Monday, July 30, 2007

Winston Recovers

Never give in, never give in, never give in.*
-- Winston Churchill

Winston is currently resting on his sleeping bag in the office. Notice his ear, ever on the alert despite regular doses of DoggyContin (but check out that chilled smile). You can see a couple of the bullet wounds on his side; there are two on the other side, and one on his neck--the slug was slowed down by his rabies tag, which may well have saved his life (it's crumpled into a point--just unreal). If you have to get shot in the middle of a night when there's slim likelihood of any help arriving before sunup, you really want to try to avoid catching any bullets in your neck (think jugular, carotid, cervical spine...). Amazing, too, is the fact that nothing struck any of his organs, particularly his heart or liver.

When I gave him his pain pills last night, prying open his muscular jaw (not an easy task) and putting my entire hand into his mouth so as to place the pill as far back as possible, it dawned on me that if he so desired, Winston could snap my bony little wrist in an instant and swallow my hand instead. His teeth are formidable--razor-sharp and bright white, a young dog's arsenal at the ready--and his breed, the American Pit Bull Terrier, is famous for its jaw strength and tenacity. But he swallowed the pill, licked my hand, and sighed. I pressed my face to his cheek, then kissed the top of his head, as unafraid of this gentle dog as I'd be of Son Three's teddy bear. Pit Bulls are notorious--to those who've actually known and loved them, at least--for their intelligence and loyalty. As with any dog, though, they can be abused to the point of becoming vicious and dangerous. The difference, of course, is that powerful, densely-muscled dogs can do much more life-threatening harm than, say, a Chihuahua who's raised to be mean.

Thankfully, Winston demonstrates all those lesser-known Pit Bull traits. He is so smart, I swear he can communicate with his facial expressions, as he did on Saturday when I asked him if he wanted to take a little walk: No, not now--I hurt. When Roberto arrived that evening, he was ready, and out he went, very slowly. He approached a favorite pee-tree, but his right quadricep had the deepest wound, and his leg was obviously swollen and giving him pain. I won't say he crouched like a girl; instead, I'll say He did what he had to do.

Bravo Winston the Wonder Dog. And woe betide the heartless, larcenous scum who tried to harm him (more on that as it develops).

An American Pit Bull Terrier was featured on this WWI Poster
* I couldn't resist.

(H/T Karen for the photo)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

If You're the Praying Sort

Please put in a few good words for our boy Winston, the white Pitbull Terrier who wandered into Roberto's nursery--and our hearts--last winter, and saved Christmas. We just got word that he was shot five times last night (we were over at the St. Pete house); Roberto is already on his way to the vet's, and the boys and I will be leaving and heading there shortly. They think he'll make it--the bullets were small-caliber ones, and Win is a tough little guy, young and noble of spirit. The cruel dirtbag we believe to be responsible is a lousy shot, thankfully.

UPDATE: Winston is home! He's okay, though he's obviously feeling some "discomfort", as the doctors like to describe it. He's resting, and we expect he'll make a full recovery. The bullets were 25's, we believe, full metal jackets. All five went straight through the muscle tissue of his legs and sides. He's earned himself a nickname now: Winston "50 Cent" Tornello.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Frank: Cocaine Decisions; The Palladium, NY, 1981

I'll let the lyrics speak for themselves. Ahem.

Bon Weekend, everyone!

Cocaine decisions . . .
You are a person with a snow-job
You got a fancy gotta-go job
Where the cocaine decision that you make today
Will mean that millions somewhere else
Will do it your way
Cocaine decisions . . .
You are a person who is high class
You are a person not in my class
And the cocaine decision that you make today
Will mean nothing later on
When you get nose decay [...]

And the cocaine decisions that you make today
Will not be discovered till it's over and done
By the customers you hold at bay
Cocaine decisions . . .
You are a movie business guy
You got accountants who supply
The necessary figures
To determine when you fly
To Acapulco
Where all your friends go
Cocaine decisions . . .
We must watch the stuff you make
You have let us eat the cake
While your accountants tell you, "Yes, Yes ,Yes!"
You make expensive ugliness
How do you do it? Let me guess .
Cocaine decisions . . .Cocaine decisions . . .Cocaine decisions .

(H/T cletus59)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back Talk: The DOJ Scandal and Impeachment

What an excellent summary and call to action.

