Richard Blair

Karl Rove Cited For Contempt

The House Judiciary Committee voted this morning to hold Karl Rove in contempt of congress. Big deal. The entire Bush administration has held congress in contempt for the past seven years. And there is no intent on the part of the House to actually, you know, enforce the citation. So what's the point?


So what?

The Bush administration has held congress in extreme contempt for the past seven-plus years. For five of those years, it didn't much matter. The past two years haven't made much of a difference either.

So, Conyer's committee cites Karl Rove for contempt of congress because he wouldn't comply with a subpoena, claiming "executive privilege". And now, the full House must vote on the citation, at least if that isn't off of Speaker Pelosi's table, too.

11-Year-Old Girl Dies When Parents Choose Prayer Instead of Medical Care

It's not a long trip down the road to drive me absolutely insane, but these kind of reports are simply too prevalent in 21st century America:

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A Novel Idea for Gun Control? Vasectomies for a Permit

The Supreme Court has taken up the issue of a restrictive gun control ordinance in Washington, D.C., and is hearing the case today. It goes without saying that uncontrolled handgun proliferation, particularly in urban areas, has become anathema to law enforcement agencies across the country, but don’t look for SCOTUS to uphold the D.C. ordinance.

Perhaps there are other ways, more voluntary in nature, to control the permitting, licensing, and distribution of handguns? Hmmmmmm….
A bandit-infested region of India is trying to persuade men to undergo sterilization by offering to fast-track their gun licence applications, an official said on Tuesday.
Officials in central Madhya Pradesh state’s Shivpuri district decided to adopt the policy — already tried out by some neighboring states — to increase the low vascectomy rate.
“I came to know that it had to do with their perceived notion of manliness,” said Manish Shrivastav, administrative chief of Shivpuri district, part of the Indian Chambal region, which is famed for its lawlessness and bandits.
“I then decided to match it with a bigger symbol of manliness — a gun licence,” he said. “And the ploy worked.” …

What Do Nataline Sarkisyan and Britney Spears Have in Common?

They were both treated (or not, as the case may be) at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Just to refresh everyone’s memory, Nataline Sarkisyan was the young woman who, just before Christmas last year, was denied a liver transplant by her insurance company until it was too late. She died at UCLA Medical Center on the day that the transplant was approved.

And Britney Spears? Just to refresh everyone’s memory…oh…never mind. But she’s also been treated at UCLA Medical Center on various occasions. Britney gave birth there, and has also had a few encounters with staff in the psychiatric wing of the hospital.

The reason I bring up Nataline is that right after she died, I asked a simple question: why in the hell didn’t the hospital just do the transplant, and figure out the financials at a later time? I don’t believe that anyone at UCLA Medical Center was ever held to account for this lack of decision making that led, directly or indirectly, to the young woman’s death.

However, apparently some staff members at UCLA Medical Center were caught peeping in Britney Spears’ medical files - and have been fired for the offense:
UCLA Medical Center is taking steps to fire at least 13 employees and has suspended at least six others for snooping in the confidential medical records of pop star Britney Spears during her recent hospitalization in its psychiatric unit, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.
In addition, six physicians face discipline for peeking at her computerized records, the person said…

Listen, I’m the last person in the world who would make excuses for any medical personnel violating the privacy of any patient, celebrity or not, by snooping in patient records for prurient information. Anyone at UCLA Medical Center who wasn’t directly involved in treating Britney had no business prying into her personal records, and should have been fired when the discovery was made. That was the correct call. (Interestingly enough, it appears as if staff were fired, but not doctors. Go figure.)

A Democratic Do-Over in Florida Is Unlikely

It's looking increasingly like the proposed do-over of the Democratic Party presidential primary is DOA. There have been several proposals batted around, the latest of which is a mail in ballot type of affair. The Dem chairperson in Florida appears to be concerned about the sheer logistics of conducting such a vote:

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Will There Be a Florida Democratic Primary Do-Over?

