Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken
gozz@gozz.com

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 31 

signs

Yesterday. Today.

swing swing
lake lake
water water

Donielle Brinkman sends ten babies to their deaths so she can "experience pregnancy" 

EDIT on 6/9/2005. Comments are wandering off in different directions. Please check this post on abortion in general and this one on the rationality and ethics of using third party IVF to "rescue" embryos before commenting here. Thanks.

As I wrote this, two different squirrels were scampering around trying to bang another squirrel on my windowsill. I couldn't keep straight who wanted the sex and who didn't.

These people Bush invited to a photo-op are raving mad,

As evangelical Christians, the Brinkmans, who are both 32, believe that life begins at conception and that each embryo is a person.

When the embryos were shipped by FedEx to their fertility clinic in Phoenix, Donielle Brinkman recalled, her "ultimate nightmare" occurred: The package went astray because of an erroneous Zip code. In a panic, she drove to a FedEx warehouse to retrieve it herself. "I went to the counter, and I wasn't leaving until they gave me that tank," she said. "I said: 'You have my babies there. I need you to hand them over.' "

... Over the next three years, she insisted that her doctors transfer all of the embryos into her womb, two or three at a time. She had four transfers, and three miscarriages. Tanner was the only one who survived, but "we were committed to all 11 of those babies," she said. "We were going to see it through as long as it took."

... When the Brinkmans ran into fertility problems, they first tried in vitro fertilization themselves, unsuccessfully. They also thought about a conventional adoption. But because they wanted to experience a pregnancy, Donielle Brinkman said, they turned to Nightlight Christian Adoptions of Fullerton, Calif., and its "Snowflakes" program, a name intended to emphasize that every embryo is unique.

Recap,

  1. Donielle Brinkman considers a fertilized embryo a person, presumably with the same right to life as everyone else
  2. Donielle knows her uterus is likely to kill any embryo that finds its way in
  3. An already born unwanted child is not good enough for her to adopt, Donielle wants to experience pregnancy herself
  4. Donielle opts to send eleven donor embryos to her uterus of death; one survives

I'm a big fan of adoption, but don't consider the actions Donielle Brinkman took to be immoral. What she does with her ability/inability to reproduce with or without the aid of science is none of my business. But I fail to understand how she can avoid feeling guilty about these 10 babies she thinks died so she could experience pregnancy.

UPDATE: From the Brinkman's website - Donielle expresses something akin to regret or a rethinking ... or something,

We feel so blessed that the Lord chose us for two very unique and different adoptions. The first was a Snowflake Embryo Adoption - what a joy it was to get to carry Tanner. After loosing all 10 of Tanner's siblings in first trimester miscarriages though, I did not have the heart to continue down that road.

Two questions arise: First, if her "heart" won't let Donnielle continue down a road she chose, why did her brain let her get on it in the first place? Her "pregnancy experience" fulfilled, she now thinks sending snowflake babies to likely death is all of a sudden wrong?

The second question is why is Bush posing for an "embryo adoption" press photo with a woman who has qualms about "embryo adoption" in some cases, including her own?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 30 

long shadow

Yesterday, the lake was glassy. Today, it was too.

sky sky
footbridge footbridge
path path
lake lake
water water

Star Tribune doesn't mince words, minces Bush's invasion of Iraq 

From the Memorial Day editorial in my home town paper,

... On Memorial Day 2005, we gather to remember all those who gave us that ultimate gift. Because they are so fresh in our minds, those who have died in Iraq make a special claim on our thoughts and our prayers.

In exchange for our uniformed young people's willingness to offer the gift of their lives, civilian Americans owe them something important: It is our duty to ensure that they never are called to make that sacrifice unless it is truly necessary for the security of the country. In the case of Iraq, the American public has failed them; we did not prevent the Bush administration from spending their blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them ...

The "smoking gun," as some call it, surfaced on May 1 in the London Times ...

At a time when the White House was saying it had "no plans" for an invasion, the British document says Dearlove reported that there had been "a perceptible shift in attitude" in Washington. "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy ..."

On the day before Bush's speech, the CIA's Berlin station chief warned that the source for some of what Bush would say was untrustworthy. Bush said it anyway. He based part of his most important annual speech to the American people on a single, dubious, unnamed source. The source was later found to have fabricated his information ...

As this bloody month of car bombs and American deaths -- the most since January -- comes to a close, as we gather in groups small and large to honor our war dead, let us all sing of their bravery and sacrifice. But let us also ask their forgiveness for sending them to a war that should never have happened. In the 1960s it was Vietnam. Today it is Iraq. Let us resolve to never, ever make this mistake again. Our young people are simply too precious.

Ouch. That brings my unscientific tally tracking appearances of the Downing Street Memo in the US media to 47,

My method is searching news.google.com for Downing Street Memo or iraq facts fixed and tallying the results which are not blogs.

Rep. John Conyers is seeking signatures for a letter he's drafted to Bush on the document, asking,

  1. Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?
  2. Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?
  3. Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?
  4. At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?
  5. Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 29 

fuzzy tree seeds floating on the water

Yesterday was a beautiful day. Today was too, but a lot more people came to the lake.

sky sky
swing swing
water water

Somebody's finally thinking about rethinking 

hot italian sausage, grilled pepper and onion, english muffin

The Washington Post reports the White House is taking a step back and scratching their collective head,

The Bush administration has launched a high-level internal review of its efforts to battle international terrorism, aimed at moving away from a policy that has stressed efforts to capture and kill al Qaeda leaders since Sept. 11, 2001, and toward what a senior official called a broader "strategy against violent extremism."

The shift is meant to recognize the transformation of al Qaeda over the past three years into a far more amorphous, diffuse and difficult-to-target organization than the group that struck the United States in 2001.

It's good to know somebody is reconsidering the cowboy and indians strategy, but the spoken of transformation's tipping point rests squarely upon the invasion of Iraq - not 9/11. 9/11 didn't gain al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden any sympathizers but the opposite - we had a few months of great sympathy; the invasion of Iraq provided the transformation ("growth") of the threat by fitting right into the Islamist propaganda and rhetoric - validating bin Laden's fatwa in the minds of many,

... If the Americans' aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel's survival and the continuation of the brutal Crusade occupation of the Peninsula.

- Osama bin Laden
February, 1, 1998

The Washington Post article notes that Iraq has been a proving ground for militant Islamists - so it's puzzling why "9/11" was earlier used as the date marking a transformation of the nature of the threat,

Much of the discussion has focused on how to deal with the rise of a new generation of terrorists, schooled in Iraq over the past couple years. Top government officials are increasingly turning their attention to anticipate what one called "the bleed out" of hundreds or thousands of Iraq-trained jihadists back to their home countries throughout the Middle East and Western Europe. "It's a new piece of a new equation," a former senior Bush administration official said. "If you don't know who they are in Iraq, how are you going to locate them in Istanbul or London?"

... Or New York or Los Angeles for that matter. Does anybody remember John Walker Lindh? Perhaps this signals the beginning of the end of the stupid notion represented by the "better to fight them over there than in the streets of America".

Hopefully our strategy will reshape (as I pleaded last week) itself into one focusing primarily on treating the disease instead of dealing with the symptoms,

... State Department official Paul Simons said at a congressional hearing earlier this month that the "internal deliberative process" was broadly conceived to encompass everything from further crackdowns on terrorist financing networks to policies aimed at curbing the teaching of holy war against the West and other "tools with respect to the global war on terrorism."

Build some secular schools in the countries where now most higher education is religious. Medical universities, technical colleges.

Dead set on war 

On March 22, 2003, Bob Woodward reported that the invasion of Iraq was 48 Hours Old When It 'Began'.

Today, the London Times reports the US and UK had for months been trying to "goad" Iraq into war with bombing raids.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 28 

the sky

Yesterday, I took pictures quickly and didn't think I got any great shots. Today, I was very satisfied with the shots despite going quickly.

minneapolis minneapolis
water water
sky sky
lake lake

Friday, May 27, 2005

Imperial Japan joins forces with Muslim rebels 

Last week, I observed that Bush's rhetorical goal of killing or jailing every terrorist group is not possible and cited the case of of 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who didn't stop fighting WW II until 1974.

Today, there's a report going around that two Japanese WW II soldiers have been found hanging out with Muslim rebels in the jungles of the Philippines.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 27 

pink honeysuckle blossoms

May 26, 2005 - Yesterday, there was that great rainbow. Today, I remembered as a toddler asking my parents if how big clouds are - if they are bigger than a car.

I also remember hearing that Oregon was above California, where we lived, and remember looking up and imagining it atop the clouds.

path path
sky sky

Stuff to sign 

Traditional Values Coalition chairman Louis P. Sheldon asks leaders of a different faith than his to prove they oppose terrorism.

Crooks and Liars suggests Louis P. Sheldon sign statement forgoing any life-saving treatment derived from fetal stem cell research.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 26 

wet and dry bark

Yesterday, it rained. Today, it rained rain that brought a strikingly bright rainbow.

water water
sky sky
lake lake

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 25 

dandelion swirl

May 25, 2005 - Yesterday, there vere very few, large raindrops. Today there were many, tiny raindrops.

path path
water water
lake lake

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Stir-fried catfish, strawberries and Rush Limbaugh's desperate plan to undo the filibuster compromise 

A tale of an uncomplicated, delicious meal and a miserable, broken man



dinner

One day, things didn't go very well in the Kingdom of Right Wing Fantasy. King El Rushbo, feeling furiously dreary himself, had to think of a way to entertain and console a mass of 20 million as they groaned and heaved across the Kingdom's streets and stewed in its cubicles. King El Rushbo did as well as he could with his talent, which was on loan from God. Here is the tale of how the King saved the day.

A great petulance rose over the Kingdom of Right Wing Fantasy one evening and the next day, the whole Kingdom gathered to seek guidance from their king El Rushbo. When the King first addressed th crowd, he himself was in denial, and he remarked that he just couldn't believe it,

I can't believe this. I can't believe it. The filibuster of judicial nominees is still solidly in place, the Democrats get to decide who the nominees are that are going to be filibustered.

Feeling trapped by both the petulance and the crowd, the King summoned his royal willpower and sought to think positively. While he was still thinking, he told the Kingdom of secret trap doors only he knew of - doors which could set things aright again,

There are ways around this.

Having reassured the Kingdom, he lowered expectations by catastrophizing,

President Bush is going to get up-or-down votes on three of his nominees. All the rest of it is BS, all the rest is Barbra Streisand. He gets up-or-down votes on three of his nominees and that's it, that's it. For all practical purposes, folks, that is it.

The King then anchored his Kingdom to its familiar and fantastic world-view by performing one of his favorite and familiar tricks: he sought hidden motives,

These guys all want to be president, every senator up there thinks he should be anyway.

Feeling his troops were sufficiently rallied and showing great love for his people, the King conspired with them,

You know, it may be time, folks, I'm just going to throw these things out here for you to consider, it may be time to treat McCain and Graham and Warner and all these others exactly as they would have treated their colleagues, as they would have treated these nominees like Myers and Henry Saad, throw them overboard.

Forgetting for a moment that he promised a way to relieve the doom, King El Rushbo turned pessimistic and promised to at a later date remind everybody of the tragedy. His subjects didn't notice the King's pessimism, but they were glad the King would hold a grudge.

Mr. Snerdley, make a note in your calendar there in '06 to remind me to remind them to get mad again.

Still thinking, the King again assured everybody he would get the Kingdom out of the mess,

Well, I've got a plan. I've developed some ideas.

As King El Rushbo thought some more, he humbled himself before the crowd, which was getting a bit antsy to hear the King's thoughts,

I hate being right so much, but I can't help it. I am. I wish I weren't right as much. I'd be considered a bit more human than I am. I'm right so often, people think I'm a machine, and I don't want to be thought of as a machine. I want to be thought of as a human being.

The King then tossed out a number of great magnitude to symbolize the great depth and breadth of the problem his action plan would meet,

I've looked at this a thousand ways, and I just don't see an upside.

He dazzled everybody with more magic numbers - much more interesting than standard arithmetic which in the Kingdom is "smoke and mirrors",

The minority of 45 was thwarted by a minority of the gang of 14. So a sub-minority here is actually ruled. All of this is just smoke and mirrors. You got seven Republican senators that are happy today; 45 Democrats are happy.

