Saturday, May 31, 2008

With gas at the pump approaching $4 per gallon, add to the list of negative repercussions from this: homes further out in the hinterlands of suburbia. As the price of gas rises, making the price of commuting by car that much more expensive, homes closer to cities and work will better maintain their values, and those homes father away will likely lose value at a faster clip.

The bottom line: with already fast imploding home prices, the steep rise in gasoline prices will only work to accelerate the housing decline.
Those on the right have forever argued regulate less and let the free market sort out on its own who or what should succeed and fail. Yet all too often the free market alone is not sufficient, allowing for extreme and even illegal behavior, which by the time it is "corrected" for has already resulted in massive harm.

In the case of Bear Stearns, the strident free market crowd should've been screaming from the roof tops when the Fed stepped in with its rescue. According to their logic, Bear should have been left to fail, just desserts, the invisible hand at work, etc. However, it's seemingly OK when non-free market aid is given to industry or the rich, but not individuals or Joe Main Street.

The principle should hold true regardless, but that's presupposing principles are involved here....

Monday, May 26, 2008

On this Memorial Day, Bill Kristol blesses us with another column. This time around he wishes for us to honor and thank our servicemen and women. Wonderful, who wouldn't concur with that urging?

However, if you read the column, one can't help but get the feeling that the main objective is to first and foremost remind us of how well things are going in Iraq -- with the thank the soldiers thing a second priority that conveniently fits in with today's holiday.

Kristol would find an excuse to extol the progress in Iraq to a bunch of kids playing stick ball on a street corner. It's a near pathological insistence, one that he's been wrong about for years.

Also, regarding Kristol, I chuckled when I read this from Dick Polman:
This means that the Times has now been forced to run four corrections on columnist Kristol's work, in the span of a mere six months since his debut. (In Kristol's lust on Monday to disparage Obama, he also managed not to "find" that GOP nominee John McCain had lost the Arkansas primary to Mike Huckabee by 40 points. But my favorite Kristol gaffe occurred in March, when he placed Obama in church on the occasion of a specific Jeremiah Wright sermon, whereas, in reality, Obama was stumping that very day in Florida.)

As I have previously noted (bottom item, here), this kind of sorry record is inevitable when a newspaper hires a partisan ideologue to do the work that is better left to real journalists. Fact-checking is a fundamental feature of such work, but derelictions will continue to occur as long as The Times persists in entrusting valuable op-ed real estate to a guy who, among other things, has persisted in cheerleading for the Iraq war in defiance of all empirical metrics.
It goes without saying Kristol has been an embarrassment to the Times since Day 1 of his hiring, but whereas Polman believes that columns with more accuracy would come from "real journalists" as opposed to a "partisan ideologue," I have to believe that there are plenty of opinionated, partisan columnists who would take exception to this comment. I would argue most respectable columnists don't have nearly the abysmal track record of Kristol's when it comes to frequency of errors. He's both lazy and willing to write anything to drive home a strained point -- no matter how far removed from reality or fact.
Yes, I realize Hillary's RFK comments are being blown WAY out of proportion. Most reasonable people understand and give her the benefit of the doubt that she didn't suggest any harm would come to Obama. However, by uttering the comment to begin with certainly doesn't say much about her judgment. A candidate in her position -- running second and trying desperately to pull ahead -- can't afford to even dabble in the obtuse or unclear rhetoric. The onus is on her to show that she is the stronger, more capable leader than Obama and making head-scratching screw-ups like this one just flush that cause down the toilet. And with folks like Keith Olbermann driving home the point, red-faced and fulminating, to the Dem masses, it wouldn't be surprising in the least to see Hillary finally drop out of the race this week.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Related to what Kevin wrote, the apocalyptic right would regard Sheehan's stance as naive and excruciatingly dove-ish, when in fact what he's saying is not only true and sensible, but it works. Don't create unnecessary fear for sheer political purposes that also begets wasteful spending on larger-than-necessary wars, and instead focus the resources on rooting out and destroying the fewer-than-thought evil doers.

Less histrionics to manipulate the masses, more actual anti-terrorist activity. Wouldn't that be refreshing?
Last week, a NY Times editorial commented on McCain's speech where he seemingly vowed to not be GW 2.0, but the Times is rightfully skeptical.
It should not be an extraordinary moment when a candidate for president declares allegiance to the Constitution, promises to not ignore or flagrantly violate laws, talks about ending a long and draining war and vows transparency in the Oval Office.

Such is the sorry state of affairs after seven years of Republican lawmakers’ marching in mute lockstep with President Bush into one policy disaster after another.
Still, we were gratified to hear Mr. McCain acknowledge the many abuses and failures of the Bush presidency and pledge to not repeat them. Now we need some sign that other powerful Republicans agree with their candidate — and we need to hear much more from him about how he will keep his promises.
Is he willing to find and fix all the ways that Mr. Bush has undermined the Constitution and abridged civil liberties? Or is he just promising to do better?

