Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

9/17/2005

Profiteering

From the Onion:
Halliburton Gets Contract To Pry Gold Fillings From New Orleans Corpses' Teeth

HOUSTON—On Tuesday, Halliburton received a $110 million no-bid government contract to pry the gold fillings from the mouths of deceased disaster victims in the New Orleans-Gulf Coast area. "We are proud to serve the government in this time of crisis by recovering valuable resources from the wreckage of this deadly storm," said David J. Lesar, Halliburton's president. "The gold we recover from the human rubble of Katrina can be used to make fighter-jet electronics, supercomputer chips, inflation-proof A-grade investments, and luxury yachting watches."

Face transplants

From the AP:
Cleveland Doc Wants to Try Face Transplant

In the next few weeks, five men and seven women will secretly visit the Cleveland Clinic to interview for the chance to have a radical operation that's never been tried anywhere in the world.

They will smile, raise their eyebrows, close their eyes, open their mouths. Dr. Maria Siemionow will study their cheekbones, lips and noses. She will ask what they hope to gain and what they most fear.

Then she will ask, "Are you afraid that you will look like another person?"

Because whoever she chooses will endure the ultimate identity crisis.

Siemionow wants to attempt a face transplant.

This is no extreme TV makeover. It is a medical frontier being explored by a doctor who wants the public to understand what she is trying to do.

It is this: to give people horribly disfigured by burns, accidents or other tragedies a chance at a new life. Today's best treatments still leave many of them with freakish, scar-tissue masks that don't look or move like natural skin.

These people already have lost the sense of identity that is linked to the face; the transplant is merely "taking a skin envelope" and slipping their identity inside, Siemionow contends.

Her supporters note her experience, careful planning, the team of experts assembled to help her, and the practice she has done on animals and dozens of cadavers to perfect the technique.

But her critics say the operation is way too risky for something that is not a matter of life or death, as organ transplants are. They paint the frighteningly surreal image of a worst-case scenario: a transplanted face being rejected and sloughing away, leaving the patient worse off than before.
Click here to continue reading this post.
Cleveland Doc Wants to Try Face Transplant

In the next few weeks, five men and seven women will secretly visit the Cleveland Clinic to interview for the chance to have a radical operation that's never been tried anywhere in the world.

They will smile, raise their eyebrows, close their eyes, open their mouths. Dr. Maria Siemionow will study their cheekbones, lips and noses. She will ask what they hope to gain and what they most fear.

Then she will ask, "Are you afraid that you will look like another person?"

Because whoever she chooses will endure the ultimate identity crisis.

Siemionow wants to attempt a face transplant.

This is no extreme TV makeover. It is a medical frontier being explored by a doctor who wants the public to understand what she is trying to do.

It is this: to give people horribly disfigured by burns, accidents or other tragedies a chance at a new life. Today's best treatments still leave many of them with freakish, scar-tissue masks that don't look or move like natural skin.

These people already have lost the sense of identity that is linked to the face; the transplant is merely "taking a skin envelope" and slipping their identity inside, Siemionow contends.

Her supporters note her experience, careful planning, the team of experts assembled to help her, and the practice she has done on animals and dozens of cadavers to perfect the technique.

But her critics say the operation is way too risky for something that is not a matter of life or death, as organ transplants are. They paint the frighteningly surreal image of a worst-case scenario: a transplanted face being rejected and sloughing away, leaving the patient worse off than before.

Such qualms recently scuttled face transplant plans in France and England.

Ultimately, it comes to this: a hospital, doctor and patient willing to try it.

The first two are now in place. The third is expected to be shortly.

The "consent form" says that this surgery is so novel and its risks so unknown that doctors don't think informed consent is even possible.

Here is what it tells potential patients:

Your face will be removed and replaced with one donated from a cadaver, matched for tissue type, age, sex and skin color. Surgery should last 8 to 10 hours; the hospital stay, 10 to 14 days.

Complications could include infections that turn your new face black and require a second transplant or reconstruction with skin grafts. Drugs to prevent rejection will be needed lifelong, and they raise the risk of kidney damage and cancer.

After the transplant you might feel remorse, disappointment, or grief or guilt toward the donor. The clinic will try to shield your identity, but the press likely will discover it.

The clinic will cover costs for the first patient; nothing about others has been decided.

Another form tells donor families that the person receiving the face will not resemble their dead loved one. The recipient should look similar to how he or she did before the injury because the new skin goes on existing bone and muscle, which give a face its shape.

All of the little things that make up facial expression — mannerisms like winking when telling a joke or blushing at a compliment — are hard-wired into the brain and personality, not embedded in the skin.

Some research suggests the end result would be a combination of the two appearances.

Surgeons will graft skin to cover the donor's wound, but a closed casket or cremation will be required.

It took more than a year to win approval from the 13-member Institutional Review Board, the clinic's gatekeeper of research. Siemionow assembled surgeons, psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, nurses and patient advocates, and worked with LifeBanc, the organ procurement agency she expects will help obtain a face.

At first, not everyone was on her side, acknowledged the board's vice chairman, Dr. Alan Lichtin. After months of debate, Siemionow brought in photographs of potential patients.

Looking at the contorted images, Lichtin said he was struck by "the failure of the present state of the art to help these people." He decided he didn't want to deprive the surgeon or patients of the chance.

The board's decision didn't have to be unanimous.

In the end, it was.

Surgeons wished they could have done a transplant six years ago, when a 2-year-old boy attacked by a pit bull dog was brought to the University of Texas in Dallas where Dr. Karol Gutowski was training.

Other doctors had tried to reattach part of the boy's mauled face but it didn't take. The Texas surgeons did five skin grafts in a bloody, 28-hour surgery. Muscles from the boy's thigh were moved to around his mouth. Part of his abdomen became the lower part of his face. Two forearm sections became lips and mouth.

"He'll never be normal," said Gutowski, now a reconstructive surgeon at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Surviving such wounds can be "life by 1,000 cuts." Patients endure dozens of operations to graft skin inch by inch from their backs, arms, buttocks and legs. Only small amounts can be taken at a time because of bleeding.

Surgeons often return to the same areas every few weeks, reopening old wounds and building up skin. Years later, many patients are still having surgeries. A face transplant — applying a sheet of skin in one operation — could be a better solution.

Despite its shock factor, it involves routine microsurgery. One or two pairs of veins and arteries on either side of the face would be connected from the donor tissue to the recipient. About 20 nerve endings would be stitched together to try to restore sensation and movement. Tiny sutures would anchor the new tissue to the recipient's scalp and neck, and areas around the eyes, nose and mouth.

"For 10 years now, it could have been done," said Dr. John Barker, director of plastic surgery research at the University of Louisville, where the first hand transplant in the United States was performed in 1999.

Several years ago, these doctors announced their intent to do face transplants, but no hospital has yet agreed. They also are working with doctors in the Netherlands; nothing is imminent.

However, Siemionow had been doing experimental groundwork. She already had creatures that resembled raccoons in reverse — white rats with masks of dark fur — from years of face transplant experiments. She developed a plan and got clinic approval before going public, and insists she is not competing to do the first case.

"I hope nobody will be frivolous or do things just for fame. We are almost over-cautious," she said.

Siemionow, 55, went to medical school in Poland, trained in Europe and the United States, and has done thousands of surgeries in nearly 30 years. The success of this one depends on picking the right patient.

She wants a clear-cut first case. No children because risks are too great. No cancer patients because anti-rejection drugs raise the risk of recurrence.

"You want to choose patients who are really disfigured, not someone who has a little scar," yet with enough healthy skin for traditional grafts if the transplant fails, she said.

The person must bond with the transplant team, especially Siemionow. How much would she want to know about the person?

"Everything possible. It's a commitment on both sides," she said.

Dr. Joseph Locala will decide whether candidates are mentally fit. His chief concern: making sure they realize the risks.

"They almost need to understand as much as the surgeon," he said.

A psychiatrist who has worked with transplant patients for 11 years, Locala knows they often have been coached on what to say to be chosen. He'd veto candidates who had abused alcohol or drugs, because they may not comply with medications.

Likewise someone who had attempted or seriously threatened suicide, or with little family or friends for support.

