Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In the NY Times two days ago:
President Bush has decided to send an unusually tough message to one of his most important allies, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces became far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda, senior administration officials say.
<..>
Democrats, who took control of Congress last month, have urged the White House to put greater pressure on Pakistan because of statements from American commanders that units based in Pakistan that are linked to the Taliban, Afghanistan’s ousted rulers, are increasing their attacks into Afghanistan.
So it looks like the new get-tough-with-Pakistan stance is really in response to pressure from Democrats. GW threatens Musharraf with a warning that the new Congress may seek to cut aid to Pakistan -- again, the new Congress, not GW himself. And Democrats have been urging Bush to pressure Pakistan based on "statements from American commanders," as if Bush didn't hear those same statements.

But you'll hear the right-wingnuts applaud these sudden get-tough actions towards Pakistan as if it was all GW/Cheney's doing.... Just more uninformed assumptions.
The wife can also speak inaccurate propaganda:
LAURA BUSH: But, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day that discourages everybody.
The Brookings Institution Iraq Index (2/22/07, p. 20) shows as of November of last year, the number of insurgent attacks in Iraq was 185 per day. A far cry from the one per day that Ms. Bush would have us believe.

They all just simply make things up.
From James Fallows (thanks to Dan Froomkin):
There could be no less effective spokesman for American concern or for the interests of international order than Cheney. This is the man who has refused to answer to his own public for — well, for anything. For his insistence that everything has gone just as planned in Iraq. For his claim before the war that “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” For his claim after the war that the Iraqi insurgency was in its “last throes.” For his role, as described in prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s closing statement, as the central, unindicted malefactor in the Scooter Libby case. Even for shooting his friend in the face....

Dick Cheney, the man who is accountable for nothing, is the person who will tell other countries what is “consistent” with a peaceful image in the world?

If you haven’t spent a lot of time outside the United States recently, you may not have been made aware in a painful, humiliating way of how grievously America’s moral standing has suffered because of Guantanamo, Abu Grahib, and the general carnage in Iraq. It’s hard in general to get non-Americans to listen to lectures about seemly behavior these days. It’s hardest of all when the lectures come from the man who, to the rest of the world, personifies America’s squandering of the qualities that made it special.

Digby correctly summarizes:
Think about this for a moment. The crackerjack Bush administration --- which failed to anticipate the rise of Iran once they removed its dangerous enemy from the scene --- is supposed to be able to recognize who's who among these various Muslim players and deftly play all the factions against one another in a very discrete and high stakes game in which they finesse a final outcome that brings about peace and security. Oh. My God.
The task would be near impossible for a competent administration to pull off; these boobs have no shot. I'm not wishing for failure, but rather just stating the obvious.

In fact, what's clearly obvious at this point is GW's father's administration very likely understood all the dangers and traps involved in this region and wisely chose to high-tail it out of Iraq. And Bush I was by no means a great president, and yet even his people got this one right!

This criticism is not Monday morning quarterbacking, but instead it's possessing the wisdom and fortitude to admit mistakes and make the necessary adjustment for the good of the country. To realize what you imagined would occur is far from the reality of the present situation, resort to Plan B (assuming you have one!), and learn from the disastrous exercise.

The dumb and reprehensible decision is to fly blind and continue on the wrongful path, to persist in a losing proposition. It's why the best stock market players take losses and move on, thus admitting mistakes and opting to learn from them, refusing to throw good money down the drain. It's why the best corporate managers know when to pull the plug on losing ventures, sooner rather than later.

Hell, you see examples of this wise behavior in nature. Recently, I watched a nature program that showed a menacing starfish with poisonous spines eating coral at will. However, it soon came upon some coral that had a few small crabs living within it and these crabs began to snip off the starfish's spines. One snip after another, the spines fell to the ocean floor. Eventually the much bigger starfish called it quits and moved on, realizing in the end it was the best course of action.

Sensible minds will get the larger point(s) -- beyond that GW is dumber than a spiny starfish.
From a right-wing blog:
The facts are that there will be a genocidal bloodbath in Iraq if we pull out precipitously and the entire nation will become a safe haven for terrorists.
In fact, Iraq has been devolving toward "genocidal bloodbath" and "a safe haven for terrorists" with our soldiers there. I'm sorry to say no evidence exists that we've been able to halt this trend, and frankly it's only accelerated for the worse the longer we've been there.

So the question becomes: do we simply tolerate the deaths of X number of U.S. soldiers per day in the fingers-crossed hope that somehow, someway conditions will miraculously change (current evidence to the contrary)?

Funny how the right demands not 90+% but 100% irrefutable proof of man's responsibility for global warming before considering the needed measures for remedy, but do not likewise demand such proof that Iraq is improving with our presence there before stating with certitude that we must stay else witness chaos.

But that would require consistency of thought -- something sorely lacking in their psyche.
From Tom DeLay (yes, that Tom DeLay):
We’ve gone on record a number of times arguing the highly questionable science behind global warming. What is of more interest to us in this specific case is the hypocrisy of Senator McCain, who is apparently trying to align himself with the radicalized green element of the left – which is in direct contrast to his past stances.
Quite the contrary, Tom. Oddly enough, in the face of his many flip-flops to align himself with the radical right of the GOP, McCain's support for stronger measures concerning global warming and climate change is actually one of the few things where he's remained consistent. (Examples: here, here, and here).

Wow, global warming must indeed be a real threat to the planet for McCain to refuse to flip on this issue!

One thing has definitely remained consistent: the "Bug Man" is quite the dim bulb.

Friday, February 23, 2007

While we continue to enjoy "enormous successes" in Iraq, Al Qaida is free to come and go across the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Yet we don't hear a peep out of Bush/Cheney/Rice towards Pakistan. No stern warnings, no harsh words, nothing. Amazing.
Oh, the chance for sweet, poetic justice.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

They've tried hard to spin the Brit withdrawal as good news, but behind the scenes it's being acknowledged as something quite problematic.

