Monday, February 27, 2006

  • Conservative columnist George Will recently reviewed Bruce Bartlett's book "Impostor" and was quick to remind all of the many Reagan worshippers who still believe that The Great Communicator was all about cutting taxes, "[Reagan] signed tax increases in 1982 (twice), 1983 (twice), 1984, 1985 (twice), 1986, 1987 (twice) and 1988." I've cited this track record many times before here. Facts, they're a bitch to those who wish to dream.

  • And here's some shocking news just out: "Postwar Iraq Chaos Blamed on Poor Planning." Based on a study from an entity beyond the influence of this strong-arming administration, it offers up quite a different reason for the mess of things over there other than the BushCo trotted out excuses (insurgent attacks and lack of security). Instead, not surprisingly the blame falls on a lack of proper preparation by our government and therefore the many billions in U.S. taxpayer money has been frittered away with nothing to show for it. The report states, "The U.S. government workforce planning for Iraq's reconstruction suffered from a poorly structured, ad-hoc personnel management processes." Just more half-assed due diligence work by these bunch of incompetents.

  • Still believe Bush cares about military vets? This item is just the latest in vet cuts: "After an increase for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing by leaps and bounds, White House budget documents assume a cutback in 2008 and further cuts thereafter." Notice the increase to provide cover for this year's elections -- but then the ax post-haste.

  • A good summary of Bush's many problems and screw-ups, from a journalist who has covered five presidencies.

  • A terrific column by Jonathan Chait in the LA Times. He writes, "Bush's interest in renewable energy seems to have come about as a result of his need to have a dramatic theme for his State of the Union address. Before that, he was not just uninterested but outright contemptuous of the idea." Policy and getting things right from the get-go is an extremely low priority for BushCo. As Chait concludes, "Clinton was meticulous about the policies themselves, which emerged only after long deliberation and study. Bush does things the other way around. Speeches are crafted with painstaking care; policies are an afterthought."

  • Some items to chew on when considering the Dubai Ports uproar:
  • George W. Bush nominated Dubai Ports senior executive David Sanborn to be the U.S. Maritime Administrator -- "a key transportation appointment reporting directly to Norman Mineta the Secretary of Transportation" -- just three weeks before the UAE takeover of U.S. seaports was made public.
  • Treasury Secretary John Snow, who approved the deal and now denies it, was chief executive of CTX Corp. until George W. Bush appointed him in 2003. CTX sold its port operations to Dubai Ports for $1.15 billion a year later.
  • The United Arab Emirates is a major stakeholder in the Carlyle Group -- the same gargantuan private equity firm that employed the elder George Bush as senior adviser. The UAE government-run fim Dubai International Capital backs an $8 billion Carlyle fund. And the Carlyle Group bought CSX Corp. in 2002, while Snow was still CEO.
  • The UAE even gave more than a million dollars to the elder Bush's presidential library in Texas.
  • 34%: President Bush’s approval rating, according to a new CBS poll, an all-time low. The question is: will GW's abysmal polling number drop below Cheney's (29%)? Stay tuned.

  • Apparently the good folks in California did not read Mark Crispin Miller's excellent book, "Fooled Again."
  • Saturday, February 25, 2006

    Kevin Drum writes about the recent TNR article by Lawrence Kaplan, who attempts to make the case for why American troops must stay in Iraq. Drum opines:
    Kaplan demonstrates pretty convincingly that Iraq is corrupt, divided, and hopelessly sectarian, and takes this as evidence that the United States needs to stay....It's not what I got out of Kaplan's description. Rather, his article persuaded me that the American presence is hopelessly ineffectual and increasingly pointless. Sure, it's possible that our presence can prevent Iraq from descending into an immediate, full-scale civil war, but Kaplan's own evidence seems to indicate that while we might be preventing immediate mayhem, we're not changing any of the underlying dynamics of Iraqi society, even at the margins. If we stuck around for a decade and finally left in 2016, Iraq would be a bloodbath in 2017.
    Not to mention the many U.S. soldiers that will continue to die -- and for what? If civil war is seemingly inevitable -- whether it be tomorrow, next month, or next year -- than why have our men and women die in the process? With Iran (and other interested parties) working behind the scenes to insure mayhem continues and escalates, and with the three Iraqi groups bitterly divided based on many years of history, where's the hopeful signs that democracy will take root anytime soon?

    This administration continues to play up fears when politically convenient, but when it comes to Iraq it's all lip service as even they can't deny that the current situation there is dire, devolving from bad to worse, and the likely preoccupation as we speak is how to best frame and spin the ugliness once it unfolds. First priority: as always, don't accept blame for anything. Second priority: do place blame on anyone/anything else. Third priority: state sh*t happens when democracies are in their infancy.

    Drum also discusses the recent Newsweek article which lays out how badly BushCo has botched the "war on terror." He concludes his blog entry with exceedingly true words, "The damage that George Bush has done to the United States is going to be with us for a very long time."
    Karl Rove has hatched a new culture-war wedge issue to excite the zombie contingent of the GOP base. Better to leave these kids in foster homes, right Karl? Or do you care about them at all (beyond just getting those votes)?

    As per usual, "love" the fetus, hate the child.

    Thursday, February 23, 2006

  • Why the wingnuts despise Clinton:
    Percentage approval rating of Bill Clinton the day after impeachment and George W. Bush in November, respectively: 73, 37
  • Iraq moving closer to civil war.

