Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Answer, Please

After this hit the news, Down with Tyrrany asked --
My God! What is wrong with these Republicans? This guy voted no on employment equality for gay men and women while he was wearing frilly undies!
Anyone know the answer?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Our Sad, Bad Press

In a nation with rational politics, Murray Waas' prize-winning expose of former Arkansas Governor and now Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's "direct personal lobbying" for parole and release of serial rapist Wayne Dumond would be enough to disqualify him for any public office, anywhere. Why? Because just four years after Huckabee's extraordinary efforts brought about the man's release from prison, he raped and killed again.

But that's not all. In a nation with a rational press, New York Times columnist Gail Collins would be unemployed after the mash note to Mike Huckabee she wrote earlier this week. Why? Because Hullabaloo's Tristero is a far better writer and researcher, has more integrity, and caught Collins dead-to-rights covering up for Huckabee.

The Loonies Are Coming! The Loonies Are Coming!

On a day when Tampa, Florida led the slide and U.S. housing sales dropped for the eighth straight month, Canada is reporting that housing sales and prices in that country rose yet again.

Meanwhile, Canada's National Post hints at what we suspected: Those sneaky Canadians are waiting to "pick the bottom of the housing mess south of the border" before they snap up everything. The reason is the Canadian loonie is hitting record highs against the dollar.
The Canadian dollar soared to a near half-century peak of more than $1.05 US on Monday as oil prices bubbled to a record of more than $93 US, and as the greenback continued to sink on fears of U.S. economic weakness and in advance of this week's expected cut in interest rates south of the border.
What's more, Paper Money has some data suggesting we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Every which way you look, this just isn't a fair fight. After all, when did Canada last start a senseless war, huh? When did it lose $8 billion in Iraq? Name the last time the head of a Canadian government squandered a national budget surplus and then ran up a 2 trillion debt in six short years. And, those cheaters up north have national health care insurance, too.

We should file a formal protest. Canada is not playing fair! They aren't fielding complete dopes, crooks, and incompetents to run their country.

Hard Choices

It's so difficult being an authoritative empire instead of a democracy. It requires hard choices. Take, for example, the Bush administration's newest iteration of a trial system for Guantanamo prisoners. At bottom, this sort of thing, where even the prosecutors and judges are in open rebellion, leaves the White House with only two fundamental choices. One of them is to trash the First Amendment along with all of those other thingys in the Constitution that are so Pre-9-11.

Like Mississippi, Unfortunately

McClatchey News Service reports today that a new study shows, "for the first time in more than 40 years, the majority of children in public schools in the South are poor... ."
Twenty years ago, Mississippi was the only state in the country with such a high percentage of poor public school students. However, as textile mills shut down in the Carolinas, Appalachian coal mines cut workers and a recession swept the nation, families in the South were especially hard hit, the Southern Education Foundation report found.
* * *
Now, a majority of public school students are considered low income in a total of 13 states, including 11 in the South.
* * *
According to 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores, lower-income fourth and eighth graders lagged 20 to 30 points behind their peers on math and reading tests. Poor, Southern students who make up the majority of their states' student populations also have lower college attendance rates than their peers, the Southern Education Foundation report found.

Florida, with 62% of all public school students below the poverty line, comes in third from the bottom, besting only Mississippi and Louisiana.

What's the explanation? As always, there is a multitude. But one key reason singled out by McClatchey is "the fact that, as a region, the South spends less per pupil on education than do other parts of the country." Florida, for example, in the latest available survey from the National Education Association ranks 4th in total student enrollment but a dismal 41st out of the 50 states in per pupil expenditures.

As the St. Petersburg Times headlined the news more than two years ago, overall Florida "schools still rank near the bottom." As the Florida Forum for Progressive Policy concluded after reviewing the latest available comparative data on specific student skills and performance, "Florida ranks in the lower half of the comparable states in 12 of the 16 benchmarks--hardly an indication of “high quality.”

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the amount of money we commit to public education bears a very close relationship to the quality of education we receive. After all, money is the valuation medium in nearly every other sphere of human activity, from the things we buy to the pay we lavish on corporate CEOs.

Another reason for the collective failure of Southern schools is the heavy burden of regressive politics:
"The South historically was just a poorer part of the country and didn't have the focus on education that other parts of the country had," said Jeff Kuhner, a spokesman for the Fordham Foundation, an education think tank in Washington. "Part of its strategy for the past 25 to 30 years has been cheap, undereducated labor, they don't have labor unions.
Even Communist China has come to recognize that good, free public education is the only effective way to narrow the worrisome gap between rich and poor, as we had the opportunity to personally observe a while ago. More recently, the P.R.C. leadership reaffirmed its commitment to "the important goal of putting education first, and building a strong nation with a rich pool of human resources."

Strange to say, maybe Florida needs to be less like Mississippi and more like Communist China.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Red Sox Refund

More than pride and the World Series title rests on the outcome of the remaining Boston-Colorado baseball games. About 30,000 Boston Red Sox fans stand to be reimbursed for all they spent buying furniture at Jordan's last Spring.

Bloomberg explains:

Jordan's Furniture, a Taunton, Massachusetts-based chain owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., estimates that many customers will receive free sofas, tables or beds if the Red Sox win two more games to claim Major League Baseball's championship. Boston leads the best-of-seven series 2-0 against the Colorado Rockies heading into Game 3 tomorrow in Denver.

"We had some customers spend over $100,000 for a whole house full of furniture to get in on the deal,'' Eliot Tatelman, Jordan's chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview.

The furniture giveaway is part of a "Monster Deal" that the company, which is in its first year of a promotional agreement with the team, set up before the start of spring training.

Consumers who bought a dining room table, sofa or bed at Jordan's between March 7 and April 16 will receive a rebate of the purchase price. The company, which has an insurance policy to cover the costs of the promotion, wouldn't disclose the value of the merchandise bought during the five-week period, or details of the insurance policy.
Great idea, but it would never work in Florida. Here, the insurance companies would send out adjusters to deny the refund claims. And after years of litigation the Florida Supreme Court would rule that the Boston Red Sox didn't really 'win' the the World Series; the Colorado Rockies 'lost' it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rummaging Through the Cedar Chest

There's some well written, provocative thinking going on as contemporaries search through the cedar chest of history for old ideas to wrap around today's troubles:

On Democratic presidential front-runners (from "Schlesinger's Affairs" by George Packard):
Is something similar going on in the current Democratic Presidential campaign? Two months ago, I wrote that Obama, with his veneer of idealism and his pragmatic core, reminded me a bit of J.F.K. That might have been wrong. Since then, it’s become clear that Obama is not “a devious and, if necessary, ruthless man,” as Schlesinger called Kennedy. Democrats drawn to Obama’s camp project onto him the sense of politics as a higher calling that Stevenson pioneered in the early nineteen-fifties (whether there’s much substance to it in Obama isn’t completely clear). In the American liberal tradition, this means almost certain defeat. Clinton, on the other hand, appeals to those liberals who want to sleep with power and its compromises and have made their peace with it. For this reason, she will always be despised by a significant minority of people on her side of the partisan line, in addition to everyone on the other side.
On Walter Lippmann's view of "the essential role of the press and reporters in safeguarding the values of the republic," (quoting extensively from Sidney Blumenthal's "Journalism and Its Discontents"):
Lippmann had witnessed firsthand how the “manufacture of consent” had deranged democracy. But he did not hold those in government solely responsible. He also described how the press corps was carried away on the wave of patriotism and became self-censors, enforcers, and sheer propagandists. Their careerism, cynicism, and error made them destroyers of “liberty of opinion” and agents of intolerance, who subverted the American constitutional system of self-government. Even the great newspaper owners, he wrote, “believe that edification is more important than veracity. They believe it profoundly, violently, relentlessly. They preen themselves upon it. To patriotism, as they define it from day to day, all other considerations must yield. That is their pride. And yet what is this but one more among myriad examples of the doctrine that the end justifies the means? A more insidiously misleading rule of conduct was, I believe, never devised among men.”
Robert Kuttner, author of "The Sqaundering of America: How the Failure of Politics Undermines Our Prosperity," on the need for regulation of the economy:
ROBERT KUTTNER: Regulators and the public don't get any kind of disclosure. And hedge funds, because of the loophole in the securities laws, they're not regulated at all. And to the extent that there is a degree of transparency, regulators do get to look at the assets of banks. Sometimes they don't know what they're looking at. Now, you put those three things together, you have a risk of an economy based on asset bubbles where people--

BILL MOYERS: Asset bubbles?

ROBERT KUTTNER:Yeah. It's what happened in the '20s and it's what happened in the '90s. There's a euphoria that sets in. Some of it's engineered euphoria. If you cook your company's books to make it look like your profits are higher than they really are, that's gonna bid up the price of your stock.

And if you're an executive who's compensated on the basis of the price of the stock, that's called a conflict of interest. And that was at the heart of what happened in the '20s and what happened in the '90s. That's why we need the kind of transparency that Mr. Donaldson was promoting when he was head of the SEC.
* * *
ROBERT KUTTNER: You know, the problem is that in the old days when a bank examiner went to a bank and looked at its portfolio of loans, the examiner could tell which of the loans were performing. Was interest being paid on the loans? Was the principal being paid back? Which ones weren't? And the examiner could direct the bank to reserve assets against the risk of a loan default.

Well, today it's a kind of a regulatory black box. The regulators are relying on the banks' own so-called stress models, which make certain assumptions about human behavior. And we just had a full field test of this in the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. The models didn't work. Behavior wasn't supposed to occur along these lines.

And a lot of this turned out to be junk. And a lot of innocent people got hurt. And the only reason the economy didn't crash was the Fed, which was not inclined to do this before the sub-prime meltdown-- the Fed opened the spigots. And so even though the sub-prime sector is a complete mess, the stock market, as you pointed out in your introduction, hit new highs.

Why? Because the more alarmed the Fed is about the economy, the more the Fed is gonna lower money. And that's good for the stock market.

ROBERT KUTTNER: I mean Alan Greenspan, is one of the revered public figures of our time. I think he made one huge mistake — he did not use a lot of the regulatory power that he had. Every time there was a credit crunch, he would race to the rescue.

BILL MOYERS: By putting in cheap money?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Yeah. So it seems to me, if you're gonna bail out-- problems after the fact, you have an obligation to prevent some of them before they start. And for 13 years, Greenspan's Fed and now Bernanke's Fed has had not just the authority but the mandate from Congress to look at mortgage loan origination standards.

Had they issued regulations under that authority, you never would have had a sub-prime crisis because they would have gone in and noticed that loans were being made that people couldn't possibly pay off. And the only reason they were being made was that somebody at the end of the daisy chain was willing to buy the paper.
Then, of course, there's this book:
Are We Rome?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Choices Gone Wild

"He would rather stay in jail in Nevada than return to Florida."
-- Joe Francis, creator of "Girls Gone Wild"

Jobs for Incompetents!

George Packer:
Certain corners of the Administration seem to exist in order to provide employment security for wrong theories and exploded assumptions that can live on without fear of the sack, insulated from facts, providing language for a Vice-Presidential speech and continuing to inform policy at the highest level. This is a working description of ideology, and it is a dangerous thing, whether in Tehran or in Washington.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Beach Tax Lawsuit Tanked

WHEREAS, Santa Rosa Island Authority on behalf of Escambia County represented to the general public and all parties dealing with them, that the said properties on Santa Rosa Island owned by Escambia County were not subject to ad valorem taxes, and

WHEREAS, said governmental authorities induced hundreds of persons, who relied upon the representations and the decision of the Supreme Court to enter into long term leases providing for rentals and which contained many onerous provisions... .
House Bill No. 3913, 1976 Laws of Florida, chap. 76-361
Florida's First District Court of Appeals yesterday upheld a lower court decision by Pensacola circuit judge Nick Geeker which approved assessing real estate taxes on Pensacola Beach business leases. The business lease tax case was one of four lawsuits filed three years ago, when Escambia County commissioners moved to squeeze more gold out of the wounded goose known as Pensacola Beach.

Yesterday's appeals court opinion was learned and erudite; it explored the unique historical context of the on-again-off-again- on-again promises of Florida state and county government that beach leases would be tax-free, and the opinion brought to bear on the issue incisive reasoning, ample precedent, and an enlightened discussion of public policy. Right?

Not a chance. The court's opinion consists of one word: "Affirmed." That's 2.66 alphabet letters for each of the three judges (annual salary: $147,524) who issued yesterday's decision, by name Marguerite Davis, Joseph Lewis, and Clayton Roberts.

Despite the First District Court of Appeals' 1987 precedent of Bell v. Bryan I, the handwriting has been on the wall for some time with more recent court opinions like this one and this one. Few above the lowly political level of a trial judge seem willing to leave their fingerprints on it. That's one advantage of what judges call a "per curiam" (unsigned) opinion: individual judges can hide their own responsibility and reasoning, albeit at the steep price of undermining the democratic principles of accountability, transparency, and public education about the judiciary's function.

To be sure, we still await a final appellate court ruling on the main case involving Pensacola Beach residential leaseholds. So, unless you've lost faith in the impartiality and wisdom of the Florida court system (Now, stop that snickering!) don't sell your evidence on Ebay just yet.

Unless, like our friend Bryan, you think it's a Zen thing -- in which case you might want to convert your beach home to a start-up high tech "business with no track record" to get a $2 million tax break from the county.

