QUOTE  A lot of people in America see this as a confrontation between good and evil, including me. - George W. Bush.
al-Qaeda has more #2s than a toilet seat... - Freedom Rider, whose permalinks still don't work.
I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat! Steve Bates,
The Yellow Doggerel Democrat
I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat!

for September 2006 (cont'd)


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He Said 'A'

Really. Armstrong 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 Bruce Ackerman:

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 military prison.

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 passed a very similar version of the bill. Democrats offered amendments, all of which were defeated, but ultimately, 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 passed 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, right?

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

Forget the Rebel Without a Cause... here's another Republican Without a Clue. And this tale doesn't even feature a star-studded cast.

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]
For Congress

[Name Deleted Again]
[Scant Credentials Deleted]
It's Time For A Change
District 18!

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 seat.


Froomkin, Bush, Iraq And The NIE

Froomkin 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 Houston Chronicle:

  • 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:

    "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.

    And Councilmember Carol Alvarado:

    "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 smoke."

    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.

  • Interstate abortion bill passes again in House - Nothing new under the sun:

    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 Tuesday.

    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.

    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.

  • Suicide rate linked to breast implants - In a study in Canada:

    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 general population.

    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.

  • 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's Madness

Mad Kane has moved her political poetry blog


Mad Kane's Political Madness

Please adjust your blogrolls accordingly. (The Notables 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 contention 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 Reid, D-Nev.

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 [wary] neighbors."


Unfinished Business

The 2001 anthrax episode rears its head in the news 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 Bryan for the use of his blog name...

Why now?

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 Chris Wallace. 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...)


Intentional Harassment

You cannot persuade me that this 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 international law".


(Emphasis mine.)

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 flowchart, 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 applicable passage 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.

In his previous post, 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 principles.


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 at trial.)

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

This isn't just due to inflation, you know:

Billionaires Only Occupy Forbes 400 List
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 France 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 suffers.

(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.

and later

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

It walks...

... but it has trouble staying on a bicycle or a SegWay.


Selected Links To Recent Posts

Click any permalink below to go to the original article on a previous page. Click a comment link below to add a comment to the original article. Your comment will be noticed, by the YDD at least: HaloScan has a page allowing me to view recent comments, no matter which post they refer to.

Habeas Corpus


Ahoy, Mateys!


GM, Ford Merging?


Natural Selection Cleared


eSlate Voting Machines Questioned


And So It Begins


Spinach Revisited


Ah Want Clarity


Don't Eat Your Spinach -- UPDATED


Fortune Cookie


Almost Friday Cat Action Blogging

Here's Tabitha in an action sequence with Stella:


Ann Richards 1933-2006 - UPDATED


Olbermann Again




Collective Guilt


I See The Sun Peeking Over The Hill


HaloScammed Or Firefoxed?


September 11


Who Does He Think He Is, FDR?


Atlantis - At Last!





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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.
  - FDR

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


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