Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Watch So You Don't Have To

Last year, I watched the SOTU address but punked out of writing about it. This year, I'm going to do some serious drinking to anesthetize myself and really try to play through the pain. So go out, relax, have a good time with your friends and family, and know that I'll be jotting down my every insipid thought to share with you tomorrow. Maybe you'll propose a toast in my honor for taking one for the team...

If I don't make it back, tell my family that I fought bravely to the end.

No One Spies Alone

As we previously reported, AT&T is facing a big class-action lawsuit for "...violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications."

Let's let the press release do the talking:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.

In December of 2005, the press revealed that the government had instituted a comprehensive and warrantless electronic surveillance program that ignored the careful safeguards set forth by Congress. This surveillance program, purportedly authorized by the President at least as early as 2001 and primarily undertaken by the NSA, intercepts and analyzes the communications of millions of ordinary Americans.

In the largest "fishing expedition" ever devised, the NSA uses powerful computers to "data-mine" the contents of these Internet and telephone communications for suspicious names, numbers, and words, and to analyze traffic data indicating who is calling and emailing whom in order to identify persons who may be "linked" to "suspicious activities," suspected terrorists or other investigatory targets, whether directly or indirectly.

But the government did not act-and is not acting-alone. The government requires the collaboration of major telecommunications companies to implement its unprecedented and illegal domestic spying program.

AT&T Corp. (which was recently acquired by the new AT&T, Inc,. formerly known as SBC Communications) maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans' telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.

The lawsuits alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers' communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit's class members.
Next question - Does Christiane Amanpour use AT&T or Sprint?

Hot Tip

DoG has it on anonymous (real) sources (seriously) that telecommunications giant AT&T is about to get hit with a lawsuit concerning their collaboration with the NSA in the wiretapping scandal. I don't know what that means. I don't know how far it'll go.

When I have more, I'll let you know.

Cold Hard Perjury

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied under oath.

(Thanks to Americablog for the pic.)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Another Record

Exxon Mobil had another record breaking quarter, or $10.71 billion in profit - in three months, mind you. It reminds me of how steroids got into baseball and all of a sudden, unbreakable home run records were being broken every year. People, when are we going to wake up and force the government to take the needle out of these corporations' butts?

(Full disclosure: I watched the movie, The Corporation last night. You should watch it too. I know, I know, you already know that corporations are evil. You just don't know how evil they really are...)

UPDATE: The highest profits in the history of the world aren't enough for them. They want the $5 billion back that they paid after the Exxon Valdez ran aground. Fuck the fishes, I'm rich, beeotch!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Democracy Run Amok

Bill Frist - aka Dr. Kitten Killer - on Meet the Press this morning about the Palestinian election:

Now the Hamas election, was it more about for or against cronyism and corruption in the existing government in the Palestinian authority or was it to promote terrorism?
Hmmn... So you're either for corruption and cronyism or you're for the terrorists. Sounds a little like the way the Republicans will be framing the upcoming midterm elections, doesn't it? Creepy...

Friday, January 27, 2006

See You Next Tuesday!

Ann Coulter on murdering Supreme Court justices. She's a peach.

She's also a lawyer (who unfortunately attended the law school of my alma mater - THE SHIVERS), so perhaps she knows if that sort of thing is legal.

Jack Who?

Bush is going out of his way lately to pretend like he never heard of this guy Abramoff. That smells a little odd to me, as you will see if you read Joe Conason's piece today. Take special note:

Abramoff served on the Interior Department's transition team -- where he was exquisitely positioned to advance the interests of his clients in the Mariana Islands and on Indian reservations -- and subsequently raised more than $100,000 for Bush's campaign. The lobbyist and his aides met with or contacted administration officials on at least 195 occasions to promote client interests during the first several months of Bush's first term, according to Abramoff's billing records.

And then there is the most intriguing instance of a presidential action that, wittingly or not, served Abramoff's interests. On Nov. 18, 2002, the federal prosecutor in Guam issued a subpoena to court officials on the Pacific island, who had secretly retained the lobbyist to stop legislation in Congress that would have curtailed their authority. The subpoena demanded all the records concerning the strange Abramoff contract from the administrative director of the Guam Superior Court.

On the day after U.S. attorney Frederick Black issued the subpoena to Abramoff's covert clients in Guam, the White House announced the president's decision to replace him. A career federal prosecutor who had held the Pacific island post for a decade, Black was demoted to a staff position. His replacement was a lawyer recommended by the Republican Party on Guam. Rove received the recommendation from another lobbyist for government officials Black had been investigating.
But that column was written today, after all the indictments and so forth. How about this report from USA Today from May, 2005 that I found with a simple Google search.
In President Bush's first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws, records show.