Coming In a Newspaper Near You

Nieman Watchdog, a blog sponsored by Harvard's prestigious Nieman Fellowship program, is famed among the paper-azzi we know for a section titled "Ask This" that poses questions the press should be asking. Questions such as "How Badly Has Bush Damaged the Federal Government?" (In case you were wondering, preliminary research suggests the answer is that aggressively recruiting incompetent boobs to staff the bureaucracy has long-lasting deleterious effects. What a shock.)

There's also a "Commentary" section where, last week, this news- about- the- news appeared: It seems the Memphis Commercial Appeal, an expression of the Scripps-Howard monopoly, recently has begun selling "sponsored ads" for individual news stories. Among these are plans for "sponsorship of an upcoming series of stories" about Memphis and world trade with China.

The new policy has sent a "shock wave" through the news room. Some fifty newsroom employees signed a protest petition "expressing their concerns about sponsored stories."

No doubt, they're worried because of the time-honored truth that he who pays the piper calls the tune. But the paper's editor, Chris Peck, dutifully wrote an editorial saying he rejects such a notion.
Peck said there was no expectation by Boyle or The CA that the sponsorship would influence content. “Advertisers clearly understand the value of having their paid messages associated with independently reported, relevant content,” Peck wrote.
You have to wonder whether Peck is stupid, a bullshitter, or a humbug artist. There aren't any better alternatives. No doubt, Memphis advertisers are guffawing at the notion that they value "independently reported" news over safe, unctuous cant.

What you can stop wondering about is whether buying the news and twisting it to the advertiser's purpose is a trend that will spread and infect other publications. It will. Indeed, it already has -- and our own Government is a leading purchaser.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Divorce, Rich Republican Style

David Segal of the Washington Post may win the Pulitzer Prize for 'Gossip Reporting' (if there is such a category) after today's report on "The Low Road to Splitsville."
Pittsburgh is the scene of the fabulously tawdry and surpassingly vicious spectacle that is the divorce of Richard Mellon Scaife.

Remember him? The cantankerous, reclusive 75-year-old billionaire who's spent a sizable chunk of his inherited fortune bankrolling conservative causes and trying to kneecap Democrats? He's best known for funding efforts to smear then-President Bill Clinton, but more quietly he's given in excess of $300 million to right-leaning activists, watchdogs and think tanks. Atop his list of favorite donees: the family-values-focused Heritage Foundation, which has published papers with titles such as "Restoring a Culture of Marriage."

The culture of his own marriage is apparently past restoring. With the legal fight still in the weigh-in phase, the story of Scaife v. Scaife already includes a dog-snatching, an assault, a night in jail and that divorce court perennial, allegations of adultery.
It's a funny piece, written in a style reminiscent of Sarah Vowell's travelogue, "Assassination Vacation," but with added echoes of Damon Runyon's famous reportage of the "Daddy and Peaches Trial" and the honking goose in the bedroom.

"The good news, weekend travelers," Segal writes, "is you can get close enough to most of the landmarks to gawk to your heart's content. So buy a map and pack a lunch. And keep your hands inside the car."

The bad news comes when you remember that these are the very kind of people for whom George W. Bush looted the U.S. Treasury so he could shower them with tax breaks.

Beach Retreat and Rain Return

Barrier Island Girl photo-blogs the retreat of the red tide and the return of the rain. The National Weather Service has the details:
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MOBILE AL
611 AM CDT MON OCT 22 2007

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MOBILE HAS ISSUED A

* SPECIAL MARINE WARNING FOR... COASTAL WATERS FROM DESTIN TO PENSACOLA FL OUT 20 NM OVER GULF OF MEXICO WATERS... UNTIL 815 AM CDT

* AT 610 AM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR CONTINUED TO SHOW A LARGE AREA OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS MOVING FROM SOUTH TO NORTH ACROSS THE NEAR SHORE WATERS. SEVERAL OF THE THUNDERSTORMS CONTINUE TO SHOW ROTATION IN THEM AND WATERSPOUTS WILL BE POSSIBLE IN THESE STORMS. THE GREATEST THREAT FOR WATERSPOUTS WILL BE BETWEEN PENSACOLA BEACH AND DESTIN. THE THUNDERSTORMS WERE MOVING NORTH AT 20 KNOTS.

* THE THUNDERSTORMS WILL CONTINUE TO DEVELOP IN THE COASTAL WATERS BETWEEN PENSACOLA AND DESTIN THROUGH THE MORNING.

IN ADDITION TO WATERSPOUTS...MARINERS CAN EXPECT GUSTY WINDS... HIGH WAVES...DANGEROUS LIGHTNING...AND HEAVY RAINS. THUNDERSTORMS ARE EXPECTED THROUGH THE MORNING HOURS AND BOATERS SHOULD REMAIN IN PORT. A SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IS ALSO IN EFFECT FOR THE WARNED AREA.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Citizens on the Tornado Scene

The Insurance Journal reports:
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. opened a mobile claims center in Pensacola today to help policyholders with property damaged by tornadoes that ripped through the area, a Citizens official said.
* * *
The center is located at Pensacola's Cordova Mall on North Ninth Avenue.
All claims will be denied on the grounds it was "ripping" and not "wind" that did the damage. Three years from now the Florida Supreme Court will agree. "Insurance companies always are reasonable," the court opinion will say. "They are our friends. But ripping is a distinctly different risk than wind. The homeowners should have purchased ripping insurance."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another Can't-ee-date for Presnut

Just in time for Halloween... via "WDComn", a diaryist at Daily Kos:

Are you unsatisfied with the current field of Republican candidates?
Are you frustrated because they just don’t have what it takes to be a REAL Republican?
Are you frightened that the Democrats will take back the White House?
Are you worried that caring about children, promoting education, lowering insurance rates, tax cuts for the middle class and bringing our troops home from Iraq might actually become White House priorities?

Then the only candidate for you is Katherine Harris.

Scary!

Remember When...

Remember when all we had to debate was the definition of "sex" -- as in "I did not have sexual relations with that woman?" In less than a decade our national discourse has plunged to these moral depths: A U.S. senator has to ask the nominee for the highest legal job in the land, "Is waterboarding constitutional?"

Even more appalling, the author of "Legal Ethics and Human Dignity" says the answer can be discovered by performing this simple scientific experiment:
So: does waterboarding inflict severe suffering? If you want to do a quick, common-sense reality check, try this. Blow all the air out of your lungs. Then stare at your watch and try not to inhale for ninety seconds by the clock. Then take one quick half-breath and immediately do it again. Now imagine that you’re tied down while you’re doing it and water is pouring over your head and rolling up your nose. Or, if you’re really ambitious, get in the shower and turn it on and try the same hold-your-breath-with-no-air-in-your-lungs experiment with your head tilted up and the water pouring up your nose. Then decide for yourself whether it’s severe suffering.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mr. Dodd Goes To Washington


The "serious" pundits and "very serious" politicians of both parties, as Duncan ("Atrios") Black says, have created in Washington D.C. "a deeply sick political culture in a deeply corrupt and deeply sick city, composed of people who have turned their backs on everything most of us grew imagining this country stood for... ."

