Sunday, July 30, 2006

Kevin Drum was recently surprised to learn that 30% of Brits believe Blair's relationship with GW is "about right."

Why so shocked? After all, 30% in this country support Bush! Let's call it the "brain-dead threshold." Apparently, every country is comprised of 30% brain-dead individuals. It's that simple (literally).

Elsewhere, regarding maverick-not McCain, Drum asks, "Can we start keeping score on the number of positions that Mr. Straight Talk has abandoned now that he thinks he has a serious shot at the presidency?" Kevin lists his caving to the religious right (via Falwell), giving in on torture, and then suddenly MIA concerning campaign financing.

My bet is McCain buckles on global warming -- something even the religious right still has a big problem accepting. (I suppose Jesus would've been A-OK with humans releasing tons and tons of noxious fumes and pollutants into the air....)

Friday, July 28, 2006

In case you missed it, this "little" bombshell about blackbox voting machines and security flaws (don't you love how we're fighting to establish democracy over there but have no problem with allowing our own democracy to be flushed down the toilet):
Recently, computer security expert Harri Hursti revealed serious
security vulnerabilities in Diebold's software. According to Michael
Shamos, a computer scientist and voting system examiner in
Pennsylvania, "It's the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a
voting system."

Even more shockingly, we learned recently that Diebold and the State of
Maryland had been aware of these vulnerabilities for at least two
years. They were documented in analysis, commissioned by Maryland and
conducted by RABA Technologies, published in January 2004. For over
two years, Diebold has chosen not to fix the security holes, and
Maryland has chosen not to alert other states or national officials
about these problems.

Basically, Diebold included a "back door" in its software, allowing
anyone to change or modify the software. There are no technical
safeguards in place to ensure that only authorized people can make

A malicious individual with access to a voting machine could rig the
software without being detected. Worse yet, if the attacker rigged the
machine used to compute the totals for some precinct, he or she could
alter the results of that precinct. The only fix the RABA authors
suggested was to warn people that manipulating an election is against
the law.
We must ask, how did software containing such an outrageous violation come to be certified, and what other flaws, yet to be uncovered, lurk in other certified systems?
Uh, yeah, good questions.... But does anyone care?
On global warming, at least this electric utility openly admits it pays researchers to distort the real evidence and confuse the public (as opposed to ExxonMobil and countless other corporations that prefer to remain in the shadows).
One Colorado electric cooperative has openly admitted that it has paid $100,000 to a university academic who prides himself on being a global warming skeptic.
IREA contributed $100,000 to Patrick Michaels, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia.

Michaels is one of about a dozen academics who for years have cast doubt on the science surrounding global warming while downplaying the scientifically accepted idea that humans are causing it.

"We have had many apocalypses through the ages that haven't shown up, and this is likely to be another one," Michaels said on CNN earlier this year.
"There is clearly a well-organized and well-funded effort to undermine the science and cause confusion in the minds of the public," said Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "And several contrarians have benefited solely to carry this disinformation campaign out."
Experts and journalists, however, who have documented a 15-year campaign funded by major companies in the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt on global warming science say the intent is to create confusion.

"This coal industry disinformation campaign is a repeat of a similar campaign launched in the early 1990s by Western Fuels and other coal interests," said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Ross Gelbspan.
Gelbspan says that continued efforts to confuse the public in the face of the evidence are "particularly sinister" given that they follow "by almost 10 years the conclusion of more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries in what is the largest and most rigorously peer-reviewed scientific collaboration in history."
But it's not just corporations muddying up the waters when it comes to confusing the public and keeping this topic described as a "debate." No, we also have the likes of James Dobson and other far right religious figures and organizations siding with the denial folks. (For a reminder on the extent of the bought-and-paid-for scientists, read Chris Mooney's lengthy article in MoJo).

But we at least have this recent piece from Naomi Oreskes, who states that a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal got it all wrong (surprise!):
AN OP-ED article in the Wall Street Journal a month ago claimed that a published study affirming the existence of a scientific consensus on the reality of global warming had been refuted. This charge was repeated again last week, in a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

I am the author of that study, which appeared two years ago in the journal Science, and I'm here to tell you that the consensus stands. The argument put forward in the Wall Street Journal was based on an Internet posting; it has not appeared in a peer-reviewed journal — the normal way to challenge an academic finding. (The Wall Street Journal didn't even get my name right!)

My study demonstrated that there is no significant disagreement within the scientific community that the Earth is warming and that human activities are the principal cause.

Papers that continue to rehash arguments that have already been addressed and questions that have already been answered will, of course, be rejected by scientific journals, and this explains my findings. Not a single paper in a large sample of peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 refuted the consensus position, summarized by the National Academy of Sciences, that "most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."
In 1988, the World Meteorological Assn. and the United Nations Environment Program joined forces to create the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to evaluate the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action. The panel has issued three assessments (1990, 1995, 2001), representing the combined expertise of 2,000 scientists from more than 100 countries, and a fourth report is due out shortly. Its conclusions — global warming is occurring, humans have a major role in it — have been ratified by scientists around the world in published scientific papers, in statements issued by professional scientific societies and in reports of the National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society and many other national and royal academies of science worldwide.
It's like shouting at the wall.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

  • Conservative icon William F. Buckley deems Iraq a failure and suggests that Bush should resign.

