UPDATE: Though there seems to be some confusion, it looks as if Senate Judiciary
has reported the bill out WITHOUT the retroactive telecom immunity provision.
Christy Hardin Smith
points to a very short
Wired news article
as the source of this information. While this doesn't mean that an immunity provision won't be reintroduced on
the Senate floor, it certainly is good news if in fact it's absent in the version reported out of committee.
The House version, without an immunity provision, is likely to be voted on and passed tonight. The venerable
Rep. Rush Holt speaks eloquently
against telecom immunity. (Note: you'll have to use Internet Explorer to view the video. It isn't merely wired
to Windows Media Player; it requires an ActiveX "shim" component from Microsoft... which can be run only in IE.
I don't have to tell you what I think of that.)
UPDATE 2 (about 17:15 CT):
has also been following the proceedings closely, and echoes in his
that there is great confusion over whether the bill is being reported out without the immunity (amnesty)
provision, citing Wired and ACLU as saying the bill reported out indeed lacks the provision. I'll try to post
more later as these sources gather more information to clarify matters.
UPDATE 3 (about 18:25 CT): Glenn Greenwald (see link above) has added a tenth
update. It appears the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out the bill with no recommendation either way on
amnesty... they neither stripped it nor advocated it, leaving it to a Senate floor fight. Stay tuned.
UPDATE 4 (about 19:50pm CT): Greenwald has a summary of what this result means
As it is the clearest explanation I've seen, and is short compared to his entire post, I'm taking the liberty
of quoting the full update. Greenwald:
UPDATE XI: Having just spoken with several people involved in today's morass, I have a lot more clarity
about what happened. What I described in the prior update is accurate. Now, the next step will be focused on
Sen. Reid. He has virtually unlimited discretion to decide what version of the bill to introduce to the full
Senate. He could introduce the Intelligence Committee version (with amnesty), the Judiciary Committee version
(without amnesty), the House version, or he could just introduce something entirely new altogether, something
that gets negotiated between Rockefeller, Leahy and Reid.
Even under the best-case scenario -- namely, Reid introduces a bill which does not contain amnesty -- anyone can
(and certainly will) offer an amendment to include amnesty in the bill, and no matter what happens, it will be
necessary to find 41 Senators willing to support Dodd's filibuster to keep amnesty out of the bill. As
indicated, today is a good result in that it's preferable for the bill to have left the Committee today without
amnesty in it (especially given the 3 Democratic members' support for amnesty) -- and that's not nothing -- but
there is no grand "victory" in the sense that there is now some huge hurdle to having the Senate's bill include
I'm not sure I really expected or expect the retroactive amnesty (and presumably ongoing immunity) to be
removed from the final reconciled bill. Powerful forces are arrayed in favor of it... members of Congress and
the telecoms that own them. And of course Harry Reid can make or break anything he wants, irrespective (word
chosen advisedly) of anyone else's wishes or the good of the nation. Nonetheless, I feel pretty good about
today's course of events: the bill was reported out without any immunity provision in it; three Democrats
(Feinstein, Whitehouse and Kohl) revealed themselves as favoring the corp's over the rule of law; at least
some basis has been established for hope that the Senate is not wholly owned. This would have been easier if
Feingold's amendment had passed... what a courageous representative (in the best sense of the word) he has been
in this matter. And the end result may not be what we hope. But all in all, this markup ended better than I
The laugh line of the day, for me at least, comes from the
"... the ACLU applauds the Committee for not letting the bells off the hook." Hmm...
Bells not off the hook:
Bells not off hook:
(Original post follows.)
Christy Hardin Smith
has such details as are available, and is updating from time to time. (The feed from the House is down for
some reason. Anyone surprised?) Go. Read. There is nothing more important to Americans than the outcome of this
debate. Much of the comment thread is worthwhile also.
Blogging will continue to be sparse here until... well, enough; I don't want to whine. I think there will be
cat blogging tomorrow; please check back.