What Duncan is talking about is this:
Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government's domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources.

. . . It was a victory for President Bush, whose aides lobbied heavily against the Democrats' [House] bill... . The draft Senate bill has the support of the intelligence committee's chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), and Bush's director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell. It will include full immunity for those companies that can demonstrate to a court that they acted pursuant to a legal directive in helping the government with surveillance in the United States.

Among others who are oh-so-eager to certify after the fact that it's OK for telecom giants to spy on any and all Americans, simply because we have a president who ignores the Constitution and he asked them to, are three prominent Democrats: Jay Rockefeller (D-Verizon)' Harry Reid (D-AT&T), and Diane Feinstein (D-Hubby's War Contracts). Only Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) voted against the bill.

Luckily, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is doing what every office holder has sworn to do: defend the Constitution and uphold the law. First, he announced he has put a "hold" on the legislation. When it looked today like Reid might try to get around that and bring the bill to a vote anyway, Dodd promised a filibuster.

Not one of those phony filibusters, where the spineless old farts in Washington just pretend -- a "lazy man's filibuster," as conservative columnist Kate O'Beirne once put it. No, he's talking about a real, down home, honest-to-goodness, Old Tyme filibuster on the order of Jimmy Stewart's "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington."

If we remember the movie correctly, Mr. Smith stands his ground alone and speaks his mind amid the derision of fatuous Senate colleagues for days and days. At last, weariness and fatigue almost overcome him. Just as he is about to collapse, he is reenergized by ranks of postal workers marching onto the Senate floor carrying countless bags of encouraging letters from ordinary citizens across the country. They'd been watching, they'd been listening. They'd made up their minds: Mr. Smith, they realized, was the only politician left in America who deserved their support.

On his record and credentials, Chris Dodd well may be the best qualified Democratic candidate in the field. But conventional wisdom says he doesn't have a chance. CW says even if he were to pull off a "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," it's unlikely he could fire the imagination of the electorate. They'll be too busy watching TV "reality" shows to notice.

Still, there's just that little sliver of a chance..... about the same sliver Jimmy Stewart's character had. Ask Mr. Dodd to "go to Washington" for you. Here's where you can send him your own letter of encouragement:
Chris Dodd for President '08

Telephone Tornado

Holy moley! Infected Paper Cut Blog says, "So who knew the Blonde Chick on CSI: Miami lived in Pensacola?" Give a listen...

Tornado - The Movie

Hey, Dude! Watch, listen, and wonder... Were these people at work? Were they sober?

Tornado Times

Times! Tornado Times! Ger 'yer Tornado Times right here!

More than 10 inches rain fell on the Pensacola area yesterday. This morning, it's raining again. Hard.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Beach Houses, Joe Pattis Struck By Storm

News reports are that at least 5 Pensacola Beach houses were damaged by a tornado early this morning. Phone callers report Joe Patti's fish market near downtown Pensacola sustained heavy damage, too, along with several smaller houses on the west side of downtown Pensacola.

One caller also reports as many as 16 cars were overturned in the Cordova Mall parking lot in north Pensacola, but we haven't been able to confirm this as yet. The price of satellite TV service, as we suppose.

Tornado Strikes Pensacola Area

High winds nearing 50 mph, drenching rains of biblical proportions, and bone-shaking lightning strikes have been hitting the Pensacola area all morning. Word has it a tornado struck near downtown Pensacola late morning and that three-mile bridge is closing, but sporadic power outages make it difficult to confirm.

Jeff Miller the Marionette Congressman

Northwest Florida's weak excuse for a congressman, Jeff Miller, gets ink in today's Pensacola News Journal for opposing legislation that would renew the State Children's Health Insurance Program. SCHIP, as it is known, makes it possible for --
Families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid... .

Families that do not currently have health insurance are likely to be eligible, even if you are working. The states have different eligibility rules, but in most states, uninsured children under the age of 19, whose families earn up to $36,200 a year (for a family of four) are eligible. For little or no cost, this insurance pays for:

  1. doctor visits
  2. immunizations
  3. hospitalizations
  4. emergency room visits
It's a widely popular safety net for the working poor and middle class. For good reason. The latest statistical reports show "nearly 47 million Americans, or 16 percent of the population, were without health insurance in 2005" and "nearly 82 million people -- about one-third of the population below the age of 65 -- spent a portion of either 2002 or 2003 without health coverage."

SCHIP doesn't cover all of them, unfortunately, but it does cover their children.

Nevertheless, Miller says he'll vote to uphold George Bush's veto of the bill that would have continued the program. The reasons Miller give come right out of a cookie-cutter G.O.P. talking points memo which the AP uncovered two weeks ago:
He cited several reasons for his original vote against the bill, including its $35 billion price tag and potential to insure illegal immigrants.
***
Miller said he doesn't oppose the program, but the current bill takes the wrong approach. The measure depends too much on tobacco taxes and marks the first step toward socialized medicine, he said.

Let's see. Too expensive? Check. Might accidentally help some illegal alien child somewhere in the U.S. who has an infectious disease? Check. Uses tobacco taxes? Check. Socialized medicine? Check.

All absolutely ridiculous, of course. No one in Northwest Florida can be fooled by such transparent drivel, especially coming from a congressman like Miller who consistently votes the Bush party line.

The real reason Miller will vote to kill a sensible, efficient, and cost-effective health insurance program for kids of the working poor and middle class? He's been told to do so, by the Bush White House.

And that's the real problem with our congressman, Jeff Miller. It's not that he's a Republican. It's not that he claims to be a conservative. It's not even that he is so very wrong so often.

The root problem with Miller is that he doesn't think for himself or think about his own constituents. He simply phones it in whenever and however the G.O.P. leadership tells him to.

Jeff Miller isn't really a congressman. He's a puppet whose strings are pulled by someone else.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Adults Gone Wild

PNJ sports columnist D.C. Reeves today writes with feeling about parent provocateurs .

