Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed

According to John D. O'Connor, a corporate trial lawyer writing in Vanity Fair, it's W. Mark Felt, then the number two man in the FBI, now retired in Santa Rosa.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Abuse of Women Rampant in Afghanistan

Amnesty International reports that in Afghanistan,
"hundreds of thousands of women and girls continue to suffer abuse at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers, armed individuals, parallel legal systems, and institutions of the state itself such as the police and the justice system. There are reported increases in forced marriages; some women in difficult situations have even killed themselves to escape such a heinous situation whilst others burn themselves to death to draw attention to their plight.
Husbands, brothers and fathers are the main perpetrators of violence in the home but the social control and the power that they exercise is reinforced by the authorities, whether of the state or from informal justice systems such as shuras and jirgas. Members of factional and militia forces are also responsible for perpetrating violence. In some instances, female members of the family have a role in upholding patriarchal structures, and may also commit violence. However, male members of society perpetrate the overwhelming majority of acts of violence against women.
Violence against women is widely tolerated by the community and widely practiced. It is tolerated at the highest levels of government and judiciary. Abusers are rarely prosecuted; if cases are prosecuted, the accused are often exonerated or punished lightly. Impunity seems to exist for such violence. The authorities seldom carry out investigations into complaints of violent attacks, rape, murders or suicides of women. Women who report rape face being locked up and accused of having committed crimes of zina. Laws frequently discriminate against women and are otherwise inadequate to protect the rights of women."
According to Daniel Cooney of AP, the Afghan government does not dispute this. Nooria Haqnagar, a spokewoman for the Afghan Women's Affairs Ministry, says,"In some remote areas, men deal with women like animals." She said that despite government efforts to improve the lives of women, reported abuse cases have increased in recent months. In extreme cases, "women are burning themselves to escape abuse. They must have hugs problems to take such violent measure against themselves," she said.

I recognize that there's really very little the Bush Administration can do about things like this. What the Bush people can do, however, is shut their damn pie holes about "freedom on the march" and the grand success of Afghanistan until something approaching freedom and equality actually starts to manifest itself there.

Iraq Update

One step forward (kind of):

Iraqi police, for the first time attempting to play a significant role in maintaining security in post-invasion Iraq, fought pitched battles with insurgents in the streets of Baghdad. It seems unlikely that the offensive will have the desired effect of driving the insurgents from the capital city.

And three steps backwards:

US forces mistakenly raided the home of Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, the head of Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political party, detaining him briefly. Abdul-Hamid was arrested with his three sons and four body guards. It's unclear how the US military made this mistake. How's that Iraqi sovereignty working out?

According to Sabrina Tavernise in the New York Times, in the last year about 10% of Baghdad's doctors, facing threats of kidnapping murder, to say nothing of the the difficulties of practicing medecine in a country without a reliable power supply, have left or been driven from work.

On a broader note, Jeffrey Fleishman reports in the LA Times that fear of the threat of civil war is growing throughout Iraq.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Nothing Here Folks, Move Along

Well, hello all. Nothing really to post here, but there's been a lot of dead air on this blog lately so I thought I should update you on that. A large part of it is the old excuse that there are so many other good and excellent blogs out there that I find that by the time I have a chance to post items, in the late afternoon or evening, most of what I have to say has already been said already and better by others. Another thing is my "news" judgement, which has been off the last few months. That whole Schiavo thing? I thought it was a personal matter between an all but dead woman and her husband. I tried to avoid posting on that. Ditto the "runaway bride" story, though she was arguably not "all but dead." Celebrity trials are not my cup of tea. Although alternately annoyed amused by outraged persecuted Christians, I think they're not worth getting worked up enough about for me to write about, and besides, those nutjobs are so ably covered at World 'O Crap.

I could post on what's going on in my life, but frankly it's mostly not all that interesting and those few areas that might be interesting, such as my relationships with women, are really too convoluted for me to articulate clearly. If I understood these things well enough to write about them, my thinking goes, I would handle them better in the first place and then they wouldn't be interesting enough to write about. It's a catch, you see. I'm not finding my way out of that dilemma, though lord knows I want to.