  • Sen. Arlen Specter is putting together a bill to sue Bush. Good for him, but let's see who votes for it. (By the way, imagine the massive GOP outcry if Bill Clinton had issued signing statements on 800+ laws -- more than all other presidents combined).

  • Speaking of Bill Clinton, this move was as head-scratching as when Bill teamed up with Bush Sr. for charity. But apparently Hillary had something to do with it. Meanwhile, the nutty NY Post endorsed Lieberman -- that truly says it all about this race.

  • Equating scientists with Nazis? How low will those on the crazed right go?

  • Wow, we as a country are truly doomed. Just incredible.

  • Yet, outlets like Fox News continue to spread the BS regarding WMDs....
  • Tuesday, July 25, 2006

    Worst President In History?

    As we approach 2008, we'll likely see more and more of this: experts and the like offering educated guesses that GW will go down as the worst U.S. president ever. Perhaps the best and most thorough take on this matter so far is by Princeton history professor Sean Wilentz in the Rolling Stone.

    This past Sunday, the Boston Globe likened Bush to Warren G. Harding. From the editorial:
    Genial with his many friends and bored with the trappings of high office, Harding entered the White House in 1921 with apparent ease and confidence, but it was soon clear that he was not up to the job, and his administration ended in a shambles of mismanagement and corruption.
    Harding, like Bush, was a pro-business Republican who succeeded a two-term Democrat (Woodrow Wilson in Harding's case). Neither was confrontational by nature: Harding cast the fewest vetoes of any 20th-century president -- six; Bush cast his first last week. Both liked to golf and fish.

    Some more basic personal similarities may be evident in descriptions of Harding by a biographer, Robert K. Murray: "Harding tended to accept the pat answer rather than reason through to a more sophisticated solution." "There is no indication that he ever spent much time reading." "His indiscriminate loyalty placed him in constant peril." "Often he simply endorsed a solution worked out by others."

    With Bush, as with Harding, the performance raises the question of who is really in charge. Bush's earnest claim, "I am the decider," sounds much like Nixon's desperate "I am not a crook" -- a defensive cry that shouldn't have to be made because it is obviously true, but isn't.
    Of course, Harding's administration was riddled with corruption and his subordinates were extremely powerful and called many of the shots (sound familiar?).

    Many polls have consistently ranked Harding as one of the worst presidents ever. Look for Junior to edge him out in the next few years -- no matter how desperately the GOP attempts to invoke memories of Truman.

    Sunday, July 23, 2006

    How can anyone take Bush's position on abortion and/or stem cell research seriously? Tony Snow recently stated that Bush "thinks murder is wrong." Yes, in the context of stem cell research Snow used the word "murder."

    Yet, apparently it's OK for such "murder" to occur in private industry, just as long as it's not receiving any federal funding. Huh? If it's murder, it should be wrong and condemned no matter what -- why allow exclusions? Private citizens cannot get away with murder, so why is it private companies are allowed to....?

    Also, I've asked this question many times (and it would be nice to see a reporter ask it for a change) but if taking the life of the unborn is "murder" then why did Bush endorse pro-choice Specter over pro-life Toomey in the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race in 2004? Did Bush actually choose politics over siding against "murder"?

    Friday, July 21, 2006

    Kevin Drum recently wrote about the ever-widening income gap. He cited a stat that the average weekly wage for the bottom 10% earners declined by 2.7% from 2000 to 2005 but for the top 10% it increased by 5.3%.

    I wonder if these figures include yearly bonuses (doubtful since the stat specifies "weekly wages"). If not, then these percentages woefully understate the already expansive gap.

    For many if not most in the top 10%, it's their bonuses, and not their weekly salary/wage, that is the mother load of their annual compensation. Not true for the bottom 10%, or even the bottom 50% for that matter.

    Drum rightfully states, "Maybe Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or some other Democratic worthy will start barnstorming the country asking middle class workers why their wages have barely budged during a period when the economy has nearly doubled."

    Is it any wonder two out of every three Americans feel the country is on the wrong track?

    Many Republicans wonder how can this be given the economy appears to be doing so well. The widening income gap (above) is a big reason, with most Americans not participating in the recovery, but also the economic data is misleading and a bit cooked (surprise!). Example: the Household Survey of employment in May reported job gains of +288k; however, all the gains were in part-time work, with full-time jobs plunging by 292k in the month.

    In addition to the part-time work distortion, another reason the unemployment rate is so low is not because of strong job creation -- quite the contrary. Since late 2001, the annual rate of job growth has been 0.6% on average, or the lowest figure on record for a recovery (typically that figure is 2.8%). But due to limited job prospects, the number of new entrants to the workforce has fallen dramatically, further artificially shrinking the unemployment rate. If the labor force were defined in a more inclusive fashion, unemployment would be closer to 8%.

