Thursday, August 31, 2006

sign of the times

One way to tell an election season is coming up -- the GOP ramps up (I was going to say "begin," but they never really stop) its campaign of lies and slander about the Democrats. Latest example -- allegations that opponents of the de facto Administration are defeatists who want to give Iraq back to Saddam. When pressed, White House political operatives can't point to any opponents actually SAYING that, but they like to imply that is the logical extension of the Democrats' position.

You know, like saying that the GOP wants to enslave all working class people in order to give all the fruits of society to the wealthiest 10% of Americans can be seen as the logical extension of Republican policies.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

happy anniversary, new orleans

I'm sure the residents -- and exiles -- of New Orleans will appreciate the de facto President's taking responsibility for the response -- or lack thereof -- to Hurricane Katrina. That, and $3.75, will get them a cup of coffee at a Starbucks, if they can find one in their still-devastated neighborhoods. It is an embarrassment that one year later parts of New Orleans look like they were just bombed by the Israeli Air Force. Neil Young, on his "Living With War" album, asks the question, "if Al Qaeda had bombed the levees, would New Orleans be any safer?" I wonder if that had been a terror attack, instead of a human-compounded natural disaster, whether the recovery response would have been better.

Probably not. After all, New Orleans reliably votes for the Democrats.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

conditions for terror

In his press conference again to defend his failing project in Iraq, de facto President Bush said that leaving Iraq "would say we've abandoned our desire to change the conditions that create terror."

But in the same press conference, Bush when pressed admitted again that Iraq was NOT connected to 9/11. The Bush Administration has helped create the conditions in Iraq that create terror. If any terrorist attack against civilian US targets (as opposed to attacks against our military personnel in Iraq) ever take place, Bush can take the credit for having laid the groundwork.

Monday, August 21, 2006

gratuitous secrecy

In the latest episode of "The De Facto Bush White House Arrogates More Power to Itself," the Bushies have decided not to declassify information about the number of nuclear missiles in the US arsenal. Not CURRENT numbers, but information from as far back as the 1960s. Information that used to be declassified, and was actually given to the Soviets.

I can't figure out why Federal bureaucracies are re-classifying this data, after releasing it years ago on multiple occasions. Somehow, I doubt that knowing the US had 200 B-52 bombers in the late 1960s (one piece of info recently reclassified) would help Al Qaeda or Iraqi insurgents (note -- they aren't the same thing) or China or ANYBODY but military historians.

This regime's penchant for secrecy is well known. One of the most egregious examples was their refusal to release the names of the energy companies who met with Dick Cheney in 2001 and wrote the administration's energy policy. There are plenty of other examples. Remember, early in the first term, the Bushies even extended the time that presidential records would be protected to prevent things being revealed from Papa Bush's presidency, and Clinton's.

It's funny, when civil-liberties-minded people raise concerns about the government snooping at our library records or listening to our phone calls or reading our email, one counter-response is "if you don't have anything to reveal, you don't need to worry about this." So I will ask the same implied question to the Bush Administration: What are you worried about?

The late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1999 published an excellent short book on "Secrecy", where he discussed the growing tendency of the US government to classify more and more information, and the corrosive effects of excessive levels of secrecy on democracies. It's a bad habit to get into.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

pundit calls president bush stupid

It is my sad duty to inform all right-thinking Americans that one of those scurrilous television talking heads recently spent ten minutes asking his guests about de facto President George W. "Not on the Honor Roll" Bush's mental fitness, or lack thereof. The on-screen title of the segment -- "IS BUSH AN IDIOT?"

What kind of America-hating quiche-eating tree-hugging Neil-Young-listening pinko pundit would do that? None other than Joe Scarborough, former conservative GOP Congressman and a former member of Bush's amen chorus.

In Scarborough's segment, Joe discussed other dumb presidents and concluded "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth as these other people."

This is a symptom of the growing disquiet about and outright opposition to Bush and his failing policies among TV and print's right-wing punditocracy.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

outta gas

So there's almost no gasoline in Baghdad. Only the moronic policies of de facto President George Bush could bring about that sad state of affairs. That would be like ridding the north pole of ice.

Oh wait, that's happening, too.

why does texas hate religion?

Well, Texas really doesn't hate religion -- but Stafford, a Houston suburb, is trying to rein in the number of churches that set up shop in their town. Nothing against the religions -- it's purely a question of money. Stafford can only afford so many free-riding churches, that consume city services but pay no taxes.

That's an interesting problem, and some other towns around the country share it. Hope Stafford can figure something out. Seems as long as they apply their concerns evenly -- that is, they don't approve a Baptist church but disapprove a Bahai temple -- they should be allowed to do something on this.

