This Is Why We Limit Police Powers

One of the common arguments amongst the law-and-order crowd is that we don’t have to worry about giving law enforcement agencies unfettered surveillance powers because they’ll only use them against the guilty. “If you’re innocent, you have nothing to worry about!” some perky authoritarian will chirp. “We can’t tie their hands!” Which sounds great and reasonable until news like this brings the kumbaya chorus to a rude end:

In July, the Washington Post reported on undercover Maryland State Police officers conducting surveillance on war protesters and death penalty opponents. Today, we learn that the monitoring was worse, and more pervasive, than first believed.

The Maryland State Police surveillance of advocacy groups was far more extensive than previously acknowledged, with records showing that troopers monitored — and labeled as terrorists — activists devoted to such wide-ranging causes as promoting human rights and establishing bike lanes.

Intelligence officers created a voluminous file on Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, calling the group a “security threat” because of concerns that members would disrupt the circus. Angry consumers fighting a 72 percent electricity rate increase in 2006 were targeted. The DC Anti-War Network, which opposes the Iraq war, was designated a white supremacist group, without explanation.

One of the possible “crimes” in the file police opened on Amnesty International, a world-renowned human rights group: “civil rights.”

And people wonder why “civil-liberties types” worry about government abuse when it comes to surveillance of Americans.

Isn’t there some old police saying that states, “Everybody’s guilty of something?” Apparently, the MD state police took the next logical step and decided that they could make everybody guilty of something. The kumbaya chorus should keep this in mind the next time they’re prattling about how the police would never ever target the innocent.

The best law enforcement officers tend to take a jaundiced view of humanity. The worst tend to employ their police powers to enact their sadistic authoritarian fantasies. American history is full of mad, bad and simply mistaken policemen abusing their powers. This is why we can’t give them power without limits, which is something Antonin Scalia seems to have a difficult time understanding. If the above case doesn’t provide a wake-up call, Ed Brayton has another:

Ever since Justice Scalia declared that there was no more need for a rule against no-knock raids because there was a “new professionalism” among police, Radley Balko has been mocking that claim with example after example of corruption and incompetence by the police. Here’s a perfect one to add to the list. Jonathan Turley has the story:

Police in Galveston, Texas are being sued for allegedly arresting a 12-year-old Dymond Larae Milburn outside of her home as a prostitute in 2006. The girl did not realize that the plainclothes officers were police and fought back as she screamed for her father inside the house. She was reportedly beaten by the officers and ended up with sprained wrist, two black eyes, a bloody nose, and blood in an ear. Weeks later, the police arrested her for resisting arrest.

Sgt. Gilbert Gomez and Officers David Roark and Sean Stewart have insisted that their conduct was entirely appropriate.

The police were responding to a report of three white prostitutes working in the area, but some how ended up arrested and roughing up a 12-year-old black girl in front of her house.

The honor student was then arrested at her middle school on a charge of resisting arrest — but a mistrial prevented further prosecution.

Because it’s really easy to confuse a 12 year old black girl in her front yard for 3 adult white prostitutes on a street corner. And by the way, she was several blocks from where the prostitutes were allegedly at.

[snip]

This is a perfect example of Scalia’s new professionalism. An amateur would have been fooled by her clever disguise as a middle school honors student of an entirely different race far from the scene of the alleged crime. But not these professionals.

div.blogMain p.newMeta2 a {display: block; float: left; margin-right: 24px; padding: 3px 0 3px 24px; background-position: 0 50% ! important; background-repeat: no-repeat;} Oh, yes. Beating a young black female. Uber professional, that is. We might as well throw the laws limiting police power and behavior right out the window, because they’d obviously never abuse their authority.

Police these days are so super-professional, in fact, that you can’t find stories of them killing people with the enthusiastic over-use of tasers here, here, here, here, here, and here. Oh, and a nice story about police shooting a man who took a Taser here. Oh, and did I mention that was all during the month of December? I especially liked the one about the man in diabetic shock getting shocked, didn’t you?

I’m not going to spend the next paragraph being fair-and-balanced and saying how much I wuv da police. Anyone who’s read this blog for a long time knows I respect and appreciate the vast majority of our policemen and women. Calling for clear and strict rules for them to follow, laws that restrict their behavior, and limits on their power doesn’t diminish that appreciation. Corruption and beatings and killings do. Things like that stain the reputations of the officers out there doing the job right. They make it harder for good officers to do their jobs.

