Wednesday, August 31, 2005

new orleans' agony

I can't add anything to what we see in the news about New Orleans, Biloxi, and other communities along the Gulf Coast. It's terrible to see, and difficult to imagine: thousands of people losing their lives in hurricanes and floods is something we imagine happens in third world countries, not the United States.

As Keith Olbermann points out, this is the first-ever attempt at a mandatory evacuation of an American city. Can New Orleans survive?

poverty on the rise

Over one million more people in America fell into poverty last year, reports the Census Bureau. A Department of Commerce official said "The poverty rate seems to be the last lonely lagging indicator of the business cycle." I think he's wrong -- calling this a lagging indicator implies the poverty rate will improve at some point in the business cycle.

I'm not so sure; I think this is a new permanent reality, caused by the de facto Administration's bizarro-world Robin Hood approach to tax breaks and subsidies for the wealthy, plus the ongoing relocation of jobs to cheaper places outside the USA and the general downward pressure on wages here. The reality is even worse than the statistics; the Census Bureau's own alternative numbers demonstrate that we significantly UNDERSTATE the true poverty rate in the US.

The GOP's America -- a land of increasing economic disparity, and poverty amid plenty.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

commentary after katrina

Some post-hurricane observations...

Stop the Presses! Bush Not On Vacation!
Wha??? De facto President Bush cancelling the last couple of days of his epic vacation to do something about the hurricane? I love this quote from Bush: "We have a lot of work to do." All he's gonna do is chair a meeting. In any case, doesn't this flight from Sheehanville I mean Crawford undermine the whole "this is a working vacation" meme that the White House has been promulgating for the entire last month? I mean, if he was WORKING there he could've supervised the relief operations just as well from Texas as DC, right?

God and the Hurricane
One tourist from Nashville who was stranded in a New Orleans hotel said, "We prayed and sang and read the Word -- and God was with us." I'm glad the lady is OK, but I don't quite understand this whole "God was with us" thing. Couldn't He have helped this lady and a bunch more by sparing the entire Gulf Coast from this hurricane? In any case, God must have missed some prayers since the levee has broken and New Orleans is flooding pretty badly. Unpleasant quote of the day from the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin: "The city of New Orleans is in a state of devastation. We probably have 80 percent of our city under water."

We're Making Things Worse, part 1
In any case, human activity is making this sort of natural disaster even worse. Global warming is putting more energy into the weather system, making extreme weather events such as hurricanes AND blizzards more powerful and more frequent. And coastal erosion, caused by our re-routing of the Mississippi away from its natural meandering tendency, has weakened New Orleans' defense against hurricanes by eroding the Mississippi River delta; Louisiana loses 25 square miles of coastal land a year.

We're Making Things Worse, part 2
Like the Louisiana shoreline, our ability to respond to disasters like Hurricane Katrina continues to be eroded -- not just by the fact that thousands of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama National Guardsmen who could be used to respond are in Iraq, but by the downgrading of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the removal of disaster preparedness/response from its purview by the Bush Administration. As this writer, the director for emergency management in King County, Washington State said, we MIGHT be hit again by terrorists, but we WILL be hit by hurricanes and earthquakes and landslides and blizzards and maybe tsunamis and flu epidemics, too.

Bush, in a speech he made today about the end of World War II, assured the people in the stricken states that the federal government will be there to help them. Too bad it's a part of the federal government that doesn't cater to corporate interests and has therefore been starved and neglected. Message: you can't leave everything to the private sector. Remember that when you support politicians who want to reduce the size of government, you are really supporting people who want to starve emergency response and disaster assistance and job training and public schools and student loans and medical care for the poor and old.

Monday, August 29, 2005

another reason to hate reality tv shows

Reality shows are almost without exception terrible, so I ignore them. That is why I hadn't realized that an MTV reality show, "Laguna Beach: the Real Orange County" has in the course of its run committed what almost amounts to a crime against humanity: it launched a revival in the popularity of the pap Journey song "Don't Stop Believin'".

The incarnation of Journey led by Steve Perry was responsible for a great deal of lame bubble-gum pop in the late '70s/early '80s which was unfortunately difficult to ignore, given the massive amounts of air- and MTV-play they got. And now, some numbskull on the "Laguna Beach" show uses this song to reunite with his on-and-off girlfriend, demonstrating the incredible shallowness of his soul and inflicting Steve Perry's insufferable singing one us once again.