In addition, two of Abramoff's lobbying colleagues on the Marianas won political appointments inside federal agencies.

"Our standing with the new administration promises to be solid as several friends of the CNMI (islands) will soon be taking high-ranking positions in the Administration, including within the Interior Department," Abramoff wrote in a January 2001 letter in which he persuaded the island government to follow him as a client to his new lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig.

The reception Abramoff's team received from the Bush administration was in stark contrast to the chilly relations of the Clinton years. Abramoff, then at the Preston Gates firm, scored few meetings with Clinton aides and the lobbyist and the islands vehemently opposed White House attempts to extend U.S. labor laws to the territory's clothing factories.
And do you hear all this stuff about the Marianas Islands? It is downright criminal how underreported this story is. I bet you don't know about it, and you will be aghast when you hear what is happening there under our flag.

The Marianas Islands are an American territory in the Pacific. Clothing manufacturers love it there because the islands are not covered by United States labor laws, but the manufacturer can put "Made in the USA" on the label. What happens there? Poor immigrants save up their entire lives to pay a black market guy to smuggle them to the United States. He takes their money, puts them on a boat and dumps them in the Marianas Islands where they are forced to work in sweatshops for $3/hour if they're lucky. The unlucky ones become sex slaves and have forced abortions.

Made in the USA

People with a conscience who like to sleep at night have been fighting to get this barbaric practice shut down, and that's where Abramoff comes in. Singlehandedly, this man has kept it alive. Well not singlehandedly, I suppose. Care to guess what Tom DeLay thinks about forced abortions and sex slavery in a United States territory?
"You are a shining light for what is happening to the Republican Party, and you represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America and leading the world in the free-market system."
"...a perfect petri dish of capitalism. It's like my Galapagos Island."
Yeah. He said that. He's a fucking asshole. The thing is, Bush helped with this too. And Abramoff? Well, he wouldn't have a career without the Marianas.

So when Bush gets all cute, scratches his head and goes off on a tangent about not having heard Abramoff's name until he was indicted, call bullshit. Big fucking assload of bullshit.

UPDATE: By the way, Bush doesn't actually have to meet with a guy personally to enact that man's preferred legislation. In fact, I would suggest that policy decisions are made at the so-called staff-level meetings, only to be brought to the president's desk afterwards. The point? When McClellan says that he won't discuss staff-level meetings because it's not germane, that is just another gigantic pile of bullshit.

Well We're Movin' On Up...

What do you do if you're a president whose party is mired in a corruption scandal? Find the lead prosecutor a cushy new job!

President Bush didn't like where the Abramoff investigation was headed, so he gave the chief prosecutor (who is leaving the public integrity division – not a moment too soon), a job on the federal bench, thereby leaving all this nasty prosecuting behind.

Bush is The Wolf. He can fix anything! So who will take his place? Let's see... Karl Rove doesn't have a law degree, I don't think. How about Karen Hughes? I hear she's not doing so well in her gig.

Where's Your Democracy Now, See?

Juan Cole exposes the hypocrisy and doublespeak in Bush's plan to democratize the Middle East and then get all pouty when people he doesn't like get elected.

In a mystifying self-contradiction, Bush trumpeted that "the Palestinians had an election yesterday, the results of which remind me about the power of democracy." If elections were really the same as democracy, and if Bush was so happy about the process, then we might expect him to pledge to work with the results, which by his lights would be intrinsically good. But then he suddenly swerved away from this line of thought, reverting to boilerplate and saying, "On the other hand, I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know you can't be a partner in peace if you have a -- if your party has got an armed wing."

So Bush is saying that even though elections are democracy and democracy is good and powerful, it has produced unacceptable results in this case, and so the resulting Hamas government will lack the legitimacy necessary to allow the United States to deal with it or go forward in any peace process. Bush's double standard is clear in his diction, since he was perfectly happy to deal with Israel's Likud Party, which is dedicated to the destruction of the budding Palestinian state, and which used the Israeli military and security services for its party platform in destroying the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority throughout the early years of this century. As Orwell reminded us in "Animal Farm," some are more equal than others.
Four legs good. Two legs better! Damn, I love a good Orwell reference.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I Did All the Good Things

Everyone else did the bad things. Like Ronald Reagan taking credit for ending the Cold War (it takes logic and reason to differentiate between cause-and-effect and coincidence, therefore Republicans are unable to do so – like when a comet came followed by a plague back in the good-ol-days), President Bush loves to take credit for the "good" things that happened under his watch. Libya gave up its weapons program, Syria pulled out of Lebanon, there haven't been any attacks since 9/11, etc.

I'll be waiting for Bush to apologize for this whole Hamas landslide in Palestine. "Oops! My bad. Israel and Palestine peace is over, folks. I guess I shoulda played it different-like. Heh-heh-heh..."

