Friday, March 31, 2006

2006-Q1 Index

Alphabetical index of blog posts for the first quarter of 2006:

View the index131 countries and counting
500,000 Little Pieces
The Academy Awards®
Alberto Gonzales on Gitmo
Alito and McClellan
Alito and strip-searching 10yo girls for drugs
Alito and the Concerned Alumni, again
Alpha Phi Alpha's second century of service
The Amazingly Tacky Race
America dodged a bullet with Charles Pickering
The anti-Fatah Intifada
Bad (former) free blog counter!
Bill Clinton on Larry King
Bill Maher and Michael Ware
Bill Maher was AWESOME
Bill Maher, live and in person
Blown away by the beauty of "Unpretty"
Brownie plays the Blame Game
Cartman brings us Hitler the Punster
Cat dials 9-1-1
CBN says Cheney will step down
CBN, your #1 source for Christian jingoist fake news
Cindy Sheehan's t-shirt
Condi on Meet the Press
Coretta Scott King
Criticizing versus "Going Negative"
Damn you, Jon Stewart — LET MY CORDDRYS GO!
Democrats have to do better
The depths of Dubya's soul
Disturbing search engine hits
Dubai Ports changes course
Eavesdropping versus Wiretapping
An end to filibustering judges
An Especially Cynical Scam E-mail
An excellent and timely cartoon
Farrakhan tells the truth for once
Financial genius
From Selma to Monrovia, Happy MLK Day
George W. Bush, Michael Brown, and the Mainstream Media
God commands you to kill your baby
Good bye, Andy Card
Great name for a Televangelist
Happy Presidents' Day!
Hit Count Envy
I feel myself with sleep
Inside the SFPD: the Bayview
It's Nightline All Day
James Frey back on Oprah
John Murtha on Nightline, AGAIN
John Spencer (Leo McGarry)
Jonesing for fake news
Jorge Ramos on Bill Maher
Kill those who advocate killing those who insult Islam
A little morning Kofi with your Hamas?
MacWorld Blogger Lunch
MacWorld, Intel, Hitler, and Colbert
Making New Orleans safe for Jesus
Merry Orthodox Christmas
The message sent by the Milquetoast Democrats
Moussaoui Trained to Lie
Muslims speak out against anti-cartoon violence
My comment on the Volokh Conspiracy
My new reality show
My own trilingual adventure
Nitpicking Brokeback Mountain
No tears for Slobo
O Canada, Terre de Mes Haïe-jeux
Oprah really IS an angel
Peaceful cartoon protests
Pope Benedict celebrates Lent
Ports controversy
Prattlestar Galaxative comes of age
President Cheney attempted murder?
Radio Talk Show Hosts on Larry King
A random stroll through the blogosphere
Religious provocation
Russ Lieber kicks Colbert's 屁股
Se jábala español
Senator Boxer on the Colbert Report
Short-term and long-term views of Alito
Signs of Hope in Iraq and America
A Sincere Compliment to President Bush
Six and a half billion little pieces
Smackdown: Corddry v. Corddry!
Socks for President
South Dakota, leading the way into the 19th century
South Park, Scientology, and Chef
Stare Decisis, Roe v Wade, and Alito
State of the Union
Stephen Colbert = Rod Serling on acid
Stephen Colbert and Bruce Bartlett
Stephen Colbert fixed Canada!
Stephen Colbert is destroying America
Stephen Colbert's alternate dimension of trilingualism
Sticks and Stones
Stupor Bowl
Sundance Kabuki!
Tis the season for gay sons on TV
To filibuster Alito or not
Tony Blankley foretells the end of his own career
Trackback spam
The True Culture War
Union membership is patriotic
Unwarranted Eavesdropping
Washington, D.C.
We did the right thing, executing Clarence Allen
"We're losing ground here, three years on"
What happened to the Corddry death match?
Why We Fight
Words of Truth from Donald Rumsfeld
You might say...
Zacarias Moussaoui's delusions of grandeur

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Jorge Ramos on Bill Maher

Jorge Ramos, anchor of the Univisión nightly Spanish-language newscast, gave an interview in English on Real Time with Bill Maher. Here is the transcript of the interview, along with my translation into Spanish, and some comments.

Read the article...
A couple of years after I graduated from college, my French professor came to speak at an alumni meeting here in San Francisco. It was a bit of an odd experience for me, because I realized it was the first time I heard Monsieur Maman [his real name, not a reference to the movie Mr. Mom] speak English. I had a similar experience tonight watching Real Time with Bill Maher, because it was the first time I had ever heard Jorge Ramos speak English. Jorge is the anchor of Univisión's nightly network newscast. I'll try to give you the Spanish translation of what he said in English.

