Thursday, November 30, 2006
Dear Joe Biden
If you really want a shot at becoming President (you don't actually have a shot, but let's pretend for a moment that you did) you might want to consider flouting your, ah, patrons in the credit-card and banking industry by backing Carl Levin and Chris Dodd on their plans to get tough with those companies that use abusive practices (in other words most if not all of them). From an article in today's Congressional Quarterly (subscription required):
Senate Democrats Plan Crackdown on Credit Card Practices A leading Democrat said today he will push to curb “abusive” practices of credit card issuers when his party takes control of Congress next year. “Education . . . I’m afraid, isn’t going to be enough,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., stressing the need for new legislation and regulation in a speech at the Center for American Progress. “Without that club, without that stick, we’re not going to see reforms coming.” Levin pledged to hold hearings on the issue early next year as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He said he expects Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., who will chair the Senate Banking panel, to introduce legislation, though the timing remains unclear. Levin said he hoped to cosponsor Dodd’s bill. Levin took aim at what he described as unfair and confusing practices by credit card issuers, practices he said are used to reap “extraordinary” profits. And he said these fees, interest rate and disclosure practices take advantage of low- and middle-class American families.Go get 'em, Chris and Carl!
In Light Of Rush Limbaugh's Recent Viagra-Enhanced (and Daryn-Kagan-Free) Trip To The Dominican Republic...
For the want of ten...
Consortium for Independent Journalism (CIJ Suite 102-231, 2200 Wilson Blvd. Arlington VA 22201
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Justice for Victims of Hurricane Katrina
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon has ruled that
The Bush administration unconstitutionally denied aid to tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita and must resume payments immediately, a federal judge ordered yesterday. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said the Federal Emergency Management Agency created a "Kafkaesque" process that began cutting off rental aid in February to victims of the 2005 storms, did not provide clear reasons for the denials, and hindered applicants' due-process rights to fix errors or appeal government mistakes. [...] The case affects at least 11,000 families, said Robert W. Doggett, a lawyer with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. [...] Leon ordered that FEMA restore benefits to evacuees who were ruled ineligible to make the switch and provide three months' payments. The agency must offer details on why applicants were cut off and how they can fix their applications or appeal FEMA's decision.Judge Leon was appointed in 2002, i.e., by George W. Bush. Poor Dubya. He can't trust anybody anymore to carry his water.
Annals Of Pettiness
Further proof that C=MI: The belief that silly pettiness is a viable strategy for any given situation.
-- The Big And Mighty Bush Administration, apparently stung by criticism that it has been
cowed by tiny little North Korea reluctant to treat North Korea (which possesses nukes but no oil) as it did Saddam's Iraq (which had gobs of oil but no nukes), has decided to Get Tough on the dirty Commies: They're cutting off North Korea's iPod supply. Oooooh, scary.
-- The lame-duck GOP Congress, apparently stung by the American people's wholesale rejection of Republicanism at the ballot box earlier this month, and hoping to force the Democrats to waste time cleaning up the GOP's messes, flatly refused to pass the fiscal-year 2007 budget bills needed to keep the government running -- even though Fiscal Year 2007 started on October 1. Too bad for these lazy clods that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have decided to keep Congress open for most of January. Waaaaah! Poor widdle Republican baaaabies! They needed the holidays to hold fundraisers to pay off their campaign debts -- but instead they now have to work on the debts they ran up on America's credit cards first. Awwwwww.
-- GOP operative Ed Rogers takes a schoolboy's glee in noticing that Barack Obama's middle name is (gasp!) Hussein! (Which, considering how common the name "Hussein" is where Obama's dad came from, would be kinda like attacking Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens for having the same first name as his fellow Republican, the notorious rapist and serial killer Ted Bundy.) Meanwhile, the fine people of Illinois couldn't possibly care less.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Mexico, November 29
Paging Johnny Wendell! Paging Johnny Wendell!
Your life thesis -- C=MI -- has been proved in a scientific study:
Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush. Lohse says his study is no joke. The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush. [...] “Our study shows that psychotic patients prefer an authoritative leader,” Lohse says. “If your world is very mixed up, there’s something very comforting about someone telling you, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’” The study was an advocacy project of sorts, designed to register mentally ill voters and encourage them to go to the polls, Lohse explains. The Bush trend was revealed later on. [...] “Bush supporters had significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry,” the study says.Heheheheheh. Heh.
Watch Lou Dobbs Turn Into Noam Chomsky
You could have knocked me down with a feather when I saw this on CNN under Dobbs' byline:
Victorious Democrats will, with the opening of the 110th Congress, have a historic opportunity to right the course of a country that has been hell-bent on permitting free-trade corporatists and faith-based economics to bankrupt the nation. As the New Year approaches, newly elected Democrats in the House and Senate will be battered by calls, even demands, to stay the course, rather than right it. And we can only hope they and their new leadership in both houses will have the courage and character to be rationalists and realists and overcome their partisan political debt to corporate America, and U.S. multinationals in particular. Eye-glazing stuff, international trade. But the consequences of faith-based free-trade will be eye-popping in the disaster it wreaks on our economy and working Americans. The facts are anything but dull: For 30 consecutive years the United States has run a trade deficit, and our trade deficit has surged to record highs in each of the past four years. Our monthly deficits have reached record levels in two of the past three months. Our current account deficit -- the broadest measure of international trade -- is on track to approach $1 trillion this year. And our current account deficit is almost 7 percent of our nation's gross domestic product, considerably above the threshold at which Federal Reserve studies have acknowledged our economy must make policy adjustments or face major financial crisis. We're borrowing about $3 billion a day just to pay for our imports, and our trade debt now stands at $5 trillion. We will no longer have to be patient to see the impact of these faith-based policies in free trade. Signs are already beginning to mount that a reckoning is nearing. Our trading partners in Europe are counseling "vigilance" in the currency markets, as their anxiety rises with the value of the Euro against the dollar. For the first time, the Chinese government is publicly expressing its concern about the more than $1 trillion it holds in reserves.Go read the whole thing. It's amazing. Now if Dobbs can only ditch the racism, his transformation will be complete.
