Sunday, September 30, 2007

you know they just don't care

Numbers from the Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency show that the de facto Bush Administration is, surprise surprise, not pursuing cases against polluters. Prosecutions are down by a third, and although a 1990 law says EPA should have at least 200 investigators, they only have 172 now.

Not that this surprises me in the least - you know they just don't care.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

"take two aspirin and call me when i leave office"

So de facto President Bush has had his international climate change summit. What did he say? Not much. As always, Bush basically said that we can have our cake and eat it too - any changes to reduce emissions should be voluntary and can come about thru magic I mean technological changes alone, and should not be allowed to harm the economy.

I think Congressman Ed Markey, who chairs a new House panel on climate change, has it right - "The president says his goals are aspirational, but his goals are really procrastinational. The U.N. is saying the planet is urgently sick, and the Bush administration is saying, 'Take two aspirin and call me when I leave office.'"

Sure, technology must play a big role. But we need to take steps NOW to create the right conditions to help new technologies to emerge and become competitive. For starters, we could stop subsidizing our oil, coal, auto, and electricity industries. We should slap a big tax on greenhouse gas emissions (which will make alternative technologies more cost competitive) and use some of the tax revenues to support research. Because as Bill McKibben says, things are getting worse, quicker than expected. He is right - "Forget the Petraeus report -- what historians will note about September 2007 is that the Northwest Passage was free of ice for the first time since humans started keeping track."


Friday, September 28, 2007

can you believe torture is a political issue?

In most civilized countries, questions about torture don't come up in election campaigns for the same reason that beating small children to death for misbehaving isn't an issue - the assumption is everybody is opposed to it except for the lunatic fringe.

But in the US, it is a campaign issue. All of the Democrats and torture victim John McCain have said they would oppose the use of torture, period. Those Republican candidates who have not been tortured refuse to say so.

Breathtaking. And not in a good way. Remember, torture is brutal, dehumanizing to the victim and the perpetrator, and un-American. Oh, and it is completely ineffective - even the Israelis believe that information derived from torture is unreliable, and Israel's intelligence services are not a sentimental lot.

The Republicans - the party for torture, and against health insurance for children. The party of Lincoln? I doubt Lincoln would want to be a member of the modern GOP.

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in defeat, u.s. shows a new dimension

The 4-0 loss of the US team to Brazil in the semifinals of the Women's World Cup was an upset. It shows that the rest of the world is catching up to the US - not that the US team is getting worse. In a tournament with several strong teams, a trip to the final game is no longer guaranteed.

But one good thing has come out of the loss - the U.S. women have shown an ability to express themselves after the game in a manner befitting one of the top-notch European or South American men.

Specifically, first-team goalkeeper Hope Solo had some comments - Solo (what a great name, eh?) had been benched in favor of 36-year-old World Cup veteran Briana Scurry because coach Ryan thought Scurry's abilities might better match up against Brazil. Well, Scurry didn't have the best game of her career, and here is how Solo supported her coach and teammate to reporters after the game:
It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. . . . You have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

supporting the opponents of logic

Hooker-supporting Republican Senator David Vitter wants to give $100,000 to the Louisiana Family Forum so they can "develop a plan to promote better science education."

As the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported,
The nonprofit Louisiana Family Forum ... has in recent years taken the lead in promoting "origins science," which includes the possibility of divine intervention in the creation of the universe.

The group's stated mission is to "persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking." Until recently, its Web site contained a "battle plan to combat evolution," which called the theory a "dangerous" concept that "has no place in the classroom." The document was removed after a reporter's inquiry.
Let me translate that: "If it's not in the Bible, it isn't true. Oh, and we don't need no stinking stem cells, either. Pray, and you will be cured."

Honestly, it befuddles me how people can believe the Biblical story of creation as a literal account of the origins of earth and the universe. I mean, that belief is simply not rational. And that's the point of creationism of course - it has to be taken on faith, and any evidence (like the geological record, or fossils of dinosaurs and old species of humans, or radio evidence of the Big Bang) to the contrary is just God's little way of deceiving I mean testing us.

This is precisely the reason why separation of church and state should be kept reasonably strict. Why pay a non-profit which explicitly states its purpose as reaching the centers of influence to see things their way? What if the nonprofit Kentucky Satan Support Center (don't panic, I made that name up) wanted to persuade us all about its view of evolution? Should they get money? If these Louisianans do, then why not the Kentuckians?

Meanwhile, the Council of Europe is preparing to vote on a resolution to ban the teaching of creationism and so-called intelligent design in schools because opposition to the theory of evolution come from "religious extremism" and are dangerous assaults on science and human rights.

Hear, hear.

