He Said 'A'
spoke the 'A'.
A recent hi-tech analysis proves it. I wasn't imagining it after all: I really did hear him speak it,
however quickly, as I've thought for years. So there!
We'll be at the Kemah Jazz Festival much of the day. The weather looks great; it's almost time to hop
in the car, put the top down... um, it's not a convertible; maybe we can forget the top-down
experience... and head for the coast. I need this break from work so badly I am almost aching for it.
See you this evening or tomorrow morning.
The Prez Can Do Anything
There's no other way to describe it: this is nuts. Here's Yale law professor
BURIED IN THE complex Senate compromise on detainee treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond
the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise
legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American
citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into
military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections
of the Bill of Rights.
This dangerous compromise not only authorizes the president to seize and hold terrorists who have
fought against our troops "during an armed conflict," it also allows him to seize anybody who has
"purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." This grants the
president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants
if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a
Not to worry, say the bill's defenders. The president can't detain somebody who has given money
innocently, just those who contributed to terrorists on purpose.
But other provisions of the bill call even this limitation into question. What is worse, if the
federal courts support the president's initial detention decision, ordinary Americans would be
required to defend themselves before a military tribunal without the constitutional guarantees
provided in criminal trials.
Legal residents who aren't citizens are treated even more harshly. The bill entirely cuts off their
access to federal habeas corpus, leaving them at the mercy of the president's suspicions.
(All emphasis mine.)
I am beside myself. If this bill passes, Bush and Congress will have perpetrated the greatest outrage
against America since... well, since Bush stole the election in 2000. If this bill passes, our
founders will turn in their graves. If this bill passes... let's just say that I look terrible in
orange. If this bill passes, George W. Bush will have powers greater than the infamous George III
against whom we rebelled over two centuries ago: Bush will effectively become a monarch, a despotic
monarch, not a figurehead. If this bill passes, America will not be America any more.
What will it take to wake everybody up to what is going on?
Friday Lost And Found Blogging
This picture of Tigger returns...
... because Tigger himself returned. He's an indoor cat who gets let out to do his business; a few
days ago, he took the opportunity to wander away. The couple Tigger lives with were really concerned,
because he had never done that before. All of the neighbors, including of course Stella and me, were
wandering the apartments looking for Tigger. We didn't find him. A few hours later, Tigger did what
cats accustomed to a steady free feed do: he wandered home again and demanded dinner. I wish I had a
picture of the grand reunion, but the least I can do is post this one in celebration.
I have a lot of work to do today, and tomorrow we're in Kemah for the annual jazz festival. Blogging
will probably be sparse.
Halfway To Hell -- UPDATED
UPDATE: the Senate has
a very similar version of the bill. Democrats offered amendments, all of which were defeated, but
12 Democratic senators
went along, voting for the bill. We're 95 percent of the way to Hell now.
Original post follows...
The House has
the "compromise" legislation effectively allowing the president to interpret the Geneva Conventions
regarding treatment of prisoners (hey, wasn't that a function of the courts just a short time ago?
then again, not too many decades ago, declaring war was the prerogative of Congress) and contriving
trials for terrorism suspects in which, along with admitting coerced testimony and allowing secret
evidence, would deny the prisoners habeas corpus. Here's the most chilling statement in the
debate, though there were other contenders for that dishonor:
House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said terrorism suspects have
enough rights without habeas corpus, including the right to a lawyer, to be presumed innocent, to
cross-examine witnesses and to collect evidence. "Let's bring justice before the eyes of the children
and widows of Sept. 11," he implored on the House floor.
So... someone accused of terrorism has almost every right except the most central right in all Western
law, namely, the right to challenge the grounds for one's detention. Yeah, that's the American way,
Oh, by the way, Rep. Sensenbrenner... good job of not politicizing 9/11, as Republicans have so
frequently accused Democrats of doing. Do absolutely nothing for those widows and children; lose the
war connected to the event as well as the war not connected to the event, allow Osama bin Laden to
remain not merely alive but free... but trot out those widows and children whenever it is politically
convenient. I guess IOKIYAR.
