Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Electronic voting machines in Florida having problems in early voting

Voting machines in Florida being used for early voting have unaccountably been registering votes for Democratic candidates as votes for Republicans at the review screen. The cases that have been noticed have been corrected with the assistance of poll workers. But how many haven't been noticed?

(Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

TSA Fails Screening Tests, Looks for Who Leaked the Results

The TSA badly failed a recent set of tests at Newark's Liberty Airport. TSA screeners missed 90% of the guns and explosives that testers put through the system. TSA's response? Immediate action to try to find out who leaked the results.

(Via Bruce Schneier's blog.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Olbermann on Limbaugh's attack on Michael J. Fox

Keith Olbermann shows the video of Limbaugh's attack on Michael J. Fox, which more vividly illustrates Limbaugh's depravity. (Also see Media Matters on Limbaugh's fake apology.)

Point out the obvious, get raided by the FBI

Security researcher Chris Soghoian, a graduate student at Indiana University's School for Informatics and an intern at Google, set up a website that functions as a boarding pass generator for Northwest Airlines. The site contained a form that allowed you to fill in name, flight number, destination, and all of the other information on a boarding pass, and would display a boarding pass that would be indistinguishable from the real thing at the TSA security checkpoints.

He pointed out that the identity check at the TSA checkpoint amounts to nothing more than a comparison between the name on a picture ID and the name on a boarding pass, and that this provides no security whatsoever. I'm not sure what threat this check is even supposed to be trying to mitigate. At best, it is an attempt to piggy-back on the check against the no-fly list (which is itself a complete joke) that is performed by the airlines when you purchase a ticket, but clearly that fails as his boarding pass generator is one of several ways to create a boarding pass in a name other than your own--including modifying the displayed text generated by any airline's online site or even purchasing a ticket in any name you choose. The latter was displayed vividly by a couple of guys who purchased tickets in the names of "Al Kyder" and "Terry Wrist" (link includes video).

In my opinion, the only actual purpose served by checking for a valid boarding pass at the TSA checkpoint is to reduce the number of people passing through the checkpoint in order to most efficiently make use of security resources. It does not otherwise have any effect on security; it provides no deterrent to an attacker. It is not effective in screening out those with malicious intent, and it is not even effective in verifying identity.

Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) has called for Chris Soghoian to be arrested. He was visited and interrogated by the FBI, then went to stay at his parents' house. Friday night, the FBI broke their way into his apartment, seized his computers, and generally trashed his place.

Lesson: Point out U.S. security weaknesses, and you will be punished. Those responsible for the weaknesses and idiocy of U.S. "security theater," however, will not be held accountable.

This is one of the rare times when Michelle Malkin actually says something correct.

Other coverage: Jim Harper, author of the excellent book Identity Crisis, at the Technology Liberation Front and at Cato@Liberty (this post does a good job of pointing out the problems with the TSA identity check). Bruce Schneier, at his blog. And there's some rather good coverage in multiple posts at BoingBoing.

The problem that Soghoian pointed out was previously described in February 2005 on Slate.com by Andy Bowers, and in 2003 by Bruce Schneier in his Crypt-o-Gram newsletter.

So yes, Kip Hawley is still an idiot.

UPDATE (November 2, 2006): Bruce Schneier has written a detailed description of the flaw in the security design of the TSA identity check, and makes the same point that even if the flaw is corrected it doesn't add any real security because it's just a check of the no-fly list.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dirty Politician: Rick Renzi

Rep. Rick Renzi (Republican, AZ-District 1) is now under investigation by the feds, for some deals involving San Pedro River water and land nearby which a friend of his made millions from.

Renzi is on CREW's list of the top 20 most corrupt Congressmen.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bush administration incompetence in Iraq

I guess it shouldn't have been surprising to find that the Bush administration appointed people to key positions in post-invasion Iraq on the basis of their loyalty to George W. Bush rather than their possession of any relevant skills or experience, as we saw with Michael Brown's appointment to head FEMA and George Deutsch's appointment as a press officer at NASA. But I didn't imagine that things were actually as bad as they were. An article in the Washington Post derived from Rajiv Chandrasekaran's new book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, describes the application process for jobs with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq:
One former CPA employee who had an office near O'Beirne's wrote an e-mail to a friend describing the recruitment process: "I watched résumés of immensely talented individuals who had sought out CPA to help the country thrown in the trash because their adherence to 'the President's vision for Iraq' (a frequently heard phrase at CPA) was 'uncertain.' I saw senior civil servants from agencies like Treasury, Energy . . . and Commerce denied advisory positions in Baghdad that were instead handed to prominent RNC (Republican National Committee) contributors."
Loyalists with dubious experience also replaced highly competent and experienced people who were already in place:

Haveman, a 60-year-old social worker, was largely unknown among international health experts, but he had connections. He had been the community health director for the former Republican governor of Michigan, John Engler, who recommended him to Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense.

Haveman was well-traveled, but most of his overseas trips were in his capacity as a director of International Aid, a faith-based relief organization that provided health care while promoting Christianity in the developing world. Before his stint in government, Haveman ran a large Christian adoption agency in Michigan that urged pregnant women not to have abortions.

Haveman replaced Frederick M. Burkle Jr., a physician with a master's degree in public health and postgraduate degrees from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and the University of California at Berkeley. Burkle taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where he specialized in disaster-response issues, and he was a deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which sent him to Baghdad immediately after the war.

He had worked in Kosovo and Somalia and in northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. A USAID colleague called him the "single most talented and experienced post-conflict health specialist working for the United States government."

But a week after Baghdad's liberation, Burkle was informed he was being replaced. A senior official at USAID sent Burkle an e-mail saying the White House wanted a "loyalist" in the job. Burkle had a wall of degrees, but he didn't have a picture with the president.

Further quotes and commentary can be found at Dispatches from the Culture Wars and The Agitator.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Vernon Robinson/Paul Nelson recycled sleazy attack ads

Republican Vernon Robinson is running for the House of Representatives against Democrat Brad Miller with unbelievably sleazy tactics, such as accusing Miller of being gay because he is middle-aged and has no children. Miller responded by pointing out that he is married, but his wife is unable to have children due to a hysterectomy and she suffers from endometreiosis.

The topper is Robinson's attack ad (which has been recycled by Republican Paul Nelson against Democrat Ron Kind in Wisconsin's third district). This ad accuses the Democrat (Miller or Kind) of spending "your tax dollars to pay teenage girls to watch pornographic movies with probes connected to their genitalia," "to study the masturbation habits of old men," and "to study the sex lives of Vietnamese prostitutes."

Of course, there was no vote by either of these Democrats for any such thing. Rather, they voted against taking action to cancel five specific research studies by the National Institutes of Health, on the grounds that it is not Congress' place to make specific decisions about what research the NIH funds. The first study referenced in the advertisement, regarding teenage girls and pornographic movies, is apparently designated by an incorrect grant number in the ad. The second study, NIH grant R03HD039206, was titled "Longitudinal Trends in the Sexual Behavior of Older Men," which examined quality of life effects in older men--it was not specifically a study of the "masturbation habits of old men." This grant was perhaps $50,000 per year over two years, out of the NIH's $30 billion annual budget. The third study, NIH grant R01MH065871, was a proposed study of mental health risks in response to an announced program to do research on particular risk groups that have thus far not received attention from investigators.

You can see both ads and read comments on them (some of the above is derived from comments by Phil T. Bastid) here. A response by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania which recounts the specifics of each of the studies in question may be found here.

UPDATE (November 8, 2006): Both of these sleazy politicians, Vernon Robinson and Paul Nelson, got defeated by about a 2-to-1 margin.

Another sleazy Republican ad during National Character Counts week

The Republican National Committee paid for this attack ad on Harold Ford (D-TN), which has prompted Ford's opponent, Bob Corker, to call on the RNC to pull the ad.

