Thursday, March 31, 2005


11th Circuit Court on Bush and Congress

Judge Birch "specially concurring" for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, 127kb pdf, (my emphasis)
[T]he time has come for dispassionate discharge of duty.

A popular epithet directed by some members of society, including some members of Congress, toward the judiciary involves the denunciation of "activist judges". Generally, the definition of an "activist judge" is one who decides the outcome of a controversy before him according to personal conviction, even one sincerely held, as opposed to the dictates of the law as constrained by legal precedent and, ultimately, our Constitution. In resolving the Schiavo controversy it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers blueprint for the governance of a free people our Constitution. Since I have sworn, as have they, to uphold and defend that Covenant, I must respectfully concur in the denial of the request for rehearing en banc. I conclude that Pub. L.109-3 (the Act) is unconstitutional and, therefore, this court and the district court are without jurisdiction in this case under that special Act and should refuse to exercise any jurisdiction that we may otherwise have in this case.

...Section 2 of the Act provides that the district court: (1) shall engage in "de novo" review of Mrs. Schiavo s constitutional and federal claims; (2) shall not consider whether these claims were previously "raised, considered, or decided in State court proceedings"; (3) shall not engage in "abstention in favor of State court proceedings"; and (4) shall not decide the case on the basis of "whether remedies available in the State courts have been exhausted." Pub. L. 109-3, § 2. Because these provisions constitute legislative dictation of how a federal court should exercise its judicial functions (known as a "rule of decision"), the Act invades the province of the judiciary and violates the separation of powers principle.

...the establishment of a standard of review often dictates the rule of decision in a case, which is beyond Congress's constitutional power...In addition, "the separation-of-powers doctrine requires that a branch not impair another in the performance of its constitutional duties." By denying federal courts the ability to exercise abstention or inquire as to exhaustion or waiver under State law, the Act robs federal courts of judicial doctrines long-established for the conduct of prudential decisionmaking.

By arrogating vital judicial functions to itself in the passage of the provisions of Section 2 of the Act, Congress violated core constitutional separation principles, it prescribed a "rule of decision" and acted unconstitutionally.

Judge Birch cites precedent for finding a congressional act unconstitutional.

I also think there is an off-handed jab concerning state's rigthts:
Article III provides that the "judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." U.S. CONST. art. III, § 1...These provisions have led courts to the unremarkable conclusion that "[f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction" and may only exercise jurisdiction allowed under the Constitution when "authorized by . . . statute."
Keep in mind he would have seen Gore vs. Bush pass through his court. Bush's whole argument was the federal court was not authorized to review that matter.

Note, "de novo": A trial de novo is a type of appeal in which the appeals court holds a trial as if a prior trial had never been held...Because of concerns about protecting an individual's rights against double jeopardy ordering a trial 'de novo' is often the exclusive right of an appeal judge. (

According to the NYTimes, Bush and Congress Rebuked in Schiavo Case,
Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. [was] appointed by the first President Bush in 1990...has a reputation as consistently conservative.
Checking his bio, he is also a Vietnam Veteran (and a UVa grad).

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


What Classic Movie Are You?

What Classic Movie Are You?
personality tests by

What Famous Leader Are You?

What Famous Leader Are You?
personality tests by

What's up? I guess I don't mind suffering to maintain my principles concerning helping others. Or at least, that is how I see myself.


Best. Picture. Ever.

Fun at the expense of nutbag Christians

Do you think the "3 of a kind" girl is about to hit this guy? Also, note the older lady: are they serving ice cream cones?

See also

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Terri Schiavo's CAT scan

From Alas, a blog

This single image shows a very severely damaged brain. The large “blue blobs” in the middle are ventricles, also present in healthy brains (you can see the two little dark crescent shapes in the brain on the right) that have expanded to such a large size because the overall brain volume is so low. Cranial space that would otherwize have been filled by gray matter is now filled with cerebrospinal fluid. And yes, that’s what the blue space is: cerebrospinal fluid that is filling up space left behind by necrotic brain tissue that has been scavenged and removed by the body.

Or maybe I should be listening to DeLay, Schiavo Case Tests Priorities Of GOP:
"She talks and she laughs and she expresses happiness and discomfort," and he blamed her inability to speak on the fact that "she's not been afforded any speech therapy -- none!"

Then again, there is Sen Frist, M.D. and his thoughtful diagnosis, ibid.,
He described her as having "a severe disability similar to what cerebral palsy might be."

