Saturday, July 30, 2005

Data Mining gives GOP an edge

The LA Times has an article on how the Republicans have collected life-style data on potential voters that allow them to identify likely Republican and Democratic voters and target appropriate messages to each so as to get out the vote for their candidates. (Ruy Teixeira directed me to this article.)

A deeper look at her lifestyle and politics reveals a voter who might be persuaded to switch sides. Among the clues: she [Felicia Hill - Ohio African American] is a church member uneasy about abortion; she lives in a growing suburb and she sent her children to a private school.

Hill and millions of other would-be Bush backers in closely contested states were identified by a GOP database that culled information ranging from the political basics, like party registration, to the personal, such as the cars they drive, the drinks they buy, even the features they order on their phone lines. The "micro-targeting" effort was so effective that the party credited it with helping to secure Bush's reelection.

In Ohio, which tipped the election to Bush, the Republican strategy helped boost African American support for the president by seven percentage points over his 2000 performance, securing the state for the president. It drew millions of Republican voters to the polls in every battleground state.

Nationally, Republicans said, the targeting produced a 10 percentage point increase for Bush among evangelicals, nine points among Latinos, four points in big cities, three points in labor-union households and five points among Catholics — all groups that were wooed by both parties.
I had heard about this technology a few years ago in a data processing course. The technology is there and the marketing is a set of clearly established procedures. The Democrats need to come up to speed in spite of the expense.

So what is data mining? Here is a decsription from Kurt Thearling.

Data Mining, if you haven't heard of it before, is the automated extraction of hidden predictive information from databases.

Data mining software allows users to analyze large databases to solve business decision problems. Data mining is, in some ways, an extension of statistics, with a few artificial intelligence and machine learning twists thrown in. Like statistics, data mining is not a business solution, it is just a technology. For example, consider a catalog retailer who needs to decide who should receive information about a new product. The information operated on by the data mining process is contained in a historical database of previous interactions with customers and the features associated with the customers, such as age, zip code, their responses. The data mining software would use this historical information to build a model of customer behavior that could be used to predict which customers would be likely to respond to the new product. By using this information a marketing manager can select only the customers who are most likely to respond. The operational business software can then feed the results of the decision to the appropriate touch point systems (call centers, direct mail, web servers, email systems, etc.) so that the right customers receive the right offers.
This was also the technology at the heart of Admiral Poindexter's program at the Pentagon known as Total Information Awareness for identifying and tracking potential terrorists.

See also
How will Dems win the Country back? for a discussion of other efforts needed by Democrats and links to prior related stories.

What's wrong with the economy today?

Economic statistics say that our economy is doing reasonably well, but a lot of people don't feel the statistics reflect the true situation. What is going on?

Bonddad offers a diary at My Left Wing that explains the apparent contradiction. There are two elements in his explanation.

First, unemployment is low at 5%, but the labor force participation rate (how many of the total work force are actually working) suggests that the low unemployment rate means that a lot of people have simply given up looking for work rather than having in economy that provides jobs to those who want them. The fact that real wages (nominal wages with the effects of inflation removed) have actually declined in four of the five years between 2000 and 2004 means that the problem is better measured by the labor force participation rate than by the unemployment rate.

Second, there is the problem that the U.S. economy has lost between three and four million high paying jobs between 2000 and 2003 and that those jobs have not been replaced. Normally when the economy goes down employers react by laying off workers, and when the economy goes back up employers hire the laid off workers back. However, industries only hire workers back if the industries are still economically viable. The absence of rehiring of workers confirms that the American economy is restructuring in ways that eliminate large numbers of high wage jobs.

The result is an economy that is undergoing a jobless recovery.

My bet is that the only reason the economy is improving is that the federal government is running such a large deficit. Every dollar the government spends is added to the overall Gross Domestic Product, but so much of it is sterile war spending that does not build an economy that it provides good economic activity but no investment in future economic growth. Selling armor for humvees to be destroyed in the sand and IEDs of Iraq is not investing in the future. War is an expensive drain on the economy.

True, the tax cuts provide funds to the wealthy which they can choose to invest in productive investments. However, the U.S. economy does not offer much in productive investments, so much of that investment money is going to other nations where the return is better. Either that or it is going to consumption by the wealthy, perhaps contributing to the real estate bubbles in various cities.

The question is merely when this deck of cards will collapse. The next question is how bad the collapse will be.

US to leave Iraq to Civil War - End Game now clear

Civil War in Iraq? Not a problem. Spencer Akerman writes of David Ignatius' article in The Washington Post. Ackerman states
Ignatius's contention is that civil war--which, only months ago, hawks argued would never come about--wouldn't be the end of the argument:

Pessimists increasingly argue that Iraq may be going the way of Lebanon in the 1970s. I hope that isn't so, and that Iraq avoids civil war. But people should realize that even Lebanonization wouldn't be the end of the story. The Lebanese turned to sectarian militias when their army and police couldn't provide security. But through more than 15 years of civil war, Lebanon continued to have a president, a prime minister, a parliament and an army. The country was on ice, in effect, while the sectarian battles raged. The national identity survived, and it came roaring back this spring in the Cedar Revolution that drove out Syrian troops.
My prediction is that it will not come to that.

What is going to happen is that the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq is going to request the U.S. troops leave Iraq. They will time it so that the Bush administration can declare victory and get out before the November 2006 American elections.

The Sunni-dominated insurgents will continue their attacks, attempting to destabilize the Iraqi government so that they can return to power. The Iraqi government will turn to their co-religionists in Iran for military support.

The Sunnis and Kurds will be purged from the Iraqi troops, police and government. Then the remaining Iraqi military will pacify the Sunni insurgent areas and will take control of Kurdistan. The civil war will be ended rather decisively.

The end result is going to be an Iranian-dominated Iraq and a Shiite fundamentalist religious government across the center of the Middle East.

I'd bet good money that this has already been decided between the Iraqi government and the Iranian government.

On the assumption that Ahmed Chalabi has been an Iranian covert asset for two decades, I'd also bet that he ends up with a powerful position in the post-war Iraqi government shortly after the U.S. is kicked out requested to leave.

The government will be a democracy under theological control, like that of Iran, and the economy will not be anything close to a laissez faire free market one as the NeoCons had hoped to establish. It will be a demonstration project for the Middle East, but not for western values. The NeoCon dream has already failed, resting as it does on the incompetence of the Bush administration.

Anyway, that's how I see it playing out.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Republicans 'smearing' Paul Hackett.

I asked people to send money to Major Paul Hackett (click here), running as a Democrat for the open seat in Ohio congressional district 2.

From MyDD
"the NRCC has dropped $304 thousand dollars into this race. Of that money 94% is spent attacking Hackett in a district Bush won by more than 20 points, and the previous Republican won by more than 40 points. This doesn't count the $15,000 that they spent against Hackett yesterday on a mailing paving their way for these phone calls, and upcoming mail pieces."
The Republicans are afraid that they can't win this election honestly, so they are attempting a major, highly financed under the radar last minute attack.
"No one knows what's in the ads themselves, except the fact that they attack Hackett, and the entire media, mail and phone campaign is designed to raise the negatives and reduce the positive views that many people in the district hold for Hackett. What one knows and can surmise from the media coverage that the Ohio GOP is trying to receive, and that we've all seen coming out of the district is that the message is to question and downplay the "patriotism" of Hackett"
Smear campaigns and underhanded campaigning is a specialty of the Karl Rove-run Republican Party, and it is especially apparent when they feel threatened. Remember the attacks on Sen. John McCain in 2000? This is worse.

Go read Atrios for more.

The strange case of Judith Miller

Judith Miller, New York Times reporter. Today she sits in prison charged with civil contempt of court for refusing to turn over her notes and testify before the grand jury in the Karl Rove - Valerie Plame case. Besides having been a mouthpiece for the Bush administration in propagandizing the invasion of Iraq, she has the following history:
  • Was really very angry at Joe Wilson
  • Was an embedded reporter with the PentagonÂ’s Mobile Exploitation Team (MET) Alpha -- the unit charged with hunting down SaddamÂ’s WMD. Sec. of Def Donald Rumsfelpersonallyly signed off on heassignmentnt to that team.
  • Miller had a ten-year close relationship with Ahmed Chalabi, the CIA asset and NeoCon who provided a great deal of the false Intelligence the Bush administration used to start the war in Iraq.

All of this and more can be found in Arianna Huffington's article. Miller obviously likes to get her way, and does not hesitate to trade on her own apparent celebrity status as a New York Times reporter and to name-drop her famous and high-ranking friends when she demands something.