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the deceitful bjorn lomborg, at it again

Bjorn Lomborg has earned a pretty penny as the so-called skeptical environmentalist. Lomborg is typically deceitful in his latest column pooh-poohing various environmental dangers. For example, he grotesquely oversimplifies the issue of global warming to "the polar bears are in danger," and he then refutes that by claiming that polar bear population has increased from 5000 to 25,000 in the past 40 years.

Of course, Lomborg ignores the unhelpful fact that the frigging Arctic Ocean was actually sufficiently ice-free this summer to allow shipping thru the Northwest Passage. Nor does Bjorn note the fact that polar bears rely on sea ice. Not to mention that Bjorn ignores the myriad other problems associated with climate change. We shouldn't worry about climate change just because polar bears may go extinct, sad as that would be. We worry about it for so many other reasons - rising sea levels, drier agricultural lands, mass extinctions. Despite Lomborg's professional skepticism, a very sober bunch of people who are not prone to fits of hysteria and fad-hopping are increasingly worried about climate change - the sober men and women at Lloyds of London, Swiss Re, Allianz and other insurance companies, who fear increased extreme weather incidents.

In any case, Lomborg, the past 40 years are not a predictor of the next 40 years. I am sure he understands that, and I am sure that he ignores it for his convenience, so he can send out his soothing message that we don't really have to do anything. Relax little froggies, and don't worry about that water heating up around you because it hasn't killed you yet.

For example, over the past 40 years Lomborg has thrived - he has grown up and grown taller, gotten out of diapers, become much better educated, seen his earnings rise dramatically, become stronger. Using Lomborgian logic, I believe Bjorn is immortal (after all, he hasn't died once in the past 40 years) and will grow ever wealthier (earnings are up therefore can only go up) and stronger until he is as rich as Croesus and as strong as Atlas. Because surely those past trends in Lomborg's life will continue indefinitely regardless of any changes in conditions, right?

Lomborg's "The Skeptical Environmentalist" book was a bunch of crap. The Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty saw fit to review it, and found it contained fabricated data, selective discarding of unwanted results, deliberately misleading use of statistics, distorted interpretation of conclusions, deliberate misinterpretation of others' results, oh and for good measure, plagiarism.

Why does this guy get published? Because there are still those who are willing to finance the dishonest who are willing to say, "don't worry be happy." I would like to believe in hell, because I think they deserve a special spot there.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

six-plus wasted years

There are ideas kicking around in Congress among both Democrats and Republicans to put a tax on carbon emissions, or at least to set up a cap-and-trade system where emissions are limited and the right to emit can be bought and sold.

Either - or better yet, both - would be a good start. And hopefully Congress can act sooner, while there is still occasionally ice in the Arctic. But there is no reason to expect the de facto Bush Administration will actually go along with anything. Despite his call for a climate change conference and alleged support for the UN process, the Bush Administration is STILL, despite all the evidence, working against any meaningful action on curbing emissions. For example, Bush's Transportation Department has been working to gin up opposition to a California plan to slash emissions caused by cars and trucks.

Not only does the Bush EPA refuse to treat greenhouse gases as pollutants under the terms of the Clean Air Act (have they actually started doing so since the courts ruled against them?), they actively try to STOP efforts like the one in California to do something positive.

No matter how bad Iraq gets, I really think his inaction - worse, his prevention of action - on climate change at a crucial time will be the most-reviled element of Bush's so-called legacy.


Monday, September 24, 2007

a paper tiger

Rudy Giuliani is campaigning as a "tough on terrorism" kind of guy, with a unique understanding of terrorism garnered from being mayor of New York on a sunny September day some six years ago.

Well, just because you're mayor of New York when the planes hit the World Trade Center towers doesn't mean you're to blame for the attacks. But it doesn't confer any special quality on you to be president, either.

And today, Alec MacGillis explores Mayor Rudy's pre-9/11 record on terrorism. It doesn't quite stack up to Rudy's tough-guy rhetoric now.

In 1999, as the Clinton Administration (successfully, as it turned out) was ramping up to prevent a millennium terror attack, Mayor Rudy said "I would urge people not to let the psychology of fear infect the way they act. Otherwise we have let the terrorists win without anybody striking a blow."

Now, there is a lot to be said for that. But it isn't consistent with what Giuliani says now. It isn't consistent with the persona Giuliani is projecting that he believes should be elected president.

And Giuliani's well-known decision to place the New York emergency headquarters in the World Trade Center (because he wanted it to be close to his office) despite it having been the target of a 1993 terrorist bombing demonstrates a certain lack of brainpower when it comes to terrorism.

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always look on the bright side...

Responsible climate scientists like like Michael Mann and James Hanson and Andrew Weaver - and Al Gore, too - remain optimistic that the worst effects of climate change can still be averted. Let's be clear - we're still looking at significantly rising sea levels and all the rest, but these guys hope that we can limit global temperature rises to 1 degree, rather than 4 or 5 or 7 degrees.

