Thursday, December 30, 2004


WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 - In the wake of back-to-back ethics slaps at the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, House Republicans are preparing to make it more difficult to initiate ethics investigations and could remove the Republican chairman who presided over the admonishments of Mr. DeLay last fall.

"All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others." -- George Orwell, Animal Farm

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Now that Peter Beinart has provoked quite a stir among liberals with his recent TNR editorial, I'd thought I'd chime in with my 2-cents.

I don't think there's an argument whether or not Al Qaeda should be defeated. Duh. What liberal group is against this point? It comes down to what degree of emphasis should it be given in the day-to-day operations of our country. Republicans like to hurl it into the front row, using it to manipulate and scare the masses so they can then rob the store. Beinart suggests liberals should likewise be out in front on this topic, flailing hands in the air, etc. As opposed to being reasonable and educate the public that 1) they're being manipulated, and 2) if this "war" is forever, we can't let it supercede all other national priorities.

Communism itself was easier to defeat as an enemy as it did not have religion as its driver, as its backbone, working to foster no fear of death (suicide), and in fact where death is viewed as good. Also, communism depended on physical invasion; Islamic fanaticism operates less overtly, with cells, secret bases within nations, etc. In this sense, the enemy is less tangible, identifiable, and even reasonable.

In terms of reality vs. perception, and using reason when it comes to the probabilities of an attack, how productive is it for Beinart to fan the flames of hysteria (like the GOP) and suggest Spain could fall to Al Qaeda?! That's great -- hey, how about the UK? No really, it could happen! Beinart also states, "take Saudi Arabia, where bin Laden is wildly popular. If bin Laden, or his local associates, took control of the Saudi oil supply, the U.S. economy would plunge into depression." Well I'll be! You think? But what in the hell are liberals to do re this statement? (that the GOP is seemingly doing?!). Should we be saying X and X about Saudi Arabia? But Mike Moore has done this -- the guy Beinart says liberals should veer away from.

Much of this topic falls under the category of "lack of patience" as I maintain that the GOP/Al Qaeda/terrorist situation could implode in time, positioning liberals for a win by currently doing little different. To change tune and jump on board just before the implosion would be a catastrophe. The GOP would be able to finger liberals as being just as guilty if liberals were suddenly to switch course and become vociferously more hawkish. By the way, if indeed liberals were to do this, the GOP would be forced to become even more hawkish (if this is possible) just to further distance themselves from liberals -- ultimately pushing the country even further overboard re hawkish tendencies.

Bottom line is liberals should obviously be against terrorism and make this fact clearly known -- just don't become a zealot about it like the GOP folks. We're more about reason than having conviction just for the sake of having conviction (that's GW: he's determined, despite nearly always being wrong).
The Red Cross recently estimated 100,000 could be dead from the horrific tsunamis, and yet given the day-after-day of updates regarding this monumental natural disaster you'd think our "Compassionate Conservative" leader would take five minutes out of his 857th vacation in Texas to say something, anything, publicly to the world. You know, the way 99% of the world did for us when we were struck with tragedy on 9/11. Nope, not this a-hole. He's MIA, not a peep -- until today. This a-hole behavior is not lost on many countries, with many a quote in the papers on this subject. Ahh, but what the f*ck, we're America, right?
I've read a few blogs expressing how appalling it was to see Dr. Phil on Meet The Press this past Sunday. Make no mistake, I'm no fan of this clown (recently skewered in TNR), however I did watch his appearance and one thing was clearly evident: he was refreshing when compared to the usual pap and say-nothing I hear on such news programs. In a relative sense, he had more to say that could at least be considered meaningful by some than most of the politicians that sit there and say much without really saying anything at all. I found it to be quite revealing that the group of people that could manage to make Dr. Phil look and sound substantive would of course have to be our gutless, read-between-the-lines, parsing representatives in Washington.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Homeland Ain't So Safe After All

WASHINGTON — The government agency responsible for protecting the nation against terrorist attack is a dysfunctional, poorly managed bureaucracy that has failed to plug serious holes in the nation's safety net, the Department of Homeland Security's former internal watchdog warns.

Clark Kent Ervin, who served as the department's inspector general until earlier this month, said in an interview last week that airport security isn't tight enough and that little has been done to safeguard other forms of mass transit. Ervin said ports remain vulnerable to terrorists trying to smuggle weapons into the country. He added that immigration and customs investigators are hampered in their efforts to track down illegal immigrants because they often lack gas money for their cars.

"There are still all these security gaps in the country that have yet to be closed," Ervin said. Meanwhile, he added, Homeland Security officials have wasted millions of dollars because of "chaotic and disorganized" accounting practices, lavish spending on social occasions and employee bonuses and a failure to require competitive bidding for some projects.

Asked what's wrong with the department, he said, "It's difficult to figure out where to start."
While in office, Ervin made some scathing findings. He reported that:

•Undercover investigators were able to sneak explosives and weapons past security screeners at 15 airports during tests in 2003.

•Federal air marshals, hired to provide a last line of defense against terrorists on airlines, slept on the job, tested positive for alcohol or drugs while on duty, lost their weapons and falsified information in 2002.

•Department leaders should have taken a more aggressive role in efforts to combine the government's myriad terrorist watch lists since the department was created in 2003.

•The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) gave executive bonuses of $16,477 to 88 of its 116 senior managers in 2003, an amount one-third higher than the bonuses given to executives at any other federal agency.

•The TSA spent nearly $500,000 on an awards banquet for employees in November 2003. The cost included $1,500 for three cheese displays and $3.75 for each soft drink.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Congrats Yushchenko

But how does the first election result of 49.6%/46.6% in favor of Putin's guy go to 52.1%/44.1% in favor of Yushchenko?! Quite a swing, no? Why, could it be the first election was clearly fraudulent? (Note: this second election had 12,000 foreign observers to help prevent fraud, making the results from this second time around the -- duh -- more credible figure).

Also, isn't it sad that 77% of eligible voters turned out in Ukraine, yet in this country on Nov. 2nd, for a record number of votes cast, it amounted to just 60% of eligible voters bothering to exercise the right to make their opinion known. Pathetic.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Well Put

Do we really have to continue reading about George Bush's criminal incompetence for four more years? Apparently so:

The Bush administration is talking to Iraqi leaders about guaranteeing Sunni Arabs a certain number of ministries or high-level jobs in the future Iraqi government if, as is widely predicted, Sunni candidates fail to do well in Iraq's elections.

...."There's some flexibility in approaching this problem," said an administration official. "There's a willingness to play with the end result - not changing the numbers, but maybe guaranteeing that a certain number of seats go to Sunni areas even if their candidates did not receive a certain percentage of the vote."

The idea of altering election results is so sensitive that administration officials who spoke about it did not want their names revealed. Some experts on Iraq say such talk could undercut efforts to drum up support for voting in Sunni areas.

It's the same story over and over and over again, isn't it? By the time the Bushies finally figure something out, it's too late to do anything about it. At this point, if they let the Shiites win all the seats it's a disaster, but if they arbitrarily take away some of their seats and award them to the Sunnis instead, that's a disaster too.

A year ago there were plenty of good proposals that could have avoided the worst of this fiasco. The best of them made use of geographical precincts, like an American congressional election. Under a system like that, there would have been plenty of predominantly Sunni precincts that would have elected Sunni representatives regardless of whether or not turnout was low. It wouldn't have been perfect, but it almost certainly would have been better than the kludge we're ending up with.

Watching these guys in action is truly a remarkable thing. I mean, it only makes sense that I think the Bush administration chooses the wrong course on ideological issues. After all, we're on opposite ends of the partisan spectrum. But what continually astonishes me — and yes, I know it shouldn't anymore — is their almost supernatural ability to choose the precisely wrong course even on purely operational, nonideological tasks. You'd think they'd occasionally get something right just by chance, wouldn't you? -- Kevin Drum
The spate of bad news about painkillers has dealt a major setback to what had been a highly promising effort to use the drugs to prevent a host of leading killers, including many types of cancer, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

To what extent is the overly-expeditious FDA to blame for this bad news? Perhaps if the FDA was not so in bed with the pharma industry, this recent spate of recalls and pulled drugs could have been avoided, specifically with either the nixing of these drugs earlier in the approval process or by demanding more data or at the very least being more public about the known dangers. In any case, the current resulting hysteria has things swinging the other way, with productive studies being put on hold or terminated due to fear. The right-wing will certainly be hanging most of this on lawyers -- the usual easy target in such instances -- but again, for those who know at least a bit about the politics of drug approval, the FDA should be the next target for someone like Eliot Spitzer or "60 Minutes."