Bill Maher: Mr. Ramos, how you doin'?Sr. Ramos, ¿cómo 'stas?
Jorge Ramos: Good to be here. Thank you.Muy bien, gracias.
Maher: All right, the Presidents have all gone home. Why are you still there?Vale, todos los Presidentes fueron a casa. ¿Por qué permaneces allí?
Ramos: I don't know — because I'm doing the program with you.No lo sé — porque hago el programa contigo.
Maher: How embarrassing for us! We made this poor man stay in Mexico when he didn't want to.¡Qué desconcierto para nosotros! Hicimos que este pobresito permanece en México cuando no lo deseó.
Ramos: I could be back in Miami right now. Thanks, Bill.Ya podría volver a Miami. Gracias, Bill.
Maher: This came sort of suddenly to a lot of people this week; it seemed like immigration has been around a long time, but for some reason it was suddenly the big issue of the day. From your point of view, what is the greatest misconception about what they call "illegal immigrants" in this country?Mucha gente lo realizó repentinamente esta semana: se parecía que la inmigración ha existido desde hace mucho tiempo, pero, por cualquier causa, se hace repentinamente el grande tema de discusión del día. Desde tu punto de vista, ¿cuál es la idea falsa más grande sobre los que se llaman "los inmigrantes ilegales" en este país?
Ramos: First of all, I wouldn't call them "illegals," because by saying that, many people assume that they are criminals or terrorists, and they have absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Another misconception is that undocumented immigrants do not contribute enough to the economy, and that's quite the contrary. The latest study I saw from the National Academy of Sciences said that most immigrants — both legal and undocumented — contribute about $10 billion to the economy of the United States every single year. Finally, another misconception is that many people assume that most undocumented immigrants either crossed the border through deserts or mountains or swam the Rio Grande. In reality, most undocumented immigrants come by plane; they simply overstay their visits. So those are some of the misconceptions.Primero, no les llamaría "los ilegales," porque mucha gente asume que son criminales o terroristas, y no tienen absolutamente nada que ver con 9/11. Otra idea falsa es que los inmigrantes indocumentados no contribuyen bastantemente a la economía, y ése es absolutamente el contrario. El estudio más último que vi de la Academia Nacional de las Ciencias (NAS) dicha que la mayoría de los inmigrantes — legal e indocumentado — contribuyen cerca de 10 mil millones de dólares a la economía de los Estados Unidos cada año. Finalmente, otra idea falsa: mucha gente asume que la mayoría de los inmigrantes indocumentados cruzaron la frontera a través de desiertos o de montañas o nadaron la Río Bravo. Verdaderamente, la mayoría de los inmigrantes indocumentados llegan en plano y simplemente se quedan tarde. Ésos son algunas de las ideas falsas.
Maher: I'll tell you another one. There's a misconception, in some parts of the country, certainly among white people, that they're not hard-working. I know from personal experience that is not true. I've never known these people to be — I'm not blowing smoke up anybody's ass, I just think they're a very, very hard-working people, and they prove that all the time. What I don't understand is, if they are so hard-working, why is Mexico so hard up?Te diré otro. Hay una idea falsa, en algunas partes del país, ciertamente entre la gente blanca, que no son trabajadores. Sé de experiencia personal que eso no es verdad. Nunca he conocido a esta gente de ser — no soplo humo en cualquier culo, apenas pienso que es una gente muy trabajadora, y lo pruebe siempre. No entiendo, si es una gente tan trabajadora, ¿por qué está tan alcanzado México?
Ramos: At this point, people are leaving Mexico because they're hungry. Simply, that's the reason. Sometimes hunger is stronger than fear. There's this huge disparity in salaries between Mexico and the United States; for instance, if you were a Mexican working in Mexico, you'd be making about 46 pesos a day, which is about 4 dollars a day, and you know in the United States you can make exactly the same amount of money in 30 or 40 minutes. You would come to this country, so the border is broken because of that. Every minute, one immigrant crosses the border illegally into the United States, and on average every year about 500,000 Mexicans cross the border into the United States illegally and they stay here. They come here because they're hungry. President Vicente Fox promised to create 1,000,000 jobs every single year, and he was not able to deliver that, so they're going to keep coming; it doesn't matter what you do.A este punto, salen de México porque tienen hambre. Simplemente, ésa es la razón. El hambre es a veces más fuerte que el miedo. Hay una disparidad enorme de sueldos entre México y los Estados Unidos; por ejemplo, si trabajas en México, ganarías cerca de 46 Pesos al día, que es cerca de 4 dólares al día, y sabes que en los Estados Unidos puedes ganar exactamente el mismo dinero en 30 o 40 minutos. Vendrías a este país; pues la frontera está debilitada. Cada minuto, un inmigrante cruza la frontera ilegalmente a los Estados Unidos, y por término medio cada año cerca de 500.000 mexicanos cruzan la frontera de los Estados Unidos ilegalmente y permanecen aquí. Vienen aquí porque tienen hambre. Presidente Vicente Fox prometió crear 1.000.000 trabajos cada año, y no lo podía entregar, así continuarán viniendo, no importa lo que se hace.
Maher: I don't understand why the problem can't be fixed in Mexico. I understand, America is the Land of Opportunists, and I say that for good and bad, but a case could be made to say that the noble thing would be to stay in Mexico and fix that country as opposed to coming here, because I bet you Mexico would be better off. I bet you it's the most ambitious people who wind up leaving that country.No entiendo por qué el problema no se puede fijar en México. Entiendo, América es la Tierra de Oportunistas, y digo eso para bueno y malo, pero un argumento se podría hacer que la cosa noble sería permanecer en México y fijar ese país al contrario a venir aquí, porque apuesto a que México sería mejor apagado. Apuesto a que son finalmente las personas más ambiciosas que salen de ese país.
Ramos: No question about it, but are you going to wait 20 years for things to get better in Mexico? Is that the option? I think we can follow, for instance, what has happened in Europe, with the European Union. Rich countries, namely Germany and France, invested billions of dollars in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, but it took many, many years, so it isn't happening here. We need some sort of Marshall Plan for Mexico and Central America, but that's going to take too long. Meanwhile, what we need right now is to legalize the 12 million undocumented immigrants who are living already here in the United States, and provide visas for about 500,000 people who are coming after them. After all, the United States needs more immigrants. You just said it: immigrants are great for the economy — they take the jobs that Americans do not want to take, they pay taxes, they pay for the Social Security for a rapidly aging population, they control inflation, so it's a great business to have immigrants. Not only that, the white working-age population is going to decrease by about 5 million in the next 15 years. Who's going to replace those workers? Immigrants.Sin duda, pero ¿esperarás 20 años para que México se mejorará? ¿Es la selección? Pienso que podemos ver, por ejemplo, qué ha sucedido en Europa, con la Unión Europea. Los países ricos, a saber Alemania y Francia, han invertido millares de millones de dólares en España, Portugal, y Grecia, pero se han desarrollado despacio, así no se resulta aquí. Necesitamos una cierta "Marshall Plan" para México y América Central, pero exigirá demasiado tiempo. Mientras tanto, necesitamos ahora legalizar a los 12 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados que ya vivos aquí en los Estados Unidos, y proporcionar las visas para cerca de 500.000 personas que las sigan. Después de todo, los Estados Unidos necesitan a más inmigrantes. Acabas de decirlo: los inmigrantes son maravillosos para la economía — toman los trabajos que los americanos no desean tomar, pagan los impuestos, pagan la Seguridad Social para una población que envejece rápidamente, controlan la inflación, así los inmigrantes mejoran la economía. No sólo eso, sino también la población blanca de la edad de trabajar va a disminuir por cerca de 5 millones en los próximos 15 años. ¿Quién substituirá a esos trabajadores? Inmigrantes.
Maher: But the white people in this country are really clueless, aren't they, about what goes on with the Hispanic population? I think people would be very surprised to learn that you have a larger audience than the three "major networks" combined for the nightly news, on your Univisión telecast. You have more viewers than Bob Schieffer, Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff, Brian Williams — there was a disc jockey here, Eddie Sotelo, very popular deejay, who got people riled up to come to these marches. The police here expected 30,000 people in the streets; it was 500,000. I just think that if nobody's listening, these people on Hispanic radio could one day say, you know what, go to your employers and cut their heads off tomorrow morning, and there'd be a lot of headless people in Beverly Hills.Pero la gente blanca en este país es verdaderamente olvidadiza, ¿no?, sobre cuál se pasa en la población hispánica? Pienso que la gente sería muy sorprendida a aprender que tienes más televidentes que las tres "redes importantes" combinadas cada noche por las noticias, en la teledifusión Univisión. Tienes más televidentes que Bob Schieffer, Elizabeth Vargas y Bob Woodruff, Brian Williams — teníamos aquí un locutor, Eddie Sotelo, un locutor muy popular, que agitó a la gente de venir a las manifestaciones. El policía aquí contaba con 30.000 personas en las calles; era 500.000. Apenas pienso que si nadie escucha, un día estes locutores hispánicos podrían decir, ustedes saben cuántas son cinco, vayan a sus patrones y se tronchen las cabezas, mañana por la mañana, y habría mucha gente sin cabeza en Beverly Hills.
Ramos: But you know, what you just said, Piolín por la Mañana, and nobody knows who Piolín por la Mañana, or El Cucuy — those are very famous, very well-known people. What is going on in the United States is really interesting, Bill. We are going through a demographic revolution. We're not going to be here, but in 120 years from now, there will be more Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites. In other words, Latinos are not only the largest minority right now, but eventually we will be the majority in the United States, and the process is well underway. The United States is already the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world except Mexico, and we have, of course, we have George W. Bush is the first U.S. President who speaks Spanish — or should I say, the first U.S. President who thinks that he speaks Spanish. To be honest, I cannot criticize President Bush with my accent in English, but to tell you the truth this country is going through a really interesting demographic change, and many people do not realize it.Pero tu sabes, lo que acabas de decir, Piolín por la Mañana — nadie conoce quién es Piolín por la Mañana, o El Cucuy - son estrellas muy famosas, muy bien conocidas. Lo que pasa en los Estados Unidos es verdaderamente interesante, Bill. Pasamos a través de una revolución demográfica. No vamos a estar aquí, pero 120 años adelante, habrá más hispanos que blancos no-Hispanicos. Es decir, los Latinos abarcarán finalmente no sólo la minoría más grande ahora sino también la mayoría en los Estados Unidos, y el proceso ha principiado. Los Estados Unidos ya son el país hispanohablante más grande del mundo a menos que México, y tenemos, por supuesto — George W. Bush es el primer Presidente hispanohablante de los Estados Unidos — o debo decir, el primer Presidente de los Estados Unidos que piensa que él habla español. Rectamente, no puedo criticar al Presidente Bush con mi acento en inglés, pero, veridicamente, este país pasa a través de un cambio demográfico verdaderamente interesante, y mucha gente no lo realiza.
Maher: Do you think it's just racism? Do you think if it was Sweden on our border, and it was Swedish people coming across, it would not be nearly the same issue?¿Piensas que es solamente el racismo? Piensas que, si fuera Suecia en nuestra frontera, y fuera gente sueca que venía a través, ¿no sería casi el mismo tema?
Ramos: I hear a lot of criticism about Mexican immigrants and Salvadoran immigrants and Honduran immigrants, but I haven't heard any complaints about undocumented Irish immigrants or undocumented Canadian immigrants, but this is nothing new: even Benjamin Franklin was afraid that there were too many Germans in Pennsylvania. The foreign-born population right now is about 11%; 100 years ago, it was 14%, so we do need more immigrants in this country. So maybe there is an element, a strange element, but the most important thing is economics. As long as there are unemployed people or people hungry in Latin America, they're going to keep on coming to the United States, and we have to do something about it.Oigo muchos de crítica sobre inmigrantes mexicanos, salvadoreños, hondureños, y guatemaltecos, pero no he oído ningunas quejas sobre inmigrantes irlandeses indocumentados o inmigrantes canadienses indocumentados, pero éste es nada de nuevo: incluso Benjamin Franklin se preocupaba de muchos alemanes en Pennsylvania. La población nacido en extranjero ahora es cerca de 11%; hace 100 años, era el 14%, así que ya necesitamos a más inmigrantes en este país. Hay tan quizá un elemento, un elemento extraño, pero la cosa más importante es la economía. Mientras que hay gente parada o hambrienta en América Latina, continuará viniendo a los Estados Unidos, y necesitamos hacer algo.
I would agree with Jorge that the term "illegals" is inappropriate, but I would defend the term "illegal immigrants." It no more suggests a criminal identity than the phrase "illegal parking"; it simply notes the objective fact that the people in question did not follow the letter of the law in immigrating to the United States. They are not merely "undocumented" immigrants, but also illegal immigrants. An undocumented immigrant is someone who got the proper legal permission but lost the paperwork to prove it.

