Monday, March 31, 2008

prayer ain't enough

A young girl called Madeline Neumann, aged 11, has died of diabetes in Wisconsin. Medical treatment? Well not exactly. Her parents prayed for her. That was it. They believed healing comes from the Bible.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said he would not recommend bringing charges of neglect or abuse against the parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, saying "There is no intent. They didn't want their child to die. They thought what they were doing was the right thing. They believed up to the time she stopped breathing she was going to get better. They just thought it was a spiritual attack. They believed if they prayed enough she would get through it."

If failing to seek medical treatment for your child's diabetes isn't "neglect," then I don't know what is... Poor kid.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

you really aren't sick - but the health care sector is

A very good item from Sharon Brownlee about the practice of the medical profession - doctors, hospitals, pharmaceuticals - to make more and more physical conditions into "diseases" - the better to "treat" you for. And to CHARGE you for.

With risks, since they often prescribe "medicines" for some "condition" - like osteopenia, which the medical sector dreamed up by basically saying that the slightest decline in bone mass from when you are 30 means you are charging down the path for osteoporosis when you're 70 - that often have side effects. Then they treat you for the side effect with a medicine that creates another, and hey - that's how you end up with somebody taking a dozen pills a day to treat some mild "conditions."

Though Brownlee doesn't focus too much on the economics of this trend, doctors and drug companies do this because THEY profit from it. Personally, that looks like a violation of the Hippocratic Oath to me, which reads in part: To practice and prescribe to the best of my ability for the good of my patients, and to try to avoid harming them.

Again, the medical sector is not like other sectors. First, the asymmetry in information is massive - your doctor has 10 years of school behind his/her diagnosis and recommendation for treatment, and knows how to read the tests. You don't. Second, this isn't an industry where harm is limited to financial harm - people's bodies are at stake here.

It's time to arrange for a medical system that really puts health outcomes first, and doesn't emphasize profitable medicines and procedures at the expense of patients' health or pocketbook. It's time to arrange for a medical system that does not have one leg of it - the private health insurance sector - base its entire profitability on DENYING access to medical treatment whenever possible.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

mortgage bailout for flippers and speculators

The Bush administration is finalizing details of a plan to rescue thousands of homeowners at risk of foreclosure by helping them refinance into more affordable mortgages backed by public funds, government officials said.

The devil is in the details. But pardon me for being suspicious about ANYTHING the de facto Bush Administration does that is allegedly to help the little guy. I mean, why start now, 7.25 years into his regime?

I am somewhat sympathetic in principle to homeowners who find themselves upside-down (i.e., they owe more than the house would sell for) and can't afford the monthly mortage payments - a tough position to be in. But that category doesn't just cover the hard-luck story like a family that lost a job. It includes morons and blackguards that take out some sort of iffy mortgage (interest only, absurdly low initial rate, etc) based on the idea that they'd live in it for a year or two and then flip it for a big profit, pay off the mortgage before the higher payments kick in, and do it again. And again.

THOSE people shouldn't get a dime. No more than big companies that bought funky mortgage-backed securities should. They were both engaged in acts of speculation. In speculation, you bank on that 20% or 50% or 100% quick payoff. BUT YOU SHOULD NOT GET ANY GUARANTEE OF NOT GOING BUST.

Sorry for the shouting. But it's true. Guaranteeing to cut losses for risky speculations encourages further risky speculations. And that's not good.

So if the program is designed wisely to help the truly unfortunate, and not some upper-middle-class speculator types, fine. But color me dubious.

For the first time in my life, I can write the following sentence: I agree with Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma). Coburn hopes "the administration is not into subsidizing stupid behavior. It's one thing to help people who made a rational decision, who were spammed or defrauded. But it's another thing to reward people who thought they were getting something for nothing, and knew what they were getting into."

Well said.

presidential race absurdities abound

A few thoughts about the sublimely ridiculous series of events we call the presidential election...

Hillary, Go Home

Hillary Clinton says she won't quit. In response to Barack Obama's comment that the Democratic primary process is like a movie going too long, she said "I like long movies." There are two kinds of long movies. One kind completely absorbs you in the story. You lose track of time. The movie ends and you wonder where the time has gone, and you wish the movie would go on.

Then there's the other type, which maybe was OK at first but then you find yourself squirming in your seat and checking your watch.

Hillary, we're all squirming. And hey, you can do the CYA thing and not actually quit, but just "suspend" the campaign, so if Obama is hit by a truck or something you can present yourself as the leading candidate at the convention.