Mr. McCain’s record is not encouraging.
It is shameful that the items McCain mentioned as things he will do to bring about change are simply corrections to prior abuses by this administration or actions that should've been taken over the last eight years by any reasonable, responsive president. Whoever becomes the Dem nominee better make sure to consistently drive home the McCain = Bush message. You can already see that McCain is trying to make headway at moving away from this liability, but he has done so much aligning with Bush positions and sucking up to Bush supporters since running for president that it will be exceedingly difficult for him to suddenly shed this baggage in a matter of months.

The Times finishes its editorial with the ultimate question, is McCain's "party, which refused to question Mr. Bush for seven long years, really the one to change direction"?

Pretty easy question to answer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

To attack Iran: Bush and Cheney are for it, Gates and Rice oppose. Hmm, #1 and #2 in power favor it and two lower-ranking players do not -- wonder who is likely to win that tussle? Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Terrific column by Anna Quindlen on the supposed maverick McCain.

Money quote:
The Straight Talk Express is all over the road. There are those optimists who like to believe that once elected, McCain would again emerge as a small-government progressive who would set his own course. But it is the greatest of illusions to believe that a man will masquerade to win, then revert to his authentic self—after all, there is always another election coming.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It doesn't get any more surreal and/or desperate than this. Hillary, it's (been) over.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Click here to view the typically frustrating and bloviating Chris Matthews take a right-wing radio host out to the wood shed. Quite refreshing.

Matthews makes the point that talking with your enemies is not the same as appeasement, with the latter involving the giving away of something. The dictionary defines appeasement as "to yield or concede to the belligerent demands of (a nation, group, person, etc.) in a conciliatory effort" -- again, much different then simply talking. As usual, Bush and the screaming idiots on the right have it all wrong.

It's worth mentioning that a few other past presidents talked with national leaders they didn't particularly like. Eisenhower spoke with Stalin to help end the Korean War, Nixon held discussions with China, and Reagan talked with numerous leaders of the USSR (with Reagan saying, "Living in this nuclear age makes it imperative that we do talk."). Oh, and note all three were Republicans.

Bush's willingness to equate the desire to talk with "enemy" nations as appeasement is just more fear-mongering and irresponsible trash talk -- something we've come to expect from his craven administration. His goal has always been to scare to get his way, as opposed to making any sort of real sense or appealing to anything remotely cerebral. Stirring up fear is just easier and less taxing, and we all know how GW shuns hard work.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

With Bush's approval rating appearing to hit new lows with each passing month, fast approaching historical precedence for worst-ever levels, matching that of Nixon at his darkest hour, the prior president that GW desperately looks to for comfort is Harry Truman. Truman had abysmal poll numbers during the Korean War but later was to be regarded as a very good president. Bush hopes he'll enjoy the same fate.

Dream on. The recovery of Truman's reputation and regard had a bit more to do with just the eventual reconsideration of the Korean War. To that end, Bush's ill-repute goes much further than his regretful decision to invade Iraq.

As an example, read the following excerpt from a Truman speech, replace "communism" with "terrorism" and try to imagine Bush saying any of it.
There is a right way and a wrong way to fight communism. This administration is doing it the right way, and the sensible way.

Our attack on communism is embodied in a positive, threefold program:

One, we are strengthening our own defenses and siding free nations in other parts of the world so that we and they can effectively resist Communist aggression.

Two, we are working to improve our democracy so as to give further proof, both to our own citizens and to people in other parts of the world, that democracy is the best system of government that men have yet devised.

Three, we are working quietly but effectively, without headlines or hysteria, against Communist subversion in this country wherever it appears, and we are doing this within the framework of the democratic liberties we cherish.

That is the way this administration is fighting communism. That is the way it is going to continue to fight communism. Now I am going to tell you how we are not going to fight communism. We are not going to transform our fine FBI into a Gestapo secret police. That is what some people would like to do. We are not going to try to control what our people read and say and think. We are not going to turn the United States into a right-wing totalitarian country in order to deal with a left-wing totalitarian threat.

In short, we are not going to end democracy. We are going to keep the Bill of Rights on the books. We are going to keep those ancient, hard-earned liberties which you lawyers have done so much to preserve and protect.
See the difference? Any questions?

After reading this it should be no shocker to understand why Truman's standing has risen over the years. On the contrary, given the abominations, the screw-ups, the purposeful ruin wrought, the spreading of hate and fear for political gain, the disregard and destruction of our Constitution -- just a few of many things beyond the Iraq War, it should likewise shock no one that Bush will not experience a similar recuperation in standing. It's absolutely inconceivable and with good reason.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

For weeks now, I've felt that Hillary is determined to stay in this thing because of 2012 (stay with me here). If Obama loses in November, she would then be able to do lots of "I told ya so," the wrong person was chosen to represent the party. By staying in the race this long, it has enabled her to point to big states she was able to win over Obama plus perhaps more than a few key states that Obama may lose to McCain. She would then be able to single out those states as turning points, that if she were only the presidential nominee she could have very well beaten McCain. She would try to pound home this logic for the 2012 race.

