Monday, July 31, 2006

Enough With the 9/11 Myths!

This site does an excellent job of shooting down the innumerable preposterous stories being circulated by various conspiracy nutjobs about the 9/11 attacks. A lot of the so-called "experts" on the 9/11 attacks are simply hysterical shills and hacks, or people who are inclined to see conspiracies everywhere. This site is aimed squarely at these "experts".
In early 2001 a commission headed by Gary Hart warned that we were vulnerable to a huge terrorist strike. It was ignored.
In August 2001 George W. Bush received a Presidential Daily Briefing entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike the U.S." He told the person presenting it, who urged him to take action: "OK, you've covered your ass." (Ron Suskind) Bush then went on a five week vacation.
On 9/11 itself, Bush sat there like a stunned idiot for seven minutes while the United States was under attack. He later fled across the entire country to hide himself. Cheney had to take charge on the ground.
Later, Bush fought tooth and nail to stop the 9/11 Commission from being formed.
Those are the real scandals associated with 9/11. Not all this other crap. Let's focus on what matters here.

The Fat of the Land

Check out this morbidly fascinating sequence of maps about the spread of obesity among the American population.

And then put that gallon of ice cream and mega-package of double stuffed Oreos down!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Why I Used to Be a Republican-And Why I Changed

I was raised in a deeply conservative family. (I hasten to add that my mother didn't brook prejudices against other people and was generous to others--and we didn't have a big margin for error in our own finances.) I was a strong Goldwater kid in 1964, at the age of 12. I was fiercely for Nixon in '68, in part because I was convinced he had been cheated out of what had been rightly his in 1960. (Long, irrelevant story about why I felt I had been cheated in my own life.) I lived in northern Illinois and the Mafia-connected Democrats in Chicago sickened me. I was for Nixon also because the 1960s had been so chaotic that I was hoping he could restore some kind of sanity. Oh well.
Nixon's failure to end the war began to disillusion me. In college I drifted toward the Democrats, casting my first vote for McGovern. I rejoiced at Nixon's political destruction in the Watergate scandal. I was impressed with the decency and common sense of Gerald Ford, which was such a profound contrast to Nixon.

At the same time, however, in college I was majoring in history and political science. I was particularly interested in the USSR under Stalin, and I immersed myself in Soviet history. I was so horrified and appalled by what I found (especially after reading the first part of The Gulag Archipelago) that I became a militant anti-Communist. I also grew to hate Communist China's government as I learned about it. I had been repelled, also, by those who rejoiced at the Communist victory in Vietnam in 1975 (which was NOT how the majority of the anti-war movement felt, by the way). I came to see Communism's defeat as a moral imperative.

After college, living and working in a small, very Republican suburb, surrounded by decent and hardworking conservatives also began to change me. I found Jimmy Carter to be annoyingly self-righteous and voted for Ford in 1976. And I went deeper into the horrors of the USSR under Stalin as I worked on my Masters degree in history. By the late 1970s, I was fiercely anti-Soviet, looking for someone who would have the backbone to defy the horrible system I hated with every fiber of my being. Despite the fact that he made a lot of bone-headed statements, I began to see Ronald Reagan as someone who felt about the USSR the same way I did. Here's the crux of the matter: The Democrats just didn't seem to take the threat of Soviet Communism seriously, and the Republicans did. I voted for Reagan in 1980 because of this conviction.

Although I began to hear accusations about Reagan's actions in Central America, I still voted for him in 1984. Walter Mondale struck me as a tired, whining-voiced, unimaginative northern liberal whose chief "idea" was to restore the New Deal. It was no contest, as far as I was concerned.

But doubts began to creep into my conservatism. Reagan and his people seemed indifferent to environmental concerns, which I was just beginning to embrace. I especially loved the redwoods of northern California and wanted to see them protected. When ERA failed, I was angry. Reagan's speech in 1985 at a cemetary in Germany which contained SS graves also bothered me. My family had always been pretty strongly pro-civil rights (I grew up in an integrated neighborhood and had lots of African-American friends when I was a kid) and I didn't like a lot of the neo-Confederate nonsense I was beginning to hear in right wing circles. And I was adamantly pro-evolution in my thinking, having taught myself a good deal of physical anthropology. Did being a Republican mean I had to embrace creationist idiocy? It was starting to seem so. And I had gay friends, and I sure didn't like the hatred I was hearing directed against people like them.

I almost voted for Dukakis in 1988 because I was disquieted by Dan Quayle, but Duke just didn't seem to have the leadership I was looking for. This was a big mistake on my part. By 1991, the elder Bush repelled me with his tongue-tied rhetoric, his kissing up to the radical religious right, and his general ineptitude after the Gulf War, when he had a strongly unified country behind him and did...nothing. I decided he also seemed to have no real moral or ethical core. There was something wrong with him I couldn't put my finger on. And the Bush deficits scared the hell out of me. By 1992, I gladly voted for Clinton, although his personal lack of discipline (i.e., keeping his fly zipped) was troubling.

I stayed a Democrat because the Republicans continued to move farther and farther right. I stayed a Democrat because Bill Clinton was an effective, capable president. I stayed a Democrat because to be a Democrat meant being for science, for equal opportunity and equal rights, for fiscal responsibility, for economic opportunity, for defending our environment, for the rights of women, and above all for moderation. I stayed a Democrat because I was outraged at the criminal farce of the Clinton impeachment. And faced with the most vicious, unprincipled, incompetent, dishonest, and corrupt administration in history, a regime supported by terrifying right wing fanatics of all stripes, I am a stronger Democrat than ever.

In retrospect, if the Democrats had spoken out as forcefully against Soviet brutality as the Republicans did, I don't think I would have strayed after McGovern. The Republicans seemed to feel that the defeat of the Soviet Union was possible; the Democrats seemed resigned to a permanent Cold War, which I didn't want. I was always more moderate than most of the Reaganites. Maybe with my big goal achieved (the fall of Communism in Europe), my eyes could focus on other issues. And once they did, the Democrats seemed saner and more responsible in almost every way.

I will never really be a hardcore liberal, but I'm still a moderate. And for a moderate these days, the Democratic Party is the only rational option.

My wandering days are through; I will die a loyal Democrat.

Yes! Father of Dead Marine Suing Anti-Gay Scum

The Westboro Baptist "Church", the vicious, hate-filled group of violently anti-gay "Christians" that regularly disrupts military funerals with their sick protests, is being sued by the angry father of a Marine who died in combat. Key facts:
On March 3, 2006, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder was killed in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. His father, Albert Snyder, buried him on March 20 at St. John's Catholic Church in Westminster, Md.. It was supposed to be a peaceful, private ceremony. But the funeral was interrupted by members of the church. "The protesters — Westboro Baptist Church — showed up with their signs, their hatred," Snyder said. According to Snyder's attorney Sean Summers, the demonstrators bore their infamous "God Hates Fags" signs, as well as a lesser used "Semper Fi Fags" sign, particularly offensive to the dead Marine's family.
Though [church spokesperson] Phelps-Roper maintains that the protesters "were hundreds — hundreds — of yards from where the funeral was," Snyder was forced to travel past them to enter.
"To be honest with you, I tried not to focus on (the protest), and more on my son," he said. But according to the lawsuit, the church's presence was emotionally damaging to the already grieving father. Postings by Phelps-Roper on the church's Web site following the protest that claimed Snyder "taught Matthew to defy his Creator, to divorce, and to commit adultery," and "raised him for the devil," further added to the father's pain. The lawsuit says Westboro knowingly violated Snyder's privacy, defamed him and was an intentional infliction of emotional distress against the bereaved father. In addition to general damages, the lawsuit is seeking punitive damages against the church to act as a deterrent against future protests.
These Phelps people are pure, sick, screwed up slime. They are the lowest of the low. Let's hope and pray that Snyder wins his lawsuit and gets punitive damages that will tear the financial guts out of the Westboro bastards.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Damn right I have.

A LONG time ago.

Smearing Pat Tillman's Parents

Just when you think the radical right (aka as the leadership of the Republican Party) has hit bottom, it digs a g-d damned trench and goes deeper. Now Pat Tillman's mom and dad are being attacked because they have had the temerity to question the circumstances surrounding the death of their sun, the late Pat Tillman, an NFL star who sacrificed millions of dollars to serve his country. He then sacrificed his life in Afghanistan. Pat was a true hero, as fine an American as we have produced. It is a shocking disgrace that his parents are now being abused, but that seems to be how the conservatives in this country operate:

Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich...more than any other single person below the rank of general, [is] probably most responsible for the Pentagon’s embarrassment when NFL-player-turned-Army-Ranger Pat Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004, by his own comrades.