(In the Kingdom of Right Wing Fantasy, 45 happy Democrats plus 7 happy Republicans is less than half of 100)

The Kingdom was then primed and ready to hear the plan, and being ing lucky as only kings and queens can be lucky, at that same time, a fully hatch plan sprang into the King's head,

Now, here's what needs to happen. This is what needs to happen. The 48 Republicans who did not participate in this thing need to say, "No deal." They need to say, "Nobody consulted with us. How in the world can seven members of our party dictate what we do? No one consulted with the president, whose powers the moderates have sought to diminish here.

Pretend nothing happened! A perceptible wave of exultation flowed through the crowd as word of the plan spread across those too far back to hear. The people of the Kingdom began to chant, "Pretend nothing happened! Pretend nothing happened!"

"So simple, yet so brilliant," whispered members of the King's court while the masses chanted and cheered and roared. Even though the King spoke at the top of his lungs, only those closest heard him explain again that it would be best for the Fantasy Kingdom to just pretend nothing had happened,

What ought to happen is they ought to vote on the constitutional option and let the chips fall where they may. Let the seven moderates stand on their compromise.

To top off the plan, the King told everyone to confuse voting for cloture and voting on a confirmation,

We already have 62 senators who say they're qualified to be on the bench, 48 real Republicans and the 14 Senate moderates. Remember, this deal says there's 62 votes for these three judges.

The King let out a big kingly sigh which sounded like a sigh of relief and defeat at the same time. Then the King bellowed, which sounded decisive and glum at the same time,

It'll never happen, but if these 48 Republicans say, "You know, we're not part of this. We're simply not going along with this. We weren't consulted, the president wasn't consulted. The president's powers have been diminished here." Just vote on the constitutional option. Vote on it; bring it up. Frist, bring it up. Bring up the constitutional option.

The moral of the story is, "If you 'can't believe it', you don't have to!"

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 24 

dandelion patch

Yesterday, the sky was almost completely clear. Today, there was complete cover by low clouds spitting raindrops.

path path
water water
lake lake

Slow down, think (progress) 

Think Progress (and Atrios ) thinks there is some sort of contradiction,

In the deal struck yesterday evening, negotiators agreed that two judicial nominees - William G. Myers and Henry Saad - "will be filibustered or withdrawn." Last night, Frist indicated he would abide by the agreement ... But Congress Daily PM reports that Frist has other ideas for later in the week:

Senate Majority Leader Frist will file for cloture on President Bush's nomination of William Myers to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later this week, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill, wasting no time in testing the resolve of 14 Republican and Democratic senators who forced at least a temporary halt to the battle over Democratic filibusters of President Bush’s judicial picks.

Some say the Senate's rules are esoteric, maybe they're a bit complicated, but the cloture rule is not hard to understand,

[One or more Senators is exercising their right to speak on a topic as long as they want, even indefinitely - or, in practice, until the matter is killed - in other words filibustering] [A]t any time a motion signed by sixteen Senators, to bring to a close the debate upon any measure, motion, other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, is presented to the Senate, [sixteen Senators move to halt a filibuster] [...] the Presiding Officer shall, without debate, submit to the Senate by a yea-and-nay vote the question:

"Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?" And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by three-fifths of the Senators [if 60 Senators vote to close the filibuster ("invoking cloture")] [...] except on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules, in which case the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the Senators present and voting [unless the matter before the Senate is the Senate's own rules, in which case it takes 66] -- then said measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of.

Thereafter [if the cloture motion passes with 60 or 66 votes] no Senator shall be entitled to speak in all more than one hour on the measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, [...]

After no more than thirty hours of consideration of the measure, motion, or other matter on which cloture has been invoked, the Senate shall proceed, without any further debate on any question, to vote on the final disposition thereof [after cloture stops a filibuster, Senators are allowed to speak for one hour each, to a maximum of 30 hours] [...]

Filling in the particulars for what will happen, according to the compromise agreement among seven Republicans and Seven Democrats,

Signatories make no commitment to vote for or against cloture on the following judicial nominees: William Myers (9th Circuit) and Henry Saad (6th Circuit).

According to Congress Daily PM, as quoted by Think Progress,

Senate Majority Leader Frist will file for cloture on President Bush's nomination of William Myers to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later this week, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill, wasting no time in testing the resolve of 14 Republican and Democratic senators who forced at least a temporary halt to the battle over Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial picks.

  1. The Senate will be debating nomination of William Myers to the 9th Circuit
  2. Democrats will be filibustering the nomination
  3. Frist files for cloture
  4. The seven Democrats and Seven Republicans vote as they wish on cloture
  5. If at least 40 Senators vote against cloture, the matter - and nomination - are killed
  6. No problem, nobody went against anything they previously agreed to or stated.

Maybe Congress Daily confused Myers with one of the three nominations the 14 agreed to vote for cloture on - in that case, the only difference is that the 14 have agreed to vote for cloture, and if they follow through with the agreement and cloture is invoked, after a maximum of thirty hours of debate, the nomination would go to a vote.

I don't see the big deal either way.

Yet another retraction in the NEWSWEEK Koran story 

From the White House,

Q: One other question. Karzai was quite definite in saying that he didn't believe that the violence in Afghanistan was directly tied to the Newsweek article about Koran desecration. Yet, from this podium, you have made that link. So --

McCLELLAN: Actually, I don't think you're actually characterizing what was said accurately.

Q: By whom?

McCLELLAN: As I said last week, and as President Karzai said today, and as General Myers had said previously, the protest may well have been pre-staged.

Liar,

MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, it's -- this report has had serious consequences. It has caused damage to the image of the United States abroad. It has -- people have lost their lives. It has certainly caused damage to the credibility of the media, as well, and Newsweek, itself.

Scotty doesn't deny "intelligence was being fixed to support the Iraq War as early as July 2002" 

A slippery, slithering non-denial denial about the substance of the Downing Street Memo,

Q Scott, last week you said that claims in the leaked Downing Street memo that intelligence was being fixed to support the Iraq War as early as July 2002 are flat-out wrong. According to the memo which was dated July 23, 2002, and whose authenticity has not been disputed by the British Government, both Foreign Minister Jack Straw and British Intelligence Chief Sir Richard Dearlove said that the President had already made up his mind to invade Iraq. Dearlove added that intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. Do you think these two very senior officials of our closest ally were flat-out wrong? And if so, how could they have been so misinformed after their conversations with George Tenet and Condoleezza Rice?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me correct you on the -- let me correct you on the characterization of the quote you attributed to me. I'm referring to some of the allegations that were made referring to a report. In terms of the intelligence, the -- if anyone wants to know how the intelligence was used by the administration, all they have to do is go back and look at all the public comments over the course of the lead-up to the war in Iraq, and that's all very public information. Everybody who was there could see how we used that intelligence.

And in terms of the intelligence, it was wrong, and we are taking steps to correct that and make sure that in the future we have the best possible intelligence, because it's critical in this post-September 11th age, that the executive branch has the best intelligence possible.

Yes, the deal was a good thing 

I just loaded C-SPAN 2 to hear the end of a choked up caller melt-down,

Our country died last night ... allowed the minority to rule the majority ... these seven Senators ... we're living in a virtual communist country. If they're not tried for treason ...

Monday, May 23, 2005

Celebratory ice cream and why I'm celebrating a big victory 

Edy's carmel bar crunch

I've changed my mind on the agreement. When I first heard it, I was still in "keep outrageous judges off the bench" mode, but now realize this is a tremendous political victory for everybody that's left of the extreme right junto that's been running the country like they were an American politburo recently.

Although the Republicans get three extremist federal judges, Owen goes to the Fifth Circuit which is already extremist beyond repair any time soon. This is the court that claimed the 10 Commandments were primarily secular in order to allow the state of TX to put the power and prestige of government behind a religious display. So an appointment of another 'winger on the Court isn't going to change much.

The score on the five appointments mentioned is 2-2-1. Even.

Here is where the Republicans lose big: Their messaging that filibustering judicial appointments is unconstitutional just got sunk. Blotto. Out of play. From the agreement,

In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment to or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or Rule XXII.

Even if all three that get a vote on the floor are confirmed, the mess it causes for the Frist posse is worth it.

The extreme right is going to lose of Social Security. The extreme right lost Terri Schiavo. And they lost the trigger on their "nuclear option": presidential appointments are not guaranteed an "up-or-down" vote; the Senate's tradition of protecting minority rights through the filibuster is preserved. And they know they lost and are writhing in piteous agony:

From Mullah Dobson,

This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats ... The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

Mark "Man in the Dark" Levin sees it as a weak phyrric victory (and screams that passing muster from the ABA is more important than passing muster in the Senate),

As I see it, we've gained 3 judges we would have gained had the rule been changed ... the filibuster lives, only to be triggered if an "extraordinary"candidate -- i.e., an originalist -- who is nominated by the president, approved by the ABA, and is voted out of committee reaches the Senate floor.

Hindrocket moans in pain,

This is the key language. It is absolutely sickening. It promises the Democrats that the Republicans will not stop the filibuster during this Congress. It recognizes the filibuster of judges as a legitimate tool. And it blames President Bush for the Democrats' obstructionism.

Gary Bauer cringes,

Under this agreement it is now more likely that radical social change will continue to be forced on the American people by liberal courts committed to same sex marriage, abortion ... The Republicans who lent their names to this travesty have undercut their President as well as millions of their most loyal voters.

Polipundit tries to put some positive spin on it, but hopes readers have trouble with math (55 Republicans - 7 Republicans = 48 Republicans, a minority),

In short, this is the submission of the minority to the will of the majority. Democrats and wobbly Republicans can spin it as they will but you, my readers, will I hope see otherwise.

Garden-variety Right-wingers pledge to leave the GOP in droves,

What the HELL is this???????? We don't need a deal!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am furious. I will NOT SEND ANY MORE MONEY TO THE REPUBS. We didn't NEED a deal and we don't WANT a deal!!!

I mailed my change of registration in this morning. Welcome to the growing ranks of the unaffiliated.

This is a sad day for the Republican party, and the conservative movement in this country! The Dems will likely gain in Congress in 2006 because of this kind of cowardice.

It seems like Frist wouldn't have to votes to stop a potential filibuster on a SCOTUS nominee.

Underneath the chestnut tree; The Republicans sold you, and the GOP sold me.

Not another frigging dime or a minute of my time, I stay home in 06' or vote libertarian. Unfreakin believable.

Enter Harry Reid,

There is good news for every American in this agreement. The so-called "nuclear option" is off the table. This is a significant victory for our country, for democracy, and for all Americans. Checks and balances in our government have been preserved.

The integrity of future Supreme Courts has been protected from the undue influences of a vocal, radical faction of the right that is completely out of step with mainstream America. That was the intent of the Republican "nuclear option" from the beginning. Tonight, the Senate has worked its will on behalf of reason, responsibility and the greater good.

We have sent President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the radical arm of the Republican base an undeniable message: Abuse of power will not be tolerated, and attempts to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control are over. We are a separate and equal branch of government. That is our founding fathers' vision, and one we hold dear.

I offered Senator Frist several options similar to this compromise, and while he was not able to agree, I am pleased that some responsible Republicans and my colleagues were able to put aside there differences and work from the center. I do not support several of the judges that have been agreed to because their views and records display judicial activism that jeopardize individual rights and freedoms. But other troublesome nominees have been turned down. And, most importantly, the U.S. Senate retains the checks and balances to ensure all voices are heard in our democracy and the Supreme Court make-up cannot be decided by a simple majority.

I am grateful to my colleagues who brokered this deal. Now, we can move beyond this time-consuming process that has deteriorated the comity of this great institution. I am hopeful that we can quickly turn to work on the people's business. We need to ensure our troops have the resources they need to fight in Iraq and that Americans are free from terrorism. We need to protect retiree's pensions and long-term security. We need to expand health care opportunities for all families. We need to address rising gasoline prices and energy independence. And we need to restore fiscal responsibility and rebuild our economy so that it lifts all American workers. That is our reform agenda, the people's reform agenda. Together, we can get the job done.