They say the science shows this can still be averted. And they have faith that humanity will come around and do the right thing to slash carbon emissions, soon.

Mann said that we can do the same for global warming as we did for the ozone depletion problem - that was an international agreement that has succeeded in phasing out use of chlorofluorocarbons and other chemicals that were depleting atmospheric ozone, which protects us all from bad sunburn and skin cancer.

They are optimistic because they have to be - they don't want to give in to despair and say "fuck it" and trade in the Prius for a Hummer and keep the heat on to 80 degrees.

I must admit, as I watch the Bush Administration continue to obstruct any meaningful effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (the recent APEC declaration pledged to reduce greenhouse gas intensity, which sounds useful but since intensity is expressed in units of greenhouse gas emitted per unit of economic activity, in fact means that absolute levels of greenhouse gas can STILL RISE while meeting this insidious, disingeneous and absolutely worthless goal) that I have a harder time feeling optimism.

But I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope that collectively, we as individuals and we as nations realize that we need to do something fairly drastic, fairly quickly, to change our economies' reliance on carbon-based fuels. Because otherwise, we could well face the collapse of civilization. And that would make it very difficult to continue to look on the bright side of life.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

think about driving and paying cash

You know, a few years ago there was a stink about the Pentagon's plan for a truly intrusive domestic intelligence plan to be headed by Iran-Contra convict John Poindexter. That was cancelled, but the de facto Bush Administration has gone forward with extremely intrusive surveillance of American citizens anyway.

Today the Post reports about how the Orwellian-named Department of Homeland Security is collecting data on American citizens who travel. It's bad enough that they keep your name and where you flew to and from. Or that they keep track of the credit cards you used, or who you traveled with, or who you sat next to on that red-eye from Phoenix to New York. They are also in some instances even keeping track of what you are READING on the airplane.

I kid you not; the file for Jim Gilmore, a civil liberties activist (in the Bush II era, that practically equals "enemy of the state") noted that he carried a book about marijuana on a flight.

Incredible. There are also indications that they keep track of travel by American citizens between foreign cities, on itineraries that have no connection to an airport in the United States.

So remember the Automated Targeting System, around since the '90s but greatly expanded since 2002. And then maybe consider reading "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis. Because it can.

But just to be sure, buy the book for cash. And don't carry it on a plane. Drive. And use coins to pay your tolls, not some pass or credit card. Because they're watching all of us.

another gop-ster calls it quits

Another Republican is quitting Congress because of ethical questions. This time it's Jerry Weller from Illinois, connected to the Randy Cunningham bribery case. Weller is fighting a subpoena about the case. Now, you could assume that somebody who is innocent of wrongdoing wouldn't expend so much energy fighting a subpoena...

return on $720,000,000 a day?

A group of economists and public finance experts have determined that we are spending $720 million in Iraq EVERY DAY. That cost includes things like health care for veterans of the Iraq mess and replacing things like blown up Humvees, expended missiles, and worn-out helicopters.

You'd think for $720 million a day, we'd be doing better. Hell, we could just pay each and every Iraqi $30 every day (that would be $10,000 a year) to behave and still be ahead of the game.

So, with that much money being expended - wasted, largely - you'd think we could at least prevent cholera in Iraq, but it is now spreading to Baghdad too.

Friday, September 21, 2007

oh the furor

So Democrats are joining the Republicans in condemning MoveOn's "General Betrayus" ad slamming Iraq top military dude David Petraeus, even passing a meaningless Senate resolution. People are up in arms about the ad hominem attack alleging that Petraeus is just shilling for de facto President Bush in Iraq, rather than telling it like it is.

Funny thing is, MoveOn might be right. And still they get slammed. How many Republicans slammed Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for their provably false and slanderous attacks on John Kerry in 2004? Precious few. Of course, one difference is that the Swift Boaters were connected to the Republican National Committee.

Dirty politics isn't pretty. But there is no reason the Democrats should refuse to use it when the GOP plays dirty politics as it's first and primary tactic.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

republican candidates on gay marriage

Mitt Romney has a new campaign ad in Iowa proclaiming he hates gays I mean gay marriage more than the other major Republican candidates. Romney says, "Not all Republican candidates agree, but defending marriage is the right thing to do." Funny, I haven't heard any of the other Republicans, or even the Democrats for that matter, say that they don't like the institution of marriage. In fact, Giuliani likes it so much he's tried it three times. A classic straw man. Maybe Romney can run an ad saying "not all Republican candidates agree, but loving America is the right thing to do."

Romney also says in his spot, "As Republicans we must oppose discrimination and defend traditional marriage: one man, one woman." Old Mitt has been accused of flip-flopping, but this is more of a bait and switch. Who the hell is discriminating against traditional marriage, i.e. between one man and one woman? Answer: nobody. How would the fact that two men, or two women, might be permitted to marry possibly hurt anybody else's marriage? Answer: unless your spouse leaves you to marry somebody of the same sex, it wouldn't hurt your marriage one damn bit.

