Friday, March 25, 2005
From the New York Times:
Conservatives Invoke Case in Fund-Raising Campaigns
By David D. Kirkpatrick
The New York Times
Friday 25 March 2005
Videotape of Terri Schiavo blinking at her parents has inspired donations from people around the country to the foundation set up to help pay for the family's legal battle. But many other groups are soliciting donations in her name as well, some for a much broader agenda.
"Help Save Terri Schiavo's Life!" says the Web site of the Traditional Values Coalition, a Christian conservative group best known for its campaigns against gay rights. Next to a link to the Web site of her parents' foundation is a pitch to "become an active supporter of the Traditional Values Coalition by pledging a monthly gift."
"What this issue has done is it has galvanized people the way nothing could have done in an off-election year," said Rev. Lou Sheldon, the founder of the group, acknowledging that the case of Ms. Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged Florida woman, had moved many to open up their checkbooks. "That is what I see as the blessing that dear Terri's life is offering to the conservative Christian movement in America."
Mr. Sheldon, whose organization is based in Anaheim, Calif., said his group had sent e-mail messages and direct mailings telling supporters to call elected officials about the Schiavo case and usually asking for donations as well.
Voice for Terri, a coalition of anti-abortion and Christian conservative groups, is one of several organizations that has sent e-mail messages and set up Web sites pointedly criticizing Ms. Schiavo's husband, Michael, who has fought for years to have his wife's feeding tube removed over the objections of her parents. Troy Newman, the president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and a spokesman for Voice for Terri, said the coalition was spending the money it raised to cover the costs of rallies, of hotel rooms and of rental cars for organizers of protests in Florida, and of e-mail and letter-writing campaigns.
"This is not something you make money off of," Mr. Newman said. "It is a tragedy."
The Web site of Ms. Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, terrisfight.org, warns visitors that their foundation and Web site are the only legitimate places to contribute to her legal defense.
"Any other source that claims to be a fund-raising effort on her behalf should be brought to our attention here," the site says.
Paul Nelson, the president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which certifies the accounting of many of the best-known evangelical charities, said his organization frowned on groups raising money for causes peripheral to their work. And Mr. Nelson said any accusations or criticisms against Mr. Schiavo or others that were raised on Web sites and could not be proved would stretch his organization's requirement that all fund-raising be truthful.
None of these conservative groups would say how much they had raised so far by invoking the Schiavo case.
On a more positive note, here's one that helped me make sense of it all. Seems I'm not the only one who feels like giving up.
Is This A New Dark Age?
Little proof to the contrary that we are indeed in a very long, bleak tunnel. Is there any light?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, March 25, 2005
Then come those times when you read about a 16-year-old girl slashing the throat of a 75-year-old woman for no apparent reason, a woman who was merely walking with her husband near a Berkeley public garden and it's right next to the one about the 16-year-old kid smiling and waving and donning a bulletproof vest before shooting nine people and himself to death in a remote, poverty-stricken region of Minnesota and you can feel the numbness like a wave.
And alongside that is the morbid and insipid case of poor Terry Schiavo and the equally insipid Bush evangelicals who trumpet the backward morality of maintaining her vegetative brain-dead state and the sad, tormented parents who can't face reality and the insidious GOP that has zero shame in using her decrepit body as a political football and that kowtows to its pseudo-religious contingency by making humiliating and rather illegal congressional maneuvers to try and keep a feeding tube in place and you just go, oh my God just stop already.
And it all seems to line up with one of those weird phases when everyone in your own life seems to be getting hit by something tragic or sad or somehow ridiculously painful -- a sister with a neck trauma, a best friend going through major depression, a parent struck by illness, certainly almost everyone on the progressive Left feeling sucker-punched and morally eviscerated -- friends and family and loved ones all seeming to suffer in ways you don't want to imagine and it's all against a backdrop of more war dead and more violence and the most bleak and Bush-ravaged era in recent American history and you say to yourself, what the hell is going on?
Because something in you knows. Something in you senses there is more at play right now in the world than mere depressing coincidence, that all the war and disease and brutality has more surrounding it than mere chance or fluke. Do you think? Do you feel it?
You know, I can’t decide, what is the worst part of this whole thing? It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet of idiocy, hypocrisy, pandering, power grabs, and self-righteous bullshit. There’s plenty of blame to go around, too. Is it the media? Well, Fox News used John Edward as an “expert” to tell us that Terri is all around us and the air is made of Terri, and, oh yeah, Terri wants us to let her live so she can get up and join a revival of Cats. If nothing else, this case has shown me that the media is about as credible as the WWE.
Brother, whatcha gonna do when the 24-inch feeding tubes come crashing down on you?
Seriously, it's all about sensationalism and smack down debates. Where are the real journalists? Where are the people who bother to gather facts and tell a story? Oh, sure, you might see a snippet of one of these “facts” that liberals seem to love so much, but news now almost entirely consists of appeals to authority, with several talking heads brought in to scream at each other, leaving the rest of us to scream at our TVs. Where is the fourth estate? Is the judiciary really to be the last untouched part of our Government?
Don’t think the Democrats are blameless in this, either. They’re showing the spine of a jelly fish; just read the story below, and you’ll get just as disgusted as I did. It’s this kind of shit that makes me want to leave, but I’m hanging in there. I think everyone needs to write to Howard Dean and other Democratic leaders to demand action on a massive scale. I think they perceive us as the minority, when we clearly can help them get back out and do the right thing. We have to show our numbers, our unity, and our willingness to stand up and be counted.
Oh yeah, on a side note, I had to laugh when I read a righty blog that said: “Ever notice how much liberals love ‘studies’?” Man, you can’t make that kind of buffoonery up.
Parties Put Aside Fights on Schiavo Case
By DAVID ESPO AP Special Correspondent
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON Mar 24, 2005 — "Reid and Senate dems have been helpful thruout," Majority Leader Bill Frist messaged fellow Republican senators privately during pressured negotiations on legislation designed to save Terri Schiavo. The atmosphere was little different in the House, though Democratic opponents wanted extra time for debate and an on-the-record vote last weekend before allowing the final bill to pass.
The attitude marked an exception for a minority not accustomed to muting its opposition, a reflection of Schiavo's personal tragedy and the desire of many Democratic lawmakers to support the bill or at least avoid opposing it.
The party didn't want to be on the wrong side of "the culture of life," said one Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Add to that their hope fanned by recent polls that Republicans would wind up paying a political price by offending large segments of the electorate out of a desire to appeal to social conservatives.
"That's why we have just been sort of keeping our mouths shut on this," said one Democratic aide, explaining the strategy on condition of anonymity.
If the Republicans were prodded to action by one part of their political base, there was no countervailing pressure from organizations aligned with the Democrats. Not that they weren't hoping to gain quickly from the GOP drive to intervene, especially with polls showing as much as 70 to 80 percent of the public wanted politicians to stay out of Schiavo's family struggle.
Elliot Mincberg of People for The American Way said Thursday he hoped fallout from the Schiavo case would hamper GOP efforts to change Senate rules and speed confirmation of controversial Bush court appointees.
Speaking of Republicans who are undecided on the rules change, he said, "When they look at the Schiavo case and look at where leadership led them and look at the fact that 70 percent of the people are against them, we'd hope they'd think two, three or four times before plunging over the cliff."
More at ABC News
So one of the more under-covered stories these days is voting reform. One of the “grassroots” groups that has come forward with a more conservative bent is the American Center For Voting Rights. Sounds pretty impressive, right? Well, wait. You know if it’s a Republican organization there’s guaranteed to be some sort of shell game or bullshit involved. Typical, really…
Mystery Solved! Location of 'American Center for Voting Rights' Found! Exclusive Photographs!
Photos Suggest ACVR Website Developers Most Likely Very Very Tiny Republicans!
Funders for the so-far undocumented 501(c)3 organization and apparent GOP front group still unknown!
Thanks to the dilligence and footwork of a few BRAD BLOG readers and foot-soldiers, we are now able to offer an Exclusive photographic look at the location of the mysterious...
Thanks to the dilligence and footwork of a few BRAD BLOG readers and foot-soldiers, we are now able to offer an Exclusive photographic look at the location of the mysterious "American Center for Voting Rights" (ACVR)! Or at least a look at the mysterious and unnamed Dallas, TX company who is said by ACVR press spokesman, Jim Dyke, to have developed their website.
After recently reporting that the newly-formed, tax-exempt, "non-partisan", "voters rights" group, calling themselves the ACVR, is apparently little more than a GOP front group run by Dyke (the 2004 Communications Director for the Republican National Committee), Mark F. (Thor) Hearne, II (the National General Counsel for Bush/Cheney '04 Inc.) and others, we sought to learn more about them.
In our exclusive BRAD BLOG interview yesterday with Dyke, the "contact" person for the group -- which suddenly appeared on the Internet last Thursday and was then called to give expert testimony last Monday before a U.S. Congressional House committee on the November Election Irregularties in Ohio -- we had asked Dyke about the location of the ACVR.
The hard-right Republican (responsible, among other things, for posting folks in "Flipper" dolphin costumes at John Kerry events in 2004) instructed us that, though he personally was in Charleston SC, the Dallas TX address on the Internic record for the new group -- the one which shows they just purchased their website domain just last week -- belonged to "the company that designed the website".
