Monthly Archives: July 2006

Oh Shit, It’s Contagious

From Holden:

A drunk Secret Service agent got his ass tasered by Waco police in a bar near Chimpy’s Crawford “ranch” last weekend. Not sure why it took a week to hit the papers.

The U.S. Secret Service has started an investigation after one of its agents was arrested at a Waco bar.

The incident happened early Friday morning at Cricket’s Grill & Draft House downtown, according to Waco police. It began when 30-year-old John Scott Lewis began arguing with a Cricket’s manager. He had been rude to other customers and was asked to leave, according to an affidavit filed in conjunction with his arrest.

When Lewis refused, Cricket’s employees called two Waco police officers who were working off-duty security for RiverSquare Center, where Cricket’s is located. When the officers arrived, they saw Lewis was trying to provoke the manager into a fight, said Waco police spokesman Sgt. Ryan Holt.

Lewis finally began to leave the bar. But as he passed through the front entrance, he pushed one of the doors so hard that the frame cracked, Holt said.

At that point, the officers went to arrest Lewis. One officer was able to get him down on his knees, the affidavit says, but Lewis kept fighting and ignoring verbal commands. As a result, an officer used his Taser electronic stun gun to subdue Lewis.

Lewis was taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center for a small laceration on his forehead and a scratch on his nose, Holt said. After being treated, he was booked into the McLennan County Jail on three charges — public intoxication, resisting arrest and reckless damage to property. He later was released after posting $1,000 bond.

One of the officers involved in the struggle suffered minor cuts to his hands, Holt said. There were no other injuries.

Find the right tool for the job

From Scout:

I shouldn’t have read this first thing in the morning. I’ll be “fuming” all day.

WASHINGTON, July 29 — The House approved an increase in the federal minimum wage on Saturday, but its future was clouded because Republicans tied the pay change to an estate tax cut that had been blocked in the Senate.

In a prelude to a summer of campaigning in the battle for control of Congress, lawmakers clashed bitterly over the Republican decision to link the tax break for affluent Americans to a $2.10 increase in the minimum wage before the legislation was approved after 1 a.m. on a 230 to 180 vote.

The vote came after the House, which is heading home for a five-week recess packed with political activities, easily approved a measure intended to bolster the nation’s pension system.

The maneuver to couple the minimum wage increase long sought by Democrats and moderate Republicans and the estate tax change backed by conservatives left some Republicans uneasy and Democrats fuming.

SNIP

“If the Republicans were serious about raising the minimum wage for the first time in nearly 10 years and extending tax relief for working Americans,” Mr. Reid said, “they would not hold them hostage in their effort to give the wealthiest Americans hundreds of billions more in additional tax giveaways.”

SNIP

Representative Zach Wamp, Republican of Tennessee, said Democrats were upset with the legislation because Republicans had found a clever way to link the two. “You have seen us outfox you on this issue tonight,” Mr. Wamp told Democrats in the floor debate.

Yeah I hope Wamp and the rest of the outfoxing Republicans go forth and brag to their working class constituents on the break about how they are better off now that the Republicans passed this stunt of a bill that will go nowhere. I hope Wamp travels Tennessee to let the little guy know just how how important he can be as a tool to not only bail out the rich but also do nothing Republicans in Congress. I’m sure the working guy (who knows the trick to getting any job done is finding the right tool) will understand all this outfoxing once Wamp explains the whole process to them in an honest forthright manner…which I’m sure he will do. Not

Take This Waltz

I am not a music geek. I do not know who sang what the year before it became cool, nor do I know much about what I’m supposed to be liking now, what the early-30s supposed-hipster soundtrack actually is.

I do like Leonard Cohen. A whole lot.

The songs that everybody loves didn’t arrive until Cohen was in his early thirties. At McGill, he had played guitar in a country-western trio called the Buckskin Boys and gravitated to Montreal’s bohemian literary scene. Music first underscored poetry when Cohen gave readings backed by a jazz band, but it was books of poetry (“The Spice Box of Earth” and “Flowers for Hitler”) and a pair of acclaimed, and controversial, novels (“The Favorite Game” and “Beautiful Losers”) that established his reputation.

