Sunday, May 31, 2009

taking a break

For any readers out there, thanks for checking out my blog. I'm taking a hiatus from Vaguely Logical. I may come back to regular blogging, but I'm not sure.

oh one last thing - iraq wasn't connected to 9/11; richard clarke says so

Richard Clarke, who tried with "hair on fire" along with the CIA and NSC to convince de facto President Bush, King Dick Cheney, and Condi Rice the Unready in the early months of 2001 that Al Qaeda was going to try something big against the US, is having none of Dick Cheney's claims that in those scary post-911 days everybody agreed that everything was justified to defend the US.

Clarke notes that since they didn't take the threat seriously BEFORE 911 ("Yes, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice may have been surprised by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- but it was because they had not listened."), the unprepared trio were in a state of shock - not a good state to be in to make reasoned policy responses. Instead, they took on policies not to protect us, but to win re-election in 2004 - a clear recognition that they knew they'd screwed up at any Administration's top job, to protect Americans.



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

those climate skeptics, what a bunch

Climate change skeptics in Congress -- all Republicans, naturally -- had their day, holding a news conference to announce an alternative to the Democratic cap and trade bill in Congress.

They're feeling a bit besieged, these skeptics. But there's no reason to feel sorry for them - they held the White House for the last eight years, doing incalculable damage to efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and maybe prevent or mitigate global warming.

If I weren't opposed to torture, that crowd would be good candidates for some enhanced interrogations. We could ask, do you REALLY not believe the science, or are you merely protecting the interests of big business? In other words, are you stupid or are you venal?

For Ohio Republican John Boehner, the stupid part is true if he really thinks somebody is suggesting that carbon dioxide is a carcinogenic...


Monday, May 18, 2009

it ain't easy being poor

This is an interesting, sobering story about the high cost of poverty. Interest rates of 800% to get pay-day loans. Bus rides. Waiting. Expensive corner grocery stores.

It's not easy being poor. Believe it or not, most people in that situation aren't there by choice, either...


Saturday, May 16, 2009

still worrying

Not many people have died in the US from swine flu, excuse me H1N1. But the fact that it's mid-May and we're seeing flu season levels of influenza cases - half of them H1N1 - is worrying. Hope that vaccine work goes quickly. It could be ugly this winter.


torture, photos, commissions...

On balance I am disappointed that President Obama decided against releasing the torture photos. Short-term I suspect they WOULD inflame some in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, potentially endangering American troops and other interests.

Of course, it really wouldn't be the PHOTOS that do that, but just further confirmation of the fact that the United States under the de facto Bush Administration was torturing people. In the long run I think these photos will get out anyway. Better to release them all at once and get it over with.

I'm less critical on the decision to keep military commissions. Trying terrorism suspects will be difficult. Personally I think the courts can probably handle it. But military commissions with greater legal protections for the accused may be okay. We'll have to see how this goes. But on balance, I think this is a wrong decision - less wrong than the photos, but wrong anyway.

Oh and I'm sorry senior CIA people but your agency's credibility on torture and the reasons for it are totally shot. The TIMING of the most intense torture of people like Abu Zubaida and Khalid Sheik Mohammed - in other words, in late 2002/early 2003, precisely at the time Cheney and his crowd wanted "proof" of the links between Al Qaida and Saddam's Iraq - is just too convenient. Hey, these guys had been coming out with information under normal interrogation techniques, but would NOT admit to Al Qaida/Iraq links (for the excellent reason that there WERE NONE). If one thing has been proven about torture, it is that it is very good at getting the victims to say what the interrogators WANT them to say. So, you waterboard those thugs often enough and ask them over and over, "Al Qaida and Saddam were working together, right? Right?", eventually they will wise up and say "Yes" just to make the torture stop.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

of social security, cheneys, and judges

First on Social Security. It won't be "insolvent". It will simply exhaust its existing buffer and have to either increase intake or decrease payments. Quite simple.

The real cure is simple: raise the cap on income beyond which people don't pay SS taxes. And means-test the benefits. No reason to continue the fiction that FDR created to get SS passed in the first place that people are getting back what they paid in; they're getting MORE. Call it what it is, a pension for the aged and disabled. Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or Michael Jordan, as hard working as they all have been, don't really need it. Neither do a lot of other less-well-known but well recompensed people.