Kauzlarich has been energetically avoiding responsibility for the fratricidal incident ever since.

It appears from reading the documents in the incident the he and others in the military may have violated multiple laws—including obstruction of justice, evidence tampering and conspiracy.

Kauzlarich may have conspired with others to award an inappropriate Silver Star, complete with a phony account of the events surrounding Tillman’s death. Members of Tillman’s chain of command attended Tillman’s memorial service without breathing a word to the family about what really happened, and it appears, again from the documents, that Kauzlarich deep-sixed the original investigation, which he then had redone under his personal supervision.

The Army’s criminal investigation division and the Pentagon’s Inspector General are currently investigating Tillman’s death and the events that ensued.

Kauzlarich now looks to Nov. 7, 2006, with a gnawing disquiet. Only a thin congressional majority that stand between a nemesis like Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee. Subpoena authority might transform a mere gavel into a mighty political weapon.
[Emphasis added]

But in the meantime, a recent exposé by Mike Fish aired an interview with Kauzlarich, who was the “cross commander” of the Rangers in Khoust, Afghanistan, in April 2004. Kauzlarich, in a stunning display of Christian empathy, blamed the family for continuing to ask questions about the circumstances of Pat’s death, and suggested that the reason they’d found no closure was that infidels such as themselves (the Tillmans did not belong to a church), when they die, are only “worm dirt.”

“So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more,” continued Kauzlarich, “that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don’t know how an atheist thinks…. You know what? I don’t think anything will make them happy, quite honestly. I don’t know. Maybe they want to see somebody’s head on a platter. But will that really make them happy? No, because they can’t bring their son back.”

You see, Pat's family is a bunch of dirty non-believers. That's why they want Kauzlarich to answer for his lies and cover-ups. That's Kauzlarich's reasoning, anyway. Absolutely disgusting.

Pat Tillman was opposed to the war in Iraq and he was planning to vote for John Kerry. (When told of this, the despicable Sean Hannity and borderline psychotic Ann Coulter refused to believe it and in effect called Pat's parents liars.) We need to take a stand in defense of Mr. and Mrs. Tillman and in honor of their son--a true American patriot and a model, in my eyes, of what every real man who loves his country should be.

"Rev." Moon Sends Creationist Lunatic to Kansas to Do His Bidding

Sun Myung Moon, godfather of the modern conservative movement, bankroller of the Bush family, and general all-around psychotic, has sent one of his disciples to fight Demon Evolution in Kansas:
The Discovery Institute, apparently, has decided to moon Kansas.The Discovery Institute, that overcaffienated intelligent design think tank located in Seattle, has announced plans to run two new radio commercials promoting their misnamed Stand Up for Science website and the online petition to “Stand up for Science, Stand up for Kansas.” The ads will air this weekend across Kansas just in time to drive right-wing religious voters to the polls for the primary election here.
According to Discovery, one ad features Discovery fellow Jonathan Wells -- they don't mention that Wells is a follower of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a man who has proclaimed himself God, and the Unification Church.

"Father's [Moon's] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism," writes Wells. "When Father chose me to enter a PhD program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle."
Yes, folks, Moon and his people are not out to "stand up" for science, they're out to strangle and destroy it. They want to substitute mythology for reason and use the schools to promote their fairy tale view of reality. They need to be opposed at every step--and those fighting them need to be supported.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Vitally Important Article: "Who Turned Out the Enlightenment?"

The current online edition of The National Journal contains a profoundly important (and for many, potentially unsettling) article on the politicization of science in modern America. Written by Paul Starobin, the article assaults both the political left and the political right for deliberately trying to bend scientific research to their own ends. Many of us in the political center-left will be uncomfortable with certain of Starobin's contentions. Many on the political right (if they bother to read the article at all) will be even more outraged. Starobin thinks the same way I do about these issues: it doesn't matter what anyone wants to be true; all that matters is what is true, or at least empirically verifiable. Increasingly, science has become a political football in this country, with ideologues and religious fanatics fighting against the reality of science's findings if that reality upsets their comfortable pre-conceived notions. Key excerpts:

The partisans are of two basic types. For shorthand, they can be called The Ideologues and The Big-Money Crowd

The Ideologues traverse the political spectrum, from the Religious Right to the New Left. The former push for the teaching of a pseudo-science,
intelligent design, in biology class; the latter refuse to countenance the idea, taken seriously by biologists, that males and females may have different aptitudes for such subjects as math and language. Each is vulnerable to the courtroom dressing-down that the Jack Nicholson character, Marine Col. Jessep, delivered in "A Few Good Men." "You want answers?" the grizzled Nicholson asked a young Tom Cruise, playing a military lawyer.

"I want the truth!"

"You can't handle the truth!"

As for The Big-Money Crowd, the striking example is the fossil fuel industry's willful reluctance to acknowledge "an inconvenient truth" -- global warming -- as science evangelist Al Gore asserts in his new movie by that name. Probably these cool cucumbers, unlike The Ideologues, can handle the truth -- it is their bottom-line businesses that seem invested in fable and distortion. The real loser, of course, could be planet Earth.

As far as the differences in male and female capacities, I have my doubts about that. I've been a teacher for 32 years, and I fail to see these differences. But being a history teacher, I cannot safely judge the aptitude of females for math and science. I'm not afraid of research in this area, and I would never dream of trying to block it on ideological grounds. Let's settle the question instead of arguing about it. In regard to the global warming "controversy" (I put the term controversy in quotes because the so-called controversy is wholly manufactured), we know what's at stake. Despite the overwhelming evidence that human activity is exacerbating the natural cycles of the earth's warming and cooling, a massive political apparatus has sprung up to fight this evidence. This fight is solely based on economic self-interest, regardless of potential consequences.

The Left has sometimes violently objected to research that upsets its worldview. What happened to Edward O. Wilson is instructive:

In 1978, at a meeting in Washington of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a protester poured a jug of water over the head of Edward O. Wilson, a world-renowned Harvard entomologist whose specialty was the study of ants. The miscreant's compatriots verbally denounced Wilson for giving sustenance to sexism, racism, and genocide through his research.

Wilson's sin was his founding of "sociobiology," which he defined as the extension of "neo-Darwinism into the study of social behavior and animal societies." Humans were part of this analysis -- their activities treated not as outside of biological principles but as obedient to them. The result was a politically incorrect litany of examples that were presented in a nuanced fashion but infuriated the Left nevertheless. In the chapter on "Sex" in his book "On Human Nature," Wilson wrote, concerning humans and "most" animal species, that "it pays males to be aggressive, hasty, fickle, and undiscriminating," while "in theory it is more profitable for females to be coy, to hold back until they can identify males with the best genes."

On the question of whether human beings are "innately aggressive," and for this reason prone to warfare, "the answer," he wrote, "is yes." In The New York Review of Books, Wilson was attacked for reviving theories that were the basis for "the eugenics policies which led to the establishment of gas chambers in Nazi Germany."

I think this reaction can safely be characterized as hysterical. Wilson's bottom line is this: humans are animals with a long evolutionary past that has shaped their development. To contend, as some have, that cultural influences are the only factors that shape human behavior is to be dangerously misguided about why humans act as they do. Sociobiology is a legitimate scientific endeavor, now known chiefly as evolutionary psychology. Let the facts behind human behavior be explored, and if these facts destroy cherished prejudices, so be it.

By far the most egregious offenders against science, in Starobin's view, have been right wing Big Money people and ideologues. The litany of their sins is depressingly familiar:

[In promoting creationism after attempts at banning evolution failed] religious ideologues took a different tack, seeking to have public schools teach intelligent design in science classes as an alternative to evolution. The problem is that "ID is not science," as a George W. Bush-appointed federal judge, John E. Jones III, ruled decisively [PDF] in Harrisburg, Pa., last December. "ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation," Jones wrote in his explanation of why the Dover Area School Board was guilty of "breathtaking inanity" in its requirement that students be told about intelligent design in ninth-grade biology class.

Jones tossed out the Dover school board's requirement on the grounds that intelligent design, as "creationism relabeled," breached the constitutional wall separating church from state because it was the product of a religious viewpoint. He might have ruled narrowly; instead he provided a tutorial on the origins of the modern scientific method in the time of Newton. His ruling made clear that advocates of ID were not simply displaying hostility toward evolution -- they were, in effect, rejecting the workings of science and the evidence compiled by scientists since Darwin offered his theory in "The Origin of Species" in 1859. In attempting to package intelligent design as science, the ID advocates were rejecting science itself. In a way, this was intellectual hubris of the highest order.