To quote Jerry Seinfeld, "I wanna puke."

Friday, August 26, 2005

the end of the cd?

I came home from the local record store with five new CDs and read this. Aargh! I'm not ready for CDs to disappear! I don't do MP3s or iPods!

But the end appears to be coming for the compact disk. Sigh. This album by the Sun sounds like it will be pretty good -- I might have to download it, and copy it to CD...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

using the dead

The Pentagon's propaganda machine rolls on. For the first time, families of the war dead are allowed to include on the gravestone the name of the war in which their family member died. They currently have two choices: Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Yes, they must use the names the Pentagon flacks designed to sell the wars to the American people.

That's cheesy enough. Even worse, in at least a few cases, they have apparently used these advertising campaign names on gravestones without the family's permission.

maradona confesses

Former Argentinean soccer star Diego Maradona on Monday publicly acknowledged that he did in fact punch the ball with his hand in scoring his first goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals. A red-card offense was instead allowed to stand as a goal.

Maybe we can all hope that 20 years after the fact, de facto President Bush or some other key member of the campaign (maybe brother Jeb, or Kathleen Harris) will admit to the intimidation, irregularities, and out-right voter theft that swung the 2000 and 2004 races their way... Illegal offenses were instead allowed to stand as election victories.

But I doubt they'd ever admit to anything. That fat, semi-literate, cocaine-sniffing little *&$# from Argentina has more integrity than they do.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

limbaugh is olbermanned

Keith Olbermann nails Rush Limbaugh by quoting his own words back at him, in an entry about Rush's slanders against Cindy Sheehan and her supporters. Well worth reading here.

The only thing wrong with Olbermann's blog is that he doesn't post more frequently.

killer pat

The ever-thoughtful Pat Robertson has a suggestion for US foreign policy -- assassinate foreign leaders. Apparently choosing to ignore Commandment number 5 or 6, depending on what you believe, the Rev says the US should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Pat's rationale? (1) Chavez thinks we're gonna assassinate him, so let's prove him right. (2) Chavez will make Venezuela a “launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.”

Chavez is a loony-tunes, two-bit dictator who is running Venezuela into the ground, no question. He is supporting Caribbean has-been Fidel Castro with oil and generally being a pain. But the allegations about him supporting Muslim extremism are absurd (lots of "news" about this at the Free Republic web site, that bastion of right-wingnuttery) and as for communist infiltration -- Rev Robertson, the Cold War is over? We won?

It was bad enough when the US didn't immediately condemn the coup that briefly seemed to oust Chavez back in April 2002; we lost a lot of credibility with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. But an assassination attempt against Chavez, if linked back to the US, would badly undermine our image and credibility.

Isolate Chavez, si. Assassinate him? Nope.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

preparing for 2006 and 2008

Paul Krugman on Friday wrote about a book by a British author about the 2000 and 2004 elections. He closes with a warning that the GOP will be very tempted to use similar techniques to maintain power in 2006 and 2008.

How do the Democrats fight this? It would help if somebody like George Soros bought out Diebold or one of the other election-machine companies...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

reviving the big lie

Today de facto president Bush revived the big lie -- that we are in Iraq to stop terrorists from attacking us in the USA. He explicitly linked our war in Iraq to the events of September 11. I'll repeat the basic facts: Saddam and his Baathist regime, while brutal, had no links to international terrorism, nor to Al Qaeda, and of the two countries most responsible for the attacks of September 11, Bush (correctly) invaded one -- Afghanistan -- and (incorrectly) continued to coddle the other -- Saudi Arabia. Iraq diverted international resources from Afghanistan before the job was done there, which is why Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership are still at large.

And how is the US campaign in Iraq going? Just groovy -- concerning the draft constitution, our diplomats are conceding ground to those who would establish an Islamic republic, and General Schoomaker admitted the Army is prepared to be in Iraq at the current level for four more years -- or longer.