Winning The Suburbs
Democrats made large gains in suburbia in this month's elections, pushing Republican turf to the outer edges of major population centers in a trend that could signal trouble for the GOP, an analysis shows.Looks like all but the hardest-core white-flighters are starting to realize that we're all in this together. As the inner-ring suburbs and exurbs grow in density, people are realizing that they just can't up and run away -- they have to plant roots and work with their neighbors, no matter their color or creed.
Democrats carried nearly 60% of the U.S. House vote in inner suburbs in the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas, up from about 53% in 2002, according to the analysis by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. They received nearly 55% of the vote in the next ring of "mature" 20- and 30-year-old suburbs, with 45% going to Republicans and third-party candidates. In 2002, the last midterm election, Democrats received 50% of the vote there. "Republicans are getting pushed to the fringes of the metropolis," said sociologist Robert Lang, director of the institute. "They simply have to be more competitive in more suburbs," he said, to win statewide and presidential races. The line between blue Democratic and red Republican territory used to be drawn at the outer boundaries of close-in "streetcar suburbs" with older housing and signs of decline, Lang said. They've become steadily more Democratic in the four elections since 2000, he said, and now are "solid blue." Well-established or "mature" suburbs increasingly are turning Democratic, Lang said. He said the trend probably is permanent because such suburbs have become denser and have drawn more foreign-born residents as Republicans have moved farther from urban cores.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
GOP Congressman: Dems' Ethics Plan Better Than GOP's Plan
I kid you not. From Time's Massimo Calabresi:
Reform-minded Republican Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona says the Democrats' plans, if fully implemented, would in fact be "definitive" and "preferable" to the changes the G.O.P. pushed through Congress in the wake of the Abramoff scandal.There you go.
Housing bust not yet?
Harry Reid: Senate Will Be Open In January
Even as Nancy Pelosi's keeping the House open, Harry Reid's keeping the Senate open in January. Excellent!
Another One Bites The Dust
After all the votes were counted, Democrat Barbara McIlvaine won the Pennsylvania House seat in Chester County from the incumbent Republican, Shannon Royer. As Steve Singhiser says, this tips control of the Pennsylvania House to the Democrats for the first time in years. And makes Ed Rendell's job a little easier.
Simple Answers To Simple Questions: NRSC Edition
Q: Now that National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Elizabeth Dole has stated that the NRSC is not only flat broke, but deep into debt, will we be hearing "Liddy Dole wasted all the GOP's money!" stories from the same folk who were pushing the "Howard Dean wasted all the Democrats' money!" stories? A: Of course not. This has been another edition of Simple Answers To Simple Questions. (h/t to Atrios for the concept)
Grating, Hormonal, Ugly GOP Dudes
What would it look like if the press covered male Republicans the same way they covered female Democrats? Righteousbabe over at DKos has the answer.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Nancy Pelosi Deserves Our Support. GOP/Media Stenographers Deserve The Backs Of Our Hands.
Glenn Greenwald has it right on the "sensible" Jane Harman, who the same GOP/media clowns that got it so wrong on Iraq are now rallying around as their Fairy Princess:
Given her position as ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Harman was repeatedly used by the administration -- with her consent -- as a potent instrument to shield itself from scrutiny, by creating the "Responsible Democrat" (Harman, Lieberman) v. "Irresponsible Democrat" dichotomy and then arguing that they enjoyed bipartisan support from the Good, Sensible Democrats like Harman. That's why, just like Joe Lieberman, Harman's most vociferous defenders are the most extreme Bush followers and neoconservatives. It is their agenda whom she promotes (which is why they defend her).
In light of that history, why would anyone think that Nancy Pelosi should choose Jane Harman to be the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, a key position for exercising desperately-needed oversight over the administration's last two years of intelligence mischief and, as importantly, for investigating and exposing the administration's past misconduct? She instinctively supports, or at least acquieses to, the administration's excesses, and would be among the worst choices Pelosi could make.
Despite all of that, the mindless, petty Beltway media parrots continue to recite the adolescent-minded script that Pelosi is a vindictive, unserious and egomaniacal "girl" because she won't bestow Jane Harman with the Chair of the Intelligence Committee. To read this new column in U.S. News and World Report by Gloria Borger is like looking through a high-powered microscope at virtually every Beltway media disease. It is all there in its vapid, gory emptiness. [...] There is nothing "credible" about Harman. Yes, she is smart and knowledgeable, but she has been wrong about everything that matters, particularly in the intelligence area. But she was wrong in exactly the same way that the Beltway geniuses and The New Republic and David Broder and Fred Hiatt were wrong. For that reason, they don't want her to be repudiated and rejected because that would constitute a repudiation and rejection of them. So they build up and glorify the "credible," responsible Harman because she represents them, and they hate Pelosi in advance for rejecting Harman for being wrong about everything because they feel rejected by that choice. As a result, Pelosi and her opposition to Harman have to be belittled and removed from the substantive arena. Harman supported the most disastrous strategic decision in our nation's history and repeatedly defended the administration's worst excesses. That ought to be disqualifying on its face. But the Beltway media are guilty of the same crimes, so they want to pretend that Harman -- just like Steny Hoyer -- did nothing wrong and the only reason not to anoint her to her Rightful Place is because of petty, womanly personality disputes that have no place in the public arena. For the same reason, they decree that Pelosi must prove that she's a "responsible" and serious leader. How does she do that? By embracing the Beltway establishment types, including those -- especially those -- who have been so wrong about so many things. That's why the media has taken such an intense interest in the otherwise mundane matter of who will be House Majority Leader and House Intelligence Chair. Jane Harman, like Steny Hoyer, is the symbol of official Washington, the broken, rotted, corrupt Washington that propped up this war and enabled this administration in so many ways. Pelosi has to prove that she's one of them, or else suffer the consequences of being mauled and scorned.