Think she is standing up for journalistic ethics by going to prison instead of revealing her sources? Or is she protecting herself because of her own culpability in the crime of 'outing' CIA officer Valerie Plame?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bush Awaits Orders From Rove On Handling Of Rove Scandal

Where else? A headline from The Onion. Thanks to Mark A. Klieman for directing me to that one.

As a cat owner(Ownee?)I was also struck by this headline War On String May Be Unwinnable, Says Cat General on the front page of the July 27, 2005 edition.

What do Democrats stand for?

Every candidate running for office on the Democratic Party ticket should be required to sign a pledge that he or she supports.

  • Health care for every American.
  • Access to a good education for every American regardless of ability to pay.
  • The right to privacy without government interference except for critical government needs (as in criminal cases.)
  • A secure retirement payment from the Social Security system.
  • The right to organize a union without being fired for it.

These are the basics. The following are highly important, but more flexible:

  • Every American should have the right to practice and teach his or her own religious beliefs. He or she should not be proselytized on government property or paid for by government tax money by either word or symbol.
  • The right to a community that is safe from criminals and that is protected from environmental hazards.
  • Adequate clean water.
  • Security from war and terrorism.
  • Honesty, full information and fair treatment from people who sell goods and services, and reasonable procedures for enforcing that fair treatment.
  • Sellers have the right to offer and sell goods and services without being cheated and without unnecessary interference. Procedures for enforcing fair treatment to customers need to be reasonable to the sellers also.
  • Every potential voter has the right to vote in a reasonable manner in a convenient place. Handicapped voters have the right to assistance in voting. The voter has the right to expect that his vote will be counted.

Those are my idea of a minimum platform for every Democratic candidate for office. Every candidate for nomination or election should be required to sign that pledge. Then they should be held to it, in the way Grover Norquist holds Republicans to the "No new Taxes" pledge.

One other thing is that every Democrat should always remember the 11th Commandment. "Thou shalt not speak ill of another Democrat."

I was reading Digby as well as the discussion of the DLC over at TPM Cafe where the effect of the DLC on the Democratic Party is throughly disected. The two are really the same discussion. The DLC is the institutionalism of centerism and policy wonkism as a substitute for agreement on what it means to be a Democrat.

Digby is discussing the new book by Rick Perlstein (see right hand side of this magazing.) Essentially Rick Perlstein is discussing how the effort to conduct "triangulation" and appeal to swing voters has cost the Democratic Party to be viewed as not standing for anything. I think he is right. Atrios refers to this article in the Village Voice in which Perlstein presents his view briefly and cogently.

The DLC wants to take the center position, but when you don't have a fixed position that you stand for, then the center position means you are moving towards the opposition whether they are correct or incorrect.

It is like the story of the husband and the wife who find there is only one dessert left, and they both want it. The husband says he wants the whole thing, so the wife suggests they should split it 50 - 50.

So the husband says "Let's take the center position. I'll get 75% and you get 25%.

The Democratic Party has done little in the last four decades to maintain the base of the Democratic Party, while the Republicans have worked very hard to build their base. The result is that every negotiation starts with the Democratic position and drifts to the Republican. There is no standard that Democrats can use to enforce party discipline. The result is that the country is seen as drifting to the right, and free-lancers like Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman feather their own nests by abandoning their Democratic colleagues - like on the bankruptcy bill.

In the meantime the Democratic Party is seen as not standing for anything at all. Voters may not like the Republican positions, but since there is no known alternative, they vote for the one they know.

So I am proposing the party pledge above as a standard by which Democrats can be measured, and by which party discipline can be maintained. Maybe we can be seen as standing for something, not just a bunch of policy wonks who complain about the idiot Republicans.

Urgent! Time Critical! Help Major Paul Hackett get elected.

Marine Corps Major Paul Hackett volunteered to go to Iraq. Now he wants to serve as the Congressman from the Second Congressional District of Ohio.

This is a historically Republican district, and no Democrat has received more than 37 per cent of the vote since Thomas Luken in 1974. With less than one week to go, this race is within 5 points.

Not only is it within five points, but Jean Schmidt, the Republican candidate, is tanking (from the swingstate Project). Schmidt has had to borrow money from Tom DeLays ARMPAC, and the republicans are sending tons of money to try to resurrect her campaign. As you expect from the Republicans they are doing a "Swift Boat" smear on Major Hackett.

The election is August 2d. Major Hackett needs your financial help NOW. Click through here to ActBlue - Paul Hackett for Congress, Ohio, District 2 and be generous.

We need Major Hackett in Congress. Do what you can.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Expensive gifts that can't be resold impress women

Man! I wish I had known this back when it mattered. From Reuters.

Forget expensive presents or costly jewelry. Wining and dining is the best way for men to woo women, scientists said Tuesday.

Researchers at Imperial College London developed a mathematical formula and modeled courtship as a sequential game to find the best way to impress the ladies.

Their results show that offering an expensive present signals the man's serious intentions but he must be wary of being exploited by gold-diggers who will dump him after receiving the gift.

"Guys are less likely to offer expensive gifts to females they don't have a long-term interest in. And girls won't be impressed with cheap gifts. By offering expensive but worthless gifts, such as dinner and theater trips, the male pays no cost if the invitation isn't accepted," said Dr Peter Sozou, of University College London (UCL).

If women are not interested they are unlikely to accept the invitation, according to the research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.
So expensive gifts work - if the women are interested. If not, an offer of an expensive gift that cannot be resold avoids the danger of Golddiggers.

This is news that will save men a lot of money, and will cost jewelers some sales. The right women are not damaged, and the wrong ones are weeded out.

Gee. This is GOOD research!

The following is from the originally published report by The Royal Society .

What are the characteristics of a good courtship gift?

We address this question using evolutionary game theory. A man may be able to indicate his long-term commitment to a woman by offering her a gift which is very costly to him. But he faces the danger of being exploited by a gold-digger who intends to dump him once she gets the gift.

The results from this study show that an "extravagant" gift which is costly to the man but worthless to the woman can solve the problem. The study shows also how an alternative version of the model may be applied to other animal species with no paternal care, again demonstrating a potentially important role for costly but worthless gifts.

The Royal Society has made this article, from Proceedings of The Royal Society B, free to view on-line. If you are interested in finding out more about Royal Society publications, please visit our publishing page.

Read on-line: Costly but worthless gifts facilitate courtship

Why did Bush want to invade Iraq?

It was a long term conservative goal. Conservatives were angry that Bush stopped the Persian Gulf War without going on the Baghdad and removing Saddam. One part, as I remember, was that the Iraq war was partly considered by the conservatives as an antidote to "The Vietnam Syndrome" that kept America from using its military power to enforce its international decrees.

In a larger sense, the entire conservative movement seems to be an emotional counter-revolution to the civil rights movement, the Vietnam anti-war movement and Watergate. They feel that Nixon was treated badly, purely for political reasons. The conservative movement is fed and supported by the fundamentalist so-called Christians who are also reacting to a century of social change, but the key players in the administration are all pro-Nixon, pro-Vietnam War, and Pro-"Joe McCarthy", anti-union and anti-civil rights.

The Bush administration and the conservative movement in general is a reaction against the changes in America since WW I.

The war in Iraq was to have been the proof that all the social changes the conservatives oppose have been wrong.

Instead, the Iraq War is becoming proof that the Conservatives are unAmerican and very, very wrong. The more they attempt to act, the more they prove how unAmerican and wrong they are.

Bob Novak is a traitor to America

Bob Novak was specifically told by the spokesman for the CIA on two occassions NOT to use Valerie Plame's name in his story. Novak went ahead and did so as part of the administration's attack on her husband, Joe Wilson. In publishing Valerie Plame's name, Bob Novak committed Treason against America.

Here is the relevent excerpt from the story from the Washingtom Post:

Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified.

In a column published Oct. 1, 2003, Novak wrote that the CIA official he spoke to "asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause 'difficulties' if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name."

Novak's lame excuse that he was not told she would be endangered is just that - a lame excuse for committing treason.

We should not forget that Novak committed his treason while carrying water for Karl Rove's effort to smear Joe Wilson.

Republicans in government - politically arrogant, fiscally irresponsible, corrupt and incompetent.

Why did the Bush administration expose Valerie Wilson as a CIA officer?