I'll also be waiting for similar apologies for 9/11 itself, North Korea getting the bomb, Iran about to get the bomb, the recent coal mine deaths, and the massive devastation in New Orleans. Oh yeah, and I seem to recall invading someone on completely bullshit evidence. That one might not be a coincidence though.

Come to think of it... Ah, never mind.

UPDATE: Oh well... Bush insists that we won't deal with Hamas because they're committed to the destruction of Israel and therefore, they are not a partner in peace. Then, without irony, he says, "And we're interested in peace."

The Memory Hole

It would appear that President Bush and his evil minions (The Plumbers) are wiping the slate clean, which is to say - hunting down and destroying any pictures of our elected king posing with Jack Abramoff.

Talking Points Memo is tracking this Orwellian mystery.

Remember Karl Rove's first rule of governance: It's not corruption if you don't have a front page picture of it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why Is President Bush So Awesome?

Find out for yourself.

My favorite - "Because he blows up anybody who talks trash."

(with thanks to DoG's newest contributor, Thomas Pain)

The End of the Empire

Gore Vidal has some insight into where we're headed. And it ain't pretty.

Slutty Chicks = Bigger Balls

Who says science is boring?

It turns out that if the women are loose, the men grow huge nads and their brains shrink. Sounds 'bout right, don't it?

For some male bats, sexual prowess comes with a price - smaller brains. A research team led by Syracuse University biologist Scott Pitnick found that in bat species where the females are promiscuous, the males boasting the largest testicles also had the smallest brains. Conversely, where the females were faithful, the males had smaller testes and larger brains.

"If female bats mate with more than one male, a sperm competition begins," Pitnick said. "The male who ejaculates the greatest number of sperm wins the game, and hence many bats have evolved outrageously big testes."
What kind of job is that? You've seen those freaks judging the dog shows, yeah, but these are bats. Anyway – "outrageously big"? Jealous much?
Promiscuity is known to make a difference in testicle size in some other mammals. For example, chimpanzees are promiscuous and have testicles that are many times larger than those of gorillas, in which a single dominant male has exclusive access to a harem of females.
Interesting... I wonder where that puts Shaquille O'Neal? Osama bin Laden?

But then consider the case of President Bush – he's got one faithful, schoolmarm of a wife and gigantic fucking balls.

Ice – It's Not Just For Daiquiris Any More

Japanese researchers have discovered an ice cube that's possibly a million years old.

When reached for comment, Bush administration officials expressed their pleasure in the discovery of the 5,000 year old ice.

This momentous discovery will provide us with a fantastic opportunity to better understand God's thinking during Creation Week. Was Antarctica created on day 2 or day 3? How about penguins? These are the sorts of questions that have plagued scientists for centuries. We will finally have more insight into the facts of God's creation of the universe.

Meanwhile, the ice's existence will also give us the chance to once and for all put the nonsense of the global warming myth well behind us. If the Earth is so hot, how could there still be ice down there?
Hey, I'm just glad that Bush administration officials were willing to comment at all...

Nerd Test

I don't care what you think, I'm excited about the new mission to Pluto. Pluto is, of course, that oversized comet on the edge of the Solar System that ignorant people refer to as a planet. But the fact that it is not a planet is no reason to ignore it. In fact, that's what makes it even more interesting. Ooh! Saturn has rings! Aah! Jupiter is like so huge! YAWN. What the fuck is Pluto? What's going on out there in the Kuiper Belt? Is Charon a moon? Is Pluto/Charon a double asteroid system? Or is my telescope lens smudgy? Those are some interesting questions. And we'll have all those answers and thousands more in 10 years or so. Can you even contain your excitement?

And that's what I want to write about this morning. This spaceship gets to Pluto in 2015. You know how on the Discovery Channel, they always show mission control all clappy when something ends up working properly? You figure that they must have a team of experts for every mission. An expert on asteroids, an expert on driving the ship, about a million computer programmers. So, they launched this Pluto ship, and like the next interesting thing to happen is when it passes Jupiter in 2007. What do those scientists do during that time? I mean, they can't just sit in mission control and get paid to play chess, can they? Do they go off, start other research projects, and have a family reunion every few years or so, waiting for the big day in 2015? Are those experts in this particular spacecraft forbidden from getting another job for 10 years? That doesn't seem fair. What if the Bush administration calls? Er... Wait a minute... The Bush administration only hires cronies, not experts. But still... You get the point.

Any NASA engineers out there? Can you help me out?

Hurricane What Now? Pass the Gravy.

The power of the ever shifting news cycle has wiped President Bush's memory clean. He is no longer interested in pretending to care about saving New Orleans.

Nope. Instead he's flat out refusing to cooperate with the Katrina investigation.

The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.