  • The uptight, dim-bulb George Will writes today about how conservatives are happier than liberals. Has he ever heard the saying "ignorance is bliss"? But more so, Will doesn't even question the likelihood that the poll is flawed due to a skewing in the population sample. I would venture to guess that conservatives are more affluent than liberals and it stands to reason that wealth and therefore quality of life may factor into this poll.

  • And more of this bullsh*t: "The Bureau of Land Management, caretaker of more land and wildlife than any federal agency, routinely restricts the ability of its own biologists to monitor wildlife damage caused by surging energy drilling on federal land, according to BLM officials and bureau documents."
  • Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Bush recently declared this country's excessive reliance on foreign oil as "a national security problem." If so, then where's the many billions of dollars thrown at this problem? Oh, that's right, alternative energy sources lack a significant K Street presence and are not big campaign donors.

    Bush is touring the country, attempting to convince people that he truly supports non-oil solutions to our energy problems. However:
    "It's great that the president is talking about our addiction to oil, but his policies are feeding the habit," said Jeremy Symons, director of the National Wildlife Federation's global warming campaign and a former staffer on Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force. "The budget that came out funds less than half of what the recent energy bill promised for renewable energy and energy efficiency - the two most readily available opportunities to break our addiction to oil," Symons said in an interview. Most benefits from the alternative energy sources that Bush favors are years away from practical use, and some of the technology is unproven or financially impractical now.
    Many a right-winger will exclaim, "he finally backs some leftist solutions and this is what you do? Criticize him??" Uh, yes, because it's mainly lip-service bunk.

    This recent charade helps to illustrate two classic Bush administration traits:

    1) Publicly propose "bold" initiatives -- but then quietly underfund them. Reap the pomp and fanfare but ultimately do very little. Garner the favorable public opinion via splashy headlines and glossy rhetoric, but in the trenches where it counts, come up very short.

    2) Stress years into the future -- when you don't have to. There already exists many technical breakthroughs that could be implemented fairly quickly if Bush would just offer the leadership to make it happen. Example: raise the MPG on the US fleet of autos/trucks, forcing the use of existing technical know-how to make vehicles more fuel efficient.

    Instead, as with global warming, GW chooses to emphasize the more-science-is-needed approach, thus stalling any impetus to do something, anything, now. He pushes out the urgency. The end result: very little will get done, later rather than sooner.

    Notice how his SOTU speech had near zero bragging points on his achievements over the last five years.... My point.
  • Kristof in yesterday's NY Times:
    President Bush now has a public approval rating that is 33 percentage points lower than President Clinton's was at the time he was impeached.

    [In 1987] Mr. Reagan systematically overhauled his presidency....his approval rating rose from 40 percent in 1987 to 64 percent when he left office.

    ....But Mr. Bush today is not retooling; he's hunkering down in the bunker. Instead of the Reagan approach of 1987, it's the Nixon approach of 1973. It just increases the national polarization and doesn't help Mr. Bush.
  • That symbol of tolerance and reason, Sen. Orrin Hatch, recently stated, "Nobody denies that he [Saddam Hussein] was supporting al-Qaida. Well, I shouldn't say nobody. Nobody with brains." According to the WSJ, 59% of Americans do not believe this Cheney-manufactured lie anymore -- so I guess they're brain-dead. As are the folks on the 9/11 Commission.

  • Bush's "Portgate" is quite odd. He doesn't use his veto in 5+ years in office but for some reason this matter is when he throws down the gauntlet and declares he'll finally use it....? There's more to this story than meets the eye.

    That said, the most interesting aspect is the extent to which it shows how much "political capital" GW has lost. Heck, even Bill Frist (!) has come out against Bush -- what next?

    Kevin Drum writes:
    What it shows is that Bush still doesn't understand how much influence he's recently lost with his conservative base. In the brave new post-Harriet, post-Katrina world, outrage over the port deal has been driven equally by both liberal critics and conservatives like Michelle Malkin and administration uber-stalwart Hugh Hewitt, who are no longer willing to simply take Bush's word for it that they should trust him on this issue. For today's chastened conservatives, it's "trust but verify" when it comes to the Bush administration....Bush is a dead man walking these days, and the UAE port deal shows that he still doesn't quite get this.
  • Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    A very close right-wing friend of mine helps to keep me clued in as to how the mind operates on the other side. I am frequently perplexed by how he and I can laugh and agree on so many things in life, and yet look at a given political issue in such starkly different ways.

    The following are some questions I've asked him over time which he seemingly refuses to answer; you may understand my frustration when you read them:

    1) Regarding the fairly recent Supreme Court ruling in the Oregon case, to the surprise of many conservative backers, Scalia ruled against states rights and a smaller, more limited federal government role. My friend's knee-jerk response was to halt any premature judgment towards Scalia until one actually read his dissent. When I emailed him the entire text of the dissent, expecting to hear from him soon once he digested it, I was instead met with many days of silence.

    It's been weeks and I have yet to hear a thing regarding this dissent. Trust me, I won't hear a thing. It was a classic dodge, one I've been treated to many times before. The right wing stalls and then never delivers, hoping everyone has just moved on, banking on the poor memories of most Americans. The problem is many liberals have excellent memories and do a very good job of connecting the dots.

