Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Las Vegas Sun's Jon Ralston:
In 2003, 2004 and 2005, Porter supported Bush 86.7 percent of the time, the Congressional Quarterly found. Porter has been a nearly unwavering backer of the president’s strategy in Iraq while rarely disagreeing with him on any major issue. He was against the SCHIP expansion before he was for it, but the second vote was a rare divergence.
But at least Porter can add SCHIP to his usual “I’m not a rubber stamp” act because Yucca Mountain has been a lame and lonely staple of that rhetorical emptiness. But Porter’s fuzzy memory of the way he and the president were back in April 2006 at (where else?) The Venetian is hardly surprising.
Porter doesn’t live in a vacuum. He has watched the parade of retirements by Republican incumbents as pundits forecast the coming GOP apocalypse in Campaign ’08. And he is in a district where Democrats now have a slight registration advantage and where he barely held on to his seat (by 4,000 votes) in 2006.
That’s why he will be even more targeted than he has been in the past — and Porter is used to being targeted by the national Democrats and now by Nevada’s Democrat Numero Uno Harry Reid, who might just believe Porter will be running for a higher office come 2010 should he survive 2008.
And so Porter — or his campaign advisers — has rewritten every line of his previous Bush fealty, which seemed so simple that day at Gondolier Numero Uno’s place, when raising money trumped any Bush albatross. Perhaps not so this time.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Then I got to thinking about music and what song would fit with this post... I'd been thinking about this for a few weeks and then it hit me while I was in the shower, with my MP3 player loud enough to hear - and one of the songs I loaded was "Word Of Mouth" by Mike+The Mechanics. (Lyrics below video). I've always liked the song and then it hit me - I was aware of what Paul Young was singing!!! His was singing about the nutjobs in the GOP (but it could be any nutjob in any political party, group, etc...) Enjoy the show.
Now the world is getting older
There’s a few things to be said
Do you believe the things they told you
Do you believe the things you’ve read
There’s a rumour on the corner
But it’s always been denied
Cause they don’t want you any wiser
You’re just toeing the party line
From the west side to the east side
From the north side to the south
You’ll never get bad information
If you believe in the word of mouth
Look out for those who still want to hang on
Look out for those who live in the past
Get out and listen to the whisper
Because the times are changing fast
From the west side to the east side
From the north side to the south
You’ll never get bad information
If you believe in the word of mouth
You don’t believe the information
You don’t believe it when it’s denied
So when you’re reading explanations
You have to read between the lines
From the west side to the east side
Through the windows I’m looking out
You’ll never get bad information
If you believe in the word of mouth
From Randi Rhodes' Website:
THE VIOLENT RADICALIZATION AND HOMEGROWN TERRORISM PREVENTION ACT:
An Act passed by The House in late October and currently before the Senate Homeland Security Committee is as bad as or WORSE than the McCarthy Era when people were labeled and jailed for anything HE deemed UNAMERICAN ACTIVITIES.
Language inserted in the act does partially define "homegrown terrorism" as "planning" or "threatening" to use force to promote a political objective, meaning that just thinking about doing something could be enough to merit the terrorist label.
The act also describes "violent radicalization" as the promotion of an "extremist belief system" without attempting to define "extremist."
Full text of Bill here.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thank you for contacting me regarding recent developments in Iraq. I appreciate having the benefit of your views.
The War in Iraq is the single most important issue before Congress and the American people today. Our action in Iraq, the Middle East, and our ability to support the Iraqi government as it strives to create a democracy will have implications that last for generations to come. As a Member of Congress, and someone who has visited Iraq four times, most recently this past August, I understand the risks involved and the consequences of a hasty withdrawal. I am proud to support the brave men and women of our armed forces as they help secure democracy and ensure that those oppressed by a brutal dictator will one day achieve their dream of thriving in a free society.
As you may know, I visited our soldiers on August 24-27. I am continually inspired by their determination and dedication to the mission. While in Iraq, I met with members of both the American and Iraqi armed forces as well as members of the Iraqi government. I was encouraged to see their high morale and dedication to completing the mission. Based upon my personal visits to the region the dynamics on the ground are continuously improving. While the course is uncertain and serious challenges remain, I am optimistic.
I am grateful to the men and women of the Armed Services that are helping to protect our country from future terrorist attacks while simultaneously working to rebuild Iraq. You can rest assured that I will continue to ensure that our troops in Iraq, and our allies among the Iraqi people, have the support and equipment they need to defend freedom. We cannot allow the nation to revert to terror and tyranny, or we risk providing hope to our enemies in the War on Terror who seek to defeat us through fear and violence.