For their sakes, let’s make it harder for law enforcement to go to such ridiculous extremes.

Of Ponies and Beer

JeffreyD writes:

Of course I love you! Tell me about the pony and what kind of beer your drink. (smile)

And with incentive like that, how could I not share the story of the Day My Pony Drank Beer?

First, a brief word about my pony. He was a white Welsh who was my exact height, age and stubbornness. His previous owners had also spoiled him rotten. They went so far as to share their food with him, which is not exactly the best thing to do when equines are concerned.

We eventually broke him of bad habits like running for the barn, getting down for a good roll whilst you were still astride, and demanding cheeseburgers (yes, cheeseburgers. And yes, he actually ate them). However, we hadn’t quite broken him of begging. Did I say begging? Demanding, more like. If he saw something he wanted, he didn’t give you the soulful eyes and the meaningful nudges. He didn’t try a cute routine. He’d just barge right in and take what he wanted. Such as the time when he walked into the house because we were taking too long washing his carrots.

One day, a bunch of us were standing around in his pasture talking. My dad was drinking a beer. I can’t remember if it was Budweiser or Coors – my dad would drink whatever piss-thin American brew was on sale at the grocery store. This was back in the days before they tried to make Coors and Bud seem fancy, which should tell you how old my pony and I are.

Chipper somehow got it into his head that if Dad was drinking beer, he needed some, too. It turns out that it’s very hard to drink your beer when a thirteen-hand pony is trying to get his head in the can. They went through a five-minute comedy routine where my dad would push him away, and Chipper would crowd right back in.

Finally, my dad says, “You really want beer? Here.” And he poured a bit of beer in his hand.

Chipper drank the beer with considerable glee. And then he paused, smacking his lips a bit, then staggered across the paddock as if we’d hit him between the ears with a sledgehammer. His head swung side-to-side, his legs churned in all different directions, and when he finally reached the far end he just stood there for a moment with his head down, shuddering occasionally.

I’d like to think my pony’s not the kind of lightweight who gets drunk off a handful of beer, but I know it wasn’t the carbonation that shocked him, because his previous owners used to let him drink Coke. We’ll chalk his adverse reaction up to astonishment at how truly awful cheap American beer tastes.

Funny thing. He never asked for beer again. Which is fortunate, because I’m not sure how we could have explained an alcoholic pony to PETA.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

It’s bloody snowing again. Is anyone else sick of winter? I’m done. Let’s have spring.

We won’t have that for a few months, and we won’t have Bill Richardson as Secretary of Commerce, either:


NBC News reports:
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped in December by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state.“Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact,” he said Sunday in a report by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”

I’m sure the Cons will have a great amount of fun with this, but not nearly as much fun as they would have using the investigation to muck up the confirmation, so I think Richardson chose wisely. The Smack-o-Matic is being withheld pending the results of the investigation.

In happier news, we have another Dem in the Senate, notwithstanding whatever crazy court tricks Coleman attempts to pretend otherwise:

Chuck Schumer has put out this statement, in his capacity as the outgoing chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, declaring that Al Franken has won the Minnesota Senate race and should be seated:


“With the Minnesota recount complete, it is now clear that Al Franken won the election. The Canvassing Board will meet tomorrow to wrap up its work and certify him the winner, and while there are still possible legal issues that will run their course, there is no longer any doubt who will be the next Senator from Minnesota. Even if all the ballots Coleman claims were double counted or erroneously added were resolved in his favor, he still wouldn’t have enough votes to win. With the Senate set to begin meeting on Tuesday to address the important issues facing the nation, it is crucial that Minnesota’s seat not remain empty, and I hope this process will resolve itself as soon as possible.”

NRSC chairman John Cornyn has declared that the Republican caucus will filibuster any attempt to seat Franken while Norm Coleman challenges the election result in court.

That would be a 225 vote lead they’re wanting to pretend never happened. Tell me again, Mike, that the Cons have been graceful losers.

In the meantime, I’m hoping that for entertainment purposes, this comes to pass:


Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell’s campaign for Republican Nation Committee chairman got a boost yesterday when several far-right heavyweights threw their support to him.

