Saturday, June 28, 2008

donate to the santa claus relocation fund

It is increasingly likely that Santa Claus will have to relocate his workshop very soon. You see, it looks like the North Pole will be entirely ice-free this summer. That hasn't happened since before humans evolved into existence, so it is a rather big deal.

So yes, jolly old St Nick will have to look for a location on solid ground - because even other areas of "permanent" ice are looking distinctly soft...

Do you think it might be wise to do something to reduce emissions?


Friday, June 27, 2008

a reminder of why the presidential election is so important

You know how conservatives always decry "activist" judges? Well they should be up in arms over the Supreme Court's decision on the Second Amendment. After all, it swept away over a century of precedent and established jurisprudence when Antonin Scalia decided that the Second Amendment's reference to the militia was merely decorative and didn't have any effect on the rest of the amendment.

Overturning the duly passed laws of local government - in this case, the District of Columbia - and imposing their own ideological view. THAT is the very definition of an activist court. And that's what we face - only it isn't an activist court like that of Earl Warren, expanding civil rights for Americans who had been discriminated against.

It is a right-wing authoritarian activist court, expanding the right of the Federal Government (as long as it is a REPUBLICAN Federal Government like the de facto Bush Administration) to do what it wishes, the Constitution be damned.

So keep that in mind when you vote. Several of the liberal and moderate members of the Court are older - much older - than John McCain. If Roberts and Alito and Scalia are your kind of judges, vote McCain. If you prefer something approaching sanity on the Court, vote Obama.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

socialism? rampant environmentalism?

I have to hand it to Florida Governor Charlie Crist. The $1.7 billion deal for Florida to buy out US Sugar and try to restore water flows from Lake Okeechobee south into the Everglades is audacious and I hope effective.

Can't you imagine how the right-wing noise machine would criticize this if Crist were a Democrat, not a Republican? "Socialism!" "Rampant anti-human environmentalism!" "Econazism!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Some interesting tidbits from this poll about Americans and religion. This paragraph, caught my eye:

"I can't remember any prayer that I have prayed that has not been answered," said Helen Catchings, 62, of Vienna. God cured her of stuttering and gave her the resources for her home-care business, she said. And she said she has seen members of her church cured of cancer, brain tumors and other illnesses through prayer, baffling doctors. "I give Him all the credit," Catchings said.

Well, that's pretty nifty for Ms. Catchings and the people in her church. If you believe in this crap, that is.

I know several people who stutter and are religious - why didn't God help them? One non-medical person's statement about seeing others cured by prayer should be taken with several pounds of salt - especially in light of some studies that have shown zero or even a NEGATIVE correlation between praying for sick people and those sick people recovering.

As for the one-third of Americans who say God answers their prayers at least once a month - well that's very nifty. But I know people who pray for EVERYTHING. They pray that their car won't get smashed by some drunk cell-phone-talking moron in an SUV while driving to Wal-Mart. They pray that Junior passes his math test. They pray that the Cowboys beat the Chiefs. SURELY if you pray that often for so much trivial crap, God can pull through at least once a month? Or more accurately, at least APPEAR to pull through. The power is strong - the power of COINCIDENCE that is.

And finally, the idea that 20% of American Christians speak in tongues just creeps me out. What others do in the name of religion is weird, no two ways around it, whether Buddhist monks or American Indian shamans or Russian Orthodox priests. But talking in tongues goes even further into the realm of the irrational and primitive. And self-delusion.


Monday, June 23, 2008

time's a-wastin'

So it was 20 years ago today that NASA scientist Jim Hansen gave Congress the warning that climate change/global warming was real and was a threat. And now he's testifying before Congress again to say it is still real, is even more a threat, and is already here to a small but growing degree.

It is thoroughly depressing that so little has been done over the past 20 years. It is simply scary to consider the ramifications for the planet and the future of human civilization if similarly little is done over the next 20 years.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

take it off! take it all off!

Actually, don't bother taking it off - at Washington National Airport* soon they will install scanners that will let them see it all. I mean, all. Got breast implants? They'll see it. A colostomy bag? They'll see it. An embarrassingly little ...

Well you get the idea. These millimeter wave scanners coming to the DC area and airports around the country leave nothing to the imagination. Unlike the movie Running Man (above) though, it won't be your skeleton they'll see but your flesh...

And for what? Sure, they say it's for our safety. But if they want to go to this extreme, why not just strip us all at the airport, force us to check our clothes and shoes, put on those papery gowns hospitals issue, and make us fly the very unfriendly skies like that? That would make us all safe unless a team of kung fu terrorist experts get on the plane and karate chop it into the Sears Tower in which case the next step will be to strap everybody into the seat, immobilized, for the entire flight, hooked up to intravenous tubes to keep us hydrated.