The White House this week also formally notified Representative Richard H. Baker, Republican of Louisiana, that it would not support his legislation creating a federally financed reconstruction program for the state that would bail out homeowners and mortgage lenders. Many Louisiana officials consider the bill crucial to recovery, but administration officials said the state would have to use community development money appropriated by Congress.

The White House's stance on storm-related documents, along with slow or incomplete responses by other agencies, threatens to undermine efforts to identify what went wrong, Democrats on the committees said Tuesday.
Even White House spokesman Bush BFF Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman has some nasty words.
"There has been a near total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation that we have a responsibility to do,"
Hmmn... I just don't get it. I mean, Bush really cares about figuring out what went wrong to make sure it never happens again, right? He got 100,000 more votes in Ohio, definitively proving that he is the man best suited to protect us. Ah... There's nothing to worry about. After all that "heckuva job" stuff, he wouldn't hire any more incompetent boobs like Michael Brown. He's like totally way smarter than that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Corrupt and Incompetent

Hold your horses there, champ. This one's not about Bush. It's about Bush's favorite no-bid-contract-getting' company, Halliburton.

We already know that Halliburton is pilfering our treasury for billions of dollars, but are they at least doing the job that they are being grossly overpaid to do? 'Fraid not...

You see, one of the things they are supposed to be doing is taking our soldiers' shit and dumping it in the Euphrates river. (Has there ever been, in the history of the planet, a more apt metaphor?) What are they doing instead? Putting it back into the soldiers' own water supply.

This means that thanks to Halliburton/KBR thousands of troops and contract employees stationed at the Ar Ramadi base in Iraq have been using a contaminated bilge for bathing, showering, shaving, laundry and cleaning.

According to one of the whistleblowers who first told this amazing story to Halliburton Watch, the troops have also ignored advisories and used this septic sluice to brush their teeth and make coffee.
Now, that's what I call respecting the troops. My only hope is that when Bush administration officials visit Iraq, they brush their teeth with the same shitwater that the soldiers use.

Depends on the Definition of Constitution

We all know about BushCo's penchant for telling lies that no one will bother to look up and his Orwellian habit of rewriting history to better suit his evil agenda. The only question is, can he rewrite the Constitution to better serve his spyaholic ways?

The answer is yes!

General Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of National Intelligence with the Office of National Intelligence, talked with reporters about the current controversy surrounding the National Security Agency's warrantless monitoring of communications of suspected al Qaeda terrorists. Hayden has been in this position since last April, but was NSA director when the NSA monitoring program began in 2001.

QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use --

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But the --

GEN. HAYDEN: That's what it says.

QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But does it not say probable --

GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says --

QUESTION: The court standard, the legal standard --

GEN. HAYDEN: -- unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "We reasonably believe." And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say "we reasonably believe"; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, "we have probable cause."

And so what many people believe -- and I'd like you to respond to this -- is that what you've actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place of probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?

GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.

Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.


Here's the Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
But don't worry folks, the Generalissimo isn't doing anything illegal. We know because he says so.

You know what else Generalissimo says? That he had no way of knowing that Hurricane Katrina would breach the levees. Oops! How did that memo not get put in the memory hole? Someone's gonna lose their job today...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Are You Calling Me Fat?

Look at the size of that whale in the Thames.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bush Needs a New 12-Step Program

This guy is addicted to appointing cronies. Seriously, I'm worried about him. Our president is about to name a new CFO for the Department of Homeland Security. He's chosen David Norquist, brother of conservative nutjob extraordinaire Grover Norquist.

Grover gets a chubby for cutting taxes. His big thing is making politicians sign pledges never to raise taxes, come war, hell, or high water. He's infamously known for his quote: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Grover is such an extremist that conservative pundit Tucker Carlson once referred to Grover as a "mean-spirited, humorless, dishonest little creep ... the leering, drunken uncle everyone else wishes would stay home." Oh yeah, and he's intimately involved in the whole K Street Project that we're reading so much about these days.

So, hey, I have an idea! Let's put his baby brother in charge of the finances of one of the hugest sprawling behemoths of the federal government... And drown it in a bathtub! What do we need security for anyway? We're not using it.

The more I think about it, this crony addiction Bush is struggling with isn't really that far off the Bush narrative, is it? Show me a king, emperor, monarch, czar, shah, pharaoh, führer, what-have-you, and I'll show you a guy who installs his friends and relatives into important government positions and claims to talk to god. It all makes sense. How long until Bush starts commissioning giant statues of himself in squares named after himself? How long until he names his successor?

Congressional Committee for Stating the Obvious

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service has declared that the president broke the law when he decided to start spying on American citizens.

This is still in question? Shall we start a congressional committee to investigate whether we still have a constitution or not? Actually... That's not a bad idea. I'd like to know.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Thank Arnold He's Off the Street!

