Saturday, December 31, 2005

The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail

The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail

It gets worse: a grass roots organization -- supposedly forwarding "family values" -- was really a front for foreign money intentded to influence the Majority leader's vote with regard to Russian bailouts:

Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.).

The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay's vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy.

...

Records and interviews also illuminate the mixture of influence and illusion that surrounded the U.S. Family Network. Despite the group's avowed purpose, records show it did little to promote conservative ideas through grass-roots advocacy. The money it raised came from businesses with no demonstrated interest in the conservative "moral fitness" agenda that was the group's professed aim.

...

After the group was formed in 1996, its director told the Internal Revenue Service that its goal was to advocate policies favorable for "economic growth and prosperity, social improvement, moral fitness, and the general well-being of the United States." DeLay, in a 1999 fundraising letter, called the group "a powerful nationwide organization dedicated to restoring our government to citizen control" by mobilizing grass-roots citizen support.

But the records show that the tiny U.S. Family Network, which never had more than one full-time staff member, spent comparatively little money on public advocacy or education projects. Although established as a nonprofit organization, it paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to Buckham and his lobbying firm, Alexander Strategy Group.

It is always the crumbs that points fingers at others who have the most dirt under their skirts...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Osama Who?

I keep hearing how Clinton dropped the ball on Osama and terrorism.

Let's recap:

1- Clinton tells Bush that Osama and terrorism will be the biggist issue his administration faces:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton says he warned President George W. Bush before he left office in 2001 that Osama bin Laden was the biggest security threat the United States faced.
Speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the History Channel on Wednesday, Clinton said he discussed security issues with Bush in his "exit interview," a formal and often candid meeting between a sitting president and the president-elect.
"In his campaign, Bush had said he thought the biggest security issue was Iraq and a national missile defence," Clinton said. "I told him that in my opinion, the biggest security problem was Osama bin Laden."

Initially, after 9/11, the administration denies Clinton briefed Bush, but the testimony taken during the 9/11 commission hearing confirms it.

+1 Clinton, -1 Bush (lying)

2- Then we have Clinton's response to a likely threat during the 1999-2000 period. From the comission report:
In the period between December 1999 and early January 2000, information about terrorism flowed widely and abundantly. The flow from the FBI was particularly remarkable because the FBI at other times shared almost no information. That from the intelligence community was also remarkable, because some of it reached officials-local airport managers and local police departments-who had not seen such information before and would not see it again before 9/11, if then. And the terrorist threat, in the United States even more than abroad, engaged the frequent attention of high officials in the executive branch and leaders in both houses of Congress.
Given the perceived threat, Clinton held almost DAILY meetings with the security council, FBI, CIA, etc. as threat information (i.e. PDBs) came in. The president "rattled these guys cages" -- they (FBI, CIA) in turn put their field offices on alert. The result was the foiling of the millinium plot.

Let's look at Bush's response to the Aug 6 PDB -- the "historical" brief (i.e. - clearly a threat brief if there ever was one) that warned of active terrorist cells in the United States... that Al Qaida was casing building in New York and that terrorists would like to hijack aircraft:
In the summer of 2001, DCI Tenet, the Counterterrorist Center, and the Counterterrorism Security Group did their utmost to sound a loud alarm, its basis being intelligence indicating that al Qaeda planned something big. But the millennium phenomenon was not repeated. FBI field offices apparently saw no abnormal terrorist activity, and headquarters was not shaking them up.
Clinton +2, Bush -2 (not doing shit)

What was the Bush administration thinking about in Sep of 2001? Star Wars: Condi Rice was scheduled to give a talk on the importance missile defense: the area the administration saw as the cornerstone of the "new threat".

Don't forget Bush's last speech to discuss Osama:

Deep in my heart, I know the man is on the run, if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not? We haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is -- indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission. Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed. He's the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it and met his match. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.

Yes, terrorism is bigger than one man. But we might make progress by focusing our efforts on terrorists!! Not some un-related project.