Justice Laughs in Florida

Federal investigators have been looking into boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled youths across the country. [pdf report here] [text report here]

They found, as the New York Times summarizes, "
thousands of allegations of abuse and neglect at residential treatment programs over the last 17 years. "
The numbers are sketchy because no federal agency collects national data, and in far too many states, monitoring of the camps is lax. A number of states regulate publicly funded programs, but don’t license or regulate the private programs.
An in-depth investigation into ten selected cases at privatized boot camps showed the deaths were due to --
ineffective management in most of these 10 cases, with program leaders neglecting the needs of program participants and staff. This ineffective management compounded the negative consequences of (and sometimes directly resulted in) the hiring of untrained staff; a lack of adequate nourishment; and reckless or negligent operating practices, including a lack of adequate equipment.
In Panama City, Florida, cause of death would have been put down as "undiagnosed sickle cell anemia." And, the judge would have laughed.
A number of defense attorneys appeared on Court TV following the verdict, and Bay County Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet, who presided over the case, watched from a chair in the courtroom on a television, sometimes laughing at the commentary.
Table 1: Summary of Victim Information
Case: 1;
Victim information: Female, 15, California resident;
Program attended: Utah wilderness therapy program (death occurred in
Arizona);
Date of death: May 1990;
Cause of death: Dehydration;
Case details:
* Died while hiking on fifth day of program;
* Exhibited signs of illness for 2 days, such as throwing up water,
falling down, and complaining of blurred vision;
* Collapsed due to dehydration;
* Lay dead for 18 hours on dirt road;
* Program brochure given to parents had advertised program staff as
"highly trained survival experts";
* Died on federal land.

Case: 2;
Victim information: Female, 16, Florida resident;
Program attended: Utah wilderness therapy program;
Date of death: June 1990;
Cause of death: Heat stroke;
Case details:
* Died while hiking on third day of program;
* Program had not considered child's adjustment from a coastal, sea-
level residence to a high desert wilderness area;
* Died of "exertional heatstroke" while hiking;
* Program owner acquitted of criminal charges but placed on state list
of suspected child abusers.

Case: 3;
Victim information: Male, 16, Arizona resident;
Program attended: Utah wilderness therapy program;
Date of death: March 1994;
Cause of death: Acute infection resulting from perforated ulcer;
Case details:
* Exhibited signs of physical distress for nearly 3 weeks, such as
severe abdominal pain, significant weight loss (20 percent of body
weight), loss of bodily functions, and weakness;
* Collapsed and became unresponsive;
* Air lifted to hospital and pronounced dead on arrival; * Died on
federal land.

Case: 4;
Victim information: Male, 15, Oregon resident;
Program attended: Oregon wilderness therapy program;
Date of death: Sept. 2000;
Cause of death: Severed artery;
Case details:
* Refused to return to campsite but did not behave violently;
* Restrained by staff and held face down to the ground for almost 45
minutes;
* Died of severed artery in neck;
* Death ruled a homicide;
* Grand jury declined to issue an indictment; * Died on federal land.

Case: 5;
Victim information: Male, 14, Massachusetts resident;
Program attended: West Virginia residential school and wilderness
therapy program;
Date of death: Feb. 2001;
Cause of death: Suicide (hanging);
Case details: * Attempted suicide twice before enrolling in program; *
On the fifth day of program cut arm several times with camp-issued
pocket knife; * Staff did not take the knife away; * Hung himself near
his tent the next day; * Program had no suicide prevention plan.

Case: 6;
Victim information: Male, 14, Arizona resident;
Program attended: Arizona boot camp;
Date of death: July 2001;
Cause of death: Dehydration;
Case details:
* On seventh day was punished for asking to go home;
* Forced to sit in 113-degree desert heat;
* Was delirious and dehydrated;
* Taken to motel room, placed in shower tub, left unattended;
* Staff returned victim to camp in the flatbed of a pickup truck and
placed his limp body onto his sleeping bag;
* Staff later found him unresponsive and he died at the hospital.

Case: 7;
Victim information: Female, 16, Virginia resident;
Program attended: Utah wilderness therapy program;
Date of death: Jan. 2002;
Cause of death: Massive head trauma;
Case details:
* Fell while hiking on Christmas Day;
* Staff had not scouted extremely dangerous area beforehand;
* Staff had no medical equipment, against its licensing agreement;
* Took about one hour for first paramedics to arrive;
* Died on federal land.

Case: 8;
Victim information: Female, 15, California resident;
Program attended: Oregon wilderness therapy program (also operated in
Nevada at time of death);
Date of death: May 2002;
Cause of death: Dehydration/ heat stroke;
Case details:
* Died while hiking on first day of program;
* Told others she had taken methamphetamines before the hike, but was
not screened for drug before hike;
* Experienced signs of distress for several hours while hiking;
* Collapsed and stopped breathing;
* Died of heat stroke complicated by the methamphetamines and
prescription medication;
* Died on federal land.

Case: 9;
Victim information: Male, 14, Texas resident;
Program attended: Utah wilderness therapy program;
Date of death: July 2002;
Cause of death: Hyperthermia (excessive body temperature);
Case details:
* On a 3-mile hike in desert heat;
* Complained of thirst and refused to continue hike;
* Left in the sun for an hour and stopped breathing;
* Staff member hid behind a tree for 10 minutes thinking the victim was
"faking" illness;
* Help arrived over an hour after death;
* Died on federal land.

Case: 10;
Victim information: Male, 15, California resident;
Program attended: Missouri boot camp and boarding school;
Date of death: Nov. 2004;
Cause of death: Complications of rhabdomyolysis due to a probable
spider bite;
Case details:
* Displayed signs of distress for several days;
* Program's medical officer told staff victim was "faking it";
* Became lifeless and could hardly move;
* Punished for being too weak to exercise and forced to wear a 20-pound
sandbag around his neck;
* Autopsy reported death was caused by complications of rhabdomyolysis
due to a probable spider bite, but also found numerous bruises all over
the victim's body.

Insurance Question

Enquiring insurers wants to know, "Why should we insure something if there's a risk it might be damaged?"

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Hillarious Headline Award...

... is awarded to Atrios, for this gem:


Be sure to click on the link, too.

Gore Drives Them Crazy

Princeton economics professor Paul Krugman explains why:
[N]ow that Mr. Bush has proved himself utterly the wrong man for the job — to be, in fact, the best president Al Qaeda’s recruiters could have hoped for — the symptoms of Gore derangement syndrome have grown even more extreme.

The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.>/span>
A private, grassroots citizen's organization calling itself the Al Gore Support Center lists more of his accomplishments.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pensacola Disappeared

She wasn't much to look at
superficially but
we loved her anyway.
Then she left and didn't
even leave
a note behind.

Friday, October 12, 2007

So, How Did That New Hire Work Out?

So, America, how did that new hire we made for you work out?
------------------------------
Job Candidates:
George Bush
versus
Al Gore, Jr.


Al Gore, Jr. (not hired):
George Bush (appointed):

Al Gore Wins Nobel Peace Prize

UPDATED BELOW

Former vice-president Al Gore has been awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, it was announced in Oslo today. The Committee explained:
Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.
Co-winner is the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.
Both Gore and the IPCC, as the New York Times explains early this morning, were selected "for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and lay the foundations for counteracting it." The Nobel Committee explained that global warming threatens "the living conditions of much of mankind" and increases "danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states."