What is the purpose of capital punishment? Is it about justice or is it about revenge?

If it is about justice, how is it just to execute a blind and deaf 76-year-old man in a wheelchair? I'm just asking.

Oh, and I know the conservatives bristle at the idea that the United States should be a part of the world community, but I thought you'd like to see the list of the twelve countries who executed (state sponsored murder depending on your point of view) the most people in 2004:

  1. China 3,400+
  2. Iran 159+
  3. Vietnam 64+
  4. United States 59
  5. Saudi Arabia 33+
  6. Pakistan 15+
  7. Kuwait 9+
  8. Bangladesh 7+
  9. Singapore 6+
  10. Yemen 6+
  11. Egypt 6+
  12. Belarus 5+
You read that right. We executed more people than Saudi Arabia last year, and one can be executed there for being pregnant. Look at that list. Should we be proud to be surrounded by that group of countries? Aren't they supposed to be the uncivilized ones (except for our BFF, of course), while we're the bastion of freedom and enlightenment?

Doesn't look like it to me. Maybe this year, we'll be able to top Vietnam. Keep your eye on the prize.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Thanks a Lot, Nixon

We didn't realize it at the time, but the Cold War is pretty quaint when looking back on it, isn't it? We were all worried about the U.S.S.R., the big evil Communist empire, raining a cluster of nuclear warheads down on our major cities and military installations. But they didn't. Since it ended, we've actually been attacked and started two wars of our own.

And all that time, it was the Soviet Union's quiet, (some said retarded), little brother China who was planning the end of American hegemony. And it was never a full frontal assault. They made us think they were our friends, pretending not to notice that we thought we were picking their pocket while they were raping and pillaging under our radar.

China's trade surplus - $101.9 billion.
United States' trade deficit - $718 billion.

It's too late to even do anything about it too. At this point, China owns so much of our land and our treasury bills that if we did or said anything they didn't like, they would ask for their money back. Goodbye Segway scooters and plasma screens. Hello bread lines and mortgage foreclosures.

I suggest we start learning Chinese.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Boo Hoo!

Alito's wife left the hearing room today in tears.

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah suggested that she was upset with the questioning from Democrats. "She's sick and tired of the mistreatment of her husband," Hatch said.
God forbid the man should have to endure a job interview before a lifetime appointment.

By the way, have you heard about the sexist/racist alumni group he used to belong to but can't quite remember anymore?

Compassionate Conservatism

Do you pay taxes? Sure you do! Because you're not rich.

Tax refunds sought by 1.6 million poor Americans over the last five years were frozen and their returns labeled fraudulent, although the vast majority appear to have done nothing wrong, the Internal Revenue Service's taxpayer advocate told Congress yesterday.

A computer program identified the refund requests as suspect and automatically flagged the taxpayers for extra scrutiny for years to come, the advocate said in her annual report to Congress. These taxpayers were not told that the I.R.S. criminal investigation division suspected fraud.

The advocate, Nina Olson, said the I.R.S. devoted vastly more resources to pursuing questionable refunds sought by the poor - which under the highest estimate is $9 billion - than to the $100 billion in taxes not paid each year by people who work for cash and either fail to file tax returns or understate their income.

As for the suspected fraud in refund requests, Ms. Olson said her staff sampled the suspect returns and found that 66 percent were entitled to the amount sought or more. Another 14 percent were due a partial refund. She expressed doubt that many among the remaining 20 percent had committed fraud.

Unless taxpayers press for their refunds, Ms. Olson said, they "are not given an opportunity to substantiate their claims or to show that any overclaims identified were due to honest error rather than fraud."

Her staff's sample of frozen returns found that the average reported income was about $13,000 and the refund due was about $3,500.
And just imagine the savings if you can list your official residence as the Cayman Islands.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Give Tenet Another Medal

Salon has a profile of James Risen's new book. He's the guy who broke the whole Big Brother NSA spying story. It's got good and bad and all the rest, but the part that freaks me out:

It turns out, Risen says, that the U.S. has pretty good reason to be worried about Iran's nuclear goals, as we may have been a key source for the development of its weapons program. In an operation code-named Merlin that was launched under the Clinton administration and continued by Bush, the CIA cooked up a high-risk plan "to stunt the development of Tehran's nuclear program by sending Iran's weapons experts down the wrong technical path." To do this, the CIA obtained extremely sensitive Russian blueprints for a component known as a TBA-480 high-voltage block, which Risen writes is needed in a nuclear bomb to "create a perfect implosion that could trigger a nuclear chain reaction inside a small spherical core." The design, Risen adds, "was one of the greatest engineering secrets in the world, providing the solution to one of a handful of problems that separated nuclear powers ... from the rogue countries like Iran that were desperate to join the nuclear club but had so far fallen short."

