Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More on Democratic reconstruction

Whatever the Democrats decide to do to counter the Republican movement, without Organized Labor it will have a really difficult time coming back and defeating the Republicans. So this story of the internal strife in labor is extremely important to Democrats and Progressives.

The American Prospect provides a good description of Labor's Civil War. Essentially is seems to come down to the disagreements between the wealthy unions and the poor ones regarding whether resources should be spent on political efforts to improve the climate for labor, or whether those resources need to be spent on massive organizing efforts to try to do things like organizing Wal-Mart.

Personally I tend to lean towards the organizing focus, but the Republicans have done such a great job of creating a political climate that is anti-union such an organizing effort is going to have real problems. Do you focus first on stregthening unions themselves, or do you focus on political activity that makes the political environment more hospitible to union activity?

Read the article and see if you agree with me.

What do the Democrats need to win?

"The resurgence of liberalism and the Democratic Party, when it comes, will necessarily be grass roots as well as intellectual or professional. A new generation of think tanks and message machines can help, but in a democracy, the ultimate test is whether a program animates voters. Democratic candidates will shed their temporizing not when a linguistic expert gives them better packaging but when voters demonstrate that a muscular progressivism that addresses the plight of the common American is a winning politics."

Robert Kuttner has a really good article on why we are losing to the Republicans. The reason is, he explains, that the right is a movement, 30 years in the making. That movement has spent time and money creating a central easy-to-summarize ideology that the movement members agree on. This is tied to a set of public relations channels that send the most important part of the ideology to each group who desires that particular element of the ideology.

"there's something for everyone. The businessman gets it from The Wall Street Journal editorial page. The soccer mom has FOX News. The 24-year-old beer-drinking guy has Rush [Limbaugh]. The religious right can get the word from Pat Robertson."

Tied closely to this is that the movement ideology is the set of mechanisms that creates unity. "Despite schisms, the right is simply more disciplined. The discipline is reinforced by new forms of patronage -- tax breaks for the elite, godliness for the base. Worldly sinners among Wall Street Republicans may smirk at the fundamentalists in their governing coalition, but are happy to share the bounty. They may privately oppose the immense budget deficits, but the heavily Republican Concord Coalition, so publicly alarmed at the (Republican legacy) deficits of the 1990s, is today prudently silent. Conversely, social conservatives may wince at the antics and views of Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the coalition holds. Genuine Republican moderates, meanwhile, have been coerced or co-opted into near silence. The resulting legislative unity is also unprecedented."

Then there is the Iraq war, "a conveniently permanent one. The right manipulates fear of terrorism into public and media acquiescence for a politics that would never prevail in normal times."

Dealing with this involves 1. mechanics, 2. ideology, and 3. leadership. "the rightÂ’s movement ideology was able to mature into a strategic political force precisely because it had plenty of well-nuanced institutions that could work through a common agenda rather than differentiating themselves for donors. Still, if it is easy to agree on the need for more strategic resources, the quest for a common ideology is daunting. "

Kuttner then identifies the methods that liberals and democrats can use to develop a counter argument ans system to that of the Republicans.

"There are basically two stories on what liberals and Democrats need to espouse. Either might conceivably produce a majority movement and party. Both cannot; the competing messages simply cancel each other out. We saw the effects in 2000 and 2004 of Al Gore and John Kerry trying to take a dollop of each.

"In one story line, liberal interest groups have disproportionate influence, leaving the Democratic Party with a message too left wing for the country on both social issues and national defense. On economics, New Democrats want a modernizing party committed to fiscal responsibility, globalism, and market-like strategies for social problems such as health care and education. This is said to be "pro-growth," though its detractors view that as a code for pro-business. The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), initially cheering Gore-Lieberman as just the ticket, became progressively disillusioned the more populist Gore sounded. In a DLC postmortem, Joe Lieberman declared that Gore's economic populism stuff was not the pro-growth approach. It made it more dificult for us to gain the support of middle-class independent voters who don't see America as "us versus them."

"The opposite view -- whose exponents include Tom Frank, Robert Borosage, and David J. Sirota -- holds that by failing to run as progressives, Democrats allow Republicans to use cultural issues as a proxy for class issues. Frank, sifting through the ashes of the Democrats' 2004 defeat, wrote recently in The New York Review of Books: "Conservatives generally regard class as an unacceptable topic when the subject is economics -- trade, deregulation, shifting the tax burden. But define class as culture, and class instantly becomes the blood and bone of public discourse". Workerist in its rhetoric but royalist in its economic effects, this backlash is in no way embarrassed by its contradictions."


"In theory, either recipe could produce a governing coalition. But a resurgent Democratic Party built on progressivism would be more worth having."

A problem up to now is that Democratic consultants, depending on polls instead of ideology, tend to shift Democratic candidates to more of a right-wing message on the assumption that America is becoming a more conservative nation. A second major problem is that when a potential candidate goes to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to seek financial help the first thing that they are asked is whether they have several hundred thousand dollars available. This results in eliminating almost any candidates who are not independently wealthy.

To counter these problems, Kuttner describes how a coalition of labor, environmentalist, civil-rights, pro-choice, and other grass-roots groups has started the Progressive Majority. This is an organization that recruits progressive candidates for office and provides some help with money, media, message, and training.

I suspect that this is an area in which the blogosphere can also play a big part.

This article is the most comprehensive description of the situation liberals and Democrats now find themselves that I have seen. It ties up a lot of loose strings and offers a framework for a coordinated reorganization of the Democratic Party that just might work.

With luck, we will begin to see some favorable results in the 2006 elections.

What have Republicans done since November?

Marcos Moulitas provides a list of the "accomplishments" of the Republicans running the House, Senate, and White House since last November.

For this we are paying the Congressmen and Senators $158,000 per year, all the money their families can collect in jobs they obtained through patronage, and all the graft they can otherwise collect. And we are still losing American lives in Iraq with no real likelihood of success there at any time in the foreseeable future.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Perspective on the filibuster deal

Joe Conason provides a bit of perspective on the deal brokered by the 14 moderate Sentors.

I find this particularly interesting: "Behind the blustering confidence, however, George W. Bush and his advisors must know they’ve suffered a sharp setback that may become the turning point in his second term."


"From today forward, as Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, pointed out, the White House will be obliged to "consult" with members of both parties before they send up judicial nominees, including anyone nominated to the Supreme Court if and when any of the current justices steps down. Having assumed that the Senate existed to do its will, the Bush administration has been notified instead that it will now operate under constraints imposed by the Democratic minority and the Republican moderates.

"The "nuclear option" represented an assault on the structures that make self-government possible in a large, diverse and sharply divided nation. This was an ideological minority’s attempt to exploit the Senate—where small rural states enjoy disproportional weight—and seize absolute power. In the name of the Constitution, they tried to rip down the barriers to factional domination that were erected by the nation’s founders.

"Their defeat is democracy’s victory."

I hope Conason is correct about this being a turning point in Bush's second term. I'll be looking for events that support that view.

Even if it is, however, consider an analogy to WW II. The German defeat at Stalingrad and the Japanese defeat at Midway were the two clear turning ponts of WW II. There still remained three hard years of nasty, hard slogging fighting after those two battles before the War was ended.

Friday, May 27, 2005

More on Tom DeLay and TRMPAC

What do reasonable people say about someone who

1. created a fundraising organization to provide funding to Republican candidates to take over the state legislature,
2. actively worked to raise funds for the organization,
3. let his name be used by the organization to raise funds
4. personally told people that the funds were to be used specifically to defeat Democrats.
5. was listed as an advisor to the organization.

Was That person involved in the organization?

Not according to Tom DeLay, whose actions I just described.

As the District Attorney, Ronnie Earle, criminally indicts DeLay's close associates for using TRMPAC to criminally apply corporate funds to influence Texas elections, and those close associates lose a civil suit heard by a super conservative Texas Judge under the same law, here is what Tom DeLay says: DeLay, asked by a reporter for CNN if the ruling had implications for him, responded: "Not for me. I'm not part of it."

Sounds a lot to me like a career criminal standing in court charged with a crime and telling the Judge "Not Guilty, Your Honor. I'm being framed."

I thought the Republicans were big on taking personal responsibility. Oh, sorry. I forgot. That only applies to a working class parent who can't afford medical care for his children, not to The Great Tom DeLay. My prediction is that he'll continue to bluster and blame "Liberals and Democrats who are out to get him." to the very end.

Go see Kos at Daily Kos for more on this. Also, go back to my recent blog on this.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

DA getting closer to Tom DeLay

Ronnie Earle, Travis County District Attorney, is one large step closer to indicting Tom DeLay for violating Texas campaign finance laws to buy a Republican Texas House of Representatives in 2002. Raw Story has the story.

The Treasurer of TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee) was sued by several Texas Democrats who lost elections in 2002 to Republicans who received the illegal contributions. This was a civil trail without a jury. The Judge heard all evidence and made the decision.

The judge ruled that the treasurer of TRMPAC must return $200,000 in corporate campaign contributions because they were illegal. This sets Ronnie Earle up to take several of Tom DeLay's closest aides to criminal trial with a strong likelihood of conviction. The potential prison sentences are not short ones.

