Saturday, March 15, 2008

Who Serves Our Leaders?

A possible answer.

Archie's Class Struggle

You know, the story scripted by Marx and Engels; it's here.

The Counter-Attack Against The RIAA Begins?

Read about it here.


A wonderful, witty competition at Worth1000:

The Corporatist Rulers Want You To Eat Healthy (Your Health Is Their Health)

That little health food company?

Owned by a major corporation.

More about that here.

Great Moments In The Corporatist State

In Fall 2007, Citigroup learned -- or maybe just advised its credit card subsidiary -- of a breach of account info that occurred... June 2005. (It was revealed soon after it occurred but obviously no one in a responsible position at Citi follows the news. Which is why the stock has tanked and the Citi's future doesn't necessarily look so rosy.)

Please don't believe me! See for yourself!

Scoop! The FBI Lied To Us!

The tradition continues....
FBI headquarters officials sought to cover their informal and possibly illegal acquisition of phone records on thousands of Americans from 2003 to 2005 by issuing 11 improper, retroactive "blanket" administrative subpoenas in 2006 to three phone companies that are under contract to the FBI, according to an audit released Thursday.

Top officials at the FBI's counter-terrorism division signed the blanket subpoenas "retroactively to justify the FBI's acquisition of data through the exigent letters or or other informal requests," the Justice Department's Inspector General Glenn Fine found.

iPhone Testimonial

As Tony Smith at The Register put it, the iPhone was so awesome, it was even good as an initial release. (An excellent review -- by that, I mean complete and detailed -- well worth Googlng. The orgasm version is Xeni's piece at BoingBoing.)

I have one, I love it. The only bad thing is the price (which is a lot but not necessarily unwarrantedly so).

But that was then, or now, and this is soon:


The House just now approved a new FISA bill that denies retroactive immunity to lawbreaking telecoms and which refuses to grant most of the new powers for the President to spy on Americans without warrants. It passed comfortably, by a 213-197 margin.
It's Greenwald, so there's way more.

"Kristen" Sings!

And she's not so bad for modern urban pop:

And this released after it came (umm) how she earned her living:

(The "embed"'s links to buy are of course not meant as any advertising or whatever by this blog. Seriously.)

And Speaking Of Beloved Leader's Complete Stupidity, Hypocrisy And All Around Contempt For Us And Decency....

Straight from the ass' mouth:
Here's one reason we're looking forward to Jan. 20, 2009: Finally, President Bush will stop sucking all the irony out of the room and writers can have some back.

Participating in a videoconference Thursday in which he was told about continuing challenges in Afghanistan, Bush told the U.S. troops on the other end of the video link:
I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.
It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks.
We know it's the easy point to make here, but we do seem to remember a war Bush supported and that he could have participated in if he finds war so romantic. We also seem to remember him avoiding that particular war. But then, maybe that's just us.
For those with short memories, Beloved Leader was completely eligible to volunteer to do his in 'Nam. Instead, he, well, dodged that one. Maybe he can instead inspire at least one of the twins to sign up and do their duty for the U.S.A....

Who's A Bigger Idiot? The Saint? Who ever Actually Believes His Pandering Crap? Beloved Leader?

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Friday he fears that al Qaeda or another extremist group might attempt spectacular attacks in Iraq to try to tilt the U.S. election against him.

Sorry to smack the Saint or you all with a dose of reality but Osama (not Obama) actually threw his support to Beloved Leader in 04; no reason to believe he's not still a GOP-supporter. After all, Our Leaders have been a Godsend for Islamofascists everywhere. Nothing like a crazy foe to rally around and incite the troops and so on.

And if you doubt that Osama (not Obama) supported Beloved Leader in 04, read this.

Forgive The Snarkiness, But A Tribute To McCain's Last Positive Accomplishment

Movie Of The Day

More from the same company is here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Can Beloved Leader Have It A New Low In Stupidity?

Hold-up on FISA being renewed because of... trial lawyers?? WTF?! Beloved Leader's ability to say whatever stupidity is put into his mouth is truly awesome. He's been a great, um, dummy, a true successor to Warren Harding.

Another Tribute To Sally Kerns


Spitzer gets caught trying to launder money to pay for his hos and is hounded into resigning office toot sweet. Larry Craig, among numerous others, get caught doing comparable -- and no hounding. Is there a significant distinction that explains this discrepancy?

The Tolerance Of The Right

Watch Our Leaders Find Their 1,000,000th Terrorist Living Amongst Us!

Watch it here!

The Very Latest Partisan Hypocrisy Of Our GOP Leaders

Greenwald lays out the latest "If we do it, it's OK, if they do it, it isn't".

Which Dem Has The Longer Congressional Coattails?

Link. Neither's will be as long as Johnny Mac's, the key to robust Dem majorities.

The Saint Hates America -- If There's Money In It


The Art Of Zit-Popping

Watch it if you dare!

"Entertainment" In Tribute To The Dem Nominee

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Just, You Know, A Really Remarkable Coincidence, Right, You Know?

A city police chief who led an investigation into charges that Britain cooperated with secret CIA flights to transport terrorism suspects without formal proceedings has been found dead, his deputy said Tuesday.

Manchester Chief Constable Michael Todd, 50, was found dead in Snowdonia, about 240 miles northwest of London, Deputy Chief Constable Dave Whatton said. He had been missing since going out for a walk Monday during his day off.

Whatton said the body, which was found Tuesday afternoon, had not yet been formally identified but he believed it was Todd.

He said a coroner's inquest would investigate the cause of death and did not give any further details.

Todd was elected vice president of the Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales in 2006, according to a biography on his Web site.

The association gave him the task of looking into accusations that Britain allowed the CIA to use the country's airports to fly terrorism suspects to other countries without any extradition hearings, a clandestine procedure known as "extraordinary rendition."

Todd's investigation concluded last June that there was no evidence to back the claim. Last month, however, Britain admitted one of its remote outposts in the Indian Ocean had twice been used by the United States as a refueling stop for the secret transfer of two terrorism suspects.

Cute, With A Message


The Last Spitzer Spritz?

Bill Maher:
I'm going to throw the remote through the TV if one more news twink says something on the order of "When we come back, we'll look into what drives a successful man like Eliot Spitzer to risk it all..."

Oh yes, let's convene a panel of experts for that. Let me help you: because he wants to get his nut off! Stop with all the analysis! It never ends, I hear all these people talking about how powerful people think they can get away with anything, so it's a thrill, or that it's for this psychological reason or this one -- please, he wanted to CUM WITH SOMEONE! Stop overthinking this: people need sex, and married people generally aren't getting it. Studies show (OK, I'm making that up, but it's true nonetheless) that people married 20 years only have sex on Valentine's Day, their anniversary, and their birthdays. You can hate me as the messenger, but it's true -- how can anyone be expected to still want to score with someone you've been having sex with for a score? Mr. Spitzer simply wanted what humans desire, to feel that sensational sensation when you're hot for someone, to touch and hug and bump and grind -- this is really not that complicated! If you're ascribing more to it than that, it's probably really more about your own fear that your spouse wants to do the same thing.

Or is doing it. Married people are often starved for sex, touch, affection, not to mention the kinky stuff that wifey definitely won't do. So if you find yourself at such a place in life -- and this is most certainly wives as well -- where you're dieing like this, you can do one of three things: get divorced, cheat, or continue to live a life with little or no passion, sex, etc. It's easy to point fingers, but how about some recognition that society's rules are so at odds with human nature that there are actually no good options for an Eliot Spitzer, and the ZILLIONS OF PEOPLE JUST LIKE HIM, many of who are tut-tut-ing today. I guess a guy is a hero who sticks it out and leads a life of quiet desperation. I'm not so sure it's heroic to make him.

An analysis putting all this sturm und drang into some sort of perspective. (Hint: There really are more important things.)

Quote (And Reminder) Of The Day

The chattering classes still blame desperate borrowers for not reading the fine print, but perhaps they should reserve some vitriol for Wall Street's watchdog. If there's one lesson the SEC should have learned long ago, it's that booms aren't fueled by market forces alone, but also by healthy doses of fraud, deception, and unchecked opportunism.
Click on the quote for the full article.

Teaching Our Kids To Be Even Dumber Than Us

This is the mentality that resulted in Beloved Leader.
What does it take for a school to suspend an eighth-grader, bar his attendance from an honors dinner, and strip him of his post as class Vice President? If you guessed drugs, alcohol, or a firearm, think again. A bag of candy is reason enough. This week, a Connecticut school levied these very punishments on an honor student with no history of misconduct, just for buying a bag of Skittles from his classmate. School officials are hiding behind their "Wellness Policy"—which prohibits bake sales, classroom pizza parties, and the sale of candy—as justification for the harsh disciplinary action.

