Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Battle Lines are Clear Today

Theocracy on one side and Rule of Law on the other. The Terri Schiavo case has very much sharpened the perception of what the two sides contending in this nation today really want.

Tom DeLay's office released this statement to the Press today. From U. S. Newswire

DeLay Statement on Terri Schiavo.
To: National Desk
Contact: Dan Allen or Shannon Flaherty, 202-225-4000, both for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

SUGAR LAND, Texas, March 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) today released the following statement mourning the passing of Terri Schiavo:

"Mrs. Schiavo's death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schindlers and with Terri Schiavo's friends in this time of deep sorrow."


Yesterday one of the Federal Appeals Judges, Judge Birch (a conservative Bush I appointee) wrote a concurrence on the 11th Circuit Court's latest denial of the Schindler's request that included the following statement:

In resolving the Schiavo controversy it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people - our Constitution. Since I have sworn, as have they, to uphold and defend that Covenant, I must respectfully concur in the denial of the request for rehearing en banc.

I conclude that ["Terri's Law"] is unconstitutional and, therefore, this court and the district court are without jurisdiction in this case under that special Act and should refuse to exercise any jurisdiction that we may otherwise have in this case. (Emphasis added.)
The separation of powers implicit in our constitutional design was created "to assure, as nearly as possible, that each branch of government would confine itself to its assigned responsibility." But when the fervor of political passions moves the Executive and the Legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene. If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow. (Emphasis in original.)

[Note: While the original source of the above concurrence is found on the referenced site, it is a PDF file and I could not do a copy and paste. I therefore copied these quoted items from Daily Kos.]

The New York Times also reports the court decision, describing Judge birch as having rebuked President Bush and the Congress for their Unconstitutional action in passing Terri's Law. Then they went on to explain why Judge Birch decided that the law was unconstitutional:

... a provision of the new law requiring a fresh federal review of all the evidence presented in the case made it unconstitutional. Because that provision constitutes "legislative dictation of how a federal court should exercise its judicial functions," he wrote, it "invades the province of the judiciary and violates the separation of powers principle."

My take on this:

Tom DeLay thinks the Schiavo decisions were immoral, and threatens the legal system for its decisions, while a noted Constitutional scholar states that the actions of the Congress and President were Unconstitutional. Judge Birch in the last line above points out the real danger in what Terri's Law attempted to do.

DeLay wants this nation run according to his morality as a Theocracy, and Judge birch wants it to continue to be run by the Constitution, the separation of powers the Constitution establishes, and under the Rule of Law in which the Constitution is the basic law.

I go with Judge Birch, the Courts, the U.S. Constitution and the Rule of Law. That has worked here for over two centuries. Theocracy is currently failing in much of the Middle East. We don't want it tried here in the twenty-first century.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

How misleading is the Schiavoe Tape?

Very. What is the difference between a coma and a persistent vegetative state?

Of Cabbages and Kings offers the answer.

The Schindlers think this is a coma, but comas don't last beyond about five years. This one has lasted since 1990. This is a persistent vegetative state. Terri is gone. It really is that simple, and her husband, Michael, now understands this. Her parents, unfortunately, either do not understand this or more likely, do not accept this.

With Randall Terry in their house, how likely is it that they will accept it?

Coulter makes New Conquests in Lawrence Kansas

well, Ann Coulter has presented herself to new audiences at Kansas University in Lawrence, KS. Ann Coulter at KU. She earned her money.

The National Press Club Panel

Now mind you, I am not one to claim that the Press in this nation has collapsed as anything worth reading or watching. But look at this comment (with which I totally agree) by Americablog.

Seriously, though, the fact that we're all talking about this ridiculous panel session only shows that Bill Bennett didn't know the half of it when he wrote The Death of Outrage. The idea that a guy who posted naked pictures of himself pissing on the Internet -- and became famous for it -- would be invited to get up in front of an audience at the National Press Club to discuss journalism and blogging with a woman who has made anal sex her signature riff . . . well, The Death of Shame, Intelligence, Good Taste and Sanity makes a better title.

The Press really doesn't know how bad it looks. The sad thing is how many people who have spent complete careers in this now totally discredited arena. They have wasted their lives.

Who is a blogger?

The National Press Club has decided to hold a panel on "Who is a Journalist?" The issue is how to deal with bloggers. The have invited Wonkette (Ana Marie Cox) and Jeff Gannon to represent bloggers.

Anna Marie Cox is a gossip columnist who is famous more for her sexy language and cuteness than for her journalistic abilities (for pay), and James Guckert who is a Male Homosexual Prostitute (we can hope ex-) who was exposed and required to quit going to the White House Press Briefings under the pseudonym Jeff Gannon where he lobbed Scott McClelland softball right-wing questions when McClelland was having trouble with handling the questions of real journalists. Neither is a real political blogger.

If they want to know how to deal with bloggers as journalists, perhaps they should try to get some journalistic-type bloggers on the panel. Does that seem unreasonable? E-mail me. I'll give them some names.

Is Tom DeLay the New Enron?

Enron built a new way to broker energy such as oil and electricity. For a long time, they were considered the magicians of the industry. Then the real numbers were released, and Enron was shown to have been bankrupt for a long time, and crooked to boot.

Tom DeLay has built an acclaimed machine to raise money for Republicans, win elections for Republicans and wield really powerful legislative influence. Now the legality of his actions are beginning to come to light. MSNBC has a report.

The only real question is how many other Republican politicians he will take down with him when he goes.

Terri Schiavo - Time to Follow the Money

Think the legal manipulation by the Schindler family have possibly been expensive? They have. Millions of dollars have been spent suing Michael Schiavo over his handling of his wife, Terri’s, affairs. So where did the money come from?

Steve Gilliard provides some background on the right-wing money machine that is, in fact, Terri Schiavo. The Schindlers are hooked in with extremists, and they will suffer for it.

Jeb Bush sent the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take Terri in violation of the court orders in force. Fortunately the Sheriff's deputies on duty stopped them, and they were smart enough not to force the issue. Have the Schindlers shown any appreciation for the fact that Jeb Bush could have gone to jail if the FDLE officers hadn't held back? No, they blame him for letting their daughter die.

She is already dead. They simply will not accept that. Michael Schiavo has laid it all on the line when he authorized a post-mortum autopsy. He has had the very best of medical advice, and made his decision. The courts have repeatedly decided that everytyhing that could be done has been done. Michael Schiavo will live with it, and the Schindlers are going to lose.

But the extremists won't lose. They will move on and collect money based on another media extravaganza.

Want to see how the press is manpulatd on the Terri Schiavo situation? Here it is. James Wolcott.

Another Study Shows Charter Schools Not as Good As on Public Schools

Lawrence Mishel, president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute and three other university researchers from Columbia and Stanford universities are publishing a book "The Charter School Dust-Up." From the Boston Globe.

They are reporting the result of their research on Charter Schools. They reviewed federal data together with the results from 19 studies in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Charter school students "have the same or lower scores than other public school students in nearly every demographic category." The especially note that the results for minority students (who are the focus of a lot of their propaganda) is a bit worse than in public schools.

This isn't going to be accepted by the right-wingers who are out to destroy public education provided by governments because they don't think government should exist. But for the rest of us, it should point to the fact that low-performing students are less the fault of inadequate schools than they are of an inadequate society.

Too many people are herded into parts of cities that have inadequate housing, too few jobs, too much crime and inadequate health care and then the schools are blamed for not educating the children from those parts of the city.

It's a funny thing how the parts of a city with poorly performing schools also have poor and overcrowded housing, few jobs, a lot of pawn shops, lots of check-cashing stores and tons of payday loan kiosks, no banks or credit unions, a lot of closed stores, high crime, lots of used car lots for people with no credit or bad credit selling older use cars, and mostly minority residents. (See my earlier blog on Predatory Lending to Low Income People.)

The real problem is not the schools. It is our total society, and the wealthy and upper middle class want it that way. They are blaming the people who are trapped in those conditions for things that are mostly beyond their control and using that as an excuse to not spend government money to improve the conditions. What they don't realize (and what China does) is that the real economic resource of powerful, growing society is its people. Failure to invest in our people (and this requires government spending) is the greatest drag on our society today.

The poor performing public schools are just another canary in the mine shaft.

My Apologies for not posting yesterday

And curses to Blogger. Blogger ate two masterpieces of the blogger's art yesterday, so I gave up and quit.

What do the Democrats need to do to Win?

I was writing about this on dKos last November and now Bill Bradley comes to my support. Why did Kerry (and Gore before him) lose the Presidency? Simple. Republicans are organized to win elections. The Democrats are looking for a few charismatic "leaders" who will save their asses.*

This from the Grey Lady, publishing Bill Bradley and this from Donkey Rising where Ruy Teixeira points it out.

Go look at those things. You don't need to read further here if my long-winded attempts at analysis bore you. You have been warned.