Nevermind, I'll stick with what is being reported in the WashPost, ibid.,
Neurologists and other experts say that Schiavo's facial expression...are nothing more than involuntary movements. Scans show her cerebral cortex has been severely damaged, and other tests indicate no normal electrical activity in her brain.

Update: As reported in the Toronto Star's interview with Leon Prockop, a professor of neurology at the University of Southern Florida in Tampa, we have
Prockop has looked at Schiavo's CAT scans, and he harbours no doubt whatsoever. "Her death occurred some time ago...That's my opinion."

"She has lost all frontal lobe functions," Prockop said. "In her case, there is a severe absence of brain tissue. This is not guesswork."

Prockop and Bradley have examined Schiavo's CAT scans and they agree on what is there and on what is not. "She has approximately 20 per cent of her (total) brain tissue left inside her skull, and the remaining tissue is damaged," said Prockop. "The tissue that controls the higher brain functions is gone. It's disappeared."

And what of Florida neurologist William Cheshire, on staff at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville?
Cheshire drew his conclusions after observing Terri Schiavo in person and reviewing her medical history. He said she was alert and possibly capable of recovery, although he did not conduct an examination of his own.

[T]he Mayo Clinic where he works has distanced itself from his opinion on the matter, declaring on its website that "the standard procedure for the evaluation of a comatose patient includes ... the performance of a comprehensive neurological examination." Cheshire conducted no such examination before reaching his opinion.


Bush, State Courts and "err[ing] on the side of life."

It is time to start painting the Republician leadership as having no values. Saying they are hypocrites is too easy. Labeling a politicial as a "hypocrite" is like labeling a cat as furry. It is just assumed to be true. But these guys make it their identify that they are the "party of values". But it is becoming a straightforward exercise to point out all the inconsistencies the past week have exposed.

When at your core you lack values, your actions become inconsistent as how to achieve your goals shift. Pure and simple, what the Republician leadership seeks is power. If putting faith in the state courts is the path to power, then state courts are to be respected, Gore vs. Bush. This past week, when they thought it would sure up support with the religious right, Bush, Frist and DeLay run around crazy serving up disrepect on the state courts. We're seeing how well that is turning out.

From Newsweek's Senior Editor we get this lovely example of a Bush inconsistency:
Take a Look in the Mirror
By Jonathan Alter, Senior Editor and Columnist, Newsweek

When he was governor of Texas, George W. Bush presided over 152 executions, more than took place in the rest of the country combined. In at least a few of these cases, reasonable doubts about the guilt of the condemned were raised. But Bush cut his personal review time for each case from a half hour to a mere 15 minutes (most other governors spend many hours reviewing each capital case to assure themselves that there's no doubt of guilt). His explanation was that he trusted the courts to sort through the life-and-death complexities. That's right: the courts.
(spotted by ray z)

As Lakoff would frame it: It's all about a Power Grab

Sunday, March 27, 2005


Who needs spies in Iran anyway

From LATimes: CIA Shuttered Spy Ring Infiltrating Iranian Militants
In its scramble to marshal resources for gathering intelligence on al-Qaida and Iraq, the CIA shut down a spy ring it was operating in South America that was providing a rare glimpse into the activities of Iranian militants and intelligence networks, according to a former agency official involved in the operation.

The program, which had taken five years to assemble, had succeeded to the point that several of the CIA's informants had been invited to take part in religious training inside Iran, the former official said.

The decision to pull the plug on the CIA-run program came in 2002, after President Bush had declared Iran part of an "axis of evil"

This means the spy program was begun in 1997, i.e. under Clinton. Yeah, I know, another element of "big gov't" only the Republicians have the wil to cut. What are these idiots thinking? Hatred and fear of Iran is one of the great legacies of Reagan.
The official who was involved in managing the spy ring said that it was among the few successes the CIA had in recent years obtaining reliable intelligence on Iran..."I will not say we stopped a terrorist act but will say we were in close enough that had one been planned, we would have had that opportunity," said the official.

How does a successful program end up getting cut? "South America, Africa and Europe were areas where CIA operations were particularly vulnerable to cuts." What the hell is everyone doing with the hundreds of billions of dollars being borrowed from our children? The admin comes to Congress asking for blank check after blank check; no wonder Sen Kerry was so troubled when asked to vote on these matters. If I recall, al-Qaeda is particularly deadly in Africa and Hezbollah in South America.
Stations in South America and Africa sometimes were left so threadbare that the agency had...stations and bases in certain regions are all but shuttered, with agency operatives visiting periodically to meet with sources and make payments.