As for Bill's "Land of Opportunists," that phrase is particularly apt with respect to some of the historical dealings between the United States and México. How prosperous might México be today if Texas and California — each of which probably has as much arable land as all of México, not to mention considerable mineral wealth — were still part of México? Of course, you'd have to throw in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and large portions of Colorado, New Mexico, and even Wyoming. It wasn't so much Manifest Destiny that brought the United States to the borders she has today; it was more like Manifest Greed. Yes, Santa Anna was a corrupt and brutal dictator, but he didn't have any weapons of mass destruction, so the U.S. had no excuse for seizing a large chunk of the best land from México.

Jorge makes a valid point that the people coming across the border today can't wait for Mexico to get its act together, but the long-term solution to the trans-border migration problem is the "Marshall Plan" that he spoke of. What if, instead of spending $300,000,000,000.00 a year on our military presence in Iraq, we could spend that money on worldwide economic development? That is where both our economic prosperity and our military security lie, because when people have good jobs they tend to be much less interested in starting wars.

If you speak Spanish, or want to dive in to learning it, I recommend the Univision newscasts, especially for anything in the southern 2/3 of this hemisphere. Jorge Ramos was among the first journalists to interview Vicente Fox after he was elected President of Mexico, and Univision's coverage of the Mexico City earthquake in 1985 put the English-language networks to shame.

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Radio Talk Show Hosts on Larry King

After Bill Clinton, CNN's Larry King Live is having a discussion with four radio talk show hosts: On the right, Martha Zoller of WDUN–AM and Hugh Hewitt, author of Painting the Map Red, the Fight to Create a Permanent Republican Majority; on the left, Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes.

Read more...On the subject of immigration, Hugh Hewitt committed right-wing heresy:

We need the 700 miles [1100 km] of fencing that the House of Representatives insisted on. Israel has discovered their 400-mile [650 km] fence has cut down their security problem dramatically. ... I worry about Beslan happening in this country. I worry that it's easy to get in, and once you get here, it's easy to get guns. I worry that the people who struck in London, Madrid, Egypt, Jordan, Spain, all over the world, want to strike here. If we have a Beslan situation on the southern border in Phoenix or in San Diego, we will look back and say, Where was the fence? ... We've got to get that fence up and prevent jihadists from getting here.
It's too easy to get guns??? How dare he speak the truth?

Randi Rhodes responds:
I don't think Mexicans are terrorists. I think the problem is that we have this 2,000-mile [3,141 km] border, and nobody's talking to Mexico about their side of it, so what you really have is a big hole. We're trying to fill it up, and the Mexicans keep digging underneath it, so you can't fill it up. I think this is a gift to the corporations to make them guest workers without — like President Clinton said — tying it to minimum wage or some sort of health security. It's just creating a slave-labor society. They're going to spend 11 years working, attached to a corporation — that's the part that really disturbs me — and then at the end of the 11 years when they're proficient in English and can pass a Civics class that a lot of Americans couldn't pass, they'll pay a fine on top of that, and then they get the position of poorest America. ... Honestly, the idea that they don't want to tie this guest worker program to a minimum wage tells you something: the devil is gonna be in the details, Larry.

[... snip ...]

Ed Schultz: I think we have to understand who's in charge here. The majority party has had 5 years to do something about this problem, and they've cut funding when it comes to border security. You can't talk tough and then not fund what you're talking about you're trying to do. The Bush administration came in saying they had all this experience about how to deal with border security because George Bush was from Texas and he knew how to do it, but he's failed like everyone else. In fact, we've got worse of a problem than we've ever had when it comes to securing the border, after being hit on his watch. I think this is an opportunity for the country to come together, take a little bit of everybody's proposal, work together, fund it properly, and be fair to some people who want to contribute to American society.
Of course, the fact that Bush doesn't actually know how to deal with border security comes as no surprise, since he doesn't know how to deal with any problem or issue.

How weak is Bush? How does it look for the 2006 elections?
Randi Rhodes: I think we're going to take the house. I didn't know if we could take the Senate, but I think we can now. I think that the mood in this country is just — something's wrong. All the problems that we had, we were moving into the 21st century and we thought, okay, this is the century to cure disease, to cure poverty. Everywhere this guy goes, he leaves a mess. I mean, you look at Katrina survivors, the trailers sit there. Look at Iraq: it's a mess. You look at border security, it's a mess. Port security, it's a mess. Everywhere this guy goes, it's almost like he's so used to his daddy or somebody bailing him out, he just leaves the mess for the next. What did he say last week, he's going to leave it until 2009, the war. He leaves a mess wherever he goes. I'm hearing so many Republican callers ... saying, "I will never vote Republican again. You're right. They have it all, it's getting worse, a man can't find a job."

Hugh Hewitt: (Is Bush a failure?) Of course not, Larry; he's a great President and will go down in history. I'll tell ya, I want to agree with Randi at least once tonight: the Republicans are in deep trouble, and if they do not change and do not rally to the President and do not defend the war aggressively, they will lose the House and the Senate. ... It's an existential challenge to our civilization, and I think we can win it. We've got to give Randi a cable station 24/7 and then we can win everything. I think the most important thing is that we focus back on the fact that on 9/11 — I've been in New York, Washington, L.A., in the last three days, three cities that were targets on 9/11, remain targets every single day, the war goes on, people like Randi and Ed don't believe that it goes on, but the American people, when there is a choice between them, if they're focused on the fact that it's a deadly choice, they will support this President who does what he says he will do, who is serious and trustworthy — they hate him, the Democratic Party is nuts about him ... (Would you agree that Iraq has gone badly?) No, no, I don't think so. I think Iraq is hard. I think if you go back and actually look at what people said they knew it would be hard. The father of J.P. Blacksmith, who was killed in Fallujah 2004-11-11, tells me he's very angry at the media who do not reflect what his son died for, which is enormous progress in Iraq. The overtoppling of the tyrant who had killed hundreds of thousands and where Mosul, the marsh Arabs, different parts of the country are prospering, Kurdistan is prospering. Freedom is on the right path. It's tough, but they didn't die in vain. They did a good thing, and it continues to be a good thing.