Gravity Is Not Mocked, In Physics Or Finance
The Great Risk Shift
One of the recurring themes of both MEC and Charles has been how over the years, the Republicans and the conservative captains of industry that fund them have been shifting the tax burden from the rich onto the poor and (most especially) the middle class -- even as the middle class is increasingly endangered by these same captains of industry, who espouse policies such as "right to work" (aka "kill the unions") that are designed to destroy America's middle classes. Over at Fire Dog Lake, they had a salon yesterday with Jacob Hacker, author of the new book The Great Risk Shift, which describes the decades-long efforts of the conservative movement and their media allies to warp the playing field in their favor so as to shift the risks of our society onto us while they reap the rewards. The comments are now closed, but I think the discussion is worth reading.
I Like the Sound of This
One of the things that makes me tingle all over after the midterm elections is the thought of "Government Reform Committee Chair Henry Waxman" (D-Pitbull). Henry Waxman with subpoena power. And he's not going to waste any time.
Waxman's biggest challenge as he mulls what to probe? "The most difficult thing will be to pick and choose."No wonder there was a shredder truck headed to Cheney's residence before the election.
Wingnut Welfare, Bush Family Style
Much joking is being made in the reality-based portion of the blogosphere about Bush's plans for a colossal $500 million "presidential" library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "What, for one coloring book?" is a typical joke hurtling around the internet about this. Except that it's really not about the library. It's about the accompanying wingnut propagandist hatchery and sheltered workshop for the otherwise-unemployable children of the privileged who couldn't swing internships at the other fascist factories:
The half-billion target is double what Bush raised for his 2004 reelection and dwarfs the funding of other presidential libraries. But Bush partisans are determined to have a massive pile of endowment cash to spread the gospel of a presidency that for now gets poor marks from many scholars and a majority of Americans. The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Bush's institute will hire conservative scholars and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," one Bush insider said.How Maoist of them. Will their tomes come out with red bindings? But my favorite part of the article is at the very end:
It remains to be seen whether Bush's low standing in the polls and his rejection by voters in the midterm elections will make it harder to raise funds. That was true for former President Jimmy Carter, who struggled to fund his library center after being defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1980. But planners believe hometown and Texas pride will outweigh any drag from Bush's diminished political fortunes. "The money will be there," a senior Bush adviser said. "The President is very popular in Dallas and the library will be great for the city and SMU." There's another major inducement for potential donors: Their names aren't required to be made public.Gee, you'd think they'd be proud to be associated with the Boy-King. Especially since he's so allegedly popular in Dallas and all.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Sadr Kicks It Up A Notch
Muqtada al-Sadr, who not all that long ago was dismissed as just another warlord by the same smartypants that thought invading and occupying Iraq was a brilliant idea, has just seized the Iraqi government's own TV channel and is using it to call for all-out war against the Sunnis. All the pundits punditing this morning about how we can't just abandon the Iraqi people like we abandoned the Vietnamese (Dolchstoß, Dolchstoß, über alles...) have been shown, once again, to be buffoons. And we may be pulling out of Iraq a lot sooner than pretty much everyone but Steve Gilliard anticipated. UPDATE: Even the people at Newsweek are finally admitting that Sadr is a force -- and the biggest force -- to be reckoned with in Iraq. And they even state the biggest reason why: It's because, unlike the exiles who parachuted back into Iraq with much fanfare after not having seen the place in decades, he has credibility with his fellow Shia, with whom he suffered under Saddam (and who are suffering even more under the US occupation).
Permanent Recession Or Permanent Boom: The Meathead Proposition Redux
Apparently the Republicans and the Sabbath Gasbag enablers have been pushing once again to destroy Social Security, if this post from Atrios is any indication. This is as good a time as any to post this little ditty, which is a reworked reply I made to someone way back in February of 2005 to someone who'd obviously been chugging too much right-wing-radio Kool-Aid when he made a comment in one of my threads on the subject: One of my favorite right-wing lies about the Bush/Cato/GOP privatization plan is "No money is being borrowed to set up a private account." Oh, really? Then why does Bush want all those extra trillions, bucko? That sure sounds like "borrowing" to me. And it would to any other sane human being. As for Social Security containing only IOUs -- oh, you mean Treasury Bonds? Because guess where George W. Bush has his money stashed? Yupper -- those "worthless IOUs" known as Treasury Bonds! (By the way: Even the Republicans admit that under Bush's plans, benefits would drop like a stone.) Meanwhile, privatizers, how do you explain that Bush and his Cato/Heritage/Club for Growth buddies use two wildly different economic forecasts, depending on what they're trying to argue?
Bush and his Cato/Heritage/Club for Growth privatizing buddies use two wildly different economic forecasts, depending on what they're trying to argue. When they want to diss Social Security, they use the extremely pessimistic (and usually extremely wrong) projections of the SS Trustees, who assume that the US economy will grow at 1.9 percent per year for the next 75 years. By the way: The average growth per year over the last 75 years -- years that include the Great Depression -- was 3.6 percent, almost twice what the trustees project for the next 75 years. In other words, in order for the 2042 "doomsday" number to hold, we'd have to be in a depression for the better part of the next century. Do you really think that will happen? (Well, under Bush, it could.)*
But wait! When the privatizers want to talk up private/personal accounts, they claim huge rates of return of 7 percent or more per year. (They've been claiming this for nearly a decade.) Those are rates seen only during the height of boom times, such as when the budget-balancing, not-afraid-to-tax-rich-people Bill Clinton was in office -- and they're predicting them for the next seventy-five years.
And they're predicting the Big Boom at the same time they predict the Big Depression.
So which is it, Permanent Boom or Permanent Depression? You can't have both. (Really, you can't have either, but let's humor the privatizers a bit and pretend it's possible.)
If it's a Permanent Boom, the economy grows so much that Social Security is solvent forever. (Actually, so long as we average 2.7% growth per year over the next 75 years, which is below-average growth, Social Security is solvent. In other words, there is no crisis. Period.)