For his troubles, Jones was accused by Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime activist on behalf of conservative religious causes, of being in league with "atheist evolutionists" and, more than that, of betraying "millions of evangelical Christians" who voted for Bush in 2000 and thus made possible Jones's appointment to the bench. In his ruling, Jones "stuck the knife in the backs of those who brought him to the dance," Schlafly thundered in a Copley News Service column.
The intelligent-design movement may or may not be dead as a result of Jones's ruling. But efforts to deny the scientific validity of evolution most certainly are not -- the forces behind intelligent design are merely regrouping. Of course, no one is under any compulsion to accept evolution -- or to accept, for that matter, the proposition that water boils at 100 degrees centigrade under normal pressure. But should popular democracy, as Schlafly implies in her column, get to decide what is and what is not credible science?

Exactly. Science is not "democratic". Its findings do not depend on popular support. In 1632 Galileo found himself deeply isolated in his opinion that we lived in a heliocentric universe. In our own era, as late as the 1930s, only one scientist in the world truly understood how the sun works. When opponents of evolutionary fact argue that most Americans reject evolution, they are making an argument of almost mind-warping idiocy, as if the laws of nature are determined by popular vote.

Starobin reminds us of Big Tobacco's assault on research that proved its products were dangerous. He exposes the cynicism of the Republican assault on environmental science (which uses Frank Luntz derived arguments about the "inconclusive" evidence of global warming). And he also criticizes Richard Dawkins, whom I deeply respect, for his efforts to use science to prove his contention that religious believers are essentially fools. (One scientist is quoted as calling Dawkins an evangelist for atheism and adding, "He's killing us.)

Starobin's arguments will raise a lot of hackles. Good! Let the hackle raising begin. Because, in the end, reality ALWAYS wins, despite our best efforts to ignore it or bend it to our will. The world is as it is. That simple proposition has been fought by too many people for too long. The dangers of the politicization of science lead Starobin to this conclusion:

A fascinating, if somewhat frightening, societal experiment is under way. The question is whether democracy naturally advances science, or whether modern progress in science actually has less to do with heralded forms of government than with the fruit born of a special moment in historical time, the modern European Enlightenment, from which America, courtesy of the Founders, greatly benefited.

Jefferson, the ultimate optimist about progress in science and democracy going hand in hand, died in 1826, at the dawn of what became known as Jacksonian America, a raucous new era of muddy-boots rule by "the people." Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat who toured this America in 1831 and was its most perceptive chronicler, worried about the prospect for science in the new Republic. "Nothing is more necessary to the culture of the higher sciences or of the more elevated departments of science than meditation; and nothing is less suited to meditation than the structure of democratic society," Tocqueville observed in "Democracy in America."

For a very long time, this appeared to be the rare Tocqueville insight that was off the mark. Our current age, though, seems bent on proving him right after all.

Read the whole thing--and become enlightened.

Right Wing Hack David Brooks Caught Lying Through His Teeth

For some inexplicable reason, The New York Times insists on foisting David Brooks on its subscribers. Brooks is one of the worst frauds writing in America today, a person who believes himself to be some sort of profound social analyst. He isn't. He is simply a really articulate Republican propaganda hack. Today, in a lie of astonishing proportions, Brooks claims that Federal aid to education has had no real effect on college graduation or attendance rates (!!!). Washington Monthly has the scoop here. Quoting Kevin Carey, who has analyzed this:
According to the U.S. Department of Education and the Census Bureau, the percent of high school graduates who immediately enrolled in college the fall after graduation increased from 49% in 1972 to 67% in 2004.

The percent of 25- to 29-year olds who completed at least some college increased from 36% to 57%.

The percent of 25- to 29-year olds who earned a bachelor's degree increased from 19% to 29%.

All of those numbers can and should be better. But it's foolish to say that the federal student aid money spent during that time did no good
Why does a clown like Brooks have a platform at what used to be our most prestigious newspaper? Where is an editor at the NYT when you need one? Doesn't anybody fact check this guy, or are they content to let him put out right wing propaganda with impunity?
Brooks is a big neocon foreign policy fan as well. He has helped bring this country to the crisis it now confronts. He is seemingly reasonable in demeanor, and yet his facade conceals a radical mentality. It's good to see people calling BS on him. It needs to be done more often.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Pro-Cure Movement

With his obscene and cruel veto of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, George Bush has caused a backlash against the radical Republicans that could give the Democrats a huge victory in November. Even in the Republican leaning Rasmussen poll Bush's approval numbers are down five points in recent days. To my mind, no one has clarified this issue as well as Jonathan Alter from Newsweek. And he has given us a precious, invaluable meme to describe those who support this research:

The Pro Cure Movement.

Excerpts from Alter's powerful article:

Because this was Bush's first veto—itself a newsworthy event—he found it harder to ignore the obvious questions: If destroying an embryo is "murder"—the Bush position, according to his spokesman—how can he support the existence of fertility clinics, which routinely throw out thousands of surplus embryos? His answer lay in last week's photo op, where he surrounded himself with cute babies "adopted" from these embryos. How many such "snowflake" babies are there? Despite federal funding and intense outreach, only 128 of 400,000 frozen embryos (.032 percent) have been adopted, says Sen. Arlen Specter. It turns out that couples using the clinics overwhelmingly prefer to donate their surplus embryos to science, while couples looking to adopt prefer babies already born who need homes, a large constituency of extremely needy children Bush seems to have put in second place.


It is now almost five years since Bush's August 2001 stem-cell "compromise," which allowed for work on 60 existing cell lines. When most of those lines turned out to be unworkable or irrelevant to cures for humans, he didn't let the new facts affect him. In that sense, the whole issue is emblematic of what's wrong with the Bush presidency: his inflexibility, obsession with his conservative base, religious arrogance and contempt for scientific consensus. Most of all, last week's decision betrayed his oft-stated belief in the sanctity of life. The question, as in all moral issues, is whose life? I'll choose yours or mine over a piece of protoplasm no larger than the period at the end of this sentence.

Bush has handed it to us on a plate--a major issue on which the radical Right is opposed by almost 70% of the population. This is an issue we can build into OUR wedge issue, a sledgehammer we can use to smash the candidacies of extreme right Republicans all over the country. (The representative from IL-11, right wing Republican clown Jerry Weller, has been an adamant opponent of stem cell research. Am I going to use it against him? Damned right I am, at every opportunity I can think of.) Think of the stake that millions of Americans have in this research, not only the sick and injured but the people who love them, the people who are in emotional agony seeing their children, their siblings, their parents, or their life partners go through horrible suffering every day. A lot of Americans are OUTRAGED by Bush's veto and the radical Right's efforts to keep their loved ones from benefiting from what could be the most promising medical resarch in history. Bush has chosen to elevate the moral status of a blastocyst above that of a real, tangible, living, breathing human. If that isn't something worth fighting against, then why do the Democrats exist at all?

Make stem cell research an issue everywhere. Tie Bush's huge unpopularity around the neck of every right wing Republican Ann Coulter-loving bastard running for office anywhere, including Utah, Mississippi, Idaho, and Alaska. (Yes Howard, I've been listening to you.) By God, take a stand--and grab the leadership of what could be one of the most powerful political forces in recent American history--THE PRO CURE MOVEMENT.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rampant Readers, What Are YOU Personally Doing to Crush the GOP?

I'd like to hear from you. Specifically:

  • Are you registered to vote?
  • Which Democratic candidates are you supporting?
  • Are you contributing money to a Democratic candidate?
  • Do you plan to campaign (phone bank, canvassing, etc.)?
  • Do you direct people to Democratic blogs (like this one)?
  • How many people will you take with you to the polls on 7 November?
  • Will you stuff envelopes, hand out flyers, etc.?
  • Will you be a poll watcher on 7 November to keep Republicans from stealing votes or intimidating voters?
  • What issues do you think voters are interested in this year?

Let me know what you think!