This also gives DA Earle the opportunity to deal with those already indicted DeLay aides to testify if Tom DeLay is indicted.

The Austin American Statesman has more of the story. The Associated Press has even more yet.

It's been a long time, but the real fun is just starting.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

War game to test computer terrorism

Associated Press May 25, 2005.

The CIA is testing reactions to an extended simulated cyber-attack on the US by terrorists.

"The three-day exercise, known as "Silent Horizon," is meant to test the ability of government and industry to respond to escalating Internet disruptions over many months"

"The simulated attacks were carried out five years in the future by a fictional new alliance of anti-American organizations that included anti-globalization hackers. The most serious damage was expected to be inflicted in the closing hours of the war game Thursday.

"The national security simulation was significant because its premise - a devastating cyberattack that affects government and parts of the economy on the scale of the 2001 suicide hijackings - contradicts assurances by U.S. counterterrorism experts that such effects from a cyberattack are highly unlikely.

"The government's most recent intelligence assessment of future threats through the year 2020 said cyberattacks are expected but terrorists "will continue to primarily employ conventional weapons." Authorities have expressed concerns about terrorists combining physical attacks such as bombings with hacker attacks to disrupt rescue efforts, known as hybrid or "swarming" attacks."

The likelihood of this kind of terrorism is not what is being tested here. Cyber terrorism could be very likely and it could be extremly unlikely. This kind of wargame will not resolve that issue. What a war game of this type does is test what roles different organizations and different people perform, how those various roles and people work with each other, and what roles may be needed that have not yet been identified.

This is, interestingly, a CIA operation. Not Homeland Security, not the White House, Not the Pentagon, all of which are tightly under the control of Bush et. al. and not likely to show any imagination and forward planning. Fortunately there are a few elements of our government not yet taken over by faith instead of reason and rationality.

Steve Gilliard identifies the biggest danger to America

Al Qaida is not the biggest danger to America.
North Korea and Iran are not the biggest dangers to America.
The Republican Party, George W. Bush, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, and Dick Cheney are not the biggest threats to America (though they are close.)

James Dobson is the single most dangerous threat currently existing to America.

Here is what Steve Gilliard has to say about what threatens all of us:

"Ok folks, I know some of you are disappointed that the Dems made a deal, but you're missing the point.

"First, all the deal does is allow for a vote, not a guaranteed confirmation.

"Second, with 45 Senators, you can only do so much. Any deal is a good deal under those circumstances.

"But that's not why we won this.

"This stopped James Dobson.

"A lot of you are glossing over the point about how dangerous this man is to the Republic. He's a theocrat and a dominionist. He wants to deny basic religious rights to anyone who isn't a Christian,
[using his own sick view of who is a Christian] and the craven lust for power of Bill Frist has allowed this man unprecidented access to the levers of government.

"Anyone who has any question about what he has planned just need to google the words Air Force Academy and religion. There, a clique of fundamentalists insult Jews and openly tries to convert others. The AFA is spitting distance from Focus on the Family headquarters. And despite the evidence of this open religious bigotry, the fundies on the AFA staff fired the chaplain who complained, sending her off to Okinawa or some such place.

"Idiots like Janice Rogers Brown, if confirmed, will embarass themselves on the court with their insane rulings, kind of like the pathetic mess Clarence Thomas is.

"But if Jim Dobson can pick judges, the Handmaid's Tale comes a month closer. For those who don't remember, the Handmaid's Tail is a story about a future Christian America where women are severely repressed.
[See the book listed on the right side of my blog] When it was published and then the movie came out, it was seen as slightly ridiculous science fiction. It's not so silly now, because we have Senators who want an America just like that. [Look at the congressmen who tried to pass the law this week preventing women from serving in combat zones in the military. This isn't about protecting women. It is about not having to compete with the lesser beings they call women.]

"Dobson is the most dangerous man in America today. He has money, followers and access to the White House and Congress. And he is an absolute idiot.[Much like both Hitler and Mussolini were.] He understands nothing about America which is complex or subtle. 24 would confuse him, Desperate Housewives would be slander, Queer as Folk, gay propaganda. His vision of America would be foreign to most of us.

"So when I see that his handpuppet Frist is humiliated in public, forgive me if I don't care if the price is a couple of wingnut judges. Stopping Dobson is far more critical.

"Dobson and his allies spent millions to support Frist and his plan to end the filibuster. They had that near treasonous Just-Us Sunday, an event Frist should have kept clear of by miles and didn't. Even his own caucus was shocked that he participated in such an anti-democratic event.

"Forget the judges, even the SCOTUS, Dobson's plans go way beyond that. He doesn't want to just control judges. He wants to be the kingmaker of the GOP. He doesn't just want conservative judges and legislators, he wants dominionist judges and legislators. He wants to make his endorsement critical for election. It's that simple. He wants to be able to punish moderates and run slates of candidates loyal to him."

Right-Wing Republicans at it again!

Here is what Comedian Bill Maher said on his HBO TV show: "More people joined Michael Jackson's fan club" than the Army, which missed its recruiting goal by 42 percent in April. "We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies."

What do you think Alabama (Republican) Representative Spencer Bachus said about that comment? He said it was Treasonous and that it "undermine[s] the effort for national security."

Treason? Not that what Maher said is a lie (It's not) but that is somehow it is adhering to the enemies of the United States and provides aid and comfort to the al Qaida. See US Constitution, Article II Section 3 for the definition of treason.

Again, note what Bachus said about the Maher's statement: "To characterize the men and women currently serving and risking their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq as low lying fruit is reprehensible," but that is a total mischaracterization of what Maher said.

The military is desperate to get cannot fodder to fight Bush's poorly managed war. Look at the current recruiting situation: Atlanta Journal on reduction in recruiting numbers and CNN on Recruiting "holiday" because of unethical recruiting techniques.

Lynndie England is simply more proof of the desperation. She was a marginal recruit who would have been rejected as unqualified in previous years, but since the military is having difficulty getting troops, and the Reserves are especially hard up, Lynndie England slipped in. She was the "low-lying Fruit" to desperate recruiters.

Bachus is hiding from the failure of his Bush-inspired Republican-pushed failure of a war in Iraq. Instead of facing the real problems in Army and Army Reserve recruiting, he is attacking Bill Maher for pointing to the truth.

Bachus isn't talking to those of us who love America, our Constitution and the Army. He is talking to his army to thugs, Nazis, and Republicans who want to destroy everything that has made America great. He is a fool and gutter-slime, not qualified for a backroom job at McDonald's with no customer contact. He shames the state of Alabama and the US House of Representatives.

Source: The Huntsville Times. Wed May 25, 2005.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Make your own biodiesel fuel

This is interesting. Go to this site for instructions on how to make your own biodiesel fuel.

My problem is that my truck runs on gasoline, not diesel. Maybe next year.

Here is a company that sells kits that help you brew your own biodiesel.

I offer no warranty on either site. I just find it interesting.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I saw Revenge of the Sith (RotS) Today

If you like good acting, well-written dialog, decent plotting and an all 'round enjoyable story and movie experience - Sorry, this ain't it.

I loved the first movie of the series. Then I enjoyed the second two, and found the next two weak (although I hated and continue to hate Jar Jar Binks.) Still, for some strange reason I had real hopes for this last movie.

Hopes dashed.

Even the good parts of the battle scenes are brightly colorized versions of a Horatio Hornblower sailing ship battle badly transferred to space and backed up with strange loud noises. It is mostly a light-show without any real human interest. The Hornblower movies did it a lot better. Essentially Lucas substituted flashing colored lights on a massive screen with Dolby sound in place of any consideration of what a space battle would be like. And after five earlier movies built around light saber fencing matches, there really isn't much left to be excited about now.

In the first Star Wars movie I really liked the battered equipment used by the scavengers. It provided a setting that was both foreign and credible against which the story could play out. Then, the bar scene is unforgettable. So is the Wookie as a copilot. Since then, the use of digital imaging seems to have lost all the detail that made each scene unforgettable and replaces it with the flashing lights and loud noises that do nothing for the story but seem to fascinate the computer kids.

In RotS a decent actor playing Anakin SkyWalker could have saved the movie if he was provided with adequate dialog and a decent plot. It doesn't look like Lucas even tried. Apparently George Lucas doesn't know any adequate actors and doesn't know anyone who knows an adequate actor. Without an decent actor or writing to save this movie, RotS became the worst movie I have seen in the 21st Century.

I shouldn't have expected much. I already knew that Lucas doesn't know decent writing. No surprise there. I just got what I should have expected. For some strange reason (hope over experience?) I still wasn't expecting was a movie that was worse that "Dune" (starring "Sting" though I am sure he would like to forget it.) But Dune had an excuse. It was a failed effort of love to put an over-long and very detailed story from a greatly loved book into a mere three hour movie. RotS did not have the same excuse. The story could fit the time available. It's just that no craft was applied to acting, dialog or story.