Two dozen conservative luminaries will announce today their support for former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell for Republican Nation Committee chairman.

The group, which mixes leading economic conservatives, including Steve Forbes and Pat Toomey, and leading social conservatives, including James Dobson and Tony Perkins, had agreed to endorse and campaign together for a candidate based on a questionnaire assembled by veteran GOP activist Morton Blackwell (no relation).

“The conservative endorsers noted that there were other good candidates, but all agreed that Ken Blackwell is the best choice. They intend to contact grassroots conservatives across the country and ask them to urge the three RNC members from each state and U.S. territory to vote for Ken Blackwell for RNC chairman,” they said in a press release going out shortly.

[snip]

In the broader context, I’m beginning to think Blackwell would be the best choice, at least from a Democratic perspective. Blackwell was a fairly ridiculous Ohio Secretary of State, and his most notable accomplishment — running as the state’s Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2006 — turned out to be a complete trainwreck.

“Complete trainwreck” just about describes the entire GOP. Sounds like he’d keep them right off the tracks. He has my vote.

Dick Cheney’s efforts to revise reality continue apace:


On CBS’ Face The Nation this morning, host Bob Schieffer asked Vice President Cheney whether Americans were “better off now than we were years ago.” “I think we’ve done some very good things in the course of the last eight years,” replied Cheney.

After listing off policies that he claimed were accomplishments, such as No Child Left Behind, Cheney acknowledged that the Bush administration was leaving the incoming Obama administration “with their hands full.” But Cheney was unwilling to admit any real culpability for the challenges Obama will face, saying only that they are a “new set of problems.” Cheney even claimed that the turmoil in the financial sector “developed” only “over the last six months”:


CHENEY: That there’s no question about what the new administration, President Obama, are going to have their hands full with the new set of problems, if you will. Centered especially on the economy, upon the difficulties that have developed in the financial markets over the last six months.

By saying that the financial crisis “developed” in just the past six months, Cheney is following in the footsteps of right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh, who claim that the problems only began recently. But the truth is that the financial sector’s problems developed over many years and were pushed forward by the economic policies of the Bush administration.

Poor assclowns. They keep trying and trying to pretend that the Bush Regime wasn’t the worst in American history, but that pesky reality keeps intruding on their little fantasies. It’s gotten so bad that some Bush cheerleaders have been reduced to saying, “But Bush has a lovely personality!”

The AP’s Ben Feller has a lengthy “analysis” piece this weekend, noting that while George W. Bush will be “judged on what he did” as president, he’ll also be “remembered for what he’s like: a fast-moving, phrase-mangling Texan who stays upbeat even though his country is not.” (thanks to reader J.M. for the tip)

Lacking a record of accomplishment, success, or support, the Bush Legacy Project seems to have settled on presenting the president as a good guy. The failures notwithstanding, he’s the Mensch in Chief. This week, for example, CoS Josh Bolten and NSA Stephen Hadley defended Bush’s legacy by pointing to his personality. Bolten said those who’ve had “actual personal exposure to the president” just love the guy. Hadley also emphasized his “personal qualities,” insisting, “[O]ne thing he is not is arrogant.”

To that end, the AP’s 1,400 paean to Bush’s persona constitutes an odd puff piece, basically taking many of the presidential personality traits that have come to annoy millions, and characterizing them as admirable qualities.

Isn’t that just pathetic? Not only are they reduced to talking up Bush’s wonderful personality, but they’re not finding that much to get excited about there, either. Epic fucking fail all around.

The only question remaining is, will they throw in the towel after Bush has been out of office a few months, or will I still be hearing about what a great personality he had when I’m sitting in a nursing home pondering what time the jello might be served?

The Things I Learn Doing Research

I knew my Welsh pony was pretty awesome, but I had no idea his ancestors were this badass:

Originally used to carry British Knights in the 15th century, their role was leading larger battle horses into battle.

This explains a lot about his personality. Absolutely nothing fazed him. Not even beer.

If you love me, you won’t ask how the research is going. You can, however, ask about ponies and beer.

Sunday Sensational Science

Scientists Play With Their Food

It’s that time of the year when we’ve probably filled ourselves with more food than we could hold. Before the diet begins, let’s hold one last feast, courtesy of science.