Romney, who supported gay marriage before he opposed it, is pandering to the still-significant anti-gay element within the predominantly Republican Christian right. Maybe Romney just hopes that by being sufficiently hateful, those same Christians will forget their traditional suspicion of Mormons enough to vote for him.

Meanwhile, Senator Sam Godboy Brownback from the evolutionarily confused state of Kansas has also been bashing gay marriage. In the Republican debate on September 5, he said "In countries that have redefined marriage, where they've said, 'Okay, it's not just a man and a woman, it can be two men, two women,' the marriage rates in those countries have plummeted to where you have counties now in northern Europe where 80 percent of the firstborn children are born out of wedlock. . . . And currently in this country -- currently -- we're at 36 percent of our children born out of wedlock."

Now usually the mainstream media just lets assertions like that go. But the Washington Post checked the claim, looking at divorce and birth-out-of-wedlock data in US states and European countries that permit gay marriage. The Post concluded, "We are prepared to be persuaded otherwise if more experts weigh in, but for the moment we can see no factual basis for Brownback's assertion of a connection between same-sex marriage and out-of-wedlock births."

In other words, he's just making it up, like Romney and others who fancy that somehow letting Will and Joe get married will damage the love Jason and Heather feel for each other in their marriage.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Richard Cohen returns to the politics of personal destruction, accusing Hillary Clinton of lacking the character and spine necessary to be President for failing to denounce's "betray us" ad against General David Petraeus.

"Yesterday, Clinton announced her health-care plan. Good for her. But you never had any doubt, did you, that she was going to have one -- and a plan for everything else. The issue with Hillary Clinton is not whether she's smart or experienced but whether she has -- how do we say this? -- the character to be president. Behind her, after all, trails the lingering vapor of all those gates: Travel, File, Whitewater and other scandals to which she was a party only through marriage. In a hatless society, she is always wearing a question mark."

What a nifty paragraph. First, he manages to dismiss her health care announcement with a sneer about Hillary (like Al Gore in 2000) actually being smart and having plans and ideas about what to do about important issues of the day should she become President. Cohen writes like the disgruntled, lazy slacker in the back of class (oh let's imagine he might have a name like George W. Bush) who resents the fact that the smart kids actually do their assignments on time and maybe even do more than the bare minimum required.

Clinton had no more obligation to denounce MoveOn's anti-Petraeus rhetoric than Bush had to denounce Swift Boat Veterans. Even less actually since clearly Clinton's campaign wasn't connected to the MoveOn thing - but the Bush/Cheney campaign was very much involved in the Swift Boat slanders.

As for those scandals... Whitewater was a deal where Bill and Hillary Clinton lost money on real estate speculation. That's what Republican politicians and their MSM lackeys can't stand - actually LOSING MONEY on a supposed insider deal. Ask George W. Bush about that, where his share in the profits from the sale of the Texas Rangers baseball team far, far exceeded his share in the purchase of the team (oh and Bush was only invited to join the consortium in the first place because Poppy was Vice President). THAT'S how Republicans do business.

But somehow, that little bit of insider trading, Bush's failure to complete his cushy Vietnam War era National Guard service, his driving arrests (and heck, if you want to look at scandals-by-marriage, Laura Bush's automobile accident that killed her friends) didn't make his character insufficiently pure to be President.

As for the character he has displayed WHILE President, I think it's safe to say that with the possible exception of Rudy Giuliani, neither Clinton nor any of the other leading contenders to succeed Bush in 2009 will have a hard time bettering Bush in not lying to the American people and not shredding the Constitution and not being lazy and incompetent and not appointing the Vice President from Hell.


Monday, September 17, 2007


Our Ambassador to Iraq is complaining at the slow pace of processing of Iraqi refugees seeking to go to the United States. Ryan Crocker is right that we should speed up the pace for these people.

Of course, these 10,000 are a small part of what may now be the biggest refugee problem on Earth, with a couple of million Iraqis displaced internally and many leaving Iraq, including a big chunk of the educated populace that are the sort of people a country needs to make any progress.

All from a trumped-up war that should never have been.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

greenspan on spendthrifts

Bob Woodward today writes about a new book by former long-time Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World", Greenspan's memoirs. Woodward's review makes the book sound interesting - but a couple of Greenspan's comments caught my eye.

First, Greenspan has some commentary about some of the presidents he's seen. One set of presidents were spendthrift, refusing to use their power to reign in out-of-control Congressional spending. They acted as if deficits didn't matter.