If it's Permanent Depression, then who the hell wants their money in the stock market?
Oh, and this doesn't even take into account that Social Security's overhead costs are less than 1%, whereas any privatized plan, such as those of the UK and Chile, will be nearly twenty times that (the UK's and Chile's plans average around 14% for overhead costs). Even Bush officials admitted that their privatization plan, even with big cuts in benefits, will have overhead costs ten times that of Social Security as it now stands. This is why the UK has been looking longingly at adopting a plan similar to our very own Social Security!a recent DKos diary of mine, Roger Fox points out that the not-so-trusty Trustees don't count as part of the SS Trust fund the current interest earned by the trust fund money! See how hard they have to fudge the numbers to get the Doomsday projections they want?
Michael Kinsley gets the credit for calling this "The Meathead Proposition", by the way. He must be ticked off that this zombie idea hasn't been killed off by reality by now.
Mexico, November 26
The heat must be getting to him. Josh Marshall, whose TPM and TPM Central have been the spiritual homes online of the nail-Hastings movement (just as Marshall, back when TPM was just him and TPM Central didn't exist, spearheaded the get-Condit movement that only ended when some planes slammed into a couple of buildings on the East Coast and suddenly hounding Gary Condit didn't seem quite so important any more), wrote a post yesterday to insist that he's not really a Jane Harman booster: "But it's not about Jane Harman. It's about Alcee Hastings." Well, then if he's not really invested in boosting Harman, I suggest he start really getting behind Rush Holt or Sylvestre Reyes -- because unlike Alcee Hastings, Jane Harman is herself involved in a live, ongoing criminal investigation. Here's a TPM post that Marshall himself made made a little over a month ago:
(October 20, 2006 -- 06:06 PM EDT) Damn. Here's a story that must have about a billion volts of charge in it. Time says the FBI is now investigating Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) as part of their expanded AIPAC investigation. They are, says Time, "examining whether Rep. Jane Harman of California and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may have violated the law in a scheme to get Harman reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee." -- Josh MarshallWhy would AIPAC be so eager to make sure Harman gets the top job and to have oversight -- eager enough to get her in trouble with one of the agencies she'd be overseeing? I honestly don't know. The only reason I can think of is that they might be hoping that as head of the House intelligence committee, Harman might get the FBI to call off their dogs for good on the ongoing AIPAC espionage probe, which has already sent Larry Franklin to prison. One can argue that the long-settled charges against Hastings -- in which John Conyers himself is on record criticizing Hastings' actions -- are more serious than the legal and ethical hot water kettle in which Harman currently sits. But one cannot seriously argue that Harman's ethical problems don't exist, and that the only reasons Pelosi has to oppose her are purely personal. UPDATE: I should also mention that Pelosi, like Harman, is a strong backer of Israel, so it's not as if AIPAC -- if it were truly about backing Israel as opposed to backing Likud and the neocons in the US -- should have any reason to go to war against Pelosi. Pelosi, however, has another reason not to pick Harman: Namely, Harman's backing Bush on the destruction of our civil liberties, including wiretaps. That's probably why Marty Peretz of TNR and his fellow neocon travelers are going to be digging into Pelosi hammer and tongs forever should Harman not get the intel committee chair.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
The One Percent Doctrine
If you haven't gone out and bought a copy of Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine, I suggest you do so. The short version: Dick Cheney is the paranoid, spoiled rotten, architect of the destruction, not only of Iraq, but of the America that was given to us by our Founders, and he uses his money and power both as a substitute for brains and to insulate himself from the consequences of his own mistakes. The title of the book stems from Cheney's asinine "doctrine", the ultimate rejection of Occam's Razor, and used to justify everything from invading Iraq to torture in US-run prisons worldwide to the destruction of American civil liberties: "Even if there's a one percent chance of (fill in the blank with whatever improbable scarecrow you like), we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It's not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. It's about our response." Mind you, the book's not perfect. Its one major failing is that the PNAC connections aren't brought up -- you won't find the words "Project for the New American Century" anywhere in the book, much less in connection with Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Chalabi, or any of the Iraq invasion's backers. And much of this book won't be news to those of us who've been paying attention -- real attention -- over the past few years. But there are still things to be learned from it. The first set of things to be learned starts from the fourth paragraph of the first page of the preface:
The alarming August 6, 2001 memo from the CIA to the President - "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" - has been widely noted in the past few years. But, also in August, CIA analysts flew to Crawford to personally brief the President - to intrude on his vacation with face-to-face alerts. The analytical arm of the CIA was in a kind of panic mode at this point. Other intelligence services, including those in the Arab world, were sounding an alarm. They didn't know place or time of an attack, but something was coming. The President needed to know.Okay, so Bush not only got the August 6 PDB, he also got a visit from CIA analysts in Crawford, trying to tell him that the system was blinking red and something had to be done, NOW. What was Bush's reaction?
He looked hard at the panicked CIA briefer. "All right," he said. "You've covered your ass, now."The whole book is filled with charming little anecdotes like that. I recommend only reading about twenty or so pages at a time, or else you'll want to start breaking things.
Mexico, November 25
"Conservatism" exposed as the ideology of sheep. Not very smart sheep.
Anna's Last Words: Poison, Murder, Putin
Friday, November 24, 2006
Who Brought Down The Soviet Union?
Was it Reagan, as certain neo-Nazi alcoholics like to claim? Or was it the Soviets themselves, with their stupid insistence on "staying the course" in Afghanistan (unlike the US, which finally got out of Vietnam, which is now in the process of becoming a Westernized, pleasant nation)? Osama thinks it was the latter. (Actually, considering that KGB man Putin is in charge, is the Soviet Union really dead?)