"I'm looking for a psychologically strong person. We want people who are going to make it through," he explained.

Dr. James Zins, chairman of plastic surgery, expects to be among the 10 to 12 doctors involved in the transplant and has been screening patients.

"We get some pretty strange calls from people who are really not candidates," he said. For someone to be chosen, "they're going to have to get a pass from every member of the team."

Matthew Teffeteller might seem an ideal candidate.

Hair is driving him crazy. What used to be a beard can't grow through the skin-graft quilt that Vanderbilt University doctors stitched over parts of his face that were seared off in a car crash. Trapped under this crust, hair festers, leading to staph infections, pain and more surgeries.

"It's a nightmare and it never ends," he said. "Being burned is the worst thing that can happen to you. I'm about sure of it."

Teffeteller, 26, lives south of Knoxville, in the foothills of Great Smoky Mountains National Park where he worked, ironically, as a fire fighter. The day after Valentine's Day in 2002, he was taking his pregnant wife to buy a cowboy hat and go country line dancing to celebrate their first anniversary.

"The next thing I remember, everything just went all to pieces...there was a big explosion. I remember seeing gas splash off of the windshield," he said.

Rear-ended by a truck, his car flipped and caught on fire. His wife died. He was burned trying to free her.

"They said my face was charcoal black," he said.

He didn't see it for two months, until he glimpsed a mirror on his way to therapy.

"Oh, my God," he thought. "I remember seeing my eyes pulled open. I remember my ears were burned off, and I remember my bottom lip being pulled down."

Three years later, his face still frightens children. Yet he wouldn't try a transplant.

"Having somebody else's face ... that wouldn't be right. When I look in the mirror, I might be scarred but I can still tell that it's me," he said.

"I'd be afraid something would go wrong, too. What would you do if you didn't have a face? Could you live?"

Bioethicist Carson Strong at the University of Tennessee wonders, too.

"It would leave the patient with an extensive facial wound with potentially serious physical and psychological consequences," he wrote last summer in the American Journal of Bioethics.

Such worries led the Royal College of Surgeons in England and the French National Ethics Advisory Committee to decide it shouldn't be tried. Any doctor considering it should examine soul and conscience, Strong wrote.

Ironically, people most emotionally devastated by disfigurement are those most likely to seek a transplant and least able to cope with uncertain results, media attention and loss of privacy, ethicists from England wrote in the same journal.

One worried that a donor family might have unhealthy expectations of seeing a loved-one "live on" in another person's body, or that recipients might want to see and approve a potential face.

No way, said Siemionow.

"It's not a shopping mall. They need to rely on our judgment. If they are starting to shop, they are not good candidates," she said.

Siemionow said critics should admit that risks and need for the transplant are debatable.

"Really, who has the right to decide about the patient's quality of life?" she asked. "It's very important not to kind of scare society.... We will do our best to help the patient."

If all of the candidates back out, "that's OK. It means that we are not ready yet," she said.

But if a transplant succeeds, many people who live in misery could benefit, said Gutowski, the Wisconsin surgeon.

"Someone's got to push the envelope," he said. "In retrospect, we'll know whether it should be done."

___

On the Net:

University of Louisville face transplant information

Burn victim: http://www.helpjacqui.com

Patient groups:

http://www.phoenix-society.org

http://www.burnsurvivor.com

http://www.burnsurvivorsonline.com

http://www.faceit.org

http://www.aboutfaceinternational.org

http://www.changingfaces.org.uk

http://www.forwardface.org

O'Reilly wants the UN dead

O'Reilly on the UN:
I just wish Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out. And I wouldn't have rescued them."
Whatever dude, or, to borrow an image from Lauren ...



Can't Bill even come up with some original idiocy? Am I the only one reminded of this?
My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.
Bill O'Reilly: a poor man's Ann Coulter.

Can I get an Amen?

Ezra Klein's guest poster Jedmunds on Kos's insistence that single-issue groups subordinate their will to the Party:
Kos recently said:
“Fact is, those groups were created for a governing system where progressives had some measure of power, and those constituency groups could lobby for their causes in the halls of government. If I hated choice and gays and the environment and every other progressive constituency group I would applaud the status quo, because it is surely and inexorably leading to their demise.

That formula doesn't work in today's political environment. And we won't have a governing majority until the energy expended in pursuing pet interests gets redirected toward getting Republicans out of power and getting Democrats -- even some of the imperfect ones -- elected to replace them.”
Now, I’m as partisan a Democrat as anyone. I feel as urgently as anyone the need to get Democrats elected and to remove the Republicans from power. But Kos is rather aggressively wrong about this. The only demise that is inexorable if the Democrats keep losing is that of the Democrats themselves. Despite failure after failure at the ballot for Democrats, these issues have managed to actually gain traction or at least hold steady. The Democrats keep losing, while the issues they nominally support continually gain support with the public. This is especially true with respect to gay rights ... Even with abortion, the Republicans don’t have the power to appoint a Supreme Court nominee openly opposed to it ... It’s actually, really amazing when you think about it; some of these issues are incredibly popular, the Republican Party is pretty horrible on them and yet the Democrats still can’t find a way to win. But why this is so, I’ll leave others to speculate on. But the point is, it’s up to Democrats to win elections. And those who advocate for issues are going to be obliged to work with the winners, not, you know, comfort the losers.

Take for example NARAL’s infamous endorsement of John Chafee in Rhode Island, a subject which I wrote on a while back. Conventional wisdom dictates that a group like NARAL should endorse incumbents who are reasonably good on their issues, which Chafee is. But apparently in this environment, NARAL is supposed to sacrifice whatever leverage they have on Chafee, for the sake of the speculative possibility of a future Democratic Congress.

...If you demand that every interest subsumes itself and becomes a subsidiary of the Democratic Party, then the Democratic Party is going to need to get a lot better on delivering on these issues. I mean, how can I blame NARAL for not choosing obeisance to the Democratic Party, when the Democratic Party is busy doing things like clearing the primary for a guy like Bob Casey Jr. for the 2006 Senate nomination in Pennsylvania? Or the list of Democrat after Democrat who votes to undermine reproductive freedom? If NARAL were to subsume their interests before the Democratic Party, then the Democratic Party is going to need to show they take the resulting “fiduciary” duty more seriously than they do. After all, what exactly is attractive about the proposition of yielding to the authority of a group that is both as spineless and ineffectual as the Democratic Party has been lately? Either start winning or start showing some spine, ya know? Either one would go a long way toward making a more convincing argument for yielding to the Democrats.
I hope I can be forgiven for posting such a substantial excerpt, but this just expresses so perfectly why Kos and Armando are so misguided about this. If I'm NARAL, I'm trying to figure out how to work with a GOP-controlled government - because despite the delusions of Kos and others, a Democratic House and Senate might never come about.

Kos tells NARAL that it's their interest for the Democrats to control the federal government. Well, yeah. And it's in my interest to win the lottery tomorrow - but just in case I don't, I'd be well advised to start figuring out another way to make some money.

As Jedmunds so capably points out, NARAL's issue - abortion rights - is popular, unlike some political parties I won't mention. Kos needs to get it through his head that the Democrats need NARAL much more than NARAL needs the Democrats. NARAL and other pro-choice groups have the public's support behind them, and this is a powerful weapon to yield when it comes to getting Republicans to keep their hands off women's reproductive choices.

Yeah, we could all sit around waiting for our Fairy Godmother to grant us a Democratic congress, which will then solve all these problems (remember how progressives got everything we wanted, right up until 1994?) ... or we could depart from fantasy land and start figuring out how to protect the few remaining rights that people have left, with or without the help of the Democrats.

Would I like to see a Democratic congress in '06? Hell yeah - I'd love it. But it's such a remote possibility at this point that it's silly to base our strategy on it.

This is like the Nader 2000 thing all over again ... somehow, somewhere, Democrats got it in their heads that they deserved our votes, that they were entitled to them - and they get awfully indignant when somebody says otherwise. (I'm not saying that people should vote for Nader, but it never occurred to the Dems that they might try to earn the votes of progressives, rather than attacking them for even considering casting a ballot for a third party.)

