Sunday, December 31, 2006

Today marked 3,000 U.S. deaths in Iraq.

Last day of the calendar year. U.S. military deaths in Iraq reached 3,000 according to Yahoo News.

Calendar is an arbitrary number. It could start anywhere. 3,000 deaths is also an arbitrary number, interesting as a number only because it rolls over from 2,999 to 3,000 by merely adding 1. But some family in Spring, Texas will now have to deal with the grief of this death, as have 2,999 others. Each body bag is its own story. The number 1 that is added to the previous total ignores that full, human story.

Still, the "Decider" is procrastinating about what decision he will make that will allow him to take credit for winning the war.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

We'll break 3,000 before 2007.

This from Reuters:
Sat Dec 30, 11:19 AM ET
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - December became the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years after the U.S. military reported six more combat deaths, leaving the tally just two short of the emotive 3,000 mark.

Three U.S. marines died on Thursday from wounds suffered in combat in Iraq's western Anbar province. One soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in northwest Baghdad and another soldier was killed in Anbar on Friday, the military said on Saturday.

Another statement announced the death of a U.S. soldier killed by a roadside bomb in southwest Baghdad on Friday.

The latest deaths take the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq since the invasion of March 2003 to 2,998, according to, a Web site that tracks U.S. deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The number who died in December is now 109, three more than the previous high this year in October, and the highest since November 2004 when 137 U.S. servicemen and women died.

The Guardian 12-28-2006 posted an opinion piece from Dilip Hiro which predicts that things in 2007 will get worse.

Hussein executed: Baathists threaten consequences.

Well, it was to be expected, though whether from Bush/Cheney or from the Shiite Iraqi's I'm not sure. Saddam Hussein was hung just before 6:00 AM local time in Iraq on Saturday, December 30, 2006.

Now we see how the Sunni Baathist insurgents will respond. This is what CNN has to say on the subject.

In my opinion the four years that Saddam has been in prison has allowed events in Iraq to thoroughly pass him by. The Bush administration will try to take advantage of it, but there is very little advantage to be taken.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Conservatives and Chicago school are wrong.

This is the result of an economic game played as a study of human behavior. Go read the report of how the game was played and what the results were. Then look at these results.
The notion of cooperation among non-related individuals has fallen into disrepute. Economists like Milton Friedman and the so-called Chicago School tout "the rational agent" as the sine qua non of economic behavior. The rational agent thinks only of self-interest. Greed is good, according to the Chicago School. The Invisible Hand of the marketplace may inadvertently steer the self-interested actor in the general direction of the common good, though not through any conscious effort by the agent. Any efforts to coerce the rational agent into altruistic action will be fought off and rejected.

What Fehr and his group, along with the Neuro-economists, are showing through empirical study is that people are hard-wired to cooperate. Self-interest is not a determined impulse in human beings. What people really have hard wired into their brains is a sense of justice and fair play, a capacity for nuturance of others –even non-kin others, a keen eye for in-group norms, and, surprisingly, a self-organizing tendency to make hierarchies.
This says that the simplistic ideas of the conservatives simply don't work as a way to order society. Greed is NOT good, and people are hardwired from birth to work for the success of the group. Their reward will be recognition, not necessarily money or another economic reward. That's why people will risk death for a scrap of ribbon (Napoleon) or work for recognition rather than wealth.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bush in Iraq resembles Leipold in the Congo

Adam Hochschild, author of "King Leopold's Ghost: a Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa", wrote an open letter to King President George about the resemblances between Leopold's exploitation of the Congo and Bush's exploitation of Iraq. Go read it in the LA Times 12-22-2006. It's short, but quite interesting.

If the book Hochschild wrote interests you (as it does me) and you have time to read it (I don't - I'm working on WW I prinarily) here is a link to the book at Barnes and Noble.
King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

Daily Howler explains why Democrats are reported as being "less authentic" than Republicans

The answer is that the reporters are all upper middle class, and are looking for Republican class characteristics. When they don't find those characteristics in a Republican candidate, they don't report the discrepancy. At the same time, those reporters don't expect those characteristics from Democrats, so they take every possible interpretation to show how unauthentic the Democratic candidates are.

For a more complete description, go to the Daily Howler. Then look back at the earlier report of the same phenomenon.

It's a class thing with the reporters, and the reporters are NOT working class people.

Monday, December 25, 2006

First populated island lost to rising seas

From the Independent, UK we hear of the first populated island to be lost to seas rising as a result of global warming. This island is Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal. The island was once home to 10,000 people.
It has been officially recorded in a six-year study of the Sunderbans by researchers at Calcutta's Jadavpur University. So remote is the island that the researchers first learned of its submergence, and that of an uninhabited neighbouring island, Suparibhanga, when they saw they had vanished from satellite pictures.

Two-thirds of nearby populated island Ghoramara has also been permanently inundated. Dr Sugata Hazra, director of the university's School of Oceanographic Studies, says "it is only a matter of some years" before it is swallowed up too. Dr Hazra says there are now a dozen "vanishing islands" in India's part of the delta. The area's 400 tigers are also in danger. [Snip]

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.
Personally I think the non-believers in global warming should all be relocated to islands that are no more than four feet above sea level and see if they remain unbelievers.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Stories you haven't heard in the MSM

Here are some stories that should have been covered by the main stream media (MSM) and haven't been.

First, here are ten stories from Making Light. I think I'll microwave my next passport. But now I can understand why it jumped from $40 to $95. [Military-Industrial complex and obscene profits. This is a legal monopoly. You can't get a passport without paying what the government charges, and the company is going to make a sizeable profit. ]

Next are three more at Hullabaloo by Digby. (Digby's addendum sent me to the ten at Making Light.)

Then, from Media Matters we get the eleven most outrageous Comments of 2006.

Then for those of you who are interested in reading about the psychology of what makes people tick, I am going to strongly recommend "Bush on the Couch."

Bush On the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President
Bush On the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President

I clicked on the B&N used books, found one for $1.99 plus about $3.50 postage, and it has been more than worth it. I have studied mostly modern psychology (cognitive behavorial and such) and very little Psychotherapy outside of reading a bit of Freud and Jung. Dr. Frank does an excellent job of telling what his particular school of psychotherapy beleives and then applying it to the well published history of Bush. This is the kind of psychoanalysis that the CIA has used to determine the stability of foreign leaders.

I'd really love to see a similar analysis on Dick Cheney and Pat Robertson.