Bush: Spiraling Over the Drain

Down, down, down, the Boy Emperor goes, sinking ever lower in more polls. American Research Group has more bad news for the Chimp:
Among all Americans, 35% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 59% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 31% approve and 63% disapprove. Among Americans registered to vote, 36% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 58% disapprove. When it comes to the way Bush is handling the economy, 32% of registered voters approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 63% disapprove.
Do you see that, Wall Street Journal editorial board? The people aren't buying into your "great economy" bullshit because they're not seeing it in their own lives. Got it? Can you comprehend that? Can you stop cheerleading for the Radical Right for five freaking minutes and see what's really going on? No, I don't expect you will.
Crushing medical insurance costs. Brutal energy prices. Stagnant wages. The weakest jobs recovery of any post-recession period in forty years. New jobs that often pay less. A collapsing housing market in much of the country. Corporations reneging on their pension promises. A pittance in federal tax relief while huge amounts are handed over to the rich. Federal debt that will burden our children and grandchildren for decades. Gee, I wonder why the American people disapprove of Chimpy's economic management by 2 to 1?
Face it people, he's a screw-up, a liar, a thug, and a fraud. Everything he touches turns to crap. He's been a failure all his life and not been held accountable for it. What did you expect?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Rampant Readers, I Need Your Comments!

I was hoping that this blog would not just be a forum for my views. I was hoping to establish a little on-line community where we could all air our opinions and share information. And some of you have responded wonderfully. But we need more! I need to hear from you. I deliberately try to be provocative a lot of times, just to see who will respond. There is so much that you, my small band of readers, could contribute. Please, I implore you--comment freely! Agree with me, blast me, tell me I'm full of crap, whatever. Let's see what we can do when vigorous minds are interacting.

Pakistan Gets a Pass

Pakistan is engaging in a disquieting escalation of its nuclear capabilities:
South Asia may be heading for a nuclear arms race that could lead to arsenals growing into the hundreds of nuclear weapons, or at a minimum vastly expanded stockpiles of military fissile material," the Isis report said.

The Pakistani army is thought to have about 50 uranium warheads. India and Pakistan, which have fought three conventional wars in less than 60 years, already have nuclear weapons and an arsenal of missiles capable of reaching far beyond each other's territory.

There has so far been no official reaction from Islamabad, although the Washington Post quoted an unnamed "senior Pakistani official" as acknowledging that an expansion of the country's nuclear programme was under way.

Ayesha Siddiqi Agha, a Pakistani writer on defence issues, pointed out that since Washington had proposed a nuclear deal with India, the Pakistani establishment had been keen to "match it": "The signal is that while India surges ahead, Pakistan has ways to pull them off balance. So this may be about restoring a psychological balance between the two."
So let's see: Islamic country. Hiding place for Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. Unstable government with plenty of Islamist sympathizers in it. A country with an existing nuclear arsenal. A country that could be plunged into chaos if assassins finally succeed in killing its president, Pervez Musharraf. (They've tried before). Home country of nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, who has spread nuclear secrets to Libya and North Korea. Well, it seems obvious what the United States should do:
Bomb Iran.

Coulter Advocates Genocide Against Iranians

When Sean Hannity (aka as the Smarmy Little Punk) asked Republican psychotic Ann Coulter what she would do if she were president to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, she suggested that she would "carpet bomb" the entire country so heavily that they wouldn't be able to make so much as a transistor, much less a nuke. You can check it out here, although I didn't watch the video--I just ate.
Again: we see a right wing "pundit" being allowed to say anything and not receive overwhelming public criticism. If a progressive had proposed exterminating the population of a major nation, it would be national news. But Coulter casually advocates mass murder, and it doesn't raise a ripple.
"Liberal media"? Bullshit.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bin Laden's Candidate Continues to Do Osama's Bidding

Another important post from Consortium News explains again the significance of Osama Bin Laden's back handed endorsement of George Bush in late October 2004, which may have been crucial in securing Bush's "re-election":
Today, bin-Laden’s strategy makes even more sense. Bush’s violent policies for reshaping the Middle East are spreading popular rage as the death toll mounts in Lebanon from Israeli air strikes against Hezbollah guerrilla strongholds and as Palestinians continue to die from Israel’s crackdown in Gaza, following raids that captured three Israeli soldiers.

Just as Bush and his advisers see the carnage as “birth pangs of a new Middle East” – in the words of Condoleezza Rice – so bin-Laden perceives the same violence as crucial for his own vision of a “new Middle East,” by isolating the dwindling number of pro-Bush leaders in the Arab world from the “Arab street.”

Compounding this Arab political problem, the Bush administration has even boasted of the anti-Hezbollah positions taken by the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan – exposing those autocratic leaders to furious criticism from their citizens.

This dilemma appears to have contributed to a surprising development on July 23 after Bush invited some of his more reliable friends from the Saudi monarchy to a strategy session at the White House.

However, instead of simply endorsing Bush’s hard-line support for Israel’s Lebanese offensive, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal delivered a letter from Saudi King Abdullah beseeching Bush to pressure Israel to stop its attack inside Lebanon that have killed nearly 400 people, mostly civilians.

“We requested a cease-fire to allow for a cessation of hostilities,” the Saudi foreign minister told reporters after the meeting. “I have brought a letter from the Saudi king to stop the bleeding in Lebanon.”

White House officials said Bush rebuffed the king’s appeal and remained adamantly opposed to the idea of pressuring Israel into a cease-fire. Though the Saudis and other Sunni governments see a threat from the rising influence of Shiite-ruled Iran, which backs Hezbollah, they also are worried about being viewed by their own populations as Bush’s puppets.
As I've said before, Bush is a gift from Allah as far as Bin Laden is concerned. No other American president has so stupidly and coldly made more enemies in the Middle East than Bush. There are so many ways the Middle East and south Asia could get worse that such a situation would tax the ability of even the most skilled administration. Tragically, those who seized power in the U.S. in the bloodless coup of 2000 are the blindest, most incompetent, most corrupt, most dishonest managers of U.S. foreign policy in our country's history. Think for a moment of the gruesome possibilities that are shaping up:
  • Iraq becomes even more savage and violent, as civil war sweeps over the entire country, endangering the U.S. forces caught in the middle of it.
  • The Kurds try to secede from Iraq, creating an independent Kurdistan. Turkey immediately invades to crush this new nation.
  • The U.S. attacks Iran, triggering a shocking rise in the price of oil, inflicting hundreds of thousands of casualties, and setting off a general war of Islam versus the United States.
  • Pakistan vastly expands its nuclear arsenal, prompting a worried India to launch a terrible pre-emptive strike.
  • Israel gets bogged down again in a brutal guerrilla war in Lebanon and Syria is dragged into it.
  • The Saudi royal family is overthrown and replaced by a ferociously anti-American Islamist government.
  • Afghanistan descends into anarchy as a revived Taliban attempts a comeback.

And then imagine George W. Bush having to deal with any--or possibly all--of these possibilities. If that doesn't put the fear of God into you, I really don't know what in the hell would.

Yes, Bin Laden knew exactly what he was doing. His favorite American is pushing the world to the brink of catastrophe--just as he hoped.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Radical Republican Attack on the Public Schools

As an educator I have watched, with rising anger, the attacks of the extreme right on the public school system. These attacks are increasingly alarming, inasmuch as fanatics and ideologues of the far right now run the United States. These Republican radicals aren't just for "reforming" the public schools--they're for abolishing them and replacing them with religious schools (of the kind that would be known as madrassas in the Islamic world.) This important article explains the chief attacks the lunatic right is making on the public schools, and makes a point I have made myself many times--the so-called No Child Left Behind act is one of the right's principal methods of attacking the very idea of public schooling. Some key points:
The ongoing assault on America's public schools comes from many quarters including possibly ABC's 20/20 and John Stossel [ story thanks to the ever watchful eye of Media Matters for America Media Matter For America shines a spotlight on a January 13, 2006 "20/20" which seemed to view education through privatization-colored corrective lenses:

Summary: ABC's John Stossel presented a "special report" on the failure of American public schools that included a series of misleading claims, a lack of balance in reporting and interviews, and video clips apparently created primarily for entertainment to argue for expanding "school choice" initiatives such as vouchers and charter schools."

Meanwhile, writes Talk To Action's Dr. Bruce Prescott, many on the Christian right - including powerful factions in the Southern Baptist Convention - are agitating for the wholesale pullout of children from public schools.

But, the centerpiece of the strategy to destroy America's public schools may in fact be the No Child Left Behind Act.

A recent analysis predicts that 3/4 of Massachusetts schools will fail to meet the provisions of the "No Child Left Behind" act when it goes into full force in 2014 - despite the fact the Mass. schools rank among the highest in the nation.