The Peace Prize is worth $1.56 million. The Nobel Foundation was created in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel more than a century ago. Past recipients include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Red Cross. The prize was first handed out in 1901. A list of all previous winners can be found here.

UPDATE
10-12 pm

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mush and Milk in Alabama

"Mush-and-milk journalism gives me the fan-tods."

Of late, the Pensacola News Journal has been excitedly pawing through emails from county commissioner Mike Whitehead and even headlining on the front page (!!) juvenile message board postings by school board member Godzilla... no, Gary Bergosh... no, Godzilla...no, it is Gary Bergosh after all.

Meanwhile honest investigative journalism in nearby Mobile and Birmingham, Alabama, seems to have completely collapsed. The monopoly known as Advance Publications, which dominates Alabama's newspaper market, has stretched out, closed its eyes, and is taking a long snooze. Worse, there are those who say "There's No News in the Birmingham News" because it's become the house "Organ of the Executive Committee of the Alabama G.O.P.” "Absurd, unprofessional, propagandistic" are just a few of the adjectives used to describe coverage by the Birmingham News.

So it's understandable that it has taken Time Magazine out of New York to weigh in on the growing Siegelman trial scandal. The Time article is moderately long, but the entire scandal is quite a bit more complicated than even Time has room for. The Hill out of Washington D.C. has a usefully abbreviated news story about "the prosecution and conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D) on corruption charges."

Bottom line: Evidence is surfacing that Karl Rove made the U.S. Attorney's office do it. From The Hill:
According to the transcript, [GOP lawyer Dana Jill] Simpson described a 2005 conversation with Rob Riley, who told her that Rove had contacted the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice to press for further prosecution of Siegelman. She said Rob Riley also recounted how the case would be assigned to a federal judge who “hated” Siegelman and would “hang Don Siegelman.”
Equally disturbing, although you wouldn't know this if you relied on Alabama's leading newspapers, there is ample evidence that at the same time the Justice Department was covering up far more egregious illegal conduct by Alabama Republican office holders, including incumbent U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions. "Selective prosecution" is how Crooks and Liars summarizes it:
At the heart of the Siegelman scandal in Alabama is the question of selective justice. In 2002, a lobbyist/landfill developer told the U.S. Attorney’s office that he used illegal campaign contributions to bribe some of the biggest names in Alabama Republican politics, including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a Bush-appointed federal judge William Pryor Jr. He also identified Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D).

The U.S. Attorney’s office proceeded to ignore every piece of evidence against Sessions and Pryor, and prosecute Siegelman with everything prosecutors could come up with. One person involved in the prosecution said they left the Republicans alone on purpose because they had Rs after their name: “Sessions and Pryor were on the home team.”

It's precisely this kind of politicization of the Justice Department under George Bush and "Bushie" loyalists like Alberto Gonzalez that has been worrying thinking lawyers and judges of every partisan persuasion across America for the past two years. If a president and his henchmen can selectively prosecute anyone whose political views they despise -- and shield others who are crooked but faithful allies -- then no one is safe and justice itself becomes a mockery.

For those who want the details -- and there are tons of details -- New York lawyer and erudite columnist for Harper's Magazine, Scott Horton, has been covering the story for months. Check out his latest: Karl Rove Linked To Siegelman Prosecution:
For months, the Alabama Republican machine has attempted to brush off claims about Rove’s involvement as some sort of fantastic speculation. Those efforts have just been exploded. We are one step closer to understanding why Karl Rove left the White House, and perhaps also why Alberto Gonzales stepped down as attorney general. The Siegelman case is emerging, as we predicted, as the most damning exhibit yet in the story of the Bush Administration’s use of the Justice Department as a partisan political tool.
Here are just a few more of Scott Horton's detailed posts about the Siegelman affair over the last five months:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Letter to Al Gore

Tennessee Guerilla Women have excerpts, as well as the full page ad (in pdf format) that appears in today's New York Times. It's a letter addressed to, not from, Al Gore:
"You say you have fallen out of love with politics, and you have every reason to feel that way. But we know you have not fallen out of love with your country. And your country needs you now--as do your party and the planet you are fighting to save."

"There are times for politicians and times for heroes. America and the Earth need a hero right now. Please rise to this challenge, or you and millions of us will live forever wondering what might have been."
Let's hope it's enough.

Support Our Mercenaries

PHOTO CREDIT: CNN INTERNATIONAL

Canadian Dimension has the numbers :
The words “Support Our Troops” stain the rear bumpers of thousands of cars. The slogan, however, conceals a more pernicious demand: “Support Our Mercenaries.”

Yes, in Iraq, the mercenaries – euphemistically called “paid contractors” – outnumber US troops, 180,000 to 160,000. These contractors do more than provide armed security for US personnel. They do chores that previously belonged to regular army staff.Private security companies employ for high pay former US soldiers, ex-kidnappers and torturers from Pinochet’s secret police, death squad heavies from a variety of Central and South American countries and a few leftover South African apartheid thugs as well. The companies collect billions from US taxpayers.
The un-serious Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was among the foremost favorites of our un-serious Founding Fathers, had the explanation for how this comes to pass and what it means:
A desire for conquest... is not always what it appears to be, and has not so much, for its real motive, the apparent desire to aggrandize the Nation as a secret desire to increase the authority of the rulers at home by increasing the number of troops, and by the diversion which the objects of war occasion in the minds of the citizens.
* * *
There may come a time when the citizens, no longer looking upon themselves as interested in the common cause, will cease to be the defenders of their country, and the Magistrates will prefer the command of mercenaries to that of freemen; if for no other reason than that, when the time comes, they may use them to reduce freemen to submission. Such was the state of Rome towards the end of the Republic and under the Emperors: for all the victories of the early Romans, like those of Alexander, had been won by brave citizens, who were ready, at need, to give their blood in the service of their country, but would never sell it. Only at the siege of Veii did the practice of paying the Roman infantry begin. Marius, in the Jugurthine war, dishonoured the legions by introducing freemen, vagabonds, and other mercenaries.

Tyrants, the enemies of the very people it was their duty to make happy, maintained regular troops, apparently to withstand the foreigner, but really to enslave their countrymen. To form such troops, it was necessary to take men from the land; the lack of their labour then diminished the amount of provisions, and their maintenance introduced those taxes which increased prices. This first disorder gave rise to murmurs among the people; in order to suppress them, the number of troops had to be increased, and consequently the misery of the people also got worse; and the growing despair led to still further increases in the cause in order to guard against its effects.