Still, Democrats and Republicans alike will eventually suffer the consequences of this bill: denial of
due process rights never stops where its perpetrators intend. This is less like taking a step onto a
slippery slope and more like opening the door to the airlock. Today, it's the accused terrorists,
apparently including American citizens; tomorrow... who knows!
By the time you read this, we may be a great deal more than halfway to Hell. Enjoy your trip. Enjoy
your stay. And thank you for flying American.
Republican Without A Clue
Rebel Without a Cause...
here's another Republican Without a Clue. And this tale doesn't even feature a star-studded
Yesterday I came home to find a political push card stuck in the apartment-number sign on my door. It
was one of many cards, stuck in many doors. The cards, obviously placed there by a volunteer for a
campaign that could not afford a mailing, read,
[Name Deleted Again]
[Scant Credentials Deleted]
It's Time For A Change
One can admire the energy and industry of Mr. Deleted's campaign... but not its brilliance. My
entire apartment complex is in District 25, not 18. Somehow, I think District 18's incumbent
Democratic candidate, the venerable
Sheila Jackson Lee,
she of the red dress and fiery tongue, is safe in her
Froomkin, Bush, Iraq And The NIE
takes on recent Bushspeak about the partially released National Intelligence Estimate and what it says
about Iraq and the much-ballyhooed "war on terror." Put aside Bush's distressingly frequent releases
of classified information for purely political purposes, and look at what the man said... compared
with the painful reality as revealed in the document and the daily news. Froomkin compiles an
extensive, sometimes tedious and always exasperating record of the preznit's conflation, dissembling
and of course outright lying about Iraq and the WOT. Bush tells us that the NYT misrepresented the
content of the portions of the NIE that Bush released, but the consensus among people who actually
have read both is that the NYT was correct in its assessment, and that Bush can be excused his
assertion only if one assumes he is functionally illiterate.
Froomkin's post is a difficult, frustrating read, and the embedded links to prove his points seem
endless... I certainly was not able to follow them all. But I hope you'll at least skim his post, if
for no other reason than to confirm that Bush will release any secret to save his political assets
and then say, like Humpty-Dumpty, that the words he releases mean what he says they do. But we all
know Humpty-Dumpty was a little cracked, maybe even fragmented...
I'm too busy to do any substantive blogging this morning, so I'll just list a few things from the
- Bar owners say smoking ban would hit hard -
Houston City Council and Mayor White are considering extending the restaurant smoking ban (which
exempts bars and standalone bar areas in restaurants) to all public eating and drinking
establishments. The positions are pretty well stated by two people. First, bar owner Phil Brinson:
And Councilmember Carol Alvarado:
"Draft an exception to allow bars to continue to operate and make the decision whether they want
to be smoke-free or not," Philip Brinson, who owns three bars in Houston, urged council members.
I'm a lifelong nonsmoker with a deep aversion to smoke in my vicinity, but I can see both sides.
Bar owners need to realize that people like me almost literally never enter a bar, entirely
because of the smoke. There are several excellent jazz clubs in Houston; you won't find me at any
of them because of the blue funk in the air. In other words, there's a whole new customer base
awaiting any bar owner who takes his or her establishment smoke-free. And the health issues of
secondhand smoke are quite beyond debate at this point; if this proposal becomes law, it should be
in pursuit of public health... and smoke-free jazz.
"Bar owners, they're just looking at the bottom line," Alvarado said. "We have to stay focused as
public officials as to why we're doing this: It's a health issue. It's the dangers of secondhand
- Interstate abortion bill passes again in House -
Nothing new under the sun:
Forgive me if the old joke with the punchline, "transporting gulls across staid lions for
immortal porpoises" crossed my mind; I know I am a bad person. In essence, this bill would forbid
a relative from taking a teen to another state to exercise an option that, since Roe, has
been a constitutionally protected right. But the bill will never pass; Congress adjourns in a
little over a week, and there is no time to reconcile it with a Senate bill. This is all politics
for show; go read the laundry list of other folly the House has passed lately.