A Confederacy of Dunces
Testing the ice
Thursday, November 23, 2006
The Poisoned Wound
Nir Rosen, who knows the Middle East quite well, has this to say about what the US should do in Iraq:
Rather than remaking the Middle East, the Iraq war has destabilized it. Sunnis throughout the region who already have so many reasons to hate the United States—Abu Ghraib, the Haditha massacre, the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl, Guantánamo—would now have one more, for the Americans would have handed Iraq over to the Shias. We are seeing the death throes, not the birth pangs, of a new Middle East.The US invasion of Iraq was like sticking an envenomed knife into the Middle East. We may or may not be able to clean out the poison, but we could and we must remove the knife.
The Bush administration persists in its assertions of progress and clings to the idea that something called victory is possible. What victory? By every measure, life is worse for the Iraqis (leaving aside the Kurds, who don’t want to be Iraqis anyway). They are dying by the dozens or the hundreds every day—nobody even knows how many, since the Anbar province and much of the south, and even much of Baghdad, are black holes, with no information coming out. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died violently since the war began, probably eclipsing the number of Saddam’s victims. [PW adds: And Saddam had thirty years to do his work. The US occupation did it in less than four.] The ministry of health was recently ordered again not to disclose the number of casualties. The United Nations’ torture expert has stated that torture in Iraq is now worse than it was under Saddam. Over 1.5 million Iraqis have fled their country, to Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, and in late 2006 one European official in Syria estimated that up to 3,000 Iraqis a day were fleeing into that country.
SCIRI’s calls for a Shia superstate have grown more strident, and Sunnis have made their own demands. Already in March 2006 Harith al Dhari reminded the rest of Iraqis that Sunnis had means of their own available: just as there was oil in the south, there was water in the center and the north, and it could be held off until “the barrel of water in the south was worth a barrel of oil,” or it could flood the south and drown it. More recently, maps have been circulating on Sunni Iraqi Web sites showing an enlarged Anbar province including Baghdad, Mosul, and the so-called Sunni Triangle in a large Sunni superstate. Iraqi comedians joke about different neighborhoods of Baghdad becoming their own republics. Iraq is dying, falling apart.
America did this to Iraq. We divided Iraqis. We set them at war with each other. The least we can do is stop killing them and leave Iraq.
We're Number Seventeen! We're Number Seventeen!
The reports singled out the USA (17th) and Britain's (23rd) poor results, partly to blame on measures adopted to fight terrorism. "The United States and Britain are near the bottom of the full democracy category, but for somewhat different reasons. America falls down on some aspects of governance and civil liberties. Despite low election turnouts, political participation in the United States is comparatively high," the report said. "In Britain low political participation (the lowest in the developed world) is a major problem, and to a lesser extent, for now, so are eroding civil liberties," the report said.
The road not taken
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
California punishes hero, leaves criminal on the streets
So Much For Advancing The Conservative Agenda Locally!
Way to go, local conservative bloggers and hate-radio goons! You wanted the scalp of Chris Stewart, a guy who dared go after your beloved Aryan Tammy Lee, the 'good cop' to Alan Fine's smear-slinging 'bad cop', for being racist. And it looks like you may have succeeded in getting that scalp. Good for you! But here's the irony: As anyone who actually read American Hot Sausage or Stewart's CityPages interview knows, the guy is as conservative as they come: Anti-gay, anti-government-bureaucracy, anti-feminist, the works. All he needed to be your dreamboat was a Republican registration and a much lighter skin -- the only reason he went with the DFL was because he knew he'd never get on the school board as a Republican or even an Indie. So long as he's on the school board, y'all actually have someone who's ready, willing and able to advance the GOP agenda under a false flag on the Minneapolis school board. But when he goes, his replacement will be a typical DFL urban liberal -- or worse yet someone like Green Party candidate Doug Mann, who is even more of a lefty. You know -- just the sort of person y'all hate with a passion. Thanks, guys! (Oh, and thanks for knocking off anti-choicer Dean Johnson in the Senate, too. We replaced him with a few populists and classic DFL liberals. Nice job!)
Belacqua Jones defines it for us.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Mexico, November 22nd
What question does "a predatory capitalist who stifles competition and delivers mediocrity" answer?
The 5,300 mostly female, mostly Latino janitors represented by the Service Employees International Union will see their wages rise from $5.30 per hour on average to $7.75 by Jan. 1, 2009. Their shifts will also lengthen to six hours, as opposed to four hours or less, over the next three years, according to the agreement. They will be offered health coverage in 2009 for $20 a month for individuals, $175 for families. The janitors ratified the agreement Monday night at the city's convention center. They are expected to return to work today. The union said janitors who walked off the job on Oct. 23 will be allowed to return to their jobs. Yesterday's announcement marked the first victory in the right-to-work South for SEIU's long-running Justice for Janitors campaign that has organized low-wage workers at cleaning companies in 29 cities, including Washington. Union and management advocates said it signals a new phase of labor organization in the South. [...] Throughout the strike, the SEIU applied more pressure to the owners of the buildings cleaned by the Houston janitors than to the cleaning contractors that employ them. Building owners ultimately have to absorb the cost of higher wages and benefits for janitors, and the union accused this oil-enriched business community of hoarding energy profits while keeping janitors in poverty.Let's hope the union didn't have to promise not to see the Houston Police Department for false arrest and brutality as part of the agreement.
Score One for the First Amendment
Web sites that publish inflammatory information written by other parties cannot be sued for libel, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday. [...] In reversing an appellate court's decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides broad immunity from defamation lawsuits for people who publish information on the Internet that was gathered from another source. "The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications," Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan wrote in the majority opinion. "Nevertheless ... statutory immunity serves to protect online freedom of expression and to encourage self-regulation, as Congress intended."The reason I approve of this ruling, even though there is the real risk of defamatory material being spread far and wide, is that even more damage would be done by holding "distributors" liable for material they may not even know is defamatory. It's easy to imagine Certain People putting pressure on ISPs, web-site hosts, and sites like Blogger to shut down sites that publish material that isn't defamatory but only politically inconvenient. The people with more money to pay for lawyers would win every time. And that's not good for democracy.