The "people" making decisions must have no sense of global politics. We get attacked from one direction and turn all our attention in that direction.
"Then 9-11 happened and I was just told to shut it down," said the former CIA official. The agency's informants, who had been operating under false identities, were, the official said, "dropped without protection."

Just so you know,
The former official who described the operation retired from the agency last year and cited frustration with the decision to close the South American program as a reason for discussing it. Other CIA officers vouched for the source's credibility and confirmed the official's role in South America.
Ah, an oldie but goody we don't see much in the news these days: multiple sources for verifying a story.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Soc Sec Admin doesn't like Private Acct

From the Social Security Admin's own website:

Why can't I invest my Social Security taxes into an IRA plan?

Question: I think I could do better if you let me invest the Social Security I pay into an Individual Retirement Plan (IRA) or some other investment plan. What do you think?

Answer: Maybe you could, but then again, maybe your investments wouldn't work out. Remember these facts:

  • Your Social Security taxes pay for potential disability and survivors benefits as well as for retirement benefits;
  • Social Security incorporates social goals - such as giving more protection to families and to low income workers - that are not part of private pension plans; and
  • Social Security benefits are adjusted yearly for increases in the cost-of-living - a feature not present in many private plans.

(Caught via
You can select to receive an email when the page is updated.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Bin Laden WAS in Tora Bora

Now, let's see...I am remembering back to last fall, maybe in October. Kerry was trying to tell people how Bush wasn't really making us any safer. During the debates, he keep bringing up how Bin Laden had been in Tora Bora, but got away. From ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer, Document: Bin Laden Evaded U.S. Forces (my emphasis)
A terror suspect held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a commander for Osama bin Lade during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and helped the al-Qaida leader escape his mountain hide-out at Tora Bora in 2001, according to a U.S. government document.
We set up the evil that is Gitmo to get info, and what do we learn for our effort? That we were too pre-occupied with planning for Iraq to catch the real danger. If you recall the timeline, during the period under consideration, Franks was at CentCom. Over one long weekend, he was planning the invasion of Iraq. A task in and of itself worthly of a month's labor (Frontline).

To continue the article,
The document, provided to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the unidentified detainee "assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora." It is the first definitive statement from the Pentagon that bin Laden was at Tora Bora and evaded U.S. pursuers.

The newly revealed statement is contained in a document the Pentagon calls a "summary of evidence" against one of 558 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It was provided to the AP this week.

The evidence was summarized last December 14 for a Guantanamo Bay hearing to determine whether the prisoner was correctly held as an "enemy combatant."
If they had it ready by 12/14 for a hearing, when was this information first known? Which is it? Bush and Cheney knew this information and lied during the campain. or they didn't think getting daily briefings on Bin Laden was important. Actually, the second option isn't too likely. Already Porter Goss is complaining about the workload. So maybe they did know. They lied? I am shocked, shocked I tell you!

These idiots were not even trying to fight a war on terrorism. I remember how quickly McVeigh and company were rounded up. Yet, after so much worse an attack and including getting to restart airline traffic safety from a standstill, we now learn
Among documents stating the U.S. government's evidence against other detainees at Guantanamo Bay is a September 2004 assertion that an unidentified detainee, described as a member of al-Qaida, had traveled from the United States to Afghanistan in November 2001 — two months after the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The detainee also was arrested by Saudi authorities for questioning in the 1996 terrorist bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 members of the U.S. Air Force, the document says.

I like that the reporter does point out that "Kerry lambasted Bush during the campaign for having missed a chance to capture or kill bin Laden at Tora Bora". I like the idea of spending the next four years pointing all the ways Kerry was right and Bush was wrong (Not that that being right compared to Bush is such a big deal). I want to make sure, in years to come, Bush never finds himself in predicaments like the second debate and this one:
"I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven' just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one" - Bush, 4/14/04

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Kleiman says it well

From Mark A. R. Kleiman: Hudson/Nikolouzos update and correction
...that information doesn't much weaken my belief that the call should be made by the families, not by the health-care providers.
So, if I read the Texas law correctly, it would allow for Terri Schiavo's feedling tube to be disconnected if her health care provider so decided, and if her family couldn't find another provider willing to take the case, even if her higher brain functions were entirely normal (rather than, as appears to be the case, entirely absent), even if she were awake and asking to be allowed to live.

