<!-- Begin meta tags generated by ORblogs --> </meta name="keywords" content="progressive, liberal, politics, government, edit, language, grammar, accuracy, honesty, clarity, world, news, media" /> </> <!-- End meta tags generated by ORblogs -->> Editor at Large: January 2006

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A preview of Bush's State of the Union address

Want an example of how out of touch Bush is? Here’s a preview of his State of the Union address, from today's San Francisco Chronicle:

"President Bush is expected to promote a series of health care initiatives in his State of the Union address tonight, including new incentives for workers to choose coverage that gives them more control over their medical spending. Bush’s proposals will center on health savings accounts, which allow people to set aside tax-free dollars to cover medical expenses. These accounts, which were established under the Medicare Modernization Act passed in late 2003, are tied to high-deductible health insurance policies.

"This concept is designed to make people more prudent health care consumers because they spend more of their own money. The accounts reflect Bush’s philosophy of an “ownership society” in which individuals take greater control over their personal health and wealth."

As blogger Greg Saunders says:

"Only a rich kid like the King George would ever think up something like health savings accounts. In his world, it makes perfect sense for Americans to save up for something they can’t afford. Hell, he’s never had to worry about money, why should we?"

According to today's online "Independent," we all have good reason to worry about Bush's proposal:

"Americans spent $42 billion more than they earned last year, turning the annual US savings ratio negative for the first time since the Great Depression.

"The savings ratio fell to minus 0.5 per cent last year, meaning Americans not only spent all of their after-tax income but also had to increase their borrowings or plunder their savings. This is the first time theratio has gone negative for an entire year since 1932 and 1933, when the US was struggling to cope with the Great Depression. The savings ratio is seen as a key economic indicator as it shows how vulnerable households are to a sudden shock such as a surge in interest rates or unexpected redundancy."

Saunders again:

"I wonder if Bush has ever had to lay all his bills out on the kitchen table and figure out which ones he can pay immediately and which ones can wait until the next paycheck? Or if he’s ever lived in an overcrowded apartment with hand-me-down furniture, eating the same thing six days a week because it’s cheaper? Or if he’s ever had to settle for a job slightly less shitty than the one he had in high school because there weren’t any jobs in the field he majored in? Of if he’s gone through the process of figuring out which generic brand products at the grocery store are as good as the name brands and which ones aren’t?

"As most of you know, I’m not just describing poverty here. This is normal life for many Americans. Some live paycheck to paycheck, while others are able to pinch enough pennies to save a few bucks. Either way, most people don’t have thousands of dollars to spare.

"Practically speaking, savings accounts for retirement and heath care a huge mistake, but for entirely separate reasons. With the latter, the rub is that health care is expensive. Let’s say you have an medical emergency with costs in the $20-30K range. How long would it take you to save that much? A few years? Even with the vague incentives, we’re still looking at a plan that’s the equivalent of asking every American to buy a new car that he/she may never drive.

"That same principle holds true with Republican proposals for education and retirement savings. Do they honestly believe we’ve all got extra income sitting around that we can throw in the bank? It must be nice to grow up in the GOP world of disposable income and 'personal responsibility'..."


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Has Bush seen "Brokeback Mountain"?

Bush did a rare thing yesterday and answered allegedly unscripted questions from students at Kansas State University. One of the students asked Bush whether he'd seen "Brokeback Mountain," adding that Bush "would love it."

Bush's reply: "I'd be glad to talk about ranching, but I haven't seen the movie."

Our guess is that Bush would rather talk about anything than gay cowboys, but he should at least pick a topic he knows something about...such as...well, okay, never mind.


Monday, January 23, 2006

The scariest thing Bush has ever said

Defending his illegal wiretapping activities once again today, Bush said something that should scare the hell out of every person in this country and the world:

"Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics.''

In other words, Bush can and will use whatever "tactics" he wants to, including "force," to "protect" us.

And of course it's all legal, according to Bush, because he says he had "all kinds of lawyers review the process." Lawyers like Harriet Miers?

Oh, and by the way, Bush has come up with a new name for his domestic spying activities: "Terrorist Surveillance Program." As if everyone they spy on is a proven terrorist (and if so, why aren't the terrorists already in prison?).


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Did Clinton authorize warrantless searches?

In response to Al Gore's assertion that Bush has been breaking the law by authorizing warrantless wiretapping, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Gore was a hypocrite because the Clinton-Gore administration had engaged in warrantless physical searches. "I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds,'' McClellan said of Gore.

McClellan cited an FBI search in 1993 of the home of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames without permission from a judge. He said Clinton's deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick (yes, Gore-lick), had testified before Congress that the president had the inherent authority to engage in physical searches without warrants.

However, at the time of the Ames search and when Gorelick testified in 1994, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act required warrants for electronic surveillance for intelligence purposes but did not cover physical searches. The law was changed to cover physical searches in 1995 under legislation that Clinton supported and signed.