More at Brad Blog
As a counterpoint to the stupidity that’s going on, how about this. If you’re so outraged, Mr. Bush, if you’re so much about the “Culture of Life”, then why are you silent on the school shooting in Minnesota?
Native Americans Criticize Bush's Silence
Response to School Shooting Is Contrasted With President's Intervention in Schiavo Case
By Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 25, 2005; Page A06
MINNEAPOLIS, March 24 -- Native Americans across the country -- including tribal leaders, academics and rank-and-file tribe members -- voiced anger and frustration Thursday that President Bush has responded to the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history with silence.
Three days after 16-year-old Jeff Weise killed nine members of his Red Lake tribe before taking his own life, grief-stricken American Indians complained that the White House has offered little in the way of sympathy for the tribe situated in the uppermost region of Minnesota.
"From all over the world we are getting letters of condolence, the Red Cross has come, but the so-called Great White Father in Washington hasn't said or done a thing," said Clyde Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian who is the founder and national director of the American Indian Movement here. "When people's children are murdered and others are in the hospital hanging on to life, he should be the first one to offer his condolences. . . . If this was a white community, I don't think he'd have any problem doing that."
Weise's victims included his grandfather and five teenagers; seven other students were wounded, and two of them remain in serious condition in a hospital in Fargo, N.D.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, in an informal discussion with reporters Tuesday, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed."
"I hope that he would say something," said Victoria Graves, a cultural educator at Red Lake Elementary School on the reservation. "It's important that there's acknowledgment of the tragedy. It's important he sees the tribes are out here. We need help."
The reaction to Bush's silence was particularly bitter given his high-profile, late-night intervention on behalf of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman caught in a legal battle over whether her feeding tube should be reinserted.
"The fact that Bush preempted his vacation to say something about Ms. Schiavo and here you have 10 native people gunned down and he can't take time to speak is very telling," said David Wilkins, interim chairman of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota and a member of the North Carolina-based Lumbee tribe.
More at the Washington Post
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Oh noes, is Dear Leader going to punish those who dare oppose his will?
Bush Warns Democrats About Opposing Accounts
By Michael A. Fletcher and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 23, 2005; Page A03
ALBUQUERQUE, March 22 -- President Bush concluded a three-state swing to sell his plan to restructure Social Security, warning Democratic opponents Tuesday that they will suffer political consequences if they continue to oppose his proposal without providing one of their own.
Flanked by Republican Sens. Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) and John McCain (Ariz.), Bush invited Democrats "to come to the table" to help devise a solution to shore up Social Security's finances. "I believe there will be bad political consequences for people who are unwilling to sit down and talk about the issue," he said.
McCain has been especially supportive of his onetime rival, appearing with Bush at three events over the past two days in trying to prod Democrats into negotiations to include private accounts in a plan to revamp Social Security. The popular senator said that the nation's aging population makes it impossible for Social Security to pay promised benefits far into the future unless fundamental changes are made in the program.
McCain said he supports Bush's plan to allow workers to divert nearly a third of their Social Security taxes into personal accounts. Although those accounts will not address Social Security's long-term funding problems, he said, they do provide "an important link to the future" by allowing workers to supplement Social Security checks with money earned in the stock and bond markets.
The accounts would buffer future retirees against cuts in Social Security payments that would be certain to accompany them. McCain said some critics have played down the severity of Social Security's financial crisis, but he maintained that now is the time to act. "The longer we wait, the more draconian the changes will have to be," he said.
McCain also challenged opponents of Bush's plan, including the advocacy group AARP, to enter negotiations on Social Security. He said they are recklessly minimizing the fiscal problems looming for the nation's retirement system.
"Some of our friends, who are opposing this idea, say, 'Oh, you don't have to worry until 2042.' We wait until 2042, when we stop paying people Social Security?" he asked.
More at the Washington Post.
Okay, on to the Schiavo case. This thing just gets stranger and stranger. What are the Republicans thinking on this? I really don’t get it; I suppose it’s that important that “the base” (read: superfundies and ultra-right-wing fruitcakes) get what they want. The good news (well, to me at least), is that they’re taking their lumps for opposing an issue that a supermajority of Americans feel differently on.
Political Fallout Over Schiavo Law
(CBS/AP) Congressional leaders have insisted their only motivation in getting involved in the Terri Schiavo case was saving a life. But Americans aren’t buying that argument, a CBS News poll finds.
An overwhelming 82 percent of the public believes the Congress and President should stay out of the matter.
Just 13 percent of those polled think Congress intervened in the case out of concern for Schiavo, while 74 percent think it was all about politics. Of those polled, 66 percent said the tube should not be inserted compared to 27 percent who want it restored. The issue has generated strong feelings, with 78 percent of those polled -- wheter for either side of the issue -- saying they have strong feelings.
Public approval of Congress has suffered as a result; at 34 percent, it is the lowest it has been since 1997, dropping from 41 percent last month. Now at 43 percent, President Bush’s approval rating is also lower than it was a month ago.
Over the weekend, Republicans in Congress pushed through unprecedented emergency legislation aimed at prolonging the brain-damaged woman's life by allowing the case to be reviewed by federal courts.
Since then, a federal judge and a federal appeals panel have turned down a request by Schiavo's parents to order doctors to reconnect the feeding tube that's kept their daughter alive for the past 15 years.
Wednesday afternoon, the case was rejected by the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It could still be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Late Wednesday, leaders of the U.S. House filed papers with the Supreme Court supporting the parents' wishes to have the feeding tube restored -- even though the parents have not yet appealed to the high court. The House leaders, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., argues that federal courts so far have misinterpreted the special Schindler legislation, and that the federal courts are required to keep Schiavo alive until a new review of her case.
Oh, and the hypocrisy just gets better and better. Bill “I examined a videotape and am thus qualified to make a medical diagnosis” Frist, the guy who swears up and down he would never pull the plug on Terri? Well, he’s pulled the plug. A lot of times. This is almost as rich as President “Culture of Life” Bush signing the bill that killed the boy in Texas against the mother’s will.
Heart surgeon Frist has pulled the plug regularly
BY RICHARD SISK and KENNETH R. BAZINET
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has championed the "rescue" of Terri Schiavo, is a renowned heart surgeon who has pulled the plug on a "regular basis," his office acknowledged yesterday.
But Frist (R-Tenn.) ended life support only when the patient was ruled brain-dead, and he is convinced Schiavo is not brain-dead.
"He certainly has a lot of clinical experience" in the withdrawal of life support, said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call.
Frist, the driving force behind the Senate bill to move Schiavo's case to federal court and a likely 2008 presidential candidate, is under fire for declaring she is not brain-dead after reviewing a video of Schiavo.
"On a regular basis, he's dealt with a diagnosis of brain death," Call said defending Frist, a heart and general surgeon.
Medical ethicists like Dr. Kenneth Prager, chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, say it's "inappropriate" for Frist to make an armchair diagnosis. "A diagnosis should be made bedside by a neurologist. He's not a neurologist, and he wasn't bedside," Prager said.
In a 2002 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Frist recalled moral debate into "Why is somebody dead when there's no brain activity, but everything else is warm and beating?" from the early days of organ transplants. "Finally, we came to a consensus, an ethical framework, that people can generally agree to and have faith in."
More at the New York Daily News
Surely this cannot be serious. Florida is looking to pass a bill aimed at curbing “leftist” professors? Jesus Christ, the mind boggles. HOW can anyone take this seriously?
“Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.””
Isn’t the whole point of a classroom that a teacher sets their own syllabus? I mean, what the fuck is the point of having a professor or teacher if you’re going to dictate down to the letter what they teach? WHAT THE HELL? What about Freedom of Speech? How does Florida’s Congress think they can dictate this?
Sometimes I want to cry.
THE LAW COULD LET STUDENTS SUE FOR UNTOLERATED BELIEFS.
By JAMES VANLANDINGHAM
Alligator Staff Writer
TALLAHASSEE — Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.
The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee.
The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House.
While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”
The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.
According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.
Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.
“Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue.
Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.
Similar suits could be filed by students who don’t believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by Shands medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.
“This is a horrible step,” he said. “Universities will have to hire lawyers so our curricula can be decided by judges in courtrooms. Professors might have to pay court costs — even if they win — from their own pockets. This is not an innocent piece of legislation.”
The staff analysis also warned the bill may shift responsibility for determining whether a student’s freedom has been infringed from the faculty to the courts.
More at the Independent Florida Alligator.
Anyway, well, not to dance on the grave of Social Security “reform”, but…well…
*puts on the tap shoes*
Bush's First Defeat
The president has lost on Social Security. How will he handle it?
By Jacob Weisberg
Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2005, at 4:19 AM PT
George W. Bush's plan to remake the Social Security system is kaput. This is not a value judgment. It's a statement of political fact. In the months since the president first presented the idea as his top domestic priority, Democrats in Congress have unexpectedly unified in opposition to any reform based on private accounts. Several Republican senators whose votes would be needed for passage are resisting private accounts as well. And public opinion, which has never favored any form of privatization, is trending even more strongly against Bush's scheme. At this point, there's just no way that the president can finagle enough votes to win.
