Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The "Walter Mitty" Biz Channel

For those who rely on Fox for fantasy news on all things political, now you have them as a source for your fake business news. The channel is a little over a month old and yet it already has been caught churning out the fiction (two examples here and here).

It's bad enough to have your political opinions shaped by the fabricated BS of Fox, but it's quite another to "shape" your 401k and other investments based on their questionable-at-best business reporting.

Also, if companies get caught fabricating numbers or misleading investors, they can get sued. How would it go in this case?
Karl Rove is now blaming the Democrats for the Iraq war. This twisted attempt at rewriting history is astonishing even for these psychopaths.

Understanding its full implications, how can any sane person on the right -- assuming some remain -- tolerate being on the same side as this guy? Has Rove gone from being simply shameless and diabolical to full-blown insane and perhaps requiring professional help?
Rumors continue to pick up steam about Michael Bloomberg throwing his hat in the ring for a November08 run.

If he does join the fray, the question I have is which party will suffer more? Will he siphon off more votes from the Democrat or the Republican? Or will he take votes equally and simply suppress the overall number of votes needed to win?

My bet would be on the latter most scenario, which if Hillary is the Dems candidate would put her in somewhat of a similar spot as her husband when he ran versus Bush Sr. and Perot. We know that Nader clearly hurt Gore, taking votes from him that would've went to the Democrat, however the analysis is less clear about who got hurt most by Perot's run and many have concluded it was shared pain. Nonetheless, with Perot getting nearly 19% of the popular vote, Bill Clinton could win with "just" 43%, or less than a 50% majority.

Bloomberg would have the same effect, though I'm not sure he would fare as well as Perot. Outside of the Northeast, Bloomberg is less known whereas Perot was becoming quite the kooky sensation when he ran, to the point where he became fodder for SNL -- a testament to his celebrity. Also, the novelty of a third-party candidate was treated more seriously at the time with many voters willing to cast a ballot towards the unconventional to make a point. Given the nightmare we've had to endure for the last 7+ years thanks in part to Nader's need to run, the public will be much less inclined to pull the lever for a third-party alternative this time around.

It will be interesting to see what Bloomberg decides. Clearly it appears he does have every intention to give it a go.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Of course news from Iraq of the recent decline in violence is wonderful, but is it lasting? David Ignatius cautions against premature celebration, stating that a Syrian analyst believes insurgents are simply laying low and regrouping. "This will be known as the era of deception," warns the analyst.

Offering further credence to this belief is Bush's suspiciously restrained rhetoric concerning this respite in violence. It's just not like him. You'd think he'd be crowing loudly, chest thrusted out, about this item of good news.

But then one has to wonder if Bush has intel supporting the analyst's contention that this period is just a regrouping phase of the war, that it's in fact too soon to proclaim victory or that the tide has finally turned in Iraq. At this point even Bush realizes it would be a huge mistake to appear overly optimistic only to see the violence re-erupt in full force. He'd look like a bigger fool than usual, with the "Mission Accomplished" fiasco repeating itself but worse. The end result would be a public 100% against the war, not "just" 70% against.

Speaking of Iraq, Kevin Drum reminds that like the phrase "It's the economy, stupid," the surge has always been about expected political progress in Iraq (stupid).
Political progress has always been the justification for the surge. When he announced it last January, President Bush explicitly said that the point of reducing violence in Baghdad was to give the Iraqi government "breathing space" to move ahead with political reconciliation. Political progress wasn't just a fringe benefit, it was the whole purpose of the surge: "If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises," he said, "it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people."

The reduction in violence in Iraq is great news. But it's not a "shift" to say that political reconciliation has always been the real goal of the surge. It has always been the real goal of the surge.
To sum up, the decline in violence is an excellent development, but 1) is it lasting or just a temporary reprieve, and 2) when will signs of political headway appear?
Randi Rhodes recently asked the question: to win elections, should we encourage and urge our side to be more like Karl Rove, i.e. to play dirty and do whatever it takes to win so as to effectively fight against the Rovian, GOP apparatus?

Rhodes votes no, imploring we would lose the moral high ground, becoming as scummy as they are and thus no better, and then what have you actually won?

That's all well and good but others say the contrary is to allow them to win via the dirty play and as a result we never get to effect change. If using filthy tactics is what it takes to win elections, thus matching hardball with hardball, then it's ultimately for the long-term good of the country, if not the world. Otherwise Republicans will continue to triumph and we're left bitching.

