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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hit Me Baby One More Time

I don't normally like the Iraq/Vietnam comparison because I think it too easily erases the subtleties of the situation (although the argument could be made that we're talking about war here and not the perfect recipe for creme brulee), but I think Alterman pretty much nails it with his VIETNAM 2 PREFLIGHT CHECK:
Cabal of oldsters who won’t listen to outside advice? Check.
No understanding of ethnicities of the many locals? Check.
Imposing country boundaries drawn in Europe, not by the locals? Check.
Unshakeable faith in our superior technology? Check.
France secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
Russia secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
China secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
SecDef pushing a conflict the JCS never wanted? Check.
Fear we’ll look bad if we back down now? Check.
Corrupt Texan in the WH? Check.
Land war in Asia? Check.
Right unhappy with outcome of previous war? Check.
Enemy easily moves in/out of neighboring countries? Check.
Soldiers about to be dosed with *our own* chemicals? Check.
Friendly fire problem ignored instead of solved? Check.
Anti-Americanism up sharply in Europe? Check.
B-52 bombers? Check.
Helicopters that clog up on the local dust? Check.
In-fighting among the branches of the military? Check.
Locals that cheer us by day, hate us by night? Check.
Local experts ignored? Check.
Local politicians ignored? Check.
Locals used to conflicts lasting longer than the USA has been a country? Check.
Against advice, Prez won’t raise taxes to pay for war? Check.
Blue water navy ships operating in brown water? Check.
Use of nukes hinted at if things don’t go our way? Check.
Unpopular war? Check.
Or, we could just be like Britney when she breezily suggests that "we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that."

Which is just where her fellow backwater jug juice bunch seems to be heading -- according to Chris Bowers, even as the war in Iraq grows more unpopular in the blue states, support for BushCo. and Their War is growing in places where Fearless Leader was already popular. As Chris notes, "it seems entirely possible that the so called red-blue divide is actually growing even greater than it was before."

Well dropping your kid in a body bag has always been a status symbol in the Bible Belt, I don't know why I thought that would've changed.

(via Best of the Blogs)


What Would God Say?

Next time the Preznit has his little chit chat with God (you know, the one where George tells the Big Man what he ought to be busying himself with), God may want to let him know that the National Council of Churches (of which George's church is a member) is circulating a petition protesting the war in Iraq as immoral.

Of course, as George has mentioned, these conversations are pretty one-way and God ain't the one doing the talking, so George will be more likely to get the message if you actually go sign the petition and it's hand delivered to him by someone a little less plastic than the Big G.

I imagine George has other things on his mind these days, like how to make sure Fitzgerald doesn't do a Ken Starr and extend the Plame investigation and start looking into the Downing Street Memo, fixing of intelligence and WMDs. I guess I'm just old fashioned, but sex and real estate seem much more of a stretch than WMDs and the other deceptions of war.

(from RJ Escow via The Fixer)


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Return of Max (Teen Blog Redux)

Max Temkin of Maxestentialism has graduated from high school and is off to college this fall (and no, that's not him in the photo). He's also started up a new blog with some friends called Mankind Minus One, taking their title from a John Stuart Mill quote:
"If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one — if he had the power — would be justified in silencing mankind."
Max is off to a fine start, and is preparing his mind this summer for higher education:
I'm reading about “the other side, or heaven from this book by Sylvia Browne. She has some interesting commentaries:
There are countless places of worship, like churches and synagogues.
Really? No Mosques? Let me ask a question here. Once you get into heaven, where you get anything you want, experience no suffering (how boring!) and live in total harmony with your environment next to god, what, exactly, is the point of prayer?

Then she writes:
[All animals] exist on the Other side… animals that have existed throughout the history of the world are there as well, such as dinosaurs, unicorns, griffins, and other species.
…And you realize, Ohhh. She'crazy!
Personally I think she drinks.

Also check out Mollie at Behind These Hazel Eyes, who will be a senior in high school this year and on whose blog the above photo of DJ G-Dubya was found, and Beg Regenspan from Catalyst Blog, who this week accuses Jonah Goldberg of taking "monstrous digital shits." He has a way with words, our Ben.

Since the left doesn't have expensive think-tanks where fine young minds can be lavishly paid to develop their political acumen and communication skills and must needs blog pro-bono, I really applaud Max and other teen bloggers who DIY and hope everyone will check out their sites, blogroll them, and in general do our own no-budget version of the Richard Mellon Scaife thing. Without the one way post-mortem trip to hell.


GM vs. Honda

From the new issue of Newsweek, an interview with Honda's chief US engineer, Charles Baker:
Newsweek: How difficult was it to engineer the MDX to meet Honda's stringent mileage standards?

Baker: I'll never forget it. I was a rookie leading this MDX team. We'd done the research and we had an efficient package. But when we pitched our business plan to the board of directors, Mr. [Koichi] Amemiya, who was in charge of North America, his No. 1 comment was: "It should be more green." I made the mistake of saying, "But sir, nobody cares about the green issues." And he just smiled and said "I know."
From the WaPo, on GM's development of the GM Aztek:
The Aztek represented all that is wrong with GM's design process, that official said. The concept car actually did something few GM designs do: arrive before a trend -- this time, the crossover SUV that combines the attributes of a truck and a passenger car. And GM had high hopes to sell 50,000 to 70,000 Azteks a year, establishing Pontiac on the cutting edge.

Then came production, the executive said. The penny-pinchers demanded that costs be kept low by putting the concept car on an existing minivan platform. That destroyed the original proportions and produced the vehicle's bizarre, pushed-up back end. But the designers kept telling themselves it was good enough.

"By the time it was done, it came out as this horrible, least-common-denominator vehicle where everyone said, 'How could you put that on the road?' " the official said.

Sales never reached the 30,000 level needed to make money on the Aztek, so it abruptly went out of production last year. The tongue-in-cheek hosts of National Public Radio's "Car Talk" named it the ugliest car of 2005. "It looks the way Montezuma's revenge feels," one listener quipped.
It's called L-E-A-D-E-R-S-H-I-P.

Of the top 10 most fuel efficient cars on the road today, Honda has 7 of them. As the chart above shows, over the course of the past five years, Honda's share price has increased 50%, while GM's has decreased 50%.

Of course fuel efficiency isn't the only factor that comes into play in determining the relative success and failure of the two companies, but of all the US manufacturers GM most slavisly reflects Bushian economic philosophy: spend your money lobbying Congress not to legislate fuel efficiency rather than voluntarily adopting it yourself, reward yourself and other top level employees lavishly, pin the blame for your poor decision making on the unions and expect the working class to pick up the tab while you wrestle Oprah for $6,000 handbags at Hermes.

A friend just pre-ordered a Lexus RX 400h and I'm dying to drive it. As someone who makes a solid effort to buy American-made products whenever possible, I'm probably a couple of cars away from being interested in anything that US automakers have to offer, and that is just a plain tragedy.

Update: John Pearley Huffman has a review of the new Lexus in The Car He also says Roger L. Simon has been sniffing around the new Lexus. John attributes it to geography-related curiosity.


Posts I Wish I'd Written

Dennis Roddy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a good column on Swift Boat Bigot Jerome Corsi, co-author of the novel Unfit for Command. The disgraced freeper is attempting to portray himself as a champion of an Iranian freedom movement, presumably one populated by Iranians who don't mind being called murderous, child-raping ragheads.

We encourage Mr. Corsi to travel to Iran, so he can share his views with the Iranian people.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Why I Won't Play Poker with Harry Reid

The latest issue of the Rovian Tablets of Stone have featured a preemptive strike against Democratic opposition to any upcoming SCOTUS nominees, should Rehnquist or his Creator decide it is time for him (or any of the others) to retire. The airwaves have been rank with wingnut pundits parroting their talking points about Democrats who are sure to oppose ANY of Bush's certain-to-be-morally-bankrupt nominations out of sheer, mean-spirited partisanship.

Enter Harry Reid, stage left, who today recommends four Republican senators as possible nominees for the Supreme Court -- Lindsey Graham, Mel Martinez, Mike DeWine and Mike Crapo. In one masterful stroke he:

1) Established that the Democrats are not being out-of-hand obstructionist; there are Republicans that they would, in fact, support;

2) Forced Bush to piss all over four Republican Senators he needs in his corner if he wants to feed the gaping maw of the hungry Fundies; and

3) Should any of them ultimately wind up with the SCOTUS nod, put a Senate seat in play.

