Monday, October 29, 2007

no reason for this monopoly

The Federal Communications Commission is going to move to stop the practice of cable TV companies signing exclusive deals with apartment complexes. Now, I want to be careful here, because this is practically uncharted territory, but it would appear, from what I know, that this is a (gasp) Good Idea from the de facto Bush Administration. There is no good technical or other reason to allow such monopolies. Now watch, we'll find out in a few weeks that Dick Cheney or somebody stands to make a boatload of money from this - but even so, it is a good move.

And if individual apartment complexes in New York City can have cable TV competition, so can towns and counties across the US. End those cable TV monopolies now!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

cocaine traffic

An interesting report about how Venezuela is increasingly becoming a significant transit point for cocaine from Colombia. Yes, there is corruption among Venezuela's police and border security just as drug money causes such corruption elsewhere, including in the United States. And yes, the current terrible relations between that Venezuelan buffoon Chavez and the de facto buffoon of the United States Bush have hurt US-Venezuelan cooperation on drug trafficking, which helps the Colombians.

But remember - cocaine production like most other goods is a demand-driven phenomenon. Peasants in Colombia and Bolivia wouldn't be growing the coca if there weren't a ready market for it. And that market is us right here in the US.

Legal or not, the cocaine will flow. Making it (or other drugs like ecstacy, pot, and LSD) illegal does several things, all bad. It drives up the price, making it more attractive to organized crime and to unsavory regimes. It makes the casual user a criminal, who is treated totally differently from his neighbor who works his way thru a fifth of Jack Daniels every weekend. It makes an addict a criminal as well, unlike his nicotine- and alcohol-dependent friends who can seek help without fear of arrest. It eliminates the ability of the state to regulate the product on safety and health grounds, which is why you are more likely to get rat poison and other unsafe impurities in cocaine than in beer.

Not to mention the scars the war on drugs leaves on our society. The shameful incarceration rate in the United States - right there behind China - is largely because we throw people into jail for possessing illegal drugs. "Three strikes" made this even worse.

Hell, I don't even like using drugs and I don't smoke and barely drink. But this is stupid. Legalize, tax, and regulate drugs. We could use all the money we waste in the futile effort to eradicate supply to instead reduce demand by treating addicts and better educating people about the risks of drug abuse.

Labels: ,

a persian trap?

David Ignatius writes that some Arabs think Iran is laying a trap for the US and our de facto president George W. Bush - that the mullahs are luring us into a strike against Iran.

I don't know if they are that devious or not, although I fully believe Bush is stupid enough to do it, and probably will. But, trap or not, look for the attack to strengthen support for the most hardline conservative zealots - I was speaking of Iran, but come to think of it some Republicans might see an attack as helping them too.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

that fema press conference

Even by the abjectly low standards of the de facto Bush Administration, the fake press conference held about the wildfires in California by FEMA deputy Harvey Johnson is an outrage. It also brings to mind (yet again) the incompetence of this crowd. How could they imagine professional journalists wouldn't smoke out the fact that FEMA planted employees in the press conference and only took questions from them?

Ironically, as House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson pointed out, FEMA had gotten pretty good reviews for the wildfire situation in SoCal. I'm sure the fact that this disaster's victims included lots of well-to-do white Republican voter types had nothing to do with the un-Katrina-like response.

Back to the press conference. Remember, when forced to choose between whether the Administration is being deceitful or stupid, that "all of the above" is usually the right answer. What was to be gained by holding a Potemkin press conference? Beats me. Maybe old Harvey Johnson was just afraid of being asked a tough question or two, in which case he isn't fit to hold that position. Which, being a Bush appointee, may well be true anyway.


dmitri young, revisited

Dmitri Young had a fine year for the Nationals, and deserved his Comeback Player of the Year award. But I still think Jim Bowden's decision to sign him and not let Larry Broadway play was a mistake.

Bowden loves these reclamation projects. Some of them work, for a while. Many flop. I hope the Nats don't regret the two-year extension they have given Young...


Monday, October 22, 2007

worth a try

Senators Joe Lieberman and John Warner are cosponsoring the America's Climate Security Act, which would cut emissions by 63% by 2050.

Is that enough? Probably not. The pace is picking up in the climate change world. This is no longer your grandchildren's problem.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

today's wrong and right

The wrong first. Can a four-year-old kid really be a sex offender? In one case, a teacher got a kid labeled that for hugging and having the kid's head come in at her chest. Well, that teacher clearly is too damn soft on the kids - any child that ever breast fed should also be labeled a sex offender for life too.

