Monday, January 31, 2005
Krugman: Many Unhappy Returns
In his latest column, Paul Krugman exposes the great contradiction in the privatizers' scheme: It relies on the belief that the US economy will be simultaneously Forever Bull AND Forever Bear. Needless to say, this simply isn't possible, no matter how many times the privatizers click the heels of their ruby-red slippers. Oh, and by the way: If the economy were to grow at the Forever Bull rate the privatizers use when they want to talk up stock performances, then Social Security as it currently stands wouldn't need any tweaking whatsoever.
The Fairness Doctrine
Salon's Eric Boehlert covers Louise Slaughter's efforts to revive the Fairness Doctrine -- efforts that the recent news of Bush Administration payoffs to conservative pundits has greatly assisted. Of course, the cons will fight this tooth and nail. They're quite happy with their near-stranglehold on the US corporate media's throat. (They're already busy trying to pretend that private citizens who are liberals can't be allowed to have radio networks. Somehow, the whole idea of "getting gummint out of our lives" goes out the window when they're the ones getting government paychecks thanks to Bush.) But it looks like we have a fighting chance to level the playing field.
Federal Judge: Gitmo Detentions Illegal
And now the excrement hits the rotating blades. BushCo is going to delay this with appeals out the wazoo, but the point has been made.
A federal judge ruled this morning that special military reviews the Pentagon has used to determine the likely guilt of most of the 500 men held at a prison in Guantanamo Bay -- and to justify their continued imprisonment -- are illegal. [...] In today's decision, Green said the hearings, called Combatant Status Review Tribunals, are stacked against the detainees, and deny them crucial rights. She said some detainees may indeed be guilty and pose a danger to the United States, but the government must first give them a lawful hearing on the evidence against them. Green said the detainees are entitled to constitutional rights, including the advice of a lawyer and a fair chance to confront the evidence against them. The judge found the reviews have largely denied those rights.And here's the money shots:
Green noted in particular that there are widespread allegations, and some evidence, that detainees were tortured or abused during interrogations. She said such information makes extremely suspect any confessions of terrorist activities, upon which the military relies heavily in its process of determining that someone is an enemy combatant. Green also criticized the military for using an illogically broad definition of "enemy combatant" in deciding to hold Muslim men from dozens of countries for as long as three years. She said after reviewing classified material for the detainees, she saw many cases in which the military presented no evidence that individuals were ever engaged in actual combat or terrorist crimes.So long as there was still some semblance of a criminal-justice system in America, this ruling was inevitable. BushCo is finally beginning to bump up against reality.
The Iraq Food for Votes Scandal
Some Just Voted for Food By Dahr Jamail Inter Press Service Monday 31 January 2005 BAGHDAD - Voting in Baghdad was linked with receipt of food rations, several voters said after the Sunday poll. Many Iraqis said Monday that their names were marked on a list provided by the government agency that provides monthly food rations before they were allowed to vote. "I went to the voting centre and gave my name and district where I lived to a man," said Wassif Hamsa, a 32-year-old journalist who lives in the predominantly Shia area Janila in Baghdad. "This man then sent me to the person who distributed my monthly food ration." Mohammed Ra'ad, an engineering student who lives in the Baya'a district of the capital city reported a similar experience. Ra'ad, 23, said he saw the man who distributed monthly food rations in his district at his polling station. "The food dealer, who I know personally of course, took my name and those of my family who were voting," he said. "Only then did I get my ballot and was allowed to vote." "Two of the food dealers I know told me personally that our food rations would be withheld if we did not vote," said Saeed Jodhet, a 21-year-old engineering student who voted in the Hay al-Jihad district of Baghdad.Kinda puts a different spin on those glorious celebrations of freedom, doesn't it? It's not a democracy if they only feed you if you vote.
Conservaracist Fuzzy Math: "85% of Blacks Go on Food Stamps"
Riley of Moose Lips catches a conservative being what conservatives generally are -- a racist pig. (The con pulled the page before it could be Google cached, but Ripley preserved the text, and added his own comments. And I was also able to find it posted here.) By the way: I couldn't find any current nationwide food-stamp and race stats in the few minutes of Googling I did, but California's 1998 ones show that a greater percentage of white people than black people were on food stamps at the time. And California has a lot of black people, as anyone living in or around LA can verify.
More Orwellian Word Games from the Privatization Crowd
Back when the Cato Institute, having seen the focus-group results, decided to pull a Stalin and banish the word "privatization" to an Orwellian right-wing hell for politically incorrect language, "choice" was the substitute they tried to foist on us. Just as Stalin ordered all evidence of the existence of certain out-of-favor (or liquidated) commissars to be removed -- even down to airbrushing them out of photos -- the neo-Stalinist privatizers went to great lengths to do the same to the word "privatization". Why? So they could try to keep selling the concept of privatization, while fooling everyone into thinking they weren't.
It turned out that "choice" didn't work, so later, they came up with "private accounts."
Just last month, they invented "personal accounts" -- and "private accounts" has now joined "privatization" in the Nacht und Nebel. The press corps, like good little Winston Smiths, followed the dictates of their neo-Stalinist zampolit minders, and overnight "personal accounts" became the politically correct term.
But not for long!
Josh Marshall gives us this Washington Post article by Mike Allen wherein it is noted that the new politically-correct word, soon to be rolled out in the wake of the
ideological-purity meeting congressional Republican retreat in West Virginia, is "personalization".
The news was allegedly supposed to be confidential, but it's obvious to me that the Republicans leaked it to the press so that they'd have a head start in slavishly air-brushing "personal accounts" out of their prose.
LAT: The Cons' Decades-Old Privatization Propaganda War
Considering that the Cons have been investing billions and decades in their War on Our Social Security, I'm amazed that their brainwashing hasn't been 100% effective. But they haven't yet succeeded in destroying our public school system, so there must be enough people out there who still know enough math to know when they're being sold bogus figures. (Thanks to Kevin Drum for the heads-up.) Meanwhile, as Josh Marshall points out today, Bush is going to Montana not to put pressure on Max Baucus, but on Denny Rehberg, the sole Republican Congresscritter for Montana. Why? Because Rehberg is not behind the Bush/Cato privatization plan. He even dares call it what it is: Not "choice", not "personal accounts", but PRIVATIZATION. Bush and his buddies may have billions, but the Republicans who still have to worry about winning elections aren't very happy at all about this scam.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Giant In Decline
Here's the Asia Times on how BushCo's decadence is rapidly stripping America of both its power and its relevance on the world stage. It's all worth reading, but the last few paragraphs are especially chilling:
The parallel drives for energy security on the part of the United States and China hold the seeds of future conflict as well. Yukon Huang, a senior adviser at the World Bank, recently noted that China's heavy reliance on oil imports (as well as problems with environmental degradation, including serious water shortages) poses a significant threat to the country's economic development even over the near term, the next three to five years. China's already vigorous response to this challenge is likely to bring it increasingly up against the United States. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, for instance, returned from a Christmas trip to China, where he apparently sold America's historic Venezuelan oil supplies to the Chinese together with future prospecting rights. Even Canada (in the words of President Bush, "our most important neighbors to the north") is negotiating to sell up to one-third of its oil reserves to China. CNOOC, China's third-largest oil-and-gas group, is actually considering a bid of more that $13 billion for its US rival, Unocal. The real significance of the deal (which, given the size, could not have been contemplated in the absence of Chinese state support) is that it illustrates the emerging competition between China and the US for global influence - and resources. The drive for resources is occurring in a world where alliances are shifting among major oil-producing and consuming nations. A kind of post-Cold War global lineup against perceived US hegemony seems to be in the earliest stages of formation, possibly including Brazil, China, India, Iran, Russia and Venezuela. Russian President Vladimir Putin's riposte to a US strategy of building up its military presence in some of the former SSRs of the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has been to ally the Russian and Iranian oil industries, organize large-scale joint war games with the Chinese military, and work toward the goal of opening up the shortest, cheapest, and potentially most lucrative new oil route of all, southward out of the Caspian Sea area to Iran. In the meantime, the European Union is now negotiating to drop its ban on arms shipments to China (much to the publicly expressed chagrin of the Pentagon). Russia has also offered a stake in its recently nationalized Yukos (a leading, pro-Western Russian oil company forced into bankruptcy by the Putin government) to China. In a one-superpower world, this is pretty brazen behavior by all concerned, but it is symptomatic of a growing perception of the United States as a declining, overstretched giant, albeit one with the capacity to strike out lethally if wounded. US military and economic dominance may still be the central fact of world affairs, but the limits of this primacy are becoming ever more evident - something reflected in the dollar's precipitous descent on foreign-exchange markets. It all makes for a very challenging backdrop to the rest of 2005. Keep an eye out. Perhaps this will indeed be the year when long-standing problems for the United States finally do boil over, but don't expect Washington to accept the dispersal of its economic and military power lightly.