UPDATE (November 8, 2006): Corker defeated Ford, which isn't terribly disappointing given Ford's positions on the issues (he supported the invasion of Iraq, voted for the Military Commissions Act, and supported federal and state bans of same-sex marriage, while posing as a religious man but attending parties at the Playboy mansion). It was really a lose-lose race.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sleazy Republican attack ad may be backfiring

The National Republican Congressional Committee is standing behind its ad attacking Democrat Michael Arcuri, who is running against Republican Ray Meier to replace retiring Republican Rep. Sherwood Boehlert in upstate New York.

Here's the content of the ad:
Woman's sultry voice: "Hi sexy. You've reached the live one-on-one fantasy line." (Soft music plays in the background.)

Announcer: "A phone number to an adult fantasy hot line appeared on Michael Arcuri's New York City hotel room bill while he was there on official business. And the call was charged to Oneida County taxpayers. Arcuri has denied it, but the facts are there. Who calls a fantasy hot line and then bills taxpayers? Michael Arcuri."

Woman's sultry voice: "Bad call."
The facts of the matter are that an Arcuri aide made a call to the number in question for less than a minute, which was in error. He then called a number with a different area code (instead of a toll-free number) but the rest of the digits the same, which is the number of the state Department of Criminal Justice Services. Arcuri is the district attorney in Oneida County.

At least seven television stations have refused to run the GOP's ad, for good reason--it's unbelievably misleading.

The NRCC, fully aware of the dishonesty of this advertisement, insists that their account is "totally true" (yes, but it uses true but incomplete information in a way specifically intended to mislead, which is a form of lying) and they say that they stand behind the message.

Upstate New York newspapers have been doing a good job of exposing the facts.

UPDATE (November 8, 2006): Arcuri defeated Meier in the election and will be the next Rep. from NY's 24th District.

Kevin Tillman speaks out

Kevin Tillman, the brother of Pat Tillman, who fought with him in the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, has spoken out about the Bush administration, the war on terror, and the war in Iraq, in a piece titled "After Pat's Birthday."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Kent Hovind on trial

Creationist Kent Hovind's trial for tax evasion is proving to be quite a hoot. Some highlights from the Pensacola News-Journal's coverage:
Hovind attempted to manipulate funds from the start of his ministry, she said. In 1996, he filed for bankruptcy, a move Heldmeyer said Hovind designed to prevent the IRS from collecting taxes. The IRS later determined Hovind filed under an "evil purpose," Heldmeyer said. She called Hovind a "very loud and vocal tax protester," recalling a number of lawsuits he filed against the IRS over the past decade. Each was deemed frivolous and was thrown out, she said. And on April 13, 2004, when IRS officials issued a search warrant for Hovind's property, he resisted.
Hovind has some interesting theories about corporate liability and government action:
Popp testified that Hovind warned employees not to accept mail addressed to "KENT HOVIND." He said Hovind told the workers the government created a corporation in his "all-caps name." Hovind said if he accepted the mail, he would be accepting the responsibilities associated with that corporation, Popp testified.
Hovind uses Scientology-style tactics against the IRS (though without their success--apparently 50 separate lawsuits against agents from a large criminal cult has more effect):
Hovind tried several bullying tactics against her, Powe testified. A recording that Hovind made of a phone conversation was then played. In the phone conversation, Hovind tried to make an appointment with Powe by 10 a.m. that day. When Powe said she couldn't meet him because she had a staff meeting, Hovind threatened to sue her, which he did. "Dr. Hovind sued me three times, maybe more," Powe testified. "It just seemed to be something he did often." She testified that the cases were dismissed.
Blog Coverage:

Panda's Thumb: Dr. Dino in the Dock (October 18)
Panda's Thumb: Workers testify in 'Dr. Dino' trial (October 19)
Pharyngula: Pensacola Hilarity (October 20)
Pharyngula: Hovind saga continues (October 21)
Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Hovind Trial Begins (October 18)
Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Hovind Trial, Day 2 (October 20)
Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Hovind Trial, Day 3 (October 21)
Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Hovind Trial, Day 4 (October 23)

Warning signs of the future

I like the "existential threat" and "cognitive hazard" signs. See the collection here.

(Via Bruce Schneier's blog).

Jailed terror suspect helped National Association of Evangelicals draft school religion rules

The above headline is justified to the same extent as Stop the ACLU's headline, "Jailed Terror Suspect Helped ACLU Draft School Religion Rules," as the rules in question were drafted jointly and agreed to by 35 organizations which included the National Association of Evangelicals, the ACLU, the Christian Legal Society, the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, and numerous other religious groups.

The "jailed terror suspect" in question was a member of the American Muslim Council, one of the 35 groups involved in creating these rules for the Department of Education under Clinton. This led another conservative blogger to headline this story with the even more deceptively dishonest "Terrorist Wrote Clinton's School Religion Guidelines."

(Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars, where Ed Brayton has been repeatedly responding to this same absurd charge for years.)

Dirty Politician: Rep. Jerry Lewis

House Appropriations Committee chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA), under federal investigation himself, abruptly fired 60 contract investigators working for the Appropriations Committee to identify government fraud and waste. This stalls out all of the investigations, which have been saving billions of dollars and identified numerous instances of malfeasance.

Lewis spokesman John Scofield says "there is nothing sinister going on."

A bad argument in support of the Protect Marriage Arizona amendment

Gun rights advocate and "uninvited ombudsman" Alan Korwin has sent out a checklist of his recommendations on the Arizona ballot propositions. I disagree with him on several of the propositions, perhaps most significantly on his recommendation of a yes vote to amend the Arizona Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and any legal arrangements that are "similar to" marriage. Here's his argument for 107:
107 YES Protect marriage amendment. If people want gay unions, polygamy, bestiality or whatever, I say let them, but not under government sanction and funding. I'd like to see us return to "holy matrimony" without any government involvement. Getting married for tax breaks is so wrong.
But this argument presumes the effect of 107 is to get the government out of the marriage business, which it isn't. Rather, 107 has the effect of enshrining existing statutory prohibitions on a form (or multiple forms) of legal contract between consenting adults into the Constitution, and going further to restrict any such arrangement "similar to" marriage. It isn't pro-liberty, it's anti-liberty. It isn't eliminating special privileges, it is adding them to the Arizona Constitution.

It's perfectly reasonable to argue that nobody should have tax breaks or special privileges under the law, but it's not reasonable to say that because such privileges are wrong we should restrict them to a particular set of people. That's not only unfair, it's unconstitutional--a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. It's like arguing that the government shouldn't confer support on religion, so we should vote yes on an amendment that limits government support to the Christian religion, and keep it from supporting Islam or other religions. (No doubt there are many Americans who would, quite wrongly, support such a law.)

Now, some advocates of Proposition 107 have argued that there is no violation of the equal protection clause because a gay man has the same right to marry a woman as a heterosexual man does. But this is just like arguing that a prohibition on interracial marriage doesn't violate the equal protection clause because a black man has the same right to marry a black woman as a white man has to marry a white woman--the description of the right is being crafted to exclude the category of person who is being discriminated against.

As Ed Brayton has pointed out on numerous occasions, the arguments for the unconstitutionality of a ban on same-sex marriage are of the same form as the arguments for the unconstitutionality of a ban on miscegenation, just replacing "different race" with "same sex." If you think that the Supreme Court ruled correctly in Loving v. Virginia, you should also think that Arizona's Proposition 107 violates the U.S. Constitution for the same reasons.

See also my previous post on the Protect Marriage Arizona amendment. You may also find David Friedman's economic analysis of marriage arrangements to be of interest.

UPDATE (October 21, 2006): Just to make it clear, THeath has enumerated some specific examples of what opponents of gay marriage are actually endorsing (there are several more if you follow the link)--these aren't hypotheticals, these are real people:
  • There was the friend I wrote about recently who was turned away from from the emergency room, where his partner had been taken after suddenly collapsing at work, and told he could not be given any information because he was not next of kin. He had to leave the hospital and retrieve their legal documents before he could gain admittance to see his partner when a married spouse would have been waved through without question.