WASHINGTON - Accompanying a minor across a state line to obtain an abortion and avoid parental
notification in the girl's home state would become a federal crime under a bill the House passed
Republican supporters said the 264-153 vote confirmed public sentiment that parental involvement
superseded a minor's right to have an abortion. Democratic opponents foresaw the arrests of
grandmothers and counselors trying to shield girls from abusive parents.
- Suicide rate linked to breast implants -
In a study in Canada:
No scientist is suggesting a causal connection, but of course that is the message many people will
take away from this result. With no actual evidence in the study to support it, they will believe
that suicide causes breast implants.
The findings came as the researchers were looking at the overall health effects of implants. The
researchers, from the Université Laval Faculty of Medicine and the Public Health Agency of Canada,
looked at what happened to almost 25,000 women who had implants from 1974 to 1989.
During that time, 480 of the women died. When the researchers looked into the causes of death,
they found that the women with implants had a suicide rate 73 percent higher than that of the
- Yes, they're still killing Kenny -
Speaking of boobs, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of the wildly popular South Park, are
heading into their tenth season of the show. The movie was funny, but I don't have cable, so most
of their opus has been unavailable to me. (For that, I blame Canada.) What's your take? How funny
is South Park?
Enough of this; I've got to get busy. Later...
Mad Kane has moved her political poetry blog
Mad Kane's Political Madness
Please adjust your blogrolls accordingly. (The
blog is still there, if you need to look at the archives or just want to view Mad's smiling face.) Mad
explains her reasons in a post today, then celebrates with a new "devilish" haiku and a rhyme about
Bush's housing bubble. Go pay her a visit now, have a few laughs, then return to read my post about
The Fence, below.
Giving A Fence, Taking A Fence
Republicans can't even manage consensus among themselves on illegal immigration. There's a lot of
over the cost of a fence along the southern border:
WASHINGTON — House Republicans have whipped through a series of bills to crack down on illegal
immigration with hopes they might provide an election boost in November.
But there's wide disagreement on what they would cost and little inclination among lawmakers to come
up with the money in any case.
The House has passed and the Senate is debating legislation to build 700 miles of fence on the U.S.-
Mexico border with no certain idea of how much it would cost.
Estimates range from $2 billion, cited by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., chairman of the appropriations
subcommittee for homeland security, to $7 billion, the figure used by Senate Minority Leader Harry
Homeland Security officials told congressional aides it would cost about $5 billion. The department
would not confirm that figure nor address the cost of the 107 miles of fencing already up along the
nearly 2,000-mile border. The cost can vary depending on whether the government or a private
contractor builds the fence.
If they decline to come up with the money, Congress can forget about shoving the cost off onto Texas;
I know Texans, and they'll friggin' secede before they'll pay for a fence Washington alone wants.
That aside, I'm here to tell you that whoever builds it, at whatever cost, it won't work. And if by
some miracle it works as advertised, Americans will not like the results and Mexicans will not like
the results. Bizarre arrangements allowing some Mexicans to live and work here without real
possibility of obtaining American citizenship are not the answer either. But a fence is most certainly
an exercise in both futility and, well, offense.
"Somebody's brother-in-law" (my father's phrase), surely a contributing Republican brother-in-law,
will benefit from the fence-building. Everyone else will lose. Our border will not be more secure, and the
fence will stand as a symbol to the world of how we view our neighbors. To that world, it will seem
especially no coincidence that the fence is built along the border with our southern neighbor, many of
whose citizens are people of color, not the northern neighbor, whose citizens are mostly white.