Another president came into office facing a huge deficit of another president's making, and did a fine job of cutting it back, absorbing the information and details and taking the job seriously, coming up with an economic plan that Greenspan called an "act of political courage."

The spendthrifts? Republican icon Ronald Reagan and our current disaster-in-chief, de facto President George W. Bush (who's VP Cheney has actually said "deficits don't matter any more").

The serious guy? Democrat Bill Clinton, about whom Greenspan writes "The hard truth was that Reagan had borrowed from Clinton, and Clinton was having to pay it back. I was impressed that he did not seem to be trying to fudge reality to the extent politicians ordinarily do. He was forcing himself to live in the real world."

The real world. Sigh. Remember when presidents lived in the real world? It wasn't so long ago, and it would still be so today but for flawed ballot designs in Palm Beach, the suppression of Democratic voters in Florida, and a 5-4 Supreme Court coup d'etat.

But still, Greenspan managed to condemn Democrats for rampant spending. Oh well, I guess old habits are hard to break. But I give him credit for praising Clinton and slamming Reagan and Baby Bush.

Friday, September 14, 2007

thompson, again

Sorry to return to Fred Thompson but he keeps saying really stupid stuff. The latest - Thompson said he has no opinion about the Bush/Republican Congress intervention into the Terri Schiavo case in 2005. Thompson said on a TV interview, when asked, "That's going back in history. I don't remember the details of it."

Fred, it was TWO YEARS AGO. And it was ALL OVER THE NEWS. The details really weren't that difficult to recall - you know, woman in a coma, her husband and legal guardian wants to pull the plug because she has no chance of recovery of any significant brain function (a decision subsequently validated by an autopsy), Bill Frist, Tom DeLay and others decide they know what's best for her, yadda yadda yadda. I mean, if you want to duck the question, fine - coward. But not to remember and call it history as if somebody asked you about the decision to sell wheat to the Soviets in the 1970s is pretty damn lame.

Really Fred, are you cognitively qualified to be president? I mean, we already have an intellectually incurious, short-sighted nimrod in office now - we do not want more of the same.

bush declares "success"

I'm sure many Republicans would love for de facto President George Bush to declare victory and get the hell out of Viet - oops, I mean Iraq. Well, in his speech he is at least declaring "success" as a reason to pull out 5700 troops by the end of the year.

Now, that's not exactly a massive withdrawal, given that it still leaves us with about 25,000 more troops in Iraq at the end of 2007 than at the beginning. And calling this collaboration with Sunni tribal forces against outsiders Al Qaida a success is perhaps premature, as US temporary ally Abdul Sattar Abu Risha unfortunately discovered when he was killed by a car bomb. And if Bush is serious about "return on success" as the criteria for getting out of Iraq, well we could be there for a very long time - unless "success" is redefined down to a meaningless level, along the lines of "fewer than 5000 Iraqis were killed this month, woo-hoo."

I'm glad Tom Shales watched the news coverage of the speech so I didn't have to. I was struck MSNBC's Chris Matthews' analogy - calling Bush's speech akin to Lucy holding the football and then jerking it away when Charlie Brown tries to kick it. As Matthews said, Bush has been dealing in "false promises and false arguments again and again and again."

We've seen this story before, with the President assuring us that all was going well ("we're kicking ass," he told an Australian leader recently) and there was light at the end of the tunnel. Why believe it this time?


Thursday, September 13, 2007

bad reviews, fred

Poor Fred Thompson - he just gets started as a genu-wine official Republican candidate for President and already the bad reviews are pouring in. George Will calls his entry into the race more of a belly-flop than a dive, noting Thompson's complete inability to say anything about the position of his GOP opponents' positions - or even his OWN. Will compares Thompson's candidacy to the introduction of New Coke back in 1985 - and wonders if Fred will last even the 80 days that New Coke did.

Will doesn't say it, but this raises another question about Thompson - whether he has what it takes for the "hard job" (as Bush might say) of being President. We're stuck with a President with a questionable work ethic already. Do we want one who is too lazy to even study his lines before going onto TV and radio? A guy who shirked his duties during his one term in the Senate? Hey, at least Romney and Giuliani and McCain seem to know what their positions are, whether you like them or not.

Meanwhile, Robert Novak, who just a few months ago thought Thompson was the Great GOP Hope for 2008, seems to have changed his mind. Novak notes the turmoil in Thompson's nascent campaign, his failure to make an impressive entry into the race despite months to prepare (and ground well prepared for him by friendly conservative media types like Novak), and the lack of anything resembling a policy. Novak notes the weakness of the rest of the Republican field, but now wonders whether Thompson can actually fill the void he sees.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

repeating the big lie, republican-style

A Republican advocacy group called Freedom Watch, with ties to the White House, is running TV ads featuring a soldier who lost both his legs in Iraq. The ad shows one of the planes hitting the World Trade September on 9/11, and the soldier says "They attacked us, and they will again. They won't stop in Iraq."