The Democrats offered several really attractive Presidential candidates in 2003, including Kerry, Dean, and Clark. For pure charisma (before they beat each other up) any of them should have beat Bush. In 2000 Gore should have taken the election in a walk-away - even with Nadar attempting to sabotage him. What happened?

No party structure. Each candidate has to create his own as he goes along and as he gathers sufficient reputation as a winner to collect the funds he needs. The money guys hang back until they can tell who is most likely to win before they throw money at them. This results in a hastily thrown together campaign organization made up of people who have not worked together in the same organization previously. In the 17th Century soldiers and politicians realized that such ad hoc organizations usually lost to long-term, well-trained professional armies. It should be obvious to Democrats that the same is true in politics today. (It has long been obvious to the Republicans.)

Think Bush had the problem of gathering money and assembling a campaign organization?

That's enough thinking. Of course he didn't. Bush was recruited by the Republican money people, and handed his platform to run on by the Heritage Foundation and the CATO institute. You will notice that the ideas were already well poll-tested and well-publicized before Bush ran on them.

Rove's position in this has been as a broker. He picked out Bush as being a good candidate (name recognition and personality skills) then used the political operative-level of the party to connect with the money and the organizations that collected the money. He was doing this during Bush's first term as Governor of Texas. Along the way he was collecting the platform ideas.

The Democrats have the political operatives, but they don't have the well-paid publicists like Limbaugh, Coulter, and Hannity. They also haven't had in place the organizations needed to run a national campaign and the funds to support all that.

Some of these were created for the last election, and the fund-raising has gotten a lot better. I think Kos is an example of the new, better, and more effective Democrat. But I don't see the think tanks assembling, testing and publicizing the platforms, and I don't see the well funded publicists (Well, OK. Air America is a start.) But most of all, I don't see an overall Democratic strategy to pull all this together into a structure that, like the Republicans, recruits Presidential candidates.

It will get here, but maybe not until we lose again in 2008. My only question, really, is how many losses does it take to make the Democratic Party hungry enough to break out of the past and do what it takes to win?

* (pun intended)

Monday, March 28, 2005

DeLay Problems with Law Suit against Staffers

The civil suit in Austin, TX against TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority PAC) Treasurer Bill Ceverha ended Friday. The judge will deliver his decision in a few weeks. Neither Tom DeLay nor Bill Craddick were parties to the suit, but their ears must sure be burning.

This civil suit by five Texas Democratic Legislators who were defeated by Republicans using TRMPAC money and assistance is about whether corporate money was illegally raised by TRMPAC and spent to defeat them. TRMPAC was founded by Jim Ellis founded TRMPAC, he says at Tom DeLay's direction. He did so with Republican political consultant John Colyandro. Ellis also runs Delay's Americans for a Republican Majority.

While Tom DeLay wasn't a party to this suit, it is closely related to Austin District Attorney Ronnie Earle's criminal investigation of the illegal use of corporate money in the Texas election in 2002 that elected the first Republican House majority in Texas since Reconstruction days, and caused Bill Craddick to be elected House Majority Leader by the Republicans. It was these events that allowed the Republicans to redistrict the Congressional Districts in Texas causing four Democrats to lose federal House seats and locking Tom DeLay's hold on his House Majority Leader job a bit tighter.

The Houston Chronicle offers the story on the end of the civil suit.

The DCCC has a story on its weblog, as you might expect. More interesting, so does Redstate and Michelle Malkin.

Tom's in trouble. I really hope it lasts until the next election, but by the looks of it, the Republicans are beginning to get the clean-up squad in gear to get him out of office a lot sooner than that. DeLay's ethical problems are getting to be more than just cosmetic blemishes. The Republicans will probably cut their losses with him soon, so that when he goes he doesn't take very many other Republicans with him.


Predatory Lending to Low Income People

America has become a nation in which the low income people are considered a source of excessive interest and fees for financing organizations, mostly funded by large banks. The abusive lending practices include subprime loans of all kinds, including:
§ Subprime mortgages, second mortgages, and refinancing home loans
§ Subprime car loans
§ Payday Loans.
§ Overdraft loans
§ Abusive credit card fees and interest rates.
§ Rent-to-own contracts
§ Manufactured housing loans.
§ Tax refund anticipation loans
§ Check cashing fees
§ Pawnshop loans

This is a set of websites that describes a lot of the predatory lending practices that have grown during the last decade or so. As you look at these, think about who has paid for the recent bill that makes bankruptcies more difficult to get and more expensive.

Here are some resources.

The Center for Responsible Lending offers the following source: A Resource for Predatory Lending Opponents . This is from their website: ”Predatory lending strips billions in wealth from low-income consumers and communities in the U.S. each year. Borrowers lose an estimated $9.1 billion annually due to predatory mortgages; $3.4 billion from payday loans; and $3.5 billion in other lending abuses, such as overdraft loans, excessive credit card debt, and tax refund loans.”

The AARP presents this guide to avoiding predatory lenders:
Avoid Predatory Lenders.

The Mortgage Bankers Association presents its Predatory Lending Resource Center

The Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) offers its website Housing Predatory Lending.

The congressional Government Accounting Office (GAO) presents a report on predatory lending Consumer Protection: Federal and State Agencies Face Challenges in Combating Predatory Lending. A PDF file.

The American Bankers Association provides a website Avoiding Predatory Lending Scams.

ACORN’s report on predatory lending in subprime loans by Wells Fargo Bank Runaway Stagecoach: Wells Fargo’s Predatory Lending.

A related method of soaking the poor is shown in the Texas Report on Lottery demographics Why Tax the Rich When You Can Soak the Poor? Remember that the lottery is another institution that has the sole purpose of sucking the money from low-income people, just as the predatory lending techniques above do.

Consider all of this in the context of the US Tax system as described in Perfectly Legal: The Secret Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else by David Cay Johnston.

America may still be the land of opportunity, but the gauntlet a person has to run to make and save money is getting longer and harder to get through. Most of the problem is the failure of government to act for the public. It has been coopted by the predatory lenders and the other predatory people in this nation so that instead of setting fair rules and enforcing them, the philosophy has become one of making each person responsible for protecting themselves at all times, and the government is now there to collect the penalties from the losers.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Repubs Using Typical Fundamentalist Tactics

I missed this post by Juan Cole last week. It is extremely informative. Here is a key excerpt:

” The cynical use by the US Republican Party of the Terri Schiavo case repeats, whether deliberately or accidentally, the tactics of Muslim fundamentalists and theocrats in places like Egypt and Pakistan. These tactics involve a disturbing tendency to make private, intimate decisions matters of public interest and then to bring the courts and the legislature to bear on them. President George W. Bush and Republican congressional leaders like Tom Delay have taken us one step closer to theocracy on the Muslim Brotherhood model.”

These tactics and the thought that leads to them are not irrational. They are the result of a very different world-view and methods of reacting to the uncertainties, unpredictabilities, and to the lack of a human dimension that modern society inflicts on all of us.

If you want to understand the world-view of the fundamentalists, both here in America and in the Middle East, I strongly suggest that you read Steve Bruce’s book “Fundamentalism” which is shown on the right hand side of this blog. It is clear and will explain the reasons and methods of the fundamentalists’ world-view. You will find that the world view of the fundamentalist is not a "left-over" from the agricultural past. It is a new and very modern social creation designed to deal with the stresses inflicted by modern industrial society.

If you are more historical-minded, then look at Karen Armstrong’s uttely fantastic analysis of the history of Europe and the Middle East from the point of view of the conflict between religion and modern society. I started with Bruce and went to Armstrong, and found the transition extremely easy. Bruce explains the social mechanism of Fundamentalism, and Armstrong places it in historical context.

That is why I have those books listed there. You will not regret reading either of them.

The book on risk is related to Karen Armstron’s view of religion as based on past-oriented mythos and modernism and the Enlightenment being based on future-oriented Logos. The measurement and manipulation of risk is somewhat arcane but it is at the core of modern ways of dealing with future events. It is a world-view so different from that of fundamentalists as to be largely outside their understanding. While they will use insurance, for example, they will not consider the ideas of risk measurement and risk management as essential to their world view.

The book is a readable explanation of the extremely different way of thinking that makes modern western society such a massive shift in world-view from prior conservative agricultural societies. Read it after Karen Armstrong’s book, once you have absorbed her concepts of Mythos and Logos and their application to modern society.

And if you are wondering, yes, I am very excited about the ideas presented in these books. They have given me the best "AHA! Moment"* I have had in several years.

*Anyone old enough to remember Martin Gardner from the Scientific American will know what I mean.

NY Times Magazine on the New Bankruptcy Bill

The New York Times Magazine offers an interesting essay on the personal and social effects of the new bankruptcy law. Here is an excerpt:

"For a nation whose very founding can be viewed as an attempt to free itself from financial burdens thrust upon it by a distant ruler; for a government that is deeply in the red because of its own spendthrift ways; and for a political leadership whose emissaries have been pressuring other countries to forgive Iraqi debt, such a reform raises questions, to put it mildly."