One of the council members has been asking new churches why they choose to build in Stafford. They all answer, "we prayed and God told us." Now, that's a bit unfair to Stafford -- surely God owes a more detailed answer, like "Stafford is convenient to the highway" or "land prices are cheap?"

detroit and others

Occasionally I agree with a Republican. Today I agree with Senator Lamar Alexander, who sees no choice for the US auto industry but to learn to compete with Japanese, German, Korean, and other foreign manufacturers. Lessening the pressure on foreign manufacturers, as the Post article points out, foreign car makers employ over 100,000 people in the US. And much of Detroit's problems aren't just with retiree benefits and medical costs, which are considerable -- and costly to the US. Toyota recently picked a Canadian site over Mississippi because health costs were lower and employees better-educated. Detroit is also facing the results of bad choices, including the Big Three's over-reliance on big SUVs and trucks.

Now, that's not to say I agree with letting wages and benefits continue to erode relative to the take-home pay of senior executives. But the growing wealth gap in the US isn't primarily about globalization. It's about political choices. Gaps between the richest and the rest of us dropped during the FDR and Truman and Eisenhower and Kennedy-Johnson and Nixon-Ford and Carter administrations, soared under Reagan, Bush I, stayed flat under Clinton, and have taken off again under the current de facto Bush. Coincidence? Nope. Policy.

Friday, August 18, 2006

repeat after me, iraq had nothing to do with 9/11

The Post today shows poll numbers showing so-called security moms are turning their collective backs on the de facto Bush Administration, and at the moment (terror attacks and rigged elections permitting) would support the Democrats in elections.

That's good. Security moms have been blind to a couple of basic facts. First, unless they were filthy rich, the Repugnicans are doing NOTHING to help them economically. And second, even on security the GOP has not gotten it right.

But one thing they have done of course is implant the lie among unknowing or unthinking Americans that Iraq was some how connected to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Repeat after me: Iraq was NOT behind 9/11. Iraq was NOT connected to 9/11. Iraq was NOT friendly to Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda. In fact, secularist nationalist Saddam and religious pan-Islamist Bin Laden were at opposite extremes of political thought, like Stalin and Hitler.

Please remember, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. We haven't taken care of terrorist by invading Iraq, instead we allowed some terrorists in Afghanistan to escape by switching focus to Iraq in 2002. And we have created new anti-American terrorists in a place that otherwise hadn't been a hotbed of anti-US terrorism.

Good job.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

yes, virginia, there is a constitution

Hooray for U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor. She called the de facto Bush Administration on its absurd claims that Presidential power is essentially unlimited. Ruling on the NSA's bugging program, Taylor called it unconstitutional. She wrote:
"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights . . . There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution."
Well said. Somebody has called King George on his power grab. But no doubt, the Administration will issue a quasi-signing statement ignoring Taylor's ruling, and for all I know she will meet with an unfortunate accident quite soon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

dumpster diving 2006

It seems there are people out there who actually eat food found in garbage cans out of choice. Some of the dumpster divers interviewed by the Post call themselves "freegans" -- free vegans -- and say they are doing it to avoid contributing to the exploitation of animals. Others do it for the thrill of seeing what you can find, kind of a pot-luck attitude.

One guy bragged about finding rack of lamb, bottles of wine, and trays of sushi. I gotta tell ya, sushi that has been thrown away is about the last thing I would eat. But I can't see dumpster diving under any but the most extreme (i.e., I'm homeless, broke, and starving) circumstances. It's dangerous.

I also wonder whether this article will get picked up by Slate media critic Jack Shafer as yet another example of an article that discusses a growing trend with absolutely nothing in the way of statistics, based on a few interviews. At least it isn't a drug scare story, like the one the Post ran a few months ago on kids using morning glory seeds to get high (which Shafer properly panned).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

george allen, not-so-closet racist

I wasn't sure that Senator George Allen was sophisticated enough to understand that other countries use the word "macaca" as an insult for dark-skinned people. But then I learned from Josh Marshall that Allen's mom is French Tunisian, and so Allen was very likely exposed to the word in his family. That makes more sense than the lame attempt to say "macaca" was a take-off on James Webb volunteer S.R. Sidarth's hair, which in no way resembles a mohawk (I saw him on the news).

So combined with Allen's previous track record (Confederate flags, etc) I think it's safe to conclude Allen is a racist, or is at least willing to play one. In other words, he was playing to his Virginia Republican white base.

where was dick cheney?

In Massachusetts, about sixty cute little puppies on the way to pet shops were burned alive in the back of a tractor trailer. Very sad news.