  • My friend was luckier than Bill Flanigan. When his partner Robert Daniel was hospitalized in Baltimore, the couple had their legal documents with them, including durable power of attorney and documentation that they were registered as domestic partners in California. But those documents were ignored by hospital staff and Flanigan was kept from seeing his partner until Daniel’s mother and sister arrived and by then Daniel was unconscious, with his eyes taped shut and hooked to a breathing tube; something Daniel had not wanted.

  • Even having a will didn’t help Sam Beaumont when his partner of 23 years, Earl, died. Oklahoma requires a will to have two witnesses, but Earl didn’t know that and his will leaving everything to Sam had only one. So Earl's cousins, who disapproved of his relationship and most of whom never spoke to the couple or even came to Earl’s funeral, successfully sued to take away the home and ranch Sam an Earl had shared for 23 years. A married spouse, even in the event of a will lacking enough witnesses, would’ve had the right to automatically inherit at least some of the estate.

Further Update (October 22, 2006): Ed Brayton takes apart the Alliance Defense Fund's white paper on these marriage amendments here.

Matt Taibbi takes on 9/11 conspiracy theorists

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone has an excellent article on 9/11 conspiracy theorists, pointing out the absurdity of their claims in the form of a dialogue among the plotters:

BUSH: So, what's the plan again?

CHENEY: Well, we need to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. So what we've decided to do is crash a whole bunch of remote-controlled planes into Wall Street and the Pentagon, say they're real hijacked commercial planes, and blame it on the towelheads; then we'll just blow up the buildings ourselves to make sure they actually fall down.

RUMSFELD: Right! And we'll make sure that some of the hijackers are agents of Saddam Hussein! That way we'll have no problem getting the public to buy the invasion.

CHENEY: No, Dick, we won't.

RUMSFELD: We won't?

CHENEY: No, that's too obvious. We'll make the hijackers Al Qaeda and then just imply a connection to Iraq.

RUMSFELD: But if we're just making up the whole thing, why not just put Saddam's fingerprints on the attack?

CHENEY: (sighing) It just has to be this way, Dick. Ups the ante, as it were. This way, we're not insulated if things go wrong in Iraq. Gives us incentive to get the invasion right the first time around.

BUSH: I'm a total idiot who can barely read, so I'll buy that. But I've got a question. Why do we need to crash planes into the Towers at all? Since everyone knows terrorists already tried to blow up that building complex from the ground up once, why don't we just blow it up like we plan to anyway, and blame the bombs on the terrorists?

RUMSFELD: Mr. President, you don't understand. It's much better to sneak into the buildings ourselves in the days before the attacks, plant the bombs and then make it look like it was exploding planes that brought the buildings down. That way, we involve more people in the plot, stand a much greater chance of being exposed and needlessly complicate everything!

CHENEY: Of course, just toppling the Twin Towers will never be enough. No one would give us the war mandate we need if we just blow up the Towers. Clearly, we also need to shoot a missile at a small corner of the Pentagon to create a mightily underpublicized additional symbol of international terrorism -- and then, obviously, we need to fake a plane crash in the middle of fucking nowhere in rural Pennsylvania.

RUMSFELD: Yeah, it goes without saying that the level of public outrage will not be sufficient without that crash in the middle of fucking nowhere.

There's lots more dialogue in the article... Taibbi summarizes:

None of this stuff makes any sense at all. If you just need an excuse to assume authoritarian powers, why fake a plane crash in Shanksville? What the hell does that accomplish? If you're using bombs, why fake a hijacking, why use remote-control planes? If the entire government apparatus is in on the scam, then why bother going to all this murderous trouble at all -- only to go to war a year later with a country no one even bothered to falsely blame for the attacks? You won't see any of this explored in 9/11 Truth lore, because the "conspiracy" they're describing is impossible everywhere outside a Zucker brothers movie -- unbelievably stupid in its conception, pointlessly baroque and excessive in its particulars, but flawless in its execution, with no concrete evidence left behind and tens of thousands keeping their roles a secret forever.

Check it out--highly recommended, along with these other 9/11 conspiracy debunking sites.

How planespotting uncovered CIA torture flights

The Village Voice has an excerpt from the book Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights, which is fascinating reading. The hobby of planespotting--watching and recording information about planes that take off and land--led a few individuals to deduce that planes spotted at "Base Camp" in Nevada were being used by the CIA to transport prisoners to locations in eastern Europe and the Middle East. Individuals correlating data with each other over the Internet and comparing to flight logs and testimony from released prisoners yielded very specific results. Civil Air Landing Permit data was used to identify obscure companies with clearance to land anywhere they want, including restricted military bases--such as One Leasing, Richmor Aviation, Stevens Express Leasing, Tepper Aviation, Path Corporation, Rapid Air Trans, Aviation Specialties, Devon Holding and Leasing, Crowell Aviation, and Premier Executive Transport Services. The planes owned by some of these companies were found to be visiting military bases, Guantanamo Bay, Morocco, Romania, Poland, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Jon Sifton of Human Rights Watch has conducted analysis of the resulting flight data to determine which stops were merely for refueling and which were for destinations--acute angles for inbound and outbound flights from a stop are indicative of a destination rather than a refueling stop, for example.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bush campaigns for a racist and an violent adulterer

George W. Bush is on the campaign trail for racist Virginia Senator George Allen and for Pennsylvania Representative Don Sherwood--just in case you had any doubts about where Bush stands on moral issues.

Allen is the Senator who referred to an Indian representative of his opponent's campaign as a "macaca," a racial slur common in French North Africa, where his mother grew up. He also used to keep a noose hanging in his office, and several people who knew him in his college days have reported that he used to make common use of the epithet "nigger" (but not the word "epithet"), and two sources say that he once put the severed head of a deer in the mailbox of a black family.

Sherwood has admitted to having a lengthy (five-year) adulterous affair, and he settled a lawsuit which accused him of choking his mistress. His wife has referred to his affair as "a mistake."

Bush's press secretary Tony Snow addressed the president's support of Sherwood by observing that we are all sinners and deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness, perhaps. A seat in Congress, no.

UPDATE (October 20, 2006): Bush chose to campaign for these people of poor character during the same week that he has proclaimed "National Character Counts Week, 2006," a proclamation which begins:
America's strength is found in the spirit and character of our people. During National Character Counts Week, we renew our commitment to instilling values in our young people and to encouraging all Americans to remember the importance of good character.
UPDATE (November 8, 2006): Don Sherwood lost, and it looks like George Allen will also lose.

Innocent torture victim still on no-fly list

Maher Arar, a Canadian (born in Syria) who was arrested by the U.S. and sent to Syria where he was tortured as a result of the RCMP's erroneous labeling of him as someone associated with al Qaeda, was unable to receive a human rights award in Washington, D.C. because his name is still on the TSA no-fly list. Arar currently has a lawsuit pending in Canada against the RCMP.
(Also see the Wikipedia entry on Arar.)

This is further evidence of the TSA's failure to competently maintain the no-fly list.

UPDATE (October 20, 2006): Ed Brayton has discussed this story today.

UPDATE (January 23, 2007): The U.S. Attorney General and head of Homeland Security are both insisting that Arar remain on the no-fly list for reasons which they have disclosed only to officials in Canada. The Canadians don't think those reasons make any sense. My guess is that they think somebody they sent off to be tortured might have a beef with the people who did it to him.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Worst Congress Ever

There's an excellent article in Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi called "The Worst Congress Ever."

When the Democrats take back one or both houses of Congress, I hope they will not be following the Republican rulebook for payback, but will try to return some dignity, honesty, integrity, and accountability to the legislative branch of our government.

One exception, though--they should follow the Republican lead from 1995 and not require minority party approval for issuing subpoenas to the White House as they clean house. It's high time that Congress started actually providing some oversight of the executive branch again.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Bridge: Attacked by Scientology

Independent filmmaker Brett Hanover made a very nice little one-hour film called "The Bridge," about the Church of Scientology, which he put out on Google Video and YouTube about a month ago. Scientology came after him, and he buckled, withdrawing the film and saying that he no longer supports it. Google and YouTube took it down.