Ed Schultz: First of all, Hugh, let's be a little easy about how we throw the word hate around. I don't hate anybody, and I don't hate George Bush, I just don't think he's a very good President. I just came off a 7-city road trip, and I can tell you what's on the minds of people: healthcare. What's going to happen at the end of 8 years of this Bush administration is that we will have made no progress for helping people who don't have any health care, or planning for the future. Hugh, how can you think that's a good thing? The fact is, this administration has done two things, basically: cut taxes and go on vacation. The top 2% of this economy, sure, they're doing well. Wall Street is doing fine for some people; Main Street is not doing very well. We're shipping jobs overseas — was that part of the Bush plan? You've got to be fair to the American worker. You've got to be fair that the $600 tax cut was nothing but a fraud and the top 2% are rolling under the Bush administration, but average Americans are not moving forward.

Martha Zoller: First of all, George Bush isn't going to be on a ballot this November, and listening to what Randi and Ed are saying really solidifies that, because they're still talking about George Bush. (Ed: Well, Martha, why are ...) I didn't interrupt you, Ed. (Ed: Well, actually, you did.) [In fact, no, she didn't interrupt Ed or Randi at any point.] (Ed: The fact is, the Republican Senators are not polling very well. It's nothing to do with Bush, it's your policies.) Republicans have ideas, although I'll admit they're not implementing them very well right now. I agree with you: they've got to get back to the conservative road, but the Democrats still don't have a policy. I have been to Iraq. I speak to dozens of soldiers every single week. I go to Walter Reed. They do not believe this war is going badly. (Ed: Do you talk to any of the veterans who are having their benefits cut?) I've talked to all of them, yes, I do volunteer work every week. The point is, this election is going to be about ideas, and if —

Randi: This election, Martha, is going to be about five years of your party having the majority and doing absolutely nothing for the middle class except —

Martha: Let's not forget 9/11

Randi: I am sitting in New York, Martha; don't throw 9/11 around, because I'm a half a mile [800 m] from where it happened. People here in New York, it's funny, September 11th happened here, you invoke it all the time, and we're liberals. Go figure. You've had five years. You've had 12 years of having the majority in the House, then you took the Senate, now you've got all three branches of government. These are failed policies. It's not working!
I'm not going to try to transcribe the callers' questions.

I have to admit that Randi and Ed did talk over the conservative talking heads, but the fact remains that both Hugh and Martha — neither of whom ever served a day of their lives in the military, unlike Randi — are ardent chickenhaws who have clearly drunk deeply from the Kool-Aid.

Hugh Hewitt in particular astonishes me. He is a professor of Constitutional law, and yet he touts as a great President the man who has shown the most profound disdain for the United States Constitution in Presidential history, eclipsing even Richard Nixon and LBJ. In particular, Bush's program of warrantless wiretapping is inescapably blatantly unconstitutional — whether it is effective or not, it is unquestionably illegal. If Hewitt supports the President's claims of authority, then he is utterly unfit to teach law.

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Bill Clinton on Larry King

The guests tonight on CNN's Larry King Live include President Bill Clinton and Randi Rhodes.


More about Randi later.

A few Clinton quotes:

I have no problem in the world having more border patrol guards and stiffer border enforcement for security reasons, but I don't think it is practical or wise for us to try to denigrate or demonize a lot of the undocumented immigrants who came here and are working hard, paying taxes, making a contribution, and sending the money back home to their folks.

(Is it a civil war in Iraq?) Oh, I don't know that you can call it that yet, because they're all still, I think, somewhat jockeying for position. What I hope will happen is that all those people who voted in huge numbers, they voted — they thought — to constitute a government which would function, hold the country together, be able to keep peace, and guarantee each of their groups a reasonable share of the country's oil and other wealth. That's what I still hope can happen. If it doesn't happen, in addition to the civil war, you may have the Sunni section becoming a launching pad for terrorism in the region. That did occur with the al Qaeda Jordan group, Mr. Zarqawi's group, when they blew up those hotels in Jordan recently. ... I worry if the whole thing is allowed to disintegrate, we could have it not only terrible for the Iraqis but also being a base of terrorist operations — something which it was not before the invasion.

I advised [Dubai Ports World] to offer measures to increase port security if they really wanted to pursue this avenue, but I think the main thing that has been lost here is that Americans need to improve port security, and that most of us who did not favor this deal are not opposed to either Dubai or to foreign investment in America. I think Dubai has been a great partner for the United States in the War against Terror. I think it represents a new Middle East that I hope will spread like wildfire across the region, and I'm quite comfortable with having them be heavily invested in the United States. I opposed this deal because I don't think we should do anything to compromise, or even to raise questions, about port security until we dramatically improve it, but that doesn't mean I think we won't have any foreign investment, don't need it, and don't need any friends in the Middle East. I think the people in Dubai are quite sophisticated and they will understand that the opposition in America had much more to do with our own failure to provide port security and take care of our own business than with their investment.
Gawd, I wish Clinton were still President. So what if he can't keep his Slick Willie in his pants? He's intelligent and thoughtful, which immediately puts him two up on Dubya.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Stephen Colbert and Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett was a Treasury official in the Reagan administration, and he calls himself a "Reagan conservative" with the same fervor that some Christians call themselves "born again."
However, he has just written a book called Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, in which he points out the glaringly obvious: George W. Bush is not following in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan. Ron Reagan, Jr., has said it quite directly. He also points out the equally obvious: George W. Bush isn't doing a great job as President, even if he really is trying his best; he's doing a terrible job. Bartlett was the guest on Wednesday's Colbert Réport.

I've only just started into Impostor, and I've already got a few bones to pick. Right there on page one — literally — Bartlett starts in creating his straw man: the wild-eyed liberal who makes Ted Kennedy or Ken Livingstone or George Galloway or just about anyone to the right of Che Guevara look like a mossback. Specifically,

Philosophically, [George W. Bush] has more in common with liberals, who see no limits to state power as long as it is used to advance what they think is right.
Oh, give it a rest, Bruce! Show me one American voter who actually believes that there are no limits to state power. Just one. Anybody — doesn't even have to be a politician, just has to be a voter. I challenge you. I'll save you a little trouble by shooting down some of the answers that are on the tips of too many tongues right now:
  • Hillary Clinton: clearly believes in limits to state power. Seriously, even if she would want it for herself, she would never be willing to leave that kind of power after she's done with it. Just imagine another Bill Clinton coming along with that kind of power, and you'll see that Hillary would never go for it.

  • Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías: seriously, no. Besides the fact that he's not an American, not even he is that far left. Yes, he has delusions of grandeur, thinking he's anywhere even close to the top of Bush's hit list, but he doesn't believe in absolutely unlimited government power. Ditto Ken Livingstone. Fidel Castro is certainly that far loony-left, but he's not a U.S. citizen; Janet Reno made him go home when he secretly applied for asylum in Miami. Besides that, he's not motivated by what he thinks is right, any more than Saddam was. Castro is motivated by what keeps him in power and by what frustrates or embarrasses the United States. Arthur Scargill is that far loony-left, but he's not American.

  • Al Gore, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, John Kerry, Bob Kerrey, Howard Dean,, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Daily Kos, Atrios, Charlie Rose, Joe Lieberman (don't make me laugh — he's right-of-center, certainly within the Democrats!), Helen Thomas, etc.: you can't pretend for an instant that any of those people believes in unlimited government power.
Okay, but enough about the book. What about the appearance on The Colbert Réport? Here are a couple of snips of the interview.
Q: I'm a little angry at you, sir. You have written a book called Impostor: [...]. Well, I guess you know something about betrayal, sir, because you're betraying our President right now. Where do you get off saying that Bush isn't Reagan? Didn't you see Reagan's funeral? He is Reagan; he practically wore a Reagan mask.