From the talented UnclassifiedProducer, via Christy Hardin Smith at FireDogLake.

FDA Scientists Grade Their Agency: 5/10=F for Failure

There is yet more kill-the-messenger posturing going on at the FDA, the federal agency staffed with dedicated, reality-based individuals--scientists--but managed by parties whose pro-small-government ideology, not to mention undeniable fealty to corporate paymasters (Big Pharma), translate to downsizing and privatizing. Both of which, as I've discussed extensively, mean even fewer inspections of food imports (currently the rate is about 1%, if that) and even more fast-tracking of drug approvals despite contraindicative study results and red flags aplenty. From Wednesday's Washington Post:

WASHINGTON -- Two lawmakers alleged Wednesday that a top Food and Drug Administration official began a campaign of intimidation and retaliation against employees who gave the agency failing grades in its efforts to police the nation's food supply.

None of the FDA field employees gave the agency more than a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, in grading its food safety efforts when they testified at a congressional hearing July 17. Two days later, the FDA's associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, Margaret Glavin, wrote an office-wide e-mail saying she was "deeply saddened" by the ratings, which she considered inaccurate.

"I know many of you were also disappointed, and perhaps even angry, at this erroneous assessment," Glavin wrote to employees of the agency's regulatory affairs division.

I don't understand how Ms. Glavin could possibly misread plain data--the testimony of numerous FDA field employees that the agency, at best, rated a 5-out-of-10 for its food safety efforts--as "erroneous assessment" that must surely have rendered many FDA personnel "disappointed, and perhaps even angry".

To my mind, those ratings and testimonies before congress represent the sincere concerns of scientists and field personnel who are right there on the front lines, doing the work required to protect the American public.

To my mind, the disappointment and anger should be directed at those who are behind all the lab closures and general downsizing of vital staff. And, certainly, at those who learn of scientists' assessments and genuine concerns and then turn around and blithely label them "erroneous".

Thankfully, some congressmen are well aware of FDA management's anti-science attitude as well as its unwritten policies of retaliation toward question-raisers, critics, and whistleblowers:

Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both Michigan Democrats, said the electronic note violated agency policy and regulations against retaliation _ and perhaps even a federal law that prohibits interfering with the rights of federal employees to give Congress information. They asked FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach to disavow the e-mail, discipline Glavin and evaluate her future as head of the agency's field staff. In a later statement, Stupak said she should be removed.

"Ms. Glavin's central message appears to be that dissent within the ranks will not be tolerated. This is tantamount to retaliation for her employees' sworn testimony to Congress," the lawmakers wrote in part.[...]
One employee who testified said no one in the FDA's field offices took the poor grades as a "slam on their efforts."

"It's not because we are doing a bad job," said Ann Adams, director of the FDA's Kansas City district laboratory in Lenexa, Kan. "We are doing an incredible job with what we have available. The problem is we can't be doing everything we should be doing. We just don't have the people. We just don't have the money."[...]

Another employee who testified said Glavin's note took their comments out of context.

"What we were all saying was FDA needed to do more and needed more resources to do a good job in looking at the number of imported products coming into the country," said Richard Jacobs, a chemist and toxic element specialist in the FDA's San Francisco district laboratory in Alameda, Calif. "It was just a statement, to me, of fact that we weren't doing what we need to do in finding bad products entering the country."

It was just a statement, to me, of fact...Ah, but you're thinking and talking like a scientist, Mr. Jacobs, and as we've been reminded over and over again these past six-plus years, those who currently wield the Bunsen burners of power feel in their guts that the jury is still out on all that sciencifying fact stuff.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Food Safety This Tuesday: Beware the Botox Chili

Vegetarians face plenty of food-contamination problems too, of course, but news like this makes me worry about my carnivorous friends and their families (emphasis mine):

WASHINGTON --Millions of cans of chili sauce, corned-beef hash and beef stew produced by a Georgia food company are being recalled in the largest botulism scare involving commercially canned goods in more than 30 years.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday directed stores and consumers nationwide to immediately discard more than 80 brands of canned meat made at Castleberry's Food Company's plant in Augusta, Ga., because they could be contaminated with the deadly bacteria.

Several types of pet food, which Castleberry's packages for Natural Balance, are also being recalled.

''They should throw them away immediately,'' said Dr. Robert Bracket, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

The recommended method of removal dramatized officials' concern: Consumers were asked to remove the 10-, 12- and 15-ounce products from their homes by placing the items in sealed double plastic bags before placing them in trash receptacles.