I admit it. I am a science fiction connoisseur. I started reading Science fiction in the early 50's when I read "Cosmic Engineers" by Clifford D. Simak. I read the three great Asimov future-history books ("Foundation", "Foundation and Empire" and "Second Foundation")shortly after they came out. I still remember the movies "Forbidden Planet" and "Destination Moon" from when I was in High School. There were also some ZaZa Gabor science fiction movies of the same period that are better forgotten, but I use them as a standard for how bad a movie can get.

RotS was several orders of magnitude below ZaZa Gabors' movies. The Gabor movies at least had a humor or "camp" aspect. RotS was an attempt at serious movie making.

Coming out of the written science fiction camp, I have long been aware that what movie people call science fiction and what literary science fiction people call science fiction are two different genres. Written science fiction developed out of pulp fiction to tell good, well-crafted stories with decent characters based on plausible ideas.

Movie science fiction developed as a platform to display the latest special effects, and generally ignores anything else. Not surprising. Movies are massively expensive. The audience can see how much was spent on special effects, but can't tell how much the writers were paid. The result is that science fiction movies tend to emphasize special effects over good writing.

When good special effects combine with a good story in a science fiction movie, it is almost always because some science fiction writer wrote a good story that was later turned into a movie. This is what happened with Blade Runner and Johnny Mnemonic. Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter movies are good fantasy books similarly turned into good movies. Notice that the upfront investment in writing occurs BEFORE the movie is begun.

But a Science fiction movie that was initially written as a movie script rarely has developed a good story. The first Star Wars movie promised something different - a made-for-movies science fiction movie that had literary science fiction qualities. Sadly, Lucas has now failed to live up to his initial effort in five tries.

I should have known better about RotS - it was George Lucas after all - but I am really disappointed.

My kid tells me that RotS was really a good movie. Apparently because I don't have years of study in literature and symbolism, I am just missing what made the movie good. I don't buy it.

If it takes years of reading classical literature and studying the pronouncements of Joseph Campbell to understand and "enjoy" the movie, then something is seriously wrong with the movie. Some generic political commentary, Yoda making fake zen-type statements in language that resembles a linguistic form of Reverse Polish Notation (Hewlett Packard calculator uses will know what I am talking about) and something that my kid claims is symbology, metaphor and allegory simply don't save a movie disaster.

Movies are the first real mass media. If a media requires years of study to understand and enjoy, it is not a mass media. And this movie sucks.

Today was not all bad for me, though. I did just see the final TV show of the "Andromeda" series today. It tied up all the story lines, and gave me a last chance to watch Lexa Doig acting. (Romie) I'm sorry to see it go, but it, also, had writing problems. The Roddenberry shop ran out of ideas over a year ago. You could always tell when the Roddenberry writers couldn't come up with a good script. It started with the second of the series. They would bring in the the omnipotent and irrational "Q" to build a story around or some other such idiocy.

In this final Star Trek - enterprise they used time travel the same way the earlier writers used "Q." The writers could write themselves into blind corners and then just go back in time to make it all go away. Good science fiction writers don't do that. Hack TV and movie writers do it all the time.

The Andromeda crew has just spent the last season trapped in some strange man(?)-made star system, wondering around metal tunnels and being surprised by one hidden secret after another. Nothing connected the various story lines all year. It was just one surprise after another with no rhyme or reason.

This final show did tie it all up. It turns out that the avatar of the great antagonist, the Abyss, had created the Vedran Star System just to manipulate Captain Dylan Hunt who had for no previously apparent reason been revealed to be "The Paradigm" at the beginning of this final season. The writing disaster in the show has been clear for a year now.

No surprise that Andromeda and the final Starship Enterprise series have both ended with this season. The Rodenberry legacy is finished.

Rodenberry himself was a science fiction writer first. He knew how to write science fiction and he knew how to judge the writing other writers offered him. The result was good stories. Remember that was what created the first three years of Star Trek. It sure wasn't the production qualities or the acting abilities of William Shattner. Rodenberry frequently hired published science fiction writers to write his shows. The quality stories he built the shows around was what created the Star Trek dynasty.

Since Rodenberry's death the shows slowly have trailed off. The key is the inability of TV and movie writers to write decent science fiction stories.

George Lucas' problem is that he wasn't trained as a writer. His training was in film-making. He originally pushed the envelope of special effects, but when that ran out, he had nothing left to offer except his excessive reputation with people who might know movies, but don't know story-telling and REALLY don't know good non-movie science fiction.

So. I was really disappointed in Revenge of the Sith. I should not have been surprised though.

Don't waste your money seeing the move.

George Galloway tells Norm Coleman off - with vigour

Read Galloway's speech to the Senate Investigating committee and Norm Coleman.

He flays the hide off Coleman verbally, and rightfully so. And while he is doing it, he indicts the American Government under Bush as being fools and criminals. That is, no doubt, exactly why right-wingers have been forging documents that they tried to use to discredit him.

Galloway seems to be a rather hard man to discredit. He tells the truth, and he fights back when he is attacked.

I wonder if he would give lessons to Democratic politicians? Perhaps get him and Howard Dean to put together a tiger-team to train them?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Why is Fitzgerald after reporters Miller and Cooper?

Has the Fitzgerald investigation of the Plame leak shifted to investigation of likely perjury/obstruction of justice charges? If so, and if Miller and Cooper are protecting a source who lied to obstruct justice, Miller and Cooper are themselves very possibly open to such charges.

John Dean discusses this possibility.

”Hoyle [a writer hired by Ambassador Joe Wilson’s publisher to add to the forthcoming new paperback edition of Wilson’s book] writes that Washington Post reporter Walter "Pincus, for example, reportedly confirmed the time, date, and length of his conversation with a source…, but Pincus would not reveal his or her identity."

“Hoyle continues, "That lent credence to reports that Fitzgerald had subpoenaed records of every contact that White House personnel had had with reporters during the period in question and was engaged in a meticulous search to match such times and dates with records of meetings and telephone calls between reporters and Bush officials gleaned from calendars and telephone logs."

“So let's suppose this kind of matching is indeed going on. Plainly, Special Counsel Fitzgerald must have matched Cooper and Miller's numbers to calls to or from the phone lines of White House personnel - just as he did with Pincus. But just as plainly, Fitzgerald cares very much about the content of the conversations with Cooper and Miller - which may or may not have been the case with Pincus. He may also care about the identity of the source to whom they spoke - which was not the case with Pincus.

“More evidence for this theory comes from the fact that Cooper reportedly provided Pincus-style cooperation (times, dates, but no names) - yet Fitzgerald is still going after Cooper, to force him to testify.”

John Dean reports the generally held belief that the focus of the Fitzgerald investigation has shifted from finding who leaked Valerie Plame's name and CIA connection to Robert Novak to investigating a possible charge of perjury and/or obstruction of justice against some big fish in the White House. If so, then the content of telephone conversations with Miller and Cooper might be the essence of the case because the person or persons Fitzgerald is looking at spoke by phone to the two reporters during the time window such criminal action took place.

This would explain why Miller and Cooper are under Fitzgerald's guns and Robert Novak is not. Miller and Cooper's source(s) are suspected of committing perjury and/or obstruction of justice, while Novak's contact is not.

A reporter who protects the identity of someone who told him something he subsequently lied to an investigator about is also committing obstruction of justice. This is quit outside any privilege to protect his sources a reporter might expect to legally have. This becomes a reasonable speculation since both the Federal District Court and the Appeals Court has let Fitzgerald continue pressuring Miller and Cooper.

Dean also suggests the possibility that the conservative block on the Supreme Count might place the case “on the docket” in order to freeze action until after the midterm elections. This requires only four Supreme Court Justices, and these are the same Justices who installed Bush in 2000 with no law on which to base their decision.

The Plame investigation is important, and MUST be completed and reported SOON!

On Death

From Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan's Teachings

"Death is always behind our left shoulder, but death is an ally because death reminds us to make our moments on this earth count. If we remember, our mortality can be a gift. If we realize that our days, our time, our moments on this plane are numbered, then we will lead more powerful and meaningful lives than we would otherwise. We won't waste our opportunities. We will spend our time and resources in ways that matter to us, that matter to the ones we love, that matter to the world and to the generations that come."

When I first read Carlos Castenada about 30 years ago, this one statement made more sense to me than anything else I had seen on the subject. I still haven't seen it said better. Anywhere.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Newsweek Reports Story - Gvt Intimidates them to retract.

What is the "Koran in the toilet" story Newsweek reported then (sort of) retracted all about? Anne Applebaum (WaPo) has an excellent analysis. Here is an excerpt:

"But surely the larger point is not the story itself but that it was so eminently plausible, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and everywhere else. And it was plausible precisely because interrogation techniques designed to be offensive to Muslims were used in Iraq and Guantanamo, as administration and military officials have also confirmed. For example:

· Dogs. [...]
· Nudity. [...]
· Sexual harassment. [...]
· Fake menstrual blood. [...]

There is no question that these were tactics designed to offend, no question that they were put in place after 2001 and no question that many considered them justified."

This Republican administration is led by people who will do anything and say anything, then lie about it repeatedly, all in their pursuit of power over America and the World.