    2) I will cite a news item (a recent example being Ken Starr's forged documents) and yet it never fails, my friend denounces the news source as liberal and untrustworthy. Thus, he dismisses any and all of the story, period. Pulling my hair out, I've asked him what info or news source(s) he in fact endorses. FOX News? Limbaugh? O'Reilly?? I get no answer. I suppose the strategy is to just dismiss and badmouth every news source out there without providing favorable alternatives. It makes you wonder if they read any news at all, choosing instead to be uninformed, living in their own carefully manufactured reality.

    3) Like many right wingers, my friend is a big-time global warming skeptic. Let me say that he's by no means an uneducated yokel; he's a very intelligent working professional. Yet, any climate change that he does admit to gets relegated to the "it's a big mystery" category, or that it's the earth going through some kind of natural mega-cycle. More to the point, by no means does he believe man necessarily has anything to do with it.

    In response I've asked him a very simple question: where do man-made air pollutants go? Do they just rise and escape into outer space? Assuming "no" to this question, and assuming they don't just magically disappear, then where do they end up? As with the above points, he has yet to answer this question. Another dodge.

    If the right-wing professes to know so much about what's good for this country, then why don't they have answers to so many questions?

    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    And now for some disturbing environmental items:

  • I'm sure you've already read that Greenland's glaciers are melting at a faster rate than originally thought.
    Those faster-moving glaciers now dump in a year twice as much ice into the Atlantic as they did in 1996, researchers said Thursday. The resulting icebergs, along with increased melting of Greenland's ice sheet, could account for nearly 17 percent of the estimated one-tenth of an inch annual rise in global sea levels, or twice what was previously believed, said Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA...."It's likely that Greenland is going to contribute more and faster to rising sea levels than previously estimated."
  • And as for the arctic:
    An extensive international study on the effects of climate change in the Arctic has reached some startling conclusions on issues ranging from how fast polar ice is melting to the impact on Inuit communities. About 120 scientists from 11 countries involved in the Canadian-led research project, which started in 2002, are meeting in Winnipeg this week to present and discuss their findings.

    One of the most surprising for David Barber, a sea ice specialist at the University of Manitoba, was the fact polar ice is melting at a rate of about 74,000 square kilometres each year - an area about the size of Lake Superior - and has been for the last 30 years....Barber added there is increasing concern in the scientific community that there are factors actually speeding up the melt, but he cautions it's too late to reverse the trend. "The time to act actually was a few decades ago," he said. "We're not going to be able to shift the economies of the planet to get off this fossil fuel addiction in a week, a year or a decade. But we have to start the process now to have some stability for future generations."
  • Once again, a state feels the need to sue the EPA, this time it's New York for simply desiring data on pollutants released into the air by paint companies. BushCo's EPA has been - surprise -- siding with paint companies.

  • Here's some classic Bushian logic: they've been slashing the US Forest Service's budget for years. Now they claim that this smaller Forest Service is too thin to effectively manage its lands, so the solution is to shrink the national forests by selling off the land to private interests. Incredible. Rather than up the budget of the Service to better handle its workload, nope, better to simply shrink our national forests (by 300,000 acres).

  • Another in what's becoming all-too-frequent 1984-ish news item:
    Top political appointees in the NASA press office exerted strong pressure during the 2004 presidential campaign to cut the flow of news releases on glaciers, climate, pollution and other earth sciences, public affairs officers at the agency say.

    The disclosure comes nearly two weeks after the NASA administrator, Michael D. Griffin, called for "scientific openness" at the agency. In response to that, researchers and public affairs workers at the agency have described in fresh detail how political appointees altered or limited news releases on scientific findings that could have conflicted with administration policies.
  • Oh, this is priceless:
    US commanders in Iraq are expressing grave concerns that the overcrowded Abu Ghraib prison has become a breeding ground for extremist leaders and a school for terrorist foot soldiers...."Abu Ghraib is a graduate-level training ground for the insurgency," said an US commander in Iraq.
    They now refer to Abu Ghraib as "Jihad University" -- another instance where before there were no terrorists in Iraq, now we're breeding them.

  • Out of the blue, Alan Dershowitz has resurfaced, speaking out about Cheney's shooting incident. I asked the question about a year ago: what ever happened to this guy? He used to be on every TV news shoutfest, representing the liberal side, and then he suddenly disappeared. Very odd.

  • Did you know there are 33,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, vs. "just" 15,000 about the time Clinton left office? I thought BushCo was going to clean things up in Washington -- funny, you'd think lobbyists wouldn't be part of the solution. Also in that time, 250 former members of Congress have joined the ranks of lobbyists (including former AG Ashcroft!), as well as 275 former White House aides.

    And yet for incumbents, elections are more of a sure-thing than ever. Example: 400 of 435 House members run in safe districts, often unopposed. One would think this means less spending and campaigning is required -- so then why the massive donations by lobbyists? It appears it's all about greed and influence when writing laws for special interests.

    Do the math, 92% of House members are shoe-ins for reelection, so don't "buy" their oft-used excuse that they need to raise massive $$$ to effectively campaign. There's much more going on here than that lame justification. (Source of data: The Leuthold Group)
  • An insightful letter to editor in Boston Globe:
    AS SCARY as an accidental shooting is, the scarier part of Vice President Cheney's interview with Fox News concerned his interpretation of his declassification authority, which would have allowed his former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, to divulge information to reporters.

