Friday, March 31, 2006

Thomas Friedman has a truly frightening column in today's NY Times. He writes about how Iraq is so close to the tipping point:
The fate of the entire U.S. enterprise in Iraq now hangs in the balance, as the war has entered a dangerous new phase. It is the phase of barbaric identity-card violence between Sunnis and Shiites. In the late 1970's, I covered a similar moment in Lebanon, and the one thing I learned was this: Once this kind of venom gets unleashed — with members of each community literally beheading each other on the basis of their religious identities — it poisons everything. You enter a realm that is beyond politics, a realm where fear and revenge dominate everyone's thinking — and that is where Iraq is heading.
Once embedded, this cycle of fear and revenge is almost impossible to break. People conclude that the only thing that can protect them is a militia from their own sect, not the police or the army. Then these militias, which come to life to protect the neighborhood, take on a life of their own. They develop protection rackets, feel the thrill of power and, as that happens, start to do all they can to prevent the government from restoring its authority. Finally, as the BBC noted in a recent report from Baghdad, some Iraqi politicians are now concluding that "they can gain more power and influence from building on sectarian loyalties than from appeals for national unity." When politicians decide they can get ahead by appealing more to fear than to hope, national reconciliation goes up in smoke.

A Baghdad blogger, the Mesopotamian, quoted by"I don't know anymore what can be done to rescue the situation. At least, those who are supposed to be in positions of responsibility should stop lying and painting a false picture. ... I regret sounding so pessimistic, but the alarm must be sounded. ... What is happening is Baghdad is something really awful."
The Iraqi Shiite community showed remarkable restraint in the face of the murderous provocations by these Islamo-nihilist gangs during the past three years. But that restraint is over. It's now clear that some Shiite militias are ready to match the Sunni nihilists, killing for killing. So the slide into a medieval barbarism has begun.

Do not believe any of the Bush team's happy talk. It doesn't matter if Iraq is quiet in the south and quiet in the north. If Baghdad, the heart of the country, is being ripped apart, then there is no Iraq — because there is no center.
Friedman is right. In the next few months, look for the insurgent violence to escalate mainly in and around Baghdad. As goes that key central city, so goes the entire country -- and the militias know this fact full well. While Iraq may be fairly large geographically, when it comes to obtaining power the acknowledged reality is only a small part of the country needs to be conquered.
Listen to the Dean

Today John Dean testified before a Senate committee concerning Feingold's move to censure Bush:
(CBS/AP) Nixon White House counselor John Dean asserted Friday that President Bush's domestic spying exceeds the wrongdoing that toppled his former boss from power, and a veteran Republican snapped that Democrats were trying to "score political points" with a motion to censure Mr. Bush.

"Had the Senate or House, or both, censured or somehow warned Richard Nixon, the tragedy of Watergate might have been prevented," Dean told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Hopefully the Senate will not sit by while even more serious abuses unfold before it."

Testifying to a Senate committee on Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold's resolution to censure Mr. Bush, Dean said the president "needs to be told he cannot simply ignore a law with no consequences."
"To me, this is not really and should not be a partisan question," Dean told the panel. "I think it's a question of institutional pride of this body, of the Congress of the United States."

He added in prepared testimony that if Congress doesn't have the stomach for Feingold's resolution as drafted, it should pass some measure serving Mr. Bush a warning.

"The resolution should be amended, not defeated, because the president needs to be reminded that separation of powers does not mean an isolation of powers," Dean said in prepared remarks.
And Sen. Orin Hatch had this to say:
Hatch said that passing a censure resolution would do more harm than good.

"Wartime is not a time to weaken the commander-in-chief," he said.
Oh give me a break! Enough of this "wartime" bullsh*t. So the commander-in-thief gets a free pass to break laws as long as this Iraq debacle continues. What an incentive to invade other countries and keep this "wartime" thing going!

Another Karl Rove red-light special, an issue picked to inflame and arouse the base, but even more so to wag-the-dog by getting the MSM's attention off of Iraq and the countless other bad news items of the day. Rove has to give Rush and O'Reilly something new to talk about since promiscuity in teens has been played out and welfare abuse is just so 1990s.

So don't fall for it (although I see just this past week that Will, Tierney, and even Krugman have written columns about the issue). Karl wants you to take the bait and get mad as hell! Just don't. Always remind yourself we have much more pressing, important things to be fretting about than the folks who pick our vegetables, mow our lawns, clean our hotel rooms, and do so many of the other jobs most people in this country simply won't do.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

From Media Matters:
Media ignored, underreported NY Times disclosure of explosive Bush-Blair memo

Since a March 27 New York Times article confirmed that a leaked British memo appears to contradict President Bush's repeated claim prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that he wanted to avoid war, media have failed to note the full significance of the document and in some cases ignored the story altogether.
Bush's positions as reported in the memo -- that U.N. inspectors were unlikely to find weapons, that military action would occur with or without the U.N.'s backing, that the war was unavoidable -- directly contradict many of his public statements in the weeks leading up to the invasion. Between that January 31 meeting and the start of the war on March 19, 2003, the president repeatedly told the American people that he was doing everything possible to avoid military action.
Yeah, it's called telling a lie, over and over. Clinton lied about blowjobs and it was treated as if he sold five of our nuclear bombs to Osama himself! Meanwhile, this memo appears offering evidence that GW was determined to take the U.S. to war against Iraq, regardless of what was found using inspections and diplomatic efforts, and then he lies about it to this date, and yet we hear nothing. No outrage, nothing. So apparently the public considers fibs about blowjobs to be MUCH worse than fibs about going to war on false pretenses (considered treason), resulting in over 2300 dead U.S. soldiers.... Just so I understand....
"No, that's okay, we got it covered, just let us honest folks look into our own dishonest deeds.... Trust us, we'll get back to you with any violations.""