One may ask what good is the moral high ground if it means we're ultimately on the road to ruin? However if we instead become them, what have we done? What's worth saving at that point?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

At this point, how desperate is McCain? He'll accept the help of a guy who fabricated abhorrent lies to trash his family name? But I thought McCain was all about hardcore beliefs and principles, one who had tremendous pride and was not your typical politician?

Yeah, right.
First Tony Blair, now Howard of Australia. The Bush/Cheney sinkhole sucks up another victim. Who will be next?
In the last debate, Hillary declared with a simple "No" that she was against the granting of driver licenses to illegals. Prior to that, she had stated a less definitive position on the matter, one that saw her Democratic opponents jump all over her for being what they felt was less than forthright.

I say both of her answers were appropriate and just fine for different reasons.

Her first, less definitive reply to this issue was understandable because not all issues are black & white in nature. How many times must I write that some if not many political topics are very complex, complicated and with much nuance. It's not every issue that has clear-cut resolutions; many inherently are just not easy to address -- this illegals and driver licenses a perfect example.

It gets back to the title of my blog which acknowledges that there's not always black & white clarity and obvious right or wrong to every issue, rather there's much grey area for difficult situations. Hillary was trying to recognize and speak to the tough aspects of what Spitzer was facing with this issue, but she was immediately accused of flip-flopping and saying both yes and no to the question. Nonsense. She simply admitted Spitzer was trying to make better a very difficult problem by proposing at least one, imperfect solution to it. She wasn't necessarily for it politically but she she understood what he was trying to do.

As for her more recent "No" answer, that too was appropriate given the fallout of her first answer, and given the unfortunate realities of the political game. She was forced into making a contrite, black/white declaration on the matter, to not elaborate but instead just offer a blurb and move on. Predictably, when she did make this brief reply in the debate, her foes just moved on. (Groan)

Notice with Hillary's first answer the right-wing attacked, not just because they hysterically decry anything Hillary has to say about anything, but in this case they foamed at the mouth because they must have black & white. Absolutely no nuance allowed, ever. They can't stand or tolerate at all the grey area. They demand to have easy answers to every issue or their heads will explode.

And Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly et al oblige this demand, having made this inflexible, definite thinking their bread and butter. Their listeners and the Republican base do not allow for "wishy washy" wonkery speak or reasonable discourse. They only want sound bites that are quick to digest and memorize, making it a simple task to repeat the talking points to friends. They also want brief blurbs that sound right -- even if they make little sense in actuality. It's why when they're in government and have the power, things often go awry. It's an unfortunate fact that much of life is complicated and doesn't yield to their desire for clap-trap solutions. It's called reality.

By the way, equivocating is a different matter. Equivocating is not giving a straight answer to a simple, black and white question. Example: do you like chocolate ice cream or not? A much different matter than addressing a complex dilemma that cannot be properly considered or vetted via the use of near primitive verbiage or thinking.

Speaking of simple and neanderthal-like, do we really need four more years of "fighting-them-there-so-we-don't-have-to-fight-them-here" or "bring it on!"?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Recently Charles Krauthammer was fretting over the possibility of Hillary in the White House, specifically that it would mean "we would literally be getting two presidents" ala her famous spouse.

And the problem is...?

If there's one thing the last 7+ years has proven it's that "two presidents" would be an improvement and a welcome relief to the 1/2 of a president (if that) we've endured for too long.

And we're likely going to need the help of many presidents to clean-up and fix the massive damage done to this country thanks to the Smirk and Darth show.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oh that bad, bad, big federal government, being all responsible for much of the medical research and breakthroughs that has extended our survival rate:
The single biggest source of medical research funding, not just in the United States but in the entire world, is the National Institutes of Health (NIH): Last year, it spent more than $28 billion on research, accounting for about one-third of the total dollars spent on medical research and development in this country (and half the money spent at universities). The majority of that money pays for the kind of basic research that might someday unlock cures for killer diseases like Alzheimer's, aids, and cancer. No other country has an institution that matches the NIH in scale. And that is probably the primary explanation for why so many of the intellectual breakthroughs in medical science happen here.
Yes, the fact is the cutting-edge, innovative medical research that Republicans and the like believe is occurring primarily by private health care companies is instead being funded publicly, by our government. What the private companies do is to borrow or take from NIH's voluminous research output and look to create drugs or procedures for profit. But again, a majority of the breakthroughs that we can be thankful for did not happen in a Merck or Pfizer lab, but rather was first made possible via government-sponsored research. We taxpayers help pay for the research that serves as the fuel for private health care company profits. (And recall that pharma firms often bemoan that the exorbitant price on drugs is due in large part to recover research costs.... Uh, not exactly true, and a good deal of the costs = marketing, not research).