As those who follow this kind of stuff are well aware, the DNC stripped Michigan and Florida of their delegates to the Democratic Party convention as a penalty for moving up the state primaries. Hillary Clinton won both primaries decisively, in what was essentially a "straw vote", since neither state can seat its delegates (as things stand now).

Interesting enough, with the nomination hanging in the balance, and the talking heads chattering that if Clinton can't win both Ohio and Texas tomorrow she should quit the race, Florida governor Charlie Crist has thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into the works. He says he's willing to give the Dems a do-over vote in the Sunshine State:

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Motivational Coaching Company Accused of Waterboarding an Employee

A motivational coaching company in Utah is being sued by a former employee for using waterboarding as a performance improvement technique. No word yet on whether snarling dogs, loud music, or pictures of Dick Cheney were also being used to properly inspire the employees.

So, you think you have a crappy job?

This is what happens when torture becomes acceptable in the mainstream. It's also quite a stark commentary on the state of corporate employee / employer relationships:

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US Army Still Broken and Getting More Hollow By the Day

The question is: will a Democratic Party controlled congress do anything about it?

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey went before the Senate Armed Services Committee today, and told them:

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When Did the Ability to Kill Animals Become Prerequisite for the Presidency?

Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton was doing some campaigning in Kenosha, Wisconsin. At a Q&A session, a question was raised on what she would do to prevent tragedies such as occurred last week at Northern Illinois University, in which 5 students were killed and 22 more wounded by a former NIU student who had gone off his meds.

Her answer was troubling to me - not her stock political answer (background checks, no gun permits for terrorists or the mentally ill) - but that she felt the need to impress Wisconsin voters with her own killing credentials:

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Catholic School Fires Teacher for Being Single and Pregnant

Why is it that the Catholic Church would rather have a single mother become unemployed and/or on welfare than either have an abortion or a job to provide for her child? When a diocese fires a single woman for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, that's the message they're sending.

This is one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situations.

An unmarried 5th grade teacher at St. Felix school in Wabasha, Mn. found herself in an unfortunate position when she became pregnant. True to her faith, she decided against having an abortion - but then found herself on the short end of the employment stick. She was given the choice by school administrators to resign or be fired:

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McClellan Goes From Coming Clean to Getting Dirty

This post, written by Richard Blair, originally appeared on The All Spin Zone

Click for larger version
(click for larger version)

Ok, who got to Scottie? He's spinning the words in his book as fast as he ever spun the lies of the Bush administration. Surprised?

Well, ya knew it was too good to be true. A BushCo insider, a "made man", ratting out the boss? It didn't take Scott McClellan long to backtrack on the excerpt made public yesterday from his upcoming book.

Can you say, "damage control"?
WASHINGTON - Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan does not believe President Bush lied to him about the role of White House aides I. Lewis Scooter Libby or Karl Rove in the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity, according to McClellan's publisher.

Blackwater Makes Excuses for Killing Civilians

This post, written by Richard Blair, originally appeared on The All Spin Zone

Someone tell me what's going on - and if the government is supporting Blackwater's assertion that the company is "an extension of the military"?

What? WHAT??
The families of the four killed contractors filed suit against the company in January 2005, saying that Blackwater's cost-cutting measures led to the deaths. That lawsuit is still pending as a federal judge tries to determine whether it should be heard in arbitration or in open court.
Blackwater has argued in court that it is immune to such a lawsuit because the company operates as an extension of the military and cannot be responsible for deaths in a war zone.
Yep. The neocons have set up their own private army, answerable to no one but government contract officials, apparently.

I wonder what the General Petraeus has to say about Blackwater's assertion?

The Ron Paul Revolution Will Not Be Televised

This post, written by Richard Blair, originally appeared on All Spin Zone

This week, cadaverous Fred Thompson (R-Law and Orderâ„¢) is expected to finally pull the trigger and announce his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. I'm hopeful that, as he makes it official, other GOP candidates greet his entrance appropriately. Thompson isn't exactly presidential timber, and there are rumors of a lot of skeletons rattling around in his closet that should be falling out into the public view in 3...2...1...