We know that they were attacking her husband, Joe Wilson, for his public statements exposing the fact that the Bush administration had used a series of lies, including the lie about Iraq attempting to purchase uranium yellow-cake in Niger, to stampede Americans and Congress into supporting an unnecessary War in Iraq. Even through the massive PR effort throwing up smoke to obscure the level of criminality of Rove's actions, this is an incontrovertible fact.

So why was Rove and the Bush White House so unwavering in his efforts to "get" Joe Wilson?

Here is how Josh Marshall explains it in the last paragraph of his excellent comment this morning:
As Frank Rich put it so aptly less than two weeks ago, "the administration knows how guilty it is. That's why it has so quickly trashed any insider who contradicts its story line about how we got to Iraq, starting with the former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke."
It was part of a two-pronged campaign by the White House to cover their guilt for the crime of unnecessarily invading Iraq by (1) attacking anyone who effectively exposed their lies and (2) forcing the CIA to take responsibility for the 16 word statement Bush included in the State of the Union speech.

The whole "Smear and Defend" campaign is about covering the guilt the White House has about conning the American public into support for the ridiculous war in Iraq which has failed in every way to protect American security.

The administration (but not yet Bush) is now discussing pulling American troops out of Iraq in the Spring or Summer of 2006. I predicted this several months ago. This is driven, not by success in Iraq, but by (1) the lack of success, (2) the overall unpopularity of the war with the American public, and (3) the need to seem to do something before the elections of November 2006.

Everything this administration has done since taking office in 2001 has been political. They have focused the entire federal government towards winning the next election on the calendar. The Bush administration and the Republican Party as a whole has started a war that has killed over 1700 American service people, crippled thousands, destroyed our ground combat reserve capability, severely damaged our active military, killed and injured thousands of Iraqis, and isolated America internationally at a time when we should be working with other nations to control Terrorists.

All of this has been done supposedly because Osama bin Laden sent 19 men to America to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11, but every action has been suspiciously timed to provide Republican advantage for the next election.

It has been nearly four years since September 11, 2001 and the Bush administration has not caught or killed Osama bin Laden. How many lives and $ billions will this administration waste to get Republicans reelected while blaming it all on protection of Americans against terrorists?

What have we gotten with George W. Bush and the Republicans in control of government? Political arrogance, fiscal disaster, together with corrupt and incompetent governance.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More indication Bush screwed up invading Iraq

The following is from Abu Aardvark by way of Kevin Drum.

Al-Arabiya reports, based on a story in the Iraqi newspaper al-Sabah, that the permanent Iraqi constitution will declare Islam the official religion of Iraq and the fundamental source [al-masdar al-issasi] of legislation. That seems stronger than the latest version I had heard, which would have had it "a source", not "the fundamental source".

Al-Hayat reports that the draft constitution will not allow Jews of Iraqi origin to reclaim their citizenship, contrary to a widespread rumour dating back to the TAL.

Elaph and al-Hayat both report the Iraqi Defense Minister lashing out against Kuwait, warning it against "unwise actions" along the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. Iraqi-Kuwaiti border disputes! Is this 1990?

Because of Bush's voluntary war, a relatively modern and secular government run by Baathists (albeit a really nasty dictatorship) is being replaced by a Shia fundamentalist theocracy.

Positive from the Bush War - Saddam is gone.

Negative results of war -

  • Theocracy being installed in Iraq
  • Iranian Mulluhs taking a strong position together with Iraqi mullahs in government.
  • over 1700 American servicemen dead in Iraq.
  • U.S. Army Reserve, Army National Guard and Marine Corps Reserve effectively destroyed for a decade. Active Army and Marine Corps have had no training for over two years.
  • Iraq has been turned into a training center and recruiting tool for al Qaeda much as Afghanistan was during the Soviet invasion.
  • Iraqi economy and society have been destroyed. Rebuilding has been minimal. [Granted, it hadn't been much under the last decade of Saddam. But it is worse now.]
  • Status of women under the Theocracy will be much worse than it was under the Baathists.
  • Jews (who have lived in Iraq since before the days of Christ) will not be allowed to return to Iraq and regain their citizenship.
  • Iraqis are again threatening Kuwait. and we thought Bush I had solved THAT problem with the Persian Gulf War!

Yep. Bush and the Republicans have a lot to be proud of . They have unnecessarily destroyed a relatively modern Arab nation and left a medieval theocracy in its place. I wonder what form of economy they will have? It sure won't be a laissez faire free market economy.

What would insurgents do if the U.S. quit fighting in Iraq?

This is from Mark Kleiman.

"There is, in fact, no Iraqi insurgency. There is a Sunni Arab insurgency. And it cannot win."

This deserves as wide circulation as possible. It prompts several thoughts.

The Sunni insurgency has two components: secular Sunni ex-Baathists whose programme is more or less (a) "Bring back Saddam (or another Sunni Arab secular strongman), lording it over Kurds and Shia" and Sunni jihadis who want (b) "drive the infidel Americans out", and (unclearly) (c) "set up a Sunni theocracy. lording it over Kurds and Shia".

Thought experiment: if the USA just quit tomorrow, what would the insurgents do? The jihadis would have achieved aim (b); since aim (c) is suicidally impossible, they would most likely declare victory and move on. That would leave the secular Baathists. The Kurds would stand on the sidelines while the Shia militias crushed them with Iranian help. Ethnic cleansing of defeated Sunnis would be a possibility. End-state: de facto partition of Iraq into two (think Belgium or Bosnia), with an ongoing low-level Sunni terrorist movement (think ETA, IRA) preventing economic recovery in the Arab part but not strong enough to change the regime.
Is there really any reason for us to remain in Iraq?

If we pulled out tomorrow, would the Sunni insurgents be able to put together a conventional force that could retake control of Shia and Kurdish Iraq?

Of course, the U.S. would not have bases in Iraq, nor would there be any control over Iraqi oil. The grand demonstration project so beloved of the NeoCons in the heart of the Middle East would have to go forward without guidance from Americans.

The Iranians would be providing military support to the Iraqi Shiites, but they have already agreed on that. The Kurds, disliked by both the Iraqi Sunnis and the Iranian government would be up a creek, but the Kurds are used to being used and abandoned. We've done that to them before when the Iraqi government under Saddam attacked them.

Haliburton stock would take a big hit.

Some America GI would be the last American killed in a lost war, but that is going to happen anyway. The only questions are who, and how many others will there be between now and then.

Much of the motivation of the population of Iraq to support the insurgents would disappear.

Where is the downside of us just announcing our evacuation tomorrow?

Without Governent expenditure U.S. is globally uncompetitive

Low-Tax Low-government-benefit states are not Globally competitive.

Toyota chose Canada to place their new assembly plant over locations in the U.S. that offered $millions more in incentives than Canada did. It was a dollars-and-cents decision. American workers are not as well educated as Canadian worker, and in Canada Toyota does not have to pay the massive health insurance benefits for workers because the State provides that benefit. (See Paul Krugman as well as my own earlier article Toyota Chooses Canada over Alabama/Mississippi for Auto Plant.)

This is not political rhetoric. It is accounting calculation by experts who are investing their own money.

The battle in our Texas Legislature on how to pay for education in Texas is being lost to the know-nothing, do-nothing Republicans who are penny wise and pound foolish. The No-New_Taxes Republicans are damaging the future competitiveness of Texas in the world economy by not paying for things like shipping the new text books already in the warehouse to the schools that need them.

Our Legislators are failing us badly. Again.

See also

Taxes don't slow economy, Norquist!
Higher taxes do not slow the economy, Part II.

Good set of FAQ on Rove - Plame

The City Pages of Minneapolis/St Paul has an excellent set of Frequently Asked Questions and the answers on the Rove - Plame - White House scandal.

Support of the Bush Presidency weakening

Ruy Teixeira reports on the Pew Research poll that shows that the Karl Rove scandal is damaging the Republican view that Bush is a person of good character. The Iraq war is also eating away at Republican support for Bush.

The second report from Ruy Teixeira states that support for Bush's war on terror is eroding.

Together these eat away at the major reasons Bush won reelection.

These are reports that apply for right now. Events very likely will change things a lot before the next election. It is my opinion that they will not get better for Bush - or Rove, either.

But the definition of "News" is that it is information that causes you to change what you would have done had you not received it. That means that "News" is inherently unpredictable. So regardless of my opinion, there is a lot of time between now and the election in November 2006 for "News."

We'll just have to wait and see if the long American nightmare of Republican domination is coming to an end.

How will Dems win the Country back?

Quit focusing entirely on the Presidential election. "... re-routing more energy and resources into congressional, state and local campaigns, leadership development and training could prove to be a worthy investment in a Democratic future."