It’s worth reading. You’ll be seeing the results Walter Kirn describes in a home near you soon.

Schiavo and the Rule of Law

The newlywed Josh Marshall makes clear an extremely important point about the whole Terry Schiavo situation.

"So, yes, the moral case is cloudy, difficult and painful. But the legal one, as near as I can tell, is not. And that, to me, is the crux of the matter."

As far as I can see, the legal case is as far as the government can properly act. The moral case is one that must be dealt with by the family, and ultimately, by Michael Schiavo himself.

Josh continues: "It is precisely because we cannot come to agreement on the most contentious and profound questions of morality that we have the law -- an agreed-upon-in-advance set of rules -- to find our way to solutions which are at least equitably-arrived-at if not necessarily moral or ones that we ourselves agree with. The alternative is a descent into public violence and lawlessness, which we are already seeing the first hints of in Florida."

The fact that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had to back off what might have been a shoot-out with local Sheriff’s Deputies who were defending Terry Schiavo from protestors shows how much we need the Rule of Law, even when we don’t like it, and how far from it many of the active participants in this situation are going.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Will the Real Ten Commandments Please Stand Up?

This is fun. Found a website that clearly shows the differences between the versions of the ten commandments used by teh Jews, the Catholics and the Protestents (not counting the Lutherians who use the Catholic version.)

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Public Oposes Current Schiavo Situation

Ruy Tiexiera at The Emerging Democratic Majority provides poll-based data and analysis that shows that the Bush administration has gone really wrong on the Schiavo case. It simply isn't working for them politically.

Plan How You Die

CBS News has a good discussion of computerized and on-line living Wills

Or you can get the paper version sent to you cheaper from Aging With Dignity. Whatever you decide on, be sure that you talk to your family and immediate other persons and preferably give them copies of your document.

As near as I can see, we each need a document that states what we want to happen in various medical situations, and we need to give someone a power of attorney to make decisions for us if our planned situations don’t fit the real situation and we can’t decide.

Whatever you do, the situation in Florida makes the point to the rest of us. We need to plan how we will die and then we need to communicate our desires to those who will need to carry them out.

Who will the Right Wing Blame?

From Joe Conason at Salon: ”Despite all the apocalyptic posturing of the far right on the cable channels, weblogs and editorial pages, the Schiavo case is a matter of individual conscience and adherence to law. Although the weight of scientific evidence supports Michael Schiavo's position, Democrats and Republicans alike have acknowledged how troubling and difficult they find this issue.
We can expect the radical right-wing to go after the “activist” Judges after Terri Schiavo dies. But who will they be smearing?

Judge Whittemore who first decided against the temporary restraining order (TRO) was a Clinton appointee.

The three Judge panel in Atlanta on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their appeal for a stay by 2 to 1. The two were Ed Carnes is a conservative Republican appointed by former President George H.W. Bush, and Frank Hull, a moderate Democrat appointed by Clinton. Charles Wilson, another Clinton appointee supported the Schindlers appeal on narrow legal grounds.

Then the decision was appealed to the full 12 Judges of the 11th Circuit Court. Only two dissented. One was Charles Wilson (see above) and the other was Judge Gerald Tjofelt, a Republican appointed by President Gerald Ford. The ten who concurred in Whittemore’s decision were six Republicans: Reagan appointee and Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson; George H.W. Bush appointees Carnes, Stanley Birch, Joel Dubina, Susan Black; and the controversial William Pryor Jr.,

On the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia said nothing as he failed to object to the majority position. Neither did Clarence Thomas, Scalia’s second vote. These are probably the most right-wing radical votes on the Supreme Court. According to Conason ”Their silence suggests the radicalism of the congressional departure from constitutional norms that was embodied in the "Schiavo law" passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.”

There is no case to be made against activist judges. I suspect they will have to fall back to attacks on "Secular Huminists" and the anti-Christian bias of secular society. They will also attack the separation of church and state in what was 'originally a Christian nation', and 'its drift towards a nation of death'. They don't have much else to work with.

Whittemore is going to catch Hell, though. All the other judges have the rest to share the blame.

All for defending the Judiciary against the unconstitutional actions of the Legislature and the President.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Did Congress Plan for the Shiavo Bill to Fail?

This is from Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft. Jeralyn is a defense attorney who writes a very insightful blog on legal matters.

Meanwhile, former Senate majority counsel Julian Epstein was on Larry King tonight. He said Congress didn't really want to save Terri Schiavo's life. He was faxed a draft of the legislation in advance and said he told Congress staffers that the law wouldn't work, but that there were options that could work. He said Congress could easily have assured the reinsertion of the feeding tube by writing an automatic stay into the law -- or by creating new evidentiary rules. Congress' refusal to do so, Julian says, means it knowingly passed a half-hearted law that wouldn't work.

So was the Congressional action a sham?

If it was, what is its purpose? And is it working?

Mea Culpa

I got a comment from Brian that said I was writing nothing except nasty comments about Republicans. There is some truth in what he said. Particularly my comment Why Republicans are all over Terri. It was an uncalled for insult on conservatives and Republicans, and (unlike so many of them - Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh for example) I am not very good at it. It was an effort to be funny and interesting, and it was neither.

The later comment Who is important to Bush is not in the same league at the earlier one, and in fact reflects my disgust that he is always on his ranch clearing brush and nothing seems to get his attention. Bush is no rancher, and he is not Ronald Reagan, either. His brush-clearing stuff is pure theater, and bad theater at that.

I am a Texan myself, and we call people like that "All hat and no cattle." Which wouldn't be so bad if it didn't appear that he has very selective hearing. He listens to oil executives and to the religious right leaders, and makes a point of ignoring the rest of us. For that and a number of other reasons, I really don't like GWB. He is, in my opinion, a rotten person and an incompetent President.

But I will try not to generalize all my antipathy for Bush to other conservatives who voted for him. Oddly enough, I liked both Goldwater and Dole, and while I didn't think Reagan was capable of being President, I rather liked him also. (But then, my mother attended High School with Reagan in Dixon IL. She was a class behind him because she was born after August 1911 and he was born before that.)

So I'll quit tryng to immulate Coulter and Limbaugh. I'm no good at it.

Are Progressives Losing on the Schiavo Issue?

Society agrees with progressives and Democrats on the issue fo whether Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be put back, but the conservatives are winning strategically in the political arena.

Is this correct?

Dave Johnson of See the Forest thinks so.

The alternative (as I see it) is that the conservatives have overreached and shown how much they will let the extremist religious right dominate the Republican Party and so they have suffered a major defeat in the Terry Schiavo political issue.

Frankly, I don't know. But time will tell.

Remember the old Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times."? We live in interesting times.

[If you don't understand the curse, leave a comment and I'll explain.]

Is Science Fiction Dying?

Norm Spinrad thinks so. Here is an article about it on See The Forest.

I hope he is wrong. I have read science fiction since discovering "Cosmic Engineers" (by Clifford D. Simak) in a library in Huntington Park, CA when I was eleven. That genre formed a lot of my worldview, and my experience is that the better engineers I knew all grew up reading science fiction.

But science fiction is forward looking, postulating worlds that have never been but might someday be. Conservatism is, by definition, backwards looking. Conservatism sees society today as degenerate, is afraid of tomorrow and is trying to return to some utopia that may have existed in the past. Camelot is a very conservative story of a society in decline. I don't think that science fiction can exist as a commercially viable literary genre in a truly conservative society.

Is the science fiction literary genre another canary in the American coal mine?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Who is important to Bush?

Who matters more to GWB? Party or country? See The Forest has the answer.

Just remember, when someone says something is important, then acts like something else is important, spoken lies are a lot easier than actions.

Republicans as the Narcissistic Party

Steve Clemons explains why Bolton shuld not be approved as America's UN Representative. He is adding to Robert Kutner's harsh editorial on Bolton and a discussion of the reaction of our 'allies' to the nomination for appointment of Wolfowitz to the World Bank.

There is the point made that the US lied to China and Japan about North Korea selling nuclear weapons material to Libya in order to influence them to push North Korea into the 6 party negotiations. Add this to the blatant lies that we all know Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN when trying to get them to support the preemptive attack on Iraq and the manner with which the Bush administration has simply withdrawn from treaties such at the Anti-Ballistic Missle Treaty, and I have to wonder how they think the rest of the world works.

Do they really think that they can repeatedly lie to and militarily push around other nations and then expect them to cooperate with the US when it is all over? Is this a case of the Bush administration and the conservatives believing that the ends they personally know to be true justifying any actions they take to achieve those ends, and when it is over everyone will recognize their "rightness" and forgive and forget?

Since when is the grandiosity and sense of entitlement of Narcissism the characteristic of an entire poltical party? Because this is a form of social narcississm. The entire conservative and extremist religious right seems to have gone mad as a group.

