“Illegally Blonde”

Raw Replay

Jon Stewart re-examines testimony of Monica Goodling, a Bush appointee who politicized hiring practices at the Department of Justice.

My favorite part..

Wolf Blitzer [CNN]:

“The US Justice Department is supposed to enforce US laws, but a new investigation suggests that the Bush Administration may have violated those laws when it hung out the ‘help wanted’ sign at the Justice Department..”

Jon Stewart:

“No, no… NO!! The report doesn’t “suggest” that they “may“, it says that they “DID“!!
You may not be the most trusted name in news, quite frankly..”

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Countdown to Bejing – The toils of the children gymnasts

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In China the economic divide between the rich and the poor is huge. So, many families try to gain money and fame through their children. They are sent to sports boarding schools and “trained” for gold medals. There was a documentary on that on German TV these days and, honestly, I was unable to watch. A mother carrying her squirming and desperately screaming nine year old son back into the school after the holidays. Trainers were philosophes of the “spare the rod, spoil the child”-variety. A grandfather, who said his grandson just hasn’t been working hard enough, when the boy didn’t make it into the next class.

There is a controversy about at what age those children are competing at the Olympics. Two gymnasts are suspected to be much younger than their passports say and well below the minimum age of sixteen. Achieving a gold medal in sports is never easy and always a painful and long journey that many start and only very few stand through. There should be limits, though. Boycotting the Olympics, or any sports events where children are competing beyond the limits of their capacities, helps to deprive those pain factories of the reason for existence. Good riddance, t’would be.

If you can stomach it, here is the documentary on the Li Xiaoshuang school in China, with english subtitles.

Part 1:

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Friday’s House Judiciary Hearing on Impeachment: A Victory and a Challenge

by Dave Lindorff (CommonDreams)

The dramatic hearing on presidential crimes and abuses of power held on Friday by the House Judiciary Committee was both a staged farce, and at the same time, a powerful demonstration of the power of a grassroots movement in defense of the Constitution. It was at once both testimony to the cowardice and self-inflicted impotence of Congress and of the Democratic Party that technically controls that body, and to the enormity of the damage that has been wrought to the nation’s democracy by two aspiring tyrants in the White House.

As Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the committee, made clear more than once during the six-hour session, this was “not an impeachment hearing, however much many in the audience might wish it to be.” He might well have added that he himself was not the fierce defender of the Constitution and of the authority of Congress that he once was before gaining control of the Judiciary Committee, however much his constituents, his wife, and Americans across the country might wish him to be.

At the same time, while the hearing was strictly limited to the most superficial airing of Bush administration crimes and misdemeanors, the fact that the session — technically an argument in defense of 26 articles of impeachment filed in the House over the past several months by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) — was nonetheless a major victory for the impeachment movement. It happened because earlier in the month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has sworn since taking control of the House in November 2006, that impeachment would be “off the table” during the 110th Congress, called a hasty meeting with Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Conyers, and Rep. Kucinich, and called for such a limited hearing.

It was no coincidence that shortly before Pelosi’s backdown, peace activist and Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan announced that her campaign had collected well over the 10,000 signatures necessary to qualify for listing on the ballot as an independent candidate for Congress against Pelosi in the Speaker’s home district in San Francisco. Sheehan has been an outspoken advocate of impeaching both Bush and Cheney. “Pelosi is trying to throw a bone to her constituents by allowing a hearing on impeachment,” said Sheehan, who came to Washington, DC to attend. “It’s just like her finally stating publicly that Bush’s presidency is a failure — something it has taken her two years to come to, but which we’ve been saying for years.”

So determined were Pelosi and Conyers to limit the scope and intensity of the hearing that they acceded to a call for Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to adhere to Thomas Jefferson’s Rules of the House, which prohibit any derogatory comments about the President, which was interpreted by Chairman Conyers as meaning no one, including witnesses or members of the committee, could suggest that Bush had lied or deceived anyone. Since a number of Rep. Kucinich’s proposed articles of impeachment specifically charge the president with lying to Congress and the American People, this made for some comic moments, with witness Bruce Fein, a former assistant attorney general under former President Ronald Reagan, to say he would reference his listing of crimes to the “resident” of the White House.

In the end, the rule imposing a gag on calling the president a criminal fell by the wayside, with witness Vincent Bugliosi, a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, accusing Bush of being guilty of the murder of over 4000 American soldiers and of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians because he had “lied” the country into an illegal and unnecessary war, and with committee member Shirley Jackson Lee (D-CA) suggesting that the president may have committed treason in invading Iraq, and that he appeared to be preparing to do it again with an unprovoked invasion of Iran.