    The disturbing part of Cheney's perspective and the part that, along with the quail, he missed is that if information is to be declassified, it should be made publicly available to the press, to Congress, to scholars, and to the American people through an orderly and transparent process. Declassifying information for the purpose of sharing it with trusted journalists who then attribute it to anonymous sources taints the process and provides yet more proof that the disclosure was politically motivated.

    Saturday, February 18, 2006

    This Cheney-shooting sideshow, which is wrought with troublesome questions and poses larger problematic examples of what's wrong with this administration, has served to distract the nation from a recent bombshell news release that merits close scrutiny. According to Scooter Libby, Cheney authorized a treasonous act to be committed.

    Where's the so-called leftist media to go ape-sh*t over this eye-opening revelation? (crickets)

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    This story is absolutely stunning and a perfect example of what this Congress represents and stands for.

    At one point, there was bipartisan support for an investigation into Bush's secretive -- and illegal, according to most expert opinions -- warrantless eavesdropping. That unsurprisingly has been watered down to a laughable charade.

    However, rather than the GOP putting together some highly partisan group of clowns to seemingly review the program only to later (much later) offer some lukewarm, meaningless and toothless opinion that amounts to nothing, instead they've decided to investigate the FISA law itself. In other words, they're going to spend time reviewing not the controversy that sparked the need for an investigation in the first place, but rather to instead take a good, hard look at the law Bush broke. By doing so, they'll no doubt conclude they need to change the FISA law and presto magico, Bush no longer is in trouble.

    Yup, when the King circumvents the law of the land, what do you do? Why of course, you ultimately just change the law.

    If originally there was something wrong with FISA, that suggestion should've come up prior to the King simply running roughshod right over it. But that's the rub and why it was wrong to begin with: these guys just do as they please and don't take the time to consider that they, like us, must follow the laws of this country. Such trivial things apparently only apply to the peasants.
    Green Knight, I feel your pain.

    Fellow blogger, The Green Knight, and I share the same reasons for starting a blog -- and subsequent frustrations:
    When I started this blog, I hoped to do a tiny amount to change the shape of American political discourse. I was amazed and disgusted by the media's slavish toadying to BushCo, but I figured that if enough dissenting and reasonable voices got out there in this new medium, things would have to change at some point. My aim was to contribute to the tide of change.

    Apparently, I was wrong.

    BushCo has gotten the USA into a pointless war, allowed the worst terrorist attack in history to happen on its watch, is gleefully shredding the Constitution, allowed a major American city to be destroyed, ruined the USA's image abroad, spies on its citizens, tortures people, loots the public purse, and wrecked its own intel operation against Iran for petty political purposes. None of that has resulted in vigorous and sustained criticism on the part of the press or even of the opposition party.

    ....So, I give up trying to change things. It's just not going to happen. All this blog and others like it can accomplish is to provide some kind of record, so that when historians of the future (assuming there is one) look back at the decline and fall of the United States, they will at least see that some of us saw it coming.
    More on the Cheney shooting incident, namely why what's most troublesome about the accident is nearly everything other than the accident itself:
    ....It took multiple phone calls and several hours for Bush to find out that his vice president almost killed a man. Bush's obliviousness is more interesting than Cheney's bad aim.

    Being out of the loop is nothing new for this president. Whenever the public gets a random glimpse into Bush's private schedule, he seems to be strangely detached from events around him. When a crazy person sprayed the White House grounds with bullets in the middle of the day in 2001, we learned Bush was not working, but working out. When a plane flew into restricted Washington air space in 2005, Bush was biking in the suburbs, clueless about the emergency.

    ....Fear of detail is what has led to Bush's greatest failures. He didn't aggressively follow up on the pre-9/11 Presidential Daily Brief that warned "bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." He was so determined not to second guess his generals that he watched from the sidelines as their military strategy allowed bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal spread out of control without presidential intervention. And as the damning report to be released today on Hurricane Katrina shows, Bush dithered while New Orleans sank. According to The Washington Post, the report notes that "'earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response' because he alone could have cut through all bureaucratic resistance." But that would have required micro-management instead of delegation.

    The Bushies are supposedly fans of the so-called unitary executive theory, an idea with roots in Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 70. Their reading of Hamilton is that the executive branch has to be powerful. But they have it wrong. Hamilton didn't call for a powerful executive, he called for an "energetic" one, the kind who cuts through bureaucracy during an emergency or commands his generals instead of deferring to them. But Bush's detached MBAism is the opposite of energetic. It's passive and lethargic. No wonder he's always the last to know.
    Well, King George is "passive and lethargic" when it comes to governance, public policy, and serving as the competent president we deserve. However, he apparently only has the energy to do things like workout incessantly, ride bikes, clear brush, and pack bags for vacations.

    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    A must-read by Peter Daou, entitled "A Challenge to Rightwing Bloggers Who Blame the Media for the Cheney Mess." He discusses the hackneyed right-wing gripe that the media is liberal and challenges the wingnuts to prove it -- something they rarely if ever do. All too often we hear sweeping generalizations supported by zilch, notta. It's good to see someone call them on it.
    Regarding the shooting, if these same events occurred with Cheney as Halliburton's CEO, make no mistake we would've seen a quicker response in getting the word out. As it is, Cheney is a public servant (I realize a reminder is in order), we pay his salary -- he works for us! And yet we've grown accustomed to secrecy and deception when it comes to this VP. He doesn't respect his office or we the people, and he must resign. This recent shameful episode is simply the last straw. He's a pathetic, woeful disgrace.