So, I repeat, where's the outrage? If you think Terri Schiavo is being murdered, you think that George W. Bush signed a bill allowing murder in 1999, and that bill is still on the books. Perhaps Mr. Bush flew to the wrong capital on Sunday; some people in Austin seem to need instruction about the "presumption in favor of life."

Monday, March 21, 2005


Two examples of the Texas Law

Both from the Houston Chronicle:

Baby born with fatal defect dies after removal from life support

The 17-pound, 6-month-old boy wiggled with eyes open and smacked his lips, according to his mother.

Then at 2 p.m. [March 15, 2005], a medical staffer at Texas Children's Hospital gently removed the breathing tube that had kept Sun Hudson alive since his Sept. 25 birth. Cradled by his mother, he took a few breaths, and died.

Sun's death marks the first time a hospital has been allowed by a U.S. judge to discontinue an infant's life-sustaining care against a parent's wishes, according to bioethical experts.

Texas law allows hospitals can discontinue life sustaining care, even if patient family members disagree. A doctor's recommendation must be approved by a hospital's ethics committee, and the family must be given 10 days from written notice of the decision to try and locate another facility for the patient.

Hospitals can end life support, Decision hinges on patient's ability to pay, prognosis
A patient's inability to pay for medical care combined with a prognosis that renders further care futile are two reasons a hospital might suggest cutting off life support, the chief medical officer at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital said Monday.

Dr. David Pate's comments came as the family of Spiro Nikolouzos fights to keep St. Luke's from turning off the ventilator and artificial feedings keeping the 68-year-old grandfather alive.

Mario Caba-llero, the attorney representing the family, said he is seeking a two-week extension, at minimum, to give the man more time to improve and to give his family more time to find an alternative facility.

A neurologist told [Mr Nikolouzos' wife], she said, that he is not brain-dead and the part of the brain that controls breathing is still functioning. Although his eyes were open and fixed when he first was placed on the ventilator, he has started blinking, she said.

Once again, I am not taking an opinion on whether treatment should or should not be withheld. I think these questions are between family and doctors. In pointing out these two cases, I only want it to be seen that in Texas, the state has involved itself in this matter. And done so under the governorship of Bush. Oh, what state does DeLay represent?


Bush and the denial of life-sustaining treatment

Today Pres Bush signed a bill quickly thrown together in Congress. This is the one regarding the Terry Schiavo case. But let's review Bush's history on the topic of physicians and life-sustaining treatment. While Governor of Texas, he signed into law the Advance Directives Act, amending Chap 166 of the HEALTH & SAFETY CODE. To quote (see link for full version)

§ 166.046. PROCEDURE IF NOT EFFECTUATING A DIRECTIVE OR TREATMENT DECISION. (a) If an attending physician refuses to honor a patient's advance directive or a health care or treatment decision made by or on behalf of a patient, the physician's refusal shall be reviewed by an ethics or medical committee.

If the attending physician, the patient, or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the individual does not agree with the decision reached during the review process, the physician shall make a reasonable effort to transfer the patient to a physician who is willing to comply with the directive.

If the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient is requesting life-sustaining treatment that the attending physician has decided and the review process has affirmed is inappropriate treatment, the patient shall be given available life-sustaining treatment pending transfer. The patient is responsible for any costs incurred in transferring the patient to another facility. The physician and the health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after the written decision is provided to the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient.

Life-sustaining treatment under this section may not be entered in the patient's medical record as medically unnecessary treatment until the time period has expired.

At the request of the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient, the appropriate district or county court shall extend the time period only if the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there is a reasonable expectation that a physician or health care facility that will honor the patient's directive will be found if the time extension is granted.

Added by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 450, § 1.03, eff. Sept. 1, 1999. Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1228, § 3, 4, eff. June 20, 2003.

The idea of this law is the physicians and courts have the right to deny life-sustaining medical treatment, regardless of the patient or the responsible persons' wishes. Moreover, they are given 10 days before this treatment is considered medically unnecessary. And if they do find a physician to provide treatment, they have to pay for the transfer.

Now, I am not taking sides regarding the matter of Mrs. Schiavo. I just want to point out the current actions of Mr Bush are inconsistant with laws he agreed to as Governor of Texas. Will he and all those demanding to be involved in the Mrs. Schiavo's medical treatment decisions next demand changes to the above quoted Texas law?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Iraqis find irony in Bush's Syria stance

From KNIGHT RIDDER via the Omaha World-Herald: Some Iraqis see 'joke' in Bush rebuke of Syrians
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Some Iraqis have found bitter irony in President Bush's insistence that Syria must withdraw its troops from Lebanon before Lebanese elections. Iraqis, they say, have lived with American tanks in their streets for two years and voted barely a month ago.