Conyers also acquiesced in a Republican effort to minimize public monitoring and involvement in the hearing, allowing the minority party to fill most of the available seats in the hearing room with office staffers who showed little interest in the proceedings. Only a few dozen of the hundreds of pro-impeachment activists who had come to the Rayburn Office Building at 7 am in order to get seats in the Judiciary Committee hearing room were allowed in, with the rest having to remain in the hall or go to two remote “overflow” rooms to watch the proceedings on a TV hookup. Conyers also went along with a call by Republican members of the committee to have some of those who did make it into the hearing ejected simply for wearing buttons on their shirts calling for impeachment (the Republican members referred to these as “signs”), though such small personal tokens are routinely allowed in congressional hearing rooms.

It was clear that this was to be a tightly controlled and strictly limited hearing.

It was also clear that it was intended to go nowhere.

Really.. Read the rest of this great post.

Olmert to Resign as Israeli Prime Minister

Truthout (this came out today)

Scandal-dogged Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced that he will quit politics and resign as prime minister this fall rather than join a contest for the leadership of his own party.

The announcement comes with Mr. Olmert trailing badly in the polls and facing a widening corruption investigation that police have said could soon lead to an indictment. In resigning, Mr. Olmert lashed out at the “ceaseless attacks of righteous people” which he said had begun as soon as he took office in 2006.

Mr. Olmert’s withdrawal means that a Sept. 17 vote for the leadership of his centrist Kadima party will effectively be a two-person race between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. Since Kadima holds a plurality of seats in the Israeli parliament, the winner will get a chance to form the next government.

“I will not take part in the primaries of the Kadima party,” a drawn-looking Mr. Olmert told a hastily assembled news conference outside his official residence in Jerusalem. “When a new chairman is elected for the party, I will resign from my duties as prime minister to allow the chairman to create a new government.”

Read entire article…

From the BBC: Israeli PM to quit within months

Vowing to prove his innocence, he said that he would quit as leader of his Kadima party as soon as it elects a new leader on 17 September.

He will remain caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed.

Mr Olmert had been under pressure to resign over a police inquiry into money he received from a businessman.

The corruption inquiry centres around allegations that a US citizen, Morris Talansky, made election donations in cash to Mr Olmert in 2006, which may have subsequently been used to buy luxury items.

Israel defense chief: Military option still open (AP) (this came out yesterday)

Israel’s defense minister said Tuesday he has told top U.S. officials that Israel won’t rule out a military strike against Iran, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Iran’s latest response to diplomatic overtures a disappointment.

Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, is in the middle of two days of meetings at the White House, Pentagon and State Department. He told reporters that he has said during those meetings that there is still time to pursue tough diplomacy with Iran. At the same time he has told the Americans that Iran poses a major threat to the whole world, and that for Israel “no option would be removed from the table.”

The United States also has not ruled out a military strike to stop Iran’s presumed drive for nuclear weapons, but an Israeli strike is considered more likely in the short term.

Barak would not say what advice he’s been getting from the Americans. More…

Olmert’s crimes (Haaretz.com) (Hmmm… and this comes out tomorrow..?)

The critics of Ehud Olmert on the right, including senior figures in his party, claim that the prime minister has turned negotiations with the Palestinians and Syrians into a shovel with which he seeks to dig himself out of the police investigations against him.

They say that to save his skin, Prime Minister Olmert would not hesitate to divide Jerusalem and to hand over the entire Golan Heights. Otherwise, why is he in such a rush to reach an agreement on borders with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas? How else is it possible to comprehend his sudden peace assault on Syria without linking it to the criminal investigations? More…

So does this mean that Olmert will bomb Iran and then leave? Or will the hardliners in Israel boot Olmert out of the way so their next Prime Minister choice can bomb Iran..

Stun Guns Replace Police Work

Recently, I read several very disturbing articles where the police used stun guns to subdue alleged criminals (details below the fold). In one case, the person died after being tased (which is basically a nice word for electrocution) for a whopping 37 seconds. Police procedures say that a FIVE second jolt is standard, with a repeated five second tase should it be needed.

I wonder when the stun gun became the only tool in the police force’s kit. Where did reason go? Talking with people? Even arguing with people? When did our society go from looking to police as those who help, to looking at them in fear?

When I was young, I was taught that Officer Friendly was the person to go to if you had any problems. Whatever became of that officer friendly?

As to those stories, they are horrifying beyond belief. Oh, and both of the men who died, what were their crimes? They were killed for stealing food!