Josh Marshall on the Schiavo Distraction

Josh Marshall has returned from his week end wedding and weighed in on Terri Schiavo and Tom DeLay. This is what he has to say:

Another part of this story, which seems hard to miss, is the increasing frequency of one-off legislation -- laws intended to obstruct the normal course of law and explicitly intended to have no value as precedent. All of this, of course, is precisely inimical to the rule of law and puts legislatures and, in other cases, courts (Bush v. Gore) in the paradoxical position of overturning the law, albeit using the procedures of either creating or interpreting it.

And Tom DeLay, this is truly the last refuge for this man. The cable networks seem not quite to have caught on to the fact that almost every tentacle of the political machine this man has created is now careening toward federal or state indictments. So here he is wrapping himself in the cloth of this family tragedy, in an effort to whip up the most whippable of his supporters in his defense, and in so doing finding the hand of God working in this woman's hospice care and in his own exposure as one of the most corrupt congressional leaders in American history. Like I said, Bonfire of the Vanities.

-- Josh Marshall

My thoughts exactly, and with his facile use of words, Josh says it so much better than I can.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Analysis and Discussion of Fed Court Decision

Anyone who is a legal junky and wants to get an idea of what happened legally in the Federal Court considering the Schindler's request for a temporary injunction requiring the hospice to have Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinstalled should go to This Kos Diary, read it, and follow the comments to clarify what you think you read.

The analysis looks good to me, and the questions and answers in the comments are highly explanatory.

I am not a lawyer myself, nor have I played one on TV or elsewhere, but this particular discussion seems highly explanatory to me.

Why Tax the Rich When You Can Soak the Poor.

The Texas Lottery Commission received a report of a demographic study of who paid the most to the lottery. Apparently they had previously only reported on percentage participation in the lottery, but this time they included how much each demographic group actually spent per month. Essentially the lottery is a method of soaking the poor and uneducated to support government so that the wealthy can avoid paying taxes. Grover Norquist must love it!

Here is an analysis:

High school dropouts spend an average of $173.17 per month on the lottery while those with college degrees spend $48.61.

Blacks and Hispanics spend $108.96 and $102.20, respectively, while whites spend $55.02.

Those who earn less than $20,000 spend $76.50 per month. But people in the $60,000-$75,000 income bracket spend $34.37 per month while the $76,000-$100,000 income group spends even less, $28.96. Only the wealthiest — those whose income is above $100,000 — spend close to the bottom-income group: $71.42.

The youngest players, ages 18 to 24, spend far more per month ($91.23) than the oldest. The 55-64 age group spends $56.34, and those 65 and older spend $60.45.

Surprised? You might be surprised to know that the Texas Tech research group submitted two reports. It submitted the first one in early January, then, at the commission's suggestion, made changes after some members felt the report might reflect poorly on the lottery.

One notable change appears on the final page. The report's first conclusion, which was not released to the public, noted that higher educated players spend less on the lottery. The second conclusion omits this fact. Only the second conclusion appears on the Web site.

This is an analysis allegedly written by Ken Rodriguez of the San Antonio Express-News, and reported in February 2005 by The Lotto Report
The San Antonio Newspaper’s website no longer goes back that far so I can’t confirm that Ken actually wrote This.

The actual report as published by the Lottery Commission itself is found at The Texas Lottery Commission website as a pdf file. The key charts are on pages 7 and 8. The summary reports misleading conclusions based on ignoring how much each group spends, and reporting only the percentage of each group who participated in the lottery.

Rick Casey of the Houston Chronicle filed a similar analysis.

Terri Schiavo's Brain - the CAT Scan

Go to This site and scroll down a little. It will show the CAT Scans of a healthy brain, and another of Terri Schiavo's brain.

The dark areas in Terri's brain are brain fluid rather that cerebral tissue. Essentially, most of her brain is now fluid rather than functioning brain. The woman is gone. Only the husk of her body remains.

It is this husk that the Congressional Republicans, George and Jeb Bush, Randall Terry and the Right-to-Life people are making a big political hullabaloo over.

Do you want to remain a drooling hulk in a bed fed by a tube for years like this poor woman? Her choice was no. The Bush brothers, the Right-to-Lifers, the Florida Legislature (Republican) and the Republican Congress say that she cannot have her choice now even 15 years after she went into the persistent vegetative state.

The Florida courts have come down on Terri's side and that of her husband Michael 21 times now, and these power-mad politicians don't accept that. It could be any of us.

Frist, DeLay, Bush and company are Dangerous to the rest of us. They don't give a damned about anyone except themselves. Once again they are proving it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Results of Bush' War on Terrorism

We've been in Iraq two years now, and the reasons we were initially given for going into Iraq at first have collapsed. But we are safer from Terrorism now, right?

Anna Badkhen, Staff Writer at the San Francisco Chronicle writes:

"We're way beyond the claim that the war in Iraq was a distraction from the war on terrorism -- it's more than that. It has made the war on terrorism far more difficult to execute," said Jessica Stern, a lecturer at Harvard University and author of "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill."

"It has made the terrorism problem worse."

Bush has big ideas, but no plans for successfully carrying them out. As a result, we invaded Iraq (although al Qaeda and bin Laden were in Afghanistan) and out military was able to punch through the Iraqi troops in three weeks. Of course, it was military planners who were resopnsible for that, using the military left by Bill Clinton.

But then the political planners became responsible. Looting was rampant (we had insufficient troops to stop it for political reasons - Rumsfeld wanted to prove something), Garner was replaced in six weeks (no reason given, but probably he wouldn't go along with the ideological planning of the Republican Party apparatchiniks. In particular, I heard that he wouldn't disband the Iraqi military since we didn't have enough troops there to pacify the country.)

Bremer replaced Garner, and he did disband the Iraqi military and police forces. Then he gave the Iraqi secret police files to Ahmed Chalabi and placed him in charge of de-Baathifying the Iraqi government - which meant getting rid of all the experienced people in it. Then Bremer wasn't able to give away the Iraqi economy fast enough, couldn't stop the insurgency from growing, and was beaten out by the oil company executives who wouldn't go along with breaking up and selling off the Iraqi oil industry. Then they couldn't get the Iraqi's themselves to accept Chalabi as their new "President for Life."

In fact, Mullah al Sistani forced Bush to accept early elections to create a new Constitution and government for Iraq. Bush didn't like it, but now he is taking credit for "bringing democracy to Iraq." Bush really wants permanent bases for Americans in Iraq, but the insurgents have U.S. troops so jumpy that they are killing people left and right. With that kind of PR, we won't be staying one second past the time the Iraqis can protect their own government. In the meantime, the insurgents are using the large numbers of troops in Iraq to train terrorists to kill Americans.

And stopping terrorism? It is a part time job for the Bush people. They do what they can, if they get time and resources. But of course, Iraq gets most of that first.

America will be paying for the Republican idiocies for the next 50 or more years.

Why Republicans are all over Terri Schiavo Tragedy

The question is why the Republicans are so keen to get involved in the Terri Schiavo tragedy. She is in a persistant vegetative state, meaning that she is not brain dead, but she is completely unable to care for herself and does not react consciously to the world or the people around her.

I suddenly realized that this describes the Republican extremists themselve. Unable to think and living in a special little world that is not related to the real one the rest of us live in.

They see her as one of themselves and feel threatened.

Michael Schiavo's Statement

Michael Schiavo published a statement yesterday giving his side of Terri's story. He has taken her to doctor after doctor in an effort to find some way to help her, and they have all failed.

The Schindler's are now living with selfish hope, demanding a solution that simply does not exist. Terri is gone. It has been 15 years. The furor now is nothing except political exploitation of a personal and family tragedy.

Get the Republicans and the Bush family out of this and let the hospice take the action that 21 Florida court decisions have consistently come to. Let this tragedy come to an end.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Oliver North Supports Tom DeLay

Oliver North visited Galveston and gave his take on Iraq.

Remember Ollie North? The guy who pushed Iran-Contra to the point where we were providing weapons to terrorists? And violating American law to do it?

He was convicted for that, you know. But Congress gave him immunity for his testimony to Congress, so his conviction was overturned.

Of course, he was still a criminal. He simply did not have to pay for his crimes. So now he wanders the country pushing for personal responsibility for the Republican Party. Oh, and supporting Tom DeLay.

Anyone want to bet who the greater criminal is? North or DeLay?

My money is on DeLay. But they flock together. Criminals, that is. And Republicans.

The Blatant Republican Political Power Grab

The more I see of the Terri Schiavo case, the more angry I get with the Republicans in Congress! What does the Rule of Law mean, anyway?

This is the analysis by CBS attorney Andrew Cohen:

QUESTION: First, some context and perspective. How unusual is this scenario, this mix of legal and political agendas, this confrontation between Congress and the courts over the outcome of a single case?