As the British announced the beginning of their departure from Iraq yesterday, President Bush's top foreign policy aide proclaimed it "basically a good-news story." Yet for an already besieged White House, the decision was doing a good job masquerading as a bad-news story.

What national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley meant was that the British believe they have made enough progress in southern Iraq to turn over more of their sector to Iraqi forces. To many back in Washington, though, what resonated was that Bush's main partner in Iraq is starting to get out just as the president is sending in more U.S. troops.

No matter the military merits, the British move, followed by a similar announcement by Denmark, roiled the political debate in Washington at perhaps the worst moment for the White House. Democrats seized on the news as evidence that Bush's international coalition is collapsing and that the United States is increasingly alone in a losing cause. Even some Republicans, and, in private, White House aides, agreed that the announcement sent an ill-timed message to the American public.

Regarding the great international coalition, just to be clear, after the initial British pullout, the U.S. will have 140,000 troops in Iraq with the next largest provider of troops (Britain) coming in at 5,500. Quite a drop-off to #2. Let's be real, there's never been much of a coalition; it's always pretty much been an all-United States effort.

Although Basra is less violent than Baghdad, many fear that the Brit withdrawal could empower insurgents in the region -- the line Bush/Cheney have been reiterating ad nauseum about Iraq in general as it relates to the Democrats. Remind me again why the Brits endorsing withdrawal is deemed "good news" but when the Dems utter anything concerning redeploying troops or measured withdrawal then this administration immediately tosses around words like "defeatist", "appease", and "retreat"...? Hmm, could it be they freely mix partisan politics with war policy?

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens to Basra post-Brit withdrawal. On the one hand, Bush/Cheney have proclaimed the area much-improved, within Iraqi control, and a model for all of Iraq ("ultimately the kind of thing that we want to be able to see throughout Iraq"). If things remain relatively quiet and peaceful after the Brits leave, it will work to confirm what the Dems have been saying all along regarding redeployment/withdrawal (establish benchmarks, train and empower Iraqi army ("Shifting greater responsibility to the Iraqis for their security and transitioning the principal mission of our forces from combat to training, logistics, force protection, and counter terrorism operations;"), etc.).

However, if all hell breaks loose post-withdrawal, it will negate all the good news stuff the administration pedaled regarding this announcement and serve as one more reason why we can't trust what they have to say. In a larger sense, it will provide a powerful argument for leaving Iraq now. How so? If this administration blesses a withdrawal given that an area is judged secure and under Iraqi control -- only to see that area erupt in violence soon thereafter -- than what can we expect whenever that day comes that all of Iraq is deemed secure, under Iraqi control, and set for withdrawal? Likely hundreds if not thousands of dead U.S. soldiers later, our troops finally begin to vacate only to see bloody violence and bedlam consume the country once again.

We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The former Straight Talk Express continues to twist, bend and contort. The latest example: make a headline-grabbing harsh statement -- only to later privately apologize for it.

It makes you wonder to what degree McCain will stand by any of his statements....
If Australia sees the wisdom in switching to more efficient light bulbs, thus reducing emissions and power bills, then why can't we? Are Australians simply seeking to be personally virtuous (ala Cheney)? Doubtful. It just makes sense (cents). At least two of the more progressive states, California and New Jersey, have the right idea and are looking to phase out the wasteful bulbs.

Speaking of states and the environment, here are some more examples of the new federalism (click here and here), with states proactively defending their right to a clean environment since those at the federal level continue to either do nothing or work to make matters worse.

Oh, and it's great to see that environmental concerns are increasing in intensity in the red states. It's about time!
A recent NY Times interview with Drew Shindell, an ozone specialist and climatologist at NASA. Much of this is very familiar, but it's always worth presenting new voices and evidence of the widespread censorship.

Q: As a physicist and climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, you recently testified before Congress about ways in which the Bush administration has tried to prevent you from releasing information on global warming. Can you give us an example?
SHINDELL: Sure. Press releases about global warming were watered down to the point where you wondered, Why would this capture anyone’s interest? Once when I issued a report predicting rapid warming in Antarctica, the press release ended up highlighting, in effect, that Antarctica has a climate.

Q: If your department is that politicized, how does that affect research?
SHINDELL: Well, five years from now, we will know less about our home planet that we know now. The future does not have money set aside to maintain even the current level of observations. There were proposals for lots of climate-monitoring instruments, most of which have been canceled.

Q: By NASA?
SHINDELL: Well, it’s a NASA decision following the directives from their political leaders. The money has been redirected into the manned space program, primarily.

Q: Are you referring to President Bush and his plan to send Americans to Mars?
SHINDELL: The moon and Mars, yes. It’s fine to do it for national spirit or exploring the cosmos, but the problem is that it comes at the cost of observing and protecting our home planet.

Q: Why is NASA involved in climate research in the first place?
SHINDELL: There is no federal agency whose primary mission is the climate, and that’s a problem, because climate doesn’t command the clout that it should in Washington. Since NASA is the primary agency for launching new scientific satellites, it has ended up collecting some of the most important data on climate change.

Q: There are now several bills floating around Congress that would limit greenhouse-gas emissions. Is one better than the others?
SHINDELL: They are useful first steps. But they are just baby steps. In the long term, we have to reduce emissions much more than any of these bills envision. At the state level, California is a great example of what the rest of the country should be doing. They require that energy be used efficiently, and as a result their per capita energy use has stayed level for decades, despite the growth in their economy.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I've said it before and I'll very likely say it again: David Brooks is a moron.