This is from Ruy Teixeira in his comment responding to the recent article by Colbert I. King at the Washington Post.

This is a long term strategy. It sets the field on which elections are held. The Republicans have been very good at long term strategies, while Democrats have not been sufficiently organized or focused to do much.

See previous posts

Whites prefer Dems to Repubs? New poll.

Gallup poll shows Whites prefer Democrats over Republicans by 2% margin in June 2005 according to Ruy Teixeira

Not a big deal? Gallup in June 2004 had Whites preferring Republicans to Democrats by a 19% margin.

White voters are the single largest key Republican voting bloc. For them to make a 21% shift away from the Republicans in a year is BIG.

It's only one poll. Still, there is a Congressional election on August 2, 2005 in Ohio between Jean Schmidt (R) and Paul Hackett (D). This is an open seat because the incumbent was appointed to be become United States Trade Representative. According to Kos the Second District of Ohio (Map) is a very strong Republican district. A strong showing by Paul Hackett will provide some confirmation of the shift away from Republicans.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Al Gore got Jokes from Johnny Carson???

Sorry. That ~~ surprises me. Or something. In fact, my reaction is unclear.

But it must be true. The New York Times published it. Al got not only got jokes but also advice on timing in the delivery from Johnny.

The world is a strange place sometimes.

Democracy in Iraq? Civil war more likely.

The Iranian election in January has been touted by the Bush administration as the symbol of success. The problem is, democracy is a luxury that does not last during wartime.

The Bush administration has lived in a veil of illusion, thinking that the Iraqi people would be delighted to have the American Army come in and remove Saddam. They would then be happy to have a (crony) Capitalist economic system installed and get a new government courtesy of the Americans.

Except that the Sunni Muslims don't like being displaced from the catbird seat in Iraq. So they have been growing the insurgency and attacking both Americans and Shiites. Here is what the New York Times had to say yesterday:
Recent weeks have seen the insurgency reach new heights of sustained brutality. The violence is ever more centered on sectarian killings, with Sunni insurgents targeting hundreds of Shiite and Kurdish civilians in suicide bombings. There are reports of Shiite death squads, some with links to the interior ministry, retaliating by abducting and killing Sunni clerics and community leaders.

The past 10 days have seen such a quickening of these killings, particularly by the insurgents, that many Iraqis are saying that the civil war has already begun.
This is what the new Ambassador said when taking over in Baghdad a few days ago:
"Iraq is poised at the crossroads between two starkly different visions," he said. "The foreign terrorists and hardline Baathist insurgents want Iraq to fall into a civil war."
Then the New York Times article goes on to describe the situation:
The war's wider pattern has always held the seeds of an all-out sectarian conflict, of the kind that largely destroyed Lebanon. The insurgency has been rooted in the Sunni Arab minority dispossessed by the toppling of Mr. Hussein, and most of its victims have been Shiites, the majority community who have been the main political beneficiaries of Mr. Hussein's demise. Shiites have died in countless hundreds at their mosques and their marketplaces, victims of insurgent ambushes and bombs, their deaths celebrated on Islamic Web sites by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, who has called Shiites "monkeys" and their religion an affront to God.
The most likely future is a civil war in Iraq.

The Shia leadership of the current Iraqi government is aware of this. A part of the problem is that the presence of the American troops angers ALL the Iraqis, and makes the Americans targets of everyone on all sides. But the Iraqi troops and police are not becoming effective very rapidly. More from the NY Times article:
One measure of the doubts afflicting American officials here has been a hedging in the upbeat military assessments that generals usually offer, coupled with a resort to statistics carefully groomed to show progress in curbing the insurgents that seems divorced from realities on the ground. One example of the new "metrics" has been a rush of figures on the buildup of Iraq's army and police force - a program known to many reporters who have been embedded on joint operations as one beset by inadequate training, poor leadership, inadequate weaponry and poor morale.

Officers involved in running the program offer impressive-sounding figures - including the fact that, by mid-June, the Iraqi forces had been given 306 million rounds of ammunition, roughly 12 bullets for each of Iraq's 25 million people. But when one senior American officer involved was asked whether the Americans might end up arming the Iraqis for a civil war, he paused for a moment, then nodded. "Maybe," he said.
The Shias running the current interim government are aware of this. They are talking to the Iranians for support, while discussing an exit for American troops. Here is The LA Times describing the recent discussions with Iran:
TEHRAN - Former foes Iran and Iraq said Thursday that they would sign a military cooperation agreement that would include Iranian help in training Iraq's armed forces, despite likely U.S. opposition.

The agreement marks a breakthrough in relations between the two countries, which fought a bitter 1980-88 war. And it comes in spite of repeated U.S. accusations that Shiite Muslim Iran has undermined security in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003.
Look at this from Agence France-Presse [by way of Billmon:

A joint US-Iraqi committee is to set the conditions under which US troops will hand over security in the war-torn country to Iraqi forces, paving the way for a US exit, the US embassy said.

"The joint task force will establish criteria and conditions that will help determine when Iraqi security forces ... will be capable of assuming full responsibility to secure Iraq," ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said in a statement ...

"The prime minister has directed that the task force meet within the next week and report back to him with their plan in 60 days," the ambassador said.

Add to that the following from Wired News:
On July 5, Russia, China and four Central Asian countries jointly demanded a U.S. deadline for closing the bases [in Kyrgyzstan]. Russia said the demand came because active military operations in Afghanistan were coming to an end.
The Christian Science Monitorprovides more information on the pressure on the U.S. to get out of Muslim nations. The U.S. is not wanted in the Muslim Middle East, and will soon be removed.

Without the U.S. Military on site, the U.S. will have little influence on the Middle East. The NeoCon illusion that they could invade Iraq and create a modern democratic state based on a laissez faire economy has failed. It is only a question of how long it will take for that failure to sink in.

It won't take much longer. The fantasy of the Project for the New American Century as adopted by George W. Bush after 9/11 will shortly join the "Domino Theory" as an idiotic right-wing theory that got a lot of American soldiers unnecessarily killed.

It is still somewhat unclear how all this will effect Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan. What is already clear is that the U.S. is going to be weakened in all those areas by the Bush adventure in Iraq.

One thing that is clear it that The civil war in Iraq will continue to drive the Shia government of Iraq into the arms of the Shia Mullahs in Iran, and this will be bad news for the Kurds in both Iraq and Iran. Bush's bellicose anti-Iranian rhetoric has led them to elect an anti-American leader, and the Iraqis will conform to the same view as soon as the U.S. military leaves Iraq.

All of this is the fault of George W. Bush and the conservative Republican Party. The U.S. never needed to invade Iraq. The NeoCon fantasy adopted by Bush and the Republicans, which they foisted on the Congress and the American public through deceit and propaganda is killing thousands, including Americans, and it is weakening America around the world.

The Republicans will not voluntarily accept responsibility for their failure. It is going to have to be assigned to them and forced upon them.

Is the Mainstream Media beginning to enter "White House Scandal" mode?

The Plame affair started out with an investigation of who told Bob Novak that Valerie Plame was a CIA officer in order to attack her husband. It has been an interesting story, and exposes the nasty unscrupulous nature of the prime individual, Karl Rove, but the law that covers that behavior is difficult to violate. Fitzgerald's investigation probably should have been wrapped up a year ago. The initial leak did not threaten Bush's Presidency. But the investigation itself appears to have brought to life new threats to the White House. The Dan Froomkin of Washington Post writes the story today. Fitzgerald's investigation appears to have turned its focus to discrepancies in the testimony of White House senior adviser Karl Rove and vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Fitzgerald may be trying to determine whether evidence exists to bring perjury or obstruction of justice charges.

And that raises the issue of what -- if anything -- Rove and Libby told Bush and Cheney about their roles.

So does that mean Fitzgerald might call Bush and Cheney to testify before the grand jury -- under oath? Might he even have done so already? We have no idea, of course, because the White House isn't saying anything at all about the investigation anymore.

Either way, the CIA leak story is taking on more and more of the trappings of the classic Washington political scandal -- the saving grace for Bush being that his party controls Congress, and that thus far, Republicans have closed ranks behind him.
This explains the manner in which the entire Republican Party has closed ranks to support Karl Rove and try to downplay how illegal the behavior of the White House was.

It may be too late for the Republicans to get the story off the front pages of newspapers, however. It already looks like a classic Washington scandal.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Josh Marshall on who forged the Niger-uranium documents

This came from Josh Marshall July 02, 2005.