"On a 67-30 vote, the Senate defeated a bipartisan proposal to create an office of public integrity, which its backers said was designed to strengthen enforcement of Senate rules and bolster voters' trust in Congress in the wake of the guilty plea in January of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff." -- LA Times
Look for more changes to come soon:
In lengthy interviews over the weekend and on Monday, they said that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has started to prepare the paperwork to present to the grand jury seeking an indictment against White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove or National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Although the situation remains fluid, it's possible, these sources said, that Fitzgerald may seek to indict both Rove and Hadley, charging them with perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy related to their roles in the leak of Plame Wilson's identity and their effort to cover up their involvement following a Justice Department investigation.
From the LA Times:
Following four years of study, senior EPA scientists came to an alarming conclusion: The solvent, trichloroethylene, or TCE, was as much as 40 times more likely to cause cancer than the EPA had previously believed.
By 2003, after a prolonged challenge orchestrated by the Pentagon, the EPA lost control of the issue and its TCE assessment was cast aside. As a result, any conclusion about whether millions of Americans were being contaminated by TCE was delayed indefinitely.

What happened with TCE is a stark illustration of a power shift that has badly damaged the EPA's ability to carry out one of its essential missions: assessing the health risks of toxic chemicals.
If the EPA's 2001 draft risk assessment was correct, then possibly thousands of the nation's birth defects and cancers every year are due in part to TCE exposure, according to several academic experts.

"It is a World Trade Center in slow motion," said Boston University epidemiologist David Ozonoff, a TCE expert. "You would never notice it."
Great to see that the Pentagon protects us with bombs (paid for, handsomely, by us), but then works overtime to (slowly) kill us anyway. It helps when you have an administration that is in your back pocket and doesn't care about the public's health.

David Ozonoff makes an excellent point. Kill thousands of people suddenly, in one fell swoop, and it certainly gets noticed. But slowly kill off a portion of the population and it never gets the attention and public outrage it deserves. Just look at global warming: while over time it will be a disaster for the entire planet, it's not occurring at a fast enough pace to cause any sudden and fatal effects, and thus it's a big yawn.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction is expected to issue a harshly critical report in May concluding that the CPA did not have disciplined contracting procedures in place, according to several people involved in drafting the report. If the Democrats manage to get control of the House later this year, it's all going to come in an avalanche of subpoenas and new investigations.
Just imagine if this were Clinton in office, we'd never hear the end of the cries of incompetence and foul-play, the neverending investigations -- and all of it would be justified! "Rule of law" my ass....
  • LA Times: Health officials in the United States say bird flu is likely to arrive in North America this year, carried by wild birds migrating thousands of miles to their summer breeding grounds. The speed of its migration, and the vast area it has infected, has forced scientists to concede there is little that can be done to stop its spread across the globe. "We expected it to move, but not any of us thought it would move quite like this," said Dr. David Nabarro, the United Nations' coordinator on bird flu efforts. The hope was once that culling millions of chickens and ducks would contain or even eradicate the virus. Now, the strategy has shifted toward managing a disease that will probably be everywhere.

    Given this administration's record of bunglings (Iraq, Katrina, prescription bill rollout, etc.), are you really that confident that they'll properly handle and be prepared for the bird flu arrival? Yeah, I didn't think so.

  • USA Today reports some good Iraq news: medical innovation due to war casualties/victims & constraints -- why, that's great! Let's invade Syria and Iran and who knows, a cure for cancer may be the result!

  • Mark Halperin on Card out, Bolten in: "While there are differences between the men to be sure, the change is likely to have as much impact on the Bush administration as the change from Dick York to Dick Sargent playing Darrin had on "Bewitched"....No Republican sources close to the White House are suggesting that Bolten's tenure will see any major shifts in the Bush agenda."

    Translation: same old same old re incompetence.

  • I guess the MSM was covering too much bad news in Iraq to bother mentioning this little-known memo....

  • 2,323: the number of U.S. soldiers that have died in Iraq -- why doesn't the MSM broadcast this bad news? Where's the outrage from Americans, the disgust? The number is fast approaching the figure of those killed on 9/11.