This means that Bush is about to suffer—and is actually in the midst of suffering—his first major political defeat. After passing all his most important first-term domestic priorities (a tax cut, an education-reform bill, domestic security legislation, another tax cut), Bush faces a second term that is beginning with a gigantic rebuke: A Congress solidly controlled by his own party is repudiating his top goal. It's precisely what happened to Bill Clinton, when Congress rejected his health-care reform proposal in 1993. As the Clinton example shows, such a setback doesn't doom an administration. But how Bush handles the defeat is likely to be a decisive factor in determining whether he accomplishes any of the other big-ticket items on his agenda.
The first question to ask is whether Bush can face up to defeat. Not whether he can acknowledge defeat publicly: Few presidents are capable of graciously admitting their screw-ups, and this one is more reluctant to do so than most. The issue is whether Bush can acknowledge to himself that's he's belly-flopped on Social Security. If he can't, the endgame is likely to be fairly ugly for the GOP. Bush will expend more political capital twisting the arms of senators in a fruitless cause.
More at Slate
This is just too rich not to share. Hey Tom, project much?
Tom Delay vs. "The Syndicate"
Submitted by Oliver Willis on Wed, 03/23/2005 - 2:56pm.
Listen to the MP3 to hear Tom Delay talk about the "syndicate" of "do-gooders" that's out to destroy him. No word yet if he twirled his mustache when he said it.
This is exactly the issue that’s going on in America. That attacks against the conservative movement, against me, and against many others. The point is, it’s, the other side has figured out how to win and defeat the conservative movement. And that is to go after people, personally charge them with frivolous charges, and link that up with all these do-gooder organizations funded by George Soros, and then, and then get the national media on their side. That whole syndicate that they have going on right now is for one purpose and one purpose only and that’s to destroy the conservative movement.
From Oliver Willis.com
Finally, an interesting op-ed piece. I pretty much agree with everything that’s said here: if we’re sending these young men and women off to our death, we need to face what we’re doing.
Hiding Our War Dead
Italy Publicly Honors Its War Dead, America Hides Its Dead
Is That Respecting Our Soldiers?
by Gail Vida Hamburg
The state funeral in Rome last month for Nicola Calipari - the Italian intelligence officer who rescued a kidnapped journalist from Iraqi captors, only to be gunned down by jittery American soldiers at a checkpoint in Baghdad - was a national event that united all Italians, merging their raw sorrow with the singular grief of his widow and children. It was the second time Italy pulled out all the stops for its Iraq War dead. In November of 2003, it staged an elaborate state funeral for nineteen of its citizens, killed in a suicide truck bombing in Nasiriyah.
In both instances, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, his ministers, President Carlo Ciampi, and an honor guard in full-dress uniform stood with grieving families on the tarmac of Rome’s Ciampino military airport to receive their dead. There were national days of mourning and public visitation hours to the reposed, and at night, the Coliseum’s lights were dimmed in a mark of respect.
All Italy watched (on television) as officers from Italy’s civil services carried the flag-draped coffins past honor guards representing every branch of the military. The Carabinieri (paramilitary corps), in their regal uniforms and blue-and-red plume hats, stood guard while lone buglers played the Last Post and other laments. Stricken Italians lined the routes of the funeral cortege to pay their respects, before the bodies were entombed in Rome’s war memorial.
The participation in these last rites symbolized a shared sacrifice between those who prosecute wars, those who must fight them, and those who grieve and honor them-not just the dead and their families, but the entire nation. The pageantry on display was no more excessive than the heroism of the fallen, for surely there can be no greater excess than surrendering one’s life for the country.
America, on the other hand, with 1,516 U.S. fatalities in Iraq as of March 16, 2005, pays little public attention to its war dead. Indeed, aside from the printed obituaries in metro sections of dailies, there is little acknowledgment by the government or substantial reporting in the media of the soldiers who perish in Iraq and the families they leave behind. We do not see or hear them. They die alone on the hot sands of Iraq and their survivors grieve privately on American soil.
This administration, which asks for courage and resolve from the military, can find in itself neither courage nor resolve to embrace them in death. According to Pentagon rules, “There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein [Germany] airbase or Dover [Del.] base, to include interim stops.” Last year, defense contractor Maytag Aircraft fired civilian workers, Tami Silicio and David Landry, for taking photographs of soldiers’ coffins at an airbase in Kuwait. The photographs surfaced at www.memoryhole.com after a Freedom of Information Act request by First amendment advocate, Russ Kick.
Even acknowledging soldiers’ deaths through meaningful tributes upsets many in the war faction. When Nightline anchor, Ted Koppel, broadcast a tribute to the soldiers who had died in Iraq by reading their names off camera while the photographs of the dead men and women were projected on the screen, supporters of the war cried foul.
The President has also made it his policy not to attend military funerals. If he believes our military is fighting for noble ideals, if he admires, as he says, their valor and sacrifice, why must he absent himself from their funerals or prevent our witness of their final return? Why must our war dead come home like thieves in the night?
More at Bellaciao
On a personal note, I'm considering giving up this blog. Not long ago, on a discussion board, someone asked what the government would have to do to cross the line that would make you consider revolting. I have to say that they're dangerously close to that line for me, only instead of thinking of revolting, I just want to withdraw from society altogether. I sometimes feel like there is no hope to reverse the course we're on; the controls are already breaking down, and with those gone, how can we repair them? This Schiavo thing has been the worst, and it's shown me the worst of the American people: those who want Papas George and Jeb Bush to send soldiers or police in and arrest anyone who dare oppose them, those who are longing for a protectionist fascist state, those who think that those who oppose their "culture of life" should be killed. I feel like I'm living in some African country where I have absolutely no say in what the government does or how it conducts itself. I said to a friend just the other day that the Republicans are now making up government as they go along, because they're sure not following the intentions of the founders or the Constitution. My wife and I are actively making plans to leave the country. How did we get to this? I'm really beginning to wonder if it's worth saving.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005found this. No, we're not suspicious or anything!
U.S. bars Italians from examining victim’s car
ROME — The U.S. military command in Iraq has blocked two Italian policemen from examining the car in which an Italian intelligence agent was shot to death in Baghdad, a newspaper said Wednesday.
Corriere della Sera said that the policemen were about to leave when the Italian Embassy in Baghdad received an order from the U.S. command on Monday to abort the mission for security concerns.
The embassy in Baghdad reportedly alerted Rome authorities, who called off the trip.
The car, a Toyota Corolla, is reportedly still in American hands, at Baghdad airport where it was originally rented.
The Foreign Ministry in Rome declined comment on the report, while officials at the Italian Embassy in Baghdad could not immediately be reached. The U.S. military in Baghdad had no immediate comment.
Italian authorities say that examining the vehicle is key to assessing what happened on March 4, when U.S. troops opened fire on the car carrying secret service agent Nicola Calipari, another intelligence officer and journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had just been released after a month of captivity in Iraq.
Calipari died on the spot, while the other two were wounded.
Prosecutors investigating the shooting have received photographs of the car, but they want to analyze bullet holes and other elements, according to Corriere.
Calipari’s killing outraged Italians and prompted Premier Silvio Berlusconi to demand that Washington provide an explanation. Italy agrees that the shooting was an accident but disputes some key elements of the U.S. account.
The U.S. military said that the vehicle was speeding and refused to stop, and that a U.S. patrol tried to warn the driver with hand and arm signals, by flashing white lights and firing shots in front of the car and into the car’s engine block.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
How about we take a look at what's going on out there?
First of all, Patricia Heaton, of Everybody Loves Raymond? Yeah, turns out she's not only a genius, she's a brain surgeon!
Patricia Heaton: Terri Schiavo is not braindead. She's alive. She's breathing. Uh, she's disabled.
Patricia Heaton: There's a long history of this kind of treatment. In, uh, other cultures. We know that the Nazi's felt the same way about the disabled. That before they started taking the lives of jews and catholics and homosexuals, they started with the disabled.
Mark Stines: You say Terri's death is close. Have you done anything to kind of prepare for that if the feeding tube is not re-inserted?
Patricia Heaton: Yeah, I'm planning on, um, doing a fast, uh, possibly on Good Friday, if she's still alive by then. Just to show some solidarity with Terri and what she's going through. Of course it can't be anywhere near what she's going through.
Patricia Heaton: He (Michael Schiavo) had her put in a hospice to die.
Patricia Heaton: All you have to do is look at the facts. You don't need to sort of inflame the dialogue to understand what's going on here.
Hm, Patricia, I don't know. What IS going on here? Who are the nazis you're referring to? Surely not the DEATHOCRATS, which I kid you not, the Freepers are referring to us as. I don't understand the leap of logic required to associate genocide with this case, but, well, let's just say Patricia must have something in common with Terri.
Moving on, Rush Limbaugh offered his usual spew:
Now, I'm going to tell you this, folks. I didn't say this yesterday, but when I saw that the judge getting this federal judge getting the Schiavo case was a Clinton appointee, nothing that's happened since has surprised me. This guy didn't even... Well, the media reports are, "He doesn't have opinions about things. He's just a straight-down-the-middle jurist not known to have political leanings." Come on, now! This is more trickery and tomfoolery from the left. Liberals don't have political leanings? That's what they'd love you to think. Liberalism is just what IS. It's just what's natural. There's no ideology to liberalism. It's just natural. So this judge, a Clinton appointee has no political leanings. I mean the stretches that these people are going to to try to make their side of the case, the disinformation that they are putting out via the media -- and in fact the poll questions that are being asked.