Still, Cohen admits, his move to music, “far more than this current flurry of activity, was economically motivated. I’d written a couple of novels and they’d been very well received, but I couldn’t make a living and I didn’t know what to do.”

So in 1966, Cohen decided to pursue a career as a songwriter in Nashville, only to be redirected to New York and its post-Beat/folk community after the first of his female champions, Judy Collins, recorded “Suzanne.”

There was also the matter of Cohen’s voice, a deadpan, steadily deepening baritone with the rumble of a gravel pit and the gravitas of a graveyard.

I have this bunch of CDs Mr. A brought home from a record store in Canada as a present, where you listen from beginning to end and can hear Cohen growing old from The Partisan all the way to Democracy, which has always killed me with this:

From the wells of disappointment

where the women kneel to pray

for the grace of God in the desert here

and the desert far away:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

A.

‘Roger Was Just Saying He’s Totally Against Charitable Giving’

Go read Steve’s post and especially the comments: Feeding the homeless now illegal in Vegas.

Something I’ve noticed in the philanthropic world recently. Somewhere, sometime, charity became not about helping others because it was the right thing to do but about getting a return on your investment. Charity became about helping others only if they really, truly deserved it, only if they were really poor, only if they were really addicted, only if they were homeless because they didn’t “want” to be.

As Fat Bastard says in Steve’s comments:

Whatever I give to whoever is between me and The Creator (or the karmic wheel, if you should swing thataway). No matter what happens to the money I give, I know I gave it in an effort to do good.

If the one I give it to spends it on a bottle of Ripple, that’s between him and The Creator, and I ain’t even in it.

Hell, for all I know a bottle of Ripple is exactly what The Creator thinks he really really needs.

IT AIN’T MY PLACE TO JUDGE.

It’s exactly those judgemental sonsabitches that want to say that some people don’t deserve to be fed.

Fuck ’em.

There is some kind of twisted expectation we have now, that everybody who needs help deserves their fate in some way. That misfortune is beneficial, even, character-building. There are people who’ll talk about the lessons of poverty, the proud “I didn’t need a handout, and I’m just fine,” the kinds of things you never hear from anybody until after they’re not poor anymore. It’s easy to make something a pretty story when you’ve got some distance, money in the bank, a canap in your hand.

I think it’s a defense mechanism, the thought that the homeless, the hopeless, the poor, are that way because they want to be. Because if it’s not about making choices, well, then it could happen to people who do everything right, who have jobs and insurance and a home and a car and are doing just fine. If it’s about people “wanting” to be homeless (which, can I just say, has never been the dream of any child growing up that I’ve ever known) then we don’t have to be scared, because we don’t want to be homeless, and the universe isn’t that random, and it’s going to be fine. A cascade of circumstances — mental illness, economic downturn, addiction, divorce, sickness, death — that leads to you being on the street talking to yourself and scruffing up the park for the suburbanites couldn’t ever, ever happen to you. Blaming the victim is a time-honored way of making ourselves feel safer.

It’s not that I begrudge people their illusions exactly. If you focus too much on the random way the gods confiscate good fortune you’ll never leave your house again for fear of being nailed by a potato chip truck on your way to mailbox. But I do very much begrudge people denying others help on the basis that they know who deserves it and who doesn’t, based on something they kinda sorta maybe heard somebody say someplace once.

And if you’re really worried the guy’s just gonna spend it on booze, if that really matters to you all that much, go home and match the couple of quarters you threw at him with a $25 donation your local homeless shelter, or your neighborhood drug treatment center, or your city’s social services wing, so that your help’s going as many places as you can make it go, and you’ve got all your bases covered.

A.

HOT!

From Scout:

Man it’s Hot.

How Hot is it?

Your President Speaks!

From Holden:

Today, on fighting the War on Strawmen:

And one of the challenges, of course, is to convince people that Muslims would like to be free, that there’s other people other than people in Britain and America that would like to be free in the world.