Oh, and she also said, "There was a poll the other day that said 22 percent of Democrats wanted me to drop out and 22 percent wanted Senator Obama to drop out. And 62 percent said: Let people vote."

With math skills like that, maybe we don't want her in charge of the economy!

It's 3:00 AM, Go Back to Sleep

George Lardner has a great op-ed piece about the absurdity of Clinton's "who do you want answering the phone at 3:00 AM" shtick. Specifically citing examples from people who would know like Henry Kissinger that Presidents are rarely if ever called on to make a snap decision in the middle of the night. And I agree with Woodrow Wilson, it's probably better to sleep on it.

The idea of a 3:00 AM call on ECONOMIC issues is particularly absurd. And as for the rest of it, remember that 24 is a fictional TV show/crypto-fascistic fantasy only loosely connected to reality.

"American" President

John McCain's TV ad call him "The American president Americans have been waiting for." A nasty implication that Obama is somehow not really American? Or just a inane but innocuous attempt to work "American" into the punch line as often as possible? (Or maybe McCain identifies himself with Warren Beattie and hopes he can boff Annette Benning.) We'll see. And we'll see how long McCain sticks to his pledge to fight fair and not, for example, use Obama's middle name.

Friday, March 28, 2008

try again, maryland, to stop cellphone driving

Unfortunately, a committee in the Maryland House of Representatives killed a bill for now that would make it illegal to use a hand-held cellphone while driving. That's too bad. It would be a decent bill. But a BETTER bill would ban talking on a cellphone at all while driving.

Some of the reasons given for voting against the bill are stupid. One legislator, Tom Hucker, said he didn't see any data that proved it was dangerous. He's just not looking hard enough. As I have noted before, there are studies that show that driving while talking on a cellphone is possibly even more dangerous than driving DRUNK. And using a hand-held phone doesn't really help much.

Barbara Frush, who demonstrates a brilliant willful ability to ignore clear evidence (she said "I've heard all the arguments, and no one has convinced me that cellphones are as dangerous as people say.") that really should earn her a place in the de facto Bush Administration (despite being a Democrat), plays the "single woman who drives around" safety argument.

Sorry, that's lame. Sure, CARRY the phone. In an emergency (being chased by a stranger in a car, in a wreck, whatever), USE the phone - maybe even while driving, if the situation requires it. But please don't try to convince me that even one-tenth of one percent of driving-while-cellphoning conversations involve emergencies. Unless Frush means emergencies that involve conveying critical information like "be sure to buy some potatoes," "did you see the latest news about Paris Hilton," or "that new guy in accounting is hot but he's a dick."

I hope Michael Lenett tries again. Every state should do something like this, as many foreign cities and countries have. Look, I don't necessarily hate cellphones. I even have one. But driving while cellphoning is dangerous - to the driver, to passengers, to drivers of other cars, and to pedestrians. It should be banned.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

a mistake? i doubt it

Clinton calls her oft-told Bosnia sniper fire story a "mistake"? Pardon me for being skeptical about that. I would imagine it is pretty difficult to misremember a routine airport greeting ceremony with some sniper-dodging hunched-over run for the nearest shelter.

Really, Clinton's description (repeated several times not just once) of her brave exploits in Tuzla is one of two things. It is either a fib - a gross exaggeration if you want to be polite, or a lie if you don't.

Or it is a sign that her memory is slipping, she's imaging things, and maybe she isn't quite ready to be president after all.

Either way, it's pretty embarrasing especially if you seach on YouTube for that video of her landing in Tuzla and her speeches describing in some detail how the arrival ceremony was supposedly cancelled.

And even if it WAS accurate, how is landing at a dangerous airport a qualification for being President? She was FIRST LADY folks. Do you think Laura Bush is remotely qualified to be President based on that? Or Nancy Reagan? Landing at a dangerous airport and being married to the President is not of itself a qualification. Sorry.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

was it a political prosecution?

Just found this - a Miami Herald article from over the weekend reports that a citizen told the FBI in November that then-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer hooked up with a high-price call girl in Miami.

The citizen? Roger Stone, GOP political operative.

From the Herald article: Stone, known for shutting down the 2000 presidential election recount effort in Miami-Dade County, is a longtime Spitzer nemesis whose political experience ranges from the Nixon White House to Al Sharpton's presidential campaign. His lawyer wrote the letter containing the call-girl allegations after FBI agents had asked to speak to Stone, though he says the FBI did not specify why he was contacted."