Recently I received a fortune cookie (what can I say; we eat a lot of Chinese food out) which read,
"To have a friend, one must be a friend." Mexico is a nation deserving of respect; at the moment,
whatever their other flaws, they are making representative democracy work rather better than we are.
And their people just as surely deserve respect. Friendship aside, if we want the continuing
cooperation of Mexicans in the provision of cheap food to America, on whatever basis workers are
admitted, we had better start being a friend, or at least a respectful neighbor. "Good fences make
The 2001 anthrax episode rears its head in the
today. Was the anthrax used of weapons grade? Um, not so much. Was the anthrax from a domestic source?
a military source? Um, they don't know, but they don't have evidence that it was either domestic or
military. Do they have new leads, new suspects? Um, not that they're telling us.
With all those questions "answered" ... and I use the word with reservations... I have one more
question about the Washington Post article. With apologies to
for the use of his blog name...
This article contains no new information, except about the grade of the anthrax used in the attack. So
its appearance now can only serve one purpose: to preempt any reminders by Democrats that this
Republican administration, five years later, still has not solved the mystery or brought the
perpetrators to justice. I think this WaPo article is a Rove plant.
Let me clarify one thing: I do not believe the Bush administration was complicit in the act itself.
But neither do I believe they were sorry about it: every famous person attacked was either a
journalist or a Democratic elected official. Bush's predisposition to personal vengeance (see the
previous post) may not have extended to hiring someone to commit this attack, but I wouldn't be the
least bit surprised if he smirked when he learned who was attacked.
Be that as it may, five years on, there are no new facts that we, the American public, have been
informed of, let alone a charge or a conviction. But they're workin' reeeeeal hard on it; that's the
subtext of this WaPo article. Do the authorities know who did it, but can't prove it? Do they know
who did it, but don't want to expose that person? We may literally never know, but Rove wants to do
his best to make sure Bush and other Republicans pay no political price for the apparent lack of
action in the case.
What's next? rumors floating in the press that it's all Bill Clinton's fault? Oh... silly me. I forgot.
Everything is Clinton's fault; just ask
But you'd better not ask him until he's finished licking his wounds.
(Blogging may be sparse for the next few days. Work is the curse of the blogging classes...)
You cannot persuade me that
was not intentionally set up by the Bush administration:
Venezuela has made a formal complaint to the US authorities and the United Nations after its foreign
minister was detained at a New York airport.
The US state department has apologised to Nicolas Maduro who was detained for 90 minutes at New York's
JFK airport as he travelled home.
He had been attending this week's UN General Assembly meeting.
He said he was verbally abused and strip-searched in what he said was a "flagrant breach of
Of course it was intentional... an act of atrocious diplomatic judgment, on the international stage
for all to see. If we needed any more evidence that Bush and his neocon handlers are incompetents
living in a fantasy world, we have it in this episode. Worse still, Bush probably has no clue of the
seriousness of the offense; he probably thinks it was like a fraternity prank. For him, everything,
from harassment of a foreign diplomat to torturing a suspect, is like a fraternity prank.
I am not young. I have seen presidents come and go, Democratic and Republican, great thinkers or not,
great statesmen or not, scholars or not, bellicose or peaceful by nature... but I have never seen
anyone occupy the Oval Office who was as inimical to the fundamental diplomatic interests of America
as the man who sits there today. Even if we succeed in hobbling him with a majority-Democratic
Congress, he will still be able... and willing... to pull this sort of stunt.
First question: How many Americans, in how many different circumstances, will pay the price for Bush's
little joke on Maduro?
Second question: when will the United Nations, that essential institution so much deplored by
neocon's (and not incidentally by tinpot dictators, terrorists and other hostile, clueless people
intent on wreaking havoc in the world) uproot itself and go elsewhere, rather than tolerate the
gratuitous, impudent harassment of its diplomats?