    Want more? Since 2001, the most expensive homes have appreciated by 57% on average, vs. half that rate for the rest of America. The bottom 20% earners spend 15% of their entire income on healthcare costs, vs. just 3% for upper-income earners. The top 1% earners now control 33.4% of our country's net worth.

    Yes, as Drum states, the Democrats should aggressively run on this issue. There are many swing voters that do not qualify for the top-10% earnings group.
    No really, are good columnists that hard to find and hire??

    In her most recent column, when it comes to global warming Peggy Noonan decides to just lash out at all scientists, stating they all have agendas, "they are politicized," and therefore none should be believed. Years from now, she says we'll have a right to "blame the scientists."

    This crap is typical right-wing pablum where rather than truly look into an issue, instead just opt for irresponsible, broad-sweeping rhetoric with nothing to back it up.

    We all know that ExxonMobil has funded many a scientist to support the denial side of global warming (I've cited several examples and offered proof here on this blog), but where's the proof that the same occurs on the other side of this "debate"? It occurs frequently on the denial side (in fact, in almost every case), but couldn't Noonan provide at least one instance of a "kooky" enviro group paying off a scientist(s)?

    Ah yes, the intellectual rigor of Peggy Noonan. Ayn Rand she is not!!
    Are good columnists that difficult to find and hire?

    At the Economist's View, a recent column by Robert Samuelson is examined. In it, Samuelson correctly takes issue with the Republicans patting themselves on the back for being responsible for a deficit that's not as big as bogus estimates once projected. The fact remains with a recovery comes balanced budgets and we're not close to that yet.

    But Samuelson elects to whack the Democrats also and does so by contradicting himself in the same column. He writes, "With the unemployment rate at 4.6 percent (close to 'full employment' by anyone's definition), the White House and Congress still can't balance the budget....the budget should be balanced -- or run a surplus -- when the economy is close to 'full employment'." However, he then later writes:
    Just as Republicans now say their policies have cut deficits, Democrats contend their policies produced budget surpluses from 1998 to 2001. Nonsense. Those surpluses resulted mainly from the end of the Cold War (which lowered defense spending) and the economic boom (which created an unpredicted surge of taxes).
    Economist's View responds:
    He [Samuelson] contradicts himself in his misguided attempt to try and be 'fair' and make sure to criticize both parties. He says first that Republicans are to blame because with an economy near full employment, we should be running surpluses, not deficits. That we aren't is a policy mistake. But when it comes to Democrats who did just that in 1998 to 2001, ran a surplus during a boom, he says it's nonsense that they had anything to do with it and they deserve no credit, only scorn.
    Samuelson's two-faced contradiction is so plain as day it's embarrassing. Also, show me the defense spending fell off a cliff under Clinton to provide for the surplus -- talk about nonsense! (Samuelson offers no proof or numbers). But "despite" Clinton's more fair taxation rates, the economy did boom and tax revenues flooded in, and in addition to prudent spending, helped to create a surplus.

    What the hell is Samuelson talking about? Is this just more offered-up fabrications in the name of appearing non-partisan?

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    A right-wing friend emailed to ask if I had any thoughts regarding the Israel/Lebanon situation (and requested that I simply not go against whatever Bush's policy happens to be). My response:
    Actually, from what I've read Bush does have a policy: he doesn't have one (surprise!). In fact, once again the conservatives are attacking him for his lack of stated policy and/or planned resolution on the matter (see below). You see, the only foreign policy they've ever had was to invade Iraq (see confessions from ex-government officials Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neal, that Bush/Cheney had been planning that attack pre-9/11). BTW, notice the North Korean non-foreign policy (threaten the hell out of them, but when they fire seven missiles, do nothing).

    As for me re Israel/Lebanon, the fact is it's a very tough situation BUT as many have written, WE ARE NOT THE PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. We don't necessarily have to have a "policy" on the matter, but GW does (part of his job!).

    These two sides have been at war for decades, and yet whereas Hezbollah provoked this latest fighting, Israel's military strikes -- while justified -- are not the long-term solution and will only incite further hatred in the long-run. Diplomacy and attempts at brokered deals are needed, and typically the U.S. has served a central role in this regard, but this administration is not equipped to perform these duties, nor will any nations respect their efforts (if forthcoming) based on their track record over the last six years. GW in no way is a Carter!!

    Whether it be Iran, North Korea, or this Israel/Lebanon situation, the nations involved are simply not going to respect or act on anything the U.S. may attempt to offer. Bush/Cheney have been about "Cowboy Diplomacy" and everyone now realizes that's dead and useless -- so what are Bush/Cheney/Rice left with? Zilch. GW's political capital has run dry, but even more so his diplomacy capital has long been bone dry.

    This lesser-realized fact has always been a greater danger for the U.S. and the world given we are a superpower that while possessing tons of bombs and WMD has very little teeth regarding non-violent means of persuasion. That's a big reason why other countries realize they NEED to acquire nuclear bombs: the U.S. under Bush/Cheney only operate via brute force, not reason, policy, treaties, or agreements. It's why they've made the world a much more dangerous place since 2000. We're no longer a stabilizing force (such as during the Cold War) but rather a destabilizing, disruptive, hypocritical & schizophrenic bully.