But it's still out there. Watch it, it's pretty well done.

The Five Stages of Republican Scandal

From "PT," a reader of Talking Points Memo:
5 stages of Republican scandal:

1. “I have not been informed of any investigation or that I am a target”
2. “I am cooperating fully, but this whole thing is a political ploy by the Democrats”
3. “I’m SHOCKED by the mistakes made by my subordinates”
4. “I’m deeply sorry for letting down my friends and family. I now recognize that I am an alcoholic. I will be entering rehab immediately, so I have no time for questions”
5. “Can I serve my time at Eglin Federal Penitentiary (aka Club Fed)?”
I'm sure these work just as well in a bipartisan manner (with minor rewording), but today it is most fitting as written.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Poston internment camp film

An archivist at the Arizona Historical Foundation, Linda Whitaker, found a 25-min 16mm film canister last fall while preparing an exhibition on World War II Japanese internment camps. The film can was labeled "Poston Color Dupe." The film turned out to be footage of Arizona's Poston internment camp, which was located in La Paz county, 12 miles south of Parker. The film had a magnetic strip for sound, but it had deteriorated, so what is left is a color silent film. It has been converted to DVD format and is for sale for $40 from the Arizona Historical Foundation.

Poston was one of two sets of Japanese internment camps in Arizona, and was also known as the Colorado River Relocation Center. It was composed of three camps, called Poston I, II, and III, on reservation land of the Colorado Indians. It operated from April 1942 to March 1946, and at its peak housed 18,000 people. The other was the Gila River Relocation Center about 50 miles southeast of Phoenix, which housed 13,000 people at its peak, and operated from May 1942 to February 1946. It was composed of two camps, Butte Camp and Canal Camp, which were built over the objections of the Gila River Indian tribe, on whose land they were built.

The Japanese-Americans who were taken from their homes in California and Arizona and forced to live in these prison camps were mostly U.S. citizens (about 2/3). The Poston and Gila River camps were, at the time, the third and fourth largest "cities" in Arizona, after Phoenix and Tucson.

The Poston camp was built by Del Webb, best known as a homebuilder of planned communities in the southwest (such as Sun City and Anthem).

The discovery of this film serves to remind us how a country can get so caught up in wartime fear that it disregards its own Constitution and tramples the rights of individuals.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Kolbe river trip with former pages under investigation, press secretary resigns

Rep. Jim Kolbe is under investigation by the Justice Department regarding a 1996 Colorado river rafting trip he took with two 17-year-old former pages (as well as several staffers and National Park Service employees). His press secretary, Korenna Cline, "abruptly resigned" yesterday in order "to pursue another job opportunity."

ADF lies about "marriage protection" amendments

Recent amendments and proposed amendments to state constitutions like Arizona's Proposition 107, which "preserves “marriage” as only consisting of the union of one man and one woman, and prohibits creating or recognizing any legal status for unmarried persons that is similar to that of marriage," have been backed by the Alliance Defense Fund. These constitutional amendments will not just be used to block same-sex marriage (already prohibited by multiple Arizona statutes, as I've pointed out here), but to prevent things like domestic partnership benefits to unmarried partners. In response to these claims, the ADF denies it, calling this a "false argument" used to "confuse":
Preying on these and similar fears, advocates of same-sex "marriage" argue that proposed state marriage amendments will undermine the ability of government and even private entities to grant benefits to unmarried people. This false argument is being used to confuse many people...

Same-sex "marriage" advocates argue that eliminating domestic partnerships or other counterfeit marital institutions is hateful and mean spirited, because it will undermine benefits granted to unmarried people. Unfortunately, many people (including some so-called "conservative" politicians) have bought into this fallacious argument.

But the ADF is just lying. They themselves, once such amendments have been passed, have been leading the legal efforts to do exactly that, as they have in Wisconsin (and other similar groups have done in Michigan and Ohio):

Conservative lawmakers in Wisconsin also are seeking to block gay state employees from winning the right to employee partnership benefits. That state's Legislature last month approved sending a constitutional amendment to a statewide vote in November that says "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."...

The Wisconsin amendment passed partly in response to a lawsuit filed by several gay state university employees seeking health insurance for their partners. The Legislature also has retained the services of a conservative evangelical law firm, the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), in an attempt to intervene in the workers' lawsuit...

I suspect what the ADF really meant to say in their blog entry quoted above is that they are OK with domestic partnership benefits for unmarried persons of the opposite sex, but not if they are the same sex.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hastert meets with religious kook, says he was duped

On Tuesday of this week (October 10), Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert met with evangelist K.A. Paul, without first consulting with his advisors. He now says that he was "duped" into the meeting, in which Paul performed a "laying on of hands" on Hastert and asked him to resign. Paul says Hastert said that he would.

Paul is a full-blown kook, whose record includes (according to a June 2006 Houston Press story):
- claiming another minister's leper colony as his own, and videotaping said lepers for a promotional video

- transporting children in an airplane one former crew member called a "flying death trap"

- leaving a trail of unpaid bills for the plane's fuel and maintenance

- interfering with a murder investigation in India, earning the wrath of that country's National Council of Churches

- fleeing to the United States from India after nine of his American volunteers were arrested and thrown in prison

- abandoning an 11-year-old girl after checking her into a hospital

Hastert should resign simply for showing such bad judgment.

UPDATE: I should say kook and con artist, after reading the full Houston Press article.

Mr. Anand Kilari (K.A. Paul) has defrauded a lot of people, and been supported by Evander Holyfield, PromiseKeepers founder Bill McCartney, Carl Lindner, Jr., Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the Southern Baptist Convention, and others. Of those mentioned in the article, the only ones with enough integrity to publicly warn others rather than remaining silent and refusing to comment were Houston millionaire Jim McIngvale and Colorado Springs businessman Ted Beckett and his wife Audrey. Those Christians who have supported this fraudster and remained silent are as guilty of deception as Paul is, and should be ashamed of themselves. As the Houston Press article points out:

From the start, his ministry has depended solely on the wealthiest evangelicals in America. With such a tenuous infrastructure, it would have shattered Kilari's ministry if any one of these Christian men had publicly criticized him.

Fortunately for Kilari, none ever has, which is why the unairworthy Global Peace One is still in Kilari's possession, patiently awaiting the day when it can carry another group of orphans across the ocean.

Bush just using Christians, says former faith office leader

MSNBC has the story, about David Kuo's new book, Tempting Faith:
More than five years after President Bush created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, the former second-in-command of that office is going public with an insider’s tell-all account that portrays an office used almost exclusively to win political points with both evangelical Christians and traditionally Democratic minorities.

The office’s primary mission, providing financial support to charities that serve the poor, never got the presidential support it needed to succeed, according to the book.


He says some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as “the nuts.”

“National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy,’” Kuo writes.

More seriously, Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly “nonpartisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.

Hat tip to stranger fruit.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

McCain wrong about North Korea

Sen. John McCain has attempted to blame President Clinton for North Korea's development of nuclear weapons:

"I would remind Senator [Hillary] Clinton and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration's policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure," McCain said at a news conference after a campaign appearance for Republican Senate candidate Mike Bouchard.

"The Koreans received millions and millions in energy assistance. They've diverted millions of dollars of food assistance to their military," he said.

But McCain is wrong. In 1994, the North Koreans were producing weapons-grade plutonium. The Clinton Administration negotiated the Agreed Framework, under which they halted their program and allowed inspections of the plutonium they had produced. The North Korean plutonium program remained halted until 2002. In 2000, George W. Bush came into office wanting to terminate the agreement over plutonium, and in 2002 he did so on the basis of evidence that the North Koreans were trying to enrich uranium. As a result of U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, the North Koreans again began producing weapons-grade plutonium, which was used in their bomb test.

The evidence is that the Clinton Administration agreement kept North Korea from developing plutonium-based nuclear weapons from 1994 to 2002, and that the Bush Administration's withdrawal from that agreement and failure to replace it led to North Korea detonating a plutonium-based nuclear weapon on October 9, 2006.