In his column today, he offers the line, "Iraq has revealed what human beings do without a strong order-imposing state." Brooks spends the entire column making the case that man's nature is inherently evil or "nasty" and thus requires submission to authority. Obedience is to be encouraged to save man from himself.

Recall that Brooks was one of the original cheerleaders for the Iraq war. Logic dictates that given these beliefs, Brooks should have never been for freeing the Iraqi people. Hell, according to his way of thinking, they were apparently better off under Saddam's strict rule.

To sum up, Brooks has all along supported a war that -- after the WMD and links to 9/11 and Al Qaeda excuses fell flat -- was alas about freeing the people from suppression by ridding them of a horrific authoritative tyrant. But if as Brooks professes, man is not nice and needs to be kept in line, then it stands to reason he should not have been so adamantly in favor of the war. Given his dark view of man's nature, what did he think was going to happen once Saddam was removed? At the very least, he should've been pounding the table at the start that many more troops were needed to insure obedience and order would quickly follow.

Yet here we are, 3000+ dead U.S. soldiers later, and what does Brooks have to say? Something along the lines of you see, this disaster in Iraq is what you get when you free people and don't have in place "a strong order-imposing state."

Warm cup of totalitarian rule, anyone? Yup, he truly is an idiot.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

In response to the tragic mall shootings recently in Salt Lake City, the RAND Corp. has come out with recommended security measures to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks on shopping malls. Note that the RAND Corp. is the same think-tank outfit that produced a pre-Iraq invasion study specifying approximately 500,000 would be the optimal number of troops for Iraq (of course, this study was ignored). But I digress....

Needless to say, these current mall recommendations will likewise go nowhere. Too cumbersome, obtrusive, expensive. But more so, before we focus on making our shopping experience threat-free, wouldn't it make more sense to first tackle more lethal and vulnerable areas of our economy, like the hundreds of chemical plants that remain fairly open to attack?

The chemical lobby has done a splendid job at killing any legislative measures mandating an increase in security. The latest heinous example of this behind-the-scenes chicanery involves, of all people, Dick Cheney's son-in-law. From 2001-2003, Philip Perry was in charge of doing the chemical industry's bidding, blocking any potential laws or regulations from getting passed that may increase security and safety. The following describes his handy-work at the time:
“Perry is an √©minence grise,” says one congressional staffer. “He’s been pretty good at getting his fingerprints off of anything, but everyone in this field knows he’s the one directing it. He is very good at the stealth move.” And, as it turns out, Perry’s stealth moves have often benefited opponents of chemical regulation. One of his final pieces of handiwork included coming up with what critics have called an “industry wish list” on chemical security that ultimately became law last fall. “Every time the industry has gotten in trouble,” says the staffer, “they’ve gone running to Phil Perry.”

The result has been that our chemical sites remain, even five years after 9/11, stubbornly vulnerable to attack.
As I've pointed out many times here in the past, states have increasingly felt the need to take matters into their own hands to counter-act the non-action and negligence exhibited at the federal level. In this case, the NJ acting governor, Richard Codey, made a decision:
In November 2005, acting New Jersey Governor Richard Codey got tired of waiting and issued an executive order mandating that the forty-three riskiest chemical plants in his state come up with chemical-security plans and conduct a review of potential IST measures. This was unwelcome news to the chemical industry, which rallied to seek Washington’s help in shutting down New Jersey’s efforts.
So who comes flying in to rescue the chemical industry from New Jersey? Yup, Mr. Perry. He works behind the scenes to somehow, someway get obscure language changed so that federal power trumps that of the state's. Mission accomplished.

My head explodes with the number of things to highlight. Let's see, the cronyism (Cheney son-in-law?), the co-presidency (Cheney basically calling the shots), slimey back-room dealings, the hypocrisy of Republicans emphasizing the rights of states to set laws -- unless special interests dictate otherwise, the continued rhetoric about how the terrorists will "follow us home" and yet the Republicans are not exactly taking preemptive measures to secure us here. Feel free to add on to the list.

Finally, with regards to fatal incidents at shopping malls, they've always involved guns so why not focus on gun control laws as a first step? Hey, it seemed to work for GOP presidential contender Rudy Giuliani....

Friday, February 16, 2007

I've really grown to like NYC Mayor Bloomberg, with examples for this fondness being here and here. Whereas Giuliani as mayor was an enormous self-promoter (and still is), Bloomberg appears to be much more concerned about just getting things done with less need for the limelight. His decisions are almost always reasonable, enlightened and based on a thoroughly-vetted thought process.

It's not surprising given Bloomberg was a lifelong member of the Democratic Party (and in mind and spirit still very much is)....
Apparently, Fox News' imitation of Comedy Central's The Daily Show is so bad it might be funny after all. Could the problem be not enough non-right wing material to lampoon? Bad writers? Both??
From the always-terrific Dan Froomkin yesterday:
President Bush did nothing at yesterday's news conference to reassure those who think his administration may once again be using faulty intelligence to build a case for war. Bush spoke in the wake of conflicting, mostly anonymous administration claims of Iranian involvement in arming Iraqis with sophisticated bombs. He did back off from the claim that Teheran was directly responsible. But what reporters yesterday were essentially asking him, over and over again, CNN's Ed Henry finally asked directly: "What assurances can you give the American people that the intelligence this time will be accurate?"

What was most striking about Bush's responses was not that he didn't provide any such assurances -- it was that he apparently still doesn't feel he needs to. The president repeatedly swatted down skeptical questions with precisely the kinds of assertions that have lost nearly all credibility. Just because Bush says "we know" or "I believe" isn't enough anymore.

In spite of claims made by anonymous American officials in Baghdad and then repeated by White House press secretary Tony Snow, Bush said yesterday he isn't sure of direct high-level Iranian involvement in the transfer of arms. But he proudly wielded a rhetorical question to make it sound like it doesn't matter. Just in case anyone missed it, he said it twice: "But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?" And again: "But my point is what's worse -- them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it happening? And so we will continue to protect our troops."