I was just wondering where the various Democratic presidential candidates stand on the death penalty, and was
about to do some digging, when
(via Avedon Carol)
saved me the trouble. (Note that a president has no meaningful role in influencing death penalty policy or cases
at the state level, except through the use of the bully pulpit. Nonetheless, it is another indicator of a
candidate's general outlook on matters of life and death.) Merritt's post is focused on Obama (who has done some
good things in requiring taping of interrogations, but who is not opposed to the death penalty), but in her
on her own thread, she mentions the positions of various Democrats, including some of the candidates. To no
one's surprise, Kucinich is the only one firmly against capital punishment. To my surprise, John Edwards is
said to be markedly in favor; moreover, that is a change in his position from his early days. Hillary once
supported the Innocence Protection Act of 2003, but is not opposed to the death penalty. As I contemplate
my completely meaningless primary vote, this is yet another point in Kucinich's favor.
Merritt, a defense lawyer, concludes her comment with a point I've often made:
The point I'm making is that it's not enough to critique the death penalty because an innocent might get
executed. That's hugely important, but it's also important to recognize that the death penalty is wrong for the
guilty because it's applied in an arbitrary and racially disparate manner.
Precisely. Whether or not you see execution as morally wrong, as I do, surely you insist on its fair
application in all cases and across all segments of the population. Our system doesn't even come close.
Note: the comment thread is getting interesting, and I have a feeling terrette is just now getting warmed up.
Please consider the thread an extension of the post.
There's a debate going on on CEWDEM's excellent Democratic list about this:
Yes, you can order one online; I'll get to that in a minute. But people have strong feelings about this joke.
One woman, the most seriously offended among the posters (I'll keep names out of this), had this to say:
This is absolutely tasteless. Remember that Hillary is not the opposition, the Republicans are. How would you
like we women to put your weenies on the line? Just imagine all the democratic candidates hauling out the hose
and slapping it on the table, while we stand there with our knives drawn. I hope you don't seriously think that
any democrat in his/her right mind would actually buy this. I find it, and you, very offensive. And I can't
believe that all you men out there are really so afraid of this woman. It shows, I believe, your insecurity in
Fair enough... though everyone else, female or male, seems to think it's pretty funny. One responder, a woman
well-respected in Texas Democratic circles, suggests using it as a local Democratic club fundraiser. Considering
the device was probably made with a Republican customer base in mind, there would be real irony if the
Democratic clubs made money off of it.
The nutcracker even has its own video ad, which you may watch as a
If you have $20 to blow (bad choice of words), you can order one at the obvious URL. I don't plan to do so.
Whoever designed the nutcracker chose a positive visual image of Hillary; they could have made her look far
worse. Most of the men in the video who are presumably candidates for nutcracking are either high-ranking
Republicans or else Democratic presidential candidates. The nutcracker meme is hardly new. Given that someone
was sure to realize it sooner or later, this is in my opinion about as inoffensive as the result could have
What? what do I think? Oh. Maybe I'm displaying my "insecurity in [my] maleness," but I laughed my ass off. I
mean, laughed my nuts off. Whatever. No one ever accused me of having a refined sense of humor. Bring on those
"stainless steel thighs"!
Today we took Tabitha and Samantha in to the vet simultaneously (that's rare, and for good reason) for a variety
of minor matters and some maintenance on larger matters, a sort of 50,000-meow checkup, rotating the claws,
changing the hairball fluids, etc. They were not very happy about it. Usually they are good patients, and
moderately quiet; this time, they used some strong language in the examining room and treatment room. They are
home now, enjoying special food to compensate them for the unpleasantness.
Meanwhile, I got no sleep last night, experienced a lot of discomfort, and feel like deep doodoo today.
Skipping many details, I am just saying that it is unlikely that I will produce my magnum opus on the
blog today, or get any constructive work done, or anything else for a few hours. (No, it isn't the flu; I've had
my shot.) I'll be back when I can, probably late tonight or sometime tomorrow.
Three quick comments: the trip to Memorial Park was everything I'd hoped (I may post a photo or two, or not),
Krugman's book is filled with insights new to me (though not necessarily new to everyone), and I will not be
buying the aforementioned bicycle today.
In a few minutes, I am heading to Houston's immense Memorial Park, an astonishing 1466 acres of parkland (1505
acres, says one sign at a park entrance), some developed for recreation, some maintained in an almost natural
state including woodlands and prairie... inside Loop 610. Memorial Park would be a predatory developer's dream,
but legal considerations fortunately prevent that.