Now, of course I place the blame for developing a nuclear weapon on North Korea rather than the United States--but if we're looking for who in the United States is most responsible for allowing them to do so, I don't see anyone with greater responsibility than President George W. Bush. McCain's attempt to divert blame to Clinton is ridiculous.

If Clinton's posture is criticized as all carrots but no sticks (which is itself in error, since war was threatened to get North Korea to the bargaining table in 1994), the accurate criticism of Bush's posture is no carrots and no sticks.

UPDATE: Condi Rice has made the same criticism as McCain.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Rep. Russell Pearce sends out email article from white separatist website

State Rep. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), one of the most vocal opponents of illegal immigration in the Arizona legislature, sent an email out to supporters that contained an article from the National Alliance's website. The article, titled "Who Rules America? The Alien Grip on Our News and Entertainment Media Must Be Broken," criticized the media for promotion multiculturalism and racial equality, for depicting "any racially conscious White Person" as a bigot, and for presenting the Holocaust as fact.

Pearce says he does not agree with the article, but forwarded it after reading the first few paragraphs, which he agreed with. Once he realized the nature of the article, he sent out an apology to supporters and asked them to delete the original email and not forward it further.

The Arizona Republic quotes a Pearce apology, beginning with a quote that sounds like he's been taking grammar lessons from Yoda:
"Ugly the words contained in it really are. ... They are not mine and I disavow them completely. Worse still, the website links to a group whose politics are the ugliest imaginable. I am saddened and embarrassed that this went out with my name on it and I am also saddened at the loss of the friend who sent this to me. His heart is dark and I am unable to get him to see that what drives him is ugly and evil at its core."
This comes after Pearce has been under fire for his comments in support of a 1954 federal deportation program called "Operation Wetback." Pearce has defended himself by observing that this was, in fact, what the program was called. I don't know if he prefaced his references to it by pointing out that he recognizes that the name is offensive, but if he did so he shouldn't have been criticized for the use of the name. His support of the program, however, is certainly subject to criticism.

I wonder if Pearce also thinks the Jerome Deportation or Bisbee Deportation (both of 1917) were good ideas--both involved numerous Mexican workers (as well as European immigrants), though they were deported by train to New Mexico at the behest of vigilantes working for the mining companies, with the assistance of the local authorities.

Another new Richard Cheese album: Silent Nightclub

Hot on the heels of his "best of" album, "The Sunny Side of the Moon," which came out at the beginning of this year, is a new holiday album from Richard Cheese, "Silent Nightclub." The festive tracks:

1. Holiday in Cambodia (originally by The Dead Kennedys)
2. Like a Virgin (originally by Madonna)
3. Christmas in Las Vegas (an original song by Richard Cheese)
4. Jingle Bells (originally by The Barking Dogs)
5. Ice Ice Baby (originally by Vanilla Ice)
6. Do They Know It's Christmas (originally by Band-Aid)
7. Personal Jesus (originally by Depeche Mode)
8. Imagine (originally by John Lennon)
9. Last Xmas (bonus track)
10. Naughty Girl (originally by Beyonce)
11. Christmastime is Here (originally from A Charlie Brown Christmas)
12. The Trees (originally by Rush)
13. I Melt With You (originally by Modern English)
14. Silent Night

Phoenix home prices fall for first time in ten years

For the first time in the last decade, year-over-year median home prices in the metropolitan Phoenix area have dropped, from $263,000 to $256,900, down from the peak of $267,000 in June 2006.

Former housing bull Jay Q. Butler of the Arizona Real Estate Center at ASU says:
Even though mortgage interest rates have been declining for the last few months, limited home appreciation and household income continues to raise concern about the ability of some homeowners to maintain their homes. ... This may be especially evident for those that have used some of the more creative financing instruments, such as option payment plans and initially low interest rate adjustable mortgages.
Florida is seeing growing foreclosures, especially among those with Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) with negative amortization options. There are $200 billion in ARMs resetting their rates in 2006 and another $1 trillion plus will be resetting in 2007, expected to lead to more foreclosures. This will apply further downward pressure on prices, and we should expect to see some of the same here (an increase has already been seen in Maricopa County notices of trustee sales), though I think Arizona has had a lower percentage of ARMs, interest-only, and negative amortization option loans than other parts of the country.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Kolbe knew of inappropriate Foley emails in 2000

It just keeps getting pushed back farther and farther.

Arizona Representative Jim Kolbe (R-District 8) has informed the Washington Post that he knew of inappropriate Foley emails back in 2000, which he confronted Foley about and brought to the attention of clerk of the House Karen Haas. Another source claims those emails were sexually explicit, but Kolbe press secretary Korenna Cline disagreed with that description, saying that the emails had only made the former page who received them uncomfortable.

Kolbe, one of three openly gay Congressmen (the other two are Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)), was identified by multiple pages interviewed by the Post as one of the only members of Congress to take interest in them.

UPDATE (October 10, 2006): Kolbe now disagrees with his press secretary about some details--he says he didn't see the emails, didn't directly confront Foley, and didn't personally pass on the complaint to the clerk of the House, but simply recommended to the page with the complaint that it be done.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Housing bubble, U.S. and Arizona

Here's a nice chart from Yale economist Robert Shiller showing U.S. housing prices back to 1890. What will the regression to the mean look like over the next few years?

On Wednesday Moody's issued a widely-covered report on housing prices with predicted price declines by region. Here are their predictions for Arizona cities:
                            Peak-to-Trough              Peak            Trough
% House Price Decline Year/Quarter Year/Quarter

Tucson, AZ -13.4 06:1 08:2
Phoenix, AZ -9.3 06:1 08:2
Prescott, AZ -2.0 06:1 08:2
I think that their predicted 9.3% decline between first quarter of 2006 and second quarter of 2008 for Phoenix is wildly optimistic--it wouldn't surprise me if we saw that level of decline by the end of this year or first quarter of next year. It depends on whether Phoenix continues to have rapid population growth, which in turn depends on job growth (especially outside of real estate-related jobs, which will be declining).

Foley scandal a Cliff's Notes version of how Bush administration operates

Glenn Greenwald:
But for so many reasons -- its relative simplicity, its crystal clarity, the involvement of emotionally-charged issues, the salacious sex aspects -- this Foley scandal circumvents that whole dynamic. People are paying attention on their own. They don't need pundits or journalists to tell them what to think about it because they are able to form deeply held opinions on their own. None of the standard obfuscation tactics used for so long by Bush followers are working here. To the contrary, their attempted use of those tactics is making things much worse for them, because people can see that Bush followers are attempting -- through the use of patently dishonest and corrupt tactics -- to excuse the inexcusable. And seeing that, it gives great credence to all of the accusations voiced over the last five years that this is how the Bush movement operates in every area, because people can now see it for themselves.

In that regard, this scandal is like the Cliffs' Notes version of a more complicated treatise on how the Bush movement operates. Every one of their corrupt attributes is vividly on display here:

The absolute refusal ever to admit error. The desperate clinging to power above all else. The efforts to cloud what are clear matters of wrongdoing with irrelevant sideshows. And the parade of dishonest and just plainly inane demonization efforts to hide and distract from their wrongdoing: hence, the pages are manipulative sex vixens; a shadowy gay cabal is to blame; the real criminals are those who exposed the conduct, not those who engaged in it; liberals created the whole scandal; George Soros funded the whole thing; a Democratic Congressman did something wrong 23 years ago; one of the pages IM'd with Foley as a "hoax", and on and on. There has been a virtual carousel -- as there always is -- of one pathetic, desperate attempt after the next to deflect blame and demonize those who are pointing out the wrongdoing. This is what they always do, on every issue. The difference here is that everyone can see it, and so nothing is working.
Read the rest. Greenwald suggests that this scandal almost appears to have been divinely inspired.

Robert Anton Wilson nears the end of his life

Robert Anton Wilson, co-author of the Illuminatus! trilogy (which was the inspiration for my domain name and computer naming scheme on my home network), is now bedridden and under 24-hour care. Some fans on the Internet have helped him raise funds for his continuing care, and you can buy a Robert Anton Wilson T-shirt to help out.