And yet that's a hugely important distinction. For instance, there are lots of ways those weapons could be ending up in Iraq short of a high-level decision by the Iranian government to send them. ( Spencer Ackerman lists several on TPMMuckraker.) Asked for provable facts, Bush is once again resorting to the kind of hint-filled speculation that got us into Iraq.

Not to mention that for Bush to argue that the leaders of a government are culpable for whatever happens under their watch is quite antithetical to the position he himself has adopted when it comes to taking responsibility for the torture and abuse of prisoners, the murder of civilians, and other blunders and atrocities committed in the war on terror.

Among the other highlight from yesterday's press conference: When asked if he believes Iraq is in at state of civil war, Bush suddenly pled ignorance: "It's hard for me, living in this beautiful White House, to give you an assessment, firsthand assessment," he said.
You'd think GW would realize that because the intel was so wrong the first time around (whether by accident or via manipulation, distortion, lies, etc.) that the scrutiny and heat would be raised substantially when the second round came along. But King George chooses the option to insist and thus it must be true. Nope, ain't gonna work again.

Also, when Froomkin states, "for Bush to argue that the leaders of a government are culpable for whatever happens under their watch is quite antithetical to the position he himself has adopted" -- isn't it obvious by now that what applies to other countries does not apply to us? As with most kings, double-standards are the rule.

And Bush's quote about living in the "beautiful" White House and therefore not affording him the ability to assess Iraq -- this is just classic GW. So because he lives in a nice house in DC -- as did many prior presidents -- Bush hasn't a clue what's going on in the country where he's conducting a war?

Boy, he's beyond just making stuff up, these days he doesn't even try. The lamest of ducks.
Oh look at that, last month was by far the hottest January ever for the planet. What a shocker.

But hey, what about all the snow and frigid weather this month? I've explained this many times before, but the Center for American Progress did a very good job of it yesterday:
Global warming deniers -- desperate for any information that might contravene the science -- have latched onto this month's colder-than-normal temperatures that have gripped much of the United States, particularly the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. In a recent headline, the Drudge Report joked, "Hearing on 'warming of planet' canceled because of ice storm." Many on the right have cited the joke as actual proof that climate change isn’t occurring. The right-wing publication Newsmax.com referenced the headline to claim global warming is part of the "current media fed hysteria." In fact, the temperature patterns we are currently experiencing are exactly what increasing greenhouse gas emissions predicts: climate destabilization.
Please go there to read the entire entry. Of course, it gets a bit involved with the science of what's happening and at times doesn't make for brisk reading, but that's exactly why the Drudge crowd don't understand. Rather than try to take in and digest the reality of a phenomena, which frequently requires some time and effort, they would rather just look outside, see lots of snow, and snark, "well golly, sure don't look like global warming to me!"

Sad, but that's the wingnuts for you. Oodles of uninformed opinions.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

From Wonkette: "Justice Scalia's Daughter, Like Father, Danger to Self, Others"
The House plans to debate a resolution that specifically protests Bush's decision to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. The resolution is very concise (58 words) and focuses just on GW's escalation plan, stating continued support for "members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq."

However, a Republican letter has circulated with the message being, "This debate should not be about the surge or its details....If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, then we lose."

Right-wing Republicans realize they can't stick to the facts or reality concerning this resolution, so instead they must expand the scope to the global threat of radical Islam in hopes of spreading more fear. As has been the case for some time, fear-mongering is just about all they have left.
If they're going to start another war, at the very least they need to get on the same page:
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says he has seen no intelligence showing that the Iranian government is supplying Iraqi militias with explosives for use against Americans.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace’s comment on Monday could make it harder for the Bush administration, its credibility about Iran questioned because of its false prewar claims about Saddam Hussein, to make its case that Iranian meddling in Iraq is fueling sectarian violence and causing U.S. casualties.
Meanwhile, the ever-convincing Tony Snow states, "We're not getting ready for war on Iran, but what we are doing is we're protecting our own people. And we're going to do it." Read that quote carefully. Notice Snow leaves wide open the possibility for an attack following provocation. Stoke the flames, stir up the pot, and before you know it an unfortunate incident or two occurs and boom -- we're off to war #2! All in the name of "protecting our own people."

And then there's this item, further illustrating our co-presidency:
Some senior administration officials still relish the notion of a direct confrontation. One ambassador in Washington said he was taken aback when John Hannah, Vice President Dick Cheney's national security adviser, said during a recent meeting that the administration considers 2007 "the year of Iran" and indicated that a US attack was a real possibility.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What the Libby trial has made perfectly clear is that since 2000, this country has had a co-presidency, a two-headed Commander in Chief named Bush/Cheney. John Dean had it right when he said, "Bush doesn't have a clue what's going on. Cheney's setting things up the way he wants."

Cheney makes Gore's influence as VP look like Dan Quayle's.
The drum beat grows louder, and yet the drummer remains faceless:
US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington. The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office. Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney.
Why won't any administration official step up in name to take responsibility for the intel released today? What's to fear if it's accurate? Don't we deserve at least that much before starting another war?
Last December, I wrote about a study that concluded "the more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush."

In this month's Psychology Today, a very well-documented article further elaborates.
Most people are surprised to learn that there are real, stable differences in personality between conservatives and liberals—not just different views or values, but underlying differences in temperament. Psychologists John Jost of New York University, Dana Carney of Harvard, and Sam Gosling of the University of Texas have demonstrated that conservatives and liberals boast markedly different home and office decor. Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world. Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books, and their books cover a greater variety of topics. And that's just a start. Multiple studies find that liberals are more optimistic. Conservatives are more likely to be religious. Liberals are more likely to like classical music and jazz, conservatives, country music. Liberals are more likely to enjoy abstract art. Conservative men are more likely than liberal men to prefer conventional forms of entertainment like TV and talk radio.
<..>
As kids, liberals had developed close relationships with peers and were rated by their teachers as self-reliant, energetic, impulsive, and resilient. People who were conservative at age 23 had been described by their teachers as easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and vulnerable at age 3. The reason for the difference, the Blocks hypothesized, was that insecure kids most needed the reassurance of tradition and authority, and they found it in conservative politics.