Of course, Harry Reid recommending Supreme Court nominees is kind of like your mom offering to set you up on a blind date -- it's pretty much the kiss of death right there. But in his head you just KNOW Lindsey Graham is already sporting wood underneath those Chief Justice robes and there will be no way for the supremely un-tactful GWB to let him down easy.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm still not down with the whole Mormon anti-abortion thing - but in these dark times you take allies where you can find them. And Harry Reid just made Frist's job of holding the Rethuglicans together a little tougher. Tee hee.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Jailhouse Rock

I'm torn over the whole Judith Miller/Matthew Cooper SCOTUS decision today. On the one hand, it's hard to watch the press being bullied by the government, and I fear that an already timid fourth estate will grow even more docile and non-confrontational as a result. On the other hand, it's hard to listen to sanctimonious journalists who have spent the past four years abrogating any sense of responsibility as they curry favor with the Sith lords defending their sense of entitlement.

I thought Joe Wilson brought it around nicely, reminding us where the blame should lie:
That two reporters may now have to go to jail is a direct consequence of President Bush's refusal to hold his administration accountable for the compromise of the identity of a CIA officer, Valerie Wilson.

Had he enforced his edict that all members of his administration cooperate fully with the Justice Department investigation, we would not be where we are today.

Equally, some senior administration officials who spoke to Matt Cooper and Judy Miller today cravenly stand by while the two journalists face jail time because of a conversation they had with them.  It is an act of extraordinary cowardice that those officials not step forward to accept responsibility for their actions.
Well in the end, I take solace in the purely emotionally appealing thought of Judith Fucking Queen of Iraq Miller doing hard time. It's spoiled only by the fact that she isn't sharing a cell with Robert Novak's renegade hip.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

I'll Have the Red Pill

Well I still don't have gas and my high-speed internet won't be installed until tomorrow, but my hair looks great, thanks for asking. The dogs are doing well -- carsick-prone Katie staged a bloodless coup for the front seat while we were on the road. She's only 40 lbs. but she managed to terrorize the other two much bigger dogs into ceding that prime piece of auto real estate. She was all hopped up on Dramamine and never quite went to sleep, just sat there drooling with heavy eyelids while her head bobbed up and down, kind of like you'd imagine Peggy Noonan looks like when she's writing. And probably when she's not, come to think of it.

Boy, you're out of the loop for a couple of days and it seems like years. I see Dick Cheney and Karl Rove are still evil, and nobody has yet burned them at the stake, tragedies both. The Power Tools are taking umbrage at Liberal Hate Speech. Well chew on that, you chickenhawk bastards.

I'm going to try to spend some time on health care over the coming weeks -- I always say stuff like that and then things start happening and my best intentions get hijacked. But I thought I'd start off by pointing to Hale Stewart's excellent article on the healthcare crisis, and what the spiraling costs mean to middle class Amercians:
In a recent CBS news survey, 28% of the respondents stated health care was the most important domestic issue, making it the number one main concern of Americans. Clearly, this is on the public's mind. However, no one is addressing their concerns.

To explain why Americans are so concerned about health issues, it's important to see the effect of health costs on the average American. To do this, I will use two hypothetical families and trace their financial condition for the last 5 years.

Family 1 is a single person who made $36,000/year in 2000. He takes two prescriptions daily and his family has a history of heart disease, although these have not manifested in this particular person.

Family 2 have a husband, wife and 2 children. Their combined income was
$50,000/year in 2000. Everyone is in good health.

For the last 5 years, their wages have barely grown. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average earnings increase from 2000-2004 was 3.86%, 3.22%, 3.12%, 1.71% and 2.39% respectively. However wages have to be compared to inflation to determine the real rate of wage growth. For the same years, annual inflation was 3.4%, 2.8%, 1.6%, 2.3% and 2.7% respectively. When inflation is subtracted from wages, overall wage growth becomes .46%, .42%, 1.52%, -.59% and-.31% respectively for 2000-2004.

Therefore, family 1 who started in 2000 with $36,000 now makes $36,538.37 and family 2 makes $50,747.73.

According to the Kaiser Foundation, the average annual cost of medical insurance for a single person in 2004 is $3627/year and $9813 for a family. Therefore, for our single person, his average annual premium is 9.92% of his annual income. For the family, the premium is 19.33% of annual income.

Think about those figures for a moment. Before any other expense is taken into account, medical insurance is already a hefty expense for both families. However, their respective problems don't end there. According to a USA Today article
(Medical costs prove a burden even for some with insurance): "Some employers are embracing high-deductible policies -- requiring workers to pay $1,000 or more a year in expenses before insurance kicks in. Such policies are also common for the self-employed, who buy their own insurance, because premiums are generally lower."

In other words, their respective annual or monthly insurance payments don't represent either family's total out-of-pocket medical expenses. Suppose both families have a higher deductible policy to lower their costs. If that deductible is $1000, then health costs increase to 12% for the single person and 21% for the family.

Compounding these problems are the higher than average wage growth increase in insurance premiums. According to the Kaiser Foundation, the average annual inflation adjusted increases for insurance premiums for 2000-2004 were 5.9%, 8.5%, 9.1%, 6.1% and 5.5% respectively. Compare this increase with the after-inflation increase in wages for each of those years of .46%, .42%, 1.52%, -.59% and-.31% respectively.

Up until now, I have focused on premiums. Another important component of health care is prescription drugs. As with premiums, escalating costs are deleteriously affecting the average American. According to a Health System Change study titled
Tracking Health Care Costs: Declining Growth Trend Pauses In 2004, spending on prescription drugs increased 14.2%, 13.5%, 13.1%, 8.9% and 7.2%. Finally, According to a Health System Change study titled An Update on American's Access to Prescription Drugs: "In an effort to control rising prescription drug spending, health plans started using formularies more aggressively and increasing patients' out-of pocket payment requirements."

Putting all the above facts together, we get this picture: Assuming a health plan has a prescription drug component, people are increasing spending on prescriptions at a rate that is growing faster than their annual inflation-adjusted wage increases. This is on top of the increases in their premiums and total out-of-pocket expenses caused by higher-deductibles.

So where does all of this information lead? To bankruptcy. According to a recent study by Harvard University:

"To investigate medical contributors to bankruptcy, we surveyed 1,771 personal bankruptcy filers in five federal courts and subsequently completed in-depth interviews with 931 of them. About half cited medical causes, which indicates that 1.9-2.2 million Americans (filers plus dependents) experienced medical bankruptcy. Among those whose illnesses led to bankruptcy, out-of-pocket costs averaged $11,854 since the start of illness; 75.7 percent had insurance at the onset of illness. Medical debtors were 42 percent more likely than other debtors to experience lapses in coverage. Even middle-class insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick."

Having insurance is no help in preventing bankruptcy. So the heavy increases in premiums, prescription drugs and overall medical spending lead to half of the people declaring bankruptcy to do so for medical reasons.
As I've said before, I believe the best chance for booting the kleptocrats from office will happen when people start wising up to the fact the bill they are being handed is just too high, both personally and financially. Yet the entrenched lobbying muscle of the health care industry makes it incredibly difficult to maneuver around -- one of the reasons the Clinton health care plan went down in flames is because in trying to accommodate all these special interests, it became unwieldy and extremely difficult to explain to anyone.

It still amazes me that for all the burden health care costs place on working class people, they are not even tax deductible in any meaningful way. And one of the ways BushCo. hoped to pay for the war in Iraq was by eliminating the business tax deduction for employee-sponsored health insurance, as well as eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes, which it estimates would raise nearly $926 billion over five years, according to the WaPo. If Newsweek should've known its story on the Koran would provoke riots in the Middle East, any idiot should be able to predict armed insurrection at that kind of insultingly regressive taxation.

Don't forget, George. Thanks to your beloved NRA, those fuckers are armed.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

Thought police on campus

A George Orwell style visit may be coming to a campus near you.

It's all part of a campaign headed by conservative activist David Horowitz and his Students for Academic Freedom, founded circa 2003. The argument they are presenting is that college students can't safely express conservative views on campus without facing academic retribution. Horowitz wants a law to protect students and safeguard their grievance process.