Bottom line - Thompson may be exiting the race a lot faster than he decided to get into it.

Quixotic candidate Ron Paul, on the other hand, continues to gather a bit of momentum and positive press. On Friday, Associated Press published a rather fluffy piece on Mr. Paul and his growing legion of libertarian GOP supporters:
Passengers on a plane leaving New York could see three words in 4-foot block letters painted on an East Village rooftop terrace as they ascended: GOOGLE RON PAUL. The entreaty to search the Internet for news of the Republican congressman from rural Texas is one of the more visible signs of enthusiasm from a do-it-yourself base of Web fans. Their support doesn't show up in public opinion polls, but it's unmatched among presidential candidates in its passion...
The supporters have an entrepreneurial drive and get their political news from Internet sources outside the mainstream media, especially blogs and news aggregators that rely on popular vote to determine news value.
That same spirit inspires them to canvass parade routes in 100-degree heat, argue campaign strategy in two-hour meetings or paint the roof of a Manhattan apartment building.
"To get your arms around everything and understand what is going on is really impossible to do," Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said of supporters roaming the Web...
Then, on Saturday - let's not forget it's a holiday weekend here in the states - the Texas GOP held a presidential candidate straw poll. Voting was not open to just anyone who had the price of admission in their pocket (as was the recent straw poll in Iowa). The Texas GOP straw poll was only open to current and former state-level and federal-level GOP convention delegates. In other words, Bush's base. How did Paul finish? Third, behind anti-immigrant jingoist Duncan Hunter and aforementioned Thompson.

On the face of it, a third place finish might not seem like such good news for Mr. Paul's campaign. Digging a little deeper, though, reveals that it's another energizing finish for his supporters. Let's be realistic. Participants in this poll were die hard Republicans, and probably more to the point, die hard TEXAS Republicans. They are anti-immigration in the extreme, ergo one of the reasons that Hunter garnered so many votes:
...Hunter got 534 votes, or 41% of the vote. Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, who is expected to announce his candidacy this week but was not at the event, came in second with 266 votes, or nearly 21%. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas came in third with 217 votes, or 17%.
Crowd support seemed split between Hunter and Paul, whose supporters waved signs and chanted his name throughout the day...

Was Ron Paul the Real Iowa Straw Poll Winner?

This post, written by Richard Blair, originally appeared on the All Spin Zone.

GOP congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul continues to fly under the radar of both the media and the top-tier candidates for the 2008 GOP nomination. However, based on the results of Saturday's GOP straw poll in Iowa, the big dogs in the race need to be watching their rear view mirrors very closely. Candidates in the mirror may be closer than they appear...

The GOP Iowa straw poll was conducted on Saturday, with results being delayed because of a voting machine glitch (as Steve Benen says, insert joke here). There were few surprises.

Why should anyone care about GOP presidential politics at this early stage of the game? Believe me, it's completely unimportant that most of the chatter surrounding the Iowa GOP straw poll is centered on the strong showing by Mitt Romney. His wide-margin first place finish was expected.

Today, corporate media folks are keying on the relatively strong second place showing by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, with Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo close on his heels. All three were slugging it out for the fundie vote, and it looks like they sliced this desirable GOP demographic pretty much cleanly into thirds. Essentially, if you add up the fundie votes for Huckabee, Brownback, and Tancredo, it's clear that Romney didn't win the straw poll - the fundies in Iowa won the straw poll by a wide margin.

Most surprisingly, perhaps, is that GOP congressman Ron Paul was competitive. While he finished 5th in the polling, he wasn't a distant fifth, and the straw poll will certainly give his supporters a big lift. If nothing else, the Iowa straw poll is about strength of the respective candidates organizations, and Ron Paul's finish shows that he has some organizational juice behind his campaign.