Site Of The Day

It's twilight in America. Four more years!

Spitzer's Last Ho And Other Notes

Her gallery.

What Greenwald has learned from all this tempest in a teapot.

The quote of the scandal:
CNN said it shouldn't have used a former U.S. attorney who quit his job after allegedly biting a stripper as an analyst about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal.
An article from a journalist who works the "John" beat:
As a journalist I've covered the sex beat for over a decade. I've interviewed call girls and johns, adult film stars and dominatrixes, strippers and pimps. I've seen a side of America that most Americans don't see. In the movies there are heart-of-gold hookers like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman," falling in love with a john who happens to be a sensitive guy capable of overlooking her profession. But in reality we don't know much about johns or the complicated reasons they pay for sex. So when New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a zealous former prosecutor of prostitution rings, was accused of using one himself, many people questioned how such a smart man could have put his family and his career on the line.

A research project I'm working on may yield some answers to that perplexing question. Earlier this year I posted an online call for letters from johns, asking men to send me anonymous letters about their experiences soliciting sex. In most cases the johns came across "Letters From Johns" [NOTE: this blog is sexually explicit] while surfing the Internet. I'd considered soliciting johns from sites like Craigslist, but I decided to let them seek me out. Most of the letters, I believe, are real; in some cases the men sent them from their personal e-mail accounts, signed their real names, and included links to their professional Web sites. The fake letters are for the most part easy to identify; they lack detail—and frequently end with scenes in which the sex worker returns the money because the sex was so good.

Thus far I've received letters from nearly two dozen johns about why they did it. The men come from all walks of life, ranging in age and across socioeconomic classes. In many cases, like Spitzer, they're married. Many report they are in relationships with women who are no longer interested in sex. Some of the men are in long-term relationships; some are single. Some seek out streetwalkers, while others solicit high-end escorts as Spitzer is alleged to have done. The men find the women in bars, on Craigslist, in adult ads in the backs of their local weeklies.

Often these guys aren't just looking for sex. Many are depressed or stressed, lonely or bored, looking for intimacy or a connection, no matter how transient, no matter the cost. One john who was rejected on a regular basis in the dating scene wrote that, in contrast to the women he met at bars, prostitutes saw him as "a normal and charming guy." Other men recalled youthful sexcapades in the military while deployed overseas, from a German brothel called Crazy Sexy to a barbershop in Asia where women performed oral sex on men getting haircuts. An "overeducated" 28-year-old went through a bad breakup, a death in the family, and the loss of his job. Online he found a "courtesan" who taught him what he wanted in a relationship and gave him his confidence back. "I'm really grateful to her," he reported.

One letter in particular may offer a window into the mind-set of a man like Spitzer. It came in the form of an encrypted e-mail from a state investigator. Professionally, he was dedicated to enforcing the law. Personally, he was in a relationship with a woman with whom he hadn't had sex in years. He'd been seeing prostitutes since 1991. In his encoded diary he recorded his encounters. "1 dot is oral, 2 dots is vaginal sex, and 2 connected dots is anal sex. In the event that someone questions the dots, they are associated with good or bad days: no dots are normal days, 1 dot is a good day, 2 dots is a great day, and 2 connected dots is the best day for that week." For him, sex for money was sex without strings, attachment, or guilt—a transaction.

But for some it's the financial transaction itself that is alluring. In the first letter I received I heard from a successful twentysomething who described himself as "attractive and ambitious." He had a girlfriend—"a wonderful woman"—but there was something about the act of paying for sex, he confessed, that turned him on. "I find the idea of paying for sexual acts to be erotic," he confided. For some men, especially those who are seen as particularly moral or righteous in their public lives (think of all those fallen preachers), part of the appeal is the fact that it is illegal and a moral transgression in their eyes.

What do the women think about why men come to them? As a companion project to Letters From Johns, I created Letters From Working Girls [NOTE: this blog is sexually explicit too]. While johns are eager to confess, letters from working girls are few and far between. But one high-end call girl I spoke to about the Spitzer affair said there are lots of reasons a man in such a prominent position might seek high-stakes sex with a prostitute. Why not just have an affair, which probably wouldn't have destroyed his career? She said that Spitzer, if he did use prostitutes, was probably one of those men for whom the payoff was the excitement of doing something really taboo. "What could be more taboo than going to an agency when you're a crusader for all that is moral and good?" she theorized. "It's only natural," this call girl asserted, "that they'd hire a girl to get off." She speculates that there was probably a "midlife crisis element" there too.

Of course, Spitzer was no ordinary middle-aged shlub. Agencies like the Emperors Club screen workers and clients alike, and discretion was part of what he'd be paying for. Followers of Spitzergate have speculated as to what Client 9's date, Kristen, knew when the club's booker said that her famous client, who had been described by other girls as a "difficult" customer, "would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe." The wording might imply something kinky, but it's more likely that Client 9 was attempting to get Kristen to have sex without a condom—a common and unwelcome request, according to many sex workers. As one self-described twentysomething redhead I heard from (who solicited men on Craigslist to pay off her college loans) asked rhetorically, "How can someone even consider not using a condom with a woman who does it for a living?" That added risk factor may heighten the sexual excitement. For some guys the lure of that particular thrill can obscure any worries about long-term repercussions.

Over these last months I have seen one common thread in the johns' stories: many remain conflicted about paying for sex. Was it right? Was it wrong? Is there more going on than just a need for sex? With his career a shambles, Spitzer may soon have more time than he'd like to contemplate those very questions.
Said journo's site:

And for the lucky ones, Spitzer's last ho's MySpace page (and if you're surprised she had one, you're just too old). See all the friends she apparently made as a result of this.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Lies Of Our Leaders, Counted And Toted


Strip Du Jour


Reader, please note last panel in particular. It, like, resonates.

How The Media Screwed Up On Iraq

The long version, if you need or want it....

Would You Trust Windows Or A M$ App To Do This?

Short answer: Hahahahahahaha!
Mike Solomon, a New York City based graphic designer, has put his Mac and Time Machine to innovative use. When faced with the issue of editing a project that required 20 gigs of space on his hard drive, which had but 10 gigs of space remaining, he put his faith in Apple on the line:
So what did I do? I did what any Mac user would do - I deleted my entire iTunes music folder. It cleared up about 65 gigs of space, and I was able to edit the video and all was well. Then when I got back home I restored all the files with Time Machine, which had automatically backed everything up.
I’d be pretty darn nervous about deleting 65 gigs of music without manually backing everything up on a hard drive, but it’s like they say: put your faith in Apple, and the rest will take care of itself…or something like that.

Someone Else's Rant About Homeland (In)security

Cory Doctorow:
The Met's latest poster campaign urges Londoners who spot "unusual" activity to ring the police and let them know. Examples include someone taking pictures of CCTV cameras or acting out of the ordinary. After all, these are dangerous times, and we all must be vigilant.

Contrast this for a moment with an earlier dangerous time: the Blitz. Bombs rained down upon London on a near-daily basis, killing, maiming and laying waste to whole neighbourhoods (one American friend recently described a trip around east London where his hosts pointed to every car park and said, "Of course, that was bombed in the Blitz" – and came away with the impression that Hitler had dropped car parks on Hackney).

Back then, the government's message to the people wasn't "Take your shoes off" or "place your liquids in this bag". Instead, King George's printer stuck up millions of royal red posters bearing the legend "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON."

The approaches are markedly different - eternal (even fearful) vigilance, versus a reassured, Zen-like calm. Which one makes us more secure?

There's the rub. Verifying the security of a system is a tricky business. Even during the second world war, when secrecy over codes was paramount, Alan Turing's team at Bletchley Park broke the German cipher and began listening to practically every Nazi communiqué. How did they outsmart the German mathematicians who designed Enigma? Bletchley spotted a mistake and used it to crack the system wide open.

Mistakes happen all the time in mathematical ventures, which is why science relies on peer review. As Bruce Schneier says, "Anyone can design a security system so smart that he can't outsmart it". Until security is subjected to peer review, you can't know whether it's proof against the whole world, or just the people who are dumber than you are.

Even though our lives increasingly defined by security measures, we can't know whether they are working without public peer review.

Unfortunately, today's security cheerleaders have regressed to a more superstitious era, a time from before Bletchley Park's wizards won the second world war. The public isn't supposed to take photographs of CCTV cameras in case this knowledge can be used against them (despite the fact that surely terrorists can memorise their locations).