So... what does Memorial Park have to do with American veterans? Before it was a park, from 1917 to 1923, the
land was Camp Logan, a training camp for the U.S. Army during and after W.W. I. Before that, it was farmland. I
know parts of the park pretty well, but I've never seen any of the remains of the training camp or the farm,
says there are a few. After W.W. I, in 1924 when the Army had no more need of the camp, Will and
Mike Hogg purchased the land, then sold it to the City at cost... on the condition that it be maintained as a
memorial to the soldiers who died in W.W. I. And so it is to this day.
I am visiting the park because it is one of the most peaceful spots I know in the middle of Houston. Walking
the trails, spotting birds or observing life in the various pools and ponds, one would never know that active
training for humanity's most violent activity took place there. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine war at all
in the midst of that natural beauty, or among people enjoying their various sporting activities. I like that. I
like it a lot.
Our long-term goal should be simple: no new veterans. With deepest respect for our living veterans and thanks
for their service to America, I long for the day in which America no longer sends its daughters and sons to
fight wars because there are no more wars. "And I believe, in the future, we shall suffer no more / Maybe not in
my lifetime, but in yours, for sure." - Paul Simon.
Now there's a deal that's hard to refuse!
is, as far as I can tell, an old-fashioned neighborhood
bicycle shop, not part of a chain (ahem), staffed by friendly college-age kids who as far as I can tell
know everything useful about bicycles. (They've resolved some real mysteries for me.) Their prices are
decent. And they appear to have a sense of humor. I really miss cycling; I hope I am able to do it again
We need these things for perspective once in a while. Via the
scientists have discovered a massive black hole orbiting a star in the constellation Cassiopeia, and it is
that can be detected from Earth. The instrument used to detect the events spans 1200 square miles in Argentina.
Yes, you read that correctly. But from our perspective, the coolest thing is the photo:
Let's get down to the important stuff. Tell me... do you see a spooky face, perhaps Bill Gates fitted out with
some sort of weird Borg eyepiece?
Short version, via
Greg Sargent of TPM Election Central...
Harry Reid traded the Bushists a quick confirmation of Mr. Waterboard for their not blocking a $459 billion
defense spending bill that did not include money for Iraq and Afghanistan. From one of Sargent's sources:
"This lets us argue, `Hey, we just sent $450 billion to the military," one leadership source tells me.
Great. Just great. We trade away a fundamental American principle... we do not torture... for political cover
in the form of passage of a bill Bush has already said he will veto. Does the thinking get any more short-term
In the middle of the night.
Do they think bloggers aren't awake at this hour? Or is there a consensus of "dark for dark business"?
Senate Narrowly Confirms Mukasey as Attorney General
The Senate reluctantly confirmed the nomination of Michael B. Mukasey to become the 81st attorney general late
Thursday night despite widespread displeasure over his answers about the constitutionality of a brutal
interrogation tactic used on terrorism suspects.
The 53 to 40 vote to confirm President Bush's choice to replace Alberto Gonzales was the closest vote in more
than 50 years for someone confirmed to be the nation's top law enforcement officer. Republicans and some
Democrats argued that Mukasey was the best nominee lawmakers could hope for in the waning months of the Bush
administration, and that it was unlikely the president would send up another nomination if Mukasey were
After initially being trumpeted on both sides of the aisle as a "consensus nominee", the retired New York
federal judge received just six votes from Democrats and one from independent Joseph Lieberman (Conn.) while he
was unanimously supported by the 46 Republicans on hand for the late-night vote.
Anybody think he'll be impartial and stand up to Bush?
I am reminded a little bit of
because of all the detail of, um, the hair. If this picture
takes a while to load, please blame Tabitha and Samantha for the multiplicity of colors and fineness of patterns
in their hare, um, I mean, their hair. That variety and detail are part of the charm of this pic, but JPEG
compression doesn't help much.
Naomi Wolf is not so optimistic in the title of her book: she omits the question mark. She is not the first to
list either the characteristics of a fascist state or the stages in the forcible transition from democracy to
fascism, but her hour-long presentation about the content of her book
The End of America: Letter of Warning To A Young Patriot
in this talk on October 11 at the University of Washington is both long enough to be comprehensive and personal
enough to be deeply moving. Please allow time to watch the whole thing; the effect of viewing what she has to
say is cumulative:
There's not a lot I can say. The condition of our nation is grave.