"He must have forgotten that his army is occupying Iraq," said Sa'ad Abdul Aziz, 21, an engineering student at Baghdad University. "What about the Republican Palace that they are using as a U.S. Embassy?"

"For us it is a joke said by the U.S. president," said Ahmed Mushref, 25, an English literature student at Baghdad's Al-Mustansyria University. "I am not defending Syria, but this is the truth."

"What Bush said is an insult and a joke at the same time," said Wissam Hashim, an engineering professor at Al-Anbar University. "He is condemning himself."

"America should get out of Iraq immediately and without conditions, just like it is asking neighboring Syria to withdraw from the Lebanese Republic," said Sheikh Nasir Al-Saidi, imam of a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, writing Saturday in the newspaper Azzaman.

"Everyone in Iraq would like to see foreign troops leave," said Walid al-Hilli, part of the Shiite coalition that finished first in the Jan. 30 elections.
Back here in the States, we have gotten used to the irony that is Bush's take on governance. The Iraqis, they need a bit more time. But soon enough, they too will learn to stop looking for consistancy behind Bush's words. They will understand it is all about how things play back in Peoria. Let's agree to not be troubled by pesky facts on the ground and instead let the "spirit of democracy" soar! Not actual democracy mind you, that might get in the way of Hallibutan's war profitering, just the spirit part.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Guns and children DO NOT mix

Do you have children in your house? Do you have a loaded gun in your house? Are you a fucking moron? From the AP: Texas Toddler Shot by 4-Year-Old Brother

HOUSTON - A 2-year-old remained in critical condition Sunday after being shot by his 4-year-old brother, who may not have known the difference between a real and toy gun, police said.

Police Sgt. Cameron Grysen said the boys had been arguing at their home in southwest Houston on Saturday afternoon when the 2-year-old threw a toy at his brother.

The older boy got the loaded gun from a purse in his mother's bedroom and shot his brother once in the temple, Grysen said.

The mother told police she had the .32-caliber automatic to protect her family because of recent neighborhood burglaries. She said Saturday was the one day that she did not secure the weapon. She could face criminal charges.
Authorities said the 4-year-old didn't seem to understand what he had done.

"He's wondering where his brother is, and when his brother's coming back," Grysen said.
Why do I doubt Saturday was the only day she failed to secure the weapon. I know with two small kids, it is all too easy to fail to do simple things that need to be done. And now this family's lives have been forever changed, and not in a good way. The risks of this sort of mishap is just too great to imagine it ever making sense to have guns, let alone, loaded guns around children. Just let the damn burglars take your stuff. Have good insurance, get new stuff and keep going. This family will never be able to return to the life they had before Saturday.

I am both mad and saddened by this story. Mad that there are people that think guns will actually protect them. Saddened that now this family have to suffer through what has happened and will come.

A friend of mine, a true gun enthusiast, who doesn't have kids, is smart enough to never keep any if his guns loaded. So, once again: Guns and children DO NOT mix. Got it?

Friday, March 11, 2005


Bush tells us how safe gov't bonds are

From The White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something about the Thrift Savings Plan. This is a Thrift Savings Plan that has a mix of stocks and bonds?

MS. WEBSTER: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Now, how hard was that to learn how to do that?

MS. WEBSTER: And I chose the safe plan, government bonds. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: That's all right. Well, not so safe, unless we fix the deficit. But other than that -- (laughter). We're fixing the deficit. (Applause.)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Abraham Lincoln says...

How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?
Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new at all.

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.

I care not much for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.

If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.

If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.

No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.

No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.

Public opinion in this country is everything.

Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.

The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.

We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

From brainyquote.


Saddam's "capture" staged by US military

Obviously, Saddam Hussein was captured by the US troops, just not in the manner splashed across TVs around the world. Or at least, a former Marine claims. We should wait for verification of the story.

From UPI: Ex-Marine Says Public Version of Saddam Capture Fiction

A former U.S. Marine who participated in capturing ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the public version of his capture was fabricated.

Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh...was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.

"I was among the 20-man unit, including eight of Arab descent, who searched for Saddam for three days in the area of Dour near Tikrit, and we found him in a modest home in a small village and not in a hole as announced.

"We captured him after fierce resistance during which a Marine of Sudanese origin was killed.