We can't mention terrorist attacks at the airport while we're being subjected to systematic anti-dignity depredations; your bank won't let you open an account with a passport – you need to supply a laser-printed utility bill as well ("to prevent money laundering" … you can just hear Osama's chief forgers gnashing their teeth for lack of a piece of A4).

The superstitions that grip airport checkpoints and banks are themselves a threat to security, because the security that does not admit of examination and discussion is no security at all.

If terrorists are a danger to London, then the only way to be safe is to talk about real threats and real countermeasures, to question the security around us and shut down the systems that don't work.

If you're worried about money-laundering, your bank should have real anti-laundering systems in place. If you're worried about bombings, you need a security system that works even when the locations of the CCTV cameras are public. If you're worried about identity theft, then the government had better have a bloody good plan for "revoking" your fingerprints and retinas should a bad guy figure out how to copy them.

If you want your plane to be safe in the sky, you'd better know what new security you gain by removing your shoes and shedding your liquids while still taking to the sky with your highly explosive laptop battery and a huge bottle of duty free whiskey.

We live in a world of threats that transcend our instincts and intuitions. Staying safe in the face of phishing attacks, viruses, identity theft, RFID skimming, and yes, even terrorists, requires that the public itself be security conscious.

We can't rely on the authorities to defend us against attacks that outstrip their capacity to adapt to them. Remember, the same police force that's plastering London with signs exhorting us to "let experienced officers decide what action to take" is the same police force that gunned down a Brazilian for wearing an overcoat, and shut down Soho when a Thai restaurant burned its chilli sauce, releasing spicy smoke.

Security literacy can only be acquired through continuous practice and evaluation. The more our society punishes those who question security, the less secure we all become.

Mickey Mouse Security Indeed: Mickey's Watching You Too


How Spitzer Got Nailed

What he did and what's going to happen to him: Who cares (and I'm a New Yorker).

How it happened, that's important: The corruption of American society in the perverted name of homeland security:
New York Governor (for now) Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute scandal is all the big news here in New York, but the lesser known tale is how an information system–the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network–played a role in his downfall.

On the surface, Spitzer’s downfall is a New York tabloid’s dream. Headlines like “Ho No!” scream on the New York Post. Wall Street is downright gleeful about Spitzer’s downfall (although Henry Blodget has shown an amazing amount of restraint).

But what really snared Spitzer was a money laundering investigation that was flagged by suspicious activity reports (SARs) that banks have to file with the Treasury to surface everything from money laundering to terrorist activity. This network has been around for a while, but its importance escalated following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to the FBI’s charges the prostitution ring that counted Spitzer as a customer was investigated due to some shady bank accounts, checks and wire transfers with big totals ($39,000, $400,000 and others).

According to the FBI’s complaint :
In or about October 2007, the FBI and the United States Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigative Division (”IRS-CID”) began an investigation focusing on an organization suspected of conducting prostitution and money-laundering crimes in the United States and Europe.
According to the Associated Press, this investigation began with a suspicious activity report on Spitzer. The Wall Street Journal reported that Spitzer’s transactions looked like they were kept below $10,000 to avoid federal reporting rules. This behavior to avoid the $10,000 threshold also helps the Feds find strange behavior, say 150 transactions between $7,000 and $9,000. The Journal notes:
There has been a massive federal crackdown on money laundering in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and banks have been extremely diligent in filing such reports. Those reports often include details of transactions done by innocent people.
Indeed, these reports are absorbed by the Treasury and crunched in a database to highlight potentially suspicious activity. According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) there have been 4.7 million SARs filed as of June 30, 2007.


In a report, FinCEN said:
Since January 1, 2003, filings by non-depository institutions, individually, and as a whole, continued increasing, and are encompassing a greater portion of the Suspicious Activity Reports within the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) database. In 2001, ninety-six percent of the Suspicious Activity Report database consisted of depository institution Suspicious Activity Reports; presently the figure is sixty-four percent. From January 1, 2002 to June 30, 2007, non-depository institution Suspicious Activity Reports comprised roughly 42 percent of all Suspicious Activity Reports filed.
Spitzer, also known as Client-9, had his own share of financial dealings ($4,300 for future favors) with the prostitution ring, but would have never been caught (he shunned wire transfers) if the operation wasn’t under investigation and his transactions weren’t being monitored. ABC News reported that Spitzer was trying to hide transactions to QAT, the alias of the prostitution ring.

Here’s what’s known about the FinCEN system (BNET resources), which is enabled by the Bank Secrecy Act and to a lesser extent the Patriot Act.

The IRS collects the data used by FinCEN, which doesn’t collect, process or store filed data.

FinCEN will be taking on more management of this data in a move that will “will challenge us to perfect a new array of skills, to upgrade our informational technology management capabilities, and to acquire and steward a significant increase in resources,” according to FinCEN’s strategic plan for 2006 to 2008.

Financial institutions are required to file transaction reports when a customer makes a cash transaction of more than $10,000.

The processes to get these transactions into the FinCEN network aren’t completely automated. According to a February General Accountability Office report:
Institutions must have processes and trained staff in place to identify when and if a CTR (currency transaction report) is required, including the ability to aggregate same-day cash transactions made by or on behalf of the same person, and to file CTRs correctly. While automation has made these tasks less difficult, most institutions reported that their processes still include “manual” steps; for example, most institutions reported that their CTRs are reviewed by branch managers or compliance officers before being sent electronically to FinCEN or by mail to IRS. Institutions we contacted were generally unable to quantify their costs for meeting CTR requirements, in large part because they use the same personnel and processes for meeting other BSA requirements or for other purposes and do not separately account for CTR-related costs.
Technology has helped some depository institutions expedite and streamline many or some parts of the CTR process. Overall, 78 percent of institutions responding to our survey reported that at least one part of their CTR filing process was mostly or fully automated. Many of the institutions we spoke with have software systems that prompt the teller when a CTR is necessary for a transaction, and some institutions have systems that allow tellers to electronically access the CTR form at their workstation and enter the necessary information. Additionally, some depository institutions reported that they had software systems that automatically fill in some parts of the form. Also, some banks have invested in software that processes CTRs for final reviews by their compliance office staff. However, the extent of automation varied widely among specific steps in the process, and no survey respondents reported a completely automated CTR process.
Data is delivered via paper and electronically. According to the GAO’s report:
FinCEN, together with the IRS, is responsible for managing and storing the BSA data that financial institutions report. Financial institutions that submit CTRs in paper form mail them directly to IRS’s Enterprise Computing Center in Detroit. Institutions that submit data electronically transmit them directly to FinCEN, which in turn transmits them to the center. The center collects and stores all BSA data in its Currency Banking and Retrieval System (CBRS).13 For fiscal year 2007, the IRS estimated the total cost of processing CTRs to be about $7 million, including about $3.5 million to convert CTRs submitted on paper to an electronic format. IRS examiners and investigators access BSA data directly through IRS’s Intranet, while FinCEN has a direct connection to the Enterprise Computing Center.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies get this financial data in bulk. The GAO said:
In 2004, FinCEN first provided the FBI with bulk transfer of data, and during 2005 and 2006 FinCEN agreed to provide two federal agencies-the Secret Service and ICE-and a multiagency program established by the Department of Justice (the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, or OCDETF Fusion Center) with access to a bulk data set.15 Receiving these data in bulk, rather than accessing the database remotely and querying it for specific records, allows agencies to conduct more sophisticated analyses.
This bulk data winds up in the FBI’s Investigative Data Warehouse, a collection of more than 50 multisource data sets. Forty percent of all FBI terrorism subjects turned up in reports filed between Jan. 1, 2000 and June 30, 2006, according to the FBI.

FinCEN is providing better Internet access to this data. Law enforcement staff can access a FinCEN database dubbed WebCBRS, which allows users to download up to 20,000 CTR reports on a query. These can be exported to a spreadsheet.

In other words, some of these Spitzer transactions may have wound up in a spreadsheet somewhere.

Postscript: The Wall Street Journal in its Wednesday edition reports that Capital One’s North Fork unit is at least one of the banks that flagged Spitzer’s transactions. The Journal notes that banks monitor the financial transactions of politically connected people–legislators, judges and their relatives–to probe for ill-gotten gains.

Today's Episode Of American Justice

Hour after hour, for four full days, Adriana Torres-Flores was locked away and forgotten in 8 1/2-by-9 1/2-foot cell in the Washington County Courthouse, with only a metal table, two benches and a light bulb that never went out. She had nothing to eat or drink. There was no toilet. Thursday passed. Then Friday, Saturday and Sunday - although Torres-Flores had no watch to tell the time. She slept on the floor with her head on a shoe.

She drank her own urine, she said.