Anyway, I strongly recommend the book, and since you are here, Click on the book icon above, then go down to Used Books (or roll your mouse over to the right hand column of my blog to the "Find Books" link and click through to Barnes and Nobel.)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Two more years of Bush running foreign policy

At the end of two more Years Bush and Cheney will retreat to their "after the White House" homes and post-office well-paying sinecures. While they do their photo-ops they will be saying "We could have won if..." or but... follewed by whatever the conservative myth of the day will be by then.

For an idea of what reality is, go read Kevin Drum (and again, Kevin Drum update), Digby, Matthew Iglesias and Atrios.

For a fast summary, though, they all agree that the war in Iraq is lost already and the proposed increase in troops will not change that. The only good thing about it is that the civilian masters requiring the increase are being asked to look at what the increased troops are being sent to do. They need clear and achievable missions.

As an aside - What no one in the groups I refer to point out is that clear and achievable missions can be compared to what is needed to "win" (whatever than means) and the failure to achieve those goals will be clear.

Whatever, Iraq has already been lost. This is the conservative's last gasp. It will fail, since the conservatives have no clue regarding what they are fighting against, nor do they understand what armies can achieve. But they will not admit this.

Shortly after the U.S. pulls out of Iraq the cry will arise from the conservatives "We could have won, but the Liberals stabbed us in the back!!" That's because conservatism (like its very similarly emotionally held "'ism", Communism) is perfect and can never fail. Any failure must be because someone (Liberals and Democrats) sabotagued them or because the people who were in charge (in this case, Cheney and Bush) are not really conservatives.

Wait for it. The whining is not far off. The only question remaining is how many more lives will be destroyed between now and the final recognition by a controling majority of Americans that the Iraq adventure has failed.

Ivo Dalder looks at Republican 2000 platform

This is a lot more detailed than my mere memory of those days is, but it deserves a second look to compare what Bush intended to do after defeating Gore. From Ivo Dalder:
* The administration has run America’s defenses down over the decade through inadequate resources, promiscuous commitments, and the absence of a forward-looking military strategy. [As opposed to breaking the Army and Marine Corp, sending troops to war without adequate body armor and equipment, and only deciding to increase force levels five years into a global conflict.]
* The arrogance, inconsistency, and unreliability of the administration’s diplomacy have undermined American alliances, alienated friends, and emboldened our adversaries. [My all-time favorite!]
* World trade talks in Seattle that the current administration had sponsored collapsed in spectacular failure. [Doha anyone?] An initiative to establish free trade throughout the Americas has stalled because of this lack of Presidential leadership. [Ah, yes. Bush’s leadership on this issue really has made a difference — 6 years later and we’re not a step closer to a deal.]
* The problems of Mexico have been ignored, as our indispensable neighbor to the south struggled with too little American help to deal with its formidable challenges. [Think the Mexicans feel they’ve gotten any help from Bush lately? After declaring the relationship with Mexico America’s most important on September 9, 2001, Bush has ignored our southern neighbors ever since.]
* The tide of democracy in Latin America has begun to ebb with a sharp rise in corruption and narco-trafficking. [And since then, only America’s friends in Latin America have won elections… Not!]
* With weak and wavering policies toward Russia, the administration has diverted its gaze from corruption at the top of the Russian government, the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in Chechnya, and the export of dangerous Russian technologies to Iran and elsewhere. [The biggest mistake wasn’t seeing Putin’s soul…]
* A generation of American efforts to slow proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has unraveled as first India and Pakistan set off their nuclear bombs, then Iraq defied the international community. Token air strikes against Iraq could not long mask the collapse of an inspection regime that had — until then — at least kept an ambitious, murderous tyrant from acquiring additional nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. [North Korea? Iran? Oh, and what do we do when inspectors in Iraq return?]
Ivo Dalder got these from the the 2000 GOP foreign policy platform.

Actually those proposals were not a bad basis for building a decent foreign policy. What happened? As we learned from early on, the Bush White House does politics. It does not do policy.

What's the difference?

Politics is doing things that provide direct payoffs to those Bush supporters who can influence votes. The goal is to achieve reelection and retain power.

Policy is taking a set of priorities like those proposed in the 2000 GOP foreign policy platform and taking organized actions by government to achieve the goals in that platform.

Bush's (and Cheney's) goal has been their own reelection and retention of power, not making the world a better place for Americans and everyone else to live in. This short take, comparing the promises made in 2000 to the reality that the GOP has left us at the end of 2006 demonstrates that quite well.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bush refuses to get Bin Laden twice besides Tora Bora

For some reason Bush does not want bin Laden caught or killed. We know that Gen Tommy Franks refused to send the necessary American troops to Tora Bora to catch bin Laden when his location was known. Now we have a documentary that claims that French-NATO troops had him located two times but were not given approval for an attack.

H/T to AmericaBlog.

Who will be our "Bar Fight" candidate for President?

Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest asks the real question which should determine who the Progressives and Liberals will support for the Democratic Party nomination for President in 2008. That question is, what candidate do we Democrats want to watch our backs in a bar fight?

His answer is Wes Clark and maybe John Edwards. It does NOT include Hillery Clinton or Barack Obams.

Dave's analysis matches my gut feel. Obama and Clinton are not willing to fight for what seems to me to be the most important values in America. Clark is willing, and Edwards could be but hasn't proven himself yet.

Go read the full article to see what Dave means.

Surge in Iraq! One last push!

John Emerson at Seeing the Forest points out why the Chiefs of Staff are pushing back on the effort to increase the troops in Iraq.
I think that this is what is motivating the generals: there's no way that a 10% increase in forces, with no significant change in strategy, can change anything militarily. I don't know where the slogan "one last push" came from -- from the media or from the administration -- but the word "last" is a dead giveaway. It cues you to ask "And after that, what?" (To my knowledge, no one in the administration has disavowed the "one last push" meme).

We do not have the additional troops to send in, so this means that the troops already in Iraq will be expected to stay longer than their one year tours and the new ones coming in will be expedited as much as possible. This, if attempted, is extremely likely to finally break the Army and Marine Corps. The first news of such an event will be reports of soldiers and Marines being court martialed for refusing to go to Iraq or even deserting. (Since this government does its best to prevent information from being given to the public, this will be hard to get.)

The reason that the increase of forces is so small -- and everyone knows this -- is that we've already committed everything we have. The proposed increases just amount to stretching existing troops farther and pushing them harder, with longer tours and shorter breaks. We have no reserve.
He's right. The proposed "increase" of 15,000 to 20,000 troops to be used in Baghdad will not change anything in our favor. They cannot pacify the city of 5 to 6 million people.