Anyway, that's that. I've filled up some space here and probably discouraged anyone who wandered over to see what's going on from wandering back again. I am hopeful that I will soon shake this malaise and return with trenchant insights and awe inspiring prose.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bolton Nomination

This paragraph from a piece in Tapped, quoting the Congressional Quarterly, caught my eye:
"At least three Democrats — Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Ben Nelson of Nebraska — plan to support cloture on Bolton, according to Senate Democratic aides. All were parties to the bipartisan compromise on judicial filibusters struck earlier this week by seven Democrats and seven Republicans. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was also seen as 'likely' to vote 'yes.'"
Hey, that last name is familiar. I emailed Senator Feinstein this afternoon, telling her I'd read that she was leaning for voting for cloture and urging her to do no such thing, particulary in view of the administration's refusal to turn over information to the subcommittees investigating Bolton.

I got a reply, of sorts, from the Senator's office. Though my concerns about a cloture vote were not addressed, I did get this:
Dear Mrgumby2u:

Thank you for writing me to express your
opposition to Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton's
nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
I appreciate the time you took to write.
Like you, I have some serious concerns about Mr.
Bolton's qualifications to be U.S. ambassador to the
United Nations, especially as Mr. Bolton once claimed
"there's no such thing as the United Nations," and ''if the
UN secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it
wouldn't make a bit of difference.'' As such, you will be
pleased to know that I have decided to vote against the
confirmation of Mr. Bolton.
At a time when the Administration claims to be
reaching out to friends and allies, it troubles me that the
President would nominate a candidate who has shown
little more than contempt for an organization at which he
will represent U.S. interests. For your information, I
have attached my most recent statement on Mr. Bolton's
nomination, which provides the reasoning behind my
Again, thank you for writing. If you have any
further comments, please contact my office in
Washington, D.C. at (202) 224-3841, or visit my website
at http://feinstein.senate.gov/.

Statement of Senator Feinstein on Nomination of
John R. Bolton as UN Ambassador
April 11, 2005
Washington, DC - Following is the statement of U.S. Senator
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on the nomination of John R. Bolton to
be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations:
"I will vote against confirming John Bolton as the United
States Ambassador to the United Nations, if his nomination
comes to the Senate floor for a vote. Simply put, John Bolton is
the wrong man for what is an important and critical position at
the wrong time.
In fact, 67 former U.S. diplomats, State Department officials or
officials of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency have
urged the U.S. Senate to reject Mr. Bolton's nomination citing
his "exceptional record of opposition to efforts to enhance U.S.
security through arms control."
Mr. Bolton's contempt for the United Nations is well known.
But his contempt for diplomacy, particularly with regard to
efforts to reach arms control agreements, shows what a truly
inappropriate choice he is for this job.
Mr. Bolton has opposed the ratification of the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty. He has worked to block agreements to curb
the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. He has
opposed U.S. participation in the Ottawa Landmine Treaty. He
has led the effort to withdraw the U.S. from negotiations to
formulate a verification system for the Biological Weapons
Convention. He has urged U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-
Ballistic Missile Treaty. He has expressed skepticism about
whether U.N. should have a role in peacekeeping efforts. And,
he has even questioned whether the U.S is obligated to pay its
U.N. dues.
At a time when the U.S. is seeking to strengthen alliances
around the world to fight the War on Terror, stop the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, tackle the
HIV/AIDS pandemic and bring political stability and economic
prosperity to the developing world, John Bolton is clearly the
wrong choice to become U.S. Ambassador to the U.N."

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

I would prefer that a vote not reach the floor, where anything can happen, but at least she is committing to voting against confirmation if a vote does come up. Thanks Senator.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

How's That Again?

Over at Hullabaloo, Digby has a graphic illustration of the inconsistency of Bush's commitment to not sacrificing one life to spare another.

John at Blogenlust spots the same inconsistency (but he has no pictures).

At the Movies - That Sith Film

Stealing a concept from Pops' Bucket (that's what we do on the internets; we steal), I'm going to review a movie I've not seen.

Of course, the big movie, the one everybody has to see and review this week, is “Star Wars, Episode III, Revenge of the Sith” (did I get all that right? I didn’t even look it up!). I didn’t see it. I don’t intend to see it. Not even by accident. But I know somebody who did see it. She spent 10 seconds reviewing it for me Thursday morning. It was funny. Continuously so, apparently, as she and her friend Gabby reportedly annoyed a theater full of adolescent geeks with their laughter through its duration. She assures me this had nothing to do with sleep deprivation and I believe her.