UPDATE (January 11, 2007): Robert Anton Wilson died this morning at 4:50 a.m., PST.

Jesse Walker reports on his final blog post, and Brian Doherty offers some interesting reflections.

Though my only published writing about Robert Anton Wilson was rather critical, I greatly enjoyed and own most of his published work.

UPDATE (January 12, 2007): And there's more from Nick Gillespie here.

Nietzsche Family Circus

What happens when you randomly pair a Family Circus cartoon with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche?

Turning Muslim in Texas

A very interesting documentary about white Southern Baptists in Texas converting to Islam--apparently because they don't find Christianity conservative enough. The speculation from Mark Plus in the comments is also interesting--that perhaps the constant propagandizing against radical Islam has caused some to switch allegiances through something like Stockholm Syndrome--but the one subject, Eric, converted 14 years ago.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Keith Olbermann calls Bush on his lies

At Crooks and Liars, which has video. Here's the full transcript:

Yesterday at a fundraiser for an Arizona Congressman, Mr. Bush claimed, quote, "177 of the opposition party said 'You know, we don't think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists."

The hell they did.

177 Democrats opposed the President's seizure of another part of the Constitution*.

Not even the White House press office could actually name a single Democrat who had ever said the government shouldn't be listening to the conversations of terrorists.

President Bush hears… what he wants.

Tuesday, at another fundraiser in California, he had said "Democrats take a law enforcement approach to terrorism. That means America will wait until we're attacked again before we respond."

Mr. Bush fabricated that, too.

And evidently he has begun to fancy himself as a mind-reader.

"If you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party," the President said at another fundraiser Monday in Nevada, "it sounds like they think the best way to protect the American people is — wait until we're attacked again."

The President doesn't just hear what he wants. He hears things, that only he can hear.

It defies belief that this President and his administration could continue to find new unexplored political gutters into which they could wallow.

Yet they do.

It is startling enough that such things could be said out loud by any President of this nation.

Rhetorically, it is about an inch short of Mr. Bush accusing Democratic leaders; Democrats; the majority of Americans who disagree with his policies — of treason.

But it is the context that truly makes the head spin.

Just 25 days ago, on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, this same man spoke to this nation and insisted, quote, "we must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us."

Mr. Bush, this is a test you have already failed.

If your commitment to "put aside differences and work together" is replaced in the span of just three weeks by claiming your political opponents prefer to wait to see this country attacked again, and by spewing fabrications about what they've said, then the questions your critics need to be asking, are no longer about your policies.

They are, instead — solemn and even terrible questions, about your fitness to fulfill the responsibilities of your office.

No Democrat, sir, has ever said anything approaching the suggestion that the best means of self-defense is to "wait until we're attacked again."

No critic, no commentator, no reluctant Republican in the Senate, has ever said anything that any responsible person could even have exaggerated into the slander you spoke in Nevada on Monday night, nor the slander you spoke in California on Tuesday, nor the slander you spoke in Arizona on Wednesday… nor whatever is next.

You have dishonored your party, sir — you have dishonored your supporters — you have dishonored yourself.

But tonight the stark question we must face is - why?

Why has the ferocity of your venom against the Democrats, now exceeded the ferocity of your venom against the terrorists?

Why have you chosen to go down in history as the President who made things up?

In less than one month you have gone from a flawed call to unity, to this clarion call to hatred of Americans, by Americans.

If this is not simply the most shameless example of the rhetoric of political hackery, then it would have to be the cry of a leader crumbling under the weight of his own lies.

We have, of course, survived all manner of political hackery, of every shape, size, and party.

We will have to suffer it, for as long as the Republic stands.

But the premise of a President who comes across as a compulsive liar — is nothing less than terrifying.

A President who since 9/11 will not listen, is not listening — and thanks to Bob Woodward's most recent account — evidently has never listened.

A President who since 9/11 so hates or fears other Americans, that he accuses them of advocating deliberate inaction in the face of the enemy.

A President who since 9/11 has savaged the very freedoms he claims to be protecting from attack. Attack by terrorists, or by Democrats, or by both — it is now impossible to find a consistent thread of logic as to who Mr. Bush believes the enemy is.

But if we know one thing for certain about Mr. Bush, it is this:

This President — in his bullying of the Senate last month and in his slandering of the Democrats this month — has shown us that he believes whoever the enemies are — they are hiding themselves inside a dangerous cloak, called the Constitution of the United States of America.

How often do we find priceless truth in the unlikeliest of places?

I tonight quote, not Jefferson nor Voltaire — but "Cigar Aficionado Magazine."

On September 11th, 2003, the editor of that publication interviewed General Tommy Franks — at that point, just retired from his post as Commander-In-Chief of U.S. Central Command — of Cent-Com.

And amid his quaint defenses of the-then nagging absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, or the continuing freedom of Osama Bin Laden, General Franks said some of the most profound words of this generation.

He spoke of "the worst thing that can happen" to this country:

First, quoting, a "massive casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western World — it may be in the United States of America."

Then, the general continued, "the western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years, in this grand experiment that we call democracy."

It was this super-patriotic warrior's fear that we would lose that most cherished liberty, because of another attack, one — again quoting General Franks — "that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass-casualty-producing event. Which, in fact, then begins to potentially unravel the fabric of our Constitution."

And here we are, the fabric of our Constitution being unraveled anyway.

Habeus Corpus neutered; the rights of self-defense now as malleable and impermanent as clay; a President stifling all critics by every means available and when he runs out of those, by simply lying about what they said or felt.

And all this, even without the dreaded attack.

General Franks, like all of us, loves this country, and believes not just in its values, but in its continuity. He has been trained to look for threats to that continuity from without.

He has, perhaps been as naive as the rest of us, in failing to keep close enough vigil on the threats to that continuity, from within:

Secretary of State Rice first cannot remember urgent cautionary meetings with counter-terrorism officials before 9/11.

Then within hours of this lie, her spokesman confirms the meetings in question.

Then she dismisses those meetings as nothing new — yet insists she wanted the same cautions expressed to Secretaries Ashcroft and Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld, meantime, has been unable to accept the most logical and simple influence, of the most noble and neutral of advisers. He and his employer insist they rely on the 'generals in the field.'

But dozens of those generals have now come forward to say how their words, their experiences, have been ignored.

And, of course, inherent in the Pentagon's war-making functions, is the regulation of Presidential war-lust. Enacting that regulation should include everything up to, symbolically wrestling the Chief Executive to the floor.

Yet — and it is Pentagon transcripts that now tell us this — evidently Mr. Rumsfeld's strongest check on Mr. Bush's ambitions, was to get somebody to excise the phrase "Mission Accomplished" out of the infamous Air Force Carrier speech of May 1st, 2003 - even while the same empty words hung on a banner over the President's shoulder.

And the Vice President is a chilling figure, still unable, it seems, to accept the conclusions of his own party's leaders in the Senate, that the foundations of his public position, are made out of sand.

There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

But he still says so.

There was no link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.

But he still says so.

And thus, gripping firmly these figments of his own imagination, Mr. Cheney lives on, in defiance and spreads — around him and before him — darkness… like some contagion of fear.

They are never wrong, and they never regret. Admirable in a French torch singer. Cataclysmic in an American leader.

Thus the sickening attempt to blame the Foley Scandal on the negligence of others or "The Clinton Era" — even though the Foley Scandal began before the Lewinsky Scandal.

Thus last month's enraged attacks on this Administration's predecessors, about Osama Bin Laden — a projection of their own negligence in the immediate months before 9/11.

Thus the terrifying attempt to hamstring the fundament of our freedom — the Constitution — a triumph for Al-Qaeda, for which the terrorists could not hope to achieve with a hundred 9/11's.

And thus, worst of all perhaps, these newest lies by President Bush about Democrats choosing to await another attack and not listen to the conversations of terrorists.

It is the terror and the guilt within your own heart, Mr. Bush, that you re-direct at others who simply wish for you to temper your certainty with counsel.