Creating a lasting peace has not been easy. However, we are succeeding and must ensure that the Iraqi government is able to defend itself before withdrawing troops. Although, I agree that our strategy toward Iraq should be reviewed I am opposed to premature Congressional action and will continue to listen to the Commanders on the ground as they come before Congress with suggestions and adjustments in courses of action. We must be sure that we leave Iraq with the tools necessary to produce a stable and self-sufficient nation.
Most recently, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker delivered a much-anticipated status report on the Iraq War before a joint meeting of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. I believe that the testimonies delivered by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were accurate, apolitical assessments which exclusively considered the facts. Furthermore, I was encouraged by the expectation that there will be substantial withdrawals of U.S. troops in the near future. It is my belief that our troop levels will decrease at a faster pace than Petraeus proposed.
Again, thank you for contacting me about this most important issue. Please let me know if I can do anything for you, your family or friends.
Jon C. Porter
Member of Congress
November 16, 2007
Washington, D.C. – Senator John Ensign made the following statement after the Senate failed to provide emergency funding for the Department of Defense:
“Our nation just celebrated the heroism of veterans and members of the armed services and this funding would have provided them the necessary resources to carry out their mission on the front lines. The funding for General Petraeus and his troops on the ground should have been provided months ago, and it is shameful that we have failed to provide it yet again. We cannot fight a war with 535 members of Congress micromanaging those on the front lines. The Democrats continued insistence on setting a surrender date undermines our generals and those selflessly fighting to secure Iraq and protect us from Islamic extremists. This is a time when we as Americans must stand behind the brave men and women in our military.”
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The U.S. House of Representatives bill (PDF), which was introduced late Friday by top Democratic politicians, could give the movie and music industries a new revenue stream by pressuring schools into signing up for monthly subscription services such as Ruckus and Napster. Ruckus is advertising-supported, and Napster charges a monthly fee per student.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) applauded the proposal, which is embedded in a 747-page spending and financial aid bill. "We very much support the language in the bill, which requires universities to provide evidence that they have a plan for implementing a technology to address illegal file sharing," said Angela Martinez, a spokeswoman for the MPAA.
According to the bill, if universities did not agree to test "technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity," all of their students--even ones who don't own a computer--would lose federal financial aid.
The prospect of losing a combined total of nearly $100 billion a year in federal financial aid, coupled with the possibility of overzealous copyright-bots limiting the sharing of legitimate content, has alarmed university officials.
The economic costs to the United States of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far total approximately $1.5 trillion, according to a new study by congressional Democrats that estimates the conflicts' "hidden costs"-- including higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars.
That amount is nearly double the $804 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage these wars through 2008, according to the Democratic staff of Congress's Joint Economic Committee. Its report, titled "The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War," estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000.
"The full economic costs of the war to the American taxpayers and the overall U.S. economy go well beyond even the immense federal budget costs already reported," said the 21-page draft report, obtained yesterday by The Washington Post.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on the meaning of the story of former U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin.
It is a fact startling in its cynical simplicity and it requires cynical and simple words to be properly expressed:
The Presidency of George W. Bush has now devolved into a criminal conspiracy to cover the ass of George W. Bush.
All the petulancy, all the childish threats, all the blank-stare stupidity;
All the invocations of World War Three, all the sophistic questions about which terrorist attacks we wanted him not to stop, all the phony secrets;
All the claims of executive privilege, all the stumbling tap-dancing of his nominees, all the verbal flatulence of his apologists...
All of it is now -- after one revelation last week -- transparently clear for what it is: the pathetic and desperate manipulation of the government, the re-focusing of our entire nation, towards keeping this mock president, and this unstable vice president, and this departed wildly self-over-rating Attorney General -- and the others -- from potential prosecution for having approved or ordered the illegal torture of prisoners being held in the name of this country.
"Waterboarding is torture," Daniel Levin was to write.
Daniel Levin was no theorist and no protestor.
He was no troublemaking politician.
He was no table-pounding commentator.
Daniel Levin was an astonishingly patriotic American, and a brave man.
Brave not just with words or with stances -- even in a dark time when that kind of bravery can usually be scared -- or bought -- off.
Charged -- as you heard in the story from ABC News last Friday -- with assessing the relative legality of the various nightmares in the Pandora's box that is the Orwell-worthy euphemism "Enhanced Interrogation," Mr. Levin decided that the simplest, and the most honest, way to evaluate them... was to have them enacted upon himself.
Daniel Levin took himself to a military base and let himself be water-boarded.
Mr. Bush -- ever done anything that personally courageous?