There are currently 6,000 troops working on Baghdad, and the 20,000 "more" makes it 26,000. Assuming only 5,000,000 inhabitants in Baghdad, that makes it 192 Iraqis to each American. Pacifying an area is usually expected to require a minimum of 20 to 1. So there is no pacification being planned.

A second possibility is that the Americans are intended to try to conquer the Shite Sadr brigade belonging to Moqtada al Sadr. It is not likely that the Shiites in government will accept a war against the main supporters of Maliki, the current President of Iraq. There is also the distinct possibility that for Americans to attack the Sadr Brigade will start a second war to go with the current war between Americans and the Sunni insurgents. So that is not a plan that has any real likelihood of success, while it has strong prospects of making the total Iraq situation a lot worse fast.

The war in Iraq is lost. Bush refuses to admit that, so he is proposing a lot more action and casualties so that he can push the date of acceptance of loss into the future as far as possible, hoping that he can pass it off to the next President - who will probably be a Democrat. (Congressional Republicans already hate that, but Bush has the power to decide on foreign policy and no Congressperson is going to vote to cut off funds to the troops in Iraq.)

In short, this "One last Push" or "Surge" proposal cannot lead to "Success" in Iraq. Nor is any military followup possible, because it will use up the last of the resources of the ground forces. Think of Germany's "Battle of the Bulge" effort at the end of WW II.

It is a political effort designed to shift the blame to someone other than George Bush and the Republican White House. For that effort, George Bush and Dick Cheney are perfectly willing to cause a large increase in casualties, both American and Iraqi. The Military Generals know that, and consider the cost too high. So there will be a lot of push-back from the military against this effort.

Watch the dollar in 2007

The economic question that should be foremost in everyone's minds right now is the dollar exchange rate. Here (from the Guardian) is one view:
The really crucial question for 2007 is whether it is the year when there is a run on the dollar. There are plenty of people out there - me included - who think the US currency is going to take a beating over the next 12 months.

Here's why. Over the past decade, the dollar has had two big strengths. Firstly, it has been the world's only reserve currency: secondly, its economy has grown far faster than its two big rivals in the developed world - Europe and Japan. Neither of these factors is now as powerful as it was even a couple of years ago, the last time the dollar had a real wobble on the foreign exchanges.

The advent of the euro has meant foreign investors now have a choice of currencies in which to hold their reserves. To be sure, they will still continue to stash away plenty of greenbacks, but the balance is likely to change over the year. Iran's announcement that it was diversifying its portfolio was clearly a political shot across Washington's bows, but it was significant nontheless. Central banks around the world no longer have to load up on dollars simply because there is no alternative; the euro is one, the Chinese yuan will soon become another.

As far as the economy is concerned, the strong dollar has allowed the US to live beyond its means for far longer than has been healthy either for America or the global economy as a whole. A high dollar meant exports into the US were cheap, and that kept both inflation and interest rates low. Easy credit terms meant that the US has had not one but two speculative booms over the past decade, the first in dot com shares, the second in the housing market. Growth has been artificially boosted and the trade deficit has exploded.

Now, though, things have started to change. The US economy has slowed down markedly during 2006 as the housing bubble has collapsed and the eurozone has put in a decent performance for a change. The move from dollars to euros is perfectly rational when looked at on economic grounds.
My real concern is that as the dollar falls, foreign imports will become more expensive. That will put an inflationary pressure on the American economy.

The Federal Reserve under Ben Bernake measures its success by how well the bond market is, and inflation hurts the bond market. That will cause the Fed to increase interest rates. But increased interest rates will reduce the economy, the first casuality of which will be creation of new jobs. So unemployment will increase.

Go read the full article. It gives an excellent view of what is abour to happen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Digby needs cash. Keep him writing!

I rarely do this but Digby is usually the most insightful writer in the blogosphere. He is having an annual fund raiser. Go to Digby, pull out your credit card or get on paypal, and give him some money. Ten bucks is all I could afford, but if you can only handle $5, do that. If you can do more, do it.

The writing he does takes TIME. I've tried and I don't have the skills or patience to do what he does. Get on line, get to his blog, look at the left hand side, and kick in some.

Then bookmark him and read his stuff if you haven't already. This is more important than NPR!

How to conduct counterinsurgency operations

Here is an Australian view of how Counterinsurgency Operations. It is a 38 slide .pdf file, and really worth reading.

Go read it, then consider how many of its recommendations the U.S. military is NOT following.

H/T to Armchair Generalist.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

These are the Senators facing election in 2008

Since the various possible Presidential candidates are already lining up (and in the case of Evan Bayh, also dropping out) we should also look at the Senators due to face the electorate. There are 21 Republican Senators and 12 Democrats.

Alexander, Lamar- (R - TN)
(202) 224-4944
Web Form:

Allard, Wayne- (R - CO)
(202) 224-5941
Web Form:

Baucus, Max- (D - MT)
(202) 224-2651
Web Form:

Biden, Joseph R., Jr.- (D - DE)
(202) 224-5042

Chambliss, Saxby- (R - GA)
(202) 224-3521
Web Form:

Cochran, Thad- (R - MS)
(202) 224-5054
Web Form:

Coleman, Norm- (R - MN)
(202) 224-5641
Web Form:

Collins, Susan M.- (R - ME)
(202) 224-2523
Web Form:

Cornyn, John- (R - TX)
(202) 224-2934
Web Form:

Craig, Larry E.- (R - ID)
(202) 224-2752
Web Form:

Dole, Elizabeth- (R - NC)
(202) 224-6342
Web Form:

Domenici, Pete V.- (R - NM)
(202) 224-6621
Web Form:

Durbin, Richard- (D - IL)
(202) 224-2152
Web Form:

Enzi, Michael B.- (R - WY)
(202) 224-3424
Web Form:

Graham, Lindsey- (R - SC)
(202) 224-5972
Web Form:

Hagel, Chuck- (R - NE)
(202) 224-4224
Web Form:

Harkin, Tom- (D - IA)
(202) 224-3254
Web Form:

Inhofe, James M.- (R - OK)
(202) 224-4721
Web Form:

Johnson, Tim- (D - SD)
(202) 224-5842
Web Form:

Kerry, John F.- (D - MA)
(202) 224-2742
Web Form:

Landrieu, Mary L.- (D - LA)
(202) 224-5824
Web Form:

Lautenberg, Frank R.- (D - NJ)
(202) 224-3224
Web Form:

Levin, Carl- (D - MI)
(202) 224-6221
Web Form:

McConnell, Mitch- (R - KY)
(202) 224-2541
Web Form:

Pryor, Mark L.- (D - AR)
(202) 224-2353
Web Form:

Reed, Jack- (D - RI)
(202) 224-4642
Web Form:

Roberts, Pat- (R - KS)
(202) 224-4774
Web Form:

Rockefeller, John D., IV- (D - WV)
(202) 224-6472
Web Form:

Sessions, Jeff- (R - AL)
(202) 224-4124
Web Form:

Smith, Gordon H.- (R - OR)
(202) 224-3753
Web Form:

Stevens, Ted- (R - AK)
(202) 224-3004
Web Form:

Sununu, John E.- (R - NH)
(202) 224-2841
Web Form:

Warner, John- (R - VA)
(202) 224-2023
Web Form:

Each of these Senators needs to be analyzed for his reelection prospects. I think any Republican in the Northeastern U.S. is vulnerable, as is Max Baucus of Montana.

Since I am from Texas, I think Cornyn is likely to be difficult to defeat, but he isn't very well liked generally anywhere. He does have the support of the Christian right here in Texas, and this is a severe Bible Belt state.

Beyond that, you tell me. I dunno.

Update Jan 09, 2007
Howie Klein over at FireDogLake provides a fast rundown on the prospects of the 33 Senators up for election in 2008.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How to win in Iraq.

Here is a slide-show (.pdf file) being handed around among the military. Looks like it will work. Or would have if it had been attempted Three Years Ago!

Bush needs to see this slide show - if he can pay attention that long.

This slide show was put together by a Marine Captain, Travis Patriquin. Really good slide show. But if you want to extend your appreciation to him, you will have to find out where is he buried and leave it on his grave. He was killed by an IED in An-Bar province 12/13/2006.

From Seeing the Forest and ABC News.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Henry Rollins on Net Neutrality

Go listen to Rant by Henry Rollins. His strong language is part of the message.

[H/T to Digby.]

History doesn't repeat, but it often rhymes.

If you have an interest in both history and in current affairs, go read this diary which purports to see a new Protestant Reformation, one which has gay marriage rights as a central issue.

I'm not ready to suggest that this is gospel, but it is a very interesting view of current religious affairs in America and Great Britain. Future events will certainly confirm, modify or contradict this essay. In the meantime, it is an interesting way to look at what is happening.

Monday, December 11, 2006

List of scandalized Republican officials

This is an interesting list. It is people in the Bush administration who have been indicted of, convicted of, or have pled Guilty to crimes; or who have resigned during and due to, pending, or after investigation; or whose nomination has failed due to scandal.

It's quite a list.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Conservatives are about being aristocrats.

I meant to write about this yesterday. Digby has nailed what it means to be a conservative. He quotes from Phillip Agre:
From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocrats are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and holding office. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.
The inequality the conservatives want is a social inequality, not a financial one. A financial inequality is merely the means for individuals in a commercial society to achieve the social inequality.

It is this social inequality that conservatives work so hard to assert. Their belief in their innate superiority is the reason why they can dismiss their critics while expecting people to defer to their instructions and guidance without criticism. This attitude is the polar opposite of the democratic idea that all people are equal. Whenever you hear a person arguing that people are NOT equal, they all have their degrees of superiority and inferiority, that person is a conservative who considers himself better than most others.

Sen. Joe Lieberman considers that his three terms in the Senate and his position as Vice Presidential candidate with Al Gore in 2000 demonstrates his superiority to the rest of us. That was why he got so angry when the Connecticut Democrats did not renominate him for his fourth term, and why Joe abandoned the Democratic Party and ran as an independent. He went to Washington 18 years ago, and has ceased to believe in the equality of men. He is no longer a democrat.

Friday Digby continues his discussion of conservative aristocracy:
When Bush got all snippy with Jim Webb, George Will distorted the quote precisely to highlight Webb’s supposed lack of deference.

All the Beltway 500 code words - Civil, Dignified, Ungracious - for trashing Democrats and preventing them from saying what needs to be said have to do with Republicans reinforcing this fundamental aristocratic value of deference.

It’s the same deal with Civil, Moderate, and Bipartisan, words which are also code words for reinforcing deference.

That’s why it’s important to mock, belittle, insult, degrade and make Republicans laughable at all times and in all conditions. These are all tools for eliminating deference from our political discourse.

Naturally, when we do this, the Beltway 500 clutches its pearls and calls us Shrill or Rude. That’s a good sign: It means we’re displaying the lack of deference appropriate a Democracy.
This is why the Republican conservatives are so ready to denigrate or put down their opponents, but react so huffily when anyone criticizes them. The conservatives have trained the media to react this way for them by threatening to call the media "liberally biased."

It's why the Washington pundits are calling critics of the Republicans "shrill" and "extremist" and now that the Democrats have defeated the Republicans in an election, they are demanding that the Democrats prove how "centrist" they are. "Centrist" means deferring to the conservatives, even when they are wrong.

The function of the conservatives is to train the American culture to practice the traditional ideas of deference to aristocracy. Bush worked this as hard as he could by working only with his base. That was how they do it when they are in the majority and run the government. Suddenly they have visibly screwed things up so badly that the voters have effectively provided a vote of No Confidence in the Republican Party. So now they will demand that the Democrats defer to the conservatives out of power by compromise - by becoming "Centrists."

This is just more of the retraining of society they have been working on since 1968. They are wrong to do it, the Democrats will be wrong to let them try, and the Democrats need to begin retraining society back to what the majority of Americans believe.

And what is that? It's that Americans are all equal. We will defer only to men who present their ideas to all of us, face the criticism, and we will empower only the the better ideas to be implemented by their presenters.

Democrats need to return to being Progressives.

Addendum Dec 12, 2006 11:32 PM CST
Here is another example of Republicans planting stories to trivialize Democratic leaders. Along with serious stories comes a characterization of the types of fashion each favors. Soon, if someone says "Pelosi" everyone thinks first of "Armani."

The implication is that fashion is what non-serious people like Paris Hilton are concerned with, not serious issues like grown-up Republicans. Or as Digby describes it:
These fashion "stories" are planted by snotty GOP operatives to trivialize (and feminize) Democrats. All these liberals are a bunch of flaming metrosexual fashionistas, don't you know, thinking about their looks all the time, staring in the mirror, spending tons of money on their appearances. (Remember "Christophe" and the 300 dollar haircut? John Kerry and the botox?)