Sorry, soldier (and I really am sorry about your injuries) but that's just wrong. As General Petraeus admitted when asked by Senator Robert Byrd, Iraq was NOT connected to the attacks of September 11, 2001. And there were NO links between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Remember, Hussein was a secular nationalist, and Bin Laden is a messianic theocratic pan-Arabist. In other words, they did not exactly see eye to eye, and Bin Laden criticized Saddam's regime for being godless.

The soldier is just repeating what he's been told, what we've been told, over and over by the dishonest de facto Bush Administration. As former chief propagandist I mean press secretary Ari Fleischer (who is a founder of Freedom Watch) said, "Iraqis did not attack us on 9/11." But Fleischer adds, "The point is not that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. They're not. But 9/11 should be a vivid reminder to everyone about how vulnerable our country is and that's why we need to win in Iraq."

Maybe, Ari, that is a reminder of why we should instead have concentrated on getting Bin Laden, instead of taking resources out of Afghanistan before we had captured or killed that bloody-handed sonofabitch to start the Republican lie-based war in Iraq.

Instead, the Republicans keep on lying and even admit it, to try to win political gains - in this instance, to keep enough support in Congress for the Iraq fiasco to postpone a complete collapse until after Bush has left office. How heroic.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

so this is progress

Unsurprisingly, General David Petraeus has proclaimed that the surge has brought progress in Iraq. Never mind the fact that the GAO a few days ago said Iraq had met the political goals in 3 of 18 areas. Never mind the fact that, despite all the messing with statistics, that violence continues in most of Iraq unabated.

Pardon me for my skepticism. You know if the real numbers were improving, the de facto Bush White House would declassify the information.

In any case, although Petraeus says some troops can be withdrawn - slowly - it is clear that, despite the famous photo op in May 2003, it is still far from "mission accomplished" in Iraq. Unless of course the mission was to wreck Iraq, to give Muslims more reasons to hate America, to waste hundreds of billions of dollars, and to bring the US Army to the verge of collapse - those missions are going along quite well.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

failure to protect us

Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton, former chairs of the 9/11 Commission, ask the question "are we safer today?" Let's see what Donald Rumsfeld asked his advisers back in 2003: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

Keane and Hamilton conclude that "The answer is no." Unfortunately, they are right.

Not only are we creating more anti-American feeling by our absurd, founded-on-lies, and ill-conceived war in Iraq, we haven't even captured Osama Bin-Laden nor destroyed Al Qaeda. Remember, de facto President Bush said in 2001 that we would get Bin Laden, "dead or alive." Well, that is yet another mission that has NOT been accomplished. Al Qaeda is still alive and is even regenerating some of its capacity that was degraded by our invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. And remember, not only did Bush-Cheney's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 create a whole new category of anti-American insurgents and terrorists, it diverted American military resources from Afghanistan at a critical time when Bin Laden could have been captured.

As Bush himself has said, the top priority of a president is to protect the people of the United States. Bush has failed. He failed in 2001 in large part by ignoring all of the professional government terrorism experts who were frantically trying to get him and his senior political national security advisers to pay attention to the warning signs that preceded 9/11 - remember, famously the Clinton Administration went on full alert in the last months of 1999 and successfully prevented a big millennium terrorist plot that planned to attack in Los Angeles. And Bush is failing now.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

disparaging paper receipts

Timothy Ryan today writes to disparage paper receipts as a way of ensuring that the ballot you just cast via an electronic voting machine was recorded correctly.

Ryan, of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project, complains that over history, there has been fraud and skullduggery in elections using paper ballots and also moans that paper receipts aren't helpful for the blind. He whines that counting paper copies of ballots, in a close election, could be time consuming, and finally warns that 20% of the printers that would churn out paper confirmations of the vote could fail on election day.

Ok - all of these facts are true (except maybe the intoleraby high failure rate of printers). But they do NOT mean that his alternative - using one of a couple of systems (Prime III and Punchscan, being developed respectively at Auburn University and the University of Maryland) to double-check the votes - is necessarily better.

First, maybe Ryan hasn't noticed, but their has been chicanery in elections using electronic voting systems. Or perhaps he didn't see the unusual vote counts in many Ohio counties in 2004, with minor Democratic candidates in many areas running far ahead of John Kerry, a pattern you simply do not see normally, and a pattern that wasn't seen in counties and precincts that used optical-scan ballots and other similar, verifiable and less-susceptible-to-hacking methods. (There are plenty of other examples, if you care to look for them.) Should we therefore abandon electronic voting entirely?