America is in real danger, and it's not bearded men with turbans flying hijacked aircraft who are the real threat. It is the misnamed 'conservative' Radical Republicans who are conducting a coup d'etat

The most obvious today are Bush, Cheney, Frist, and the crook Tom DeLay. Who but a lying, scheming, power-mad crook would push forward with a nomination of such a clearly unsuited person as John Bolton for US Ambassador to the UN? Cheney, Frist and Bush are doing so in spite of his clear unsuitability to do the job or even coexist with normal, sane human beings.

The 'conservative' Radical Republicans cannot be trusted or respected. They need to be stopped.

Republican Senators lying to gain power

So far, this from Josh Marshal (Talking Points Memo) is the clearest statement about what the Republicans are doing that I have seen.

"You can think the filibuster is a terrible idea. And you may think that it should be abolished, as indeed it can be through the rules of the senate. And there are decent arguments to made on that count. But to assert that it is unconstitutional because each judge does not get an up or down vote by the entire senate you have to hold that the United States senate has been in more or less constant violation of the constitution for more than two centuries.

"For all the chaos and storm caused by this debate, and all that is likely to follow it, don't forget that the all of this will be done by fifty Republican senators quite knowingly invoking a demonstrably false claim of constitutionality to achieve something they couldn't manage by following the rules.

"This is about power; and, to them, the rules quite simply mean nothing."

[Emphasis added - RB]

The Republicans have gone power-mad, and are damaging America because of it.

Year 2000 - Frist voted to filibuster Judge Paez

"Sen. Chuck Schumer asked Majority Leader Bill Frist a simple question:

SEN. SCHUMER: Isn’t it correct that on March 8, 2000, my colleague [Sen. Frist] voted to uphold the filibuster of Judge Richard Paez?"

Think Progress has a transcript of Frist's meltdown on the Senate floor.

Why is Frist - at the behest of the White House - doing these things?

The Frist-driven effort to have the filibuster of judges declared unconstitutional depends on its having never been used in the Senate before. Earlier there was the Republican filibuster of Abe Fortas in 1968. Now we see that Frist himself voted to filibuster a judicial nominee.

The Republican whining and moaning is pure hypocrisy directed at a general voting public which does not read history. This is an unconstitutional power-grab by the White House.

Karl Rove wants to pack the Supreme Court with ultra-conservatives who are given life-time appointments. This is a major element in his effort to create a two-generation or more conservative majority. In order to do this, Frist has to eliminate the power of the Senate to provide its constitutional duty of "Advice and Consent" on Presidential nominees for Judge and Ambassador. [See my earlier blog which explains what Alexander Hamilton thought was the constitutional relationship of the President and the Senate in the Presidential nominee - Senatorial Advice and Consent process.

The White House is conducting a power-grab, attempting to unconstitutionally centralize all government power in the White House. This is accompanied by their total secrecy so that the voters know nothing about how the decisions are made in government. These are things an American politician could only do during wartime, so that is why they initiated the unnecessary and unwinnable Iraq War, and why they will probably attack Iran next Summer.

Bush, Cheney, Rove, and Frist are committing treason, attacking the very constitution they swore to uphold. DeLay is also a traitor, and a crook besides. They are on a joint course to destroy America. If they lose, then membership in the Republican Party will be declared membership in a criminal organization, exactly as America declared membership in the Nazi SS after WW II.

We are watching the Republican commit treason.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The essential truth of right wingers.

James E. Powell provided the following comment on Kevin Drums' Washington Monthly.

[About rightwingers] They are not thin-skinned, Kevin. It's just that inflamed outrage is the normal way for them to talk about any subject.

This is one reason why they can be, and at times must be, so divorced from the facts. This puzzles and frustrates the left bloggers who respond to the right wing with facts and explanations. This has no effect because what the right-wing bloggers are selling is a feeling or a set of feelings, not a story, not facts.

The Iraq War is a good example of this. The left bloggers have been pouring the facts into the blogosphere since before the invasion with the apparent belief that these facts should matter to everyone. But to the right wingers, the facts are secondary, maybe even superfluous, to the way having the American military invade another country, blow stuff up and kill bad guys makes them feel about themselves. Throwing contradictory facts in their face is like saying, but honey, that dress makes you look fat.

Posted by: James E. Powell on May 16, 2005 at 2:53 PM


This is really the key to the difference between right-wingers and left-wing bloggers. Right-wingers come from feelings and left-wingers come from facts.

The political key is the nature of the audiences.

Don't Call it the "Nuclear Option!"

Such fun!

Josh Marshal provides us with the Republican Talking Points on the nuclear option - that is, the elimination of the filibuster.

The term must be giving them fits.

I love it.

Liberal? Conservative? According to PEW, who are you politically?

Go take this test. Beyond Red & White - Pew Research Center.

It interesting, but not too very useful.

This is why. This is a forced-choice value survey with an extremely limited set of values questioned. I notice that there is not a set of questions that go to the values of labor or union support. I would find it a lot more useful if it did. It is all morals/economic/military force vs. Diplomacy.

I also notice that it does not ask about prior military service. Those of us who are vets might surprise a lot of people.

Essentially this is a way to get people to offer their opinions on values using forced choices, then labeling themselves as Liberal - conservative, Democrat - Republican. Pew will take these results and establish profiles based on this particular limited set of values.

Then they give you back a preliminary set of profiles and tell you where you fit into it. But you will notice that they give you back your responses on each question, but they do NOT give you the anticipated reaction as a comparison on each question by the members of that profile.

Still, it is rather fun.

And we call filibuster elimination what today??

The carpetbagger Report offers an interesting list of the various things the Republicans have called eliminating the filibuster as they rifle through the deepest, darkest and most distant detritus of focus groups for a term that makes their crap smell sweet - conceals their nefarious motives - offers a publicly acceptable title for what they are doing. This is the set of terms they have tried so far:The Carpetbagger report explains where each name came from.

This is a power grab by the Republicans as they continue centralizing power in the US government in the White House. It means that the Senate is ceasing to be an independent body in appointments as the Constitution intends.

The Republican Senators are handing off the Senate's Advice and Consent power to the President so that his nominations become unreviewed appointments. Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist No 76 explains why this is NOT what the writer's of the Constitution intended.

(My previous blog "Let's Eliminate the Filibuster along with Advice and Consent" explains how this fits the current situation.)

All of this is leading us into the Supreme Court appointment that is expected this Summer.

Thanks to Josh Marshall for directing me to The Carpetbagger Report.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Let's Eliminate the Filibuster along with Advice and Consent

The Republican Party, safely in control of both the White House and the Senate, find the Constitutional requirement for Senatorial Advice and Consent by the Senate on Presidential appointments is a dispensable luxury. Why should they put up with the irritating messiness and limitation on their power that the filibuster gives to the minority despised Democrats? When the Republican President nominates a person for high government office, why should the Republican Senate do more than merely rubber-stamp his appointment?

The President has the Right to get the appointees he wants, and every appointee has the Right to get an up-or-down vote by the full Senate. This is what the Constitution says. Right?

No. It says exactly the opposite. The Constitution gives the President only the power to nominate, not appoint, officers requiring the Advice and Consent of the Senate. The Senate, acting as a separate body of government, has the responsibility under the Constitution to deliberate on those the President appoints and either approve or reject them.

Also, the Constitution does not require an up-or-down vote on Presidential nominees. This is pure fiction. What does the Constitution expect of the Senate with regard to the filibuster and to the approval or rejection of Presidential nominees? First, we should consider the filibuster.

What the Constitution Says

The Constitution gives the Senate the power to determine its own rules for deliberation, and it also requires that while the President can nominate individuals to office, the Senate must approve or reject his nominations. The President and the Senate must each act, independently, before an appointment to office occurs. Let’s look at each of those provisions.

Section 5 of Article I of the Constitution states: Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member. “ Based on this, the filibuster is completely Constitutional as long as the Senate has established it as a rule of the Senate. The argument that the use of the filibuster to prevent the appointment of an individual nominated by the President is unconstitutional is ludicrous.

Since by the Constitution the Senate sets its’ own rules of proceedings, then it is perfectly reasonable to ask what such rules should be expected to do. For this we need to look at what the respective roles the founding fathers intended for the President and the Senate in the appointment of federal officers. First we should look at the power of appointment the Constitution give the President, then look at Alexander Hamilton’s explanation of that provision as stated in “The Federalist No 76.”

Section 2 of Article II of the Constitution states of the President […]he shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The key statement is that the President nominates those officers subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The President does not unilaterally appoint officers unless Congress has specifically given him that power for inferior officers. . Hamilton laid out the reasoning of the writers of the Constitution in the Federalist No 76. Let me summarize:

The Federalist No 76 – The President and the Appointing Power

Since it was recognized that it is impractical to have the people at large appoint officers, the Power of appointment could be vested in one of three ways. Those ways are:
1. in a single man, or
2. in a SELECT assembly of a moderate number; or
3. in a single man, with the concurrence of such an assembly.

Option 1.