The CIA's plan was to slightly tweak the blueprints in order to introduce a technical flaw that would be imperceptible to Iranian scientists, and then to have a Russian scientist drop off the documents at an Iranian diplomatic office in Vienna, Austria. Even in theory, the plan sounds pie in the sky; in reality, the whole thing fell apart. The Russian scientist whom the CIA chose, a defector who lived in the United States, immediately spotted the engineering flaw that the Americans had introduced into the designs, and before he dropped off the plans in Vienna, he added a little note that tipped off the Iranians to the problem.
And is there any evidence to suggest that the CIA isn't precisely that incompetent?

Comedy Tonight

Look what can happen if you publicly criticize a professional writer who believes in magic. Will she lose her job? Is professionalism overrated? Does God have final editorial approval?

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Yeah, Right

Fresh from the "It's Never Gonna Happen Files", Senator Russ Feingold (one of the good guys) says:

...he would not rule out calling for impeachment of President Bush over secret wiretaps and spying on U.S. citizens.
I'm totally with you, brother, but have you considered the ramifications? Is it better to remove the stooge who is quickly losing all credibility and replace him with the utterly invincible Cyborg of Evil instead? Is that better?

Back to School

The Republicans have quite the stench to them lately. Having been under the spell of that bad bad man Jack Abramoff for the last, oh, twelve to twenty years, the GOP has been thinking that maybe it's time to retool the show. Ethics is the new Franz Ferdinand in DC (i.e. – pretending to like them makes you look cool). And as Denny was on about last week, there's gonna be some good old fashioned book-lernin' to drill sumadem newfangled ethics into the corruptest of the corrupt bodies, the House of Representatives.

Guess who's been tapped to teach?

Presiding over their instruction is the chairman of the House Administration Committee, who since 2001 has been Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

Ney has been named as Representative #1 in the plea agreements of both Abramoff and his partner, Michael Scanlon, detailing lavish gifts, travel, and contributions from the lobbyists in return for Ney’s cooperation in Congress.
Oh, so I guess they're taking this ethics thing like totally seriously.

Fair Process

As we delve into the circus that (hopefully) will be the Alito hearings this week, Senator John Cornyn has some words of wisdom to impart to us all courtesy of the Washington Times:

Let us commit ourselves to a fair process -- with full investigation, full questioning, full debate and an up-or-down vote.
I suppose exactly like the full questioning and up-or-down vote the conservatives permitted us to have with Harriet Miers, right?


Just Die Already

Dr. Evil needed some medical attention this morning. Shortness of breath or whatever. But look at this quote from the AP story. Does this sound like a man who should be in a high stress field like trying to take over the world?

Doctors found his EKG, or electrocardiogram, unchanged and determined he was retaining fluid because of medication he was taking for a foot problem.

Cheney, who has a long history of heart problems and has a pacemaker, was placed on a diuretic at the hospital.

The foot ailment forced Cheney to use a cane on Friday.

McBride said the foot condition was not related to surgery last September to repair aneurysms behind both knees or the 64-year-old vice president's lengthy history of heart problems. He has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant a special pacemaker in his chest.
If that were you, wouldn't you want to go back to Wyoming, open up a general store and whittle for 90% of your 6 hour day?

God took out Sharon over a bum land deal, but He just can't seem to seal the deal with Cheney. It's begs the age-old philosophical question - can God create a person so evil that even He can't destroy him? I wonder if Cheney has become so powerful in the dark arts that even Satan couldn't take him down. We like to joke about it, but what if he literally IS Satan?

Stay tuned. I'll try to poke out a final post with my tongue if I'm transformed into a serpent over the next few days.

Friday, January 06, 2006

If It Looks Like a Brownie and Smells Like a Brownie...

You know how we have this president who seems to think that congressional oversight, judicial constraints, the Constitution, and other people's opinions (unless you can keep them under 10 minutes and accompanied by a camera crew) are merely obstacles to overcome on the path to supreme and ultimate power?

Yeah, well, King George is at it again. The other day, he made seventeen recess appointments. That's seventeen of the best and brightest Bush cronies with little or no experience installed at the highest levels of government. A recess appointment is supposed to be used in emergencies. For example, say the secretary of state dies while congress is on vacation. The president can install a new secretary of state and they have something like a year term, during which he can nominate him to the Senate for regular approval. Bush's own party controls the Senate as you may recall, but these seventeen Bush BFFs are so grossly unqualified that he was worried they wouldn't get approved, even by that pack of obsequious ass-kissers. So he shoved them into office, like the good little dictator he is, while everyone was out of town, or more accurately just before everyone got back. Some highlights:

  • Julie Myers (Head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau at the Department of Homeland Security): Myers, a niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard B. Myers and the wife of the chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, had been criticized by Republicans and Democrats who charged that she lacked experience in immigration matters.