Via hipparchia... Wow.
Dennis Kucinich did what he promised: introduced a motion to impeach Cheney.
is his statement on the matter. Go read the whole thing; I'll give you the beginning of it:
As a member of Congress, I have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution and the laws of our nation, and I have
pledged to represent the views of my constituents and of all Americans.
That’s why I feel both duty and sorrow in pursuing the path of impeachment against Vice President Richard B.
While the impeachment movement has generated intensely strong sentiment and activism, there have been only two
polls published on the question of impeaching Vice President Cheney. In a national poll, 54 percent of Americans
favored impeachment. In one state poll, 64 percent of Vermonters favored impeaching the Vice President.
Twenty-one of my colleagues have heeded the public demand and signed on as cosponsors of my resolution, H Res
333. Others in the Congress have claimed they have more important priorities, but have told their constituents
they will keep their views in mind if the matter ever comes up for a vote.
Well, the issue is coming up for a vote this week on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the
“distraction” will require members to balance their priorities between Constitutionally proscribed justice and
recourse and the alternative: Constitutional abuse and dictatorial power.
Kucinich's impeachment motion survived a motion to table. Then a vote to send it to the House Judiciary
Committee passed, with Republican help (after all, it's a stick in the eye of Pelosi). As hipparchia notes,
Judiciary chair John Conyers is anything but pleased, and made it clear he intends to place the impeachment
motion to the back of the queue.
This has no chance of succeeding, of course. But someone had to do it, just to bring Cheney's ongoing criminal
and unconstitutional behavior before the public. Even that, I'm afraid, isn't working very well: neither Google
News nor the New York Times has a web-front article on the motion. If it's not of interest to congressional
leadership in either party, as far as the MSM is concerned, it doesn't exist. Nonetheless, my thanks to Rep.
Kucinich for doing a worthy thing that almost certainly will not advance his political career. It is my
impression that in the past, there were often members of Congress willing to do that. Apart from Kucinich, where
are they now?
Local ABC political reporter
says this about the turnout here:
Political junkies beware, if your eagerness is not carefully measured, this could be an underwhelming day....
just 10% turnout!
Do not let that happen. I voted. I got my friends to vote. (Most of them would have anyway, of course.) But
as I write this, you have well over an hour until the polls close. Do it! Thank you.
UPDATE: Thanks to all of you who voted, and especially to those of you who voted
the way I did.
The results are in.
Many good At-Large City Council candidates, including the incomparable Melissa Noriega, won outright; at least
one other good candidate (Jolanda Jones) is in a runoff. (Sorry; I don't really know much about Districts D and
E, which also resulted in runoffs.) As is almost always the case, all the Harris County bond propositions
passed, and (for better and worse) all the statewide propositions either passed or are on the verge of passing.
As anticipated, in my Council District C, Anne Clutterbuck, a moderate Republican who has won some bipartisan
respect locally, was reelected... she wasn't my choice, but I am not horrified. On balance, the City of Houston
did fairly well for itself in this election, and I can live with the statewide results.
CORRECTION thanks to Greg Wythe via CEWDEM's list: County Bond Prop. 3, for a new
adult detention center, ended up being defeated. I guess I shouldn't have gone to bed so early.
does it again,
offering us "a Special Comment on the meaning of the story of former U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney
General Daniel Levin." Levin, as you recall, is the man who determined to find out whether waterboarding is
torture in the most direct way possible: he had himself waterboarded. Levin's conclusion will not surprise
anyone, not even George W. Bush: waterboarding is torture. Waterboarding is literal drowning, stopped
short of death, but drowning in every meaningful biological sense. From Olbermann's Special Comment:
And they water-boarded him and he wrote that even though he knew those doing it meant him no harm, and he knew
they would rescue him at the instant of the slightest distress, and he knew he would not die — still, with all
that reassurance, he could not stop the terror screaming from inside of him, could not quell the horror, could
not convince that which is at the core of each of us — the entity who exists behind all the embellishments we
strap to ourselves, like purpose and name and family and love — he could not convince his being… that he wasn’t
Water-boarding, he said, is torture.