Gitmo Brit Tells of Torture and Assault by US Captors
From the UK's Independent:
One of the four Britons freed from Guantanamo Bay last week has alleged being tortured, nearly suffocated and repeatedly assaulted in American detention, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. In the first detailed account to emerge since their release, Moazzam Begg, 35, from Birmingham, has accused his US captors of threatening his family, killing fellow detainees, and interrogating him more than 250 times. His 25-page testimony was written in solitary confinement at Guantanamo Bay last year for an American tribunal hearing. [...] In his testimony, Mr Begg alleges that he was "coerced" into signing a false confession at Guantanamo Bay on 13 February 2003 by the same US interrogators who had allegedly tortured him at Bagram airbase. He had signed the confession, which claimed that he was a member of al-Qa'ida, with "memories fresh [with] the threats of summary trials, life imprisonment and execution". He added: "They reiterated the previous threats." In further passages of his diary, Mr Begg alleges that he saw US interrogators using a series of illegal practices to extract confessions from detainees. At Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, he claims, interrogators used "sleep deprivation; racial and religious taunts; being chained to a door for hours - with a suffocating plastic sandbag as a hood; arm twisting and forced bowing; and several beatings."Remember, Saddam was evil because he tortured people.
Racialist science meeting launders CCC, Stormfront extremist image
Saturday, January 29, 2005
War Profiteering, PNAC Style
The Myth: Iraqis, prior to occupation, lived in little beige tents set up on the sides of little dirt roads all over Baghdad. The men and boys would ride to school on their camels, donkeys and goats. These schools were larger versions of the home units and for every 100 students, there was one turban-wearing teacher who taught the boys rudimentary math (to count the flock) and reading. Girls and women sat at home, in black burkas, making bread and taking care of 10-12 children. The Truth: Iraqis lived in houses with running water and electricity. Thousands of them own computers. Millions own VCRs and VCDs. Iraq has sophisticated bridges, recreational centers, clubs, restaurants, shops, universities, schools, etc. Iraqis love fast cars (especially German cars) and the Tigris is full of little motor boats that are used for everything from fishing to water-skiing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that most people choose to ignore the little prefix ‘re’ in the words ‘rebuild’ and ‘reconstruct’. For your information, ‘re’ is of Latin origin and generally means ‘again’ or ‘anew’. In other words- there was something there in the first place. We have hundreds of bridges. We have one of the most sophisticated network of highways in the region: you can get from Busrah, in the south, to Mosul, in the north, without once having to travel upon those little, dusty, dirt roads they show you on Fox News. We had a communications system so advanced, it took the Coalition of the Willing 3 rounds of bombing, on 3 separate nights, to damage the Ma’moun Communications Tower and silence our telephones.That was the whole point of "shock and awe", remember? There's no reason to do that to a non-industrial society. Riverbend then goes on to describe how Iraqis are being frozen out of the reconstruction process, even though there are tens of thousands of qualified Iraqi civil engineers and they could do the work for far less money than the US war profiteer companies are charging. (In fact, they're used to this sort of thing, having done so in the wake of the last US-led invasion of Iraq in 1991.)
So instead of bringing in thousands of foreign companies that are going to want billions of dollars, why aren’t the Iraqi engineers, electricians and laborers being taken advantage of? Thousands of people who have no work would love to be able to rebuild Iraq… no one is being given a chance. The reconstruction of Iraq is held above our heads like a promise and a threat. People roll their eyes at reconstruction because they know (Iraqis are wily) that these dubious reconstruction projects are going to plunge the country into a national debt only comparable to that of America. A few already rich contractors are going to get richer, Iraqi workers are going to be given a pittance and the unemployed Iraqi public can stand on the sidelines and look at the glamorous buildings being built by foreign companies. I always say this war is about oil. It is. But it is also about huge corporations that are going to make billions off of reconstructing what was damaged during this war. Can you say Haliburton? (Which, by the way, got the very first contracts to replace the damaged oil infrastructure and put out ‘oil fires’ way back in April). Well, of course it’s going to take uncountable billions to rebuild Iraq, Mr. Bremer, if the contracts are all given to foreign companies! Or perhaps the numbers are this frightening because Ahmad Al-Chalabi is the one doing the books- he *is* the math expert, after all.
Harold Ickes Backs Dean for DNC Chair
Thanks to Jerome Armstrong of MyDD for blogging this:
Harold Ickes, a leading Democratic activist and former aide to President Clinton, said Friday he is backing Howard Dean to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee - giving a powerful boost to the front-runner. ``I think all the candidates who are running have strong attributes, but Dean has more of the attributes than the others,'' said Ickes, who considered running for chairman himself before dropping out in early January. ``Many people say Howard Dean is a northeastern liberal, he is progressive, but his tenure as governor of Vermont was that of a real moderate.'' Ickes, who heads the political action committee of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said the endorsement was his alone and ``does not reflect Sen. Clinton's opinion.'' While Ickes would not comment on the Clintons' preferences, he is a close ally and would not be endorsing Dean against their strong objections. No one was immediately available in Sen. Clinton's office to comment.Sounds like a case of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." It probably helped that a number of us wrote in to Hillary asking her to give Dean a chance.
The Iraqi election
Conyers: Privatization Is Going Nowhere
This morning on the Nancy Skinner Show (WDTW-AM 1310, Detroit), Rep. John Conyers said, "Just between you and me and half a million listeners, Social Security privatizing is going nowhere." I got the distinct impression that he was providing the inside scoop based on what he's heard from his colleagues.Doesn't surprise me. It's one thing to attack programs that Republican voters don't think benefit them directly -- Head Start, etc. It's quite another to go after Social Security. Plus, we've managed to get out in front of the privatizers on this issue. Bush's deceptions and coyness -- remember how he got the media to bash Kerry for (correctly) calling Bush a privatizer? -- have backfired, allowing us to frame it first. And it takes a lot of effort/money/time to overcome an initial framing of an issue. Furthermore, the rumblings of China's central banks are being heard. Greenspan whored to get Bush a second term by keeping interest rates artificially low, but he's now jacking them up again because he must.
Whitman: GOP Foiled Security Efforts for Chemical Plants
Industry lobbyists worked with key Republican lawmakers to sabotage new security regulations for chemical plants after the 9/11 attacks, Christie Whitman alleges in her new book. Many chemical plants, including dozens in New Jersey, could release toxic clouds that could kill tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in the case of an attack or a major malfunction. Their security became a prime concern of experts after 9/11, but proposed regulations requiring safety measures failed to pass in Congress. In her new book, "It's My Party Too," former New Jersey Gov. Whitman, who was head of the Environmental Protection Agency as the debate raged in Congress and the Bush administration -- placed the blame squarely at the feet of chemical-industry lobbyists and congressional Republicans. Whitman wrote that she and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge crafted rules requiring the 15,000 most high-risk plants to "take reasonable steps to address those vulnerabilities, and report to the EPA that they had complied." "Although both Tom and I agreed such legislation was necessary, strong congressional opposition, led by some Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to giving EPA even this modest additional statutory authority made it difficult to secure administration support," Whitman wrote, singling out Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) for blame. [...] Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), who has introduced his own strict chemical-plant bill, seized on Whitman's comments as confirmation of his long-held contention that industry lobbyists had defeated any new security rules. Corzine said he planned to re- introduce his bill next week, along with a companion measure that would provide new rules for the rail transportation of hazardous chemicals.