Allow me to digress, please, to attempt to put this whole indifference of mine into perspective. Many years ago, in a town far away (well, at the other end of San Francisco Bay), a much younger, more innocent, less jaded version of me (okay, fine, a much lighter and blonder version of me, too) heard about this nifty film all the kids were seeing. Feeling bold, I asked Sybil Trozollilo if she wanted to see "Star Wars" with me and she said she’d seen it, and my heart sank. She said she wouldn’t mind seeing it again, though, (my first exposure to this phenomenon – seeing a movie over and over again) and my heart leapt again (this sinking and leaping of the heart is a pretty good summary of my daily existence from ages 14 to 23). This conversation took place in a swimming pool, as it should have. Although I worked as a ticket taker at a theater in the same complex (this takes some explaining. Theater complexes in San Jose in the seventies were not as we know them now. You didn’t have 14 auditoria under a single roof playing a total of five movies. We had four dome-shaped theaters – ginormous things that each seated many hundreds of people – spread out over a mile or so of Winchester Boulevard. A fifth theater was miles away on the west end of town) that Star Wars was playing at, I couldn’t get us in for free – no passes (The theater I worked in had a children’s double bill in the afternoon – “Tale of Two Critters” (narrated by Mayf Nutter) and “The Rescuers” – and the R-rated Sydney Sheldon classic, “The Other Side of Midnight,” featuring a naked Susan Sarandon in one scene and some skinny naked French woman and a bucket of ice in another scene, playing in the evening). So we had to wait in line in the evening sun with the commoners. Which was fun. And the movie was fun. It was unlike any movie I’d seen. It had a cool old guy with mystical powers and a British accent, a cute young hero and a cute sassy princess and Han Solo, the guy who flipped his car in "American Graffiti". The music was great (another first – aside from musicals, what movie before this had a sound track that people would actually want to buy and listen to at home?), the crawl was great, and that dude Darth was a bad motha-fu… The special effects weren’t great, but they weren’t obvious, either. Plus, I had Sybil Trozolillo (yes, the “Ls” float in that name, as they should) sitting next to me. I have, you can see, fond memories of the whole “Star Wars” experience.

The second movie, the one that takes place in a swamp and on a frozen planet (didn’t you love the way Steven Soderbergh remade this movie, with Miami filling in for Dagobah and Detroit filling in for Hoth, with the prison at Lompoc taking the place of the planet Bespin? Ah, and an uncredited cameo by Samuel L. Jackson, no doubt inspiring Lucas to create a role for him. Mace Windu. That name alone tells you the state of the Lucas creativity well) was pretty good, too. You had Jabba the Hut, Gale Sayers, the “death” of Han Solo, “I know,” and those empire fighting machines that were inspired by the cranes at the Oakland shipyards. Not as exciting, not as fresh, perhaps, as Star Wars, but a little more complex, more sophisticated, and satisfying in its own way.

Then “The Return of the Jedi” came along. Let me just say, this isn’t a horrible movie. It had a cool poster. Its got some good moments. But there’s that unfortunate trip to the moon of Endor. The chase through the redwoods was pretty cool, but we know where that brought us, don’t we? You want a fateful turning point? My daughter thinks I summed up the whole Star Wars jumping the shark with two words. Can I hear a “damned Ewoks” from the congregation? It wasn’t a great leap from there to Jar-Jar Binks, now, was it? More of an inevitable regression, wasn’t it?

Jar-Jar. That’s the first thing you think of when “The Phantom Menace” comes up, isn’t it? Sure, there was the cool race in the airy sea-doo things, conjuring up memories of the chariot race in Ben-Hur, but without the homoerotic overtones (this is Lucas, after all. There are no erotic overtones of any kind allowed here, in the whole series. Those thoughts you’re having about Princess Leia and Jabba? That’s just wrong!), but Jar-Jar stole the show. Not in a good way.

“Parade of the Clowns?” Didn’t see it. Am told there was nothing in this movie that would have made it necessary for me to understand "Revenge of the Sith." Which I’m not going to see, anyway.

Anyway, for an actual review of "Revenge of the Sith", written by somebody who sounds like he may have actually seen it, check out Anthony Lane in The New Yorker.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newsweek Trumps the "Downing Street Memo"