The most comprehensive review of personality and political orientation to date is a 2003 meta-analysis of 88 prior studies involving 22,000 participants. The researchers—John Jost of NYU, Arie Kruglanski of the University of Maryland, and Jack Glaser and Frank Sulloway of Berkeley—found that conservatives have a greater desire to reach a decision quickly and stick to it, and are higher on conscientiousness, which includes neatness, orderliness, duty, and rule-following. Liberals are higher on openness, which includes intellectual curiosity, excitement-seeking, novelty, creativity for its own sake, and a craving for stimulation like travel, color, art, music, and literature.

The study's authors also concluded that conservatives have less tolerance for ambiguity, a trait they say is exemplified when George Bush says things like, "Look, my job isn't to try to nuance. My job is to tell people what I think," and "I'm the decider." Those who think the world is highly dangerous and those with the greatest fear of death are the most likely to be conservative.

Liberals, on the other hand, are "more likely to see gray areas and reconcile seemingly conflicting information," says Jost. As a result, liberals like John Kerry, who see many sides to every issue, are portrayed as flip-floppers. "Whatever the cause, Bush and Kerry exemplify the cognitive styles we see in the research," says Jack Glaser, one of the study's authors, "Bush in appearing more rigid in his thinking and intolerant of uncertainty and ambiguity, and Kerry in appearing more open to ambiguity and to considering alternative positions."
<..>
Jost and his colleagues point to the study's rigorous methodology. The study used political orientation as a dependent variable, meaning that where subjects fall on the political scale is computed from their own answers about whether they're liberal or conservative. Psychologists then compare factors such as fear of death and openness to new experiences, and seek statistically significant correlations. The findings are quintessentially empirical and difficult to dismiss as false.
Read the entire article, an extremely interesting piece. It offers the reason why I named my blog "The Grey Matter" since I've always believed that conservatives desire everything to be black and white, as they "have less tolerance for ambiguity." Needless to say, Rush/Hannity/O'Reilly/Coulter deliver in spades on this count.

But the article goes further by exploring the connection between fear and political leanings.
Solomon primed one group of subjects to think about death, a state of mind called "mortality salience." A second group was primed to think about 9/11. And a third was induced to think about pain—something unpleasant but non-deadly. When people were in a benign state of mind, they tended to oppose Bush and his policies in Iraq. But after thinking about either death or 9/11, they tended to favor him. Such findings were further corroborated by Cornell sociologist Robert Willer, who found that whenever the color-coded terror alert level was raised, support for Bush increased significantly, not only on domestic security but also in unrelated domains, such as the economy.
<..>
The reason thoughts of death make people more conservative, Jost says, is that they awaken a deep desire to see the world as fair and just, to believe that people get what they deserve, and to accept the existing social order as valid, rather than in need of change. When these natural desires are primed by thoughts of death and a barrage of mortal fear, people gravitate toward conservatism because it's more certain about the answers it provides—right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, us vs. them—and because conservative leaders are more likely to advocate a return to traditional values, allowing people to stick with what's familiar and known. "Conservatism is a more black and white ideology than liberalism," explains Jost. "It emphasizes tradition and authority, which are reassuring during periods of threat."
<..>
The implication is clear: For liberals, conservatives, and independents alike, thinking about death actually makes people more conservative—at least temporarily.
Karl Rove certainly performed all the right moves when it came to employing psychological manipulation to gain votes. The evil "genius" at work.

But in the end, the smarter the person, the more likely he/she will be liberal in their thinking and beliefs.
Education goes hand-in-hand with tolerance, and often, the more the better: Professors at major universities are more liberal than their counterparts at less acclaimed institutions. What travel and education have in common is that they make the differences between people seem less threatening. "You become less bothered by the idea that there is uncertainty in the world," explains Jost. That's why the more educated people are, the more liberal they become.
Perhaps the best part in the article comes near the end, with the author explaining how the more gut-level, reactive thinker (conservative) can almost instantly become a more rational, analytical thinker (liberal).
Is there any way we can overcome our easily manipulated fears and become the informed and rational thinkers democracy demands?

To test this, Solomon and his colleagues prompted two groups to think about death and then give opinions about a pro-American author and an anti-American one. As expected, the group that thought about death was more pro-American than the other. But the second time, one group was asked to make gut-level decisions about the two authors, while the other group was asked to consider carefully and be as rational as possible. The results were astonishing. In the rational group, the effects of mortality salience were entirely eliminated. Asking people to be rational was enough to neutralize the effects of reminders of death. Preliminary research shows that reminding people that as human beings, the things we have in common eclipse our differences—what psychologists call a "common humanity prime"—has the same effect.

"People have two modes of thought," concludes Solomon. "There's the intuitive gut-level mode, which is what most of us are in most of the time. And then there's a rational analytic mode, which takes effort and attention."

The solution, then, is remarkably simple. The effects of psychological terror on political decision making can be eliminated just by asking people to think rationally. Simply reminding us to use our heads, it turns out, can be enough to make us do it.
So it's very simple: to become more liberal, think more rationally. This notion is what keeps Roger Ailes up at night....