Yeah, because appointees always reflect the leanings of the President who appointed them. Isn't that right, Souter?
Moving on, Scott (Gannon) McClellan was out there lying again...
McClellan: Twisting the Facts About 1999 Law
At the gaggle this morning, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan defended a law Bush signed as governor of Texas in 1999:
The legislation he signed is consistent with his views. You know, this is a complex case and I don’t think such uninformed accusations offer any constructive ways to address this matter…[P]rior to the passage of the ‘99 legislation that he signed, there were no protections…The legislation was there to help ensure that actions were being taken that were in accordance with the wishes of the patient or the patient’s family.
McClellan’s statement grossly distorts the nature of the law. The law does not ensure that actions are taken “in accordance with the wishes of the patient or the patient’s family.” In fact it codifies and legalizes the ability of doctors to stop treatment even if it goes against the explicit directive of the patient or the patient’s family.
Check out Section 166.046, Subsection (e):
If the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient is requesting life-sustaining treatment that the attending physician has decided and the review process has affirmed is inappropriate treatment, the patient shall be given available life-sustaining treatment pending transfer under Subsection (d). The patient is responsible for any costs incurred in transferring the patient to another facility. The physician and the health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after the written decision required under Subsection (b) is provided to the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient …
Hey, not every conservative is in love with this idea! In fact, a lot of them are opposed to it. That's the beauty of it...
Bush role in Schiavo case bothers Right
By JESSE J. HOLLAND
WASHINGTON - Not all conservatives are happy with the decision by Congress and President Bush to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. Some leaders said Tuesday the new law allowing a federal court review of the case is an example of the big government they have always opposed.
"To simply say that the 'culture of life,' or whatever you call it means that we don't have to pay attention to the principles of federalism or separation of powers is certainly not a conservative viewpoint," said former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga.
Allan Lichtman, who chairs the history department at American University in Washington, said the intervention of Congress and Bush to try to overturn the decision by Schiavo's husband not to prolong her life is the antithesis of several conservative principles.
"It contradicts a lot of what those behind it say they believe: the sanctity of the family, the sacred bond between husband and wife, the ability of all of us to make private decisions without the hand of government intervening, deference to states and localities as opposed to the centralized government," said Lichtman.
Fox News idiots are chiming in:
A huge argument has broken out about whether or not Congress and the president should have stuck their nose into the Terri Schiavo case. Some people say thank God they did. Some say it's the end of the Republic — that Madison is rolling in his grave and that the separation of powers have been trampled by Congress butting into the business of the state courts.
I say we never would be in this position if it weren't for the Florida courts recognizing what is clearly a sham marriage.
At this point, Michael Schiavo (search) asserted his right as husband and guardian to insist his wife Terri's feeding tube be removed. At this point Michael Schiavo is married to Terri Schiavo only for the purpose of ending her life.
The reason I say that is that he has another "wife," has two kids by her and is leading another life.
If Terri Schiavo were in good enough shape to say whether she wanted to live or die, she might first say she wants a divorce, considering the fact her husband has another wife and two kids.
And if she were to do that, would Michael Schiavo still have the standing to claim guardianship to be able to pull her feeding tube? No.
If he didn't have that guardianship, who would? Her parents. Would they pull the feeding tube? No. Would it then be necessary for Congress and the president to get involved? No.
So this whole thing turns on whether Michael and Terri Schiavo are really married and the fact that the Florida courts continue to recognize a marriage that exists only for the purpose of killing her. Surely the Florida courts cannot be that dumb. And, if they are, then surely somebody else ought to get involved — perhaps even Congress and the president.
I don't think this is so hard. If you recognize reality you will see that as of Friday, when Michael Schiavo ordered the feeding tube removed, they weren't really married. They haven't been since he took the other "wife" and had two kids.
Are the Florida courts saying an ex-husband gets to decide when an ex-wife dies? If so, there is going to be a very long line at the court's front door.
That's My Word.
And, of course, we can count on Rick Santorum for his usual well-thought-out, intelligent discourse:
U.S. District Court Judge James Whittemore has defied Congress by not staying Terri Schiavo's starvation execution for the time it takes him to hold a full hearing on her case, a leading Republican senator said Tuesday.
"You have judicial tyranny here," Santorum told WABC Radio in New York. "Congress passed a law that said that you had to look at this case. He simply thumbed his nose at Congress."
"What the statute that [Whittemore] was dealing with said was that he shall hold a trial de novo," the Pennsylvania Republican explained. "That means he has to hold a new trial. That's what the statute said."
"What he's saying is, 'I don't have to hold a new trial because I've already determined that her rights have been protected,'" Santorum said.
"That's nice for him to say that But that's not what Congress told him to do," he added. "Judges should obey the law. And this judge - in my mind - simply ignored the law."
Scarborough Country runs with unfounded accusations:
SCARBOROUGH: Well, how did she get in this bad of a situation if she didn't have a heart attack?
HAMMESFAHR: Well, we don't really know. What we do know is that she was--she apparently told her family she was going to leave Michael. And they asked that she not return to him that night. And the next morning, she is found face down on the floor unresponsive. The ambulance--
SCARBOROUGH: I have got to stop you there. Who told you that?
HAMMESFAHR: That's in the record, the medical and legal record. So, we know that for a fact. And then she was taken into--
SCARBOROUGH: Are you suggesting foul play here?
HAMMESFAHR: I'm suggesting that an investigation needs to be done of this case.
SCARBOROUGH: Doctor, thanks for being with us. Explosive allegations.
And in the meantime, the truth:
In the beginning, they say, Schiavo was relentless in his search for a cure for his wife. He tried therapies. He rented a house large enough for him and Terri's parents.
He made sure she was dressed every day. He applied her makeup and dabbed on perfume.
He went to school to become a nurse, ''because he wanted to take care of Terri,'' Scott said. 'He swore that he could get Terri better. One doctor said: `Mike, you know what? There's nothing else we can do. The next time Terri gets sick, why don't you just let nature take its course?' And Mike wouldn't do it.
From Yahoo! News:
Law Bush signed as Texas governor prompts cries of hypocrisy
Mon Mar 21, 7:22 PM ET Top Stories - Knight Ridder Newspapers
By William Douglas, Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - The federal law that President Bush (news - web sites) signed early Monday in an effort to prolong Terri Schiavo's life appears to contradict a right-to-die law that he signed as Texas governor, prompting cries of hypocrisy from congressional Democrats and some bioethicists.
In 1999, then-Gov. Bush signed the Advance Directives Act, which lets a patient's surrogate make life-ending decisions on his or her behalf. The measure also allows Texas hospitals to disconnect patients from life-sustaining systems if a physician, in consultation with a hospital bioethics committee, concludes that the patient's condition is hopeless.
Bioethicists familiar with the Texas law said Monday that if the Schiavo case had occurred in Texas, her husband would be the legal decision-maker and, because he and her doctors agreed that she had no hope of recovery, her feeding tube would be disconnected.
"The Texas law signed in 1999 allowed next of kin to decide what the patient wanted, if competent," said John Robertson, a University of Texas bioethicist.
Now let’s just hope it doesn’t go back to Congress again and have them shit all over the Constitution one more time. Heh.
Judge won't order feeding tube reinsertion
TAMPA, Fla. - A federal judge on Tuesday refused to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, denying an emergency request from the brain-damaged woman's parents.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge James Whittemore comes after feverish action by President Bush and Congress on legislation allowing her contentious case to be reviewed by federal courts.
The judge said the 41-year-old woman's parents had not established a "substantial likelihood of success" at trial on the merits of their arguments.
The tube was disconnected Friday on the orders of a state judge, prompting an extraordinary weekend effort by congressional Republicans to push through unprecedented emergency legislation early Monday aimed at keeping her alive.
Schiavo did not have a living will. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, has fought in courts for years to have the tube removed because he said she would not want to be kept alive artificially and she has no hope for recovery. Her parents contend she responds to them and her condition could improve.
From the AP.
Oh, and in case anyone missed it yesterday, here’s the case of the kid who was removed from the feeding tube against his mother’s wishes, courtesy of then-governor George W. Bush, who signed the law into practice.
Baby born with fatal defect dies after removal from life support
By LEIGH HOPPER
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
The baby wore a cute blue outfit with a teddy bear covering his bottom. The 17-pound, 6-month-old boy wiggled with eyes open and smacked his lips, according to his mother.
Then at 2 p.m. today, a medical staffer at Texas Children's Hospital gently removed the breathing tube that had kept Sun Hudson alive since his Sept. 25 birth. Cradled by his mother, he took a few breaths, and died.
"I talked to him, I told him that I loved him. Inside of me, my son is still alive," Wanda Hudson told reporters afterward. "This hospital was considered a miracle hospital. When it came to my son, they gave up in six months .... They made a terrible mistake."
Sun's death marks the first time a hospital has been allowed by a U.S. judge to discontinue an infant's life-sustaining care [size=10]against a parent's wishes,[/size] according to bioethical experts. A similar case involving a 68-year-old man in a chronic vegetative state at another Houston hospital is before a court now.
"This isn't murder. It's mercy and it's appropriate to be merciful in that way. It's not killing, it's stopping pointless treatment," said William Winslade, a bioethicist and lawyer who is a professor at the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. "It's sad this (Sun Hudson case) dragged on for so long. It's always sad when an infant dies. We all feel it's unfair, that a child doesn't have a chance to develop and thrive."