The White House has not commented on Dick Cheney's whereabouts at the time.


A study by the Government Accountability Office found a big increase in violations by military recruiters. Not real surprising -- with longer and more frequent deployments, let alone the risk of going to Iraq or Afghanistan, the military is becoming less and less attractive an option, especially for the Army. Despite big boosts in recruiting efforts, new recruits for the military dropped from 250,000 in 2004 to 215,000 in 2005.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

another day in mr. bush's war

For the past few weeks, the mess in Lebanon and the terrorist plot against transatlantic aviation have pushed Mr. Bush's War even further off the front pages. But let's have a quick look at the short, Associated Press account published on page A15 in the Washington Post today about another Saturday in Iraq.

2 U.S. Soldiers Among 50 Dead in Iraq

By Robert H. Reid
Associated Press
Sunday, August 13, 2006; A15

BAGHDAD -- Police found a dozen bodies trapped in a grate in the Tigris River, and a roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers on a foot patrol south of Baghdad Saturday as 50 violent deaths were reported across Iraq.

(Vaguely Logical comment: 50 dead including 2 soldiers, and it's a wire service report on page 15. It's remarkable that such a level of carnage is deemed to be unremarkable. I'm not criticizing the Post here -- news repeated day after day loses luster as news and becomes background noise.)

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki banned a Kurdish extremist party from operating in Baghdad in a move seen largely as a gesture to Turkey, which had threatened to send troops across the border.

Also Saturday, a state commission said nearly 40 top officials of the past two governments -- including former ministers of defense, labor and electricity -- have been ordered to appear in court to answer allegations of corruption.

(VL comment: wasn't corruption one of the things we were going to stamp out in Iraq?)

The 12 bodies were found in Suwayrah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, at one of a series of metal grates fixed in the river to block debris, a morgue official said. All were men between 35 and 45 years old and had been bound, blindfolded and shot in the head or chest.

They appeared to have been the victims of sectarian death squads that operate in Baghdad's religiously mixed communities.

Police found 15 other bullet-riddled bodies of men who had been handcuffed and blindfolded in six neighborhoods throughout the Baghdad area, police Lt. Mohammed Khayoun said.

Another 21 people were killed, mostly in Baghdad but also in Hilla, Mosul and Basra.

(VL Comment: But it isn't civil war, because the people of Iraq voted in an election. Hey, that isn't MY logic, that's how de facto President George W. Bush sees things. Remember, he also still believes in the tooth fairy.)

The roiling violence, especially between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the Baghdad area, has alarmed U.S. commanders, prompting them to order nearly 12,000 more U.S. and Iraqi soldiers into the capital.

The United States has about 32,400 troops in Baghdad and areas south of the capital -- of which about 13,500 are in the city, Maj. Gen. James Thurman said.

(VL Comment: Gosh, weren't we going to have most troops out of Iraq by the end of the year -- the year 2003?)

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said the reinforcements will focus on neighborhoods where Sunni residents do not trust the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces.

Nevertheless, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he would not rule out significant U.S. troop reductions this year. Pace arrived in Baghdad on Saturday.

Pace won't rule them out because his political masters have a Congressional election to manage in under three months.

Now, some Freeper types complain that the news media isn't reporting the GOOD news that comes out of Iraq. So I thought I'd look for some.

Amusingly, this Good News in Iraq website (the top Google find for "good news Iraq") has been unable to find anything positive to say about Iraq since May 13. Even THAT was just about American soldiers, not about Iraq itself.

But it did lead me to the National Review's effort to compile the good news. The latest update by Bill Crawford includes the following tidbits:

Our Ambassador in Iraq urges Americans to be upbeat. WTF? That's not "good news about Iraq." That's propaganda. Doesn't count.

There's going to be a business expo in November. In the Kurdish area of Iraq -- because that's the only remotely safe part of Iraq. And a company has invested $70 million in a cement plant. Again, in the Kurdish area of Iraq. And USAID is restoring potable water -- in the Kurdish area of Iraq. OK, good news, hooray -- although not at the level to push the 20-40 people being slaughtered every day in the sectarian civil war out of the newspaper, I think it is safe to say. What about the other 80% of the country?

Crawford quotes US officials that we've spent $22 billion in Iraq so far on infrastructure. How much of that, I wonder, is on rebuilding what has been destroyed since February 2003? Also, no mention that much of our assistance budget for Iraq has been spent on security, not the actual projects.

Ooh, an Iraqi version of "American Idol" is popular. That'll bring the insurgents to their knees! I mean, I become violently ill when I inadvertantly have more than 10 seconds of exposure to the US version. This isn't "good news," this is trivia.