Panicked and afraid she would die, Torres-Flores pounded on the steel door with her hands and feet, and yelled. No one heard her. The threat of snow had thinned the courthouse staff Friday.

The building was closed all weekend.

It was Monday morning before the bailiff who had put her in the holding cell, intending to have her taken to jail, opened the door and realized his mistake.

Jarrod Hankins of Elkins, only two months into his job as bailiff, was too devastated Monday to talk about it, his mother said.

"He's a broken man right now,"Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder said.

Hankins, who is on administrative leave, became distracted by other duties and forgot about Torres-Flores, the sheriff said Monday. Because the single detention cell is hidden behind a hallway on the fourth floor of the courthouse, and not part of a jail with a staff, there was no one to check on her.

Torres-Flores, 38, of Springdale went to court Thursday for a hearing on a plea agreement related to her December arrest on a charge of selling pirated mu- sic CDs at Pleasant Flea Market in Springdale. But she pleaded innocent.

When Judge William Storey remanded her to custody for violation of a condition of her bail, the bailiff led Torres-Flores to the detention cell.

Defendants are held in the cell in such situations, the sheriff explained. Usually, however, the bailiff notifies the Washington County sheriff 's office to send someone to take the prisoner to jail.

Her attorney, Nathan Lewis of Fayetteville, said he left believing that Torres-Flores would be taken to jail to await an April 1 trial in the case. Police said she is an illegal alien and faces deportation by federal immigration authorities.

After being treated at Washington Regional Medical Center, Torres-Flores was at home Monday evening. Recuperating in a bed in the front room of her tiny Springdale house, she described her ordeal through her 14-year-old daughter, Adriana Torres-Diaz, who is bilingual.

"When she first went there, she thought they were going to see her,"the girl said. "She assumed she was being taken care of."

But hours passed and no one came.

"Like in the afternoon, she noticed that no one came by."

Her mother had not eaten breakfast before court on Thursday, Adriana said. She had no food in her pockets and no water to drink. "She had to use the bathroom on the floor."

"She said she was so thirsty she had to drink her own urine,"her daughter said.

"She was feeling like she was going to die."

Her husband, Cruz Torres, who is unemployed, said that he thought his wife was safely in jail and that he had no reason to worry.

Her attorney said he was just gathering details and had yet to talk with Torres-Flores by Monday evening. "It's a horrible, horrible situation,"he said.

Torres-Flores said she had her jacket, but it was cold.

There is a slit of a window in the steel door to the cell, but it is behind a wooden door that opens to the fourth floor hallway of the courthouse, near Storey's chambers.

Storey was not at the courthouse Friday. He went to Little Rock to file for re-election.

Torres-Flores said she never heard any sounds on the other side of the cell's cinderblock walls, even when people were passing Thursday. Helder and Maj. Rick Hoyt said they are unsure how many people walked past in the hall Thursday or Friday. Though Storey was off Friday, some other courthouse staff members were there, Helder and Hoyt said.

Helder promised a thorough investigation and new safeguards - perhaps a video camera in the cell - to prevent a similar occurrence.

Such a mistake had never happened before at the courthouse, although he believed that a janitor cleaning the cell had once gotten locked in by mistake, Hoyt said.

In a written statement, the sheriff, along with Storey and Washington County Judge Jerry Hunton, assured that "immediate measures have been taken to ensure this does not happen again."

(Arkansas pervy joke deleted as a matter of taste.)

Thank God Wikileaks Is Back: Scientology Exposed

Okay, maybe there are worse things than Scientology; it is not a global evil. But it's bad enough and Wikileaks has some proof.

Mary Jane For Mary Ann?

This is not about a lesbian relationship.


Inside Tibet

And more info about Tibet now is here and here.


The Saint allegedly does a lobbyist in what would be an act of corruption. Eliot Spitzer pisses money away on hos. How can one say the former gets a pass, the latter gets hung out to dry? One involves deep corruption, the other essentially just recreation? (While I can see a clear moral difference, I dislike both men almost equally albeit the Saint a little more.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Blogging Confirms That I'm Depressed

Something like that.

Short version is here.

Long version is here.

Borowitz On Spitzer

Embattled New York Governor Eliot Spitzer held a hastily scheduled press conference to answer charges that he patronized a prostitution ring, telling reporters, “I’ve been screwed.”

While Mr. Spitzer refused to elaborate on his comment, he added for emphasis, “I’ve been screwed and it’s cost me a lot.”

Aides to the New York governor applauded him for responding quickly to the charges but across the state political observers wondered if he had raised more questions than he had answered.

Mr. Spitzer, who has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), did receive a vote of support from her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who offered to “take over his position” if the governor is forced to step down.

“I am happy to perform all of the roles that Eliot has been performing,” Mr. Clinton said, adding that he had the experience to make crucial phone calls at 3 A.M.

My Congressman On FISA

The highest priority of Members of Congress – on both sides of the aisle – is to protect our nation and to uphold our Constitution. Congress and the President must work together to come to an agreement that modernizes FISA. I remain committed to detecting, identifying and defeating terrorists and to preserving the freedoms that define America. Thus, it is disappointing that President Bush and his allies have chosen to play politics and to misrepresent the facts in the continuing debate on updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

FISA was passed by Congress in 1978 in response to President Nixon's abusive use of wiretaps against his political adversaries and the press. The existing FISA law has protected American citizens both from foreign terrorism and from infringement on their Constitutional right to privacy. Intelligence agencies should have the tools to intercept cellular or fiber optic communications through switches in the US while protecting Americans' rights.

Unfortunately, President Bush is using scare tactics in an attempt to bully Congress on this issue, much like he did in the build up to the war in Iraq. He has repeatedly made statements that officials within his administration and outside experts have indicated are untrue. Since the President and his allies are likely to continue these attacks, it is important to separate myth from fact.

The President continually states that with the expiration of the Protect America Act (PAA) last month, the capability of intelligence agencies to track terrorists will be weakened. The fact is that authorizations ordered under the PAA to conduct surveillance will continue for at least six months, and in some cases for up to one year. All known terrorist organizations and targets are already included in those orders, and new targets can be added quickly. Here's the bottom line—if a terrorist was being tracked a month ago, he can still be tracked today.

The President also claims that intelligence efforts are impeded by a requirement to obtain a warrant in a FISA court. The fact is that a FISA court order can be obtained up to three days AFTER intelligence collection has already begun. In the 30 year history of the FISA courts, the government has asked for over 23,000 warrants, and only five have been denied. Obtaining a warrant from a FISA court when there is concern that an American will be overheard during collection of evidence is clearly not a high hurdle.

Last November, the House passed a strong, balanced FISA bill, and I supported it. However, it was opposed by President Bush and his Republican allies in the Senate and did not become law. I will not support any FISA legislation that lets the executive branch alone decide who is a terrorist suspect and to forego judicial warrants altogether. This would completely undermine the system of checks and balances that is the bedrock of our Constitution. I also will not support a FISA bill that gives legal immunity to telecom companies who cooperated with the Bush Administration's efforts to overstep its authority.

The debate over FISA is extremely important and President Bush will not make America stronger or safer by attempting to stampede Congress into accepting a severely flawed bill. I will work quickly with my colleagues and the President to pass a strong bill that protects our nation and our civil liberties, and I will never let my family or yours be put at risk.

Congressman John Hall

Headline Of The Day, Just In Case You Didn't Know Wall Street Was Made Up Of Greed Little PIssants

Wall Street Cheers
As Its Nemesis
Plunges Into Crisis
I suppose focusing on the meltdown ("severe correction") of the global capitalist economy is too much for them, Spitzer's bust is about all they can manage.

No More Freedom For This Guy; Busted For Having A Big Bushy Beard

For real; God bless the U.k.

Whoa, Homeland Security Makes Us Less Safe (but We Knew That)

Just the latest chapter.

Tribute To A Whistleblower Who Fought For Freedom

That Idiot, Spitzer

Never quite liked him, thought he was acting the tough guy not because he was going after genuinely bad guys but for no more reason than it was good for his political future. Just didn't expect him to fall so far so fast. And the mad hubris of it all.

Just in case the reader cares more than the blogger, here's Greenwald, a little sanguine, on the subject.

Another overview is here.

Intense curiosity -- maybe even why it may matter -- is here. (Let's see the Times follow up!)

Whoa, Saddam Was Even Less Of A Threat Than We Thought (Well, We Knew That)

Raw Story:
After reviewing hundreds of thousands of captured Iraqi documents, a Pentagon-sponsored review has found no evidence of operational links between Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terror network, a McClatchy article reports.

The "exhaustive" study found that Saddam Hussein did provide some support to other terrorist groups but, as Warren Strobel writes for McClatchy, "his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime."