The hospital's description of Sun — that he was motionless and sedated for comfort — has differed sharply from the mother's. Since February, the hospital has blocked the media from accepting Hudson's invitation to see the baby in the neonatal intensive care unit, citing patient privacy concerns.
"I wanted y'all to see my son for yourself," Hudson told reporters. "So you could see he was actually moving around. He was conscious."
On Feb. 16, Harris County Probate Court Judge William C. McCulloch made the landmark decision to lift restrictions preventing Texas Children's from discontinuing care. However, an emergency appeal by Hudson's attorney, Mario Caballero, and a procedural error on McCulloch's part prevented the hospital from acting for four more weeks.
Texas law allows hospitals can discontinue life sustaining care, even if patient family members disagree. A doctor's recommendation must be approved by a hospital's ethics committee, and the family must be given 10 days from written notice of the decision to try and locate another facility for the patient.
More at the Houston Chronicle.
Now, switching gears, I had a nice conversation with my father about Dick Cheney last night, and I realized that he really is not responsible for what he does. No, really. Hear me out. He can’t help what he does; the real Dick Cheney died years ago and was replaced by a robot who was built to lie. It’s not that he wants to lie; he can’t help it, he HAS to lie, you see. That’s why he’s so perfect to push the social security plan.
I’ll let you write your own punch line to that one.
Cheney Joins the Social Security Campaign
Vice President, Rep. Thomas Tout Personal Accounts as Safe Way to Bolster System
By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 22, 2005; Page A05
BAKERSFIELD, Calif., March 21 -- Two of Washington's most powerful politicians -- Vice President Cheney and House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) -- teamed up Monday to pitch personal Social Security accounts as a safe and smart way to shore up the 70-year-old retirement program.
The two men, who came to Congress together 27 years ago and now play major roles in shaping policy, said critics are misleading the public about the risks associated with allowing Americans born after 1950 to voluntarily divert about one-third of their payroll taxes into private accounts.
"The one thing people should not be concerned about is that in creating personal accounts you are going to exercise any significant risk," Thomas said at a town hall meeting at California State University at Bakersfield. "It will be structured in a way that you can get the benefit without a serious risk of losing money."
Cheney said the performance of stocks and bonds over the course of history proves those younger than 55 should "bet on America" and fully expect to win. "In effect, what we are saying is we are going to tie your future as you retire to the overall health and function of the American economy," he said.
As part of a stepped-up White House public relations blitz for President Bush's plan to restructure Social Security, Cheney and Thomas went after AARP and other critics who charge that Americans will be gambling with their retirement if they are allowed to invest any portion of the Social Security tax in the market. Although many Democrats agree that, historically speaking, stocks and bonds have been a wise investment for many Americans, they still oppose converting a system that guarantees a set benefit into one that relies, in part, on unpredictable market forces. AARP is running ads that say Bush's plan is tantamount to Las Vegas-style betting.
More at the Washington Post.
Well, while we’re here, why don’t we cover the latest act by the Travesties of Justice Department? That’s right, it’s time for the Gonzales Watch.
So the basic story, in script form:
FBI: “Hey, these detentions and tortures? …probably not such a good idea.”
Bush: “But they hate our freedom.”
FBI: “Yeah, but I mean…c’mon. You have one guy who admits to being the Pope. You think that’s useful intelligence?”
Gonzales: “We’re working with the Vatican to have him returned him unharmed.”
FBI: “Oh, yeah, sure, you’ve captured the Pope.”
FBI: “Anyway, we don’t think it’s a good policy.”
FBI: “Hey, Haynes, help please.”
William J. Haynes II: “Hay guys. What’s up?”
FBI: “They’re shackling detainees to the floor for periods exceeding 24 hours, without food and water, draping detainees in an Israeli flag, and using growling dogs to scare detainees.”
Haynes II: “Cool.”
Human Rights Folks: “Tell us what the government had to say.”
FOIA: “All right.”
Gonzales: “Oh, no, you don’t. Yoink.”
Human Rights Folks: “What the hell? Carl Levin, please help.”
Human Rights Folks: “Cool.”
Bush: “Curses, foiled again.” *twirls mustache*
Seriously, they’re controlling the flow of information that should rightly be going to citizens yet again, but lord I’m tired of complaining about it. Can someone else pick this one up for me?
Justice Redacted Memo on Detainees
FBI Criticism Of Interrogations Was Deleted
By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 22, 2005; Page A03
U.S. law enforcement agents working at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, concluded that controversial interrogation practices used there by the Defense Department produced intelligence information that was "suspect at best," an FBI agent told a superior in a memo in May last year.
But the Justice Department, which reviewed the memo for national security secrets before releasing it to a civil liberties group in December, redacted the FBI agent's conclusion.
The department, acting after the Defense Department expressed its own views on which portions of the letter should be redacted, also blacked out a separate assertion in the memo that military interrogation practices could undermine future military trials for terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.
It also withheld a statement by the memo's author that Justice Department criminal division officials were so concerned about the military interrogation practices that they took their complaints to the office of the Pentagon's chief attorney, William J. Haynes II, whom President Bush has nominated to become a federal appellate judge.
The revelations in the memo, released yesterday by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) , generally amplify previously disclosed FBI concerns that military interrogators at the island prison were using coercive interrogation methods that could compromise any evidence of terrorist activities they obtained.
FBI agents and officials had complained about the shackling of detainees to the floor for periods exceeding 24 hours, without food and water; the draping of a detainee in an Israeli flag; and the use of growling dogs to scare detainees.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who as White House counsel participated in detailed discussions about the legality of aggressive military interrogation techniques, has twice publicly expressed skepticism about the reliability of these FBI accounts.
More at the Washington Post.
Well, looks like ol’ Wolfowitz got them Duke boys out of a whole mess of trouble. All he had to do was take his book learnin’ out on the road and kiss some ass and the Europeans cozied right up.
Ah, well, the Neocon empire continues to expand. I suppose it’s only a matter of time until they control the world. Well, beyond their own minds, I mean.
Wolfowitz Closing In On Bank Post
Germany Softens Stance As Nominee Woos Others
By Paul Blustein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 22, 2005; Page E01
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz closed in on the presidency of the World Bank yesterday when Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Germany would not try to block Wolfowitz's candidacy.
Schroeder said on German television that President Bush phoned him to discuss the nomination, "and I told him Germany would not stand in his way," according to news service reports. "I even think that people will be positively surprised" by Wolfowitz's leadership at the bank.
The statement virtually extinguished the already-fading chances of a rebellion by other World Bank member nations against Wolfowitz, whose nomination by Bush last week became the focus of controversy because of his role in promoting the invasion of Iraq.
With France, the other major European opponent of the Iraq war, Germany posed a potential threat to Wolfowitz's candidacy, which must be approved by the board of the 184-nation institution. The United States traditionally chooses the World Bank president as part of an informal agreement in which the European Union gets to name the head of the International Monetary Fund. But the boards of the two institutions operate by consensus -- indeed, a German candidate for IMF chief was forced to withdraw five years ago for lack of support from Washington and other capitals.
Schroeder's comments made it clear that a European-led challenge to Wolfowitz is not in the offing. Although there is still a chance that developing countries could put forward an alternative candidate around whom Wolfowitz's critics could rally, sources at the bank said that board members from developing nations have shown no desire to take such a step.
From the Washington Post.
And here’s something I haven’t covered in awhile: Horse Race 2005. Jerry “Ned Flanders” Kilgore hit the road yesterday to start his campaign (I was invited. WHY was I invited??) and right-wing fundies across the state swooned at the size of his…execution list. Seriously, what the hell is up with this guy? He talks like Ned Flanders and he looks like he’s about 12 years old. A psychotic 12-year old Flanders? The mind reels.
Going Back to Roots, Kilgore Gets Started
Va. Base Cheers Gubernatorial Platform
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 22, 2005; Page B02
GATE CITY, Va., March 21 -- Former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore began his quest to reclaim Virginia's executive mansion for Republicans on Monday, pledging to slow the upward spiral of real estate taxes for homeowners while improving the transportation network and education system.
Kilgore, 43, returned to his childhood home to launch his bid in front of an enthusiastic crowd of about 800 at Gate City High School in southwest Virginia. In an evening speech, he promised that, if elected, he will seek a constitutional amendment that would limit increases in home assessments to no more than 5 percent a year.
If local governments want more money, he said, their leaders should be forced to openly increase tax rates, not rely on rising assessments to fuel what he called "backdoor" tax increases.
"No Virginian should be forced out of his or her home because of runaway property assessments," Kilgore said. "My plan is an honest plan that attacks the real problem: skyrocketing property tax assessments that result in higher real estate taxes paid by you."
Kilgore also proposed a constitutional amendment that would require public referendums for any tax increase unless a public emergency were declared.
With Kilgore's announcement, all the major candidates are now in the field for an election that will be closely watched by politicians across the country as they test theories and watch for trends.
Kilgore's likely Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, last week proposed creating a "homestead exemption" that would allow local governments to designate up to 20 percent of a home's value tax free. The competing plans suggest an election-year clash over tax cuts similar to the debate on James S. Gilmore III's "no car tax" promise in his successful campaign for governor in 1997.