So far, two people have been hospitalized with botulism in Indiana and in Texas after eating Castleberry's hot dog chili sauce, authorities said. The tainted sauce was produced on May 7 and May 8, but the recall applies to products manufactured up to two years ago. The plant has been shut down as the investigation continues.

For more information about which products are affected, visit Castleberry's Website.

Also at Shakesville.

Friday, July 20, 2007

On Executive Orderizing and Badgers Green and Blue

The White House just announced--this Friday afternoon--that it plans to resume having the C.I.A. interrogate suspects in secret overseas prisons. From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, July 20 — After months of behind the scenes wrangling, the White House said Friday that it had given the Central Intelligence Agency approval to resume its use of some harsh interrogation methods in questioning terrorism suspects in secret prisons overseas. 

With the new authorization, administration officials said the C.I.A. could now proceed with an interrogation program that has been in limbo since the Supreme Court ruled last year that all prisoners in American captivity be treated in accordance with Geneva Convention prohibitions against humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees. 
An executive order signed by President Bush allows the C.I.A. to use some interrogation methods banned for military interrogators but that the Justice Department has determined do not violate the Geneva strictures.

The above-referenced executive order is described in the Chicago Tribune as "prohibiting cruel and inhuman treatment":

WASHINGTON - President Bush signed an executive order Friday prohibiting cruel and inhuman treatment, including humiliation or denigration of religious beliefs, in the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects.

The White House declined to say whether the CIA currently has a detention and interrogation program, but said that if it did it must adhere to the guidelines outlined in the executive order. The order targets captured al-Qaida terrorists who have information on attack plans or the whereabouts of the group's senior leaders.

"Last September, the president explained how the CIA's program had disrupted attacks and saved lives, and that it must continue on a sound legal footing," White House press secretary Tony Snow said.

Notice the language Mr. Snow uses: the CIA's program. There is no mention of paramilitary and para-CIA hires being constrained thus. While their official CIA counterparts must toe the legal line, private contractors could, if they were so inclined, waterboard, chill, starve, and humiliate to their hearts' content without technically running afoul of Bush's latest executive order. What does this mean? Well, figure that as many as--and perhaps more than--half of the Agency's operatives are actually private contractors, and, well, you do the math.

In an Op-ed piece for the Washington Post, author, Fullbright scholar, and intelligence insider Dr. R.J. Hillhouse explains:

Over the past five years (some say almost a decade), there has been a revolution in the intelligence community toward wide-scale outsourcing. Private companies now perform key intelligence-agency functions, to the tune, I'm told, of more than $42 billion a year. Intelligence professionals tell me that more than 50 percent of the National Clandestine Service (NCS) -- the heart, brains and soul of the CIA -- has been outsourced to private firms such as Abraxas, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. 
These firms recruit spies, create non-official cover identities and control the movements of CIA case officers. They also provide case officers and watch officers at crisis centers and regional desk officers who control clandestine operations worldwide. As the Los Angeles Times first reported last October, more than half the workforce in two key CIA stations in the fight against terrorism -- Baghdad and Islamabad, Pakistan -- is made up of industrial contractors, or "green badgers," in CIA parlance. 
Intelligence insiders say that entire branches of the NCS have been outsourced to private industry. These branches are still managed by U.S. government employees ("blue badgers") who are accountable to the agency's chain of command. But beneath them, insiders say, is a supervisory structure that's controlled entirely by contractors; in some cases, green badgers are managing green badgers from other corporations.
(For further truth-is-stranger-than-fiction reading about intelligence outsourcing, visit Dr. Hillhouse's excellent, fascinating blog The Spy Who Billed Me.)

In comments following the Shakesville cross-posting of a comprehensive essay on the FDA I wrote last month, a reader challenged my statements about defense giant Lockheed Martin:

I'm not quite certain why you have put Lockheed Martin on the side of the devil...Lockheed provides things like payroll services and book-keeping services there. I'm also not aware of any such services for Guantanamo.

To which I replied:

Lockheed Martin provided trained interrogators for Guantanamo; they were known as 97 Echoes (the article explains why). Nowhere have I stated that Lockheed Martin is on the side of the devil. I simply relayed the facts I'd found while researching the post.