Mission accomplished?

ipod love

The Washington Post this week ran two separate puff pieces about the iPod. The first article talked about the iPod as a "personal narrative" and a reflection of one's soul. Various iPodders culled from the population at large talk about how "personal" their musical choices are, and how the thousands of songs on their iPod remind them of things like their long-ago childhood -- you know, like, when "Friends" was still on TV?

The second was even sillier. People spend $2 billion a year buying accessories for their iPods. Now, I agree with buying a cable to connect your iPod to your stereo system -- if the bulk of your music collection is on that little hard-drive it would be nice to hear it thru real speakers instead of a couple of little earpieces. But making your infant look like an iPod? Or having photos made to look like iPod advertisements? One college chiquita said she was "bored" with her plain-white iPod, and so she bought a new pink case for it. So much for iPods being about the emotional attachment to music.

I'll pass on the whole iPod thing. The rhapsodizing about music and memories is just plain silly -- a generation getting the portability of a mechanical device confused with an emotional attachment to music that is probably as old as human history. Not news. Wow -- no generation before EVER felt a personal connection to music.

I am really put off by what it takes to be an iPod owner. First, I don't like to buy songs one by one -- I prefer albums. Listening to single tracks off of The Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd) or the Gorillaz' Demon Days isn't as satisfying to me as hearing the way the album moves, the way different songs will return to certain musical and topical themes. Second, I don't want to have to search so hard to find individual songs to buy. Third, I don't like the idea of having to buy this, that and the other to allow you to play your music collection on decent speakers at home or in the car (CDs work pretty well). And finally, I wonder what will happen to those thousands of songs that you spent thousands of dollars to download once the iPod joins the Great Dead Media Graveyard in the Sky?

Friday, August 19, 2005

a gallon of gas

De facto president Bush is lucky -- gas has hit $3 a gallon AFTER his "re-election." It's a classic supply and demand situation, with China and India now demanding much more than they did 10 years ago, and Americans driving increasingly inefficient vehicles.

I have no problem with $3/gallon gas. It's still the cheapest gas of any major developed country. In fact, I'd go further: I'd set a fluctuating federal tax that would ensure that gas prices are consistently $4 a gallon; the tax would rise as oil market prices fall and vice-versa, but the consumer would see the same price. It would put a serious dent in the absurd SUV market (which is killing us both on the roads and with their exhaust) and make hybrids and other alternatives more realistic and more viable options, and encourage more research.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

one victory (?)

Sunday was the 70th birthday for Social Security. Krugman revisits the Bush attempt to destroy it
by misrepresenting its goals, lying about the facts and abusing its control of government agencies.
As Krugman notes, that is standard operating procedure for the de facto president. It worked in leading us into Iraq and giving tax cuts to the wealthy; I hope the fact that the administration has fallen silent on Social Security means that it has dodged the bullet.

heartbreaking quote

"George Bush killed my grandson." From the grandfather of Lance Cpl. Chase Johnson Comley, who was killed in Iraq. Link.

Monday, August 15, 2005

forests are just logs awaiting processing

The Forest Service has reduced by 90% their assessment of how much recreation in our national forests contributes to the national economy, from a Clinton Adminstration estimate of $111 billion in 2000 to $11 billion in 2002. A Forest Service flack assured us that this doesn't mean they value the forests any less, it's just "a better way of calculating" the economic benefits of these activities.

Allow me to make a prediction about the 3-step process we can expect to see from the de facto Bush Administration:
Step 1: Slash the economic value of recreation in the national forests while claiming this is merely a bookkeeping exercise.

Step 2: Use this new lower economic value to justify increasingly mining and logging the shit out of the forests.

Step 3: Laugh all the way to the bank and leave the damage to some Democratic administration down the road to clean up.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

administration finally smelling the iraqi coffee???

** Profanity alert -- this makes me so angry that I need to use strong language to express my views. If you don't like profanity, here's a G-rated summary: I'm peeved that after being led into Iraq on false pretenses, we aren't achieving our goals there, and the de facto Administration should hang for its criminal stupidity and stupid criminality. ** End profanity alert.

Talk about coming to your senses too goddamn late. The Post today quotes a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion of Iraq:
"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground. We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
Ohmyfuckinggod. You mean we WON'T be able to dismantle Saddam's cache of weapons of mass destruction (because they never existed)? We WON'T be able to establish Iraq as a model democracy that will be on reasonably good terms with Israel? We WON'T even be able to guarantee the same rights for women that they had under Saddam? Iraq's oil revenues WON'T pay for essentially all of Iraq's reconstruction?