Des is cautiously optimistic. Gary doesn't see that only three contentious nominations will not be filibustered, or does not place incredible value on the defeat this has seemed to hand the extreme right. Think Progress warns of a vague statement by DeWine (R-OH) which seems to contradict the text of the agreement reproduced above. Matt Yglasias is lukewarm on the deal as he's taking a purist stance the three nominations who will get a cloture vote was bullying by the Republicans, but sees "some merit" in the defeat the extreme right has been handed. Crooks and Liars has a big round-up of reactions and some video.

In "How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the 'Totally Unacceptable' Nuke Deal", the Decembrist explains part of the deal that some (like he and I) seem to have at first missed,

I think the language in the agreement about how every Senator will follow his or her "own discretion and judgment in determining whether [extraordinary] circumstances exist" in a vague way takes care of my concern. It's boilerplate language, but it makes clear that the judgment about future filibusters is independent of anything in the deal itself. In a way, it reminds me of the language in the Bush v. Gore decision where the Court declared that its use of the equal protection standard applied to this case only one a one-time basis. I see this as an agreement to confirm Brown and Owen one time only, to get this crisis behind us.

I'm having another bowl of ice cream. Public opinion has already been against the Republicans on this issue, nobody likes a loser, and anything else they can do at this point will be more ridiculously extreme - like getting two of the compromisers to turn their backs on the agreement or pushing the red nuclear button in the wee hours when they have enough vote's "present" to claim they changed the Senate rules.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 23 

path through the grass

Yesterday, like today, I rode around Lake Harriet as well as Calhoun. Today, there were more people around the lakes than I'd yet seen this year.

It was a beautiful day.

sky sky
lake lake
water water

Hmmmm 

Breaking, Senate compromises.

If this compromise is anything like the ones I've heard of before, it's not a compromise but appeasement: Democrats let through a number of judges they don't think ought to be let through in exchange for nothing from Republicans.

UPDATE: Yup,

Under the deal, the Democrats agreed to accept cloture votes on three of President Bush's judicial nominees: Priscilla R. Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor.

In return, the Republicans pledged not to support the so-called "nuclear option" to end the ability of the minority to use filibusters to block nominees.

... If at least 60 of the Senate's 100 members voted for cloture, the body could then proceed to a vote on Owen. If not, Frist planned to make a point of order that debate on a judicial nominee should be limited and ask Vice President Cheney, as the presiding officer of the Senate, for a ruling. That would lead to a vote that, if Frist prevailed, would effectively set a new precedent by requiring a simple majority, instead of 60 votes, to end judicial filibusters. This would also circumvent the Senate requirement of a two-thirds vote -- 67 senators -- to change the body's rules.

Maybe Republicans did give something: they agreed not to launch a nuke at Senate Rule 22 that to change the Senate's rules, two-thirds present must vote yea,

[T]he Presiding Officer shall, without debate, submit to the Senate by a yea-and-nay vote the question:

"Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?" And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn -- except on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules, in which case the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the Senators present and voting -- then said measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of.

UPDATE: In the agreement, seven Republicans committed not to vote for the nuclear option during this Congress. This may be a good deal.

Nuclear anniversary 

Tomorrow, it's anticipated that Republicans will press the red button to trigger their Nuclear Option. On, May 24,

A headline you don't see every day 

Man pulls car with ears while standing on eggs

Next up, Week without car bomb in Iraq?

Highest disaproval rating yet 

For the first time in the Gallup poll, 50% of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job. Approval of Republicans in Congress is falling too. (article).

Maybe 9/11 just put off the traditional ousting of the president's party from Congress a couple election cycles.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

No lemonade at Guantanamo 

A friend who often says, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade," sent some cookies that didn't travel too well, so I made lemonade by having milk on them instead of with them. There's not many tastes that go better together than coconut, chocolate and milk.

milk on bananas and coconut / chocolate chip cookies

A 2,000 page FOIA document dump obtained by the Associated Press reveals it's pretty hard to make lemonade in Gitmo,

"I've been here for three years and the past three years, whatever I say, nobody believes me. They listen but they don't believe me," says a chicken farmer accused of torturing jailed Afghans as a high-ranking member of the Taliban.

The farmer's name is blacked out in the documents released by the government, which also redacted most other identifying information such as the names of cities, villages and countries.

... Because the U.S. government considers some information against the men to be of interest to national security, detainees were not allowed to hear all of the evidence.

... Most of the detainees proclaim their innocence, including one older prisoner who tells the tribunal he's too crippled to have been an enemy combatant.

"How could I be an enemy combatant if I was not able to stand up," he says, describing how he hasn't been able to walk in more than 15 years. A witness testifies that the man had a stroke years ago and barely left his house except to visit the doctor.

... One nomad says he was looking for his lost goats when he and his brother were captured. U.S. officials say they were captured near an explosive device. Much of Afghanistan is heavily mined.

"How do you move from place to place?" asked the tribunal member. "What do you use for transport? Do you have a vehicle?"

"A camel," the prisoner says. "I am not against America."

One detainee whose name was found on a document recovered at a former Afghan residence of Osama bin Laden argues that's "literally meaningless" because in his Saudi tribe "there are literally millions that share" his name, including two other detainees.

... One 25-year-old prisoner testifies that not only wasn't he an enemy combatant, but he was a bodyguard for Afghanistan's U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai. He says his military training came by "order of American officers."

... One prisoner accused of being a member of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Pakistani group with alleged links to al-Qaida, points to the disputed territory of Kashmir and says the struggle was backed by Pakistan, an ally of the United States. India and Pakistan claim Kashmir.

"If you consider this organization a terrorist organization, then you should consider the Pakistan government a terrorist country," he says.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 22 

bug light on the emergency phone

May 22, 2005 - Yesterday, I had the lake pretty much to myself. Today, I shared it with many lovers.

bench bench
lake lake
water water

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Neocon meets neocon 

Filling in for Atrios, Avedon points to a speech by Cold War historian John Gaddis, shocked that it tells of Bush calling Gaddis in to talk about his critique of the administration's doctrine of preemptive war,

Via Dave Trowbridge, an astonishing story from Yale prof John Gaddis:

Late in June, I had a cryptic e-mail from a former student, now working in the White House speech-writing shop: "the boss has read your book, and has told all of us to read it."

I wasn't quite sure which boss he meant, but soon there was a call from Condi Rice which cleared things up: "The President has read your book, and has told all of us to read it. Could you come down and brief the National Security Council staff?"

And this book was not about the liberal media or how wonderful George Bush's policies are - far from it. Like Dave, I am flabbergasted.

I'm unsure of where the shock lies: Gladdis does not criticize Bush policy, but the failure to successfully implement it.

Gaddis criticism does not take the form of "It was a bad idea to invade Iraq," but "the invasion of Iraq was botched." As pointed out in the comments, Gaddis drinks deeply from the lie that,

[E]very intelligence agency in the world also believed that [WMD were there, and it may be that Saddam Hussein believed that also. That they weren't, was universally unexpected."

Gaddis is a neocon through and through,

"We face a new situation in which containment and deterrence are no longer enough," Gaddis said. "The Bush strategy of pre-emption comes in. We have to anticipate where attacks will come and how to deter them."

Characterizing the war as an attempt to establish Iraq as a model of democracy, Gaddis said Iraq's example will permeate throughout the world.

"Some of our allies in that part of the world are also authoritarian -- Serbia, even Israel -- so is the Bush strategy aimed at them?," Gaddis said. "Yes, I think it is, but not all at once. If you can establish some semblance of democracy in Iraq, its ripples will spread everywhere else."

Gaddis said the war would ameliorate the quality of life for Iraqis, and is not merely a capitalist, oil-related venture.

"Oil is part of the picture, but so too is security and humanitarianism," Gaddis said. "What does this mean for the Iraqis, the Middle East, the U.S. and other parts of the world? It means a better life, not a perfect life, but one that is freer."

Is it incredible that Bush read a 160 page book promoting the Bush foreign policy and that the author played pointing out obvious failures to successfully implement it as being at odds with the White House? No.

Is is good that people are filling in for a traveling Atrios. Sure, but I will welcome his return.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 21 

a couple walking at sunset

Yesterday, I rode right after sunset. Today, I rode a little bit later.

path path
water water
lake lake

Did we invade Iraq because there were no WMD? 

In an in-depth commentary on the Downing Street Memo, Mark Danner makes an interesting observation in the NY Review of Boooks,

The inspectors' failure to find weapons in Iraq was taken to discredit the worth of the inspections, rather than to cast doubt on the administration's contention that Saddam possessed large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Oddly enough, Saddam's only effective strategy to prevent war at this point might have been to reveal and yield up some weapons, thus demonstrating to the world that the inspections were working.

The article relates an insightful birds-eye view of how the invasion was born into existence, drawing heavily from the Downing Street Memo, but also from various administration interviews from various sources.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 20 

condensation on the light casing for an emergency phone

Yesterday, I had no eventful interaction on my ride. Today, a couple was sitting on a bench behind which I take one of the photographs each day and the woman was startled and jumped up with wide eyes and dilated pupils as it was darkening when I pulled in behind them, but I said I take a picture "here" each day.

Then we had a congenial conversation and I think they liked me as much as I liked them.

sky sky
lake lake
water water
swing swing

People are giving Bush a lot of crap 

to put up with.

Downing Street Memo musrooming into mush 

I've been keeping track of US articles and opinion pieces featuring the Downing Street memo appearing in the "web MSM" ... my count on the DSM in the MSM,

According to the crude method I'm using, the coverage has been growing perfectly exponentially.

Considering all Bush scandals lead nowhere and that like most political scandals Watergate smoldered for some time before catching fire, this means ... absolutely nothing.

Oh, that one. Okay. Got it. Okay. 

This Q&A session is from Tuesday, but is daffy enough to still get some chuckles today. When asked about the Downing Street Memo, Condoleezza Rice first feigned confusion, then did not answer the question, "We know what the U.S. administration's position is in the buildup to the war on Iraq. It's been made very clear. But could you speak to these allegations in particular, Madame Secretary, and whether or not this is true?" Instead, Rice

  1. noted that information from states like Iraq "comes at a premium."
  2. said nothing about the 2002-2003 inspections from the ground in Iraq which she just said "comes at a premium."
  3. relied on intelligence "gathered from sources from around the world," presumably everywhere but in Iraq in 2002 and 2003, which turned up nothing about WMD.
  4. babbled on about about everything but an answer to the question.

QUESTION: ... And if I could then ask both of you to comment on the very well-publicized British memo that was leaked to the Times of London, or to the London Times. Madame Secretary --

SECRETARY RICE: Which one is that? Andrea, which one is that?

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Which one is that?

QUESTION: On Iraq. That came out about 10 days ago, 12 days ago. Are you not aware of this memo?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, a lot of them are, unfortunately, out. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: In particular, this memo -- and I can quote -- said that the intelligence -- and this was a memo that was leaked from the minutes of a meeting that took place in July of 2002 with Tony Blair --

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, that one. Okay. Got it. Okay.

QUESTION: -- and some of his military intelligence advisors. In particular, it quotes one British official saying the intelligence and facts that the U.S. was putting forward were being fixed around the policy. We know what the U.S. administration's position is in the buildup to the war on Iraq. It's been made very clear. But could you speak to these allegations in particular, Madame Secretary, and whether or not this is true?

... Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: ... Look, we've gone over and over and over the issue about the intelligence and about the case against Saddam Hussein. Obviously, there were problems with the intelligence. That's now very clear. It's why the President has been very quick to react to the intelligence reform legislation, appointing John Negroponte to really more radically reform American intelligence agencies than at any time since 1947, because we need to have the very best intelligence, particularly when we are dealing with opaque, dictatorial societies like Iraq in which information comes at a premium.

But I would just remind that the information on which we were acting, in part on which we were acting, was information that was gathered from sources from around the world, including reports that UN inspectors had had when they were on the ground in 1998.

...Oil-for-Food ... bloody dictator ... invaded his neighbors ... used weapons of mass destruction ... shot at our aircraft ...

Yeah, but "In particular, [the Downing Street Memo] quotes one British official saying the intelligence and facts that the U.S. was putting forward were being fixed around the policy. We know what the U.S. administration's position is in the buildup to the war on Iraq. It's been made very clear. But could you speak to these allegations in particular, Madame Secretary, and whether or not this is true?"