Wednesday Night Ambush II

In online discussions of the Wednesday Night Ambush, one question goes unanswered that I have yet to see anyone ask: why didn't the subject of the ambush come up during Alberto Gonzales' confirmation hearing in January, 2005?

White House Counsel Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andy Card accosted an ailing John Ashcroft on March 11, 2004, two days after major surgery to relieve his pancreaitis, in an effort to get him to sign off on the Bush regime's domestic wiretap program. As previously noted, Ashcroft refused, and the subsequent mutiny almost cost the regime its entire senior leadership at the DOJ (Ashcroft, Comey, and others threatened to resign before Bush pulled back).

The actions of Gonzales and Card didn't happen in a vacuum or under a cloak of extreme secrecy. Even if it did, secrets are hard to keep in Washington, DC. Someone (or multiple someones) knew of the Wednesday Night Ambush. On November 11, 2004, George Bush nominated Gonzales to replace Ashcroft as Attorney General. The subsequent confirmation hearings were contentious, but seemed to focus on a narrow set of issues (primarily, Gonzales' role in establishing the regime's torture doctrine). Illegal wiretapping was secondary, at best.

Following an unsatisfactory set of answers at Gonzales' rubber stamp confirmation hearing, Sen. Russ Feingold wrote a letter to Gonzales...

Business as Usual

I'm not sure anymore what constitutes "business as usual" in Iraq, either at GZBG's or elsewhere in-country. 24 bodies turning up in Baghdad in a single day? Another journalist going dead? A bus being hijacked and seven people onboard are executed?

Business as usual.

I first read the story of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's unannounced stop in the Green Zone on his Farewell Tour sometime this past weekend. While Blair was saying his "goodbyes" in the Green Zone, a mortar landed in the British embassy compound just before his arrival. The U.K. Independent picks it up from here:

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Judge Tosses Out Charges Against Posada Carriles

On the same day that the Department of Justice was singing its own praises for busting an alleged terror ring in New Jersey, mostly unnoticed was the fact that the DOJ may have intentionally tanked the prosecution of an international terrorist in our own midst.

As a result, convicted terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is a free man today.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone threw out immigration charges against Posada Carriles, and ordered his electronic tracking bracelet removed. He had been free on bail, pending an immigration trial that was scheduled to begin this week.

I've been following this saga for a long time, and it's no surprise that Judge Cardone took this action. In fact, given the history of this case, it's almost crystal clear that this was the intended result of the Department of Justice's case against Posada Carriles. Since he was first detained in the U.S., the DOJ has displayed a level of case management skill that is beyond mere incompetence - in fact, to the untrained outside observer, it's easy to draw the conclusion that the prosecution of this case was intentionally botched.

According to CNN, the departments of Justice and Homeland Security are "reviewing Cardone's decision", and it is not clear at this point whether or not the judge's ruling will be appealed.

What is clear, beyond all reasonable doubt, is that Posada Carriles is an international terrorist who was trained and financed by the U.S. government. Whether he was operating as a freelancer, or at the behest of his CIA handlers when he carried out his terrorist acts is completely beside the point. Documents from the U.S. government make it clear that the man plotted the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, and he has admitted being involved in hotel bombings in Havana. In fact, he's quite proud of his curriculum vitae as a terrorist.

Today, the Bush administration's favorite terrorist is strolling the South Beach waterfront in Miami unencumbered, grateful that the concept of quid pro quo has stood the test of time, and proving once again that in some cases, there is indeed honor among thieves.

Six Figure Salary for the Easiest Job Ever - Apply Within

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
-Hunter S. Thompson

I spent a couple of hours yesterday evening mulling over what may be one of the more amazingly candid and bizarre stories from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan that I’ve ever read. It’s an interview with a contractor, identified only as “Nero�, who has spent time in both McMurdo, Antarctica, and (presumeably) sipping Mojitas at the Baghdad Country Club.