A: No, Reagan was from California; he's from Texas.

Q: He's from America, sir. He is America. What do you mean by this: "bankrupted America"?

A: Well, he's spent an awful lot of money we don't have.

Q: That's because we have tax cuts. Are you saying we should raise taxes, sir? Is that what you're saying? 'Cause I will cut off your mic.

A: Well, then, I won't say that. We used to have a word in the 80's: revenue enhancement. We may need some of those down the road, I think.

Q: What's the problem? Did deficits — Ronald Reagan certainly had no problem with deficits, Cheney said there's no reason to be afraid of deficits — what's wrong with deficits?

A: Well, I think in the long run you just have to pay for the government spending that you have.

Q: Let your kids pay for it.
It goes on from there, but you get the sense of the interview, and the utter brilliance of Stephen Colbert. I'm still reeling from Stephen's comeback victory against the brutal Russ Lieber the other day.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Words of Truth from Donald Rumsfeld

I don't agree with very much of anything that U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says. Whatever Rummy may ever have known about the realities of military campaigns, he has clearly forgotten in the decades since he retired from active duty. He was so attached to his own plan for the war in Iraq that he refused to listen to the generals in the field who consistently told him that his plan was leaving U.S. forces vulnerable to the Fedayeen Saddam, who subsequently helped form what we now know as "the insurgency."

However, even Rumsfeld occasionally says something truthful. Last week, he said:

We have learned some important lessons in 200 years of American history. ... Military strategists and war fighters need to always be prepared for the unforeseen and the unexpected. ... America can only prevail in Iraq if we're in it all the way.
That last sentence is crucial. America can only prevail militarily in Iraq if we are in it all the way, no holds barred, "all in," pedal to the metal, petal to the medal, completely committed. I quite agree.

However, there is one little sticking point: America isn't in it all the way. We never have been, we aren't now, and we never will be. Domestic resistance to the war effort will not just vanish before our eyes; indeed, the anti-war movement is on the ascendant.

The only option is to retreat in as orderly a fashion as we can manage. "Weakness is provocative; it tempts agressors. Appeasement is dangerous." Again, quite true. The problem is, standing your ground when you've walked blindfolded into an ambush is a sign of weakness, not strength, just as "staying the course" when your ship is headed straight for an iceberg is a sign of stupidity, not steadfastness.

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The depths of Dubya's soul

I found a fun little web site that asks the question "How evil are you?" I know I'm a little goodie-two-shoes, so I answered on Dubya's behalf:

George W. Bush is 94% Evil

Dubya is the most evil person he has ever met.
The devil is even a little scared of him!

You read it on the Internets, so it must be true....

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Farrakhan tells the truth for once

So-called "Minister" Louis Farrakhan is on a visit to Cuba at the moment, learning how to do a better job of emergency response than the U.S. federal government's dismal response after Hurricane Katrina. Farrakhan is a hot-head who is often disconnected from reality, but he hit the nail on the head with his description of the Bush administration: "sucking the blood of the poor and the weak" to "rape the treasuries of the United States of hundreds of billions of dollars to be doled out to the friends of President Bush, Halliburton and Bechtel and associates."

That's precisely what is happening. George W. Bush has not only raped the treasury, he has raped our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren to pay for tax cuts to oil companies, no-bid contracts to Halliburton, and other "wrong track" policies.

Louis Farrakhan still has far too many stains on his own record to be taken seriously, but even a lunatic can state the obvious.

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Good bye, Andy Card

White House chief of staff Andrew Card resigned today, after 5½ years running Dubya's staff. Let us all bid Andy a fitting farewell:

Don't let the door hit you on the ass!

Bill Kristol was just on Faux News commenting on this development, and the elevation of Josh Bolten (no relation to John Bolton) to the post. He referred to the "communication failures" of the Bush White House in recent months. I think that misses the mark quite badly: the problem isn't that the Bush Administration has been ineffective in communicating its policies, but that it has been ineffective in formulating those policies.

Bush is an idiot who refuses to listen to any person or any information that doesn't agree with whatever he has already decided. That's nothing but a recipe for disaster.

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Zacarias Moussaoui's delusions of grandeur

Zacarias Moussaoui claimed in sworn testimony in the penalty phase of his trial that he was supposed to lead a fifth hijacking crew on 9/11, to fly a plane into the White House. He claims that Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber," was also part of that conspiracy.

Richard Reid was an inept bumbler. Moussaoui himself is hardly a poster boy for effective terrorism. Moussaoui's lawyers are suggesting that Moussaoui is lying, exaggerating his role in the events of 9/11. That seems likely.

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Washington, D.C.

You could fit all the sincerity in Washington into a flea's belly button, and still have room for three caraway seeds and Bush's brain.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Condi on Meet the Press

The first guest on this morning's Meet the Press was U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She spoke at great length, but without substance, regarding the report that the Russians passed intelligence, including details of U.S. troop movements, to Saddam Hussein in the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion. She spoke at equal length, but also with equal lack of substance, regarding the efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or even the technology to move closer to the capability to build nuclear weapons.

Tim Russert: Do you believe if the President chose to embark on military action with Iran, he would go to Congress for authorization first?

Condoleezza Rice: I'm not going to speculate on that. The President is clear that he keeps all of his options on the table, but, Tim, I think speculating about how we might set up military action isn't helpful at a time when we really are concentrating on the diplomacy.

Russert: But you wouldn't go to Congress?

Condi: Well, of course, the administration went to Congress the last time, and I would just ask people to look at the history of how this President has acted. He has taken Congress as a full partner in these matters, but I'm not going to get into a discussion of what the President may or may not do Constitutionally.
The notion that the President somehow took Congress "as a full partner" would be hilarious if the subject weren't such a threat to our democracy. David Broder had a story in the Washington Post on 2006-03-10, quoted during the roundtable segment later on today's Meet the Press, in which he quoted Representative Tom Davis (R–VA), who went on record saying, "This is probably the worst administration ever in getting Congress's opinion on anything."

If even the members of Bush's own party don't believe that he takes them as "a full partner," then why on earth should anyone else believe it? Of course, I would also argue that this is the worst Congress ever at insisting that the President consult with them. President Bush hasn't vetoed a single bill out of Congress, but the Republican Congress has also cheerfully gone along with almost everything Bush has ever asked for.

As to what the President may not do Constitutionally, the President may not commence military hostilities against Iran without the consent of Congress. His "commander in chief" powers do not include declaring war.

Tim Russert also took Condi to task for the ridiculous claims the administration pushed in the run-up to the war.
Russert: Let me turn back to Iraq, the war now in its fourth year, and these are the grim statistics: 2,316 U.S. troops killed, 17,271 U.S. troops wounded/injured, (estimated) 30,000 Iraqis killed, 130,000 U.S. troops on the ground. When you were planning the war, some 3½ years ago, did you have any idea that three years into the war, those are the numbers you would be confronting?

Condi: Well, I certainly thought it would be difficult. I don't think anyone knew precisely what we would be facing in terms of numbers, and, look, every one of those deaths is mourned by people in the administration, because these are families that have lost husbands and wives, daughters and sons, but we also know that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice. We're in Iraq because the United States of America faces a different kind of enemy in a different kind of war, and we have to have a different kind of Middle East if we're ever going to resolve the problems of an ideology of hatred that was so great that people flew airplanes into buildings. Iraq — Saddam Hussein's Iraq — was a threat...

Russert: Saddam was not related to flying airplanes into buildings.

Condi: No, and we have never said [pause]. Saddam was not related to the events of September 11th, but if you really believe that the only thing that happened on September 11th was people flew airplanes into buildings, I think you have a very narrow view of what we faced on September 11th. We faced the outcome of an ideology of hatred throughout the Middle East that had to be dealt with. Saddam Hussein was a part of that "old" Middle East. The new Iraq will be a part of the "new" Middle East, and we will all be safer.