The Department of Louise takes note of something I had thought about and was going to post on tonight, the effect of the overblown Newsweek mistake on the "Downing Street" memo. Says Opus (and Louise),
"I can't help but notice that any attention The Memo might have received has been diverted. I suppose you could say this is a more immediate crisis, but in terms of lives lost? I don't think this escaped Karl's attention; and it only takes him an hour or so to program new talking points into Scott's software. Look! Over here! Bad media!"
Obviously the White House and the Pentagon didn't plan Newsweek's report, but they certainly exploited it for all it was worth. Consider the chronology here: The smoking gun memo comes out in the British press on May 1 and, while widely noted in blogs and on line magazines, is completely ignored by the US dailies. Early last week, before Newsweek hit the stands (or the net), anti-American rioting breaks out in Afghanistan, obviously caused by issues unrelated to an as yet unpublished news report. The Newsweek article comes out. Then, on May 13, the Downing Street memo finally hits the print press (although buried). Needing a diversion, the White House and Pentagon, which before the 13th had denied that the lethal rioting had been related to the Newsweek Article, change their story. The press, able to follow the bouncing ball but unable to remember where it had been, picks up on this new theme and joins in piling on Newsweek. Incredibly, Newsweek, lacking the courage of its convictions (or, more likely, lacking any actual convictions) folds. It couldn't have played out better if Karl Rove had scripted it three weeks ago. The fact that he scripted it on the fly and made it work with such lightweight talent as McClellan and DiRita is truly impressive.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

I Got a Damn Yellow Ribbon on My Car...What More do You Want From Me?

Via Eschaton, another example of supporting the troops...
Richard Twohig "like many injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was counting on the Army to provide him and his family with medical benefits. But lawyers representing some of those soldiers said the Army is making it difficult.

The Army determined that Twohig was less than 30 percent disabled. In order to maintain his Defense Department benefits, he had to meet the 30 percent level.

The difference is significant: If he loses the benefits, he gets a taxable $12,000 severance payment from the Army and health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. His family has no health care coverage. If he is 30 percent disabled, though, he gets a monthly military retirement check and he and his family are eligible for health care at military hospitals.

Twohig is appealing the ruling on his disability. Civilian lawyers who handle such appeals say the odds are against him."
Everybody knows about the apparent indifference of the Bush Administration to ensuring that our troops are inadequately armed and shielded in Iraq, and I've written before about VA hospital "consolidations" that leave many wounded vets without viable treatment options nearby. This situation is a part of that. The Bush Administration quite clearly does not care about these people as human beings (it's not clear that the Bush Administration cares about anybody who can't write six-digit contribution checks as human beings). The problems faced by wounded soldiers like Twohig may be endemic in the VA system, but it is incumbent on the Republican Administration that is creating thousands of wounded veterans, with no end in sight, that these problems be addressed and resolved. And that resolution should have a bias in favor of the wounded soldier, not in favor of saving the VA money.

In "Dog Bites Man" News, the Press Sucks

On page 4 of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat yesterday was a Los Angeles Times article about a Sacramento Bee columnist who resigned over questions that have arisen over the veracity of her work. There was an editorial in the local section, as well. Both pieces alluded to other similar cases, involving plagiarism or questionable sources, such as Tom Squitieri, Al Levine, and Eric Slater.

There was the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth about how the public no longer trusts or respects newspapers or journalists and they'll have to work harder to be trustworthy. Yes, do that.

Meanwhile, on page A15, the PD, a "New York Times Regional Newspaper," finally got around, 12 days after it initially showed up in the European press and on the internets, to mentioning in a news story the Downing Street Memo, which discusses how in July 2002 the Bush Administration had already decided to go to war against Iraq and now had to fix "the intelligence and facts" around the policy. Although this had been suspected by many on the left for a couple of years now, the memo was the "smoking gun."

Is it possible that the public no longer respects the press because the people running the news media have no conception anymore about what's important?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Ripley's IQ Game "Solution"

The things I'll do to please my "fans."

Off there to the right, down near the bottom, under the heading "Toys," I have a link to "Ripley's IQ Game." Sitemeter reveals that most of my hits on this site lately have been from people who have googled "solution Ripley's IQ game" for which, inexplicably, this site comes up first. I don't have the solution, folks. It seems, though, that you are allowed to move diagonally. Try that. If that doesn't work, you're on your own. Again.

Update: Or, if you want an actual, step-by-step solution, go here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Misplaced Optimism?

Kevin Drum sees hope in news that while a poll shows 90% of Republicans approve of Bush's performance overall, 57% say they favor stem cell research. I, on the other hand, see this as evidence of one of our biggest (and to me most inexplicable) problems; that Bush remains personally popular among Republicans regardless of whether they support him on individual issues. As long as he has their overall support, why should he care whether they agree with him on any of the issues?


Jonah Goldberg:

"Obviously, there are lots of people in the entertainment industry who are horrified by the allegations and behavior of Michael Jackson. But only in Hollywood could such a thing happen in the first place."

Yes, Jonah, that's right, only in Hollywood.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Spitting on Their Fathers' Graves

Paperwight has a provocative post analyzing how and why the Republicans of Bush's generation act so disrespectful of their fathers' generation. Go ahead and read it; I'll wait for you.