They promise that when they finally win, we'll get everything we want - which of course is a lie, but that's almost beside the point, because they never win - and it's not our fault. In many ways, the US becomes a more progressive/liberal country every day - and the inept powers that be in the Democratic Party still can't manage to use that fact to their advantage. And NARAL is supposed to entrust reproductive freedom to these stooges?

But hey, maybe I'm wrong; maybe the Dems are on the verge of turning it all around, and we'll have the House and Senate in '06 and the White House in '08. After all, Paul Hackett did manage to lose by only four points!

In the meantime, though, you'll have to excuse us for having a Plan B.

9/16/2005

News from New Orleans

Initial optimism that the disaster might not have been quite as bad as originally thought seems to be receding ...
Higher-than-expected death toll seen in clustered New Orleans corpses

Tentative optimism that New Orleans’ death toll from Katrina might be far lower than first projected has given way to somber reality over the past 36 hours as search and rescue squad turn up bodies by the dozen in the hardest hit areas of the city.

By mid-afternoon Friday, the black triangles used to designate human remains were multiplying on an emergency command center map. Federal Emergency Management Agency rescue squad liaison Charles Hood said a spike in discoveries Friday has started to take an emotional toll on rescue workers.

“Our squad members are getting access to trauma and grief counselors,” Hood said. “It’s becoming a very difficult task.”

The state is in charge of releasing Katrina’s official death total, which stood at 579 Friday evening. Hood said the periodic reports from his seven 80-person squads indicate the casualty count is going to jump in the coming days, but declined to speculate on what the number would climb to. One squad alone located and marked more than a dozen houses containing dead people on Friday.

“Parts of the city have become a target-rich environment for human remains,” Hood said. “We’re just now getting into the areas that experienced the most rapid inundation ... Those are areas where the people were probably asleep when the water rushed in,” Hood said.

...While Thursday and Friday’s developments were mostly grim, the discovery of a 70-year-old man, alive and well after being trapped for 17 days, brought cheers from the beleaguered rescue squads. He was the first “live” discovery by the squads in two days, Hood said ...

“That is really going to help give momentum to everybody,” Hood said. “As bad as things are out there, we’re still holding out hope that we can find others like him.”
And this too:
New Orleans officials pulled back a bit Friday from the ambitious timeline for resettling unflooded portions of New Orleans that was announced a day earlier by Mayor Ray Nagin.

The first two phases of the plan will go on as scheduled, Col. Terry Ebbert, Nagin’s director of homeland security, said at an afternoon news conference: Business owners in the French Quarter, Central Business District, Algiers and parts of Uptown will be allowed to return beginning at 8 a.m. today. And Algiers residents can return to their homes beginning Monday morning.

But the city is taking a wait-and-see stance on the rest of the timeline, which called for some Uptown residents to return Wednesday, others Friday, and French Quarter residents to come back the following Monday.
There's really no telling right now just how bad things will turn out to be ... we'll just have to wait and see.

Uh ....

Well, this is certainly a candidate for least popular cause ever:
Sex offenders are rallying against growing restrictions on where they can live and work in Central Florida.

It is unprecedented in Brevard County for sex offenders to gather publicly and loudly to demand better treatment, but they hit the streets of Palm Bay Thursday because it is one city considering some of the tightest new restrictions of all, WESH 2 News reported.

...Berger is the driving force behind a proposed law that has registered sex offenders and their families so angry. Berger believes employers should supervise employees who are sex offenders and should inform their customers.

"If you're going to go under someone's home and there are children present, because of the propensity to be enamored with children, that a person has the right to know who's going into their home," Berger said.

Some cities are passing laws that would make it illegal for sex offenders to live there. Now Palm Bay might make it virtually impossible for sex offenders to work in the city.
This was a DU poster's appropriate response:

Oh ... my .... God ...

Oh Lord, please let this be another one of those urban legends coming out of New Orleans ...
Merlene Maten undoubtedly stands out in the prison where she has been held since Hurricane Katrina. The 73-year-old church deaconess, never before in trouble with the law, now sleeps among hardened criminals. Her bail is a stiff $50,000.

Her offense?

Police say the grandmother from New Orleans took $63.50 in goods from a looted deli the day after Katrina struck.
Anyone want to guess what skin color Ms. Maten has?

Overturning the Gospels

Great piece from Melinda Henneberger:

Sept. 14, 2005 - There was a great piece in Harper's last month, "The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong'' by Bill McKibben, about how three out of four Americans believe the Bible teaches this: "God helps those who help themselves.'' The Gospel according to Mark? Luke? Actually, it was Ben Franklin who came up with these words to live by.

"The thing is,'' McKibben writes, "not only is Franklin's wisdom not biblical; it's counterbiblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.''

Now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we have seen—and been unable to look away from— the direct result of this self-deception.

And if such tell-me-I'm-dreaming scenes as rats feeding on corpses in the streets—American streets—isn't enough to make us rethink the public-policy implications of turning the Gospel on its head in this way, then truly, God help us.

We as a nation—a proudly, increasingly loudly Christian nation—have somehow convinced ourselves that the selfish choice is usually the moral one, too. (What a deal!) You know how this works: It's wrong to help poor people because "handouts'' reward dependency and thus hurt more than they help. So, do the right thing—that is, walk right on by—and by all means hang on to your hard-earned cash.

Thus do we deny the working poor a living wage, resent welfare recipients expected to live on a few hundred dollars a month, object to the whopping .16 percent of our GNP that goes to foreign aid—and still manage to feel virtuous about all of the above.

Which is how "Christian'' morality got to be all about other people's sex lives—and incredibly easy lifting compared to what Jesus actually asks of us. Defending traditional marriage? A breeze. Living in one? Less so. Telling gay people what they can't do? Piece o' cake. But responding to the wretched? Loving the unlovable? Forgiving the ever-so-occasionally annoying people you actually know? Hard work, as our president would say, and rather more of a stretch.  

A lot of us are angry at our public officials just now, and rightly so. But we are complicit, too; top to bottom, we picked this government, which has certainly met our low expectations.

The Bush administration made deep and then still deeper cuts in antipoverty programs, and we liked that ... But have Democrats loudly decried the inhumanity—or even the hidden, deferred costs of the Bush cuts in services to the most vulnerable among the already born? Heavens, no, with a handful of exceptions, such as former vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, who spoke every single day of his campaign—and ever since—about our responsibilities toward those struggling just to get by in the "other America.''

Most party leaders are still busy emulating Bill Clinton, who felt their pain and cut their benefits—and made his fellow Dems ashamed to show any hint of a "bleeding heart.'' Clinton's imitators haven't his skills, though, so his bloodless, Republican Lite legacy has been a political as well as moral disaster.

Half his brain tied behind his back, indeed

Rush Limbaugh - racist and stupid -
 
Calls Chuck Shumer, who is white, a "spear chucker."

Conspiracy of one

FYI:
...a "Diebold Insider" is now finally speaking out for the first time about the alarming security flaws within Diebold, Inc's electronic voting systems, software and machinery. The source is acknowledging that the company's "upper management" -- as well as "top government officials" -- were keenly aware of the "undocumented backdoor" in Diebold's main "GEM Central Tabulator" software well prior to the 2004 election. A branch of the Federal Government even posted a security warning on the Internet.

..."What I think we have here is a very serious problem. Remote access using phone lines eliminates any need for a conspiracy of hundreds to alter the outcome of an election. Diebold has held onto this theory [publicly] for years, but Diebold has lied and has put national elections at risk. Remote access using this backdoor means that one malicious person can change the outcome of any Diebold election."
Via Benjamin Hellie.

