December 21, 2007 archive

Four at Four

Some news and the afternoon’s open thread.

  1. The Washington Post reports Federal judge hears CIA tapes case. “U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy… said he would consider the lawyers’ arguments for an urgent court inquiry into whether the destruction of the CIA tapes may have violated Kennedy’s June 2005 order requiring the government to preserve any evidence related to mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees… At the hour-long hearing, a Justice Department lawyer urged the judge to hold off on any investigation, saying such an inquiry could compromise a Justice Department probe that has recently been launched into the tapes’ destruction. [David Remes, an attorney for several detainees,] questioned why the court should trust the Justice Department, which may have been aware of the destruction of the CIA tapes, to now determine whether other Guantanamo-related evidence is being properly preserved.”

  2. Oh no! Asteroid on track for possible Mars hit! According to the Los Angeles Times, “An asteroid similar to the one that flattened forests in Siberia in 1908 could plow into Mars next month… Researchers attached to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program, who sometimes jokingly call themselves the Solar System Defense Team, have been tracking the asteroid since its discovery in late November. The scientists, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, put the chances that it will hit the Red Planet on Jan. 30 at about 1 in 75… The Tunguska object broke up in midair, but the Martian atmosphere is so thin that an asteroid would probably plummet to the surface, digging a crater half a mile wide”. That’s before Martian primary voters can vote on Super-Tuesday.

  3. “The Sleuth” aka Mary Ann Akers of the Washington Post writes Gonzales has rough time tapping young minds for legal defense fund. “Buried by legal bills and hard up for cash, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales hit the college speaking circuit last month hoping to rake in big bucks. Instead, he’s been raked over the coals, heckled or flat out turned down by students whose institutions he charges exorbitant fees to tap his amnesiac mind… Gonzales had become the subject of angry editorials and protests on campuses near and far. At the University of Florida last month, he was viciously heckled to the point that two students wearing black hoods and orange jumpsuits blaring the words “civil liberties”- impersonating prisoners at Abu Ghraib – walked on stage and stood next to the former attorney general as he spoke. (Until they were arrested.) It was a tough way to make $40,000. And it stands to get tougher.” Oh, BOO HOO! Cry me a river… AbuG shows up, mumbles, and makes more money than many of us make in a year. This isn’t work, this is a classic academia scam by politicians.

  4. Lastly, this little Iowa caucus vignette from The New York Times.

    “Who is your favorite author?” Aleya Deatsch, 7, of West Des Moines asked Mr. Huckabee in one of those posing-like-a-shopping-mall-Santa moments.

    Mr. Huckabee paused, then said his favorite author was Dr. Seuss.

    In an interview afterward with the news media, Aleya said she was somewhat surprised. She thought the candidate would be reading at a higher level.

    “My favorite author is C. S. Lewis,” she said.

Saluting the Veterans of the War on Christmas

For starters, I must give a hat tip to Brandon Friedman for coming up with that saying as we were going back and forth discussing sayings that we should be using this upcoming year.

But at this time of year, especially on Christmas time – a holiday where religion is now intertwined and nearly synonymous with a front running Presidential candidacy – we should celebrate some deserving yet underappreciated people. These battle tested, wounded and weary warriors whose crusade to engage, battle and fight with those “non-believers” and satan lovers (liberals too, no doubt) who are waging this War on Christmas.

How can we not take a moment to stop and thank those who stand tall and use every weapon at their disposal in order to fight a cataclysmic fight to the death against the godless souls who want to purge the world from celebrating the birth of the one who represents all “true Americans”.


Will the Real Democratic Party Please Stand Up?

Submitted by feline on December 21, 2007 – 12:31pm.

The Democratic Party has morphed into a strange multi-headed creature over the last 10 – 15 years. I’m all for diversity, but when they can’t remember their own principles and vote consistently as a group, the Republicans and the Administration end up winning on legislation as if they were the majority.

The Dems are invested in the idea that voters are so fed up, we’ll vote for anyone that doesn’t have an R in front of their name. But, here’s the problem: I have no idea what the D means anymore.