Further, 1/4 of U.S. schools currently fail to meet the provisions of the No Child Left Behind act.
Despite right wing lies and propaganda, religious private schools actually tend to lag BEHIND public schools in key areas. The true motive of many zealots in pushing for religious schools is plain: to control the thinking of their children and to keep them from being exposed to ideas that compete with or dissent from the parents' religious views. NCLB has been designed to facilitate this process by setting such absurdly high standards that the public schools can simply be declared failures and then destroyed through government-issued vouchers. This must be adamantly opposed.
The public schools are the last institution in America where all elements of the community are brought together to learn and interact with each other. Destroy this institution, and you will simply atomize American society even more and lower the quality of education. Because of conservative Republican political pressure, American students are already dead last among students of the developed world in their understanding of the principles of organic evolution. Pushing all kids into agenda-driven, creationist-influenced religious schools will kill science education, America's scientific preeminence, and America's future. (And think of the perverted "lessons" in history that will be taught as well.)
I do not need to be reminded of the many shortcomings of America's public schools. I have written a book about high school teaching that discusses many of them. But I am for the reform of the school system, not its abolition. The Republican agenda is horrific in many ways: unending war throughout much of the world, the "drowning" of government, the destruction of Church-State separation, the imposition of theocracy on the United States, the destruction of Social Security, and the extreme concentration of political and economic power in their own hands. But we must not overlook the right's war on public education. It is, in many ways, the bedrock of their program. They intend, in the way all authoritarians do, to capture the minds of the children. If they succeed, we need not worry about America surviving to the year 2100.
It won't.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

An Extraordinarily Dangerous Moment

The First World War wasn't supposed to be the First World War (or the Great War as its contemporaries called it). It was supposed to be the Third Balkan War, another minor regional conflict, this one involving Austria-Hungary and Serbia. In the tragic, farcical aftermath of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, misunderstandings, diplomatic ineptitude, poor judgments, fear-driven decision making, and sheer reckless irresponsibility, combined with a fatal inability to anticipate a worst-case scenario, brought about a conflagration that slaughtered 9,000,000 soldiers and countless millions of civilians, left millions of brutally mutilated war veterans, destroyed four monarchies, burned up more than $4 trillion dollars (in today's money) in precious resources and lost economic activity, helped set the stage for the current Middle East crisis, facilitated the rise to power of the Communists in Russia, the Nazis in Germany, and the Fascists in Italy, and basically set the Twentieth Century on its catastrophic course. Would a major war have erupted anyway, only later? Who can say? We can only judge the consequences of the one that did erupt--and they were disastrous.
Now we are at what is perhaps an equally dangerous moment. There is a more than even chance that the current war in the Middle East will broaden. In a very disturbing phenomenon, there is a war party in our country that is now highly influential in the United States government. I often disagree with the Cato Institute, but I can't fault them here.
Here’s the money quote from the Bill Kristol piece George Will went after yesterday:

“We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions — and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.”

And here’s a front pager in today’s Washington Post about neoconservative anger towards the Bush administration because of its newfound restraint in foreign policy. Prominent Iraq hawks like Max Boot and Cakewalk Ken Adelman are upset that their favored tactic, “bomb today for a brighter tomorrow,” no longer commands the respect it once did in Washington.

Now, you could marvel at the brazenness of all this: the same people who helped lead us into the biggest foreign policy disaster in 30 years trying to push another war (or wars) on us without so much as a prefatory “sorry about the whole Iraq thing, old boy.” But the current squawking also strikes me as a useful reminder of how very, very important war is in the neoconservative vision. It is as central to that vision as peace is to the classical liberal vision.

For the neoconservatives, it’s not about Israel. It’s about war. War is a bracing tonic for the national spirit and in all its forms it presents opportunities for national greatness. “Ultimately, American purpose can find its voice only in Washington,” David Brooks once wrote. And Washington’s never louder or more powerful than when it has a war to fight.
The Neoconservatives are pushing for war with Syria. They are pushing for war with Iran. They are willing to see much of Lebanon destroyed. They are for unending war in Iraq. They are seeking to extend an abstract concept of political liberty to the Middle East that is wholly at odds with the reality on the ground. And they are for doing all this with other people's blood. They seem utterly oblivious to what the philosopher Karl Popper called, "The Law of Unintended Consequences". The scope of the violence they are willing to unleash--and Kristol's proposed attack on Iran would be especially horrific in this regard--would cause myriad unintended consequences to erupt, consequences which could embroil our country for decades, perhaps the rest of the 21st century. What particularly appalls me is the casualness with which these hugely consequential actions are urged, as if they were relatively minor and easily accomplished. None of them would be. The policies of the Neoconservatives are now bordering on madness, and in the name of sanity must be stopped.
In the terrible aftermath of the Great War, statesmen and historians tried to figure out what had gone wrong. In my view, what had gone wrong was that humans had created ways of doing things that were too complex for them to control, methods that relied on variables so numerous and complicated that no set of humans could really understand them. If anything, the international system is even more complex and multivariable today. In the blithe willingness of the neoconservatives to plunge our country into a general war lies the road to potential disaster--and ultimately the death of the great Enlightenment-era experiment called the United States of America.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Blastocyst is Not a Person

It is a tiny, insensate little cluster of cells smaller than the period at the end of a sentence. It is a potential but not actual person, in my view, something which may grow to be a human but is not yet morally the equal of a functioning, feeling human embryo or delivered baby. Blastocysts are bred in labs all the time as part of fertility therapy. The vast majority end up being discarded. They have enormous potential for stem cell research, research which could aid millions of people suffering from illness or critical injury. (A brief explanation of embryonic stem cells, courtesy of the National Institues of Health, may be found here.) For White House press secretary Tony Snow to characterize Bush's opposition to stem cell research by saying that Bush is opposed to "murder" (his term) is an obscenity. Bush is fine with being responsible for more executions than any other single person in U.S. history. He is fine with an Iraqi death toll of 3,000 persons a month. He is fine with fighting against national health care, a stand which costs countless people their lives. But by God, he draws the line at blastocysts! In fact, his first veto will be of a bill to advance stem cell research, a bill that had bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. (It is worth noting, however, that of the 37 negative votes in the Senate, 36 were Republicans and one was a Democrat. Guess how Santorum voted.)
Bush's repulsive, immoral position on this issue is a perfect reflection of the grotesque fanaticism of the Religious Right, a group which represents a minority of this country's Christians. Bush is purposely dooming countless people to lives of suffering and premature death. And this suffering is being inflicted at the behest of "pro-life" forces that care more about blastocysts than they do about real, live, actual feeling babies, babies who are often desperately ill and in chronic agony. The Republican Party's ugly, cynical manipulation of this issue is reason alone for their utter and total defeat.
Make this a 2006 campaign issue. Fight to unseat EVERY Republican who voted against embryonic stem cell research. Draw the line against these bastards here and now.
Many of you know that I am negative about abortion. I favor complete access to reliable birth control for all females as an abortion prevention measure. I favor adoption instead of abortion. I am reluctant to approve of any abortion once an embryo shows brain wave activity and sentience. So I am not some kind of radical pro-choice person. But this is different. A blastocyst does not merit our moral protection. A living, breathing, actual human does. That's what this comes down to. Make a stand here and now. Make a stand for hope. And make a stand against the most amoral, sociopathic president in American history.

Pseudo-Christian Crook Ralph Reed Clobbered in GA GOP Primary

And it couldn't have happened to a nicer asshole.
People like Reed bray about how "Christian" they are, but they betray everything Jesus of Nazareth stood for. They worship money, they spit on the poor, they crave power in this world, they hate multitudes of their fellow humans, and they generally use the Sermon on the Mount as bathroom tissue. Reed is an Abramoff-connected crook, pure and simple, who was willing to turn a blind eye to the vicious exploitation and mistreatment of imported workers in the Marianas. (See my rant on this subject here.) He is as complete and utter a bastard as there is in American politics, right down there in the sewer with DeLay, Rove, Cheney, and all of the perverted media enablers of the Radical Right. His political career is, hopefully, dead.
Man oh man, this makes me happy! I love watching you lose, Ralphie!
Santorum: You're next.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Is the U.S. Headed for Bankruptcy?

A respected American economist thinks the answer may be yes. The scary figures:
Prof. [Laurence] Kotlikoff, who teaches at Boston University, says: "The proper way to consider a country's solvency is to examine the lifetime fiscal burdens facing current and future generations. If these burdens exceed the resources of those generations, get close to doing so, or simply get so high as to preclude their full collection, the country's policy will be unsustainable and can constitute or lead to national bankruptcy.