Lots of tidbits about finding weapons of mass destruction (remember WMDs? That was the reason the de facto president used to start Mr. Bush's War, before it wasn't the reason.). Crawford reaches back to 2003 and 2004 to note we found a few sarin shells or a couple of vials of things that COULD allow a biological agent to be produced. In other words, the detritus from Saddam's pre-1991 WMD stash.

Ooh, maybe the best bit of good news -- Crawford quote a New York Times article that sectarian violence has ebbed significantly. True -- as the NYT said, it had ebbed after FOUR DAYS OF RECORD LEVELS. When a heat wave ends and it's 92 degrees in Washington doesn't mean it's cool. Violence ebbing from record levels doesn't mean things are safe or peaceful. But I'm glad Crawford said "You know it’s true if the Times actually has to report it."

Anyway, enough. Mr. Bush's War did end Saddam's rule, but it has failed to achieve any of the objectives. And on Saturday, 50 were killed including two American soldiers.

Good news?

jim hoagland, still doing mind-altering drugs

Again I'm forced to conclude that Jim Hoagland is not always entirely clearminded when he writes his column. Last week it was the idea that career diplomats at the State Department actually determined policy.

This week's sad example of how dangerous it is to write a political column while psychopharmaceutically impaired is Hoagland's homage to Joe "Kiss Me, George" Lieberman. Much the same crap about what foolishness Connecticut Democrats have committed by not renominating Lieberman.

A couple of particularly silly points. First, the idea of Lieberman (who, despite my recent criticisms, is not that bad a guy when he's thinking straight) as an insurgent is delightfully droll. Insurgents usually rebel against those in power. Lieberman is basically throwing a fit over being rejected. He shouldn't run.

Second, Hoagland criticizes the Democratic Party leadership for supporting Ned Lamont. That's stupid. First, they ALL supported Lieberman for renomination. But when the primary voters make a choice, assuming they haven't selected a David Duke-like untouchable, party leadership will always rally to the duly-nominated candidate. That's normal.

Hoagland also criticizes Lamont for being rich and being backed by rich people. Jim, I'd be delighted to see you expand that area of criticism, which could be applied to about 90% of elected Republicans in the White House and in Congress -- and probably a similar level of Democrats. (In this race, it was irrelevant as an issue, and the Lieberman's aren't exactly living paycheck-to-paycheck either. But it does show again that it takes serious money to defeat an incumbent, and sometimes the easiest source is the candidate's own checking account. But that's a different problem.)

Then Hoagland chides Connecticut voters for mistaking anger for political wisdom. Anger is a legitimate response for voters if they think a politician hasn't represented them adequately. Expressing that opinion at the polling place is the right thing to do. It's not like they nominated a member of the Communist Party.

Finally, turning to Iraq, Hoagland opines:
For that we need serious politicians working together to craft a bipartisan and realistic effort to find an honorable exit from Iraq, where the U.S. presence risks becoming not only ineffective but intolerable to the Iraqis themselves. That in turn means reshaping the U.S. strategic presence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
OK, I actually agree about reshaping the US presence in the Middle East. No question one of the root causes of terrorism is American policy in the region.

But it takes two to tango. The de facto Bush Administration and Republican leadership in Congress has refused any bipartisan approach for the past 5 1/2 years. Democrats who were suckered into bipartisan deals have been shafted. Ask Ted Kennedy about the results of his bipartisan work with the White House on education reform -- an early example that helped establish the tone of thise White House's "my way or the highway" approach to governing.

And this GOP regime has politicized national security to an unprecedented degree. Ask former Senator Max Cleland, who left three limbs in Vietnam, who Rove portrayed as an Al Qaeda sympathizer for having the nerve to want to protect labor rights of federal employees being redeployed into the new Department of Homeland Defense.

Frankly, Lieberman's tragic flaw was failure to recognize that he was getting NOTHING back from the Rove-Bush-Cheney crowd for his cooperation. Except for that kiss, I mean, and a few slobbery tributes from Dick Cheney that were actually back-handed swipes at Democrats. As much as showing anger over Mr. Bush's War, Connecticut voters were assessing Joe Lieberman's political judgement in remaining so close to the GOP regime despite the lack of any significant returns on his support, and they found it wanting.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

it's good to be the turkmenbashi

Whackjob Turkmenistan President Saparmurad Niyazov is an interesting character, to put it mildly. He's been in charge since before the Soviet Union fell apart and has grown increasingly weird. He styles himself as Turkmenbashi, "father of the Turkmens," has huge monuments all over the country praising his glory and wisdom, his photo is hung in every house, has massive palaces, and has renamed towns after him and members of his family. And he has nifty golden statue of him in the capital, Ashgabat, that rotates to face the sun. I guess even Niyazov couldn't arrange to have the SUN change its movements to always face the statue.