The Cheneys, Dad and daughter Liz, are having fun bashing Obama. Ok, not very dignified but that's their prerogative; despite Dick Cheney's best efforts, it is still a free country, and thankfully freedom of speech survived the Cheney-Bush regime.

Indirectly, they are bashing Bush, too. Liz Cheney said, "One of the nice things about my dad being out of office is that he doesn't need sign-off. He is out there speaking out because he personally feels so strongly about these issues."

And not always in agreement with what was the policy of the de facto Bush Administration. Interesting...

Oh and finally on justices and candidates to replace Souter, that paragon of positive race relations Jeff Sessions, the Republican Senator from Alabama, presumes to tell Obama what will be an acceptable nominee. Sessions, speaking behalf of the Senate and you and me, said if Obama sends "a highly qualified individual with a distinguished record that demonstrates judicial restraint, integrity and a commitment to the rule of law, his nominee will be welcomed in the Senate and by the American people."

But remember GOP lingo. "Judicial restraint" means "liberal judges don't act like liberals". CONSERVATIVE judges need no such restraint. Or else Roberts and Alito and Scalia and Thomas would never have been approved.

Indeed, if conservative judges acted with judicial restraint, it's a pretty good bet the Supreme Court would have returned the Bush vs Gore decision to the State of Florida to decide however it saw fit. That my friends was a state issue, and the GOP is all for states' rights. Unless, of course, that would result in Al Gore being President. Just as the Republicans were all for seating people in Congress even during recounts. Unless of course that would mean a Democrat like Al Franken being seated...


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

dishonest republicans and a too-credible columnist

William Kristol, who is paid by the media to promulgate GOP agitprop, suggests the GOP go after Obama instead of gazing into its navel. Well, oppositions are there to oppose, so fine.

But Kristol wants to go after Obama on debts. MOST OF WHICH were accumulated by de facto President George Bush in times of economic PROSPERITY. Bush and the Republicans hate Bill Clinton so much they got rid of all he did INCLUDING the budget surplus.

Kristol says Obama is cutting defense spending. Well that is, what is the word, oh yes a big fat lie. Obama and Gates want to reprioritize defense spending, having noticed that the Soviet Union is no more and we are unlikely to fight big conventional tank battles in the Fulda Gap. And they INCREASED defense spending (well, have proposed to anyway). Increased, not cut.

And Richard Cohen is clearly having a Senior Day today. He wonders if Dick Cheney "the old Faithful of Nonsense" is right when he asserts that torture I mean "enhanced interrogation" really stopped attacks. Cohen notes that Cheney wants two CIA memos released, two memos that "support his contention that the harsh interrogation methods worked and that many lives were saved."

Cohen has forgotten a few things. First, he has forgotten that Cheney and the rest of the Cheney-Bush regime weren't shy about browbeating intelligence types into coming up with conclusions that supported the Cheney-Bush preconceptions of things. "Want connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda? Coming right up sir! "Proof" of WMD in Iraq? Sure, and would you like that with fries?"

And Cohen ignores the fact that the CIA upper types - put there by Cheney-Bush - would be anxious to "prove" that the perversion of American ideals, the torture of our prisoners, had SOME benefit to offset the black stain it put on our country's image and soul. So with the White House wanting it, and CIA leadership wanting it, is it ANY surprise that a couple of memos might be out there saying "Hey, we waterboarded this guy and crushed his testicles and because of that, we stopped a planned attack on a boat show in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin?"

With all those ulterior motives, any such memo should be taken with a gallon of salt. And Cohen should know better.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

bolton moans about prosecutions

Former Bush hack John Bolton aka The Walrus (check out his 'stache) writes today to moan bitterly about the Obama Administration not doing enough to protect the people from the de facto Bush Administration from possible prosecution by nasty foreigners.

Boo hoo.

Bolton also writes, I believe strongly that criminalizing policy disagreements is both inappropriate and destructive.

Actually, I agree. But the issue here isn't policy disagreements. Nobody wants to penalize the Bushies for supporting war against Iraq, even though many strongly disagree with that.

It's about torture. And you see, this isn't criminalizing a policy disagreement. This is going after deliberate circumvention of existing US law and US treaty obligations. Big difference.