    Grant him this much: he didn't mention 9/11 or spread fear when talking with Brit Hume.... Shocking.
    I thought Bush recently stressed that we need more scientists -- how does this help?
    ....Anyone wanting proof that Boehner is no reformer need only look at the changes to federal student-loan programs that he just helped push through Congress as part of this year’s budget reconciliation bill. The alterations reduce government subsidies for student loans by $13 billion over the next five years.

    ....The Republican leadership, with Boehner serving as point man for the issue, studiously avoided alternative proposals for student-loan reforms that nonpartisan experts, such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the CBO, as well as many Republican House members, reported could have achieved similar tax savings without costing students and their families. Doing so, however, would have required a larger government role in administering student loans — something that is anathema to pro-business ideologues like Boehner. The alternatives also would have cut into the profits of the private lenders who make student loans and who have been very generous donors to Republicans, especially Boehner, in the last several years. Boehner says he cares about his constituents’ dreams, but the Republican changes to the student-loan program clearly make it tougher for students to realize theirs. And Boehner talks about respecting constituents’ values, but the groups whose values he served best in this case were those of his political donors, the companies that make money offering student loans.

    ....The end result, says Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, is that lower- and middle-class families will pay more to give their kids the education now needed to have a chance at a decent job, “while the playing field is tilted in the favor of lenders,” who happen to be big contributors to Boehner and his party. Concludes Nassirian, a longtime observer of educational politics in Washington, “Boehner will be a worthy successor to Mr. DeLay.”
    "Conservative Kabuki"

    Terrific editorial in The New Republic:
    One of the most familiar rituals in George W. Bush's Washington is the fantasizing that accompanies the president's annual budget. The ritual goes something like this: Bush announces plans to cut a variety of domestic spending programs. Conservatives cheer the spirit of the cuts -- even as they worry that they could be tough to implement or that they aren't ambitious enough. Then, during the budget process, most of these cuts are restored -- except those that affect the poor. And those cuts are too small to have any practical effect on the deficit. Which raises the question: At what point do conservatives acknowledge that their constant calls for spending restraint have real-world repercussions that are, to say the least, morally suspect?

    ....But, wouldn’t you know it, of the $40 billion in savings over five years finally approved last Wednesday, the vast majority of cuts affect the poor, who will face higher premiums, among other things. The effect of these cuts on the deficit will, in turn, be offset by the $70 billion in tax cuts.

    ....Only the poor have neither the votes nor the money to secure their goodies. The problem from the perspective of the budget-cutter is that, precisely because the poor aren’t a very powerful constituency, there isn’t much to take away in the first place.

    ....The point isn’t simply that cuts for the poor aren’t sufficient to rein in spending. It’s that the cuts do serious damage to the people who depend on the axed programs even as they do nothing to advance the goal of fiscal restraint. If conservatives really want to single out the poor for punishment, they should say so explicitly. Until then, they should stop pretending their rhetoric on spending accomplishes anything else.
    But that would take guts and forthrightness -- two things completely lacking in this hoodwinking, GOP-controlled Congress.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

  • Apparently, our government is looking to take a page from the longtime Republican playbook. The GOP has always looked to "starve the beast" when it comes to the federal government, to cut funding on various areas they dislike (EPA, social services, education, etc.) in hopes that they will shrivel and die. Now, it's reported they're looking to do this re democratically-elected Hamas, to cut off their aid in an effort to provoke change.

  • The Washington Post reminds us that with the first word of Cheney's shooting incident coming from a private citizen, that it's likely the first time in history that the White House has ever used a private citizen as a sort of official spokesperson. Don't forget, when this citizen approached Cheney about going public, Cheney didn't immediately stop her and explain that he or his people should do it. Instead, he gave her his blessing!

  • Despite rolling in record profits, oil and gas companies stand to gain billions more at the expense of US taxpayers -- to the tune of $7 bil. over five years. Bush claims his hands are tied, that Congress needs to change the law, but on the heels of his "we're addicted to oil" speech, why doesn't he forcefully and publicly request that the Congress change this law? Don't they listen to him anymore?

  • Despite public opinion regarding privatizing Social Security is scraping somewhere at 35-39% depending on the poll, Bush didn't let that stop him. He snuck a provision into the 2007 budget that would allow $700 bil. to be diverted away from the Social Security program and into private accounts, starting in 2010. Will of the people? Nope, King GW decrees what he wants.

  • "Grants to state and local governments for land and water conservation would be cut 40 percent, and money for the Environmental Protection Agency's network of libraries for scientists would be slashed severely under President Bush's proposed budget." The King rules "let them die of 'natural' causes." Thank you your Majesty! Oh, and note how the king stated something about the need for more scientists in his State of Union speech, but here we see funds being cut for those things science....
  • Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    As is usually the case with these guys, Cheney's shooting incident is filled with nagging questions and fishy details.

    McClellan said Monday that he was informed of the accident Saturday night but was not told that Cheney was the shooter until Sunday morning. Oh c'mon! This explanation is simply not plausible, period. Someone informs McClellan of this incident and yet withholds from him the nature of Cheney's involvement?? Karl Rove told Bush about Cheney's involvement in the accident on Saturday night -- but again, McClellan seemingly never got word.

    McClellan said when he learned of Cheney's role in the incident at 6AM on Sunday morning, he urged the VP's office to get the info out "as quickly as possible." The story was released at approx. 4:30PM, or 10 1/2 hours later!