So-called "academic freedom" legislation has already been introduced in 14 state houses and in Congress. So do we teach exciting, new research, or play it safe and collect that pay check? This "Thought Police" effort would handcuff college faculty or at least make them think twice about introducing controversial material for discussion.

In the U.S. House this week Ohio Republican Rep. John Boehner, chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee claimed a breakthrough in getting these tougher guidelines included in the Higher Education Act. While the news release sounds like posturing it is worrisome.

This is another example of the Republican name game, the "Academic Freedom Act", which would do just the opposite. It really needs to be called the "Conservative Education Only Requirement Act."

The bigger problems in American colleges and universities have to do with inflated grades and a failed commitment by professors to update outdated teaching methods and materials. That's where the discussion and effort needs to be focused.


It will kill you quicker than alcoholism

A little light reading for the weekend.

Each year in Japan, more than 10,000 deaths are attributed to overwork. The Japanese even have a word for death by overwork - "karoshi".
I mention this because after a week long vacation I fear I'm suffering from a condition commonly known as "workaholism." I'm basing this on the 50 work related emails I wrote, the daily work related cell phone calls and the fact I actually stopped into work three times.

Why did I feel guilty taking my 12 year old son to a movie and my 80 something mother-in-law to lunch? I clearly need help.

A survey by the online travel company found 12 percent of American workers took no vacation because they were too busy working. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says Americans average working 49 hours per week — 350 hours a year more than Europeans. At least I'm not alone.

Paul Thorne and Michael Johnson, authors of “Workaholism”, identify two kinds, active and passive. The active workaholic probably has a prior history of addictions. The drug of choice is work. The passive workaholic is driven by insecurities, fear or paranoia.

A work ethic is one thing but this is not a respectable addiction or an admirable attribute. I've set a goal of learning how to play. It won't be easy. Maybe my two an a half year old can help.


Friday, June 24, 2005

Living on a Chinese Rock?

Well I'm semi-settled again, catching brief glimses of television, just enough to know that I must be missing much more in blogtopia. Did see the Spurs beat the Pistons, Ted Kennedy whip Donald Rumsfeld, and Ron Reagan deliver a long-overdue smackdown to Monica Crowley this morning, telling her that unlike George Bush, neither Richard Nixon nor his father ever deceived the American people to lead them into war. Monica damn near fell off her Nurse Ratched stool. Ron should be on the lookout for sharp objects in the near future.

Michael Duran sent me an article on the Chinese bid for Unocal:
But even before the communist nation formally announced a rival to Chevron Corp.'s $16.6 billion offer, reports that the bid was in the works prompted members of Congress to send President Bush a letter last week warning him of the threats posed by China's "pursuit of world energy resources."

"Such an acquisition raises many concerns about U.S. jobs, energy production and energy security," Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said in their letter.


CNOOC said the acquisition would more than double its production and estimated that 85 percent of the combined reserves of both companies are located in Asia and the Caspian Sea region.

Indeed, China's hunger for the oil and natural gas needed to fuel its economic expansion will likely result in huge investments to expand the combined company's production around the globe, which will help alleviate existing supply constraints that have helped push prices to $60 a barrel, analysts said.

"Anyone willing to invest in finding supply is doing the world a favor," said Goldstein.
It seems to be making politicans nervous and oil analysts happy. As someone who is pretty firmly convinced that the war in Iraq was launched (among other things) as a pre-emptive move to secure oil for the US as China's demands increase, it will be interesting to see how the administration responds. I haven't been able to spend enough time reading up on the matter to weigh all the pros and cons, so I'll throw it out there -- what do you think? Is it only fair that the sale be allowed, a small acquisition of no import, or is it a strategic move in a looming battle of great political significance?


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Animal House politics

In the movie Animal House the beleaguered frat boys facing expulsion decided to go on a road trip. Faced with eroding public support for President Bush's war in Iraq the White House frat boys and girls are adopting a similar approach.

Unfortunately for all of us this is not a carefree movie comedy classic. The divide and conquer strategy comes from Bush's Brain, Karl Rove. The message at a New York Republican fundraiser; if you oppose the war, if you question policy at Gitmo, if you even think about questioning it, you're a wimp and a traitor.

The Rovian Twist -- wrap your comments in the 911 Tragedy:

"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."... "Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."
After 25 years in journalism I'm a political agnostic. One of the best lessons I ever learned in the business is to look at the timing of a political operative. In this case why such an incendiary comment now?

The Bush administration is losing the hearts and minds of the American public because of the war in Iraq. They need to re-frame the discussion. 60-percent oppose the war. We're losing a battalion a month either killed or injured and its costing taxpayer’s $5-billion a month.

Yes, Rove wants to reframe the discussion and siphon off media coverage that would have gone to today's war hearings on Capitol Hill. Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and top war General John Abizaid were on the hot seats. In a moment of Republican candor, Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina told Rummy, "People are beginning to question. And I don't think it's a blip on the radar screen. We have a chronic problem on our hands."

Doc Rove's prescription, a liberal application of the "L" word and hoping the mention of 911 will innoculate the Bush Administration.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Lemmings and other Democrats

I was once told by the Chairman of the Texas Democrat Party, Bob Slagle, that Democrats form a firing squad in a circle. He shared that confidence with me shortly before the party went out of business in the Lone Star State. I mention this because the quote seems to fit the day and the state of national party.

With his voice cracking from emotion Illinois Senator Dick Durbin apologized for questioning the tactics of U.S. military interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. You didn't need a television or a radio to hear the cackling from conservative Republican operatives.

Score another victory for Bushite Forces punching the right emotional buttons with the American public. It's all about marketing your message. If you know how to play the game you can turn a lousy movie into a blockbuster at the box office, sell a car that eats gasoline like a hungry sumo wrestler or in this case sell a political perception.

The goal for the Republican attack team is to make the public believe Durbin was attacking our brave men and women in uniform. Mission acomplished. The Illinois Democrats objective had been a discussion of the operation of a prison camp that has the rest of the world asking questions about the United States commitment to the Geneva Convention.

Here's where the political question comes in for Lemmings. I mean Democrats. Was the right thing to do what Durbin did in the first place -- ask whether interrogation at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp could compare to the methods of Nazis and other repressive regimes? An "in your face" way of raising an issue.

There are two schools of thought. There's Chicago Democrat Mayor Richard Daley's apparent position, of not making waves with the public and waiting for public opinion to shift on its own. Daley cut the legs out from under his home state senator and in the process legitimized the Bush spin line that Durbin was attacking U.S. Service personnel. Dailey told reporters, "I think it's a disgrace to say that any man or woman in the military act like that."

Then there is Democrat National Chairman, Howard Dean. You know the guy. The "I have a scream" speech.

Dean is not willing to sit back. He's more than willing to turn up the political rhetoric on all fronts. But will that style play with the voters? My guess is the Dems are beginning to have the right issues, the wrong messenger and the wrong delivery style. Despite Dean's title, the Daley's control the party and they believe the way back to power is wait for the arrogance of the Bushite, waiting for the right time when the spin cycle won't rotate anymore.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The shame of crabgrass and other life lessons

In my neighborhood I’m the only one who mows their own lawn. I feel competitive with all those lawn service guys who come through the password coded gates. For the past three years I was more than a match for their fancy mowers, edgers, weed-eaters, blowers and chemical sprays.

This year I’ve made some mistakes in the weed killing department and I can see disdain on the faces of my neighbors. Crabgrass has invaded stealthily despite my seasonal applications of herbicides. A man doing his own lawn was questionable before. Now all the questions have been cleared up. My neighbors see me as a failed individual, someone to be pitied.

Thanks to years of psychotherapy I’ve been able to deal with this latest setback. My sessions with Mavis, the psychologist, have served me well. It helped me make the transition from television journalist to college educator and 50 something father of a two an half year old.

Psychotherapy has given me the freedom not to feel guilty, for not watching Meet the Press every week.

As I mow I think about important life lessons. There’s a minister who lives nearby. He doesn’t mow his own yard. You can see the reverend jogging in 100 degree temperatures. Somehow I think I get closer to God with my electric lawnmower. If it works for him that’s fine.

I’ve been re-reading Studs Terkel's, “Talking to Myself.” His biography is a random collection of memories; mowing allows me to reflect on my own life memories and lessons. It gives me time to think about where I am and where I want to go.

On Father’s Day morning at five A.M., I could hear my youngest calling from his crib, “Daddy where are you?” It’s a good question. I think my answers to that question are getting better.