Talk about over-reacting.
*official name Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport thanks to a bunch of Reagan-worshipping jerks in Congress who are all about keeping Congress out of the business of local government except when it comes to forcing Washington DC area local governments to adopt THEIR preferred name for this airport. Hey, can't the Democrats change this back now? It was already named after a great President, why besmirch old GW's memory by linking it with Reagan's?

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barack obama, good for business

It's always interesting to see what kind of organization benefits from the nomination or election of a presidential candidate. For example, Big Oil was obviously boosted when de facto president George Bush and de facto king Dick Cheney were selected to be president back in 2000. And McDonalds did very well by Bill Clinton.

And there are a group of organizations who are seeing a rapid increase in hits at their websites since Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee earlier this month.

They are hate groups. White supremacists. Klansmen. Neo-Nazis. David Duke. The "Michigan militia" types.

It's sick but true that websites for groups like White Revolution and Stormfront have seen a surge in interest - and increased enrollments - from racists who see in the nomination of Obama some sort of plot to bring an end to "white America" and impose "multiculturalism" on us all.

Ooh scary.

But the sort of crap these people come up with IS scary. It's scary to me that people with such irrational, hate-filled attitudes exist.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

breaking the law

Breaking the law, breaking the law. That's John McCain. As Josh Marshall points out, McCain is breaking the law by spending over the primary season spending limits that McCain promised to abide by, in order to get loans for his campaigned - backed by the implicit promise that McCain could repay by dipping into federal election money - at a time when his campaign looked like it was dead.

Even the head of the Federal Election Commission - a REPUBLICAN - says McCain is breaking the law.

A Republican flouting the law despite the clear illegality of his actions? Yes, it really would be four more years of Bush if McCain were elected.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

an act of man?

So ask some scientists about the flooding in Iowa and along the Mississippi.

It isn't solely an act of man of course - 15 inches of rain did fall throughout much of Iowa before the floods.

But as various scientists and planners point out, Iowa isn't like it used to be, with farmland covering a bigger proportion of the land - and absorbing less rain. Same with straightened streams, cut down forests, etc. And of course, the increasing tendency to build in the flood plains themselves - and then acting surprised when they actually flood.

And over it all is the specter of climate change. Two so-called 500 year floods in 15 years? Is this a freak occurrence? Or is it our new climate?


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

you want vulgarity, gerson?

Michael Gerson is doing Republican Senator Norm Coleman's work by pointing out that Democratic Senate candidate for Minnesota Al Franken uses dirty works in his comedy and wrote a piece in Playboy a few years ago called "Porn-O-Rama." Gerson calls "Porn-O-Rama" "the Federalist Papers of lifestyle liberalism."

Hey Gerson, that's pretty funny for a non-comedian. But Gerson can't be as stupid as he lets on in this column. He must have heard of satire and the idea of saying things that are outrageous and untrue in the name of getting a laugh.

He also criticizes Franken for using dirty words and calling Ari Fleischer a "chimp" and Karl Rove "human filth."

But Gerson, if you want vulgarity you don't have to look to Hollywood or even Minnesota. You can just look at Republican Washington.

Let's start at the top - Bush and Cheney referring to a New York Times reporter as a "major league asshole." Cheney telling Senator Patrick Leahy to "go fuck yourself" - not on HBO, but on the Senate floor.

You want name calling? The Republican punditocracy is addicted to it - and so are many elected Republicans. Rush Limbaugh is far from alone in calling people "feminazis" for example. How many MORE Republicans will we have to hear "accidentally" refer to Barack Obama as "Osama"?

I could go on but I don't have the energy. And let us not forget perhaps the worst obscenity perpetrated in the name of the American people, the idea that torture is an acceptable tool in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

There's your real obscenity, Michael Gerson. The politics and name-calling of the right wing of the American body politic.



Former Pentagon chief lawyer William "Jim" Haynes II had his day before Congress, answering questions about torture, Abu Ghraib, and the like.

Except he didn't answer the questions. As Dana Milbank counted, In two hours of testimony, Haynes managed to get off no fewer than 23 don't recalls, 22 don't remembers, 16 don't knows, and various other protestations of memory loss.

This is the worst case of stonewalling since Alberto Gonzales' long-running series of unhelpful and uninformative appearances before Congress, after a selective lobotomy ruined any relevant memories.

Does ANYBODY really believe that Haynes can't remember things like whether he saw a memo outlining the effects of torture? This isn't like asking what you had for breakfast on September 28, 2006. This is something that I would imagine was a bit unusual.