Perhaps when you've gone to Walter Reed and teared up over the maimed servicemen? And then gone back to the White House and determined that there would be more maimed servicemen?
Has it been that kind of personal courage, Mr. Bush, when you've spoken of American victims and the triumph of freedom and the sacrifice of your own popularity for the sake of our safety? And then permitted others to fire or discredit or destroy anybody who disagreed with you -- whether they were your own Generals, or... Max Cleeland, or... Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame… or Daniel Levin?
Daniel Levin should have a statue in his honor in Washington right now.
Instead, he was forced out as Acting Assistant Attorney General, nearly three years ago, because he had the guts to do what George Bush couldn't do in a million years: actually put himself at risk for the sake of his country, for the sake of what is right.
And they water-boarded him and he wrote that even though he knew those doing it meant him no harm, and he knew they would rescue him at the instant of the slightest distress, and he knew he would not die -- still, with all that reassurance, he could not stop the terror screaming from inside of him, could not quell the horror, could not convince that which is at the core of each of us -- the entity who exists behind all the embellishments we strap to ourselves, like purpose and name and family and love -- he could not convince his being… that he wasn't drowning.
Water-boarding, he said, is torture.
Legally, it is torture!
Practically, it is torture!
Ethically, it is torture!
And he wrote it down.
Wrote it down somewhere, where it could be contrasted with the words of this country's 43rd President: "The United States of America... does not torture."
Made you into a liar, Mr. Bush.
Made you into, if anybody had the guts to pursue it, a criminal, Mr. Bush.
Water-boarding had already been used on Khalid Sheik Mohammed and a couple of other men none of us really care about -- except, Sir, for the one detail you'd forgotten -- that there are rules, and even if we just make up these rules, this country observes them anyway, because we're Americans, Sir, and we're better than that.
We're better than you.
And the man your Justice Department selected to decide whether or not water-boarding was torture, had decided, and not in some phony academic fashion, nor while wearing the Walter Mitty poseur attire of flight-suit and helmet.
He had put his money, Mr. Bush, where your mouth was.
So, your sleazy sycophantic henchman Mr. Gonzales had him append an asterisk suggesting his black-and-white answer wasn't black-and-white, that there might have been a quasi-legal way of torturing people, maybe with an absolute time limit and a physician entitled to stop it, maybe, if your administration had ever bothered to set any rules or any guidelines…
And then when your people realized that even that was too dangerous, Daniel Le Vin was branded "too independent" and "someone who could (not) be counted on."
In other words, Mr. Bush, somebody you couldn't count on to lie for you.
So, Levin was fired.
Because if it ever got out what he'd concluded, and the lengths to which he went, to validate that conclusion, anybody who had sanctioned water-boarding, and who-knows-what-else… anybody -- you yourself, Sir -- you would have been screwed.
And screwed you are.
It can't be coincidence that the story of Daniel Levin should emerge from the black hole of this secret society of a presidency just at the conclusion of the unhappy saga of the newest Attorney General Nominee.
Another patriot somewhere, listened as Judge Mukasey mumbled like he'd never heard of water-boarding, and refuse to answer in words… that which Daniel Levin answered on a water-board somewhere in Maryland or Virginia three years ago.
And this someone also heard George Bush say "The United States of America does not torture"... and realized either he was lying or this wasn't the United States of America any more, and either way, he needed to do something about it.
Not in the way Levin needed to do something about it, but in a brave way nonetheless.
We have United States Senators who need to do something about it, too.
Chairman Leahy of the Judiciary Committee has seen this for what it is and said "enough."
Senator Schumer has seen it, reportedly, as some kind of puzzle piece in the New York political patronage system and he has failed.
What Senator Feinstein has seen, to justify joining Schumer in rubber-stamping Mukasey, I cannot guess.
It is obvious that both those Senators should look to the meaning of the story of Daniel Levin and recant their support for Mukasey's confirmation.
And they should look into their own committee's history and recall that in 1973, their predecessors were able to wring even from Richard Nixon, a guarantee of a Special Prosecutor (ultimately a Special Prosecutor of Richard Nixon!), in exchange for their approval of his new Attorney General, Elliott Richardson.
If they could get that out of Nixon, you -- before you confirm the President's latest human echo tomorrow -- you better be able to get a "yes" or a "no"… out of Michael Mukasey.
Ideally you should lock this government down financially until a special prosecutor is appointed -- or fifty of them -- but I'm not holding my breath. The "yes" or the "no" on water-boarding will have to suffice.
Because, remember... if you can't get it, or you won't... with the time between tonight and the next presidential election likely to be the longest year of our lives, you are leaving this country, and all of us, to the water-boards -- symbolic and otherwise -- of George W. Bush.