    Suggestion: get a jar of pennies, 2,323 of them. Pour them out on a bed, spread them out, all around, then take a good look at them. Lots of them, right? It helps bring the number home. Imagine Lincoln's face as individual soldier faces -- or even your son(s) and/or daughter(s). Make a difference now?
  • Remember that flawed Pew study that showed Republicans are happier than Democrats (hmm, did they control for income, quality of life differences, etc.? Or ignorance (is bliss)?)? Well, here's a study that shows whiny brats grow up to be conservative. From William Saletan of
    They "turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity. The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests." The authors suspect "insecure kids look for the reassurance provided by tradition and authority," whereas "the more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives." This matches a 2003 analysis that suggested "people who are dogmatic, fearful, [and] intolerant of ambiguity ... are more likely to gravitate to conservatism."
    That last part -- "intolerant of ambiguity" -- is something I've regularly observed in most right-wingers, the need for black-and-white stark clarity and why the Limbaughs and O'Reillys deliver just that. It's also one reason why I renamed my blog.
    The normally milktoast-lame John Dickerson had some refreshingly feisty words to say about GW's latest floundering tactic regarding the war:
    In the fall of 2003, the president complained the media filter was distorting the news out of Iraq, and during the 2004 campaign, Bush political advisers told me about discussions in which they flirted with getting into a public debate with the New York Times over its war coverage as a way to build public support for the president.
    No matter how many upbeat stories one might hear about better electricity or rebuilt schools in Iraq, it's never going to balance out the horror of violence. And it shouldn't. To talk about press bias in response to questions about violence suggests an equivalence between dead soldiers and new hospitals. An increase in the number of positive stories is not going to rebuild support for Bush's policies.
    The genie is out of the bottle on that front. Just look at most Republicans scrambling to create as much distance between themselves and GW/Cheney.

    Even assuming this latest MSM bashing rings true (it doesn't), why is it we never heard similar harsh criticism from the right about the media's lapdog, water-carrying coverage leading up to the war? Where was their objectivity then (in particular, the "liberal" NY Times)? It's a two-way street.
    "Economic growth used to shrink the top and bottom while expanding the middle. Now, for reasons that are also partly mysterious, it does the opposite." Partly mysterious, Mike? Really? But since 1980, the gap between CEO pay and the average worker has exploded by more than ten times: in 2004, the average CEO made $11.8 mil., which was 431x more than the average worker, as compared to 1980, when the average CEO made "just" 42x more. Also, in 2004 the typical CEO received a raise of 15% while the average worker got just a 2.9% bump up in pay. (And note that about 1/4 of CEO pay is from bonuses).

    I don't think there's much mystery as to why economic growth is not "expanding the middle" like in the good old days....

    Monday, March 27, 2006

    What I don't understand is many of the rightwing hack writers make stuff up all the time -- why the need to outright plagiarize?? Dishonest and lazy.

    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    On your mark, get set -- BLAME THE MEDIA FOR YOUR FAILINGS AS FAST AS YOU CAN! (including FOX News)
    What warms Karl Rove's big belly:
    WASHINGTONGay rights advocates are pushing to legalize same-sex marriage with an unprecedented wave of lawsuits in state courts, while those seeking to ban such unions are gaining ground in state legislatures.
    Culture war, it's the only thing Rove and the GOP have left. Fan the flames of hate and intolerance (note the ironic parallels to the Afghan man who converted to Christianity), incite the narrow-minded base, whatever it takes to get those votes.

    Problem is perhaps the people are beginning to become more tolerant and accepting just when Rove needs to go to the "hate well" one more time:
    Gay marriage remains a divisive issue, with 51% opposing it, the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found. But almost two-thirds, 63%, opposed gay marriage in February 2004.

    "Most Americans still oppose gay marriage, but the levels of opposition are down and the number of strong opponents are down," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "This has some implications for the midterm elections if this trend is maintained."
    A recent story in the LA Times was entitled, "Some U.S. Officials Fear Iran Is Helping Al Qaeda." Kevin Drum commented, "we've been down this road before. Only an idiot would believe the Bush administration a second time around unless they have some awfully good evidence to share with us."

    Another example of how Bush's regular use of lies and deception has made us a less safe nation. Reasonable, reality-based people have come to learn they can't trust this administration about nearly anything. Now suppose this news concerning Iran and Al Qaeda is in fact true. Because BushCo has lost all credibility, we're correctly skeptical about everything coming from them. Per chance that something does come down the pike that is actually true, we'll have no way of knowing since all trust has been squandered.

    We have a "boy who cried wolf" president -- thanks to his purposeful and negligent dishonesty, and we're much less safe because of it. Tragically, now more than ever, we may never know fact from fiction when it comes to imminent threats facing us -- and BushCo is solely to blame.
    The Guy James Show

    Fortunately, he's back. Guy James is once again on the air, only now we get to hear him Monday-Friday, two hours each day. You can hear his show via White Rose Society. Guy is simply one of the best liberal voices on radio, along with Mike Malloy and Tom Hartmann.

    After viewing GW's recent press conference, Guy rightfully described Jr. as a "jerk," an arrogant, condescending, and most of all ignorant man who is all about power and getting his way and who couldn't care in the least about governing responsibly, with compassion and humility, not to mention with the Constitution always in mind. Guy stated while he didn't agree with the agendas of Nixon or Reagan, and even much of Dem LBJ's, he never believed that those men were jerks.