John Bolton in Neverland

Maybe its the droopy mustache. Bless his heart.

Let's face it - John Bolton can't pass a smell test. When you get enough Republicans backpeddling you got trouble in Potomac City. A "Kiss up, kick down" management style got him some good jobs but it won't get him senate approval as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation.

The Republican Senate Rat Pack leader Bill Frist took one on the chin with Monday's vote. Someone should get Frist a speed reading class and a copy of Robert Caro's "Master of the Senate" biography of Lyndon Johnson. The cloture vote fell six short of ending debate. Ohio GOP Senator George Voinovich defection probably cost him a White House Christmas Card and a chance for some cool photo opportunities with George W. Oh yeah, and Fox Nooz has put Voinovich on their Enemy's List.

Democrats criticize Bolton for his sometimes blunt comments about the United Nations, including a 1994 statement that "there is no such thing as the United Nations." Now how can we have a U.N. Ambassador who hasn't seen the latest Nicole Kidman movie? There were all those great shots of the United Nations. If Sean Penn knows there's a U.N. is he better qualified?

I really don't see the Democrat's point about not wanting Bolton. A bull in an atomic china shop can be pretty darn entertaining. It's not like there are hair trigger situations anywhere that need diplomacy? A case in point: those talks to control all the nuclear weapons left around in Russia. Bolton, as Under Secretary of State and chief arms control negotiator, kept the impass going for years. After his departure there's been a breakthrough in the talks. Opponents also have criticized his handling of the diplomatic standoffs over the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea during the past four years.

There's a question we should ask. Do we want diplomacy, with respect for other nations or do we want cowboy arrogance that lets the rest of the world know that the United States knows what is best for everyone else?

Not to be out done in the last laugh department, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has hinted to Fox Nooz that the President is ready to appoint Bolton during the Senate 4th of July recess. That would put Bolton in the job until next year. How much damage can he do?


Monday, June 20, 2005

Big Bird Must be stopped

My two year old is in serious ideological danger from PBS. I can tell because the child will not lean to the right. With the help of a number of Bush appointees to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting little Russell should be able to do that by the time he's four.

If you listen to pediatrician Ken Tomlinson, Russell's exposure to PBS has caused incurable, irreparable, liberal bias. Wait a second, Tomlinson is not a kind hearted kid's doc, he's White House political uber-strategist Karl Rove's sidekick and the Bush appointed chairman for the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Tomlinson's choice for president of CPB is former Republican fundraiser and the current head of the State Department's propaganda operation, Patricia Harrison. She's testified before Congress on the value of "news segments" in manipulating public opinion

Tomlinson told fellow CPB and PBS officials that "they should make sure their programming better reflected the Republican mandate," but now dismisses the comment as a joke. Rupert Murdoch must be his comedy writer.

The CPB was created 38 years ago as a firewall from the kind of political meddling that Tomlinson and Harrison are attempting. The recently retired Bill Moyers is being served up as an example for the left leaning bias that must be wiped out. Horse feathers.

As a former public television station manager, I agree with Columnist Molly Ivins characterization:

"Big Bird is not in favor of affirmative action. Bert and Ernie are not gay. Miss Piggy is not a feminist. "The Three Tenors," "Antiques Road show," "Masterpiece Theater, “Wall Street Week in Review" and nature programs do not have a political agenda. "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" is biased in favor of boring, old, white guys who appear on painfully well-balanced panels. "Washington Week in Review" is a showcase for "Inside the Beltway," conventional wisdom, power-parroting, political-geek head, establishment journalism -- there is nothing liberal about it."
Because of the move from analog to digital technology we have the opportunity in the U.S. to invest in public service broadcasting. In a broadcast environment of 2000 digital channels some of those channels need to be set aside for genuine public service. The United Kingdom is already preparing. In the U.K there's a call for the creation a "Public Service Publisher" that would use independent producers to create and distribute content on broadband, mobile networks as well as cable [and] satellite.

In the U.S. Big Media and Madison Avenue will dominate the digital broadcast world. 30-billion-dollars worth of analogue public spectrum airwaves will return to the U.S. Government from commercial and public TV stations. Some of that money should be used to underwrite the unique public service PBS and NPR are providing.

Russell promises he won't lean too far either way if we keep Sesame Street.


I heart Gitmo

You have to excuse me. I’m extremely nervous these days about federal agents asking my librarian what I’ve been reading. There’s also that issue of why I regularly email a professor in Egypt. Even worse in the eyes of Homeland Security – why is the godfather to my youngest son an Arab? In these days of the Patriot Act and Freedom Fries you got to be more careful in what you read or say. Anything less ain’t being a good American. It’s downright disloyal to those brave men and women serving in our armed forces.

In the spin world of the Bush League you need to march in lock step. Anything less and the Bush Spinmeisters pull that “disloyal to the troops” line. Ask Illinois Senator Richard Durbin. You would have thunk he rustled cattle from the Bush Ranch while he planned a garden party fundraiser for Osama Bin Ladin. Durbin’s crime was an effort at a candid debate about the humanitarian and international PR nightmare known as Gitmo.

Here's what Durbin said:
“When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]--I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

‘On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.’

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”
The Righteous Right is pounding Durbin for mentioning Gitmo in the same breath with Nazis. The Bushmen know the trump card of being disloyal to our troops plays well with the public. Between pot shots from official GWB propaganda operatives at Fox Nooz, Durbin fired back, “My statement in the Senate was critical of the policies of this Administration, which adds to the risk our soldiers face."

GWB practices a “don’t ask don’t tell policy” toward Muslim detainees and winks in a folksy manner at the Geneva Convention. Durbin is not a bleeding heart Liberal , but an important independent voice in a democracy. He sees the damage to international support and to the principles of freedom the U.S. advocates. Are we bullies? What should that “shining city on a hill,” that President Reagan talked about represent? If we are fighting for democracy we have to represent the change we want to implement in the Middle East.

A quote by Avi Schlaim, an Israeli historian, on the issue of comparisons to Nazi Germany (in this instance referring to Israeli government and military leaders, but the parallel works here as well) says it best: "The issue isn't whether or not we are the same as the Nazis, the issue is that we aren't different enough."


Sunday, June 19, 2005

On the Road Again

Gord points us to a review of the new Toyota Highlander hybrid in the WaPo. The review itself is pretty jive, and seems to judge the car negatively because the price is $7,000 more than the gas-only Highlander. Which completely misses the point, as far as I'm concerned -- as Gord points out, cars like this are "in the forefront of a sea change in American attitudes toward oil conservation and the environment." And GM couldn't see this coming years ago? My dogs would do a better job running that company.

As someone whose lease is up in 2007, this is the first car I've seen that might meet my needs for a fuel efficient dog-hauler. The review notes that since hybrids actually get better mileage in stop-and-go city traffic than they do on the highway (didn't know that, but it makes sense), the Highlander got 28 mpg in wilting city heat with the air conditioner blasting. It handily beats even the best rated gas-only SUV on the market, the Toyota RAV-4 which the EPA rates at 22-24 mpg in the city, but that mileage probably goes way down once you pump up an air conditioner the way the WaPo evidently did the Highlander. And it's pretty cute. We like cute.

The dogs and I are going to be on the road for the next few days in our fuel efficient non-SUV, so I will be checking in as time and the WiFi capability of dog friendly motels allow. In the mean time my brother-in-law Loren is going to be doing some guest blogging, and he is much smarter than me so enjoy.


Keeping Those Gas Tanks Full

(Promoted from the comments -- Michael Duran wrote what I think is a very smart and quite comprehensive rundown of the real reasons the Bush Administration made the decision to go to war in Iraq):

Given that the plan to invade Iraq was made in full before 9/11/01, and given that parts of those plans had been on the drawing board for more than a decade before that in various incarnations, I think that the war planners had more than one clear goal in mind. In fact, I think that such profiteering was planned, as was the oil grab, as were military bases to secure the middle east in our name (esp Saudi Arabia) and Iran was considered next. That's why they wanted the war so bad, why they pushed for it so hard to the extent that they lied to the public, congress, fabricated "intelligence," the whole lot.

In fact, I would say that one could categorize the various intentions for the Iraq war and their beneficiaries as:

1) Halliburton, etc., and the "Insiders" circle of Big Dick and the people on his Rolodex.