    WASHINGTON, July 19 (UPI) -- U.S. President George Bush's conservative coalition, already irked over domestic policies, seems now to be targeting his foreign policy.

    The Washington Post says the backlash from some conservatives against the president's foreign policy derives from what they see as administration timidity and confusion over long-standing problems such as Iran and North Korea. These conservatives also are concerned over the latest crisis between Israel and Hezbollah.

    "I don't have a friend in the administration, on Capitol Hill or any part of the conservative foreign policy establishment who is not beside themselves with fury at the administration," Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Post.

    The Post report said the conservatives' complaints include lack of a U.S. strategy to crush the insurgency in Iraq, no U.S. comment on the crackdown on dissenters in Egypt and Russia, North Korea's missile firing with consequence, and Iran's nuclear weapons program.

    The conservatives also feel the United States being perceived as weak is emboldening Syria, Iran and their Hezbollah radicals.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2006

    The Dems are receiving criticism for showing flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq (at least they're showing the American public these images, unlike the cooperative MSM), and yet it's apparently A-OK for the GOP to continue to use 9/11 and images of the dead from that tragedy.

    Greg Sargent has posted a terrific piece on this matter. Apparently, Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner attempts to make the case that those who died on 9/11 are fair game for political ads, but not the coffins returning from Iraq. In the Cincinatti Enquirer piece, Boehner is clueless when it comes to making the distinction:
    Questioned by reporters on what the difference was, Boehner seemed tongue-tied. "These were American citizens killed by terrorists. That is a very different policy issue than American soldiers dying on the battlefield protecting the rights and freedoms of American people."

    "How so?" a reporter asked.

    "How so? You want me to describe the difference between men and women of the military out there defending the American people, and victims - victims - of terrorist activities?" Boehner asked.

    "They were both killed by opponents, right? Terrorists or Islamic insurgents?" a reporter pressed.

    An exasperated Boehner said: "The World Trade Center victims were victims of a terrorist act here on our shore and I think all Americans were appalled that this did in fact happen. But I think the differences, in terms of the images, are as clear as night and day."
    Wow, it's wonderful to see that one dim bulb replaced another as GOP house leader.... Does the GOP have any elected official who can think themself out of a paper bag?

    Kudos to this reporter for staying with it and pursuing Boehner's obvious lack of logic and reason. Many in the MSM (Tim Russert being the best example) would've just moved on, letting it go.

    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    It's been a week or two since it first came out but not sure if everyone caught the exclusive interview Stars and Stripes conducted with King GW. The key question asked of him: why hasn't he attended even one funeral for a fallen U.S. soldier from Iraq? GW's reply, "Because which funeral do you go to? In my judgment, I think if I go to one I should go to all. How do you honor one person but not another?"

    Wow, what a BS answer. As it is in Arlington there exists the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, serving as a symbolic gesture to all those who died in wars and were not properly identified. When you pay respect to this monument you are honoring all of the unidentified dead soldiers.

    Likewise, King GW could attend one or even a few funerals, doing so in a symbolic effort to honor all of our fallen soldiers. The families of the soldiers would completely understand this practical and yet respectful act. I don't believe anyone would expect any president to attend all 2500+ funerals and for GW to insinuate such an asinine expectation is not surprising coming from him.

    Past presidents have honored countless numbers of people and events through the use of symbolic ceremonies. In this case, for Bush to fudge and dodge concerning this matter is pitiful and typically gutless. He's a weak, spineless man who has no problem sending Americans off to fight in Iraq but will not honor any who arrive back here in a casket.
    In his recent column, Paul Krugman writes:
    The nature of the right-wing attack on The New York Times — an attack not on the newspaper's judgment, but on its motives — seems to have startled many people in the news media. After an editorial in The Wall Street Journal declared that The Times has what amount to treasonous intentions — that it "has as a major goal not winning the war on terror but obstructing it" — The Journal's own political editor pronounced himself "shocked," saying that "I don't know anybody on the news staff of The Wall Street Journal that believes that."
    Further proof that the editorial page of the WSJ is an extreme right-wing outlet for GOP talking points that's apparently detached from the rest of the fine, sober journalists on staff. Amazing that the paper's political editor was forced to come out against his own editorial page, "shocked" at what he, like us, read.

    Can credibility sink any lower for this already laughable editorial page?

    As Krugman states, it's all part of a larger effort "to create a political environment in which nobody dares to criticize the administration or reveal inconvenient facts about its actions. And that attempt has relied, from the beginning, on ascribing treasonous motives to those who refuse to toe the line."

    They use bully tactics and intimidation to cow any voice into submission that may be critical of their actions, to an extent that as John Dean has confirmed, would make Nixon blush. Plainly spoken, this is Fascism 101.

    Krugman still has faith:
    I think that most Americans still believe in the principle that the president isn't a king, that he isn't entitled to operate without checks and balances. And President Bush is especially unworthy of our trust, because on every front — from his refusal to protect chemical plants to his officials' exposure of Valerie Plame, from his toleration of war profiteering to his decision to place the C.I.A. in the hands of an incompetent crony — he has consistently played politics with national security.
    Mr. Bush's ability to wrap his power grab in the flag has diminished now that most Americans no longer consider him either competent or honest. But the administration and its supporters still believe that they can win political battles by impugning the patriotism of those who won't go along.