I've gotten hints or suggestions from several sources over the last month that new information is bubbling to the surface, not about who leaked Valerie Plame's identity, but who was behind the underlying caper that started the whole drama afoot in the first place: those phoney Niger uranium documents.

As longtime readers of this site know, last year colleagues of mine and I were able to trace the documents back to a former Italian intelligence agent named Rocco Martino. Martino was the 'Italian businessman' who tried to sell the documents to Elizabetta Burba, the journalist who eventually brought them to the US Embassy in Rome.

We were able determine that the documents had been put into Martino's hands by a then-serving member of SISMI -- Italian military intelligence. And this SISMI colonel had done so using a women working in the Niger embassy in Rome, an Italian national, as a cut-out.
This was, as you might imagine, more than enough to make us want to know a lot more. But we were never able to develop any conclusive proof about who or what was behind the SISMI colonel or what the backstory was within SISMI.

Suspicions, we had plenty. But in terms of hard facts, we hit a wall just inside SISMI.

Just who forged the documents? And, more significantly, who put the whole process in motion? And why had SISMI or elements within it involved themselves?
Were US Intelligence agents involved? Was there a White House connection? We can hope for more information soon.

[Thanks to Digby for reminding me of Josh Marshall's post.]

More on what Rove and Libby did and when they did it.

From the Guardian.
  1. Rove and Libby failed to tell FBI that they had talked to Cooper from Time and Russert from NBC about Valerie Plame when they were frist questioned. Both reporters have contradicted Rove and Libby' statements.
  2. Tenet, Director of CIA, took public responsibility for letting the "16 words" about the uranium in Niger into the State of the Union Speech, but Rove and Libby had a role in writing his admission.
  3. Fitzgeralds' investigators are working to determine who forged the Niger-uranium documents. One issue being investigated is whether former US intelligence agents may worked with Iraqi exiles to create evidence that showed that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear program.

Item 3. is about the question of who lied to the American public to cause the preemptive (and unnecessary) invasion of Iraq. Items 1. and 2. refer to the coverup conducted by Presidential Aides in the White House.

Strange the we have to read the better reports in the British Guardian.

Read also:
Source of forged Niger-uranium documents? from yesterday.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Who is doing the leaking?

TalkLeft offers an explanation to non-lawyers who want to analyze the leaks from unknown sources out of the Plame-gate grand Jury.

Was 9/11 a conspiracy by the Bush administration?

Did G. W. Bush and his henchmen instigate 9/11?

Ridiculous question, right? Fodder for tin-foil hat level conspiracy theorists.

Why? In most cases such a conspiracy theory is rejected because the so-called conspirators are too sensible to do anything that extreme just to forward their cause. Can we make that assumption in the case of the White House? Cynthis McKinney doen't think so.

It is clear that the least informed two peopel inthe Bush White House are G. W. Bush and Scott McClellan. Why? Because they both require "plausible deniability" for the many things other in the administration are doing. That way neither Bush nor McClellan can legally be accused of lying when something illegal occurs.

This is a recipe for some free-lancer to go off and pull off something like 9/11. Let's assume that it was supposed to be a relatively minor terrorist attack, similar to 7/7 in London, but that Osama bin Laden jacked it up or got especially lucky when he pulled it off.

So what? It did what G. W. Bush wanted. It gave him the excuse to invade Iraq.

Do I really think that the Bush administration organized 9/11? That is tinfoil hat stuff for most people, but the three key decision-makers in the White House are Karl Rove (a person who is known to be willing to do anything to accomplish what he wants - he has no limits.) Dick Cheney (a person who wanted Saddam out and had no hesitation to do anythiing to accomplishe it) and George W. Bush (who makes decisions based on intuition, gets little of his information from reading, and depends on the input from trusted subordinates without question.)

If someone like Scooter Libby decided to set something like 9/11 into action, or decided to not prevent it, and then kept that information to himself to provide plausible deniability to the primciples in the White House, then Cynthia McKinney could easily be correct.

With this gang in the White House, I find no good reason to give then the benefit of any doubt. There is an outside chance it could be true. We only give reasonable people the benefit of the doubt in cases like thes. The Bush administration does not get such passes. They need to be investigated.

I don't trust a single one of them. It is sufficiently reasonable considering their attutudes and histories that I will not relegate Cynthia McKinney to the tinfoil hat brigade.

Lies & hypocrisy kill people

Want to see an example of the lies an hypocrisy coming out of the Bush administration? Go read Billmon.

It is nothing except a series of quotations. The result is unbelievable.

It clearly demonstrates why the Bush administration is failing in Iraq and in the Middle East generally while isolating America internationally.

Source of forged Niger-uranium documents?

A big question is sitting in the background of the Iraq War, the Rove-Plame affair, and perhaps behind the entire Bush administration involvement in the Middle East. The documents (or at least one set of them) that state that Iraq was attempting to buy yellow-cake unranium from Niger were forged, and they were not especially good forgeries. The question - Who forged them and how did they get into the government decision processes.

Here is a story that purports to suggest some answers.

Don't take it as gospel. But it is more explanation than I have seen anywhere else, and it does appear plausible.

My bet is that the Bush administration knows what the story really is, but they either used it to start the Iraq war or they were fooled. In neither case will they want the story published. But it is going to come out sooner or later. It is too important not to.

Addendum July 23, 2005
Digby provides more on this subject.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The latest on Rove-Plame

Hunter at dKos provides an interesting summary of the recent pronouncements and articles on the growing Rove-Plame controversy.

The criminal issues being handled by Fitzgerald and the grand jury are small, single item points at issue which can be pinned down and the truly behind them approached pretty closely. Did Rove lie to the grand jury when he said he did not tell Cooper about Valerie Plame's identity? Did Libby lie to the investigators when he said he learned of Plame's identity from reporters? The reporters notes and testimony apparently do not match what Rove and Libby have testified under oath. MSNBC has reported that John Bolton has testified before the grand jury, but he did not include that in his statement to the Senate when he was being investigated for confirmation to the post of Ambassador to the UN. MSNBC stands by its story. There are a lot of small issues of this kind surrounding much of the Bush administration, and every day seems to add more.

The big issues are not going to be so easy to investigate and resolve. The single largest issue is - did the Bush administration lie to the American public to initiate the war in Iraq they wanted so badly?

Occupation of the White house has always (in my life time anyway) given the occupant a presumption that he was working for America and upholding his oath to protect and defend the Constitution. The effect of these many small issues has been to wither away whatever there was of the presumption that the Bush administration was telling us the truth.

There remains the question of whether the Bush administration can stop the slide into oblivion. American politics are interesting. Losers can sometimes turn things around. I think this set of issues has passed the tipping point. They are going to flop and flail, but it has gone too far. Any indictment of Rove will put the final lock on the measures by which this administration is measured.

Bush is quoted as saying in 1999 that to be a great President, he had to be a Wartime President. As every other discussed motivation for the attack on Iraq is demonstrated to be false or inadequate, and when you consider that Bush makes his decisions based on intuition rather than on careful analysis, the only standing reason for the war in Iraq seems to be that Bush needed it to be a great President, so he used whatever excuses he could to invade Iraq.

The result is clear. Bush-is-the-worst-American-President-Ever.

Why doesn't the mainstream media recognize how disastrous the Bush administration has been?

The mainstream media treatment of the Downing Street Memos provides a real insight into their thinking. The best current example is the Downing Street Memos. Why have the major media ignored the Downing Street Memos?

Michael Kinsey, speaking for the mainstream media, considers the DSM to be a paranoid fantasy from the left that has been promoted to near media respectability.

A full discussion of the mainstream media's treatment of the DSM is provided by TomDispatch.

Let me extract what I think is central.

Mark Danner writes at length on how Michael Kinsley (and by implication the entire mainstream media) has both missed the point of the Downing Street Memos and how the American media has failed to adequately report on the reasons and motivations that led to the war in Iraq. The following are a few key statements from his letter.

We come by information incrementally, and give it sense by placing it in a context we have already constructed; that is why Kinsley's "test" for whether or not the Downing Street memo is "worthless" is so misguided. Those who do look at the memo's account of the cabinet meeting with some honesty -- and I urge readers to go to the memo itself; it is barely three pages long and the New York Review of Books has published it in full [8] -- will find it confirms a precise historical narrative of the run-up to the war. It is clearly written and, notwithstanding the comments of Kinsley and others, unambiguous.