On the other hand, the mercenaries, whose merit we may judge of by the price at which they sold themselves, proud of their own meanness, and despising the laws that protected them, as well as their fellows whose bread they ate, imagined themselves more honoured in being Caesar's satellites than in being defenders of Rome. As they were given over to blind obedience, their swords were always at the throats of their fellow-citizens, and they were prepared for general butchery at the first sign. It would not be difficult to show that this was one of the principal causes of the ruin of the Roman Empire.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses
trans. by G. D. H. Cole (E. P. Dutton, 1950) at pp 317-19)

It makes one wonder: What will happen to us when we bring our troops mercenaries home?

Oops! They're here already:
But, as one mercenary said, they've been told they could be in New Orleans for up to six months. "This is a trend," he told us. "You're going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Closing the Atchison Book

The Detroit News today reports that "autopsy results released Monday by the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner" give cause of death for John David Roy Atchison as "asphyxiation" caused when Atchison committed suicide by tying a bed sheet to a shower head.

As in the last few weeks of his life, so also in the circumstances of his death the Gulf Breeze federal prosecutor left too many questions unanswered.
Federal prison officials have not said how Atchison, an inmate on suicide watch due to an earlier suicide attempt, managed to hang himself, and they have declined to say whether Atchison died in a cell equipped with a shower or in a separate shower facility.

If they put him in a cell with a shower, that was totally foolish," said Daniel Manville, a Ferndale lawyer specializing in prisoner rights lawsuits and visiting professor at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law.

"If they allowed him to walk from a cell to a shower, with sheets, you really have to start wondering. You have to ask serious questions about where was the failure in the system. There had to be in this case based upon what we know."
* * *
A prison spokeswoman initially said Atchison was found in his cell, but a second spokeswoman later said officials could not say exactly where he was found.

Most folk in Gulf Breeze express sincere and deeply-felt sympathy for Atchison family members who are still trying, no doubt, to come to grips with all that has happened. But there is also a palpable community desire to close the book on the Roy Atchison story and to focus on the future.

Today, with so many unanswered questions -- not to mention continuing investigations both here and in Michigan -- that seems impossible to imagine. Some day? Perhaps.

Most likely only time will bring peace to those most deeply affected. There always will be unanswered questions. The book will have no ending we can know.

CORRECTED 10-09 PM

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Right Stuff

Our virtual neighbor, Bryan over at Why Now? had a good catch Saturday. It's "about how we did things, when we did them right." Read it, please.

Island Girl's Digital Dream

Pensacola Beach's D.J. Zemenick, who has a popular photo blog known as Barrier Island Girl, this weekend announced that she has opened a virtual photography store. She writes:
Today I finally launched the Internet storefront for Barrier Island Girl Photography. You will see it listed in the left-hand column under "Links". Thank you to blog viewers who've been so patient with me as I've worked to build up my inventory of photos and set up an online store.
We say, good for D.J.! Although she's also an accomplished, very funny writer, photography has become her passion. And what better place to practice that art than Pensacola Beach, where the barrier island's light and sights change so dramatically every moment that it can leave you breathless?

Readers can order prints in sizes from 5 x 7 to 11 x 14, without or without matting and signed or unsigned. Prices range from $10 to $40.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Breaking the Circle of Torture

This week, the New York Times published a shocking investigative report on how the Bush/Cheney administration persistently has given its imprimatur to torture, an imprimatur made indelible by the administration's equally persistent -- and unconstitutional -- violation of congressional statutes and Supreme Court decisions. As Glenn Greenwald wrote, these detailed revelations --
involve the now-familiar, defining attributes of this administration -- claims of limitless presidential power, operating in total secrecy and with no oversight, breaking of laws at will, serial misleading of the Congress and the country and, most of all, the shattering of every previous moral and legal constraint on our national behavior."
Yet, as Greeenwald also points out, "None of this is new."
It has long been known that we are torturing, holding detainees in secret prisons beyond the reach of law and civilization, sending detainees to the worst human rights abusers to be tortured, and subjecting them ourselves to all sorts of treatment which both our own laws and the treaties to which we are a party plainly prohibit.
* * *
And we have decided, collectively as a country, to do nothing about that. Quite the contrary, with regard to most of the revelations of lawbreaking and abuse, our political elite almost in unison has declared that such behavior is understandable, if not justifiable. And our elected representatives have chosen to remain largely in the dark about what was done and, when forced by court rulings or media revelations to act at all, they have endorsed and legalized this behavior -- not investigated, outlawed or punished it.
Scott Horton reminds us that all of this became possible only after Bush and his henchmen engineered a purge in the U.S. Justice Department.
Extremely conservative lawyers who, whatever their political convictions, still believed in the enforcement and application of the law, were taken out. And in came a new team of “loyal Bushies,” people who understood their sole duty to be to implement the personal will of George W. Bush. In the immortal words uttered last week by John Yoo, “Every subordinate should agree with [the President’s] views so there is a unified approach to the law.” Yes. It’s called the F├╝hrerprinzip. But it sounds so much more convincing in the original German.
Predictably, Bush followed these revelations by once again denying in a conclusory kind of way that the U.S. endorses torture. But, also predictably, he offered no supporting facts, wouldn't take questions, and lowered the veil of government secrecy against the prying eyes of fellow Americans.

Even in his denial Bush the F├╝hrer further stained the presidential seal by advancing the cause of despotism and lawlessness. In the current issue of Time Magazine, Massimo Calabrisi (son of the former Yale Law dean and now Second U.S. Circuit Court judge) explains why: Bush's denial endangers the lives of our troops, now and in the future; indeed, it puts at risk the lives of everyone who may be taken into custody abroad, from the Buddhist monks of Burma to the dozen demonstrators from Cameroon who were arrested in Nigeria for peacefully pleading for political asylum in front of a U.S. embassy, to innocent American tourists.
Every time Bush asserts that the U.S does not torture, he is not just undermining his own credibility, he's diminishing the Red Cross too. "It's a downward spiral," says Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First. "If I'm the ICRC and I'm visiting [abused] prisoners in, say, Egypt, the Egyptians will say 'What are you going to do? The U.S. says this isn't torture.'"

Worse, if a dictator in some god-forsaken part of the world captures an American soldier, the U.S. may protest. But it is the Red Cross's assertions of a violation that will be the immediate point of pressure on the captors.

"What it virtually guaranteed is that dictatorships will cite the U.S. government's own arguments to defend themselves and that will make it harder for the ICRC and everyone else to condemn and shame those governments," says Tom Malinowski, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch.