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Rick Santorom offers brain twister on Senate floor 

Rick Santorum, man of mystery

Earlier today on the Senate floor, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) hatched a mind stretching analogy for his fellow senators to chew on,

"[T]he audacity of some members to stand up and say, 'How dare you break this rule.' It's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.'"

Below is a visualization to assist those playing along at home in solving Santorum's koan.

2005 1942
Democratic members of the Senate challenging Republicans' proposed "nuclear option" of changing the rule of the Senate which currently requires 67 votes to change the rules of the Senate. Adolf Hitler challenging Allied forces bombing Vichy France, after conquering the nation through military force.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 19 

looking into drainage pipe

Yesterday, it rained, like today. Today, not so much though.

Tomorrow, maybe I'll ride around Lake Harriet as well as I'm now in summer shape.

footbridge footbridge
water water
sky sky

1,346 days vs. 11,780 days: Lt. Hiroo Onoda and the struggle against Islamist extremism 

"[Today is] the 1,346th day since the attacks of 9/11. That is the same length of time from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the end of WWII on V-J Day. (Dec 7, 1941 to Aug 24, 1945)."

- CalculatedRisk

"We can't run ... If you live in an interdependent world where you cannot kill, jail or occupy all your enemies, you had better spend some of that money to make a world with more friends and fewer enemies."

- Bill Clinton

"Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

- George W. Bush

"On December 26, 1944 (age 23), [Japanese Army 2nd Lt.] Hiroo Onoda was sent to the small island of Lubang Island, approximately seventy-five miles southwest of Manila in the Philippines ...

Despite the efforts of the Philippine Army, letters and newspapers left for them, radio broadcasts, and even a plea from Onoda's brother, he did not belive [World War II] was over. On February 20, 1974, Onoda encountered a young Japanese university dropout named Norio Suzuki who was traveling the wold and told his friends that he was "going to look for Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the abominable snowman, in that order." The two became friends, but Onoda said that he was waiting for orders from one of his commanders. On March 9, 1974, Onoda went to an agreed upon place and found a note that had been left by Suzuki. Suzuki had brought along Onoda's one-time superior commander, Major Taniguchi, who delivered the oral orders for Onoda to surrender. Intelligence Officer 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onada emerged from the jungle of Lubang Island with his .25 caliber rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades. He sureendered 29 years after Japan's formal surrender, and 15 years after being declared legally dead in Japan."

- Justin Taylan

One terrorist (or more likely a small group) can wreak a lot more violence than a Japanese holdout with 500 rounds in a palm tree. As implied by CalculatedRisk and Clinton, terrorists are still being born today and they'll be born tomorrow and the next. Onada was still fighting WW II 11,780 days after it ended for the world at large.

Echoing Clinton, our long-term strategy at some point inevitably has to shift focus from destroying things, killing and jailing people to building things and educating people. Terrorist acts are a symptom of fundamentalist Islamic extremism - we have to begin nursing the cause as opposed to mitigating the symptoms.

"Want a university? Sure, we'll build a university, but it has to be secular." This shift ought to have come alongside the time the Taliban lost control of large Afghani cities and the longer we wait, the harder it will be to make up for the propaganda we hand to the Islamist's for each raid on an innocent's home and each civilian caught in the way of our bullets.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I could have told them that 

You scored as Idealist. Idealism centers around the belief that we are moving towards something greater. An odd mix of evolutionist and spiritualist, you see the divine within ourselves, waiting to emerge over time. Many religious traditions express how the divine spirit lost its identity, thus creating our world of turmoil, but in time it will find itself and all things will again become one.

Idealist
 
100%
Existentialist
 
88%
Materialist
 
69%
Modernist
 
63%
Cultural Creative
 
63%
Postmodernist
 
56%
Romanticist
 
38%
Fundamentalist
 
13%

What is Your World View? (corrected...hopefully)
created with QuizFarm.com

(via Traumatized by Truth via Majikthise.)

More specifically, I'm an iNFj - a Counselor Idealist.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 18 

cut and uncut grass

Yesterday, it rained, like today. Today, I caught a rainbow in my breath.

path path
bench bench
swing swing
sky sky

8,880 pounds of unused power 

Here is a billboard in my neighborhood in which I go about all my business quicker with a bike and backpack than if I would use my car,

8,880 pounds of useless power

Although Lincoln didn't name its creation as honestly as Chevrolet christened its Suburban, at least they didn't name it after something being polluted by the fumes created by all the extra cargo space: Yukon, Forester, Tundra, Sequoia, Frontier, Mountaineer ...

PS. Yesterday, I saw an honest bumper-sticker on some huge Dodgemobile carrying a single passanger, "Suckin' gas and Haulin' ass":

fat ass

Pointing out the obvious 

Josh Marshall parenthetically points out the obvious regarding Senate Republican's nuclear first strike,

(Just to be crystal clear, what the senate is about to do is not changing their rules. They are about to find that their existing rules are unconstitutional, thus getting around the established procedures by which senate rules can be changed.)

Galloway doesn't blink 

Wow, a blistering video excerpt from George Galloway's refutation of charges he profited from illicit Iraqi oil sales. NY Post says, "BRIT FRIES SENATORS IN OIL."

(BBC has video the whole hearing - click "Watch highlights from George Galloway's Senate testimony" and find link to entire testimony in the new window.)

Frist thinks the Constitution says it's OK to filibuster one judicial nominee, but not more 

Ridiculous.

Crooks and Liars has a video of Frist's nonsensical claim.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"Nuclear option" explained: lowering the bar for unpopular nominations 

Here is a good explanation of the "nuclear option" Republicans are considering using to lower the bar of the Senate's approval of judicial nominees,

If all goes as planned, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) will rise after several days of debate beginning today over one of President Bush's judicial nominees and call for an end to Democrats' delaying tactics. The presiding officer will then rule in his favor.

Democrats will protest the ruling and ask for a vote to overturn it. The Republican leader will seek to table that appeal. If Frist and the GOP majority prevail, a long tradition of filibustering will be narrowed and a new precedent will be set allowing the Republicans to force a vote on a nomination with a simple majority instead of three-fifths of the Senate.

... To get there, Republicans will have to evade a requirement that they have a two-thirds vote -- 67 of 100 senators -- to change the chamber's rules. Republicans will argue that they are attempting to set a precedent, not change the Senate rules, to disallow the use of filibusters as a delaying tactic on judicial nominations. And by doing so, they say, they are returning to a more traditional concept of majority rule.

The rule change Frist is seeking to bar the use of the filibuster for judicial nominations has been dubbed the "nuclear option" because of its potential to disrupt the Senate and shatter what little comity remains between Republicans and Democrats.

Historically, Senate rules were designed to protect the interests of the minority and to slow the deliberative process. In fashioning those rules, the Senate set a much higher threshold for changes than a simple majority vote.

It's ironic (or maybe not) that Republican Senators - who represent much less of the American population than their Democratic counterparts - claim they represent "mainstream values" at the same time as they consider a radical manipulation of long-standing rules in order to confirm a few unpopular Bush appointees. That they must change the rules for these few nominations is the best testament to the fact those nominations are "out of the mainstream". If anything, Bush's "mainstream" nominations are the vast majority that get through the process as is - not the ones that can't cross the Senate's bar without jimmying the rules.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 17 

up into a tree

Yesterday, it was soggy. Today, it was drying out.

sky sky
lake lake
water water

Senate report: most of Hussein's illegal oil sales were to the US 

From Carl Levins' opening statement on the Senate report on the oil-for-food scandal,

U.S. import statistics show that about half of the oil on which those surcharges were paid ended up in the United States. Using Iraqi internal records reviewed by our staffs, we estimate that more than half of all of the surcharges paid to Iraq, about $118 million, was paid on oil sold to U.S. companies. The remaining $110 million in surcharges was paid on oil sent to other countries, including in Europe, Asia and Africa.

A U.S. company called Bayoil (USA), headquartered in Houston, Texas, was smack in the middle of it all. When other oil companies around the world were cutting back on business with Iraq due to Saddam's surcharge demands, Bayoil increased its business. During the 2-year period in which surcharges were mandatory to get Iraqi oil, Bayoil became the largest single buyer of Iraqi oil for the U.S. market. Altogether, Bayoil brought in over 200 million barrels to the United States. My staff was able to trace 102 of the U.S. cargoes Bayoil brought here, and found that the surcharges paid on those cargoes, according to internal Iraqi records, totaled $37 million.

Bayoil sold the oil to U.S. oil companies and refineries which, in turn, sold refined petroleum products, like gasoline and heating oil, to American consumers.

Last month Bayoil was indicted for violating U.S. sanctions on Iraq and for committing fraud, including by paying or arranging the payment of "millions of dollars in secret illegal surcharges to the Government of Iraq." That indictment comes two years after the end of the Oil for Food program. But, while the program was going on, no one in the U.S. government appears to have paid much attention to Bayoil.

From The Guardian,

[T]he Senate report found that US oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.

"The United States was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated UN sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing UN sanctions," the report said. "On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales.

US media articles on "Downing Street Memo" 

Compiling all the widely read or influential US media reports I could find on the web mentioning the "Downing Street Memo", I found it strange (or maybe not) that a good deal of the articles are about how there are few articles. A Knight-Ridder report seems to have been picked up by many small market papers today. For the list which will be updated in the event of continuing coverage, see Downing Street Memo Articles.

America: "lie to us, it doesn't matter" 

Scott McClellan says a memo he hasn't seen is "flat out wrong,"

Claims in a recently uncovered British memo that intelligence was "being fixed" to support the Iraq war as early as mid-2002 are "flat out wrong," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Monday.

"The president of the United States, in a very public way, reached out to people across the world, went to the United Nations and tried to resolve this in a diplomatic manner," McClellan said.

"Saddam Hussein was the one, in the end, who chose continued defiance. And only then was the decision made, as a last resort, to go into Iraq."

However, McClellan also said he had not seen the "specific memo," only reports of what it contained.

Today, small market newspapers are running a Knight Ritter wire release noting that the memo has so far received scant attention in the US,

[T]he American media have reacted slowly to it and the public generally seems indifferent to the issue or unwilling to rehash the bitter prewar debate over the reasons for the war.

... The memo was written by British national security aide Matthew Rycroft, based on notes he took during a July 2002 meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his advisers, including Richard Dearlove, the head of Britain's MI-6 intelligence service who had recently met with Bush administration officials.

Since being leaked to a British newspaper [two weeks ago], the memo has raised questions anew about whether the Bush administration misrepresented prewar intelligence about suspected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in order to justify military action against Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," the memo said. "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Blair's office has not disputed the authenticity of the memo, but the White House categorically denies the assertions in it.

A Tony Blair insider offers an explanation of why it's gotten little attention here,

"I suppose it hasn't played there because, basically, didn't everyone know that Bush decided early on to get rid of Saddam?" asked Philip Stephens, a Blair biographer and associate editor of the Financial Times of London.

Stephens argues that there was a basic difference in the argument over the invasion of Iraq in Britain and the United States.

"The contexts of the debates have always been different," Stephens said. "There was never really a question (in the U.S.) about whether it was justified or not to go for regime change. This was the administration's objective. People either agreed with it or disagreed with it. There really wasn't a disagreement about the legal basis for it."

However, a commission that the president appointed to investigate intelligence gathering that led to the invasion concluded that all of the intelligence community's information about the existence of biological or any other weapons of mass destruction was "deeply flawed."

"The intelligence community was absolutely uniform, and uniformly wrong, about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. And they pushed that position," said Judge Laurence Silberman, co-chairman of the commission.

In other words, it didn't matter why we were going to war, war for the sake of invading Iraq was enough for its supporters- the administration didn't "lie" about WMD because it was an aspect of the invasion as a whole - a larger "truth". This rather makes sense: opponents of the war opposed it on grounds that Iraq wasn't a threat and that regime change did not justify a war. Supporters of the war supported it on the grounds that Iraq was a threat and have stuck with that - even without the WMD pretext - and that regime change was justification enough.