Plus he's cracked down on the opposition, banned opera, burned books, outlawed video games -- you know, the usual petty communist-authoritarian- nationalist-lunatic array of tyranny that helped Niyazov attain a coveted spot in Parade's annual list of the worst 10 dictators for 2006.

Now Niyazov has decreed that a 130-foot tall pyramid should be built in the capital to celebrate independence from the Soviet Union.

This, plus a good Starbucks, should make Ashgabat into a true tourist hotspot second only to, oh I dunno, Beirut.

terror and politics

The Democrats are trying to shore up their terrorism credentials while maintaining their criticism of how de facto President Bush has bungled and lied about Iraq. Meanwhile, the GOP is conflating a vote against Joe Lieberman as a declaration of undying love for Osama Bin Laden, jihad, and soccer, and practically accuse Connecticut Democrats of exploding airplanes over the Capitol.

The Republicans are also trying desperately to link ongoing anti-terrorism efforts to the war in Iraq. No doubt Bush will again say something about Saddam and 9/11, maybe on the upcoming fifth anniversary of the attacks. Although no doubt he will forget to mention his pledge to bring in Bin Laden, dead or alive.

But remember two simple things -- Saddam had nothing to do with Bin Laden or Al Qaeda. And Bin Laden remains at large, because the US didn't finish the job in Afghanistan and instead went to fulfill the neocon wet dream of conquering a large Arabic oil province to install freedom, democracy, and pro-Israel governments in the Middle East.

So, how's THAT going? Oh, yeah.

Friday, August 11, 2006

god and baseball

I missed this one. Baseball teams are holding "faith nights," baseball games that are followed by preachers, Christian bands, and testimonials by baseball players. Seems they'd been popular for a while in the minors, but this year the Atlanta Braves have held a few such nights.

But now there is trouble in paradise. The Braves will have another faith night this weekend. And they've had to disinvite James Dobson's Focus on the Family. The Braves ain't saying why they banned FOTF but speculation is because gay groups were offended by the Dobson group's homophobic bent, including its website which gives helpful advice on how Not to Be Gay, along with the usual stupid allegations about the homosexual agenda. (Google the damn thing yourself if you want to see it, I won't link to it.)

Faith night? I'll pass. Baseball and other religions don't mix.

the forgotten war

Eugene Robinson reminds us of the war Bush isn't fighting -- against Al Qaeda and stateless terrorist actors.

Instead, we're ass-deep in Iraq and getting deeper every day, 130,000 US troops accomplishing who knows what. Iraqi insurgents were NOT anti-American terrorists before March 2003. The anti-American terrorists from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries, are all still out there -- all Anglo-Pakistani types in this latest plot. And it was intelligent (British) police work that spoiled this attack. Not invading other countries (which CAUSE resentments that lead to attacks) or torturing people.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

glad i wasn't flying today

I'm glad I wasn't flying today, and I'm glad I'm not flying this weekend. I'm glad British intelligence and police got wind of the plot and no planes were blown up.

But isn't the complete ban on liquids in the cabin, and a second security check closer to the gate, a bit of an over-reaction? OK, maybe in the short run, if there are still some suspects at large, it can be justified. But screenings don't stop this sort of threat. Good intelligence and police work do.

Hunter at Daily Kos has a good summary of the difference between British and US anti-terrorism efforts: the British actually make arrests and get convictions, without fundamentally undermining civil liberties. The US just takes away your Diet Coke, and tortures people.

rooftops in chicago

A quote from the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley.
The more concrete we pour down America, the more deserts we destroy and farmland we destroy, the more global warming we're going to have. If there's more trees, more flowers and more greenery, it helps the environment and attracts nature.
Growing plants on rooftops won't get it done alone, but every bit helps. Good for Chicago. One highrise roof planted with grass and trees in Chicago alone exceeds the effort of the de facto Bush Administration to mitigate climate change.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

the perils of joe, tom, and bob

Poor Joe Lieberman. Rejected by Democratic primary voters for doing too little for the people of Connecticut, and for doing too much for de facto president George W. Bush. But Joe doesn't take rejection well, and says he will run for reelection as an independent. Be interesting to see whether Joe's sore-losership will cost the Democrats a seat in the Senate in what could be a very close contest for control.