It's too bad the current administration chooses to cut back on NIH's budget in favor of things like tax cuts for the rich:
There's no reason why this has to change under universal health insurance. NIH has its own independent funding stream. And, during the late 1990s, thanks to bipartisan agreement between President Clinton and the Republican Congress, its funding actually increased substantially--giving a tremendous boost to research. With or without universal coverage, subsequent presidents and Congress could ramp up funding again--although, if they did so, they would be breaking with the present course. It so happens that, starting in 2003, President Bush and his congressional allies let NIH funding stagnate, even though the cost of medical research (like the cost of medicine overall) was increasing faster than inflation. The reason? They needed room in the budget for other priorities, like tax cuts for the wealthy. In this sense, the greatest threat to future medical breakthroughs may not be universal health care but the people who are trying so hard to fight it.
So Bush et al will continue to scare the public about universal health care, much of it based on lies and distortions, and meanwhile they'll slash funding for what has been the engine of health care breakthroughs over the last few decades. Give some extra cash to a select few now and sacrifice medical progress that could benefit many down the road. Yeah, that sounds about ass-backwards right for this cabal of nitwits.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I thought this news item was interesting:
Army desertion rates up 80% since 2003

Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80% increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003...and a 42% jump since last year....Military leaders — including Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey — have acknowledged that the Army has been stretched nearly to the breaking point by the combat....[T]he military does little to find those who bolt, and rarely prosecutes the ones they find. Some are allowed to simply return to their units.
Amazing that the military frequently doesn't bother to track down AWOL soldiers (is this because they can't blame them? Or because the military is so strapped and stretched thin that they don't even have the manpower to hunt down deserters?). And when soldiers are found, they often just get sent back to duty -- no punishment or discharge.

I think this latter point speaks volumes about the state of our fighting forces. We've known that the military has been having a very difficult time attracting new recruits and as a result they've lowered the standards to qualify for service. Therefore it's not surprising to learn that the top brass often look the other way regarding this once unforgivable sin of AWOL.

And where are the Republicans to slam these deserters as traitors, to condemn this practice of returning these "yellow bellies" to their units with no repercussions?

Also, a primary reason for the increase in desertions is due to strain and the relentless durations of deployment -- exactly the problem Sen. Webb's bill was to address but the Republicans felt otherwise.

To have our military populated by once-deserters, doesn't this compromise the safety of other soldiers and weaken the overall morale of the units? Where are the McCains and other vocal Republicans to call this out? My guess is that there are many soldiers who haven't deserted and yet understand and empathize with those who have, and they likely quickly forgive those who took flight.

Given all of the above, the Iraq war has worked to eviscerate the strength and quality of our military. As many military leaders admit, our forces are at a breaking point and yet additional geopolitical risks loom in earnest (Iran, Pakistan, Syria, etc.). In many ways, we face more potential threats today than ever before and yet we're less prepared, less ready, less safe.

But I thought Bush/Cheney were all about making us more safe? (Or is it just more afraid?)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kevin Drum remains baffled by the continued, inflamed level of CDS (Clinton Derangement Syndrome) in this country. He writes, "Disliking the Clintons for one reason or another: sure, that's easy to grasp. But during the 90s I never got CDS. I just flat never got it."

Frankly, I never have either. Somewhere along the way in the early 1990s, the right wing stoked up the hatred flames and directed them full-force at the Clintons. You would think they embodied the anti-Christ. Whatever. It never made much sense then and still doesn't.

I've simply come to conclude that the far right absolutely despised seeing someone even mildly liberal be so successful. Prior to Bill, they were very accustomed to a more bumbling and less skilled politician who symbolized the left as they liked to see it. Of course I'm referring to Jimmy Carter. But all of that changed with the extremely competent, well-honed machine put into action by Clinton/Gore. How dare a liberal be in the White House during one of the most prosperous decades this country has ever experienced.

Come to think of it, knowing the right's insane, festering desire to hate, to scorn anyone who doesn't agree 100% with them and to obliterate all foes who are popular, perhaps the reasons for rampant CDS are not so confounding after all.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

As I did last week, likening much of the Pakistan clamp-down to Bush/Cheney tactics, Frank Rich does so in his column today. A taste:
Even if Mr. Bush had the guts to condemn General Musharraf, there is no longer any moral high ground left for him to stand on. Quite the contrary. Rather than set a democratic example, our president has instead served as a model of unconstitutional behavior, eagerly emulated by his Pakistani acolyte.