My conservative friends bash Clinton for not doing enough to get Osama... What about this president?? Remember that during Clinton's time in office approx 37 American's died in terrorist attacks: a tragedy, but certainly not a mandate to seek-out and destroy Osama at all costs -- like after 9/11 (the president's words -- "dead or alive", not mine). The American people and Congress were far more concerned with the president's penis than with terrorists back then (look at the congressional record).

I only have one question for my conservative friends: What would you be saying if a Republican was in office in the 90's and Clinton was responsible for 3+ years of war in Iraq while those responsible for killing 3000+ American's run free?

American's need to see this man for what he is: an incompetent, inexperienced idiot who governs from the hip -- or more precisely, after consulting god.

When will the nightmare be over?

Image problems hamper US on goals abroad | csmonitor.com

Image problems hamper US on goals abroad | csmonitor.com
KAREN HUGHES: The State Department's head of outreach (shown here in Honduras) said that promoting US ideals abroad is tougher than she expected.
No duh... What are those ideals Mr. President? Can you please put them into action instead of just spouting them at press conferences?

This president is a bigger threat to our way of life than the terrorists. One man, Bush, has taken it upon himself to dissemble the core of our free society.

The United States has enemies... There are a relatively small number of them out there – and to be sure they would like to do us harm. But can we surrender portions of our liberty – indefinitely (as the president has said, this struggle will likely last a very long time – we many never be able to say it’s over) to gain a marginal increase (if any) in security?

We should use our principles and values as a weapon in this fight… we shouldn’t abandon them and become like those that would destroy us.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Unanswer Man

Unanswer Man

Think about it: we (supposedly) live in a free and open society -- where the leaders govern by consent of the governed... How can you do that when we know so little about how this government operates? Thankfully, the leaks are coming faster: everything from Plame to executive orders to spy on American citizens.

Our leader takes pride in the fact that he heads one of the most secretive governments of the modern era:

"I want to especially thank Scotty," the president said, looking at his aide. "I want to thank Scotty for saying" -- and he paused for effect. . . .

" Nothing ."

At which point everyone laughed and the president left the room.

This is one of those quips that distill a certain essence of the game. In this era of on-message orthodoxy, the republic has evolved to where the leader of the free world can praise his most visible spokesman for saying nothing.

And not just on matters related to security policy... but on everything: from energy policy to the environment -- all we get is double-speak and on-message rhetoric.

How I long for the days when we had a real, intelligent leader: Clinton may have been politically slick, but at least he operated openly -- with public commissions to study everything from health care to the environment. He knew how to compromise to get things done.

This president knows just barely more than nothing...

Appeals court denies US attempt to move Padilla case | csmonitor.com

In a strongly worded opinion that rebuked the Bush administration, a federal appeals court has refused a request from the Bush administration to authorize the transfer of "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla into Justice Department custody to face new criminal charges. The Washington Post reports that the three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit wrote that the government's actions have left "the impression that Padilla may have been held for these years, even if justifiably, by mistake," and that this hurts the government's "credibility before the courts."

Again - this administration doesn't understand what it means to be an American citizen. Citizens have rights guarenteed to them under the Constitution: these rights are not there simply at the convenience of the government. They are OUR rights.

I'm not a terrorist apologist: but every citizen deserves his day in court. That's the way the system works...

I didn't agree with the 'enemy combatant' thing for American citizens, and now -- after holding someone for 3+ years -- they want to bring criminal charges. So now if he's a criminal, what were the past 3 years?

If someone has committed a crime, charge them - present the evidence and go to trial. If you don't have evidence, you can't hold them (for extended periods anyway) -- not in a free society. To believe otherwise is to advocate the dissolution of the very foundation of a our system of government.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Measure of Success - New York Times

The Measure of Success - New York Times

Friedman hits on the point I've made for some time: that our adventure in Iraq is a big gamble... a gamble that the Iraqis will decide to make a stable government that protects the rights of all its citizens. But to accomplish that, you have to first have a sense of the Iraqi citizen... This is where the Bush doctrine completely ignores reality: Iraq is composed of 3 distint groups -- with the Shia currently taking revenge on the Sunni as much as the Sunni trying to blow-up there way back to power.