Scientists studying food have made our harvests more bountiful, our turkeys bigger, and are discovering new foods for us to serve up. They’ll make it possible to eat green, eat well, and eat healthy. Not bad results for a bunch of guys in lab coats playing with food, eh?

Wired Science often has delightful articles on food-related science. I’ve chosen out appetizers from some of their recent offerings for your dining pleasure. Be sure to click through for the full meal. Bon appétit!

Science Behind Mysterious ‘Fifth Taste’ Revealed

It’s appetizing news for anyone who’s ever wanted the savory taste of meats and cheeses without actually having to eat them: chemists have identified molecular mechanisms underlying the sensation of umami, also known as the fifth taste.

The much-loved but historically unappreciated taste is produced by two interacting sets of molecules, each of which is needed to trigger cellular receptors on a tongue’s surface.

“This opens the door to designing better, more potent and more selective umami enhancers,” said Xiaodong Li, a chemist at San Diego-based food-additive company Senomyx. Li co-authored the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Four other basic tastes — bitter, sweet, salty and sour — were identified 2,400 years ago by the Greek philosopher Democritus, and became central to the western gastronomic canon.

In the late 19th century, French chef and veal-stock inventor Auguste Escoffier suggested that a fifth taste was responsible for his mouth-watering brew. Though Escoffier’s dishes were popular, his theories were dismissed until 1908, when Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda showed that an amino acid called glutamate underlies the taste of a hearty variety of seaweed soup.

In honor of Ikeda, the taste was dubbed umami, the Japanese word for delicious. It took another 80 years for umami to be recognized by science as comparable to the other four tastes.

From Salon to Salad: Human Hair Makes Good Plant Fertilizer

Human hair could be used instead of chemical fertilizers for some plants like lettuce, new research in a horticultural journal suggests.

The hair, which is manufactured into cubes from barbershop and hair-salon waste, provides nitrogen for plants as it decomposes, just as natural-gas-derived sources like ammonia do.

“Once the degradation and mineralization of hair waste starts, it can provide sufficient nutrients to container-grown plants and ensure similar yields to those obtained with the commonly used fertilizers in horticulture,” said horticulturalist Vlatcho Zheljazkov of Mississippi State University.

All plants need nitrogen to grow. These plants form the basis of the proteins which eventually make their way into our bodies either directly through the consumption either of the plants themselves or of animals raised on plants. Our bodies turn those proteins into all sorts of useful things — like muscles — and some less useful things, like hair. In fact, studies carried out in the 1960s found that human hair contains about 15 percent nitrogen [pdf].

A Willy Wonka Who Wants to Feed the World

Ask America’s foremost molecular gastronomist about the Willy Wonka comparisons, and Homaro Cantu will insist that he’s just an average guy who likes cheeseburgers. But it’s not cheeseburgers that have earned the Chicago chef fame: it’s dishes prepared with industrial lasers, inkjet printers and liquid nitrogen.

Look beneath the technical sophistication, though, and Cantu’s kitchen pyrotechnics are revealed as explorations of possible answers to a very simple question: What is food? And if the cuisine at Moto, his “molecular tasting lab,” can be described as postmodern, Cantu himself has little time for gastro-academic posing. He’s driven by a techno-utopian vision of decentralized food in which the world’s ever-growing appetites are met by a radical transformation of agriculture itself — and it all begins in our kitchens.

“Make enough food for everyone. That’s the end game,” says Cantu. “And to get there, we have to start thinking a little crazier about what food is.”

Food vs. Fuel: Saltwater Crops May Be Key to Solving Earth’s Land Crunch

Saltwater-loving plants could open up half a million square miles of previously unusable territory for energy crops, helping settle the heated food-versus-fuel debate, which nearly derailed biofuel progress last year.

By increasing the world’s irrigated acreage by 50 percent, saltwater crops could provide a no-guilt source of biomass for alt fuel makers and tone down the rhetoric of U.N. officials worried about food prices, one of whom called the conversion of arable land to biofuel crops “a crime against humanity.”

While growing crops in saltwater has been on the fringes of horticulture for decades, the new demand for alternative energy has pushed the idea onto the pages of the nation’s most prestigious scientific journal and drawn the attention of NASA scientists.