UPDATE: I forgot to mention Michael Moore (in addition to Spitzer and 60 Minutes), as Moore is already at work making his next film on the pharma/HMO/FDA cabal.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

As more and more people reject GW and his policies over the next four years, look for the reappearance of federalism as individual states take it upon themselves to do what's best for their citizens. An example: states are banding together to devise & implement pro-environment solutions since our federal government is grossly negligent on this subject. It will be interesting to see what Bush Inc. does on this front, whether he allows for such end-around tactics to occur.
Calling Gregg Easterbrook....
The Bush administration issued comprehensive new rules yesterday for managing the national forests, jettisoning some environmental protections that date to Ronald Reagan's administration and putting in place the biggest change in forest-use policies in nearly three decades.
Critics such as Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a member of the House Resources Committee who tried twice unsuccessfully to block the proposed rules, said the changes will promote logging and other commercial exploitation of the national forests and relegate the public to the sidelines.
"With Bush's anti-environmental forest policy, you can't blame him for trying to hide behind other news, but not even Scrooge would unveil these regulations," Udall said. "These regulations, being offered two days before Christmas, cut the public out of the forest planning process, will inspire many more lawsuits and provide less protection for wildlife. It's a radical overhaul of forest policy."
Just before leaving office, Clinton finalized a set of regulations that emphasized ecosystem health and wildlife protection over commercial exploitation; President Bush reversed those rules just before Thanksgiving 2002. The final regulations issued yesterday, which will take effect when they are published in the Federal Register next week, are nearly identical to a proposal the administration outlined two years ago.
National forests are also an increasingly popular tourist destination for tens of millions of Americans. The number of visitors to national forests doubled over the past eight years, said Chris Wood, a Clinton administration Forest Service official who is now vice president of the conservation group Trout Unlimited.
But timber industry officials want access to the land, and they said they need a less burdensome process so federal officials can make timely decisions on proposed timber auctions. (Wash. Post)

"This is the most dramatic change in national forest management policy since passage of the [1976] National Forest Management Act," said Jim Lyons, who oversaw the Forest Service as Agriculture undersecretary during the Clinton administration. "It is really a clandestine effort in my mind to subvert much of what the national forests stand for."
Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the Forest Service, is a former lobbyist for the timber industry, which threw its political support overwhelmingly toward Republicans in the last election cycle, donating more than $1.7 million to GOP candidates and party committees and just $380,000 to Democrats, according to data compiled by Dwight L. Morris & Associates, a Virginia firm that tracks campaign contributions.

Contributors identifying themselves as working for the timber industry gave $268,552 to the Republican National Committee and another $163,321 to President Bush, records show.

Three of Bush's elite fundraisers were also top timber executives: W. Henson Moore, chief of the American Forest and Paper Assn., the industry's trade group; Otis B. Ingram III, president of a Georgia lumber company; and Peter Secchia, chairman of Universal Forest Products. (LA Times)
The Kerik implosion continues. He resigns from Rudy Giuliani's consulting firm. Amidst the ton of baggage that's come out on this guy (forget about the trumped up nanny nonsense), what are we to make of this administration's ability to conduct due diligence on someone? Can it appear any MORE incompetent? Or did they assume that all of this stuff would slide under the radar?

So Bernie resigns from his buddies firm, and yet look at what Bush had to say about Kerik, despite all that we now know:
Well, first, let me say that I was disappointed that the nomination of Bernard Kerik didn't go forward. In retrospect, he made the right decision to pull his name down. And he made the decision. There was a -- you know, when the process gets going, our counsel asks a lot of questions, and -- and the prospective nominee listens to the questions and answers them and takes a look at what -- what we feel is necessary to be cleared before the FBI check and before the hearings take place on the Hill. And Bernard Kerik, after answering questions and thinking about the questions, decided to pull his name down. He -- I think he would have a done a fine job as the secretary of Homeland Security, and I appreciate his service to our country.

We -- we've vetted a lot of people in this administration, and we -- we vetted people in the first term. We're vetting people in the second term. And I've got great confidence in our vetting process.

And so the lessons learned is continue to vet -- (chuckles)

As usual, where to start. Bush states that Kerik pulled himself, implying despite the ton of awful crap on this guy, Bush & Co. would've stuck by him! Then he embarasses himself and his due dili folks by stating they did lots of "vetting" (with the word "vet" in some form being said five times in three and half sentences -- classic Bush, say nothing by repeating an operative word) when it came to Bernie. Really builds confidence. Can't wait for their first Supreme Court nominee.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Gregg Easterbrook has recently written a piece for TNR about GW's environmental record, namely that it's been unjustly criticized. He claims Bush has done more for the environment than he's getting credit for. Huh?!

You know me by now, I just could not believe what I was reading. Too much has been written from reliable sources saying quite the contrary. Well, after digging around, it's as I guessed: Easterbrook's "facts" are not quite factual. There's much hooey in his article. Read here.

But it's not shocking since apparently Easterbrook has been caught doing this before (in the LA Times in 2003). Read here.

Shame on The New Republic. What's happened to this once-reliable publication? It's not the first time of late that they've published quackery. I'm questioning whether to renew.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I just discovered a great article appearing in the LA Times a few weeks ago. It's titled "Why Academia Shuns Republicans" by Jonathan Chait. I love it because whereas many liberals cringe when accused of being "intellectual elites," Chait chooses to embrace it. He writes,
A few weeks ago, a pair of studies found that Democrats vastly outnumbered Republicans among professors at leading universities. Conservatives gleefully seized upon this to once again flagellate academia for its liberal bias.

Am I the only person who fails to understand why conservatives see this finding as vindication? After all, these studies show that some of the best-educated, most-informed people in the country overwhelmingly reject the GOP. Why is this seen as an indictment of academia, rather than as an indictment of the Republican Party?
The studies showing that academics prefer Democrats to Republicans also show that this preference holds in hard sciences as well as social sciences. Are we to believe that higher education has fallen prey to trendy multiculturalist engineering, or that physics departments everywhere suppress conservative quantum theorists?
The GOP is just being rejected by those who not only prefer their leaders to think complexly but are complex thinkers themselves. There's a problem with this picture, all right, but it doesn't lie with academia.
What a guy!
The New York Times reported that a Manhattan apartment Kerik reportedly used to conduct extramarital affairs with two women overlooked Ground Zero and was supposed to be for the use of exhausted 9/11 workers.
Gutless Criticism
"I'm not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld, I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers. I would like to see a change in that slot in the next year or so."
"I'm not calling for his resignation." -- Trent Lott

Monday, December 20, 2004

Anyone else wish to weigh in?
WASHINGTON - The CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department have warned President Bush that the United States and its Iraqi allies aren't winning the battle against Iraqi insurgents who are trying to derail the country's Jan. 30 elections, according to administration officials.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has joined other Republicans in criticizing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
This is how GW wishes to spend his so-called political capital? By wasting it on the defense of a cabinet member who is drawing harsh words from his own party, and by most accounts was voted most-likely-to-resign post-Nov. 2nd (right behind Powell)? Could it be even at this stage that GW still wishes to put up appearances of not wanting to admit mistakes (Rumsfeld leaving = admission Iraq mistake-filled)?

It's no wonder Mike Malloy calls him "Too Stupid To Be President."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Before instituting a draft, throw $$$ at them:
After missing its recruitment goals over the last two months, the National Guard plans to boost bonuses to $15,000 from $5,000 for members who sign up for another six-year stint. Bonuses for first-time recruits will jump to $10,000 from $6,000 — tax-free for those abroad, Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, head of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters at the Pentagon.
Is it any wonder recruitment is down? Thanks to Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld's Iraq debacle, is there any chance for recruitment to rebound in the near future??

Friday, December 17, 2004

I ask: given Kerik's double affair (not to mention his many other sins coming to light), where is the religious right to publicly condemn this guy? If we're not to believe characters like Dobson, Falwell, Robertson et al are mouthpieces for the GOP and right-wing (i.e. politically aligned), then why is it we never hear a peep from them during a time like this? Go ahead, do a Google search, send me what you can come up with -- I venture to say you'll find notta.

The never-ending hypocrisy. Clinton = bad man, VERY bad man; Kerik = no comment.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Thanks "Liberal Bias" Media!

Unlike GW with his numerous decisions, the Kerry campaign is admitting mistakes were made.

Mary Beth Cahill stated they underestimated the adverse effect attack ads (esp. the SBVT smear) would have on Kerry's candidacy. She said, "This is the best $40,000 investment made by any political group, but it was only because of the news coverage that it got where it did."