Hamilton assumed that most people accept that for the President to appoint the men to fill office will lead to a great probability that the person appointed to fill an office will be a man with at least respectable abilities. Based on this assumption, Hamilton proceeded to ”lay it down as a rule, that one man of discernment is better fitted to analyze and estimate the peculiar qualities adapted to particular offices, than a body of men of equal or perhaps even of superior discernment.”

Giving this power of appointment to a single man makes that man clearly responsible for his resulting appointment, so the single man can be expected to prefer well-qualified a well-qualified person, and to investigate more thoroughly to ensure that his appointees will have those qualifications. He will also be more focused on those qualifications, and less likely to be misled by “…sentiments of friendship and affection.”

Option 2.

Hamilton was more negative when assessing the process of appointing individuals by an assembly of men. He didn’t think it as likely that such a process would result in the choice of well-qualified men. Rather than choosing an individual for his qualifications and merit, the interplay of personalities, like, dislikes and those attachments and animosities found in assemblies would lead to the the result either of a victory gained by one party over the other, or of a compromise between the parties. The first result would cause the needs of the factions in the assembly to be more important than the qualifications of the individual appointed. The second option would result because the winning coalition would ”… turn upon some interested equivalent: "Give us the man we wish for this office, and you shall have the one you wish for that." Neither result is likely to provide the best man for the office.

Option 3.

Given options 1. and 2. above, it is clear that the more likely to result in the appointment of qualified men to office is option 1. Hamilton stated that between those two procedures ”…the President ought solely to have been authorized to make the appointments under the federal government.”

He then goes on the point to option 3. above as preferable to either option 1. or option 2. ” But it is easy to show, that every advantage to be expected from such an arrangement would, in substance, be derived from the power of NOMINATION, which is proposed to be conferred upon him; while several disadvantages which might attend the absolute power of appointment in the hands of that officer would be avoided. This is one of those built-in checks and balances for which the US Constitution is justly lauded.

Hamilton says that when the President nominates an individual to fill an office, he is solely responsible for his judgment, just as if he appointed that person directly. He will undertake all the efforts in nominating an individual just as he would have if he directly appointed him. This avoids the problems of appointment by an assembly which result from either a victory of one side over the toner or of a compromise between the parties. So nomination by the President gives the focus on the qualities of the individual which is lost in an appointment by an assembly.

Of course, the assembly might overrule the Presidents’ nomination. Without that option, the Senate has no Advice and Consent role in the appointment of officers. The idea that the President has the right expect the Senate to approve every nomination makes a mockery of the Constitutional provision of Senatorial Advice and Consent.

If the assembly overrules the Presidents’ nomination, it cannot be as part of a tradeoff between factions in the assembly since the assembly cannot choose who it appoints. Such a trade-off in the Senate is impossible if the Senators cannot themselves nominate the next individuals to be appointed to office. At the same time, the requirement that the Senate approve or reject the appointment of an individual for office should act to keep the President from appointing unfit characters for whatever personal reasons he might have.

Hamilton also considered the possibility that the President might use his power to nominate individuals for office to influence the Senate to give him what he wanted. He then discussed ways an independent Senate is established within the Constitution and how the independent action of the Senate will improve the nomination and appointment process.

The fact that the Senate would hold hearings on such nominations allows the more virtuous and less venal of the politicians an opportunity to pressure politicians to act for the nation rather than for personal gain. Hamilton felt that while the President could influence [buy off] some individuals in the Senate he would not likely be able to ”purchase the integrity of the whole body” Hamilton also believed that since the Constitution prohibits the President from creating an office to which a Senator could be appointed or increase the payments to a legislator while he is a Senator, then the President had few ways to influence the members of the Senate in their deliberations. So, within the limitations of 18th century government, Hamilton believed that the Constitution protected an independent Senate from control by the President.

Since the Constitution did not consider the possibility of political parties, Senators were appointed by the legislatures of the respective states rather than by the mobs, and various methods a President might have used to buy off a significant block of Senators, Hamilton assumed that the Senate would be free from domination by the President. It should be quite clear that Hamilton did not for a moment entertain the idea that a President deserved to have his appointees approved. Such a practice makes a mockery of the Constitutional provision that the President merely nominates people for office, to be accepted or rejected by an independent Senate acting in its Constitutional role of providing advice and consent.


The idea that because the filibuster is not mentioned in the Constitution makes it unconstitutional is ludicrous. The Senate has the Constitutional power to set its own rules of deliberation and the filibuster has been one of those rules since the beginning. Nothing in the history of the filibuster has ever even hinted that it was not appropriate for use in the Constitutional Advice and Consent role of the Senate. The filibuster has been a part of the Senate rules since the beginning of the Senate as a way for a significant minority to force the body to give it a realistic hearing.

It is clear that Hamilton felt the process of nominating a candidate and then having the Senate approve or reject such candidates was the best method of getting qualified candidates appointed to offices. It is also clear that Hamilton saw the Senate as acting as a separate and independent deliberative body in its Constitutionally established power of advice and consent on individuals nominated for office by the President.

It is abundantly clear from Federalist No 76 that he rejected the idea that the President had the right to appoint high-ranking individuals to office. Instead the President was given only the power to nominate candidates for office, and the Senate was expected to act on those nominations as an independent body. For the Senate to give the President any nominee he asks for as an appointee guts the Advice and Consent provision of the Constitution. The Senate is fulfilling its constitutional role only if it retains its independence from control by the President.

It is this Senatorial independence that the Republican are working to end. Hamilton mentioned the prohibitions in the Constitution that were intended to keep the Senate from being influenced by the President in its deliberations. But the Founding Fathers made no provision for political parties in the Constitution, and they could not have imagined the many ways a 21st century President could use his office to influence individual Senators.

It is in fact the Republicans who are attempting to apply unconstitutional procedures when they allow the President to directly appoint government officers with nothing more than a Senatorial rubber stamp. This is not what the founding fathers intended.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Dean charting new trail for Democrats

Governor Dean has begun to present a new image to match new actions at the Democratic National Committee. Cox News Service May 06.

"They're saying this is the first time someone in his position seems more interested in really winning elections, instead of courting rich donors and protecting the party's Washington players," said Craig Crawford, a political analyst for MSNBC and CBS and a columnist for Congressional Quarterly magazine.

"Dean may be the first grassroots Democratic leader since Andrew Jackson let the mob trash the White House for his Inaugural," added Crawford."

This would seem to match the real strengths the Democratic Party showed in grassroot organizing and organizing over the internet last November.

Government Bonds vs. "Ownership" Society

The Social Security trust fund is invested in a bunch of government bonds, which are nothing more than government promises to pay. These are worthless according to Bush. So we should all switch our retirement from a government-guaranteed promise to pay to private accounts invested in stocks and bonds that we "own."

Which is safer? A government promise to pay its' bonds, or a private corporation's stocks and bonds?

United Airlines just got a bankruptcy judge to let it walk away from its promise to pay pensions to its' employees. The US government has not defaulted on its bonds in over 200 years. UA has a stock that is worthless, and it's bonds are worth - what?

A bond is a promise that if you will loan someone money, they will give you a bond that says they will pay your back with interest. The issue is how credit-worthy is the person or organization you loan your money to.

So if you have private accounts filled with stocks and bonds, what do you own? You own whatever the issuers of those stocks and bonds say you own. Nothing more than a promise. Like a pension from United Airlines.

Here is a further discussion from Talking Points Memo.

As you read it, ask yourself - when Bush takes away your guaranteed government Social Security and 'allows' you to have an account filled with promises to pay such as bonds and stocks, what have you gained?

Remember, you are giving up a guaranteed government retirement benefit in exchange. And you won't get rich with private accounts because they won't let you spend the money on lottery tickets.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

John Bolton's Swinger past

John Bolton's nomination as UN Ambassador seems to have hit another snag. Larry Flynt has obtained allegations from the divorce papers on his first wife that he frequented swinger clubs and forced his first wife into group sex.

"Corroborated allegations that Mr. Bolton's first wife, Christina Bolton, was forced to engage in group sex have not been refuted by the State Department despite inquires posed by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt concerning the allegations. Mr. Flynt has obtained information from numerous sources that Mr. Bolton participated in paid visits to Plato's Retreat, the popular swingers club that operated in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s."

Steve Clemons doesn't want to see him defeated for the Ambassadorship on such tawdry grounds. He wants him defeated because he is incompetent for the job. I agree that Bolton is incompetent for the proposed job, but I think the Republican Senators will in the end give it to him anyway. This is part of the Dick Cheney "Win at any cost. Never back down." set of power plays.

So if Bolton is going to the UN anyway, it will be nice to have a lot of really salacious articles out there treating him like he was a Democrat and exposing every discredible thing he has ever done, including sexual. Then when the Democrats don't like another Bush nomination, all they have to do is say "This person is really bad, and the Bolton nomination shows that Bush has very poor judgment."

Besides, I don't like Bolton's reputation, his job as right-wing enforcer for Cheney and company, and I really don't like his mustache. He's due for some real payback.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Balance in the Media.

The referenced Daily Kos diary demonstrates a part of what is wrong with the mainstream media today. Balance the misdeeds of one side with lies about the other.