Take the Musharraf assault on human-rights lawyers. Our president would not be so unsubtle as to jail them en masse. But earlier this year a senior Pentagon official, since departed, threatened America’s major white-shoe law firms by implying that corporate clients should fire any firm whose partners volunteer to defend detainees in Guantánamo and elsewhere. For its part, Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department did not round up independent-minded United States attorneys and toss them in prison. It merely purged them without cause to serve Karl Rove’s political agenda.

Tipping his hat in appreciation of Mr. Bush’s example, General Musharraf justified his dismantling of Pakistan’s Supreme Court with language mimicking the president’s diatribes against activist judges. The Pakistani leader further echoed Mr. Bush by expressing a kinship with Abraham Lincoln, citing Lincoln’s Civil War suspension of a prisoner’s fundamental legal right to a hearing in court, habeas corpus, as a precedent for his own excesses.
The column is a must-read. Rich discusses the permanent harm this administration has inflicted on America, with Mukasey's approval just another sign of how far we've fallen as a country. Rich writes:
In the six years of compromising our principles since 9/11, our democracy has so steadily been defined down that it now can resemble the supposedly aspiring democracies we’ve propped up in places like Islamabad. Time has taken its toll. We’ve become inured to democracy-lite.
Again, a must-read.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Go Ahnold!

California is suing the federal government:

California took its global-warming dispute with the Bush administration to court Thursday, demanding that the federal government act on a request filed nearly two years ago to let the state limit motor vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases.

"California is ready to implement the nation's cleanest standards for vehicle emissions, but we cannot do that until the federal government grants us a waiver allowing us to enforce those standards," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said at a Sacramento news conference.
Eleven states that have adopted laws modeled on California's statute, three states that are considering such laws, and eight conservation groups sought court permission to join the case. The states will be allowed to enforce their laws only if the EPA approves California's waiver.

"The Bush administration, apparently not content to block progress (on global warming) at the federal level, is trying to hold back states' progress, too," said Danielle Fugere of Friends of the Earth, one of the organizations seeking to intervene. "If the federal government isn't going to take the lead, the least it can do is get out of the states' way."
Thanks to the inflexible, off-the-rails positions of this administration, states have been increasingly forced to take matters into their own hands. And yet whereas many of the GOP candidates favor this new federalism, endorsing state's rights when it comes to issues such as gay marriage, abortion, or stem cell research, where are they when it comes to this real-life, pressing example? What does Giuliani, Romney or Thompson have to say about the Republican governor's lawsuit? (crickets)

So they'll side with states-knowing-best on some difficult social issues -- where in reality the candidates are simply choosing to dodge via a punt, but they'll remain silent when it comes to issues like pollution or global warming. Have to love that trademark consistency.
Rudy: the company he keeps.

Vote for The Mayor and get ready for four more years of highly questionable cronies and hacks.

UPDATE: Rev. Pat Robertson endorses Rudy. Oh, so now I understand, if you're pro-choice, an adulterer, and a Democrat, that's god-awful bad; if you're pro-choice, an adulterer, and a Republican, that's A-OK and darn right endorsable (because Jesus would forgive only those in the GOP, apparently... who knew?). The heck with Huckabee -- I mean after all he's a former minister -- but rather go with a front-runner. After all, even for the religious right it's all about politics, never mind what they'll proclaim or try to make you think. A complete comedy show.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The following is from Dick Polman, about Giuliani's underwhelming showing at that family values gathering in Washington (it's about a week old but still relevant):
Rudy Giuliani is still (rightly) perceived by the religious right as being a New York liberal on abortion. In his Saturday speech, he tried to sell his unpalatable beliefs as a character asset, as proof that he is a man of conviction: “Isn't it better to tell you what I really believe than to change my positions to fit the prevailing winds? I believe trust is more important than 100 percent agreement." The problem with Rudy’s argument is that these people really aren’t interested in disagreement, particularly on an issue (abortion) that they deem to be a deal-breaker. Rudy wound up with 1.85 percent of the total straw poll vote.
Think about it, what chance does Rudy have come November 2008? Let's see:

1) Christian right voters don't like him. They comprise a solid bloc in the party base, and worse yet for Rudy as a group they always make the effort to show up and vote. However with Rudy as their choice, perhaps this time they just stay home.

2) He symbolizes, embraces and proclaims four-more-years of Bush. If that mantra proved bad in the 2006 election, we're talking deathly toxic in 2008.