Democrats are nothing but a bunch of bitches and girlie-men, haven't you heard? This is not an accident or a coincidence, I guarantee it.
Exactly. As Digby says "This is not an accident or a coincidence, I guarantee it." This is a way of manipulating the voting public so that they will ignore what is said by Democrats and worse, ignore the evidence of corruption, stupidity and incompetence demonstrated repeatedly by the Republicans in government.

When someone suggests you move the curtain aside and observe the little man behind it, the curtain is made up of implications like this, that the person telling you to look behind the curtain is not a serious person to be listened to.

Frist failed as Senate Majority Leader.

Sen. Frist thought that his national recognition as Senator and as Senate Majority Leader, his MD and experience as heart-lung surgeon and his ability to look good on TV could be converted to an effective run for the Presidency. Instead he is going to leave the Senate this January and give up politics. So what happened to him?

Reed Hundt over at TPM Cafe explains.

Why are we still in Iraq? Bush can't face his failure.

We know that the War in Iraq is a disaster. The ISG report says that it is expected to get worse. So why are we still in Iraq and losing one to three soldiers/Marines a day?

Real simple. If Bush decides to pull the U.S. military out of Iraq he has admitted that the Iraq War, the single signature policy of his Presidency, it an utter failure. Here is TPM's discussion of the matter.

Short answer - we all know that Bush is the President who committed the worst foreign policy decision ever done by a U.S. President. But as long as he doesn't admit it (meaning pull the troops out) he doesn't have to face his failure. He would rather have American troops and Iraqis die or be cruelly wounded and maimed rather than face his own failure.

This is the response Democrats who met with Bush to discuss his reaction to the ISG report. From the McClatchy Washington Bureau.
"I just didn't feel there today, the president in his words or his demeanor, that he is going to do anything right away to change things drastically," Senate Majority Leader-elect Harry Reid, D-Nev., said following the Oval Office meeting. "He is tepid in what he talks about doing. Someone has to get the message to this man that there have to be significant changes."

Instead, Bush began his talk by comparing himself to President Harry S Truman, who launched the Truman Doctrine to fight communism, got bogged down in the Korean War and left office unpopular.

Bush said that "in years to come they realized he was right and then his doctrine became the standard for America," recalled Senate Majority Whip-elect Richard Durbin, D-Ill. "He's trying to position himself in history and to justify those who continue to stand by him, saying sometimes if you're right you're unpopular, and be prepared for criticism."

Durbin said he challenged Bush's analogy, reminding him that Truman had the NATO alliance behind him and negotiated with his enemies at the United Nations. Durbin said that's what the Iraq Study Group is recommending that Bush do now - work more with allies and negotiate with adversaries on Iraq.

Bush, Durbin said, "reacted very strongly. He got very animated in his response" and emphasized that he is "the commander in chief."

Bush had a friendlier afternoon meeting with leaders from the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 44 conservative House Democrats united primarily on fiscal conservatism. Bush apparently was feeling them out to see if their political agenda could dovetail with his. But even they stressed that they expect to see him revamp Iraq policy.

"Obviously, he was most passionate in defending his position on Iraq," said Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark. "But we made it clear to him that the American people are ready for a new direction in Iraq. I think he's open to that. Maybe not all 79, but I think you'll see some of the recommendations from the Iraq Study Group implemented in the coming months."

Bush has been cool to some of the report's main recommendations. He's said he won't deal with Iran until it verifiably suspends its nuclear enrichment program and won't sit down with Syria until it stays out of Lebanon's political affairs and prevents the flow of weapons and cash to insurgents in Iraq.

And Bush has stressed many times that U.S. troops will stay in Iraq until they successfully complete their mission.
Bush is severely in denial, and is resisting being pushed with every technique a life spent avoiding things that didn't fit what he wanted has taught him. My opinion? This situation could well lead to a Constitutional crisis and/or Bush's suicide. Or both.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The disaster that is our Middle East "policy."

Steve Clemons is traveling in the United Arab Emirates and reported this yesterday:
But let me just put something out there that I learned this evening during a 90 minute discussion from one of the most prominent incumbent national security officials in the Middle East:

This senior policy official stated that he had never seen a Secretary of State as weak, disorganized, and without a plan of any kind than Condoleezza Rice -- and this from someone who strenuously insists that he and many other regional foreign policy officials want to be supportive of her and the U.S.

He stated that American withdrawal from Iraq -- despite the growing clamor for that -- would yield a complete change in the profile and character of nearly every one of the Middle East's 22 countries. He said that several governments in the region -- outside of Iraq -- could very easily "and would probably fall."

He said that America would be facing a new roster of regimes that were loyal either to Tehran or to al Qaeda.

He said that there is only one non-military way to break Iran's current course, and that the military option was not credible and would not be supported in the region. This official said that the only way to stop Iran at this point was to make the price of oil plummet.

He said that America could engineer this with coordinated support from oil producers in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The price of a dramatic increase in oil production would be expeditious movement -- real movement -- on Israel-Palestine negotiations towards a viable state of Palestine and a clear, coordinated plan on Iran.

He said that though the GCC were close, many-decades-long allies of America that the U.S. regularly ignores its regional allies and has not communicated its basic policy course on Iran.

Without a clear and credible plan, there would be no confidence in America's effort to knock back Iran's growing pretensions and nothing would be done on the oil front.

But it seemed clear to me that this prominent person believed that it was well within the power of major oil suppliers to get the price of oil below $40/barrel -- and that this would stifle Iran's growing influence significantly.