Poor Tom DeLay. Renominated by Republican primary voters out of habit, and unable to get off the ballot because of the presumption in Texas state law that requires a candidate to REALLY leave the district. But Tom doesn't take renomination well, and has said he will organize a write-in candidate for another GOP candidate, still to be determined. Be interesting to see whether a write-in candidate can win, even in a pro-GOP district. Voting technology -- computer machine without a keyboard making write-in voting very difficult, yet another flaw with this technology -- will make it difficult for the Republican candidate.

Poor Bob Ney. Forced to abandon plans for re-election because of the Abramoff scandal. It is ironic that among the winning arguments used to get Ney to quit the race was that losing an election would hurt his ability to become an obscenely-paid K Street lobbyist -- you know, like Jack Abramoff. And adding to the general amusement factor, the preferred GOP candidate might be barred from running under Ohio law, because she ran and lost in a GOP primary in May for the lieutenant governor nomination.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

corruption update, aka republican congressional news

Corrupt Ohio Republican (but I repeat myself) Bob Ney has decided not to seek reelection to the House. Official reason -- Ney doesn't want to put his family through an ordeal. The ordeal of course, comes about because of Ney's corrupt dealings with Jack Abramoff -- you know, taking all that money and those free trips. So Ney could have avoided the ordeal by being a clean politician. It's his own damn fault. Boo hoo.

And ironically, the Texas GOP has been forced to keep the disgraced Tom DeLay on the ballot for his former seat. The courts have rejected the contention that DeLay had really vacated his district; the fact that Mrs. DeLay still lives in their Sugar Land house demonstrates DeLay hasn't really cut ties to Texas. But the Bugman has vowed to fight the unfair decision to keep him on the ballot, so stay tuned.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

does jim hoagland smoke dope?

I have to ask that question after reading Hoagland's column today about how Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can succeed, referring to the messes in the Middle East (Lebanon and oh yes, let us not forget Mr. Bush's War in Iraq) and North Korea.

What really made me cough up my coffee was this para:
Rice has given U.S. Foreign Service professionals the space to construct new containment strategies for Iran (Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns) and North Korea (Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill), and those strategies have produced important U.N. Security Council resolutions and a communique by the Group of Eight supporting U.S. policy goals. "There has been a strategic click in the minds of others," says one U.S. official. "We must sustain and deepen it."
Oh come on Jim, surely you don't expect us to believe this crap? Everybody knows that political appointees are the ones making policy; Burns and Hill and the other Foreign Service professionals are just carrying out orders. Sure, Burns and Hill make proposals but in the end, if Condi doesn't okay them, the proposals don't fly.

And even if Rice DOES agree, everybody knows that the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal (including our Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, who Rice farmed out to New York because she didn't trust him) and their neocon allies are willing and able to sabotage and reverse policies they don't like anyway.

Why do you think that we aren't talking to Iran, Syria, and North Korea? Don't you think if the "Foreign Service professionals" really WERE designing policy that we would bit the bullet and have talks, no matter how difficult, with those governments? Instead, we are just passing UN resolutions and G8 communiques and this passes for a policy??? That'll show 'em.

Oooh, and it made a "strategic click" go off in the minds of somebody. Whatever the hell THAT means.

Jim, consider filling that pipe after you finish your column, not before.

can you dig it

In the wake of recent bad news about cost overruns and collapses, a positive look at Boston's Big Dig and how it has already started to bring benefits to that city.

a rousing affirmation that the pentagon didn't lie

A Pentagon spokesman Saturday said "there is nothing that indicates the information provided to the (9/11) commission was knowingly false."

In the de facto Bush Administration, this passes for a bold affirmation of truth-telling. In fact, it is nothing more than an admission that the senior civilian and uniformed Pentagon officials, in discussing with the 9/11 Commission matters like whether the Air Force really had scrambled in time to shoot down United Flight 93 or other threats on that day, or was in fact sending planes out over the Atlantic, or never even got them off the ground till the last of the four hijacked aircraft had crashed, did one of two things:

1) They lied; or
2) They got it wrong.

As so often with this Administration, this is the basic choice. Incompetence (because I'd like to think that months and years after 9/11, the Pentagon would have a rough idea of how it reacted that morning), or mendacity.

I vote for the usual blend of both. But this is a particularly dumb lie. I don't blame the Pentagon for responding confusedly that day. It was a bizarre event. But lying about it just makes the Pentagon look even more stupid, and insults the intelligence of the American people.

nationalized guard?

Fifty governors agree, leave the National Guard alone. At least, that's what I think will happen. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and Arizona Gov. Jane Napolitano (D) will ask governors to sign a letter protesting a provision in a House bill that would shift control of the Guard from the states to the President during an emergency.