The Privatizers Turn to Blatant Racism
This week, in a closed meeting with African-Americans, Mr. Bush asserted that Social Security was a bad deal for their race, repeating his earlier claim that "African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people." In other words, blacks don't live long enough to collect their fair share of benefits. This isn't a new argument; privatizers have been making it for years. But the claim that blacks get a bad deal from Social Security is false. And Mr. Bush's use of that false argument is doubly shameful, because he's exploiting the tragedy of high black mortality for political gain instead of treating it as a problem we should solve. Let's start with the facts. Mr. Bush's argument goes back at least seven years, to a report issued by the Heritage Foundation - a report so badly misleading that the deputy chief actuary (now the chief actuary) of the Social Security Administration wrote a memo pointing out "major errors in the methodology." That's actuary-speak for "damned lies." In fact, the actuary said, "careful research reflecting actual work histories for workers by race indicate that the nonwhite population actually enjoys the same or better expected rates of return from Social Security" as whites.Of course, the GOP's and conservatives' War Against Taxes and Gummint has always used racism to get non-rich white folk to vote against their own best interests. (That's what the "Southern Strategy" is all about.) But here, in their desperation to save a proposal even a non-trivial number of Republicans don't favor, they've stopped trying to be subtle about it.
Once Again: WHAT "Liberal" Media?!
The same alleged journalists who freak out when an opinion-provider like Atrios uses a pseudonym and dares to have lefty opinions have no complaints at all when an operative for a GOP front pretending to be an actual news company uses a pseudonym when part of the Bush White House's press corps -- even though every other member of that press corps must be identified by his or her legal name. Remember, folks: Under the normal rules of journalism, journalists are held to a higher standard than opinion columnists. But under the conservative Bizarro World of the past two decades, opinion writers like Atrios and Paul Krugman are told that they must have higher standards than alleged "actual journalists" like Jeff Gerth, Susan Schmidt, Judith Miller, and Carl Cameron. And conservative opinion columnists like David Brooks and Bill Safire are allowed to lie at will.
Friday, January 28, 2005
Robert Kuttner on the Coming Bush Depression (From Beijing, with Love)
It's grimly amusing to hear the cons and their trained TV and radio pundits hold forth on how our economy is allegedly not in recession when I see the half-vacant hulks of once-thriving shopping malls like Minneapolis' City Center. But as bad as the present is, the future -- unless Bush suddenly turns into John Maynard Keynes and starts taxing the bejeezus out of the rich -- is going to get worse:
America's deteriorating fiscal situation, unfortunately, is not lost either on world money markets or on the Federal Reserve. Although no world leader would willfully plunge the world into depression, that's not how markets work. Markets are purely self-interested. Lately, markets, with good reason, have been betting against the dollar. As the U.S. trade deficit approaches a staggering 7 percent, it's not clear how much longer foreign investors will keep investing in dollars and dollar-securities, such as corporate stocks and government bonds. As for the Chinese, Clyde Prestowitz of the Economic Strategy Institute, formerly a senior trade negotiator in the Reagan administration, offers the following scenario: In a future crisis involving the tense China-Taiwan relationship, the Chinese ambassador suggests to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that maybe the United States would like to move its warships 500 miles away from Taiwan. Rice demurs. The next day, the Bank of China sells a few -- just a very few to get our attention -- U.S. Treasury securities. Money markets reel. Would the Chinese play such a risky game? They have their own interests, geopolitical as well as economic. They are certainly not an American pawn, less so with every passing year. Miscalculations have happened in world economic relations before, and with calamitous results.What, Bushistas miscalculate? The self-styled "Vulcans"? The events of the last four years should be answer enough. We're talking about an administration that sent young College Republican-type trustafarian brats to run Paul Bremer's CPA in Iraq -- a job that they did horribly. Meanwhile, it's time to switch from ARMs to fixed-rate mortgages:
The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, is increasingly worried about inflation, largely of the imported variety due to the weak dollar. The Fed is steadily raising interest rates. With every quarter-point hike, consumers pay more for mortgage and credit card loans, investors in stocks become more wary, and the air goes out of the economy. Alan Greenspan kept rates very low long enough to get George W. Bush reelected. Now he is reverting to type.But there is a silver lining of sorts:
The only good news is that all this bad news makes Social Security privatization, or permanent tax cuts for the wealthy, less than an even bet.
PayolaGate: Third Time's the Charm
MyDD notes that a third conservabot has been caught taking taxpayer money from the Bush Junta:
"A part-time columnist who heads an organization that promotes marriage was awarded a contract worth up to $10,000 from the Bush administration last year -- the third recent case in which a syndicated columnist has received such payments," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The columnist, Michael J. McManus, said he was paid through a subcontract from a consulting firm that does work for the Department of Health and Human Services."This comes as the House and Senate Democrats show they intend to do something meaningful about this garbage. Most excellent.
One More Reason to Cheer Scaife's Downfall
Atrios brings up Mike Signorile's writings on the Scaife-funded slime masters that tried to take down Gene Robinson. As Atrios notes, the StarTribune (my hometown paper), was just about the only mainstream media source to go after the smear artists.
Like I said, one more reason to cheer Scaife's downfall.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Score One for Media Diversity
Bush doesn't his way for a change:
The Bush administration will not ask the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that struck down the Federal Communication Commission's sweeping changes of media ownership rules. [...] The Republican-dominated FCC completed two years of review and voted 3-2 along party lines in 2003 to ease decades-old ownership restrictions. The changes included allowing a single company to own TV stations and a newspaper in the same area.
This is very good news, indeed! It should seriously slow the growth of the Media Borg.
The Horror, The Horror
My friend M.E. Cowan of Failure Is Impossible sent me this anecdote:
From an American expatriate in Cancun, Mexico: "Mexican TV channels are notoriously incompetent, and proved that once again by getting their audio and video tapes mixed up. On the screen, there was Bush, holding a press conference, while an announcer was solemnly explaining, 'It was the worst train wreck in the United States in years, and nobody yet knows how many victims this horror will claim.'"
Pathways: Giving Homes to the Homeless -- No Matter Who They Are
Got my first issue of Mother Jones in the mail today. Dang, that is one excellent magazine.
There are several really good articles in this month's issue, but the one that stands out for me is their piece on Pathways, a revolutionary program that proves that it's much cheaper -- and better -- to get homeless people into apartments than it is to let them die in our emergency rooms.
Even Bush admits that this is a very good program. And the results speak for themselves.
Social Security Privatization: Chile's Story
Whenever the folks at Cato or Heritage, or their buddies in the Bush Junta, want to talk up Social Security privatization -- oops, I mean "choice" -- oops, I mean "private accounts" -- oops, I mean "personal accounts" -- they almost invariably mention the "success" of privatization in Chile. Fine. Let's talk about Chile's experience with privatization:
Even many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts - burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment - are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system. Dagoberto Sáez, for example, is a 66-year-old laboratory technician here who plans, because of a recent heart attack, to retire in March. He earns just under $950 a month; his pension fund has told him that his nearly 24 years of contributions will finance a 20-year annuity paying only $315 a month. "Colleagues and friends with the same pay grade who stayed in the old system, people who work right alongside me," he said, "are retiring with pensions of almost $700 a month - good until they die. I have a salary that allows me to live with dignity, and all of a sudden I am going to be plunged into poverty, all because I made the mistake of believing the promises they made to us back in 1981."This is "successful"? I don't think so.
The Not-So-Discreet Scariness of the GOP
Read the David Cay Johnston interview.
Just one scary tidbit: The neocons want to kill off public schools. Period.
Tax Codes, PowerLine, and the Super Rich
On the topic of how the Cons are working to help the super-rich at the expense of everyone else, the Twin Cities weekly City Pages has a flurry of good articles in their latest issue: Interview with David Cay Johnston on how the US tax code has been warped over the last three decades. PowerLine's Head Blogger types on company time -- but since his day job's with the Very GOP TCF, it really is OK if you're Republican. The Case of the Rolled Newspaper (or how the usually-good StarTribune was made to swallow GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget bull without comment). These are all just the things to print out and leave at the break room table for your co-workers to read. (The Johnston interview is especially recommended, but blog readers will also enjoy the PowerLine piece, and students of how the conservatives have cowed even "liberal" papers should examine the third as well.)
War on the Cheap: Socialism for the Rich, "Free Enterprise" for the Rest of Us
Go to war, get injured, get billed for it. Insult to injury, indeed. Meanwhile, Bush-favored companies get no-bid contracts and have their paths and palms greased in every way possible. And the mercenaries -- oh, I'm sorry, the politically correct term is now "contractors" -- get paid ten times what the grunts get.