And on the right, George Will today is right. (Actually, he's always right-wing; today he just happens to be correct too.) Will comes out against the line-item veto for the President, saying this would give the executive even more power that would be tantamount to legislative power. I agree. That said, I also would like Congress to quit treating key bills like christmas trees, hanging their favorite bridge to nowhere on it knowing the President would be unlikely to veto the whole thing. But the end to that abuse can come from Congress itself, which writes the rules for how laws are drafted. It doesn't need to be another power for the White House.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

don't panic, not every school teacher is fondling your kid

An alarming and long story from the Associated Press relays some examples of school teachers who have sexually misbehaved with school children makes for some unsettling reading.

As the report notes, there are 3 million teachers in the United States. Over the period 2001-05, AP found 2570 cases of teachers punished - usually fired - for allegations of sexual misconduct. And I'm sure there are plenty of cases where teachers have done something wrong - brushing up against students, even having sex with them - that have not been discovered.

But that is still a very small number out of the entire teacher population. Don't close your eyes to obvious evidence, of course, but don't panic - odds are very very good your kid's teacher isn't fondling your kid.

The odds are much better that YOU are sexually abusing your kid. Or your no-good brother-in-law is. Or dear old granddad.


Friday, October 19, 2007

jaw-dropping stupidity? or deception?

Officials of the de facto Bush Administration say things all the time that are patently untrue, forcing us all to decide whether they are utterly stupid, or immorally deceptive. Often, both is a good answer.

At a press conference today, Bush science adviser John Marburger "said that the target of preventing Earth from warming more than two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 'is going to be a very difficult one to achieve and is not actually linked to regional events that affect people's lives.'"

My jaw nearly hit the floor. Now, Marburger mitigated that comment a little bit, saying "you could have emerging disasters long before you get to two degrees (Celsius). . . . There is no scientific criterion for establishing numbers like that."

Okay, that demonstrates that Marburger does understand that rising temperatures are going to change things significantly for humans and other life on the planet. And yes, I agree that preventing a warming more than 2 degrees Celsius will not be as easy as the business-as-usual, change nothing approach.

But he loses me when he says it "is not ... linked to regional events that affect people's lives." (Apparently, the environment chief in Kansas is concerned - he rejected a power plant based on its CO2 emissions. Good for him.)

Hmm. As always, it is impossible if you are intellectually honest (as most scientists are) to prove that one weather event is linked to climate change. But scientists do agree that warmer temperatures in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico will make hurricanes stronger, which is logical. And Hurricane Katrina for one certainly had an effect on people's lives.

I don't know for certain whether the current drought in Georgia and much of the southeastern US is definitely caused by climate change. But it fits the model that climatologists think could happen. Same with the drought in Australia, or the dryer climate in Sudan over the past 20 years that have helped create the terrible situation in Darfur, with nomadic herdsmen now invading settled farm land looking for water for their herds.

And what about rising sea levels? When islands like Nauru disappear below the Pacific Ocean, will that not have an effect on people's lives? I think it will.

So I frankly have no idea what Marburger is on about. But I will say this: scientists like him (and Marburger was actually a reputable scientist before joining the Bush White House) who work for Bush and compromise their integrity by defending Bush on so many things he and his Cheneyite and religious allies lie about (climate change is the big one, but also see stem cells, Terri Schiavo, and arsenic levels in water for other examples just off the top of my head) would best serve the nation by quitting and calling out Bush and his GOP cohort for their practice of lying about science when science proves inconvenient to them and their political brethren.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

costs and cousins

A couple of thoughts on some of the news of the day.


The University of Maryland has determined that the costs of climate change will outweigh the benefits. I know they're right, although the authors of the study wimped out on placing a cost on climate change. But I bet those who say climate change is a Good Thing will dispute the methodology. After all, I'm sure the Maryland people thought that Miami being underwater would be a cost. But the climate change apologists might instead argue that by creating artificial coral reefs out of Miami's coastal high rises, we can improve breeding conditions for fish to the benefit of our seafood industry.


So Lynne Cheney has discovered that de facto Vice President and certified shooter of old men Dick Cheney and Democratic senator and presidential wannabe Barack Obama are cousins - specifically, eight cousins based on a common ancestor. A FRENCH guy. Clearly, this is a campaign smear against Obama, trying to link him both to Dick Cheney, who is about as popular nowadays as a pedophile at Chuck E Cheese's, and implying that he has French ancestry too.