(H/T Lisa in Baltimore for the breaking NYT article)

Impeachment Matters--Even More

Nearly two weeks ago, I took a deep breath and wrote out my thoughts on impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Some readers agreed, though equally many--particularly some who read my essay over at Ezra's--were opposed to initiating impeachment proceedings for a number of reasons, some more logical than others.

Nonetheless, I am more convinced than ever that Congress must begin impeachment proceedings immediately. I'll discuss the rationale for this a bit later, but let me first put this out there:

We must impeach the President and Vice President of the United States, and we must begin proceedings to do so immediately, not just for the purpose of exacting a punitive remedy, but also toward enacting a vitally important preventive measure--one that may be the only available means by which to protect the country from the impending imposition of martial law at home as well as the declaration of war against Iran and possibly other countries in the Middle East.

From Raw Story (emphasis mine):

Thom Hartmann began his program on Thursday by reading from a new Executive Order which allows the government to seize the assets of anyone who interferes with its Iraq policies.

He then introduced old-line conservative Paul Craig Roberts -- a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan who has recently become known for his strong opposition to the Bush administration and the Iraq War -- by quoting the "strong words" which open Roberts' latest column: "Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran."

"I don't actually think they're very strong," said Roberts of his words. "I get a lot of flak that they're understated and the situation is worse than I say. ... When Bush exercises this authority [under the new Executive Order] ... there's no check to it. It doesn't have to be ratified by Congress. The people who bear the brunt of these dictatorial police state actions have no recourse to the judiciary. So it really is a form of total, absolute, one-man rule. ... The American people don't really understand the danger that they face."

Worried yet? You should be. That executive order Roberts references is the one George Bush issued this past Tuesday. In it, King George the President declared that he can now freeze and seize the assets of anyone he feels to be a threat to "stability in Iraq". He gets to decide what a threat is, and he gets to carry out this order as secretly as he wishes, without so much as a shred of accountability to Congress or the courts. Nor does he have to inform us--or anyone else in government--what he has seized or frozen, or why. (For more comprehensive legal analysis of the executive order, read nightshift66's excellent essay over at Shakesville.)

I would ask the obvious: is this Dick Cheney's George Bush's reaction to the decision handed down in November 2006 in which U.S. District judge Audrey B. Collins stated that "...two provisions of an executive order signed Sept. 23, 2001, are impermissibly vague because they allow the president to unilaterally designate organizations as terrorist groups and broadly prohibit association with such groups" ? In other words, should Mr. Cheney Mr. Bush feel that obeying the law runs counter to his objectives--whatever they might be--he is somehow legally permitted to simply issue an executive order to custom-tailor that very law so it's more to his liking, claiming "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States"? Is that it, and are you kidding me?

Furthermore, I'd ask if Judge Collins' ruling could in fact be cited as precedent to challenge (and hopefully strike down) this outrageous executive order? (Calling all lawyers...)

In a response to queries from TPMmuckraker, the Treasury Department claimed this executive order will be limited only to the bank accounts of dangerous terrorists:

Tuesday's broad executive order on freezing Iraq-related financial assets is solely intended to target supporters of the Iraqi insurgency, Treasury Department spokeswoman Molly Millerwise tells TPMmuckraker. If U.S. residents and citizens have their assets frozen by the department, it will be because they're actively abetting a panoply of insurgent and militia groups.

Previously, Treasury hasn't had the authority to target the finances of insurgent groups in Iraq aside from al-Qaeda affiliates and former Saddam Hussein regime elements. The order now provides what Millerwise calls "seamless coverage."

The ACLU, meanwhile, points to the chilling effect on donations to charity as well as the very real dangers inherent in giving the Executive Branch so much unchecked and unchallenged power:

President Bush's new executive order targeting financial assets of Iraqi insurgents risks having "a chilling effect" on humanitarian donations in Iraq, according to Michael German, the ACLU's chief national security security lawyer. And those who find themselves in contravention of the order -- a determination residing entirely within the executive branch -- would have no due process rights to contest the freezing of their assets. [...]

The order skips right over a relevant citation: section 203b(2) (pdf) of the International Economic Emergency Powers Act, which specifically denies to the president the ability to "regulate or prohibit ... donations, by persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, of articles, such as food, clothing and medicine, intended to be used to deal with human suffering." The order accepts the other restrictions applied by IEEPA, intended to protect, among other things, postal communications and legitimate journalism from unilateral executive restriction. And that leads to to the broader problem with the order, according to Gerson: "the complete lack of due process" for those accused of violating it. Once someone's assets are frozen, there's no conviction, no appellate process.