    For the sake of our country, let's hope that they're wrong.
    Yes, let's hope (and pray).
    In the recent OMB report, I find it ridiculous that individual & corporate income tax revenues came in at +66% and +55% respectively above February estimates. It's clear that the administration has taken up the practice of low-balling tax revenue estimates and high-balling deficit projections so that they can bask in the glory when the former comes in much higher than expected versus already bogus estimates and the latter comes in much lower.

    In addition, the administration does not include the cost of the Iraq war or war on terror -- isn't that a HUGE omission?

    Friday, July 14, 2006

    I've written before about how deficient David Brooks is as a columnist (his latest column is about (surprise!) how we need to give Iraq time to mature into a magnificent democratic state -- which happen to be the latest GOP talking points: be patient, Rome wasn't built in a day, Truman was very much disliked when leaving office, etc.).

    But perhaps an even more deficient columnist is John Fund at the WSJ, who recently wrote about how Mexico can teach us to run clean elections. Wow, I was shocked at the title, expecting Fund to just avoid that subject altogether as most right-wingers do. Before reading the column, at the very least I expected him to mention blackbox, electronic voting machines, with all of their many problems, and the need for a paper trail.

    Alas, not one word mentioned. Nope, instead Fund focuses on the need for a photo voter ID, mainly because he feels too many people vote several times on election day.

    The implication there of course is against the Dems, but does Fund offer any proof that this is a widespread problem, much less that it occurs frequently? Nope. Like Brooks, more concocted notions from thin air to support a flimsy column.

    I believe it's safe to say that blackbox, paper-less electronic vote machines are a MUCH greater threat to our country, and impede clean elections, more so than supposed multi-voters.
    Here's a history lesson from the late-great Thomas Paine, from "Common Sense":
    THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.
    "Summer soldier" today are all the chicken-littles that send our youth to war and yet dodged service when they should've likewise served.

    "Sunshine patriot" today are all the ignorant, rah-rah-we-love-the-USA dopes that listen to Sean Hannity for "truth". Real patriots that truly care call out what's wrong and stay informed; dissent can be good (OUR FOUNDING FATHERS WERE DISSENTERS!!! DISSENTING FROM ENGLAND!!!).

    " not easily conquered": one can look at Iraq in that way, although Iraq was not a tyrant to us, not 9/11 involved, and if we're going to purge all tyranny why didn't we bomb North Korea after they blasted off seven missiles? But I choose to look at tyranny within our own borders, as we speak (e.g. labeling those who dissent as traitors, president ignores over 750 laws on the books, illegal wiretappings, outing covert CIA agents as payback, blacking out and editing government documents, using torture in violation of international agreements, selling our legislative process to highest bidders (energy, pharma) -- it goes on and on).

    Yes, the wingnuts can continue to hope that Iraq will be a glorious victory, but in meantime what's much more certain is history will not treat GW kindly, and that our Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves like rotisserie chickens.

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    Dare I ask, is the war on terror being politicized? From a story in yesterday's NY Times:
    The National Asset Database, as it is known, is so flawed, the inspector general found, that as of January, Indiana, with 8,591 potential terrorist targets, had 50 percent more listed sites than New York (5,687) and more than twice as many as California (3,212), ranking the state the most target-rich place in the nation.

    The database is used by the Homeland Security Department to help divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars in antiterrorism grants each year, including the program announced in May that cut money to New York City and Washington by 40 percent, while significantly increasing spending for cities including Louisville, Ky., and Omaha.
    Terrorists have it in for Indiana or Kentucky more so than NY or California? Even this hugely-important database appears to be fair game for earmarked pork. Likewise, when it comes down to it, politicians balk at passing the laws necessary to make our ports, chemical factories, and nuclear facilities safe. To them, it's all business-as-usual politics. A disgrace.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Is Lieberman so desperate as to threaten blackmailing Dems due to sour grapes and selfishness?

    (If Gore does run in '08, he better not pick this guy again....)
    I've written several times before about the dazzling intellect of columnist David Brooks. He makes Jonah Goldberg read like Descartes.

    Greg Sargent recently chimed in on the subject, pointing out the shortcomings in a Brooks column. Sargent summarized:
    The whole column is a massive intellectual failure. There's no originality of thought, no effort to marshal facts, no original reporting, nothing. In short, Brooks has added absolutely zippo of value to the larger conversation.
    Brooks has penned many a column like this one; for him to base a column on rigorous research and facts is rare indeed.

    As Sargent states elsewhere, shame on his editors to allow such light fodder to make it to print. Sadly, because of the Times stature, Brooks' evidence-free opinions likely pass for truth in rightwing circles. I mean my gosh, it's the NY Times, it must be more plausible than Fox News! Yet, all too often Brooks peddles the same kind of lazy crap that his less-overtly-sophisticated brethren (Limbaugh, O'Reilly, etc.) make a nice living manufacturing.