Strobel reiterates that the new study "found no documents indicating a 'direct operational link' between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion," according to an unnamed US official. The study is due to Congress and for general release by midweek.

As is well known, President George W. Bush and his administration freely connected Saddam and al-Qaeda as a key pretense for the invasion of Iraq after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Polls indicated that a large majority of Americans believed the president's assertion.

In the time since then, the Saddam/al-Qaeda tie has been criticized and deconstructed in the press and blogosphere and by study panels, but the upcoming Pentagon report promises to be a particularly stark and thorough refutation of one of the primary Bush administration arguments for the invasion of Iraq. The subsequent war has come at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, nearly 4,000 US troop deaths, and some half a trillion US dollars and counting.

Bush and his staff still tie Saddam's Iraq and al-Qaeda, despite previously released documents and reports indicating the same findings as the forthcoming extensive review. As recently as last week, Vice President Dick Cheney again asserted a link between the Iraqi dictator and the terror network.

Further excerpts from Strobel's article for McClatchy, available in full at this link, follow...


Then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld claimed in September 2002 that the United States had "bulletproof" evidence of cooperation between the radical Islamist terror group and Saddam's secular dictatorship.

Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell cited multiple linkages between Saddam and al Qaida in a watershed February 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council to build international support for the invasion. Almost every one of the examples Powell cited turned out to be based on bogus or misinterpreted intelligence.


The new study, entitled "Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents", was essentially completed last year and has been undergoing what one U.S. intelligence official described as a "painful" declassification review.


The issue of al Qaida in Iraq already has played a role in the 2008 presidential campaign. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, mocked Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, recently for saying that he'd keep some U.S. troops in Iraq if al Qaida established a base there. "I have some news. Al Qaida is in Iraq," McCain told supporters. Obama retorted that, "There was no such thing as al Qaida in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade." (In fact, al Qaida in Iraq didn't emerge until 2004, a year after the invasion.)

Full story is here

FBI: Whoa, Torture Doesn't Work!

The G-man said it, not me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What Else Beloved Leader Doesn't Know

The White House (the real site, not the parody) tells us:
Q What's your advice to the average American who is hurting now, facing the prospect of $4 a gallon gasoline, a lot of people facing --

THE PRESIDENT: Wait, what did you just say? You're predicting $4 a gallon gasoline?

Q A number of analysts are predicting --


Q -- $4 a gallon gasoline this spring when they reformulate.

THE PRESIDENT: That's interesting. I hadn't heard that.

Q Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I know it's high now.
Hey, wingnuts: is this source reliable enough for you?

Keep The Young'Uns From Seeing This!

A lovely, lovely tribute to the American flag. Makes one proud to be American in a way that having Rush Limbo, Faux Nooz and the bloviators on the "airwaves" and otherwise permeating the media does not....

"Oh beautiful... for... mountain majesties...."

What I Think Right Now

First, I'd like a little more coffee or to be able to go to bed for another couple of hours.

Obama just doesn't have the... drive to win the nomination. And if he does win it, he doesn't have the drive to fight McCain and the wingnut/Big Media BS machine which is to say the drive to win. Obama will be a rerun of Kerry or Dukasis, which is to say a loser (still there could be a Dem congressional blowout if people vote against the Dem presidential nominee).

On the other hand, Hil has a huge dislike among the Dems but, at the end of the day, media themes notwithstanding, she's perceived as more likely having what it takes to win. And she knows how to do it even if she's not running things in the most appropriate way yet. And I'm sure there's a good deal of good feeling for the Slick Willy era, and will be moreso as the economy tanks.

My 2¢.

Today's Funny


An Old Story Confirmed, Verified, Detailed: How Our Paki Allies Support Our Enemies With Our Help


It's an old story of foreign affairs: Giving support to an unreliable scumbag and then watch helplessly while he fails to some degree or another.

A Bad, Bad Omen For The Saint

Gas is on track for $4.00 a gallon come Summer. History says high gas prices doom the incumbent (or what passes for one). So will it do in the Saint?

I ain't betting on it.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Saint Is Such A Pandering, Lying Flip-Flopper, It Takes An Entire Book To Describe It!

McCain: The Myth of a Maverick (Hardcover)
Matt Welch


This book came out last fall as a warning as to what was in store if McCain became President. Written by a libertarian, it offers a unique perspective of a highly compromised politician made into a "straight talking" myth by the media.

From the Washington Post review: Another two-fer, this book excoriates John McCain as a calculating flip-flopper and the media for mythologizing him as a straight shooter. Welch, assistant editor of the Los Angeles Times' editorial pages, compares McCain's "ritual self-criticism" to Alcoholics Anonymous's 12-step program: First, he admits his flaws, then he sublimates them to a greater cause, and finally he takes that cause to the people. The book contains entertaining tales of equivocation aboard the Straight Talk Express, as when McCain was asked this year whether contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV and he answered: "You've stumped me. . . . Let me find out. . . . I have to find out what my position was." But in the end, this unflattering portrait turns out to be surprisingly flattering

"How the journalistic elite got taken for a ride on the Straight Talk Express is one of the revelatory sagas of modern-day Washington. Matt Welch has the audacity to think that John McCain's views matter, not only his legends, and he smokes out McCain with gusto. You don't have to follow him every inch of the way into libertarian politics--as I do not--to be dazzled by the light he casts on a telling tragedy of American politics."

--Todd Gitlin, author of The Bulldozer and the Big Tent: Blind Republicans, Lame Democrats, and the Recovery of American Ideals

From the author: McCain gives the voting public what it craves but can't find -- a flesh-and-bones ideological portrait of a man onto whom people are forever projecting their own political fantasies. Relying heavily on McCain's own words, The Myth of a Maverick provides a decoder ring for the candidate's allegedly "maverick" actions, and paints the first realistic picture of what a John McCain presidency -- or any other White House in thrall to National Greatness Conservatism

"At any given time, he considers this or that dictator or authoritarian or just kind of mean guy to be, you know, the transcendent issue that we must focus on right now in this very moment. It is the only sort of lever or is the only grade that he knows to approach the world’s problems, which is, you know, identify evil everywhere and get in evil’s face...." Sounds like Bush, eh?

About the Author: Matt Welch is the Assistant Editorial Page Editor of the Los Angeles Times. He has worked previously for Reason magazine, the National Post, the Online Journalism Review,,, United Press International, and a series of publications in Central Europe. His writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Orange County Register,, American Spectator Online, The Hardball Times and more.

Review excerpted from Politico:

The 12-step interpretation of McCain may seem like a stretch, but Welch offers circumstantial evidence to make it entirely plausible. McCain often uses buzzwords that are familiar to Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step program members, including warning people against “selfishness” and the real, telling clanker, “egotism.”

In his books and speeches, McCain is a “serial pre-emptive confessor of his sins,” said Welch. Aggressive public confession is the beginning of all 12-step movements. (As in “Hi, my name is John McCain, and I’m running for president.”)

McCain has “learned the value of saying, ‘Oh, I’m a bad person, I’ve made mistakes, I’m flawed.’ It’s part of his charm, and it’s done wonders for his career,” Welch said.

The Arizona senator had to learn that trick somewhere. Both McCain’s late father and his second wife, Cindy, were frequenters of 12-step programs — AA and Narcotics Anonymous, respectively.

This should be troubling, said Welch, because McCain’s new 12-step rhetoric coincided with changes in his views of foreign and domestic policy.

McCain had been a cautious realist on foreign policy whose military service and status as a Vietnam prisoner of war lent him real heft. His default positions on economic and social issues were in keeping with his family’s Republicanism and Arizona’s conservatism.

The new 12-step McCain became an advocate of invading countries for looking at us funny. He supported going into Iraq during the 2000 primaries, was the chief advocate for the troop surge in Iraq and is itching for a fight with Iran....

“One of the ironies of this book,” Welch said, is that it began out of his fondness for McCain. “He really is a charismatic fellow, he has a strange sense of humor and he’s an American hero.” However, Welch finds McCain’s vision for where to lead the country to be deeply troubling.

“He has a militaristic conception of citizenship, inadequate respect for the Constitution and, most importantly, during a time when the military is overstretched and the world has painted a giant red target on our backs, his threatens to be the most interventionist presidency since his idol, Teddy Roosevelt. I don’t think we can afford that right now.”

More Of The Saint's Loony, Whacko, Extremist, Anti-American BFFs

Usually, political groups trip over one another to try and gain public notoriety and attention. The Council for National Policy, meanwhile, would be perfectly happy if the public didn’t even know it exists. (I’ve long believed the easiest job on Earth would be to serve as this group’s press secretary.)