    In an appearance on Monday, Bush ignored a question asked regarding this accident. Interestingly, Cheney was there also but he exited before reporters were brought in to ask questions. King GW Cheney, in action.

    For more odd items surrounding this incident, click here.

    Other points and questions:

    1) What about the medical team that now follows Cheney around, like secret service agents? Is Cheney even well enough to go hunting? How do we know the accident isn't related to his health issues? Without clarity regarding these questions, how do we know if Cheney's even up to the task of performing day-to-day duties in a stressful job?

    2) Recall that in 2004, Cheney poked fun when Kerry went on a hunting trip. Ahh, just delicious karma at work.

    3) Mark this down as incident #3487 where they needed time to "bake" the story in the spin oven (thus the delay in its release to public). Can we trust anything that comes out of this administration?

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Get ready for another attack:
    US prepares military blitz against Iran's nuclear sites

    Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran's nuclear sites as a "last resort" to block Teheran's efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    How the budget deficit serves as a national security threat:
    Another hazard is losing what Robert E. Rubin, Summers' predecessor as treasury secretary and my guru on this subject, calls "resilience." A deficit of 3.2 percent of GDP, which is what Bush predicts for this year, curtails the ability of policy-makers to respond effectively to the unforeseen and unforeseeable. The U.S. economy was able to absorb the shock of Sept. 11 without falling into recession in part because of Washington's use of fiscal as well as monetary policy in response. But when the budget is already deeply in the red, the "break glass in case of fire" box comes pre-smashed. In the event of another major terrorist attack or natural disaster, such Keynesian tools as tax cuts and stimulus spending will be much harder to deploy than they were in 2001, when the budget was still in surplus.
    Many on the right will state that 3.2% of GDP is not a dire deficit, HOWEVER those same folks are highly prone to reminding us that everything changed after 9-11. As Rubin makes clear, due to the Iraqi occupation and the always impending possibility of another terrorist attack, a significant federal deficit is not smart if the goal is to be continuously prepared and ready.

    As with many issues, this administration can't continue to have it both ways. If in fact everything did change after 9-11, than in this case a no-brainer modification should be that the government can no longer afford to carry large deficits. To do so is to jeapordize responsiveness to national tragedies and therefore put the public at risk. Instead, the government must remain nimble, ready to finance any needed measures that may be required stemming from future attacks.
    Under King George, corporate lackeys, i.e. lobbyists, either wrote the lax safety regulations or more often just scuttled them (in the name of free market enterprise).

    So now with the mining accident backlash, these companies have come up with the brilliant idea to simply sue the government -- which in this case, they're effectively suing themselves! And guess who will pay if they win? Yup, we taxpayers. Thanks George!
    Joe Klein points out how GW's naive, child-like, simplistic thinking continues to get this country into terrible situations, ones we'll be cleaning up and fixing for many years to come:
    Bush's flashy love affair with democracy is a fallback position: it ascended when the original rationale for the war in Iraq—the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction—receded. Bush was dismissive of "nation building" in his 2000 presidential campaign. By the 2004 race, however, a staple of his stump speech was, "Freedom isn't America's gift to the world. It's the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world." A lovely sentiment, a beautiful line, a potentially disastrous policy.
    Democracy...demands that people take charge of their lives and make informed decisions. That takes time, the careful accumulation of the habits of citizenship. Bush's "gift" formulation sends exactly the wrong message; it leads people to believe that all they need is a purple finger and life will get better. The President seems a victim of that same delusion: he seems to believe that we can get away with promoting democracy through glorious rhetoric without doing the slow, expensive, heavy lifting of nation building.
    Bush's global-democracy, uhhh, crusade, is yet another triumph of spin over substance, a broad-brush carelessness that feeds off emotional election-day highs, flag waving and freedom rallies across the region but which has led, in every case, to severe hangovers.

    From Afghanistan to Egypt, not one country that has had an election in the past year has emerged more stable as a result of the experience. In Iraq, three elections—the last one little more than a "census," in the words of Iraqi journalist Nibras Kazimi—have increased the probability of partition or civil war and installed a corrupt, Iran-leaning government of religious conservatives, which will undoubtedly remain in power when the new "permanent" government is formed. In Afghanistan, elections have brought narco-warlords to positions of significant power. Even the Potemkin elections in Saudi Arabia and Egypt resulted in the aggrandizement of religious extremists. There was the election—more a selection, really—of foulmouthed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, who has turned out to be far more radical than the ruling mullahs anticipated. And now Hamas in Palestine.

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    What a surprise:
    Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, forced to step down as the No. 2 Republican in the House, scored a soft landing Wednesday as GOP leaders rewarded him with a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.

    DeLay, R-Texas, also claimed a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is currently investigating an influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his dealings with lawmakers....DeLay was able to rejoin the powerful Appropriations panel — he was a member until becoming majority leader in 2003 — because of a vacancy created after the resignation of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. Cunningham pleaded guilty in November to charges relating to accepting $2.4 million in bribes for government business and other favors.
    In the GOP, when indicted you still get rewarded. In this case, in addition to landing a "coveted seat" on the committee that allocates $$$, DeLay gets to influence doddering half-wits as he now oversees an investigation that involves himself!

    Hmm, you think he'll remain objective, cooperative and unobtrusive?
    Any which way the wind blows....