Dada

Reel Rants has some Dada quotes:
“What we call Dada is a piece of tomfoolery from the void, in which all the lofty questions have become involved . . .”
—Hugo Ball

“Dada means nothing. We want to change the world with nothing.”
—Richard Huelsenbeck

“Art is dead. Long live Dada.”
—Walter Serner

“Freedom: Dada, Dada, Dada, crying open the constricted pains, swallowing the contrasts and all the contradictions, the grotesqueries and the illogicalities of life.”
—Tristan Tzara

“We do not wish to imitate nature, we do not wish to reproduce. We want to produce. We want to produce the way a plant produces its fruit, not depict. We want to produce directly, not indirectly. Since there is not a trace of abstraction in this art we call it concrete art.”
—Hans Arp

“Dada . . . wants over and over again movement: it sees peace only in dynamism.”
—Raoul Hausmann

“I wish to blur the firm boundaries which we self-certain people tend to delineate around all we can achieve.”
—Hannah Hoch

“Invest your money in Dada! Dada is the only savings bank that pays interest in the hereafter!”
—Kurt Schwitters

“Art has nothing to do with taste. Art is not there to be tasted.”
—Max Ernst

“I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste."
—Marcel Duchamp

“Dada talks with you, it is everything, it includes everything, it belongs to all religions, can be neither victory nor defeat, it lives in space and not in time.”
—Francis Picabia

“It’s not Dada that is nonsense—but the essence of our age that is nonsense.”
—The Dadaists

“What is generally termed reality is, to be precise, a frothy nothing.”
—Hugo Ball
Of course, no list of Dada quotes would be complete without this one from Richard Huelsenbeck:

"Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police."

9/15/2005

Deus ex machina - Mighty Mouse flinches

Remember how Kos was going to wage war on the DLC? Remember how he made theatrically vague threats like this?
Two more weeks, folks, before we take them on, head on.

No calls for a truce will be brooked. The DLC has used those pauses in the past to bide their time between offensives. Appeals to party unity will fall on deaf ears (it's summer of a non-election year, the perfect time to sort out internal disagreements).

We need to make the DLC radioactive. And we will. With everyone's help, we really can. Stay tuned.
Remember how then more than two weeks went by without Kos saying jack shit about it?

Well now, finally, three weeks later, Kos lets us know, not even in a regular post but in a comment to one of his posts (HT: Blogometer), what happened to his would-be war:
I've laid off the DLC for the time being. The Katrina disaster has not only made this sort of intra-party fight a bit counterproductive at the moment, but it has refocused the allies and media I was going to engage in the campaign to the more important task of getting to the bottom of the disaster on the gulf coast.

The window has closed for now.
What a huge sigh of relief the DLC must be breathing! Imagine - it came this close to being obliterated by Mighty Mouse! (Did I say Mighty Mouse? I meant Kos. My mistake ... doesn't Kos remind you of Mighty Mouse, though?)

Luckily for the DLC, Katrina intervened, and they live to sell out progressives for yet another day.


...I'm sure it's just a matter of time before Mighty Kos shows 'em who's boss, though.

Fly on the wall at the NRO staff meeting

From Steve Gilliard. (Not for the easily offended.)

I heart Google Blog Search

Fast, accurate ... what more could you want?

Technorati was a trailblazer here, and they deserve a place in the history of the internet, but they have just been served.

And there's already a Firefox search plugin for it.

Government is the problem!

That's what so-called conservatives and libertarians have been telling us for years. The government's failure regarding Katrina, they now say, provides evidence of this.

Of course, when you try to "drown the government in a bathtub", such views have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

The most sophisticated analysis of Roberts I've seen yet

... comes from Matt at Cerulean Blue:
When it comes to figuring out John Roberts, I don't need to hear policy debate or legal analysis...I've seen Blade Runner. I know a homicidal robot when I see one.

... Mindwyrm offers a tantalizing alternative theory in the comments.

Roberts no "originalist"

I mentioned this in passing earlier, but this LA Times article elaborates:
WASHINGTON — Chief justice nominee John G. Roberts Jr. carefully avoided taking sides on many issues Wednesday, but he went out of his way at his Senate confirmation hearing to put some distance between himself and justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — the Supreme Court's two staunchest conservatives.

...Scalia and Thomas proudly call themselves "originalists." They say the Constitution should be interpreted strictly, based on its literal words and its original history.

Like other conservatives, they shun the notion of a "living Constitution." They say their approach is faithful to the Constitution as it was written in 1787 and amended since then. Scalia says, only half-joking, that he believes in a "dead Constitution."

...Roberts pointedly said Wednesday that he disagreed with this narrow originalist approach and would apply the Constitution in light of today's concerns and understandings.

"I depart from some views of original intent," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Words such as liberty or equality should not be given a "cramped or narrow construction," based on "just the conditions at the time" when the Constitution was written, he said.

"The framers chose broad terms, [with] a broad applicability, and they state a broad principle," he told Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the committee's chairman.

..."It applies to modern times," he said. The Founding Fathers intended the Constitution "to apply to changing conditions. And I think that in that sense, it is alive … and applies down through the ages," Roberts said.

...his comments hint that he is at least open to a future decision saying the Constitution protects a right to die, or gives gays protection from discrimination.

...

The debate largely concerns a few words in the 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, after the Civil War. It says states may not "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny [them] the equal protection of the laws."

Roberts said these words, read literally, might mean only that the government may not arrest and hold someone without giving them due process of law. He said he believed the protection for liberty went well beyond that interpretation and included protections for fundamental rights.
Well, thank god for small miracles.

Good line

AMERICAblog quotes comedian Wanda Sykes: "I don't blame the President. I blame the American people. Y'all knew the man was slow when you voted him in. You can't blame the blind man for wrecking your car when you're the one who gave him the keys."

Battle Royale

Everyone's talking about the George Galloway/Christopher Hitchens debate .... Liberal Avenger provides a link where you can listen to it in mp3 form.

Personally, I need to listen to this debate like I need something else nailed to my head. Avoiding the bloviations of the reprehensible Hitchens is absolutely vital to preventing, or at least postponing, my descent into complete insanity.

Litmus test

Oliver Willis:
So I think the Roberts nomination should be a litmus test for Democrats. Barring him showing fangs and eating a baby live on t.v., he’s going to be confirmed. Fine. But Democrats in the Senate need to start realizing something: their votes matter. Consider the Democrats, like Joe Lieberman, who voted to allow Mike Brown into FEMA or Democrats like Barack Obama who do silly things like voting for Condoleeza Rice to be confirmed as Secretary of State even though he noted that she had done a crappy job as National Security Advisor.

This is a new world, folks, and simply because you’re on the minority doesn’t allow you to slide by voting for bad things ... you need to vote no on him, and vote no on the right-wing agenda whenever it comes up (that means estate tax, income tax, social security, and foreign policy among others).
I agree ... except I think that if Roberts did bare his fangs and eat a live baby on national television, the Democrats should confirm him, because that would be pretty damn cool.

9/14/2005

Wingnuts have got to be pissed

I'll tell you what ... right-wingers have got to be disappointed with the Roberts pick.

The guy sounded very friendly to Kelo today, and so far about the only wingnutty-ish thing he's said is repeated pat phrases about "judicial restraint" and how judges are supposed to "interpret" law, but not make it (as if the US didn't have a common law legal system).

It's very possible, of course, that when he gets on the Court, we'll find out that he's actually the second coming of Strom Thurmond. But it's also possible that he'll resemble someone like Sandra Day O'Connor, who he was originally picked to replace - that is, basically conservative, but not rigidly so.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying progressives ought to be happy about Roberts. If I were a right-winger, though, I'd be enraged that there is any doubt whatsoever about what kind of justice Roberts will be. They were promised a Scalia or a Thomas. Now, Bush is in his second term, the GOP controls the Senate by a wide margin, and they get not a slam-dunk conservative who will overturn Roe and Griswold and Brown v. Board of Education or whatever other Supreme Court decisions they don't like, but someone who is largely a question mark.

I can't imagine that a lot of the true believers on the Right aren't feeling betrayed today.

Nice knowing you, Technorati

Brad DeLong links to Barry Ritholz, who says that "Google has delivered a knock out punch" with its new Blog Search.

Osama

Somebody at the Huffington Post asks: "Did We Let Osama Get Away on Purpose?"

I would think the answer to this would be pretty obviously: Yeah.
The New York Times reported this weekend that we sent in 36 U.S. Special Forces troops to get Osama bin Laden when we knew he was in Tora Bora. By contrast, we sent nearly 150,000 soldiers to get Saddam Hussein. In case you're keeping count at home, we got Saddam and we didn't get Osama.