Russert: But, Madam Secretary, weapons of mass destruction was the primary rationale given to go into Iraq. Lisa Myers of NBC News broke a story last week that "the Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri, was a paid spy for French intelligence, which later turned him over to the CIA to supply information about Iraq and its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs more than six months before the war began in March 2003, according to former senior intelligence officials. ... The sources said, he provided information that the Iraqi dictator had ambitions for a nuclear program but that it was not active, and that no biological weapons were being produced or stockpiled, although research was underway." [Russert quoting Lisa Myers] That's a far cry from what the American people were told.

Condi: Of course, Tim, this was a single source among multiple sources. And the problem was that Saddam Hussein was unwilling, after multiple resolutions in the Security Council, to account for his weapons programs. We all remember that the accounting of the UN weapons inspection mission could not account for large stockpiles. We all thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He certainly had a very healthy appetite for them, and he had used them before, both on his own people and against his neighbors. He was a threat. This was someone shooting at our aircraft as they flew the No-Fly Zones, he had invaded his neighbors. But the point is that now that he is gone, Iraq has an opportunity to be a different Iraq in a different kind of Middle East. I know it's hard, and I know that the numbers you put up are difficult to see, and I know that the violence is difficult to see, but I would ask people to look at the perspective here of what is really going on in Iraq. Under the spectre of this violence, you have Iraqis, Sunni, Shi'a, Kurds, and others, determined to form a government of national unity.
"We all thought Saddam had WMD's." In other words, "we all chose to ignore the evidence that he didn't, because we wanted to believe that Saddam had WMD's." Seriously, you took the word of "Curveball" over the word of Saddam's foreign minister. Saddam was not a threat to anyone except his own people, who did not ask the United States to "liberate" their country. As for invading his neighbors, Saddam hadn't so much as looked askance at any of his neighbors since the first Gulf War, because he was inside a box, metaphorically speaking. In 2003, Saddam was incapable of invading his neighbors.

Russert presses on with a question that goes right to the heart of the problem with the Bush administration: they do not have a single clue among them, on almost any issue, most especially Iraq. This administration is the most stunningly incompetent, ill-informed, arrogant group of ideologues under which the United States has ever suffered.
Russert: But people are being asked to take your judgment on this as we sit here this morning, and refer to previous judgments the administration has made: Weapons of Mass Destruction — there were none; we would be greeted as liberators — this is 3 years later; that it would not take hundreds of thousands of American troops to occupy Iraq — Tommy Franks, according to his book Cobra II, said we'd be down to 30,000 troops in November 2003; the cost of the war — the budget director of the White House said it would be $50 billion, it's now over $350 billion. Each judgment has proven to be wrong.

Condi: The judgment that has not proven to be wrong, Tim, is that the region is changing in fundamental ways, and the region is better without Saddam Hussein. Yes, it is true that everyone thought he had WMD's, he did not. It is, by the way, the case that the Iraqis are delighted to be rid of him. And some Iraqis — most Iraqis, in fact — are willing and want to keep Coalition forces there until they can take care of this themselves. But we do have to keep things in historical perspective. These people are doing something that is quite unknown in the Middle East, and one has to ask, What was the alternative? Was the alternative to leave Saddam Hussein in power, continuing to threaten his neighbors, continuing with his windfall profits from the Oil for Food scandal, continuing to repress his people and build mass graves, continuing to use those Oil for Food profits to again build the infrastructure for his WMD's.

Russert: But many will say he was contained by the No-Fly Zone. He was in a box.

Condi: I don't think that there is anyone — I do not believe that he was in a box. The Oil for Food program alone shows that the billions of dollars he was collecting, he was not just going to build palaces. This is someone who had an insatiable appetite to dominate his region. Now, without Saddam Hussein, you can look across the region and see that a lot is changing, thanks to the President's democracy promotion, and the hard work of people in those countries. You have Syrian forces out of Lebanon, you have Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. The people of the Middle East are taking on authoritarian governments across the Middle East. Kuwait has given women the right to vote. I would be the first to say that these big historical changes are turbulent, and they're difficult, but the notion that somehow there was a placid Middle East, that if we had just left it alone, if we had just not invaded Iraq, if we had just not overthrown dictators, if we had just not challenged Syrian power in Lebanon, everything would be just fine, is simply not true. It was that Middle East — the malignancy of the Middle East that we "disturbed" — that led directly to the September 11th events.

Russert: The President said this week that whether there will be troops in Iraq for the unforeseeable future will be determined by the next President, meaning that we will have troops in Iraq at least through January '09.

Condi: The President was asked this question in a particular way, and he answered that some American troops may very well be there for the next President. But I would just point to what the President has said continually, that American forces are going to come down commensurate with the need as Iraqi forcces stand up, and they are indeed standing up. ... I think it's entirely probable that we will see a significant drawdown of American forces over the next year — that's what General Casey believes. ...

Russert: Is the insurgency "in its last throes"?

Condi: Well, the insurgency politically is certainly in danger, because the Sunnis, who stood outside of the political process —

Russert: But in terms of violence, is it "in its last throes"?

Condi: Well, the insurgency is still able to pull off violence and kill innocent children or kill an innocent school teacher, yes, they're able to do that, and they might be able to do that for some time, but what they've not been able to do is to disrupt the political process. What they've not been able to do is set Iraqis one against another in the political process. They've not been able to stop three elections. They're not able to stop the formation of the government. A few violent people can always grab headlines and can always kill innocent people.

Russert: It's more than "a few."

Condi: Well, it's a few in terms of the population of Iraqis.

Russert: But it could not exist without being enabled by the population.

Condi: Well, the population is less and less enabling. Every day, there are reports that Zarqawi and al Qaeda meet stiff resistance, indeed violent resistance, from Iraqi tribes. Sunnis are now a part of the political process, and I know that many people wonder when will the government formation finish. It seems to be dragging on after the elections. But I would just note, I read the other day, someone said, "They're dividing up the spoils of the offices." That's not what they're doing in this process. They are writing a government program on which the national unity will govern. They are writing the rules by which they will govern, and they're deciding who will take key positions. So, this is an extraordinary matter, an extraordinary scene, with Iraqis, Sunni and Shi'a and Kurds all working together toward a unity government.
Dick Cheney told us on Larry King Live that the insurgency was "in its last throes" on 2005-05-30. He has repeatedly defended that assessment, all forms of reality notwithstanding. He has defended it on Face the Nation and Nightline, but the objective fact is that the insurgency was not in its last throes then, and it is not in its last throes now. Contrary to Cheney's assertion that the war will be over by the end of Bush's second term, it is unlikely that the insurgency will even be in its last throes by then. As Rummy said, insurgencies tend to go on for years.

It's a good thing that Condi Rice insists she has no interest in running for President, because she is absolutely unsuited for the job. Then again, she's absolutely unsuited to be Secretary of State or National Security Advisor, but that hasn't stopped her yet. She is just another in the seemingly endless procession of incompetent buffoons with whom George W. Bush surrounds himself. Bush is afraid to have anyone competent or capable around him, because he is afraid — and justifiably so — that he will suffer by comparison. Besides, facts and truth just get in the way of what Dubya knows in his heart.

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Howdy to Voteswagon, with its open trackback thread....

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

South Park, Scientology, and Chef


This week's episode of South Park revisits the plot of "Trapped in the Closet," the episode from 2005-11-16 discussing the precepts of Scientology® in a less than flattering light. In "The Return of Chef!," though, Chef has joined a fictional group called "The Super Adventure Club," which bears only passing resemblance to Scientology®. Since Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef, has quit the show in a huff over the Scientology® episode, the South Park team spliced together bits of dialogue from previous episodes to portray the Super Adventure Club.
Clyde: You guys, you guys! Something's wrong with Chef. He's saying some really weird stuff.