While she points out the long-obvious truth that the right-wing label of liberal media bias is a farce (has the media ever been more cowed?!), the fact that GOP attack ads are effective comes as a revelation is inexcusable. How much more evidence did the Kerry crew need to realize such low-life tactics do indeed work on the voting public? Just look at what Bush/Rove did to McCain in SC -- that's not ancient history! Hell, Clinton set up a so-called war room to specifically combat this problem.

Kudos for Kerry's camp showing it's OK to admit mistakes (how refreshing!). Yet, too bad on this point that they appear to come off as astonishingly naive.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Same old, same old
An important test of the United States' emerging missile-defense system ended in an $85 million failure early today as an interceptor rocket failed to launch as scheduled from the Marshall Islands, the Pentagon said.
More money well spent. $80 bil. since 1985 on a system we'll never use. "In December 2002, President Bush said he hoped the system would be operational by the end of 2004." Another in a series of great calls by our leader.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Hypocritical A-holes:
Senate Republican leaders are preparing for a showdown to keep Democrats from blocking President Bush's judicial nominations, including a replacement for Rehnquist.

Republicans say that Democrats have abused the filibuster by blocking 10 of the president's 229 judicial nominees in his first term -- although confirmation of Bush nominees exceeds in most cases the first-term experience of presidents dating to Ronald Reagan. (Washington Post)

Robert Kuttner, May 2001:
Republicans used this system to block dozens of Clinton nominations, which were conveniently left for George W. Bush to fill. The GOP was particularly zealous in blocking appointments to appeals courts, which decide matters of law.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Republicans and their allies in the media are painting the Bush administration as the victim of Democratic partisanship.
To a far greater degree than the Democrats who controlled the Senate during six of the Reagan-Bush I years, the Republican Senate played relentless hardball to keep Clinton from appointing even moderate judges, especially to appeals courts.

The Republican Congress also refused to create new judgeships necessary to handle an expanding population and caseload.

Under President Carter, 152 additional federal judgeships were created. Reagan and Bush each got 85, Clinton just nine.

Under Reagan and Bush, the the Senate, then controlled by Democrats, typically approved presidential nominations to the appellate bench within three to four months.

When the roles were reversed and Republican senators were in charge, the average delay rose to more than seven months in Clinton's second term and 280 days in Clinton's last two years, according to a tabulation by the Alliance for Justice.

By the end of 2000, the Senate had confirmed only 39 of 81 pending judicial nominees and just eight to appeals courts. Forty-two were left to lapse.

What can you say anymore? This GOP is just comical -- who can take them seriously?
From a pretty smart guy:
What do you and your academic friends make of the debate over embryonic-stem-cell research in this country?

STEPHEN HAWKING: In Britain, like most of the developed world, stem-cell research is regarded as a great opportunity. America will be left behind if it doesn't change policy.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The papers report today that the U.S. has been listening in on phone conversations between Mohammed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Iranian officials. The NSA (responsible for collecting and decoding electronic communications for the U.S. government) is cited in the stories.

It brings to mind a "60 Minutes" story I saw a few years ago, profiling this very secretive arm of intelligence. I recall the NSA having the resources to tap nearly all forms of communication (voice, email, etc.) and target word phrases (i.e. they could encode certain words or phrases to set off alerts). My question: during the lead up to 9-11, are we to believe that the NSA saw NOTHING suspicious in this regard? Nothing set off alarms with regards to troubling phrases in all of the forms of communication they track? In the post 9-11 investigation(s), I don't recall the NSA ever being mentioned, anywhere -- why not?


Saturday, December 11, 2004

Paul Krugman has felt the need to reappear on the op/ed page of the NY Times, despite his earlier leave for vacation. It appears as if he couldn't stand by idle anymore while Bush put forth inaccuracies and distortions about Social Security reform. Krugman lucidly makes the case that Social Security is not in anyway facing the catastrophic danger that Bush would have us believe. Yes, SS faces trouble down the road, but nothing that couldn't be remedied with some minor changes -- most of which are long overdue and make sense.

Some examples? From the Nov. 29 issue of The New Republic:
According to Alice Rivlin, who ran Bill Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget, “In regards to Social Security, there are several points to get across. One is that it’s a fixable problem, not a monster. A small amount of additional revenue and modest benefit cuts will solve the problem for a good long time.” One possible cut could come from a slight increase in the retirement age to adjust for increases in life expectancy. Another could come from raising the maximum income level at which the Social Security deduction is imposed ($87,000 in 2003). Additional revenue could be gained by incorporating some 4 million state and local government workers who are currently excluded from Social Security into the system. According to a study by Orzsag and Peter Diamond, an economics professor at MIT, these steps would go a long way toward resolving the Social Security gap that will emerge over the next few decades as baby boomers retire.
And this list doesn't include means testing (why should multi-millionaires receive such paltry monthly checks, that mean very little to them? (I'm not speaking for them, many of stated such publicly when this topic arises)). I think first and foremost the retirement age MUST be adjusted up; life expectancy has increased by 13%, or 9 years, since 1950 and yet thanks to gutless politicians, the age cutoff remains stagnant. A bump up of just one or two years would make a huge difference.

Bush is disingenuously straining to incite alarm in the public with the aim being it will then be easier to pass his pro-corporate solutions to the SS problem. Never mind the fact that his proposed fix is a disaster, hoisting tons more debt on an existing ballooning deficit and the private measures already proven to be dire in other countries who have tried something similar. As per usual, he doesn't care, and it will be just another mistake for our children to bear.

Friday, December 10, 2004

As with the Dan Rather forged document incident, right-wingers have themselves worked up in a tizzy over the soldier who was coached by a reporter when asking Rumsfeld a question. Never mind the REAL outrage surrounding this story (the fact that soldiers are at risk due to a lack of armored vehicles!) -- no, better to focus on the soldier/reporter angle. Fools.

Meanwhile, another shocker:
The Environmental Protection Agency issued voluntary guidelines Thursday that rely on industry to secure drinking water and wastewater treatment plants against attack. The guidelines were written by industry groups with EPA financing.

Who would've thunk it, this administration's EPA allowing industry to write their own rules. I find at least one of these anti-environment stories per day, without even trying. I guess it's the liberal press, twisting the facts and all....

Finally, an important post by The Left Coaster:
I've been saying - in concert with columnists far more visible than I - that China will be our replacement as the world leader at some point, primarily because George Worthless Bu$h has been squandering all of our political and diplomatic capital over an ill-conceived scheme by neocon fascists to rule the world through military control over petroleum resources.

Click to read entire entry, worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I held my nose and read the recent David Brooks column in the NY Times. Always a frustrating endeavor. It would work better if I hit myself over the head with a hammer before reading.

His "weighty" subject this time: parents who opt to have lots of kids. He treats such folks as if they're American heroes, to be heralded and applauded for multiplying at least more so than the typical blue state couple. He makes it sound as if those who've elected to have fewer than three kids are not as noble, or even righteous, than these so-called "natalists." As I've said before, it all simply comes across as an embarrassment for the Times, namely proving the wrong move was made when hiring Brooks. To say he's managed to dumb-down the op/ed page of this paper is to not venture too far out on a limb.

He spends paragraph after paragraph attempting to guess at who these natalists are, stating things that by all accounts are conjecture but are presented as near-fact. Example: "when people get money, one of the first things they do is use it to try to protect their children from bad influences." Huh? Says who? How does he arrive at this assertion? Did he conduct a study of all those people who lacked money who then won the Lotto and discovered that X% spent X amount on internet firewalls, etc., as their first purchase in an effort to shield their hapless offspring? You can tell that he's waxing poetic off of what amounts to far-less-than-conclusive facts.

He says things like "The people who are having big families are explicitly rejecting materialistic incentives and hyperindividualism." Perhaps, but again where's the gray? You can't make such a blanket statement -- it just sounds dumb. I know (first hand) that the Catholic Church strongly encourages procreating. During my time spent in Pre-Cana, the #1 message driven home through the multi-hour ordeal is to have many children. It's conveyed as an extremely holy act to do so. Therefore, the possibility exists that many of these parents creating multi-kid families are doing so to comply with church guidance, to properly perform their holy duty, to do what God wishes, etc. -- and nothing more. In other words, Brooks references the higher likelihood for spirituality in these people but then drops the ball when in fact it could also explain the high number of kids, as he opts instead to emphasize such virtues as rejecting greed and narcissism. Again, it's not black or white and while some do fall under this category, many fall under the wanting-to-please-God/church category.