Friedman:

President Bush talks about Iraq as if it were a given that there is a single Iraqi aspiration for exactly the kind of pluralistic democracy America would like to see built in Iraq, and that the only variable is whether we stay long enough to see it through. I wish that were so - our job would be easy. But it is not so. It still is not clear what is the will of the Iraqi people.

And that's the problem... We can stay for 2 years or 10, but if the Iraqi's are intent on continuing tribal warfare, we are simply not going to stop them.

We've made some progress, but the final direction Iraq will take will be set by Iraqis. Friedman again:

It is terrific that Iraqis just had another free and fair election and that some 11 million people voted. Americans should be proud that we helped to bring that about in a region that has so rarely experienced any sort of democratic politics.

But what's still unclear is this: Who and what were Iraqis voting for? Were they voting for Kurdish sectarian leaders, who they hope will gradually split Kurdistan off from Iraq? Were they voting for pro-Iranian Shiite clerics, who they hope will carve out a Shiite theocratic zone between Basra and Baghdad? Were they voting for Sunni tribal leaders, who they hope will restore the Sunnis to their "rightful" place - ruling everyone else? Or, were they voting for a unified Iraq and for politicians whom they expect to compromise and rewrite the Constitution into a broadly accepted national compact?

I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt the Iraqis were voting for that last item... They were voting their religious and tribal interests.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Judge rules against 'intelligent design' in science class

Reason triumphs...

In an opinion issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Jones ruled that teaching "intelligent design" would violate the Constitutional separation of church and state.

"We have concluded that it is not [science], and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents," Jones writes in his 139-page opinion posted on the court's Web site. (Opinion, pdf)

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions," Jones writes.

That's about all you need to know from this opinion -- it says it all...

So lets keep this stuff where it belongs: in Sunday school...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bush Says U.S. Spy Program Is Legal and Essential - New York Times

Enough... This man is a criminal. He should be impeached.

As an intelligence professional I find this beyond disturbing and in direct violation of my obligation to not collect information on 'U.S. Persons'. If asked to do so I would refuse out-right.

Apparently, our CINC doesn't know what it means to be a US Citizen... I was under the impression that we DIDN'T live in a state that subjected innocent citizens to surveillance without probably cause and a court order.

The Stone Standard -- which we are all reminded of (as professionals) annually -- dictates that the Justice Dept and the government in general is only interested in investigating VIOLATIONS of the LAW... Not in monitoring the communications, affiliations or behavior of citizens who have done nothing wrong but are somehow identified as "a risk'.

The Rights of Americans

"Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone in 1924 confined the Bureau of Investigation in the Justice Department to the investigation of federal crimes. Attorney General Stone articulated a clear and workable standard:

The Bureau of Investigation is not concerned with political or other opinions of individuals. It is concerned only with their conduct and then only such conduct as is forbidden by the laws of the United States."

To investigate otherwise is un-American in the extreme and a reason that we condemn other countries' systems...

No Mr. Bush – the authority to wage war doesn’t give you or the government permission to monitor innocent people.

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. -- Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Misquoting Jesus

Just listened to a good piece on Fresh Air on how scribes have, sometimes mistakenly -- other times deliberately, incorrectly transcribed passages in the new testament.

The book, Misquoting Jesus : The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, is by a former evangelical Professor at Chapel Hill: Bart Ehrman . A devote Christian, his investigation of the origins of the new testament led him to the realization that much of it is based on the desires of church leaders.

Surprise surprise.

Of course I don't expect any true believer who reads this to rush out and suddenly become a skeptical student of biblical history: on the contrary -- "true believers" are just that: they start with belief and "facts" flow from that belief.

Of course, this approach doesn't serve mankind very well: imagine if we approached science and engineering in such a manner civilization simply wouldn't have progressed beyond the Dark Ages.

But religion is not science -- so they say. It is based on a personal revelation of truth... or so some of my christian friends tell me. Well, for one, I was once christian... My answer: when you come to a place in your life where you need to cling to something bigger than yourself, your mind is more than willing to oblige.

I used to also believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy...

Besides, what of the 'personal experiences' of the Muslim; the Hindu; the Jew and the Buddhist? All claim to have 'experienced' the truth of their belief system.