It is the failure and the incompetence within your own memory, Mr. Bush, that leads you to demonize those who might merely quote to you the pleadings of Oliver Cromwell: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."

It is not the Democrats whose inaction in the face of the enemy you fear, sir.

It is your own — before 9/11 - (and you alone know this), perhaps afterwards.

Mr. President, these new lies go to the heart of what it is that you truly wish to preserve.

It is not our freedom, nor our country — your actions against the Constitution give irrefutable proof of that.

You want to preserve a political party's power. And obviously you'll sell this country out, to do it.

These are lies about the Democrats piled atop lies about Iraq which were piled atop lies about your preparations for Al-Qaeda.

To you, perhaps, they feel like the weight of a million centuries.

As crushing. As immovable.

They are not.

If you add more lies to them, you cannot free yourself, and us, from them.

But if you stop — if you stop fabricating quotes, and building straw-men, and inspiring those around you to do the same — you may yet liberate yourself and this nation.

Please, sir, do not throw this country's principles away because your lies have made it such that you can no longer differentiate between the terrorists and the critics.

Good night, and good luck.

Former Abramoff assistant resigns as Karl Rove's aide

Susan Ralston has resigned as Karl Rove's personal aide due to an ethics investigation which showed that she accepted thousands of dollars worth of gifts from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in violation of White House policy. Ralston has worked for Rove since 2001, and "Abramoff reportedly bragged to others that [she] was his 'implant' at the White House."

How can anyone avoid coming to the conclusion that the George W. Bush administration and the Republican leadership is riddled with corruption?

Guards at Guantanamo Bay brag of inflicting beatings on detainees

From the Associated Press:
Guards at Guantanamo Bay bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice, a Marine sergeant said in a sworn statement obtained by The Associated Press.

The two-page statement was sent Wednesday to the Inspector General at the Department of Defense by a high-ranking Marine Corps defense lawyer.

(Via stranger fruit.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The U.S. no-fly list is a joke

Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes has obtained a copy of the no-fly list being used for airline passenger screening.

The list includes people who are not a threat (like Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, Saddam Hussein, and 14 of the 19 dead 9/11 hijackers). It includes numerous common names that are useless for screening purposes--Gary Smith, John Williams, and Robert Johnson are on the list. Kroft spoke with 12 Robert Johnsons, and all of them said they are detained almost every time they try to fly.

Worse yet, it doesn't include the names of some of the most dangerous living terrorists:
The 11 British suspects recently charged with plotting to blow up airliners with liquid explosives were not on it, despite the fact they were under surveillance for more than a year.

The name of David Belfor who now goes by Dahud Sala Hudine, is not on the list, even though he assassinated someone in Washington, D.C., for former Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini. This is because the accuracy of the list meant to uphold security takes a back seat to overarching security needs: it could get into the wrong hands. "The government doesn't want that information outside the government," says Cathy Berrick, director of Homeland Security investigations for the General Accounting Office.
I'd say that particular name is well known outside of the government now, Ms. Berrick.

The TSA has allegedly been trying to fix the list for three years, spending $144 million to do so, but there is "nothing tangible yet."

This is staggering incompetence. Kip Hawley is still an idiot.

UPDATE (October 5, 2006): I second Tim Lee's recommendation of Jim Harper's commentary on what's wrong with watch lists.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

CIA warned Rice, Ashcroft, and Rumsfeld of probable al-Qaeda attacks on U.S. before 9/11

On July 10, 2001, CIA Director George Tenet and CIA counterterrorism chief J. Cofer Black gave a briefing to Condoleezza Rice warning that al Qaeda was preparing for an imminent attack on the U.S. In Bob Woodward's new book, State of Fear, he writes that they felt like they got "the brush-off" from Rice.

But she asked that the same briefing be given to John Ashcroft and Donald Rumsfeld, and they received it on July 17, 2001, as confirmed by Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack.

These briefings were not reported in the 9/11 Commission Report, and 9/11 Commission counsel Peter Rundlet has accused the White House of hiding the July 10th briefing from the Commission. But George Tenet specifically told the 9/11 Commission about these briefings, yet they didn't include it in the Report:
Former CIA Director George Tenet gave the independent Sept. 11, 2001, commission the same briefing on Jan. 28, 2004, but the commission made no mention of the warning in its 428-page final report. According to three former senior intelligence officials, Tenet testified to commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste and to Philip Zelikow, the panel's executive director and the principal author of its report, who's now Rice's top adviser.
Ashcroft has claimed that he didn't receive a briefing from Tenet, saying through a spokesman that he does not recall a July 17, 2001 briefing. A Pentagon spokesman had "no information" about whether Rumsfeld received such a briefing.

On August 6, 2001, the CIA's Presidential Daily Briefing was titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US."

Rice said this to the 9/11 Commission:
"Well, Mr. Chairman, I took an oath of office on the day that I took this job to protect and defend. And like most government officials, I take it very seriously. And so, as you might imagine, I've asked myself a thousand times what more we could have done. I know that, had we thought that there was an attack coming in Washington or New York, we would have moved heaven and earth to try and stop it. And I know that there was no single thing that might have prevented that attack."
Some of the above is covered in this truthout.org piece by William Rivers Pitt, but it mistakenly says that the 9/11 Commission was not informed of the Tenet/Rice briefing. The question is not only why Rice, Ashcroft, and Rumsfeld didn't take action in response to these briefings from the CIA, and not only why Rice didn't report it to the 9/11 Commission, but why the 9/11 Commission didn't put it in their report.

UPDATE (October 7, 2006): Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial airlines and started flying only on private planes shortly after July 17, 2001, as reported by CBS News on July 26, 2001. This was allegedly due to an FBI "threat assessment" which had advised him to only fly by private plane for the rest of his term of office.

Foley, Fordham, and Franks (and Hastert)

Rep. Tom Reynolds' chief of staff (and Mark Foley's former chief of staff) Kirk Fordham has resigned (or been fired). There are at least two stories--one says Fordham successfully kept the information about Foley from being provided to the full House Page Board (which has a Democratic Party member on it and has now resigned; another says that Fordham raised the issue repeatedly with Dennis Hastert to no avail and has now been fired and made into a scapegoat to protect Hastert. TPM Muckraker has more.

Arizona Representative Trent Franks says he thinks it was the Democratic leadership that knew about the issue but has kept it quiet, and he supports Hastert.

UPDATE: Fordham now says he told Hastert's office about Foley's problem in 2004, and is now ready to tell the FBI all about it.

UPDATE: Make that 2003. Hastert chief of staff Scott Palmer denies Fordham's statement.

David Corn suggests that the Republicans will now place the blame for concealment of Foley's issues on a conspiracy of gay Republican staff, including Fordham (who is openly gay).

UPDATE (October 7, 2006): The Washington Post reports that another staffer has come forward to support Fordham's account over Palmer's--that Hastert's office was informed of the Foley issue in 2003.

UPDATE (October 8, 2006): In 2002 or 2003, House clerk Jeff Trandahl informed then-Foley chief of staff Fordham that Foley had showed up drunk at the page's dorm and was refused admittance. This prompted Fordham to meet with Scott Palmer to discuss Foley's issues, though Fordham did not mention that particular event.

Man arrested for criticizing Cheney sues Secret Service

Steven Howards of Golden, CO was taking his 8-year-old son to a piano lesson at Beaver Creek Resort when he saw Vice President Dick Cheney. He walked up to him and said "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible" (or "words to that effect") and walked off to drop off his son. When he returned through the area about ten minutes later, he was arrested by U.S. Secret Service Agent Virgil D. Reichle, Jr. He was told that he would be charged with assault on the vice president, and held in jail for about three hours before being released on $500 bond. He was, instead, charged with misdemeanor harassment, but the charges were dropped at the request of the District Attorney about three weeks later.

Howards is now suing the U.S. Secret Service, making this the third lawsuit accusing the Secret Service or White House staff of breaking the law to keep people with opposing political views away from the President and Vice President.