To top it all off, TAPPED points out that Brooks cites an author, Steve Sailer, who has been universally deemed racist:
Who are some of Sailer's allies and what role has he served in his chosen intellectual community? According to the SPLC, Sailer has organized an invitation-only online discussion group called the Human Biodiversity Institute:

According to a list posted on HBI's Web site until last summer, this "elite" includes: · Jean-Phillippe Rushton, a prominent researcher on black genetic inferiority who is president of a pro-eugenics hate group, the Pioneer Fund; · Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, which purported to show black and Latino intellectual inferiority; · Kevin MacDonald, a professor at California State University at Long Beach who has written several books about supposed Jewish strategies to subvert "Euro-American" culture; and · Gregory Cochrane, a physicist who has suggested the existence of a genetic "gay germ."

Obviously, for shame Mr. Brooks, but even more so, for shame NY Times.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

"Gray skies are gonna clear up, Put on a happy face"

More white-washing of the truth:
A classified cable sent by the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Baghdad has warned that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and may not rebound any time soon, according to government officials.
They said it warned that the security situation was likely to get worse, including more violence and sectarian clashes, unless there were marked improvements soon on the part of the Iraqi government, in terms of its ability to assert authority and to build the economy.

Together, the appraisals, which follow several other such warnings from officials in Washington and in the field, were much more pessimistic than the public picture being offered by the Bush administration before the elections scheduled for Iraq next month, the officials said.

Surprising if you recall (as the article points out):
Since they took office in September, Mr. Goss and his aides have sought to discourage unauthorized disclosures of information. In a memorandum sent to C.I.A. employees last month, Mr. Goss said the job of the intelligence agency was to "provide the intelligence as we see it" but also to "support the administration and its policies in our work."

Monday, December 06, 2004

Over the weekend, I happened to hear a few minutes of conservative radio talk-show host Michael Medved. Initially, I thought "surprise, surprise, another right-wing radio talking head." Wasn't this guy reviewing movies not too long ago (on, of all places, PBS television)? And now he's an expert on all things political for the far right?? But then again, the NY Post had their thoroughbred racing handicapper "transform" into a cranky right-wing political pundit. Only in America, the land of opportunity!

Anyway, Medved was droning on about the absurdity of Christmas in our schools, specifically the apparent "extreme" steps being taken to keep the Christmas season benignly neutral when it came to our kids. He asked who would be harmed with some overt showing of Christmas symbols or the occasional singing of some holiday classics like "Jingle Bells" or "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." He was annoyed and perplexed.

How classic. Over the last four years, GW/Cheney, the GOP and the religious right have succeeded in changing the climate of the country to one of censorship and a universal lack of tolerance. There can't be any debate here. Yet, the truth of the matter is they want just certain things vanquished, but not other things. Hypocrisy once again is the word that best describes the right wing. What they truly desire is selective censorship. Put a stop to Sex Ed classes in schools, yet by all means allow Christmas. Stop Howard Stern, stop Saving Private Ryan, stop the Reagan movie from being aired on network TV, but oh by gosh by golly, allow Rudolph to shine his red nose in our public schools!

Look, do I disagree? I realize any reasonable person would say let the public schools celebrate Christmas -- but also Hanukah and all of the other holiday traditions and ceremonies. BUT THAT'S NOT THE MAIN POINT HERE. The main point is the right wing should not be surprised when censorship occurs in a manner not to their liking. They've worked diligently to create this atmosphere of purge and fear and in the process, it has become self-feeding or self-perpetuating. Recall when former White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer warned that people should watch what they say in the post-9/11 world, setting the precedent for McCarthy-ish repression when it came to freedom of speech and expression. In fact, many of the network affiliates that decided not to air "Saving Private Ryan" are on record stating they were free to do so but opted not to for fear of future fines from the FCC, i.e. they censored themselves.

Congrats right wingers, you have achieved your objective! Oh, I know, sometimes the censoring goes against your wishes, but then again it's a tricky thing to navigate the tidal wave of intolerance & threats once you set it in motion. Recall the Patriot Act ran roughshod over many liberties that troubled several of your own (Bob Barr, etc.). But alas, you folks have only yourself to blame, and it's only going to get worse (which in some ways will be a good thing, hastening the GOP implosion, causing the soma-induced public to finally take notice and fight back, etc.).

God (please, oh please) Bless America.

Friday, December 03, 2004

In catching up with past news, with Tom Ridge's exit we discovered:
Mr. Ridge joined with the Environmental Protection Agency in considering new safety rules in 2002. But after the oil and chemical industries met with Karl Rove, the president's political adviser, and other senior aides, the White House quietly blocked those efforts, current and former officials say.
Of course, we learned nothing of this prior to the election when the public was instead being force-fed the illusion that GW Inc. was doing all it could to protect the country from terrorist attacks. I guess as long as it didn't involve our chemical plants and maritime ports.

It seems wherever and whenever the EPA is involved, the administration is sure to be there to fight back. Everyday, the newspapers are filled with anti-environmental articles (granted, normally buried). Here's a recent story. Also, a right-wing think tank is soon to release a report that claims global warming will benefit mankind (the group has close ties to Bush advisers and is partially funded by ExxonMobil). Recall at, they released a 111-page report that shows "more than 150 assaults on our environmental safeguards between January 2003 and March 2004."

The administration will continue to fan the flames of terrorist fears as this threat serves as the perfect distraction, allowing them to circumvent & rewrite regulations behind closed doors. It's similar to the old-hat trick where the bank robbers set fire to a building down the street from the bank, causing a commotion / diversion as they proceed to clean out the vault.
Correction: Back in July, I wrote:
I realize liberals are supposed to like Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Try as I might, I just can't appreciate this lo-fi nerd noodling.
I was wrong and most rock critics were right. Upon further listening, it's excellent.

I shouldn't have been so rash with my judgment as more often than not the best recordings are those that require at least several listenings. Also, I should've known better because I own every one of Wilco's releases (including their seminal Mermaid Ave. recordings).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

I've been remiss in posting the last several days thanks to a residence move. In returning, I can't help but pick up where I left off and that is the subject of the DeLay rule change in the House. The more one thinks about this egregious action, a slimy vote behind closed doors, the more it stands as the singular symbol for just how revolting our political system has become under rule of GW. Can hypocrisy be any more plain and obvious? This was a rule put into place by Republicans about 10 years ago to punish Dems gone bad. Now, they decide to overturn that same rule before it soon applies to one of their own.

I've invited all of those nattering right-wingers who regularly pester me with inane commentary -- what say you on this subject? I can tell you that even Newt Gingrich was a bit put off by it: "It was a mistake, because it was a public statement that the party would change the rules to benefit one individual. That's a mistake, period. Are the rules subordinate to the interests of the powerful, or are the powerful subordinate to the interests of the rules? In a free society, the rules govern."

It's funny, many right-wingers continue to pound away at what went wrong with Kerry - uh, that's over, how about focusing on the current mess of things. In fact, the election itself provided this wonderful diversion for many r-wingers as they could easily avoid having to speak to anything issue-oriented regarding this administration, always able to turn it back to Kerry. With the spotlight 100% back on GW & the Republican congress, it makes them squirm, mightily.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

I wrote the following on Nov. 21st:
Another very revealing item being reported: Hastert wanted to avoid passage of a bill that relied excessively on Dem support. We know that the House is not enormously tilted to one side, so are we expected for the next four years to ONLY see things passed that rely mainly on the GOP-majority? That if the proportion of Dems supporting a bill is not to Denny's (DeLay's) liking, than it stands a good chance of getting defeated? If so, then the power has truly gone to their heads and increases the odds of a future implosion.

In yesterday's (Nov. 27) Washington Post, this was the topic in a news analysis piece:
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert last week enunciated a policy in which Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them.

Hastert's position, which is drawing fire from Democrats and some outside groups, is the latest step in a decade-long process of limiting Democrats' influence and running the House virtually as a one-party institution. Republicans earlier barred House Democrats from helping to draft major bills such as the 2003 Medicare revision and this year's intelligence package. Hastert (R-Ill.) now says such bills will reach the House floor, after negotiations with the Senate, only if "the majority of the majority" supports them.

Senators from both parties, leaders of the Sept. 11 commission and others have sharply criticized the policy. The long-debated intelligence bill would now be law, they say, if Hastert and his lieutenants had been humble enough to let a high-profile measure pass with most votes coming from the minority party.