    Myers's nomination faced a bruising and potentially embarrassing fight on the Senate floor, where Democrats were prepared to argue that politics, not merit, drove her selection for an important job preventing terrorists and weapons from entering the country.

  • Hans von Spakovsky (Federal Election Commission – you know, the agency that makes sure the voting is fair and accurate): played a key role in the Texas redistricting case. Minority rights groups have questioned his role in overruling career Justice lawyers who recommended rejection of the Texas redistricting map on grounds that minority voters would be harmed. [Ed. – that quote is being too kind. He overruled over a dozen career Justice lawyers who unanimously declared that redrawing the Texas voting map was unconstitutional.]
But the winner of this year's most grossly unqualified for the job, most blatantly politically motivated crony appointment is...
  • Ellen Sauerbrey (Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration): With a $700 million annual budget, the department formulates America's response to refugee crises all over the world. So in October 2005, when Bush picked Ellen Sauerbrey, right-wing social conservative with little background in international affairs, to replace Arthur ("Gene") Dewey, a career foreign policy official, newspapers all over the country -- including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Antonio Express-News, the Miami Herald and the Charlton Gazette -- came out against her. During her October Senate hearings, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said, "It doesn't appear that you have very specific experience." Given Sauerbrey's weak résumé for the position, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., convinced the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to put off a vote on her nomination until after the winter break. At the time, there seemed a slim possibility that the appointment would be defeated.

    Her lack of qualifications are so glaring that two of the last three people to hold the position -- Democrat Phyllis E. Oakley and Republican Julia Taft, both of whom served under Clinton -- signed a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opposing her confirmation.

    "Her job description is to help coordinate humanitarian assistance across the globe, but it's clear that her first concern will always be to appease America's extreme right," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., tells Salon in an e-mail. "There's a reason the president had to sneak this appointment past the Senate. I am sure when her appointment ends in a year, the president will proclaim that she did a 'heckuva job,' just like he told Michael Brown, but I fear that the world community will be telling a different story."

    The comparison to Brown may be misleading, though, as Sauerbrey will have to deal with significantly more complex crises involving wars and disasters all over the world.

    A darling of the religious right, Sauerbrey lost two races for the Maryland governorship and went on to become a TV talk show host and Maryland chairman of Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. She had no international experience until Bush appointed her U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. There, she was notorious for her active opposition to programs that expand women's access to contraception. She infuriated representatives of other countries by working to scuttle international agreements that codify women's right to reproductive healthcare. In March, she was loudly booed by delegates at a U.N. women's conference in New York -- a rare occurrence -- for her comments endorsing abstinence education as the best way to fight HIV.
There you have it folks, Michael Brown on an international scale. A woman in charge of refugee crises who thinks the best way to solve the world's problems is to stop sinning. God fucking help us.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut...

Pat Robertson, our favorite wacky attention-whore of an evangelist, has once again gotten the Word of God:

The Rev. Pat Robertson said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is being punished by God for dividing the Land of Israel. Robertson, speaking on the “700 Club” on Thursday, suggested Sharon, who is currently in an induced coma, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli extremist in 1995, were being treated with enmity by God for dividing Israel. “He was dividing God’s land,” Robertson said. “And I would say, Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.”
What, so now God is obsessed with His real estate holdings? Why do you suppose God waited until now to go after the man in charge of Israel instead of, say every single person who has lived there between the years 1 and 1948 A.D.?

Ah, but it's not our place to question God's will. He puts massively fat Middle Eastern leaders in the hospital; He looks the other way while a dozen miners suffocate two miles below ground; He wipes entire cities off the map just for snorin'.

Why do y'all worship this Dude again? I wouldn't be friends with a guy if he spilled my beer on purpose, let alone, you know... all the murdering and the smiting.

Hey Rummy, Can You Pass Me That Scrotum Clamp?

Remember how we lauded Bush last week (in that snarky DoG manner) for flip-flopping on torture?

Turns out he didn't flip-flop at all! Oh no, he's still the king of torture. And it's good to be the king:

In a statement attached to Mr Bush’s signing of a defence spending bill last week, the White House said it would construe the bill’s ban on “cruel, inhumane and degrading” treatment of detainees “in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the president” and his powers as commander-in-chief.

A senior administration official told the Boston Globe this week that while the administration intended to abide by the law, there might be extreme circumstances under which the president would have to waive the law to protect national security.

The language attached to the bill marks the latest attempt by the White House to assert that under the US constitution, Congress has no authority to tie the president’s hands in the “war on terror”. The administration is defending on the same grounds Mr Bush’s secret decision to authorise the National Security Agency to monitor communications inside the US, ignoring the legal requirements set by Congress nearly 30 years ago.
In other words –

I, George W. Bush, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Except when I don't feel like it.