In other words, since 1995 the law has clearly stated that both electronic surveillance and physical searches require warrants.

So who's the real hypocrite, Mr. McClellan?


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

We have a winner!

No, we're not talking about the Golden Globes...we're talking about the Diddly Awards, the "heck of a job" badge given by writer Jack Hitt for the year's best political euphemism. The winner for 2005: Ginny Brown-Waite, (R-Fla.), for her reply when asked after a speech how she would describe what she does in Congress: “I’m a hooker.”

Brown-Waite went on to explain, “That’s right, I said I’m a hooker. I have to go up to total strangers, ask them for money, and get them to expect me to be there when they need me. What does that sound like to you?”

Well, it sounds to us like everyone in politics is a hooker.

The other nominees for 2005 were:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), for her description of notoriously tough Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill., and a former ballet dancer): “Republicans may have the Hammer,” she noted, “but we have the Nutcracker!”

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), for visiting the wretched children sleeping on cots in the Houston Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina and joking with them about how the whole experience was like going to sleep-away camp. “Now tell me the truth, boys,” he asked. “Is this kind of fun?”

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), for shouting to reporters his reply to those who dared to suggest that funds for his infamous “Bridge to Nowhere”—which would have cost $223 million and be named after himself—should be redirected to help dying people in New Orleans: “They can kiss my ear!”

Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.), who was forced to drop out of the 1988 presidential race after plagiarizing whole passages of British pol Neil Kinnock’s life story and claiming them as his own, for revealing that he still believes the verb “to write” is a euphemism. Discussing the Violence Against Women Act with John Roberts, Biden said, “People say they wrote things. I mean, I actually did write that my little ol’ self”—wait for it—“with my staff.”

- Mother Jones Magazine


Thursday, January 12, 2006

E-mail subject line of the day

Ever hear of a toady? It's someone who flatters others in the hope of gaining favors. A minute ago we received an e-mail with the subject line: "Toady at 3:30: Dr. Rob Harris."

We hope it was a typo and not an ill-advised attempt to flatter Dr. Harris...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Credit to our democracy?

Bush said yesterday that Americans should insist on a debate about Iraq that "brings credit to our democracy, not comfort to our adversaries."

Exactly how has our presence in Iraq brought "credit to our democracy"? And what if many of our "adversaries" - the Iraqis whose lives have been so painfully and permanently upheaved by our presence there - are right?


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Alito: "No person is above the law, and that means the president and...the Supreme Court"

Samuel Alito said in today's Senate hearing that he does not believe war allows the president to bypass the Constitution. "No person is above the law, and that means the president and that means the Supreme Court.''

No waffle there. But wait.

After Sen. Kennedy said to Alito, "Time and again, even in routine matters involving average Americans, you give enormous, almost total deference to the exercise of governmental powers,'' Alito said that he has tried to decide each case on its merits, and that "Sometimes that means siding with the government, sometimes it means siding with the party that's claiming a violation of rights.''


But then Alito said, "Our Constitution applies in times of peace and in times of war. And it protects American citizens under all circumstances.''

No waffle. But wait!

When Sen. Specter asked Alito whether he thinks the act of Congress authorizing use of force against those responsible for Sept. 11 gave Bush the authority to order warrantless wiretaps, Alito replied, "These questions are obviously very difficult and important....and likely to arise in litigation even before my own court or before the Supreme Court.''

Waffle waffle.

Important, yes; difficult, no. The law is the law. When you respond to a direct question with an indirect answer, it's called deflecting.


Chomsky: Bush is "driving the world to destruction"

The January 9 issue of Newsweek has an interview with Noam Chomsky, a 77-year-old MIT professor who is one of the most influential political theorists in the world. Chomsky's take on the Bush administration and its potential to end life as we know it is alarming, to say the least.

Newsweek: "Where do you put George W. Bush in the pantheon of American presidents?"

Chomsky: "He's more or less a symbol, but I think the people around him are the most dangerous administration in American history. I think they're driving the world to destruction. There are two major threats that face the world, threats of the destruction of the species, and they're not a joke. One of them is nuclear war, and the other is environmental catastrophe, and they are driving toward destruction in both domains. They're compelling competitors to escalate their own offensive military capacity - Russia, China, now Iran. That means putting their offensive nuclear missiles on hair-trigger alert.

"The Bush administration has succeeded in making the United States one of the most feared and hated countries in the world. The talent of these guys is unbelievable. They have even succeeded at alienating Canada. I mean, that takes genius, literally."

Chomsky's assertion that Bush & Co. are "geniuses" pretty much puts to rest the debate over whether they are stupid or evil.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Oprah conned by "A Million Little Pieces"?