"Later on, a military production team fabricated the film of Saddam's capture in a hole, which was in fact a deserted well," Abou Rabeh said.

Abou Rabeh was interviewed in Lebanon.

If past performance is any indicator to the veracity of this story, keep in mind at least the following:

What is the chance anyone will hear about this matter? I mean beyond the hardy souls willing to put the effort into going deeper than the EveningNews, etc.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


The 10 Commandments

From the Supreme Court, via :
"Imagine the Buddhist or Muslim who walks into the Supreme Court. He will realize this is not his government," Mr. Chemerinsky said.
"I thought that Muslims accept the Ten Commandments," Justice Scalia said.
"No, your honor, they don't," Mr. Chemerinsky responded.

The Wash Times being who they are, follow this with
However, in an editorial published yesterday, Arsalan Iftikhar, the national legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said, "The Quran, Islam's revealed text, contains injunctions similar to all the commandments."

Some discussion among Muslims are here and here. The argument hinges on the idea that "the Torah, Psalms, and Gospels are considered revelation - hence the term ahl al-kitâb, people of the book, for Jews and Christians." My experiences with Muslims is they view the 10 commandments as part of their religous tradition.

That being said, the point of view of the Buddhist was not addressed. As with Hinduism, Buddhism has no direct expression of the 10 Commandments.
With application of the effort, I am sure I could find in the teachings of the Buddha echos of the 10 Commandments. The point is if I walk in a courtroom and see the commandents mounted, I will not feel comformable. How will I know, if it came up, my religous pratices will not influence the judge.

You know, I doubt I would feel this way if there wasn't such a constant ruckus concerning the rightiousness of the evangelical viewpoint. Too many people take too literal a reading of the bible and at the same want so much to have everyone agree with them.

Monday, March 07, 2005


Sir (Uncle) Horace Phillips

From Telegraph: Sir Horace Phillips

Sir Horace Phillips, the former diplomat who has died aged 86, ended his career as ambassador to Turkey in the 1970s; he had earlier suffered an unexpected reverse, however, when the Saudi Arabians rejected him as British ambassador to Jeddah after learning that he was Jewish.

That Horace Hyman Phillips went as far as he did in the Diplomatic Service was a tribute to his innate talents and his determination. He was born on May 31 1917, the grandson of Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe. His father had a succession of jobs - commercial traveller, salesman, finance house manager - and died when Horace was 18, leaving his mother with seven children and no money.

Of those seven children, my dad's the youngest.

I only have one memory of him from when I was a child. He taught me the word reconnaissance. I also remember he was a noble man.

"When, in March 1968, King Faisal withdrew his agreement to my appointment as next British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia because I am a Jew, it was widely stated in the British press that I was an 'ex-Jew' or a 'non-practising Jew'. Some of this may have been inspired by official comment seeking to play down the embarrassment. As a serving diplomat, I could not myself reply. But the fact is that I have always been a practising Jew, and am to this day a member of Garnethill Synagogue in Glasgow, where I was brought up in the tradition. Any statement to the contrary in an obituary would give great pain to my family and friends, and dishonour my memory in the Jewish community."

See also Bill Cameron's thoughts here



by Basil Fawlty (John Cleese)
Fawlty Towers, Torquay, Devon, England

In the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy.