Even if there is no balance between two sides of an issue, the reporter feels he has to go out and create two equivalent sides. As a result, the readers end up thinking "They all do it" so voters wind up going with the likely winners because they have the power. Or they just don't vote because it doesn't matter.

This is the kind of journalism David Blair was fired for. He went out and created stories. This is more subtle. Journalists, afraid of choosing a side, beginning to sound strident and so no longer considered "even handed", will create a totally false picture of two sides both doing the same thing. In this case, while the Bush administration was paying off so-called journalists like Armstrong Williams to propagandized for them, there must be some kind of Democratic equivalent so the journalist creates a fiction that bloggers were paid to propagandize for Dean in 2004. Only it never happened.

But! The journalist reported a balanced story! That's what counts, right??

Global Warming Must Exist! Otherwise. The truth deniers are getting desperate.

MoJo Blog reports on the background of the latest anti-global warming screed. The original article by George Monbiot appeared in the Guardian May 10. Here is the conclusion:

"So there you have it –
1) a 16 year old article that was never written,
2) fraudulently cited by a climate skeptic,
3) re-printed in a publication owned by Lyndon Larouche which was
4) cited by a former architect, and
5) finally misrepresented by a credible scientist.
One can only wonder what Bellamy was thinking."

[Item numbers, formatting and underlining is mine for emphasis. - RB]

Frankly, this proves there is no real argument against global warming. If there were any argument against global warming, this piece of garbage would never be mentioned. As it is, it really should be discussed in the next professional review or salary review on David Bellamy (See item 5 above.) I'm sure he hopes it won't come up.

The anti-global warming crew belong to a long line if truth-deniers including Holocaust Deniers and the "anti-floride in the water supply" bunch that I remember from the 1950's. They also resemble the current Income Tax Deniers who claim that either the XVI Amendment was not ratified, or that an obscure section of the IRS tax regulations (Section 861) override the law and somehow makes income earned within the United States not eligible for the income tax. Several hundred tax deniers have taken the 861 argument to court and have lost every single time due to the fact (ask them) that they didn't apply the 861 argument properly, the tax courts are not legal courts, or that the judges and the IRS are conspiring to commit fraud on the American tax-paying public and have been successfully doing so since at least as far back and the 1950's.

This isn't science. This is politics, trying to overturn real science. It is also a sample of abnormal psychology at work.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

If homosexuality is just a "choice" then this study can't be true.

From the New York Times May 10th.

"Using a brain imaging technique, Swedish researchers have shown that homosexual and heterosexual men respond differently to two odors that may be involved in sexual arousal, and that the gay men respond in the same way as women."

"The new research may open the way to studying human pheromones, as well as the biological basis of sexual preference. Pheromones, chemicals emitted by one individual to evoke some behavior in another of the same species, are known to govern sexual activity in animals, but experts differ as to what role, if any, they play in making humans sexually attractive to one another.

"The two chemicals in the study were a testosterone derivative produced in men's sweat and an estrogen-like compound in women's urine, both of which have long been suspected of being pheromones.

"Most odors cause specific smell-related regions of the human brain to light up when visualized by a form of brain imaging that tracks blood flow in the brain and therefore, by inference, sites where neurons are active. Several years ago, Dr. Savic and colleagues showed that the two chemicals activated the brain in a quite different way from ordinary scents.

"The estrogen-like compound, though it activated the usual smell-related regions in women, lighted up the hypothalamus in men. This is a region in the central base of the brain that governs sexual behavior and, through its control of the pituitary gland lying just beneath it, the hormonal state of the body.

"The male sweat chemical, on the other hand, did just the opposite; it activated mostly the hypothalamus in women and the smell-related regions in men. The two chemicals seemed to be leading a double life, playing the role of odor with one sex and of pheromone with another.

"The Swedish researchers have now repeated the experiment but with the addition of gay men as a third group. The gay men responded to the two chemicals in the same way as did women, Dr. Savic reports, as if the hypothalamus's response is determined not by biological sex but by the owner's sexual orientation.

"Dr. Savic said that she had also studied gay women, but that the data were "somewhat complicated" and not yet ready for publication. "

The journal report is found at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online (Subscription required)

My opinion.

The rest of the article is also interesting. The existence of human pheromes has not previously been proven, and this seems to go a long way to proving them. This study does NOT prove that homosexuality is genetic, since there are alternative possible explanations that involve how the brain develops in the womb as a result of hormones it is bathed in. The alternative explanations have not been disproven yet. But everything the article discusses leans very strongly towards homosexuality as being established before birth.

Somehow, even if the Xtians are correct in their assertions that a fetus is a human being from the moment of conception, I still don't think they mean to argue that homosexuals are choosing their sexual identity as fetuses.

Though with Robertson, Falwell, Peterson and Dobson you never know. They hold and express ideas that are weirder than that.

Why does America do better under Democratic Presidents?

Kevin Drum puts what most of us know intuitively into words, numbers and an easy-to-understand graph.

"Conservatives drive up income inequality because they focus primarily on the well off, which benefits only the well off. Liberals keep income inequality in check because they focus (or should focus) primarily on the working and middle classes, which benefits everyone. And that's the underlying reason that Democratic presidents are better for the economy than Republican presidents. If you keep the unemployment level low and middle class incomes growing, the rest of the economy will pretty much take care of itself."

Go and read.

Monday, May 09, 2005

New study - Democrats better for economy

We all know that Democratic Presidents are invariably better for the economy than Republicans. Every time anyone pulls the statistics out and analyzes them, the story comes out the same. But Kevin Drum has gotten some new results in addition.

A second point is that Democratic Presidents do better for the economy every year except the year of the election. Republican Presidents have better economies in the year they are elected.

OK. New one to me. Still, I think that Republicans are intellectually tied into "trickle down economics", largely because they believe that hierarchies are the more efficient form of economic organization and that bigger business organizations are better. The two are connected to the idea that social success occurs because the elite makes it happen, and the elite makes it happen more if they are rewarded financially to a greater extent. Because of this Republicans work harder to understand and practice leadership than they do to understand what really makes each business successful. So they operate on the idea that it is more important to select and motivate leaders than it is to look out to the masses of people and find out who is doing the best job, then bring them into the business. [Yeah, yeah. Oversimplification here. I am actually presenting the two endpoints of a continuum.]

Democrats on the other hand are more interested in how the workers operate. They then select, train and reward the actual workers rather then leaders. Looking at Kevin Drums numbers, this would spread the rewards out to more than just the leaders, and would get a lot more input on how to do the job better from the people who are actually doing the job. The effect of this would be to increase economic productivity while spreading the rewards to most workers. Exactly the effects Kevin describes.

But why do Republican Presidents get better economic performance in election years? My best guess is that they pander to a much wider range of people during those years and do things to get elected that their conservative philosophies would not consider effective economically. That's the only idea I have, and I feel that it is weaker than the party characteristics I described above. I just don't have any better idea.

Anyone else have any ideas? Comments are working here. Try them out.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Do bloggers need agreed-upon Ethics Codes?

Adam Cohen at New York Times (May 8, 2005) thinks so since more and more they are writing journalism.

He makes some interesting points, but he doesn't identify what makes a blogger into a journalist. They are really all over the map, from what I am doing here at a free blogspot blog to what Markos and Josh Marshall do in their blogs.

Cohen mentions that some bloggers work for campaigns and no one knows about it. Markos carefully pointed out on his blog that he was working on network efforts in a campaign prior to the election, but not all bloggers do this. But Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo are very close to being actual journalistic efforts.

I am doing what I do for nothing. Free. Nada. I don't call people I write about to get their comments because I can't afford the phone calls. I am not a journalist, any more than David Brooks is. We both write opinion, trying to put things into perspective. Of course, David Brooks gets paid for his efforts, so he should be more careful than I need to be.

Don't like what I write? Leave a comment and I'll see it. Write David Brooks and it is unlikely he will see it. I'll respond to those who want me to and leave the necessary data. David Brooks won't. He doesn't have the time during the day.

So - what is a blogger journalist? How do we differentiate those who need to sign on to a code of ethics and those who don't?

Frankly, I couldn't afford to do real journalism. The phone bill alone would kill me. But if someone wants to subsidize my investigations, I'd be glad to sign on to a Code of Ethics. I have a few projects regarding the Texas Legislature that I'd like to work on and need to make some calls, particularly on the Texas Ethics Commission - Ronnie Earle issue.

So a lot of bloggers can't do formal ethics for reasons of cost or time. They aren't journalists. But what if I got my subsidy? Would I then become a journalist subject to a code of ethics? And suppose I was, then finished the project. Do I then drop out of the category of journalist-subject-to-code-of-ethics?

Do I put a flag on my blog? Items of journalism cause me to raise the flag (This is covered under Code of ethics) and items that I write that aren't under the code of ethics cause me to bring the flag down? Because this is a very fulid medium.

I don't know. But don't kick me off the blogosphere because I am not a journalist. I just play one on the internet.