The CNP is made up of many heavy-hitters from the religious right and conservative movement in general, and they meet periodically to plot and scheme. It may sound excessively cloak-and-dagger of the group, but the CNP has a list of formal rules, one of which reads, "The media should not know when or where we meet or who takes part in our programs, before or after a meeting.”

Fortunately, details routinely leak. Today in New Orleans, for example, the CNP will gather and hear from none other than John McCain. (You know, the one who “refuses to pander” to anyone.)
Sen. John McCain, in his post-victory debut before the conservative movement’s top donors and leaders, will address the Council for National Policy’s annual winter meeting here today.

His remarks at the event, which has always been closed to the public and will have only a partial accommodation of the press this year for the first time, could turn out to be his make-or-break pitch for support from some of the right’s most influential critics of his past positions and policies.

“This is the most distinguished collection of conservative leaders and donors, and he was anxious to appear as part of his ongoing effort to consolidate support for his candidacy within the conservative movement,” said Charlie Black, Mr. McCain’s campaign adviser.
Not everyone will be glad to see him. One veteran CNP member told the far-right Washington Times, “It will say more about the state of the conservative movement than it does McCain. If he is accepted at CNP, this will mark the official end of the conservative movement as we knew it.”

And who, exactly, is the Council for National Policy? I’m glad you asked.

U.S. News reported during the ‘04 campaign:
The supersecret Council for National Policy, founded at the onset of the Reagan era, will be meeting in New York at an undisclosed location in hopes of avoiding protesters. The thousand member group includes political heavyweights like John Ashcroft, Bill Frist, and Tom DeLay, religious leaders from Pat Robertson to James Dobson, media moguls like Steve Forbes, and conservative billionaires Howard Ahmanson and Nelson Bunker Hunt.

Conservative Republicans boast that the council’s meeting is the “real” convention. “It’s the old smoke-filled room, but I wouldn’t say it’s corrupt,” says a source. “Rather it’s just where the work gets done.”
No one really knows what kind of work gets done when these wealthy, powerful right-wingers gather in their proverbial smoke-filled room. We do know that the CNP was co-founded by Tim LaHaye, who provides the Biblical analysis for the popular, right-wing “Left Behind” novels and who has worked to advance the religious right’s agenda for decades.

We also know that the CNP’s membership reads like a who’s who of some powerful far-right players. In addition to those mentioned in the U.S. News piece, readers may recognize names such as Grover Norquist, Phyllis Schlafly, and Oliver North.

Perhaps the best mainstream report on the CNP came from ABC News a couple of years ago, which described the Council as “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of.”
When Steve Baldwin, the executive director of an organization with the stale-as-old-bread name of the Council for National Policy, boasts that “we control everything in the world,” he is only half-kidding.

Half-kidding, because the council doesn’t really control the world. The staff of about eight, working in a modern office building in Fairfax, Va., isn’t even enough for a real full-court basketball game.

But also half-serious because the council has deservedly attained the reputation for conceiving and promoting the ideas of many who in fact do want to control everything in the world.
As for McCain, the Washington Times added, “‘We agreed the press could sit in a separate room and listen to the speech and the questions and answers,’ a CNP official said, speaking anonymously because the rules of the council forbid officials or members to speak by name in public.”

It should be interesting. Right Wing Watch also has a good item on the CNP.

Lyrics Of The Day

If only... maybe next cycle, it's not happening in this one....

Someone let the fences go
Wild eyed bunch moved in you know
Shootin' up the streets shoutin' everybody down
Dogs all runnin' loose

Wrecked the papers, closed the school
Tired old judge got roughed up too
No one left to make a stand
They whisper, "What's the use?"

I think we need a gunslinger
Somebody tough to tame this town
I think we need a gunslinger
There'll be justice all around

The Irrelevancy Of The American Jewish Leadership

A no-brainer issue and they can't agree on it:
Jewish leaders are divided over whether Republican presidential frontrunner John McCain should reject a recent endorsement from the Rev. John Hagee, with one prominent rabbi taking the leader of the Anti-Defamation League to task over his refusal to criticize the GOP candidate.

And also in The Forward is this:
Of politics, bedfellows and such: The dustup over evangelical Pastor John Hagee’s endorsement of Senator John McCain would not have attracted the attention it did had it not come in the wake of the Tim Russert-provoked controversy regarding Senator Barack Obama, the pastor of his church and Louis Farrakhan.

In the aftermath of the revelation of the Hagee endorsement, much attention has understandably been focused on McCain’s reaction and on the distinction between an unsolicited and unwelcome endorsement (Farrakhan) and an endorsement that was actively solicited and only partially rebuffed (Hagee).

My concern here is with Hagee and those who have endorsed him, but I pause to note that the Hagee-McCain association antedates Hagee’s formal endorsement last week. In fact, in South Carolina back in September, Hagee was invited to introduce McCain at a pre-primary rally titled “No Surrender”; his full-throated introduction was until recently featured on McCain’s campaign Web site.

McCain’s immediate response, later partially modified, to the Hagee endorsement was all smiles: “I’m very proud to have Pastor Hagee’s support.” (Just imagine that Obama had invited Farrakhan for a joint appearance and had spoken of his pride in obtaining Farrakhan’s endorsement.)

Just who is Hagee? Well, here in abbreviated form, are some of his characteristically outlandish opinions:

On Hurricane Katrina: “All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that… I believe that Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.”

On the Catholic Church: “Most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.”

On Muslims: Asked whether he believes that Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews, Hagee replied, “Well, the Quran teaches that. Yes, it teaches that very clearly.”

On women: “Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist.”

On the Antichrist: “He’s going to make a seven-year treaty with Israel and set up his image to be worshiped in Israel. And that is where I’m convinced that a Jewish person who understands who he is shoots him, because the Bible says he’s wounded in the head and recovers wondrously, emulating the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At this point in time when he comes back to life he has the personality of a Hitler. He now pursues the Jewish people. The Jewish people then go to Petra, which is a place in Jordan that is a natural fortress. And that God is going to provide for them there protection from him. And as he gets ready to pursue him, the Bible says that he, the Antichrist, hears tidings from the east that disturb him. The tidings from the east is that… the Chinese army is marching up the Euphrates River, 200 million of them, and they’re moving toward the battle of Armageddon, because they want the oil that will make them a superpower.”

On the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: “When the Annapolis Conference was being planned and the topic of dividing Jerusalem came up, one man asked me, ‘Where do you stand on this based on the Bible?’ I responded that ‘the plan of the Antichrist is to divide Jerusalem.’ If America puts pressure on Israel to divide Jerusalem we are following the blueprint of the Prince of Darkness. Amos 3:2 states that any nation that divides the Land of Israel will come under the severe judgment of God.”

Two years ago, this pastor to a church of more than 16,000 members created an organization called Christians United for Israel. In a book-length apologia for Hagee, the Jewish director of CUFI, David Brog, argues that Hagee’s love of the Jews is independent of his interpretation of the Jewish role in the run-up to Christ’s second coming. Hagee’s Judeophilia does, indeed, seem utterly sincere, not less sincere than his rejection of the theory of evolution.

And like orphans parched for love, we run to drink Hagee’s Kool-Aid. So he is invited to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and is greeted there with rapturous applause. He is given the “Humanitarian of the Year” award by the San Antonio B’nai B’rith Council. He is honored with the Zionist Organization of America’s “Israel Award.” In the two years since its birth, CUFI has sponsored 75 times, in cities all across America, a “Night to Honor Israel,” most if not all including participation by local rabbis and Jewish federation executives.

“I have absolutely no reservation about working with John Hagee,” Houston-area Jewish federation CEO Lee Wunsch told the Jerusalem Post. And Senator Joe Lieberman has compared Hagee to Moses and to Joshua.

It’s all quite pathetic. One does not want to spit on a hand extended in love, even the hand of someone like Hagee. But surely one is not required to clasp such a hand to one’s bosom.

And it may yet prove pernicious, too, because Hagee and CUFI will do their best to block any effort by the United States to press Israel to work toward a two-state solution. We can’t “denounce and reject,” but we are not required to fawn and encourage.

So what's the difficulty?

Four More Years

A vote for John McCain is a vote for a third Bush term. McCain admitted that his relationship with Bush is based on shared views in Iraq, immigration and a common agenda. McCain has offered no plan to end the war in Iraq. In fact, McCain says he is comfortable with being in Iraq for a hundred years. McCain offers a health care plan that is similar to Bush’s proposal, which failed to expand coverage and cut health care costs. McCain endorsed Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security—so much so he joined Bush on the campaign to sell the proposal. Although McCain previously opposed Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy he has made a “breathtaking turnaround” and supports these budget-busting, tax cuts for the wealthy.