Citing the work of Robert Glenn, a plant biologist at the University of Arizona, two biologists argue in this week’s Science that “the increasing demand for agricultural products and the spread of salinity now make this concept worth serious consideration and investment.”

Genetically Modified Peanuts Could Save Lives

Genetically engineered peanuts may help fight the most common cause of fatal allergic reactions to food in the United States. While the research is unlikely to result in the creation of completely allergen-free peanuts, it could result in fewer outbreaks and even fewer deaths.

For years now, government scientists have been testing ordinary peanuts in the hope of finding one that cannot cause the deadly allergic reactions which kill more than 50 Americans every year. But nature may not be able to provide an answer.

Horticulture expert Peggy Ozias-Akins at the University of Georgia in Tifton is taking a different tack by using genetic engineering to grow hypoallergenic peanuts.

Give Thanks? Science Supersized Your Turkey Dinner

Your corn is sweeter, your potatoes are starchier and your turkey is much, much bigger than the foods that sat on your grandparents’ Thanksgiving dinner table.

Most everything on your plate has undergone tremendous genetic change under the intense selective pressures of industrial farming. Pilgrims and American Indians ate foods called corn and turkey, but the actual organisms they consumed didn’t look or taste much at all like our modern variants do.

In fact, just about every crop and animal that humans eat has experienced some consequential change in its DNA, but human expectations have changed right along with them. Thus, even though corn might be sweeter now, modern people don’t necessarily savor it any more than their ancestors did.

“Americans eat a pound of sugar every two-and-a-half days. The average amount of sugar consumed by an Englishman in the 1700s was about a pound a year,” said food historian Kathleen Curtin of Plimoth Plantation, a historical site that recreates the 17th-century colony. “If you haven’t had a candy bar, your taste buds aren’t jaded, and your apple tastes sweet.”

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner reflects the enormous amount of change that foods and the food systems that produce them have undergone, particularly over the last 50 years. Nearly all varieties of crops have experienced large genetic changes as big agriculture companies hacked their DNA to provide greater hardiness and greater yields. The average pig, turkey, cow and chicken have gotten larger at an astounding rate, and they grow with unprecedented speed. A modern turkey can mature to a given weight at twice the pace of its predecessors.

There’s Weird…

…and then there’s creepy weird:

Burris: “We Are The Senator”
Roland Burris expressed a high degree of confidence in his legitimacy as a Senator, telling Lynn Sweet, “We are the Senator.” Burris says he wants to avoid any confrontation when he shows up in Washington next week, but he also apparently has no aversion to using the royal “we.”

It may just be a strange quirk of his speech, but this royal “we” is just getting downright obnoxious. I also do not think it will be making him any friends among those who think that “we” are no such thing.

Cons Are Afraid. I Am Well Pleased.

If anyone’s wondering if Obama’s administration is too conservative, moseying over to the other side of the aisle for a look at the sturm und drang should lay your fears to rest:

The Washington Post has an item today highlighting the fact that some conservative activists are concerned because the Obama transition team includes plenty of liberals. Imagine that.

To some staunch conservatives watching President Bush relinquish the reins of power to President-elect Barack Obama, a few too many ardent liberals are now crashing the gates.

Some well-known Democratic activists are advising Obama on how to steer federal agencies, including a few whom conservative Republicans fought hard to keep out of power in the Clinton administration. They include Roberta Achtenberg, a gay activist whose confirmation as an assistant housing secretary was famously held up by then-Sen. Jesse Helms (N.C.), and Bill Lann Lee, who was hotly opposed by foes of affirmative action and temporarily blocked from the government’s top civil rights job.

Conservatives fear that some of these Obama transition advisers are too far left on the political spectrum and are a sign of radical policies to come.

“It is disturbing,” said Roger Clegg, a conservative opponent of Lee’s appointment who is now watching the Obama advisers at the Justice Department. “The transition team as described to me was made up of nothing but people on the far left. Though Obama is more moderate, that makes you wonder what kind of advice the president is given, and what range of choices he’ll be given when it comes time to make appointments.”

That probably shouldn’t make me as happy as it does. But watching them quake in fear as liberals pour in to fix the damage they’ve done just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Bravely (Ha!) Running Away

Obama’s inauguration will blissfully not be disgraced by the presence of too many Cons:

While millions descend on Washington for the historic Inauguration of Barack Obama on Jan. 20, some Republicans see it as an occasion to get out of town.