Another quote from this article, from another in-the-know US official:
"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic. That process is being repeated all over."
Holy fucking shit! How did this happen? I mean, in the 1980s Reagan, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Papa Bush, etc supported Saddam with equipment and intelligence during his war of aggression against Iran because IRAN WAS AN ISLAMIC REPUBLIC INIMICAL TO AMERICAN INTERESTS!!! And now our unprovoked, trumped-up invasion of Iraq is gonna let ANOTHER ISLAMIC REPUBLIC come to power in the Middle East? To quote Charlie Brown, my stomach hurts.

The pro-war neocons in the de facto Administration misunderestimated the level of opposition we'd encounter from Iraq's people. How did this happen? After all, de facto Vice President Dick "Halliburton" Cheney told us on March 16, 2003 that we would be greeted as liberators. Could Uncle Dick have been wrong? Yep -- and Uncle Dick and the rest quashed all other indications from the CIA, State Department, and elsewhere that we would not have roses strewn in our path. And it ain't getting better -- just ask this Marine unit.

Now our leaders don't expect us to be able to defeat the insurgency before we leave -- just hope to reduce it a little.

Now, that's just nifty. We're gonna leave behind an unstable country with a theocratic government that will not control all of its territory in the heart of the Middle East, a country whose populace has suffered terribly under our occupation, a country increasingly desperate and therefore increasingly susceptible to extremists of all sorts. Jeez, our withdrawal from Vietnam was better than this -- at least the Communist government never sponsored terrorism against the US after we ran away.

The last time a superpower made a stupid invasion of a country in the region and retreated well short of its goals was the Soviets in Afghanistan. As you may recall, after some initial victories, that whole war didn't turn out very well for the late Soviet Union. They finally withdrew with their tail between their legs. They lost thousands of troops and wasted billions of rubles and essentially lead to the destruction of the Red Army and contributed mightily to the loss of legitimacy of the Soviet state, which soon after collapsed completely. They left behind a failed state awash in weapons that was a marvelous base for terrorists who were at first anti-Russian and then turned against their former American sponsors. As you may recall, some of those terrorists have caused us quite a few problems in recent years, especially on that sunny day in September of 2001.

I know our de facto president doesn't read much beyond the baseball box scores, but I wish he'd at least read his father's 1998 book, A World Transformed. To quote from that book:
To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day hero ... assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight in what would be an un-winnable urban guerilla war. It could only plunge that part of the world into even greater instability.
The old man called it pretty well.

I hope to hell the post-Soviet situation in Afghanistan isn't repeated in Iraq now. Iraq would be a much more dangerous failed state than Afghanistan, in the center of the Middle East, with huge oil reserves, next door to Iran and Saudi Arabia, within bomber range of Israel.

The Republicans impeached President Clinton for lying about an extramarital affair, mostly because the Ken Starr witch-hunt couldn't find any wrongdoing by Clinton. What would be appropriate action towards a President whose administration:
-- ignored the urgent warnings of the outgoing Clinton administration and its own terrorism policy experts in 2001, thereby losing any chance to prevent the calamitous attacks of September 11;
-- failed to capture Osama Bin Laden (remember him?) in Afghanistan because the focus was already switching to Iraq;
-- got us into a disastrous and protracted war that shows no signs of abating by scaring Congress and the American people with terrifying tall tales of Iraqi nukes and mushroom clouds (Condi Rice's word) billowing over American cities, based on intelligence that was both faulty and fabricated, if we didn't act immediately;
-- subsequently switched the rationale for the war in Iraq from WMD to spreading democracy and prosperity in Iraq as a model for the Middle East (in other words, nation-building, which Bush derided in the 2000 campaign), and now is backing off of even THAT dubious goal;
-- meanwhile has allowed North Korea's active and much-more threatening nuclear weapons program to continue unimpeded; and
-- is driving much of Iraq's population into the arms of Iran, another country with an active nuclear arms program?

If President Gore had done this, the Republican Congress would have impeached and convicted him long ago. But the Republican Congress, despite concerns voiced by individual GOP members, focuses on more important things like banning flag burning.

