Friday, February 17, 2006

Has anything good ever come out of Kansas? 

Must read: Jeff Sharlet's latest article in Rolling Stone, on Sam Brownback. A teaser:

After the service, Brownback introduces me to a white-haired man with a yellow Viking mustache. "This is the man who wrote 'Dust in the Wind,'" the senator announces proudly. It's Kerry Livgren of the band Kansas. Livgren has found Jesus and now worships with the senator at Topeka Bible. Brownback, one of the Senate's fiercest hawks on Israel, tells Livgren he wants to take him to the Holy Land. Whenever the senator met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to talk policy, he insisted that they first study Scripture together. The two men would study their Bibles, music playing softly in the background. Maybe, if Livgren goes to Israel with Brownback, he could strum "Dust in the Wind." "Carry on my . . ." the senator warbles, trying to remember another song by his friend.

There's some amazing stuff about Brownback's role in the inner circle of the Family, the northern Virginia command center of the American imperialist Christofascist death machine, which was the subject of Sharlet's seminal 2003 expose "Jesus Plus Nothing."

Thursday, February 16, 2006


At least in Haiti, after a fraudulent election, there's a chance you might stumble across tens of thousands of ballots sitting in a dump. In America, the fraudulent "ballots" become part of the aether, or the general entropy of the universe.

Dick unloads in friend's face 

"...something I will never forget."

John G. West shot in face by pellet 

Giuseppe Abote writes, regarding the NYT article "Ohio Board Undoes Stand on Evolution":

Hey, check out the Christian PR man's response to this setback: "It's an outrageous slap in the face to the citizens of Ohio," said John G. West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the institute, referring to several polls that show public support for criticism of evolution in science classes. "The effort to try to suppress ideas that you dislike, to use the government to suppress ideas you dislike, has a failed history," Mr. West said. "Do they really want to be on the side of the people who didn't want to let John Scopes talk or who tried to censor Galileo?" Who better to carry the mantle of Scopes than an anti-Darwinist wingnut. This man proves his own case. He has not evolved. The joy he takes in his own self-contradiction is not the product of a human brain evolved to solve problems of survival. Someone had to have designed this brain. Maybe not God, but perhaps God's paint-huffing mulleted brother-in-law.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Democrat strategists propose that Hillary Clinton shoot an elderly person in the face in order to prove that she, too, is strong on national security 

Just in case anyone forgot that the Democrat party is run by a bunch of blithering idiots, read this post by Digby.

What kind of mindless dementia results in the kind of "strategizing" referred to in this Salon article, quoted by Digby?

Typical was my lunch discussion earlier this week with a ranking Democratic Party official. Midway through the meal, I innocently asked how the "Big Brother is listening" issue would play in November. Judging from his pained reaction, I might as well have announced that Barack Obama was resigning from the Senate to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door. With exasperation dripping from his voice, my companion said, "The whole thing plays to the Republican caricature of Democrats -- that we're weak on defense and weak on security." To underscore his concerns about shrill attacks on Bush, the Democratic operative forwarded to me later that afternoon an e-mail petition from MoveOn.org, which had been inspired by Al Gore's fire-breathing Martin Luther King Day speech excoriating the president's contempt for legal procedures.

A series of conversations with Democratic pollsters and image makers found them obsessed with similar fears that left-wing overreaction to the wiretapping issue would allow George W. Bush and the congressional Republicans to wiggle off the hook on other vulnerabilities. The collective refrain from these party insiders sounded something like this: Why are we so obsessed with the privacy of people who are phoning al-Qaida when Democrats should be screaming about corruption, Iraq, gas prices and the prescription-drug mess?

I know that there are are lots of good people in the party. But those good people aren't going to be able to do anything as long as the party is run by terminally stupid strategists who are probably also suicidal to boot.

surprising or not surprising? 

from Para Publishing:

58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.

42% of college graduates never read another book.

80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

57% of new books are not read to completion.

Depraved Heart 

If Whittington dies, involuntary manslaughter seems like a slam dunk. At common law, involuntary manslaughter is a criminally negligent killing or a killing by an unlawful act. Negligence is basically a “should have known” standard. And the relevant category of unlawful act manslaughter would invoke the misdemeanor manslaughter rule, which prohibits killings while the defendant is committing a misdemeanor (such as not having the proper hunting permit). These would be easy cases.