Kyle: Like what?

Clyde: I think — I think he wants to have sex with me.

Stan: What??

Clyde: I gotta — I gotta go.

Kyle: Weirdo.

Chef: [Hello there, children!]

Boys (in unison): Hey, Chef.

Chef: [How's it goin'?]

Boys (in unison): Good.

Chef: [Well,] [how 'bout I meet you boys after work and we] [Make love!]

Cartman: Excuse me!?

Chef: [Come on, children!] [You're my] [sexual fantasy.] [Let's all] [make sweet love.]

Kyle: Chef? Are you okay?

Chef: [I want to] [stick my balls] [inside your rectum,] [Kyle.]

Stan: Dude! What are you saying?

Chef: [I'm gonna make love to] [your asshole, children.]

Stan: WHAT?!?!
It goes on from there, with the boys visiting the headquarters of the Super Adventure Club, which turns out to be devoted to exploring the world's great adventure sites (mountains, jungles, rivers, etc.) in order to have sex with the native children.
William P. Connelly, Esq.: The Super Adventure Club was founded by the greatest adventurer of all time, William P. Finneus. Finneus climbed the highest peaks, tamed the mightiest rivers, but every time he got somewhere, he realized that other explorers had beat him to it. Finneus was depressed, until he realized that if he couldn't be the first to discover places, he could be the first to have sex with the native children that inhabited those areas. ... After having sex with all those children, Finneus realized that having sex with all those children had made him immortal. He discovered that children have things called Marlocs in their bodies. When an adult has sex with a child, the Marlocs implode, feeding the adult's receptor cavity with energy that causes immortality, so sayeth the ruler of Bethos. Finneus traveled the world, loving many, many children, and he lived for eternity until he was hit by a train in 1892.

Kyle: Do you realize how retarded that sounds?

Connelly: Is it any more retarded than the idea of God sending his son to die for our sins? Is it any more retarded than Buddha sitting beneath a tree for 20 years?

Stan: Yeah, it's way, way more retarded.
At the very end of the episode, at Chef's funeral, Kyle Broflovski delivers this eulogy:
We're all here today because Chef has been such an important part of our lives. A lot of us don't agree with the choices Chef has made in the past few days. Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us, but we can't let the events of the last week take away the memories of how much Chef made us smile. I'm gonna remember Chef as the jolly old guy who always broke into song. I'm gonna remember Chef as the guy who gave us advice to live by. So, you see, we shouldn't be mad at Chef for leaving us. We should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains.
So in the end, the parallels to Scientology® return. And yes, we loyal South Park fans are mad at the fruity little club that scrambled Isaac Hayes' brains.

Scientology® is a registered trademark of the Cult Church of Scientology International and/or the Religious Technology Center of Los Angeles, California. Just for the record, though, "religious technology" is a contradiction in terms.

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Democrats have to do better

Lincoln wrote the other day ("The message sent by Milquetoast Democrats") that he has been underwhelmed by the "opposition" to President Bush provided by the other "major" party.

The reality is, the Democratic Party is mostly composed of spineless corporate stooges who would drink chicken blood if that was what the opinion polls suggested they should do. They've taken "drinking the Kool-Aid®" to a whole new dimension, although not yet to the same level as Rush Limbaugh's Dittoheads, Bill O'Reilly's dildoheads, or William Donohue's anal rosary beads.

If the Democrats aren't capable of standing up to President Bush, how on earth can we expect them to stand up to Osama bin Laden (أسامة بن محمد بن عوض بن لاد), or Enron, or Halliburton, or Vladimir Putin (Владимир Владимирович Путин), or even those vicious ninja Girl Scouts selling their thin mints?

Step One to showing leadership is to speak out against the worst, most incompetent, most ineffective President, the worst Commander in Chief, the worst steward of our Constitution in the 217 years of its history. The Democrats must make the case that Bush is incompetent, because incredibly millions of Americans still believe not only that Bush believes in what he's doing, but that he actually knows what he's doing and is doing a good job at it. However, to stop there is to lose both the battle and the war, because tearing down our President will help us no more than merely toppling Saddam Hussein has helped the average Iraqi — a power vacuum really can be worse than a tyrant. We must show the American people that we have a real alternative to offer — not Bush, not chaos and defeat, but a third path — just as we must show the Iraqis (and they must also show us) that there is a third option to iron-fisted strongman or civil war.

It seems that asking the Democrats to stand up to Bush is almost as hopeless as asking Bushco to stand up to its corporate overlords. George Bush isn't from "the party of business," as the Republican Party used to be called; he is from the party of big business. Whatever is good for Wal-Mart® is good for Halliburton America. Senator Russ Feingold should not be a lone voice in the wilderness, he should be the leader of a growing choir.

President Bush's five years in office have been a massive "faith-based initiative," based on nothing more than Bush's "gut feelings" about what he should do. Make no mistake, there are occasions when the President must act quickly and therefore must trust his instincts. However, when the President is outlining broad policy directions, he must base those decisions not on a "gut check," but on careful consideration of the facts, including the opinions of outside experts of all political stripes. Anything less is a betrayal of the American people, but so is failing to stand up against such an abuse of power just because popular support isn't yet strong enough. If you wait until you are perceived as leaders to show some leadership, then you will never be anything but the mutt begging for table scraps.

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Bill Maher and Michael Ware

A snip from Bill's monologue:

Speaking of guarding our ports, the Bush administration today awarded a no-bid contract to a Chinese company to scan for incoming nukes in our cargo. The contract was awarded at a formal ceremony in front of a backdrop that said, "Still Not Getting It!"
Or read the real story [AP wire, reported on the Jackson, WY, News-Tribune website] of the Bush administration's indifference to its own ineptitude.

And here's the full live exchange between Bill Maher and Michael Ware, the Baghdad bureau chief for Time magazine [Please, HBO, put this video clip on the web!]:
Michael Ware: Hi, Bill.

Bill Maher: Now, you're really in Baghdad, right? That's not a fake background of a mosque, is it?

Michael Ware: Look, I'm sad to say, yeah, I actually am here.

Bill Maher: Yeah, I know you are, and I have to say, I admire everybody who goes to hazardous locations like this; just tell me, briefly, why you want to be there.

Michael Ware: Well, I mean, this really is the story. This is where history is unfolding before our very eyes, and, for better or for worse, I've been given a front-row ticket to watch this slow-motion train wreck. This is going to be impacting on all of us, and, I'm sad to say, even our kids, for years to come. So, I want to be here, I want to understand it, I want to be able to tell others about it.

Bill Maher: Now, when you call it a "train wreck," that's not "reporting the good news." The President here says that part of the problem is that the media does not report the good news — the kids' birthday parties, the banana bread [reference to Bill's opening monologue]is there any good news?

Michael Ware: Well, when I'm ducking for cover and the explosions are going off, I'm not coming across too much of it. There are some good-news stories to be told here, but at the end of the day, I think it's more important for me to be telling the story of what it's like for a normal Iraqi family. He ain't tellin' too many ha-ha good-news stories as he's queueing for gas for two days, when he's going home and his family hasn't had electricity for three days, and when the market blows up when he goes to get his banana bread.

Bill Maher: Typical media gloomy Gus. I saw the [PBS] Frontline documentary in which you were prominently featured, and it was harrowing. There was a point where you were pulled out of a car by Zarqawi's (أبومصعب الزرقاوي, شيطان سيعذّبه لأبدي) people, they're about to kill you, and at the last moment you were saved by one of the Sunnis, I guess, and, not to be morbid, but I have to ask you: if you spend another three years in Iraq, what do you give your odds of surviving?

Michael Ware: I try not to think about that, Bill, and I try to stay as drunk for as long as possible while I'm here so I don't dwell on that.