Your new Prime Minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

  1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium". Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as "favour" and "neighbour", skipping the letter 'U' is nothing more than laziness on your part.
  2. Likewise, you will learn to spell "doughnut" without skipping half the letters. You will end your love affair with the letter 'Z' (pronounced 'zed' not 'zee') and the suffix "-ize" will be replaced by the suffix "-ise". You will learn that the suffix "burgh" is pronounced "burra" e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to respell Pittsburgh as "Pittsberg" if you can't cope with correct pronunciation. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary". Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed".
  3. There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn't have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary then you won't have to use bad language as often.
  4. There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'U' and the elimination of "-ize".
  5. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents - Scottish dramas such as "Taggart" will no longer be broadcast with subtitles.
  6. While we're talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is "Devon". If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become "shires" e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire, Louisianashire.
  7. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will be required to cast English actors to play English characters. British sit-coms such as "Men Behaving Badly" or "Red Dwarf" will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can't cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness.
  8. You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up halfway through.
  9. You should stop playing "American football". There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as "American football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays "American football". You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game.
  10. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby, which is similar to "American football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies. We are hoping to get together at least a US Rugby sevens side by 2005.
  11. You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the "World Series" for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called "rounders" which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.
  12. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
  13. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called "Indecisive Day".
  14. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts. You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
  15. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French Fries are not real chips. Fries aren't even French, they are Belgian, though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps". Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat.
  16. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat. Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.
  17. As a sign of penance 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself.
  18. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all, it is lager. From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer", and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "lager".
  19. The substances formerly known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine", with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as "Weak Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine". This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.
  20. From November 10th the UK will harmonise petrol (or "gasoline" as you will be permitted to keep calling it until April 1st 2005) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices (roughly $6US/gallon - get used to it).
  21. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.
  22. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.
  23. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).
  24. From the 8th of April 2005 Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall will hold additional charge as the Duchess of Cornwall and New York. All taxes collected in the Duchy of New York will be added to her Privy Purse for the upkeep of the Duchess and her office.
  25. With immediate effect all former trouble spots like Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Haiti etc will become part of the former United States. The peoples of these former countries will automatically enjoy all citizenship benefits of the former U.S.A excepting that they will have to represent their former countries in football. This will ensure that people will welcome you with open arms whenever you invade their countries.
  26. Last but not the least, for heaven's sake it's pronounced "nu-kleer" as in "clear" NOT "nuk-u-lar".

Thank you for your co-operation and have a great day.
Basil Fawlty

Sunday, March 06, 2005


And you thought your commute was bad

From Reuters: No One Safe on Baghdad's Roads, Iraqis Say

Jawdat Abd al-Kadhum lost a leg to an American bullet fired from a convoy traveling ahead of him.

"There is no safety on the roads. Everyone should expect anything to happen on these roads. Foreigners, Iraqis we are all exposed to the same risks," said al-Kadhum, his left tracksuit trouser leg tied around the stump of his leg.

Many have a tale to tell of someone they know that has been shot at, killed or harassed by U.S. forces in convoys or at checkpoints dotted across the country.

Ok, so the roads are dangerous. But surely, as long as the Iraqis are obeying the rules, they should be safe. There's the rub:

The U.S. military says it cannot discuss the rules of engagement -- procedure for dealing with threats from suicide bombers or car bombs -- due to "operational security issues."

But ex-army officers say cars should be at least 50 meters away from any convoy, never overtake and that if a car speeds toward a checkpoint soldiers will shoot at the engine block to make sure the vehicle comes to a standstill.

The offical rules for not getting shoot are not availible. I wanted to say they're "on a need to know" basis. But that's not exactly the case. But at least there are back channels getting the necessary information out. Then again...

Al-Kadhum thought he knew the rules...He says they were a safe distance from the convoy.

"I cannot remember the exact distance, but we were first behind the convoy about 500 meters behind," he says. "But then there was an explosion on the convoy and they started shooting. Shooting everywhere."

Now Mr Al-Kadhum is unemployed and must wait for an Iraqi government before he can get benefits. Still cannot figure out why he doesn't qualify for US benefits. First gets his leg blown off, and then is felt dessitute. Keep in mind "many have a tale to tell". And how do they feel about the increasing tension trying to move around Iraq?

"But yes I blame them. We were not guilty. What have I done to deserve losing my leg?"

The US troops keep getting jumpier and jumpier when away from base. The Iraqis are perplexed by the situation, and getting angerer by the day. I can only imagine this is the sort of quagmire the insurgents strive for. Obviously the insurgents are outgunned. Their strategy will be derived from using small amounts of violence to generate the most strife. If this is the case, then the US command must to stop playing into their hands. I have to think, in terms of war, you plan assuming the worst. A basic idea that seems lost with the current bunch of nincompoops in charge.

Update: Article from WashPost also covers this matter: Shootings by U.S. at Iraq Checkpoints Questioned.

Human Rights Watch published a lengthy report on civilian casualties in Iraq in October 2003, which detailed incidents in which 11 Iraqis died at checkpoints manned by other U.S. units...News accounts have detailed at least 14 other deaths of civilians at checkpoints.

The group also reprinted excerpts from an Army task force's internal study that described its soldiers as untrained and unprepared to conduct checkpoint operations. The study asked: "How does the soldier know exactly what the rule of engagement is" when shifting from combat to policing?

The rest of the article is a good read, covers more indepth some of the policy issues hinted at by the Reuters article. Closes with this quote that I think gets right to the point:

"Soldiers who have just conducted combat against dark-skinned personnel wearing civilian clothes have difficulty trusting dark-skinned personnel wearing civilian clothes."