But could it be murder? Maybe.

At common law, murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with the mental state of “malice aforethought.” Usually we think of this mental state as being intent to kill or intent to inflict great bodily injury. So, if you shoot someone because you’re trying to kill him, it’s murder. Similarly, if you shoot someone but you’re just trying to blow an arm off, it’s still murder if the victim dies. These categories likely don’t apply.

However, another mental state does qualify as murder and may fit the facts we have. It’s called “depraved heart murder.” It would require showing that Cheney exhibited a reckless indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to human life. A defendant is “reckless” when he consciously disregards a known risk. The classic example of depraved heart murder is firing a gun into a crowd. If you kill someone, you don’t get off by proving that you didn’t have the intent to kill that specific person or that you didn’t have the intent to kill anyone at all. The law says, “Listen, you yahoo, you knew that by firing into a crowd there was a real risk that you’d kill someone, but you did it anyway. You’ve shown a wanton disregard for human life, so you’re a murderer.”

If Cheney tossed back a few brews before hunting at sundown and wheeling around to fire while the setting sun was blinding him – all of which has been suggested – then his behavior may constitute depraved heart murder if Whittington dies.

Why none of this will probably matter 

US prepares military blitz against Iran's nuclear sites

Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran's nuclear sites as a "last resort" to block Teheran's efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt.
In Teheran yesterday, crowds celebrating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution chanted "Nuclear technology is our inalienable right" and cheered Mr Ahmadinejad when he said that Iran may reconsider membership of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Dr. Blanchard counts pellets the way Republicans count votes 

The second paragraph of Elisabeth "Bulimia" Bumiller's article on Cheney's manslaughter in today's NYT contains this tidbit:

Dr. David Blanchard, the emergency room chief, estimated that Mr. Whittington had more than 5 but "probably less than 150 to 200" pellets lodged in his body.

Yep, you got it: more than 5, "probably less than 150 to 200." The rest of Bumiller's article involves about that much accuracy, and makes about that much sense.

[Oh, and today's WaPo article concludes with this:

Mary Matalin, a Cheney adviser who has helped him deal with the shooting fallout, rejected suggestions that the White House's handling of the incident might result in political damage. "We have a history replete with evidence to the contrary," she said. "Every time we've had predictions of monumental liability, it never occurred."

Weird, isn't it? It just never occurred.]

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Laughter and Prayer 

This morning:

The White House has decided that the best way to deal with Vice President Dick Cheney's shooting accident is to joke about it.

President Bush's spokesman quipped Tuesday that the burnt orange school colors of the University of Texas championship football team that was visiting the White House shouldn't be confused for hunter's safety wear.

"The orange that they're wearing is not because they're concerned that the vice president may be there," joked White House press secretary Scott McClellan, following the lead of late-night television comedians. "That's why I'm wearing it."

The president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, took a similar jab after slapping an orange sticker on his chest from the Florida Farm Bureau that read, "No Farmers, No Food."

"I'm a little concerned that Dick Cheney is going to walk in," the governor cracked during an appearance in Tampa Monday.

CNN now:

Cheney prays for hunt victim

[Jane Hamsher, noting that the Times' Pickler and Elizabeth "Bulimia" Bumiller have been having a great big barrel of laughs joining in all the ha-ha, points out that according to CNN, "at the time McClellan was making his jokes he knew about Whittington's heart attack." Classy.]

[Josh Marshall has the AP screen shot of the stories "Hunter Shot By Cheney Has Heart Attack" and "White House Finds Humor In Hunting Mishap" running simultaneously.]


After watching part of the briefing on Whittington's condition, Cheney called Whittington and spoke to him, telling him "that he stood ready to assist," Cheney's office said in a written statement...

To assist with/in what? Re-shooting Whittington? Shooting him in the lower-face (ass)?


Authorities have cleared Cheney of wrongdoing in the accidental shooting of Whittington, but questions about Saturday's incident remain.

Thanks CNN, for making it clear that whatever "questions" "remain" are subordinate to the larger point that "authorities" have "cleared" Cheney of wrongdoing.


Armstrong said no one discussed informing the public about the incident until Sunday morning, when she and her mother raised the matter with Cheney.