So here we are: millions around the world buy into a variety of ancient 'mystic' religions. And for the majority such beliefs can be a positive influence on the individual and on society. But here, in the US, we've seen the influence of 'absolute belief' elevated to the highest levels of civil government -- where it has been imbued with the power to trump science and reason.

This is the problem -- it's the path to medievalism -- and is in exact opposition to the precepts that the founders ushered in during the enlightenment: the process of investigation based on logic and reason.

How much longer will we have to suffer 'belief' as the foundation of government policy... We surely can't endure it much longer...

Bush in the Bubble

I've blogged about this several times before... But Newsweek has a good article on Bush's leadership style: essentially he surrounds himself with a group of like-minded yes-men who reinforce his world view.

A good leader usually seeks out diverse opinions and input on complex issues: but not our president -- he already knows the answer -- a result of his close relationship with Jesus I guess... So why ask experienced people for their opinions?
Jack Murtha still can't figure out why the father and son treated him so differently. Every week or so before the '91 gulf war, President George H.W. Bush would invite Congressman Murtha, along with other Hill leaders, to the White House. "He would listen to all the bitching from everybody, Republicans and Democrats, and then he would do what he thought was right." A decorated Vietnam veteran, ex-Marine Murtha was a critical supporter for the elder Bush on Capitol Hill. "I led the fight for the '91 war," he says. "I led the fight, for Christ's sake."

Yet 13 years later, when Murtha tried to write George W. Bush with some suggestions for fighting the Iraq war, the congressman's letter was ignored by the White House (after waiting for seven months, Murtha received a polite kiss-off from a deputy under secretary of Defense). Murtha, who has always preferred to operate behind the scenes, finally went public, calling for an orderly withdrawal from Iraq. In the furor that followed, a White House spokesman compared the Vietnam War hero to "Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party." When that approach backfired, President Bush called Murtha a "fine man ... who served our country with honor." The White House has made no attempt to reach out to Murtha since then. "None. None. Zero. Not one call," a baffled Murtha told NEWSWEEK. "I don't know who the hell they're talking to. If they talked to people, they wouldn't get these outbursts. If they'd talked to me, it wouldn't have happened."
Three more years of damage to come...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New Army Rules May Snarl Talks With McCain on Detainee Issue - New York Times

New Army Rules May Snarl Talks With McCain on Detainee Issue - New York Times

Why doesn't this administration listen to an experienced voice of reason regarding the torture issue?

One obvious point made by Senator McCain: our servicemen will undoubtedly fight in future wars... If we sanction torture -- in any form -- say, by the CIA, then POWS in that future war may be turned over to the enemy's 'intelligence services' and receive similar treatment.

Torture doesn't work... It's bad policy and immoral. Moreover, I'm sick of the self-proclaimed morals-and-values crowd undermining the very principles on which the republic was founded.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Capitalism as god...

Stalin got me thinking about capitalism and the right's reverence for this economic theory.

I know this will get a lot of winger's going, but yes, it is just a theory -- and some of its elements are clearly NOT demonstrable -- as opposed to evolution.

There are the comments I made to his blog:

The right's fanatical faith in capitalism has made this economic theory a premise for society and government. But these are very different things and operate under (or should operate under) different rules, priorities and regulations. But in the “right’s” view, capitalism is a goal in itself because they believe all the rest will flow from it.

For one thing, what wing-nuts forget is that in capitalist theory, the playing field is assumed to be level – that the best ideas and innovations will naturally bubble to the top and take their rightful place in the marketplace via the invisible hand of the market. This simply isn’t true in a developed economy like ours. A couple examples.

The playing field isn’t level – not even close. How else would you explain, for example, a large airline operating at a loss in a particular market just to snuff out the competition? The start-up may be more efficient, offer better service, etc., but because the entrenched ‘big-boy’ can afford to take losses in one market for a while, he can effectively squash any competition before it gets started.

Or take chip dumping – when a chip manufacturer sells his product in a market to keep the competition from getting a foothold.

Are these practices conducive to a free marketplace where innovation and efficiency are rewarded?!!?