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Porter Goss overwhelmed by his job

From MyWay: CIA Director Goss Amazed at His Workload

In a rare public appearance Wednesday, CIA Director Porter Goss said he is overwhelmed by the many duties of his job, including devoting five hours out of every day to prepare for and deliver intelligence briefings to President Bush.

"The jobs I'm being asked to do, the five hats that I wear, are too much for this mortal," Goss said. "I'm a little amazed at the workload."

"I don't know by law what my direct relationship is with John Negroponte," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or other top officials involved with intelligence.

As Bush likes to point out: "Its hard work".

How about now, are you feeling safe yet?

Did you want to hear your public servant talk? Can you afford it?
Tickets to the event were sold to the public for $45.


Sibel Edmonds talks

From Statement of Sibel Edmonds Before the House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and Internal Relations, March 2, 2005:

During my work, I became aware of problems within the translation unit involving criminal conduct against our national interests, potential espionage, serious security breaches threatening our intelligence, intentional mistranslation, and blocking of intelligence. I was asked, and later ordered, to refrain from reporting these allegations... Finally, in March 2002 I was fired. The only explanation I received for getting fired was ‘for the convenience of the government.’

...during two unclassified briefings with the staff of Senators Grassley and Senator Leahy, the FBI publicly confirmed all of my core allegations.

When the judge overseeing my legal cases asked the government to produce any unclassified materials that was relevant to the substance of my allegations, the government took a truly extraordinary step: it moved to retroactively classify these letters, statements, and news releases that had been public for almost two years. It is quite clear that the government’s motivation was not to protect national security, but rather to protect itself from embarrassment and accountability.

Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector July 2004...completed its investigation. The Department of Justice immediately moved to classify the entire report and its findings. Six months later, they allowed the Inspector General to release only an unclassified version of its executive summary. [It] confirmed my core allegations; concluded that I was fired for reporting misconduct; and stated that the FBI had failed to investigate the reported espionage, even though other facts, witnesses and evidence supported my allegations.

I also began to pursue legal remedies to challenge my unjust dismissal...Attorney General Ashcroft asserted a rarely invoked ‘State Secrets Privilege’, arguing that the entire case must be dismissed in the name of national security, even if my allegations were correct.

knowing full well the seriousness of these confirmed issues and problems, rather than addressing them the FBI and the Department of Justice spend time and effort to cover them up by over use of secrecy and excessive classification. Contrary to their claims, they seem to be far more concerned with avoiding accountability than protecting our national security.

Now, don't you feel safer?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Ruling on the Padilla case

From US District Court:
PADILLA, Petitioner vs. COMMANDER C.T. HANFT, USN Commander, Consolidated Naval Brig, Respondent.

Certainly Respondent does not intend to argue here that, just because the President states that Petitioner's detention is "consistent with the laws of the United States, including the Authorization for Use of Military Force" that makes it so. Not only is such a statement in direct contravention to the well settled separation of powers doctrine, it is simply not the law. Moreover, such a statement is deeply troubling. If such a position were ever adopted by the courts, it would totally eviscerate the limits placed on Presidential authority to protect the citizenry's individual liberties.

Judge Floyd quoting the Civil War case of Ex parte Milligan:

"The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false; for the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it, which are necessary to preserve its existence."

...The President may not unilaterally establish military commissions in wartime "because he is controlled by law, and has his appropriate sphere of duty, which is to execute, not to make, the laws."

And in closing:

"Congress, not the Executive, should control utilization of the war power as an instrument of domestic policy. There are indications that the Constitution did not contemplate that the title Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy will constitute [the President] also Commander-in-Chief of the country, its industries and its inhabitants."

All emphasis mine.

See also the diary Bush Appointee Rules for Enemy Combatant


Two sides of Iraq

From DailyKos: Where's the G**d**m $9 billion Mr. President?

Sen. Reid: What is the setting of that picture behind us?

Mr. Willis: That's the office of the advisers' group to the Ministry of Transportation. That's actually my desk right behind me. I'm the person in the middle there.

Sen. Reid: What are you doing with the money?

Mr. Willis: CPA headquarters. There was a payment due to Custer Battles of $2 million on July 31, 2003. And so we brought the money up, called in Mike Battles and said, "Bring a bag."...We played football with the plastic wrapped bricks for a little while. There is picture evidence of that particular transaction.

(picture from different day. Willis on the left)

I don't think the money was for these two, though.

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