Now the mother was involved? WTF??

And of course, near the bottom of the story:

About 8 p.m., after talking with Armstrong, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Bush that Cheney had shot Whittington.

Nothing to see here...

We're in a "moment" 

Jesus--so not only was "Pepper" Armstrong the conduit for Karl Rove's management (?) of the shooting news, but she's his freaking mistress? What the hell is this? And how does Jeff Gannon/Guckert figure in?

With all due respect, could we please just set aside the semiotic analysis of terrorism and turn our energies to more important work of paranoid/hermeneutic meta-interpretations of Quailgate?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Hamas or Dick Cheney? 

An excerpt from the best column I've read on the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections:

"...terrorists necessarily place themselves outside any substantive legal or democratic process; they alone decide that the terrorist act is justifiable and what the terrorist act will be. Terrorism is not war because no process of public justification or formal legitimacy stands behind it. Nor is it political violence, because the targets it chooses involve the collateral death and maiming of innocent non-combatants.

An assassination or bombing of a military target is political violence rather than terror; it has rationality and targeted political purpose. Suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv restaurant does not. It is these qualities - the absence of any substantive legal process, randomness of target and collateral death of innocents - that define an act as terrorist.

Justifying terrorism as a general principle is impossible. There are acts of terrorism which have had desirable consequences, like the end of apartheid in South Africa. But that is no more than our acceptance of realpolitik, reflecting the side we're on. Palestinian resistance to cruel occupation and the confiscation of their land is understandable, but that does not mean it can shelter under a general moral principle justifying terrorism. The only principle available to justify terrorism is that the consequences of its actions justify the violent means. But if the terrorist has not subjected his or her intentions to any kind of scrutiny, participation or vote by the people for whom he or she is acting, then there is no escaping that the decision belongs in the same category as murder. This is even true if the act of terrorism is to try and right a great wrong, which is what Hamas would claim.

This is why Hamas's election victory is so significant. The movement cannot dodge the fact that, as the new majority party, its morality is no longer its own. It cannot plan a suicide bombing without opening up what it proposes to democratic scrutiny, legal process and wider Palestinian public opinion - or else expose itself to the charge of fundamental hypocrisy. The Palestinians may agree that they should resist Israel with violence, but this will now become an act of war rather than a clandestine act of terrorism. And Hamas does not want war.

Already this reality is forcing extraordinary change. Two senior Hamas leaders have indicated that their charter, which calls for Israel to retreat to pre-1948 borders, could be amended. It has accepted that it cannot impose sharia law. Furthermore, Palestine possesses the embryonic institutions of a genuine democracy. It has three newspapers with some of the freest commentary in the Arab world. It has a fiercely independent judicial council committed to developing an independent judiciary and rule of law. It has a two-party political system and free elections. Hamas has to operate within these constraints, knowing that Fatah will want to win power back. It has to deliver solid administration, abandon terrorism, maintain the truce and try to achieve a long-term settlement. But the encouraging political reality is that it does so, for now, with all the legitimacy that its militancy has earned it inside Palestine.

The worst mistake that the international community could commit is to refuse all dealings with Hamas. This is a moment when the West must commit even more aggressively to support and strengthen Palestine's fragile democratic and welfare infrastructure."

So is there any sense in which Dick Cheney is not a terrorist--indeed more of a terrorist than the leaders of Hamas?

"Monday's hunting trip to Pennsylvania by Vice President Dick Cheney in which he reportedly shot more than 70 stocked pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks at an exclusive private club places a spotlight on an increasingly popular and deplorable form of hunting, in which birds are pen-reared and released to be shot in large numbers by patrons. The ethics of these hunts are called into question by rank-and-file sportsmen, who hunt animals in their native habitat and do not shoot confined or pen-raised animals that cannot escape.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that 500 farm-raised pheasants were released yesterday morning at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township for the benefit of Cheney's 10-person hunting party. The group killed at least 417 of the birds, illustrating the unsporting nature of canned hunts. The party also shot an unknown number of captive mallards in the afternoon."

Any questions now about why we're in Iraq?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cheney Shoots Man 

Vice President Cheney "Accidentally" Shoots Fellow Hunter

Uhh, yeah?


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