Legally, it is torture!
Practically, it is torture!
Ethically, it is torture!
And he wrote it down.
Levin was, of course, fired for his troubles... and forced, apparently by Alberto Gonzales, to add a footnote to
his report, hedging his conclusion.
But no TV commentator alive goes to the heart of the matter like Keith Olbermann. Read the transcript if you
wish... but most certainly watch his segment.
Afterthoughts (as I was interrupted in writing this post):
First and foremost, this must end. The U.S. does, indeed torture. It must cease doing so,
immediately, with no crossed fingers behind the back.
Mr. Bush is not a good person gone astray: he is an evil person. Good people never come even close to
ordering torture in the first place. The fact that he pretends he does not support torture is evidence that
he knows the evil he is perpetrating.
Mukasey looks likely to be confirmed.
Reuters may cast this as "a largely party-line vote," but it's the small deviations... Schumer's and
Feinstein's votes come to mind... that sent Mukasey's nomination to the full Senate. Is there no issue on
which our Democratic senators will take a moral stand?
Here's a statistic that George W, most presidential candidates, and the majority of Congress critters are not
aware of, much less dealing with, even though this statistic affects millions of American families: $4 a gallon.
That's not for gasoline. That's what a gallon of milk is expected to cost by year's end. Milk prices have jumped
by more than 20 percent in the past year, eggs are up by 44 percent, and other grocery essentials are rising as
well. Add in ballooning mortgage rates, soaring home heating bills, ever-rising medical costs, and hikes in the
other basics of life – combined with stagnant wages – and you've got a harsh economic reality that doesn't fit
the rosy picture touted by clueless politicians and media barons. A weekly paycheck that used to last a week,
now isn't lasting more than two or three days.
Please read the rest (or listen to it... in my opinion, Hightower is always a pleasure to listen to; your
mileage may vary).
is rumored to know a thing or two about agriculture, and his lefty populist credentials are beyond dispute.
(By now, I'm even willing to forgive him that Nader thing.)
I am personally very fortunate not to be living paycheck-to-paycheck. Been there; done that; very nearly went
broke despite doing everything by the book. I'm lucky to have savings from the Clinton era, when my little
business did decently well. Although I now have a bit of work at long last, it will be a while before I see the
first check from it. But most of the people I know are much worse off. And some of those falling behind are
middle-class. Some are technical professionals. Hell, some are even Republicans. When the prices of milk and
eggs go up, everyone is affected... everyone. An economy that diminishes its citizens' ability to feed
themselves is an economy in crisis, no matter what all the other numbers may imply in some optimistic reading.
Mr. Bush says he's a wartime president, but I don't see a booming wartime economy, at least not for the working
classes. Instead, it's the old guns-or-butter tradeoff writ large: guns or butter, housing, transportation,
education, health care, etc. Maybe if the Commander Guy would quit looking around for more discretionary wars to
absorb the "guns" his cronies supply at our expense, we working stiffs would have more left over to pay for the
"butter." I'm just sayin'.
For decades, I've been of the Molly Ivins school of conspiracy theories: few such theories explain anything that
cannot be explained easier as the product of incompetence, stupidity, arrogance and ignorance. (My paraphrase;
I don't have Molly's words in front of me.) But in the face of recent events, I'm on the point of changing my
mind about that assessment.
Perhaps these posts and articles will help you decide where you come down on the issue of whether our government
is undergoing a radical shift not merely in its policies but in its very nature, a shift deliberately but
secretly perpetrated by its current leadership... in other words, by a conspiracy. Please read some of the
linked material and let me know, in comments or on your own blogs with links in comments here, what you think.
UPDATE: I completely forgot to include Daniel Ellsberg's speech back in September,
A Coup Has Occurred.
A sample paragraph from the middle:
Let me simplify this and not just to be rhetorical: A coup has occurred. I woke up the other day realizing,
coming out of sleep, that a coup has occurred. It’s not just a question that a coup lies ahead with the next
9/11. That’s the next coup, that completes the first.
Be sure also to read the comment thread on this post. Some significant contributions are coming in.
To the end of his days, Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. believed that dropping the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima was
a justifiable means of shortening World War II and preserving the lives of hundreds of thousands of American
servicemen who military experts said might have died in a final Allied invasion of Japan.