"Does the United States fit this bill? No one knows for sure, but there are strong reasons to believe the United States may be going broke."

Experts have calculated that the country's long-term "fiscal gap" between all future government spending and all future receipts will widen immensely as the Baby Boomer generation retires, and as the amount the state will have to spend on healthcare and pensions soars. The total fiscal gap could be an almost incomprehensible $65.9 trillion, according to a study by Professors Gokhale and Smetters.

The figure is massive because President George W Bush has made major tax cuts in recent years, and because the bill for Medicare, which provides health insurance for the elderly, and Medicaid, which does likewise for the poor, will increase greatly due to demographics. [Emphasis added]
Yes, the right wing lunatics on The Wall Street Journal's editorial board can bray and yap about the wonderful Bush economy, but those of us in the real world have to deal with the situation as it really is. And it's pretty damned scary.
Prepare to have your children live with you, folks. Permanently. If things go on the way they're going, your kids will never be able to afford their own place in this world.

Letterman's Top Ten Bush Moments

Classic, just classic. Watch 'em here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Money Talks and BS Walks

A lot of us are looking forward to a big win for the Democrats on November 7. The Republicans, who have done so much to harm our country, are facing a perfect storm--an unpopular president, an even more unpopular Congress controlled by Republicans, and a preference, expressed in every poll, for the Democrats and Democratic stands on issues.

Sigh. What a bunch of suckers we are. If more of us don't get off our asses, we're going to suffer the same burning, terrible disappointment on November 8 that we did on November 3 two years ago.

It's all about the money folks, and it's pouring into the GOP like there's no tomorrow. Lost in the anger about John Boehner's frenetic fund raising activities is a simple fact: the son of a bitch is raising TEN THOUSAND FREAKING DOLLARS A DAY FOR THE REPUBLICANS, and has been doing so since February.That's $70,000 a week, $300,000 a month, $900,000 every quarter. And that's just him. I can't conceive of how much the other Republican leaders are pulling in. And remember, Bush and Cheney can raise a million dollars for any Republican candidate in America any time they want to. The Republicans don't HAVE to win the public debate--they win because they have more g-d damned money than we do. For example,we brag about how we're going to kick Santorum's miserable, lying ass in November, but that bastard has FOUR MILLION MORE DOLLARS right now than Bob Casey, and he'll use every dime of it. If he survives--God forbid!!--it will because he had the bucks. It's really that simple.

What do the Republicans buy with their megabucks? Well, paid media, of course, obscene amounts of it. But they also buy their massive get out the vote ground game--which is how they kill us on Election Day. They buy their voter lists. They buy their data banks. They buy their phone operations. They buy their laptops and hand-helds. They buy the "poll watchers" that challenge and intimidate our voters. They buy stories in the MSM that make them look good. They buy the buses that pick up their voters and send them to the polls. And they buy the mailers, inundating every targeted household with election propaganda. (Remember: the Rove rule is a minimum of 7 mass mailings are required to push your candidate over the top.) They beat us because they can afford it.

Am I being simplistic? Bullshit. I'm being realistic. The winner of a contest is, overwhelmingly, the candidate with the most money. Check the link here if you don't buy it. Excerpt:

Almost as soon as Election Day concluded, one thing was certain: Money won big in the 2004 elections.

In 95 percent of House races and 91 percent of Senate races that had been decided by mid-day today, the candidate who spent the most money won, according to a post-election analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The findings are based on figures reported Oct. 13 to the Federal Election Commission.

The biggest spender was victorious in 415 of 435 decided House races and 31 of 34 decided Senate races. On Election Day 2002, top spenders won 95 percent of House races and 76 percent of Senate races.

Am I making my point, folks? IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW HORSESHIT A JOB THE REPUBLICANS HAVE DONE. If they outraise and outspend us, they will win on November 7, and America will continue to spiral downward, destroying the future for our children and grandchildren. Just imagine Bush crowing on Wednesday, November 8 about how America endorsed his policies, if you can bear to. That's what we're up against.

Every resource must be tapped. The activists have been wonderfully generous in their contributions. But we need more. Howard Dean is busting his ass, but we need more. Rahm Emanuel is knocking on every door, but we need more. We need a GRASSROOTS REVOLUTION. We need mass contributions, $1, $5, $10, $20 at a time from millions of ordinary Democrats and Independents. We need to roust our friends with appeals for contributions. We need to comb our e-mail lists and Christmas card lists and the lists of people we invited to the Bar Mitzvah, the wedding, the open house, everything. We need cash right now to help us organize the ground game we must have to win. I know I seem over the top, but I just can't go through another defeat. And the ONLY way we can stave off another defeat is by outraising those Republican bastards. Period.

If we don't win the Senate, it means more Alitos. If we don't win the House it means the K-Street project rolls on. If we don't win, Bush can claim another "mandate" to continue his catastrophic direction. I don't give a shit what our poll numbers say--I want to see our fundraising numbers.

All real patriots must come to the aid of their country--and that means with bucks. It means getting everyone you know to kick in money and to get everyone they know to kick in money, and so on. Broken record Joe will say it again: 10 million people kicking in 10 bucks a month will help us crush the Rightwing that is killing America.

Don't give me political analysis. Don't give me debating points. Don't give me polls. Don't give me issue papers. Give me millions of people pouring money into the Democratic Party. Yes, all the other things matter. But they won't amount to a hill of beans if we don't back 'em up with a hill of cash.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Thoughts on the Current Situation and Selected Issues

In case you're wondering where I stand about certain issues, I'd like to make my thinking clear:

  • Israel is certainly right to view Hezbollah as its enemy, and it is right to strike back in retaliation for attacks on northern Israel and the kidnapping of several of its soldiers. However, the manner of the retaliation is disproportionate to the offense and risks triggering an all-out war in the Middle East. Iran has been aiding Hezbollah, the organization that murdered 241 American Marines in 1983. The U.S. is certainly right to consider Hezbollah the enemy. However, our government must act to restrain Israel before things get out of hand.
  • Iran must be contained and deterred, not physically attacked. I am especially worried about an Israeli strike on Iran because of the Hezbollah drone that damaged an Israeli warship.
  • Iraq may have to be broken into three pieces, including an independent Kurdistan--which Turkey would vehemently oppose. There seems little doubt that a civil war is raging and that Baghdad is rapidly getting out of control. This is 100% attributable to the incredible incompetence of the Bush regime, which failed to anticipate what would happen in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion. It is in no way the fault of the war's critics, who were right all along.
  • The Marines accused of raping an Iraqi woman and murdering her and her family in order to cover up the crime deserve the presumption of innocence. But if convicted after due process, they deserve the most severe penalty military justice can provide. In postwar Japan Douglas MacArthur issued strict orders that no civilian was to be assaulted. Our men in Iraq must be held to the same standard.
  • Stem cell research deserves our full support. The opposition to it, based on misguided religious sentiment, must be defeated. It is our moral obligation to press on with this research. Go, Nancy Reagan!
  • I predict oil will reach $100 a barrel before the end of 2006. Gasoline will average $4.00 a gallon plus. Will Americans finally get serious about alternative fuel? By the way, it makes more sense to use sugar than corn in making fuel. My nephew Stewart (aged 44) has convinced me of that. (He's studied this extensively).
  • Global warming is real. Although a naturally occurring phenomenon in earth's multi-billion year geological history, this current warm period is being exacerbated by human activity. There can no longer be any doubt of it. Al Gore is right, just as he was right about the war and so many other issues.
  • Kim Jong-il's death would be an immensely welcome event.
  • I am truly beginning to question the mental stability of George W. Bush, and I do not make such a statement casually.

There you have it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Why Won't the Democrats Insist That the Votes Be Counted?

Greg Palast has some thoughts on that here. Basically, the Democrats don't want to make waves. They don't comprehend the total ruthlessness of what the Republicans are doing in hijacking elections in this country. Disturbing excerpts:
In Florida [2000], 179,855 ballots supposedly showed no vote for President. A closer look by the US Civil Rights Commission statisticians showed that 54% of those Florida "votos nulos" were cast by African-Americans. Did Black folk forget to vote for President, couldn't make up their minds or, as one TV network implied, were too dumb to figure out the ballot? Not at all. Machines can't count some ballots. But people can. For example, several voters wrote in, "Al Gore," which the machines rejected as his name was already printed on the ballot. The write-in could fool a machine but a human has no problem figuring out that voter's intent.

The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago reviewed all 179,855 "uncountable" votes and found the majority attempted to choose Gore. And they would have been counted -- but Florida's Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, ordered a halt.