In any case, if Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility has its way, nobody will be prosecuted. What, are they siding with fellow lawyers out of professional loyalty?


shut it DOWN

Bank of America needs a mere $33.9 billion cushion to withstand a bad economy.

Why put taxpayer money into this just to be a shareholder?

Do like the FDIC routinely does to banks that have failed. Shut them down. Shareholders and executives lose some $$$. Shame. Clean them up. Find a buyer, and get it going again.

No trying to carry it along like a financial zombie, neither dead or alive. Put a stake thru its heart (sorry I'm mixing my monster metaphors) clean and quick.


Monday, May 04, 2009

it ain't over necessarily

The public health pros at Effect Measure have it right. When you see a potential emergency like swine flu or H1N1 come along, you don't wait to see if it's bad. You act quickly.

Say you see a fire in a wastebasket in your house, near a curtain. How do you respond? Do you just wait, comfortable in your assumption that it will burn itself out without further damage? Or do you dash to smother it before it can get out of hand?

Well that's what public health people in Mexico, the US and elsewhere are doing. I think it is too much to call it "overreacting", even IF swine flu aka H1N1 turns out to be less effective at spreading and less lethal than initial reports indicated.

Remember, for public health, "When public health works, nothing happens." And that's a good thing.

In any case, another concern is that this will be a prequel to a resurgence of swine flu during the normal flu season. That does happen - see 1918-19.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

jack kemp

I can't imagine that I would have ever voted for Jack Kemp, who just died. His belief in supply-side economics - what George H. W. Bush correctly characterized as "voodoo economics" during the 1980 Republican Presidential primaries - was too much to take. His pushing for massive tax cuts in the early 1980s contributed to the huge Republican deficits left to Bill Clinton to sort out.

But Kemp didn't stick slavishly to the Reaganite Republican ideology. Though conservative, he supported civil rights, rights for illegal immigrants, and affirmative action.

Today I imagine that the Limbaughs and Boehners of the GOP would call Kemp a RINO (Republican in name only), like they did Arlen Specter and Jim Jeffords. Those two both left the Republican Party. Kemp was already out of politics, but his empathy for those with left would be viewed suspiciously within the party today.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

glad to see congress is focused on the key issues

On Friday the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection had a hearing. Texas Republican Joe Barton, who has introduced legislation on the issue of the day, said "It's interesting that people of good will keep trying to tinker with the current system, and to my mind it's a little bit like -- and I don't mean this directly -- but it's like communism. You can't fix it. It will not be fixable. Sooner or later, you're going to have to try a new model, and that's why we're here today."

Strong words from Congressman Barton, who even used the "communism" card. So what system is he decrying? The practice of corporate chiefs to name their friends to their compensation committees to guarantee fat raises? Price-fixing by the oil companies? The system by which businesses and their lobbyists get special little bits of legislation passed to benefit a certain class of business, defined so narrowly that only the particular firm in question can benefit?

No, Joe Barton is complaining about the college football Bowl Championship Series.

Now look, I'm sympathetic to the Boise States of the football world. Yes, the BCS is a sour, pustular chancre on the face of college football. Yes, the big power conferences plus Notre Dame have rigged this to guarantee the vast majority of TV bowl money continue to flow into their pockets. Yes, the NCAA is a bunch of weak-willed wimps for not allowing a REAL championship for big-time college football, the way it is done for college basketball and wrestling and swimming and baseball and water polo and volleyball. The way it is even done for FOOTBALL, outside of the big Division 1-A schools.

But why is the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection talking about this? Ultimately, the NCAA is a private organization. Believe it or not, there is NO national interest at play in how the NCAA rigs its championship bowl games. There is NO compelling reason for Congress to be involved.

Funny, I thought the Republicans wanted the government to keep its nose out of private business.

Labels: ,

republicans are guaranteed to be unhappy

President Obama said he would replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter with somebody who "respects the Constitution and brings "empathy" and "understanding" to the bench."

Respecting the Constitution? Empathy? Understanding? These are not Republican judicial values! They want ideologues like Antonin Scalia, who can twist the Constitution and the law to support Republican ideological goals. Understanding the Constitution? That sort of crazy talk could have allowed Al Gore to have been allowed to become President.

Labels: ,