Personally, I'd like to try and hang the sons-of-bitches for all of their various crimes. But we are still (despite two consecutive stolen Presidential elections) a constitutional democracy, more or less. Instead, I'll just have to hope for the best: elections in 2006 and 2008 that punish the party whose leadership got us into this mess, and no more major terrorist attacks by people opposed to and angered by our even-more-fucked-up-than-in-2000 policies in the Middle East.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

what is your harry potter personality type?

arnold's payoff

I am shocked, simply shocked by the story of Schwarzenegger paying $20,000 to a movie actress not to blab about their affair. Who was giving advice on this cover-up? How did the Governor expect this to work? Because if I were Gigi it would have taken at least $100 grand for me to button my lips!

Guess we can rule out Warren Beatty running for office as a Democrat. If the going price is $20,000 per floozy, even Warren Buffet couldn't raise the cash to pay off all of Beatty's babes.

lose weight the mcdonald's way?

Think this person was put up to recreating Morgan Spurlock's fast food binge by McDonald's? She claims to have lost 37 pounds eating only Mickie-D's for 90 straight days. 'Course, she only had fries twice in that time and limited herself to 2000 calories a day. Just thinking about 270 consecutive meals at the Golden Arches is making my stomach queasy... as does the idea of her supplanting that nimrod who advertises for Subway as the next TV pitchman for a fast food chain.

Friday, August 12, 2005

crying fraud

For some reason, about 8 years ago I ended up on Republican National Committee mailing list; I have no idea how they got my email address. I never asked to be removed; I figured I was costing them a billionth of a cent or something to contact, and it is sometimes good to see what the GOP is up to.

Well, yesterday I got a letter from my close personal friend Michael DuHaime, the RNC Political Director. It had a big heading -- VOTER FRAUD ALERT. "Cool," I thought, "the GOP is going to tell me about their next plans to defraud voters." Wrong. The RNC wanted to alert me to a study by the American Center for Voting Rights Legislative Fund which has uncovered thousands of Americans disenfranchised by the Democrats in 2004. The Center's report, which you can read (if you can stomach it) here, fixes only on Democrat anti-voting activities.

Pardon my skepticism. The Center claims to be nonpartisan, and lists a "Brian A. Lunde", allegedly a prominent Democrat, as chairman. Well, it looks like Brian was actually a leading member of "Democrats for Bush" in 2004 so we can discount his position as a prominent Democrat. This Center is nothing but a front for the GOP, laying down smokescreens of bullshit about Democrat voter fraud in Washington State and Ohio. It is there to mislead anybody who manages to hear something about the Ohio vote in 2004 (let alone the statistically improbably county-by-county pattern in Florida) and does a google search -- some people will end up at this place and won't understand the nature of the Center. The timing of the Center's creation (February 2005) and the fact that Fox News' Tony Snow is featured on the web site might be clues.

Just one more thread in the vast right-wing conspiracy's media disinformation web. I feel sick.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


It certainly does suck to be a passenger trying to fly into or out of Heathrow Airport right this moment...

permafrost is melting and we don't care

I came across this disturbing article 24 hours ago. The gist: permafrost (which they call "perma" because it is permanent, don't ya know - or at least used to be) in western Siberia is thawing at an unprecedented rate, which could mark a tipping point for our global climate. As the permafrost melts, it will release more greenhouse gasses, reinforcing the trend and capturing more heat. In other words, it sounds like heavy shit.

So today I scanned the main US papers on-line to see if there was any coverage. Nothing -- not in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Miami Herald, Rocky Mountain News -- nothing. Nothing at CNN, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, or Fox. Nothing about this at all.

Sometimes I feel like Nero is fiddling, Rome is burning, and we're all watching reruns of American Idol.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

a doomed reform

Ohioans are trying to change the way that state draws up Congressional districts. Republicans say it's just a bunch of disgruntled Democrats who can't win any state-wide race in Ohio, who want to earn seats thru redistricting. You know, the way the Republicans did in Texas in 2004 with their mid-decade redistricting.

Anyway, the group, Reform Ohio Now, wants to remove politicians from the job of drawing up districts and running elections. Gov. Schwarzenegger wanted to do something similar in California, where Democrats dominate the gerrymandering.