Today, the imbalances in the marketplace are even worse. We have the government stepping in to support big energy, pharma, etc. with our tax dollars. I’m not necessarily against big business – but from my experience, big business can be a model of inefficiency! Some big business no longer uses innovation and value (to the consumer) to drive their operations – but instead substitute connections in Washington and predatory market practices to maintain their position. This is bad for ALL OF US.

Coupled with history, we don’t have to guess as to the outcomes of unbridled capitalism. Simply look to the age of the robber barons: child labor, inequitable pay for women, 7 day work weeks, sweat shops, etc. etc.

Finally, add the sentiment that “what I earn is mine and mine alone” – a return to social Darwinism -- and you have the crown to the right’s philosophy. But where is ‘society’ in this picture? Best served by capitalism goes the right’s mantra. Well, again, we’ve seen how that works back in the 19th century with people like J. P. Morgan saying "I owe the public nothing" and hiring 12 year old children to work 80 hr weeks.

People need to look beyond their own pocketbooks… beyond “I”. Sure, capitalism is a great economic system: but it isn’t a system of government or a founding principle of society.

Iraqi officials find more abused prisoners | csmonitor.com

We're not going to 'lose the war'... but we are gonna hand Iraq over to a fairly-elected group of fundamentalist thugs who will take revenge on the Sunnis who oppressed them for the last 50 years:
An Iraqi official with firsthand knowledge of the search said that at least 12 of the 13 prisoners had been subjected to "severe torture," including sessions of electric shock and episodes that left them with broken bones.
Yes, they'll be a 'democracy' of sorts in Iraq. Will it make the region, or the US, any safer?

I highly doubt it...

Another example of extreme US interventionalist policy that ends up on the wrong end of "right".

When will we learn?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Next Iraq Offensive

From an Op/Ed by General Wes Clarke... Some reasonable advice from an experienced leader:

    The Arab states agree on one thing: Iran is emerging as the big winner of the American invasion, and both President Bush's new strategy and the Democratic responses to it dangerously miss the point. It's a devastating critique. And, unfortunately, it is correct.

    While American troops have been fighting, and dying, against the Sunni rebels and foreign jihadists, the Shiite clerics in Iraq have achieved fundamental political goals: capturing oil revenues, strengthening the role of Islam in the state, and building up formidable militias that will defend their gains and advance their causes as the Americans draw down and leave. Iraq's neighbors, then, see it evolving into a Shiite-dominated, Iranian buffer state that will strengthen Tehran's power in the Persian Gulf just as it is seeks nuclear weapons and intensifies its rhetoric against Israel.

    The American approach shows little sense of Middle Eastern history and politics. As one prominent Kuwaiti academic explained to me, in the Muslim world the best way to deal with your enemies has always been to assimilate them - you never succeed in killing them all, and by trying to do so you just make more enemies. Instead, you must woo them to rejoin society and the government. Military pressure should be used in a calibrated way, to help in the wooing.

    If this critique is correct - and it is difficult to argue against it - then we must face its implications. "Staying the course" risks a slow and costly departure of American forces with Iraq increasingly factionalized and aligned with Iran. Yet a more rapid departure of American troops along a timeline, as some Democrats are calling for, simply reduces our ability to affect the outcome and risks broader regional conflict.

    We need to keep our troops in Iraq, but we need to modify the strategy far more drastically than anything President Bush called for last week.

My worry -- supported by my time in Iraq -- is like that of General Clark: that Iran's influence will be much greater in the region as a result of a pro-Shia government in Iraq.

I believe our policy in Iraq will result in the installation of a regime that, at best, is only marginally sympathetic to their Iranian brothers -- and at worse, very closely aligned with them. ... And remember: Iran is the #1 state-sponsor of terrorism in the WORLD... That's quite possible what our service men and women are dying for: a pseudo-democratic/theocratic state that will greatly increase the influence of Iran in the region.

Such an outcome speaks directly to the problem with this administration: we need forward-thinking, analytical people formulating policy in Washington. Not black-and-white, shoot-from-the-hip cowboys.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Qaeda-Iraq Link U.S. Cited Is Tied to Coercion Claim - New York Times

As if we didn't need more evidence that torture is an unreliable way of obtaining information:
The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.
Between the unreliable information and the damage done to our international standing, it boggles the mind why our fearless leader (well, fearless now, but in the Vietnam era overseas duty apparently wasn't on his list of priorites) pushes this policy via his surrogate: Dark Lord Cheney.