Ultimately, Mr. Bush, the real question isn't... who approved the water-boarding of this fiend Khalid Sheik Mohammed and two others.
It is: why were they water-boarded?
Study after study for generation after generation, sir, has confirmed that torture gets people to talk, torture gets people to plead, torture gets people to break, but torture does not get them to tell the truth.
Of course, Mr. Bush, this isn't a problem, if you don't care if the terrorist plots they tell you about, are the truth... or just something to stop the tormentors from drowning them.
If, say, a President simply needed a constant supply of terrorist threats to keep a country scared…
If, say, he needed phony plots to play hero during, and to boast about interrupting, and to use to distract people from the threat he**didn't** interrupt…
If, say, he realized that even terrorized people still need good ghost stories before they will let a President pillage the Constitution…
Well, heck, Mr. Bush, who better to dream them up for you… than an actual terrorist?
He'll tell you every thing he ever fantasized doing, in his most horrific of daydreams -- his equivalent of the day you "flew" onto the deck of the Lincoln to explain you'd won in Iraq.
Now if that's what this is all about -- you tortured not because you're so stupid you think torture produces confession -- but you tortured because you're smart enough to know it produces really authentic-sounding fiction -- well, then… you're going to need all the lawyers you can find… because that crime wouldn't just mean impeachment, would it Sir?
That crime would mean George W. Bush is going to prison.
Thus the master tumblers turn, and the lock yields, and the hidden explanations can all be perceived, in their exact proportions, in their exact progressions.
Daniel Levin's eminently practical, eminently logical, eminently patriotic way of testing the legality of waterboarding… has to vanish -- and him, with it.
Thus Alberto Gonzales has to use that brain that sounds like an old car trying to start on a freezing morning, to undo eight centuries of the forward march of law and government.
Thus Dick Cheney, has to ridiculously assert that confirming we do or do not use any particular interrogation technique, would somehow help the terrorists.
Thus Michael Mukasey, on the eve of the vote that will make him the high priest of the law of this land, cannot and must not answer a question, nor even hint that he has thought about a question, which merely concerns the theoretical definition of water-boarding as torture.
Because, Mr. Bush, in the seven years of your nightmare presidency, this whole string of events has been transformed…
Sunday, November 04, 2007
I was born in 1968 – the year Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In began; the Vietcong launched the TET Offensive; Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated; Hair opened on Broadway; Simon & Garfunkel scored number one with Mrs. Robinson on the music charts; Robert Kennedy was assassinated; poor people marched on Washington; Richard Nixon was nominated for President by the Republican Party; the Soviets invade Czechoslovakia; there were riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis; Richard Nixon was elected President; The Beatles White Album was released; and the Apollo 8 circled the moon.
This may not have any significance to my growing up, but is does. What ever happened in the late sixties when I was born had a great impact of what was to come in the seventies where I was growing up – learning about life from people who had lived through that period. Whether it be television, radio, music, politics, or world events, they had a great impact on what I am today. I really never gave it much thought until I actually started writing this speech.
The 1970’s were different times from what we are seeing today. As opposed to the 1960’s when we were involved in a war which we had no business in – and ignoring the troops when they came home, we tuned in–turned on–dropped out, we envisioned peace and love through rose colored glasses. The 1970’s sort of left us wandering around in a haze of smoke left over from the hippie generation, which in turn, gave us a nation of greed in the 1980’s.
Our world back then was skimming along politically. We had three Presidents during that time, and the only significant event to come out of their combined terms was the end to the Vietnam War on April 30, 1975. But the question on everyone’s mind at the time was (and still today) – who really won the war?
Richard M. Nixon was involved in one of the greatest scandals of the century involving any US President. His involvement in Watergate was, in any effect, an abuse of his power as President. Mr. Nixon resigned in the office of President, in disgrace, on August 8, 1974, to be effective as of August 9, 1974.
Gerald Ford was sworn in as President as Richard Nixon left Washington, DC. Ford, in essence, was our only president to hold office without having gone through the electorate process. Mr. Ford could be considered a Lame Duck President. What he did, that people in America will never quite forget, is pardon Richard M. Nixon in September, 1974, for any wrongdoing, which may have occurred while he was in office. Former President Ford saw the pardon was in the best interests of the nation. In any event, pardoning Richard Nixon cost him the next election.
Former President Jimmy Carter could also be considered a Lame Duck President, seeing that he had no support throughout his term of office. When he ran for President, he won the Democratic ticket by popular vote – but had little or no support from members of his own party. He often zigzagged on many issues, also. But behind this quiet man, there could be found no dirt.