    Though this distinction may sound overly trite and frank, it's an important one. It's one thing to have someone leading the country who you disagree with and yet can respect as a person. That's just not the case with this frat-house dunce, who even if for some unknown reasons you agree with his actions and views over the last 5+ years must admit he's a first-class A-Hole who deserves to already be ranked as our worst president ever, by far.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

  • $8.965 Trillion: The nation’s new debt limit after Bush on Monday signed into law a $781 billion increase in U.S. borrowing authority. Good to see those supply-side tax cuts have done much to solving our deficit problem (recall supply-side logic: cut taxes and revenue comes streaming in, and good-bye deficits).

  • $46+ Trillion: The federal government's fiscal exposure, up from $20 trillion in 2000, as reported by U.S. Comptroller General David Walker. Yes, in just six years this figure has more than doubled! Good to see the GOP-controlled everything has our fiscal house in good order....

  • 300,000 Acres: Amount of national forest land the Bush administration plans to sell off to pay for other government programs. So to pay down the deficit, because tax cuts have only worsened the problem, we're now going to sell of our trees....? And the public just stupidly goes along with this....?

  • Cheney shows up at a fund-raiser and yet the candidate never showed -- seemingly dodging being seen with the ever-popular VP. Can you blame him? Get used to this trend (recall my post about how they'd rather run in '06 and '08 with old photos of Reagan than new ones of GW/Cheney).
  • Monday, March 20, 2006

    Paul Krugman writes today:
    "The single word most frequently associated with George W. Bush today is 'incompetent,' and close behind are two other increasingly mentioned descriptors: 'idiot' and 'liar.' " So says the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, whose most recent poll found that only 33 percent of the public approves of the job President Bush is doing.
    He says beyond just the failure of Bush, "we're looking at the failure of a movement....Most of the conservatives now rushing to distance themselves from Mr. Bush still can't bring themselves to criticize his actual policies."

    In light of the abysmal polls, those on the right see it politically expedient to criticize in general an unpopular president, but when it come to specifics, they're very careful. They avoid bashing all of the many things gone wrong in the last five years -- most of which are policies and actions long endorsed by the right and yet provide for the fuel behind GW's low poll numbers -- and instead attack the easy stuff, like overspending. They'll always go to the well when it comes to badmouthing "handouts' to the "lazy" poor or even pork projects, though conservatives have ruled the roost for the last half decade and are more guilty of such wasteful spending than liberals. Also, it's funny how you didn't hear any of them criticize the president for this runaway spending when 1) Bush's numbers were better, and 2) when the spending helped their chances for reelection.

    Krugman writes how they "can't criticize the decision to start this war without facing up to their own complicity in that decision" nor can they pounce on the mismanagement of the war given their "years of insisting that things were going well in Iraq and denouncing anyone who said otherwise." (He also quotes William Kristol saying we never made a "serious effort" in Iraq; uh, $500 billion and 2300+ US soldiers dead = not serious?).

    The bottom line is right wingers are finding it easiest to shoot the down-and-out messenger and not the message. The messenger is exceedingly lame with limited political life, yet the message continues to be this mythical bunch of hooey that many Americans still believe in -- like brainwashed zombies. To attack the message is to attack the very foundation of what these rightwing politicians run on. If they begin to peck away at the core beliefs, most of which have been tried and failed in the last five years, then they've got nothing left.

    Although it's fundamentally wrong, what they're doing makes sense when you consider their alternatives -- they have none. Hello, Democrats, are you listening? ATTACK!
    Regarding Feingold's censure motion, Kevin Drum simply states it's serving as a distraction:
    Is this really helping convince the public that Bush deliberately and repeatedly violated the law when he approved the NSA program? I'm not seeing it. Political theater is only useful if it actually shines the spotlight into the dark corner where we want it shined, and Feingold's censure motion doesn't really seem to have done that. Instead of pinning our hopes on yet another bright and shiny silver bullet, maybe there's a place for all those boring hearings and investigations after all.
    Why not Gore/Clinton (either Hillary, or better yet, Bill) in '08?

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    Some good and bad news on the environment.

    First the bad news. Bush nominated Dirk Kempthorne to replace exiting Gale Norton. Dirk earned a lifetime League of Conservation Voters score of 1 percent. That's really all you need to know. Our federal lands will remain in hostile hands.

    The good news: "A federal appeals court blocked the Bush administration's four-year effort to loosen emission rules for aging coal-fired power plants, unanimously ruling yesterday that the changes violated the Clean Air Act and that only Congress could authorize such revisions."

    Score a win for the growing federalism to combat BushCo's trashing of environmental laws and regulations. NY AG Spitzer led the legal fight, stating it was "a major victory for clean air and public health" and a "rejection of a flawed policy."

    So Bush continues to side with anti-environmental cronies, and yet the courts may soon help to stem the damage done with future rulings such as this one. The big question remains, what will it take for Democrats to embrace the environment as a key electoral issue?

    A recent Pew poll featured this exhibit:

    Notice the trend. Energy and the environment have increasingly become a "Top Priority" to Americans. Contrast with Bush's poll numbers which have trended in the opposite direction, shrinking each year to the current 33%-37% level. With BushCo's numbers heading south and yet concern for the environment heading north, what is it the Dems don't get?