I stand by what I wrote on the 21st. And trust me, with House Republicans apparently being steered by never-to-be-mistaken-for-a-rocket-scientist Hastert (now that perhaps DeLay preoccupied with saving his own skin), the GOP implosion is on course.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

President George W. Bush, meanwhile, said charges of voter fraud have cast doubt on the Ukrainian election. "The only good deal is one that's verifiable," Bush said outside his home in Crawford, Texas. (AP, 11/27/04)

Meanwhile, back in the USA:
Congress to investigate complaints of voting irregularities (AP, 11/24/04)

(thanks iddybud)
Sign o' the times: penis/vagina worse than assault.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Terrific editorial in today's NY Times. A piece:
To the extent that voters registered an opinion on environmental issues, they did it in local settings, and they consistently asked for more environmental protection than Mr. Bush has been offering them. With rare exceptions, the administration's operating mode has been to remove or roll back legal safeguards without putting much in their place, including the free-market solutions advertised as a substitute for regulations. This was true whether the issue was clean air, clean water or protecting the public lands from logging, destructive mining practices, overgrazing, and oil and gas drilling.

The voters sent a different message. In Colorado, a healthy majority approved a ballot initiative requiring electric utilities to generate 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2015, a more aggressive approach than any so far offered on the federal level. In Montana, despite heavy industry lobbying, an even greater majority upheld a prohibition on mining practices that pollute rivers and streams with toxic wastes - a brave vote in a poor state that needs jobs.

Nationwide, voters in red states as well as blue approved $2.53 billion worth of new bond issues to preserve open space - a clear rebuke to a Congress that has dramatically cut financing for land acquisition and to an administration that insists on opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.

Of course, the environment will not play a role in GW's so-called "mandate." And yet it's well-documented that any time the environment ends up on a poll, it always receives a 70+% positive response, so the above local results are not surprising.

It also hints at a trend that will likely continue for the next four years, that of a more locally-driven America. Given the stark divide in the country, it makes sense for the blue states to increasingly legislate in accordance with what makes sense to their respective electorates, given GW/Cheney will more than likely rule in red-state fashion. Blue states should see an explosion of initiatives and propositions on their ballots over the next four years, working to provide for state-centric mandates that better fit the majority opinion.

Of course, I'm describing forms of Federalism. You always hear the right crowing about the virtues of Federalism -- let's see if they continue to sing its praises when it's used against King George.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Two more senior officials departing the CIA (well, it's one way to overhaul the agency -- have longtime vets exit). Oh, and soldiers to be shipped to Iraq have stated they haven't been adequately trained. From the LA Times, "a number of the soldiers said, is that the training they have received is so poor and equipment shortages so prevalent that they fear their casualty rate will be needlessly high when they arrive in Iraq early next year. 'We are going to pay for this in blood,' one soldier said." Moving on, a front page story in the Washington Post about the lack of funding for EPA's Superfund program, "Lawmakers recently voted to give the program $1.257 billion, $8 million less than last year's budget. Rep. James T. Walsh (R-N.Y.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees Superfund, said that the White House did not actively lobby for the extra $150 million Bush requested, and that appropriators could not devote more money in light of the tight budget. 'We can only spend what we have,' he said." Ah yes, another in a gazillion instances where Bush publicly states support for something but then does very little to actually lobby for its passage.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Many Republicans I know are what I would call habitual dismissers. Present to them anything that they happen to disagree with and rather than provide a cogent, well-reasoned come-back in return (which may include at least one or two facts), instead they simply sweep it aside as just nonsense or alarmist thinking. Why spend time trying to meaningfully rebut anything when you can just ignore it, or better yet dodge the whole thing entirely by attempting to steer the focus in a different direction?

As an example, in trying to point out what is more or less a statement of fact, that to a large extent the current GOP is in bed with the highly-organized, staunch religious right, such a statement is most often met with indignant, "I beg to differ" retorts. The GOP has been closely aligned with the religious right for many years, however the difference now is the degree to which they have influence within the party. Whereas in prior years, party operatives would bait them along, throw them some bones in the form of a few key concerns that they held dearly -- whatever it took to insure delivery of their votes as a block and yet not allow them to go too far in terms of having any significant impact.

With the increased reliance on this group to help deliver the Bush/Cheney victory (thanks to the dead-aim focus and tireless effort of Rove to motivate Evangelicals et al), it's apparent these folks will no longer tolerate being the loyal sideshow of the party. They fully grasp the effect they had on this election outcome and their mounting outcry is now apparent with regards to directing the course of this country.

The right-wingers can quibble and debate all they want as to just how big of an impact the religious right had on Bush's victory -- whatever, it's not the point. What is the point is that they did indeed have a sizeable impact, period, and that in their mind whatever that impact was they're inflating it and are running with it full force. Ergo, they will continue to make themselves known in the legislation process as well as all other governmental areas, believing that this is their time, they deserve it, and they're not going to squander it. And in this struggle for power will come an increasing resistance by more moderate, less strident Republicans (some still exist!) and in time the implosion of the party.

But just to step back a bit, regarding the tone in the country and to what extent this intolerant, overly-puritanical wave of sanctimony has made inroads into many aspects of our lives, I offer a list of just some examples:

* Monday Night Football / Nicolette Sheridan outrage (FCC likely to investigate and fine)
* Arlen Specter (recently forced to grovel and fetch water for the conservative religious right)
* Sen. Rick Santorum (a senator who in more moderate times would've served a specific, minor role in the party, but instead has been allowed to become a front-and-center spokesperson for the GOP with several rumors that he's readying to run for president in 2008)
* Howard Stern (not just fined, like in the past, but this time tossed off in six key election-day markets thanks to right-wing Clear Channel)
* Saving Private Ryan (many ABC affiliates refuse to air it for fear of being fined by FCC)
* Dr. James Dobson (he makes Jerry Falwell look liberal)
* Sen. Coburn, Okl. (felt the Holocaust movie "Schindler's List" was too obscene for television, those who perform abortions should be subject to the death penalty)
* Sen. DeMint, SC (called for firing gay teachers in public schools, and said the same should occur against single women teachers who became pregnant)

Oh, and this one just out yesterday:
Religious Conservatives Demand Changes at Nation's Parks

For roughly a decade, a film has been shown to visitors at Washington's Lincoln Memorial, depicting historic events that have taken place there — from civil rights marches to antiwar demonstrations. The film shows a number of marches with liberal themes like gay rights and abortion rights, intercut with older clips of historical figures like former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Marian Anderson.Then, one day the Rev. Lou Sheldon saw it. "It showed only those liberal, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual marches," said Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition. Sheldon's influential Christian conservative group took its complaint to the government's top levels — "so they could reach down and work their system and cleanse in a proper manner and make it fair and balanced," he said.

I could list more but you get the point (I hope).

Recall that in 1974, during the Oscar TV broadcast, David Niven was the presenter and a nudist ran across the stage, displaying everything for the world to see. I don't recall then the country rising up with outrage, demanding fines from the FCC, the Falwells and Dobsons at the time taking to the airwaves, etc. No, instead I believe it was taken for what it was (a fairly humorous goof) and life went on.

Can you imagine what would happen today?

Monday, November 22, 2004

It appears as if my suspicion about the sincerity of Bush's "disappointment" with the failure of the intel bill (see below) was not too far off the mark:
The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), said that more than some House Republicans opposed a compromise measure that was generated by recommendations made in July by the Sept. 11 commission.

"There's been a lot of opposition to this from the first," Roberts said on "Fox News Sunday." "Some of it is from the Pentagon. Some of it, quite frankly, is from the White House, despite what the president has said." (Washington Post)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Rogue Congress?

There's something very strange about this defeated intel bill, but then again it could possibly signify further proof of the impending GOP implosion.

Are we to believe that Bush, AND Cheney AND Hastert were defied? By some no-names, no less? Sorry, too much to be believable. And in all the news stories, DeLay is nowhere to be mentioned.

Why do I get the feeling that in reality-based world, Bush/Cheney/Hastert likewise did not wish for this bill to pass. Yet, they'll be able to claim that they did all they could -- but alas to no avail. In the end, the higher-ups have cover and the special interests (defense/Pentagon) get what they want.

Then again, if we imagine that GW/Cheney/Hastert truly were as embarrassed as its being reported, then it could be construed as further cracks in the otherwise unified GOP front. More and more fissures are appearing. As the NY Times reports, Dems can gain from this as it shows "House Republicans killed a bill that had widespread, bipartisan support and that would have allowed the government to protect the public better against terrorist threats." Those moderate Republicans that seek reelection next November may not appreciate this hurdle they'll have to now overcome. The Times bluntly states it reflects "a sharp split between Republicans in the House and Senate."

Another very revealing item being reported: Hastert wanted to avoid passage of a bill that relied excessively on Dem support. We know that the House is not enormously tilted to one side, so are we expected for the next four years to ONLY see things passed that rely mainly on the GOP-majority? That if the proportion of Dems supporting a bill is not to Denny's (DeLay's) liking, than it stands a good chance of getting defeated? If so, then the power has truly gone to their heads and increases the odds of a future implosion.