What does that tell you about this administration’s priorities? This goes beyond incompetence. If you send only 36 soldiers to get somebody in the middle of Afghanistan, it means you don’t want to get him.

It gets worse. The piece in the Sunday New York Times Magazine also says there was an American commander with 4,000 marines standing by within striking distance. Brig. Gen. James N. Mattis requested permission to join the fight. He was denied.

...Osama had about 1,500-2,000 well-armed, well-trained men in the region. 36 guys to get 2,000? Why would we let ourselves be outgunned like that?

...I am not a conspiracy theorist and I don’t believe in crazy talk about how the administration planned 9/11. You don’t have to believe any of that to understand that our priorities were grossly out of order. And there is an inescapable fact – if you put this little effort into capturing someone, it means you don’t want to capture him.

Your guess is as good as mine as to why they didn’t want to get the man who ordered the deaths of close to 3,000 Americans and took down the World Trade Center. A caller on our radio show posited that if we had caught Osama, then it would have been harder to justify an invasion of Iraq. At that point, it would have seemed like we got our man and the mission was accomplished. That’s the best guess I’ve heard so far.

If people inside the administration actually held back from capturing Osama bin Laden when we had him cornered, it borders on treason.
At the very least, the Bush administration clearly didn't want to capture OBL very badly.

Why?

Hard to say ... probably a number of reasons. The most likely one is similar to the one mentioned above: capturing Osama makes it harder for BushCo to justify its endless "War on Terror" (as in, not just Iraq, but also Iran, and any other countries they see fit to attack in the future).

"I don't think anybody could have predicted..."

Think again. From the NYT:
American aviation officials were warned as early as 1998 that Al Qaeda could "seek to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark," according to previously secret portions of a report prepared last year by the Sept. 11 commission. The officials also realized months before the Sept. 11 attacks that two of the three airports used in the hijackings had suffered repeated security lapses.

Federal Aviation Administration officials were also warned in 2001 in a report prepared for the agency that airport screeners' ability to detect possible weapons had "declined significantly" in recent years, but little was done to remedy the problem, the Sept. 11 commission found.

The White House and many members of the commission, which has completed its official work, have been battling for more than a year over the release of the commission's report on aviation failures, which was completed in August 2004.
Via The Next Left.

No immunity for Pinochet

From the AP:
The Supreme Court stripped Gen. Augusto Pinochet of immunity from prosecution Wednesday, paving the way for an eventual trial of the former dictator in a human rights case involving the killing of 119 dissidents.

The court voted 10-6 to strip the 89-year-old of former ruler of the immunity from prosecution he enjoys as former president, Chief Justice Jose Benquis said.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed involves the 1975 killing of 119 dissidents whose bodies were found in neighboring Argentina.

9/13/2005

The artful dodger

First impressions of the Roberts hearings -

Roberts is a smart man. He's doing a lot of dodging, but he's doing it well.

He's pretty unambiguously embracing the so-called "right to privacy" (I prefer regarding things like abortion and contraception as falling under the rubric of personal autonomy or liberty, but that's just terminology), and pretty unambiguously rejecting goofy "originalist" interpretations of the Constitution. That's good.

He won't say, though, what kind of freedoms the right to privacy entails. That's bad. Predictably, he's staying way the hell away from the abortion issue.

As others have noted, Roberts seems like he's at least sane (i.e., he's not a Scalia or Thomas), and seems to understand legal reasoning in a more sophisticated way than those two do.

He also seems to possess at least trace amounts of personal decency and integrity (again, unlike Scalia or Thomas), so I'm a bit more inclined to believe him when he endorses a constitutional right to privacy, even though I'm always wary of the possibility of another Thomas-like bait-and-switch on that count.

Other reactions -

Ezra Klein seems cautiously optimistic:
I'm hearing a lot of concern that Roberts could be lying through his hearings, saying what Senators want to hear to provoke them into confirming him ... yes, he can do exactly that and there's nothing we can do to stop him ... Nevertheless, there are some reasons for optimism.

...Scalia, Thomas and others faced a Democratic Senate, giving them significantly more reason to lie. Roberts would do more to assure confirmation by appealing to the Republican majority rather than the Democratic minority

...He has pointedly disavowed originalism or any other straight ideological position of judicial issues. That doesn't mean he couldn't cobble together an ad hoc coalition of theories and justifications for extremist jurisprudence, but it does mean he's not offering the code words conservatives want. Again, there's little strategic purpose to doing that.

His Democratic colleagues don't think he's a nutball. They know him better, have known him longer, and have interacted with him more than most everyone else. And while 20-some year old memos he's written are worrisome, these opinions, being two decades fresher, are proportionately comforting. In addition, liberal judicial theorists like Cass Sunstein and Lawrence Tribe all seem fairly comfortable with Roberts. Not their guy, maybe, but not a radical like Scalia or Thomas.

None of this promises Roberts won't wake up the day after confirmation, rip off his human costume, and reveal a firebreathing lizard man bent on crisping American jurisprudence ... He's not the sort of Judge I'd pick, but the honest truth is, he seems better than the sort of Judge I though Bush would pick.
I agree with that last sentence in particular.

Bitch Ph.D., on the other hand, isn't so sure:
After watching today's hearings, I have to say I'm not really reassured. It seems reassuring to have Roberts say that he believes Roe to be settled law, and that he doesn't think that disagreeing with the logic of a finding is just grounds for overturning a precedent; but holding out the possibility to overturn precedents because it has proven "unworkable," or, more importantly, because it has been "eroded" worries me a great deal. The fact is, Roe has been eroded over time, with parental notification laws, banning intact dilation and extraction, requiring women to undergo waiting periods, requiring them to be notified (untruthfully) that abortion causes health problems, and so on. So the "erosion" clause seems weasely to me, and I hope that the Judiciary Committee will press him harder on that tomorrow....
Meanwhile, some of the uber-wingnuts are feeling betrayed, like Joseph Farah from WorldNetDaily (HT: Discussion about 9/11) -
John Roberts still has most conservatives buffaloed.

They just can't believe George W. Bush would betray them so boldly.

But he has.

Even I, the ultimate skeptic, am just beginning to fathom the extent of the shell game that has been played on conservatives – most of whom are actively working on behalf of the confirmation of a new chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court who will make Ruth Bader Ginsberg look like a moderate.

That's right.

Up until now, I've been comparing Roberts to Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter. I've got news for you. He's worse.

That, according to his close friend Edward Lazarus. Here's what he has to say about the next chief justice:

..."Putting politics aside, the current court member Roberts most resembles is Stephen Breyer. Roberts is far more intellectual than Rehnquist, far more politic than Scalia, and – as noted above – far less extreme than Thomas."

Stephen Breyer. That's who Roberts most resembles, according to his friend.

Roberts is a Washington establishment operative who has been fooling conservatives for much of his life.

In 1981, he worked ... to fool President Reagan and the American people into thinking Sandra Day O'Connor was a "conservative," Reagan Republican. He was a plotter, a co-conspirator, a devious manipulator, a spinner.

...This is what conservatives got for all their hard work on behalf of George W. Bush – a betrayal. Conservatives were told they had nowhere else to go in the presidential election if they cared about the U.S. Supreme Court.

And what did they get? Not Souter. Not Kennedy. But Breyer.
I think that Farah might be missing the fact that the friend said: "Putting politics aside, " Roberts is like Breyer. But hey, nobody ever said Hooked On Phonics would work overnight.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Josh Buermann:
Again: we never really stopped supporting Saddam, we were patting his regime on the back as late as March 2003 ... Even now we're withholding evidence - after the invasion we allowed much of it get looted/burned - regarding many of his crimes, not least because it would implicate US officials.

We invaded in 2003, to be a little presumptious, because sanctions were "eroding", as I recall Powell describing it, and if they eroded sufficiently the regime would have caved in and you'd have either a major failed oil state or more likely a new Iraqi government that, finally free from the bogeyman of our own making and from the mechanisms of control devised after the Gulf War, could act independently of the US.

Iraqi liberation was imminent and we had to prevent that.