Parsing The Deal
Marty Lederman of Balkinization
offers a link to the NYT's
purportedly parsing what Bush's "compromise" legislation would and would not permit in the way of
abusive behavior against U.S. prisoners. Lederman compares this nightmare with the simplicity of the
in the Geneva Conventions. You simply must see the flowchart. As you view it, imagine an American
soldier or CIA agent scanning the flowchart, glancing occasionally at a prisoner nearby in a cell,
attempting to determine which interrogation techniques are legal and which are not. "Clarity"? Hardly.
Lederman discusses at length the other outrages in the bill:
And section 8 of the "compromise" legislation itself would specify many things that would be unlawful
war crimes. The problem is that it stops short of specifying the "alternative" CIA techniques.
But even if McCain and the legislative history do not provide any such contrary construction, and the
War Crimes Act definition in the draft could be construed not to cover the CIA techniques, that would
not make such techniques lawful, let alone "continue" to allow them to be used. They would, in fact,
remain "cruel treatment," prohibited by Article 3(1)(a) of the Geneva Conventions. The problem, of
course, is that the Administration will view -- and is viewing -- the bill as a green light to
misconstrue the Geneva Conventions not to prohibit such conduct.
And, worse yet, the bill would attempt to foreclose any judicial review of whether that implausible
interpretation is correct, not only by repealing the habeas rights of aliens detained overseas and at
GTMO, but also by purporting to prevent any litigants, in any court proceeding, and for any reason,
from invoking (and thus asking the courts to construe) any provision of the Geneva Conventions, even
when such provisions might determine the outcome of the judicial proceedings in question.
(Emphasis original with Lederman.)
This bill is far more than a strengthening of available tools to charge and prosecute terrorist
suspects. This is an attempt to rewrite a significant part of our legal system to deny the traditional
and constitutionally specified rights of the accused, awarding almost unlimited power to the Executive
in pursuit of virtually assured courtroom convictions. In other words, this bill is un-American, in
the deepest sense of the word. It's a "compromise," all right... it compromises our most fundamental
Let's Not Make A Deal
The White House has
made a deal
with Republican senators who had reservations about interrogation and prosecution of terrorism
suspects. Under the deal, a new kind of tribunal would be created with only partly draconian rules of
evidence, torture would be forbidden except that evidence gathered with rough techniques would be
admissible, "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions could be prosecuted in the U.S. as war crimes
(they've even made a list of what constitutes a "grave breach"), and tribunal prosecutors would be
allowed to keep evidence secret until or unless they actually use it at trial. (House Republicans
reputedly oppose this last provision, but in the wrong direction: they want secret evidence admissible
Are they all fucking nuts?
To me, this reads like business as usual. More Guantanamo-style prisons. More Abu Ghraibs. More secret
CIA prisons in other countries. More mock trials with assured outcomes. More torture. More
parsing of the law by parties holding prisoners on the ground to find morally repugnant things to do
to those prisoners that they can nonetheless get away with under the proposed law.
The "moderate" Sen. John McCain, a torture victim himself as a prisoner in the Vietnam war, reassured
everyone that this compromise was wonderful. How many more captured American soldiers will suffer
torture because of this proposed law? If America is perceived as abusing prisoners in interrogation,
and especially if America is seen as abandoning its commitment to a fair trial for everyone in its
custody, then there is no reason for other powers, whether nations or terrorist groups, to abide by
treaties in the treatment of American captives. If this proposal becomes law, the captured American
soldier can thank John McCain for the torture he or she experiences. John McCain is a hypocrite and is
anything but a moderate.
The ever helpful Sen. Cornyn weighed in:
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who did not participate in the negotiations but was invited to participate
in a press conference announcing the deal, urged Democrats to get onboard to pass the legislation now
that Republicans have united.
"This issue is much more important than the next election," he said. "This is about the safety and
security of the American people."
Cornyn is right about two things (now there's a rarity): this matter is, indeed, far more important
than just its impact on the next election, and Democrats should indeed unite... in opposition to
this immoral, wrongheaded proposal.