Hardly a disinterested tipster. How does this track with the timeline of the Spitzer investigation? The strength of the conspiracy claim grows stronger...

Maybe it's time for Larry Flynt to ask the public to turn in REPUBLICAN types who have cavorted with prostitutes - beyond the known ones like Senator David Vitter and former USAID Administrator Randall Tobias, I mean. But funny, THEY won't be prosecuted by the de facto Bush Administration's Department of Republican Justice.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

punishing, not rewarding

Saman Kareem Ahmad spent four years translating for the US Army in Iraq. He was able to come to the US, and applied for a green card. And he was turned down because he'd belonged to a Kurdish organization that tried to overthrow a government.

Specifically, an organization that tried to overthrow SADDAM HUSSEIN'S GOVERNMENT. Hell, on that criteria we could exclude the entire US Armed Forces from returning to America!

He's not alone in this absurd predicament. And many other Iraqis have risked life and limb working for us, but get nothing but a promise to consider their cases.

Such a reward for very dangerous service. Classy.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 22, 2008

a republican tut-tuts at cheney

Former GOP Congressman Mickey Edwards says de facto Vice President Dick Cheney was out of line for saying "So?" in response to a journalist pointing out that 2/3 of Americans disapprove of the Iraq war.

Edwards says the VP should make the case for why the war is important, not dismiss public disapproval with a shrug.

"When the vice president dismisses public opposition to war with a simple "So?" he violates the single most important element in the American system of government: Here, the people rule."

"Here, the people rule." Wow, it's nice to hear a Republican actually say that. I doubt Edwards actually BELIEVES it though. I don't see him chastising Cheney for refusing to release records about his 2001 energy review - almost certainly done with far more input from Big Oil (and far more benefits to them) than "the people."

This shows how unpopular Iraq has become - Republicans are now willing to distance themselves from the Administration on this one topic. Too little, too late.


Friday, March 21, 2008


The Washington Nationals just released John Patterson, at one time a promising pitcher who was the ace of their staff. Patterson is just 30.

Remember that, when you're moaning about athletes' salaries, that for every one who plays till he/she's 40 and makes a mint, there are hundreds of others who never make it to the top grade and a big contract, or end up injured and washed up at a time that many of us are just BEGINNING our (non-athletic) careers.

I hope Patterson's arm regains its strength and he can pitch in the majors again. But you can't bank on it...


good news for obama

Good news today for Barack Obama. Some people at the State Department have apparently been snooping through his passport files.

Last time that happened to a presidential candidate, he won the election. (1992/Bill Clinton, if you don't remember...)


Thursday, March 20, 2008

having the cake and eating it too - and we pay

I agree with Chris Farrell - regulation of Wall Street and the financial markets IS necessary. Farrell writes, In our system it's impossible to insist that Wall Street cough up the vast sums earned during the go-go years. That said, when the turmoil calms down regulators should sharply step up their scrutiny of the industry, demand more transparency, and require greater accountability among financiers. The pendulum had swung too far toward "anything goes."

Yep. Farrell also writes,

What a deal. Financiers preached the free-market gospel and pocketed unheard-of sums of money - yet when times got tough, they called for a government bailout. "Markets work if participants are at risk to both positive and negative consequences," says Raghuram Rajan, an economist at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. "But on the upside, [financial firms] said, 'Hands off, don't upset the party,' and 'Don't even think of regulating us,' yet when things go the other way they say, 'We need help.'"

In other words, Wall Street has privatized profits and socialized losses. And if that is the deal they expect, they should socialize more of the profits and quit their bitching about regulation. But they won't of course, they like the current system too much. We'll see whether Obama, Clinton, or McCain and Congress have the guts to try to increase regulation - because I think it's safe to assume the current de facto president won't.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

five years later

Wow, five years in Iraq already. How time flies; it only seems like a half-decade to me. Anyway, how's that situation going? Let's assess how some of the reasons for the war and the assumptions about the war by the de facto Bush Administration and their neocon fellow travellers have turned out, shall we?

Found Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Um, well, actually - there were none. Terribly sorry about that!

Established Iraq as a democratic, stable, pro-Israel country? Um, well, that depends on how you define democratic or pro-Israel. As for stable - hey only about half as many people are being killed every day as a year ago! Woohoo! Of course, that is still thousands a month... And the relations between the ethnic and religious groups of Iraq are purely poisonous.