2) Oil companies, and their officers, on the Rolodex of the Bush/Cheney families.

3) Oil availability from Iraq, for the members of the outer circle of US government, i.e. most of congress, who would have implicitly understood the first problem with invading Iraq : money. But they would "understand" that oil prices could be manipulated better by us (instead of the Cartel) and with more homeland preference after an American war than they were even during the sanctions, and that this would therefore offset expense for the war (which we know it hasn't )

4) Iraq as a backdoor to Saudi Arabia. The Buskin circle knows very well how much oil there is left in the world, and that Saudi has most of it and is extremely unstable. Regime change in Saudi would be a mess for us and the world economy. We've known this since the 1940's (when Truman set up alliances with them after having won WWII largely on petroleum supply strategies) through the so-called Carter Doctrine where Carter promised military force to keep our access to Saudi oil secure; through the end of the cold war, which had a lot to do with our cutting off of energy access for the Soviets and how that affected their economy; to our military presence in Saudi since 1990 which has pissed off people like Bin Laden so much. The importance of Saudi stability is so important, and is no secret to the members of government, that this imperative was surely on the minds of many voting for the Iraq war.

5) Iraq as a staging ground for war on Iran and Syria; again oil reserves, as well as pipeline routes (ala Afghanistan) from the Caspian area to the Persian Gulf, as well as to secure shipping routes through the gulf for Saudi and other oil, which could well be threatened. This again benefits the American way of life (lets it continue) as well as financially benefits the inner circle and their stockholders, those who resell the oil, and therefore would have its direct and indirect supporters.

6) Securing oil from competitors, such as China and Russia, and why not Europe too if need be. That is at least one reason why Europe did not support our war. Again an implicit benefit surely in the minds of many supporters who know their stuff.

7) It will benefit the Iraqis. The only reason this was important to the planners is that it should have made the endeavor easier, they thought, and therefore successful despite our other intentions above. The administration members are hardly ignorant of the tremendous suffering and mass death the people within the borders of Iraq had taken under Hussein; just as they knew that most of the American as well as Iraqi public was ignorant of the fact that Hussein was literally kept in power and supported with money, weapons, and rhetoric by America, almost from the beginning, through his torture and assinations, through his chemical warfare experiments, through the UN sanctions which the US spearheaded in the UN which killed > million, up to the eve of war. The administration thought that we would be welcomed with open arms for putting an end to what we had perpetuated. Well, it worked in this country. Until a relative few Americans died, then maybe we didn't like the idea so much.

The public of this country falls into a few general categories on the war: 1) those who are educated in history and politics a bit, and know what control in the middle east means to our way of life regardless of any suffering born by the brown people far away in barbarian land. These people drive Suburbans and say things like "white man's burdern, Lloyd, white man's burden. 2) The vast majority who are raised on sitcoms, fast food, and cheery fantasies about America's role in the world and their own futures. For these people, Machiavelli and Leo Strauss have a plan. 3) The rest of us.

In other words, they wanted this war so bad because success promised everything: to increase the wealth of the planners; to do what is "right" for the American standard of life; and, oh yeah, help out some brown people, whatever.


Halliburton Stock Prices and Dick Durbin

from CBS Marketwatch

In 2002 Halliburton stock prices were in the tank, way off the highs they had experienced during the dot com boom. In the wake of the war with Iraq, Halliburton stock prices have surged nearly 450%.

Through Kellog, Brown & Root, its corruption-plagued subsidiary, Halliburton was just granted the $30 million contract to spiff up Guantanamo Bay. According to the Financial Times, the full contract could be worth up to $500 million to Halliburton.

Dick Durbin has always been a good guy, the conscience of the Senate, a man who voted against the bankruptcy bill when others acquiesced for the sake of political expedience. He isn't one to take the temperature of public sentiment before speaking, he says what needs to be said. He has also been the prime mover behind the push to re-convene the Truman Commission on War Profiteering, and Karl Rove has had him in the crosshairs for just this very reason for quite some time. If the right is successful in silencing and neutering Durbin, you can kiss any investigation goodbye. At that time the smart money would say buy Halliburton. I'd rather have my money in something less morally objectionable and soaked in blood myself -- maybe internet porn.


Dear Prudence

In Tom Jones, Henry Fielding once wrote: "Indeed, I have observed (though it may seem unaccountable to the reader) that this guard of prudence, like the trained bands, is always readiest to go on duty where there is the least danger."

The "trained bands" in 18th century England were a sort of military reserve of local citizenry, and Fielding notes that they were often criticized for incompetence and cowardice. Which brings to mind the Virgin Ben, who is smarting this week in his Clown Hall column from TBogg's tidy summation of his own prudence ("some people choose celibacy, while others have it thrust upon them. Poor Ben. He no more chose abstinence than Clarence Thomas chose to be black.") But Ben is proud of the moral superiority his immaculate condition confers, which somehow lends him the expertise needed to pen his new tome entitled Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism is Corrupting Our Future.

Says Ben:
Such heated, inarticulate and unreasoned hatred for moral standards should not be shocking. Social liberalism seeks to promote a "live and let live" society wherein all types of deviant behavior is tolerated and accepted.


By discarding traditional morality in favor of amoralism, we have catered to the lowest common denominator. Social liberals have taken control of our culture through music, film, television and other mass media. R-rated films today often include soft-core pornography; television shows like "Friends" promote a fun-filled, promiscuous lifestyle with no consequences; rap music is misogynistic, glorifying its own degradation; pop music holds aloft cultural wrecking balls like Madonna as empowered feminist heroes.
Although his previous works have been pockmarked with factual errors, Ben is still quite smugly Better Than All That. In proudly trumpeting his own purity and measuring the decline of western civilization by using himself as a yardstick, Ben joins a long tradition of patronizing, intolerant right-wing kooks who practice bigotry and hypocrisy for fun and profit.

He writes a book called Porn Generation, for starters. Not Low SAT Score or High Triglyceride Generation. It's called Porn Generation, for which he tells us he interviewed many porn stars. Nice. Ben gets to stare unblinkingly at this most popular of past times without ever taking responsibility for it. In this he is much like the agents for the New York Society for Suppression of Vice (NYSSV), who used to show up at Minsky's burlesque house in the 30s and "tisk-tisk" as they counted the number of bosoms that appeared each evening. It's a neat trick if you can manage it -- you get to take a bath in the so-called "depravity" even as you're railing against it, and in Ben's case, capitalize on a sexy title to make a fast buck.

The NYSSV was the bastard child of Anthony Comstock, who like Ben appointed himself arbiter of public morality with no more than the dubious qualification of a hairy palm. He managed to get Walt Whitman fired from the Department of the Interior for writing Leaves of Grass, campaigned against birth control, cried out against George Bernard Shaw for his "smutty" plays, and directed the burning of 120 tons of literature -- including works by Dos Passos and Hemmingway. Comstock was downright dangerous. So far the Virgin Ben is just an annoying, grubby little opportunist.

In her excellent book Striptease: The Untold History Of The Girlie Show,Rachael Shteir notes that the early crusaders against burlesque like Comstock and Sumner were basically promoting themselves as civic leaders by playing into class and ethnic bigotry. The broad physical comedy and risque dancing found at the burlesque halls were the entertainment of working class patrons, who were often immigrants and enjoyed a show whose appreciation did not depend on tremendous cultural sophistication. When Fiorello LaGuardia finally closed the burlesque halls in New York in 1939, it is telling that the ban on nudity did not apply to the high-brow shows put on at the time just down the street by Flo Ziegfeld, where long legged beauties regularly posed bare-ass naked for the enjoyment of the upper classes at a much higher price. Likewise, Ben picks his pop-culture targets with care. It is the common man who cannot be trusted with his own penis.

When Mary Carey made her trip to Washington to profess her love for George Bush, at least she was honest about her intentions -- she has a flair for self-promotion and the desire to make a buck. But Ben cannot lay claim to either the honesty or the self-awareness of a Bush-loving porn star. His imminent dread that she will corrupt him and (God forbid) others like him is, quite frankly, unneccessary.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Hair and Unbalanced

Big Babyhead Neil Cavuto must've spent the afternoon at the all-you-can-eat umbrage buffet before he "interviewed" Rep. Bernie Sanders yesterday. The topic: the bill introduced by Sanders that passed the House on Wednesday (with the support of 38 Republicans) which required the portion of the Patriot Act allowing law enforcement to access certain information without a search warrant to "sunset," as it was already scheduled to do.