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Why report news when creating it is so much more fulfilling?

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RCP's Electoral Map

I was watching my favorite Bubblegum Journalism channel – CNN – yesterday, when I saw a report indicating that Barack Obama’s strong lead has been diminishing while he has focused the past week on foreign affairs. The key data point put forth as evidence was Obama tanking in the polls in Minnesota. According to the story, his 17 point lead from June had shrunk to only 2 points.

I found this a curious development, even for a state that elected Jesse Ventura to its highest post, so I thought I’d look at the polling data. A good source for polling data is RealClearPolitics.com (RCP), a site that does a nice job of providing daily updates of all kinds of polls. They track national polling and also state-by-state polling of the presidential race. They show individual poll results, and then also provide the “RCP Average” of a selection of recent polls, to give what hopefully is an accurate ongoing snapshot. Turns out, CNN has been conveniently cherry-picking poll results.

[UPDATES! See the bottom of this post for late-breaking updates.]

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Change happens..

Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us. (Martin Luther King)

Early on in the Democratic Primary campaign, I said there was a longing for change in the American society. If I give you samples less than a year old, you may be as surprised as I am, at how many things have already manifestly changed since then.

The most obvious: Everybody including the White House and John McCain is now talking about a timetable for Iraq withdrawal.

President Bush in June (some six weeks ago):

“There should be no definitive timetable,” Bush was quoted as saying. “I am confident that (British Prime Minister Brown), like me, will listen to our commanders to make sure that the sacrifices that have gone forward won’t be unraveled by drawdowns that may not be warranted at this point in time.”

And now?

[…] the Decider says he is now amenable to a “time horizon,” which apparently is a whole different kind of time thing — not at all like the sensible course of action that Democrats and other critics of the Iraq occupation have been demanding.

John McCain’s 100 years if necessary have been widely reported. As recently as July 17th Reuters reported this:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Thursday ridiculed Democrat Barack Obama’s vow to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 16 months as a political tactic aimed at getting votes.

And now?

“I think it’s a pretty good timetable,”

Short and concise and what a change!

In July 2007 Hillary Clinton said according to the LA Times blog:

[But] I don’t want to see the power and prestige of the United States president put at risk by rushing into meetings with the likes of Chavez and Castro and Ahmadinejad.”

and her minions:

Clinton forces pounced, saying it showed he was naive and unprepared to lead the country. In contrast, they said, Clinton’s answer demonstrated she had the strength and experience to be commander in chief. ( full story)

The GOP couldn’t have agreed more and argued similarly. On July 16, reports came in that a United States official was taking part in the Geneva talks with Iran on the latter’s nuclear ambitions.

A senior United States official is taking part for the first time in international talks with Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

The official, William Burns, is joining envoys from the EU and permanent members of the UN security council.

Their talks with top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili were expected to focus on incentives for Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment.

Mr Burns’ attendance is being seen as a major shift in US policy.(emphasis added)

I have never before seen a campaign, and I am old enough to have followed a few across the pond both ways, where a likely candidate has induced major policy shifts by a sitting lame duck administration.

But, that is only on the outside, the shift goes deeper. Again a very obvious one, Barack Obama is the first African American to be a candidate in a Presidential election, whom many people seriously consider to vote for. Moreover, groups in your society, who never before have actively taken part in the political process are still registering to vote, even after the first hype is over. A twelve months ago mostly unknown politician has managed to outraise and outspend all of the inside-the-beltway-old-washingtonian-lobbyist-financed political machinery of one of the most influential political families. Funded by people like you, not like Abramoff. This is a resounding slap in the face of the old ways. Furthermore, and this may be “small change” if you will, hasn’t Nancy Pelosi for the first time not stepped down on an impeachment hearing? True, without the tenacity of Dennis Kucinich this wouldn’t have happened, but there is a changed political atmosphere, too, which made that possible. Americans are not taking no for an answer anymore. Did you hear much talk about that gas-tax holiday, recently? And did the discussion about drilling in ANWR somehow ring hollow? Do all of those business-as-usual political spats sound well-rehearsed-going-through-the-motions soundbites?

It is the Americans, who have changed and Obama’s candidacy is the focal point for and the result of this change. The US are about to arrive in the 21st century. The candidacy of Barack Obama is not due to an irrational wish for a messianic figure, as some want to make believe for obvious reasons. It is the manifestation of the voter’s will to vote for a different kind of politics. A sizeable number of Americans have eschewed the old way politics were done and are prepared to risk something new. This is their change, not Obama’s, and they mean to pull this through and some.