    To that end, his assumed credibility makes him that much more a dangerous voice for the right.
    Based on the most recent data from the Department of Energy, our demand for gasoline has not declined -- despite the price at the pump hitting $3 near everywhere. In fact, just the opposite is occurring as demand is above year ago levels. Gas prices were up 59.6% in May vs. the prior year, and yet in that same time demand had risen by nearly 1%, no drop-off. In fact, although the price of gas has dramatically increased this year, demand has increased in four of the first five months of the year.

    Apparently, $3 per gallon is not high enough to curb our behavior, and it's obvious at this point that $2 per gallon was ridiculously cheap. Will $4 per gallon put a dent in our addiction?

    It wasn't too long ago that Thomas Friedman wrote a column on a potential gas tax. He stated, "Only by bringing the total price of gasoline into the $3.50-to-$4-per-gallon range — and keeping it there — will large numbers of Americans demand plug-in hybrid cars that run on biofuels like ethanol. When large numbers of Americans do that, U.S. automakers will move quickly down the innovation curve."

    Based on the data I cited above, Friedman is likely correct. The price of gas 1) needs to go higher, and 2) needs to stay there for some time. It's not just the level but also duration since Americans won't change behavior until they realize higher prices are here to stay. And note that when the tax is presented as a means to reduce global warming, nearly 60% of respondents favor it.

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    Get a load of this guy!

    When reading the below, replace "North Korea" with "Iraq" and imagine yourself a few months before the Iraq invasion:
    WASHINGTON Jul 6, 2006 (AP)— President Bush said Thursday it is hard to read North Korea's motives in firing a missile with the potential to hit the United States or Canada, but said the U.S. cannot afford to misjudge the situation.

    "I think we've got to plan for the worst and hope for the best," Bush said.

    Bush stressed that the United States is seeking a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with North Korea. He cautioned that diplomacy will take time.
    "My message was that we want to solve this problem diplomatically, and the best way to solve this problem diplomatically is for all of us to be working in concert," Bush said.
    "And it's just really important for, for the American president to see the world the way it is, not the way we would hope it would be."
    ....the White House stressed the need for a unified response to North Korea in the U.N. and elsewhere.
    Diplomacy? Be patient? The U.N.?? Funny how GW's take on North Korea differs so drastically from his rhetoric pre-Iraq invasion. It's outrageous. Is the American public that stupid to not see the obvious double standard?

    As I wrote yesterday, "Can you imagine if Saddam had done this in Iraq a few years ago?! Bush/Cheney would've LOVED it -- no need for cooked up intel, bogus Iraq sources, blatant lying, etc. We would've been bombs-away the next day." Don't you think our soldiers in Iraq are wondering why the double standard??

    UPDATE: TOKYO (AP) - North Korea targeted waters near Hawaii when it fired a long-range missile this week.
  • With Giuliani exhibiting all signs of running for president in 2008, do we really need another guy in our highest office with an innate ability to promote incompetents and crooks?

  • Just because conventional economic indicators may suggest that we should be very happy does not make it so in the land of actual living. This story may help to explain the current widespread discontent despite what other metrics may lead one to conclude.

  • As usual, Greg Sargent nails it:
    Here's the situation in a nutshell. Those hurling these reckless charges of treason at the Times have a very specific agenda: First, they want to reunite the Republican base, which is fracturing because of the Iraq war, the GOP's betrayal of various conservative principles, and the fact that Bush's Presidency is so obviously a failure that all but the most diehard supporters can see it. And second, they want to convince great masses of people that there's a traitor in our midst that would weaken America -- an obvious ploy designed to divert attention from the catastrophic failures of the Bush administration, the Republican Party and, most important, the discredited ideas which drive them. At bottom this is all about salvaging a political movement that's in real trouble.
    Years from now, we'll look back at this moment, when they demonized the Times, and realize it's when the GOP jumped the shark.

  • The LA Times recently ran a story ("Congress Faces Dilemma on Terror Trials") that states Congress is facing two choices regarding the Supreme Court's rebuke of Bush's Gitmo tribunals: run rough-shod over the court's decision and thus "run the risk that it too will be struck down by the high court. Or they can follow the path suggested by the court and devise a system embracing the procedural and other principles of the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention, but risk the possibility that few, if any, of the alleged terrorists will be convicted."

    Catch that? If they follow the court's guidelines, i.e. that which is most lawful, they "risk the possibility that few, if any, of the alleged terrorists will be convicted." So what does that tell you about the entire Gitmo fiasco? That it's been ill-advised, poorly conceived, and unlawful all along.

    The point is Gitmo has been unlawful for nearly five years. If Congress wants to suddenly act and make changes to satisfy legal constraints, that's a separate matter. It doesn't change the fact that Bush/Cheney have violated what the court finally ruled and that the administration should've better constructed a legal framework for Gitmo from the start, before being forced to do so via a SC bitch slap.

    It's the same with so many other programs and proceedings by this regime, where care for existing laws and conventions have been completely ignored or at best given cursory consideration.

  • This story profiles a truly heinous side of the "family values" crowd, as they stand in the way of scientific progress that can save lives all due to unfounded fears of supposed sexual promiscuity.
  • I receive many right-wing chain emails. It never fails: 99.9% of the time (no, make that 100%) they're either completely false, misleading, or both. Nothing more than spam.