Actually, I'd say yes. No, paper ballots aren't perfect and neither are paper receipts. But those aren't the only choices. Optical scan balloting is much quicker to count and you still have the paper ballots to confirm things. It may be messy, it may take a little time, but if there is one thing important in a democracy, it is to ensure that votes are accurately counted. And pardon me for being skeptical, but I have real doubts about having an electronic system to ensure that an electronic system isn't on the fritz or isn't being used to pad the vote. Who would actually sell those systems? Companies like Diebold that already provide electronic voting machines and lean heavily towards the Republicans? Elections are one of those few areas that "market-based solutions" are not necessarily the best one. And the market incentives Ryan refers to are fine if you assume that companies making and counting elections are only interested in making a buck - a point that the notorious statement by Diebold's CEO about making sure that Ohio would be delivered to Bush in 2004 should make you reconsider.


Friday, September 07, 2007

warrantless actions unwarranted

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero struck down part of the Patriot Act - the part that allows the FBI to use something called "national security letters" to get phone and email records from people or businesses. Without a warrant. With essentially no judicial review. And the people who get the letters aren't even allowed to tell their lawyers that they have been forced to give up this information.

Judge Marrero wrote that these national security letters are "the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values." In his ruling, he also wrote that "The risk of investing the FBI with unchecked discretion to restrict such speech is that government agents, based on their own self-certification, may limit speech that does not pose a significant threat to national security or other compelling government interest."

In other words, the executive branch (in this case, the FBI) should not have a carte blanche to do whatever it wants just by invoking some threat related to terrorism or national security.

The de facto Bush Administration may appeal. Or hell, for all I know, Bush might just sign a statement saying he disagrees with Marrero's ruling and instructing those who toil for him in his unitary executive branch (which apparently doesn't include Dick Cheney) to ignore Marrero's ruling.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Opera great Luciano Pavarotti has died, as I'm sure you know. I was just watching CNN which had the story, including a little summary of his career.

It's a shame, of course, when somebody dies. But I guess it's kind of lost on me. They kept on playing clips of various operas that Pavarotti had performed, and of his later career with the Three Tenors. And it all sounded the same to me! I guess that makes me a low-brow philistine. Oh well.



You know, you'd hope the military would keep close track of where its nuclear missiles are. So it was a bit disconcerting to learn that an Air Force B-52 had flown across the US with nuclear cruise missiles attached to its wing - and nobody knew.

The Air Force assures us the missiles "weren't activated" and weren't a threat. But I think that by definition, nuclear missiles are a threat and you know, the Air Force and its ground and air crews should probably know when they have nukes on board, don't you?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

l'etat, c'est bush?

A few quotes today for your consideration about the efforts of the de facto Cheney I mean Bush Administration and its approach to law, order, terrorism, and the American way.

"I was astonished, and immensely worried, to discover that some of our most important counterterrorism policies rested on severely damaged legal foundations." So writes Jack Goldsmith, a Bush appointee to the Department of Justice. Not some ACLU guy or some Democratic politician - a fellow conservative lawyer, albeit far more intellectually honest and conscious of the Constitution than Cheney legal chief David Addington and torture advocate John Yoo.

"After 9/11, they and other top officials in the administration dealt with FISA the way they dealt with other laws they didn't like: they blew through them in secret based on flimsy legal opinions that they guarded closely so no one could question the legal basis for the operations." Again, Jack Goldsmith.

"The president has already decided that terrorists do not receive Geneva Convention protections. You cannot question his decision." David Addington, in essence arguing that the decisions of the President are not subject to judicial review and that members of his Administration should shut up and take orders rather than honestly express their views. This is a "yes-man" administration - which might work better if the top guy wasn't marginally smarter than a moron and, in his disinterest for the sloppy details of running the government and faithfully executing his duties to protect the Constitution, didn't delegate so much to a guy (Cheney) who believes the US President should have about as much executive power as the old-time absolute monarch Louis XIV.

"He (Addington) and, I presumed, his boss (Cheney) viewed power as the absence of constraint. They believed cooperation and compromise signaled weakness and emboldened the enemies of America and the executive branch." Again, Goldsmith.

All the quotes are drawn from a new book, The Terror Presidency, by Jack Goldsmith.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

about that iraq trip

Three things to consider about de facto warlord I mean President George W. Bush's "surprise" trip to Iraq.

1. It was more of a SECRET trip than a surprise. And why the secrecy? Because it is so very unsafe to give the insurgents any notice. Even 160,000 troops in Iraq can't make landing at Baghdad's airport safe, or make the ride from the airport to the Green Zone safe....

2. While visiting "Iraq" - actually, an isolated, heavily guarded American air force base in Anbar Province - Bush said "General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces."

Is that the definition of success? That we can deploy fewer US troops and we can continue to have thousands of Iraqis die by violent means every single month? That's like a failing student telling his parents that he is confident he can spend less time studying and get the same grades - hardly a proud accomplishment.