Sunday, February 11, 2007

It's bad enough ExxMob wishes to bribe purchase the opinions of scientists, but they don't even think much of the brains behind the bought opinions, failing to pay-up for the favor.
Steve Benen points out the extremely low batting average of right-wing blogs when it comes to their recent attacks. Cliff May email, John Kerry picture, Obama education, Pelosi military jet -- the list continues, all big stinks proven wrong. It shouldn't be surprising, like Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck, etc., it's what they do.

With the IPCC report, the nutjob blogs were aching for an item to blow-up out of proportion and flame, and along comes George Taylor. But as Steve lays out, they got this one all wrong too.

Oh well, nice try. But facts -- they make things really difficult for most conservatives....
As per the WSJ:
The government should encourage development of alternatives to fossil fuels, economists said in a WSJ.com survey. But most say the best way to do that isn't in President Bush's energy proposals: a new tax on fossil fuels.

Forty of 47 economists who answered the question said the government should help champion alternative fuels. Economists generally are in favor of free-market solutions, but there are times when you need to intervene," said David Wyss at Standard & Poor's Corp. "We're already in the danger zone" because of the outlook for oil supplies and concerns about climate change, he said.

A majority of the economists said a tax on fossil fuels would be the most economically sound way to encourage alternatives. A tax would raise the price of fossil fuels and make alternatives, which today often are more costly to produce, more competitive in the consumer market.
But I guess it's safe to assume that most of those economists are leftist, radical thinkers -- how else to explain, right?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The following pretty much sums up just how definitive the recent IPCC report is when it comes to sound science:
Climate change skeptic Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) says the IPCC's report is "a political document, not a scientific report." In fact, the power of the IPCC findings are in their exhaustive scientific rigor. "The main science report -- more than 1,600 pages in its draft form -- was compiled by 150 scientists as main authors, another 400 scientists as contributing authors, a team of review editors, and some 600 reviewers. The document went through two rounds of reviews. And unlike past efforts, review editors required chapter authors to respond to each responsible review comment." Researchers utilize the latest technology -- scientists at the federal Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory "devoted half of their supercomputer's time for a year running models for the latest report" -- and "every government in the world" approves the summary for policymakers released last week. "Only points that were considered indisputable survived this process," one climate scientist notes. "This is a very conservative document - that's what makes it so scary." Indeed, the process is at times so ploddingly exhaustive that "many top U.S. scientists reject [the] rosier numbers" about sea level rise because the calculations "don't include the recent, and dramatic, melt-off of big ice sheets" in Greenland and Antarctica.
In addition, corporations (!) are coming around to the reality of the problem, with CEOs from ten of the largest companies in America urging Bush to take steps to combat climate change, and insurance companies refusing to take on the risk associated with global warming.

But the deniers won't be denied. The WSJ editors were recently caught fabricating history in a feeble attempt to refute climate change, and this item from right-wing NewsBusters web site:
About 12 minutes into Thursday’s NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams warned viewers about “global warming,” but just eight minutes later NBC ran a story about the month-long “deep freeze” in Colorado. If journalists can fret about global warming every time there’s a heat wave, it’s just as legitimate to point out such a glaring contrast on a newscast even if the events are really no more contradictory than claiming above average temperatures one month are evidence of global warming.
Just more proof that the right has no clue what they're talking about when it comes to global warming. They refuse to actually read the studies and reports that explain the effects of atmospheric change ultimately leads to more extremes in the weather, i.e. greater volatility. From a quite scholarly (Harvard) paper:
Given the pace of warming today, the anomalies in the World Ocean, the acceleration of the hydrological cycle, the associated increase in weather variability, and the growing instabilities in the cryosphere, the authors suggest that we are already observing signs of instability within the climate system. The current “business as usual” emission trajectories will likely lead to greater variability, more extremes, and more costly impacts for natural and socioeconomic systems, even with the current rate of change in the average global temperature.

Stabilization of CO2 at 450 or 550 ppm may possibly avoid some critical adverse thresholds; but, there is no assurance that the rate of change of greenhouse gas buildup in the interim will not force the system to oscillate erratically and yield significant and punishing surprises, or even force the system to jump into another equilibrium state. Gradually leaning far over to the side in a canoe may not tip it; but rapid movements and wide, erratic swings from one side to the other can tip the balance.
While the long-term trend line in temperature is certainly up, that line will be populated by wildly variant data points. We'll continue to experience more drastic heat with more drastic cold, more drastic rain and flooding with more drastic drought, etc.

What the MSM should be doing is explaining more of these truths to the public, rather than just showing evidence of the increased volatility in weather. Not that those on the right will finally acknowledge the science, but no matter the public should be better informed. Apparently, many on the right will refuse to accept the reality of the dire situation until it's too late.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

At 12:50pm yesterday afternoon, Dan Froomkin summarized nicely much of what I wrote about earlier that morning.
Faced with a bipartisan rebellion against the decision to put more troops in harm's way, White House political aides are concentrating less on winning support for the president's policies -- and more on trying to maneuver the Democrats into taking action they can depict as cutting off funds to the troops....With "support the president" now a losing proposition, the White House is turning to "support the troops" as their political failsafe.
In addition to playing politics with the "surge" plan, this administration will use the threat of Iran in the region to further blackmail the Dems. It's what they do.

Regarding Iran, in USA Today:
U.S. officials from commanders in Iraq to President Bush have stepped up claims that Iran has been supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons and training to kill U.S. troops....Such claims, however, are being met with denials from Iran and skepticism at home. Faulty U.S. intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which Bush used to justify in part the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has eroded much of the administration's credibility, military expert Anthony Cordesman said.
Suppose this time the intel is true, that Iran is indeed supplying the insurgency in Iraq. Then due to the lack of credibility resulting from this administration's lies and deception with the lead up to the Iraq war, our troops are currently exposed to Iran-backed danger. Because we can no longer trust the word of Bush et al, U.S. soldiers pay the price and they are potentially the sacrificial lambs.