What's Good For The Ellison Is Good For The Coleman
Over at The Big Question, the StarTribune's Eric Black cites a post in Chris Cillizza's "The Fix" blog at the WaPo, in which Cillizza touts the alleged electoral prowess of Norm Coleman, without noting that Coleman, like all Republicans, benefits from the Cone of Silence the GOP/Media Complex automatically throws over all Republicans no matter how blatantly crooked. Well, if it’s OK for right-wing bloggies to pressure the local respectable media, especially the StarTribune, to dish up all manner of dirt, lies and innuendo on Keith Ellison, then maybe the Strib should stop holding back on describing the details of Norm Coleman’s private life. Let’s see if Normie can stand a tenth of what Keith had to put up with this year.
"Tight-Money" Bernanke Is Actually Flooding The Economy With Money
The ever-excellent Bonddad notes that Bernanke’s flooding the economy with money even as he preaches a tight monetary policy. Reason? He’s trying to engineer a soft landing for the economy, which is tottering right now under the load of debt placed on it in the last few years. It's pretty much the only option left to him at the moment, as undoing Bush's tax giveaways is unlikely at this point.
Morris: GOP's Southwestern Strategy Didn't Help It At The Polls
The "Southwestern Strategy" is the Sunbelt variant of the Republican Party's old "Southern Strategy", except that the targets of the appeals to voters' racist fears are Hispanics, not blacks. But unlike the Southern Strategy, which still seems to have a death grip on the South, the Southwestern Strategy looks like it may be fading as a political tool in the GOP's tool kit. Rachel Morris of the Washington Monthly notes the following (emphases mine):
Washington has been chewing over election-related numbers for days now, and I'd like to highlight one particular set of data that's probably giving Karl Rove a nasty case of indigestion: the effect of the immigration debate on the midterm results. A few months ago, most House Republicans thought that border security would be, as Rep. Jeff Flake put it to me, their "magic carpet ride" to re-election. Moderate and pro-business elements within the party tried to convince them that a hard-line stance a) wouldn't actually deliver that many votes, and b) would incinerate Karl Rove's efforts to weld Latinos to a long-term Republican majority. And on both counts (as we anticipated in October) they were right. Nearly every Republican who ran primarily on an enforcement-only platform lost. Of 15 congressional or gubernatorial races where immigration was a major issue, Democrats won 12. Even worse for Republicans, the hard-won gains made by Rove, Mehlman and Bush with Hispanic voters in 2000, 2002 and 2004 were essentially obliterated. Voting in presidential-race proportions, Latinos supported Democrats over Republicans in House races by 69-30. In Western House races, Latinos comprised 16 percent of the voters (compared to 8.5 percent nationally), and voted for Democrats in even higher proportions: 72-27, according to CNN's exit poll.What happened? Morris suspects that it's because the Democrats found a powerful tool to counter the Southwestern Strategy, something even Lou Dobbs advocates -- raising the minimum wage:
Democrats made raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of an aggressive Spanish-language advertising campaign this year, especially in Colorado and Arizona. I don't have any hard data to support this, but I wouldn't be surprised if Democratic gains among Latinos turned out to be a complex mix of dissatisfaction with the war, alienation from a GOP gone nativist, and, at least in some cases, receptiveness to a substantive Democratic policy proposal that directly affects many Hispanic families.Makes sense to me. Don't like illegal immigration? Make sure that employers 1) pay living wages with benefits, and 2) aren't tacitly rewarded for breaking labor laws the way they are now under BushCo.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Mexico, November 21
Ha'aretz: Bush would "understand" if Israel attacked Iran
I swear to God I am not making this up:
The United States lacks sufficient intelligence on Iran's nuclear facilities at this time, which prevents it from initiating a military strike against them, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has told European politicians and diplomats with whom she has recently met. Rice mentioned three reasons why the United States is currently unable to carry out a military operation against Iran: the wish to solve the crisis through peaceful means; concern that a military strike will be ineffective - that it would fail to completely destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities; and the lack of precise intelligence on the targets' locations.Ah, so that means that the US has ruled out any attacks on Iran? Nope, it just means that they hope to farm them out to Israel instead to avoid political fallout at home:
U.S. President George W. Bush and President Jacques Chirac of France met several weeks ago. Bush told his French counterpart that the possibility that Israel would carry out a strike against Iran's nuclear installations should not be ruled out. Bush also said that if such an attack were to take place, he would understand it. According to European diplomats who later met with Rice, the secretary of state did not express the same willingness to show understanding for a possible Israeli strike against Iran. Nonetheless, Rice did not discount the possibility that such an operation may take place.This may work to provide deniability for BushCo back in the US, but it sure as hell won't fly overseas. The rest of the world would know that Israel was acting as the US' surrogate, and respond accordingly. And our troops in Iraq would bear the brunt of that response. The ramping-up of the amount of belligerence being exhibited towards Iran by US interests is fascinating, and is ignored at our peril. Over at DailyKos, Greatwhitebuffalo has a diary on the LAT's recent editorial urging that Iran be bombed for the good of the universe or some suchness. Shockwave notes that the neocons over at the American Enterprise Institute are saying the same thing. And Cenk Uygur noted last Friday that some "unnamed goverment official" is saying that a preemptive strike against Iran is inevitable. And it can't just be brushed off as pre-election base-boosting, because the election was two weeks ago. (And of course, there's the latest of Sy Hersh's articles (note well: link changes after the next issue) on the subject of Bush's long-standing desire to attack Iran.) And as the final mad cherry on this barking-mad sundae, Richard Perle's Jerusalem Post is urging that somebody bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb-Iran. Sheesh. I'm guessing that none of the bomb-Iran backers have seen this Center for Nonproliferation Studies piece. It handily debunks 1) the myth that Israel's June 1981 attack on Osirak did anything substantive to halt or even hinder Saddam's nuke-weapons program (in fact, it probably spurred him on to try to get nukes so that the US would back the hell off as it's doing with North Korea today), and 2) the myth that trying a similar attack on any of Iran's nuclear plants would have a better outcome than did the Osirak bombing. It also notes that unlike Iraq in 1981, which at the time was deeply involved in the Iran-Iraq War and had no time or munitions to spare on lobbing payback at the Israelis, Iran has missiles out the wazoo that are quite capable of hitting Israel, and no amount of bombing would take them out before they could be launched.