Does it mean this?


Or does it mean this?

Democratic Leadership Council

I had once had hopes that it meant this:

Congressional Progressive Caucus

(Remember when those used to be the ideals of the Party and not just a Caucus?! Sad…)

Anytime I see the word “New” anymore, I get really worried:

New Democrat Coalition

And I don’t know how a representative who identifies him/herself “conservative” even gets to have a D in front of their name:

The Blue Dog Coalition

(How in the hell did the Democratic National Committee let that start happening? Do these folks even know the Bylaws of the Party?)

Well, there you have it, the “Democratic Party”! It’s become so hybridized, I wouldn’t know some members of the Party unless they had the D in front of their name (with the exception of a few who actually seem to have read their Bylaws and the U.S. Constitution).

Every election cycle, the Democratic Party feels the need to reinvent itself in order to secure or gain a majority. Maybe if members of Congress with a D in front of their name would just adhere to the principles of the Democratic Party while they’re in office, they wouldn’t have to work so hard and waste so much money trying to convince the voters that they’re different from the Republicans.

We’re NOT STUPID, you know…

(That was my Andy Rooney, impersonation, I hope it was okay.)

Biden Repeats Call For Special Prosecutor and Other News


This past week, we learned that an administration official in the CIA had destroyed videotapes of the agency’s use of severe interrogation techniques on detainees held in secret, extra-legal prisons. Responsibility for this sad stain of dishonor on America’s integrity rests squarely with the president. The evidence destroyed depicted the president’s policy of snatching terrorist suspects from the streets of foreign countries, hiding them away in secret prisons, and torturing them. The president has created a culture of criminal misconduct and cover up, has injected politics into the administration of justice, and has made public policy a slave to his ideology. I have called for a special counsel to conduct a thorough but unbiased investigation of this matter.


I do not make the call for a special counsel lightly. For 34 years, 16 years as the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have been a supporter and steward of the Department of Justice. I still maintain the utmost respect and admiration for the career prosecutors who enforce our laws every day without bias. But when a president abandons our cherished national values of upholding the rule of law and respecting human dignity, and when he allows our system of justice to be influenced by partisan politics, the attorney general he appointed cannot preside over an investigation that goes to the heart of the administration’s conduct. In such circumstances, our law requires the appointment of a special counsel.

who knows what secrets burned

WASHINGTON (AP) – Thick black smoke billowed from a fire Wednesday in Vice President Dick Cheney’s suite of offices in the historic Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

Cheney’s office was damaged by smoke and water from fire hoses, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said. The vice president was not in the building at the time; he was in the West Wing of the White House with President Bush.

More than 1,000 people who work in the building were evacuated. The fire broke out on the second floor of the building around about 9:15 a.m. and was under control within a half hour, District of Columbia fire department spokesman Alan Etter said.  source

Cheney was in the White House with President George W. Bush receiving their morning intelligence briefings when the blaze erupted and people were evacuated from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building safely, White House officials said.

Thick black smoke billowed from the second floor of the hulking granite structure, which is part of the White House compound and faces the West Wing of the presidential mansion.

Firefighters quickly brought the fire under control. The cause was being investigated.


‘Long Shot’ Kucinich Buries Democratic Rivals in Nationwide Poll Among Independent Voters

Democracy for America agrees!  Progressive Democrats of America agree!  The Nation agrees!  And now, agrees!  Dennis Kucinich for President!

Pony Party, Phone it in Friday

About that Lakota secession…

Google the words “Lakota” and “secede,” and watch the fun. It’s an exercise in hysteria.

The story was first reported yesterday morning. The best version I’ve seen is an Agence France-Presse report, on the News Australia website.

THE Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the US.

“We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us,” long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means said.

A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department and said they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the Federal Government, some of them more than 150 years old.

The group also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and said they would continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas.

The article mentions visits to foreign embassies, declarations that old treaties with the U.S. are invalid, and the intention to issue passports and drivers’ licenses, and to live tax-free. It sounds radical and exciting, and the perfect response to the Bush Administration’s having made the United States an international pariah. In other words, lots of people are going to want to impute great significance to this declaration. There’s just one little problem.