According to The Smoking Gun, the so-called nonfiction book "A Million Little Pieces" is actually "a million little lies...filled with fabrications, falsehoods, and fakery." Thanks to Oprah's glowing recommendations and the book's inclusion in Oprah's Book Club, the book has sold 3.5 million copies so far, has been on the NY Times nonfiction paperback bestseller list for 15 weeks, and has made author James Frey a millionaire. Unfortunately, it may end up making Oprah a laughingstock, if The Smoking Gun's allegations turn out to be true.

Read all about it:


Headline of the day

Yes, we know bird flu isn't funny, but you have to admit, this headline's inadvertent double entendre is just a tiny bit comical:

"Bird Flu Reports Multiply in Turkey, Faster Than Expected"

(NY Times, 1/9/06)


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Italian court to decide whether Jesus existed

An Italian court is going to decide later this month whether the Roman Catholic Church is breaking the law by teaching that Jesus existed.

Atheist Luigi Cascioli claims that priest Enrico Righi and the Church have broken two Italian laws: "Abuso di Credulita Popolare" (Abuse of Popular Belief), meant to protect people against being swindled or conned, and "Sostituzione di Persona," or impersonation.

"The Church constructed Christ upon the personality of John of Gamala," Cascioli says, referring to the 1st century Jew who fought against the Roman army.

A court in Viterbo will hear from Righi, who has yet to be indicted, at a January 27 preliminary hearing meant to determine whether the case has enough merit to go forward.

"In my book, The Fable of Christ, I present proof Jesus did not exist as a historic figure. He must now refute this by showing proof of Christ's existence," Cascioli said.

Righi claims there is plenty of evidence to support the existence of Jesus, including historical texts. "Cascioli says he didn't exist. And I said that he did," he said. "The judge will have to decide if Christ exists or not."

Cascioli admits that the odds are against him, especially in Roman Catholic Italy. "It would take a miracle to win," he joked.


"America's prayers" not answered

Update: The NY Times wasn't the only major paper to get the story wrong about the 12 West Virginia miners. The Boston Herald also reported the miners alive and well, in a story headlined "Miner Miracle: America's prayers answered."

Greg Saunders takes particular issue with the choice of words in that headline:

"I can’t let the Boston Herald’s awful (and in retrospect, horribly inappropriate) headline go without comment. Now that we know the twelve miners were killed, does this mean America’s prayers weren’t answered? Just like gambling addicts remember their big wins but not their losses, the fate of the twelve miners has transformed from a faith-inspiring act of God to another horrible tragedy in which it’s impolite to mention religion at all. Cute little sayings like 'the Lord works in mysterious ways' are cop-outs for the logical conclusions that many of us draw from experiences like this. If something fantastic and improbable can be used as proof that there’s a benevolent god, doesn’t the reverse point toward the conclusion that a higher power is indifferent at best? If you believe in a god that could have saved these men’s lives (which I don’t, btw), why didn’t he? People are quick to throw around the word 'miracle' when something wonderful happens, so what the hell do we call this?"


Sloppy journalism, or "faulty intelligence"?

A headline in today's NY Times states: "12 Miners Found Alive 41 Hours After Explosion." In fact, 12 miners were found dead.

How did this happen? Did the reporter (James Dao) misunderstand his source, thinking the source had said "alive" rather than "dead"? Did the source deliberately misinform him, on the Bush-inspired pretext that false good news is better than true bad news? Was his source the CIA?

Not only is the headline tragically inaccurate, the story accompanying it is startlingly specific about the fantasy fate of the miners. An excerpt:

"Forty-one hours after an explosion trapped 13 men in a West Virginia coal mine here, family members and a state official said 12 of the miners had been found alive Tuesday night. Earlier Tuesday evening, the body of one miner was found 11,200 feet from the mine entrance, within a few hundred feet of a vehicle used to transport the workers deep into the mine, company officials said. The miner was not identified, and the cause of his death was unclear. Joe Thornton, deputy secretary for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said the rescued miners were being examined at the mine shortly before midnight and would soon be taken to nearby hospitals. Mr. Thornton said he did not know details of their medical condition."

Imagine how the families and friends of the 12 dead miners felt after first hearing that their loved ones were alive, and then learning that, in fact, they were dead.

As a relative of one of the victims said, "You just don't do this to people."

(Note: The on-line version of the Times contains this addendum following the headline: "An updated version of this article reporting the death of 12 of the 13 miners is available here: After Reports to the Contrary, Only One Miner Survives.")


The few. The proud. The rapists.

Four U.S. Marines stationed in the Philippines have been accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipina. The Marines are in U.S. custody pending trial, but a Philippines court has ordered that they be transferred to Philippine custody. The U.S., however, is resisting that order because of a thing called a "Visiting Forces Agreement" (VFA). Apparently, a VFA gives Marines the right to rape foreign women with impunity.

The Philippine judge chosen to hear the case issued a statement saying that he would "invoke our sovereignty and must take custody over the accused within the Philippine court," and that he would "'issue the warrants of arrest for the accused."

We hope the U.S. does the right thing and turns the Marines over to the Philippine court.