Reconstruction of Iraq proceeding quickly, and paying for itself? Err, ummm, maybe not. The citizens of Iraq have fewer hours of electricity every day than they did 5 years ago. The water is less safe to drink, as American soldiers are learning. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of educated Iraqis have fled the country. The roads are bad - although there are some nifty new walls separating Baghdad into ethnic ghettos. As for paying for itself... or costing a couple of billion of dollars tops as former AID honcho Andrew Natsios promised... well that didn't happen either. We've spent billions on assistance which has been poorly managed and often, blown up. And we're burning something like $10 billion EACH MONTH to maintain our occupation and fight insurgents.

American troops home for Christmas? Err, we actually have more American troops (not to mention contractors and mercenaries) in Iraq now than we did when defeating the Iraqi Army and Republican Guards. Dammit, that Eric Shinseki just might have been right after all. Oh, and all of the "Coalition of the Willing" are pretty much gone or are leaving, except for a few Tongans and other assorted odds and ends. Even the BRITISH are leaving.

Americans greeted as liberators and beloved by the Iraqi people? Well not quite. Many Iraqis were very happy to see Saddam gone. But they don't want to be occupied. And we established an occupation that often unintentionally alienates Iraqis by treating everybody like a criminal or a terrorist - even BEFORE the insurgency began. And we've killed anywhere from 80,000 to several hundred thousand Iraqis. And we've tortured not a few of them at Abu Ghraib. Now it is safe to say, many Iraqis are rather unhappy with the United States, and are not entirely coooperative.

Not quite what was promised by Bush, Cheney, Perle, Kristol, Kagan and the other chickenhawks. A fiasco of the highest degree that has killed nearly 4000 American troops, who knows how many American and foreign contractors, and lots of Iraqis. A fiasco that has the US Army to the breaking point, and many of its most able officers leaving rather than be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan for a third or fourth time. A fiasco that has for the first time ever linked the word "torture" with "America." A fiasco based on false or (if you are generous) mistaken grounds that has destabilized a key country in the Middle East, strengthened Iran, and weakened our geopolitical position around the globe. A fiasco that has made us fundamentally less safe than we were before invading Iraq.

I argued with many people 5 years ago against launching this war. I said I hoped it would go well and Iraq would quickly become stable, but I said I feared that after the easy defeat of Iraq's army (which I was sure would happen - and it did, our military can't be beat in conventional battle) we would be ill-prepared to handle the complexities of occupation. I wish I had been wrong. But I wasn't.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

not drinking the water may not help anyway

"Don't drink the water" is a reasonable thing to say to a human about a contaminated body of water. It's cold comfort for a fish, which has no choice but to swim through those waters.

Scientists are looking at a body of water that "contains an array of man-made chemicals that could play havoc with animals' hormone systems". That would be the Potomac River, the source of drinking water for the Washington DC area. And these chemicals are, among other things, causing male fish to grow eggs.

Scientists at a recent conference on the chemicals in the Potomac said there was "no evidence" of harm to humans.

Of course, there is also no evidence that these endocrine disruptors do NOT harm humans. In fact, with falling sperm counts happening in humans around the world, I think it is more logical to assume that chemicals that screw with fishes' reproductive systems are likely to be similarly harmful to humans' reproductive systems.

I'd like here to offer a suggestion how you can avoid these chemicals. But seeing as how they are found in isolated places like Inuit communities in the Arctic, I have no real good short-term suggestions, apart from avoiding giving foods like fish that have high concentrations of chemicals to pregnant women or young children.

In the long term of course, what might be smart would be if we quit spewing that crap into the environment. Not just because we're a nice species that gives a shit about fishes and plants and all that. But also because this crap ends up back with us anyway.


Monday, March 17, 2008

hasta la vista, bear stearns

Bear Stearns took over 85 years to attain its position on Wall Street. It all fell apart in four days.

Actually, that's not quite true. Bear Stearns' habit of buying crap securities backed by crap mortgages had been going on for years. It just took these past few days of the market deciding that BS really was no longer a good lending risk for their position to wind up.

So, one down - and perhaps a nice bargain for JP Morgan, since the $2 a share they are paying for Bear Stearns does not require them to take on all of Bear's most dubious assets - you and I will do that for them.

Too bad. Now, let's see if any other Wall Street investment banks are similarly ill-placed...


Sunday, March 16, 2008

w, not worrying, being happy

This was a tough week for the GOP - losing Hastert's seat, failing to field a challenger for the Democratic held Senate seat in Arkansas, the economy lurching further into dangerous territory on their watch. All signs point to a Republican rout in Congressional elections later this year.