And somehow the Dems will be framed as not supporting the troops?? Hopefully the public and MSM will see through this utter nonsense.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Concerning what increasingly looks like the inevitable bombing of Iran, we've seen Bush move closer to an attack by taking steps to link Iran with Iraq and our soldiers there, thus forcing the hand of the Dems. If Dems vote against attacks on Iranian targets, they'll be cast as non-supportive of our troops.

Once these dominoes are pushed over, the plan to attack Iran in earnest can then accelerate.

We've seen this nightmare before, political tactics being used to escalate war. It's what they do.
I suppose we could periodically (twice a month?) detonate bunker-busting bombs across the entire Mexican/U.S. border to destroy these tunnels, right? Apparently, building a wall say 100 feet tall and thousands of miles long won't be enough.
David Corn recently wrote:
The Bush White House has repeatedly said that the US military hasn't been stretched too thin by the war in Iraq. That appears to be a false assertion.
Boosting U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 would create major logistical hurdles for the Army and Marine Corps, which are short thousands of vehicles, armor kits and other equipment needed to supply the extra forces, U.S. officials said.
It seems that Bush will be sending GIs into war without sufficient levels of equipment. So who's supporting the troops?
Add another 38,000 barely-equipped troops and personnel to the 21,500.... Horrifically, Bush is seemingly just throwing more wood on the already-blazing bonfire.
After Libby is found guilty and then inevitably pardoned by Bush, it will be interesting to see if post-pardon he becomes deservedly marginalized by all in the GOP, or will he instead quietly but rapidly resuscitate his career and become more successful than ever....? I'm betting on the latter.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Congrats to the Colts, the new Super Bowl champs. It was the soggiest SB that I can remember with the rain playing a big factor in the game (8 total turnovers). In the end, the Colts clearly dominated and deserved the win, as did Manning the MVP.

Speaking of number ones, a few weeks ago Parade magazine featured an article titled, "Is America Still No. 1?" Below are the areas where the U.S. leads and where it lags:
We're No. 1 in the world in:

• Billionaires: 371, worth a reported $1.1 trillion

• 2004 Olympic medals: 102 in the summer Games

• Internet users: 205,327,000

• Nobel Prize-winners: 296

• Military abroad: 460,000 armed forces stationed in 144 countries

• Roads: 3.98 million miles

• Airports: 14,858

• Gold reserves: $157.88 billion


Where We Lag

America needs to do better in some critical areas:

• Doctors: 43 countries have more physicians per capita than we do

• Infant deaths: 33 countries have lower rates

• Male life expectancy: Residents of 27 countries live longer

• Murders: 15th-highest murder rate

• Prisoners: Highest per capita rate of people in prison

• Women in national legislatures: 71 countries do better

• Voting: Of eligible citizens who vote, U.S. is 139th of 172 nations
Really take a good look again at the above groupings. It's quite sad. A good number of the areas we lead in are quite dubious, yet the several areas where we lag are in very important categories. We apparently have lots of roads, internet users, and very rich people, but obviously our health care system is not the best in the world, the crime and prisoner situation is pretty abysmal, and for all our much vaunted freedom we falter when it comes to full representation (non-male) and participation (81% of the countries cast voting ballots at a higher rate than we do).

In short, we lead where we should be a bit ashamed and we lag where we should be very much ashamed.
Like John Kerry proved a few months ago, Joseph Biden often has his mouth moving before brain, his run for prez in 2008 pretty much over the day he announced his intentions. Granted, he's usually on the correct side of issues, but we already have a true dimwit in the White House when it comes to speaking, we don't need another (esp. given the fragile state of the world).

In fact, when it came to discussing Obama, Bush fared better than Biden:
Oh, I don’t know. He, let’s — he hasn’t gotten elected yet. He hasn’t even gotten the party’s nomination either. He’s an attractive guy. He’s articulate. I’ve been impressed with him when I’ve seen him in person. But he’s got a long way to go to be president.
Ok, I'm not saying they're much better than Biden's comments, but you're in trouble when GW outdoes you regarding word choice!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

This story is a few days old but worth repeating:
President George W. Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops regarding public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president's priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.
<..>
Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said: "The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government's own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests."
In short, the King reasserts his power over his people. In response to voters changing the balance of power in Congress, King George simply decides to decree a new directive, one that affords him greater scope and discretion to shape public policy and the establishment of regulations. He has appointed one of his cronies to all governmental agencies to insure that they enforce the will of the King, and his many wealthy backers.

It's no wonder 6 out of 10 Americans wished this presidency would end today. What's perplexing is that other 40%, those willing to play the role of hapless servant or compliant peasant to this emperor. Must be mainly the same brain-dead 30% who still, amazingly, approve of Bush's performance.
Recall in the SOTU address, Bush singled out earmarks. He has said that this pork costs $18 billion a year.

We've recently learned that Bush will be sending up to an additional 28,000 troops and support personnel to Iraq, along with the already-proposed 21,500, making it a grand total approaching 50,000. The cost is expected to be $27 billion for the first year.

Compare this $27 billion figure to the $18 billion for earmarks. Notice that Bush did not mention one word in the SOTU about any cost figures associated with this Iraq occupation. However, he did mention earmarks and has since played up the $18 billion figure as huge and disgraceful.

Yes, earmarks are indeed wasteful and unnecessary, but let us first remember that Bush has asked for another $245 billion for the war and many expect that when all is said and done it will cost us one trillion dollars.

But with regards to the $27 billion to finance just the "surge" plan as compared to the $18 billion in pork, I'm fairly certain no earmark has ever been tied to loss of human life. Many on both sides of the aisle have concluded this escalation will most likely fail and unfortunately will result in many more dead. In that sense, the costs in both monetary and human life terms, Bush's "surge" plan is more wasteful and unnecessary and wrong than those awful earmarks.

