Tuesday, February 28, 2006
The BBC has been running the results of an international poll it commissioned about the Iraq war. Some results:
- 60% of people polled believed that the Iraq war has increased the threat of terror attacks worldwide
- 45% believe that removing Saddam was a mistake
- However, 74% of Iraqis believe that removing Saddam was the right decision
- 45% of Iraqis believe coalition troops should pull out. 49% percent think they should stay until the country is stable
The full poll results are available as a PDF.
Changing gears, a CBS News poll shows that President Bush’s approval rating has fallen to a new all-time low:
- Bush’s approval rating is now 34%
- Two out of three Americans think that Bush did not respond adequately to the needs of Katrina victims
- 51% agreed that “the president does not care much about people like themselves”.
- Only 30% approve of how Bush is handling the Iraq war
- Only 18% have a favorable view of Dick Cheney
All in all, not a good polling week for the administration.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Monday, February 27, 2006
Remember the Scottish police officer that Bush accidentally ran into during last year’s G8 summit at the Gleneagles Hotel? Well, the Scotsman ran an article yesterday with some new details on the incident. Its summary is:
HE MAY be the most powerful man in the world, but proof has emerged that President George Bush cannot ride a bike, wave and speak at the same time.
OK, ha ha, Bush can’t ride a bicycle. But there’s some interesting substance to the report, as well. It was initially reported in the US press that the officer Bush ran into suffered only “very minor” injuries. However, the Scotsman article mentions that the officer was out of commission for fourteen weeks, which hardly seems minor:
At hospital, a doctor examined the constable and diagnosed damage to his ankle ligaments and issued him with crutches. The cause was officially recorded as: “Hit by moving/falling object.”
Details of precisely how the crash unfolded have until now been kept under wraps for fear of embarrassing both Bush and the injured constable. But the new disclosures are certain to raise eyebrows on Washington’s Capitol Hill.
John Scott, a human rights lawyer, said: “There’s certainly enough in this account for a charge of careless driving. Anyone else would have been warned for dangerous driving.
“I have had clients who have been charged with assaulting a police officer for less than this. The issue of how long the police officer was out of action for is also important. He was away from work for 14 weeks, and that would normally be very significant in a case like this.”
Friday, February 24, 2006
As I had previously mentioned, South Dakota is preparing to test abortion rights at the federal level. Today, South Dakota legislature passed its sweeping abortion ban that will almost certainly end up in the Supreme Court. Bill supporters are hoping this will be the test case that breaks Roe v. Wade.
The legislation directly targets Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the nation. Lawmakers believe the nation’s highest court is more likely to reverse itself on the abortion issue since the recent appointment of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
If you’re a Norwegian cross-country ski coach, and you help out a Canadian skier by handing her a pole in an Olympic race after hers broke, even though she goes on to beat your own team, what thanks do you get?
Why, 8,000 cans of Canadian maple syrup, funded by public donations collected by Bell Canada, of course.
Project Maple Syrup. You can’t make this stuff up.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
I was standing in line to get coffee this morning and the barista casually asked the person behind me in line:
“Would you like some flavor in your coffee today?”
The person said yes.
Now, I imagine that the person was a regular, and that it was understood between him and the barista that they were talking about some particular flavor, but I thought the exchange was pretty funny nonetheless.
I clearly need to remember to order my coffee with extra flavor. Imagine what I’ve been missing!
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
[W]hether we like it or not, humans, married and unmarried, will continue to have sex — wisely, foolishly, violently, nicely, hostilely, pleasantly, dangerously, responsibly, carelessly, sordidly, exaltedly — and there will be pregnancies: wanted, unwanted, partly wanted, partly unwanted.
A society that does not accept the facts is a childish society, and a society that makes abortion illegal — and I believe that the [Partial Birth Abortion Ban] is a calculated step in exactly that direction — is a cruel and backward society that makes being female a crime. It works in partnership with the illegal abortionist. It puts him in business, sends him his customers, and employs him to dispense crude, dirty, barbaric, savage punishment to those who break the law. And the ones who are punished by the illegal abortionist are always women: mothers, sisters, daughters, wives.
Why is this piece particularly topical? Well, South Dakota is gearing up to pass a bill banning nearly all abortions. Isn’t this contrary to Roe V. Wade, you ask? Well, certainly, it is, but:
If the bill passes a narrowly divided Senate in a vote expected on Wednesday, and is signed by Gov. Michael Rounds, a Republican who opposes abortion, advocates of abortion rights have pledged to challenge it in court immediately — and that is precisely what the bill’s supporters have in mind.
