.

Last week, the Plain Dealer published an editorial about the potential damage an adverse ruling in the Miller/Cooper case might cause:

The frightening truth thus revealed is that the government now has the power to muzzle the press without even having to tell why.... If Miller and Cooper are sentenced today to some form of incarceration, it will be because they were true to the promises they made to their sources and because they genuinely believe in the principle of a free media doing its job - nothing more and nothing less. Yet this case now has the potential to make many publications think twice before printing information they know to be true - but that might bring a similar prosecutorial full-court press for sources to be revealed.
And here we are.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Calling

London was rocked by four explosions this morning, three in Tube stations and one on a bus. It is unclear whether Al-Qaida is behind the attack, but I'm sure it's not a coincidence that the attack came just one day after London was awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics and just as the G-8 Summit in Scotland gets underway.

Update: Skippy has some kind words for our friends in London (thanks to Cut to the Chase for pointing me there)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

On and on it goes...

Took a breather over the 4th, not much posting. Enjoyed this from Mark Fiore about Iraq. Unfortunately, it's true.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Still looking?

I'm wondering...are we still looking for Saddam's WMDs (based on all that intelligence we had)? Just curious.


Skippy the Bush Kangaroo reports by way of MSNBC that Karl Rove will soon be unmasked as the Valerie Plame leaker. Gee, I wonder what "punishment" Karl will face. Given this administration, I predict he'll be sentenced to...nothing. I would prefer he gets twenty four hours locked in a room watching repeats of "That's So Raven."

Friday, July 01, 2005

O'Connor goes, Rehnquist stays?

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor submitted her resignation today in a letter to President Bush. My gut feeling is that the GOP-controlled Senate will either rush to get a nominee through now, or wait until after summer recess. I think the GOP learned their lesson after letting Robert Bork wither on the vine all summer long in 1987 before being rejected that October. Alberto Gonzales, the current Attorney General, is near the top of most SCOTUS replacement lists. His tortured (pardon the expression) memo explaining why the Geneva Convention does not apply to Gitmo prisoners is the perfect practice for joining the Conservative wing of the Court. After all, Scalia, Thomas and Co. are paragons of judicial restraint, until they want to achieve conservative goals - then they're just as activist as the liberal wing has been over the past 40 years.