Should that next computer be a Windows system?
Someone Tell Bush We LOST Vietnam
Larry Johnson speaks. You listen:
I had my Scooby Doo moment for the day when President Bush, speaking in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, said there were lessons to be learned from the divisive Vietnam war:God only knows, Larry, because Bush sure doesn't. The best guess I can come up with is that this is yet another variation on the decades-old Dolchstoßlegende, the one the right-wingers used to blame Germany's defeat on those pesky Jewish liberal intellectuals who allegedly stabbed the war effort in the back just as the Kaiser was about to lead his troops to glorious victory. But I digress. Here's Larry again:
We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile . . .We'll succeed unless we quit.
What in God's name is he talking about?
I realize W missed the last few months of his time with the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, but I had not realized, until now, that he completely ignored what happened in Vietnam. Mr. President. We fought in Vietnam for more than twelve years. More than two million U.S. soldiers fought there. Almost 57,000 American soldiers died and several hundred thousand were wounded. We trained hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese troops, we killed almost one million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, we dropped more explosives on Vietnam then we used during World War II, and we defolitated significant portions of Vietnam's rain forest.Well, we did one thing there: We built up some lovely state-of-the-art submarine bases at Cam Ranh Bay that the Soviets got to use for a while, once we left. So I guess it wasn't a total waste of blood and treasure.
And what did we achieve in the end? The United States fled the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon, to escape the invading North Vietnamese Army. North Vietnam "freed" the South from yankee imperialists and set about "reeducating" the South Vietnamese. News flash George. WE LOST!
So, what lesson are we to draw from all of this? Are you arguing that if we had stuck it out in Vietnam and spilled the blood of another 50,000 Americans and one million Vietnamese that things would be better today in Vietnam? Mr. President, that is bullshit.
The lesson of Vietnam for our policy in Iraq is that we should not waste the blood or limb of one more American soldier without a clear vision and plan of what we are trying to achieve. Most of the violence we face today is from indigenous Iraqis who see us as occupiers. The insurgents may not agree among themselves what the future of Iraq should be politically, but they are united in expelling us from the country.
We shed precious blood and treasure in Vietnam and then we abandoned the South Vietnamese to the North. Politicians in that day issued dire warnings that our retreat from Vietnam would lead to the communist takeover of Southeast Asia. That never happened. Instead, Vietnam developed on its own, fought a war with China, and is now adopting capitalism rather than communism as its model for growth. So much for falling dominoes.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
The Glorious Anti-Communists In Colombia
These are the people BushCo cuddles up to, when they're not cuddling up to the Osama-coddlers in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or the dissident-boilers in Uzbekistan:
The government of President Álvaro Uribe is being shaken by its most serious political crisis yet, as details emerge about members of Congress who collaborated with right-wing death squads to spread terror and exert political control across Colombia's Caribbean coast. Two senators, Álvaro García and Jairo Merlano, are in custody, as is a congressman, Eric Morris, and a former congresswoman, Muriel Benito. Four local officials have been arrested, and a warrant has been issued for a former governor, Salvador Arana. All are from the state of Sucre, where the attorney general's office has been exhuming bodies from mass graves -- victims of a paramilitary campaign to erode civilian support for Marxist rebels in Colombia's long conflict. The investigation, which has revealed how lawmakers and paramilitary commanders rigged elections and planned assassinations, has shaken Colombia's Congress to its core. One powerful senator from Cesar state, Álvaro Araujo, has warned that if he is targeted in the investigation, it would taint relatives of his in the government and, ultimately, the president, whom he has strongly supported.But they hate Commies, so it's OK!
Republican Family Values
This quote by Grover Norquist won't ever make the network evening news -- the only reason I know about it is because of the folks at Huffington Post, who in turn found it in the UK's Financial Times -- but it really deserves a wider audience:
Mr Rove may have put too much faith in historical political facts, such as that incumbents tend not to be defeated, with 97.5 per cent getting reelected since 1996, and that there were fewer open races small, with only 20 open seats, less than the Democrats faced in 1994. A week before the election he confidently predicted keeping the House and Senate, yet that may have been driven by bravado not belief. Although some glitz has come off Mr Rove, Republicans have been more eager to blame botched campaigns and individual ethics scandals. "Bob Sherwood's seat [in Pennsylvania] would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn't whined about being throttled," said Mr Norquist. Any lessons from the campaign? "Yes. The lesson should be, don't throttle mistresses."Actually, the lesson should be "Don't throttle mistresses, don't throttle infrastructure, and never get involved in a land war in Asia." But that might be too much for them to memorize all at once.
John McCain, born-again conservative, has apparently decided that running for president requires him to take the extreme "pro-life" position.
MCCAIN: I don’t think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place, but I do believe that it’s very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should — could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support. STEPHANOPOULOS: And you’d be for that? MCCAIN: Yes, because I’m a federalist. Just as I believe that the issue of gay marriage should be decided by the states, so do I believe that we would be better off by having Roe v. Wade return to the states. And I don’t believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. Wade.Hmmm. Let's apply that position to other issues.
Just as I believe that the issue ofCome to think of it, Senator McCain, if you're looking to shore up your support among the Republican base, you probably should say my version, too.
gayinterracial marriage should be decided by the states, so do I believe that we would be better off by having Roe v. Wadesegregation return to the states. And I don’t believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. WadeBrown v. Board of Education.
You'd think that the Republican neo-Nazi troll who was banned from posting here would have really benefitted from the Bush economic boom, to the point where he could afford a computer with an operating system that wasn't eight years old. But I guess that the big bennies from Bush's tax cuts to the rich didn't trickle down to the scut workers in the GOP's ranks.