More at the Washington Post.
And that’s all, folks. I might take up something on the Minnesota shooting tomorrow. I want the sociological aspects (OMG DOOM) to die down before I look at how they’re going to screw over our childrens’ freedoms yet again.
Monday, March 21, 2005usual suspects:
Who is Funding the Schiavo Court Battle?
Millions of dollars have been spent by conservative political organizations that are using the Terri Schiavo case as a means to further their political agenda. This list of players comes from The American Journal of Bioethics :
According to the AJB article, the Schiavo lawyer, Pat Anderson "was paid directly" by the anti-abortion Life Legal Defense Foundation, which "has already spent over $300,000 on this case,' according to the foundation's Web site."
In fiscal 2002, organization expenditures exceeded receipts.
Life Legal Defense Foundation is a beneficiary of the Alliance Defense Fund, (ADF) a fundamentalist Christian group launched in 1993.
An 8 February 2005 article in the Palm Beach Post, headlined "State investigating Schiavo foundation," notes that ADF has spent "in the six figures" on the Schiavo case. In its IRS papers, it gives its purpose as "funding litigation that is going on to confront and challenge the radical legal agenda advocating homosexual behavior, defending parental rights, and to restore the Constitution's guarantee of free exercise of religion." It collected $15.7 million in 2003.
From the AJB article:
The Family Research Council, which uses its annual $10 million budget to lobby for prayer in public schools and against gay marriage, filed an amicus curiae brief in Bush v. Schiavo supporting Gov. Bush, at the same time its former president, attorney Kenneth Connor, was representing the governor in that litigation. Between 1992 and 2000, the council received $215,000 from the Bradley Foundation.
Ah, there we go. Now, then. First of all, the decision to pass this bill goes beyond just a husband and a family that are struggling over the right to terminate Terri’s life (which, to me, is another issue entirely – I support euthanasia and I understand that she has absolutely no hope of recovery, but that is not an issue for this blog). It affects me, you and every other American when Congress so egregiously oversteps their bounds in their rush to further erode our protections as citizens as provided by the Constitution. The tragedy here is that the Constitution, well and truly, is now a defunct piece of paper. Separation of powers? Pssh. Means nothing. Courts? Activist judges, doncha know. The right has been looking for a way to neuter the courts and, realizing that they aren’t going to ram their choices through, have found this way to set up an end-run around the Constitution.
And for what? The vote of a significant minority of the population? Look at the polls and the evidence. Look at the testimony given last night before the passage of this travesty of a law. Not a single person who voted for this gave a cognizant argument. They were more than willing to get up and lie through their teeth, all to keep the Sanctimonious Right happy.
They ignored the separation of powers. They inserted themselves into the judicial system as a source of appeal over a whole State. They rammed legislation through, not because it was the right thing to do, but because it was good PR for their base. We have witnessed the death of policy as protection of people and the final triumph of marketing over common sense and protocols.
And Bush? Well, you can count on him to be up there mouthing the good words and sucking the dick of the Religious Right. He was there, right on cue: "In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life.”
Excuse me, this is the motherfucker who preceded over the most executions in a state in HISTORY. Tell me there weren’t any “serious questions and substantial doubts” in some of those cases, you hypocritical bastard. Not only that, but this case has been decided over and over again in the courts (for seven YEARS) and medical experts agree she's gone forever.
But this is about the culture of life, right? Those accused of murder don’t count in the culture of life. This bullshit is EXACTLY why I am sick of them using language and connotations to control every aspect of public debate. And the American people aren’t even on their side on this one; it’s the goddamn religious right that’s controlling this egregious breach of powers.
This has been polled by everyone from Fox News to the “Lieberal” media outlets. Americans are against what the Republicans are doing by a pretty fair majority. This wouldn't be an issue without the religious right and it wouldn't be championed by Republicans without the Religious Right's power within their party. If left up to the Democratic party, who did split on this vote, this wouldn't even be an issue that Congress is handling.
If you believe this is anything but pandering, I defy you to explain this. Why would Tom DeLay, who said, “Right now murder is being committed against a defenseless American citizen in Florida. Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be immediately replaced, and Congress will continue working to explore ways to save her,” when, in his own goddamn state, Sun Hudson, a six-month-old boy with a fatal congenital disease, died after a Texas hospital, over his mother's objections, withdrew his feeding tube. The child was apparently certain to die, but was conscious. The hospital simply decided that it had better things to do than keeping the child alive, and the Texas courts upheld that decision after the penniless mother failed, during the 10-day window provided for by Texas law, to find another institution willing to take the child .
And nothing but silence from DeLay on this one. Not high-profile enough? Let me check my Magic 8 Ball…Signs point to yes, you prick.
Who knows, maybe this will be the civil rights issue that finally wakes up the electorate. 97% of us aren't gay, most of us will not have an abortion, but ANY ONE OF US could end up like Terri. Maybe, just maybe, this is shortsighted pandering that will result in the right-wing, dogmatic Christian moralizing crumbling to the ground.
I’m not holding my breath, though.
Congress Passes Schiavo Measure
Bush Signs Bill Giving U.S. Courts Jurisdiction In Case of Fla. Woman
By Charles Babington and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, March 21, 2005; Page A01
Congress gave jurisdiction over a brain-damaged Florida woman's case to federal courts early today, an extraordinary legislative move that could empower a U.S. judge to order the reinsertion of a feeding tube that a state court allowed to be removed Friday.
Voting 203 to 58 at 12:42 a.m., the House joined the Senate in approving the measure and rushing it to President Bush. He signed the bill into law at 1:11 a.m., saying, "I will continue to stand on the side of those defending life for all Americans, including those with disabilities."
With their votes and signature, the Republican-controlled Congress and Republican president wrote another chapter in an emotionally charged saga that has divided the patient's family and many other Americans over right-to-die questions.
Calling the bill a "Palm Sunday Compromise" that will keep Terri Schiavo, 41, alive, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said, "It won't take a miracle to help Terri Schiavo. It will only take the medical care and therapy that all patients deserve." In a rare gesture, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) presided over the three-hour debate, and he quoted Pope John Paul II on the subject of life-sustaining treatments.
The legislation requires a federal judge, upon the family's request, to launch a new inquiry into the legal and medical questions surrounding Schiavo, who suffered a severe loss of oxygen to her brain when her heart temporarily stopped 15 years ago. Doctors appointed by Florida courts to examine Schiavo say she has since lived in a persistent vegetative state, although other physicians have questioned that diagnosis.
More at the Washington Post
Want to know where the minds of these shitheads are now? These same people are now claiming the right to invade or strike anyone they want, whenever they want, without warning. NATO? Who needs ‘em. The UN? Who cares. We’re the ultimate power in the world, right? The world is all USA-Land, which means Jesus-Land, which means bombs for some, American Flags for others.
Here’s the best part:
"Our strength as a nation-state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international [forums], judicial processes and terrorism," the document states.
Strategy of the weak, indeed. How on earth do you combine international forums, judicial processes, and terrorism? Hello, one of these things is not like the others? Jesus Christ, who’s running this freakshow?
Policy OKs First Strike to Protect U.S.
Pentagon strategic plan codifies unilateral, preemptive attacks. The doctrine marks a shift from coalitions such as NATO, analysts say.
By John Hendren
Times Staff Writer
March 19, 2005
WASHINGTON — Two years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon has formally included in key strategic plans provisions for launching preemptive strikes against nations thought to pose a threat to the United States.
The doctrine also now stipulates that the U.S. will use "active deterrence" in concert with its allies "if we can" but could act unilaterally otherwise, Defense officials said.
The changes codify the more assertive defense policy adopted by the Bush administration since the Sept. 11 attacks and are included in a "National Military Strategy" and "National Defense Strategy," reports that are part of a comprehensive review of military strategy conducted every four years.
"The president has the obligation to protect the country," said Douglas J. Feith, the Defense Department's undersecretary for policy. "And I don't think that there's anything in our Constitution that says that the president should not protect the country unless he gets some non-American's participation or approval of that."
Pentagon managers use the strategic plan to guide such decisions as where to place bases, which bases to eliminate, what weapons to buy and where to position them. The heads of the United States' regional commands across the globe, in turn, use the strategy to prioritize spending and form strategies for eliminating threats in their regions.
"The potentially catastrophic impact of an attack against the United States, its allies and its interests may necessitate actions in self-defense to preempt adversaries before they can attack," the National Military Strategy states. A previous version, compiled in 1997, did not include plans for preemptive attacks.
However, Feith said that the United States would for the first time invite close allies such as the United Kingdom to review classified portions of U.S. defense strategy as part of the Quadrennial Defense Review, a four-year military policy and spending plan.
But the new strategy document further shifts the nation from the Cold War strategy of containing Eastern Europe to a global strategy of taking on enemies that emerge unexpectedly — as the administration argues Afghanistan did after the Sept. 11 attacks — and even terrorist organizations within friendly nations.
More at the LA Times
And at the same moment, Rice presumes to tell the EU what to do. Hey, we don’t care what you guys think, just don’t think on your own, okay? I guess the US prefers the EU as a servant rather than a friend. I don’t think it would be unwarranted for NATO to kick the US out.