He said that America needed only to get re-engaged, set a course, and build allies to move forward -- but that America continues to approach these matters in disconnected, reactive, and ultimately futile ways that show no fundamental understanding of regional realities and demonstrate a lack of strategic vision or common sense.
Sounds a lot like the Bush administration handling disaster relief on the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans, doesn't it? America seems to need disaster relief from the expected supplier of disaster relief. Let's look at what this man said more closely.
  1. Our Secretary of State is disorganized, weak and has no plan to guide America's Middle East actions.
  2. America has many long time allies in the Middle East who want to help, but the administration has not communicated with them, either to solicit views, to share a plan or to organize actions against Iran or the fundamentalists who threaten them as well as us.
  3. America's failure in and withdrawal from the Middle East will cause either the collapse of the governments of many of our allies, or their reorientation towards al Qaeda and Iran if they are to survive.
  4. Iran's ability to influence events in the Middle East would be sharply reduced if the price of oil could be reduced to below $40/barrel. This is within the power of major oil suppliers if they could be induced to work together within the framework of an overall plan.
  5. America could move effectively if it were to get re-engaged, set an organized course, and build allies to work towards a mutual goal. Instead the Bush administration (personified in the ME by the hapless Secretary of State) shows no fundamental understanding of ME realities and an absence of either common sense or strategic vision. This is shown by the disconnected and reactive approaches taken to the entire Middle East adventure in which there are three civil wars currently brewing, one in Iraq, one in Lebanon, and one between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The clear victory by the Democrats in last month's election amounts to a resounding vote of no confidence in the Bush administration. Ask Sen. Lincoln Chaffee who had approval ratings of about 65% at the same time he lost his election to a Democrat.

If America had a Parliamentary government, the government would have fallen November 8th, and it would have been replaced by one that was a broad-based coalition. As it is, all we have gotten is a new Secretary of Defense. Better than nothing, I guess, but we also need a new Secretary of State.

Certainly I would appoint a roving ambassador to the ME, with command authority over all diplomacy in that area. He would be co-located with the Centcom Commander (who already has the same kind of unified control of military forces in the ME), and the two directed to coordinate their activities. They would have to have mostly a free hand from the President and the two Secretaries. This would only work with a hands-on President to knock heads together when they disagreed, so with Bush in office, it would not happen.

In the absence of some strategic vision, further changes in personnel and coordination of activities between the U.S. and our ME allies, the next two to three years looks pretty damned bleak to me.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The on-going tyranny and criminality of the Bush administration

It is extremely difficult for me to discuss the Jose Padilla case, partly because it is so criminal, disgusting, primitive and unAmerican. Three and a half years ago Padilla was arrested and publicly accused of being an agent of al Qaeda - by the Attorney General (Ashcroft) of the United State, no less - and of planning to enter the United States and build and explode a so-called dirty bomb.

Since that time, Jose Padilla (a U.S. Citizen, though that is legally irrelevant since the same Constitution and law applies to noncitizens in the U.S.) has been held in solitary confinement conditions equivalent to those of the worst of the worst convicted criminals currently kept in the horrible conditions of SuperMax. Only Jose has never been charged with any crime at all. No charges, no trial, no conviction. Legally, Jose Padilla is as innocent of criminal intent as the best of us, yet he has spent the time since he was arrested time in extreme solitary confinement. Jerilyn Merrit and Digby have weighed in with their disgust and descriptions, and then Glenn Greenwald pulled all this together. Here is some of what Glenn wrote:
"Digby says everything that needs to be said about how depraved this specific behavior is. And any decent human being can see that for themselves. It is as self-evident as anything can be. So I want to make a few additional observations about this revelation:

(1) We are only learning about what was done to Padilla because, after 3 1/2 years of being held without any charges, he is now in the criminal judicial system and the Government's conduct and its allegations against Padilla are both now being subjected to scrutiny (just like the pre-9/11 Founders intended and explicitly required).

But if the Bush administration had its way, Padilla would still be languishing in solitary confinement -- prohibited from any contact with the outside world, including lawyers -- and detained without any charges at all. Bush officials did not voluntarily indict him and transfer him to the judicial system because they suddenly woke up one day and realized that American citizens shouldn't be imprisoned for years and years without due process. To the contrary, they still believe they have the power to detain U.S. citizens in that manner.

They only brought charges against Padilla in November, 2005 -- and transferred him from his military brig to a federal prison -- because the Supreme Court was set to rule on the legality of their treatment of Padilla, something they were desperate to avoid. By indicting him and finally allowing him to contest the accusations in court, the administration was able to argue -- successfully -- that the Supreme Court should dismiss Padilla's case because the relief he was seeking (i.e., either be charged or released) was now granted and his claims were therefore "moot."

But the administration continues to argue that it has the power to detain U.S. citizens -- including those, like Padilla, detained not on a "battlefield," but on U.S. soil -- indefinitely and without any charges being brought. Nothing has changed in that regard.

(2) The Bush administration "justified" its treatment of Padilla through rank fear-mongering -- having John Aschroft flamboyantly brand him "the Dirty Bomber" and then leak to the press over the next two years that he wanted to blow up apartment buildings. But the indictment contained none of those allegations (because the "evidence" on which they were based was flimsy from the start and, independently, was unusable because it was obtained via torture). Instead, the Indictment merely recites the vaguest possible terrorism-related conspiracy accusations against Padilla.

Now that they are forced to defend their accusations in court, the Bush administration's case against Padilla has been revealed to be incredibly weak, as Dan Eggen's typically excellent article in The Washington Post last month detailed:

But now, nearly a year after his abrupt transfer into a regular criminal court, the Justice Department's prosecution of the former Chicago gang member is running into trouble.

A Republican-appointed federal judge in Miami has already dumped the most serious conspiracy count against Padilla, removing for now the possibility of a life sentence. The same judge has also disparaged the government's case as "light on facts," while defense lawyers have made detailed allegations that Padilla was illegally tortured, threatened and perhaps even drugged during his detention at a Navy brig in South Carolina. . . .

But some legal scholars and defense lawyers argue that the government's case is so fundamentally weak, and its legal options so limited, that Padilla could draw a relatively minor prison term or even be acquitted. The trial has already been postponed once, until January, and is almost certain to be delayed again.

It should go without saying (though I have no doubt that, for some, it does not) that whether Padilla is ultimately found guilty has absolutely no bearing on the disgraceful crime of detaining him with no charges for years and torturing him.

But the fact that the case against Padilla is so weak ought to cause any rational person to understand the dangers of vesting the power in the President to order people imprisoned forever without any real judicial process. Unfortunately for the U.S., the majority of the Military-Commissions-Act-approving 109th Congress was not composed of people who reason that way or who actually believe in the way America was designed to work.

(3) As Jeralyn Meritt said yesterday with profound understatement: "There should be a greater outcry over this." As I have said many times, the most astounding and disturbing fact over the last five years -- and there is a very stiff competition for that title -- is that we have collectively really just sat by while the U.S. Government arrests and detains people, including U.S. citizens, and then imprisons them for years without any charges of any kind. What does it say about our country that not only does our Government do that, but that we don't really seem to mind much?"
Greenwald, Digby and Merrit all have a lot more to say. Go read them.