Optimistic about the recent changes on the United States Supreme Court, some abortion opponents say they have new hope that a court fight over a ban here could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion legal around the country.
“I’m convinced that the timing is right for this,” said State Representative Roger Hunt, a Republican who has sponsored the bill, noting the appointments of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the court.
“The strong possibility of a third appointee sometime soon makes this all very real and very viable,” Mr. Hunt added, a reference to conjecture that Justice John Paul Stevens, 85, might soon retire. “I think it will all culminate at the right time.”
Dan Savage has said it before, and I imagine he’ll say it again: the reason right-wing moral authoritarianism is dangerous to everyone, not just minorities like gays and lesbians, is vividly illustrated by what’s happening to our Supreme Court and at all levels of our government. First, the conservative right gets state constitutions amended to bar gay marriage, but when they’re done with that, they come for the straight people. If abortion is banned again in this country, it will be the triumph of a Christian majority imposing their moral views on everyone.
Are you really prepared to live in the society these people have in store for you? It’s a world where sex education is banned in favor of a blanket abstinence-only message, foreign aid to Africa is contingent on not funding the single most effective weapon against the spread of AIDS (condoms), abortions are illegal, and schoolchildren are led by their teachers in Christian prayer.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
MoveOn is organizing a bunch of vigils tomorrow to protest the warrantless spying program. I would like to go to one, but it looks like they’re all being held between 5:00PM and 6:00PM, and I will still be at work (easy joke in here about protesters).
Anyway, if you are free for some reason, it might be interesting to go check one of them out. There’s a vigil at 6:00PM at Westlake Mall, and you can see others around Seattle at MoveOn’s web site.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
I can’t believe this is happening:
Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts said Thursday he has worked out an agreement with the White House to change U.S. law regarding the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program and provide more information about it to Congress.
Without offering specifics, Roberts said the agreement with the White House provides “a fix” to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and offers more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Look, I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again: if changes to legislation are understood to have any effect on the President’s behavior, that means the President is breaking the law right now. If you think the President is already acting legally, then changing legislation won’t make a damn bit of difference. FISA says that what the President is doing right now is a federal crime, but you don’t really see that cramping the White House’s style, do you? Why lawmakers think that if they go tinker with FISA, that the administration will suddenly consider itself bound by it, is beyond me. What’s the undisclosed additional language?
Lawmakers trying to have it both ways are driving me nuts. Why are they even discussing legislative changes before they’ve addressed the President’s claim that Congress isn’t even empowered to restrict his wiretapping program? I wonder if, by proposing legislative changes, they realize that, by implication, they are claiming that the President is currently breaking the law?
It’s not as though the White House is being particularly coy about the fact that they don’t think Congress has much to say about the matter. The McClellatron said just today:
We don’t believe that congressional authorization is something that is necessary, because, as the President has spelled out, and others have spelled out, he already has the constitutional and the statutory authority to authorize the terrorist surveillance program.
Get it, wingnut administration apologists? Changing FISA is a logical futility until the question of whether this circumvention is bogus or not is resolved.
The MSNBC article mentions that Specter still wants the FISA court to review the spying program’s legality. That seems like as sensible a suggestion as anyone has come up with to date.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Oh, man; this is really depressing.
The Washington Post reports that the White House (not surprisingly) has been lobbying hard to prevent a proper Congressional investigation into the domestic spying program from getting underway:
Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.
The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry [... ] Two committee Democrats said the panel [...] was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.
They attributed the shift to last week’s closed briefings given by top administration officials to the full House and Senate intelligence committees, and to private appeals to wavering GOP senators by officials, including Vice President Cheney.
The article calls out Republican Senator Olympia J. Snowe from Maine, who was previously outspoken about investigating the spying program. What does she say now?
“I’m not sure it’s going to be essential or necessary” to conduct an inquiry “if we can address the legislative standpoint” that would provide oversight of the surveillance program. “We’re learning a lot and we’re going to learn more,” she said.
“The administration has obviously gotten the message that they need to be more forthcoming,” Snowe said.
So obviously, since Gonzales trekked up to the Capitol and explained that the President can do whatever he wants, no further inquiry is necessary.