    In addition, it's interesting to see energy and the environment grouped together. For one, the Dems could easily co-opt the environment as an issue that only they could be identified with given 99% of Republicans have a horrible record on the topic. But also the Dems could snatch the energy issue from Bush, particularly since BushCo has done nothing regarding the "addiction" BS he trotted out in the SOTU speech. By the time November elections come rolling around there's a very good chance we'll again see above-$3 gas at the pump and if the Dems can aggressively play up the energy issue and offer serious alternatives, it will resonate at just the right time.

    In fact, Pew Research cites that the two issues go together like hand-in-glove:
    The outgrowth of this concern about both energy and the environment is that the public expresses almost universal support for solutions that address both problems at the same time. Fully 86% favor the government requiring better fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks and SUVs, and 82% favor increased federal funding for research on wind, solar and hydrogen energy.
    80+% numbers?! These are higher than the 70% poll numbers that had politicians falling over themselves to block the Dubai ports deal.

    This should be an absolute no-brainer for the Dems -- but that's why I'm concerned....
    Oops, the highly-partisan "think" tank, The Heritage Foundation, gets things wrong again. They attempt to correct a TNR editorial:
    The editorial’s overall argument—that antipoverty spending has been slashed—is also incorrect. Antipoverty spending leaped by 39 percent from 2001 to 2005.
    And TNR editors respond:
    Overall, federal poverty spending has increased because the number of poor Americans has grown. The statistic to consult here is real per capita spending on the poor—that is, what the average poor person receives in benefits. According to a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that number has increased, on average, by a mere 1.9 percent per year under Bush. Once you further adjust for spiraling health care costs, the volume of services received by the average poor person shrinks even further.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Thomas Friedman wrote yesterday:
    When it came to the Dubai ports issue, the facts never really had a chance — not in this political season. Still, it's hard to imagine a more ignorant, bogus, xenophobic, reckless debate than the one indulged in by both Republicans and Democrats around this question of whether an Arab-owned company might oversee loading and unloading services in some U.S. ports. If you had any doubts before, have none now: 9/11 has made us stupid.
    No, a date or an event has not made us stupid. Rather, it's this administration's response to the 9/11 tragedy that has not educated us in the least.

    How can Bush be frustrated at the outcome of this Dubai ports issue, implying he expects the public to use level-headed reason, when in fact he, Rove, Cheney, and the rest of his clan have systematically pushed the opposite? Inciting hysteria and appealing to the most base and primal emotions with well-timed, calculated reminders of impending doom and fear is not going to suddenly reverse and allow for a public that will cooperate on this matter. As I've written, once you embark on a campaign of hate-speak, lacking any effort to clarify or further address specific points, well, then you get what we have now -- a highly reactionary and woefully ignorant citizenship.

    Again, as I've written, BushCo is now getting what they deserve. It's just desserts and he has no one to blame for his frustration but himself. Either you choose to lead in a responsible way and treat Americans as intelligent beings that have a desire to learn and can appreciate nuance and subtlety, OR you treat them like brainless idiots and accordingly manipulate the hell out of them as if they were witless lemmings. But, you can't have it both ways. It's high time the electorate recognize they're the former and categorically reject the latter treatment -- doing so at the ballot box. Vote out GW's lackeys and then finally rid ourselves of the entire gang. Let's FINALLY put an end to our worst national nightmare.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    So in exchange for helping them with their nuclear needs and exempting them from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, India has agreed to allow inspections of only its civilian reactors -- not its weapons program.

    Great timing. Just when BushCo is escalating rhetoric, using the word "grave" which when used by past presidents has nearly always translated into imminent military recourse, they go ahead and cut this deal. If Iran continues to defy demands, Bush now hasn't a leg to stand on.

    In your infinite wisdom, why now Mr. President? India has been lobbying for this action for 30+ years, to cave at this time given the Iran quagmire is just another act of stupidity by these gang of incompetents.
    Another sign that GW couldn't be lamer.

    In '06 and '08, GOP candidates will be running on the myth and memory of a former dead president. I say myth because as I've discussed here in prior posts, Reagan raised taxes many times in his two terms. Nonetheless, GW's party has chosen to abandon the countless failures of his past 5+ years and focus on a bygone decade in hopes of winning elections. Quite telling.
    Whereas I've been puzzled and undecided concerning who is the real John McCain, Paul Krugman lays out his opinion on the matter:
    The bottom line is that Mr. McCain isn't a moderate; he's a man of the hard right. How far right? A statistical analysis of Mr. McCain's recent voting record, available at, ranks him as the Senate's third most conservative member.
    He isn't a straight talker. His flip-flopping on tax cuts, his call to send troops we don't have to Iraq and his endorsement of the South Dakota anti-abortion legislation even while claiming that he would find a way around that legislation's central provision show that he's a politician as slippery and evasive as, well, George W. Bush.

    He isn't a moderate. Mr. McCain's policy positions and Senate votes don't just place him at the right end of America's political spectrum; they place him in the right wing of the Republican Party.

    And he isn't a maverick, at least not when it counts. When the cameras are rolling, Mr. McCain can sometimes be seen striking a brave pose of opposition to the White House. But when it matters, when the Bush administration's ability to do whatever it wants is at stake, Mr. McCain always toes the party line.
    While on Krugman, he also recently wrote about the growing number of conservative voices who are jumping ship and criticizing Bush, and how they don't deserve to be called "brave" or "courageous":
    If you're a former Bush supporter who now says, as Mr. Bartlett did at the Cato event, that "the administration lies about budget numbers," you're a brave truth-teller. But if you've been saying that since the early days of the Bush administration, you were unpleasantly shrill.