I like the idea very much (but not the idea of mid-census redistricting as done in Texas and proposed in California -- every ten years is enough). It's unfair for Congressional districts to be drawn in bizarre ways where two groups of people who live 40 miles apart might be in the same district connected only by a strip the width of a highway. Gerrymandering is an old and dishonorable tradition, but computers and modern data crunching have made it much more easy to do.

The voters pay. Interest drops because races are all one-sided. We end up with safe districts where the elections are decided by primary voters -- who tend to be more extremist, left and right, contributing to a polarized Congress where Representatives have little need to move to the center or compromise. But it'll be a tough sell, since politicians in a state dominated by one party are unlikely to agree to this sort of reform.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

snow's job and cato on drinking

In a fit of something resembling candor, Treasury Secretary Snow admitted that many people are falling behind here in Bush's America. "One of the things we know is that less educated people have seen their incomes and wages grow more slowly. That's what the numbers tell us."

Th de facto administration learns this from numbers, because none of them have any contact with any of the economic have-nots, apart from their maids and chauffeurs, who don't dare gripe for fear of losing their jobs. I'm no socialist and I don't begrudge somebody who hits it rich, but Bush's economic policies only exacerbate economic inequality by subsidizing the wealthy few who don't need it -- and sorry, but the trickle-down effect that is supposed to help the rest of us is pure bullshit.

Occasionally I find myself agreeing with somebody from Cato. This is one such instance. Busting into residences without search warrants based on the suspicion of nothing worse than teenagers drinking is stupid, and as Radley Balko describes, it is purely mean-spirited to then issue traffic tickets when not one teen is found to have had a drink. This is where the less-government libertarian Republicans split from the moralizing, holier-than-thou theocrats, whose collective tush is growing slick from the repeated kisses being planted on them by Bush. Libertarians, why do you stick with the party that tells us who we can and can't marry and uses tax and spend tactics to hand out cash and cushy deals that distort our economy?

Monday, August 08, 2005

a quote for the day

The formerly-very-funny Duckman once gave his view on the habit of going out singing in groups: "Karaoke -- Japan's cruelest invention since hari kari."

Today Japanese prime minister Koizumi might wish he'd stuck to karaoke. His own Liberal Democratic Party rejected his reform package today in the Japanese legislature and Koizumi has announced snap elections for September, which might see an opposition party take power for only the second time since the end of the war. Electoral hari kari, or a cunning scheme for Japan's eccentric prime minister? Too soon to say.

excuses, excuses

This is hilarious -- a collection of quotes by athletes who have tested positive for some drug, explaining why they are really innocent. My favorite is the excuse by a doctor for US cyclist Tyler Hamilton -- Hamilton, being a fraternal twin, has genetic material in his body from when he and his twin were in utero. Now, THAT'S creativity. Give that doctor a job in the Bush Administration!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

long live the justices?

I found it quite amusing that the Washington Post today ran op-ed pieces about the very old and about life-time tenure for Supreme Court justices. The Post drew no connection between the two stories -- but I will.

I see no evidence of dementia or senility for any current members of the Supreme Court -- but it's something worth considering, as medical technology lets people live longer and longer. Further, it is possible that the first person to live to be a thousand years old could already be alive. I think it is time to rethink the lifetime tenure for federal judges at all levels. Not just to make it less likely that somebody who is no longer mentally competent remains on a court -- but to prevent somebody from serving for hundreds of years. Terms can still be long; something along the lines of thirty years without the possibility of reappointment is more than adequate, and will insulate them from political pressures to keep their job.

some sunday stuff

Liberal thinktank project

If I were a rich man ... I'd cough up a few bucks to support this project. This is a good idea -- the Republicans have certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of the American Enterprise Institute, Cato, and other right-wing thinktanks. Any rich people reading this, please help!

Not-so-lucky Lima

These poor Marine reservists from Ohio are not having a good war lately. I wish them luck. I hate this war from before it started, and one reason I hate it is the sense that these poor guys are being killed to no good end.

Attitudes on privacy

Interesting editorial today in the Times about the different approaches towards privacy in Europe and the US. Summary: "in Europe, privacy is a right; in America, it's an economic commodity." Did you know that in many states if I have your car's license plate number, I can get your name, home address, phone number and maybe even social security number for just a few bucks? Certainly makes it easier to stalk people... not that I would!