For opponents of the invasion, the memo reveals nothing new: we knew the WMD case was a sham. For supporters of the invasion, it reveals nothing significant: they didn't need a justification to start a war. So when a FrontPage Magazine contributer hears opponents of the invasion point to the memo and say "See, proof the WMD justification was a sham", he replies that such people are missing the point,

It is simply inexcusable for opinion makers and public intellectuals (e.g., those who made such a fuss about the "revelations" in the Downing Street memo) not to grasp the strategic imperatives behind what we are doing in Iraq and elsewhere. It's certainly okay to disagree with our strategy, but for supposedly sophisticated commentators to miss the entire point and continue raving about WMD and UN sanctions is simply beyond the pale. Regardless of whether they support or oppose the Bush Doctrine and attendant strategies, critics have a responsibility to acknowledge those strategies and the goal of a new Middle East toward which they are driving.

The war's "approval rating" has generally been tied to the percention how successful the operation is being, which suggests people without strong opinions think along the lines of "If it's going well, I'm for it, if it's not going well, I'm against it." Which explains Paul Krugman's observation of White House seemingly loony public opinion strategy in his comments on the memo

The people who sold us this war continue to insist that success is just around the corner, and that things would be fine if the media would just stop reporting bad news. But the administration has declared victory in Iraq at least four times. January's election, it seems, was yet another turning point that wasn't.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Something entirely different 

Hobodogblog.

Body accessories 

The Washington Post has a story about amazing biomedical advances beginning with a paragraph about man merging with machine,

Matthew Nagel, 25, can move objects with his thoughts. The paralyzed former high school football star, whose spinal cord was severed in a stabbing incident, has a jack coming out of the right side of his skull. Sensors in his brain can read his neurons as they fire. These are connected via computer to a robotic hand. When he thinks about moving his hand, the artificial thumb and forefinger open and close.

One could also mention growing new teeth, hearing directly through the brain stem, seeing through an artificial retina or tongue, or taking a stab at a whole new body for $150,000.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 16 

sunset over lake of the isles

Yesterday, I got a nice photo of the sun in the sky over Lake of the Isles, above. Today it was rainy just as it has been each day for about a week.

sky sky
lake lake
water water

Sunday, May 15, 2005

It evoked a response 

In the early days of the "Global War on Terror," a strategy was developed to actually provoke terrorist attacks. The Federation of American Scientists provides a Pentagon PowerPoint presentation outlining the strategy and excerpts from it,

One way to invigorate U.S. intelligence would be to "Develop an entirely new capability to proactively, preemptively evoke responses from adversary/terrorist groups," according to the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory group.

Such an approach would "improve [intelligence] information collection by stimulating reactions" from the target.

Announcing that a Koran was flushed down the toilet has proven quite provocative, even though the same source now says he's not sure why he told Newsweek what he did,

The weekly news magazine said in its May 23 edition that the information had come from a "knowledgeable government source" who told Newsweek that a military report on abuse at Guantanamo Bay said interrogators flushed at least one copy of the Koran down a toilet in a bid to make detainees talk.

But Newsweek said the source later told the magazine he could not be certain he had seen an account of the Koran incident in the military report and that it might have been in other investigative documents or drafts.

[Newsweek editor Mark] Whitaker told Reuters that Newsweek did not know if the reported toilet incident involving the Koran ever occurred. "As to whether anything like this happened, we just don't know," he said in an interview. "We're not saying it absolutely happened but we can't say that it absolutely didn't happen either."

Curiously, the Pentagon waited to respond until after some sort of response was evoked,

Whitaker said that a senior Pentagon official, for reasons that "are still a little mysterious to us," had declined to comment after Newsweek correspondent John Barry showed him a draft before the item was published and asked whether it was accurate, adding that the magazine would have held off had military spokesmen made such a request. Whitaker said Pentagon officials raised no objection to the story for a week after it was published, until it was translated by some Arab media outlets and led to the rioting.

The thought of a toilet engineered such that it could flush a bound book always seemed rather improbable to me ...

Natural born stupidity or willful ignorance? 

It's hard not to sometimes Repulican sympathizers are natural born idiots although I believe the truth of the matter is worse: many are willfully ignorant.

In the comments to my recent post about the fallacious rhetoric Republicans are using about judicial appointments, someone politely but anonymously commented on the fact that Hatch and others are lying when they say the use of the filibuster against judicial nominations is "unprecedented",

Everything Orrin Hatch said is accurate.

The comment was left after presumably reading quotes from Orrin Hatch, the first from 2003,

This weapon is the filibuster - the nearly unprecedented use, in the context of a judicial nomination, of the Senate rule that allows for unlimited debate.

And a few more recent quotes such as,

And now Senate Democrats have launched an unprecedented and unconstitutional filibuster campaign, trying to highjack the confirmation process completely.

Something cannot both be "unprecedented" and "nearly unprecedented".

I could understand the strategy the GOP has launched of simply lying, but we can now point to their own past statements - and an article on the Senate's own website,

Although the committee recommended confirmation, floor consideration sparked the first filibuster in Senate history on a Supreme Court nomination.

On October 1, 1968, the Senate failed to invoke cloture.

Fact is that plenty of judicial nominations have been filibustered,

Between 1968 and 2000, at least 34 nominations were filibustered on the Senate floor. Among these 34 were 13 judicial nominations, of which three people were nominated to be Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court and eight were individuals nominated to the federal circuit courts of appeals. Twenty-six of the 34 filibusters, approximately three-quarters, were led by Republican Senators. On three occasions, filibusters defeated nominations that had clear majority support for confirmation.

The only explanation for claiming otherwise is, as I said, natural born stupidity or willful ignorance.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 15 

leaves on a root

Yesterday, I was thinking that the Cocteau Twins have surpassed DEVO as the band I have liked the most for the longest. Today I am thinking the same thing.

sky sky
lake lake
water water

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 14 

spaceship

Yesterday, it was soggy. Today it was soggy and a bit cooler.

path path
sky sky
lake lake

Big strong beer, big strong lie 

big strong beer

The Judicial Confirmation Network lies,

It is worth recalling that Mr. Bush campaigned throughout 2004 against the Democrats' obstructionism in the Senate, which was most clearly epitomized by the unprecedented filibuster campaign the minority party waged against 10 judicial nominees to the nation's circuit courts of appeal.

Coalition for a Fair Judiciary attempts to deceive,

Fact: Having to Overcome A Filibuster (Or Obtaining 60 Votes) on Judicial Nominees Is Unprecedented And Has Never Been The Confirmation Test For A Nominee

Progress for America prevaricates,

Last year's judicial obstruction was unprecedented - never before 2003 has a minority of U.S. Senators used the cloture vote to deny up-or-down floor votes to judicial nominees who have clear majority support ...

... and claims filibustering judicial appointments is unconstitutional,

Although each of these nominees deserved confirmation from the U.S. Senate, some U.S. Senators recently refused to perform their constitutional duty and took the unprecedented step of filibustering President Bush's judicial nominees.

The Family Research Council lays down a crock of bull, throwing some religiosity in the mix,

We must stop this unprecedented filibuster of people of faith.

The Traditional Values Collation slips a sly one in by distorting the truth, modifying "unprecedented" with "liberal,"

[T]he liberal filibuster of judicial nominees "is absolutely unprecedented. Its history is two years old."

It's hard to find a right-wing outlet not spreading the "unprecedented" lie.

Ranking Judiciary Committee Republican Orrin Hatch spoke truthfully a few years ago,

This weapon is the filibuster - the nearly unprecedented use, in the context of a judicial nomination, of the Senate rule that allows for unlimited debate.

... but since, Hatch has dropped his qualifier "nearly,"

Blocking confirmation of majority supported judicial nominations by defeating cloture votes is unprecedented. In the words of the current Judiciary Committee chairman, Senator Specter, "what Democrats are doing here is really seeking a constitutional revolution."

Revolution, bah. Indeed, Republicans mounted a filibuster against Johnson's nomination of Abe Fortas for Chief Justice in 1968. John Dean writes of the lying faction of Republican's revisionist rhetoric,

Senate Republicans, consistent with their conservative beliefs, claim they are only employing the "nuclear option" to preserve a Senate tradition - not to change one. It is not their own "nuclear option," but rather the Democrats' use of the filibuster to block judicial nominations that, they claim, is truly "unprecedented."

Leading this charge is Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah - who has repeatedly made this very claim on the Senate floor. But he is dead wrong.

I should know: I was there when the history he is trying to rewrite was made. And not only does this very use of the filibuster have precedent, but that precedent was made by Republicans.

The Washington Post dug into their archives to reinvigorate the truthful blast from the past,

The Senate was launched on a full-blown filibuster, with one South Carolina senator consuming time by reading "long passages of James F. Byrnes's memoirs in a thick Southern accent," according to a newspaper account.

That four-day talkathon in September 1968 has largely been forgotten.

... Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said in a Senate speech last week, "The crisis created by the unprecedented use of filibusters to defeat judicial nominations must be solved."

Such claims, however, are at odds with the record of the successful 1968 GOP-led filibuster against President Lyndon B. Johnson's nomination of Abe Fortas to be chief justice of the United States. "Fortas Debate Opens with a Filibuster," a Page One Washington Post story declared on Sept. 26, 1968. It said, "A full-dress Republican-led filibuster broke out in the Senate yesterday against a motion to call up the nomination of Justice Abe Fortas for Chief Justice."

It boils down to this: ought 51 votes be sufficient to make a lifetime appointment to an important position or ought the nominee be of such caliber that more than a simple majority in the Senate approve? Some wise words were spoken by Sen. Schumer and Sen. Frist earlier this week.

Friday, May 13, 2005

That's the way things are done down there 

In Texas,

On Friday, the four young men accused of severely injuring 44-year-old Billy Ray Johnson during a late-night pasture party are expected to be sentenced to probation or brief jail time after juries rejected more serious charges and recommended suspended sentences for two of them.

The victim survived the attack but can't walk without help or speak clearly.

Some white residents believe it is a fair outcome for a few "good boys" from promint families with no previous legal trouble.

... Authorities have said that Johnson, well-known around town as a friendly but "slow" character who loved dancing, was lured to an all-white pasture party where underage drinkers fed him alcohol and picked on him.

... Lee, the district attorney, said the juries' decisions were in line with other juries who sympathize with first-time offenders. And he pointed out that the so-called beating involved one punch.

"This is not that horrible of an outcome. They were all convicted, they'll all be on probation, they'll all have a criminal record, they'll all be watched," he said. "They didn't get off scot-free."

Dennis Spears, 59, a white man whose owns a countertop business in town, said he was struck by the verdicts but empathized with the plight of young boys making bad choices under peer pressure.

"Only thing I saw about it, they oughtn't to have dumped him. They could have taken him to the hospital just as easy," Spears said as he drank coffee at a country store with friends.

They got pasture parties down there, ya gotta expect some rowdyness from yungun's havin' fun.

Hate crimes, anyone?

(Via Volokh Conspiracy)

Lines revisited 

Guest of dishonor 

Jeff Gannon supports Tom DeLay. It's nice everybody can still be friends.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 13 

lamp

Yesterday, I did not see a man jogging in a business suit. Today, I did.

I know he was jogging because he had a partner in jogging clothes. He had leather shoes and everything. Maybe it had something to do with marital difficulties. I hope his feet are better than his marriage. Er, wait, I hope his jog made his marriage great.

path path
sky sky
playground playground

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Denis Miller booted to make room for a rerun 

Ha ha,

-- CNBC is canceling comic Dennis Miller's low-rated political talk show after less than 16 months, replacing it with a business show rerun.

Heard on the Senate floor this week: constitutional activism 

Think Progress catches Bill Frist on the Senate floor saying the Republican's "Nuclear Option" of breaking a Democratic filibuster on a judicial nominee would, in fact, be forcing a simple majority vote which is not required by the Constitution, contrary to Frist and other Republican's claims.

SEN. FRIST: The question: Does the Constitution say that every nominee of the President deserves an up-or-down vote. And the ABC is - the answer is: no, the language is not there.

Charles Schumer gave a really good speech on the same floor earlier in the week (Thanks to Chuck for pointing it out). You can watch it here, or read some excerpts,

It is the Senate where the Founding Fathers established a repository of checks and balances ... Here we work many times by unanimous consent where you need all 100 Senators to go along. In some instances, we work where 67 votes are needed, in some with 60, and in most with 51. But the reason we don't always work by majority rule is very simple. On important issues, the Founding Fathers wanted - and they were correct in my judgment - that the slimmest majority should not always govern. When it comes to vital issues, that is what they wanted.