    Don't you just love the fact that many wingnuts adamantly dismiss stories in the MSM, quickly criticizing anything they read and don't like as lefty-liberal propaganda, and yet they'll latch on to and believe these oft-circulated chain emails conveying supposed truths -- nearly all of which prove to be hoaxes?

    Where's the harsh skepticism in these instances? Hell, where's the fact-checking? It simply takes two minutes of Googling to discover the fiction.

    But then again, it's these same folks who fall for the same lies and fiction peddled by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Bill O'Reilly. These big-name "news" purveyors are equivalent to the junk chain-letter emails, passing on B.S. to the hapless public who sadly are either too lazy and/or to delusional with partisan hate to spend a few minutes looking into the validity of such stories.

    Nah, better to just accept the tripe at face value because it simply confirms preconceived notions. Who cares about truth?! They just thirst for validation -- like a four-year old child. The echo-sphere is their reality. Frightening.

    To them, an email from Lord knows where, riddled with spelling mistakes and bad grammar, is something to be trusted over anything published in the NY Times or Washington Post.

    We live in a very sad and dangerous time thanks to such willful ignorance and stupidity.

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    So North Korea went ahead and defied the United States by shooting off not one, not two, not three, but seven missiles -- on of all days, our July 4th (by design I imagine...?). Yes, the entire exercise was a complete failure, an embarrassment to Kim; it's all good.

    However, I wonder: how is it that seven missiles were launched despite all of the blustering and threats by Bush? They even talked of using our extremely expensive Star Wars anti-missile defense system -- what happened? It was decided better not to use it to avoid an embarrassment of our own? And what will Bush do now, given that Kim has brazenly defied the mighty U.S.? Do we escalate rhetoric against North Korea? Or do we go further and use the military to deliver a message, ASAP? Will Bush be consistent and apply to North Korea the same standards applied to Iraq? After all, North Korea clearly has more menacing WMD than Iraq ever did.

    If this quote is any example, it appears as if our bully-boys in high office are backing off their cock-sure swagger (not wanting another Iraq on their hands pre-November?):
    "The Taepodong obviously was a failure - that tells you something about capabilities," Stephen Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser, told reporters in a phone call on Tuesday evening in Washington.
    I don't believe Iraq was ever granted such a conciliatory, benefit-of-the-doubt summation. So because the missile tests (multiple!) failed, that's what truly matters? I thought the very act of testing was the problem, that it defied international protocols and set the stage for further problems down the road?

    Nope, instead from these guys you get a pathetic, weak-kneed, dismissive response. Can you imagine if Saddam had done this in Iraq a few years ago?! Bush/Cheney would've LOVED it -- no need for cooked up intel, bogus Iraq sources, blatant lying, etc. We would've been bombs-away the next day.

    But so much for consistency, and needless to say it sheds that much more light on why we invaded Iraq in the first place, and why we haven't and won't do so regarding other more threatening nations. (It has to do with little things called oil and actual WMD....).

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    Have a wonderful July 4th, and again, please give this JFK speech snippet a listen -- it truly sums up the many troubling things about our nation at this time.

    Finally, this from the terrific Elizabeth Drew:
    During the presidency of George W. Bush, the White House has made an unprecedented reach for power. It has systematically attempted to defy, control, or threaten the institutions that could challenge it: Congress, the courts, and the press. It has attempted to upset the balance of power among the three branches of government provided for in the Constitution; but its most aggressive and consistent assaults have been against the legislative branch: Bush has time and again said that he feels free to carry out a law as he sees fit, not as Congress wrote it. Through secrecy and contemptuous treatment of Congress, the Bush White House has made the executive branch less accountable than at any time in modern American history. And because of the complaisance of Congress, it has largely succeeded in its efforts.
    James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 47:
    The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many...may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
    That extraordinary powers have, under Bush, been accumulated in the "same hands" is now undeniable. For the first time in more than thirty years, and to a greater extent than even then, our constitutional form of government is in jeopardy.
    I wrote this on May 16th. Glad to read this on June 27th.
    "I'm a uniter, not a divider" -- my ass!

    It's almost to the point where anything that comes from King George's mouth, you can just assume the opposite.

    Harold Meyerson recently wrote about the Nixon parallels with this current administration: nurturing such deep divisions in the body politic, Nixon created the very kind of political landscape on which he was a master at maneuvering....Democrats railed against the war in Vietnam; Nixon railed against the demonstrators and Democrats, whom he gleefully conflated, at home. It was an asymmetric conflict, and Nixon won it going away, defeating George McGovern in 1972 by more than 20 percentage points.

    Today Republicans in general and Karl Rove in particular have resurrected the Nixon game plan. They are not mounting a point-by-point defense of the administration's plan for Iraq, not least because the administration doesn't really have a plan for Iraq....[They're] not really defending the war per se but attacking the Democrats for seeking to end it. This was Nixonism of the highest order. [Yet they go Nixon one better by playing it both ways, ala General Casey's September withdrawal plan].