Yet you can be certain he'll be lambasting pork to many a GOP-friendly audience and not utter a word about any such costs associated with Iraq. It's called diversion or wagging the dog....

Friday, February 02, 2007

In Robert Novak's latest column, he actually cites a few clarion truths:
"The Republican message machine is a skeleton of its former self," [Frank] Luntz told me. "These people have no idea how the American people react to them."
<..>
Republican pollster Bill McInturff believes his party "underestimates" the 2006 outcome and thinks the Republican outlook is as dangerous as it has been "at any time since Watergate."
But then he predictably also offers up a few whoppers:
While truth-telling is celebrated by Republican reformers who include Presidential front-runner John McCain, it is a decidedly minority view in the GOP.
<..>
[Rep. Mike] Pence said: "The greatest scandal in Washington, D.C., is runaway federal spending."
As for the first, there was a time when McCain mustered the temerity to speak the truth -- sadly those days are long gone. The Straight Talk Express has clearly gone off the rails and crashed into a ravine that looks much like the current problem-riddled GOP. The John McCain we once knew is no more.

As for the Pence quote, he's simply wrong. Yes, wasteful spending has been out of control while under the control of the GOP, but it's not the #1 scandal in DC. The #1 scandal has been scandal. Unethical behavior, distorting facts, fabricating intel, lying to the public, being bought off by shady operatives and special interests, doctoring legislation, late-night deals, K-Street penned bills, covert programs -- the list goes on and on. DC needs a thorough, and perhaps painful, enema flush. It started with this last election.

But what's most unsettling is to observe Novak posturing as a reformer, pointing the finger at a party gone bad when for years he played an active and complicit role in much of what has been rotten with the party.

Apparently, Dick Cheney is not the only one with no shame and who suffers from acute delusion.
Cheney's recent interview with Wolf Blitzer was quite informative -- not about anything having to do with Iraq, but rather about the VP himself. We continue to learn and observe just how far gone this guy is. It's something out of Dr. Strangelove.

A classic segment from the interview:
"THE VICE PRESIDENT: Saddam Hussein would still be in power. He would, at this point, be engaged in a nuclear arms race with Ahmadinejad, his blood enemy next door in Iran --

"Q But he was being contained as we all know --

"THE VICE PRESIDENT: He was not being contained. He was not being contained, Wolf.

"Q -- by the no-fly zones in the north and the south.

"THE VICE PRESIDENT: Wolf, the entire sanctions regime had been undermined by Saddam Hussein. He had --

"Q But he didn't have stockpiles of weapons of --

"THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- corrupted the entire effort to try to keep him contained. He was bribing senior officials of other governments. The oil-for-food program had been totally undermined, and he had, in fact, produced and used weapons of mass destruction previously, and he retained the capability to produce that kind of stuff in the future.

"Q But that was in the '80s.

"THE VICE PRESIDENT: You can go back and argue the whole thing all over again, Wolf, but what we did in Iraq in taking down Saddam Hussein was exactly the right thing to do; the world is much safer today because of it. . . .

"Q But the current situation there is --

"THE VICE PRESIDENT: But the fact of the matter was -- the fact of the matter was that al Qaeda was out to kill Americans before we ever went into Iraq."
Where to start? Regarding his comment that Saddam would right now be involved in an arms race vs. Iran, who knows? But given the sanctions and inspectors, how could Saddam have "engaged in a nuclear arms race" with Iran? Look at how closely Iran is being monitored (with Israel seemingly set to bomb them at any moment), and Saddam was much more closely watched than Iran. Also, there were no WMD in Iraq, proof the inspectors did their job. And make no mistake, this administration would've LOVED to have found even a remote sign of WMD -- yet zilch found. So when Cheney utters, "the entire sanctions regime had been undermined by Saddam," make him offer proof, evidence, to back up his as-usual baseless claims.

When the VP attempts to explain something that occurred this century with events from well over a decade earlier, Blitzer interrupts, "But that was in the '80s." Cheney desperately tries to revert back to the 1980s, the Reagan era (!), when Saddam was NOT under close scrutiny -- shifting the debate, a classic Cheney tactic. (And never forget The Handshake, the photo of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam in the early '80s).

Cheney then blurts out, "taking down Saddam Hussein was exactly the right thing to do." When back-peddling and losing the argument, always pull out the "Saddam was bad" and "9/11" cards (in this case, he pulls the former).

Finally, Blitzer tries once again to bring the discussion to the last 3+ years, the current situation in Iraq, only to be cut-off with Cheney's out-of-the-blue "Al Qaeda is bad" statement (duh).

So what starts out as an interview in which Blitzer reiterates the well-known problems in Iraq -- only to be labeled by Cheney as one "embracing defeat" and refusing to recognize the "enormous successes" -- deteriorates into a nonsensical tit-for-tat charade that has Cheney tossing out references and phrases like hurling spaghetti against a wall.

The VP refuses to directly and convincingly answer any of the questions Blitzer is at least able to get out of his mouth, the exchange ending with Cheney blurting Al Qaeda has always wanted "to kill Americans before we ever went into Iraq." What does that have to with the current debacle in Iraq? If anything, Iraq has now become a prime breeding ground for Al Qaeda "thanks" to the invasion. Perhaps Bush I knew this could happen with the first Gulf War, explaining why we pulled back and pulled out.

As for Cheney's Saddam comment, yes, of course Saddam was evil incarnate, but very bad men rule nations elsewhere (North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, etc.) -- are we to invade those countries too?

Bottom line: when pressed, Cheney's got nothing. So he squirms, launches some obtuse ramblings, but ultimately resorts to his familiar zone, meaning the bully tactics take over in the form of personal attacks, verbal abuse, etc.

He's an embarrassment, but more importantly, like his buddy Rumsfeld, he's a failure and a danger.