Yet somehow, de facto President George W. Bush seems very happy. In an unusual column (unusual because for once it seems to make sense), Maureen Dowd notes Bush's happy-happy joy-joy speech in New York on Friday - even as the Fed was bailing out Bear Stearns. As Dowd said in response to Bush's analogy about driving a car through a rough patch - Dude, you’re already in the ditch.

Why so happy? I think it's because, deep down, George W. Bush isn't a team player. Sure, things look bad for the Republicans - oh, and for America too. But he doesn't care. He's had his fun, he gets to retire in a few months to a leisurely life of golf and paid speeches. Everything that's happening now? Somebody else's problem.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

it's a bear (stearns) market

The Fed and the de facto Bush Administration's Treasury Department found themselves faced with an investment bank about to go belly-up because of its over-dependence on securities based on subprime mortgages. The market had been lending them money, but decided that Bear Stearns' no longer looked like a good risk. So what did it do to punish Bear Stearns for failure to invest prudently?

They're bailing out Bear Stearns (what BS).

It doesn't surprise me. After all, the Secretary of the Treasury, Hank Paulson, is an old Wall Street guy. Wall Street remains a bastion of support for the Republican Party's pro-business wing. So the corporate welfare is to be expected.

Too bad. As I wrote before, I agree with Steve Pearlstein: that the best thing that could happen to our economy is for a dozen high-profile hedge funds to collapse; for investment banking to enter a long, deep freeze; for a major bank to fail; and for the price of a typical Park Avenue duplex to fall by 30 percent. For only then might we finally stop genuflecting before the altar of unregulated financial markets and insist that Wall Street serve the interest of Main Street, rather than the other way around.

Because you know some small business on Main Street, faced with cash flow problems and lenders that refuse to help it out any more, wouldn't get a dime. And Bear Stearns was a relatively small (by major Wall Street standards) investment bank. A good one to let fail.

Oh, and I guess this means we are officially in a recession, or at least despite the denials from the Bushies, in a bad economic situation. Because that was the special circumstance that they claimed was the reason for the bailout.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 14, 2008

a massive human rights violation that requires immediate action and even the use of force if necessary

While everybody has been wondering about who's been torturing who, and whether the US Constitution should prevent a benevolent presidential dictator from doing whatever he wants, and whether a little bit of warming will cook the planet until human civilization collapses, or will just give us all a slightly warmer winter night and the chance to surf the Arctic Ocean, a truly important issue has failed to get the attention it deserves.

Members of a certain class of foreigners in Germany are being deprived of a fundamental human right due to a 1930s-era German law.

How awful. The brutality of it all.

I mean, why bother spending all those years of studying and living in crappy student housing to get a PhD if you can't go to Germany and be called "doktor"?

Yep, that's it. Apparently at least 7 American academics in Germany have been investigated by police after being turned in by an anonymous whistle-blower for using the title "doktor" in Germany - a privilege extended only those with a PhD from a German (and since 2001, any European Union) university.

One molecular biologist, Dr. (I'm not in Germany I can call him that if I want) Ian Thomas Baldwin, was actually interrogated by police for using the term "Dr." to describe himself. The crime? "Title abuse." Baldwin refuses to say whether they waterboarded him or not, but since it was German police the odds are pretty good they did NOT physically abuse him, although surely they taunted him for having a PhD from a cut-rate diploma mill like Cornell.

Yeah, titles are important in Germany. But this is a bit absurd. Even Germans think so - the head of Germany's office for foreign education, Barbara Buchal-Hoever, said
"This is a completely overdone, mad, absolutely ridiculous situation."

She added "The people who have pressed charges must be gripers or troublemakers who wanted to make a totally absurd point."

And what I'd like to know. Who turned in Baldwin and the other of the American Doctorate-Holding Seven? Probably some disgruntled German graduate student who was struggling with his/her thesis at Heidelberg and was peeved that these damn Yanks were calling themselves "Doktor" when they shouldn't have.

Let the investigation begin. Perhaps we should begin by interrogating law students - they seem like the sort that might learn of this law, and be narrow-minded enough to apply it.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

paranoid about spitzer?

Maybe I was NOT paranoid after all about the odd circumstances of the FBI investigation into the prostitution ring used by New York governor Eliot Spitzer. Talking Points Memo wonders about the Feds having enough to bust the call girl operation ... but waiting till they could get Spitzer on tape, having learned he had been a past customer.