Williams, Gallagher, and Connecting the Dots
By now, we all know that Maggie Gallagher is the second conservabot "pundit" to be outed as a recipient of Bush Administration cash. Remember, the Bush Administration said two weeks ago that the Armstrong Williams case was an "isolated incident". Now, it's obvious that it wasn't. Gee, I wonder why isn't the mainstream media more interested in this part of the story? When a Democrat was in the White House, the US media were very eager to connect the dots, even when the dots only existed in OIC/RNC blast-faxes. Now, with a Republican ensconced therein, each dot is treated as if it has no connection to any other dot. The only explanation that fits all the evidence was given many decades ago, by Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
It Has Begun
Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen. Get those ARMs converted to fixed-rates while you still can. Item: The next chairman of the Federal Reserve needs to be somebody who can say 'no' to the man who appoints him, or the trend of foreign investors to pull out of the US will accelerate. Unfortunately, Krugman describes why BushCo will never appoint somebody like that. Item: China's starting to decouple itself from the dollar.
DAVOS, Switzerland - China has lost faith in the stability of the U.S. dollar and its first priority is to broaden the exchange rate for its currency from the dollar to a more flexible basket of currencies, a top Chinese economist said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum. At a standing-room only session focusing on the world's fastest-growing economy, Fan Gang, director of the National Economic Research Institute at the China Reform Foundation, said the issue for China isn't whether to devalue the yuan but "to limit it from the U.S. dollar." But he stressed that the Chinese government is under no pressure to revalue its currency. China's exchange rate policies restrict the value of the yuan to a narrow band around 8.28 yuan, pegged to $1. Critics argue that the yuan is undervalued, making China's exports cheaper overseas and giving its manufacturers an unfair advantage. Beijing has been under pressure from its trading partners, especially the United States, to relax controls on its currency. "The U.S. dollar is no longer - in our opinion is no longer - (seen) as a stable currency, and is devaluating all the time, and that's putting troubles all the time," Fan said, speaking in English. "So the real issue is how to change the regime from a U.S. dollar pegging ... to a more manageable ... reference ... say Euros, yen, dollars - those kind of more diversified systems," he said. "If you do this, in the beginning you have some kind of initial shock," Fan said. "You have to deal with some devaluation pressures."You have been warned. This is what will keep Bush from invading Iran. Expect to see interest rates topping 10% in the next year and a half, unless Bush suddenly mends his ways. Which he won't.
The Republicans Have Always Wanted to Destroy Social Security
...and they've always been willing to lie about it. Kudos to Kos for finding this little gem. Seems that George W. Bush, back in 1978, claimed during his failed Congressional campaign that Social Security would go broke by 1988 unless it was privatized. 1988 came and went. So did 1998. So did 2004. And Social Security is still here. Of course, this is the sort of fuzzy math we've come to expect from a guy who sees no problems with giving rich people huge tax cuts during wartime.
News You'll Never See On American TV
It explains the precision with which Bush's team of marketers runs the selling of him to the public.
America's BushCo-Incurred Debt Threatens the World
WASHINGTON - The United Nations on Tuesday urged all the major industrial countries, especially Japan and the nations of Europe, to help the United States reduce its deficits by spurring their own economies to grow faster. In a report, "World Economic Situation and Prospects 2005," the United Nations said that the budget and trade deficits of the United States were putting the global economy off balance. It echoed warnings by the International Monetary Fund and other financial institutions in saying the United States cannot continue to carry its huge debts. "What we really need is a major advancement in cooperation among the advanced economies to help the U.S. get out of this problem," said José Antonio Ocampo, the under secretary general for economic and social affairs at the United Nations, in an interview.Actually, what we really need is for y'all to put pressure on Bush to roll back those huge tax cuts he gave his rich buddies, and throw on an extra "war tax" to those companies that profited from the not-so-excellent Iraq adventure. If he did that, we could actually get out of this debt mess rather easily.
Poodle Boy Straps On His Spine
Alas, it's atrophied from disuse. But it still is heartening to see Tony Blair try to break from BushCo:
DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday the United States must do more to address the concerns of the rest of the world if it expects support for its own policies, and he cited global warming as a prime example. ``If America wants the rest of the world to be part of the agenda it has set, it must be part of their agenda, too,'' he told the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, a gathering of 2,500 world political and business leaders. Blair and French President Jacques Chirac - who appeared on a video link - both urged the world's richest nations to provide billions of dollars to help developing countries combat AIDS, poverty and natural disasters. Blair's unusually sharp comments directed at the United States come at a time of growing public anger in Britain over his support for President Bush in Iraq, and months before British general elections. Alluding to one of the key issues dividing the United States from Europe and much of the world, Blair said: ``I support the Kyoto Protocol. Others will not ... but business and the global economy need to know this isn't an issue that is going away.''
Beginning of the End for the PNAC Platoon?
Could be: Seems that Doug Feith is joining fellow PNACer John Bolton in getting the hell out of Dodge -- or at least DC. Unfortunately, Robert Joseph is still there, and he's just as nutty as Bolton. But one would think that if Feith and Bolton, the biggest exponents of "Invade 'Em All - Let God Sort It Out", weren't willing to stick around for another Bush term, then the DC climate might not as friendly towards the unilateralist deficit-growers and military-busters as it once was. I wonder if the folks at China's central banks might have yanked BushCo's leash? "Don't even think of invading Iran, buddy. We've given you too much free money as it is. Time to pay up."
They're Losing This One, Folks
From the Guardian:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Republican Party is following up record fund raising for President Bush's re-election effort by asking donors to finance its efforts to get Bush's message ``past the liberal media filter'' to the public. Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman sent a fund-raising e-mail Wednesday telling supporters donations are needed to help Bush advance his second-term agenda. ``The president has great goals for our country: a growing economy, strong homeland and national defense, tort and Social Security reform and affordable health care. But we need your help to get the president's message past the liberal media filter and directly to the American people,'' wrote Mehlman, Bush's 2004 campaign manager. Mehlman asked donors to give $25 or more."Liberal media filter", Ken? Geez Louise, is that the best you can do? I guess it really is as Eric Alterman said: "Liberal" is now just a synonym for "not nuts". Because otherwise, I can't see how anyone would call Virgil Goode a liberal. They must not be getting much bling from their usual corporate-donor suspects, if they have to go to their voting base. And they weren't expecting the Democrats and the bloggers and groups like AARP to hit the ground running so soon after the election. What's more, groups like There Is No Crisis are using inexpensive ways to get out the truth and it imprinted in the public mind before the GOP can even line up all its legislators. We not only can win this one, folks -- we've already got 'em on the run. Just keep up the pressure. Especially on the congresscritters. (Remind them than Ken Mehlman won't have time to really mobilize the Freepers and White Citizens' Council types to go after them, because he's going to be very busy soon trying to keep China's central banks from dumping all those dollars it bought to help prop up Bush's riotous borrow-and-spend policies.)
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Big Gay (and Democratic) News Where You'd Least Expect It
This DailyKos diary post is primarily about gains made by gays in unexpected places like Utah.
But it's also about the not-so-coincidental fact that Democrats in many of these places (like Oregon) managed to make big gains at the local level -- gains that got swept under the rug by the national media's eagerness to emphasize the scope of the GOP's alleged "mandate".
I mean, I knew about Montana and Minnesota. But not about Oregon, or about the fact that the Massachusetts Democrats had not only survived a HUGE blitz by the GOP (who in some locales outspent them by over five to one), but gained more ground, replacing several Republican legislators with Democrats.
Democrats did very well in the local ground game in 2004. The national results stank, largely because the national corporate media is in the GOP's hip pocket. But with the advent of Air America and Ed Schultz, that's starting to change. 2006 will be a different story on the national level, I suspect.
Heritage Foundation's Beach Beaches Himself WRT Social Security
Last week, the Minneapolis StarTribune ran an editorial describing Bush's using debunked Heritage Foundation-crafted statistics to lie about Social Security. Of course, the Heritage Foundation wouldn't take this lying (or telling the truth) down. In the 01/25/2005 edition of the Strib, the Heritage Foundation's William Beach is given space for a response. His response cites unnamed studies that he says "debunk" the Social Security and GAO studies that were in the Strib's editorial. Well, after spending the bulk of the evening on the 'Net, I can tell you that I haven't been able to find these studies Beach cites. There is no clue if these studies actually exist, much less whether they have gone through peer review or show what Beach claims they do. The SSA and GAO studies cited by the Strib, on the other, most definitely exist, and Beach admits as much. Score for those playing at home: Strib 2, Heritage Foundation 0.