The Senate is not a majoritarian body. My good friend from Utah spoke. He represents about two million people in Utah. I represent 19 million in New York State. We have the same vote. You could have 51 votes for a judge on this floor that represents 21 percent of the American people. So the bottom line is very simple. This has not always been a 50.1 to 49.9 body. It has been a body that has had to work by its rules and by the Founding Fathers' intent. Even when you are in the majority, you have to reach out and meet not all, not most, but some of the concerns of the minority.

... When my friend from Utah talks about no extremists, it seems to me the very same people who are calling the shots are the people who said that judges are worse than terrorists. That seems pretty extreme to me. That is the type of person importuning my friend from Utah.

Another one said: Judges, in their black robes, are like the Ku Klux Klan in their white robes. These are officials of the American Government, most of whom now are Republicans. Sixty percent of the court of appeals are Republican appointees. Seven of the nine Supreme Court members are Republican appointees.

..., The President, when he gets 51.5 percent, as George Bush did, or even when he gets over 65 percent, as Franklin Roosevelt did in 1936, shouldn't always get his way with every single judge.

He says that this will not doom the legislative filibuster, that that is an absurd argument. A year ago, if we would have heard that the Republican majority was considering having the Vice President sit in the chair and rule by fiat his own interpretation of the Constitution, coming out of nowhere because the Constitution doesn't mention any of this, certainly a narrow reading wouldn't allow us to address this issue from the Constitution, and he says that we will rule by fiat from the Chair and there should be no more filibusters of judges, even though that has been allowed for 200 years, even though it was done in 2000 by our colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle for Ms. Berzon and Mr. Paez, and then he is saying, well, it is absurd that we do it for other things. I say this: Allow them to do it for judges today, they will do it for Social Security tomorrow. The same exact procedure could be used to block filibusters of legislation and of every single other thing that comes before this body. There is no difference.

... The basic makeup of our Senate is at stake. The checks and balances that Americans prize are at stake. The idea of bipartisanship, where you have to come together and can't just ram everything through because you have a narrow majority, is at stake. The very things we treasure and love about this grand Republic are at stake.

What he said. Amen.

Taking the Republican fairy-tale to a new level 

salad

On Wednesday, Michael Medved had Hans Riemer, The Washington Director of Rock the Vote, on his radio entertainment for wingers. Medved got wrinkles in his panties when Reimer termed what Bush originally called "Social Security privatization" by the name of "privatization". Media Matters has the audio and transcript which culminated with Medved denying that a member of Congress is actually a member of Congress.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 12 

dandelions

Yesterday, it was really windy. Today, I started at sunset and it was cold and soggy enough to get a good picture of my breath.

My batteries died early on and I'm glad I decided to go replace them and continue my ride - it was exhilarating and the light pollution was beautiful.

bench bench
water water
lake lake

A lot of people are living in a war over in Iraq 

Iraq's economy and infrastructure seem to be doing quite well for a country in the midst of a war. But there is a war going on and things are not rosy according to a survey of 22,000 Iraqi households released today and conducted by the United Nations Development Program and the Iraqi government. The survey was taken April-August 2004. The most surprising statistic to me was 18.4% unemployment or discouraged workers - I was under the impression it was much higher. The rest of the statistics are quite grim. Household income took a nosedive,

Iraq's water supply is generally unsafe with only 17% of house holds having stable access to drinkable water,

The unsafe supply of water is a big problem for children, and getting water [[pipes in or from a river or stream doesn't make much difference,

Malnutrition can be cause both by lack of food as well as diarrhea,

Given the two weeks of consistent surging of violence after the formation of a government, it looks as things will get worse rather that better, at least for the meantime, with some experts predicting all-out civil war (this article briefly mentions the problem arising out of the deployment of Shia militias in Sunni areas which I commented upon last week)

With security experts reporting that no major road in the country was safe to travel, some Iraq specialists speculated that the Sunni insurgency was effectively encircling the capital and trying to cut it off from the north, south and west, where there are entrenched Sunni communities. East of Baghdad is a mostly unpopulated desert bordering on Iran.

"It's just political rhetoric to say we are not in a civil war. We've been in a civil war for a long time," said Pat Lang, the former top Middle East intelligence official at the Pentagon.

Other experts said Iraq is on the verge of a full-scale civil war with civilians on both sides being slaughtered. Incidents in the past two weeks south of Baghdad, with apparently retaliatory killings of Sunni and Shia civilians, point in that direction, they say.

Also of concern were media accounts that hard-line Shia militia members are being deployed to police hard-line Sunni communities such as Ramadi, east of Baghdad, which specialists on Iraq said was a recipe for disaster.

"I think we are really on the edge" of all-out civil war, said Noah Feldman, a New York University law professor who worked for the U.S. coalition in Iraq.

He said the insurgency has been "getting stronger every passing day. When the violence recedes, it is a sign that they are regrouping." While there is a chance the current flare of violence is the insurgency's last gasp, he said, "I have not seen any coherent evidence that we are winning against the insurgency."

Lang said there is new evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime carefully prepared in advance for the insurgency, with former Iraqi officers at the core of each group. They are well coordinated and have consistently adjusted their strategy, he said.

Now the 140,000-plus U.S. troops in the country are mainly "a nuisance" factor in the insurgents' overall goal of preventing the new government from consolidating.

"They understand what the deal is here," Lang said, "to start applying maximum pressure to the economy and the government and make sure it will not work." Their roadside bombs are intended to keep U.S. forces inside their bases, he said.

The Washington Post describes some of the insurgency's recent handiwork,

In all, at least 72 Iraqis died across northern and central portions of the country Wednesday. The death toll over the past two weeks neared 400, making it one of the most violent periods since the U.S. invasion two years ago.

...Iraqi officials say the wave of violence is timed to capitalize on political uncertainty during the long transition to a new Shiite Muslim-led government. Negotiations over who would hold senior positions began in late April.

The goal of insurgents "is to destabilize the country," said Laith Kubba, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari. In selecting new ministers, Jafari struggled to satisfy the demands of Iraq's ethnic and religious groups, particularly Sunni Muslims, from whose ranks the bulk of the insurgents are drawn.

The number of insurgent attacks has roughly doubled since March to 70 a day, while tips leading to the capture of perpetrators have also increased, according to Kubba. He acknowledged, however, that "in the short term, there is nothing that would enable the government to stop these attacks."

And the oil infrastructure in Kirkuk keeps blowing up.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 11 

looking up

Yesterday, it was too dark to notice the unfolding leaves in the photo of the bench. Today, I saw them.

bench bench
swing swing
playground playground

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Donald Luskin vs Paul Krugman and Donald Luskin 

On May 6, 2005, Dolald Luskin wrote,

America's leftist economists are swarming the media in an attempt to turn back President Bush's initiative to modernize Social Security with personal accounts. Yet for all their seeming brain-power, they are entirely bereft of ideas of their own.

On May 10, 2005, Dolald Luskin wrote,

Two weeks ago President Bush threw Democratic opponents of Social Security reform for a loop by adopting one of their own reform ideas: "progressive price indexing." It's a political masterstroke, one that has breathed new life into an initiative that many had given up for dead.

But which is it Donald? Critics of Bush's Social Security babblings are either bereft of reform ideas of their own, or Bush hit a political masterstroke by adopting one of their reform ideas that many had given up for dead.

Off to a bad start, Luskin attempts in the latter essay to make some points about Paul Krugman's Monday essay on Bush's latest SS pitch,

Krugman wrote that "cuts" under progressive indexing

will have their biggest percentage impact on the retirement income of people making about $60,000 a year.

We could disprove this lie by citing data from the Social Security Administration's actuaries ... But instead, let's just look at a table published in Krugman's own newspaper, the New York Times , which accompanied a May 1 story on progressive indexing.

Yes, do look at the table - carefully. The source of the benefit data? The Social Security Administration. Luskin says he could disprove a lie by citing data from the Social Security Administration's actuaries but instead he'll use data from the Social Security Administration's actuaries. Moving on ...

There you will see in America's "paper of record" that, in fact, the impact of progressive indexing falls heaviest on the highest-earning retirees - those making $90,000 a year or more, and not those earning $60,000. Sounds like it's time for Krugman to make what he would call a "humiliatingly correction". Either that or the Times itself should; one of the two is wrong.

Krugman is talking about "retirement income". Luskin points to a table showing "progressive indexing of Social Security benefits". Progressive indexing is the idea that those who made less over their work life should receive a larger percentage SS return than those who made more and rely on SS less. Although many people rely solely on SS in retirement, most people have additional sources of retirement income.

Going along with Luskin's (feigned?) confusion, let me note he suggests Krugman or the Times should issue (humiliating) correction for both publishing data from Social Security Administration's actuaries and a columnist who Luskin thought was limiting his argument to the same data.

Among Krugman's actual observations is that Bush's tax cuts + Social Security progressive indexing still favors the super-wealthy's retirement situations percentage wise.

Luskin pivots and calls Krugman a liar again because in his opinion Krugman should have been talking about private accounts + progressive indexing, not tax cuts + progressive indexing,

Here's another lie. Krugman wrote in Monday's column,

Suppose you're earning $60,000 a year. On average, Mr. Bush cut taxes for workers like you by about $1,000 per year. But by 2045 the Bush Social Security plan would cut benefits for workers like you by about $6,500 per year. Not a very good deal.

This is a lie because progressive indexing isn't all there is to what Krugman falsely labels "the Bush Social Security plan." Bush's plan, in fact, includes personal accounts that could be invested in securities markets, and would effectively replace the majority of the benefit-growth deceleration coming from progressive indexing. According to the Social Security Administration actuaries, returns from a conservative mix of stocks and bonds trim that $6,500 a year benefit-slowdown to about $2,600.

(Keep in mind that Luskin just asserted that a person making $60K/year would see their SS benefits cut about $2,600 (at some unspecified point in the future).)

Maybe Luskin has written elsewhere of how to fund a transition to personal/private accounts; if he has any ideas I'd like to hear them, but I assume he's bereft.

Now that he's ignored tax cuts and total retirement income long enough to call Krugman a liar, Luskin pivots on his other foot and begins to speak of retirement income + tax cuts, saying it's a pretty good deal for the middle class,

Now, suddenly, that $1,000 a year tax cut doesn't look like such a bad deal. Just think what would happen if you invested that $1,000 a year tax cut every year from now till 2045 in an IRA? If it earned 4.9 percent after inflation and costs - the conservative return suggested by the actuaries - then by 2045 you'd have a nest egg worth more than $131,000 (in 2005 dollars).

Oooh, there's something stuck in my throat. (ahem-urg) that only works for (ack) younger (ack-uh-uh) people, (gruuumglh) Donald. Most workers don't have 40 years to save up. Someone with 30 years until retirement would accrue $72,701 - around half of Luskin's 25 year old worker. Someone with 20 years to retirement would accrue $36,658 - around one quarter.

But again, Krugman's point is that the super-wealthy get a better retirement deal from Bush's tax cuts + Bush's progressive indexing suggestion. Curiously, Luskin does not comment upon Krugman's $1 million dollar a year worker.

Luskin has this to say to the lucky 26 year old worker making $60K a year (and who wasn't bamboozled into spending their $1,000 a year tax cut to stimulate the economy, but saved it),

That's a large enough endowment to generate tax-free income of $2,600 a year, forever.

Whoppie! That's large enough to buy $216 dollars worth of prescription drugs a month! Forever! Which is how long it would take to pay of the huge transitional costs to personal accounts! Social Security is saved! $216 a month!

For some edutainment, let's return to Luskin's young twenty-somthing year old worker and make the worker Krugman's person earning $1 million a year. This worker would have $50,000 in Bush tax cuts each year to invest at 4.9% annually (Luskin's preferred number) for 40 years. That's a $6,522,284 nest egg - 650% of their yearly salary. Luskin's $60K worker has $131,000 - 220% of their yearly salary.

I'm sorry, Mr. Luskin, the numbers still look pretty bad percentage wise in the comparison Krugman made.