Kinsley, like many others in the American press,
wantsto judge the memo's "worth" on whether or not it contains, as he says, "documentary proof that President Bush had firmly decided to go to war against Iraq by July 2002." As I have written, such "documentary proof" -- if we are talking about firm and incontrovertible evidence of what was in Mr. Bush's mind at the time -- is destined to prove elusive; the President can always claim, all appearances and outward evidence to the contrary, that he "hadn't made up his mind." And so he has claimed.

He [Kinsley] is concerned only with a single question: Does the memo offer "documentary proof that President Bush had firmly decided to go to war against Iraq by July 2002"? Having decided that the memo falls short of passing this stern test, he deems the document "worthless." Like many in the American press, he is so obsessed with finding the "smoking gun" that he pretty much manages to miss the point of what is in front of him.

The Downing Street memo serves, among other things, as a not very subtle reminder that much of the press was duped by the government in a rather premeditated and quite successful way. No one likes to be reminded of this, certainly not reporters and the institutions they work for; claiming the memo is "not reportable," in Smith's words, not only avoids revisiting a painful passage in American journalism but does so by asserting that the story "had already been covered" -- that is, that it had never been missed in the first place. When it comes to the war, much of American journalism has little more institutional interest in reexamining the past than the Bush administration itself.
Many of us who remember Watergate have suffered under the fantasy that there was an investigative press. That is what we learned from Woodard, Bernstein and "Deepthroat.".

What we forget is that the Watergate investigation by the Washington Post was ramrodded by Ben Bradley and fully supported by the Publisher, Katherine Graham. Katherine Graham was the classic Washington insider. For whatever reason, she disliked Nixon and his methods. Since she owned her own newspaper, she had the personal power to do something about her dislike.

From this there grew up a fantasy that we have a free press that will investigate abuses in the government. The rise of FOX News and the right-wing echo chamber clearly shows that there is no such 'free press', and the consolidation of the national press into a few large corporations has eliminated almost any hint of independence. The mainstream media is now little more than another large corporate special interest with strong desires not to rock the boat of high government officials.

What has happened is that the Iraq War and the Downing Street Memos have proven that the myth of a free journalistic press has died in America.

So now it is a matter of "Up The Blogosphere!"

I hope.

Iraq war over - Iran wins

The recent announcements by Iraqi and Iranian politicians in Tehran of their planned joint activities rather clearly shows that the outcome of invading Iraq has been to create a broad swath of political Shiite power across the middle of the Middle East.

One reason why Bush I refrained from continuing the Gulf War into Baghdad was to prevent this very combination of Iranian and Iraqi Shiites.

Juan Cole has an excellent article on the subject in Salon (Day pass or subscription required.)

Chinese revalue Yaun - So What?

Want to know what the revaluation of the Chinese Yaun means? I do too.

To my relief, Bilmon explains.

To my regret, I have only read his explanation once, so I haven't yet fully absorbed what he means. He does seem to me to be pointing out what I have said previously about the positions of China and the U.S. in the world economy. The U.S. is still the largest single market in the world, but China is second and coming up fast.

One good thing Osama bin Laden did for the U.S. on 9/11 was to sidetrack the Bush administration from its' clear effort to provoke a confrontation with China. The Bush people and the NeoCons became so besotted with Iraq that they have failed to fight with China. The failure of our government to pick a fight with China has been a net positive for America.

unfortunately, the failure of the government to do what could have been done to make America more competitive in the global markets is a major negative. The ideological total dependence on markets and individual investors to build the economy when the government does no planning and provides no economic infrastructure will in the future be seen as one of that most important flaws in the conservative ideology. So the conservatives are doing nothing positive to improve the American economy. At least they have been distracted by the idiocy in Iraq so they have not committed a similar idiocy of picking fights with China.

I don't think American conservatives and NeoCons are going to be happy with it, but the new slogan for America will soon be "We're number two!" The Bush administration and the conservatives are doing everything they can to make that come true.

That's my message for today. Now go read Bilmon.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Creationists gather for mutual support

From the Christian Post:

More than 2,000 Christians and supporters of creationism gathered for the nation's premier Creationism conference.

The 2005 Creation Mega-Conference, slated from Jul. 17 to 22 in Lynchburg, Va. tackled several prominent issues facing the creation/evolution debate, such as the dinosaurs, the flood and Big Bang theory.

David Dewitt, Director of the Center for Creation Studies
[at Liberty University] and associate professor of Biology explained in a nutshell, "We believe that Adam and Eve were real people and that God created everything in six 24-hour days."

In "Rocks Around the Clock: The Eons That Never Were," Geologist Dr. Emil Silvestru rejected the notion that the earth had existed for millions of years, and instead offered a six thousand year chronology: Creation, six days, Lost World, 1700 years, no big mountains, no plate tectonics, Flood, 370 days, creation of high mountains, deep oceans, sedimentary rocks, plate tectonics form continents, Ice Age, 1000 years, and Post Ice Age, 3000 years.
Note this quotation from the bio on Dr. Silvestru:
"After becoming a Christian he quickly realized that the ‘millions of years’ interpretation, so common in geology, was not compatible with Genesis. “Once I became a Christian,” Emil says, “I knew I had to ‘tune up’ my scientific knowledge with the Scriptures.”

“Although philosophically and ethically I accepted a literal Genesis from my conversion, at first I was unable to match it with my ‘technical’ side.”
In other words, it was not his technical training that led him to Creation Science, it was his conversion to Christianity. He then lent his scientific credentials to his non-scientific religious belief. The conclusion preceded any study.
Dinosaurs were also explained. According to John Whitcomb, co-author of the seminal creationist book, The Genesis Flood (1961), Noah's ark carried 1,000 different kinds of dinosaurs as well as all of the other species, and the book has sold more than a quarter of a million copies in English.
So belief in a 6000 year Earth is entirely based on literal reading of the Bible. It has no scientific basis, and as we know, conflicts with numerous scientific findings.
Ken Ham, president of AiG, rejects the Big Bang because Genesis explains God created the waters and Earth on the third day, and the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day.

In his talk "What's the Best Evidence that God Created," Carl Kerby said, "You should allow the Word of God to drive your understanding of the evidence."

According to one assessment, at the root of the creationist argument is the concern that evolution undermines moral beliefs, leading to lawlessness, family breakdown, homosexuality, pornography, and abortion.

If evolution is true, said Philip Bell in his talk, and we are descended from ape-like animals with no morality, no aesthetic sensibility and no soul," then "you would have no purpose for your existence."

"If we don't understand the young earth and how God created it in six 24-hour days, then our values are skewed, said the Reverend Jerry Falwell, and he is hopeful that "The biblical account is the believable one. The creation debate is being won."
This is entirely a fantasy based on a combination of a literal interpretation of the Bible and fear of what will happen to morals and society if such a literal interpretation is not accepted.

Yet they give mere words in a human language the alleged power of god-like perfection. A brief reading of General Semantics will clearly demonstrate that language cannot carry that level of meaning. [See "Language in Thought and Action" by S. I. Hayakawa which I have provided a link to on the right side of this web magazine.]

As for Jerry Falwell's statement that "The creation debate is being won", here is what Steve Bruce says in fundamentalistndamentlaist Religion "he concludes that fundamentalism does not pose a serious challenge or sustainable alternative to the secular and liberal democracy of most Western societies. Its force is weakened by its own internal contradictions and blunted by the power of the nation state." "

This is the fundamentalist Republican religious right. These are the people who want 'Creation Science' taught in science classes in Kansas and who want judges to use Biblical Law as the basis of their decisions instead of Constitutional Law. Roy Moore is an example of the latter.

Many believers in Creationism are extremely nice people, but we really do not want them choosing our Supreme Court Justices.

The story on Wilson-to-Niger is being kept alive in the media.

Jonah B. Gelbach at Card Carrying Member reports that someone who was in the know at the State Department appears to be carefully releasing bits of information to the media. The purpose is to keep the story front and center in the media.

There are a lot of very knowledgeable people who really dislike the incompetence demonstrated by the Bush White House. Besides people from the State Department, there are people from the CIA and from the uniformed military services. Besides putting Condi Rice in as Secretary of State the White House has placed Porter Goss at CIA. They left Rumsfeld in as Secretary of Defense and he has worked hard to fill the Joint Chiefs of Staff position with his own people.

I don't think the White House has control over its enemies. Instead, like terrorists, I think the Bush people are creating additional enemies everywhere they go.