Glenn Greenwald raises some very good questions in a couple of posts. He quotes from the Wall Street Journal: It isn't clear why the FBI sought the wiretap warrant. Federal prostitution probes are exceedingly rare, lawyers say, except in cases involving organized-crime leaders or child abuse. Federal wiretaps are seldom used to make these cases; search warrants usually suffice. Wiretap applications generally are reserved for serious crimes, such as drug, weapons and terrorism-related cases. There typically are no more than 1,400 wiretaps in use nationwide at any given time.

As Greenwald and others ask - isn't it odd that the Bushian Department of Justice and FBI spent so much effort investigating a crime the Feds rarely prosecute. That they went out and got wiretaps for a routine prostitution case. Why they even went out and got a new wiretap warrant to make sure they got Spitzer even though they already had enough info to bust the call-girl ring.

I think it's clear somebody's interest went beyond the ring. They saw this as a way to get Client Number 9, who was unpopular with the Republicans for two reasons. One, for being a popular Democrat. Two and perhaps more importantly, for having busted plenty of the Bush elite types on Wall Street for insider trading and the like, enforcing crimes because the Bush regime refused to.

None of this is to defend Spitzer - though it's curious he had to resign while David Vitter didn't (yes, I understand Spitzer's image was of a crime-fighter. Vitter cast himself as a protector of the family - he gets to stay?).

But this stinks. And the de facto Bush Administration has already demonstrated its quick resort to politicizing prosecutions and investigations. Just witness the Great US Attorney Massacre and the railroading of Don Siegelman.

Labels: ,

saddam not linked to al qaeda. keep it quiet.

That report we've been waiting for that will demonstrate that there were NO links between Saddam and Al Qaeda? Well, it won't be emailed to anybody. It won't be posted on the internet, either.

You have to go to a small army quonset hut on a remote mountain in New Hampshire and look at the report, engraven on an exposed side of the mountain. No actually, the Pentagon says blandly that it will be mailed in CD format to anybody who asks.

That's so convenient. How long will THAT take?

Is the Pentagon (by which, I mean the de facto Bush Administration) burying the news? Of course not. Just that the Pentagon's website was full of bytes, yeah that's the ticket, and this report would have put it over the limit and then the site would have crashed ... purely a security issue, yeah yeah, that's it.

It wouldn't be because it will directly contradict Bush and other senior officials? Naaah. Follows is a good list of quotes from the ABC News article linked above:

"What I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network," former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations February 5, 2003.

On June 18, 2004 the Washington Post quoted President George W. Bush as saying: "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," Bush said.

"This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda," The Washington Post quoted Bush as saying. "We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda."

"We know he's out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization," Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC's Meet The Press March 16, 2003.

"But the cost is far less than it will be if we get hit, for example, with a weapon that Saddam Hussein might provide to al-Qaeda, the cost to the United States of what happened on 9/11 with billions and billions of dollars and 3,000 lives. And the cost will be much greater in a future attack if the terrorists have access to the kinds of capabilities that Saddam Hussein has developed," Cheney said.

''There is no question but that there have been interactions between the Iraqi government, Iraqi officials and Al Qaeda operatives. They have occurred over a span of some 8 or 10 years to our knowledge. There are currently Al Qaeda in Iraq,'' former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a interview with Infinity
CBS Radio, Nov. 14, 2002.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

today's REAL scandal

No it isn't the revelation that New York Governor Elliot Spitzer enjoyed the company of prostitutes. That's between him and his wife, assuming he didn't use state funds.

The real scandal is an ongoing one - the refusal of the de facto Bush Administration's so-called Department of Justice to acknowledge that Congress has a right to compel testimony.

So now the House Judiciary Committee is suing to force Josh Bolten (White House chief of staff) and Harriet Miers, Bush's former lawyer, to come and talk to them about the Great US Attorney Massacre.

Love the advanced legal reasoning now being advanced by Alberto Gonzales' spiritual heir, Michael Mukasey. Mukasey says that Bolten, Miers and others "cannot be prosecuted because they were following legal advice from the Justice Department."

What? Where is THAT written? Legal advice to do something that turns out to be against the law is no shield from the law - even if it is from lawyers (actually, almost certainly from political appointees not career lawyers) at the Department of Justice.

If the Department of Justice advised the White House that sending Karl Rove on a secret mission to kidnap Nancy Pelosi and ship her to Guantanamo, would that immunize Rove from testifying about the plot?