    Similarly, if you're a former worshipful admirer of George W. Bush who now says, as Mr. Sullivan did at Cato, that "the people in this administration have no principles," you're taking a courageous stand. If you said the same thing back when Mr. Bush had an 80 percent approval rating, you were blinded by Bush-hatred.

    And if you're a former hawk who now concedes that the administration exaggerated the threat from Iraq, you're to be applauded for your open-mindedness. But if you warned three years ago that the administration was hyping the case for war, you were a conspiracy theorist.

    The truth is that everything the new wave of Bush critics has to say was obvious long ago to any commentator who was willing to look at the facts.

    Monday, March 13, 2006

  • As expected, the gutless Dems leave Feingold out in the cold.

  • Will the real John McCain please stand up? (True independent maverick, or just a GW lackey that will have this as an '08 slogan: “If you support the president’s vision, John can carry it forward"....?)

  • With Congress rejecting the Dubai port deal and going further to propose bills that would effectively limit foreign ownership of companies in other industries, look for this protectionist zeal to continue throughout the year. Given an unpopular president and fast-approaching elections, politicians will simply fall over themselves to give the people what they want (see polls). Never mind the prudence of such isolationist legislation, it won't matter. This stuff will pass easily as the fat cats have nothing else to run on that has such clear-cut favorable poll numbers. Also, the side benefit is it stands against an already woefully weak and unpopular leader.

    Yes, the stock market will likely decline, a deep recession may soon follow, and countries will gradually retaliate, but what the heck, it's all about hating those dang foreigners & God Bless America, right? Despite misgivings, BushCo harvesting seeds sown....
  • David Ignatius wrote his most recent column while in Dubai. Some parts of it:
    I suspect America will pay a steep price for Congress's rejection of this deal. It sent a message that for all the U.S. rhetoric about free trade and partnerships with allies, America is basically hostile to Arab investment....If anything, Iraq has deepened the country's anxiety, introspection and foreboding....This is one of the few places in the Arab world where things have been going in the right direction -- away from terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism and toward an open, modern economy. That's why congressional opposition came as such a surprise here. People in the UAE think they're America's friends.
    The irony never seems to stop with these guys in office. To a large extent, BushCo have only themselves to blame for this recent push-back defeat.

    Karl Rove's insistence on regularly -- and in the most politically calculating way -- alerting the public to the continued threat of terrorism has worked to not only keep the WAR ON TERROR front and center (as BushCo desires) but has also managed to keep public opinion hostile towards anything Arab, Islamic, or anything else that even remotely hints of "terrorism." In fact, a recent poll shows that nearly half of all Americans have a negative view towards Islam.

    Regarding UAE and the ports, both political parties were simply doing what was politically expedient: jumping on board with polls that showed overwhelming fervor against this deal AND allowing them to look tough via standing up 1) for America!! (sigh), and 2) against a lame duck president with piss-poor popularity. It was a no-brainer, seemingly gift-wrapped by Rove.

    If post-9/11 they had spent less time fanning the flames of hate, fear, and ignorance concerning anything terrorist-like, and instead adopted a more sober and reasonable approach to the problem(s), then they likely wouldn't have had a fanatical public to contend with that would ultimately drive this deal into the ground. Once you set the hysteric, hate-mongering train in motion, it's very difficult to manage. BushCo made their (soiled) bed....

    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    James Watt in a skirt resigns

    For the sake of what's left of our national forests, it's a blessing to hear the news of Gale Norton quitting. She'll now go and work, again, for the private companies / interests she's been unofficially serving for the past five years.

    Hmm, I wonder how much of this decision had to do with 1) GW's extreme lame duck status and plummeting popularity, and 2) the Abramoff scandal, as it continues to unfold and show she was involved....?

    Thursday, March 09, 2006

  • An absolute must-read.

  • "Get weaker and you'll be stronger!" The idiocy from the right knows no end.

  • Another new low:
    "Do you think things in this country are generally going in the right direction or are they seriously off on the wrong track?"

    Right Direction: 30%

    Wrong Track: 64%

    Unsure: 6%
  • Laughable. As expected, the Republicans caved and now will not investigate the illegal wiretappings that have been going on for the past four years, AND they basically gave BushCo a free pass to keep doing such into the future.

    What spine! Way to look out for the public's rights! But by gosh, we MUST investigate blow jobs with interns -- it's the rule of law!!

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    The normally lucid Kevin Drum appears to contradict himself concerning universal healthcare (Kevin, feel free to clarify).

    In discussing the DLC's healthcare proposal, Drum states he's "a pragmatic kind of guy" but that "the DLC is trying to give pragmatism a bad name." Similar to "Hillarycare," Drum feels this plan never had a chance of becoming law, seemingly being too much too soon:
    [The DLC plan] has no chance of becoming law. The big argument against fighting for universal healthcare is that it's politically infeasible, but the DLC's plan is dead on arrival too. What's the point of compromising if the compromise itself is just as big a nonstarter as the original goal?
    So it would appear that when it comes to national changes in healthcare policy that the pragmatic tactic is incrementalism. And yet in another post, Drum states, "incrementalism has failed."