If you thought the Patriot Act violated your right to privacy, then you're probably glad my next guest is on your side, because thanks to him, and pretty much him alone, investigators cannot check up on your books while you're checking out of the library....Are you concerned though, Congressman, that if there is another attack on this country, you might have, with the best of intentions, contributed? (my emphasis)
erinposte at The Left Coaster had this to say about Fox's own culpability in any such event:
Clearly, terrorists are the only ones to blame for terrorist attacks. That said, if we are "hit again", people like Neil Cavuto will be partly responsible for making it easier for terrorists to attack us because they have done far more than anyone else in aiding and abetting the lies and cover-up from the Bush administration on how they slept at the wheel prior to 9/11, ignoring Al Qaeda and terrorism despite repeated, myriad warnings....

Now Cavuto may want his sheep to believe that getting rid of a 'library' provision in the Patriot Act is more deadly than:

. sleeping at the wheel
. ignoring the real threat of terrorism
. underfunding key aspects of homeland security
. diverting America's resources and military might away from the real terrorist threat to focus on an enemy who posed no immediate or imminent threat
. tacitly or directly authorizing torture (which aids and abets the enemy) and
. increasing the risk and magnitude of anti-American terrorism dramatically in the process.
Wolcott, I think, cuts to the heart of the matter:
Mark Hertsgaard's scathing account of the fawning coverage Ronald Reagan enjoyed during his presidency was titled On Bended Knee. After September 11, the other knee dropped and has remained rooted.
It seems that OxyLimbaugh is breaking into the fashion business with his "Club Gitmo" t-shirts, in competition with those style-whores from Powerline. I think I'm going to join the fray and start producing a line of I Love Gitmo kneepads. I'll sell millions.


Friday, June 17, 2005

The Long Hard Folly of GWB

Proving that even a blind pig can turn up the occasional truffle, Thomas Friedman sez in the NYT:
The Bush team has been M.I.A. on energy since 9/11. Indeed, the utter indifference of the Bush team to developing a geo-green strategy - which would also strengthen the dollar, reduce our trade deficit, make America the world leader in combating climate change and stimulate U.S. companies to take the lead in producing the green technologies that the world will desperately need as China and India industrialize - is so irresponsible that it takes your breath away. This is especially true when you realize that the solutions to our problems are already here.

As Gal Luft, co-chairman of the Set America Free coalition, a bipartisan alliance of national security, labor, environmental and religious groups that believe reducing oil consumption is a national priority, points out: the majority of U.S. oil imports go to fueling the transport sector - primarily cars and trucks. Therefore, the key to reducing our dependence on foreign oil is powering our cars and trucks with less petroleum.

There are two ways we can do that. One is electricity. We don't import electricity. We generate all of our needs with coal, hydropower, nuclear power and natural gas. Toyota's hybrid cars, like the Prius, run on both gasoline and electricity that is generated by braking and then stored in a small battery. But, says Luft, if you had a hybrid that you could plug in at night, the battery could store up 20 miles of driving per day. So your first 20 miles would be covered by the battery. The gasoline would only kick in after that. Since 50 percent of Americans do not drive more than 20 miles a day, the battery power would cover all their driving. Even if they drove more than that, combining the battery power and the gasoline could give them 100 miles per gallon of gasoline used, Luft notes.

Right now Toyota does not sell plug-in hybrids. Some enthusiasts, though, are using kits to convert their hybrids to plug-ins, but that adds several thousand dollars - and you lose your Toyota warranty. Imagine, though, if the government encouraged, through tax policy and other incentives, every automaker to offer plug-in hybrids? We would quickly move down the innovation curve and end up with better and cheaper plug-ins for all.

Then add to that flexible-fuel cars, which have a special chip and fuel line that enable them to burn alcohol (ethanol or methanol), gasoline or any mixture of the two. Some four million U.S. cars already come equipped this way, including from G.M. It costs only about $100 a car to make it flex-fuel ready. Brazil hopes to have all its new cars flex-fuel ready by 2008. As Luft notes, if you combined a plug-in hybrid system with a flex-fuel system that burns 80 percent alcohol and 20 percent gasoline, you could end up stretching each gallon of gasoline up to 500 miles.

In short, we don't need to reinvent the wheel or wait for sci-fi hydrogen fuel cells. The technologies we need for a stronger, more energy independent America are already here. The only thing we have a shortage of now are leaders with the imagination and will to move the country onto a geo-green path.
He goes on to perform the obligatory patented Thomas Friedman trick of sticking his head up his ass -- expressing his hope that GM goes bankrupt and is bought up by Toyota. But if you can ignore the stunning calisthenics for a moment, he does make an interesting point. As Jerome a Paris points out today, over the past four years 90% of all GDP growth is attributable to residential construction and consumer spending, and 40% of all new private sector jobs created have been housing-related. We're not growing in any way that creates anything exportable.

The opportunity is ripe for a forward-thinking leader to shape an energy policy that encourages the development of green technologies that will soon be in demand all over the world (if they aren't already), as well as reduce dependence on a resource that is principally available in a politically unstable region of the world. It's a total win-win situation.

So it's great to see BushCo. taking such a progressive leadership role with regard to environmentalism at the G8 conference.

Naw, just kidding. They're spending all their time pressuring everyone to delete language that makes global warming sound like a bummer. Things don't seem to be going too well. According to the AP:
"The U.S. will just not budge," said Hans Verolme, director of the World Wildlife Fund's U.S. climate change program. "We'd rather not have a deal than have a deal that lets George Bush off the hook."
Welcome to the club, Hans.


Power Tools

Check out the new gear being offered by Time Magazine's Blog of the Year, Powerline. For anyone who might think I spent the morning PhotoShopping this as a joke -- I don't have that kind of time on my hands, and besides the effort is completely superfluous.

As for Time Magazine -- the always-funny Matt Taibbi takes a moment to dissect Time's Newsweek's current revisionist history of Watergate by Evan Thomas. Except he's so outraged he can't even snark. I know how he feels.

It's a shame the line doesn't include asshats, 'cos the demand is simply staggering.


Define "Last Throes"

From the Guardian:
Insurgents have taken over much of the Iraqi city of Ramadi and used it to launch attacks against US forces while terrorising the population with public beheadings.

A huge bomb killed five American marines yesterday and showered body parts on to rooftops, fuelling suspicion that armour-piercing technology is being developed and tested in Ramadi.
As Holden points out, someone should tell Scottiepants. Without Jeff Gannon there to bail him out, his impaired vocabulary is getting his chestnuts roasted at the daily gaggle:
Terry Moran, ABC News: Right. What is the evidence that the insurgency is in its last throes?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: I think I just explained to you the desperation of terrorists and their tactics.

Moran: What's the evidence on the ground that it's being extinguished?

McCLELLAN: Terry, we're making great progress to defeat the terrorist and regime elements. You're seeing Iraqis now playing more of a role in addressing the security threats that they face. They're working side by side with our coalition forces. They're working on their own. There are a lot of special forces in Iraq that are taking the battle to the enemy in Iraq. And so this is a period when they are in a desperate mode.

Moran: Well, I'm just wondering what the metric is for measuring the defeat of the insurgency.

McCLELLAN: Well, you can go back and look at the Vice President's remarks. I think he talked about it.

Moran: Yes. Is there any idea how long a last throe lasts for?

McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve.
Let's use the term correctly in a sentence:

Social Security piratization is in its last throes.
Public support for the war in Iraq is in its last throes.
Any shred of credibililty the MSM retains is in its last throes.

Maybe the Department of Education should lay off the kids and whip up some flash cards for No White House Press Secretary Left Behind.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Anyone Want to Buy an Ugly Car? Me Either

It seems that everywhere I turn, journalists are carrying water for GM brass and spreading the statistic that $1,500 of every car goes to pay for workers' healthcare, in an effort to get the UAW to talk benefit cuts. The UAW is not buying it, retorting that the problem with GM is that management produces cars with complete disregard for the fact that nobody wants to buy them. While my own evidence is purely anecdotal, GM certainly does not offer anything I'm interested in buying (namely a reasonably priced, well made, high fuel efficiency SUV suitable for dog hauling) and it doesn't look like I'm alone in that estimation.