Our So-Called Unbiased Media
The So-Called Unbiased Media just can't let the facts get in the way of their storyline. The storyline, as you will certainly recall because they've been repeating it just about hourly, is that the election of Steny Hoyer as House Majority Leader was a knockout punch to Nancy Pelosi's authority as Speaker, and she and Steny Hoyer will be mortal enemies because she expressed her support for Jack Murtha. Any evidence to the contrary must be turned inside out to support their version of reality. Consider this headline: Hoyer claims no 'bad blood' with Pelosi. It's subtle, but effective. The headline could have been "Hoyer says no 'bad blood' with Pelosi", but that would give Hoyer's statement too much credibility. Calling it a "claim" insinuates that there's doubt about its truth. Just in case the reader doesn't take the hint, the article opens by further undermining Hoyer's statement.
Rep. Steny Hoyer acknowledged Sunday he was seeking assurances from incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she would not retaliate against his supporters after he won the No. 2 House leadership post. Hoyer, D-Md., insisted there was "no bad blood" with Pelosi after she publicly supported Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania for the job of majority leader.Saying that Hoyer was seeking assurances that Pelosi would not retaliate says, in effect, that Pelosi would retaliate and needs to be persuaded not to. "Insisted" makes it sound like Hoyer needs to plead with us to believe him.
On Sunday, Hoyer sought to play down any personal differences or ill will, noting that the two have worked together in the House Democratic leadership for many years."Sought to": "but didn't succeed in convincing anybody". "Play down": they really have serious differences, but he doesn't want anybody to think so. The real atrocity in this article, however, is what it does not say.
Former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich called Pelosi's decision to support Murtha a "mistake" but said Republicans should not underestimate her.The article does not say that Newt Gingrich made the same "mistake" when he became Speaker of the House:
In 1994, in the wake of the Republicans’ landslide midterm victory, Tom Delay ran for the position of majority whip against Newt Gingrich’s hand-picked Lieutenant, Robert Walker of Pennsylvania. Gingrich, like Pelosi, did his best to convince his colleagues to vote for Walker. He ultimately failed and Delay won.And we all know just how much this failure limited Newt's power. But of course, this precedent doesn't apply to Democrats, because... because why? Because the So-Called Unbiased Media don't want to apply it.
Mona Charen, Blithering Idiot
Eric Black over at The Big Question slices and dices the conservative Bush apologist's latest illogical emanations.
Janitors in Houston, Texas, are trying to negotiate a contract with five national cleaning firms. The janitors are paid minimum wage, have not health benefits, and are limited to 20 hours of work per week.
On Thursday, the janitors staged a sit-down strike to call attention to their cause and put pressure on the employers to make them a decent offer.
Mounted police trampled the protestors and then arrested them. Two of the protestors, including an 83-year-old woman, were hospitalized. Many others were injured.
In jail, they were abused and harassed by the guards. Bail has been set prohibitively high.
One of the more shameful aspects of the police officers' abuse of the protestors is that the Houston police are unionized themselves, but they don't hesitate to attack people for organizing. Here is the police union's email address. You Know What To Do.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Ed Meese. Bleargh.
Oh. My. God. This is obscene -- and it tells you a lot about the conservatives, if they consider this clown to be their finest legal expert. Ed Meese is NOT a legal expert on anything. As a purely brainless political hack, he has no peer in the right-wing firmament. Remember when it was discovered that the Reagan administration had been involved in illegal weapons sales to Iran stretching back to 1984? When then-AG Meese was asked about it in a press conference, he said it was OK because the proceeds were being sent to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. This explanation would have been blindly accepted, had it been made in 2006. But it was made in 1986, back when the national press corps, though far more cowed by the GOP than they had been in the early 1970s, had yet to be utterly brought under Republican control -- and some reporters actually brought up the fact that until 1985, it had been illegal under US law to fund the Contras, a fact that Meese, to judge from the poleaxed look on his face, didn't know. But in the end, it didn't matter: The fascistic neutering of Congress, the courts and the press -- the goal towards which William Simon worked the last three decades of his life -- had already progressed to the point where Iran-Contra's architects escaped scot-free.
Think Globally, Blog Locally (And Globally)
As Atrios notes, locally-oriented blogs are the next frontier and where the action is, or will be. But I still think that there's lot of unexplored or underexplored territory for bloggers to cover, especially beyond the borders of our own nations. Americans, for various reasons, tend not to think as much about other people in other countries as those people think about them. That's why I'm so glad that Charles here has a vision broad enough to include the goings-on in places like Mexico, a nation whose actions and activities are of key importance to Americans, but which -- even with the US' growing Latino population -- are all but ignored by our national corporate media and even by most blogs. When I started MR, my goal was not to be simply repeating things the big established bloggers said, but to try and focus on those things that I thought were worthy of interest, and/or were being neglected by both bloggers and the media. That will continue to be my goal -- and, much as I feel reluctant to presume to speak for Charles and MEC, I believe that's their goal, too.
Call Their Bluff
The day after the election, George W. Bush said
I intend to work with the new Congress in a bipartisan way to address issues confronting this country.... The message yesterday was clear: The American people want their leaders in Washington to set aside partisan differences, conduct ourselves in an ethical manner, and work together to address the challenges facing our nation.He didn't waste any time demonstrating that "bipartisan" means "both parties give me everything I want." One of the first things he did was renominate six judges who were completely unacceptable to the Democrats the first time around. So what makes him think they'll be approved now? Senate Minority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell spells it out:
McConnell ... told the conservative Federalist Society Friday not to feel bad about the Senate election results because Republicans will hold 49 seats in a body that requires 60 votes to end a filibuster and bring legislation or presidential nominees to a final vote. If the "Democrats want our cooperation, they'll give the president's judicial nominees an up-or-down vote," McConnell said.There's only one reasonable answer to that threat. Senate Majority Leader-elect Harry Reid should say, "Remember threatening us with the nuclear option because you didn't like us using the filibuster? We remember."
Friday, November 17, 2006
Friday Cat Blogging
Mexico, November 18th
More blogs about politics.