Weekly Standard Admits to Conservatives' Privatization Newspeak
To sell Social Security reform, the president has already adopted strategies associated with Republican consultant Frank Luntz and Presentation Testing's Richard Thau. They've derived lessons from dozens of focus groups and polls on this issue.(...) Where Bush is following the advice of Luntz and Thau is in avoiding certain poisonous words. Chief among these is "privatization." Supporters of reform toss that word around to describe the process of creating investment accounts controlled by individual workers. To the public, however, it indicates corporate control of Social Security, which they oppose. Bush never utters the word. Instead of calling investment accounts funded by payroll taxes "private," he calls them "personal."Of course, as Josh Marshall documents here and here, the lapdog corporate media dutifully changes the terminology they use when Uncle Karl orders them to do so. The latest change -- to use the words "personal accounts" instead of "private accounts" -- just happened within the last few weeks; before that, Bush and all the other privatizers were using the words "private accounts", words that they themselves came up with. Why are the Republicans so frantically trying to play this Orwellian shell game with the language? Because they are getting their asses kicked on the Social Security privatization issue. Their only defense is to keep bullying their GOP/media axis lackeys into changing the terms they use every couple of weeks. But just as calling an outhouse a commode doesn't make it stink any less, playing the Newspeak game won't make Americans fall in love with the idea of seeing Bush and his Cato and Heritage buddies throw their money down a rathole -- and put the US trillions of dollars in debt in order to do it.
Some of the editorial cartoonists are calling them on this, too:
Creationists Killing Science to Further Racism
A recent Washington Post editoral describes the danger that creationism -- now repackaged as "intelligent design" -- is wreaking on the schools, and the young minds, of our nation. And people wonder why Europe and Japan are beating us in technology? Creationism is racist Southern Baptist fundamentalist religion repackaged as science, with the intent to destroy science. Why? Because the white Southern Baptist types leading this fight would rather die than admit that evolution is right, and that blacks and whites are kin under the skin. They've felt that way for over a century and a half. That's why the Scopes Monkey Trial occurred in Tennessee, not Vermont. These bigotries have expanded outside of their normal Southern habitats, thanks to post-World-War-II suburban white flight and the GOP/Media axis that the creationists know how to manipulate.
Biodiesel and Willie Nelson
The man who shares with Johnny Cash the mantle of Greatest Country Singer-Songwriter is now backing his own biodiesel company.
Biodiesel is gaining popularity in places where air quality is easily compromised by cars and trucks using regular gas and diesel. And its main byproduct is glycerin, which is itself a very useful and benign product. Oh, and the lack of emissions means that it doesn't contribute to global warming.
Between this and the newest generation of hybrid cars and trucks, we might actually keep ourselves from killing this planet (and ourselves).
Freezing Terrorist Assets
This is a good thing. But it's too bad that the Republicans fought like mad demons to keep President Clinton from doing this to Osama and Osama's allies. If they'd let him do this, and if they hadn't wasted his time with the various bogus scandals they concocted to throw at him, 9/11 might never have happened.
Suspected al-Qaida backer's assets frozen
The Bush administration acted Tuesday to freeze the finances of a Syrian man believed to helped bankroll insurgents in Iraq by providing support to al-Qaida's top operative in the war-torn country. The Treasury Department's action against Sulayman Khalid Darwish means that any banks accounts or financial assets belonging to him that are found in this country are frozen. The United States is also asking the United Nations' member countries to freeze Darwish's assets. The U.S. government contends that Darwish provided financial and material support to terror networks run by Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's top operative in Iraq.
Terri Schiavo Update
The Abstract Appeal blog -- a blog devoted to covering Florida law and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals -- has a Terri Schiavo page with timeline (the SCOTUS ruling has yet to be added, but I'm sure it will be soon). As to whether Terri Schiavo has enough brain left to respond to treatment, here's what Florida's Second District Court of Appeal had to say at the time of the first appeal by the Schindlers in 2001:
On February 25, 1990, . . . Theresa, age 27, suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of a potassium imbalance. Michael called 911, and Theresa was rushed to the hospital. She never regained consciousness. Since 1990, Theresa has lived in nursing homes with constant care. She is fed and hydrated by tubes. The staff changes her diapers regularly. She has had numerous health problems, but none have been life threatening. Over the span of this last decade, Theresa's brain has deteriorated because of the lack of oxygen it suffered at the time of the heart attack. By mid 1996, the CAT scans of her brain showed a severely abnormal structure. At this point, much of her cerebral cortex is simply gone and has been replaced by cerebral spinal fluid. Medicine cannot cure this condition. Unless an act of God, a true miracle, were to recreate her brain, Theresa will always remain in an unconscious, reflexive state, totally dependent upon others to feed her and care for her most private needs.This is not Michael Schiavo saying this. This is the judgement of a prominent appeals court, backed up by more medical examinations and scans than most of us will ever see in each of our lifetimes. But the "please help Terri!" sites never mention this. And of course, the Schindlers are now accusing Michael Schiavo of deliberately trying to harm their daughter. If they really believed that, then why did they let him live with them for two years after Terri suffered the brain damage -- and for over a year after Terri was sent to California for attempted treatment? Strange, that they'd tolerate for so long the presence of the guy they allegedly thought had caused their daughter's plight. You'd think that they'd have sued him for assault and battery, if not wrongful death. (They can't file for wrongful death, because they can't ever admit that Terri's brain-dead, and doing that would cause the various anti-choice religious groups funding their legal actions to pull their financial support.)
Monday, January 24, 2005
Howard Dean and Harry Reid
I really, really wish that Harry and Howard could get together. They both understand the need to come out of the gate swinging and to junk the mealy-mouthed "prevent defense" model, which wins neither football games nor elections. Look at Howard's stemwinder of a column. Now look at Harry's agenda for the Senate Democrats. Dammit, Harry, you and Howard have far more in common than you realize.
Supremes to Jeb: Go Pound Salt
The Scalia Court does the right thing for a change. Every doctor that has examined Terri Schiavo, and who wasn't working for her parents, Jeb, or the Fundies and conservabots that have made her their poster child, has said that there's nobody home in her body any more -- and hasn't been since she sustained massive brain damage nearly fifteen years ago. In fact, much of what used to be her cerebrum is now simply liquefied. She has just enough of her lower brain left to keep her heart beating and her lungs working, but that's it. The part of her brain that made her a human being is GONE. Period. Florida's Second District Court of Appeals had this to say back in 2003:
In a June 6 opinion that rouched on the medical evidence in the Schiavo case, the 2nd District Court of Appeal wrote" "Although the physicians were not in complete agreement concerning the extent of the daughter's brain damage, they all agreed that the brain scans showed extensive permanent damage to her brain. They only debate between the doctors was whether she had a small amount of isolated living tissue in her cerebral cortex or whether she had no living tissue in her cerebral cortex."
"But Clinton Did It!": No Longer Operative
One of the rhetorical scams that the privatizers are using is to take a few words of Bill Clinton's and wrench them out of context. Josh Marshall has effectively killed that scam. Spread the word.
Los Cobardes and the Elian Madness
They're at it again.
MIAMI (AP) -- A federal judge has set a Monday trial for the claims of a dozen people who said they were wrongly assaulted by federal officers during the raid that removed Elian Gonzalez from his family's home. The plaintiffs say they were innocent bystanders who were gassed and beaten outside the home during the early morning raid on April 22, 2000. U.S. District Judge Michael Moore set the trial date Friday. "I think the public's going to be surprised that elderly people were gassed while praying the rosary," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which represents 11 of the plaintiffs.Oh, please. For one thing, that wasn't Elian's home. His home was in Cuba, with his father. And Elian, when he was picked up and before his distant Miami rellies turned him into a bargaining chip, had repeatedly said that he wanted to go home to his father. For another, the idiots holding Elian hostage had videotaped the whole thing and released it to the media. It lasted less than five minutes. No beatings, no teargassings. It's all on the video. The Feds went in, looked for Elian, found him being hidden in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, took him, and left. They tried to do as little damage as they could. (In fact, they didn't even damage the door to the room where Elian was being held hidden in the closet. THAT damage happened hours later, when his now-former captors had time to stage-manage things:
"...Several talking heads also mention Marisleysis Gonzalez's contention that the government drugged Elian and doctored the photos of him with his father." [And talking of doctoring, the AP photos show the feds leaving with Elian, the bedroom door on its hinges and in one piece. The photos taken four hours later under the direction of Marisleysis and the rest of the Gonzalez family show that same door off its hinges in two pieces. jp] --Michael Brus, 4/24/00Bartcop has more here. Most Miami Cuban-Americans are law-abiding Americans. But there is a certain section of the Miami Cuban exile community -- known in certain quarters as "Los Cobardes" (the cowards), for their preference for sneak attacks and bombings -- that are terroristic thugs. They are responsible for committing scores of car bombings, attacks, and murders over the years. But they figure that the Bush family will protect them.