But here’s what I find most troubling:
Senate intelligence committee member Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said in an interview that he supports the NSA program and would oppose a congressional investigation. He said he is drafting legislation that would “specifically authorize this program” by excluding it from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secret court to consider government requests for wiretap warrants in anti-terrorist investigations.
Let me spell it out for all you kids out there:
- If what the President is doing is legal, then the law doesn’t need to be changed.
- If you need to change the law to authorize what the President is doing, that means the President is breaking the law right now.
- …So if you’re going around explaining that the way to “resolve” this “situation” is to pass legislation to authorize the President’s conduct, then I for one would like you to explain why we shouldn’t hold the President to account for breaking the freaking law, dammit!
So, why not hold the President to account? Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who had previously signed a letter calling for an inquiry, explains it thusly:
“If some kind of inquiry would be beneficial to getting a resolution to this issue, then sure, we should look at it. But if the inquiry is just some kind of a punitive inquiry that really is not focused on finding a way out of this, then I’m not so sure that I would support that.”
Come to think of it, he has a point. Why on earth would we want to pursue a “punitive inquiry” in the face of strong evidence that the Executive is breaking the law?
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The Daily Show went totally nuts with the whole Dick-Cheney-shooting-people-in-the-face story; the video is hilarious, and you can see it online here. Check it out!
Friday, February 10, 2006
The Globe and Mail reports that:
The warmth in which the Northern Hemisphere has basked since the middle of the 20th century has been the most widespread and longest period of unusual climate experienced at any time during at least the past 1,200 years, according to a research paper in the journal Science.
Although the new paper looked at data up to only 1995, recent years have continued with even more pronounced warmth.
The World Meteorological Organization said late last year that the decade from 1996-2005 contained nine of the 10 warmest years on record.
I would say this bodes poorly for snowboarding conditions in the Pacific Northwest.
Friday, February 10, 2006
Thursday, February 9, 2006
Lots of stuff going on with the NSA spying scandal:
- It turns out that two presiding FISA judges (Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and her predecessor, Royce C. Lamberth), were briefed by the Administration on the NSA spying program. Both insisted that NSA-acquired material not be used to back up requests for FISA warrants, presumably because they feared the material would later be found to have been illegally obtained. On at least two occasions, the Justice Department had to warn the court that they may have used NSA material in warrant applications without letting the FISA court know, as they had promised to do. The Washington Post has more.
- The Republican chair of the House Committee that oversees the NSA is calling for a “complete review” of the program, and has said that the White House’s briefing of the “Gang of Eight” House and Senate members on the secret program “is not oversight”.
- Possibly in response, the White House has changed course and began briefing the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday about operational details of the program, which they had previously refused to do. “A comparable Senate briefing was scheduled for Thursday”.
- CNN also reports that the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter (of “We’re not going to swear this witness” fame), “announced he was drafting legislation that would require the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review the constitutionality of the administration’s monitoring of terror-related international communications when one party to the call is in the United States”. This seems like a step in the right direction, although I’m not sure why the FISA court, which I believe is understood to be populated with fairly pro-government appointees, should conduct the review, and not the Supreme Court.
The sound bites coming out of the White House are particularly nauseating (from CNN):
Press secretary Scott McClellan said Thursday that the White House will listen to ideas that lawmakers have about legislation, but Bush has indicated that he would resist any move that would compromise the program.
“There is a high bar to overcome on such ideas,” McClellan said.
The White House is happy to listen to the idea of the legislative branch about what legislation might be appropriate. How munificent of them.
Thursday, February 9, 2006
Attorney General Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the NSA spying program on Monday, and you’ve probably already heard that he was not sworn in. If you haven’t heard, well then by golly, he wasn’t sworn in. Why not? Let’s go to the tapes:
SPECTER [Chairman]: There has been some question about swearing in the attorney general and I discussed that with the attorney general. He said he would be willing to be sworn.
After reflecting on the matter, I think it is unwarranted because the law provides ample punishment for a false official statement or a false statement to Congress
FEINGOLD: Mr. Chairman, I’d just say that the reason that anyone would want him sworn has to do with the fact that certain statements were made under oath at the confirmation hearing. So it seems to me logical that, since we’re going to be asking about similar things, that he should be sworn in this occasion, as well.
LEAHY: And, Mr. Chairman, if I might on that point — if I might on that point, of course, the attorney general was sworn in on another occasion other than his confirmation, when he and Director Mueller appeared before this committee for oversight. [...] I also recall the chairman and other Republicans insisting that former Attorney General Reno be sworn, which she came up here on occasions other than her confirmation.