The reason-value divide

The debate in this country has got to begin to change.  We exhausted the usefulness of reciting the ever-increasing litany of offenses of our "leaders".  There may be a few odd signs of cracks appearing in the neocons' armor lately, but the rabid right still foams at the mouth as much as ever, despite revelations, despite indictments. 
I don't hold a lot of hope that new reports of outrages and incompetence are going to change that much.  If reports came out tomorrow confirming that W has been having barbecues on the back lawn of the White House, roasting Muslim children and eating them, it's only slightly worse than what he and his puppet-masters are already known to have done.  The knowledge of this administration's LONG list of failings is public knowledge.  Why isn't the country united in ousting these miserable SOB's?  Thirty years ago, the country woke up and ousted Nixon for lesser offenses than this gang of petty thugs.  A Democratic-led Senate seriously investigated the allegations against him, and the press dug for the facts energetically. 
Today's responses by both are far less, for far worse crimes.  In part it's a reflection of the stranglehold corporate money and conservative interests have on the government and the media these days, but that doesn't explain everything.  There are millions of ordinary people out there who cling to an ideology and a narrow set of "values" at all costs.  Is there now a cultural divide in this country that has become so wide it can no longer be bridged?  Have Blue and Red become as incompatible as Blue and Grey were a hundred-fifty years ago?

Posted on RoR by CactusDan

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Delay - What it takes to be a 'successful' politician

A Texas judge upheld a felony indictment of former House majority leader Tom DeLay on charges of money laundering in connection with the Texas election in 2002. The judge through out the conspiracy charge, the Washington Post reports.

What's more disturbing is that the direct result of (illegally) funneling money to Texas Republicans resulted in the Republican majority in the Texas house. If convicted, that means the Texas state-house Republicans who redrew district lines to help cement the Congressional Republican majority did so as a result of criminal activity... not to mention that redistricting, itself, was illegal:
DeLay has already acknowledged, in public statements and in an interview with the Texas prosecutor, that the funds at issue were raised to help Republicans gain control of the Texas House and oversee the legislature's redrawing of Texas congressional districts. The aim of this effort was to favor the election of more Republicans to Congress, and it succeeded: Five more Republicans were elected from Texas in 2004, cementing the party's control of Congress.

Career attorneys at the Justice Department, in a decision reached in 2003 that came to light only last week, concluded that the new map of congressional districts that DeLay and his aides drew had illegally discriminated against minorities for partisan political reasons. But political appointees at the department overruled this finding, and certified that the map could stand.


So, once this crumb has been thrown in jail, how do we repair the damage done to the state, and nation, as a result of this guy's influence-for-sale style of governance?

It still amazes me that people voted for Tom Delay: a politician who brazenly flashes his little black book of donors in potential lobbyist faces: "What, you also give to a Democrat! Don't come here..."

I guess you can do just about anything you want as long as you follow it with a hearty 'praise Jesus!!'.

After all, voters in this state just determined that is was vitally important to make sure the state Constitution formally prohibits Texas from giving any rights to the two guys that have lived together for 20 years.

Where are our priorities?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Another vicotry for reason


Gays sign up for civil partnership
Mon Dec 5, 2005 11:12 AM GMT

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - After years of campaigning for equal rights in Britain, gay couples applied on Monday to give their partnerships legal status for the first time.

"This is a highly symbolic and very special day," said Alan Wardle of the gay pressure group Stonewall.

"It sends out a signal to society that lesbian and gay relationships are recognised, valued and treated with respect," he said as hundreds of couples signed up.

A new law allowing same-sex civil partnerships will give homosexual couples the same property and inheritance rights as married heterosexual couples and entitles them to the same pension, immigration and tax benefits.

After a two-week waiting period couples will be able to legally register their partnerships for the first time.

Equality Minister Meg Munn said: "This is an important piece of legislation that gives legal recognition to relationships that were invisible in the eyes of the law."