Russell Means is a legendary activist. That’s a given. That’s also why many people seem to think this means more than it does. What they should be asking themselves is this: whom does Russell Means represent? By what authority are he and his fellow activists declaring independence. Because this is where we get back to reality.


Docudharma Times Friday Dec.21

This is an Open Thread: Sorry Were Open/Yes Were Closed

Spending Bills Still Stuffed With Earmarks : Bush remains thorn in Democrats’ side : Scientists Weigh Stem Cells’ Role as Cancer Cause :Torture chamber found in Iraq


Spending Bills Still Stuffed With Earmarks

Democrats Had Vowed To Curtail Pet Projects

By Elizabeth Williamson

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, December 21, 2007; Page A01

Twice in the past two years, Alaska lawmakers lost congressional earmarks to build two “bridges to nowhere” costing hundreds of millions of dollars after Congress was embarrassed by public complaints over the pet projects hidden in annual spending bills.

This year, Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, who are Alaska Republicans, found another way to move cash to their state: Stevens secured more than $20 million for an “expeditionary craft” that will connect Anchorage with the windblown rural peninsula of Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Now what Alaska has, budget watchdogs contend, is a ferry to nowhere.

Bush remains thorn in Democrats’ side

By Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

7:14 PM PST, December 20, 2007

WASHINGTON — Just more than a year ago, a chastened President Bush acknowledged that his party had taken a “thumping” in the congressional elections, and he greeted the new Democratic majority at the weakest point of his presidency.

But since then, Democrats in Congress have taken a thumping of their own as Bush has curbed their budget demands, blocked a cherished children’s health initiative, stalled the drive to withdraw troops from Iraq and stymied all efforts to raise taxes.

Rather than turn tail for his last two years in the White House, Bush has used every remaining weapon in his depleted arsenal — the veto, executive orders, the loyalty of Republicans in Congress — to keep Democrats from getting their way. He has struck a combative pose, dashing hopes that he would be more accommodating in the wake of his party’s drubbing in the 2006 mid-term voting.

What are you reading? (with blogs)!

Just the usual list today; next week, I’ll try to do a ‘year in review’.

If you like to trade books, try BookMooch.

What are you reading? is crossposted to docudharma

Been a while since I did a ‘regular list’….

Bruce Sterling  The Zenith Angle…. A lot of fun – geeks and stuff.

David Ruelle The mathematician’s brain: A personal tour through the essentials of mathematics and some of the great minds behind them A very eclectic, personal book.  Really a set of short essays, loosely connected; all about math in one way or another, but very varied.  Mostly not technical.

Brian Ripley Pattern recognition and neural networks

I just got Jack Vance’s Araminta station through Bookmooch, I will start it soon.

I am re-reading Heinlein’s the Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  OK, Heinlein’s political views aren’tm mine, but dang, that man could write a story.



Political Arithmetik Charles Franklin (who also writes for pollster) presents thoughtful and graphically interesting analysis of polls. Not updated that often. a really good source of data, nicely if simply presented

polling report including the subscriber only state polls.  All sorts of interesting polls, not just elections

good math bad math Mark Chu-Carroll is a progressive and a mathematician and a computer scientist.  Funny and interesting looks at the beauty of good math and the horror of bad math.  Fun stuff.

statistical science, causal inference and social modeling  Andrew Gelman is a statistician at Columbia.  Tons of interesting things about politics and statistics.

Some site called Daily Kos, which is kinda like this site, only different… 🙂

and, of course docudharma!

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

The muses are ancient.  The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them.  Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the inward and the outward.  In one version they are Calliope, Euterpe and Terpsichore, Erato and Clio, Thalia and Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Urania.

It has also been traditional to name a tenth muse.  Plato declared Sappho to be the tenth muse, the muse of women poets.  Others have been suggested throughout the centuries.  I don’t have a name for one, but I do think there should be a muse for the graphical arts.  And maybe there should be many more.

Please join us inside to celebrate our various muses…

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