3) He's bald and not exactly tall (don't underestimate physical appearance).

4) Temperment. Kevin Drum has written at least a few times about how in 2008, when things start to get down and dirty, be prepared to see Rudy become unraveled. In fact, the Dems should do all they can -- yet much short of Swiftboating -- to get under The Mayor's skin. It's thin and he'll go off the rails, and it'll be over.

5) Legit "dirt" on him will get full airing, literally. Needless to say, he's got tons of baggage.

6) He's bat-shit crazy.

Also about a week ago, Kevin Drum pointed out the latest untruth coming from Giuliani, this time involving health care. Drum succinctly writes, "You will be unsurprised to learn that Giuliani is full of shit."

If there's one thing that is mandatory with Rudy it's that everything coming from his mouth must be fact-checked. He literally just makes stuff up on the fly, or worse yet purposefully lies, and reporters are (surprise) dropping the ball.

Does this sound familiar? Yes, if you want four more years of distortions and lies, vote for Rudy. Why stop now with the gradual move towards fascism....

Sunday, November 04, 2007

OK, you have to admit, at least some of what's occurring in Pakistan sounds and/or looks very Bush/Cheney-esque, no? Disdain for "judicial activism," mocking the rule of law, playing to the hilt the threat of terrorism as reasons for displacing or ignoring the Constitution, warning the media to not "ridicule" the President, harsh crackdown on dissidents and those who dare oppose, etc.

And yet this seeming declaration of martial law is not enough of a wrong for us to immediately terminate military aid to Pakistan. Apparently the Bush administration finds this dictatorship-like move a bit embarrassing and puts them in an awkward spot, but in the end it's not that big of a heinous act. I mean let's not get crazy, right Junior? After all, this country has been harboring the guy responsible for 9/11, has nuclear weapons, has more/less had a military dictatorship as its governing structure, and now we're seeing it plunge into what could be considered looming chaos. Is this initial crackdown a one-time thing or will several fissures follow?

It's obviously a very complicated and important situation, but wouldn't it be nice to know that we at least had an administration who has shown some adept ability at dealing with delicate, tense foreign outbreaks and problems? You know, as opposed to one whose sole solution to geopolitical risks has been a preference to use a hammer before a brain cell, to strike first and figure things out later -- when the problems only get worse. Given their track record, what hope is there that Bush & Co. will successfully help to resolve this crisis in Pakistan?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

On October 13th, I wrote:
[L]et's spend a minute reviewing the physical appearance of these GOP candidates. With this past debate, I looked upon the stage and saw two tall guys (Romney and Thompson) amidst a bunch of shorter ones. Many of us know, or should know, about the track record of the taller candidate; since the TV age, it's been near undefeated (it held up until Bush/Rove vs. Gore and Kerry). The likes of Perot, Tsongas, Dukakis, Nader, and Kucinich never have/had a chance for this reason. To that end, it favors Romney more so than Thompson because the former at least looks alive and energized as compared to the latter who appears lethargic and listless, with unsightly bags under his eyes.

Interestingly, it's Giuliani who loses big-time when it comes to appearance. He's not particularly tall and in fact he seems to have poor posture with a crouched-over, droopy presence. In addition, when was the last time a bald guy has done well running for the White House?

Yes, of course, all of this is superficial, but who said the voting public is above being superficial?
Boo, hiss, how dare I accuse Americans of being a shallow, imperfect bunch of less-than-cerebral reactors.

Look, it is what it is and we are who we are. Very human, behavioral tendencies play a part in every decision we make, for better or for worse. Whether it be shopping at the store, the buying and selling of stocks, or voting for political candidates, our final choices are derived via imperfect inputs, reasoning, and habits. It's up to each of us to guard against giving in to nonsensical, yet very human and therefore understandable, reactions based on little fact or logic. But it's not easy.

In fact, about a week ago, reported on a study concluding that voters frequently make judgments based on just split-second responses to things like a candidate's appearance -- just what I was writing about on October 13th. The study found that instantaneous reactions to candidates matched the final choices of voters at the polls a whopping 64% of the time. It seems appearance and looks trump policy and positions in importance, sadly.

So if the above holds true, should we expect to see Romney vs. Edwards in November 2008?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Although Sen. Leahy announced he would vote against Mukasey, TPM reports:
According to CNN, Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will vote for the confirmation of Michael Mukasey as attorney general.

The move by the two Judiciary Committee Democrats all but assures that the nomination will make it to the Senate floor where confirmation is expected.
As I guessed, the wet-noodle Dems would cave. King George wins again.