Get the facts on John "McBush" McCain:
  • McCain Is Exactly Like Bush
  • McCain Cast 377 Votes in Support of President Bush’s Position, Supported Bush a Majority of the Time
  • McCain/Bush Friendship Based On Shared Views On Issues
  • McCain “Steadfast” And “Outspoken” In His Support For War In Iraq
  • McCain Said “Stay The Course,” Downplayed Violence And Denied Civil War
  • McCain Supported Bush Escalation, Claimed Success Despite Previous Criticism
  • McCain’s Reputation Tied To Bush’s Handling Of Iraq
  • “A Consistent Supporter Of Personal Social Security Accounts”; Helped Sell Bush Overhaul
  • Flip-Flop On Bush Tax Cuts A “Breathtaking Turnabout”
  • McCain Supported No Child Left Behind
  • McCain’s Health Plan Just Like Bush’s Failed Health Plan
  • McCain Supported Bush Nominees
  • McBush state-by-state: Colorado
McCain And Bush Are "Virtually Indistinguishable." Speaking about McCain and President Bush, Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution said, "Their positions are virtually indistinguishable. If you liked President George Bush, you will love President John McCain." [Bloomberg, 2/26/08]

Conservative Columnist: McCain Doesn't Represent Change But Continuity. Jonah Goldberg wrote, ""...the differences between McCainism and Bushism are very narrow...Everyone wants a change candidate this year. As the out-of-power party, Democrats have it much easier marketing themselves that way. But conservatives want change, too. And for many of them, McCain doesn't represent change but continuity. They just can't say so." [USA Today, 2/12/08]

Conservatives Distrust McCain Because He Is Exactly Like Bush. Conservatives' discontent with McCain is widely known, but it originated from "buyer's remorse" after Bush. USA Today wrote, "There is, in fact, a much broader anti-Bush sentiment in the party. The right wing of the GOP is suffering from a deep buyer's remorse of its own." McCain and Bush agree on nearly every issue that upsets conservatives, from immigration to campaign finance. [USA Today, 2/12/08]

Bush Said McCain Was Best to "Carry Forth His Agenda." According to political analyst Mark Halperin, behind closed doors, Bush "has told people for months that he thought McCain would be the nominee. Even during some of those dark periods he still thought he could win. And also that McCain would be the best to carry forth his agenda." [Fox News, "Fox and Friends, 2/8/08]

National Review Editor: If You Liked the Second Bush Term, You'll Love McCain. According the National Review's Andrew McCarthy, "If you liked the second Bush term, if you liked Clintonian foreign policy, you will find much to admire in a Commander-in-Chief McCain." [National Review, Andrew McCarthy, 2/4/08]

Big Journo Action

Some retard editor at the Washington Post feels it necessary or just proper to run a piece by a woman bemoaning how dumb women can act.

Query, then, what kind of piece has the asshole run bemoaning the gross, world-shattering stupidity of the white men who are our leaders? I mean, anyone can act dumb notwithstanding race, creed, religion, orientation, etc. But how about a little perspective, a little balance? We've had eight years of an administration that has been so stupid or whatever that it has virtually no positive accomplishments to show -- just a gross excess of incompetency on all levels. So where has the Wapo run that piece? I mean, there should be a front page story explaining why this administration has been a disaster and how the McCain administration will do no better (actually for the same reason: he's the same kind of stupid, ballless idiot as Beloved Leader: more of the same is ensured under the Saint).

The Saints -- Johnny Mac And Lieberman -- Share A BFF, Proving That They Are Indeed Men Of Atypicallly And Unusually High Principle

The Saint:
As Sarah Posner has noted, one reason that that Texas pastor and popularizer-of-the-apocalypse John Hagee gave for endorsing John McCain was the latter's "support of the state of Israel." Hagee also claimed that he personally backs Israel because it is a democracy, not because of its place in apocalyptic scenarios.

To believe this, you have to avoid reading anything Hagee has ever written about Israel -- particularly his 1996 giga-seller, Beginning of the End: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Coming Antichrist. In most ways, Beginning is a standard popularization of the fundamentalist theology known as dispensational premillennialism: To prove that the final seven years of history are about to begin, Hagee presented a list of verses and a collection of headlines that supposedly fulfill scriptural predictions. Hagee's innovation was to fit the murder of Yitzhak Rabin into his scheme.

But before getting to the End, Hagee expressed uncommon sympathy for Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir. Israeli society, Hagee explained, is divided between Jews "who put more faith in man than in the God of their fathers" and those "motivated by a Biblical imperative to redeem the Land of Israel." Hagee spent several pages quoting scripture to support the latter group. Then he indicated that Amir acted because he belonged to the believers. If you follow his argument, there's no doubt whose side he's on. The implications roar.