Complete lack of due process. Remember how they killed habeus corpus, and hardly anyone outside the blogosphere even sent flowers to the funeral?

Martial Law. The possibility of a police state. Do you suppose there might be something to that story about Halliburton building massive detention centers? Remember? I quoted a disturbing piece in The Progressive when I wrote about those detention centers last year:

There is so much to question here, one's head spins. Let's start with this: what are we doing awarding $385 million contracts to Halliburton when there are still so many unanswered questions about the colossal waste of taxpayer dollars and overbilling (fraud, anyone?) perpetrated by this company, on America's behalf, in Iraq?

And I'm really curious about something else: why large detention centers, and why now? Then there is the disturbing issue raised by that last sentence in Halliburton's message: "...rapid development of new programs."

While thousands of people were celebrating the contribution America's undocumented immigrants make to our economy, and demanding justice and recognition for workers who are denied basic rights, the government was making plans for large-scale detention centers in case of an "emergency influx" of immigrants.

KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary recently reprimanded for gross overcharging in its military contracts in Iraq, won a $385 million contract to build the centers. According to the Halliburton"the contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs." [...]

What new programs might those be?

The web was abuzz with speculation after the contract was awarded on January 24. Pacific News Service gave the most detailed analysis.

It connected the new "immigration emergency" plans with older plans that involved imposing martial law.

Certainly the detention centers raise the specter of WW II Japanese internment camps.

The new facilities could be used for round-ups of Muslim Americans or other American citizens tagged as "enemy combatants.”

The use of military personnel and military contractors in the event of a Katrina-like disaster, which the Halliburton contract provides for, brings us closer to martial law, whether it is officially declared or not.

It also means record profits for Halliburton, which declared 2005 "the best in our 86-year history." David Lesar, Halliburton's chairman, president and CEO, declares on the company website, "For the full year 2005 we set a record for revenue and achieved net income of $2.4 billion with each of our six divisions posting record results."

Not bad for a company that has been repeatedly cited for inflating charges and wasting taxpayer money in Iraq.

The immigration detention centers ought to raise a red flag, not just about nepotism and waste among military contractors, but about what our government has in store for us.

Impeachment, ladies and gentlemen. For the sake of the country, as above. But also because the President and Vice President have committed no small number of serious crimes against the nation, its citizens, and its constitution. To wit:

Abuse of power, in so many shapes and forms as to require cataloging. Violation of the Geneva Conventions and the US Military Code on War Crimes. Illegal spying on Americans. Illegal use of signing statements to custom-tailor legislation (i.e. the Patriot Act) and thus enable de facto end runs around any and all protective measures--requirements for congressional approval, for example--built into said legislation. Illegal detention, as with the Padilla case.

Congress must begin impeachment proceedings in order to fully explore all these and any other crimes of which the Vice President and President, their cabinet, and their staff, stand accused. Congressional subpoenas, apparently, are not going to get the job done: the White House ignores them and/or refuses to comply with them.

I will close with this quote from the venerable After Downing Street:

If we do not impeach when the case is as compelling as it is now, we are effectively removing impeachment from the Constitution.

Your Representatives' contact info is all here. You can also demand your senators stand up for the people, not politics-as-usual, and vigorously condemn the illegal actions of this dangerous imperial White House; their e-mail addresses are here. And for further information and resources pertaining to impeachment, go here.

Also at Ezra Klein and Shakesville.

Friday Frank: From Cover Story, 1988

This is the first of four Cover Story segments, shot in 1988. As with another FZ television clip posted at this blog, the interview is a wonderful primer for those new to Maestro Zappa's genius while also serving as a thoroughly enjoyable bit of time-travel for old (and not-so-old) fans.

Be sure to view parts Two, Three, and Four.

Bon Weekend, everyone!


Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Frank: Dweezil Zappa and Friends Play Zombie Woof

From the Zappa Plays Zappa tour. Dweezil definitely rocks, Napoleon Murphy Brock kills, and Steve Vai, well, Wow. (Apologies--I've recently been described as a wet-behind-the-ears nineteen-year-old.)