But really, is this really being related? Hell, I bet I'm an eighth cousin to both of them, and to practically every other American.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

real republicans?

This tiff among Republican candidates over who is the "real" Republican is kind of amusing. Frankly, I see Giuliani, McCain, Romney, and Fred Thompson all as real Republicans.

Giuliani lines his pockets and builds taxpayer funded love nests. Kind of like Randy Cunningham. He is estranged from his children like Ronald Reagan. And his somewhat sloppy marital life is reminiscent of Newt Gingrich.

Mitt Romney has the Trent Lott armored hair thing down to a fine art, and his flip-flop on abortion and other social issues when he gets even a whiff of the White House brings back memories of George H. W. Bush, circa 1980.

John McCain swallows his pride and probably his true beliefs by sucking up to de facto President George Bush (despite the hatchet job they did on him in South Caroline in 2000), his ambition to do whatever it takes to get the presidency is positively Nixonian.

And Fred Thompson? He is really Reaganesque - that is, as lazy as Ronald Reagan.

Real Republicans? I'll pass.


turkey, the armenians, and congress

The timing of the proposed resolution condemning Turkey for the 1915 atrocities the Ottoman Empire committed against the Armenians is pretty bad and hard to explain. I think Richard Cohen does a good job here on this - 1915 was awful, but it wasn't genocide. The resolution isn't helpful. And Turkey, which has much to admire, needs to allow discussion of the 1915 slaughter of the Armenians.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

deception in marketing?

I was simply shocked, shocked to read today that when you see those critics' blurbs for the latest movies ("the feel-good slasher flick of the year," "I laugh then I cried") in the advertisements in your friendly local paper, that the description of the critic is not necessarily accurate. For example, they may refer to Joe Blow of "ABC-TV" when in fact Joe Blow does reviews for some low-powered ABC affiliate in Podunkopolis.

Wow, am I disheartened. Next, you'll tell me I can't believe our own President when he tells me something. Gosh.

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 13, 2007

acknowledging the nightmare

Former Iraq head general Ricardo Sanchez acknowledges reality. He's calling the situation in Iraq “a nightmare with no end in sight” based in large part by the de facto Bush Administration's incompetent handling of the war.

Sanchez also called referred to the Administration's “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan” and accused Bush officials of being “derelict in their duties” and “lust(ing) for power.”

Yep, all sounds pretty accurate to me. Sanchez is in a position to know. Pity he didn't say more about this when he was actually in uniform, though.


Friday, October 12, 2007

al gore wins one

This time, the US Supreme Court and a bunch of khaki-clad rioting Republican lawyers didn't change the count - Al Gore and the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work advocating action on climate change.

Why the Peace Prize? Well, first there is no "climate change" Nobel prize. But I think efforts to save us all from a "planetary emergency" - which will certainly disturb the peace if allowed to go on unchecked - fits the bill.

Congratulations Al Gore. This campaign is more crucial than your 2000 presidential election contest.


"meanies and hypocrites"

I borrow EJ Dionne's title for his column today calling the Republicans meanies and hypocrites for attacking the 12-year-old kid (Graeme Frost) who had the nerve to speak up in defense of SCHIP (that's the health-insurance-for-kids thing that de facto President and Chief Meanie Bush vetoed). Dionne points out the hypocrisy in their arguments against Frost's family, which benefited from SCHIP after terrible car accident that badly hurt Frost and three of his siblings, which essentially boiled down to this:

The Republicans would rather force a family to sell their home, all investments, pull their kids out of private schools (Graeme was in one on scholarship) and basically crash into financial ruin after a devastating accident or disease, than allow some sort of subsidized access to health care on any terms but those of the big health insurance companies.

Very nice.

Adding to the meanie chorus is surprisingly, former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson. Gerson, discussing the recent Republican presidential debate, noted that apart from Mike Huckabee, none of the GOPsters expressed any concern for those who (in Huckabee's words) "handle the bags and make the beds at our hotels and serve the food; many of them are having to work two jobs." Mayor Rudy "9/11" Giuliani singled out Hillary Clinton's proposed "baby bond" plan - which Gerson likes. But as Gerson concludes, the "meanies and hypocrites" seeking to succeed Bush "Instead, during the Republican debate, the idea was dismissed in a partisan attack line, and the audience applauded. This reveals a party that is not effectively speaking to people who handle the bags and make the beds and serve the food -- and who live so close to the edge that one shock can leave them in bankruptcy and ruin."