Addendum May 11th

Well, I feel that my opinion above has been confirmed. The great blogger, DemFmCT posted a comment that confirms my idea that the problem is to determine who is a journalist, not to try to paint all bloggers with the tar of journalism and smear them with not meeting ethical standards of journalist reporters.

Not, mind you, that journalists today are bound by any perceptible code of ethics. See this.

Bush admin to cut Food Stamps for People on the new Medicare drug benefit

This is the Medicare drug benefit the Republicans passed because Medicare beneficiaries were having the choose between medications and food. Gee. Now they don't have to decide for themselves. The government will decide that they get medication and less food. No more being forced to make the hard decisions themselves.

New York Times Sunday, May 8, 2005.

"When Medicare begins covering drugs in January, older Americans will spend less of their own money on drugs and will therefore have more to spend on food, reducing their need for food stamps, officials said.

"The new reading of the Medicare law, set forth in a document sent to Congressional offices this week, comes just as federal officials begin a nationwide campaign to persuade low-income people to apply for the drug benefit.

"The document, addressed to elderly and disabled people who receive food stamps, says, "You may qualify for extra help paying for your Medicare prescription drug costs." But it adds, "If you qualify for extra help, your food stamp benefits may decline."

"Dr. Mark B. McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, defended the policy. "Medicare beneficiaries will get comprehensive help with their drug costs and will have significantly more resources for all their other basic necessities, including food," he said. The savings on prescription drugs will more than offset any loss of food stamps, so "low-income seniors will be better off," he said."

Look carefully. Low income people already had to get food stamps because their income was so low. So with one hand the administration gives a little help with medication, and with the other they cut the food stamps the people needed.

Well, I guess the poor elderly and disabled will be healthy on their medications as they eat their dog food.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Tom DeLay's district 22 a possible 2006 Democratic win

This is from The Emerging Democratic Majority (Ruy Teixeira) and based on the New Republic Online (subscription required.)

"[...]senior editor John Judis [New Republic] argues that changing demographics and a growing number of Republicans disenchanted with DeLay's ethics problems and his pandering to religious extremists give Democrats a solid shot at winning DeLay's house seat in '06. Judis, co-author with Ruy Teixeira of The Emerging Democratic Majority, describes the dynamics of DeLay's district:

"DeLay's 22nd district, which he designed in a 2003 redistricting effort that aimed to net seven more Republican seats in Texas, has also begun to change in ways that will not benefit an outspoken Christian conservative like himself. When DeLay first won office, the district was predominately white, with a few pockets of black voters. Because the area's population has ballooned 18 percent since the 2000 census, there are no dependable figures about the district's overall composition, but both Republican and Democratic leaders agree that, without losing its high levels of wealth and education, it is becoming a "majority-minority" district, in which whites are outnumbered by other ethnic groups. Latinos and blacks moved into the district in the late '80s. And, in the '90s, middle-class Indians, Pakistanis, Vietnamese, and Chinese immigrants began to pour in. Two Hindu temples now vie for attention with the Baptist megachurches. Extrapolating from the census would put the African American population at about 10 percent, Latinos at over 20 percent, and the Asian population at close to 15 percent. The results in Fort Bend County are even more dramatic. In 1980, the area's public schools, which attract all the area's children, were 64 percent white, 16 percent black, 17 percent Latino, and 3 percent Asian. Today, they are 29 percent white, 31 percent black, 21 percent Latino, and 19 percent Asian."

"Judis notes that DeLay received only 55 percent of the vote in his district in 2004 after outspending his relatively unknown Democratic opponent 5-1. The politics of demographic reallighnment in the 22nd offer hope that Delay's excesses will translate into a Democratic 22nd district:

As Judis points out:"Most of the black and Latino voters are Democrats...But the Asian vote is more complex. The Indians are the most Democratic. The Pakistanis used to be Republican, but, along with other American Muslims, turned to the Democrats in the face of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment after September 11. The Vietnamese and Chinese were also initially Republicans, but have become increasingly receptive to Democratic support for civil rights."

If you put the district's disillusioned white professionals together with a majority of the Asians and large majorities of blacks and Latinos, you get a coalition that could unseat DeLay and, over the long run, perhaps, lay the basis for a Democratic resurgence in the area."

I previously wrote about about Nick Lampson to run against Tom DeLay on the excellent blog about Texas Politics, Come and Take it.

Nick Lampson is a four term Democratic Congressman who was defeated for reelection because of the Congressional redistricting Tom DeLay instigated and paid for. While I really think Richard Morrison earned a rematch, his personal problems are such that he would be a weaker candidate than a previous four-term Congressman.

Either way, I think that Tom DeLay is in real trouble in 2006. A defeat of Tom DeLay wil be a major asset to both America and Texas. Putting him in prison would be better, but I'll have to trust Ronnie Earle to do that.

BYU explains Ann Coulter & Phyllis Schafly meanness

From the Austin-American Statesman May 7, 2005.

"Study: Meanness in Girls Can Start at 3

SALT LAKE CITY — Meanness in girls can start when they still are toddlers, a Brigham Young University study found. It found that girls as young as 3 or 4 will use manipulation and peer pressure to get what they want.

"It could range from leaving someone out to telling their friends not to play with someone to saying, 'I'm not going to invite you to my birthday party,'" said Craig Hart, study co-author and professor of marriage, family and human development at BYU. "Some kids are really adept at being mean and nasty."

They regularly exclude others and threaten to withdraw friendship when they don't get their way.

The "mean girls" are highly liked by some and strongly disliked by others. They are socially skilled and popular but can be manipulative and subversive if necessary. They are feared as well as respected."

See? We can't blame their parents. Coulter and Schafly were BORN mean!

More on Ronnie Earle investigation of DeLay and cronies.

Interesting tidbit. Ronnie Earle, the Travis County DA who is investigating the Republican misuse of corporate money to take over the Texas House of Representatives has subpoenaed material from the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC).

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram May 6, 2005.

"Three associates of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, have been indicted on felony campaign-finance-abuse charges. All have denied wrongdoing.

"Prosecutors are seeking the identity of a person who requested and then withdrew a request for an Ethics Commission opinion touching on how corporate money can be used in elections _ a question that's at the heart of the Earle investigation.

"The law allows corporate money to be spent only on administrative expenses, generally items such as rent, utilities and office supplies. Campaigns cannot use corporate money for direct political expenses. Officials say the Ethics Commission cited a confidentiality statute protecting the identity of those who request opinions and decided to fight the district attorney."

The TEC has balked and wants to go to court to quash the subpoena. No reasons have been given. [See Addendum - May 8]

Normally such legal work would be done by the Office of the Texas Attorney General, Gregg Abbot. Gregg Abbot, a Republican, disagreed with the TEC and has declined to fight the subpoena for them. This means that for the TEC to fight the subpoena they will have to hire outside legal talent to do the job out of their own budget.

I had not previously been aware of the TEC, so I got the following from their website. [Sorry for the wonkish level of detail, but If I didn't know much about them, I bet almost no one does.]

The Texas Ethics Commission is an Agency established by the Texas Constitution in 1991 and has the following duties:

Constitutional Duties

The Texas Constitution provides that the Texas Ethics Commission may recommend the salary of members of the Legislature, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, subject to approval by the voters at the subsequent general election for state and county officers. Also, the Commission must set the per diem of members of the Legislature and of the Lieutenant Governor. The Legislature is to determine the other powers and duties of the Commission.

Statutory Duties

Statutory duties of the Texas Ethics Commission are set out in Chapter 571 of the Government Code. The agency is responsible for administering and enforcing these laws: 1) Title 15, Election Code, concerning political contributions and expenditures, and political advertising; 2) Chapter 302, Government Code, concerning the election of the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives; 3) Chapter 303, Government Code, concerning the governor for a day and speaker's reunion day ceremonies; 4) Chapter 305, Government Code, concerning lobbyist registration, reports, and activities; 5) Chapter 572, Government Code, concerning personal financial disclosure of state officers and conduct of state officers and employees; 6) Chapter 2004 Government Code, concerning representation before state agencies; and 7) Chapter 159, Local Government Code, concerning judges of statutory county courts or statutory probate courts who elect to file a financial statement with the Commission.

[The items I underlined above are ones that the ones D.A. Ronnie Earle might look for.]

The TEC is run by an Executive Director, David A. Reisman who worked in the Governor's Office from 1998 to 2002, went to the Pentagon in 2002 and was appointed to the Executive Director position October 11, 2004 by the Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry.

There are eight Commissioners, four appointed by the Governor, two by the Lt. Governor, and two by the Speaker of the House. All of the appointing officers are Republicans with close ties to Tom DeLay.

[My comment]
At this point I find this to be a less than satisfying and incomplete story. The initial story was quite - may I say, "spare"? Really just enough to suggest that there is a further story there.

[Addendum - May 8]
Jay Root was kind enough to reply to my emailed question. The Texas Ethics Commission would not answer his questions at all, so what he reported was what he could get from other sources. There was good reason for his story to be "spare." Frankly, I am really glad he and the Star-Telegram published what they did.
The reluctance of the Texas Ethics Commission to explain their behavior leads me to want to speculate about what they are hiding.