The popularity of abortion rights

Somehow, a number of folks have got the idea that the Democratic Party's support (such as it is) for abortion rights is costing them votes. They think the Democratic Party must "compromise" (read: sell out) on abortion in order to compete.

This hypothesis doesn't seem to have any basis in fact. A state-by-state poll on abortion rights shows that there are only 15 states in which the majority supports the criminalization of abortion.

Fifteen!

Among the states with majorities or pluralities supporting legalized abortion: Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Montana, Ohio, Iowa, Arizona, New Mexico, Virginia, Wyoming, Alaska, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, plus the usual suspects (California, Vermont, etc.).

Yet the perpetually politically brain-dead leaders of the Democratic Party seem think they'll improve their fortunes by playing Republican-lite on this issue.

Schumer

Boy, Schumer's throwing Roberts some real softballs, and Roberts is inexplicably keeping the bat on his shoulder (to continue with the baseball metaphors that everyone's using today).

He's basically reading some of the more vile and inflammatory anti-judiciary comments from various nutcases on the Right - Robertson, etc. - and asking his opinion, and all Roberts will say is: "I don't think it's appropriate." A perfect chance to score some easy points by defending the idea of an independent judiciary, and he doesn't take it. Weird.

Jeff Sessions invokes Atlantic Monthly

GOP Senator just used Ben Wittes' article from a few months ago to give the false impression, on national television, that even liberals agree that Roe v. Wade is "bad law" and that the right to an abortion is "constitutionally shaky." I wonder if the publishers of Atlantic Monthly are proud of themselves...

Roe, of course, is a perfectly valid decision, and the right to abortion is indeed guaranteed by the Constitution. As Arlen Specter noted just today, the Supreme Court has had thirty-eight opportunities to overturn Roe, yet it is still the law of the land.

The constitutional abortion right is guaranteed by the due process clause. As Roberts himself said today:
...the court has -- it was a series of decisions going back 80 years -- has recognized that personal privacy is a component of the liberty protected by the due process clause. The court has explained that the liberty protected is not limited to freedom from physical restraint and that it's protected not simply procedurally, but as a substantive matter as well. And those decisions have sketched out, over a period of 80 years, certain aspects of privacy that are protected as part of the liberty in the due process clause under the Constitution.
Roberts doesn't say which "aspects of privacy" are protected, but if the freedom to determine what goes on inside one's own body isn't protected by the right to privacy, then nothing is.

I looked at the Roe decision, and Wittes' article, in a bit more detail here, if you're interested.

Roberts confirmation

Specter is grilling Roberts on Roe v. Wade. (Wingnuts will be pissed.)

Predictably, Roberts is dodging.


... whoa, now Specter seems to be asking Roberts whether his Catholicism will be a problem. He's asking whether or not he agrees with a statement by JFK to the effect that the Church doesn't speak for him, and vice versa. Roberts says yes, sort of - limits his answer to stare decisis.

... Roberts: "The right to privacy is protected by the Constitution ... Personal privacy is a component of the liberty protected by the due process clause ... protected not only procedurally, but as a substantive matter as well." Roberts says that his earlier comments about privacy - "the so-called 'right to privacy ... such an amorphous right is not to be found in the Constitution" - do not represent his current views.


... Leahy is asking Roberts whether or not Congress has the power to stop a war. Roberts is again dodging, but much less artfully so this time. Roberts says that Congress controls the purse strings, but Leahy points out that that doesn't necessarily mean anything, bringing up Iran-Contra.

... DeWine is asking him about handing out Bibles on a bus.

... then about pornography...

Right to privacy

I wish I could be heartened by this:
In his questioning of Judge John Roberts this morning, Senator Arlen Specter asked detailed and searching questions on the right to choose, the right to privacy and the power of stare decisis. Judge Roberts, in a surprise to me, was surprisingly forthcoming and detailed in his answers. In particular, in answering whether he believed the Constitution recognized a right to privacy, Roberts stated expressly and unequivocally that he accepted and agreed, without reservation, that the Constitution does recognize a right to privacy. He mentioned specifically privacy rights emanating from the 1st, 3rd and 4th Amendments and the liberty interests recognized and protected by the due process clause of the 5th and 14th Amendments.
This is nice and all, but Clarence Thomas said pretty much the same thing in his confirmation hearings, and then forgot all about the right to privacy a few years later when it actually mattered.


... you can listen to or watch the confirmation hearings here or here (via MyDD).


... Roberts won't answer Biden's question about whether a state law prohibiting abortion would be unconstitutional.

...Biden is repeatedly invoking the "Ginsberg precedent," which is smart - that's what the GOPers wanted, after all. Problem is, Ginsberg was a lot more forthcoming than Roberts seems to want to be.

9/12/2005

Was yesterday some kind of anniversary or something?

Some wingnuts are upset with lefty bloggers for not celebrating the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with self-indulgent/maudlin/jingoistic blog entries.

Also, the DNC didn't have anything about 9/11 on its website ... until 1:30 p.m.! The bastards!

Come on, guys ... you know that 9/11 nostalgia is your department. Besides, you don't want us moonbats commemorating that day - we'd probably just piss all over your parade by posting quotes from America-hating, terrorist-loving leftists like Noam Chomsky ...
"My first comment on September 11, when I was asked by reporters here and elsewhere to comment, was that it was a horrendous atrocity, committed with awesome cruelty, and so on and so forth, like everyone else. [...]

There are a lot of things we should know. Take the question of proper response. There are many questions one can ask about proper response, but whatever answer one gives, it should at least satisfy the most elementary moral truism that I can think of, namely that if some act is right for us, is right for others; if it's wrong for others, it's wrong for us. People who can't accept that don't even rise to the level where we can even discuss their attitudes towards right and wrong.

So we have to accept at least that principle. And then we can ask, 'Well, OK, what is the right response for anyone to terrorist acts?' For example, what was the right response for Nicaragua? During a terrorist war that the US carried out, which was much more severe even than September 11: tens of thousands of people killed, the country was devastated, may not even recover. And it was an uncontroversial case, because in that case the United States was condemned by the highest authorities for international terrorism, by the International Court of Justice, and it would have been condemned by the Security Council, except that the US vetoed the resolution, and the General Assembly, and so on.

So, what was the right response? Well, was the right response to carry out some form of terror inside the Unites States--let's say, bombing, or bioterrorism, or whatever? Nobody believes that: that would be outrageous. Accordingly, is not the right response for us either."

Here's the difference

Instapundit:
THE PRESS WANTS TO SHOW BODIES from Katrina. It didn't want to show bodies, or jumpers, on 9/11, for fear that doing so would inflame the public.

I can only conclude that this time around, the press thinks it's a good thing to inflame the public. What could the difference be?
Well, here's one difference: in the aftermath of Katrina, inflaming the public might lead to widespread dissatisfaction, deserved or not, with the response of the federal, state, and local governments to the disaster.

In the aftermath of 9/11, inflaming the public might have led to knuckle-dragging good ol' boys bashing in the heads of random Muslims, or anybody suitably dark-skinned.

Almost certainly

From the Lion and the Donkey:
“Maybe you know something I don’t know.”

That was President Bush’s reponse to a reporter who asked whether he had heard that his own FEMA director, Michael Brown, resigned today from the administration.

Damn that man is awfully tan

NBC's Brian Williams has been "getting quite a bit of love from blogtopia lately," but eRobin is having none of it.


9/11/2005

Back to reality

The good folks at Ezra Klein's place are talking about impeachment. Here's what 'Shakes' has to say:
I’ve noticed that the words resignation, impeachment, and recall are starting to pop up more and more frequently ... my thought is that the Democrats need to be sticking their faces into every camera even vaguely aimed in their direction and calling for his impeachment, and put the onus on the GOP to explain why they were willing to impeach a president for lying about a blowjob, but aren’t willing to investigate or in any way hold accountable a president whose incompetence and bad policies have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. I know that the Dems don’t have the votes to get it done, which is an oft-asserted excuse for why they shouldn’t bother, but I think it’s necessary at this point to regain control of the dialogue. Let Bush and Co. go on the offensive for awhile and steal their ability to turn this into another bit of revisionist history where the president comes out a hero as Brownie takes the fall.
Ezra responds:
One thing to remember about the Republican attempt to impeach Clinton is that, annoying as it was, it failed utterly. The impeachment overreach destroyed Newt Gingrich's career and handed the Republicans the worst elections results for an opposition party since Johnson crushed Goldwater in 1964. Think about that -- getting so close to destroying the President ended with Republicans getting the worst whupping any opposition party had received in 34 years.