So Bush was elected not by counting the votes but by preventing their count. And he was reelected the same way in 2004 when a quarter million votes were nullified in Ohio.

But why fixate on Florida and Ohio? Here's a nasty little fact about voting in the Land of the Free not reported in your newspapers: 3,600,380 ballots were cast in the November 2004 presidential election that were never counted. In 2000, the uncounted ballots totaled just under two million.

And where were the Democrats? In 2004, behind the huge jump in uncounted votes was a mass challenge campaign aimed at poor, Black and Hispanic voters by the Republican Party -- pushing these voters, mostly Democrats, to "provisional ballots." They could have been counted, if someone had fought for it. Hundreds of lawyers were on stand-by but the head of the biggest legal team told me in confidence -- and in frustration -- that the Kerry campaign told them to stand down.

Recently, Al Gore was asked if the election of 2000 was stolen. "There may come a time when I speak on that, but it's not now," said the beta dog. (I suspect that if Al Gore were found bleeding in an alley, he'd answer the question, Who shot you? with "There may come a time when I speak on that...").
What is happening in this country needs to be shouted from the rooftops: Right-wing Republican criminals have seized control of the electoral machinery. In Florida in 2000, the ultimate state authority in running the election was Bush's campaign manager. In Ohio in 2004 the ultimate state authority in running the election was Bush's campaign manager. WTF?? What is it going to take to get the Democrats to call fraud what it is? The new Republican Gestapo tactics are vote suppression, mass voter challenges, purging voter rolls, and nullifying actual votes cast. These tactics have been successful because the Democrats don't have the cojones to fight back. The results of this failure to resist Republican election theft have been tragic in the extreme: the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-DeLay running of our government and a multitude of rightwing fanatics appointed to the federal bench. What more motivation do the Democrats need? A federal law banning the Democratic Party from being on the ballot at all?
The 2006 election coming up may be our last chance. We have to fight Republican election theft with all our might. Ohio's election is being run by all-out right wing lunatic and crook Kenneth Blackwell, who engineered the theft of Ohio in 2004. Hillary Clinton had the guts to call him on this a few days ago. When will the rest of us jump in the game?

Check This Out!

It's a new short video from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It says what needs to be said. Watch it and then:
  • Forward it to everyone on your e-mail list.
  • Blog it, if you've got a blog.
  • Send some love to the DCCC.

You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ya Gotta Love the Harper's Index

Check it out here.

Egad, no wonder I feel so strange lately.

Great Video: John Dean on The Daily Show

And he's talking about his new book, Conservatives Without Conscience, which I intend to read as soon as I can. Check out his interview with Jon Stewart here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Need a Laugh?

Play this. (Scroll down a little when it loads.)


Bush's Insulting Deficit Scam

Am I rejoicing that the current federal budget deficit will "only" be $296,000,000,000 this year, as opposed to the $423 billion it was projected to be earlier this year? No--and here's why:

  • The announced deficit is the fifth largest in American history.
  • The announced deficit is only slightly less than the $318,000,000,000 deficit last year.
  • This is the third year in a row that the Bush Administration has mysteriously announced a giant deficit projection in the spring and then come up with a lower actual figure in the summer. It's called the expectations game, and it's a BS public relations scam.
  • By 2011, under Bush's influence (even though he will leave office in 2009) the total federal debt will have doubled from what it was in 2001.
  • It is not clear how much of the spending for Iraq is included in these figures.
  • The government is still milking the Social Security surplus to make its current accounts budget look better.

The Concord Coalition, strong deficit hawks all, sounds the warning:

The Concord Coalition also urged lawmakers and the public to keep today's new numbers -- particularly the revenue growth -- in perspective. Adjusted for inflation, revenues are just now reaching their level of five years ago. As a percentage of GDP, revenues fell from 20.9 percent in 2000 to 16.3 percent in 2003 - - the lowest such number since 1959 -- before rebounding this year to the administration's projected level of 18.3 percent. Meanwhile, spending has risen from 18.4 percent of GDP in 2000 to 20.6 percent under the Administration's policies.

"Before supply-side advocates give credit to the tax cuts for the increase in revenues over the last two years they first must acknowledge that tax cuts bear some responsibility for the extraordinary three-year decline in revenues from 2001 through 2003," said Concord Coalition Policy Director Ed Lorenzen. "Much of the recent increase in revenues is a result of revenues simply rebounding from the lowest levels as a percentage of the economy since the 1950's," Lorenzen said.

Concord cautioned against drawing an inevitable connection between tax cuts, economic growth and higher revenues. For example:

-- In the five years following the tax increases of 1993, annual real economic growth averaged 3.8 percent. In the five years since the tax cut policies began in 2001, annual real economic growth has averaged 3.1 percent.

-- In the five years after the tax increases of 1993, annual revenue growth averaged 8.3 percent. In the five years after the tax cut policies began in 2001, annual revenue growth has averaged 4 percent.

"These numbers certainly do not establish that tax increases are better for the economy than tax cuts, but they do establish that the tax cuts enacted over the past few years are not necessarily needed beyond their expiration date to ensure economic growth. The best fiscal policy is one that balances spending and revenues at a sustainable level over the long-term," [CC Director Robert] Bixby said.
The Republicans always try to bamboozle everyone with this ludicrous "great economy" nonsense, but it's not working. People aren't buying it because they aren't seeing it. Wages have stagnated. Energy costs are out of control, huge mortgages loom over many peoples' heads, and medical care costs are through the roof. The economy's "prosperity" is built on loose credit, borrowed money, and gargantuan debt. It's a house built on the sand, to use a Biblical metaphor.
Bush is dragging America to fiscal disaster, and his enablers in the Republican held Congress are doing everything they can to help him do it. This "good news" on the deficit is a farce, a dishonest dog and pony show meant to deceive. But the act is getting old and the reviews are overwhelming: It's time for this lousy show to get off the stage.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Why the Estate Tax is Morally and Politically Just

And that's the Estate Tax, brothers and sisters, not the phony, lying "Death Tax" tag the right wingers have put on it. Jonathan Rowe has written a tightly reasoned and convincing defense of why it should be retained:
But there is a more basic reason for an estate tax, one that goes to the nature of wealth itself. Wealth is not an island. The most rugged entrepreneur in his or her own estimation, has a silent army of helpers --- co-producers really – to whom he or she owes a large if unacknowledged debt. Take John D. Rockefeller. His wealth came from petroleum, which is a gift of nature, not the fruit of his own toil. He drilled and refined it, for which he deserved compensation. (I’m leaving aside the business practices that made Jeffrey Skilling a Trappist by comparison.)

But he did not create the oil; and his taking left succeeding generations poorer to that extent. The oil he extracted, they will not have. The industry he helped create has been a source of jobs and financial wealth. But it also has created a large and growing burden of fouled air and water and land that will take perhaps equal wealth to undo, if ever it can be undone. Should not his own fortune help pay?

Then there’s the social assist that helped make Rockefeller’s oil so valuable. Where would his industry have been without the massive public outlays for railroads and then highways; and without the military protection of the sea-lanes? (You thought the Sixth Fleet was in the Persian Gulf to protect democracy in the region?) Where would it have been without the many discoveries and inventions that enlarged the market for oil, and that arose from the public investment in schools and research institutions? The federal patent system played a large role as well.

For all this and more, it is not unreasonable to ask compensation from the heirs of large fortunes derived from oil; and the same applies to fortunes from other sources as well. “I personally think,” said Warren Buffett, “that society is responsible for a very significant portion of what I’ve earned.” Buffett has pledged to give most of his estate away; and he supports the estate tax.