Krugman on Social Security

Seemingly alone among writers for our major papers, Paul Krugman takes the time to analyze what the President says his Social Security plan is, rather than just printing the high points according to the White House. So what has Krugman found now?
"Suppose you're a full-time Wal-Mart employee, earning $17,000 a year. You probably didn't get any tax cut. But Mr. Bush says, generously, that he won't cut your Social Security benefits.

Suppose you're earning $60,000 a year. On average, Mr. Bush cut taxes for workers like you by about $1,000 per year. But by 2045 the Bush Social Security plan would cut benefits for workers like you by about $6,500 per year. Not a very good deal.

Suppose, finally, that you're making $1 million a year. You received a tax cut worth about $50,000 per year. By 2045 the Bush plan would reduce benefits for people like you by about $9,400 per year. We have a winner!

I'm not being unfair. In fact, I've weighted the scales heavily in Mr. Bush's favor, because the tax cuts will cost much more than the benefit cuts would save. Repealing Mr. Bush's tax cuts would yield enough revenue to call off his proposed benefit cuts, and still leave $8 trillion in change."
Oh my goodness, you mean the President's economic policies favor the rich? Who would ever have thought it?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Joe Nation for Congress; a Bad Idea

The Press Democrat has carried several articles (other links not available from the PD)lately about Joe Nation, a Democratic Assemblyman running up against term limits in 2006, preparing to challenge Lynn Woolsey for her 6th Congressional District seat. Aside from his needing to look for a job once he loses his current one, the only reason he has come up with for challenging Woolsey is her vote for No Child Left Behind in 2001, saying the bill hasn't been adequately funded. He's going to need to do better. I have minor issues with Woolsey (a nonsensical response from her office to an inquiry I sent about her support for the "Pledge Protection Act") and I would have to question any Democrat who has supported Bush in the last three and a half years, but 2001 was a political lifetime ago and, despite reservations people may have had about the standards it imposed, there was little reason in 2001 to suspect that Bush was acting in bad faith when it came to funding NCLF.

This run seems to be all about Nation's ego and need for a job. If he feels the need to remain an elected official, he can better serve the people of California and the nation by running against somebody who has not done such a good job of meeting the needs of her constituents. Now
who might fit that description?

Just Asking...

I've always wondered, despite the presence of Secret Service agents, why one of these people doesn't just reflexively smack this perverted mother. I don't think I really want to know why he does this in the first place.

Simple Lies About Social Security

Letter I sent to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

The PD’s May 6 Op/Ed page featured a letter from Bill R. Smith of Ukiah and a column by Charles Krauthammer that both featured what is already a tired lie about President Bush’s plan to “save” Social Security: that it doesn’t cut benefits.

Here’s a simple fact: benefits to future retirees under President Bush’s plan will be less than benefits to future retirees under a continuation of the current plan. Republicans can call things whatever they want to (and they do; witness the “clear skies initiative”), but that’s a cut in benefits.

Krauthammer goes on in his column to state that the social security “trust fund” is a hoax, stating there is no box in West Virginia holding wads of cash to pay for future social security benefits. Oh my gosh, there’s not? Next he’ll be telling me my credit union doesn’t have separate little boxes containing cash for the money I have in my checking and savings accounts. Actually, he won’t be telling me that, because that would reveal how stupid his argument is. The social security trust fund consists of T-Bills, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government. Yes, to pay off those T-bills money will have to be borrowed, redirected from other government programs, or the revenue raised by new or raised taxes, but that is so of all bonds issued by our government. Why is Krauthammer not equally concerned about the trillions of dollars in T-bills held by the Chinese and Japanese central banks that have resulted from the record deficits run up by the Bush Administration. Those too will have to be paid off by the same financial mechanisms.

Krauthammer’s column is rife with this kind of disingenuous drivel (to be honest, his entire body of work is), but I haven’t the time and you won’t give me the space to address each of his points. In the long run, and by that I mean within the next thirty or forty years, something will have to be done to address Social Security’s funding. President Bush, the Congressional Republican leadership, and their supporters in the press have all demonstrated that they are not serious about addressing this in a manner that will be beneficial to the American people. Better to wait until well-meaning people are in control, rather than act now and destroy what has been among the most successful programs in our government’s history.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Follow the Money

"There will be no price gouging at gas pumps in America."
-George W. Bush, April 28, 2005 Press Conference

Oil company profits up.

Any questions?
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