Those of you past a certain age: did you ever expect to live to see the day that a President and a
Congress would be actively discussing instituting de facto torture as U.S. policy? Neither did
I. I am ashamed of them and ashamed in their behalf.
What has America become? Are we torturers? Do we run mock trials under rules that always lead
to guilty verdicts? If we are, if we do... how can we argue for mercy for ourselves and our own when
they are in the interrogation chamber or the dock?
Oppose, oppose, oppose. Call your senators and give them an earful. Unless, of course, the senator in
question is John Cornyn; in that case, don't waste your cell phone minutes.
Asking The Cat...
... who gets the cream:
In case you ever doubted... Stella won. Tabitha did get a small lick of ice cream, though.
Upward Redistribution Of Wealth
isn't just due to inflation, you know:
Billionaires Only Occupy Forbes 400 List
By VINNEE TONG
The Associated Press
Thursday, September 21, 2006; 6:33 PM
NEW YORK -- For the first time, Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest Americans consists
exclusively of people worth $1 billion or more. As a group, the people who made the rankings released
Thursday are worth a record $1.25 trillion, compared to $1.13 trillion last year.
This isn't just a change in the value of a dollar. Much of this is actual wealth changing hands. Guess
who gained. Guess who lost. Guess whose fault it is.
If I recall correctly, 18th-century
tried a similarly top-heavy approach:
Causes of the French Revolution include the following:
- A poor economic situation and an unmanageable national debt were both caused and exacerbated by the burden of a grossly inequitable system of taxation, the massive spending of Louis XVI and the many wars of the 18th century;
- A resentment of royal absolutism;
Sound familiar? Many things are different today; some things, though, never change.
And look what happened to the French monarchy. "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" are grand things,
and I celebrate the end result of the French revolution, horrifically bloody though it was, but
Americans who benefit from the increasing upward redistribution of our nation's personal wealth should
think about what happens in the long term when the goodies are unfairly distributed and the public
(I've got some sort of a minor bug in my wetware today, enough to be unpleasant and to make working
difficult. After early cat-blogging, I think I'll opt for an early bedtime.)
Denial Ain't Just A River
For the moment at least, my blog seems to have reappeared. My host was the victim of a distributed
denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. From the support page on the site a little earlier:
We have been experiencing unusual stability problems of a variety of sorts lately. These have been
tracked back to a large, intermittent, but recurring DDoS attack against one of our members.
These attacks are causing widespread disruptions, both to our equipment and to upstream routers and
circuits that are beyond our control. However, we have identified the site being attacked and we are
working internally and with our upstream provider to partition our network so that attacks against
this site do not affect the rest of our members.
We apologize for the disruption; although it seems to have passed for the moment, we suspect it will
start again (it seems to be particularly pronounced at night) and so we will keep working on ways to
prepare for the next incident.
Attacks against our DNS servers are ongoing. We will attempt to get them operational again as soon as possible.
If this site vanishes again, please look for me at
The YDD Annex.
Walking Shark Discovered
... but it has trouble staying on a bicycle or a SegWay.
Selected Links To Recent Posts
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HaloScan has a page allowing me to view recent comments, no matter which post they refer to.
GM, Ford Merging?
Natural Selection Cleared
eSlate Voting Machines Questioned
And So It Begins
Ah Want Clarity
Don't Eat Your Spinach -- UPDATED
Almost Friday Cat Action Blogging
Here's Tabitha in an action sequence with Stella:
Ann Richards 1933-2006 - UPDATED
I See The Sun Peeking Over The Hill
HaloScammed Or Firefoxed?
Who Does He Think He Is, FDR?
Atlantis - At Last!
Blog RSS 0.91
Better the occasional faults of a government that lives
in a spirit of charity than the constant omissions of a
government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.
I belong to the Democratic Party wing of the Democratic Party.
- Paul Wellstone
I am a Democrat without prefix, without suffix, and without apology.
- Sam Rayburn