However, the facts suggest that the Texas Ethics Commission is attempting to stonewall D.A. Ronnie Earle in his investigation. That is mostly just implied by their desire to quash the subpoena, then supported by Gregg Abbot's refusal to go to court for them. Without knowing exactly what is being subpoened and what the confidentiality law says, the interpretation can't be certain yet.

Unfortunately, no one seems to be talking further. So for the moment, this is it.

Conference towards creating a new Enlightenment

James Wolcott announced: ” Today I got a flyer from the Council on Secular Humanism announcing their world congress in October attempting to chart a course Toward a New Enlightenment” His link didn’t work. The correct one is here.

It is scheduled for October 27 - 30 at Amherst, N. Y.

This looks like fun. Here is what it is expected to be about:

CSH's 25th Anniversary

The Council for Secular Humanism celebrates 25 years with a world congress at the world headquarters of CSH.

The conference will include special sessions convening members of the International Academy of Humanism, the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, and the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Societies.

Congress Sessions
· Threat of Fundamentalism to Secular Democracy
· Moral Values based on Reason
· Education and Science in the Formulation of Public Policy
· Media Misinformation
· Can Islam enter the Elightenment?
· Strategies for Reviving Enlightenment Values

Thousands of years of human history and the ravages of world wars and religious resentments, has brought much of the world to the brink of peace and the eve of enlightenment. The last century in particular has seen the emergence of international treaties and institutions which have been steps forward in ensuring that a truly international civilization develops, casting off the mistakes and prejudices inherent in religious fundamentalist cultures. New methods of national and international governance have been devised, and international codes recognizing fundamental human rights acknowledged. The values of the European Enlightenment have been largely achieved via these new institutions and codes, even while setbacks occur in both the Middle East and the Western democracies.

Religious fundamentalism throughout the world threatens our progress as the Cold War never did. Two competing eschatological views now face each other down, where mutual victory is ensured in the end of the world, whereas to the competing economic systems of the Cold War, mutual defeat was the inevitable result of a failure of the peace. Fundamentalism also threatens scientific and cultural progress and individual liberties as misguided religious codes battle for ideological supremacy, without regard for the truths uncovered by science or the battles for individual liberties that were fought for and won over authoritarianism and fear. To date, The U.S. and Western Europe have been guiding lights in the march of progress and Enlightenment values, but the tide appears to be receding. While the forces of fundamentalism are girding their followers for battle against the values we have embraced, we must unite in a cause to defend those values more vehemently than ever before.

Immanuel Kant described the Enlightenment as follows:

“Enlightenment is man’s leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if its case is not lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one’s own intelligence without being guided by another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use one’s own intelligence!”

The values of the Enlightenment are being threatened worldwide. The fundamentalist agenda in both the east and the west rejects those values outright. We are facing a new dark ages. Can we learn from the lessons of the British and French Enlightenment and help to bring about a New Enlightenment? This has yet to be seen.

This is why the Council for Secular Humanism is ushering in its next 25 years with a conference which will explore the foundations of the Enlightenment that created western liberalism and look to a roadmap for a New Enlightenment. We hope you join us in this exciting project.

[I underlined the items above for emphasis. - RB]


Shulamit Aloni – Professor at Tel Aviv University. Served as Israel’s Minister of Communications and the Arts, Science, and Technology. Lawyer, human rights activist.

Ruben Ardila – Professor, Department of Psychology, National University of Columbia. Author.

Etienne Baulieu, M.D., Ph.d – Professor, Le College de France. Former President of the French Academy of Science. Research Director at the National Institute for Medical Research and Health in France. Creator of RU 486 and joint discoverer of DHEA.

Sir Hermann Bondi, Ph.d – Professor of theoretical astrophysics and cosmology at the University of Cambridge. He is best known as one of the originators of the steady-state theory of the universe.

Vern Bullough, Ph.d. – Professor emeritus, History Department, and founding director of The Center for Sex Research at California State University, Northridge. Currently a visiting professor at the University of Southern California.

Antony Flew, Ph.d – Professor emeritus, Philosophy Department, University of Reading, England, 1973–1982. Awarded the University Prize in Philosophy and the John Locke Scholarship in Mental Philosophy. Legendary British philosopher and author of many works.

Herbert Hauptman, Ph.d – Nobel Laureate. Co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Jerome Karle for direct methods of X-ray crystallography. Head of Hauptman - Woodard Institute.

R. Joseph Hoffmann – Campbell Professor of Religion and Human Values at Wells College, New York and chair of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion at the Center for Inquiry. Hoffman is the author of Jesus Outside the Gospels, co-editor of Biblical versus Secular Ethics, Jesus in Myth and History, Modern Spiritualities, The Origins of Christianity, The Secret Gospels, and What the Bible Really Says.

Tariq Ismail – Noted Islamic author and scholar. He taught for nearly ten years at the University of Toulouse in France and is now a researcher at the Center for Inquiry.

Lawrence M. Krauss, Ph.d. – Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics, Professor of Astronomy, and Chair of the Physics Department, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio. Author of the international bestseller, The Physics of Star Trek. Dr. Krauss is also an anti-creationist campaigner.

Sir H.W. Kroto Ph.d. - Nobel Laureate, Professor, School of Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Science, University of Sussex, United Kingdom. Knighted in 1996, received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Paul Kurtz , Ph.d. – Professor emeritus of philosopy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Chairman of the Center for Inquiry and President of the International Academy of Humanism.

Valerii Kuvakin, Ph.d. – Professor of Philosophy, Moscow State University, Russia. Member of the Committee against Anti-Science and Falsification of Scientific Data. Founder of the Russian Humanist Society and quarterly magazine, Zdravyj Smysl (Common Sense).

Professor Jean-Claude Pecker – Professor emeritus, Collège de France, 1964-1988. Director of Institute of Astrophysics, 1972–1979. Former General Secretary of International Astronomical Union.

Dennis V. Razis, M.D. – President of the Delphi Society in Athens, Greece. Author and medical oncologist.

Barbara Stanosz – Professor emeritus, philosophy department, Warsaw University, Poland. Leading Polish humanist.

Thomas Stephen Szasz, M.D. - Professor emeritus, School of Psychiatry, State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, New York, 1956–1990. Author of The Myth of Mental Illness (1961) and other works.

Lionel Tiger, Ph.d. – Charles Darwin professor of Anthropology, Rutgers University, New Jersey. Co-Research Director of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. Widely published author of many books and articles including the book, The Decline of Males.

George Klein, M.D., D.SC. or M.D. Ph.d. – Professor and Head of the Department of Tumor Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, 1957–1993; Research Group Leader, Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, since 1993.

Alberto Hidalgo Tuánón, – Professor of philosophy, Universidad de Oviedo, Spain.

Svetozar Stojanovic, Ph.d. – Founder and President of the Serbian-American Center, Belgrade. Professor and Director emeritus of the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade.

Nat Hentoff – Nat Hentoff is a prominent civil libertarian, columnist, and author of many books including Free Speech for Me But Not for Thee. In addition to his weekly Village Voice column, Hentoff writes on music for the Wall Street Journal.

Mourad Wahba, Ph.d. – Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Ain Shams in Cairo, Egypt, President of the Averroës and Enlightenment Association, and founder and honorary president of the Afro-Asian Philosophy Association, Cairo.

Mona Abousenna, Ph.d. – Professor of English and Head of the English Department Faculty of Education, and Director of the Center of Developing English Language Teaching, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt. Co-head of the Center for Inquiry–Cairo,with Mourad Uahba.

Ionna Kucuradi, Ph.d. – Professor of Philosophy at Hacettepe University, Turkey. Chair of the National Committee of Supreme Coordination Council of Human Rights in Turkey. Presented with the ‘’Freedom of Press Award’’ by the Turkish Journalists’ Society.

Gerald Larue, Ph.d. – Professor emeritus of Biblical History and Archaeology at the University of Southern California, Adjunct Professor of Gerontology at U.S.C., Chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, and faculty member of the Institute for Inquiry. His recent book, Freethought Across the Centuries, is creating a sensation. Larue is also the author of Sex and the Bible, Ancient Myth and Modern Life, The Way of Positive Humanism and The Way of Ethical Humanism.

Richard Dawkins, FRS, Ph.d. – An evolutionary biologist and the Charles Simonyi Professor For The Understanding Of Science at Oxford University; Fellow of New College. A British ethologist and popular science writer. He is best known for popularizing the Williams Revolution in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in May 2001.

Margaret Downey, – founded the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia (FSGP) and the Anti-Discrimination Support Network (ADSN) in 1993. In 1994 Margaret founded the Thomas Paine Memorial Committee. She is a current board member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, The Humanist Institute, the Thomas Paine National Historical Association, Advisory Board Member of the Robert Green Ingersoll Museum, and the Atheist Alliance.


By Phone: have credit card information on hand and phone toll-free 1-800-634-1610

By Fax: fax the form available online in PDF here with credit card information to 1-716-636-1733

By Postal Mail: mail the form available online in PDF here with check, money order, or credit card information to CSH, PO Box 664, Amherst, NY, 14226-0664