Munn, who said the government expected up to 4,500 couples to sign up in the first year, told the BBC: "It is just as serious a commitment to make as marriage."

Unlike those in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Canada, Britain's civil partnership is not a marriage.

Civil partnership is formed when a couple sign certain documents in an exclusively civil procedure, whereas a marriage becomes binding when partners exchange spoken words in a civil or religious ceremony.

ELTON JOHN CEREMONY

Among the first couples planning to "tie the knot" are pop star Elton John and his partner David Furnish in a ceremony on December 21, the earliest possible date to do so in England.

"We're very lucky to live in Britain. I cannot think of a more tolerant place to live," John said.

But the flamboyant star renowned for splashing out on lavish parties told the gay magazine Attitude that their ceremony will be "very private, a small family affair, David's parents, my parents and the two of us. They'll be our witnesses."

And they will not be selling the wedding photos to any celebrity magazine. "Madonna got it right when she was married. Nobody has seen one photograph of that day," he said.

Pop star George Michael has also said he plans to get hitched with Kenny Goss, his lover for the last nine years, in a private ceremony.

"I'm sure Kenny and I will be doing the old legal thing but we won't be doing the whole veil and gown thing," he said at the London premiere of a documentary about his pop career.

The Church of England has provoked fury among Anglican traditionalists by allowing gay priests to register under the new civil partnership law as long as they remain celibate.

It provoked the ire of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Cardiff Peter Smith who said: "What the government should do in terms of public policy is support marriage rather than undermine it."

The Times, long renowned as the revered mouthpiece of the British Establishment, broke new ground when three gay couples placed civil partnership announcements in its Births, Deaths and Marriages column.

"When I was a young man being gay was illegal so an awful lot has changed in our life times," said Graham Ferguson, 67, who has lived for 34 years with Christopher Heyd-Smith, 59.

"We feel it is a privilege to be able to have our partnership legally recognised," he told the paper.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lets start doing our job

Those of you that read my blog somewhat regularly know that I rant about the administration’s decision making process… and that I usually do it in the historical context: looking back at what they either knew and ignored, or should have considered before making policy decisions with global consequences.

Well, I thought I’d provide a little background on why I feel “historical criticism” is important.

A democracy functions on the premise of informed consent: we elect representatives/judges/etc., they execute/create/interpret law & policy. After the fact we decide (usually at the next election) if they’ve done a good job. Central to this system is the idea that the governed have good insight into the information that goes into the decision making process. This allows an informed electorate to ask “what would I have done – or like seen done” given a set of circumstances.

Of course, we also give elected officials our trust and allow them to limit access to certain types of information -- supposedly in the best interests of the nation and all of its citizens.

On to this administration.

I believe it’s widely accepted that this is the most secretive and tightly controlled (i.e. - in terms of message) administration in the last century. Why, for instance, was it so important to keep the members of Dick Cheney’s energy task force secret? (And this is just membership in that task force – to say nothing of what those members advocated.) So much has been decided outside of public scrutiny that I do not think our leaders believe in the principle of informed consent: I think Bush said it best himself: “This would be a whole lot easier if I were the dictator”.

A government that loves to keep its inner workings as secret as possible is always a very bad thing… but it especially bad when the policy that comes out of that government is one of preemptive war.

So to keep it short, here we are: 3+ years into a ‘pre-emptive’ war. A war based on faulty intelligence… or so we are told by the Washington information machine. However, as some of the internal workings of that machine are exposed to daylight, we get insights into the administration’s decision making process – insights they have tried desperately to keep out of the light of day. And those glimmers paint a picture of rank incompetence.

We find that our intelligence agencies doubted the veracity of the information provided by key Iraqi informants – in fact, the most incriminating evidence was provided by “a known fabricator and drunk”; we find that the DOE doubted the aluminum tubes fitness for use in a centrifuge; the list goes on… and on.

All this in addition to those who expressed experienced opinions on the situation but were discounted (like General’s Zinni and Shinseki).

It’s our job to judge our leaders performance. The talking heads that claim “its easy to look back and Monday morning quarterback” simply don’t get it: the job over every citizen in a democracy is to hold their leaders accountable.

The sooner, the better.