...I'd like to handicap Bush, and I think Democrats should make a lot of hay out of Hastert's refusal to give full subpoena powers to a congressional investigation. Indeed, a large part of our 2006 appeal should be based on the argument that at least some branch of government should be able to exercise antagonistic oversight on the others ones. ...

But an impeachment argument is a different order of magnitude, one that rarely works, one that we don't have the votes for, and one that could really kill us. To paraphrase The Usual Suspects, what happens if shoot the devil in the back and miss?
Finally, Neil the Werewolf weighs in:
...the causes we care about will reap much more benefit from long-term damage to voter perceptions of the Republican party than from damage to Bush's personal reputation. Those two things are definitely linked, but right now the biggest focus shouldn't be on going after Bush himself, it should be about eroding positive stereotypes of Republicans and deepening negative ones ...

Thinking into a happy 2006 where Democrats win one or the other chamber of Congress, the I-word I like a lot more than "impeachment" is "investigation". We still haven't had an investigation into Iraq intelligence failures that issued from the White House, and we could make Bush regret not letting his own Republican Congress investigate those ...To push the fiscal mismanagement issue, we could -- after watching the cost of the 2003 Medicare Bill run out of control -- investigate why the White House tried to cover up the actual cost of the program by threatening to fire the actuary who wanted Congress to know the truth.
These are all interesting points and everything, but what I was wondering as I read these posts was: What universe do you guys live in?!? No offense meant - I have nothing but respect for Shakes, Neil and Ezra - but in the universe I inhabit, the Democratic party would never have the balls to go after Bush the way they're suggesting. The primary impediment to impeaching Bush - and, for the record, Bush absolutely should be impeached, and Henry Kissinger should be in jail, and people in Hell want ice water, etc. - isn't the fact that Democrats don't have a majority; it's that even if they did have a majority, they still wouldn't conduct impeachment hearings or the kind of investigations that Neil is calling for.

I'd love to be proved wrong about this, believe me. But can anyone name a single example of the Democratic leadership (i.e., not just the CBC) taking on Bush in any serious way? A leopard doesn't change its spots, even if he might have the votes to do so.


NOTE: Post edited slightly; I hadn't realized that 'Shakes' was in fact Shakespeare's Sister. Thanks to Neil for informing me, and sorry for being sloppy.

Nice neighbors you got there

From NYT via Steve Gilliard:
Police agencies to the south of New Orleans were so fearful of the crowds trying to leave the city after Hurricane Katrina that they sealed a crucial bridge over the Mississippi River and turned back hundreds of desperate evacuees, two paramedics who were in the crowd said.

The paramedics and two other witnesses said officers sometimes shot guns over the heads of fleeing people, who, instead of complying immediately with orders to leave the bridge, pleaded to be let through, the paramedics and two other witnesses said. The witnesses said they had been told by the New Orleans police to cross that same bridge because buses were waiting for them there.

Instead, a suburban police officer angrily ordered about 200 people to abandon an encampment between the highways near the bridge. The officer then confiscated their food and water, the four witnesses said. The incidents took place in the first days after the storm last week, they said.

"The police kept saying, 'We don't want another Superdome,' and 'This isn't New Orleans,' " said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic who was among those fleeing.

Arthur Lawson, chief of the Gretna, La., Police Department, confirmed that his officers, along with those from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and the Crescent City Connection Police, sealed the bridge.

"There was no place for them to come on our side," Mr. Lawson said.

He said that he had been asked by reporters about officers threatening victims with guns or shooting over their heads, but he said that he had not yet asked his officers about that.

"As soon as things calm down, we will do an inquiry and find out what happened," he said.
Oh, well, they'll do an inquiry ... I feel better, don't you?

Horrible.

"The ultimate sonic rendition of what it means to be British"

From BBC News, via Arts Journal:
The 1967 Beatles track A Day In The Life has been hailed the best British song of all time.

The song, which featured on the classic Beatles album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, topped a survey of music experts by Q magazine.

The magazine called the track "the ultimate sonic rendition of what it means to be British".

The Kinks' song Waterloo Sunset came second in the poll, ahead of Oasis' Wonderwall in third place.

Earlier this year, in a survey to find the greatest tune between 1955 and 1964 BBC Radio 2 listeners overlooked two Beatles singles in favour of The Kinks' You Really Got Me.

BEST BRITISH SONG
1. A Day In The Life - The Beatles
2. Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks
3. Wonderwall - Oasis
4. God Save The Queen - Sex Pistols
5. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
6. My Generation - The Who
7. Angels - Robbie Williams
8. Life on Mars? - David Bowie
9. Sympathy For The Devil - Rolling Stones
10. Unfinished Sympathy - Massive Attack

A Day In The Life, the Beatles' most ambitious work to date, featured what Lennon described as "a sound building up from nothing to the end of the world".

In fourth place in the Q poll was the Sex Pistols' controversial hit God Save The Queen, with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody rounding out the top five.

Robbie Williams' Angels, described by the magazine as "virtually our alternative national anthem" polled at number seven - two places ahead of British rockers the Rolling Stones, with Sympathy For The Devil at number nine.
'Day in the Life' is a plausible pick for best pop song. The rest of those songs, though ... I love Massive Attack, but 'Unfinished Sympathy' is ridiculously over-rated. I can't even listen to Queen without wanting to kill myself. And I still don't get the Brits' fascination with Oasis.

Flight 93

Instapundit celebrates the right-wing holiday of Sept. 11 by linking to a post of his from the day of the attacks, a post which, he says, "still holds up pretty well."

Whatever.

What caught my eye was another post of his from that day. In it, he reports that United Airlines Flight 93 had indeed been hijacked, and quotes from an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
The Westmoreland County Emergency Operations Center said it received a cell phone call at 9:58 a.m. from a man who said he was a passenger aboard the flight. The man said he had locked himself in a bathroom and told 911 dispatchers that the plane had been hijacked. He said he thought the plane was going down and told dispatchers that he heard an explosion and saw white smoke on the plane.
Then the line went dead. Dispatchers contacted the FBI. The plane went down near the town of Shanksville, on hillsides dotted with old strip mines.
The accepted narrative of the Flight 93 hijacking is that the passengers charged the cockpit and fought the hijackers, who then purposely brought the plane down. But how does an explosion and white smoke, while the plane was still in the air, fit into that scenario?

Wikipedia says that the New York Times later explained this away, basically saying that the report wasn't true:
Earlier reports have said that a previously unidentified passenger, Edward Felt of Matawan, N.J., said in a 911 call from a restroom that he saw a puff of smoke and heard an explosion, leading some to cite this as evidence that the plane was shot down by the military to prevent it from crashing into sensitive targets. But the 911 dispatcher, John Shaw, and others who have heard the tape, including Mr. Felt's wife, Sandra Felt, say he made no mention of smoke or an explosion when he said, 'We're going down.'
However, the Wikipedia entry also notes that the NYT explanation conflicts with a later report from the same paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that published the original story:
Edward Felt, a computer engineer who had been on his way to a business meeting in San Francisco, may have been the last person to place a phone call from the doomed plane before it crashed on Sept. 11 near Shanksville, Somerset County. Eight minutes before the crash, he had called 911 from an airplane lavatory and reached a dispatcher in Westmoreland County. And so, before they joined the other relatives to hear the cockpit voice recorder tape, Edward's widow, Sandy, his brother, Gordon, and his mother, Shirley, were led to a small conference room at the Princeton Marriott Forestall Village Hotel, where they were joined by two FBI agents and a victim-assistance counselor. Sitting around a polished wood table, the agents handed each of the Felts a typed transcript of the 911 call, and then played it. Ed's call was made at 9:58 a.m. In a conversation with dispatchers lasting about one minute, he spoke in a quivering voice saying, "We are being hijacked. We are being hijacked." He went on to describe an "explosion" that he heard, and then white smoke on the plane from an undetermined location. Then the line went dead.
This is confusing, to say the least. If Felt did indeed report an explosion and white smoke, there is obviously something missing from the official account of Flight 93. People have long speculated that Flight 93 was actually shot down, and this could be construed as evidence for such a view. However, it is also known that the hijackers of Flight 93 told passengers that they had a bomb on board. It has always been assumed that this was an empty threat, intended only to encourage passengers to comply. But if they did have a real bomb, it might explain Felt's account of an explosion. It would also raise some questions about how the hijackers managed to smuggle a bomb aboard the plane.