Sunday, January 23, 2005
Dickie Scaife is Going DOWN!
I was wondering when he'd join Conrad Black on the scrap heap of failed archconservative newspaper publishers who destroyed their empires in the service of ideology. Here's the scoop, courtesy of rival paper the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Shakeup at the Tribune-Review; layoffs expected at all newspapers Management consolidated at Pittsburgh office; editorial, advertising affected The Tribune-Review Publishing Co. yesterday announced sweeping changes in its management structure, essentially reducing four of its six newspapers to large news bureaus and shifting their management, editing and design to offices of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Employees at the company's onetime flagship paper, the Tribune-Review of Greensburg, said they were told to expect layoffs there as editing of that newspaper moves from its offices on Cabin Hill Drive in Greensburg to the Clark Building on Pittsburgh's North Side. "They told us point-blank that there would be layoffs," said one employee at the Greensburg Tribune-Review who, like others, asked not to be identified. Workers at all of the affected papers said they were told the layoffs would hit every one of the company's daily publications, including Pittsburgh. On Tuesday, Tom Stewart, the editor of the Greensburg Tribune-Review, announced that he was leaving the paper, the first signal of the management shakeup that insiders said they expect to continue for several weeks.The bitter irony? The Greensburg Tribune-Review is what's keeping Scaife's empire afloat. But he's willing to sacrifice it in a last-ditch effort to keep alive his vile Pittsburgh edition:
Greensburg, which has a circulation estimated at 99,000 on Sundays and 53,000 weekdays, was the first of the papers purchased by Richard Mellon Scaife, an heir to the Mellon banking and oil fortune and a longtime underwriter of conservative political causes. Scaife established a Pittsburgh edition of his newspaper in December 1992, toward the end of an eight-month strike that put The Pittsburgh Press, the city's then-dominant newspaper, out of business. Sources close to the publisher said the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has failed to turn a profit in its 12 years of existence, and the Greensburg edition has subsidized the effort. Lou Ottey, who was fired as circulation manager for the Greensburg paper last week, said a general downturn in newspaper circulation compounded problems because daily newspapers in Connellsville, Monessen and Kittanning included delivery of the Sunday Tribune-Review, and when those papers lost circulation, the Tribune-Review's Sunday figures were also hit. The Valley News Dispatch produces its own Sunday edition. Last night, in Greensburg, one mid-level editor complained bitterly about the planned reductions in staff. "For years we financed their shenanigans in Pittsburgh and now they've turned on us," he said.I'd say it's time for somebody -- like, oh, maybe Warren Buffett -- to move to Pittsburgh, hire up the fired T-R staff, and start a nice sensible daily paper.
Salon: Bush Inaugural Cost $70 Million
Not $30, $40 or even $50 million, but $70-freaking-million dollars. Salon mentions the cost:
For the media, simply reporting on the cost of the inauguration proved to be a challenge. Most major outlets stuck to the lower, albeit still unprecedented, figure of $40 million, which the Presidential Inaugural Committee said it hopes to raise from private donors. But a more accurate figure may be $50 million. That's the amount cited by the Washington Times (which is plugged in to GOP circles). But even that number doesn't take into account the nearly $20 million that's being spent for security, putting the real cost at closer to $70 million, instead of the media's preferred $40 million.And further down:
Also interesting but unnoted is that between the 2001 and 2005 inaugurations, Bush and his supporters have spent roughly $115 million total on parties and parades.Remember, FDR only had one big inaugural bash, when he was first elected. And he certainly didn't party-hearty during wartime. Neither did Woodrow Wilson. (Of course, Nixon had six inaugural balls, all of which when we were in Vietnam. It's OK, If You're A Republican.)
Jeb, Arnold Trying State Pension-Fund Grabs in Florida and California
If anyone doesn't think that the Bush/Cato wing of the Republican party isn't planning to trash our state and Federal pension systems, think again. Jeb Bush is moving to privatize Medicaid in Florida while Schwarzenegger is moving to privatize the California pension system. Arnold wants to replace the Calpers pension system with yet another privatized 401k style system. I can't speak about Florida's pension plan, but Calpers is one of the strongest and most successful pension systems in the world. With the stock market down in the past three years the state has had to put more into the fund to keep the system properly funded. Arnie is taking advantage of the recent slump to claim there's a big crisis. Of course, there is no crisis. The system is one of the most sound on the planet. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Basically the Bushistas and Republicans seem to feel that when they're in power they have the duty and the right to break open the publically funded piggy banks and disburse the treasures to their friends on Wall Street. We should, now that we have the national privatization efforts on the ropes, redouble our efforts -- and also help out Cali and Florida.
Professed Christians vs. Professional Christians
I myself am not a Christian. I'm not really an atheist, either -- in part because the atheists can be just as messianically obnoxious as the worst of the alleged Christians. Besides, I do know a few genuine Christians out there. They are the sort who obey Jesus' injunction to pray in private, and not to do so publicly in a boastful manner. (Yeah, Jerry Falwell and SpongeDob StickyPants, I'm talkin' to you. Among others.) Mark Twain, who I gather had views roughly analogous to mine, wrote about the difference between "professing Christians" and "professional Christians". The professional Christians, alas, are in the ascendant now -- especially the particularly vile, half-bright, bigoted kind that Twain lampooned with such vicious accuracy in Huckleberry Finn. (That one book should be required reading for all Americans.) With all that as preface, here are some interesting poll findings concerning the "moral values" (i.e. bigoted Southern-Baptist/suburbanite white-flight) crowd:
Nonreligious Americans are less likely to divorce than any other belief group, according to a survey by Christian pollsters. The study, conducted by the Barna Research Group in late 1999, shows that one out of every four American adults has experienced at least one divorce. Among the characteristics that do not seem to be related to divorce are educational achievement, household income, and political ideology. But, to the surprise of the pollsters, Christians are more likely to divorce than unbelievers, and Baptists and born-again Christians experience more divorces than other Christians.Heh. I know a man who's the churchgoing son of a highly-"devout" Lutheran family who has missionaries for aunts and uncles. He's on his third marriage right now. He also likes to forward the most incredibly racist "jokes" in his e-mails. Of course, since this poll was done in 1999, the Fundies will blame it on Bill Clinton. (Who, by the way, is a Southern Baptist but has never been divorced, much less remarried.) But I digress:
Using statistics drawn from a nationwide survey of nearly 4000 adults, the data show that 27% of born-again Christians are currently or have previously been divorced, compared to 24% among adults who are not born-again. (Because of the large sample size involved, that difference is statistically significant.) The Christian denomination whose adherents have the highest likelihood of getting divorced are Baptists. Nationally, 29% of all Baptist adults have been divorced. The only Christian group to surpass that level are those associated with non-denominational Protestant churches: 34% of those adults have undergone a divorce. Of the nation's major Christian groups, Catholics and Lutherans have the lowest percentage of divorced individuals (21%). People who attend mainline Protestant churches, overall, experience divorce on par with the national average (25%). Among non-Christian groups the levels vary. Jews are among those most likely to divorce (30% have), while Mormons are no different than the national average (24%). Atheists and agnostics are significantly below the norm (21%).From the same poll: "Ninety-five cents of every dollar donated by evangelicals went to churches." Churches, not charities like OxFam or the IRC. Bear that in mind when conservatives talk about how "generous" they are.
Fafblog gives the behind-the-scenes story of the Inaugural Address
Freedom is like a woman, or a well-aged cheese, or a monkey. It is available for tasting and purchasing in the lobby refreshment center. There will always be an England! My favorite lines: "Can you doubt the freedom-spreadery of Giblets? Giblets has decreed Iraq to be free and now it is! Oh sure, not in the petty "liberal democracy with equal protection under the law" sense. But in the "infested with terrorists" sense it's as free as they come! Once Iraqis were tortured and killed by an evil dictator. Now they are tortured and killed by freedom!"
Breaking the law for Jesus.
As any lawyer, academic, or parent knows, the most serious outrages are those that affect precedent. If a burglar gets off on a technicality, no one will conclude that burglary has been legalized. But if a five year old is allowed to stay up until midnight, a precedent has been set and there will be much sturm und drang to reverse it. It is therefore disturbing to learn that the Pentagon is openly defying Congressional budget authority by "re-program[ming]" funds establishing intelligence capabilities that have been the exclusive province of the CIA. This is, of course, a serious Constitutional violation. It's little surprise that Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin is in the plotline. Another lawbreaker for Jesus.