    Well, which is it? Stop the piecemeal, bit-by-bit moves toward UHC, or instead offer up the whole enchilada (e.g. DLC plan, Hillarycare) that likely "has no chance of becoming law"?

    It's no wonder there's massive confusion and disagreement on this subject among those who know a thing or two about it -- not to mention the befuddled and distracted American public.

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    Stew Blew

    Well, it's official: the Oscars spectacle was a bonafide dud. A snoozefest, moving along at a constipated pace, lacking energy and any shock-value whatsoever to at least add some spice to what has become a predictable mess. Jon Stewart was so overly rehearsed and controlled that it sucked any remaining excitement out of this very live/untaped event. (You know it's bad when you're yearning for the horrendous dance numbers of yore).

    Where were the daring pot-shots, the cover-your-mouth reactions to laser-like insults, the hip, college-crowd references one would expect from this seemingly popular Big Apple cut-up? His performance made Letterman's debacle look like a quintessential Lenny Bruce routine.

    This occasion was a perfect opportunity for Stewart to give the world a taste of that edgy, in-the-know snarky humor he's carefully assembled for college circuit consumption. If that mailed-in, pap crap is what the youth are craving, we're all doomed.

    P.S. Fours days ago, I wrote this to Kevin Drum:


    You wrote, "Matt seems to think that Crash was designed to show Los Angeles as a uniquely steaming hellbroth of racism and intolerance, whereas I saw Los Angeles as just a convenient backdrop. The movie could just as easily have been set in Detroit or New York or any other big American city. It wasn't really meant as a specific message about LA."

    Perhaps, but the fact is the movie WASN'T ("set in Detroit or New York"). The Academy voters seemingly need to see LA -- the familiar sights, weather, people, etc. -- to better feel the conveyed emotions and messages in the movie. In fact, "Magnolia," "Short Cuts," and "Grand Canyon" -- like "Crash" -- were all overblown, excessively praised flicks that wore their sentiments on their sleeves and if shot in any other city would not have received nearly the acclaim.

    Imagine NYC-shot "Annie Hall" today, thirty years after its release, do you honestly think it would have a prayer of receiving so many Oscar nominations, much less winning in so many?
    Is Karl Rove's master scheme starting to unravel? (Does even the holier crowd abandon ship when poll numbers hit the skids??)
    It's been many days since the release of this video but how bad is it when the president of the United States looks worse than FEMA's ex-boob in charge? Is it any wonder GW's numbers are in the toilet?

    Notice the similarities to 9/11: there were warnings, blame was placed (for Katrina it was Brownie, for 9/11 it was the CIA), in both cases GW is not engaged & ignores the warnings, the number of dead or perished in Katrina approx. equals the number dead on 9/11. Bottom line: incompetence cost lives.

    Eugene Robinson recently wrote:
    A chief executive who isolates himself from bad news is one thing. A chief executive who hears bad news, in detail, and then plays it back as "heck of a job" is something else.

    Is there a pattern here? President Bush surely sees, as we all see, that Iraq is in danger of falling into the abyss of sectarian civil war. He must realize that he got bad advice and tried to occupy the country with too few troops, making calamitous mistakes along the way. He surely sees the continuing violence in Afghanistan as the Taliban tries to regroup across the border in Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding. But he doesn't seem to really grapple with the bad news from the multi-front "war on terrorism" he has launched, preferring to acknowledge only the spread of democratic institutions.

    ....Oh, and health authorities agree that it's just a matter of time before the avian flu pandemic reaches U.S. shores. The administration says the government is prepared to provide all necessary help to local officials.

    Be very afraid.

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    About McCain's run at the presidency, Kevin Drum writes:
    I have a lot of reasons for wishing that liberals would stop falling for McCain's "straight talk" schtick, and this is one of them: even on the issues where he's one of the good guys, he caves in too often to have much of an impact. His ambition to be president is palpable in everything he does, and it's what's responsible for his routine compromises on issues he supposedly considers matters of honor, his cozying up to George Bush whenever it's politically convenient, and his bizarre recent temper tantrum against Barack Obama. He's certainly mastered the art of sounding reasonable, but it's only an inch deep. Underneath, he's just a standard issue right wing politician.
    He brings up a good point, the two faces of McCain. Is he the much more reasonable than BushCo type GOP candidate that dances with GW strictly to win over his party's backing (learning from his 2000 experience)? Or is he truly deep-down just another stalwart, crazed right-wing nut that is disingenuously hoisting support for issues like global warming and anti-torture to appear less crackpot-ish than BushCo?

    I've been leaning to the former, assuming any cozy overtures to Bush were simply out of political necessity to win top-billing in '08, hitch-free. But who knows? Much of my benefit of the doubt granting could be due to just wishing a GOP candidate didn't have to be of the Bush/Cheney/DeLay/Frist mold. I expect to learn much more as the heat is turned up in the next two years.