Out of power on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and mostly out of favor on K Street, many emasculated elephants in the GOP herd will begin the Age of Obama with what amounts to an extended holiday vacation. Instead of fighting the quadrennial cold and what are expected to be record-setting crowds, they’re heading out to greener pastures, with better temperatures, less hassle and more agreeable company.

“What better way to mark the Obama Inauguration (and his millions of adoring fans that will be in D.C.) than to get out of town to fabulous Las Vegas!” Charlie Spies, a Republican lawyer and former CFO to Mitt Romney’s campaign wrote in a blast e-mail to GOP friends. “We hope you can join us for dinner and a fun evening on Monday, Jan. 19, to celebrate the last few hours of our Republican president in the White House.”

Spies and his wife Lisa, a Republican fundraiser, have gotten about 15 takers so far for this last supper or, as they billed it in the e-mail, their own “Inaugural in Exile.”

Poor babies. They aren’t going to get their way anymore, so they have to go snivel in their luxury resorts. Running away from mean ol’ reality once more.

I think we all know the appropriate song for this occasion:

(Tip o’ the shot glass to Steve Benen)

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Israel has taken the plunge and invaded Gaza. Their fearless leaders apparently think they can somehow win. Where they get this impression after watching the United States break its teeth against Iraq, not to mention the Soviets getting their asses kicked in Afghanistan, I’m not sure. The only lesson the idiots who gave the orders seem to have absorbed is Bush’s own strategy, which is to say no strategy at all:

The invasion of Gaza has begun. As the bombardment of Gaza has failed to break Palestinian “will,” now the gamble is that ground troops will. According to Ha’aretz, a significant portion of Israeli “top commanders” dissented from the decision to invade, arguing that the airstrikes had already dealt Hamas a “heavy blow” and that Israeli casualties could be heavy as well. Clearly they shared the concern that Israel was escalating the war without regard for strategy. How will Israel de-escalate? How can it invade Gaza on the empty goal to engage in an “all-out war” with Hamas and plausibly leave before that unfulfillable end-state is achieved? How can Israeli commanders and politicians who believe a war is going well be persuaded to back down before they commit hubristic blunders that decimate the people of Gaza and make sustainable peace and security less achievable?

This is a plea for what amounts at this point to cynicism. Israel should arbitrarily declare victory and get the hell out of Gaza. Hamas will claim victory too. But it was always going to claim victory, and every hour Israel is in Gaza pummeling them without destroying them is an hour that Hamas will be able to claim that more plausibly, just like Hezbollah did in 2006. That’s how these types of asymmetric wars work; and also why it’s better for the larger party not to launch them. Israel may not want to hear this now, but it’s playing on Hamas’ strategic terms. Stepping back is the truer “success” at this point.

It doesn’t help that Israel itself set a precedent that will allow Hamas to declare that sniping at Israel with missiles was, in fact, fully justified:

Jonathan Schwarz takes a trip down Israel’s Memory Lane and finds something interesting:

The funny thing about the Israeli attack on Gaza following its long blockade is that Israel’s original justification for taking over Gaza in 1967 was that Israel was being subject to a blockade. This is from the official Knesset history of the Six Day War:

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser blockaded the Straits of Tiran on May 21st and 22nd to all shipping from and to Eilat; the area was open to Israeli ships under UN supervision since 1957, and Israel repeatedly stated that such a blockade will be considered as casus belli (justification for acts of war).

Ooops.

Oops indeed. But, y’know, it’s like totally different and stuff, because Israel is a democracy and Hamas is just a terrorist organization. Bush says so:

The US president condemned Hamas’s campaign of rocket attacks on Israel as an “act of terror” and said no peace deal would be acceptable unless the flow of smuggled weapons to terrorist groups was monitored and stopped.

“This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel’s destruction,” he said.

Um. Excuse me. But I do believe that Hamas is the duly elected government of Gaza. They kinda sorta won the democratic elections that you, George, pushed for. Whether you like it or not, those “terrorists” are the leaders the Palestinian people in Gaza chose to lead them. Things like this happen when you’re a clueless fucktard who pushes for democracy and then refuses to face up to the results.