Rove/Bush/Cheney and their supporters seem to see it all as nothing but politics, susceptible to political power manipulations. They are "True Believers" in their conservative ideologies. They can't be wrong, so all opposition has to be mere politics. They have no clue what they are doing to mess things up and make enemies wherever they go.

In fact, their behavior is very much like the destructive behavior of the Communist ideologues in the USSR, China and Cuba. Only the ideologies differ. The behaviors are very similar. They are 'True-Believers' for whom the end justifies the means. Such people create enemies for themselves wherever they go, then blame their enemies for their troubles.

Voila! The Bush White House explained.

Some comments from Steve Clemons

Steve Clemons has some interesting comments on Roberts and (of course) Bolton.

"I think it is clear that the battle over John Bolton -- still happily unresolved and withering on the vine -- may have chastened the White House (finally) to be more cautious." Steve thinks that Roberts is a much better nominee than we should have expected, and the battle over Bolton is probably the reason.

Steve thinks the Bolton battle is over. He will get a recess appointment in August.

There was a rumor that Bolton might be appointed as Ambassador to the Philippines. The result of the rumor was an immediate flurry of political activity by Filipinos to make sure that never happened.

Also on Bolton: "Bolton did try to begin to get his staff and office space expanded in the Washington-based operations of the United Nations -- and that Condi Rice was completely unaware of this effort. Those who disclosed the information about Bolton's pre-confirmation stewardship of logistics related to the U.S. mission to the United Nations are admittedly not thrilled at the prospect of working under his lead."

I don't understand the absolute demand by the White House that Bolton be appointed no matter how many people consider him unqualified. My best guess is that this is a case of 'loyalty to a loyal subordinate' gone mad. That may well be mixed with a belief in the White House that no one should ever be allowed to balk when they say "jump" because if anyone begins to think they can stop idiotic White House orders then those orders will be less likely to be carried out in the future. But I really don't know.

Schwartzenegger - Celebrity politician, failed Governor

When did you last hear talk of a Constitutional amendment that would allow Arnold Schwartzenegger to run for President? Been a while, hasn't it.

Michael Hiltzik explains why.

Michael is a financial columnist for the Los Angeles Times, although he has apparently covered a number of other beats in earlier times. I had never read him until I got a copy of his excellent book "The Plot Against Social Security." Now that he is guest-blogging on Political Animal by Kevin Drum I am thoroughly impressed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Fed to continue increasing interest rates

According to CNN Alerts, "Greenspan: Steady economy, but more rate hikes coming."

The fed is afraid of inflation, so they are going to keep jacking up interest rates, probably at a quarter point a month as they have for the last nine months.

This may cause the localized housing bubbles to be reduced or stopped. But it is NOT going to be good for employment. As Paul Krugman recently pointed out, the reason that unemployment is at a mere 5% is that so many people have simply dropped out of the workforce. Labor force participation is down. The economy is not hiring more people.

Politically, we can probably plan on a loosening of interest rates early in 2006 and 2008 because high unemployment will be blamed on the Republicans as the party in power. That's what the fed has done in 2000 and 2004. That is a part of the unitary national Republican Party I have been discussing. Greenspan is loyal to holding down inflation and electing Republicans, little else.

Don't look for an improved economy until next Summer, and if the Republicans retain Congress the interest rates will start back up and the economy will be stifled again in 2007.

Except for the CNN info, this is pure opinion, of course.

The weakness of "Fairness."

Interesting story on radio today. It seems that a husband and wife each wanted the last of a delicious dessert. The husband immediately told his wife "I want it all."

His wife responded "Let's each take half."

Her husband responded "We'll compromise. I want 100%, you want 50%, so a fair compromise is in the middle. I'll get 75% and you get 25%.

Liberals are the wife and conservatives are the husband. Notice that the wife started from the assumption that there should be a fair distribution of the dessert. The Husband used that assumption as the starting place to get as close to everything as possible. He used her value of fairness as a weapon against her.

We are already hearing Democrats start the advice and consent process on John Roberts by being fair to him as a human being and a nominee. Bilmon points out that Harry Reid stated on the floor of the Senate:

"John Roberts has had an impressive legal career. Both in government and in private practice, he has been a zealous and often successful advocate for his clients. He has argued many cases before the Supreme Court and is respected for his legal skills. By all accounts he is a very nice man."
  • Harry Reid started with an assumption of fairness. Reid will be 'rolled.'

Bilmon has a series of discussions on this process.

In his discussions Bilmon explains the "Fairness Disease" with examples. Then he points the way to the politics of the future.

Jeralyn at Talk Left (see post ) will not like it, and neither will a lot of Democrats and Progressives. Sad. They are going to have to decide which is the greater priority - winning elections or being "nice guys."

The conservatives made their decision long ago. That's why there are not many remaining "nice Guy" Republicans, why Democrats keep losing 'must-win elections,' and why the Republicans support Karl Rove so rabidly that they ignore his treason.

This discussion should be related to my previous posts on the reasons Democrats have been losing elections.
  • In Why do Republicans win elections? I discuss the nationwide well-funded and unified political organization if the conservative Republican party. The Democrats have nothing to match it at present.

  • In Why are conservatives getting elected over progressives? I discuss how the conservatives provide issues, platforms and talking points for a relatively unified conservative media message. One effect has been to shift the American public opinion towards right-wing pro-corporation opinions.

  • In Republicans have a permanent lock on national elections I briefly discuss the way the Republicans have taken advantage of the structure of the Constitutional provisions that allow groups with minority opinions to override more politically popular view.

[Addendum - 07-21-2005 12:05 PM] DavidNYC has an excellent dKos diary quoting and discussing Billmon's writings on how the Democrats should deal with the Roberts nomination.

This is exactly the kind of discussion Democrats need to be having. I focused above on the weakness of fairness as an attitude that has consistently led to losing must-win elections. Both Bilmon and DavidNYC provide a much broader discussion of alternative open to Democrats in order to remain competitive in American politics.

Of course, there is another option. Democrats can refuse to change, provide a high-minded example of how people should treat each other, and expect the Republicans to grow up and emulate the adults. Don't worry. I'll try to avoid writing such silly fantasies in the future.

Bush's nominee is to be the 'Huh? Candidate' - John Roberts

The three possible choices were 1. a widely unacceptable 'in-your-face' conservative, 2. a reasonable 'consensus' candidate, or 3. an unknown that leaves you wondering 'Huh?' The choice of nominee and the timing of his announcement tells us a bit about the current status of the White House.

About Roberts we know very little. He has not been a major player on the national political stage. Decent legal education, clerked for Rhenquist when Rhenquist was an associate justice, long time Republican activist who participated in the 2000 Florida Fiasco that appointed Bush President, and a corporate lawyer who has been a federal judge for only two years.

In short we don't yet know much about him and his qualifications or lack thereof. That is going to take some digging out. We will see that occur over the next few weeks. The last five years of battles against Bush have created an anti-Bush industry that will jump on the task with great relish.
About Bush himself, however, this nomination tells us a great deal. First there is the timing. With a deadline of October to have the new Justice confirmed, nominating Roberts now gives maximum time for opponents to dig up history and form effective opposition. Delaying his nomination would have made it an easier process. The timing of this announcement is 'all Rove - all the time.'

This is classic use of the President's power to set the national political agenda. The media heat will shift like a spotlight from Rove to Roberts. Since the shift in media focus does nothing about Fitzgerald's investigation, it only gives Rove time to arrange his defenses. With time the Republicans may stumble on to something to save Rove, but there is nothing obvious available to achieve that right now. They are playing for time here.

The nomination of a 'huh' candidate tells how Bush and Rove see the current power of Bush's Presidency. An 'in-your-face' nominee would have said that Bush felt as powerful and as unstoppable as he did when he took on reform of Social Security. The current near-dead status of that effort and Bush's low poll ratings suggest that he should not feel as on top of everything and as all-powerful as he clearly did last November. This nomination tells us that Bush/Rove is aware of the current state of the Presidency.

A reasonable 'consensus' candidate would have told us that he felt chastened and felt that he believed he needed to respect the Constitution and the normal American political processes in Washington. But a nominee reflecting that would have a long and distinguished record as a federal judge. That sure isn't John Roberts.

So what we have is a 'Huh?' nominee - a stealth candidate submitted early to protect Rove from the media. Roberts is also an effort to quietly push the Supreme Court to the right while being a statement that Bush's imperial presidency has been reduced. Bush still believes he was elected to change the rules in Washington and across the nation. He feels that he needs to be a bit more circumspect than he was when he stated he had political capital that he intended to spend. He is still working to change the political landscape for decades to come. I would bet that, unlike Souter who was really a last minute choice, Roberts has been watched, evaluated and groomed for this moment since before the 2000 election.