Friday, August 05, 2005

the gipper as propaganda tool

Texas Congressman Henry Bonilla wants to rename 16th Street, a main thoroughfare in downtown Washington, "Reagan Boulevard." He introduced a resolution to that effect before the Congress recessed for its annual five-week summer vacation.

No more Reagan stuff, please. We've got plenty in this area. In an oft-cited example of irony that Alanis Morissette couldn't top, Bonzo's former acting partner already has a very large federal building named after him in our nation's capital. And in just one manifestation of the unwillingness of Congressional Republicans, despite their rhetoric, to allow local governments to exercise power, a few years back they forced the local airport authority that runs Washington National Airport -- named after our first President -- to change the name to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. A bit later, Congress forced the local subway system to spend tens of thousands of dollars to change the name of the airport stop on maps and kiosks in each and every one of its dozens of stations to reflect this unwieldy, unasked-for change in its monicker, threatening to cut off their federal funds if they didn't cooperate.

Bonilla's little ploy is just the most recent manifestation of the sick cult that has sprung up around our most befuddled President. Run by anti-tax/anti-government fanatical maggot Grover Norquist, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project wants to
... honor the legacy of our 40th president, Ronald Reagan. The Reagan Legacy Project aims to fulfill its mission by naming significant public landmarks after President Reagan in the 50 states and over 3,000 counties of the United States, as well as in formerly communist countries across the world.

Isn't that special? Rumor has it they also want to put Reagan's mug up there on Mount Rushmore. Check out their web site. They want to stick Reagan's face on half of our dimes (thanks for nothing, FDR) and to put his genial but addled smile on the $10 bill (what have you done for us lately, Alexander Hamilton?). The whole thing is frankly creepy.

Why this push? Is it simply that Grover Norquist gets a nice warm chubby feeling any time he contemplates the record of our 40th president? Nope. It's all about perpetuating the cult of personality that surrounds Reagan. Reagan, as his sycophants never tire of telling us, was a "great man", the father of modern conservatism, the guy responsible for the current right-wing ascendancy. And since he ended up spending almost his entire, long retirement locked out of public view due to his Alzheimer's, Reagan was never able to say anything to refute claims being made in his name -- unlike Barry Goldwater. Reagan is the perfect idol for the vast right-wing conspiracy.

And so to keep Reagan before us, to keep alive his image to use as a useful tool to put a warmer, more human face on modern American conservatism (which otherwise looks like Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, or Rick Santorum), Norquist tries to put Reagan's name on everything possible; statues are a bonus. Irony can be ignored in favor of propaganda value, and they will continue to look for any vaguely logical place to enshrine the name of the Gipper.

It's important to keep alive the name at the center of any cult's veneration, both during his life but perhaps even more importantly after. But names, and societies, can turn around, and I hope ours will. After all, there is no more Leningrad, Stalingrad, or Karl-Marx-Stadt. I can only hope Reagan's name ends up fading as well, before we become the United States of Ronnie Raygun.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

disease and pestilence

Birds are getting sick in Russia now too. Looks like the avian flu (sorry, link is in French) is headed for Europe. I feel like I'm watching a bad horror movie which is taking an inordinately long time to set up the scary parts. Lots of tension, warnings, discussion of how bad "it" (whatever the movie is about) will be when "it" happens... except of course this is reality. Stock up on canned beans and get ready for a quarantine if this stupid flu ever learns to jump from person to person easily.

Adding to the hilarity is evidence that extreme weather -- floods, drought, etc that is likely to increase as we pump more energy into the planetary system (that is, thru greenhouse gases and climate change) -- appears to boost epidemics.

But since our betters in the de facto administration running this country don't believe in climate change, we'll all be okay.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

outvacationing the gipper

I have mixed feelings about the fact that de facto president Bush will on his current vacation pass Ronald Reagan's record for the most vacation time taken by any president. On one hand, Bush doing nothing may well be less harmful than when he's doing something, because usually when he does take action, 95% of us are screwed. On the other hand, it might have been nice if he'd been paying attention to the CIA in August 2001, when they were trying to warn him that something nasty was in the offing, instead of clearing brush.