Remember, when it comes to economic policy, if you aren't somewhere in the Steve Forbes range, the Republicans really don't care about you. I'm afraid that includes you, evangelical Christian voter - they'll pander to you on the social issues, but they'll screw you rotten economically. You aren't their base. As George W. Bush famously quipped a few years ago, the real Republican base is the economic elite - their base, and their master.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

sympathy for the wealthy ... ?

I think George Will is being sarcastic in his column today about the woes of the very very wealthy, when he says "There currently is a sympathy deficit regarding the very rich. Or so the rich might argue because they bear the heavy burden of spending enough to keep today's plutonomy humming."

Will, who must be pretty close to that top 1%, notes that it's becoming more and more expensive to be rich. Why, Forbes Magazine's Cost of Living Extremely Well Index is rising quicker than the Consumer Price Index that is more important to slobs like you and me. Will notes that when luxury items like Louis Vuitton bags are readily available, they just don't count any more for the fabulously wealthy.

Now, I'd be willing to suffer under the strain of maintaining a lifestyle in keeping with being in the top 1% - you know, the people who own half of our wealth and gained something like 75% of Bush's tax cuts. If anybody wants to help me attain that goal, feel free to leave a comment.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

a satisfying conclusion to the baseball season

So now it can be said that the baseball season has ended well - because the New York Yankees will not be World* Champions. Heck, they won't even be American League champs thanks to the Cleveland Indians.

Yeah, yeah, I know the Rockies and Diamondbacks and Indians and Red Sox are still playing to see who will win the World Series. But since none of them are the Yankees, I'm okay with any of them winning.

But I predict it will be the Cleveland Indians - just one year later than I'd guessed. Go Tribe.

*"World" defined as US and the Ontario province of Canada.


Monday, October 08, 2007

an offer we should refuse

So we have this op-ed piece about the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minnesota a few weeks ago. The writer correctly notes that de facto Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters' argument that we don't need more infrastructure spending is perhaps not entirely convincing.

His solution? "Stop diverting dedicated transportation funds to wasteful or unrelated projects; unleash private infrastructure investment by removing regulatory impediments; and invest more federal, state and local dollars in infrastructure."

Ok, I think we can all agree that not building bridges to nowhere in Alaska would be a good idea (although businesses are frequently behind these stupid projects, hoping they will get the contract to build said bridge to nowhere). The third point isn't bad either. But the second point is where the writer, Thomas Donahue, President of the US Chamber of Commerce, loses me.

He says the money to fix infrastructure is there if "if government regulators would get out of the way." What he really means is, "let's privatize the roads". That would have two benefits for his patrons in corporate America - lowered personal income taxes for the fabulously wealthy and merely well-to-do (after all, they wouldn't have to pay taxes to support those roads in rural Maine and East St. Louis and other places they don't go to) AND increased opportunity to run businesses on a monopoly basis, having been granted said monopoly by their cronies in the Republican Party.

You know, like Halliburton and Blackwater.

Again, to quote Austin Powers, "Yeah, capitalism." Private enterprise is fine. But some things are more appropriately government-owned and run. I personally believe schools, armies, and prisons should not be run on a for-profit basis by a private business. Add roads to that list.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

good riddance

A long article today from the Post about the accelerating pace of aides leaving the de facto Bush White House - Rove, Bartlett, Snow, Sullivan, and the rest of them.

The interesting thing is there is some mostly anonymous sniping among departed aides about the disastrous Bush years, like Rove and Bartlett arguing over whether to go for the throat, or be more conciliatory.

Well, good riddance to all of them. They seem mostly to regret that the Iraq adventure hasn't gone as well as they had hoped - and are quick to blame Rumsfeld, who deserves a lot of it but hey, there is plenty to share.

But none of them seem to regret the torture policy. Or the politicization of terrorism to win re-election. Or the very costly delay against doing anything meaningful on climate change. They'll all go on and write books and get jobs as lobbyists or with universities or big corporations, or with Fox News, fat and happy. And we get to deal with the messes the Bush Administration will leave us, environmentally, constitutionally, militarily, economically, and morally.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

republicans' theme: don't look back

Thompson, Giuliani, McCain, Romney and the rest are trying to figure out how to run as Republicans while not being guilty by association with the single worst (de facto) president in American history, George W. Bush. Ugly Fred said, "I think back to 1994. We need to adhere to the principles that made this party great and that made this country the greatest."