Why can't Congress do more to compel people like Haynes and Gonzales to answer the questions? Maybe Congress should consider reviving its power to jail people.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

you get what you pay for

Much of Montgomery County, Maryland's wealthiest county, was without water after a pipe ruptured. So a bunch of businesses and schools had to close and people have to boil their water for the next few days.

The problem, as a former water official said just in February, is simple. Not enough money.

This isn't as dramatic as the failure of the levees in New Orleans or the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis. As far as I can tell, nobody has died in Maryland from this disruption in clean water supplies.

But like the fatal failures in Louisiana and Minnesota, this points up a simple fact - our infrastructure is deteriorating.

Why? It needs money for maintenance.

Why no money? Well it's been nearly 30 years since the Reagan Revolution and the rise of the government-hating elements of the Republican Party, so offended by taxes and public spending that they do whatever they can to reduce it AND not coincidentally, prove themselves to be incompetent (on purpose?) in running it.

And the results include worse schools, more crowded emergency rooms in public hospitals, and ruptured pipes, breached levees, and collapsed bridges.

Republican America. Isn't it time it ended?


Monday, June 16, 2008

"pro-life" drugstore comes to suburban washington

A Jesusier-than-thou pharmacist name of Robert Semler is opening a so-called "pro-life" pharmacy in Chantilly, Virginia. That is in the sprawling suburbs of Washington DC.

A "pro-life" pharmacy means, no condoms, no birth control pills, no morning-after pills, none of that. (But you can still get your wood-in-a-bottle I mean Viagra. After all, Viagra PROMOTES pregnancies.)

Apparently, there are only a few of these preachy drugstores around the country. So far. But they are raising concerns. One is that if these places become prevalent in rural areas with few nearby alternatives (the Chantilly pharmacy is in the same shopping mall as a K-mart with its own pharmacy), women will find it harder to buy legal birth control products. Which of course will increase demand for abortion but the god-boy pharmacists don't let that logic get in the way of their professional preaching.

My bigger concern is, if such "pro-life" pharmacies become more widely acceptable, will people then begin to protest at regular drugstores, forcing them to remove condoms and contraceptives, and make those things harder to get for all of us? Will pharmacies become the new abortion clinics, with angry holier-than-thou preachy busybodies outside picketing and calling anybody who gives that store their business - even just to get some potato chips or cold medicine or something to remove a wart - complicit in "murder" for shopping at a "pro-abortion" store?

You know, the usual calm, reasoned pro-life tactic.

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mr. hurt went to washington

I think it is often admirable when somebody learns of an outrage and, filled with a suitable sense of commitment and self-confidence, dares to go forth to Washington and attack the establishment and change things for the better.

Then there is Robert Hurt, who went to Washington and became outraged to learn that in our nation's capitals, you can see boobs on public display.

Not topless flesh-and-blood women. Hurt is exercised over the breasts of fake women. You know, like on classical fountains in Dupont Circle. Or in the Supreme Court or the Department of Justice, where the bare-breasted Greek depiction of Justice holds forth. Or museums like the National Gallery, where paintings by decadent perverted European artists hang in public view, funded by the American taxpayer.

Hurt, who when not videotaping marble gazongas works as a rancher who no doubt averts his eyes when his animals are mating, is trying to get the Texas Republican Party to add the burning issue of "artistic indecency in the nation's capital" to the party platform. He didn't succeed, but I'm sure as long as one giant-sized stone-cold nipple is on display within the District of Columbia (herself also often depicted partially disrobed in classical art), Robert Hurt will not rest.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

q&a about detention

Question: How often does the Supreme Court (and other courts) have to tell the de facto Bush Administration that it can't just lock up people and throw away the key?

Answer: It doesn't matter how often, because the Bush regime will continue to hold people without due process anyway.

I like Eugene Robinson's para on this: It shouldn't be necessary for the Supreme Court to tell the president that he can't have people taken into custody, spirited to a remote prison camp and held indefinitely, with no legal right to argue that they've been unjustly imprisoned -- not even on grounds of mistaken identity. But the president in question is, sigh, George W. Bush, who has taken a chainsaw to the rule of law with the same manic gusto he displays while clearing brush at his Texas ranch.

No doubt the Bushies will draft more legislation describing some sort of extra-constitutional legal provision, will scare Congress witless by telling them if they don't pass it, Americans will die any minute. And Congress will swallow hard, look at their feet, and maybe let it pass - one last slice from the fabric of the Constitution.

I hope they resist. Because as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."

The laws and Constitution, our dedication to due process and the rule of law not of men, is what makes America great. We should not allow it to be sullied. It is to our collective shame that we have let Bush do all that he has to the law (and not just related to terrorism).