Rice tells EU: don't lift China arms ban
Jonathan Watts in Beijing and Nicholas Watt in Brussels
Monday March 21, 2005
The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, stepped up the transatlantic row about selling arms to China yesterday with a sharply worded warning that the EU should not upset the balance of power in a region in which it has no defence responsibilities.
Ms Rice said Japan and South Korea - Washington's two main allies in east Asia - were also opposed to the EU's plans to lift its weapons ban, a move they fear could allow China to buy sophisticated European technology for use against their troops.
"Our view is that it is not appropriate," she told a press conference in Seoul yesterday, before arriving in Beijing last night.
"The European Union should do nothing to contribute to a circumstance in which Chinese military modernisation draws on European Union technology. It is the United States, not Europe, that has defended the Pacific."
Her comments - by far the sternest admonition by a US official - suggest the White House is gearing up for a diplomatic fight to maintain the embargo, which was imposed after the Chinese government sent tanks and troops to clear democracy demonstrators from in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Beijing's communist leaders have never expressed remorse for hundreds of their citizens killed, or held a public investigation of who was to blame.
Nevertheless, Europe has insisted that China is a changed country.
American concern about the implications of Europe revising its policy has raised the prospect of a trade war between the EU and the US.
The White House is particularly worried about Beijing's increased pressure on Taiwan.
Last week the Chinese legislature passed a law endorsing military action against the island if it moves towards formal independence from the mainland.
More at the Guardian.
Who’s running this freakshow? …oh yeah. These folks are running the freakshow.
Negroponte's Time In Honduras at Issue
Focus Renewed on Intelligence Pick's Knowledge of Death Squads in 1980s
By Michael Dobbs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 21, 2005; Page A01
It has been two decades since John D. Negroponte left his post as ambassador to Honduras, but the man President Bush has chosen to become the United States' first intelligence czar is still being hounded by human rights activists such as Zenaida Velasquez.
Their paths first intersected in 1983, when Velasquez asked for the ambassador's help in tracing dozens of Hondurans, including her brother, allegedly kidnapped by agents of the U.S.-backed Honduran military. Little came of the meeting, and the disappearances continued for at least another year.
Over the years, Velasquez has gotten the CIA, an official Honduran ombudsman and an international human rights court to acknowledge that the Honduran army was responsible for her brother Manfredo's kidnapping and presumed killing. But Negroponte has repeatedly insisted that military-backed death squads did not operate in Honduras while he was ambassador.
The selection of Negroponte for the new post of national intelligence director has focused renewed attention on the question of how much he knew about the Honduran military's involvement in nearly 200 unsolved kidnappings during the 1980s, and what he did about it. The subject has dogged him in the past, and Democratic staff members said it is likely to be revisited when the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence holds nomination hearings, tentatively scheduled for April 12.
A review of hundreds of declassified State Department and CIA documents suggests that Negroponte was preoccupied with "managing perceptions" about a country that had become a key U.S. ally in a decade-long campaign to stop the spread of communism in Central America. The documents show that he sought to depict Honduras in a generally positive light in annual human rights reports to Congress, and played down allegations of government abuse.
More at the Washington Post
So let me get this straight. The same government that just circumvented the Constitution, wants to be King of the World, and told its friends that it prefers them as servants knows what’s best for me to think and write? I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way, buddy. Of course, they don’t care about the rest of the Constitution, so why should they care about that pesky First Amendment?
FEC Considers Restricting Online Political Activities
New Rules May Apply to Web Ads, Bloggers' Endorsements
By Brian Faler
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, March 21, 2005; Page A17
The Federal Election Commission has begun considering whether to issue new rules on how political campaigns are waged on the Internet, a regulatory process that is expected to take months to complete but that is already generating considerable angst online.
The agency is weighing whether -- and how -- to impose restrictions on a host of online activities, including campaign advertising and politically oriented blogs.
Election officials are reluctantly taking up the issue, after losing a court case last fall. The FEC, which enforces federal election law, had issued scores of regulations delineating how the campaign finance reform legislation adopted in 2002 ought to be implemented. But Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.), who sponsored the legislation, complained that many of those rules were too lax, and they successfully sued to have them rescinded. The commission must now rewrite a number of those directions, including ones that left online political activities virtually free from government regulation.
"We are almost certainly going to move from an environment in which the Internet was per se not regulated to where it is going to be regulated in some part," said FEC Commissioner David M. Mason, a Republican. "That shift has huge significance because it means that people who are conducting political activity on the Internet are suddenly going to have to worry about or at least be conscious of certain legal distinctions and lines they didn't used to have to worry about."
More at the Washington Post
Bah, what a lousy start to another lousy fucking week. At this rate, by the end of the year, there are going to be tanks in the streets and we’ll all be sitting around the fire singing Amazing Grace while the gays are herded into camps. Culture of life, indeed.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Media Downplay Historic Day of Protests
By Scott Galindez
t r u t h o u t | Report
Sunday 20 March 2005
Fayetteville, NC -- The second anniversary of the war was the impetus for major demonstrations throughout the world. In the United States, over 800 communities held events calling for an end to the occupation.
CNN, however, reported that in the United States "barely a ripple was made while large protests took place in Europe." The New York Times reported that protests in the United States ranged from 350 people in Times Square to thousands in San Francisco. Later in the same story, the Times reported that several thousand marched from Harlem to Central Park. If thousands marched in New York, why did the Times highlight the 350 in Times Square?
CNN's report was worse … nothing about US protests. While they only saw a ripple, a huge wave passed them by. If CNN had been in Fayetteville, North Carolina, they would have seen what could be a major turning point in the anti-war movement. The largest Anti-war protest ever in this heavily military town took place.
The march was led by two banners carried by family members of soldiers who died or served in Iraq. The first banner said "The World Still Says No to War" and the second banner was "Bring the Troops Home Now." A few feet behind was a banner carried by Veterans of the Iraq War. One of those veterans, Sergeant Camillo Mejia, recently served 9 months in jail for refusing to return to Iraq after leave. Mejia told the crowd: "After going to war and seeing its ugly face, I could no longer be a part of it." Friday's Post...
What's a Press Corps to Do?
Friday, Mar 18, 2005; 12:33 PM
What should the press corps do the next time the White House calls a background briefing and demands that no one identify the briefer by name?
Walk out en masse?
That's not likely to happen, members of an august panel at the National Press Club grudgingly acknowledged yesterday.
Well, how about if someone outed the briefer's identity to a blogger?
The panel was called "Confronting the Seduction of Secrecy: Toward Improved Access to Government Information on the Record," and it featured a head-table heavy with Washington bureau chiefs past and present as well as advocates for aggressive, accountability-oriented journalism.
There was much talk, on the one hand, about what panelists called the unprecedented secrecy with which the Bush administration operates; and on the other hand, about the need for reporters to occasionally grant confidentiality to sources who are taking a risk by exposing information that the public has a right to know.
But sticking in pretty much everyone's craw was the persistence of those maddening White House briefings where a senior administration official stands in front of an auditorium full of reporters, says nothing remotely controversial, and yet insists on being cloaked in anonymity.
From the reporters' perspective, there is no excuse for it. The anonymity doesn't engender frankness; all it does is hinder accountability and undermine journalistic credibility.
But what to do?
Bill Kovach, director of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, described the short-lived revolt he tried to lead when he was Washington Bureau chief of the New York Times in the 1980s. "A few other reporters joined us at first when we asked briefings be kept open and left the room if they were not. But the support didn't last long," he said. "The main argument from other journalists was that they would surrender their independence if they took part in such group actions," he said.
But Kovach said that in this era of spin and misinformation, it's time to head to the ramparts again. "And maybe if we're lucky we can find that cooperation and collaboration are not threats to our independence but are the key to strengthen the value and the appeal of a journalism of verification to the American people."
Tom Curley, president and chief executive of the Associated Press, agreed: "We have to be able to walk out of the room when somebody goes off the record."
"It's easy to say that the Bush administration has taken secrecy to a new level. Because it has," said Knight-Ridder reporter Ron Hutcheson, who is the president of the White House Correspondents Association. "But we've let them."
Hutcheson described his own personal walk-out from an anonymous briefing last term. It turned out to be a solo affair. No one followed him.
But just in the past few weeks, he said, the New York Times and the Associated Press in particular have aggressively and successfully pushed the White House press office to put background briefings on the record.
"If you push back you get results, and we need to push back collectively," Hutcheson said.
"Doing it all together seems absolutely key," said Geneva Overholser, a Missouri School of Journalism professor and former editor.
But a forceful diverging view came from someone who wasn't even there. Overholser read a message that had been sent to her from Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., an outspoken advocate of newsroom independence, who said, "We just don't believe in unified action. . . . We can't participate in the kind of discussion you are proposing."
That didn't dissuade Andy Alexander, Washington bureau chief for Cox Newspapers, however.
If editors don't want to sign a group letter, fine, he said. But there are ways to act collectively without sacrificing independence. "Unified action can be having standards and holding your ground individually," he said.
Can Bloggers Help?
Alexander proposed one way out of this mess. Maybe the journalists in attendance should out the briefers to bloggers.
"I would love to be able to refer to a Web site" for that, Alexander said.
Overholser asked Slate media critic Jack Shafer why it hadn't happened. Shafer has openly encouraged reporters to e-mail him with a name.
Reporters who attend the events implicitly agree to the ground rules, much as they do when giving individual sources a pledge of confidentiality.