This early nomination does remove Rove from the media spotlight for a moment. It is an admission that the recent spate of orchestrated leaks and the full-court press by the entire Republican Party leadership has not helped Rove and may have hurt the Republican Party.

It is also a demonstration of the fact that everything a president does affects everything else he is doing or is going to try to do. The failure of the Social Security initiative weakened the Bush Presidency, as did the filibuster issue and the attempt to apply the 'nuclear option.' The failure of the John Bolton nomination has also weakened the presidency. Bolton has been a self-inflicted wound.

The recent Supreme Court decision acknowledged that Cooper and Miller did not have sufficient rights under the reporters shield concept to continue to conceal Rove and Libby from the grand jury. The refusal to accept the case by the Supreme Court finalized the judicial process and opened a large wound in the Presidency. It also demonstrated the central role Rove has played in the White House operations.

The rapid series of leaks and the defense of Rove by the entire right wing since Cooper handed off his notes and Miller went to jail shows how many Republicans feel threatened by a threat to Karl Rove. Because of the threat to Rove and Rove's importance to the party we have watvched the entire Republican Party flailing around like a fish on a hook. The relatively early submission of Robert's nomination indicates that they do not feel Rove has yet succeeded in slipping the hook. Instead Rove is lying, tired, in the bottom of the boat. The action is now elsewhere - for the moment.

One last piece of speculation. The Republican Party has built a national political juggernaut which has given them the Presidency since LBJ unless they somehow screwed up. The Democrats, not realizing that the political landscape has changed, have failed to adapt. That is what happened to both Gore and Kerry. Each would have governed much better than Bush has, but neither had access to a political machine which could get them elected.

Bush, however, by overreaching politically, has forced the Democrats to begin to organize. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean are all new Democratic leaders learning to respond to the Republican on-slaught. Each time the Republicans have taken a generally unpopular action like the attempt to destroy Social Security the Democrats and Progressives have become more effective in countering them. It has been a bit like LBJ's slow escalation in Vietnam. Each time there has been a small escalation, the opponents have learned to deal with it and gotten stronger.

The same process has worked against the Bush administration as they attempted to occupy Iraq with an inadequate military and no effective plan. Essentially, the Republicans seem to be able to elect candidates, but they cannot plan a government or effectively govern a nation. Their set of right-wing ideologies are a public relations positive, but is a complete bust when applied to reality.

So much for searching for portents regarding the Bush Presidency in the entrails of the Supreme Court nominee.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Karl is in a lot of trouble

Karl sort of failed to tell the FBI that he had ever mentioned Valerie Plame when he spoke to Matt Cooper. Murray Waas reports the story at the American Prospect.
"The omission by Rove created doubt for federal investigators, almost from the inception of their criminal probe into who leaked Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak, as to whether Rove was withholding crucial information from them, and perhaps even misleading or lying to them, the sources said.

Also leading to the early skepticism of Rove's accounts was the claim that although he first heard that Plame worked for the CIA from a journalist, he said could not recall the name of the journalist. Later, the sources said, Rove wavered even further, saying he was not sure at all where he first heard the information."
The story includes a number of other details and is worth reading.

From another angle, eleven former CIA employees delivered a letter (pdf file) to Senators Frist and Reid and Congresspersons Hastert and Pelosi complaining about the Republican talking points that attack Valerie Plame. Essentially they use polite language to tell the Republicans to lay off Valerie Plame and instead of attacking her, support the troops.

In short, Rove is in real trouble, he is using his control of the Republican Party to "smear and defend" in the typical Republican way, and the CIA personnel are hitting back.

Every time the Republicans have ever gotten control of the Congress they have screwed this nation over and robbed it blind, starting with TeaPot Dome scandal from the Harding administration in the early twenties. They are proving it again. They need to be removed from government.

Findlaw is assembling documents on Plame case

Findlaw is assembling a collection of documents on the exposure of Valerie Plame as a CIA asset to reporters. Interesting. Most are .pdf files.

My thanks to Lindsay Beyerstein. She thanks Digby but I haven't gotten to him yet.

What gives with San Diego and crooked politicians?

First we have the bribing of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the congressman from San Diego who will not run for reelection in 2006 because of the investigations into apparent bribes he has been receiving.

Now we have the mayor of San Diego removed from office on Monday, his first day on the new job.

This report is from the San Jose Mercury News (sigh-in required)
"ELLIOT SPAGAT Associated Press

SAN DIEGO - In the latest blow to a city awash in scandal, a federal jury on Monday convicted San Diego's new acting mayor and a city councilman of taking illegal campaign cash from a strip club owner who tried to lift a ban preventing nude dancers and patrons from touching.

Michael Zucchet, who became interim mayor over the weekend, was found guilty of conspiracy, extortion and fraud on his first business day in office. He was immediately suspended from office, his attorney said.

Councilman Ralph Inzunza, who was convicted of the same charges, also was suspended.

The jury also returned guilty verdicts against former Clark County, Nev., Commissioner Lance Malone, who worked for strip club owner Michael Galardi to repeal San Diego's "no-touch" ban in strip clubs."
My first suspicion is that San Diego is awash in Republican politicians.

Christian Terrorist Eric Rudolph sentenced to two life terms in prison

"Notorious Christian terrorist Eric Rudolph was sentenced to two life terms on Monday. The one-time fugitive had carried out four bombings that terrorized the southeastern areas of the United States. Among his crimes were the blowing up of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed a policeman, and a bombing of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.

As his sister-in-law made clear, Rudolph is driven by the ideology of the "Christian Identity" hate group. Terry Nichols of the Oklahoma City bombing was likewise connected to Christian identity and their "Elohim City".
That is what Juan Cole had to say today. I agree with him.

A headline like the one I used will be considered Christian-bashing by some, but they are no more Christians than the terrorists who blew up four bombs in London last week are Muslim. They are all cult members with a severe psychotic desire to kill their enemies.

There is no difference between Eric Rudolph, convicted Christian Terrorist, and the Muslim assassin Mohammed Bouyeri convicted in Holland for the murder of the Dutch film manker Van Gogh. In each case the individual decided that another person had 'dissed' their religion and deserved to die for it. In each case they are supported by large numbers of people who claim either Christianity or Islam as their religion and who applaud their actions.

In each case they are psychotic murderers and their supporters are little better. They wrap themselves in the name of a religion and prove themselves a disgrace to their religion. Their supporters are similar disgraces to their religions, proving that they all belong to cults of sick, psychotic fools. Neither Eric Rudolph nor Mohammed Bouyeri will adequately pay for their crimes. Worse, their supporters will also not pay for their crimes of supporting such murderous actions. Instead they all bring disgrace down on Christianity and on Islam.

See also

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bush's new employment requirements provide an existential question

Bush has said that "...if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

Is a person who receives a Presidential Pardon for a crime still unhireable by this admininstration? Does a Pardon wipe out a crime Rove committed?

Iraq Vets Challenge Bush on healthcare for veterans

A group of Iraq vets has placed an advertisement in the Washington Post challenging Bush to fund the promised healthcare for veterans. This is in response to the $1 billion shortfall in the current budget proposed by the Bush administration. The ad includes the following:
"THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION recently admitted that they miscalculated the health care costs for Veterans of the War on Terror this year by at least $1 billion. In 2006, the shortfall will be $3 billion.

WITHOUT IMMEDIATE CHANGES, four out of five returning Veterans could be turned away from care at VA hospitals. That's a raw deal the American people will not tolerate.

A UNANIMOUS, BIPARTISAN SENATE has moved quickly to cover this year's outrageous budget gap with a $1.5 billion emergency supplemental. Congress should adopt the Senate's plan, and should make up the 2006 budget gap as well.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, President Bush needs to act immediately and provide the leadership that will prevent Veterans from being shortchanged now and in the future."
This report comes from Brad's Blog.

From personal experience I can tell you that the Bush administration is cutting healthcare for veterans. I am retired military, covered under TriCare. Last year I paid a $12 copay to see my physician. This year it was changed to 20% of the charge. I have not paid less than $40 per visit yet. That is a 333% increase in what I am charged - with no warning. I am also now receiving bills from laboratories for unpaid bills that used to be covered undtriCareare.

Obviously I have to pay my share so that the extremely wealthy can get their tax cuts and the 400 most wealthy people in America do not have to pay an inheritance tax.

George W. Bush is the worst single President America has ever had!