Oh, by the way, the EPA's budget was slashed again -- what else is new? Some things don't change.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Who Needs The Supreme Court?
House and Senate negotiators have tucked a potentially far-reaching anti-abortion provision into a $388 billion must-pass spending bill, complicating plans for Congress to wrap up its business and adjourn for the year.

The provision may be an early indication of the growing political muscle of social conservatives who provided crucial support for Republican candidates, including President Bush, in the election. (from NY Times)

And yet we heard from many R-wingers after the election that the GOP was not hijacked by the religious right, that we were being alarmist, overblown, etc. Well, as Colin Powell learned, be careful who you choose to associate with -- it can come back to bite you, hard.

You more moderate Republicans out there (yeah, I'm talking to you two!), get ready for the staunch, unyielding religious sect in the party to move in and take over. Here we see they've muscled enough legislators to slip a provision into a spending bill (gutless, slimy), we've also seen them take Arlen Specter out back to the woodshed and give him a good whipping (reportedly, now he'll behave!). And yet many a R-winger continues to live in non-reality-based denial -- which is fine, the same was generally true when Newt was running their party into the ground. By the time they wake up, it will be too late. They just don't learn.

It's similar to the species of bird that lays an egg in a smaller bird's nest. The offspring is larger than the others and over time crowds out the nest, getting all the food. Eventually, this fat "baby" is the only living thing left, all other offspring long dead from neglect.

Meanwhile, to show their class, Daschle gave his goodbye speech and only a few Republicans showed on the floor to be respectful and listen. In fact,

Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, who broke with Senate tradition to campaign against Mr. Daschle in his home state, South Dakota, did not appear until after Mr. Daschle finished speaking. The scant Republican showing provoked Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, to speak out. "I don't know why, why in the closing days, some element of comity, some element of grace, some element of respect for a human being, could not have gotten some of our friends out of their offices," Mr. Lautenberg said. (NY Times)

Uh, Frank, that's easy: because they're arrogant, power-crazed ASSHOLES!

Friday, November 19, 2004

As justification for altering party rules in the House of Representatives in order to allow Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) to retain his leadership position if indicted by a Texas grand jury on political corruption charges, Republicans have claimed that Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who is investigating DeLay, is doing so for purely partisan reasons. This charge was dutifully echoed on FOX News Channel, and most other news outlets have reported it -- without noting that Earle has, in fact, prosecuted more Democratic politicians than Republican politicians.

While Earle is an elected Democrat, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, a June 17 editorial in the Houston Chronicle commended his work: "During his long tenure, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has prosecuted many more Democratic officials than Republicans. The record does not support allegations that Earle is prone to partisan witch hunts." This assertion supports Earle's own claim about his record; a March 6 article in the El Paso Times reported: "Earle says local prosecution is fundamental and points out that 11 of the 15 politicians he has prosecuted over the years were Democrats."

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Beautifully Poetic.

Tom DeLay is complaining that his legal troubles are nothing more than a "political witch hunt." OK, but when this same thing was said to describe the MUCH more obvious and real targeted witch hunt when they were putting the screws to Clinton over Whitewater and impeachment hearings, well, that was all dismissed at the time as just a bunch of whining nonsense. But with shoe on the other foot, now we're supposed to feel DeLay's pain. Christ, where does the disgusting hypocrisy end with these guys?

U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), in making the "political witch hunt" argument to The Hill newspaper yesterday, made the House GOP's real beef pretty apparent: The potential indictment of DeLay, he said, represented a rearguard action by Democrats who have not yet come to grips with the fact that "Republicans are a permanent majority."

A permanent majority! This is a pretty good summary of the Congressional Republican attitude these days, and it's the very epitome of the arrogance of power. As The Hill's Jonathan Kaplan pointedly noted, way back in 1987, the avatar of the Republican Revolution, Newt Gingrich, said this about the ethics lapses of the Democrats who controlled Congress at that time: "[You] now have a House where it is more dangerous to be aggressive about honesty than it is to be mildly corrupt.... You now have a situation where I think people feel almost invulnerable."

Get ready for the implosion!
With the opening of the Clinton Library today, American Progress thought it would be an opportune time to contrast Clinton vs. GW:
Here is a look at life in the 1990s, compared to how things are today.
POVERTY: During the Clinton years, poverty fell by 25.2 percent. Poverty climbed steadily under President Bush, however. According to the most recent data from the Census Bureau, the number of Americans living in poverty has "risen ten percent since 2000." That means "nearly 36 million Americans – one in eight – now live in poverty and tens of millions are considered working poor."

WAGES: Wage growth has fallen dramatically over the past four years. In 2000, median weekly wages grew by 4.9 percent. This fell to a mere 2.0 percent in 2003, meaning that adjusted for inflation, "wages fell slightly in real terms in 2003 for the first time since 1996." For those who have found work, the recovery is of questionable value in an "upside down" economy where profits have soared yet families' benefits are nullified by the rapidly rising costs of housing, education, and medical care – all of which jumped at double digit rates.

UNEMPLOYMENT: There are more people unable to find work than four years ago. In 2000, the unemployment rate was 4 percent. During his terms, President Clinton created 22.7 million jobs. Putting that in historical perspective, that's "the most created under any single president since the 1920s, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics." Under President Bush, 490,000 jobs disappeared, making him the first president since Herbert Hoover to have fewer available jobs at the end of his term than at the beginning.

DEFICITS: Under President Clinton, the U.S. government had "its first budget surpluses since 1969, and its largest surpluses on record." Not only was there a total budget surplus of $176 billion, the Clinton Treasury "actually paid off $362.5 billion of debt held by the public." President Bush reversed this trend, racking up a record $422 billion deficit. Instead of paying down the debt, the Bush Treasury has needed three debt ceiling increases over the past four years and is calling this week for a fourth. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, there's no end in sight; if President Bush succeeds in passing his 2005 budget – with the extension of his tax cuts – there will be $6.2 trillion in additional debt between now and 2014, nearly doubling our current debt ($7.38 trillion) for a total of $14.5 trillion.

ABORTION: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the Clinton years, the abortion rate fell by about 27 percent. A new independent study by an ethics professor at Fuller Theological Seminary finds that today, "contrary to popular assumption, abortion has risen in the U.S. during George W. Bush's presidency."
Maureen Dowd writes today on same theme I wrote about yesterday:

Now, in the 21st-century reign of King George II, flattery is mandatory, dissent is forbidden, and erring without admitting error is the best way to get ahead. President Bush is purging the naysayers who tried to temper crusted-nut-bar Dick Cheney and the neocon crazies on Iraq.

First, faith trumped facts. Now, loyalty trumps competence. W., who was the loyalty enforcer for his father's administration, is now the loyalty enforcer for his own.

Those promoted to be in charge of our security, diplomacy and civil liberties were rewarded for being more loyal to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney than to the truth.

The president and vice president are dispatching their toadies to the agencies to quell dissent. The crackdown seems bizarre, since hardly anyone dared to disagree with them anyway and there were plenty willing to twist the truth for them.
Mr. Bush doesn't want any more leaks, like the one showing that he was told two months before invading Iraq that such a move could lead to violent internal conflict and more support for radical Islamists.

Mr. Goss has managed to make the dysfunctional C.I.A. even more dysfunctional. Instead of going after Al Qaeda, he's busy purging top-level officials who had been going after Al Qaeda - replacing them with his coterie of hacks from Capitol Hill.

Mr. Cheney is letting his old mentor, Rummy, stay on. What does it matter if the Rummy doctrine - dangerously thin allotments of forces, no exit strategy, snatching State Department occupation duties and then screwing them up - has botched the Iraq mission and left the military so strapped it's calling back old, out-of-shape reservists to active service?

Bush is promoting those individuals who have not only remained loyal, but even more so who have career paths that have mirrored his own. The more you screw-up and fail professionally, the more likely you are to be rescued and promoted. To the family-values-ridden Republicans: what a wonderful message to send to our kids!
Calling Mr. President....

The United States has intelligence that Iran is working to adapt missiles to deliver a nuclear weapon, further evidence that the Islamic republic is determined to acquire a nuclear bomb, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday.

Separately, an Iranian opposition exile group charged in Paris that Iran is enriching uranium at a secret military facility unknown to U.N. weapons inspectors.

Uh, if memory serves, Iran is one of those "Axis of Evil" nations and I believe we invaded one of those three due to suspicions of harboring WMD -- right? By all accounts, the evidence that Iran is building nuke weapons is every bit as credible (!) as the pathetic stuff that passed as intel re Iraq. What do we do now? Thanks to getting bogged down in Iraq (reminder: the AofE country that didn't have WMD), we now don't have the resources to actually do something about this serious problem facing us. And don't think Iran hasn't known this fact all along.