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Marshall Wittmann recently wrote about the Iraq occupation,
    We also have achieved much. We have toppled one of the most odious tyrannies of the post WW II period. We have enabled 26 million men and women to participate in democratic elections. Liberating a people used to be a progressive project.
    Yes, but the core point that consistently gets lost -- years later -- is lies and purposeful deception were used as means to an end. Is it right for a U.S. president to achieve desirable ends via undesirable means? If so, then we are lost.

    What's stopping any president -- including this one -- from doing it again and again? Are we to allow it solely on the "trust me" promise? Is this how the new America works? If so, then the Iran-Contra scandal was actually not so scandalous, right? The deception there was just as well-meant, noble, and pro-democracy (we were told), no?

    It's ludicrous. The means then were wrong and the means leading up to Iraq were just as wrong. Because the outcome is eventually perceived as worthy and justified does not then absolve and make it right. For the American people to not understand this moral premise is shameful and frankly a damning statement of our collective thinking.
  • More evidence of BushCo living in denial, "U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war, according to former senior intelligence officials who helped craft the reports." From the same folks who tried to tell BushCo that there was no WMD in Iraq and that they may want to bump up the number of troops being sent to war. If this president were a company CEO, he would've been forced to resign a long time ago.

  • An interesting "Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention...." in the Washington Post: "Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales appeared to suggest yesterday that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance operations may extend beyond the outlines that the president acknowledged in mid-December."

  • BushCo has cut back on auditing of oil companies to insure they don't cheat when it comes to royalty payments. BushCo favors "compliance reviews" but Yusef Robb, a spokesman for California's state controller, said, "Under the compliance review system, if you fill out your fraudulent form correctly, you can get away with the fraud. We know we can't trust companies to do what's right without regular auditing."

  • Here's an interesting story about how the effects of global warming are killing millions of trees:
    Millions of acres of Canada's lush green forests are turning red in spasms of death. A voracious beetle, whose population has exploded with the warming climate, is killing more trees than wildfires or logging.

    ..."It's pretty gut-wrenching," said Allan Carroll, a research scientist at the Pacific Forestry Centre in Victoria, whose studies tracked a lock step between warmer winters and the spread of the beetle. "People say climate change is something for our kids to worry about. No. It's now."

    ..."It's a rapid warming" that is increasing the beetles' range, said Carroll. "All the data show there are significant changes over widespread areas that are going to cause us considerable amount of grief. Not only is it coming, it's here."

    ...The tiny beetle has always lived in high areas from Arizona to northern British Columbia, and occasionally populations have grown in limited outbreaks. In Canada, where the beetle's favored lodgepole pine thrives, it has been controlled by winters with early cold snaps or long killing spells of 20 degrees below zero. But for more than a decade, forestry experts say, the weather here has not been cold enough for long enough to kill the beetle.
    Despite Reagan's idiotic quote that trees pollute, the fact is less trees will amount to less oxygen and more toxins in the air. Trees take in pollutants and trap them within their wood. Also, like the beetles, this warming is not allowing for diseases to be killed off via extreme cold. Look forward to more vicious strains of influenza and flu in the near future.
  • Peter Beinart writes about the Summers resignation at Harvard. He points out that Summers real problem involved his standing up to the tenured professors. Some examples:
    Summers wanted tenured professors to teach. And not just that; he wanted them to teach large undergraduate survey courses. Summers noticed what people have been noticing for a long time: Students at Harvard--and at other prestigious universities--often graduate without the kind of core knowledge that you'd expect from a good high school student. Instead, they meet Harvard's curricular requirements with a hodgepodge of arbitrary, esoteric classes that cohere into nothing at all.

    ...Summers certainly wasn't opposed to research. But he was impolitic enough to ask various departments to explain why their research mattered....He even had the temerity to ask West, one of only 19 "university professors," a rank supposedly reserved for the greatest scholars in the world, what he was doing.

    ...Summers thought it was a problem that roughly 90 percent of Harvard seniors were graduating with honors...By giving almost everyone very high grades, Harvard promotes the fiction that virtually all of its graduates are academic superstars--and obscures those who actually are.

    ...It's why he made it easier for students to participate in ROTC. It's why he waived tuition for families making less than $40,000 a year. It's why he wanted professors to do useful research and students to learn basic knowledge.
    What's wrong with this picture? Nothing, except that it appears as if Summers was demanding much of what the right-wing has been calling for in education for the last umpteenth years. A focus on teaching vs. bloated, unnecessary research, the standing up to arrogant intellectualism, stop grade inflation which does nothing for scholarship and everything for just revolving out the door the less learned with the learned. Yet where's the right-wing folks to applaud his gutsy efforts in siding with many of these embraced views?

    Nowhere. Why? Because he's a Clinton guy. Sadly, it always comes down to that. Partisan baloney and team mentality always comes first with the right. The same goes for global warming, an Al Gore issue. Sickening.

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    The Case for Impeachment
    Oops, below I cited Cheney's polling figure as 29%. Correction, it's 18%.

    Oh, and this news story is just too much. It regards the bin Laden tape that happened to surface just before the 2004 election. To think that GW and the gang sat around conducting "enormous amounts of discussion" over whether or not this tape would help Junior's chances. Are you kidding me? He really does assume the public are fools. Given how Rove et al meticulously played (plays) the fear card, this tape must've been greeted with immediate approval. A gift from God, no doubt.