ANSWER: It is so rare that you probably have to go back to the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s to find a similar situation where there was such a blatant power struggle between the federal government and a state and between politicians and judges. Even the Florida Recount struggle that tainted the presidential election of 2000 did not rise to this level of open combat between the two branches of government. And I say that, and everything else below, acknowledging at the outset that this is a tragic case in which there are, or should be, no winners or losers regardless of the outcome. It is so sad that a private family drama has to play itself out on the most public of stages, with people in critical moments of their lives using and being used by politicians to further one agenda or another.

Congress has literally made a "federal case" out of the Schiavo dispute. It means that Schiavo's parents now have a right to assert essentially the same claims they already have asserted in state court in Florida in a new forum-- federal court-- and applying federal constitutional principles instead of state constitutional principles. It means that the federal trial judge who presides over the case must review all of the facts and law from scratch, without deferring to the legal judgments and factual conclusions the Florida courts have reached after many years of litigation-- and 21 separate, written, published rulings in the case. It means that the federal trial judge may order the tube reinserted into Terri Schiavo almost immediately upon getting the case. It means that Congress has interjected itself into a state law dispute, at the end of that dispute, on the side of one litigant over another.

Does anyone really think that after 15 years in a persistent vegetative state, there is anything that can be done to help Terry Schiavo? And even assuming that there was, does anyone think that the courts or congress are capable of providing that help? According to NPR radio the other morning, 85% of all deaths in a hospital now occur when the medical people determine nothing else can be done and turn off the machines.

This case has been lawyered to death and beyond. Twenty-one decisions and everyone has come to the same conclusion. Regarding Terri Schiavo, the house may be standing but there is NO ONE HOME! But her parents don't like that decision, and a bunch of power-hungry politicians seem to think that they can buy votes by refusing to accept the finality of the legal decisions.

The decision on Terri Schiavo's feeding tube is properly a state decision, not a federal one. The facts and the law are clear, and Florida law has been applied. Twenty-one times.

For Congress to step in and pass a law specifically to take the issue to federal court for Terri Schiavo only is simply not following the Rule of Law. The decision by Congress and the anticipated decision by Bush to sign it is arbitrary and capricious.

Don't like it? OK. Go pray for Terri and for her whole family. But don't throw away the rule of law over this.

We don't want Tom DeLay to resign!

Here is why.

Oh, Lord. I AM addicted!

You know you're addicted to blogging - click here

And I had never thought of going to another blog through my blogroll in order to his their referrer list! Damn!

Thanks to RFTR - see blogroll.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Congressional Republicans Jump into Terri Schiavo Case

I have been hesitant to blog on the Terri Schiavo case because it really isn't something that the opinion of those of us outside the family should try to push on them. But the actions of the Republicans to call an emergency session of Congress just so they can grandstand on the issue when the Courts have uniformly told the parents, the Florida Legislature and Jeb Bush to leave it to Terri's husband and the doctors. Then the Supreme Court has decided not to intervene according to SCOTUSblog. So the Republican-run Congress decided to jump into the middle.

Ed Kilgore has a good discussion of the whole mess here.

Then Steve Gilliard gives his view. It is his opinion that the Republican interference in the Shiavo death is a Godsend to the Democrats. But let's face it. The Republicans won't let someone die if they think that by keeping the body on life support they can gain political advantage. The depth of Republican stupidity and nastiness apparently cannot be plummed, and people like DeLay and Frist simply don't realize how rotten and unethical they are clearly acting.

They have taken a family tragedy and blown it up into a political media frenzy, not to help Terri or the family, but just so they can cater to the "Christian" wing-nuts who throw their votes away on politicians who act accomnodating then laugh at them behind their backs.

Fundamentalism - a book Review

This is a review of the book shown on the sidebar to this blog called "Fundamentalism." I bought it because I live in Texas and the religious fundamentalists took control of the Republican Party here about 25 years ago.

I didn't understand. I found it very difficult to see how any rational person could accept the idea of Biblical Inerrancy. [Read "Language in Thought and Action" by S. I. Hayakawa and then go look at General Semantics. Words are merely symbols we assign to reality, other words, and even to thoughts or emotions. This makes words very unreliable guides to what they are pointing at. I'll review Hayakawa's book some other time.]

I graduated from High School in the same class as Paige Patterson who is today the President of the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary here in Fort Worth. He was also one of two conservative leaders who directed the movement that took over the Southern Baptist Convention beginning in the 1970's. [The other was a Judge Paul Pressler from Houston.] They are firm fundamentalists and believers in Biblical Inerrancy, and if you don't agree with them you will not be accepted as a conservative Southern Baptist. You will also be fired from their seminaries or boards.

This superb book explains what fundamentalist religion is all about, what causes it, and why it is so attractive to so many people these days. The author also clearly explains why the Islamic Fundamentalism of the Middle East differs from that here in America.

Steve Bruce also has the belief that philosophies matter, and interact with social forces to explain what is happening. This is very different from the Marxist idea that what matters is the material process of production, and ideas are adapted to explain the requirements of the production process. I have always followed the materialist idea, but professor Bruce has convinced me that the myths and ideas people bring to the party are also important in explaining such social processes as fundamentalism.

This is the publisher's review.


"This new study explores the combination of social strains and religious ideas that have produced such fundamentalist movements as the Islamic revolution in Iran and the new Christian Right in the USA." "Social science has generally focused on the social circumstances that produce extremist movements and regarded their religious ideologies as window-dressing. This study takes the religious elements of fundamentalism seriously. It explains why some religions are more likely than others to produce fundamentalism and why those movements differ in their willingness to use violence to pursue their goals. Rejecting the idea that fundamentalists are suffering from some kind of abnormal psychology, Bruce claims that fundamentalism is a rational response of traditionally religious people to social, political and economic changes that downgrade the role of religion in public life. Despite its importance as a symptom of rapid social change, he concludes that fundamentalism does not pose a serious challenge or sustainable alternative to the secular and liberal democracy of most Western societies. Its force is weakened by its own internal contradictions and blunted by the power of the nation state."

I found the book to be an easy read, but I have also spent years reading social science in management courses. I really don't think that matters too much, though. You will find something that explains what is going on around us both in America and in the world on just about every page.

Click on the picture, buy it, and read it. This is an outstanding book. You will find the time well spent.

View from Space

Want to see what various satellites are looking at now (or at least recently?) Click here, choose a satellite, and click the "View Earth from Satellite" button.

Republicans are Damaging American National Security!

The Republicans are bragging that they are working for American national security. They aren’t. While ignoring American national security, they are attempting to restructure the American society to give advantage to wealth and privilege while literally “farming” the poor and middle class for more wealth to give to the wealthy.

Think not? Go to NDOL for a description.

Then go back to my earlier blog on this subject.

Beyond Belief - C-Span to balance history with lies

From the New York Times:

More than 200 historians at colleges nationwide sent a petition to C-Span yesterday to protest its plan to accompany its coverage of a lecture by Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of Holocaust studies at Emory University, with a speech by David Irving, who has argued that Hitler was not fully responsible for the mass murder of Jews.

"Falsifiers of history cannot 'balance' histories," said the petition, delivered to Connie Doebele, the executive producer at C-Span who planned the coverage. "Falsehoods cannot 'balance' the truth."

Mr. Irving, a British writer, sued Professor Lipstadt for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier, but the British Royal High Court of Justice dismissed the lawsuit on April 11, 2000, concluding that Mr. Irving was anti-Semitic and racist and that he persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence.

Media Matters for America has also weighed in on the issue.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Are you a Peasant? Do you have a credit card and Annual Income less that six figures? Hi, Peasant.

There are two classes in America today. There are the lenders and there are those who get loans.

Those who get loans are the peasants who are there to be skimmed - used - robbed by those who do the lending. Mind you, these are working people.

First Cash Pawn and Cash America make a point that 30% of all workers have no bank account. That is a definition of those who are scammed in current society.

Such people pay 5% of the face value to cash a check, and when they are short money, a payday loan is given at a rate of 350% plus per year. Car loans for those without credit are over 100% a year. Frequently they get Income tax return anticipation loans at 300% to 500% per year. They are being robbed.

But above that are those who get credit cards. Get it right ~every month~ or your interest rate will jump from 9% to 14% to over 30%. Also, you pay $33.00 to $35.oo per month for either a late payment or going over limit. So right now you can pay, but what happens if the income of one in your family is interrupted for a month? The banks get half their total profit from credit cards from such fees. So go to a pawn shop.

Pawn shop loans are 180% per year plus a $15 charge every time you renew (if you do.)

Since the income of Americans has become a lot more uncertain, these organizations are making a mint. Now they have the courts as collection agencies. That's what the new bankruptcy law means.

The bankers and Republicans want to move American society back to an agricultural analog in which most people are peasants who are skimmed of their excess production to support the aristocracy. Only it isn't an agricultural society, it is a bankers society.

Speculation based on Palast's article

This is speculation about the Bush administration based on the article by Greg Palast referred to in the prior blog.

I am going to accept Palast as credible. (Bugs me that no one supports him OR contradicts him in the MSM.)