As you sit at your desk today, and on a day when the government is reporting that U.S. employers added the fewest new jobs in over two years, and that unemployment figures rose, I promise you that Nero's story will get you to thinking.

While I can't vouch for the authenticity of the interview, it rings true, or at least has a ring of truth to it. When I earlier described the Green Zone in Baghdad as reminiscent of the Mos Eisley segment in the movie Star Wars (click the BCC link above), my analogy was apparently wholly appropriate. Perhaps I was able to sniff this out because in my own life, I've worked some fairly exotic jobs, and run into guys like Nero while drinking beer in places like BCC...

Food Chain in Crisis?

It's impossible not to be concerned about the exploding story of deadly pet food, and way more importantly, the now confirmed entry of the problem into our own food chain.

CNN is reporting this evening that as many as 2.5 million people may have recently eaten chickens that were fed with contaminated feed. And the more I read about the melamine tainted wheat gluten issue, the more I'm realizing that the FDA is dealing with the potential enormity of this disaster about as effectively as FEMA dealt with Katrina.

Here's CNN's lede:

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George Bush Receives Purple Heart Award

Purple HeartDid you know that George W. Bush was a war hero? I know that this development comes as a shock and surprise to many progressives who are familiar with Bush's military career, but he received a Vietnam-era Purple Heart award a few weeks ago in the Oval Office. Seriously.

28%-er Bill Thomas of Copperas Cove, Texas, decided recently to give George Bush one of the three purple hearts that he had been awarded in Vietnam. Bush was so blown over by this gesture that he invited Thomas and his wife, Georgia, to the Oval Office for the presentation...

The Harder Path Traveled

There are days when I think about the topic of equality, in all its various forms, and lament the fact that America still has miles to go in terms of accepting our national diversity. And then there are days when I learn a bit of history, and allow that we've come a long way in a (relatively speaking) short period of time. This morning, David Parham's life story taught me a little bit of that history.

He was the first African American to be promoted to the rank of Captain in the U.S. Navy, which is one step shy of flag-rank Admiral. I don't suppose that this would be particularly remarkable, except that it happened fairly recently - 1966. Parham was also the second black chaplain in the U.S. Navy chaplain corps, having entered the corps in 1944, a few years after being told by a Navy recruiter that his application couldn't be taken because of his color. He finally retired in 1982.

Capt. David Parham passed away on April 16th. The story of his life, which I've only synopsized above, is truly inspirational. If you need a bit of a lift today, check it out.

Airline Bomber Released on Bail

In yet another demonstration that the Bush administration's "Global War on Terror" is nothing but a jingoistic paper sham, Luis Posada Carriles was released on bail yesterday, and has been flown to his Miami home under "house monitoring".

For those of you unfamiliar with the Posada Carriles saga, click here - but the short story is that Posada Carriles has been convicted of blowing up a Cuban airliner several years ago, killing 73 people, and has been involved in a lot of Latin American skullduggery over the years as a paid CIA operative. But note that he was only detained on immigration charges when he re-entered the U.S. two years ago:

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Tenacity or Pig-headed Petulance?

One upside to the emergence of blogs is that many people have come to recognize that there's a certain eliteness to the Washington press corpse. As a result, we're more likely to calibrate our bullshit detectors accordingly when we read reporting and opinions written by those who consider themselves insiders. Over a period of time, it's pretty easy to spot the journalists and pundits who act more as propaganda conduits and stenographers rather than true reporters. Unfortunately, inside the beltway bubble, there are a lot more of the former than the latter.

The annual Correspondent's Dinner is just one example of collegial atmosphere that exists between the elected (and non-elected) power brokers, and those in the fourth estate whose ethics should require them to maintain a professional distance from the people they cover. And this gives rise to an even more dangerous media type: the milquetoast opinion shaper. In other words, the wordsmiths who try to play both sides of the fence. Charlie Cook is one such guy - an insider's insider...

The Cynic in Me

As I dressed this morning, MS-NBC was on in the background - and by the time I finished pulling up my socks, I was ready for Imus to return. Why?