So far, McCain has mostly taken heat from Catholics for cuddling up with Hagee. The minister has called Catholicism "the great whore of Babylon" -- which is also pretty standard dispensationalist fare. (Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind books, as I’ve written in TAP, have long, wild riffs against Catholicism as handmaiden of the antichrist.)
But Jews should be joining Catholics on this one. If McCain were as pro-Israel as Hagee says he is, the candidate would want nothing to do with Hagee. You don’t back a democracy by siding with someone who regards a handgun as the means to change policy. There is a certain dissonance between supporting a country and giving theological justifications for the murder of its elected leader. We don’t even have to talk about Hagee's earnest hopes for war on Israeli soil, or his classic theological delegitimization of Judaism.
Joe Lieberman is, of course, one of the very serious -- deeply, deeply serious -- sane and mainstream political figures. Agree or disagree, he is a real serious and thoughtful and mainstream political thinker.
Last week, as Philip Weiss noted yesterday, Lieberman was the honored guest of evangelical Minister John Hagee and the group he leads, Christians United for Israel. As the Press Release distributed by Very Serious Moderate Lieberman aide Marshall Whittman demonstrates, Lieberman gave a speech there which Weiss, with understatement, calls "shocking." More on that in a moment.
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Lieberman's political comrade, Rev. Hagee, is at once both an extraordinary figure and a common one. He is an evangelical minister who, as an amazing interview he gave late last year to NPR's Terry Gross reflects, believes that "Rapture" -- whereby all Christians literally disappear from earth upon the return of Christ, leaving all non-believers to suffer on Earth -- is "imminent."
Rev. Hagee believes that before Christ returns, the Bible contains prophecies a series of Middle East wars against Muslims. And he also believes that God has placed an absolute bar on the giving away of any Israeli land whatsoever, and thus categorically condemns plans such as the "road map" and the Gaza withdrawal as blasphemies against God. In the Gross interview, the following exchange occurred, beginning with a clip from one of Hagee's sermons:
Hagee sermon: "For those of you in Washington, Jerusalem is not up for negotiation at any time, for any reason, in the future, no matter what your raod map calls for. There are still people in this nation who believes the Bible takes precedence over Washington, DC."
TG: Pastor Hagee, if you believe that the Bible takes precedence over Washington - I would assume you think the Bible takes precedence over the Israeli Government as well --
If you use the Bible as the basis for policy, is there any room for compromise? And if you use the bible as the basis for policy, should Muslims use the Koran as the basis for their policy, and then again, what possible basis is there for compromise at that point?
JH: There is really no room for compromise between radical Islam --
TG: I'm not talking about radical Islam. I'm just talking about Islam in general.
JH: Well Islam in general - those who live by the Koran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews.
So we can never negotiate with "radical Islam," and by "radical Islam," we mean "all Muslims," because all Muslims, by definition, are radical, since they all are instructed to slaughter Jews and Christians, and thus can never be negotiated with.
This exchange also occurred:
TG: I just want to ask you one question, based on one of your sermons, and this is not about Israel -- you said after Hurricane Katrina, that it was an act of God, and you said when you violate God's will long enough, the judgment of God comes to you. Katrina is an act of God for a society that is becoming Sodom and Gomorrah re-born.
Do you still believe that Katrina is punishment from God for a society that is becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah?
JH: All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.
The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it would was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other gay pride parades.
So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the Day of Judgment, and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.
So that is John Hagee (who, just by the way, had a private meeting late last year with neocon and Iran-contra convict felon Elliot Abrams, who also happens to be the White House's Middle East Policy Director, and afterwards, Hagee pronounced that they were in agreement on issues of the Middle East and Israel. Just by the way).
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Now, here is just a part of what the sane, serious, moderate, mainstream Joe Lieberman said when addressing Rev. Hagee's group two weeks ago:
Thank you for that kind introduction and that warm welcome. May I in turn greet you with the ancient words of welcome offered to pilgrims in Jerusalem -- "Bruchim Habaim B'Shem Hashem" -- blessed be those who come in the name of the Lord.
That greeting is especially fitting for you because you have come to Washington not just as men or women, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. You are here as Christians United for Israel. You represent a powerful force of people of faith in America who have pledged to never forget thee, O Jerusalem. . . .
I begin by thanking your founder, Pastor John Hagee. I would describe Pastor Hagee with the words the Torah uses to describe Moses, he is an "Eesh Elo Kim," a man of God because those words fit him; and, like Moses he has become the leader of a mighty multitude in pursuit of and defense of Israel . . . .
You know his story -- almost sixty years ago, a young John Hagee sat at his family's kitchen table in Channelview, Texas, heard the news about Israel's Declaration of Independence, and saw how moved his family was by it. Since then, he has been devoted to the defense of Israel, and to its vitality. He has done so because Israel's fight is his fight. Israel's values are his values. And Israel's hopes and dreams are his hopes and dreams.
Pastor Hagee, I pray that God will bless you with all that you pray for, and I do so with great confidence because I know what the Lord said to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. If ever there was a man who will be blessed because he has blessed Israel, Pastor Hagee, it is you.
You reject the temptation of moral relativism. You understand that there is a difference between good and evil, between eternal and temporal, between Israel and other nations . . . .
In a literal sense, Christians United for Israel was founded a little more than a year ago, in February 2006. But in a larger sense, it began more than 4,000 years ago with the first words God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12:1: "Now get thee unto the land that I will show thee, and I will make thee a great nation" . . . .
That was the covenantal promise God repeated to Isaac and Jacob and then to Moses, who, with God's help, delivered the children of Israel out of bondage to Mount Sinai where they received the Ten Commandments -- their statement of national values and purpose -- and then, 40 years later, brought them to the land that was promised to them, to the land of Israel.
This is the long odyssey that has brought us here tonight. By standing with Israel today, each of you has joined that journey and taken up the torch that was lit in God's promise to Abraham 4,000 years ago, and carrying it forward to spread that light.
I believe that Israel's rebirth in 1948 was divinely inspired by God, but I know that it was realized by the men and women here on earth who worked so hard to make it happen. Israel will be sustained by the work of men and women like you here on Earth. And I know you know how truly American is your support of Israel. . . .
If we surrender to the barbarism of suicide bombers and yield the Middle East to fanatics and killers, to Al Qaeda and Iran, then all that our men and women in uniform have fought, and died for, will be lost, we will be left a much less secure and free nation, and our Middle East allies -- including Israel -- will be endangered.
Fortunately, you here tonight know that evil will not prevail if good people act. And I know you will not allow Iran and Al Qaeda to triumph over America and Israel.
Lieberman concluded his speech by describing the story of the Book of Esther which, Lieberman said, is "about the cruel Persian leader who sought to exterminate the Jews." According to Lieberman, Queen Esther was reluctant to try to convince the evil Persian King to spare the Jews, but she was eventually convinced that if the Persian King destroyed the Jews, all would suffer. Nobody would be spared, not even Esther. And she thus stopped him.
Lieberman then told the group that "You are in this time like Joshua and Caleb in their time" and proceeded to explain what he meant by that:
The story told in chapter 13 of the Book of Numbers where Moses selects out leaders of the Israelites -- "men of distinction" -- to explore The Promised Land and report back, and all of them but Joshua, son of Nun and Caleb, son of Yephunneh, bring back a report that is cowardly because it lacks faith. . . .
But Joshua and Caleb disagreed, "We can surely ascend and conquer the land, we can surely do it," because they trusted in the promise God had made to Israel. Of that group, only Joshua and Caleb made it to the Promised Land of Israel.
Dear friends, you Christians United for Israel clearly follow in the footsteps of Joshua and Caleb. Your faith is strong, and so is your confidence. And so great will be your effect.
I thank you and pray that God will bless you and all that you do."
Most of this speaks for itself -- loudly -- but there are a few short observations worth making and questions worth asking:
(1) There is a very sizable portion of our country -- including a critically important part of the GOP base -- that favors endless militarism in the Middle East, encompassing not just Iraq but Iran and many others, for entirely religious and theological (rather than strategic or geopolitical) reasons. Perhaps that might be worth some greater discussion in the media.
(2) Could we at least all agree that it is long past time to dispense with the outrageous taboo which prohibits a discussion of the allegiance to Israel among right-wing neocon warmongers like Joe Lieberman and the influence that it has in their advocacy of endless wars against Israel's enemies such as Iran and Syria? Given that the likes of Joe Lieberman have formed common cause with the likes of John Hagee, and they all explicitly say that God demands that the U.S. defend Israel and wage war against its enemies, isn't it rather impossible to pretend any longer that no such relationship exists?
(3) Is there anyone who can identify the specific views of Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul that are "crazier" and more "unserious" than the views expressed here by John Hagee and Joe Lieberman?
(4) What exactly is the difference between the view of "radical Islam" that God demands that jihad be waged against Islam's enemies and the views expressed here by Hagee and Lieberman? Or the views of Osama bin Laden that God willed Middle Eastern land to Muslims and therefore can never be negotiated and the Lieberman/Hagee view that God willed it to Israel and can never be negotiated even if it means war?
(5) Could someone ask Joe Lieberman what exactly are the differences "between Israel and other nations"?
(6) For all of you throngs of media stars out there who spent much time condemning the Democratic Party for involving itself with such a wild, despicable radical like Michael Moore, do you have anything to say about Joe Lieberman's close association with, and drooling praise for, someone who believes that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment against the City of New Orleans for its wretched sins?
If it is perfectly permissible for Joe Lieberman to openly associate with someone like John Hagee and keep his membership in the Serious, Sober, Important, Respectable, Sane Mainstream Club, with whom can't he associate himself? Is there ever a way for someone on the Right to remove themselves from respectable, mainstream Seriousness?

UPDATE: Just as I was about to post this -- literally seconds before -- someone e-mailed me this new video from Max Blumenthal which shows the true face of the Christian Zionist movement of Rev. Hagee, the one Lieberman has embraced so enthusiastically. Coincidence?
In the video, which Blumenthal filmed at the convention two weeks ago, Hagee proclaims to cheering throngs, who are waiving Israeli flags:
Therefore it is time for America to embrace the words of Senator Joseph Lieberman and consider a military preemptive strike against Iran to prevent a nuclear holocaust in Israel. . .
Blumenthal notes that of all the speakers at the convention, Lieberman received the "by far the best reception," and showed Lieberman saying this:
I want to take the liberty of describing Pastor Hagee in the words the Torah uses to describe Moses. . . and those words really fit him. Like Moses, he has become the leader of a mighty multitude, even greater than the multitude that Moses led from Egypt to the Promise Land.
Mike Gravel and Ron Paul are total wackos. and DailyKos is filled with fringe extremists. Iran is led by warmongering religious fanatics. And Tim Russert and Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman are very serious and responsible and wise.

UPDATE II: This is how Serious People talk about other Serious People -- Serious Person Joe Klein said this in February, 2006 about Serious Person Joe Lieberman (h/t Zack): "I could never imagine myself voting against him. But he was profoundly wrong about the most important issue of the past five years [Iraq]." Just think about that for a second.
Klein goes on to criticize Lieberman for failing to express regret and error over Lieberman's support for Bush's invasion of Iraq. But Klein himself supported that invasion, and rather than expressing regret or remorse himself, now falsely claims that he did not (i.e., deceives everyone by claiming he opposed the war). Klein and Bill Kristol are two of the featured columnists in Time Magazine. And, like Lieberman, they are both very very Serious.

UPDATE III: At Talk Left, Big Tent Democrat makes the case that Beltway media elites have lost the ability to define "serious" and "mainstream." I agree with his essential point, and the trend is definitely in the direction he describes, but I think that he overstates the case. Many, many Americans still rely on establishment media figures as their principal source for political analysis.
I don't have much time to address this topic now, though it will surely be a featured one at the "Blog/MSM" panel in which I am participating at Yearly Kos -- a panel which, in addition to The Politico's Mike Allen and Jill of Feministe, now also includes Jay Carney, Time's Washington Bureau Chief. I'm looking forward to that panel discussion.
On a different note, the most recent war reporting "scandal" concocted by our Very Serious right-wing pundit class -- a "scandal" regarding The New Republic and fueled by The Weekly Standard -- concluded the way virtually all of their other scandals conclude: namely, by being exposed as a ridiculous fraud perpetrated by a hysterical lynch mob. As indicated, I have very little time right now, but Matt Yglesias has said most of what should be said about that topic.