This is absurd. They are playing out the string, hoping to delay Congress until the Bush Administration finally leaves town. I hope Congress doesn't just drop it then. There were crimes committed, by people in the White House and at Justice. Remember, this is about firing competent attorneys because they failed to show adequate loyalty to the Fuehrer, sorry I mean Decider. And THAT lack of loyalty was based on their refusal to bring questionable legal cases against DEMOCRATIC candidates right before elections.

In other words, they were fired for putting the rule of law ahead of the cult of personality that the Bush Republican Party has exalted these past 7-plus years (and longer if you consider their unthinking love for St Ronald of Reagan). And for not recognizing Bush/Cheney's theory of the Unitary Executive which roughly translated means "personal rule of the President and all loyalty owed to him, not the Consitution or law or country." You know, like Louis XIV enjoyed in France or Henry VIII in England, hundreds of years ago.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 10, 2008

are we cooked?

The more research and data we accumulate on climate change, the more dire our predicament seems. Now modeling done by scientists from the US, Canada, and Germany indicate that deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions alone won't do it - we need to get to near zero if we don't want to be boiled in our own planetary juices.

In an otherwise unrelated story about China's military might, the Pentagon estimates China's consumption of oil is expected to rise by as much as 60% by 2015. That's just one factoid among many found all over the press and the internet based on the business as usual model that shows emissions going in the wrong direction.

That's not to say they are accurate, though. But the time is getting short. We're going to need societal, economic, and technological breakthroughs in reasonably short order to minimize the worst effects of climate change on humans, other animals, and plants, on land and at sea. I frankly can't imagine what the combination will be that could help us make the transition. That doesn't mean we're cooked - a person in 1908 would have had difficulty imagining the technological, political, and societal changes from 1908 to 1933 even, let alone 1958 or 2008.

But I'm worried.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

what right wingers really want

Right wing warrior/whacko Brent Bozell has written a piece about how John McCain is just not red-meat enough for real conservatives. I'm surprised Bozell didn't say McCain seemed "French" to him.

Anyway, after many words praising himself, Reagan, and other true heroes of American conservatism, Bozell starts making suggestions for how McCain can "prove" his conservative credentials.

It is, of course, a crock of shit.

First, Bozell says McCain needs to come up with "a strategy to defeat the threat of radical Islam." One suggestion? Quit killing Muslims. Just a thought.

Bozell THEN goes on to tell McCain he should commit to rebuilding our military infrastructure, "so devastated by the George W Bush administration."

Oh wait, he said devastated by the CLINTON administration. Funny, I missed how eight years of husbanding our military resources and not running off half-cocked to invade Middle Eastern countries on trumped up charges had ruined our military. In fact, it was a military well cared for by Clinton that was in place to respond to Afghanistan after 9/11. It was a military prepared to fight two wars if necessary, the late-20th century US standard. Sure, McCain and Obama or (Hillary) Clinton should want to help repair the military. But it is to repair BUSH'S damage.

Bozell says McCain "should secure our borders by a date certain." Funny, I didn't realize we were under threat. Oh wait, he means from immigrants.

Bozell helpfully suggests that, "If McCain believes in freedom, he should promise to take the yoke off the American taxpayer. He has embraced making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Good. Now he should pledge to end the estate tax and lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. In fact, he should call for an overhaul of the tax system. The flat tax or the fair tax -- either is preferable to the monstrosity that is the Internal Revenue Service."

A good move by Bozell since such a move would help secure the Republican base by giving it huge financial benefits. I refer, of course, to the RICH among us. Regular joes, the kind of people who have second jobs to pay the mortgage and think Mike Huckabee's a good guy will continue to suffer under the Bush tax cuts (made temporary because of Republican cowardice) if extended, and would suffer under either the flat tax or Huckabee's absurd 38% "fair tax" - which of course, ain't fair since the greater the share of your income you spend, the greater the tax burden you face.

Bozell says McCain should "place the left on notice" that he wouldn't tolerate "congressional obstructionism of his nominations to the federal judiciary." Two points here. First, how does Bozell suggest McCain do this? Shoot Congressmen? And of course, this is quite rich since the Republicans in Congress obstructed FAR more of Bill Clinton's nominations to the judiciary. But that's OK, because radical right wingers like Bozell and Scalia and Cheney only want to obey the law to restrict liberals and other enemies of their cause. If you are on the Right, you are therefore right, and don't let laws and constitutions get in the way of doing God's/Reagan's will. At least, YOUR conveniently self-serving interpretation of the same.