Naturally, the White House and Congress didn't consult with the governors when tucking this little provision into a bill. Huckabee -- who is, remember, a conservative Republican -- said this "violates 200 years of American history" and accused the federal government of trying to make states into "satellites of the national government."

cell phone love, or at least lust

Even in Saudi Arabia, love will find a way. Must be tough flirting with one party in the flirtation covered head to toe except for her eyes, and riding in the back seat of a car with her chauffeur up front, and where you can only buy the object of your affection a coffee, not a wine cooler.

Ah, to be young, Saudi, and rich.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

congressional election news

who me, a republican?

It's amusing to watch people like Jim Talent and Mike DeWine run advertisements proclaiming their independence and never once mentioning their party affiliation, let alone de facto President Bush.

As for Florida Republican Clay Shaw calling himself an ENVIRONMENTALIST, well that's very amusing in a slimey deceptive sort of way, since I doubt Shaw has done a single thing to buck the Bush-Cheney- Halliburton-Exxon administration on its brown environmental policies.

You know, there is a reason that Bush has only vetoed one thing in 5+ years as President: the GOP-controlled Congress has consistently killed things the Bush team doesn't want passed. Your average GOP member of Congress has been content to support this Administration to the hilt. Don't be fooled.

an electoral laboratory

Colorado's Seventh District is a rare bird. It is a district that hasn't been scientifically designed by a political party to advance its electoral chances. It is divided almost evenly between the Democrats, Republicans, and independents AND is an open seat since the current Representative, Bob Beauprez, is running for Governor.

Friday, August 04, 2006

welcome to your new climate

Weather been hot enough for you? Well, welcome to your new climate. Heat waves, while nothing new, are changing. They are hotter and longer, and have less cooling at night than before. Scientists believe climate change global warming is the cause. So drive that SUV with the AC cranked, cool that McMansion, and wait for the next change in the climate.

This isn't your father's climate anymore.

But let's not bother with trying to do anything to slash carbon output to try to minimize changes. We'll just roll the climate dice and hope the new version isn't inimical to human civilization. Right, de facto President Bush?

don't be fooled, the republicans oppose raising the minimum wage

GOP Congress' cynical attempt to get billions for the wealthy by tossing a few nickels at the poor appears dead in the Senate. Good. We need a minimum wage hike, but NOT one chained to killing the estate tax and to making other tax cuts permanent.

Of course, Brian Williams on NBC still referred to the minimum wage hike being defeated without reference to OTHER scurrilous provisions in the bill the Democrats opposed. Face it, if it had been divided into its three components, all three would have failed. The estate tax repeal and extension of tax cuts, Democrats would have fought.

And Republicans would have killed the minimum wage hike.

Remember -- Republicans control the Senate. Republicans control the House. Republicans control the White House. If they really wanted to raise the minimum wage, they would have done so by now, and the Democrats would have supported it.

GOP class warfare as usual.

disconnected from reality, treasury chapter

This is too rich -- an excerpt below from Al Kamen's column. Paulson has a good reputation, but he or the member of his staff or whoever drafted this memo is a fool. Federal employees aren't paid like Wall Street brokers.
New Treasury Offering: 5.5% Fashion Notes
The Treasury Department's official newsletter indicates concern that the standard of dress at headquarters may not be adequate for new boss Henry M. Paulson Jr ., a former Wall Street executive.

"Treasury's fashion collection needs an upgrade," says the July 21 issue of Treasury Notes. "It's time to use Treasury's long marble hallways as a runway.

"Ladies, we work for Treasury. I don't have to encourage you to shop -- it should be your priority, nay, your national duty to contribute to our nation's economic growth," says the newsletter, published by the Office of the Executive Secretary. "I would recommend visiting different types of stores and mixing, and, since everything is on sale, you should indulge."

". . . Take your every day suit, find a fabulous and outlandish oxford, and pair it with glamorous sunglasses and colorful bag and shoes to match. . . . Gallatin would have wanted it this way, trust me." (Albert Gallatin served as Treasury secretary under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.)

"Gents," the newsletter goes on, "have to get creative to make the every day jacket and tie less like an every day sandwich and more like an every day special." So "indulge in the beauty and love of a suit, by buying yourself a custom-made suit," the newsletter advises. "Outfit it with quality oxfords and eye-catching cuff links." Then "a pair of elegant, perhaps distressed leather loafers and you've got yourself a look more debonair than Alexander Hamilton , himself." Maybe as sharp as Paulson himself.

