November 19th, 2007

Chris Keeley

Bush to refrain from using the phrase ''Islamic fascists'' on grounds it was offensive to Muslims, T

Fran always has provided wise counsel on how best to protect the American people from the threat of terrorism,'' the president said. ''She has been a steady leader in the effort to prevent and disrupt attacks and to better respond to natural disasters.''

Townsend, who at one point had figured in speculation as to who would head the then-new Department of Homeland Security, was a familiar face, often appearing to argue the administration's position on morning news and Sunday interview shows.

When Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold called on Bush to refrain from using the phrase ''Islamic fascists'' on grounds it was offensive to Muslims, Townsend explained the president's use of the phrase.

''What the president was trying to capture was this idea of using violence to achieve ideological ends -- and that's wrong,'' Townsend said at a news conference. ''Regardless of what label you pin on it, it is this form of radical extremism that really wants to deny people freedom and impose a totalitarian vision of society on everyone, that we object to.''

She had a high profile in the administration's recent response to the devastating wild fires in California, defending the White House reaction to the disaster as going ''exactly the way it should be'' and assuring Californians the federal response would be ''better and faster'' than its performance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's strike against the Gulf Coast states in 2005.

''This is not the end of federal assistance. It's just the beginning,'' Townsend said in connection with the wild fires.

Bush noted in his statement that Townsend prosecuted violent crimes, narcotics offenses, Mafia cases and white-collar fraud as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y. and as an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

No reason was cited for Townsend's departure, and there was no word on a successor.

Chris Keeley

Senate Bill to Order Troop Withdrawal Fails

Senate Bill to Order Troop Withdrawal Fails
On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic bill to fund the Iraq war that would have ordered troop withdrawals to begin within 30 days and set a goal of ending combat by the end of 2008.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: "This bill requires the president to start bringing these troops home so that they can get the heroes welcome that they so bravely earned. Our goal sets a reasonable goal to end combat operations. And it finally ensures that the president will be accountable to Congress and the people."
The final vote on the funding bill was 53 to 45, the Democrats came up seven votes short of the 60 needed to advance the bill.
  • Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: "This is ridiculous. It's undercutting America's vital national security interests. And It's telling our soldiers 'you're losers' when they are winners. So, we are going to defeat it now and forever."

Blackwater Advisor Alvin Krongard Resigns
The brother of State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard has resigned from the advisory board of the private military company Blackwater. Alvin Krongard resigned from Blackwater on Friday just days after his bother, the State Department's top oversight official, was forced to admit his brother had ties to the company.

Chris Keeley

No, But We Saw the Movie

by Nora Ephron 

When they got home that night, she went to get the book. She’d ordered it earlier in the week and meant to read it before they went to the movie, but it was a hard week and things got away from her. This was happening more and more.

Maybe if we look in the book we’ll be able to figure it out, she said.

Maybe we’ll find out what happened at the motel, he said. Why did it skip forward like that?

He said it’s the same in the book.

Who said?

I told you who. The guy I was standing with while I was waiting for you to come out of the men’s room. He read the book and he said it’s the same deal exactly. The sheriff pulls up and everybody’s dead. You never see the scene where they all get shot. Maybe it’s because Javier didnt kill them.

Who’s Javier?

Javier Bardem. The serial killer.

I thought it was Benicio Del Toro.

Well it wasnt. The guy outside the men’s room said there’s a scene in the book that’s not in the movie. He said Javier goes to see a total stranger in some office, who’s never been mentioned earlier. He gives him the satchel of money and he says, Here’s your money back, now maybe you’ll hire me to do things like this in the future.

Why did they leave that out?

How do I know? Write a letter to the Coen brothers.

She opened the book and started reading from the end.

He does this weird thing with contractions, she said. He uses apostrophes for words like that’s and it’s but he doesnt use them for dont and wasnt and wont. He doesnt use quotation marks, either.

Who?

Cormac McCarthy.

How am I supposed to know what you’re talking about with all these pronouns? he said.

He went to get ready for bed.

I cant believe you didnt know Josh Brolin died, she said.

Well I didnt.

He was lying there in the parking lot.

I didnt see him lying in the parking lot.

Well I didnt see him either, but then his wife turned up and Tommy Lee Jones looked sad, so you knew he was dead.

I thought he looked sad because the mother was dead.

The mother? The mother doesnt die till later.

I thought it was the mother in the swimming pool.

How could you think it was the mother? It was the girl with the beer in the swimming pool. She was wearing a bikini. The mother was about a hundred years old. What would the mother be doing wearing a bikini? The mother dies of cancer. Jesus.

What happened to the satchel of money?

He gives it to a total stranger. I told you.

But in the movie what happens to the money?

She wondered if they’d ever know. Maybe the answers were buried in the caliche, along with some character who had figured in a story toward the end of the movie. She hadnt been able to follow the story about the character who was buried in the caliche because she was busy trying to puzzle out what happened to the satchel of money, but the word caliche stuck in her head. It was pronounced ka-lee-chee. Since they lived in New York City and were not about to go dig a hole in Central Park, it didnt seem like a particularly useful word, but you never know.

He got into bed.

I cant believe you didnt know Josh Brolin died, she said. Who did you think was lying on that slab in the morgue?

The mother, he said.

The mother? she said. The mother?

He was asleep.

Chris Keeley

Warren Buffett on the Estate Tax

 Warren Buffett to Congress: Keep Taxing the Mega-Rich*
   By Chuck Collins
   AlterNet

   Monday 19 November 2007

   */Calls "death tax" rhetoric "intellectually dishonest" and "clever,
   Orwellian and dead wrong."/*

   Billionaire Warren Buffett testified before the Senate Finance
Committee on Wednesday in defense of the federal estate tax, the
nation's only tax on inherited wealth.

   Buffett invoked the historical roots of the estate tax, established
in 1916 during the Gilded Age to put a brake on anti-democratic
concentrations of wealth and power. "Dynastic wealth, the enemy of
meritocracy, is on the rise," Buffett told the panel. "Equality of
opportunity has been on the decline. A progressive and meaningful estate
tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy."

   As a result of the 2001 Bush tax cut, the federal estate tax is
being phased out and in 2010 will be completely repealed for one year.
But the entire tax bill sunsets in 2011, and unless Congress takes
action, the estate tax will return. The votes no longer exist for
"permanent repeal," so a compromise lies ahead.

   Wealthy individuals and tax cutters have always disliked the estate
tax, which they labeled the "death tax." In the mid-1990s, a group of
superrich families began funding organizing efforts to abolish the tax,
culminating with the passage of the 2001 legislation.

   
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