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

bird flu returns to the news

For medical and disaster planning professionals, avian influenza/bird flu hasn't disappeared - but it has dropped from the press' attention.

This report is a bit scary - Hong Kong found H5N1 virus in chickens in a crowded market area in the city. They authorities are moving quickly and are slaughtering a lot of birds. No people appear to have been infected - but crowded areas like this could be bad should the virus become more easily transmissable.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008


If you were the prime minister of a foreign country and the United States said it wanted 58 military bases in your territory, would you expect that part of the price would include a commitment from the US to defend your country if attacked by a foreign power?

Iraq PM Maliki wants such a commitment, and believes that such a commitment had been made by the US. But now, in ongoing negotiations to determine exactly what sort of bases the US can maintain in Iraq, the US has apparently backed off of such a guarantee.

That seems a bit unfair. We went into Iraq, wrecked the place, want to keep troops there in 58 bases. And after all that, we aren't willing to defend it from foreign aggression?

So what was the point of the invasion again?


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

undermining the housing market...

The Department of Housing and Urban Development over recent years had the goal of making more low-income and minority families into home-owners. Ok, not a terrible goal, although as a country we tend to overestimate the benefits of homeownership.

Unfortunately, in so doing, HUD helped fuel the subprime mortgage crisis. HUD forced Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to buy a lot more of these subprime loans AND to count these subprime loans as a "public good".

Read for more details here. Not all HUD's fault of course - but this didn't help.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

a japanese case for gun control

In Tokyo a guy called Tomohiro Kato killed seven people in the middle of the day on a busy shopping street in the Akihabara neighborhood. He told the police after being stopped (alive, by a cop who dueled with him with his night stick before pulling a gun and threatening to shoot), "I am tired of life. I came to Akihabara to kill people. It didn't matter who they were. I came alone." (Kato will probably lose the life he has grown tired of - Japan has the death penalty.)

Kato's weapons of choice: a rental truck he drove into a crowd, and then a large knife.

Kato did pretty well, in the sick score-keeping of mass murder, killing seven. Just think how much more efficient he could have been if he had a gun. Guns are relatively rare in Japan, thanks in part to strict gun control laws. If Kato had lived in say Richmond, Virginia, he could have gotten a couple of sweet semi-automatics and done real damage.

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people." True. And this is also true: "People kill people, and people with guns kill more people more easily."


Saturday, June 07, 2008

bad, and worse than you think

Some more bad economic news. Unemployment went up by 0.5 percentage points, the biggest jump since 1986. Oil prices have hit new record highs, and could be going higher. The US dollar grows weaker.

In Florida, John McCain said the numbers were disturbing - "They're the worst in 22 years, I'm told." And in reality, they are worse than you think because of decades of slow, creeping changes to how we actually report economic statistics.

In the May Harper's, Kevin Phillips summarized the changes (subscription required). It was a lot of little things.

For example, over the years the US government has redefined inflation by creating a category called "core inflation." That number excludes food, energy, and housing. In other words, it excludes the essentials. Absurd. And as Phillips writes, excluding these things has made inflation appear lower, fueling lower interest rates, which spurred higher housing prices, which created greater inflation that did not show up in "core" inflation... And about 20 years ago we quit describing the size of our economy in GNP (Gross National Product) terms, instead using GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for the simple reason that GNP was showing our heavily indebted economy in a far worse light.

How would you count unemployment? How about by counting people who wished they had jobs but didn't? Nope, you have to be actively seeking a job. If you've given up on finding a job, you don't count.

If we used the same statistical methods now as we did in 1983, per Phillips, we would be around 8.5% unemployment, not 5.5%; inflation would be 5% not 2%; growth would be 1% not 3-4%.

Doesn't look so good, does it? And honestly, don't these more negative, more honest numbers better reflect the economic reality that we feel in our guts? Just like the statistic I just came across somewhere, how 62,000 jobs in the $30,000-80,000 salary range in Silicon Valley have been lost, replaced by 66,000 jobs earning under $30,000.

These rose-colored economic glasses that make everything look better are masking the real concerns. And although the Democrats have also been responsible for cooking the figures, they have benefited the Republicans by creating numbers that allow the media to go on about the great economy - ignoring REAL unemployment rates, ignoring REAL declines in real wages, and ignoring greater income disparity.


Friday, June 06, 2008

enjoy it now, joe

Joe Lieberman is "savoring life" as a post-partisan actor in the Senate.  He is enjoying his cake and eating it too - chairing the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee as a "Democrat" while simultaneously campaigning openly to elect Republican John McCain to the Presidency.