Bill Maher: Got it.

Michael Ware: In fact, I'm drinking now.

Bill Maher: The military is currently investigating an incident which unfortunately is not the first incident about American soldiers who sort of went on a rampage and killed civilians, and it reminds a lot of people in this country about the Mỹ Lai massacres in Việt Nam. There was an incident back in November in Haditha (حديثة), sort of the same thing that happened, one of our Marines got blown up, and these guys just kind of snapped. We don't condone it, but you can hardly blame them when you put them in this situation. Why don't you think this has been more widely reported here in America, because I don't think people are aware of this.

Michael Ware: That's very hard for me to say, from the prism that I see, which is here in Iraq, my head is really down here in the weeds, so how things play back home, it's really hard to say. One thing I will say, though, is I've spent a lot of time with the soldiers on the front line — I've been in more combat with American soldiers than I care to remember — and things happen, you know. I've seen collateral damage, I've witnessed what can go down, and that's not something you carry with you very easily, and it's not something the soldiers deal with very easily, but it's something that really needs to be told. If you're not hearing it back home, I really think that's a huge problem.

Bill Maher: I guess if we stay there long enough, anything and everything is going to happen. I'm going to ask you now what you think would happen if there was an incident between one of the soldiers and one of the women over there, because, I know, they take their women very seriously. If something went down between a soldier and a woman — it hasn't happened yet, but what would the reaction be? What would you think would happen?

Michael Ware: Look, Bill, I shudder to think how that may play. The tremors from that may shake out much farther than just Baghdad or wherever the incident may be. We've seen allegations that women have been mishandled or roughly handled. That always inflames passions. If you want to get some kind of a sense, look at some of the hostage-taking, particularly of women hostages. One of the most common demands by the kidnapers in these cases is for the release of female prisoners from Abu Ghraib (أبو غريب) prison and other detention facilities, even when there's none in there. We've also seen insurgents criticize other insurgents because "you're not doing enough to get the chicks out" — that's how important it can be. This is a matter of great honor, and this is a spark, so let's hope that we never see that lit.

Bill Maher: I'm doing my part to get the chicks out. Let me ask you one last thing: it was in the news today that President Bush is asking for more money for bases in Iraq. I know he keeps saying we're going to try to get out of there, but I saw in the paper today that there are four bases that we're building that are just enormous. One of them has a Burger King®, a Pizza Hut®, and a car dealership. That doesn't sound like we're leaving any time soon, and it seemed like this whole 9/11 thing that wound up with us going into Iraq to avenge it, as oblique as that may be, really started because bin Laden was so upset that we had bases in Saudi Arabia. Are we not just compounding the mistake that started this whole mess?

Michael Ware: Well, it is true, you really are digging in here. And it's not just one Hungry Jack's® [Australian name for Burger King®], I mean, if you're looking for a franchise, there's a few still open. There's a number of bases that have these things. You should see some of the exercise rooms and the gymnasiums. Your troops, our troops, are here to stay. We're now "damned if we do and damned if we don't." The longer U.S. troops stay, the more that fuels the insurgency, the more that people turn against the United States; yet, if you were to pull out now, the chaos that would ensue would only serve the enemies that the military came here to defeat. The sad part is that, as it stands right now, the real winners of Bush's war are his enemies: al Qaeda and the "Axis of Evil" member Iran. We're still losing ground here, and that's where we are, three years on.

Bill Maher: More bad news from the media, but anyway, I thank you so much for doing this, I thank you for being there. I have to tell you something: they say there are no Edward R. Murrows — there sure are: you're one of them, Michael Ware.
I'll second the comparison to Edward R. Murrow — the main character in Good Night, and Good Luck, the Clooney movie with David Strathairn — because before he took on Senator Joe McCarthy, Murrow reported from London during the World War II air raids, giving his radio listeners a strong sense of the reality of listening to bombs going off in the city and wondering if they were getting closer, of rushing down to the bomb shelters, sometimes night after night, of hearing sirens and anti-aircraft guns in the distance.

One sidebar on the issue of incidents involving U.S. soldiers overseas and local females: just look at the history of our bases in the Philippines and Japan to see the powder keg that Dubya is tap-dancing on.

I shudder to think, though, what paroxysms of spin and personal attack the Bushies will respond with. More tidbits from Bill Maher over the weekend if I have time....

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Friday, March 24, 2006

"We're losing ground here, three years on"

Real Time with Bill Maher had a live, unfiltered, uncensored interview with Michael Ware, Baghdad bureau chief for Time magazine, tonight. He painted a vivid picture of the reality of life in Iraq for the average Iraqi citizen: he or she is not better off now than before the U.S. invaded. His summation of the situation, though, is a quote that should ring out to all who still believe that George W. Bush is doing a good job as President — not just honestly believing in what he's doing, but actually knowing what he's doing, or even knowing his ass from his elbow.

We're still losing ground here, and that's where we are, three years on. — Michael Ware, 2006-03-24, live from Baghdad
Bill Maher said that Ware is another Edward R. Murrow [the guy in Good Night and Good Luck], and I second that assessment.

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[quote corrected after reviewing the broadcast — ed.]

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You blaspheme if you pretend that God — however you see Him — has no sense of humor. It is blasphemy for any mortal to claim on behalf of Allah or God or Yahweh or ײ or יהוה or עשל or الله or الغفور or النبي that He is not amused. It is manifestly self-evident that God has a sense of humor, and that light-hearted joy is a greater expression of godliness than self-righteous rage.

! עוחל, עוחל, הרבה ילדים יש אין מה לעחול אז עוחל

It is no less blasphemous to claim perfect understanding of what Allah would condemn or permit than to claim to be a prophet of Allah on the same level as Muhammad.

أن يدّعي تفهم كاملة من ما الله عاقب أو سمح أن يدّعي أن يكون نبي يتماثل إلى محمّد۪

If such a thing as a god exists, then it is by definition beyond human comprehension, with no exception made for Jesus or Muhammad or Moses or George W. Bush. You've probably heard the tired old story about the blindfolded scientists trying to identify an elephant: each can touch only one small part of the animal, but naturally assumes that the part she is touching is representative of the whole. Likewise, to claim that your finite experience of what you call God is representative of the entire nature of God, and that anyone else's experience of God that differs from your own must be wrong, is to belittle God. Humans cannot perceive infinity; we can only contemplate it.

When I say that these limitations placed upon God, or answers given in His name, are blasphemous, I do not mean that they blaspheme my own personal concept of God: I mean that they blaspheme any and every concept of God.

Likewise, those people who demand the death penalty for the man in Afghanistan who converted from Islam to Christianity, are blaspheming Allah just as much as they are blaspheming Jesus or the Holy Trinity.

I don't want to sound like I'm picking on Muslims here, so let's point out some other blasphemies:
  • God commands George W. Bush to sacrifice the lives of others, the limbs of others, the money of others, and the humanity of others, in the name of Freedom.

  • God commands Israel to keep the West Bank, and will strike down anyone who trades land for peace.

  • God gave Israel to the Jews.

  • God gave Palestine to the Arabs.

  • God gave the United States to a bunch of wealthy white men; screw the damned Injuns.

  • God sent Hurricane Katrina to break the levees of New Orleans as punishment for some sin or sins by its residents.

  • God sent the Indonesian tsunami as punishment for some sin or sins by the people of Bandah Aceh and/or some other place the wave inundated.

  • Those who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ are condemned to eternal Hell.

  • _______ [fill in the blank] are the "chosen people" of God.

  • _______ [fill in the blank] are spurned by God.

  • _______ [fill in the blank] is the only way to follow God.

  • _______ [fill in the blank] has the authority to prescribe earthly punishment for the blasphemy of another person.
If you believe in a God who is infinite and omniscient, then it is blasphemy to suggest that you understand anything but a narrow glimpse of the whole.

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