And if you aren't utterly disgusted at the behavior of the subhuman frightened children who populate our White House and Justice Department then you are not an American and have failed your civics course.

You could also find yourself subject to such criminal treatement.

Friday, December 01, 2006

How bad is Iraq? It can get worse.

From the Washington Post Dec. 1, 2006
The Bush administration is deliberating whether to abandon U.S. reconciliation efforts with Sunni insurgents and instead give priority to Shiites and Kurds, who won elections and now dominate the government, according to U.S. officials.
This is what is currently being called the "80% solution." That is, we stop attempting outreach to the 20% of the population that is Sunni, and support only the Kurds and Shiites.

But from the Washington Post, Nov 29, 2006 we get:
Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, [who] said in a speech last month that "since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave Iraq uninvited." If it does, one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis.
If George Bush attempts the 80% Solution, the result will be a genocidal war between the Shiites (60% of the population) and the Sunnis (20% of the population) with the Kurds mostly sitting it out unless they make a grab for Kirkuk. In such a war the Iranians will be supporting the Shiites (they currently provide equipment and training to the militia of al-Sadr) and the Saudis will be doing likewise to the Sunnis.

We will under those circumstances find ourselves allied with Iran!? against the Sunnis and protecting the Kurds (maybe - we have a poor history with the Kurds.) But that will also be the result if we pull out of Iraq precipitately.

At the same time this is very likely to spill over into the already unstable Lebanon and into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Powell was right. Bush broke it, we own it. I'll make one promise. The situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

[h/t to Kevin Drum here and here. The comments with Kevin's articles are always excellent.]

Paperless electronic voting machines cannot be made Secure.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has issued a report that says electronic voting machines without a verified paper trail cannot be made secure. A method of voting that allows an independent recount has to be put into place. From the Washington Post:
NIST said that voting systems should allow election officials to recount ballots independently from a voting machine's software. The recommendations endorse "optical-scan" systems in which voters mark paper ballots that are read by a computer and electronic systems that print a paper summary of each ballot, which voters review and elections officials save for recounts. [Snip]

NIST's recommendations are to be debated next week before the Technical Guidelines Development Committee, charged by Congress to develop standards for voting systems. To become effective, NIST's recommendations must then be adopted by the Election Assistance Commission, which was created by Congress to promote changes in election systems after the 2000 debacle in Florida.

If the commission agrees with NIST, the practical impact may not be felt until 2009 or 2010, the soonest that new standards would be implemented. The standards that the Election Assistance Commission will adopt are voluntary, but most states require election officials to deploy voting systems that meet national or federal criteria.[snip]

NIST says in its report that the lack of a paper trail for each vote "is one of the main reasons behind continued questions about voting system security and diminished public confidence in elections." The report repeats the contention of the computer security community that "a single programmer could 'rig' a major election." [Snip]

Computer scientists and others have said that the security of electronic voting systems cannot be guaranteed and that election officials should adopt systems that produce a paper record of each vote in case of a recount. The NIST report embraces that critique, introducing the concept of "software independence" in voting systems.

NIST says that voting systems should not rely on a machine's software to provide a record of the votes cast. Some electronic voting system manufacturers have introduced models that include printers to produce a separate record of each vote -- and that can be verified by a voter before leaving the machine -- but such paper trails have had their own problems.[Snip]

Linda Schade, a founder of TrueVoteMD, which has pressed for a system that provides a verifiable paper record of each vote, said, "These strong statements from a credible institution such as NIST add yet another voice to the consensus that paper electronic voting as used in states like MD is not secure. We hope that the [Election Assistance Commission] formally adopts these improved standards."

Even critics of paperless electronic voting have grown disenchanted with the practical problems of adding printers to electronic "touch-screen" voting machines.

"Why are we doing this at all? is the question people are asking," said Warren Stewart, policy director of VoteTrustUSA, a group critical of electronic voting systems. "We have a perfectly good system -- the paper-ballot optical-scan system."
This clearly isn't a done deal, but it looks like the purely electronic machines with no paper trail are now fighting a defensive battle. Still, that doesn't solve all the problems. The system used in my county offers your choice of an electronic booth or optical scan during regular voting.

The reason given for requiring electronic machines in the first place is so that visually handicapped voters can vote. Otherwise, the optical scan system is perfectly satisfactory. However, I have an assisted living center in the voting precinct for which I am the Election Judge, and the electronic voting booth makes the blind voters a lot happier than having two election workers read the ballot and mark it for them on the optical scan system.

But we still have to use the system of two precinct workers providing assistance for people who are blind and whose language is not English. We had two election workers help each of two elderly individuals, and our only available translator was their grandson. Needless to say, they used paper ballots.

Then there is early voting. Early voting goes on for two weeks, and with nearly one million voters in the county as well as having combined elections for federal, state, county, city, school district, water district, Community College District and a few others, the ballots for any given individual can get complicated. I held the Nov 7th election for two precincts, and one precinct has a single block that is in the county, not the city, and there was a city proposition on which county voters could not vote. So I had three ballots for two precincts. Since early voting uses a limited number of voting places (30 to 40 rather than the normal nearly 300 precincts) and anyone in the county can vote in any voting place, the stack of preprinted ballots stored at the early voting locations would be extremely difficult to keep up with. As a result, in our county only electronic voting machines are used for early voting. We normally have half of the voters use early voting.

Still, it looks like the Presidential election of 2008 may be the last chance for Diebold to steal an election without any record.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Olberman takes Bush to task for his idiotic statement in Viet Nam

Several days ago Bush proved once again that some village in Texas is missing its assigned idiot. He stood there in the nation he misused the Air National Guard to avoid visiting in the late 60's and early 70's and said of what he had learned from the Viet Nam War:
"One lesson is," he said, "that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while."

"We'll succeed," the President concluded, "unless we quit."
In other words, we lost Viet Nam because we simply quit, and he stood there in the revitalized and peaceful Viet Nam that has resulted from us stopping the carnage and getting out and said that we should have kept the carnage going and stayed. That was the lesson he was carrying into Iraq.

Now I know that Bush is ignorant, that he either reads a speech someone with more knowledge than he has written for him, or if he says something off-the-cuff it reflects something someone in his entourage has said to him recently. This was off-the-cuff, and he has been listening to Henry Kissinger who still believes we lost Viet Nam because we left, not because we were defeated.

When I heard it, I just sort of cringed a little and muttered to myself "Oh, My God."