Accepting that, the extreme secrecy of the Bush administration from day one of Bush's Presidency makes sense. They got their first tax cut, but didn't know how to get their invasion of Iraq.

Then Osama bin Laden provided Bush with an early Xmas present. Was it a set-up? I'll buy an invitation, but I am not yet ready to buy a direct set-up. But the refusal of Bush to act on the Presidential Daily Briefing certainly indicates that they were putting out bait and hoping he would take it. So does the lack of coordination among CIA, FBI, etc., and the resistance of FBI managers to allow a search of Mousawi's hard-drive. It really looks to me like someone wanted ObL to take the bait. He did. The fact that the casualties were so horrific was, I am sure, a pleasant surprise to the Bushies. The only problem was that he was in Afghanistan, not Iraq.

Bush tried to go after Iraq right off, but was stalled by Congress-turkeys and the MSM. So he invaded Afghanistan, and at the earliest possible moment pulled the troops out of the wrong war to the one he wanted.
I am sure the fact that we went into Afghanistan with so few troops and with no American objections to speak of emboldened them to go after Iraq. I know it gave Rumsfeld the idea that his small high-powered forces could be made to work.

The secret plan by high-ranking political officers (led by Cheney and implemented by Rumsfeld? It appears that few if any long-term government employees were in on it.) would explain the refusal of the Pentagon to use the State Department plans or personnel (obviously they did not feel that Powell was on board) or CIA input or input from uniformed Pentagon officers (see reports by LtC. Kwiatoski). How could people who were not to be told of the purposes of the actions be expected to produce usable plans?

This also explains the WMD lies and the attempts to connect Saddam to 9/11. In particular, it explains Cheney's refusal to ever go off message on these lies, even after they were as tattered as a cotton flag in a hurricane.

The strange replacement of Jay Garner by Jerry Bremer after Garner had only been in Iraq for six weeks has never been explained as far as I know. Again, I have only suspicions, but I suspect that the plan Palast described was something Garner was not ready to apply. It frankly would lead to severe problems in the occupation.

Bremer came in and turned de-Baathification over to Chalabi. He also handed the Iraqi secret police files to Chalabi. Chalabi is, I think, a Shiite, and I rather suspect he and everyone around him expected the Shiites to flock to his leadership. Clearly they did not. (Mullah al Sistani? I suspect he had a key role.)

So the Bush politicos had an occupation with inadequate troops to deal with it and then the oil executives revolted (see Palast) and prevented the sell off of the oil resources.

But Bremer and the CPA did their best to install a set of free enterprise laws and structures, on the ideological (Libertarian and Republican) assumption that the only problem facing business people was the heavy hand of government. Remove government and business will create a paradise for everyone, right? These people really believe that garbage, and it has just barely enough evidence to support it to keep their belief working.

The plan to sell off the oil reserves and the CPA actions to install a libertarian type government that sold off government resources to favorites (as in Russia) and then not control what was done with them certainly would give potential insurgents a strong set of evidence that the Americans were there to steal everything that wasn't nailed down. Which, of course, they were.

Bush's refusal to ever act to correct clear mistakes caused him to let Rumsfeld continue with the inadequate number of troops in Iraq, so now the Army and Marine Corps Reserves and Army National Guard are effectively gutted. Muddling through with no increase in the armed forces was preferable to admitting how bad the mistakes were.

Then al Sistani forced Bush into supporting the Iraqi elections of January 30, something that Bush did not want. So Bush had to buy in and act like he supported the elections, and even pretend that they were the reason we invaded in the first place.

I notice that the Shiite party and the Kurds could not agree on a President to appoint a Prime Minister, so while the elected government met yesterday, nothing happened and they adjourned after two hours. The Iraqis will probably make something work, though. It is their country and no one else will. But they sure aren't going to give Bush any credit for anything that works. He hasn't helped them any.

In short, Bush et. Al. had the plans from day one in office, and the plans have utterly failed to accomplish anything positive. America has spent over $200 billion, the Italians are following the Spaniards and pulling out of Iraq, we have had over 1500 KIA (that we know of) and probably around 20,000 seriously wounded. All for a shitty little plan to steal Iraqi oil and screw over the OPEC countries. That was a plan that didn't work.

Oh, and one interesting result is that Bolton and Wolfowitz have been kicked upstairs to where they can't do any further harm to the planners. This is because neither Condi Rice nor Rumsfeld wanted to keep either of them, and Bush doesn't fire people. In the meantime, the oil company executives are pocketing their performance bonuses for greater profitability and thoroughly enjoying the situation. Oil companies 1, Neocons 0.

This speculation has some holes in it I am sure, but it is beginning to come together. Historians will love the Bush era for the next half-century at least. The rest of us will be paying for it for longer than that.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bush had plan to attack Iraq from Feb 2001

This would certainly explain the Bush administration’s strange extreme obsession with secrecy for that last four plus years. It would also explain the quick switch from the war in Afghanistan to the attack on Iraq.

From BBC
By Greg Palast Reporting for Newsnight

The Bush administration made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before the 9/11 attacks, sparking a policy battle between neo-cons and Big Oil, BBC's Newsnight has revealed.
Two years ago today - when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.

In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists".

"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.

Insiders told Newsnight that planning began "within weeks" of Bush's first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the US.

An Iraqi-born oil industry consultant, Falah Aljibury, says he took part in the secret meetings in California, Washington and the Middle East. He described a State Department plan for a forced coup d'etat.

Mr Aljibury himself told Newsnight that he interviewed potential successors to Saddam Hussein on behalf of the Bush administration.

Secret sell-off plan

The industry-favoured plan was pushed aside by a secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraq's oil fields. The new plan was crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq's oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas.

The sell-off was given the green light in a secret meeting in London headed by Ahmed Chalabi shortly after the US entered Baghdad, according to Robert Ebel.

Mr Ebel, a former Energy and CIA oil analyst, now a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told Newsnight he flew to the London meeting at the request of the State Department.
Mr Aljibury, once Ronald Reagan's "back-channel" to Saddam, claims that plans to sell off Iraq's oil, pushed by the US-installed Governing Council in 2003, helped instigate the insurgency and attacks on US and British occupying forces.

"Insurgents used this, saying, 'Look, you're losing your country, you're losing your resources to a bunch of wealthy billionaires who want to take you over and make your life miserable,'" said Mr Aljibury from his home near San Francisco.

"We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities, pipelines, built on the premise that privatisation is coming."

Palast also reports that the oil companies stopped the sell off of Iraqi oil because they were afraid they would face the same kind of problems that had occurred in Russia. But the threat of that kind of oil takeover would certainly have motivated the insurgents in the early days.

Dollar Catching Asian Flu

More about the ‘federal deficit, trade deficit, dollar’ problems.

From the Asian Times
By Alan Boyd

SYDNEY - They may be telling a different story to money markets, but Asian central banks have been quietly switching their dollar holdings to regional currencies for at least three years, confirm global banking data. In a further, and so far the biggest, setback for the greenback's status as the undisputed reserve currency, Japan on Thursday said it might diversify its holdings, though monetary chiefs later sought to play down the prospect. South Korea rattled currency traders with a similar announcement late last month, followed by a similar backtrack.

China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Hong Kong have already started a sell-off, despite a diplomatic show of solidarity for the greenback that is prudently designed to prevent a crisis of confidence in exchange systems. The likelihood is that much of this outflow will never return to US dollars as economic interdependence within East Asia and the widening shadow cast by China's trading conglomerates are slowly transforming the traditional market structure.

The Bank of International Settlements (BIS), which acts as a bank for the world's central banks, has just released a study showing that the ratio of dollar deposits held in Asian offshore reserves declined to 67% in September, down from 81% in the third quarter of 2001. India was the biggest seller, reducing its dollar assets from 68% of total reserves to just 43%. China, which directly links the yuan to the dollar and is under US pressure to allow a freer movement of its currency, trimmed the dollar share from 83% to 68%.

This shift conforms with global trends as central banks seek a buffer from the burgeoning US trade and budget deficits. A separate survey by European-based Central Banking Publications found that 29 of 65 nations surveyed were cutting back on the dollar and 39 were buying more euros. America's annual budget deficit of US$500 billion is largely funded by Asian purchases of US government bonds, mostly from China and Japan. The US trade and current account deficits are in a similar plight: it took $530 billion of foreign capital to finance US imports in 2003 and $650 billion last year. Projections for 2005 range up to $800 billion.

Export-led Asian central banks have been accumulating dollars for two decades or more to keep their own currencies competitive. Japan alone has stockpiled $841 billion of reserves to stop the yen from over-valuing as it searches for an economic stimulus. If the central banks pull out, the US may find it hard to borrow the cash it needs to keep the wheels of government turning. The conventional wisdom is that Asia is in too deep to quit, as to do so would invite huge exchange losses.