    Never be fooled that Tony Blair is a man of strong principles. He's simply a politician in the classic sense of the word: willing to go any which way to garner the most votes, while at the same time do whatever's necessary to shore up his strengths and minimize weaknesses.

    How else do you explain his utmost cooperation in allowing Bush to ram-rod us into war with Iraq, no matter the outcome of the inspections, while at the same you have Blair siding with the global warming crowd -- namely because it's a hugely popular stand over there. On the one hand, he'll knowingly aid Bush in his evil, secretive dealings, and on the other he'll go completely opposite GW's stance on global warming if it will please a good number of Brits.

    Are there any stoutly-principled leaders left in the world, who aren't despots or crazy authoritarian dictators?

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    Kevin Drum writes:
    I'm also more tired than you can imagine of his [Gonzales] constant invocation of presidents from Washington to Roosevelt who authorized warrantless surveillance in wartime. All of that happened before FISA was passed in 1978 and is completely meaningless. And he knows it.
    Indeed. Also, it used to be OK to not pay income taxes -- you know, before the creation and enforcement of such a tax.

    Idiots, just idiots.
    Despite 86 evangelical leaders signing on to lobby against global warming, and therefore Bush's misguided and in-denial policies, the King continues on with his complete disregard for Mother Nature:
    WASHINGTON - The Bush administration will unveil a proposal Friday to sell up to 200,000 acres of national forest land in "isolated parcels" ranging from a quarter of an acre to 200 acres, much of it in California.

    The sale is part of a National Forest Service plan to raise $800 million over the next five years to pay for rural schools in 41 states, offsetting shrinking revenues from sale of timber from national forests. The Bureau of Land Management also plans to sell federal lands to raise an estimated $182 million over five years...."I am outraged, and I don't think the public is going to stand for it for one minute," said Wilderness Society policy analyst Mike Anderson. "It's a scheme to raise money at the expense of the national forests, the wildlife, recreation and all the other values that Americans hold dear. It's the ultimate threat to the national forest."....Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., attacked the plan as "crazy," saying: "Here the administration wants to pass more tax cuts for the rich, and to pay the bill, they want to sell off public land - our nation's natural heritage."
    Screw it, Reagan said trees pollute, right?
    And even more cronyism (no way did it stop with the "Brownie" debacle):
    WASHINGTON - State Department officials appointed by President Bush have sidelined key career weapons experts and replaced them with less experienced political operatives who share the White House and Pentagon's distrust of international negotiations and treaties....It's thrown the agency into turmoil and produced an exodus of experts with decades of experience in nuclear arms, chemical weapons and related matters, according to 11 current and former officials and documents obtained by Knight Ridder.
    No sooner did the meager promises come out of the King's mouth regarding his new found religion about oil=bad and committing to alternative energy did we then learn of this:
    The Energy Department will begin laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the next week or two because of cuts to its budget.

    A veteran researcher said the staff had been told that the cuts would be concentrated among researchers in wind and biomass, which includes ethanol. Those are two of the technologies that Mr. Bush cited on Tuesday night as holding the promise to replace part of the nation's oil imports.
    Yeah, that sounds about right: promise X & Y or even Z, and then cut or simply ignore it behind closed doors. It's what King GW & Co. do and frankly no one holds their feet to the fire regarding the abysmal tactic -- certainly not the passive, woefully uninformed public.
    Bob Herbert:
    The big problem for Bush & Co. — the thing that makes the president and his apologists apoplectic — is the mere fact that this domestic spying program has come to light. Investigations are under way to determine who might have leaked information about the supersecret program to The New York Times, which disclosed its existence, and others.

    This is not a time for Congress or the media to bow before the intimidation tactics of a bullying administration. This is a time to heed the words of a federal judge named Damon Keith, who reminded us back in 2002 that "democracies die behind closed doors."

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    Kevin Drum offers up a quote from Matt Yglesias who basically asks why if this NSA matter is so legal in this administration's view that they don't contest it to the Supreme Court, esp. now that the Court is stacked in their favor.

    I suppose a good point, but the more immediate one that merits repeated emphasis is GW willfully broke the law to begin with, period. If they believed FISA was unconstitutional, they should've contested it before breaking the law.

    It's similar to the Iraq situation, let's not lose sight of things. Whatever eventual outcome becomes a realty in Iraq is secondary to the fact that GW used lies and distortions to get us their in the first place. This fact does not change even if Iraq were to eventually become a pristine democratic nation.

    And apparently the public isn't bothered by the illegal wiretappings because of the "T" word. Attach "terrorism" to anything and you get a free pass. It's magical!

    But I wonder what the public's reaction would be if GW proposed a national ban on key ingredients in a Snickers bar or a Big Mac, supposing those ingredients hypothetically funded Al-Qaeda? Bets are we'd see all-out bedlam in this country, riots in the streets. Pathetic.
    From Mike Malloy:
  • "Refineries cut production to protect gasoline profits." This after reporting several quarters of record-breaking profits. I suppose it's one way to cut our "addiction."

  • "U.S. sides with Iran, Sudan to bar gay groups from UN." So America lines up with two of the more reprehensible governments in the world.... Is it any wonder? King GW will always lob a revolting favor to the religious right in this country any chance he gets. Must keep that zombie vote locked up.