Here's how much various aged $1,000,000 a year workers would benefit, using the Table Luskin points to in his argument against Krugman and his scenario of investing Bush's tax cut at 4.9% annually (compounded monthly) until retirement. (yearly retirement income from interest on investment of Bush tax cuts + SS benefits under current system - benefit cuts under Bush progressive indexing)

Recall now that Luskin says his $60K a year worker retiring in 40 years would just break even - private accounts would mitigate progressive indexing to a benefit cut of $2,600, but that same worker could save Bush's tax cut and accrue "a large enough endowment to generate tax-free income of $2,600 a year."

This of course means that if the $60K worker has less than 40 years to invest, the worker comes out behind. These are Luskin's own numbers. They conclude if you are middle-class and plan to retire in less than 40 years, your retirement income will be less with Bush's progressive indexing plus a private account, even if you are a scrooge and save instead of spend Bush's tax cuts.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 10 

blossoms

Yesterday, it was dark when I rode. Today it was dusk and raining.

swing swing
tunnel tunnel
sky sky
lake lake

Monday, May 09, 2005

Recount in Waynesboro, NC 

Rev. Chan Chandler's lawyer has called for a recount amid the attention his client received for spearheading a campaign which led to the excommunication of church members who didn't care to repent and support Bush,

Chandler's attorney, John J. Pavey Jr., said Monday he did not know what would be discussed at Tuesday's church meeting, which he said would be open only to members of the congregation.

"I think there was some confusion about last (week's) meeting, as to the validity of the vote. I think they're going to clarify all that," Pavey said, adding that he hopes the dispute "will be worked out."

Sunday, Pavey read a statement from Chandler in which the pastor said no members had been ousted for their political views and that the church was open to all "who embrace the authority and application of the Bible regardless of political affiliation."

Lawyer David Wijewickrama, who represents the nine members, said his clients obviously feel that Chandler's statement is "grossly inaccurate."

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 9 

dandelion forest

Yesterday, I left my camera at a friend's house. Today, I didn't get my back until it was dark and the plants were twinkling with evening dew.

footbridge footbridge
swing swing
water water
lake lake

Paul Krugman must read my blog 

Or more likely, over the weekend, we just both wrote of the same obvious flaws in Bush's latest Social Security pitch. (My posts). Krugman puts the observations this way,

[L]et me deal with a fundamental misconception: the idea that President Bush's plan would somehow protect future Social Security benefits.

If the plan really would do that, it would be worth discussing. It's possible - not certain, but possible - that 40 or 50 years from now Social Security won't have enough money coming in to pay full benefits. (If the economy grows as fast over the next 50 years as it did over the past half-century, Social Security will do just fine.) So there's a case for making small sacrifices now to avoid bigger sacrifices later.

But Mr. Bush isn't calling for small sacrifices now. Instead, he's calling for zero sacrifice now, but big benefit cuts decades from now - which is exactly what he says will happen if we do nothing. Let me repeat that: to avert the danger of future cuts in benefits, Mr. Bush wants us to commit now to, um, future cuts in benefits.

This accomplishes nothing, except, possibly, to ensure that benefit cuts take place even if they aren't necessary.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 8 

pink petals on the ground

Yesterday, the weather forecasters predicted rain and many years ago many people believed God makes rain. Today, most people believe that atmospheric conditions make rain even though the forecasters were wrong yesterday but a lot of people still believe God makes dandelions, walleye, loons, coots, mallards and humans even though we've observed evolution countless times.

swing swing
tunnel tunnel
lake lake

Clarifying my points about Bush's May 3 Social Security speech 

I was sleepy when I made my last post so maybe a clarification of my points is in order,

  1. Bush's new Social Security proposal (to cut benefits for all but those who put in least) is exactly as if the Johnson administration had proposed making a decision on behalf of our current Congress based on hypotheticals posed decades ago.
  2. The same proposal is merely a restatement in part of a hypothetical problem it allegedly solves (a "benefit cut").
  3. Bush says, "There's just too many of us [baby boomers]. Therefore, you're going to have to* pay for it. That would be my guess about the political dynamics," which is to say he believes a future Congress would chose to undo the half of the problem he proposes as a solution (a "benefit cut") and instead implement the other half ("a massive tax hike").
  4. There is an odd and unexplained asterisk next to a phrase indicating Bush thinks SS taxes will probably be raised at some point in the future anyway.

Cog in the gears 

My intention of starting this post was to make a point about Bush's new SS proposal to cut benefits for everybody but those who have put the least into the system: This would be exactly the same as if in 1966 the Johnson administration anticipated a problem with future SS finances and decided the solution was plan to cut benefits in 2006. This is no kind of solution to anything - we can view finances in 2006 infinitely more accurately in 2006 than anyone could 1966. In fact, the "solution" is the same thing as the "problem" Bush talks about: that SS benefits may have to be cut if we don't decide something now,

The American people now understand we have a problem. And our leaders must choose: Do nothing and guarantee a massive tax hike, or a 30 percent benefit cut; or act now to keep the promises of Social Security for the 21st century.

So that was my original point. But what I find more interesting is an orphaned asterisk on a flub where Bush predicts the opposite of his "solution": that if and when SS is paying out more than SS taxes generate, Bush believes lawmakers would choose to raise taxes instead of cut benefits for some as he proposed earlier in the same speech,

And they're not going to be cutting benefits significantly on baby boomers. There's just too many of us. Therefore, you're going to have to* pay for it. That would be my guess about the political dynamics.

There is no explanatory note. There must be a cog in the works of the White House Ministry of Information.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 7 

blossoms

Yesterday, I took a picture I really like to look at, above. Today, the a good number of petals had fallen from the trees with the pink or white blossoms.

water water
sky sky
lake lake

Double big upset 

We placed winner-take-the-pot bets by taping them to the gigantic racecard, kindly provided by Ivy and Ursula.

wagers

If more than one person bet on the winner, winnings would be distributed in proportion to the amount put into the kitty. If no one picked the winner, we'd take the horse that placed best. Here is my bet for Afleet Alex among two other's. No one picked Closing Argument.

afleet alex

Ursula put the sole bet on Giacomo. $147 dollars for playing Pin the Bill on the Horsey.

the winner

I'm not bitter. Really, I got to keep the cigar I'd brought for the winner if somehow it wasn't me.

After all, they do call it gambling 

And I dislike the Yankees and everything tangentially related to the Yankees,

  1. Sun King: 7-3-0-2 record. Plus, I like the name and George Steinbrenner doesn't own him.
  2. Afleet Alex: 9-6-2-0 record. Good finisher and there are two rabbits in the race. I like the name and George Steinbrenner doesn't own him.
  3. Bandini: 5-3-1-0 record. Also a good finisher and not owned by George Steinbrenner.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Strawberries, a messy Iraq and two of my mom's apple turnovers 

strawberries and apple turnovers

Yesterday, Muqtada al-Sadr again rattled his "disbanded" militia,

The sermon said the Iraqi government had done nothing to win the release of al-Sadr's followers in U.S. facilities or to stop raids on his offices and warned that he might again mobilize his Mahdi Army militia.

"We dropped our weapons, but our hands are still on the trigger," al-Sadr said. "We have been patient and quiet with the truce, which (the U.S.) violated more than once. Consider the past period a training period for us, psychologically and morally."

After the sermon was read in Kufa, Iraqi security personnel opened fire on riled-up worshipers, which would seem to confirm the sermon's rhetoric,

Accounts of what caused the clash in Kufa varied, but there was agreement that Iraqi police or army officials shot and wounded some worshippers emerging from prayers.

"After the prayers, the worshippers left the mosque and they started to chant," said Sabah Shubar, 41, a car mechanic who was hit in the leg by three bullets. "We were surprised by the army opening fire."

On top of this Shia-on-Shia violence is Sunni suspicion and mistrust of Shia forces being brought in to police hotspot Sunni areas such as Ramadi,

Outside troops have been dispatched to trouble spots throughout Iraq in a bid to keep a lid on violence in areas where insurgent death threats have rendered the local police ineffective. As a short-term counterinsurgency strategy, such forces have several advantages. First, they and their families are less subject to intimidation than when the forces are in their own area. Also, as Iraqis, they are far more familiar with the territory and less likely to be viewed as occupiers than are U.S. troops.

Yet by pitting Iraqis from different religious sects, ethnic groups and tribes against each other, the strategy also aggravates the underlying fault lines of Iraqi society, heightening the prospect of civil strife, U.S. military analysts said. .

... U.S. commanders worry that the strategy of importing troops to keep the peace also carries the risk of inciting sectarian violence between the outside Shiite forces and the local Sunni population. .

"You get a Shiite outsider shooting a local policeman, and with a big incident like that, you can see the whole city rising up," said Capt. Bart Nagle, an intelligence officer with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Ramadi. "This is the new dynamic, the new stage. I don't expect a quiet summer."

Maybe it won't be a quiet summer in Ramadi, but it's hard to imagine how it could be worse than this winter (emphasis added),

U.S. officers say the surge in such external forces is needed to counter the insurgency's immediate grip on Ramadi, the capital of restive Anbar province in the Sunni Triangle, 60 miles west of Baghdad. It is one of Iraq's most dangerous cities, rocked daily by explosions. The city of 400,000 has lacked a functioning local security force since last winter, when the police and Iraqi National Guard disbanded wholesale as insurgents blew up all but one of Ramadi's police stations, the mayor's office and other government buildings.

The troublesome "external" forces spoken of come from only 100 miles from Ramadhi. The unit was originally an unofficial (and officially illegal) citizen militia. An unintended consequence of the elections has been a blooming of these ad-hoc local militias,

Adding to the volatility in Ramadi is the parochial bent of the Iraqi militia arriving in the city, part of a nationwide phenomenon in which tribes, religious sects and political parties are recruiting armed forces more loyal to their group than to the ideal of an impartial Iraqi military, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

"All these units came out of the woodwork after the elections" on Jan. 30, said Col. Edward Cardon, whose 3rd Infantry Division brigade is stationed in central Baghdad. "This is sort of a militia society."

One hopes that the spin of the militias will tend to stabilize and not further stabilize the situation.

Hinney at Powerline fixes history around the policy 

Juan Cole today commented on the British memo indicating that Bush (and Blair) decided in Summer 2002 to invade Iraq, before debate in the United Nations on the matter. Cole quotes from the memo,

Here is the smoking gun:

"C [Dearlove] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

It is not surprising on the face of it that Bush had decided on the Iraq war by summer of 2002 ...

Any "debate" was meaningless if the president had already decided. And he wasn't waiting to make his decision in the light of the intelligence. He was going to tell the intelligence professionals to what conclusion they had to come. "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Hinney objects,

Professor Cole forgets an important bit of history here. Subsequent to this July meeting, the United States and Great Britain did go back to the U.N. for a new resolution, UNSCR 1441, which was adopted on November 8, 2002. When Iraq subsequently failed to comply with Resolution 1441, a new ground for military action existed.

What the hell? Iraq "failed to comply with Resolution 1441" and further, this justified war? What was the sin? Declaring they had no WMD or WMD capacity and letting the inspectors in to verify that they, in fact, had no WMD or WMD capacity? It's as though Hinney believes Bush's lie of the following July - after Hussein let the inspectors in and Bush invaded Iraq anyway,

"And we gave [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in . And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power ..."

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 6 

shore

Yesterday, it was windy and whitecaps scattered themselves across the lake. Today, the air and water were still and cottonwood seeds glided in the air.

swing swing
water water
sky sky
lake lake

Losing war of ideas, Republicans are increasingly resorting to absurdist commedy 

East Waynesboro (NC) Baptist church excommunicates Democrats,

The minister of a Haywood County Baptist church is telling members of his congregation that if they're Democrats, they either need to find another place of worship or support President Bush.

Larry Elder suggests that in addition to not hiring smokers, US businesses should not hire Democrats,

[L]et's just extend this hiring ban to cover unhappy, anti-social, self-destructive, unhealthy Democrats.

This amid the backdrop of right-wingers writing ridiculous essays such as David Limbaugh's in which he claims it's liberals waging war on (right-wing) Christians,

If I didn't know better, I would think liberal politicians and columnists were out to prove the thesis of my book - that there truly is a war being waged against Christianity and Christians in the United States.

Really, with sympathies to those suffering harm and excommunication, this is just funny. And I mean that seriously - there is a rapidly narrowing thin line between Republican's attempts at political debate and humor,

I do mean it... First, we bomb them, which we did, then we kill their leaders, which we did, and THEN we send in the missionaries.