Way to go GW, Cheney, and the neocon lunatic fringe in power! Why is Powell choosing to mention this in the press, soon after his resignation announcement? Could it be an "FU" from him to the administration, a subtle "I told you so" to further make known his reluctance concerning Iraq?
It's official:
House GOP OKs Rules Change to Allow DeLay to Keep Post if He Is Indicted on Corruption Charges

Revolting. However, the idiot right neglects (as usual) to see the full ramifications of what this might involve. If DeLay were to be indicted, the Dems (if they had any spine left at all) would be able to use this fact strategically, pounding the message home repeatedly on talk shows, newspapers, etc., that the Republican-controlled House is led by someone who is under indictment. Let DeLay and Rove spin it any way they like, the fact is the crux of the truth will finally get out there for the public to digest. The key is to make it known. The goal is to have Letterman, Leno and The Daily Show making fun of it, for that is when you know it's registered and the farce and hypocrisy has truly struck a chord.

As Lord Acton once said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." It occurred with Newt Gingrich when he overstepped and I believe with this rule change, it's happening again. Yes, a repugnant maneuver, but in the end perhaps a very just outcome.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Josh Marshall sums it up:
With the nomination today of White House Domestic Policy Adviser Margaret Spellings as Education Secretary the pattern is now unmistakably clear. As was the case with Gonzales and Rice, President Bush is transposing his White House staff out to head their analogous federal departments and agencies.

Gonzales goes from White House Counsel to Attorney General; Rice goes from NSC to State; Spellings goes from Domestic Policy Advisor to Education Secretary.

Each of them defined mainly by their loyalty to President Bush.

The first noticeable aspect of GW's second term is the fast & furious consolidation of steadfast loyalty, with the ouster of all those who perhaps conveyed even the slightest straying from the plantation during the first term. Yet, leave it up to this president to move forward with this decision as it's exactly the wrong way to go.

If the last four years didn't prove anything else it was that he needed more variety or diversity in the voices speaking to him, and then for him to actually listen to those voices. All too often, he ignored those opinions that he simply disagreed with -- and yet so often turned out to be correct. Instead, he usually opted to go with those who were simply most loyal, irregardless of the logic or authority of the source.

He is supposed to be the "MBA President" and yet as he has shown over the years, GW has been an awful CEO. Is there any wonder why? I study stocks/companies for a living and over the years one very bad sign that I've observed is when top management gets too cozy or insulated. When the CEO is overly comfortable with his/her board, when the norm is to be surrounded by yes-people who don't want to rock the boat in any way, it typically does not take long for that company to head south. Disney is a good recent example of this scenario as over the years as CEO, Michael Eisner stacked management with his loyal cronies and in the process the stock price suffered as corporate malaise set in.

This sort of behavior is actually a sign of weakness, not strength. Only a weak, insecure person cannot accept advice or feedback that may differ from one's own opinion(s). Another very relevant analogy is that of the alcoholic in deep denial: rather than listening to the tough-love advice from friends, he/she simply gets new friends.

If I were a betting man, I would wager that these latest moves in the administration spell deep trouble for the next four years. It's going to get even worse than it was in the first term (I know, hard to believe that's possible). Get ready for lots of dumb, big scandals and screw-ups. He should've learned, but that would be asking too much from a man who seems incapable of doing anything right.
"Hey, hey, he's our man, let's give him a great big hand!!"

New C.I.A. Chief Tells Workers to Back Administration Policies

ASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - Porter J. Goss, the new intelligence chief, has told Central Intelligence Agency employees that their job is to "support the administration and its policies in our work,'' a copy of an internal memorandum shows.

"As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies," Mr. Goss said in the memorandum, which was circulated late on Monday. He said in the document that he was seeking "to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road." (NY Times)
House Republicans proposed changing their rules last night to allow members indicted by state grand juries to remain in a leadership post, a move that would benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, according to GOP leaders.

The proposed rule change, which several leaders predicted would win approval at a closed meeting today, comes as House Republicans return to Washington feeling indebted to DeLay for the slightly enhanced majority they won in this month's elections. DeLay led an aggressive redistricting effort in Texas last year that resulted in five Democratic House members retiring or losing reelection. It also triggered a grand jury inquiry into fundraising efforts related to the state legislature's redistricting actions.
House Republicans adopted the indictment rule in 1993, when they were trying to end four decades of Democratic control of the House, in part by highlighting Democrats' ethical lapses. They said at the time that they held themselves to higher standards than prominent Democrats such as then-Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (Ill.), who eventually pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced to prison. (from WP)

What A-holes. The Gang of Morality and Values (Republicans) will stop at nothing to impeach the "heinous" Clinton, yet they will excuse and easily forgive their own House leader if he ends up getting indicted. On top of that, they wish to reward him for the slimy & unprecedented redistricting he orchestrated in Texas.

Just more of the same from the GOP, hypocrisy of the highest order. Yet what does it matter since the public is -- sorry to say -- stupid enough to buy into Republicans being the more righteous political party. If Republicans wish to solely possess morality as their own, it's high time they show that it's deserved. As it is, that notion is laughable.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Amazing. From Juan Cole:
But insiders in Washington have told me enough stories about Powell victories behind the scenes that I am not sure the marginalization argument is decisive. Powell had an alliance with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the two of them could sometimes derail the wilder plans of the Department of Defense. Blair, and probably Powell, convinced Bush to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan before going on to an Iraq war. Imagine how dangerous the situation would be if the US were bogged down in Iraq as it is now, but Bin Laden's 40 training camps were still going full steam!

Incredible to think that Bush had to be talked into, convinced, to do Afghanistan first (!), before Iraq. Lord help us.
More Proof of Her Incompetence

Condi Rice was going to give a speech on 9-11-01, but for obvious reasons did not. What was the topic of this speech? Based on excerpts, she was to contrast money spent on counterterrorism (on Clinton's watch) versus that spent on the "Star Wars" missile defense system, making the tired and dumb-on-arrival point that more should be allocated to the latter. She eventually gave the speech about a year later, but the text was radically revised.

Here's an excerpt of the original text:
"And yes these new threats also require us to pay attention to other means of delivery besides missiles. We need to worry about the suitcase bomb, the car bomb and the vial of sarin released in the subway. That is why last year the federal government spent about $11 billion on counter-terrorism efforts, about twice as much as we did on missile defense. That is why we're working closely with friends, allies, and the broader international community on counterterrorism initiatives.

"And that is why in May the president appointed Vice President Cheney to oversee a coordinated national effort to better protect the U.S. homeland against a terror attack using WMD. But why not missile defenses as well?

"Why put deadbolt locks on your doors and stock up on cans of mace and then decide to leave your windows open? At the end of the day, do we really want to choose a course of action that gambles with America's security by choosing not to explore the additional measure of security that limited missile defenses could provide?"
Oh wonderful. This really bodes well:
Condoleezza Rice, who will be named as Colin L. Powell's replacement as early as today, has forged an extraordinarily close relationship with President Bush. But, paradoxically, many experts consider her one of the weakest national security advisers in recent history in terms of managing interagency conflicts.
Powell was considered a hero to the State Department bureaucracy because he won increases in funding and personnel, and many State Department officials are furious that the Bush White House frequently undercut Powell.

"State Department officials dislike her intensely because they love Powell and believe her staff demeaned the State Department," said one former State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he frequently interacts with Rice. (Washington Post)

Rice's "managerial skills were often called into question when running the NSC" and Richard Armitage "privately complained to Rice that the interagency process was dysfunctional," and as if this was not bad enough, now she heads an agency where her underlings apparently do not like her with a passion -- how can we expect anything good to come of this? As it was, Rice already proved her incompetence in her prior position and now she will face new challenges that we can only conclude will be absolutely beyond her capabilities to manage.

As a bonus, the article lists some of the dropped balls by Condi (which alone should've resulted in her dismissal.... instead, Richard Clarke resigns!):
The Sept. 11 commission report was particularly tough on Rice, portraying her as failing to act on repeated warnings in the first part of 2001 about the likelihood of a major terrorist attack on the United States.

For example, it noted that on Jan. 25, 2001, a few days after Bush took office, Richard A. Clarke, who had been held over from the previous administration as the counterterrorism coordinator for the NSC, wrote to Rice stating that "We urgently need . . . a Principals level review on the al Qaeda network." The report noted that Rice did not respond directly to Clarke's memo, and no such meeting of principals, or top officials, was held on terrorism until Sept. 4, 2001, although they met frequently on other issues, such as the Middle East peace process, Russia and the Persian Gulf.