  • "A source inside the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation told Insider magazine that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has ordered the shredding of documents and public records, a clear violation of Florida law.... A source in the FBI confirmed that public records are being destroyed on orders of Jeb Bush. The source said the governor may have taken that action in response to the continuing criminal probe of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the federal investigation of the 2001 gangland murder in Miami of Gus Boulis, owner of the Sun Cruz casino boat." It seems these Bush brothers are all alike. They'll do whatever's necessary -- even if it's illegal -- to save their ass.
  • Friday, February 03, 2006

    Some segments from an editorial in yesterday's LA Times:
    By and large, it isn't a lack of technology that keeps the nation so dependent on oil. It's the lack of will to use it. Engineers have produced a basket of new technologies for making cars burn less gasoline, yet fuel standards for passenger cars in this country haven't changed in more than two decades, and fuel economy has barely budged.... Advances in solar energy have made it less expensive and more reliable, yet only California is making a significant bid to exploit the power of the sun.
    Bush also talked about investing in zero-emissions coal plants. Yet, after a former EPA administrator said the technology existed to reduce mercury pollution at coal-fired plants by 90% within a few years, the Bush administration issued far weaker regulations.
    GW's solution is never to implement or encourage the use of what is already available, but instead to conduct more research. It's a stall tactic that on the surface sounds good to most Americans. (How can you not like more research?) Unfortunately, such proposed funding is inevitably cut to shreds -- and no one is the wiser.
    From this week's TNR editorial:
    At one point in the speech, Bush proclaimed,“Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care”—which is true enough. (Just ask General Motors.) But it so happens that Bush is about to sign a bill that will cut spending on Medicaid, the program that offers health insurance for those too poor or sick to get it on their own. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients, the majority of them children, will lose coverage as a result of the cuts. Meanwhile, this same bill preserves a $22 billion Medicare subsidy for the insurance industry that had earlier been targeted for elimination. Granted, it’s not surprising that Bush failed to mention these things.
    For the Bush administration, talking about health care is an end in itself—something you do when the pollsters say voters are worried, then quickly stop once you’ve gotten a few nice headlines.
    Exactly, Karl Rove in action.

    Three things define this administration: 1) empty rhetoric, 2) headline-grabbing ploys, and 3) special interest giveaways. That's it in a nutshell.

    Are you proud yet?
    Today is one of those days where after reading Kevin Drum's blog, I am reminded again that it's by far the best of its kind on the net.

    Some of his must-read entries: yet another leaked memo from Downing Street, shenanigans with Iraq war funding, gifting to big pharma companies, and blatant deception regarding cost estimates of the new Medicare plan. It's all good.
    Tom Krattenmaker in USA Today:
    Just 17 months ago, President Bush and the Republican Party seemed to be riding a divine tide. At the GOP convention in the summer of 2004, religious rhetoric flew through the air like streamers and confetti. The GOP was being cast as "God's Official Party." Typifying the spirit of the campaign season, one alternate convention delegate, Judith Manning, declared to the press, "President Bush supports God, and God supports President Bush, absolutely."
    Dubious at the time, the God's-on-our-side rhetoric is looking even less credible now, after more than a year of frequently bad news for the president and his administration.
    Tellingly, the president and his political brethren aren't invoking the divine as frequently or boldly these days. It's reminiscent of high-profile athletes who are eager to cite God in moments of triumph, but rarely invoke religion after an embarrassing failure or big loss.
    To a large degree, religious-talking Republicans have brought the hypocrisy charges on themselves in their rush to position their party as God's chosen. It hasn't taken long for events to demonstrate how silly God's-on-our-side political rhetoric can end up looking when things go south.
    It's hard to argue against those who would summon universal ideals from the great religious texts in the pursuit of justice. But that's a far cry from what we've seen in recent years, where officeholders, candidates and political operatives have played the God card in a craven bid for electoral advantage, and where one party, the GOP, has all but co-opted conservative Christians to help carry out a not-so-holy partisan agenda.
    By all accounts, the GOP has no problem with hypocrisy. Not a one loses sleep at night. No shame. None.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    The New Republic has some terrific commentary on the SOTU.

    Ryan Lizza writes, "His 'addicted to oil' line will garner lots of headlines, but his actual oil-independence plan is so modest--tens of millions of dollars in a two trillion dollar annual budget--that it is barely worth mentioning." That's the fool-ya, play with words that Bush (Rove) use frequently. They'll state a $300 million increase in clean energy research -- which sounds HUGE to Joe Shmoe -- but really it barely pushes the needle when compared to the size of total federal outlays and when you look at the amount of $$ granted as corporate subsidies.

    Lizza: "In the surprise of the night, conservatives became Bush's target.... Bush's isolationist-bashing was really aimed at the growing ranks of Buchananite Republicans. In fact, later in the speech he took a second swipe at them on immigration: 'We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy--even though this economy could not function without them. All these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction--toward a stagnant and second-rate economy.'"

    Of course, this slap against many right-wingers had Bush finally (and rarely) uttering some truth. Is this a hopeful trend?

    Also in TNR, James Forsyth writes about this same unexpected attack on Republicans. He reminds that at the 2004 GOP Convention, a NY Times poll "found that 48 percent of delegates didn't really endorse the idea that America should 'try to change a dictatorship to a democracy where it can.'" In other words, nearly half are against nation-building -- or what GW originally ran on in 2000.

    By the way, the Washington Post pointed out that while Bush implored we should cut our dependence on foreign oil, "since Bush took office, net foreign imports have risen from 53% to 60%." More empty rhetoric.