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.