For Tibbets, the pilot whose bombing run unleashed the devastating explosive force and insidious nuclear
radiation that leveled two-thirds of the city and killed at least 80,000 people, there was never any need to
"I never lost a night's sleep over it," Tibbets said of the Aug. 6, 1945, attack.
I sure as hell did... lost some nights' sleep over it. I spent some days' work over it, too, assisting a
U.S. scientist who devoted his career to studying the consequences to the 140,000 who died immediately or later
and the countless more who were scarred for life by that one act. (Oh, and as some of you know, I was born on
the third anniversary of that bombing.)
I do not blame Gen. Tibbets or his crew personally. May he rest in peace. If they had not carried out the
mission, someone else would have. It's the mission I have a problem with, or rather the decision to go forward
with it. The consequences to the world have propagated far beyond the casualties of this bomb and the one
dropped three days later which killed "only" 40,000 people. The fact that the world's most powerful nation has
used the world's then most powerful weapon against human populations established a precedent none of us are
ever likely to see the end of.
The use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was one of the very few things my father and I disagreed
on regarding W.W. II. He pointed out that I might never have been born if the war had not ended while he
was on his way to the Pacific. I pointed out that it might have been worth it to me if, in exchange, the world
had preserved its perfect record of never having nuked human populations. (For the record, all our discussions
were civil. Nobody shouted or ranted, though both of us were certainly capable of it.) The vastness of numbers
of people killed or maimed in these events, set against the results of hypothetical alternatives, makes it
impossible for me to do this kind of arithmetic sanely. I just can't trade off hundreds of thousands or even
millions of lives in this way; I am morally incapable of it.
Today, more than sixty years later, we call people who are capable of doing such arithmetic
"the President" and "the Vice President." Whether or not they obtained the offices legitimately is largely
irrelevant to this matter: Bush and Cheney are of the circle of people who are comfortable discussing
"megadeaths" and "acceptable losses" due to nuclear war. Both appear to be aching to use nukes against Iran,
believing the projection of U.S. power toward some imagined control of the world to be a good thing. I believe
it to be a disaster to all humankind and all life on Earth, in the long run if not the short run. Whatever
Congress can do to prevent this nightmare, it is duty-bound to do. The decision of whether to go to war...
especially nuclear war... must reside, as it always has in the scheme of the Constitution, with the Congress.
As I said, R.I.P., Col. Tibbets; I'm glad at least one of our consciences was easy about the beginning of the
age of nuclear war. And the rest of you out there... have a nice day.
Stella, Samantha and I occupy a rather narrow two-seat love seat on the patio:
A competent pool player would have had better luck with this "bank shot": I had to extend my right arm as far
to the right as possible, take the picture across myself, and still manage to control the field of view. As
Pablo Casals is rumored to have exclaimed when attempting to repair a toaster, "I can't do anything with my
hands!" But considering the expressions on both faces, it was worth the effort.
Space station repairs:
Construction in space is getting real, folks... real problems, challenging solutions.
Another one bites the dust:
another GOP state legislator, Richard Curtis of Washington state, is resigning over allegedly being
blackmailed by a man he had sex with. Yes, of course, he had voted against gay rights. (Richard, Richard,
it's not the gay sex, it's the hypocrisy and lying that bother us.)
Malware for the Mac...
Trojans found on porn sites, no less. (Do I have to say it?) And here all the Macaholics I know were
telling me that malware attacked only PCs...
John Cole registers as a Democrat.
No, really! (In other news, fires, floods, earthquakes and plagues afflict humankind, and other signs of
the end of all things abound.) Seriously: welcome, John, to what has regrettably become the last best hope
of saving the nation, faint hope though that may be.
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Happy Hallowe'en On The Web!
This colorful squash is as close as I got to a pumpkin this year. And the spider web, blurry though the photo
may be, is a real web, built four days ago in front of Stella's door, and since greatly expanded for the
occasion of Hallowe'en. It is still up, and laden with "goodies" the spider bagged. This has been one successful
Tonight, thanks to Stella's sharp eyes, I scored three boxed sets of Hercule Poirot videos at Half Price Books.
I think I'll conclude the evening by watching
(Insert maniacal laugh and spooky organ music here.)