Have those folks been given a big raise no one else knows about?
Nope, just some political appointee PR person who doesn't understand that Treasury's people aren't paid like Goldman-Sachs employees.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

teddy bear massacre

A disaster of epic proportions has befallen the museum world. One of the world's premier collections of ursa theodorus* (aka, "teddy bears") was destroyed by a Doberman called Barney. Barney the Doberman was supposed to be GUARDING the $900,000 collection. Among the victims, a teddy once owned by Elvis. Maybe the lingering smell of peanut butter on that bear provoked Barney. Or he'd had it up to his canines at being surrounded with hundreds of thousands of dollars of fuzzy furry cuteness.

In any case, the manager of Wookey Hole Caves, where the teddy bear museum is located, comes in with a wonderful English understatement: "I've spoken to the bear's owner and he is not very pleased at all."

There's a moral in this story, I think. Something about glass houses and stones and dobermans and cute furry things not mixing.

*If my Latin's wrong, sue me. The only ancient language I know are snippets of Anglo-Saxon.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

fraud in congo?

Hey, if Congo had US-style electronic voting machines (programmed and operated by friends and supporters of the political party in power) there would be no question of election fraud! Or at least, nothing they could PROVE. Non-transparency is important in a democracy. It is much better to erase records and not provide paper confirmation of how your votes were counted as done in so many US states like Ohio. The alternative? Messy recounts that will eventually force a country's top court to select a winner on purely partisan lines. Wouldn't want that, would we?

climate change plans

Plan A to try to stop climate change should be to slash carbon emissions. But as long as morons like Bush and Exxon have their way, that won't happen. So a respected scientist proposes Plan B -- shoot sulphate particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect some of the sun's rays back into space. Professor Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel for work on the ozone hole, based his idea on the effect of Mt. Pinatubo's eruption in 1991, which spewed sulphates into the air and contributed to a short-term drop in temperatures.

Crutzen's idea has some merit as a last resort. But allow me to make a modest proposal. Why not just build on Carl Sagan's theories and set off a few nukes here and there? There are some advantages. First, countries could achieve multiple goals with nuclear blasts. For example, the US could test new weapons while spewing particles into the atmosphere to keep temperatures down. Russia could blow up a few unneeded bombs. India could help reduce Pakistan's population pressures, and vice-versa.

Of course, we'd have to calibrate pretty carefully exactly HOW many bombs to set off, and where. Maybe we're better off with Plan A or B. But even my Plan C is better than business-as-usual, guaranteed global warming.

But more and more people are NOT content with business-as-usual. Bill Clinton got the leaders of 22 cities around the world to commit to reducing their carbon output, and you saw earlier the Schwarzenegger-Blair deal on having California and Britain trade carbon dioxide emissions and share clean-energy technology.

These are good efforts, but it is pathetic and dangerous that they are being done on a piecemeal basis because the US is stuck with an illegitimate administration led by cretins who believe conservation is nothing but a "personal virtue" (you know, like holding doors open for old ladies), who view science as an ideology to be twisted to their political ends and not as a source of truth, and who have their noses so far up the ass of big energy companies that they can see their lungs from the inside.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

how inappropriate...

This New York Times article starts, "Almost as stunning as Mel Gibson's anti-Jewish tirade when arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in the early hours of last Friday was the speed at which the scandal unfolded, doing serious damage to one of Hollywood’s most valuable careers along the way."

For me, what was far more stunning was the revelation that Disney ABC had actually been working with Gibson to do a HOLOCAUST-THEMED MINISERIES. I kid you not. Disney ABC Monday announced it was dropping those plans because they "haven't seen a script", but you know damn well they dropped it because the gross inappropriateness has been made so very public by Gibson's renewed anti-semitic rants. No news on whether the planned ABC special on the History of the American Negro, to be produced by the KKK, will continue. (Rats, Rabbi Marvin Hier said pretty much the same thing already.)

transportation woes

This really is absurd, moving military workers from DC and close-in suburbs to Fort Belvoir. It won't save money, it adds badly to the area's sprawl, it takes thousands of workers off of public transportation (hey, maybe I can get a seat on the Metro), and it'll cause traffic nightmares of monumental proportions near Ft Belvoir. Every day these people drive to work will be like a concert at the Nissan Pavilion, only with less music and beer.

Allegedly this is for the safety of the military workers. First, I have to say to the Pentagon -- wusses. Second, that's absurd. Most of these people work at obscure offices that nobody knows nor cares about. Al Qaeda focuses on high-visibility targets. Another attack on the Pentagon? Possible. An attack on the US Army Office of Bookbinding? Unlikely.

And speaking of Metro, they are unveiling new subway cars with fewer seats and more standing space. Sure hope short people can reach those handles. Oh, and there will be cameras in those new cars so Metro can study how they work, so if you're committing a crime or told your boss you were sick to go to a day game at RFK, consider avoiding the new cars.