Also during this decade, we had the Apollo 13 disaster. This happened in April 1970. It has been made into a major motion picture in 1995. One aspect of the decade we’d like to forget is the hostage crisis in Iran, where they held our people for 444 days.
Musically, there was a diverse selection to heard from, also. Easy Listening, Bubble Gum, and a mix of Folk Music were topping the charts, while Hard Rock and Heavy Metal were in their early stages. (Later on, John Travolta’s Urban Cowboy would give Country Music the limelight for a short time). And, who can’t forget Disco?!?!! But there were many achievements made in the 1970’s that we tend to overlook.
There are many things to look at when you’re researching music of the Seventies. There are awards, charts, and individual artists. Much of what I’ve learned had my head spinning, knowing I actually owned a great deal of the record breakers. Of the top ten albums sold of all time, six of them were release in the Seventies – the other four were from the Eighties. Of the six, one was Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours LP – this album not only was one of the best sellers of the decade – it was formerly in the Guinness Book Of World Records® for most sales (until 1982’s release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller LP), selling in excess of 14 million copies worldwide. Also on this list was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon LP. This album was released in 1973 and stayed on the Billboard® Top 200™ for the next twenty years (or a total of 741 weeks) – finally falling off the chart in early 1994, but still appears there occasionally to this day). And again making resurgence because someone decided that the music fits in with what’s going on during The Wizard Of Oz. Another interesting fact was a record set by the group Boston – their self-entitled album was the biggest selling debut album, until 1985’s release of Whitney Houston’s self-entitled album. The biggest selling single for the decade was You Light Up My Life by Debbie Boone in 1977.
The top film for the 1970’s was Star Wars. The film to win the most Oscars® for the 1970’s was Cabaret, winning a total of eight awards (in 1972) – but the film to win best picture that year was The Godfather.
On television, we had All In The Family bringing forth a new dimension into our homes. Sure, we had Science Fiction, Westerns, Police Dramas, but we didn’t have Archie Bunker. What All In The Family brought into our homes was a strange bite of reality. All In The Family broke new ground when they actually used taboo words and discussed forbidden subjects, thus changing they way in which we all watched television. All In The Family can boast by being the first video taped show. It was also the first show to actually have the sound of a toilet flushing. Archie and his brood was the highest rated shows from 1971-1975. Another award winning show to come out of this decade was M*A*S*H, depicting life during the Korean War by Army doctors and nurses in humorous ways.
On the Las Vegas front, 1973 saw the purchase of the Golden Nugget by Steve Wynn. Summa Corporation owned the majority of hotel/casinos in the valley. Without Mr. Wynn as a major catalyst in the gaming industry, there would be no modern day Golden Nugget, no Mirage, no Treasure Island, or any other major strip resort – just a lot of desert and a grind joint with a very big neon sign hanging overhead (which, while standing, was the most photographed sign in the world).
It’s all in one’s perception. Regardless of how one pictures the Seventies, there are going to be critics of it, and there are going to be people who loved it. I lived through it, and I am quite happy with most of what came out of those ten years.
But to look back in perspective, it wasn’t all that bad.
Since then, the Berlin wall has come down, giving world wide democracy a chance to live and breathe. There’s no longer a United Soviet Socialist Republic, no more Czechoslovakia (who separated peacefully), and no more Yugoslavia (but has been war torn in the name of religion). The only major communist power that are left are China, Cuba, and North Korea. The US is trying to have diplomatic ties again with Vietnam. The only wars or invasions we’ve been involved in had to do with the protection of Big Business for US corporations having foreign subsidiaries.
In comparison, there were good times back then. Down-sizing was not an issue, unions were strong, and people were not afraid to leave their house. Lovers didn’t have to be fugitives of the bedroom – AIDS was not in existence.
People make fun of the music that came out of the Seventies, but fail to realize that a good proportion of the hits on the charts now are synthetic – the synthesizer was in its early stages, but it never replaced a real musician.
If there was a choice for me to live in any decade, it would be the Seventies – sure people were for themselves, but they were much easier to get along with.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from the 1970’s, it would be to simply say to you — “Have a nice day!!!”
Saturday, November 03, 2007
“Watch What You Say”: The Post-9/11 Dixie Chicked:
* Like truth, comedian Bill Maher was an early casualty of war. Discussing 9/11’s skyjackers on the Sept. 17, 2001, episode of “Politically Incorrect,” Maher stated: “We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly. Stupid maybe, but not cowardly.” Maher’s remarks prompted Bush’s then-spokesman Ari Fleischer to warn: “Watch what you say.” The Disney-owned ABC network canceled Maher’s show in June 2002.