That is one reason for an estate tax that has nothing to do with class resentment or envy. Another is philanthropy. That wealthy people devote a portion of their holdings to the public weal, is a tradition of which we Americans can be justifiably proud. In many countries, perhaps most, support for good causes comes much more from government, if it comes at all. This tradition is something the estate tax encourages. It does so not just by way of crude financial reward (contributions to foundations are exempt from the estate tax), but also by creating a way for the topic to come up in the first place. Estate lawyers have told me that they value the tax for this reason. They see the harm that large inheritances can do to young men and women; and the turmoil that large fortunes can cause within families.
I have argued before that wealth does not exist in isolation, and that a multitude of people outside of the wealthy individual help make it possible. We also need to be reminded, as Rowe has done, of the publicly-financed infrastructure that helps make the accumulation of wealth possible. And there is one other factor we always need to remind ourselves of: sheer, dumb luck, random chance, lucky breaks, whatever you want to call it. A thousand accidents of life, history, circumstance, and genetics have helped shape our life courses. The rich sometimes ascribe too much merit to themselves, congratulating themselves on their hard work, their business acumen, their entrepreneurial excellence, and so on. These people need to be reminded that a single bad break along the way could have negated all of this.
Further, there is a reciprocal relationship that exists in any big business enterprise. The entrepreneur creates jobs, but the people doing the mundane, day-to-day work generate the actual wealth derived from the enterprise. Both need each other. The contribution of both needs to be recognized. And the massive accumulation of wealth which the estate tax taps into is, in a very real way, the result of this partnership. It is never the achievement of a single individual.
Killing the estate tax will cost charities billions of dollars. It will deprive the government of one trillion dollars in revenue over the next ten years, when that revenue will be desperately needed. It will concentrate wealth even more powerfully than it already is. For those reasons alone, it needs to be preserved. But over and above those reasons, the estate tax reminds us that no great fortune is ever the product of a single mind, and that gratitude towards all those who helped create it is due.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Scandal That is Jerry Weller

My (hopefully soon to be ex-) Congressman is Jerry Weller, a right wing Bush-DeLay robot with a rubber stamp at the end of his right arm instead of a hand. A few years back he married the daughter of a notorious Central American mass murderer. This post reminds us why it matters. Go check it out.

And then send some love to Weller's Democratic opponent, and the next U.S. Representative from the Eleventh District of Illinois, John Pavich.

A Brief Compendium of Limbaugh's Ugliest and Stupidest Remarks

Found here, courtesy of Jack Huberman on HuffPo. My favorites, with Huberman's comments mixed in:

■ "I mean, let's face it, we didn't have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I'm not saying we should bring it back; I'm just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark."
■ "You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray [the confessed assassin of Martin Luther King]. We miss you, James. Godspeed."

■ "We're not sexists, we're chauvinists--we're male chauvinist pigs, and we're happy to be because we think that's what men were destined to be. We think that's what women want." I've asked women: 93.8 percent agreed strongly with the statement, "I'd like to remove Rush Limbaugh's tiny testicles to ensure he never procreates"; 3.6 percent said "Not sure."
■ "Feminism was established to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream."
■ "What if [Fidel] Castro shows up and says I endorse Kerry? The Black Caucus would like that...." "Castro's the kind of guy that Kerry would probably lionize." In the December 2004 issue of Cigar Aficionado, Limbaugh lionized Cuban cigars, whose flavor the French-loving, Castro-economy-supporting, East-Coast elitist compared to Bordeaux grapes.
■ "The answer is to go out and find [drug users], convict them, and send them up the river." "All of us who accept the responsibilities of life and don't destroy our lives on drugs, we'll pay for whatever messes you [drug addicts] get into." All this was before Limbaugh admitted he was addicted to opioid painkillers--which he allegedly purchased illegally--and that he had spent a month at a drug rehab facility. "There's no hypocrisy" in his previous remarks, he said.
■ Democrats "don't like God," "hate this Constitution," "hate freedom," and "hate this country."
■ "You don't hear the Democrats being critical of terrorists." Democrats "celebrate privately" the terrorist bombing Madrid in March 2004. "[W]hat's good for Al Qaeda is good for the Democratic Party [and] for John Kerry." "[W]e know what [Al Qaeda] want: they want Kerry, they want the Democrats in power."

It says something bad about America that a son of a bitch like Limbaugh is

A. this prominent in our public life
B. listened to
C. influential.

He is as sick and evil a man as there is in public life, a male Ann Coulter (although I may have been redundant in that last remark.) That the Republican "base" (and they are pretty damned base) considers him a hero tells you everything you need to know about why we need to throw these idiots out of power ASAP.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Must Read Article: "The Right's War on Contraception"

I have long thought that an obsession with other people's sex lives is evidence of deep-seated sexual perversion. By that standard, much of the Republican Party is perverted, especially its more radical right wing, i.e., the governing wing. (Little Ricky Santorum is example #1 of this.) Central to this perversion is an attempt to destroy the fundamental human right of access to birth control. That attack has been distressingly successful in regards to poor and politically powerless women. This powerful post by Gloria Feldt on AlterNet lays down the truth of the matter with great force:
[The] Guttmacher [Institute] finds a 29 percent rise in unintended pregnancies and abortions since 1994 among low-income women whose access to low-cost contraception has declined dramatically as a result of the attacks on contraception. For example, funding for Title X of the Public Health Services Act -- the backbone of subsidized family planning health services for low-income uninsured women -- is less than half what it was in 1980 when adjusted for inflation. The program faces a pitched battle in Congress every year just to maintain level funding.

Meanwhile, funding for abstinence-only programs that provide no health services has catapulted from near-zero to almost equal Title X. It's no surprise then that low-income women feel the heel of this particular anti-woman boot.

Among higher-income women, in contrast, unintended pregnancies and abortions have declined by a significant 20 percent. They can afford the rising costs of birth control including very effective newer methods such as injectable contraceptives. They have greater access to uncensored information on the Web and the wherewithal to drive across town to get their prescription filled when their neighborhood pharmacist refuses.

Restrictions on access fall most heavily on young and low-income women who are the most vulnerable, have the fewest resources with which to advocate for themselves and are thus politically speaking invisible.

Birth control frees women to forge their own paths by separating sex from procreation. This strikes fear into those who, underneath it all, oppose the increased social power women attain from expanded equality and justice. Proof of this?

James Leon Holmes, nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Arkansas, says it straight out in an article: "It is not coincidental that the feminist movement brought with it artificial contraception ... To the extent we adopt the feminist principle that the distinction between the sexes is of no consequence and should be disregarded in the organization of society and the Church, we are contributing to the culture of death." His stated solution is that " ... the wife is to subordinate herself to her husband."
Read the whole thing, as we say in the Blog biz. And then get ready to fight yet again for the election of sane candidates (i.e., Democrats) who actually respect the rights of women.

Ripping Into the Chicken Hawks Again

This excellent item from McCall's reinforces what I and many others have been saying: the constant attacks on combat veterans by conservative Republican draft dodgers or non-combat veterans is disgusting and offensive in the extreme. One disgusted veteran wrote to McCall's columnist Paul Carpenter and had this to say. Excerpts:
''I ask that all these so-called patriots and war hawks who attack war veterans like John Murtha and John McCain please state their military experience and qualifications,'' Halasovski wrote. ''Putting a magnetic ribbon on the car that says 'Support Our Troops' does not mean anything to me. If you really want to support the troops, enlist. Then talk to me about war.''
I was so impressed by Halasovski's piquancy that I contacted him later in the week.''People who have been in wars are very cautious about getting into wars,'' he told me. ''He [President Bush] wasn't in combat, [Vice President Dick] Cheney wasn't in combat, [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld wasn't in combat.''
''People have pounded on [John] McCain and John Kerry,'' Halasovski said, referring to two other politicians viciously attacked by Bush administration supporters for criticizing Iraq policies. Like Murtha, McCain and Kerry were willing to serve in Vietnam while the chicken hawks cowered at home.
I asked Halasovski about his position on Iraq. ''I think it's the wrong thing,'' he said. ''I think it's Vietnam all over again. When they say cut and run, I think we should have cut and run in 1966. It would have saved 55,000 lives."
Halasovski noted that the key figures of the Bush administration never experienced it, but ''all those guys want to rush into it'' — that is, they want to rush other people into it. He and I agreed that action in Afghanistan was justified, but the chicken hawks lied America into a war in Iraq to benefit Haliburton and the Bush family's dear pals — the corrupt and despotic royal family that runs Saudi Arabia. (Where did most 9/11 terrorists and financing come from? Why, it was Saudi Arabia, Iraq's chief economic rival.)
Now we have the Bush administration's admirers on a crusade to destroy the reputation of any critics, including a genuine patriot like Murtha. It's an administration headed by someone who dodged service in Vietnam by pretending to serve in the National Guard, and whose veep had a politically powerful daddy wangle him a deferment. His chief adviser, Karl Rove, also got a deferment, and his chief cheerleader, Rush Limbaugh, also had a politically powerful daddy get him one — based on a big pimple on his fanny.
As I've often said, where do these right wing bastards get the g-d damned nerve to question the commitment and patriotism of guys like Murtha? It's truly one of the most astonishing phenomena in American political history: the brave being attacked by the cowards for not being brave.
Enough. By God, enough already!