"I've been very disappointed. I've found out that reporters are much more honorable than I thought they would be," he said.
Shafer unleashed some other zingers as well, asking: "Why should someone who's giving a tongue-bath be granted anonymity?" There's more in his Slate articles yesterday and today.
Reporting on the Process
Several panelists said that another response to Bush's control of the press should be to report more about the process the White House is using to achieve it.
In other words: More stories about the endlessly repeated talking points, the merciless spin, the fake news, the screened audiences, and the increasingly sophisticated public relations apparatus.
I, of course, sat back in my chair in the audience and thought: Oh! Like White House Briefing!
President Bush is out barnstorming for his Social Security agenda again today, this time in Pensacola and Orlando.
Tamara Lytle writes for the Orlando Sentinel: "President Bush arrives in Orlando today with a tough challenge: selling a Social Security plan that becomes less popular the more he talks about it.
"Bush will visit elderly residents this afternoon at the Life Project Senior Development Center and then speak at the Lake Nona YMCA after a stop in Pensacola this morning."
The headline on Patrick Peterson's story in Florida Today says: "Floridians ready to quiz president."
It is, however, unlikely that they will get the chance. I've seen no sign that Bush plans to vary from his routine, which is talking before a screened audience -- and taking questions, if at all, only from the painstakingly prepped on-stage panelists.
Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey writes in Newsweek: "The White House last week scrapped plans to visit Sarasota, the home district of one of Bush's biggest supporters, GOP Rep. Katherine Harris. . . .
"Harris, now in her second congressional term, hasn't been wildly enthusiastic about Bush's Social Security reforms and, according to a spokesman, remains on the fence about private accounts."
Mike Allen writes in The Washington Post: "In a new measure of the obstacles facing President Bush's effort to change the Social Security program, outside groups working to build support for his ideas are having to spend much of their money trying to buck up Republicans rather than converting Democrats."
The Plan! The Plan!
As I reported in my Wednesday column, when President Bush met with a roundtable of regional newspaper reporters this week, he expressed astonishment that people constantly refer to "Bush's plan" for Social Security. "I haven't laid out a plan," he said. "I've laid out some ideas that I think ought to be considered for a plan, and that's what's important for people to know."
Then at Wednesday's press conference, he insisted: "I have not laid out a plan yet, intentionally. I have laid out principles."
Wherever would the press get the impression that he has a plan?
Well, as The Washington Post's Al Kamen points out today: "Bush does indeed have a plan. It's right there in the middle of the White House Web site. It says 'The President's Plan.' Okay, so maybe it doesn't go into a whole lot of detail, but. . . . "
Thanks to White House Briefing reader Scott Barker for pointing that out.
About That Press Conference
Wednesday's press conference generated quite the range of stories with quite the range of leads. But many observers noted that Bush seemed very confident, and very in control.
Peter Wallsten wrote in the Los Angeles Times: "President Bush might be losing his battle to overhaul Social Security, as recent polls suggest. But on Wednesday he faced the nation with the confidence and serenity of a leader who increasingly saw himself on the right side of history.
"In his third news conference at the White House since the inauguration -- a departure from his first four years, when formal news conferences were relatively rare -- Bush fielded 48 minutes of questions on topics as diverse as Social Security, gasoline prices, steroids in baseball, same-sex marriage, the death penalty and the war in Iraq.
"At every turn, he insisted that time would bring success."
Wallsten writes that White House advisers and allies say Bush is ebullient and that one manifestation is his commitment to holding at least one news conference a month -- a pace he has kept since his reelection.
I'm not sure if Bush is ebullient, but it's quite clear that he has gotten adept at fielding questions without giving ground, making much news -- or, quite often, directly answering the questions he is being asked.
In other words: He's not afraid of the press corps anymore.
Over in USA Today, Mark Memmott noted New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller's question to Bush as evidence that reporters aren't "shy about asking potentially controversial questions."
Here's the entire exchange:
"Q Paul Wolfowitz, who was the -- a chief architect of one of the most unpopular wars in our history --
"THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) That's an interesting start. (Laughter.)
"Q -- is your choice to be the President of the World Bank. What kind of signal does that send to the rest of the world?
"THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I think people -- I appreciate the world leaders taking my phone calls as I explained to them why I think Paul will be a strong President of the World Bank. I've said he's a man of good experiences. He helped manage a large organization. The World Bank is a large organization; the Pentagon is a large organization -- he's been involved in the management of that organization. He's a skilled diplomat, worked at the State Department in high positions. He was Ambassador to Indonesia where he did a very good job representing our country. And Paul is committed to development. He's a compassionate, decent man who will do a fine job in the World Bank. And that's why I called leaders of countries and that's why I put him up.
"I was pleased to see that Jim Wolfensohn, earlier today, made a very strong comment about Paul's candidacy. Jim Wolfensohn has done a fine job in leading the World Bank. He's represented the World Bank with a lot of class and a lot of dignity, and I think his comments are very important comments for -- for people to get to know Paul better before the -- before the vote is taken."
Memmot writes: "Bumiller says 'it's not my job to be popular, it's my job to get good answers from the president and generate some news.' Often, she says, she 'gets criticized for not being aggressive enough.' "
Note that Bush didn't directly answer her question, then moved on.
About That Ebullience
Thomas M. DeFrank writes in the New York Daily News: "The American occupation remains highly controversial and divisive, and many of Bush's closest aides and friends believe the war is still the greatest potential threat to his legacy.
"But in the view of Bush's handlers, the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections, plus a general sense that democracy is also beginning to take tentative root in Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have lent a modest aura of optimism to the Iraqi enterprise."
And yet DeFrank quotes a wary "top Bush lieutenant" saying: "Iraq is not a drag at the moment. . . . There's been a good pro-Bush boomlet since the [Iraqi] elections. But it's still a political minus. People aren't going to relax about it until we start drawing down our troops."
Bill Sammon notes in the Washington Times: "For the first time in years, President Bush has fielded more questions on domestic policy than on foreign policy at a press conference -- which says a lot about the improving situation in Iraq. . . .
"From the president's perspective, those questions are preferable to ones about Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse and mounting American casualties."
Jonathan Weisman writes in The Washington Post: "The Senate last night dealt a slap to President Bush and the Republican leadership, approving a 2006 budget that would gut much of the GOP's deficit-reduction efforts by restoring requested cuts to Medicaid, education, community development and other programs.
"With their deficit-reduction targets disappearing, Senate Republicans also nearly doubled the budget plan's tax cuts to $134 billion over five years. The budget passed 51 to 49, with four Republicans voting no."
Weighing In on Schiavo
Bush released a statement last night about Terri Schiavo, clearly intended to show support for the congressional moves to prevent the Florida woman's husband from removing her feeding tubes.
Schiavo suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago and court-appointed doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state. Her parents say she could get better.
Here's the statement: "The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected -- and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities."
That last part is potentially provocative. Is he suggesting that those who support letting Schiavo die (because they believe she has no higher brain functions) are no different than people who favor euthanizing the disabled?
Scott Shepard wrote for Cox News yesterday: "The House Judiciary Committee rejected a request Wednesday to investigate whether the White House provided press room access to a reporter with questionable journalism credentials as part of its efforts to control media coverage of President Bush.
"The committee voted 21-10, along party lines, to deny the request to look into the circumstances of former Talon News White House correspondent James Guckert's almost daily access to the White House news briefings from 2003 until his resignation last month. Guckert was given the access even though the press galleries in Congress had rejected his request for similar access there."
A Troubled St. Patrick's Day
Susan Milligan writes in the Boston Globe: "President Bush and members of Congress yesterday pledged their support for peace in Northern Ireland and for the family of slain Irishman Robert McCartney, calling for an end to violence by the Irish Republican Army and justice for McCartney, whose murder has been blamed on the IRA.
"This year's St. Patrick's Day celebration -- normally a festive, bipartisan affair open to all players in Irish politics -- had a somber, divisive tone that underscored the uncertain state of the peace process in Northern Ireland. Lawmakers sparred over how to deal with Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, and the visit to the White House by McCartney's mourning family served as a reminder of the personal pain that the violence in Northern Ireland has wrought."
Milligan also notes that at the annual St. Patrick's Day lunch hosted by the speaker of the House, "Bush also referred to McCartney's 'three sisters' (he had five), a minor mistake that nonetheless made the president appear less than connected to the situation in Northern Ireland, said one lawmaker who attended the lunch."
Dana Priest and Walter Pincus write in The Washington Post: "The CIA and the White House yesterday defended the practice of secretly transferring suspected terrorists to other countries, including some with poor human rights records, and reiterated that proper safeguards exist to ensure detainees are not tortured.
"White House spokesman Scott McClellan would not answer repeated questions about whether President Bush was aware of -- or believed or discounted -- assertions made recently by freed detainees that they were tortured by other governments after they were transferred abroad by the CIA. But he said the United States has 'an obligation not to render people to countries if we believe they're going to be tortured.' "
There were in fact two incredibly contentious exchanges with McClellan in yesterday's briefing, one about rendition, and the other about rising oil prices. Worth the read if you have the time and the patience.
Second Blogger in the House
The First Blogger in the White House, Garret Graff, reports that he has now been followed by a Second Blogger, an Eric Brewer from a site called BTC News.
Brewer actually got to see the president!