Privatization: The "Unpersoning" of a Word
Josh Marshall's readers are finding several instances of how the GOP's zampolit Thought Police are trying to keep people from using the word "privatization" to describe, well, privatization -- and generally so Republicans can falsely pretend to be "against privatization". Oh, and we have always (or is it never?) been at war with Eastasia.
Frank Rich on TV's Cone of Silence over Abu Ghraib
As everyone in Big Media knows, most people get their news from either radio or TV -- though the numbers for both have been on a steady decline over the last few years. (The Internet is the one news source that's gained readership.) So when TV news decides to give far more time to Scott Peterson than to Abu Ghraib, how can we expect the American public to be well-informed?
Rumsfeld: War Criminal in His Ancestral Homeland
MUNICH - United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has cancelled a planned visit to Munich. Rumsfeld has informed the German government via the US embassy he will not take part at the Munich Security Conference in February, conference head Horst Teltschik said. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a complaint in December with the Federal German Prosecutor's Office against Rumsfeld accusing him of war crimes and torture in connection with detainee abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Rumsfeld had made it known immediately after the complaint was filed that he would not attend the Munich conference unless Germany quashed the legal action. [...] The Center for Constitutional Rights said it and four Iraqis tortured in US custody had filed a complaint with German authorities against Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet and eight other senior military and civilian officials over abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq. The organization said it had turned to German prosecutors "as a court of last resort" because the US government "is unwilling to open an independent investigation" and had "refused to join the International Criminal Court". Several of those it wants investigated are stationed in Germany, it added.
...And Here's Part Two
"False equivalency syndrome" is a major affliction in American corporate media. Here's how it works: 1) Republicans/conservatives are caught doing something wrong. 2) However, for various reasons (such as the fact that most media owners are conservative, and the GOP has given media corporations lots of favors over the years -- such as killing the Fairness Doctrine and gutting the FCC's anti-trust laws), the media doesn't want to do articles/reports/etc. that attack only Republicans -- even if the Republicans are the only wrongdoers in question -- so: 3) The media create a bogus example of Democrats/progressives doing the same thing and pretend that it's just as bad as (or usually, worse than) what the Republicans actually did. Here's the latest example: Longtime Eschaton commenter "Live Free or Die" spotted this Washington Post article. The gist of the article is that with regard to Social Security, the Republicans don't want the word "privatization" used while Democrats allegedly don't want the word "crisis" used. But the problem with the analogy is that the Republicans came up with both words. The current Washington Post ombudsman is Michael Getler. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 202-334-7582. And you can write a letter to the editor at email@example.com.
Media Toadying to the Cons: 01/23/05 Edition, Part One
OK, who wants to start bombarding Daniel Okrent (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the various debunking materials showing why Charles Murray isn't fit to be consulted on anything other than how it feels to be a discredited lying racist toady who is allergic to peer review?
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Coalition? What Coalition?
BushCo, having watched as former COW stalwarts like Poland and Ukraine pulled out of the rapidly-worsening quagmire that is Iraq, has quietly decided to stop referring to the alleged 'Coalition of the Willing'.
Pity. Back over at Salon's Table Talk, I'd started a COW thread that has long since gone to thread heaven. It focused on comparing the human rights records of the COW members with that of Saddam Hussein.
The upshot was that of the nations with the better HR records, every single one of them had a populace that opposed the invasion of Iraq and the fact that their country's leaders had dragged them into it. There were plenty of nations whose HR records were worse and whose people didn't like the war, but the people of these nations were generally so brutalized by their leaders that they didn't dare to complain. Uzbekistan is the most infamous example of this latter category.
What Did I Tell You?
Remember this morning when I doubted that Chalabi would be arrested?
Guess what? I was right.
Told you so. The one thing that I got wrong was that I thought that Chalabi would have actually fled again. Turns out he didn't need to do so.
Extremist Opus Dei may have infiltrated top levels of Blair government
Speculation is rife that Ms Kelly, an undoubtedly devout Catholic, is a member of Opus Dei. Opus Dei has made various nods and winks about it and said she has attended events. Ms Kelly refuses to say yes or no. Those envious of her seemingly easy rise to Cabinet membership have made much of the Opus Dei connection, warning that it's worrying that someone like this should be effectively running the nation's schools. Whether or not that is the case, one wonders why she does not confirm whether she is a member or not.Perhaps the UK branch is more polite than others, but she's far too kind to Opus Dei. It's a cult. And an acolyte may now be sitting in on top Cabinet meetings, and running Britain's schools. (PW notes: So much for Sex Ed in the UK's school system!)
1. Photojournal of Counterinaugural and 2. Python swallows Bush!
Chalabi? Arrested? I don't think so.
News flash: Iraqi Police plan to arrest Ahmad Chalabi -- but only after Sunday and the end of the Eid holy period
Uh-huh. Suuuure they will. I'll believe it when I see it.
If they were going to arrest him, they wouldn't have announced it like this. They simply would have kept their mouths shut and then stormed his offices Monday morning once the holy days were over.
Nope, this is all about giving him a two-day head start. By the time Monday morning rolls around, the Iraqi authorities, such as they are, will roll up to his front door, and be oh-so-shocked to find him gone.
We're talking about a guy who escaped from Jordan in the trunk of a car rather than face the music -- or the headsman's sword -- for trashing the Petra Bank. If there's one thing Ahmad is good at, it's making a hasty exit.
Social Security: Graphically Explained
Tunesmith from DailyKos shows you what it's all about.
This link is going into the sidebar. (I think it's time to just set up a separate section on the sidebar, just for Social Security!)
Privatization: How the Brokerage Firms Would Work It
Before I started this blog, I was (and still am) a regular poster on Table Talk, the collection of message boards run by Salon. Some of my best ideas have come from that place. I was in Table Talk's "White House" folder, in the Paul Krugman, when I found this posting by another longtime TTer, AndyF. I asked his permission to share it with y'all, and he gave it. So here it is, with grammar and spelling slightly cleaned up (hey, if the press can do it for Bush, I can do it for AndyF), and some bolding thrown in:
Krugman made some excellent points on the Al Franken show a few days ago. The number most often quoted for privatization is 2% of gross income. That would average about $800 per year. Many people would contribute much less. A brokerage doesn't want to deal with $800. You might be offered a few mutual funds. It then occurred to me that I know exactly what these guys will do. They will try to sell aditional services. You want to trade your mutual fund more than once a year? There's a fee for that. You want more options? There's fees for that too. Then there will be the shady guys that try to sell shares in their snake oil fund. Pretty soon you're paying fees up the wazzoo. They'll bill you separately, so your $800 will remain intact and you might not notice, but in reality you will be losing money.This is why many brokerage firms are so eager to sign on to this deeply stupid, deeply evil idea to destroy Social Security while pretending to save it from a "crisis". Once again, There Is No Crisis:
Friday, January 21, 2005
Oh My Flipping God
This just in from The Advocate:
Some attorneys are attempting to use Ohio's new anti-gay marriage amendment to defend unmarried clients against domestic violence charges. The constitutional amendment, which took effect on December 1, denies legal status to unmarried couples.The Fundies LOVE it when women are battered. Keeps them subservient to their Man, who was Ordained by God to rule over their weaker vessels. And it's even better when they pay the price for Living In Sin, instead of in the bondage of Holy Matrimony: It means they can't go running to those damned atheist secular authorities to keep from getting the discipline their tainted flesh needs oh so much. Meanwhile, in somewhat better news from The Advocate:
A legally recognized union of two gays or lesbians would be a compromise that gets the state of Montana closer to providing justice for all, proponents of a civil union bill told the house judiciary committee.
Michael Chertoff: In Bed with Terrorist Financiers?
As Peggy Noonan says, "Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to." Besides, this sort of speculation has a lot more legitimate evidence than did most of the GOP/Media complex's attacks on Bill Clinton. Somehow, I doubt that this will be brought up during his confirmation hearings. (Though it wouldn't hurt to e-mail your congresscritters about it.)