Fox labels Foley a Democrat on O'Reilly Factor

Fox labeled former Rep. Mark Foley as a Democrat three times during the O'Reilly Factor last night. When they re-ran the clips later last night, they removed the incorrect party affiliation, but didn't mention that he was a Republican.

Fair and balanced.

UPDATE: Associated Press has done the same thing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Meet Ollie

Ollie is our foster dog. Check him out on the RESCUE site. He's great fun and very loving. And available for adoption in the Phoenix area.

UPDATE (December 10, 2006): Ollie was adopted last night by a family with another bassett hound and a shar pei.

Foley's attraction to young males was well known on Capitol Hill

Foley's attraction to young male pages was well known, with at least one page being warned over a decade ago.

TPM Muckraker:
"Almost the first day I got there I was warned," said Mark Beck-Heyman, a San Diego native who served as a page in the House of Representatives in the summer of 1995. "It was no secret that Foley had a special interest in male pages," said Beck-Heyman, adding that Foley, who is now 52, on several occasions asked him out for ice cream.
Halfway There:
“My daughter was in the capital page program.”

I had forgotten. JM went on.

“She had dinner with the congressman.”

This did not compute.

“With Foley? Really?”

“Yeah. He invited two pages to have dinner with him and they invited my daughter and another girl to go with them.”

“These pages were boys?”

“Yeah, but they were too smart to go by themselves, so they took the girls to their dinner with Foley.”
It's not plausible that the Republican Leadership was unaware.

Cato Institute provides forum to ID crackpot cult member Jonathan Wells

Skeptic Michael Shermer is speaking about his new book, Why Darwin Matters, at noon on October 12 at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C. The Cato Institute is then showcasing a commentary on Shermer by "Intelligent Design proponent Jonathan Wells," whose dishonest books Icons of Evolution and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism, have been shredded at The Panda's Thumb.

Wells, a follower of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, entered a Ph.D. program at the behest of Moon. Wells wrote: "Father's [Moon's] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me to enter a PhD program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle."

Rev. Moon, who was crowned in a bizarre ceremony on Capitol Hill thanks to the support of a number of Congressmen, has also been supported by a variety of evangelical Christians who would ordinarily oppose cult groups whose leaders claim to be the second coming of Christ, such as Left Behind co-author Timothy LaHaye, his wife and head of Concerned Women for America Beverly LaHaye, Jerry Falwell, Family Research Council head Gary Bauer, Pat Boone, and Christian Coalition leader and Jack Abramoff pal Ralph Reed. Also involved with Moon have been former president George H.W. Bush and his son and President George W. Bush. (More on Moon and his connections to Christian and Republican leaders here and here.)

Why is the Cato Institute giving a forum to a purveyor of pseudoscience and an advocate of Moon's cult?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Richard W. Rahn, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, is also a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and writes for Moon's Washington Times?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Some nice t-shirts

A shirt with a picture of Thomas Jefferson and the words "enemy combatant," a shirt that says "I am not a terrorist" in Arabic, and a shirt that just says "enemy combatant" (same link as the Arabic shirt). I like the first two better than the third.

James Dobson's hypocrisy on Foley

Focus on the Family's James Dobson blames society and the Internet for Foley's problems. Bill Clinton, by contrast, was personally responsible for his failings.

Why isn't Mark Foley personally responsible for his own failings?

(BTW, I recommend reading the book James Dobson's War on America.)

Scientology-friendly Foley in rehab in Clearwater, Florida

It looks like ex-Congressman Foley has been a Scientology-friendly U.S. Representative, attending Scientology events at Scientology's Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater and having Clearwater Scientologists raise funds for him. Wonkette asks whether there are any non-Scientology-run rehabilitation centers in Clearwater, Florida, which appears to be where Foley is getting treatment.

Clearwater is the home of Narconon, Scientology's pseudo-scientific drug treatment program.

This doesn't necessarily mean that Foley is a Scientologist or has taken any Scientology courses, but it does demonstrate that he's shown poor judgment in multiple areas of his life. I've previously reported on a number of Arizona state legislators who have likewise shown poor judgment in accepting gifts from and sponsoring legislation from Scientology's Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

Trading lists of corrupt Congressmen

Cliff Schecter of AMERICAblog clearly has the better of the argument here with Cleta Mitchell of Foley & Lardner, but he's gotta admit William Jefferson's corrupt. Cleta Mitchell's comments are completely out of touch with reality, though--doesn't she remember how Clinton got bashed?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Foley scandal and legal inconsistency

The pages involved were all 16 years of age or older, and thus above the age of consent in Washington, D.C. and most states. If Foley had actually had sex with them, it would not have been a crime.

But under the "Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006" which Foley helped write, discussing sexual acts or soliciting sex from anyone under the age of 18 is a criminal offense.

These laws should be made consistent one way or the other. It doesn't make Foley's actions any more appropriate given his position of trust and power in the House (or provide any excuse for the House leadership's lack of response), but if 16 is a sensible age of consent, then the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 should use the same age as its limit.

Imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for three years for telling a joke

Via Patri Friedman at Catallarchy:
“As best as they can tell Badr Zamen Badr and his brother were imprisoned in Guantanamo for three years for telling a joke. Actually, for telling two jokes. They ran a satire magazine in Pakistan that poked fun at corrupt clerics, sort of the Pashtu edition of the Onion. The first joke that got them in trouble was when they published a poem about a politician…He called them up, he threatened them, and as best as they can tell, he told authorities they were involved with al-Quaeda.”
In other words, political leaders in other countries have used the United States to get rid of their critics, by using false claims of involvement with terrorism. When you accept hearsay evidence, don't conduct an investigation, and don't allow a trial, the process unsurprisingly gets abused, and people get imprisoned for years not because they've done anything wrong, but because they've criticized the people in power.

And now, with the Military Commissions Act, we've set ourselves up for similar abuses inside the United States by removing protections that have existed since Magna Carta.

Foley scandal and the Republican leadership

As the Republican leadership is scrambling to look responsible about this issue that they have ignored since last August or September, they keep contradicting each other and the evidence about what they knew and did. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert in particular looks like he has serious trouble with the truth, according to Talking Points Memo:

Just consider, Denny Hastert has repeatedly said he didn't know anything about the Foley problem until Thursday. But two members of the leadership -- Boehner and Reynolds -- say no, they warned him about it months ago. Hastert got Boehner to recant; Reynolds is sticking to his guns.

Rodney Alexander brought the matter to the Speaker's office. And Hastert's office tonight put out the results of a detailed internal review of what happened in which they revealed that no member of the House leadership -- not Hastert or Shimkus or the House Clerk -- had actually laid eyes on the emails in question.

Only Hastert's office apparently didn't touch base with Rep. Shimkus, since as Hastert's crew was writing out their statement, Shimkus was offer giving an interview to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in which he described how he and the Clerk had read the emails.

(ed.note: 2:19 AM, 10/1/06 ... What makes this even more comical is that, according to the AP "Shimkus, who avoided reporters for hours, worked out his statement with Speaker Dennis Hastert's office." Didn't seem to help.)

So the centerpiece point of the Hastert statement this evening appears to have been a fabrication.

It stood up for maybe three or four hours.

At present, the Speaker is committed to portraying himself as a sort of Speaker Magoo. We're supposed to believe that pretty much everyone in the House GOP leadership knew about this but him.

While Shimkus is saying he saw the emails, his spokesman is denying it.

Note that there seems to be agreement that the relatively more innocuous emails were known to some people in 2005, the far more incriminating instant messages apparently weren't seen until recently. But there seems to be evidence that many people were aware that Rep. Foley's behavior was, at the very least, "gregarious and 'flaky'", with quite an interest in the House pages, for quite some time.

UPDATE (October 7, 2006): It's now long since come out that not only did Shimkus see the emails, but Foley's former chief of staff (and until a few days ago Rep. Reynolds' chief of staff), Kirk Fordham, brought this to the attention of Hastert's office years ago. See the more recent posts on my blog, including this one.