And speaking of clearing brush -- what the fuck is that all about? Surely there can't be a shrub left standing on that dude ranch of his. Maybe it is some sort of subtle signal to his corporate paymasters that he won't let environmental concerns get in the way of making a buck for businesses, and to prove it, he'll singlehandedly defoliate his entire stupid property. Or maybe the Rapture will begin when the last trace of cedar has been uprooted. He's like human Agent Orange or something. At least when Reagan took vacations, he rode horses and went to shows and occasionally chopped wood in the more comfortable California climate, instead of sweating his ass off in 100 degree Texas sun and falling off of mountain bikes.

But between spending 20% of his time in Crawford AND taking daily two-hour exercise breaks in the middle of the day, this guy really isn't working that hard, is he? Why should he? Bush has always had everything handed to him anyway - a gentleman's C and a cheerleader's uniform at Yale (where he only gained admission because he was a legacy). Admission into the special unit of the Texas Air National Guard reserved for the sons of privilege, whose mission was to avoid Vietnam at all costs (and hell, he didn't even finish that). The chance to run for Congress, because Daddy was an ambassador and head of the CIA. Various sweetheart oil deals for his failing companies from Saudis because Daddy was vice-president. The chance to buy into the Texas Rangers for $600,000 (including borrowed money) which just a few short years turned into $15 million, because Daddy was President. The governership of Texas, which was a perfect gig for Bush because that's only a part-time job anyway. And then the White House, courtesy in 2000 of five Republicans on the Supreme Court, and in 2004 thanks to various crooked election officials in Ohio and to the manufacturers of electronic voting machines.

The only time he ever has to break a sweat is when he's clearing brush. A charmed life, and a curse for the rest of us.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

if bush believes this, he'll believe anything

So, de facto president George W. Bush has opined that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in the schools "so people can understand what the debate is about." For the uninformed few, intelligent design is a theory that living things are so incredibly complicated they couldn't possibly have come about on their own, so some agent must have started things. In otherwords, it's a euphemism that people use when they don't have the cojones to argue for Biblical-style Creationism. It's also chock-full of holes. How is it even vaguely logical for some intelligent designer to include in our lungs a substance that ruins our lungs, counterbalanced by another chemical that neutralizes this effect?

I guess intelligent design has another advantage: you don't have to choose among the various creation myths out there -- Christianity has no monopoly on funny ideas about how it all started. Personally, I like the Chinese version with the Cosmic Egg and a goddess forming people out of the mud of the Yellow River. Hey, it's no weirder than taking a rib out of a guy to make a woman.

But I must say, Bush's statement surprises me a little. I mean, how often has the Bush junta supported letting two sides of a story get an equal airing? I look forward to the day they support a curriculum in which students can study the dozens of indications that the Ohio election was fiddled with in November 2004 side by side with the assertion that everything was above-board so they can assess both sides of that debate, too.

Just another example of Bush's ongoing war on science -- or at least science that is politically inconvenient for him and the theocratic wing of the Republican Party to which he is so beholden.

In the same session with reporters, Bush said he believed Rafael Palmeiro's denial that he used steroids. Palmeiro's testing was challenged and retested, with support from the most ferocious union in sports. Clearly he had steroids in his system. Based on what he said about Mr. 3000's claims, Bush is either loyal and naive, incredibly stupid, lying, or all of the above.

Hey, if Bush believes Palmeiro's disavowals of wrong-doing, he'll never get rid of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, John Bolton, or anybody else accused of crimes unless they're dragged away from the office in handcuffs.

the machine grinds on

Krugman's usual bleak outlook on de facto President Bush here. But just because it's bleak doesn't mean it isn't right. Read the Harpers for August (not yet on-line), the article by Mark Crispin Miller on how the GOP stole Ohio in the 2004 election and how the mainstream media (Keith Olbermann as a notable exception) have consigned this to the "crackpot theory" file. (That would make two stolen elections in a row, lest we forget.)

It's funny, isn't it, that exit polls were good enough for us to declare fraud in Ukraine's elections last year -- but when exit polls here didn't track with "official" results, we were instead treated to explanations of why they were poorly done. American democracy is descending into tragedy via travesty.