Hail Caesar!

Where's a Heart Attack When You Need One?

Lord Vader left his underground bunker/hyperbaric meditation chamber to give a cheery little speech yesterday. I didn't know this, but if we hadn't been so stubbornly clinging to that outdated bill of rights, 9/11 could have been prevented. It makes you wonder which side the Founding Fathers are on...

Be that as it may, he knew how shamefully beholden we were to our civil rights back then. So is there anything at all the administration could have done within the bounds of the law to prevent 9/11 despite our quaint naiveté?

Let's see, there was that counterterrorism task force you were put in charge of Mr. Vice-President. How many times did that meet again? Oh, that's right. Hmmn...

I seem to recall a memo of some sort warning us of bin Laden's intention to strike inside the United States. What did you do after you read that, Dick? I see.

Were there any programs in place before 9/11 that you decided to cut and/or ignore, Darth? A whole bunch of counterterrorism strategies and you just disregarded them all? Seems to me that the biggest problem wasn't the lack of illegal wiretaps. Seems to me that there were plenty of legal methods of protecting us available to you, but you were too lazy or too stupid to bother doing them.

Or maybe, just maybe, the wiretaps aren't about 9/11 at all. Maybe it's about your vision of a modern monarchy in the United States. Maybe the power you've stolen from Congress and the American people gives you a throbbing erection so large, you never want to give it all up.


Born to Cheat

There was a funny bit in the LA Times yesterday. In a piece doing a general profile of Jack Abramoff, they uncover this nugget:

Steven Herbert, a freelance journalist who writes for The Times' sports section and attended the same schools a year behind Abramoff, recalled an early setback for Abramoff. He ran for student council president at the Hawthorne School, a Beverly Hills elementary and middle school, in 1972. Heading into a runoff election, Abramoff was disqualified for exceeding the spending limit. The principal, Herbert recalled, penalized Abramoff for holding a party, stating it amounted to a campaign expenditure that pushed him over the limit.
From pizza parties to Super Bowl parties, he just can't resist sweetening the deal, can he? That principal was so ahead of his time.

It's Called Freedom Listening

Read this and start checking your house for bugs. It's about how maybe a reporter is being bugged, a reporter who happens to be married to a prominent Democratic operative, but the interview transcript is put down the memory hole, and denials all around, and we're all being watched, and it's not cool, and wait a minute... Who are you?! Get out of... Let go of me! What are...


Hi! I'm fine. Go back to work. I love America. God bless George W. Bush.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What Stinks in Here?

The New York Times does one of its News Analysis pieces on superlobbyist/King of Corruption Jack Abramoff this morning. Mostly, it sums up why the Republicans in Congress are returning “campaign contributions” and drinking Maalox by the gallon. Here are my favorite parts:

"There's a lot of talk coming out of various quarters that the Justice Department is going to pursue a different definition of bribery, meaning that if somebody were to give a gift or a campaign contribution in the same time period as a member took an official action, that in and of itself would constitute bribery," said a former Republican leadership aide who insisted on anonymity. "That scares the bejesus out of people."
Allow me to translate that: The Justice Department is going to pursue a different definition of bribery - the actual definition of bribery. That scares the bejesus out of people.
Mr. Hastert has raised the possibility of new ethics training for lawmakers.
Translation: Mr. Hastert has raised the possibility of some ethics training for lawmakers.

Education begins at home, Mr. Speaker. He recently donated his own bribes campaign contributions to charity.

Will Those Assholes Ever Learn?

First of all, miners trapped in a mine, while engaging for the morons, is not news except to the families of the miners. No more is it news than is Natalie Arubachick or Michael Jackson diddling some kids.

That said, like calling Florida for Bush or calling WMD for Iraq, without sourcing or even the whiff of truth to back it up, all the news agencies ran with "The Miners are Alive! Hallelujah!!" last night. Then, after deciding to actually look for a fact or two they found out, "Oops! They're All Dead." Sorry families. Our bad. Here's an Anderson Cooper 360 t-shirt to ease the pain.


And to think, when I went to bed last night, I had planning on writing this morning about how lucky we were that Bush had us all praying for the miners safe recovery, and that it worked so well. I just don't get it! How could an entire nation's prayers go completely unanswered?! That God fella can sure be a spiteful prick, huh? Oh wait... You don't suppose that the miners believed in evolution, do you? That might just explain it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

You’d Better Watch Out, You’d Better Not Cry

Jack Abramoff pleads guilty, presumably taking a lighter sentence in exchange for fingering his associates.

In a related story, a dozen or so Republicans in Washington shat their pants simultaneously.

In a non-related story - Happy 2006, DoG fans. We are back in business. Thanks for staying tuned!