Jon Swift essentially made the same point this week in his bitingly satirical way. In "the torture race," he argued, "we need to stay just one small step behind the enemy. "
If they ratchet up their interrogation techniques, we need to ratchet up ours, making sure that they always stay just a little bit more evil than us so that we can retain our moral superiority.
A few months ago in Salon, Gary Kamiya wrote that the Bush administration "is a lot of things" --
a secretive cabal, a cavalcade of incompetence, a blood-stained Church Militant, a bad rerun of "The Godfather" in which scary men in suits pay ominous visits to hospital rooms.
"Impeachment," he admitted, "is the logical solution." Likening Bush at the head of America to a "bad marriage," he pointed out that the head of the family turned out to be --
A complete dud. * * * Bush cheated on us, lied, besmirched our family's name and spent all our money, we the people, not to mention our elected representatives and the media, seem content to stick it out to the bitter end.
Why then, he asked, "was Clinton, who was never as unpopular as Bush, impeached for lying about sex, while Bush faces no sanction for the far more serious offense of lying about war?" Or, his torture orders for that matter?

For two interrelated reasons, Kamiya suggested. "The main reason is obvious: The Democrats think it's bad politics."
The truth is that Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors, far from being too small, are too great. What has saved Bush is the fact that his lies were, literally, a matter of life and death. They were about war. And they were sanctified by 9/11. Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day. Congress, the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of themselves. This doesn't mean we support Bush, simply that at some dim, half-conscious level we're too confused -- not least by our own complicity -- to work up the cold, final anger we'd need to go through impeachment. We haven't done the necessary work to separate ourselves from our abusive spouse. We need therapy -- not to save this disastrous marriage, but to end it.
"There is an immoral crime of the highest order being committed in America, and somebody is morally responsible," Third World Traveler said a month ago. We all are morally responsible unless we try to stop it.

Democrats in Congress are as morally responsible as the Republicans, unless they try to stop it. Judges on the bench are as morally responsible as the rest of us, unless they try to stop it. A mere handful of ordinary citizens and neighbors are as morally responsible as all the rest of us. As Christopher Dodd reminds us, that was the lesson his father and the allied powers taught at Nuremberg.

Because Bush's endorsement of torture, no matter what he claims otherwise, threatens to have lasting negative effects on the moral standing of the United States and the safety of everyone at risk here and abroad -- including our troops -- impeachment no longer should be viewed as "off the table," as Rep. Nancy Pelosi claimed. Scarecrow at Firedog Lake has it right:

Impeachment is the Constitutional remedy the Founders provided for exactly this disease. It should be attempted even if it fails, because it’s the right thing to do, and because we owe it to those who follow to say we tried and did not submit to this wrecking crew without a struggle.
There is no other way to break the circle of torture that has become the morally bankrupt policy adopted in America's name by George W. Bush.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Roy Atchison Dead; Suicide Suspected

UPDATED BELOW
Pensacola Assistant U.S. Attorney Roy Atchison, whose arrest on interstate child sex abuse charges shell-shocked Gulf Breeze, was found "unresponsive" by federal prison officials in Michigan early this morning. Atchison was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital "and was pronounced dead at 10:17 a.m., federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Mike Truman said."
“His death appears to be the result of suicide,” Truman said. “A thorough investigation is under way.”
Read the rest of the PNJ story here.

UPDATE # 1
10-05 pm

The Detroit Free Press is reporting in a late on-line edition that Atchison "hanged himself this morning at the federal prison in Milan, where he was taken after trying to commit suicide last month at Sanilac County Jail, authorities said."
Officials said Atchison, 53, of Gulf Breeze, Fla., had been housed in solitary confinement and was under close supervision, adding that he had shown no signs of despondency.
* * *
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of John Roy Atchison," his lawyer, James Thomas of Detroit, said today in a statement.

“Our heartfelt regrets go out to his wife and children, his parents and his brothers,” Thomas said. “This is a man who has done a lot of good in his life. Unfortunately, he is going to be judged by his most recent charges and what we have read in the media, and not by the goodness, hard work or by the love of his family."
UPDATE # 2
10-06 am
Abby Goodnough of the New York Times writes that Atchison's Detroit lawyer, James C. Thomas, told her he had unconfirmed information "that Mr. Atchison had hanged himself in the shower."
I think they don’t put somebody in there to watch you when you’re in the shower,” he said. “But you have cameras and people watching you as you’re going in.”

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, Felicia Ponce, would not provide details of the matter but said Mr. Atchison had been living in a one-person cell in the special housing unit.

Goodnough also quotes Thomas as refusing to comment on Mr. Atchison’s last known state of mind or on whether Atchison claimed to be "wrongly accused."
"We’re not going to talk about that, ever, Mr. Thomas said."

Hell on Pensacola Beach

Duwayne Escobedo of Pensacola's weekly Independent News puts down his investigative pencil momentarily this week to devote the cover story to a made-on-Pensacola-Beach "post-apocalyptic" independent film titled "Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell."
[A]fter three years and against all odds, the movie shot on Pensacola Beach in July 2004 by Gulf Breeze product Kevin Wheatley, aka "Tex," is hitting the big screen Oct. 19 in more than two dozen cities across the United States. "We knew it had this potential or otherwise we would have quit," says Wheatley, the movie's star, creator, director and executive producer in an exclusive interview with the Independent News from Los Angeles. "We knew 99 percent of all independent films never end up in theaters at all. I was coolly optimistic. But if it didn't make it I would've been upset, knowing we had great scenes and knowing how much everyone involved with it believed in it."

National Lampoon, a comedy powerhouse for 40 years with motion pictures such as "Animal House" and the "Vacation" series by comedian Chevy Chase, announced plans recently to distribute "Threshold of Hell."

Wheatley and friends shot the film at Fort Pickens just two months before Hurricane Ivan wiped out all land access to the historic site. The movie is set in the year 2097. Among other things, Escobedo tells us, it features "two robot companions, "Cannibal" Sue, the great, great, great grandson of Fidel Castro, a giant sea snake, a Satanic cult and other bizarre heroes and psycho villains."

If that isn't enough of a hint, Variety has described the film as a "hallucinogenic and crazy-quilt" movie that's "part mock-History Channel, part post-Apocalyptic frat fracas and entirely midnight movie in sensibility." The film, says Variety, includes "non-stop violent shtick ... slapstick and action set pieces... chasing and killing... with healthy doses of improv and incongruent casualness."

Sounds to us like a typical day at the beach. Not to everyone's taste, perhaps, but then Wheatley's film is intended to be a cult film. Formal wear will not be required at the opening.

Read the rest of the Independent News article to learn more about local film guru Kevin Wheatley and his plans for a TV spin-off, plus another script he's working on tentatively called "Henchmen." We're told the script is "about two expendable villains who decide to take matters into their own hands."

Out of control high rise developers brought low by mutant sea turtles and a mischief of Santa Rosa beach mice? We can only hope.

Click here to see the official National Lampoon web site for the film, "Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell" and enter the site to see the newest trailer for the movie. Or, below, you can watch an earlier version of the trailer -- probably the one that first attracted the attention of the National Lampoon people.



corrected 10-05