And now even the people you installed in power think you’re an outrageous fucking idiot:

Remember Iyad Allawi? The U.S.-installed former Iraqi Prime Minister? He was asked to reflect on George W. Bush, and according to a Reuters report, described the president’s policies as an “utter failure” that ultimately helped create the sectarian violence that ravaged Iraq.

[snip]

“Yes, Bush’s policies failed utterly,” said Allawi, describing the U.S. administration that once backed him. “Utter failure. Failure of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, including fighting terrorism and economic policy.”

“His insistence on names like ‘democracy’ and ‘open elections’, without giving attention to political stability, was a big mistake. It cast shadows on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Egypt, and I believe this will be remembered in history as President Bush’s policy,” he said.

I do believe he is right.

Not content to push the Middle East over a cliff, Bush and his cronies have also been busy ensuring America is thoroughly and completely raped and pillaged before they leave power. They’re pushing through plans for our national forests, and considering it’s the Bush regime, you know their rule changes aren’t for the benefit of stands of majestic trees:

In yet another potential last minute rule change, “the Bush administration appears poised to push through a change in U.S. Forest Service agreements that would make it far easier for mountain forests to be converted to housing subdivisions.” Though President-elect Obama has opposed the move, Mark E. Rey, the former timber lobbyist who heads the Forest Service, has signaled that he intends to finalize the plan before Obama’s inauguration. As a presidential candidate, Obama vocally criticized Rey’s plan while campaigning in Montana, calling it “outrageous.”

Rey is pushing a techni
cal change that it will have “large implications“:

The shift is technical but with large implications. It would allow Plum Creek Timber to pave roads passing through Forest Service land. For decades, such roads were little more than trails used by logging trucks to reach timber stands.

But as Plum Creek has moved into the real estate business, paving those roads became a necessary prelude to opening vast tracts of the company’s 8 million acres to the vacation homes that are transforming landscapes across the West.

Scenic western Montana, where Plum Creek owns 1.2 million acres, would be most affected, placing fresh burdens on county governments to provide services, and undoing efforts to cluster housing near towns.

Trees? Who needs trees? Certainly not the businesses that would rather cut them down in order to build more subdivisions.

And while we’re getting rid of trees, why not let some corporate malefactors off with a mere slap upon the wrist?

The fire sale by the Bush Administration in a last gasp to coddle corporate polluters, crooks and malefactors (i.e. friends and family) is on at the Department of Justice. From Carrie Johnson at the Washington Post:

The Justice Department has reached more than a dozen business-related settlements since the presidential election, with more in the pipeline for January, prompting lawyers and interest groups to assert that companies are seeking more favorable terms before the new administration arrives.

A review of 15 agreements involving corporations since early November suggests that much of the alleged misconduct dates back five years or more, provoking questions about why the cases took so long to mature and why resolutions are coming with only weeks left in President Bush’s term.

If you read on, you’ll discover that corporations who defrauded the United States to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars not only get a mere slap on the wrist, but retain their ability to scam America all over again. What a deal!

At this rate, I’m not sure there’ll even be a country left to salvage when Obama takes over in two weeks. He might want to rethink all that kumbaya post-partisan stuff, as well – we’ve seen how the Cons plan to obstruct at every opportunity, and you can get some insight into the base that will be egging them on here. And you can tell just what warm-hearted and cooperative individuals they are by noting what their favoritest “news” channel considers an apology:

As part of its New Years broadcast this week, Fox News viewers were invited to send in messages that were then added to the network’s on-screen crawl at the bottom of the screen. Presumably, someone at the network was checking the text to make sure FNC didn’t air anything too offensive, but that didn’t stop Fox News from broadcasting one message that said, “[L]et’s hope the Magic Negro does a good job.”

Yesterday, a network official responded to the incident.

Fox News VP of programming Suzanne Scott explains, “We received tens of thousands of text message submissions during our New Years Eve special, and this particular viewer submission was inadvertently cleared for air. At FOX we recognize our error as opposed to networks who allow their hosts to utter crude vulgarities to the public.”

[snip]

Fox News can’t just admit it made a mistake; it has to take shots at its competitors. It’s a like a child who gets caught screwing up, and whose first instinct is to point to some other kid and say, “Yeah, but he screwed up, too.”

These people are beyond belief.