But some monetary chiefs have already decided there are greater risks in staying in bond markets as rock-bottom US interest rates - still only moderately above the 45-year low reached last year - have dragged yields to unappealing levels. China became a net seller of US government bonds in 2002, shifting much of its reserves to euros, Australian and Canadian dollars. Taiwan left the securities market in the same year and Hong Kong sharply reduced its exposure.

Free Trade with Humanity

Free trade provides the best and most efficient allocation of investments and ultimately gives everyone the best possible life. But we live now, not in the ultimate times. So how do we deal with the dislocations caused by free trade? That is especially international free trade. The opposite to free trade, autarky or isolationism, is quite unworkable. So the answer has to be somewhere in the middle.

The conservatives and libertarians are free trade extremists. They expect each person to fend for himself or herself no matter what the cost. Of course, only the wealthy win in this system and it in fact creates a less efficient society and worse economy than does careful government intervention to protect workers from such economic tsunami waves. Andrew Tobias today offers a small part of the answer.

From Andrew Tobias, March 17, 2005

Frank McClendon: “I would like to know what you think of the Lou Dobbs interview in Playboy – ‘America's Other War - By Outsourcing, Corporate America Kills the
Middle Class and the American Dream.’ The gist:

I'd prefer that corporations return to being good citizens – and because of the dictates of their conscience – end outsourcing. But if corporate America can't forgo short term profits for the broader interests of our society, it is Washington's responsibility to act. . . . It seems however that business leaders would rather collect seven-figure bonuses for cutting costs – usually by dumping jobs or shipping them overseas.

F I am more of a free trader . . . albeit biased toward using our influence to push trading partners to improve working conditions and environmental regulation – e.g., instituting a “minimum wage” program as suggested here last week.

I understand that family comes first, and that close neighbors are more important than distant neighbors. Ohioans (if you’re from Ohio) clearly outrank Kentuckians, just as we care more about Americans (if we’re American) than we care about Canadians, let alone the French.

But how steep should the curve be? I first wrote about this 35 years ago in a book (The Funny Money Game) that included a “conversion table,” by nationality, as one might show how many pounds or francs or baht or yen there are to the dollar. But it remains a puzzlement even today.

To take a childish example, if you had a choice between one neighbor dying or one Bangladeshi, you'd probably – reluctantly – choose the Bangladeshi. But if it were one neighbor versus two Bangladeshis? Ten? Ten thousand?

Fortunately, with respect to outsourcing, no one has to die (except possibly, indirectly, from the poverty of joblessness). So it’s not as wrenching to come right out and say one American job is worth two or ten or ten thousand jobs in Dhaka.

But there are two other factors that, even so, make it a damnably difficult calculation. Because not ONLY does giving the job to the Bangladeshi help the Bangladeshi . . . but it also lowers the cost of the clothes we buy to keep our kids warm (making clothes in Bangladesh is cheaper than making them here); and, in the long run, enriches us as well as the Bangladeshis, because someday that newly-employed Bangladeshi will be able to buy some product or service WE sell. (And perhaps buy a few shares of the stock that we will need to sell to pay our nursing home bill.)

So I lean strongly toward free trade, but with assistance for those who are displaced here (e.g., extended unemployment and continuing education/retraining opportunities) – and with a very conscious, creative effort to include in our trade agreements progress on wage and environmental issues . . . pushing hard for and making progress on those things . . . but pushing not quite so hard that we kill the deal.

Not Everything is Politics

What does a person do about a 'fat cat'? I mean, all they do is eat, sleep, and gain weight, right?

My solution has been to share my love with the small gray tabby, Mitzi, and a part sheltie dog, Foxy. The foxy has frustrated herding instincts and is also jealous whenever I let the cat hop into my lap and collect her demanded stroking. So Foxy does a credible job of 'cat herding'. Both of them get their exercise and keep their weight down. I also suspect that Foxy could provide good training to Democratic leaders.

Of course, if Mitzi doesn't want to get 'herded', she turns and waves a paw in front of Foxy's muzzle. Foxy then pokes her muzzle at her in the herding manner, and after a few moments goes away since it is no fun to herd a cat who doesn't want to be herded.

Foxy's cat-herding of Mitzi is not a one-way pressure. I was petting the cat in one of her regular places this morning and Foxy, jealous as always, came in and shoved her way to get her equal share. Mitzi wasn't ready to share (is a cat ever?) so she turned and threw her paws around Foxy's front leg and bit her (lightly - Mitzi uses biting to communicate, not hurt.) Now mind you, foxy is about 35 pounds and mitzi is at best six pounds. Foxy could snap mitzi in half is a New York second.

So foxy looked down, took the hint, and walked out of the room leaving mitzi to get her petting. This was one of Mitzi's places, of course. Foxy was intruding and knew it.

I am semi-retired and have never owned pets by myself before, but when my son and daughter-in-law moved out they were unable to take their pets to the apartment (pet deposits were prohibitive) so I got stuck with them. So I am utterly amazed at the social interactions I am watching. These critters are fascinating.

If I needed to choose, I'd keep the dog. She is more amenable to training, understands more words, and we share more. But the cat is more computer-blogging appropriate. Either way, I am surprised to find myself the alpha-dog, cat-food-giver of the house and generally enjoying it. Cats are cuter, but dogs are more 'human', more compatible. I communicate with my dog, I only observe my cat. This is an overstatement, but indicates the distinction.

Either way, they are fun and educational.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Fake News from a Rotten Administration

What’s wrong with government news videos that just give (some of the more positive) the facts, with a fake reporter who signs off as “(some name) reporting from Washington, D.C.” , packaged to look like real news, sent to TV stations and intended to be run as real news?

According to the Washington Post, this is what the Government Accountability Office said: “The Government Accountability Office found this kind of phony news to be impermissible "covert propaganda." It warned the government last month that such prepackaged news stories must be accompanied by a "clear disclosure to the television viewing audience" of the government's involvement. The Bush administration is now instructing its officials to ignore the GAO.”

“This technique is both illegal and unwise. As a legal matter, the prepackaged news releases run afoul of the prohibition on the use of government funds for domestic "propaganda." The administration's interpretation -- it's okay to hide the source as long as the spot is "purely informational" -- is untenable: Highlighting some "facts" and leaving out others can be even more persuasive than outright advocacy, which is why the administration chose this device. More important, this kind of propaganda masquerading as news is a deceitful way for a democratic government to do business; fake journalists paid by the government to deliver its version of news are as disturbing as real commentators paid by the government to tout its views. White House press secretary Scott McClellan defended the video news releases on Monday as "an informational tool to provide factual information to the American people." Nice sentiment, but why, exactly, wouldn't the administration want to let the people in on one of the most salient facts: who, really, is doing the talking?”

Friends of the Earth has found that the Department of the Interior has been doing the same thing.

“Washington, DC -The Department of the Interior (DOI) has been producing and releasing the same kind of misleading video news releases that have already generated controversy at other federal agencies. Responding to a Freedom of Information request from Friends of the Earth, a Washington, DC-based environmental organization, DOI provided Friends of the Earth with several prepackaged video news releases that fail to disclose to TV viewers that they are government products.”

My earlier blog on this subject is This is Karen Ryan, Media Roadkill in addition to these on Gannon/Guckert-gate here , here, here, here, here (a rumor I have found no support for since blogging it.), here, here, and here.

So what's wrong? Besides the fact that it is an illegal use of Taxpayer funds, that is? I think it tells us what kind of administration this is. This is the most dishonest, manipulative, anti-democratic administration the US has ever had. If there are only two ways to do something, and one is illegal, lying or unethical, the Bush administration will choose that one.

This is no way to run a country.

The US could use help internationally

But Richard Holbrooke explains how the US is undermining and weakening the UN. This from Steve Clemons.

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1999 to 2001, says the United Nations faces a future in which it will become progressively weaker without U.S. support.

"If we continue to under-fund, under-support, and undermine the U.N. system it will become progressively weaker and at the same time it will become increasingly a center for hostility to the United States, a combination, a trifecta if you will, that will hurt American national security interests in many ways," he noted.

He suggests a stronger U.S. role in supporting and reforming the United Nations would help ensure the human rights commission acts more aggressively, while not falling under the control of rights violators.

"A weaker U.N. is one where the human rights commission is dominated by such terrible violators as Cuba and Libya," he said. "In other words, what is wrong with the U.N. or the human rights commission, is not the core ideas that it stands for but the instances where due to lack of American engagement and leadership the institution was hijacked by states whose practices are anathema to all the U.N. stands for."

The alternatives are for the US to either go it alone (and pay all the costs of the international interventions we require) or to simply pull back behind our borders and ignore the rest of the world.

The latter option requires American autarky, abandoning all international trade, and will never happen. The Bush admininstration is demonstrating the very high cost of the former choice. The cost will soon force us to either getting help.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Bernie Ebbers Convicted of all Charges

Good News. Forbes has reported that Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom has been convicted on all charges. His "I didn't understand all that accounting stuff." defense did not fool the jury. He was CEO and he was responsible for all his company did or failed to do.