And the Democrats are just taking it least Joe finish his Benedict Arnold-like path to full-fledged membership in the Republican Party, giving Darth Dick Cheney and the GOP control of the Senate.

For a few months. 

I look forward to January 2009 when the Democrats have expanded their control of the Senate beyond 51-49 and they can give Joe the dues for his disloyalty.  I wouldn't just remove him as a committee chairman - I'd fire him.

NOT for his policy views, not even for being pro-war-in-Iraq.  But you cross the line when you actively oppose your party's nominee for President.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


It looks like Senator Clinton will finally acknowledge reality in public.  From her email on Saturday she will "extend my congratulations to Senator Obama and my support for his candidacy."

But as EJ Dionne wrote, Clinton has blown her chance to graciously concede to Barack Obama, hogging a fair share of the limelight at a time that really belonged to Obama.  

And no way Obama should pick Clinton to be his vice-presidential candidate.  First, to be blunt, an experienced white male might be a good balance for the ticket - and no I don't mean Bill Clinton.  But second, Senator Clinton's behavior over recent months has been incredibly self-centered and potentially (we will know later) damaging to the Democratic Party.  To choose Hillary Clinton as VP nominee would really look like an admission of weakness.

Pick Wes Clark.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

i feel the same way

Richard Cohen is not thrilled about the Democratic primary campaign.  It depresses him to see race cited as a reason not to vote for Barack Obama, by the decline of the Clintons, by the gotcha media saying that John McCain may not be eligible to be President because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone, and all that.

I know how he feels.  I hope it all ends in a Democratic - presumably Obama - victory.  But it's been a bit ugly so far...


a new messiah?

Talk about pressure - the Scientologists, those whacky nuts who believe that a space overlord called Xenu killed a billion people on earth with nuclear bombs thousands of years ago and have spun this hackneyed science fiction plot into a lucrative moneymaker - are saying that a 13-year-old boy could be The Chosen One.  

Did they find some spiritually advanced youngster living in an adobe hut in rural Mexico, or a windswept Tibetan mountainside, or in the rugged hills of New Guinea?  No, that's not the Scientologist way.  This Chosen One is living in Hollywood, California.  His name is Conor Cruise.  "Cruise" as in "Tom Cruise."

Young Conor has everything the Scientologists could want.  He combines Tom Cruise's vast personal wealth - and a willingness to spend it on Scientology - with the added advantage of having been raised in this so-called church.  He's rich and ALREADY indoctrinated in all this absurd crap about thetans and aliens and audits.  And Daddy writes the checks! 

What's NOT to like?  So he becomes a perfect potential successor to L. Ron Hubbard, who only decided that Scientology, nee Dianetics, should be a religion because that would save him from paying taxes.

Although personally I must say I feel sorry for Conor Cruise.  Talk about a poor little rich kid.


Monday, June 02, 2008

wrong answer, dude

This article about Washington-area commuters who lurk near the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to hop on as soon as they are open to driver-only cars was interesting.  

It also mentions that soon, I-395's HOV lanes will become toll roads, 24-hours.  One commuter, a guy called Scott Digilio who uses the HOV lanes a 9:01 AM, shrugs at the prospect.  He says, "The government will pay the tolls, I guess."

Wrong answer.  Many federal agencies and down-town businesses subsidize employees' bus and subway costs - a good idea.  But paying Digilio's tolls, and others', would be dumb.  Don't do it!


Sunday, June 01, 2008

michigan and florida and democrats

The compromises over Democratic delegates for Florida and Michigan are about as fair as possible. Somebody please shut Harold Ickes up; may I suggest duct tape over his mouth for a week or two?

Ickes rants about the compromise that gave Obama delegates in Michigan based on the "uncommitted" vote there, saying "I am stunned that we have the gall and the chutzpah to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters."

I am stunned that somebody working for Senator Clinton - a candidate who FAILED TO FOLLOW PARTY RULES and left her name ON THE BALLOT - would have the gall and the chutzpah to claim that the Michigan vote was in any way fair and representative. Not to mention the fact that many more Democrats would have voted in Michigan had the Party - with Hillary Clinton's full support and backing - stripped the state of its delegates for moving its vote up too close to New Hampshire/Iowa.

But if there is anything that the Clinton campaign has had no shortage of since its 12-state losing streak, it has bee gall and chutzpah.

Anyway, the compromise has been made. Let's see what Senator Clinton does after the last primaries on June 3. She can concede semi-graciously (the time for conceding graciously is long, long past) and give Barack Obama and the Democrats a chance to begin the tough task of winning in November.

Or she can keep up the fight and look forward to working with President McCain in January 2009.