Really? Bush has been an unmitigated disaster since being selected by the Supreme Court. But it isn't like the Republican Congress of 1995-2007 was any better than Bush. It wasn't. It featured corruption, cupidity, a refusal to look at important issues like climate change while concentrating on the usual social stupidity of abortion and guns and the Bible.

And before them was George H. W. Bush, who unlike his son fought in the war of his day and was legitimately elected. His legacy? Clarence Thomas. For that alone, Papa Bush deserves our opprobrium and a low ranking.

Then there was Reagan, who began the modern Republican obsession of cutting taxes while showering huge subsidies on big business - not "tax and spend" the way they accuse Democrats, but "borrow and spend" instead.

Before that was Nixon and the short Ford presidency.

I think frankly Fred Thompson needs to look back to Eisenhower (and his prescient warnings about the military-industrial complex...) to find a Republican president who wasn't in net terms very bad for America. Of course, in today's GOP Eisenhower would be branded too liberal to be elected by the Bible-thumping rank-and-file primary voter...

So Fred, John, Rudy, Mitt, and company - that is your past. You deserve to be judged by it. If we had a sane electorate and a fair electoral system, the Republicans would be swept out of the White House for the next 30 years.


Friday, October 05, 2007

war criminals and betrayal - u.s. style

Everybody's commenting on the Thursday New York Times article about torture and the de facto Bush Administration's secret approval of it. Andrew Sullivan is not pleased. He says he didn't believe it at first, and when the evidence came out he was stunned. Sullivan calls it a betrayal by the Bush Administration. He's right.

He also says, "We have war criminals in the White House. What are we going to do about it?"

The sad answer, apparently, is nothing. Now Congress is trying to get copies of the secret memos. Think a Republican Congress would have done that? Nope - DeLay and Hastert and Lott and company would have just been quiet because for them, Republican Party power is more important than the fact that the Bush Administration has befouled the name of America in the world, while trampling on our Constitution to boot.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 04, 2007

the gop at work

The Republican Party's willingness to break laws and bend their own alleged principals in the service of its corporate masters is pretty well known. Scott Horton at Harper's has an outstanding story that he began yesterday about an example of this in Mississippi.

Basically, it boils down to this: the American Chamber of Commerce decided it was tired of its corporate members having to defend themselves from lawsuits where, horrors, they occasionally had to pay out for damages and malfeasance. So in 2002 they targeted a bunch of (Democratic) Attorneys General in various states, including Mississippi, and sent big bucks for advertising. Mississippi banned the money.

Antonin Scalia, who defends states rights except when inconvenient for the Republican Party, blocked the ban because he said the money constituted free speech. Mississippi lawyers and Democrats raised enough money to defeat the Chamber. But one of the people behind this counter-attack, Paul Minor, was prosecuted on trumped-up charges essentially because his money used to block the Chamber and Republicans was NOT free speech.

Keep an eye on Horton's blog for more on this case. It's a parable about today's Republican America, where power and profit (and obeisance to their corporate masters - see Bush's veto of the children's health insurance bill) are the only impulses behind their actions.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

good news(*)

Good news, everyone - the Army met its recruiting goal for the just-ended fiscal year. They had 80,000 people join up. Hooray.

Now for the (*) behind the news. They rushed a bunch of people who had signed up into uniform abnormally quickly. In other words, they essentially borrowed from 2008 to make it in 2007.

And the 80,000 was still short of what the military hoped for to allow for an expansion of the Army. Seems that the prospect of doing multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan isn't much of a lure.

So, as is true for essentially everything with the de facto Bush Administration, take the statement of "good news" with a grain of salt. Because either it is good news for the wealthy and well-connected (tax cuts, for example), or it is good news that is purely bull.


Monday, October 01, 2007

sympathy for the mets

The New York Mets put the finishing touches on their complete collapse, losing to the Marlins while the Philadelphia Phillies beat Washington to take the National League East. They were 7 games ahead less than three weeks ago, so that took some doing.

If it had been the Yankees or the Dodgers, I would celebrate the collapse as a good thing. But instead, my sympathy for the Mets and their fans - that's an awful feeling.

Wonder if it will cost Willie Randolph his job?