Ron Gettelfinger, the UAW leader, has refused GM's request to renegotiate the union's contract or roll back health care benefits before the contract expires in 2007. I don't think people in this country realize that the UAW is literally drawing a line in the sand for all of us. We'll have universal health care coverage in this country when GM decides we will. As Meteor Blades mentioned here in the comments recently, it's an either-or situation -- GM is going to get concessions out of workers, or they're going to pressure the government for universal health care to extenalize their costs. If GM can get the UAW to cut back health care benefits, it has no need to waste its money lobbying for government health care. Pretty simple, really.

Gettelfinger also pointed out that GM head Rick Wagoner has some damn nerve asking workers to take a pay cut while proffering nothing from his own pocket. He cites the example of Ford Motor Company's CEO, William Clay Ford Jr., who recently announced that he would accept no compensation until the company's profits improved.

Said Don Swegman, president of a union local in Indiana:
"We're being asked to sacrifice, and I think the sacrifice should go uphill as well as downhill.

"I think the bulk of the members on the floor feel the same way. If you look at Ford, their C.E.O., Mr. Ford, has decided not to take any pay at all until they turn things around. That would go a long ways to making us feel better. Everyone needs a paycheck, don't get me wrong."

Referring to Mr. Wagoner, Mr. Swegman added, "But does he need $10 million, when under his leadership the company loses $1.1 billion?"
So remember, the next time you hear some parrot head repeating Wagoner's well-orchestrated PR whine of $1,500 per car. It's not merely a sign-of-the-times problem of some union worker in the midwest. To the extent that the corporate shills of the MSM are successful in painting the labor unions as bloated, corrupt and greedy, union members aren't the only ones who will pay the price.


Now on Cable News

FLASH NEWS!!! 5.3 earthquake in California, home to many white women!

FLASH NEWS!!! New tidbit about white woman in Aruba!

FLASH NEWS!!! White woman runaway bride signs half-million dollar deal for TV movie!

Oh and um we think there may be some little get together in some basement room of the Capitol. We're not too sure.

For everyone who doesn't want their news dumbed down and diluted, the Conyers hearings will be re-broadcast on C-SPAN 3 at 8pm tonight and on C-SPAN 2 at 8pm tomorrow night. If you didn't catch 'em they were great, they will do your soul good.

The All White Women Networks will, as usual, keep you up to date on all damsels in distress. Provided of course that they are white.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

We Teach 'Em, You Kill 'Em? Mmm...Not So Fast

Seattle is a weird high-school centric city, a place where the high school you went to is often considered more significant than whatever college you sacrificed your braincells at. Me, I went to big fat stoner rock'n'roll Roosevelt High School, which also managed to graduate (or expel) Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue), Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Stefanie Sargent (7 Year Bitch), Duff McKagan (Guns N'Roses), Bill Rieflin (Ministry) and Eldon Hoke (The Mentors).

Which is why my ears perked up today -- adjacent to Roosevelt is Garfield High School, which just made the news for graduating 44 valedictorians, each with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Some screamed grade inflation, but most of these students earned their "A"s in advanced placement and honors classes. Garfield is one of the best high schools in the city, a triumph of public education with a racially diverse student body (31% African American) that regularly produces bundles of National Merit and Ivy League-bound scholars.

What the headlines didn't note is that Garfield was also one of the first public high schools in America last month to tell No Child Left Behind to go fuck itself.

Under Section 9528 of the NCLB act, high schools must give military recruiters access to its students, including personal home contact information, or risk losing federal funding. The Garfield PTSA voted 25 to 5 this May to adopt a resolution saying "public schools are not a place for military recruiters:"
Like so many schools today, Garfield grapples with painful budget cuts, loss of teachers, and dwindling resources. The school's opposition to military recruitment seems, in part, a result of parents' growing realization that tax money spent for the Iraq war is money not spent on children's educations or other domestic needs.

"They're spending $4 billion a month in Iraq, but we have to cut our race relations class, which costs $12,500," Ms. Hagopian pointed out. "That's an important class for our kids."
Evidently a commitment to academic excellence is consistent with a desire to keep the kids you struggle to educate from becoming cannon fodder.

Makes perfect sense to me.

(And bonus points for the first person in the comments to name Garfield's most famous graduate. Hint: there's not even a close second.)


Downing Street Hearings on C-SPAN Tomorrow

John Conyers' hearings on the Downing Street Memo will be broadcast live tomorrow on C-Span 3 and Radio Pacifica. From Conyers' Blog:
For those commenters who were concerned (or hoping) that there would be a media blackout of the forum, that will not be the case. I have every major network, other than Fox, bringing cameras to the hearing. Nightline is taping the event, which I think represents a welcome development from a well respected investigative program. In addition, C-Span 3 and Radio Pacifica are carrying it live.
If your cable service doesn't get C-Span 3 (mine doesn't) you can watch streaming video online here. Hearings will begin at 2:30 ET/11:30 PT at the Capitol (which they managed to wrangle after all -- Sensenbrenner evidently rethought the wisdom of asserting his droit du seigneur), and will include testimony from Joe Wilson, former Ambassador and WMD expert; Ray McGovern, 27-year CIA analyst who prepared regular Presidential briefing during the Reagan administration; Cindy Sheehan, mother of a fallen American soldier; and constitutional lawyer John Bonifaz.

Notably absent will be the fair and balanced Fox, who will be busy camped out once again in Karl Rove's rectum.


You will respect my authoritAH!

The Catholic Church gets the good Bushkeeping Seal of Approval when the leadership are oppressing women and molesting children, but the marks are not so high when the rank-and-file are true to their faith and oppose the war-mongering death machine in Iraq:
On March 17, 2003, in protest of the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq, Danny Burns, Peter DeMott, and sisters Clare and Teresa Grady poured small bottles of their own blood on the walls, floor and an American Flag in the foyer of a military recruiting center in Lansing, N.Y.

Charged with criminal mischief, the activists, who have been dubbed the St. Patrick’s Four, spent four days in jail and in April 2004 were tried at the Tompkins County Courthouse. During their weeklong trial, the defendants, all of whom have children, said they carried out their protest as Catholics and parents who wanted to warn members of the military and potential recruits about the illegality and immorality of the war in Iraq.

“As parents, we know the love of our children and hold deeply the belief that we are all God’s children. It is never OK to kill another of God’s children and it is especially grievous to send one’s children, our children to another land to kill other children,” said Clare Grady, a mother of two.

The jury voted 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal, leading some to conclude the case of the St. Patrick’s Four was closed. But in February, a federal grand jury charged the four activists, all of whom were arrested during a previous demonstration at the Lansing recruiting station, with two counts of criminal trespass, destruction of government property and conspiring to induce “by force, intimidation and threat, officers of the United States to leave the place where their duties as officers of the United States are required to be performed.”
The "criminal trespass" was on public property. "Destruction of government property?" They poured some blood. Defaced, maybe. The lack of distaff presence in the recruiting center is telling -- if there was a woman in the joint they could've told 'em a little cold water applied quickly works wonders. And conspiracy to threaten and intimidate? Well that's a rich one. Military recruiters are now cowed by a couple of testy peacenicks. OxyLimbaugh will no doubt soon proclaim that this is why recruitment levels currently suck.

Shorter BushCo: "States rights? What about 'em?"

(via Talk Left and The Heretik)


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Weird Night on Poodle Beach

Driving home tonight there were whales quite close to the shore stretching for nearly a mile, all the way up to the house. We came inside and discovered there had been an earthquake not far away and we were now under tsunami warning. The police came and with help from the valiant dogs they cleared the beach. Much appreciation to everyone who contacted us worried about our safety, but we are okay, and if things get funky we will head for the hills.

We are reminded of the words of the late Stiv Bators. One night he was sitting around watching a tape of the Stones concert in Hyde Park following the death of Brian Jones, where a preening Mick Jagger opened Shelley's Adonais and said he thought a few words from the poet were applicable to Brian's life.

"Yeah, swim stupid," said Stiv.


Rage Against the Machine

House Judiciary Committee Chariman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has officially pulled the plug on John Conyers' plans to hold hearings Thursday on the Downing Street Memo by denying his request to use a committee hearing room.

Express your displeasure here:

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
2449 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-5101

Sensenbrenner's District Offices:
120 Bishops Way, Room 154
Brookfield, WI 53005-6294
Telephone: (262) 784-1111

Update: The DNC has announced it will host the hearings, but you can call Sensenbrenner anyway and tell him he's a complete tool, a toady and a controlling ass. Some are suggesting that holding it at the DNC is a bad idea, it puts a pall of partisanship over the whole thing, and I have to say I agree.