    ....That the president's war of choice has created a disaster in Iraq so profound that no course of action is likely to result in a safe, livable nation, then, may perversely work in the president's favor....The Democrats think too much, say the Republicans; such men are dangerous. Vote for us; we're dumb but tough.
    Yes, this strategy (brawn over brains, might over right) has worked before with an electorate that doesn't think enough, following instead the whims of their emotions -- something Rove is a master at stoking and manipulating. Such voters should feel ashamed and "dirty" in the morning, badly in need of a shower.

    But as long as this is the sad state of affairs, how can you even try to do the right thing and win?

    Sunday, July 02, 2006

    Here's some of what Richard Clarke and Roger Cressey, counterterrorism officials on the National Security Council under both President Clinton and the current Bush, had to say about the much-ado being made about the Times publishing a story about the financial monitoring program. The op-ed is entitled "A Secret the Terrorists Already Knew":
    They want the public to believe that it had not already occurred to every terrorist on the planet that his telephone was probably monitored and his international bank transfers subject to scrutiny. How gullible does the administration take the American citizenry to be?

    Terrorists have for many years employed nontraditional communications and money transfers — including the ancient Middle Eastern hawala system, involving couriers and a loosely linked network of money brokers — precisely because they assume that international calls, e-mail and banking are monitored not only by the United States but by Britain, France, Israel, Russia and even many third-world countries.

    While this was not news to terrorists, it may, it appears, have been news to some Americans, including some in Congress. But should the press really be called unpatriotic by the administration, and even threatened with prosecution by politicians, for disclosing things the terrorists already assumed?
    There is, of course, another possible explanation for all the outraged bloviating. It is an election year....The attacks on the press are part of a political effort by administration officials to use terrorism to divide America, and to scare their supporters to the polls again this year.
    Isn't it also a bit peculiar how the NY Times is being singled out, without any criticism likewise directed at the right-wing Wall Street Journal...? The WSJ published the same story on the same day as the NYT -- what gives?

    My out-on-a-limb guess: for those on the right, the NYT is the centerpiece symbol for what's wrong with the MSM, namely that it's too liberal. Needless to say, the WSJ is far from being such a symbol, with its crazed editorial page literally echoing GOP talking points on a daily basis. Never mind the fact that the NYT incessantly hounded Bill Clinton with Whitewater and Monica stories, or that it played a pivotal role in aiding Bush/Cheney in the run-up to Iraq. The cliche is what matters here and the right-wing base will always regard the NYT as an "evil" pinko-left rag.

    Thus, the reason for targeting the NYT and not the WSJ. As usual, it's all about Rovian politics, not the truth.

    Saturday, July 01, 2006

    It's bad enough King George has been defying over 750 laws on the books (ruling as only he sees fit), but now he plans to defy the U.S. Supreme Court!

    At what point does the naive, head-in-sand public finally cry foul and "defy" the King? In the name of "WAR ON TERROR", our democratic ideals, the ones our Founding Fathers put in place and so many Americans have fought to protect, have been undermined, subverted, and dissolved by this current regime. Instead, this cabal has chosen to take the country down the road to fascism and consolidated power, all under the absurd guise of patriotism.

    On this July 4th, I implore everyone to listen to this 5-minute segment of an extremely prophetic speech by President John F. Kennedy. His words exactly nail what's going on today in our nation.

    God (please!) Bless America.
    Regarding the recent ruling against the Gitmo military tribunals, the Supreme Court wrote, "the executive nevertheless must comply with the prevailing rule of law."

    Hmm, sound familiar? The GOP incessantly echoed this refrain ("rule of law") concerning Bill Clinton but apparently when the Supreme Court states it concerning Bush, we hear nothing, or at worse it's scoffed at and dismissed.

    The GOP, the party of hypocrisy and playing politics.
    Every so often I tune in to right-wing radio to get a dose of idiocy passing for smarts and it never fails, within minutes of tuning in I'm revolted.

    This time it was Sean Hannity's show. A stand-in was filling in and amazingly a caller got through that was not rah-rah for Bush. She was asked if given everything that's happened would she vote for Bush again (hypothetically) and she said no (due to Iraq mess). The fill-in for Hannity went on to say that he had on the show family members of three fallen U.S. soldiers in Iraq who were behind Bush, did this fact change her mind? You could hear the woman hee-and-haw with discomfort but still sticking by her decision.

    It was awful to sit through and truly a cheap shot. Of the 2500+ dead U.S. soldiers, the Sean Hannity show amazingly had on the air a whopping three GW-supportive families -- I'm sure it was just pot luck. And I'm sure those three families spoke for the thousands of other families. Why didn't they cherry-pick Cindy Sheehan and have her on the show? I don't recall a liberal talk show host using Sheehan as a battering ram to make pro-Bush callers squirm in discomfort, attempting to sway their political views.

    Welcome to right-wing radio, where they use the unfortunate deaths of our armed forces for political reasons. They use fear-mongering to intimidate and frighten voters and in this case they use guilt and emotional manipulation (of the worst kind) in an attempt to change opinions. Anything goes for them, nothing is beyond the pale.