There was one thing Bozell did NOT call for that will soon become an issue where McCain will face a great deal of pressure, and an issue we should all pay attention to.

Bozell did not tell McCain to name a right winger as his vice presidential candidate. And that is uniquely important this time around. Although I still believe Obama or Clinton will win in the fall, it isn't guaranteed. And if Billary continue to take the low road, it is possible McCain could sneak in, despite Iraq, the economy, the climate, and the rest of the sorry legacy that de facto President George W. Bush will leave behind.

McCain will be 72 on inauguration day in January 2009. He will be 76 in January 2013. He doesn't look all that hale and hearty. You have to consider the prospect of his age becoming a campaign issue in the fall. You have to consider the prospect that if elected McCain would not complete a first term, and would not stand for reelection if he did.

Sure, this is a possibility for ALL presidents. But the odds of medical issues pushing a president into retirement are much higher for a 72-year-old than a 61-year old or a 47-year old...

So - keep an eye open for the GOP VP race. Any candidate Bozell would approve of would be a bad president or vice president for America. And I hope, a bad candidate for the Republicans.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

the perfect image for the campaign

Yesterday the Democratic candidate - whichever Senator it is - was given the perfect image to campaign on in the election.

George W. Bush has endorsed John McCain. At the Bush White House.

Whenever McCain starts going on about being independent, remind everybody he is a Republican, like de facto President Bush. When McCain makes claims to being a maverick, remind everybody he is second to nobody in supporting the war in Iraq, and in actually thinking it can be won, even if it takes a hundred years. If McCain says he represents "change," use the quote from Bush's adviser Barry Jackson that Bush "is more than comfortable turning over the house keys to Senator McCain."

When people say that McCain ran against Bush in 2000, remind everybody that McCain enthusiastically campaigned for Bush in 2004. When McCain talks about cleaning up politics, remind them of his close relations with lobbyists now (including lobbyists working for his campaign for "free") AND remind them he was a member of the Keating Five.

Sure, all this will make the people happy with the Republicans like McCain that much more. So what, they won't vote for Obama or Clinton anybody. But pound it into the minds of the independent voters that McCain IS a Republican. A BUSH Republican.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

get dirty, get healthy

I've heard about this theory before - that the reason for rising rates of allergies and other problems with the immune system is because fewer of us are living on farms or around animals.

So buy your kid a dog and tell him to get outside and play baseball or dig in the mud. It's good for him!

Monday, March 03, 2008

don't jump!

Really, don't jump! San Francisco is considering taking steps to make it hard to leap off the bridge to your death - at least, to the death for 98% of the jumpers.

The key reasons it seems to me is (1) it's just creepy to have 30 or so people a year killing themselves by jumping off your famous iconic bridge and (2) studies show that many people who consider suicide and are deterred - say, by a fence - usually reconsider. They don't get a gun and blow their brains out if they can't jump from the Golden Gate Bridge - they go home.

I'm all for people deciding to pull the plug when sick beyond recovery and in terrible pain. But I agree, it's best to try the temporarily suicidal NOT to act on their impulses. If that means a fence on the bridge, is that so bad?


Sunday, March 02, 2008

hush - the theme song to the bush regime

Are you just utterly shocked that de facto President George W. Bush the Dishonest doesn't want to reveal who is contributing to his Presidential (sic) Library, that will soon stain the campus of Southern Methodist University?

Of course you aren't. This is the non-disclosure administration. They don't reveal any details on who was involved in Cheney's energy group. They don't reveal White House emails - technically "lost" but the dates they are missing for, such as the week that the Valerie Plame scandal hit, are entirely too convenient to be truly technical glitches. They don't admit that the Great US Attorney Massacre was part of their ploy to politicize the Department of Justice by using its powers to prosecute political enemies, better known as "Democrats who stand a chance of beating a Republican in a key election." They don't admit to mistakes - I still laugh at Frances Townsend's characterization of something, I think the capture of Bin Laden, as "a success that hasn't happened yet." They don't reveal who is on the payroll in the Office of the Vice President. They don't even admit that the Vice President's office is part of the Executive Branch. These guys make Nixon look like the very epitome of open government and sunshine.

So why should they reveal the donors? After all, this is one of the last chances people will have to bribe George W. Bush and his de facto Administration. Nobody has held them to account yet, and face it the chance of being held to account grow scarcer every day.

Labels: ,