Happy Friday The Thirteenth, everyone.

(H/T GregBass)

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment: On Michael Chertoff's Gut

"Once, we thought we were tiptoeing along a Grand Canyon of possible and actual freedoms and civil liberties destroyed, as part of some kind of nauseating but ultimately necessary and intricately designed plan to stop future 9/11s or even future Glasgow car bombers who wind up having to get out and push their failed weapons.

Now it turns out we are risking all of our rights and protections — and risking the anger and hatred of the rest of the world — for the sake of Michael Chertoff’s gut."

Keith knocks another one out of the park. Transcript here.

(H/T heathr234.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Attack of the Phallic Thingies (This is Not A Post About Republicans)

There must be something in the air these days--Republican sex scandals (two right here in Florida!) have been piling up willy-nilly, one on top of the other, and architects worldwide are designing buildings and facilities that remind us rather vividly how great it is to be a member of the human race. Or something.

In the air, and in the water, too, apparently. I present herewith the Hydropolis Underwater Hotel, which is being erected in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as I write. To the tune of £300 million (that's about $608 million, my American friends).

Currently under construction in Dubai, Hydropolis is the world's first luxury underwater hotel. It will include three elements: the land station, where guests will be welcomed, the connecting tunnel, which will transport people by train to the main area of the hotel, and the 220 suites within the submarine leisure complex. It is one of the largest contemporary construction projects in the world, covering an area of 260 hectares, about the size of London's Hyde Park.

"Hydropolis is not a project; it's a passion," enthuses Joachim Hauser, the developer and designer of the hotel.

Blame fellow Shakesville contributor Wolfrum and our boss Melissa--they started this whole Thingie thing with a pair of stories about the naughty parking posts of Keiser, Oregon.

And Thingies went rapidly downstream from there.

Kate found a hardly-frigid mall in Reykjavik, Iceland. Space Cowboy exposed a skyscraper-in-the-works in San Diego, California. Mustang Bobby said he prefers his cocktails well-iced, thank you. Jeff demanded monumental respect. And Misty (ever the green Oregonian) showed how Mother Nature puts first Thingies first.

Could there be more Thingies in store for our frustrated friends on the Right? It's hard to say. Meanwhile, in the warm nether regions of South Florida, a tropical tree by the name of Kigelia pinnata readies its seed:

Also at Shakesville.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Impeachment Matters

It is time for Congress to break ground on what will certainly be an extraordinarily difficult but necessary undertaking. They must begin right away; they must ignore the partisan cries of those who would downplay the very serious crimes about which a significant portion of the American people are, and have long been, justly outraged.

We don't put accused criminals on trial for the purpose of emotional satisfaction--we do it because it's part of due process under the law: their due process, and the state's due process. If during the course of the trial, evidence is presented that exonerates the accused, or if, at the conclusion of said trial, a jury finds the accused to be innocent, the defendant goes free, without punishment. And if the verdict is guilty, he or she receives punishment as prescribed by the law.

We do this for embezzlers and drug peddlers; bank robbers and con-men; child molesters and rapists and murderers. We do not stop in our tracks and say, "This will cost too much--let's not even ask the questions." No. We may enter into plea-bargains that lower the charges and thus reduce the punishment, but we don't pooh-pooh the alleged crime before even exploring its severity and the quality and quantity of the evidence available to prove that the accused is, indeed, guilty, saying it would be too expensive, too time-consuming, and too deleterious to the state's morale to even try.

Good God, people, America has not come to this, has She?

The law is the law. Isn't it? And crimes are crimes, aren't they? Because insofar as the law is concerned, there are plenty of crimes on the table before us.

- The Bush Administration lied the country into war with a sovereign nation that did us no harm and posed no imminent threat, which crime has resulted in the following:

- 3,600+ American soldiers are dead

- Tens of thousands of soldiers are wounded--suffering lost limbs, lost eyesight, broken souls, shattered lives, and broken marriages and families, and

- Scores of thousands--possibly into the six figures--of innocent Iraqi civilians are also dead--men, women, and children. Families no different from yours or mine, but who had the bad fortune to be situated above the oil and beneath the bombs.