There’s this kind of almost — kind of a weird kind of elitism that says well maybe — maybe certain people in certain parts of the world shouldn’t be free; maybe it’s best just to let them sit in these tyrannical societies.

And our foreign policy rejects that concept. And we don’t accept it. And so we’re working.

And the Terraists’ Toolbox:

They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That’s what they do. And they’re good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they’re able to kind of say to people: Don’t come and bother us, because we will kill you.

Oh, Yeah… The War

From Holden:

Shit. Another shrine is destroyed.

A Shia shrine has been blown up and at least 17 people killed as a leading Shia politician called for Iraqis to be given full control of the security services in order to end the country’s violence. Attackers planted several bombs inside the shrine to Imam Askar between the towns of Balad Ruz and Mandalay on Friday morning. The resulting explosion destroyed the monument.

The world’s largest cemetary.

Shi’ites from all over the world aspire to be buried in Najaf’s sacred Valley of Peace cemetery, but the dozens of Iraqi corpses brought there every Friday bear witness only to the carnage sweeping the country.

Baghdad morgues fill up so quickly that victims of Iraq’s sectarian violence cannot be kept for long and unidentified corpses must be moved elsewhere.

[snip]

The men who wash the bodies and wrap them in white cloth according to Muslim custom have gained a first-hand view of the ferocity of Iraq’s rising sectarian violence.

Kareem al-Haidari said he usually handles 50 to 60 bodies each Friday, the Muslim holy day on which more and more Iraqis are praying for the safety of their loved ones.

“There are usually signs of torture and mutilation like the drilling of eyes and skulls, or severed limbs,” he said.

“I will never forget that horrible scene when one corpse’s head was cut off and replaced with a dog’s head.” Muslims consider dogs to be dirty animals. Most of the victims of violence are bound, a trademark sign of sectarian killings.

Seventy-five bodies arrived at the cemetery this Friday.

“Most of the bodies were bound by chains so we always have to keep a cutter nearby to cut them. Most bodies were beheaded and they have a lot of holes in the head and face,” said cemetery worker Riad Ahmed.

The regular arrival of so many unclaimed bodies has prompted wealthy residents of Najaf to buy a plot of land in the cemetery and devote it to them.

“We keep in touch with the Baghdad morgue and tell them we have room to bury a certain number. This week we agreed on 400,” said Sheikh Sadiq Zahid, one of the owners of the burial office.

Three trucks recently delivered 70 beheaded bodies to the cemetery, according to a Najaf local government media office.

There are so many unidentified bodies that some are taken to the sacred city of Kerbala, north of Najaf.

You Would Think They Have Something to Hide

From Holden:

Israel, the next OJ. I’m sure they won’t rest until they find the killers.

[Israel’s U.N. ambassador] Dan Gillerman also said Israel would not allow the United Nations to join in an investigation of an Israeli airstrike that demolished a post belonging to the current U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Four U.N. observers were killed in the Tuesday strike.

Meanwhile, the wife of the Canadian soldier who is missing and presumed dead in the attack lashes out.

The wife of a Canadian observer who was killed when an Israeli jet attacked a United Nations post in Lebanon blamed Israel on Thursday for the incident and said its forces had been firing on the spot for weeks.

Major Paeta Derek Hess-von Kruedener is presumed dead, although his body has yet to be found. Three other U.N. observers — from China, Austria and Finland — died in the border post in Tuesday’s attack.

“Why did they bomb the U.N. site? In my opinion those are precision-guided missiles (so) then that it is intentional,” his wife Cynthia told reporters at an army base in Kingston, Ontario. Her comments were carried by CBC television.

Israel denies its forces deliberately targeted the UN site. The United Nations says it asked Israel a dozen times to stop bombing near the post in the hours before the attack.

“And that wasn’t the only day they were firing on that base. My information from him (the major) is that week upon week they had been firing on there, bombing near it,” said Hess-von Kruedener.

[snip]

“That was their duty. They were U.N. observers. The building was clearly marked, the vehicles were clearly marked, they’re clearly marked as U.N. observers. So why were they (the Israelis) firing on that base?” said Hess-von Kruedener.