Interesting that the Forbes poll has (as of now) 263 of 364 voters who think it was the correct decision.

Ken Lay of Enron should feel a real chill at this time. I'll bet his lawyers are talking "Deal!" even now.

March 16, 2005

Jeralyn Merrit of Talkleft has a different take on how the Ebbers conviction is likely to effect the Ken Lay trial. Jeralyn is a Defense Attorney so hers' is clearly a much more informed opinion than mine is.

She thinks that the relationship between Ebbers and Sullivan was clearly more one of supervisor - supporting subordinate than was true of the relationship between Lay and Fastow. She states that Ken Lay was, in fact, more of a hands-off CEO, and Andrew Fastow was more of an independent self-centered crook. The way the prosecution forced Fastow to turn on Lay is also a great deal more blatant and compelling than the way the WorldComprosecutors turned Sullivan.

I don't know if that matters much. The trial for Ken Lay will be held in January 2006 (as currently reported) and I think it will be in Houston. Enron dominated Houston in the 90's. Ken Lay strode across the city like a colossus. He built the company and a great many people in Houston tied their futures to his company.

When it went down, Ken Lay, Andrew Fastow, and Anderson Accounting were all considered responsible. It will be hard to find any jury in Houston who is not effected by the bad feelings the city still has and by the results of the Ebbers trial.

An Example of How our Politics is Bought

The Center for Responsive Politics has a good article on the difference between how much MBNA or Credit Card money went to Senators who voted for the Bankruptcy Bill vs. the amount of money to those who voted against it.

That rotten bill was bought and paid for, and the people who are being ripped off by the predatory lenders will be paying dividends for years.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Ethics of Tom DeLay

Tom DeLay is putting together a pretty good record of ethics violations. Think Progress has a list that you might want to look at.

But it isn't like DeLay isn't doing anything about it. According to the Washington Posts he has totally immasculated the Congressional Ethics Committee so that no matter what is reported on him now, as long as the Republicans refuse to act for 45 days the complaint goes away.

Last year the Ethics "committee took the extraordinary step of issuing three admonitions to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), infuriating the majority leader and his supporters. In the aftermath, the ethics panel's chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), and two other committee Republicans were removed and replaced with those more loyal to the Republican team. In addition, the GOP leadership did its best to neuter the committee by rewriting the rules for the new Congress. When their own members were too embarrassed to go along, the leadership was forced to backtrack on some of the most egregious changes. It left in place three others, leading to the current standoff."

The Democrats won't accept the rewritten rules that remove all teeth from the committee, so of course the Republicans are trying to blame them for the inability of the committee to operate.

Chutzpah, indeed. But they are Republicans, aren't they? No ethics and completely unwilling to accept responsibility even when they are caught!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Al Qaida - Threat or finished?

Bush is warning that al Qaida is preparing for another attack on the US, perhaps with nuclear or chemical weapons. But remember, Bush is also trying to get Congress to approve a $419 billion defense budget for 2006.

The Associated Press reports that “in Pakistan and Afghanistan — where Osama bin Laden) and his chief deputy are believed to be hiding — intelligence agents, politicians and a top U.S. general paint a different picture.

“They say a relentless military crackdown, the arrests last summer of several men allegedly involved in plans to launch attacks on U.S. financial institutions, and the killing in September of a top Pakistani al-Qaida suspect wanted in a number of attacks — including the 2002 killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and two failed assassination attempts against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf — have effectively decapitated al-Qaida.

“Because of the secretive and underground nature of cells that operate throughout the world, it cannot be known for certain what effect the damage done to al-Qaida in its home territory has had on operations elsewhere.

“Pakistani intelligence agents told The Associated Press that it has been months since they picked up any "chatter" from suspected al-Qaida men, and longer still since they received any specific intelligence on the whereabouts of bin Laden or any plans to launch a specific attack.

“They say the trail of the world's most wanted man — long-since gone cold — has turned icier than the frigid winter snows that blanket the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the terror mastermind is considered most likely to be hiding.

“Pakistani officials have been quick to hail the long silence as a signal that it has already dismantled bin Laden's network, at least in this part of the world.”

What I don’t get, is Bush admitting failure in stopping al Qaida or is he desperate to get more money for the Pentagon?

Hey! Go Foxless! Great Idea!

Found this on Newshounds. I love the idea. Hit FOX where it hurts - ratings and the pocketbook.

I called my cable TV provider and had Fox News deleted from my television. It was simple. I called the Repair Department at Comcast and said I wanted to be "Foxless in America." I then wrote an email to the following:
Reed Nolte, VP Investor Relations for News Corporation and
Brian Lewis, Senior VP Corporate Communications for Fox News and to top it off I copied
I told them that I cannot take the Fox distortion and biased presentation of the news any longer... I can't tell you the immense satisfaction I gained from becoming "Foxless in America."

I don't know who wrote this email, but it is a great idea. We all should do the same. But of course, I cancelled cable entirely.

Who is paying for Tom DeLay's Defense?

Who is contributing to Tom DeLay’s Legal Defense Fund?

According to the New York Times -

From Congress:

Representative Roy Blunt (R, MO) House Republican whip, $20,000

Representative Henry Bonilla (R, TX) $15,000

Former Representative Billy Tauzin (R, LA) $15,000. Mr. Tauzin is now Chief Lobbiest for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Representative Jeb Hensarling (R, TX) $5,000

Representative Lamar Smith (R, TX) $10,000 – placed on the House Ethics Committee when the previous members were excessively conscientious about Tom DeLay’s earlier ethical violations.

Representative Tom Cole (R, OK) $5,000, also placed on the House ethics committee this year.

The list of corporate donors includes:

AMR, the parent company of American Airlines;

Bell South;

Coors Brewing;

Exxon Mobil,

Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

Bacardi U.S.A., $3,000 – Bacardi contributed to TRMPAC and has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges in Texas which Tom DeLay’s Legal Defense Fund is defending him against.

Reliant Energy of Houston and its subsidiaries have donated $20,000. Bacardi also donated to TRMPAC, which corporate donation appears to have been illegally used for election purposes in electing a Republican House in Texas.

From the NY Times article :”The documents, subpoenaed from the files of an indicted former fund-raiser for Mr. Delay as a result of a civil lawsuit against the political action committee, suggested that Mr. DeLay or someone in his Washington office had accepted a $25,000 check from Reliant in 2002 that was forwarded to Texans for a Republican Majority, and that he had a direct role in soliciting contributions from other corporations on the committee's behalf.”

These are all companies who should not be dealt with. Enron and WorldCom would have been on this list if they still existed. They don't exist in part because of the failure of the Republicans to govern business properly. The politicians are all men with highly questionable ethics.

"This is Karen Ryan, Media Roadkill"

Poor Karen Ryan. She is a PR professional, with her own company called Karen Ryan Group Communications. All she did was represent the White House, sold their story on the Medicare drug benefits and sent out videos to TV News organizations telling the story and signed off "In Washington, I am Karen Ryan reporting."

A New York Times editorial called the videos "plugs for the controversial new drug program the White House is selling to elderly voters." The General Accounting Office started looking into the way the government was funding propaganda (a violation of law.)

Pressthink has a very good discussion of the issue. Also, the Colombia Journalism Review interviewed Ms. Ryan and reported it on their blog.

Yeah, Karen Ryan has become Media Roadkill in behalf of the White House's efforts to keep the Press from learning about and reporting on what the administration is doing to America. But she clearly volunteered for the job, and I am sure she was very well-paid. She earned what she got. Certainly more than 30 pieces of sliver.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Why do Conservatives and Fundamentalists work together?

Conservatives are secular and are applying mostly secular responses to modernization. Much of what they are resisting is government interference with business personnel policies, monopolies, cartels, and stock-and-bond sales and government support of union organization. Forcing companies to pay for externalities (pollution and such) and injuries to workers are also things they resist.

Fundamentalists are religious (both Christian and Muslim) and they, too, are attempting to resist modernization. Their problem is that modern society and even the old mainstream American religions have been moving religion out of its prior all-encompassing social positions and relegating religion to various forms of personal psychological support. The down-grading of the Bible as the central source of human education, the pressures to make government less amenable to religious interference, and the freeing of women (result of the "pill") and gays from penalties for their sexual "deviations" from the accepted religious standard are all examples of the social downgrading of religion.

The religious are not accepting this without complaint. Their methods are to demand that their religion be accepted as superior to modern state structures and modern (read "Enlightenment") forms of thought. Note especially that they demand that they be given the role of moral arbiter.

In both cases the conservatives and the religious fundamentalists can agree that the real problem they face is government centralization and the government pressures to enforce social diversity and economic fairness. This is the direct result of Industrialization (which causes an increase in diversity) and Nationalism (which makes government a lot more important to the individual citizen without going through some intermediate organization like a church, city, company or local aristocrat or gentry.)

You can see why they would be allies. Their mutual problem is rejection of modernism.