The Mother of All Queen Bees

Roger takes aim at Phyllis Schlafly, who continues to exist as some sort of Old Testament pestilence on the planet. This time she argues that the Final Report of the Child Custody and Visitation Focus Group of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges represents a feminist conspiracy to banish fathers from the lives of their children:
Phyllis Schlafly proves that women are liars ... by making shit up:

The "game" is that mothers can assert falsehoods or trivial marital complaints and thereby get sole custody orders that deprive children of their fathers. This "game" is based on the presumption, popularized by VAWA and the domestic-violence lobby, that fathers are inherently guilty and dangerous.
Of course, mothers can lie to get sole custody of children just as fathers can lie to deny mothers' attempts to get sole custody, or to get joint custody, or to get sole custody themselves. Schlafly doesn't cite any law which presumes that fathers are guilty or dangerous or unfit parents.

If Schlafly has any proof of any of her claims, she doesn't cite it. She doesn't even cite anecdotal evidence. But she's not about to let the absence of facts get in the way of her deranged hatred of women in general and feminists in particular.
One of the most illustrative ideas in feminist theory is the notion of the Queen Bee syndrome, describing women who have no compunction about kicking other women to the curb in order to advance themselves. In some ways it is similar to the idea of an "Uncle Tom," except in the Stowe novel the Uncle Tom character is defferential and servile to his oppressors out of fear, he is not exploiting their weakness as a political act designed to further himself at the expense of his fellows.

Phyllis Schlafly doesn't give a flying fuck about abused mothers or falsely accused fathers or children who suffer in the middle. Phillis Schafly cares about Phyllis Schlafly, and there is no verminous pit so low she will not climb down into it to exploit some ugly sinkhole of rage in order to grab a public platform and count out thirty more pieces of silver.

So for future reference, any time you want to remember what a "queen bee" is, just call up the image of the vicious old harpy slag pictured above, because she is the living, breathing soul of the beast.


The Mendacious Mr. McCain

There was a time when I admired John McCain as a latter-day William Proxmire, scourge of government pork who fearlessly outed members of both parties for their J-Lo-at-Gucci spending habits. After he sold himself like a two dollar crank whore to Bush '04 that esteem shriveled, and any vestiges disintegrated when he joined the Social Security traveling snake oil show after having publicly announced that he thought privatization was a crock.

Matt over at wants to make sure I don't change my mind:
Every outside interest group from NOW to NARAL to Americans for Tax Reform to the Club for Growth have their own systems for ranking members of Congress based on votes on issues they advocate. The most objective is this system designed by Dr Keith Poole of the University of San Diego. It doesn’t measure issues, intensity, rhetoric, public posturing, good looks or media savvy. It simply ranks Senators by how often they vote with the other members of their own party.
McCain voted with his party more than Rick Santorum and 46 other Republicans in the last Congress. Only Jeff Sessions, Don Nickles, and Jon Kyl towed the party line more often. When it counts, John McCain is not a moderate but a conservative ideologue, which is certainly his prerogative. But if Barbara Boxer took contrary stands on one or two big issues and Republicans warmed to her, it wouldn’t change the fact that she is the most reliable Democratic vote in the Senate.
How McCain manages to contort himself within the media into some kind of moderate with a voting record like that is quite remarkable, and it's worth noting that fellow middle-of-the-road traveler Lindsey Graham is right up there with Rick Santorum when it comes to toeing the party line. The true disparity between a McCain and a Cornryn, for instance, has more to do with the image they attempt to cold chisel for themselves in the public consciousness, and less to do with any substantive distinctions.

A Republican is a Republican is a Republican.

Update: E. J. Dionne has a great article in the WaPo on the new cushy relationship between Bush and McCain here. (Thanks, Gord)


Monday, June 13, 2005

Not Guilty

The results are in -- moeman, Anyanka and Wanda predicted it -- he skated.

MandT gets extra points for suggesting that he now qualifies for a desk job at the Vatican.

I have to say, I'm stunned.

Update: Listening to the jury speak, they all seemed to hate the mother. Someone in the press finally asked "well, would you feel okay about letting your kid sleep with Michael Jackson?" and Juror #10, who is a mother, snapped her gum and said she was extremely protective of her own child, and what kind of a mother would let her son do that. Then they all piled on about what a bitch the mother was, and how much they all disliked her. It seems to me like they knew something wrong happened, but they disliked the mother more than they disliked Michael Jackson, and so if it was going to be him vs. her, they were picking him. Then they all said they were really impressed with the abililty to sit there and look at big stars up close.

The defense did their job well in picking that jury. They all seem a bit slack-jawed and credulous.


Sue the Bastards

Drudge emerges this morning from the primordial slime to report that one of the allegations in Ed Klein's new book about Hillary is that Bill raped Hillary and it resulted in the conception of Chelsea. Andrew Sullivan obvious needs some extra lucre to pay those bills from Fat Gap, because he's running an ad on his site for this particular piece of recycled Charmin.

At the peak of the Swift Boat Liars for Cash siecle, Kerry made the decision to ignore their charges, and conventional wisdom says much to his detriment. Nobody has yet figured out the best way to deal with this kind of smear campaign -- do you simply give them more headlines and coat your own persona in their sewage fiesta by fighting them in court?

Hillary is up for election in 2006, but her seat is considered safe. My impulse would be to sue narrowly -- that is, about this charge and nothing else -- so as to limit the amount of discovery a court could compel, and keep the other side from being able to go on a "fishing expedition" through your life.

My guess is the publishers made the decision to go with the story because fighting it in court would raise the specter of Juanita Broaddrick (the woman who claimed Clinton raped her in 1978), and they figured the Clintons would never want that flag hoisted in the media again. They might be right. But I would personally think a lot more of Hillary's leadership abilities for delivering a swift kick in the junk to this lot rather than pursue political expedience by sipping tea and nibbling on dainties with Newt.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Winter of Our Discontent

The Downing Street Memo is a tiny fissure in the GOP fabric of lies, a small but significant rent in the raiments of deception enshrouding the Bush junta that have emboldened many to utter the "I" word -- "impeachment."

But even those enjoying only a casual relationship with reality must concede that the possibility of bringing articles of impeachment against this President are unlikely when his party holds healthy majorities in both houses of congress, and its members are currently on an unchecked rampage of corruption and greed unseen since the death of John Gotti. Their pursuit of theocracy is in reality just a cheap masquerade for pursuit of kleptocracy. An attack of conscience is not likely to interrupt any of them from gorging themselves on a steady diet of pork as they binge and purge off the fat of the land.

That Ken Mehlman has smashed all records for GOP fundraising this year should stupify no one. Never has so much been for sale for so little. The halls of congress have been turned into a tattered pinchbeck of Ross Dress-For-Less.

Yet on Thursday of this week, John Conyers, our own Childe Roland, proceeds apace to the White House, half a million signatures in hand, demanding answers.

It is a shot across the bow in the battle for 2006.

If -- and it is a big if -- the Democrats can cut through the bloviating noise machine of the right and force a change in the balance of congressional power, district by district and state by state, then the brute can be dragged to justice.

The constitution provides an instrument for impeachment in the case of bribery, treason, or the delightfully vague "high crimes and misdemeanors." As constitutional scholar Jack Rakove notes:
The impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 set the bar for "high crimes and misdemeanors" so low that any subsequent president could legitimately worry about this generally moribund provision of our Constitution being deployed against him whenever an opposition party controlling Congress found it convenient to do so.
By fortune or curse we need not stoop so low. Dissembling to the American public, whether you know the meaning of the word or not, for the purposes of luring them into a bloody, illegal and morally bankrupt war stretches no one's definition of the term.

Let him toss and turn in sleepless nights on a jag of adrenaline-laced fear that reduces him to Nixonian flopsweat at the prospect of that most ego-puncturing of humiliations. Leave him pacing the floor with his privileged feet, unable to outrun the ghosts of his victims, with the specter of eternity as history's shrunken codpiece looming before him.

Gore Vidal once said:
Mark my words. He will leave office the most unpopular president in history. The junta has done too much wreckage.

May his words be prophetic.

(photo by Carol Moore)