Mr. Bush, Tear Down Your Secret Prisons

From Holden:

The UN Human Rights Committee cites the Bush Assministration for flagrant violations of international law (Hat-tip to Moonbootica).

A United Nations human rights body told Washington on Friday that any “secret detention” centers for terrorism suspects it operated abroad violated international law and should be shut immediately.

Saying it had “credible and uncontested” reports of such jails, the U.N. Human Rights Committee said the United States appeared to have been detaining people “secretly and in secret places for months and years”.

“The state party should immediately abolish all secret detention,” it said, echoing a similar demand in May by the U.N. Committee Against Torture.

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How Blackwater Helped Us Lose The War

From Holden:

Not that the war was ever winnable, but the war profiteers certainly made the situation worse.

The U.S. Marines, who had military responsibility for the Sunni Arab heartland in and around Fallujah, knew it was a tinderbox and had been trying hard not to set it aflame. “Patient, persistent presence” was their motto.

The attack on the Blackwater convoy changed everything.

The convoy had entered the city by bypassing a Marine checkpoint without the Marines’ knowledge. The Marines learned of the ambush the same way the rest of the world did: from the grisly pictures on TV.

President Bush, enraged by the attack, ordered a major assault on the city. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a Pentagon spokesman, said of the coming U.S. response: “It will be deliberate, it will be precise and it will be overwhelming. … We will pacify that city.”

A key objective of the assault, U.S. leaders said, was to capture the killers of the Blackwater contractors and bring them to justice.

The Blackwater incident was a tragic error that provoked a violent chain of events, according to Bing West, a former Marine and Reagan-era assistant defense secretary who wrote “No True Glory,” a book about the battle for Fallujah.

“Ultimately, Fallujah was a decision by our top leadership against the advice of the Marines,” West said in an interview. “They were not going to change their entire strategy because of a tactical error. They were overruled.”

What followed days later, in early April, was the first street-by-street fighting by U.S. military forces since the Vietnam War. As Al-Jazeera broadcast pictures of dead, bleeding and maimed Iraqis in Fallujah hospitals, the city became a rallying point for anti-U.S. anger.

Worried that the assault was jeopardizing the political stability of the country, U.S. leaders suspended the offensive a week later. The fighting settled into a series of skirmishes, flare-ups and periods of calm.

Friday Ferretblogging: Case of Ferrets Edition

“Did somebody order ferrets in bulk?”

“I’m not being part of any package deal. Screw you guys, I’m going home.”

A.

Our Cooling Economy

From Holden:

Feel the Bush Boom, as the rate of growth in the quarterly Gross Domestic Product fell by a whopping 3.1% between the first quarter of 2006 and the second quarter of the year.

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual pace from April through June, less than expected, as business investment in equipment fell for the first time in three years and consumers reined in spending.

The government’s first estimate of the quarter’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., compares with a 5.6 percent gain in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. A measure of core inflation accelerated.

[snip]

Economists expected a 3 percent gain in GDP last quarter, according to the median estimate of 74 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 2 percent to 3.8 percent.

Consumer expenditures rose at an annual rate of 2.5 percent last quarter, as a slowdown in the housing market discouraged spending, compared with a 4.8 percent pace in the previous three months. Economists expected a 2.1 percent gain, based on the survey median. Consumer spending growth has averaged about 3.4 percent a quarter the past 30 years.

With today’s report, the government also revised GDP data going back to the first quarter of 2003. The economy grew at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent from 2003 through 2005, or 0.3 percentage point less than previously estimated.

Yes, they did overestimate the growth in GDP in each of the past three years. Here are the revised figures, from the Bureau of Economic Analysis press release.

The percent change from the preceding year in real GDP was revised down for all 3 years: From 2.7 percent to 2.5 percent for 2003, from 4.2 percent to 3.9 percent for 2004, and from 3.5 percent to 3.2 percent for 2005.