Don't worry; I'm not turning into a 9/11 conspiracy theorist or anything. But this does seem like an odd discrepancy that wants for an explanation.

New Orleans unlivable for a decade?

No idea about the veracity of this, but it seemed worth passing on:
Toxic chemicals in the New Orleans flood waters will make the city unsafe for full human habitation for a decade, a US government official has told The Independent on Sunday. And, he added, the Bush administration is covering up the danger.

In an exclusive interview, Hugh Kaufman, an expert on toxic waste and responses to environmental disasters at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the way the polluted water was being pumped out was increasing the danger to health.

The pollution was far worse than had been admitted, he said, because his agency was failing to take enough samples and was refusing to make public the results of those it had analysed. "Inept political hacks" running the clean-up will imperil the health of low-income migrant workers by getting them to do the work.

...Other US sources spelt out the extent of the danger from one of America's most polluted industrial areas, known locally as "Cancer Alley". The 66 chemical plants, refineries and petroleum storage depots churn out 600m lb of toxic waste each year. Other dangerous substances are in site storage tanks or at the port of New Orleans. No one knows how much pollution has escaped through damaged plants and leaking pipes into the "toxic gumbo" now drowning the city. Mr Kaufman says no one is trying to find out.

Few people are better qualified to judge the extent of the problem. Mr Kaufman, who has been with the EPA since it was founded 35 years ago, helped to set up its hazardous waste programme. After serving as chief investigator to the EPA's ombudsman, he is now senior policy analyst in its Office of Solid Wastes and Emergency Response. He said the clean-up needed to be "the most massive public works exercise ever done", adding: "It will take 10 years to get everything up and running and safe."

Mr Kaufman claimed the Bush administration was playing down the need for a clean-up: the EPA has not been included in the core White House group tackling the crisis. "Its budget has been cut and inept political hacks have been put in key positions," Mr Kaufman said. "All the money for emergency response has gone to buy guns and cowboys - which don't do anything when a hurricane hits. We were less prepared for this than we would have been on 10 September 2001."

He said the water being pumped out of the city was not being tested for pollution and would damage Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi river, and endanger people using it downstream.

Get yer internecine war on

A couple of commenters responding to this post have some interesting speculation on the still-upcoming Kos-DLC war. Anonymous said:
The entry from daKoz is so vague that I would not venture to guess. An intermural softball game in the Useless Political Hacks League? A Pay-per-View tagteam steel match between the Kossacks and the DLC? Who knows. Maybe they are going to physically instaniate Armando's self-absorbtion and drop it on the DLC headquarters--oh! the devastation!
And Stephanie adds:
...maybe they're still negotiating their terms or something. abortion rights off the platform for an end to the iraq war perhaps.

Hey, by the way...

Remember this entry from Kos?
...this is the modern DLC -- an aider and abettor of Right-wing smear attacks against Democrats. They make the same arguments, use the same language, and revel in their attacks on those elements of the Democratic Party that seem to cause them no small embarrassment.

Two more weeks, folks, before we take them on, head on.

No calls for a truce will be brooked. The DLC has used those pauses in the past to bide their time between offensives. Appeals to party unity will fall on deaf ears (it's summer of a non-election year, the perfect time to sort out internal disagreements).

We need to make the DLC radioactive. And we will. With everyone's help, we really can. Stay tuned.
That post was from August 22. It's been more than two weeks! What gives!?

The Posse Comitatus myth

Recently, there's been a curious urban legend going around that says the president was unable to do more to help the victims of Katrina because of an old law with a funny name: the Posse Comitatus Act. Since Snopes.com apparently hasn't got around to debunking this one yet, I'll take it upon myself to do so.

First, what the hell is Posse Comitatus? Well, I'll just be lazy and quote from the Wikipedia entry:

"The Posse Comitatus Act is a federal law of the United States (18 U.S.C. § 1385) passed in 1878, after the end of Reconstruction, and was intended to prohibit Federal troops from supervising elections in former Confederate states. It generally prohibits Federal military personnel and units of the United States National Guard under Federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. "

What does this have to do with Katrina? I'll let the Bush apologists tell you:

Bill Barr: "The Posse Comitatus Act prevents, by federal law, the president of the United States from sending federal troops into any state without the direct request of the elected governor of that state. A frustrated President Bush could only stand by and watch as the horror unfolded until he received the request for help. Despite the finger-pointing at President Bush, there was little that he could do until he was formally asked for assistance. No matter how loudly the liberals scream, they know full well that the president was helpless to do much of anything."

Karen's Korner: "The President acted as fast as he could under the Posse Comitatus Law. That law prevents a President from sending federal troops or assistance into any state unless the Governor of that State requests it."

John Armor: "Federal law prevents the President from sending in the National Guard until the Governor gives the order ... U.S. military units (regular Army, not the Guard) cannot be used because of the Posse Comitatus law."

Buckhorn Road: " ...the reason the federal government took awhile to get going was because they can't just waltz into a state, even if it is for benevolent purposes. The feds have to wait for the governor of the state to invite them in. Unfortunately for Louisiana, their Governor Blanco took her damn sweet time asking for federal assistance. You don't want the federal government waltzing its troops into states uninvited, even if it is for a good purpose, because then someday, the feds will get the idea that it is OK to send them in there for sinister purposes. There is this little law called the Posse Comitatus act that prevents federal troops from being used in dealings with state citizens, whether to save them, or to hurt them, without cooperation from the state involved."

Snark Patrol: "when are the moonbats going to figure out that you can't demand President Bush just brush aside the Constitution, posse comitatus, and the entire federal structure? That is, not with a straight face. Not after accusing him of being an imperialistic warmonger."


A Technorati search will show you dozens more examples. But they are all mistaken; the Posse Comitatus Act did not prevent Bush from doing more to assist the people of New Orleans. From the Washington University Law Quarterly (emphasis added):
The PCA proscribes the use of the military "as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws." ... United States v. McArthur , approved by the Eighth Circuit in United States v. Casper ... focussed on the individual subjected to the PCA violation. The McArthur formulation asked whether "military personnel subjected . . . citizens to the exercise of military power which was regulatory, proscriptive, or compulsory in nature." ... United States v. Yunis further clarified the elements of the McArthur formulation: regulatory power "controls or directs"; proscriptive power "prohibits or condemns"; and compulsory power "exerts some coercive force."

... There are many other uses of the military which seem to implicate the PCA, but are not within its scope because law is not being enforced. Since the passage of the PCA, the military has been used several times for domestic purposes that do not conform to its traditional role. The PCA proscribes use of the army in civilian law enforcement, but it has not prevented military assistance in what have been deemed national emergencies, such as strike replacements and disaster relief.

...Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan both used the military to replace striking federal employees.

... Disaster relief, another common use of the military, does not seem to violate the PCA because it is not a mission executing the laws. In the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Army led the effort to put out fires and restore order. More recently, Hurricane Hugo in Florida resulted in a large military presence during the relief effort.
The PCA probably would have prohibited Bush from forcing an evacuation of New Orleans against the wishes of local and state officials. But the notion that the PCA "prevents a President from sending federal troops or assistance into any state unless the Governor of that State requests it," that it "prevents federal troops from being used in dealings with state citizens, whether to save them, or to hurt them, without cooperation from the state involved," is simply a misunderstanding of the law.

The idea that Bush was a helpless bystander in all this is politically convenient for the GOP. It does not, however, have the additional feature of actually being true. But when did they ever let that stop them, or even slow them down?


(Cross-posted at Liberal Street Fighter.)

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