Out of touch gaggle of wingnuts claim liberals out of touch 

April 27, 2005: National Review editor Rich Lowrey proclaims,

It is time to say it unequivocally: We are winning in Iraq. If current trends continue, our counter-insurgent campaign in Iraq will be fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the British victory over a Communist insurgency in Malaysia in the 1950s, a textbook example of this form of war.

May 1, 2005: This is the two year anniversary of President Bush declaring major combat over in Iraq. At least 116 dead in surge in Iraqi insurgency since Lowrey's proclamation three days prior.

May 6, 2005: By now, the escalation has claimed 250 lives (Update: 270 lives in the last eight days). National Review contributor Victor Davis Hanson pens a column only mentioning Iraq once,

Until Democrats promote someone who barks out something like, "We can and will win in Iraq," ... I don't think that the American people will entrust their safety to the party.

Further, Hanson makes up the fact that Democrats opposed a military response to 9/11, and leaves it to the reader to assume Democrats would rather roll over an die than engage in any sort of hypothetical military conflict,

[I]f one were to go back and read accounts in October 2001 about hitting back, the news reflected liberals' doubt about both the wisdom and efficacy of taking out the Taliban.

Would Al Gore have invaded Afghanistan less than a month after 9/11? If John Kerry were President and China invaded Taiwan, what would he do?

What would an administration advised by Madeline Albright, Barbara Boxer, Joe Biden, Jamie Rubin, Nancy Pelosi, or Jimmy Carter do if Iran sent a nuke into Israel, or North Korea fired a series of missiles over the top of Japan?

Or, if al Qaeda, operating from a sanctuary in Iran or Syria, took out the Sears Tower, how would a Kennedy, Kerry, or Gore respond? Six cruise missiles? A police matter? Proper work for the DA? Better "intelligence"? Let's work with our allies? Get the U.N. involved?

Whatever we think of George Bush, we know he would do something real — and just what that something might be frightens into hesitation - and yes, fear - many of those who would otherwise like to try something pretty awful.

Hanson also inexplicably claims that this is because Democrats haven't changed since they were the ones waging an ideological war in Vietnam ,

Democratic ideology and rhetoric have not evolved from the 1960s.

"Out of touch" dosen't come close. Perhaps "psychotic" does.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dwight 

Dwight D. Eisenhower,

"Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history."

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 5 

blossoms

Yesterday, I took my ride in the late afternoon as usual. Today, I rode midday.

Late afternoon gives better light.

footbridge footbridge
water water
lake lake

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Displacement and redisplacement in Kirkuk 

This Integrated Regional Information Networks report offers a good synopsis of the problem in Kiruk that has looked to me like a powder keg in a shooting gallery. Key excerpts,

The Iraqi city of Kirkuk has been the scene of ethnic tension since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. The recent return of Kurds who were forcibly removed by Saddam has added to the local problems and led to the displacement of Arab Iraqis sent there as part of the former government's "Arabisation" of the key oil city ...

A local government official who did not want to be named, said that nearly 16,830 Kurdish families have moved to the city since March 2004.

They are living in old government buildings or are camped in the outskirts of the city, waiting to return to homes they say they were forcibly removed from ...

Saddam Hussein banished Kurds from the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as part of his Arabisation programme which started in the 1970s, placing Arabs in wealthier residential areas. Some 250,000 Kurds and other non-Arabs, were forced to give up their homes and leave the city by the Baath regime, mainly in 1997, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) ...

According to the Arab Displacement Union (ADU), a local NGO, more than 4,000 Arab families have been made homeless since the conflict of 2003. Less than 25 percent can return to the south of Iraq and most are camped outside the region, in the cities of Diwania, Diala and near the southern city of Basra, according to the ADU.

Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) officials in Kirkuk maintain that urgent supplies are needed for internally displaced people (IDPs), especially food, tents and drinking water. "The humanitarian situation in the city is not improving, especially with increasing displacement in the city. Every day we need more supplies and nothing is being done to help those people," an IRCS spokesman, Nuri al- Salihi told IRIN.

They add that a solution needs to be found quickly to prevent further conflict in the city, as well as health problems that could affect children, such as malnutrition and water-borne diseases ...

In addition, sewage and water treatment in the city are not working well and waste is overflowing in the streets, posing a health hazard, Yetcci Subhi, a volunteer in the Kurdistan Peace Organisation (KPO), told IRIN ...

In an effort to resolve land disputes between Arabs and Kurds in the city, the government has established the Iraqi Property Claims Commission (IPCC), which started accepting claims in June 2004. Youssef Ahmed, a senior official at the IPCC, told IRIN that nearly 39,000 claims had been registered in the office, but less than 420 decisions have been made so far, most of them giving Kurds the right to return and reclaim property and businesses turned over to Arab Iraqis in Saddam's days. But whether newly-displaced Arab residents of the city will receive any official compensation remains unclear.

"As an official, I cannot judge the government but I believe that something is going wrong here. Before you give the right to someone to return, you should offer the minimum living standards to the ones you are displacing and not follow the same step that was taken by Saddam's regime," Ahmed said, implying that two wrongs do not make a right.

© IRIN

Star 

Chocolate ice cream and David Limbaugh's intent 

chocolate ice cream

David Limbaugh writes,

Just for the record, Senator Kerry, conservatives and Christian conservatives aren't saying they want conservative judges on the court, but originalists: judges who will interpret the Constitution according to the Framers' original intent.

Oh? The Christian Coalition hawks a bumper sticker,

It's critical that the US Senate act and confirm conservative judges to the federal Bench.

The Traditional Values Coalition's battle plan promises,

With direct mail, we can generate overwhelming public pressure on Congress to immediately confirm President Bush's conservative federal judge appointments.

David Limbaugh wrote,

Schumer and Leahy say their opposition is not to conservatives, but extremists. Yet these two men, much closer to leftist extremism than the conservative appointees they oppose are to right-wing extremism, obviously believe that conservatism itself is extreme.

Oops. But let's look at how we should interpret some example text of the Constitution according to the Framer's original intent as Limbaugh suggests. How about Amendment VIII for example, forbidding cruel and unusual punishment,

During the House of Representatives debate on this Amendment, Samuel Livermore commented,

No cruel and unusual punishment is to be inflicted; it is sometimes necessary to hang a man, villains often deserve whipping, and perhaps having their ears cut off; but are we in future to be prevented from inflicting these punishments because they are cruel?

Thomas Jefferson also weighed in on just punishment in the founding era,

Punishments I know are necessary, and I would provide them, strict and inflexible, but proportioned to the crime ... Rape, buggery &c. punish by castration.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 4 

blossoms

Yesterday, it was a bit chilly. Today's weather was so spring-like there was a news chopper documenting everybody's day at the lake.

path path
water water
lake lake

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

More circles 

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 3 

blossoms

Yesterday, the sky was peppered with puffy clouds. Today I noticed the grass was peppered with dandyloins.

Dandyloins are flowers.

water water
sky sky
lake lake

Human Events solves Social Security 

The first item in right-wing Human Events weekly wrap-up email is propaganda to kill off seniors now taking life-extending cholesterol lowering drugs,

Have you been turning your life upside down to lower your cholesterol? Struggling to cut the cholesterol from your diet and debating whether to try a cholesterol-lowering statin drug?

FORGET IT. Cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease. Studies prove this beyond a doubt.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Debate of the centuries: James Madison vs. right-wingers 

Ground rules:

  1. Familiarize yourself with writings on the separation of church and state by the author of the First Amendment, James Madison, or another suitable founder (more).
  2. Start a thread on a web board or email discussion list where right-wingers dwell by posting a Madison quote or two. Don't attribute the quote to Madison.
  3. Read right-wingers tell you the Founders would roll over in their graves if they heard the communist kind of crap you spew.
  4. Respond with more Madison quotes. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until the wingnuttery is firmly established.
  5. Explain the ruse.

Here is a sampling of such a debate, Madison is in blue, his modern-day opponents in red,

The Constitution of the U.S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. Religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

Wrong
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
Thats [sic] it plain and simple.

The First Amendment says nothing except CONGRESS CAN NOT MAKE LAWS TELLING YOU WHICH RELIGIONS YOU CAN OR CANNOT PRACTICE.
THAT IS ALL.
It's so obvious; you've got to be out of your mind to say otherwise.

You seem to suggest that our founders were a bunch of idiots. If they really wanted all religion out of all government, THEY WOULD HAVE SAID SO. Otherwise they'd have to be idiots to want all religion out of all government and yet only specify laws passed by Congress.

The Anarchist Commie Liberal Utiopians have twisted the meaning of the 1st amendment for their personal use as a bludgeon against anyone and anything releated to the allmighty. I want to see them put up their own personal property and fortunes up as the ante for all of their legal manuvers. Let's see them put their money where their mouth(pieces) are and I'll bet that the frequency and stupidity of their filings decreases exponentially.

It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties!
Congress shall make "no law respecting" an establishment of religion.
"shall make no law respecting."
"forbids everything like."

Again, everything you're talking about that the 1st Amendment supposedly bans is not a law passed by Congress.
Also, yes, it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. Sure. Whatever. But there's a proper process to handle these issues--it's called the Amendment process. Liberals know there's no way in bloody hell they'd pass this through the amendment process, so, like Abortion and the gay agenda, they alter the meaning of the Constitution itself.
It's a crock of horsedung and you know it. But be careful what you wish for--the judiciary will not always be filled with extremist anti-Constructionist liberal whackjobs.

Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is cheifly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.

Show me exactly where CONGRESS has made a law ESTABLISHING a religion.

Excuse me, but wasn't the chaplain created with the founding fathers? And, if so, doesn't that go to show the veracity of our argument?

The establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected by the majority shut the door of worship against the members whose creeds and consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority.

So they go have their own pray whoopee. Again has congress said that congressman must pray, or that they must be a particular religion to be a congressman? No they have not.

Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment?
If religion consist in voluntary acts of individuals, singly, or voluntarily associated, and it be proper that public functionaries, as well as their constituents should discharge their religious duties, let them like their constituents, do so at their own expence.

Are you stating there is religious oppression because the Government has a chaplain?
Or are you saying that without an extreme Separation of Church and State that there would be an oppression?

The idea of a union of all to form one nation under one government in acts of devotion to the God of all is an imposing idea. But reason and the principles of the Christian religion require that if all the individuals composing a nation were of the same precise creed and wished to unite in a universal act of religion at the same time, the union ought to be effected through their religious not of their political representatives.

I would remind you that there was no extreme Separation of Church and State prior to the "ruling" about the wall between church and state and there was no religious oppression.

Notwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, and the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Government and Religion neither can be duly supported.

It still does not say anything about "separation of church and state" in the Constitution...

Catfish curry and the last of the Y2K rice 

catfish curry and the last of the Y2K rice

Today is the 11,752nd day of my life.

Today is also the 1948th day since January 1, 2000.

Today, I cooked the very last of my Y2K rice. It was good rice and kept just fine for 5 years. It cooked at the rate of less than one-half ounce per day.

I ate curried catfish and raw carrots with it. I approved.

The last time I spoke of my Y2k rice, I wrote about the meaningless term "judicial activism". Previous to that, I wrote of my Y2K rice alongside the the theory that Bush invaded Iraq because,

competing clandestine government organizations are struggling through proxy means to take control of ancient extraterrestrial (ET) technology that exists in Iraq, in order to prepare for an impending series of events corresponding to the 'prophesied return' of an advanced race of ETs.

Today is the 773rd day after Bush went after those nonexistent Iraqi WMD.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 2 

straight up

Yesterday it felt a bit nippy at 45°. Today at 34° I was quite warm as I wore a thermal undershirt and flannel pants.

The shadows were long as it was late.

path path
bench bench
minneapolis minneapolis
swing swing
tunnel tunnel
sky sky

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Circles 

Lake Calhoun yesterday on May 1 

lowering sun glistening on the water

Yesterday was the only time I remember riding a bike through hail, although I may have forgotten another time. Today, I rode through light snow flurries.

Minneapolis stood behind strikingly clear air for part of my ride and behind a snowy haze for another part as can be seen in two different pictures.

bench bench
minneapolis minneapolis
water water
ice ice

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