Al-Qaeda's Game Plan: Break Our Economy
Charles' posting of Richard Clarke's stunning prediction/thought-experiment reminds me of an equally-stunning piece by noted DailyKos contributor Pericles, aka Doug Muder. (UPDATE: Since the Kos diary originally referenced no longer exists, the link below will take you to Muder's website, where he has archived a copy of the essay.) That piece is Terrorist Strategy 101: A Quiz. And it's every bit as chilling as Clarke's piece. The two articles go very well together. For one thing, both Pericles and Clarke note that Osama's battle plan has always been obvious. That plan is to break the US economy so that we are unable to afford to wage war abroad, or are so distracted at home that we cannot wage war abroad. The astonishing thing is that the neocons, the Cold Warriors like Condi Rice who pride themselves on their knowledge of Evil Empires, the self-styled "Vulcans" who are really Ferengi, haven't figured this out yet. For Osama's game plan is the very same one that the neocons say that they used cause the collapse of the old Soviet Union. But the neocons, by insisting on following Grover Norquist's "starve the beast" policy of massive tax cuts for the rich during wartime when the government needs the money the most, seem almost to be begging the Chinese to stop servicing the vast debts the neocons have piled up. And when that happens, we fall apart faster than the Soviet Union did. Osama couldn't have planned this better if he himself had poisoned Karl Rove and took his place in the West Wing.
Google Cache Is Our Friend
Steven Freeman says his exit poll analysis was accurate, consistent with fraud
Real Dems Don't Hang Out with Scaifeoids
... nor do they attend "conferences" by them.
Toyota: One Million Hybrids a Year by 2010
Okay, Detroit. Whaddya gonna do about this?
Speaking at the European Car of the Year presentation ceremony held this week in Gothenburg, Toyota President Fujio Cho said that he believed Toyota will be producing over a million hybrid vehicles a year five years from now.You know, Detroit carmakers, a nice start would be for y'all to be to seriously pressure some Congresscritters into backing universal health care. (Ford's already acting on this.) Then you'd have more money to plow into R&D. If we can wean ourselves from the oil habit, maybe we won't have to send our sons and daughters and fathers and mothers to die whilst invading and occupying oil-rich countries -- and avoid the scary scenario Richard Clarke sketches out for us. (Spare me the lectures on "freedom", warbloggers. To quote Robert Fisk, "Iraq would never have been invaded if its principal export was beetroot.")
FEMA: Let's Make a Game out of Tragedy!
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was originally created during the Cold War. The agency's main mission: Provide a framework for keeping the US government in the event of a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. They were given hundreds of millions of dollars, and didn't do diddly except agitate for infrigements on our civil liberties.
When Clinton became President in 1993, he immediately refocused FEMA to be the Federal government's first-responder group in case of natural and other disasters -- and as such, FEMA earned a stellar reputation.
When Bush the Dumber entered the White House, he tried to shift FEMA back a bit towards its old mission. He didn't quite succeed, but he apparently did pack the place with political cronies who think that making a game out of the recent earthquake-and-tsunami tragedy was a really neat idea.
Trust Richard Clarke to lay it on the line
Resolved: The Anti-Tax Crowd Uses Racism to Get Support
Think about it.
Most anti-tax sentiment is pushed by rich white people who want to get richer, and who don't care about anyone else but themselves. They may or may not be white supremacists, but they will gladly fan the flames of racism in others in order to get them to vote to kill government programs, either outright or through starving them to death by cutting taxes on the rich.
At least fifteen different studies have shown that people's willingness to pay taxes to support social programs drops off when those programs cover people whose skin color or belief system isn't the same as theirs. The Republicans know this and milk it for all it is worth.
The Media and the Racism
In other words, the two biggest reasons why the GOP controls so much of everything nowadays.
Other people have already explained better than I can how the US media was bought off and/or cowed into submission by the Republicans. But not many people have really delved into how the GOP's "Southern Strategy" is also a "Suburb Strategy".
The Republicans only started serious media cowing/buyout efforts in the 1970s. They'd been working on the Southern Strategy a good decade earlier -- and as this link and this other link show, it was none other than George Herbert Walker Bush (aka Bush the Elder) who first road-tested it in 1964.
More on that will be forthcoming.
The Corporate Media Covers and Lies for Bush
In case anyone hasn't figured it out yet, the American Corporate Media Covers and Lies for Bush. Eric Alterman brings us two examples from yesterday's
Bounty for the Mutiny (of the Tongue, That Is)!
Ever since polling in 2002 showed that Americans don't like privatization, the privatizers in the Republican Party and allied conservative groups have tried to school themselves and bully others into not using the word "privatization" to describe privatization. They've even gone and edited their websites, in finest Orwellian/Soviet we-have-always-been-at-war-with-Eastasia fashion, to try to pretend that they never used that unperson of a word.
But every so often, they slip up. Kind of a mutiny of the tongue, which can only lie so often before the repressed truth comes spilling out. Josh Marshall is offering a bounty for each verified instance thereof.
Y'all know what to do. Google is your friend.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
This Edison is 20 watts. Plus: A new Steve Bell!
Oh, and by the way....
Proof Yet Again That Wingnuts Are Incapable of Independent Thought
Here's the story, courtesy of Norwegianity.
Here's the sequence of events:
1) Michael Moore makes a film that skewers Bush in ways that are irrefutably true.
2) Wingnuts freak out, send him death threats.
3) Moore hires an armed bodyguard.
4) One wingnut starts chanting "hypocrite!" (because Moore is seen as "anti-gun" by the wingnuts)
5) The other wingnuts take up the chant, not stopping to consider the difference between Joe Blow (or Harris and Klebold) with a gun and a bodyguard who is, you know, licensed and bonded (and not a homicidal teen with a death wish). But they don't care -- they'll attack him for any reason or none.
Fear Is The Mindkiller
Which is exactly why, as Lance Mannion notes, that BushCo and the rest of the Republicans and their media allies want to keep us afraid 24/7.
Look at all the security surrounding all the empty bleachers in DC. All the hand-picked crowds. (By the way: It was like this during Bush's first Unaugural, so he can't use 9/11 as the handy shield to hide behind.) This is all about keeping us afraid.
Afraid of the terrorists. Afraid of the Muslims. Afraid of the French. Afraid of all blacks everywhere. Just plain afraid.
Because the more frightened we are, the less we think -- and the easier it is for them to herd us like sheep. And the less chance there is of us daring to reject them, even though the majority of us don't like the direction that BushCo has taken our once-strong, once-proud, once-moral country.
James Wolcott is doing the Lord's work, even while on jury duty.
FOX gets OutFOXed
.... and truth is smuggled onto the air!
Courtesy of Oliver Willis.
There Is No Crisis
There is no Social Security crisis -- except for Bush's efforts to kill it. Click on the picture below (or in the sidebar) to find out more.
Taxing the Rich Helps Everyone (Including the Rich) Do Better
The Twin Cities alternative weekly City Pages has a very good article this week on how the Minnesota Republican Party, just like in the rest of the nation, are so dedicated to making sure that rich people's taxes get cut or eliminated that they can't -- or won't -- see how it's killing what used to be a very nice place to live. You should go to the link and read the whole thing, but the last few paragraphs are essential:
In June 2003, St. Olaf College economics professor Terry J. Fitzgerald wrote an analysis entitled "Business Cycles and Long-Term Growth: Lessons from Minnesota" for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. More specifically, Fitzgerald took an in-depth look at how the state's per capita income had managed to go from 14 percent below the national average in 1929 to 8 percent above it in 2001. Fitzgerald found that the state's per capita wealth really began climbing in the 1960s and continued steadily upward through the rest of the century. During that time, the number of Minnesotans who were employed rose from 41 percent in 1970 to 54 percent in 2000, a faster rate than the national average. Earnings per worker and worker productivity also increased more rapidly. This correlates with Minnesota's increased emphasis on education. [PW butts in: It also correlates with our willingness to tax our rich people.] In 1950, the percentage of Minnesotans who had completed four years of college was about average nationally; ditto the percentage of state residents completing four years of high school. But by 2000, Minnesota ranked third in the nation in the percentage of residents with a high school diploma, and seventh in the percentage who held a bachelor's degree. "Obviously, there is an important interplay between an education system that supplies educated people and a state economy with enough jobs that demand those educational skills," Fitzgerald wrote. Now [PW notes: After years of Republican budget cuts that Pawlenty rammed through when he was in the Minnesota legislature, and continued when he became governor] our education spending and job growth are below the national average. And while many other state budgets have survived the recent recession and have begun funding new investments with existing savings or new taxes, we borrow billions for roads, run in place on education, and continue to hack at billion-dollar shortfalls.
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