Whereas the Dem party is not typically kind to twofers (at least not nearly as much as the GOP which encourages multiple runs and then you've earned it), in this case, given the tight primary race and after all she's a Clinton, Hillary would most likely be the front-runner in 2012.

But that's not to say I'm assuming Obama will lose in November -- I'm not. Just laying out what could possibly be going through Hillary's head.

Another potential reason for her staying power was mentioned by Jonathan Alter on Olbermann's Countdown. He basically described a scenario where Hillary's steadfast decision to fight on is to be used as leverage to get asked to be the VP. To restate, her stern determination and will to continue = a sort of blackmail to become #2 on the ticket.

Interesting. I can't imagine Obama would like such a predicament but it may be one he's forced to contend with. Would he and Hillary actually get along? And Bill for that matter (can't forget him!)?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Increasingly I'm seeing more items like this one:
The US military is drawing up plans for a “surgical strike” against an insurgent training camp inside Iran if Republican Guards continue with attempts to destabilise Iraq, western intelligence sources said last week....US commanders are increasingly concerned by Iranian interference in Iraq and are determined that recent successes by joint Iraqi and US forces in the southern port city of Basra should not be reversed by the Quds Force.
Get ready....
This entire Kevin Drum entry is a must-read. (Whelp, most Kevin Drum entries are a must-read for that matter). It covers not just the flip-flopping hypocrisy of McCain, but also the media's hypocrisy when it comes to coverage of Rev. Wright vs. right-wing hate preachers.

You'd think after years of being shamed with their kid-glove, tepid coverage of the Bush/Cheney debacle they'd at least try to become more even-handed in their scrutiny. Is McCain truly that teflon-ish?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Although McCain has largely been getting a free press from the media about basically everything, Fareed Zakaria, columnist for Newsweek, at least tries to point out a concern.
On March 26, McCain gave a speech on foreign policy in Los Angeles that was billed as his most comprehensive statement on the subject. It contained within it the most radical idea put forward by a major candidate for the presidency in 25 years. Yet almost no one noticed.

In his speech McCain proposed that the United States expel Russia from the G8, the group of advanced industrial countries....McCain also proposed that the United States should expand the G8 by taking in India and Brazil—but pointedly excluded China from the councils of power.

We have spent months debating Barack Obama's suggestion that he might, under some circumstances, meet with Iranians and Venezuelans. It is a sign of what is wrong with the foreign-policy debate that this idea is treated as a revolution in U.S. policy while McCain's proposal has barely registered. What McCain has announced is momentous—that the United States should adopt a policy of active exclusion and hostility toward two major global powers. It would reverse a decades-old bipartisan American policy of integrating these two countries into the global order, a policy that began under Richard Nixon (with Beijing) and continued under Ronald Reagan (with Moscow).
And to think that foreign affairs is supposedly McCain's strong suit -- yikes! With him, it definitely smells like four more years of GW....

Sunday, May 04, 2008

This kind of news is getting to be quite old, but that doesn't mean we should grow weary of it (!).
A congressional watchdog agency has found that White House officials repeatedly intervened in the government's scientific process for assessing the health risks of toxic chemicals, prompting Sen. Barbara Boxer to threaten giving Congress control of the program.

The Government Accountability Office reported Tuesday that the White House's budget office, the Pentagon and other agencies had delayed or blocked efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to list chemicals as carcinogens by requesting more research or more time to review the risks.
Isn't it great to have an administration that is so good at spreading fear, all the while claiming they want to keep us safe, and yet they have no problem with willfully interfering with science that is aimed at protecting us from toxic chemicals and carcinogens.... It's all a charade, attempts to achieve and maintain control via scaring us to no end, but when it comes to substances that can truly kill, whelp they must side with big business. We're just puny pawns in their bigger scheme of things. 1-20-09, 1-20-09....
More evidence that we've been ruled over by a monarchy for the past eight years:
The lawyer for US vice-president Dick Cheney claimed today that the Congress lacks any authority to examine his behaviour on the job.

The exception claimed by Cheney's counsel came in response to requests from congressional Democrats that David Addington, the vice-president's chief of staff, testify about his involvement in the approval of interrogation tactics used at Guantanamo Bay.
Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers expressed his obligatory discontent and outrage -- likely met with laughs and giggles by Cheney and his staff behind closed doors. The branch of government that the President and Vice President belong to (I would normally write "Executive" but these days who knows....) is apparently above it all, above everything, answering to no one, enjoying defacto dictator-like status. They want all of the power, none of the accountability, and they're succeeding thanks to our wet-noodle Democrats.

But wait, they wear an American flag pin quite often, so all is forgiven!