[snip]

The percent change from fourth quarter to fourth quarter in real GDP was revised down for all 3 years: From 4.0 percent to 3.7 percent for 2003, from 3.8 percent to 3.4 percent for 2004, and from 3.2 percent to 3.1 percent for 2005.

Your Friday Morning Republican Juggernaut Update, Part I

From Holden:

Rep. Katherine Harris’ poll numbers continue to plummet, yet she keeps saying she can beat Bill Nelson with 53% of the vote. Then again, Harris is not known for her firm grip on reality.

As poll after poll shows U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris trailing Bill Nelson in the race for Senate, Harris has clung to a figure that she says suggests she can win.

If her base supporters get to the polls, Harris says at virtually every campaign stop, she will beat Nelson and carry 53 percent of the vote.

“When people know that,” she said during a May television appearance, “and that all of this other polling is just so early, we know we can win.”

Thursday, as a new Quinnipiac University poll showed Harris down by 37 points, a spokeswoman for the Longboat Key Republican repeated the theory.

“The internal polls show if she gets the base out, she wins with 53 percent,” said Jennifer Marks.

But it’s unclear from where Harris is getting her data.

[snip]

Chris Ingram, who now works for one of Harris’ GOP rivals, also said the figure refers not specifically to Harris but to “a generic GOP candidate.”

But a former campaign manager said the 53 percent figure comes from a poll conducted for Harris. It may be more than a year old, said Jim Dornan, and relies on a “bunch of best-case-scenario assumptions.” None of those, he said, have panned out. “It’s a fallacy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Harris hires fourth campaign manager.

Your Friday Morning Republican Juggernaut Update, Part II

From Holden:

Jebbie wants no part of the Florida GOP’s DeLay strategy.

Gov. Jeb Bush said Thursday he would not be part of a bizarre plan Republican strategists have contemplated to replace U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris as a candidate for U.S. Senate.

Party strategists confirmed earlier this week that they envisioned Harris, who is trailing badly in the polls, withdrawing from the race after she won the Sept. 5 primary. That would give party officials the power to name a more viable replacement. Bush’s name came up as a potentially strong challenger for Nelson.

[snip]

Speaking with reporters after addressing a graduation ceremony for Florida Highway Patrol recruits, Bush called the plan nonsensical and said he would not run for U.S. Senate.

“I think that’s purely hypothetical,” he said. “It ain’t going to be me.”

Gutting the War Crimes Act, Keeping Bush Out Of Prison

From Holden:

The Bush Assministration is trying to weaken the War Crimes Act of 1996, claiming that they are trying to protect soldiers who were simply following Chimpy’s illegal order outlining the torture to be inflicted on detainees and POWs in the GWOT. Howerver, the Assministration is actually trying to protect Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld from future prosection, a possibility Gonzales warned the president about in 2002.

An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of detainees in the terrorism fight, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such “protections,” according to someone who heard his remarks last week.

Gonzales told the lawmakers that a shield is needed for actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, the source said. A spokeswoman for Gonzales, Tasia Scolinos, declined to comment on Gonzales’s remarks.

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Must See Colbert

From Scout:

I think the funniest of his “Better Know A District” series. Last night it was Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)…..(who I do like very much)

Extremely Unpopular President

From Holden:

There’s a new Diageo/Hotline Poll [PDF press release] out this morning, and it’s a beauty.

Bush Job Approval Rating

Approve: 38% (down from 41% in June)

Disapprove: 59% (up from 56% in June)

Bush Viewed Favorably/Unfavorably

Favorable: 42%

Unfavorable: 54%

Bill Clinton Viewed Favorably/Unfavorably

Favorable: 53%

Unfavorable: 41%

Al Gore Viewed Favorably/Unfavorably

Favorable: 43%

Unfavorable: 48%

Generic Congressional Ballot

Would Vote Democratic: 48% (up from 41% in June)

Would Vote Republican: 32% (down from 36% in June)

Bush’s Handling of War in Iraq

Disapprove: 61%

Country is on the Right Track or Wrong Track

Right Track: 25%

Wrong Track: 60%