The anchors were blowing a huge volume of smoke up George Bush’s skirt, simply because he’s traveling to Virginia Tech today for a memorial service. “Mourner-in-Chief�. “Represents all of us.� “Has a lot of experience dealing with grieving families.� “Brings out his greatest stregths.�

Listen, I think the President of the United States should be in Blacksburg, Virginia today. But then, I think he should have been in New Orleans the day after Katrina hit, too, rather than strumming a guitar in San Diego. What really bothers me is how this event will be ultimately politicized, and the media will be looking breathlessly for a poll bounce next week.

Why does there have to be a political angle to absolutely everything? Why do I even have to consider that there might be an ulterior motive for his trip today, and that maybe he wouldn’t be making this trip if Cheney or Rove didn’t goad him into it?

I hate that I even think this way sometimes, and that I’m so cynical. Why can’t I just believe that he would be making this trip out of true sympathy and to represent the nation in this time of tragedy?

Is John McCain Totally Off the Rails?

We wake up this morning to a sunny forecast in Iraq, from none other than John "I Misspoke" McCain. Even as a 60 Minutes interview prepares to air this evening in which McCain reportedly backpedals on his upbeat assessment of the continuing quagmire, he pens an op-ed for the Washington Post that shows his rose colored glasses are still firmly welded to his face.

The only explanation I can come up with is that he's desperately courting the GOP presidential nomination endorsement of the Bush / Cheney regime. With the approval of the war (and George Bush and Dick Cheney) hovering at or below 30%, one would think that a campaign strategy which requires McCain to keep his lips firmly planted to the butt cheeks of the current regime would be a loser. For whatever reason, though, he apparently doesn't think so.

In his WaPo op-ed, John McCain takes the media to the woodshed for not reporting the good news out of Iraq, and lists some examples. This is almost too easy - but let's examine the claims, one by one...

Mary Landrieu Blocks Army Corps Nominee

It's hard to believe that nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. gulf coast, the national conversation is still centered on total mismanagement by the Bush regime.

Recently, reports have have surfaced that the Army Corps of Engineers installed defective flood control pumps in the New Orleans levee system last year. While this incident didn't generate a whole lot of outrage, it's just another example of the complete lack of attention being paid to reconstruction by the overseers in the Bush administration. It seems almost axiomatic that after many such displays of incompetence in the federal response to the disaster, someone with a level of access equivalent to a cabinet official should have been appointed to coordinate the federal efforts. Again, there is no responsibility being assumed, butts kicked, or names named.

What else is new?

Anyway, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La) is mad - so mad that she's put a hold on the Bush regime's nominee to head the Army Corps of Engineers:

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UK Survey of Iraqi Opinion - The Murdochian Spin

The construction of surveys and analysis of the results is an art form unto itself. Every public opinion poll is influenced by the phrasing of questions, the order in which questions are asked, the skill of the interviewer, underlying personal bias of the responder, and survey sample representation. Most of us aren't survey / polling wonks, and don't claim to be experts at analyzing survey results - but we can read and make some basic interpretations.

Only a Rupert Murdoch publication (The Times, UK) could positively spin the results of a survey that indicates one in four Iraqis have had a family member murdered since the invasion of Iraq four years ago:

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Would You Let a Soldier Lay in His Own Piss?

The new head of Walter Reed Army Hospital would - and did.

As a followup to yesterday's post on the sacking of the head of Walter Reed Army Hospital because of the Washington Post exposé, we find today that the interim head of Walter Reed used to run the place. You would think that perhaps this was a good thing - bring someone in with experience in running the facility in the past. You would be wrong.

Apparently, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the guy that's been appointed to head the hospital, was at the genesis of many of the reported problems. And he was one of the first people that the Pentagon trotted out of the gate to decry the WaPo expose that ran nearly two weeks ago. Here's the take on Kiley from the wife of a Republican congressman:

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