SPECTER: [...I]t is my judgment that it is unnecessary to swear the witness.
LEAHY: But, Mr. Chairman, may I ask, if the witness has no objection to being sworn, why not just do it and then not have this question raised here?
SPECTER: [...T]he reason I’m not going to swear him in is not up to him. Attorney General Gonzales is not the chairman; I am. And I’m going to make the ruling.
FEINGOLD (?): Chairman, I move the witness be sworn.
SPECTER: The chairman has ruled. If there is an appeal from the ruling of the chair, I have a pretty good idea how it’s going to come out.
FEINGOLD (?): Mr. Chairman, I appeal the ruling of the chair.
I’ve elided a lot of verbiage in which, among other things, Specter argues that he’s reviewed records and applicable law to arrive at his decision. After the exchange above, there was a vote by role call. All the Republicans voted not to swear in the witness, all the Democrats voted that he be sworn. There are, of course, more Republicans on the committee than Democrats.
LEAHY: Mr. Chairman, I don’t…
SPECTER: Let’s not engage in protracted debate on this subject. We’re not going to swear this witness, and we have the votes to stop it.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Well Ryan Marie has been hard at work lately. She has three achievements to report:
- She set an all-time record last night by sleeping 8 uninterrupted hours, much to her parents’ glee.
- She flipped herself from her tummy to her back unassisted the other day, although this may have been an accident.
- She seems to have swatted at various objects with clear and deliberate intent. This is a forerunner to actual fine-motor control.
Here is a picture in case you’ve forgotten what she looks like:
Friday, February 3, 2006
By now, everyone has probably heard the “tale of two shirts”: Cindy Sheehan, of harassing-Bush fame, was wearing a T-shirt that read “2,245 Dead. How many more?” while attending the State of the Union, and found herself hustled out of the chamber. Separately, Beverly Young, wife of Florida Republican Rep. Bill Young, was wearing a T-shirt reading “Support our Troops” was similarly ejected.
The news reports I’ve seen seem to largely lump the two incidents together to report that the cops decided they shouldn’t have ejected either woman. The San Jose Mercury News’ article, for example, has the headline:
Police red-faced over T-shirt tussle
EFFORT AT EVEN-HANDEDNESS FALLS FLAT; ACTIVIST, GOP WIFE WON’T FACE CHARGES
The article opens:
The chief of the Capitol Police on Wednesday dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and apologized for ejecting her and the wife of an influential Republican congressman from the State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.
So, nothing much to see here, right? Two women showed up with war-related slogans, both were ejected, and the cops later admitted this was a mistake. Fairness and even-handedness all around, right?
The articles I’ve read seem to be glossing over the fact that the two women were actually treated quite differently:
- Beverly Young argued with the cops; calling them idiots and demanding to know what law she had broken. Nonetheless, she walked away under her own recognizance.
- Sheehan, on the other hand, by her own account, was hauled out of her chair, handcuffed, driven away, fingerprinted, charged with “unlawful conduct”, and held in a cell for four hours.
An MSNBC article mentions that:
Sheehan was taken away in handcuffs before Bush’s arrival at the Capitol and charged with a misdemeanor, while Young left the gallery and therefore was not arrested, Gainer said.
Aside from the fact that both women obviously “left the gallery”, whether they wanted to or not, this portrayal is at odds with Sheehan’s claims about what happened, and all other articles I happened across.
A Washington Post editorial mentions, in the same offhand way as several other articles, that “On Wednesday, the chief apologized to both women”. The Mercury News article, though, makes clear that the Capitol Police Chief held a meeting to apologize in person to Congressman Young and his wife, whereas he only “left a similar message with Sheehan”.
The Mercury News article quotes Young like this:
Beverly Young, who regularly visits wounded soldiers, said she “was treated like a criminal.”
Is Beverly a friend to children and small animals, too? Does she leave a trail of sunshine and light wherever she goes? Sheehan is characterized a little further down as being someone who “blames Bush for the death of her soldier son, Casey, in Iraq”, which is, of course, true. One wonders, though, why the article didn’t characterize her as, say, “founder of a Families for Peace initiative”.
Congressman Young proclaimed from the House floor, regarding his wife’s hideous ordeal:
“Because she had on a shirt that someone didn’t like [...], she was kicked out of this gallery,” Young said, displaying the gray shirt that had caused her trouble. “Shame, shame.”