3. He is STILL peddling the line of crap that somehow being in Iraq is defending the United States (I can't bring myself to say "homeland," sounds like "fatherland" or something similarly fascistically creepy), telling a bunch of Marines that they are helping keep the bad guys from using Iraq to "plot and plan attacks on our homeland."

Remember - the attacks of 9/11 had NOTHING to do with Iraq. Not one damn thing. The attacks against US troops in Iraq are overwhelmingly by Iraqis, who had absolutely NO record of anti-American terror before March of 2003, when we invaded. Despite Bush's empty assertions, there is precisely no evidence that troops in Iraq are in fact preventing attacks in America. Pure crap.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

not serious

I don't think it is exactly news that de facto President George W. Bush, party-boy turned born-again Christian, may not be the most serious guy ever to become President. But in case you hadn't figured that out, the Washington Post today has two articles about upcoming books on the Bush Administration with a couple of anecdotes that help prove the case.

In an interview with Mark Draper, author of "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush," Bush noted that he had just run into former President Bill Clinton. Bush (with a sneer, I bet) said, "Six years from now, you're not going to see me hanging out in the lobby of the U.N."

Of course not. Heck, even when Bush is President, he doesn't want to do dull boring meetings on hard topics. In an excerpt from the Glenn Kessler book about Condoleezza Rice, "The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy," Kessler writes:

"When Rice was national security adviser, she and Bush developed a near-vaudeville routine for the White House staff as they planned meetings with foreign leaders. The president would petulantly ask why the meeting was needed. Rice would patiently explain its importance. Then Bush would propose saying something undiplomatic, and Rice would say it could pose a problem. Ultimately, Bush, half in jest, would say, "Miss Rice won't let me do that." "

Sure, joking around is OK. But it's a bit disconcerting when the President needs a schoolmarm to convince him to do these dull but important meetings with his foreign counterparts. The presidency isn't all baseball games, torture, constititution-shredding, and invading foreign countries on trumped-up reasons there, George.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

radio, radio

Marc Fisher's Washington Post column on radio is consistently interesting. This week, he writes about the battle between some recording artists and radio stations over whether the stations should pay royalties directly to artists for airing their songs - the way they do, in the form of 2% of their revenues, to song writers and composers.

I've got to come down on the side of the radio people here. Although somewhat diminished nowadays, no question radio play for songs is also a form of advertising. I still buy albums* by groups I had never heard of off of the strength of hearing a tune on the radio.

And as much as I am sympathetic to musicians trying to make up for declining revenues from CD sales, the fact is radio isn't in such great shape either. Add another $450 million in payments - that's what the 2% of revenues equals - and how many stations will quit playing music altogether to join in the cheaper and tremendously profitable talk-radio format?

*Yeah, yeah, I'm oldfashioned and don't just download stuff onto an iPod. So sue me.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

here we go again

The drumbeat is picking up. De facto President Bush gave his bellicose speech last week again making the case for regime change in Iran. And in Glenn Greenwald's words,

"More disturbingly still, we have the same exact cast of neoconservative warmongers who brought us the invasion of Iraq, now chirping away ever more loudly, performing their tough guy war dances while courageously beating their little chests and urging on new wars. So, here we go again. The Republicans want another war in the Middle East, not just with Iran but with Syria too."

I'm sure this will go swimmingly. I mean, Iran only has 3 times as many people as Iraq, so it would only be 3 times harder to pacify. Iran's terrain is tougher, Iran's leadership ihas more legitimacy than Iraq, we can expect essentially ZERO international support there (as opposed to significant support in Afghanistan, and at least major British support in Iraq at first). Syria is a lot weaker than Iran, but I want to try whatever the neocons are smoking to believe that a new Syrian regime would be any less hostile to Israel than Assad's - which as a regime comprised of Alawites that are seen as heretics by most Muslims, is at least opposed to fundamental Sunniism.

How Bush and his neo-con chorus of lunacy can possibly believe that an attack on Iran would help stabilize the Middle East is completely beyond me. I guess I just don't have enough faith in untested and untestable propositions based purely on grotesque misconceptions of the realities on the ground to make the Bush/Cheney/neocon leap to war.

I don't share their faith, but we will all share in the consequences. Recently, some guy at Huffington Post suggested that the generals at the Pentagon remove Bush as commander in chief (but NOT as president, he painstakingly and somewhat disingeneously insisted) - an absurd proposition, but it is a bit chilling that people are thinking that a semi-putsch may be preferable to allowing Bush/Cheney to continue to exercise their (grossly exaggerated but unchallenged by Congress) control over our armed forces. Military misadventures are a classic way to damage, sometimes fatally, a regime and indeed an entire political system (see, Iraq vs Iran; Argentine vs Britain; World War I, and other examples). We are already engaged in one misadventure in Iraq. Can our republic stand another?