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Keith Olbermann Looks At New John McCain Ad Bashing Obama

Also check out these articles pertaining to the facts (or lack of them) surrounding this latest ad of McCain’s:

Snubbing Wounded Troops? (FactCheck.org)

A Canceled Obama Visit, and the Story Behind It (NY Times)

Here is Andrea Mitchell (who by the way is a John McCain supporter) basically calling this ad a lie:

From The Huffington Post:

Displaying nothing more than a studied neutrality in tone, and well-armed with the facts that she herself [Andrea Mitchell] obtained while overseas with both the CODEL and the Obama campaign, Mitchell was a leader in the field of not letting lying dogs sleep. Terming the ad “literally not true,” and confidently summing up the ad as “inexplicable.”

Here’s the entire ad – approved by John McCain:

In this ad, the narrator says “John McCain is always there for our troops..

Hmmmm… What is McCain’s record when it comes to voting on issues that affect our troops..? Doesn’t that fall under the heading of “always there for our troops”??

Suicide Spreads as One Solution to the Debt Crisis

By Barbara Ehrenreich (AlterNet), Barbaraehrenreich.com.

In a culture where credit rating is the key measure of self-worth, the increasing response to huge debts is “Just shoot me!”

A few days before Congress passed its Housing Bill, Carlene Balderrama of Taunton MA found her own solution to the housing crisis. Just a little over two hours in advance of the time her mortgage company, PHH Mortgage Corporation — may its name live in infamy — was to auction off her home, Balderrama killed herself with her husband’s rifle.

This is not the kind of response to hard times that James Grant had in mind when he wrote his July 19 Wall Street Journal essay entitled “Why No Outrage?” “One might infer from the lack of popular anger,” the famed Wall Street contrarian wrote, “that the credit crisis was God’s fault rather than the doing of the bankers and the rating agencies and the government’s snoozing watchdogs.” For contrast, he cites the spirited response to the depression of the 1890s, when lawyer/agitator Mary Lease stirred crowds with the message that “We want the accursed foreclosure system wiped out …. We will stand by our homes and stay by our firesides by force if necessary”

Grant could have found even more bracing examples of resistance in the 1930s, when farmers and tenants used mob power — and sometimes firearms — to fight foreclosures and evictions. For more on that, I consulted Frances Fox Piven, co-author of the classic text Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, who told me that in the early 30s, a number of cities were so shaken by the resistance that they declared moratoriums on further evictions. A 1931 riot by Chicago tenants who had fallen behind on their rent, for example, had left three dead and three police officers injured.

According to Piven, these actions were often spontaneous. A group of unemployed men would get word of a scheduled eviction and march through the streets, gathering crowds as they went. Arriving at the site of the eviction, they would move the furniture back into the apartment and stay around to protect the threatened tenants. In one instance in Detroit, it took 100 cops to evict a single family. Also in Detroit, Piven said, “two families protected their apartments by shooting their landlord and were acquitted by a sympathetic jury.”

What a difference 80 years makes. Read on…

Breaking: Senator Stevens indicted on seven counts..

This story broke a year ago. Senator Stevens’ (R-Alaska) Alaska Home was raided by the FBI:

WASHINGTON — Agents from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service raided the Alaska home of Republican Senator Ted Stevens yesterday as part of a broad federal investigation of political corruption in the state that has also swept up his son and one of his closest financial backers, officials said.

Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator in history, is under scrutiny by the Justice Department for his ties to an Alaska energy services company, Veco, whose chief executive pleaded guilty in early May to a bribery scheme involving state lawmakers.

Contractors have told a federal grand jury that in 2000, Veco executives oversaw a lavish remodeling of Stevens’s home in Girdwood, an exclusive ski resort area 40 miles from Anchorage, according to statements by the contractors.

A couple of minutes ago, Reuters reported on a Breaking News banner, that Senator Stevens was indicted on seven counts related to his holding public office. Spells: Corruption. We’ll keep you updated.

UPDATE I: The New York Times reports:

Mr. Stevens, 84, was indicted on seven counts of falsely reporting income. The charges are related to renovations on his home and to gifts he has received. They arise from an investigation that has been under way for more than a year, in connection with the senator’s relationship with a businessman who oversaw the home-remodeling project.

The indictment will surely reverberate through the November elections. Mr. Stevens, who has been in the Senate for 40 years, is up for re-election this year. Mark Begich, a popular Democratic mayor of Anchorage, hopes to supplant him.

The Justice Department scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon to announce the indictment.

Read the text of the indictment here. (PDF)

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