Consider, further, the following:

- Private corporations, many if not most of which are friends and on-the-record benefactors of the President and Vice President (with one notable example being the VP's ex-employer) continue to profit from all this, to the tune of countless billions of our tax dollars, with vast portions of military work--duties once carried out by military personnel, from intelligence gathering to base-building to meal preparation to interrogation and on and on--now privatized and operating in the murky area some three nanometers on the other side of accountability, the FOIA, and open books. We'll never know how much of our money has evaporated courtesy of these gray clouds, and that's exactly the way the cronies and their obfuscating puppetry intended it.

- Those gentlemen who hold the two highest public offices in the land are, and have been, subverting the law and attempting to destroy the Constitution at every turn. Examples of this include torturing prisoners and denying them due process in violation of international law; hiding thousands and thousands of official records through illegal private communications (the famous "lost" emails); spying on Americans in America--ordinary Americans accused of nothing; holding secret meetings about energy policy (holding secret meetings about everything, in fact); demonizing, smearing, and/or firing critics, and so on, ad infinitum.

And beyond that, there is even more.

It doesn't matter how much it costs, or how long it takes, or how painful it might be to watch for some, or how inconveniently timed this is (as though that were not carefully planned, too).

If this is indeed a nation of laws, not men, we must demand that our representatives in Congress follow those laws and begin proceedings to impeach--and, if the evidence discovered and uncovered should call for it soon enough, remove from office--the President and Vice President of this great nation, that it may once again be a great nation.

Also at Ezra Klein.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Catblogging (An Occasional Indulgence)

Marley says: Mmm, gimme a nice cool floor on a hot summer afternoon...

...and yes, since you asked, I would like some of that spicy tuna roll.

Import Alert: Check Your Toothpaste Label. Again.

This latest batch of toothpaste cheap, antifreeze-laden gunk, which is turning up on store shelves around Massachusetts, obviously fell outside that famous 1% (the portion of imports that actually does get inspected):

Inspectors from Boston and 11 other Massachusetts cities and towns have confiscated about 160 tubes of toothpaste that may contain a chemical used in antifreeze, part of a widening national campaign to eliminate tainted products made abroad.[...]

In Massachusetts, investigators from local agencies found suspect toothpaste in Amherst, Arlington, Boston, Cambridge, Dedham, Lawrence, Lowell, Malden, Somerville, Sturbridge, Wellesley, and West Springfield. Because authorities are relying on 351 cities and towns to gather the information, there was no immediate sense of how many stores have been surveyed, (Department of Public Health spokesman) Lyons said.

State and federal food and health investigators urged consumers to avoid products falling into these categories:

Those labeled "made in China." The US Food and Drug Administration has identified brands made in China, including Cooldent, Dr. Cool, Everfresh, Superdent, and Oral Bright.

Packages that appear to be Colgate, but are actually counterfeits from South Africa. Colgate officials have said that their company does not import toothpaste from South Africa and that tubes labeled as coming from there are fakes. The warning from health authorities does not apply to Colgate toothpaste made in the United States.

The FDA has repeatedly stated that diethylene glycol does not belong in toothpaste, even in small concentrations.

Friday Frank: G-Spot Tornado; with Ensemble Modern, 1992

The dancers are fantastic, especially the woman, reenacting a G-spot tornado of sorts while respecting the German equivalent of a PG-13 rating. Watch FZ's face when the camera closes in: his expression is one of pure amusement and glee.

Mr. Zappa himself acknowledged the diverse styles comprising his body of work and said he didn't think there was any one person who loved the classical compositions, the comedy bits, and the guitar albums. But then, he never met me. Or, for that matter, Robert, who was privileged to be living in the States--near the Filmore West, no less--when the Mothers came onto the scene; he's one of a small handful of people I know privileged to have seen the Master live and in person many times.

I believe this is one of FZ's last performances.

Bon Weekend, everyone.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Keith Olbermann to Bush: In That Moment, Sir, You Ceased to Be the President of the United States. Resign.

It's breathtaking stuff. Thank you, Mr. Olbermann. And to the rest of the mainstream media, I say, More like this, please.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Shakesville Rises

Melissa is back, and so is the rest of the gang at Shakesville, including Yours Truly. Stop by and say hello, and if you can spare a shilling or two, be sure to tip the blogmistress--it's brutally expensive to run a blog the size of Shakesville and make it invulnerable to malicious attacks, which is the only way to keep the lights on, really: purchase a dedicated castle and fortify the walls, trusting that readers who enjoy the place will pitch in as and when they can.

All Hail Madame McEwan!