The report also detailed several more specific warnings from Clarke to Rice in the spring and summer of 2001:

• On March 23, he told Rice that he thought terrorists might attack the White House with a truck bomb and also that "he thought there were terrorist cells within the United States, including al Qaeda."

• On May 29, Clarke wrote to Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, about possible assaults by a Palestinian associate of al Qaeda, adding that, "When these attacks occur, as they likely will, we will wonder what more we could have done to stop them."

• On June 25, Clarke informed Rice and Hadley that "six separate intelligence reports showed al Qaeda personnel warning of a pending attack," the report said.

• Three days later, he added that the pattern of al Qaeda activity indicating preparations for an attack "had reached a crescendo."

• On June 30, a briefing was given to top officials titled, "Bin Ladin Planning High-Profile Attacks."

The spike in reported al Qaeda activity ended in July, but senior intelligence analysts continued to be deeply concerned, the report noted, causing them to include in the Aug. 6 "President's Daily Brief" an article titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US."
Regarding Powell's exit, this choice line in today's Washington Post:
Powell's departure is also a victory for conservatives, removing the administration's most forceful advocate for negotiations and multilateral engagement on such issues as Middle East peace and curbing nuclear activities in Iran and North Korea.

That about says it all. To think this administration had a guy who had the audacity to advise against the Iraq invasion AND favored multilateral negotiations (vs. gun-slinging go-it-alone) AND had a great interest in Middle East peace and curbing the #1 danger facing our future security: nuclear weapon threats. Yes, absolutely, this guy just had to go, HE'S CRAZY!

As I wrote yesterday, Powell has very much himself to blame for his sad situation. Granted, he may not have seen what faced him early on in this administration, which is further testament to just how extreme things quickly became with Bush/Cheney after 2000 as even an inside guy like Powell did not foresee how abruptly things would turn for the worse. It did not take long for Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the like to marginalize Powell's influence. Powell quickly fell into quicksand and spent the better part of 3+ years reaching for a tree branch that remained always just out of reach.

Again, I don't wish to make excuses for Powell because there were plenty of opportunities for him to do what Paul O'Neill and Christie Whitman did, and yet for whatever reason he stayed put. This despite his falling from grace with the near complete loss of respect and eventually becoming a non-entity. As I wrote in September, he could've made one of the biggest statements in election-year history by resigning a month or two prior to Nov. 2nd, in effect having a degree of impact that was never afforded him during his tenure as Sec. of State. I believe he would've turned the tide in the election, creating enough stir to attract many undecided voters and leaving Rove with very little for spinning.

But it was not to be, and now we're likely to have to hear about his criticisms and regrets in a "60 Minutes" special or a soon-to-be-rushed-out book. Sorry Colin but I at least don't want to hear it now! A day late and a dollar short. Now that the terrible deed is done, do we really need to hear how bad it was for you? You will simply be confirming much of what is now already known, so what's the point? For shame.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Shocker! (Not)

Colin Powell announces he's outta here. Well it's about time. They've had him locked up in the basement for so long I'm surprised he's still alive.

It will be interesting to see if he'll remain fairly quiet in the weeks/months after his exit, or will he immediately begin the long and necessary process of repairing his well-tarnished reputation. Powell has no one to blame but himself for the ruin of his credibility; it's what happens when you associate with a bunch of incompetent buffoons. I'm sure he fully realizes he was in much better hands with Clinton/Gore, but all of that is past history.

What's truly frightening are the names being tossed around for his replacement, namely Rice or Wolfowitz. As with Goss, who stated he was not qualified to head the CIA before he was installed as head of the CIA, we'll see if this administration rewards those officials who should've been fired!

Side note, I wrote the following about Powell on Sept. 28th:
One Way For Kerry To Win, Instantly....

How? If Colin Powell were to suddenly resign. Think about it. It’s universally understood and accepted that Powell has lost all credibility and respect since being a part of this administration. Whereas prior to the Iraq debacle, most people, no matter the political persuasion, could at least take what he had to say at face value and believe that he was telling us the truth (at least as much as a political figure can tell the truth). Despite the fact he was not for the Iraq invasion and has labeled the Neocons in power “f*cking crazies,” he nonetheless complied and helped to shuck the crap that passed as intel. His willful negligence in this regard can never be forgotten or forgiven. At least others, like Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill, had enough dignity and self-respect to say enough is enough with this pack of psychos, but not Colin. For whatever reason(s), he has remained, though his whereabouts in the last several months remains in question (he’s currently serving the role of the crazy aunt locked in the cellar).

Powell could regain much of his stature and respect if out-of-the-blue, without consulting anyone, he called for a press conference and announced his resignation. Such news would be unprecedented in an election year and absolutely drive home a strong message, namely that to reelect GW given the state of affairs in the world would be a dire course of action for this country. Kerry/Edwards would be able to jump on this obvious implication of “no confidence,” hammering away to the point where even Karl Rove would be at a loss to spin it.

It would be a beautiful thing. We would be able to forgive Colin for many of his past indiscretions as we could assume this was his devious but righteous plan all along (even if he denied it). He’d be forever remembered for such a move. Granted, many would hate him with a passion and others would dedicate their lives to making sure his life was ruined, but it’s the price he should pay given what he’s done over the last few years. Ultimately, he has time to make amends.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

And now for some terrifically wise words (as usual) from Michael Kinsley, as he with tongue-firmly-in-cheek puts into perspective just which side of the political aisle the arrogant, judgmental elite reside (hint: not the Dems side), by addressing the GW base:

At the moment, though, one side of the great divide is being called upon for something closer to abjection than mere reconciliation.

So, yes, okay, fine. I'm a terrible person -- barely a person at all, really, and certainly not a real American -- because I voted for the losing candidate on Tuesday. If you insist -- and you do -- I will rethink my fundamental beliefs from scratch because they are shared by only 47 percent of the electorate.

And please let me, or any other liberal, know if there is anything else we can do to abase ourselves. Abandon our core values? Pander to yours? Not a problem. Happy to do it. Anything, anything at all, to stop this shower of helpful advice.

There's just one little request I have. If it's not too much trouble, of course. Call me profoundly misguided if you want. Call me immoral if you must. But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?

I mean, look at it this way. (If you don't mind, that is.) It's true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose abortion and where gay relationships have full civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values -- as deplorable as I'm sure they are -- don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same gender, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?

We on my side of the great divide don't, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don't claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist? Which is more contemptuous of people who disagree?

He makes the point I recently made to a right-wing friend. The primary difference between the two sides is one wants to allow for freedoms to conduct oneself as one sees fit, whereas the other side wants to restrict such freedoms simply because that side believes they are wrong, and therefore all citizens should be forced to comply. Call me crazy but I thought true conservatives once stood for allowing more freedoms through less restrictions. I wonder where and when things deviated (hmm, could it have something to do with -- religion?).
I mentioned more than once prior to the election that Cheney's health was fair game. Four heart attacks and quadruple bypass surgery are, uh, nothing to sneeze at. Less than two weeks after Nov. 2nd, Cheney feels shortness of breath, undergoes 3 hours of test (he's fine, apparently).

On a separate note, many groups in Ohio continue to call for a recount there, given widespread news reports of irregularities that have surfaced in many of the counties. Meanwhile, NC has a semi-fiasco brewing, with thousands of votes wiped out due to computer error, and many more missing thanks to "procedural error." Here's a classic quote, "When you shine a brighter light on something, you're going to see problems there that you didn't see before," said Justin Moore, a computer scientist and consultant to N.C. Verified Voting.

That's just great! What a testament to the greatest democracy on earth. Shine some light on its voting system and like roaches, the problems appear and attempt to scurry away. Just lovely. Let's see if GW makes a concerted effort to get his GOP-controlled Congress to move swiftly on this HUGE mess -- hah! And rather than recognize that any problem exists at all, we'll continue to hear from the right-wingers that all is fine and we just need to stop whining.

I suppose that's what Bank of America or Citibank would say to their millions of customers if they from time to time would experience check-clearing problems. Oh sure, these mega-banks could proclaim that they have a 98% success rate and hope that sits fine with people. Well, the truth is I'm fairly certain the success rate is damn near 100% -- it would be an obvious nightmare for them if it wasn't! In fact, Bank Of America airs a TV commercial where they categorically state that of the billions of checks they process each year, they have a zero-tolerance policy for even ONE problem or mistake.

Why is it such banks are able to handle BILLIONS (not millions) of computer-operated transactions without one problem, and yet this same foolproof, never-in-doubt outcome appears to be out of reach for our voting system? Isn't the very essence of our democracy worth insuring that it be as seamlessly accurate as clearing a personal check?