Now I learn that Keith Olberman has expressed the proper outrage at Bush's disgusting ignorant statement. Here it is at Crooks and Liars. Go listen.

[h/t to Tristero at Digby.]

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The future for Iraq looks extremely bleak

There is no good future outcome for Iraq whether we stay or leave, but here is a report in the Washington Post that describes how bad it is right now.

With the U.S. military in Iraq it is currently a disaster. Trisecting the nation will be worse, leading to a great deal more ethnic cleansing. If the U.S. leaves Iraq will almost certainly become a failed state that spreads its violence to the nations around it.

I wonder what the Baker-Hamilton Commission could possibly say that will change the prospect there?

Bush invaded Iraq four years ago with the intent of creating a democratic nation based on free market principles that would establish a beacon for the other nations around it in the Middle East. Instead it appears that Bush's legacy will be a failed state spreading its cancer of destruction to the nations around it and perhaps to the rest of the world.

The U.S. and the entire world will spend a generation trying to recover from the series of disasters that the Bush administration and the Republican Party in America have inflicted on all of us.

A healthier population is a wealthier population

Marketwatch a MSN Money reports the results of a study relating health and wealth. The study reports that height, lower body mass index, and male gender are all related to greater wealth.

More interesting:
"In an analysis of 26 rich countries between 1960 and 2000, reductions in cardiovascular mortality emerged as a robust predictor of subsequent economic growth," McKee's study says. "In one model, a 10% fall in cardiovascular mortality is associated with a 1% increase in per-capita income. Although this may not seem large, it amounts to a substantial contribution over the long term."
This suggests that increased spending on and increased effectiveness of national healthcare is an investment in the economy. Public spending on healthcare will provide benefits for all of us.

It would be interesting to see a similar study of general obesity related to per-capita income. I'd be willing to hypothesize that significant reduction in obesity would correlate to both increased per-capita income and to lower per-capita spending on health care.

For people who object to growth in government, this increased health and lowered obesity is a public good. That is, it is a benefit that the private market cannot sell for a profit. So this is clearly a reason to expand government services.

Just some fact-inspired thoughts for your early morning perusal.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How did the Democrats win the election?

The Hotline provides an excellent analysis. Essentially it came down to the outside-the-beltway Democratic Party making its efforts work, and the DCCC and SDCC figuring out how to take advantage of those efforts in the last minutes before the election when Schumer and Emanuel begain to realize what was happening. The key was when the State Democratic Chairpersons elected Howard Dean to the Chair of the Democratic National Committee and the Netroots began to have local effects and to prove they could raise money.

Go read the article. It will give you a much better idea what was really happening in the Democratic Party. Then consider - this was only the beginning.

[H/T to Christy Hardin Smith at FireDogLake.]

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

MSNBC discusses the Katherine Harris Senate campaign

MSNBC has an interesting reveiw of the current status of the Katherine Harris campaign to unseat current Democrat Ben Nelson.

I have a lot of comments I could make, but I won't. I have followed this campaign becuase it interested me. Let's just say it still does.

Confronting Anti-American Grievances

Zbigniew Brzezinski has written a very good article that focuses on what causes terrorism. Steve Clemons (and I) strongly recommend that anyone concerned with the threat of terrorism should go read it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Is this where America really is?

OK. Up front, I will admit that I am stealing this totally from Billmon. It is too damned important to ignore, and none of it can really be removed and leave the sense of what he wrote.
The 51% Solution

Ronald Brownstein, the LA Times political columnist, provides a window into the essential cluelessness of the centrist pundit, as he tries to figure out why the Rovian brain trust is sending Shrub out on partisan search and destroy missions at a time when so many GOP candidates are plaintively asking the voters: "Can't we all just get along?"

Bush is moving in the opposite direction. As he often does when he's under political pressure, he's accentuating the disagreements between the parties and presenting the differences in the starkest possible terms . . . Bush now routinely labels Democrats "the party of cut-and-run." At a recent Republican fundraiser, Bush went much further. "The Democrat Party . . . has evolved from one that was confident in its capacity to help deal with the problems of the world to one that . . . has an approach of doubt and defeat," he declared.

As Brownstein notes, this isn'st exactly the normal rhetoric of a wartime leader trying to unify his people. From this, the pundit glumly concludes:

Even if Bush succeeds, such a result still will measure how much he has retreated from his hopes of building a broad majority coalition.

This is Broderism (i.e. the willful denial of reality) reduced to the point of absurdity. There is nothing in the record of the past six years that suggests building a broad majority coalition has ever been the objective of the Rovian political project. Just the opposite, in fact. The
goal has always been to create a narrow, but solid, majority -- a dependable 51% or 52% -- that would leave the GOP machine in firm control but reduce the need for the kind of moderate compromises required to hold a broad coalition together. Thus the overwhelming emphasis on keeping the conservative base energized and motivated, no matter what. As long as the base is on board, the extra 12 or 15 percentage points needed to reach a majority can always be picked up one way or another -- without having to cut too many non-conservatives a slice of the pie. Or so the theory holds.

It's really just a redneck variation on the old Leninist strategy for a party dictatorship -- if the GOP machine can control a majority of conservatives, and conservatives can control a majority of Republicans, then Republicans should be able to control (barely) a majority of the voters, and thus the country.

In a true one-party state, like the old Soviet Union, this process can be taken to its ultimate conclusion, i.e. totalitarian rule. But in even a nominally democratic society, there are risks in trying to broaden the pyramid's base too widely. At some point, the chain of control -- a majority of a majority of a majority -- can break down.

The fact that Brownstein can's see this (or won't admit it), even after the events of the past six years, is par for the course. One of the machine's most valuable resources -- a kind of built-in cloaking device -- is the tendency of the corporate media to take political propaganda at face value. It's all part of that "trust" and "social capital" that Sebastian Mallaby finds so precious. (Club him again, Duncan.)

Or, to quote Keyser Söze: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

However, while Rovian goal (permanent GOP rule) and strategy have remained fixed, the tactics have changed considerably over the course of Shrub's presidency, and particularly after 9/11. In his dismay and disappointment, Brownstein is harking back to Bush 1.0 -- the uniter, not a divider, who promised to work as well with the Democrats in Washington as he claimed to have done in Austin. (Seems like decades ago, doesn't it?)

But the uniter-not-a-divider riff was a purely tactical response to the Clinton impeachment and the backlash it triggered -- a political tide that might have swamped Shrub's 2000 presidential aspirations if he and Rove hadn't put some daylight between themselves and the Holy Inquisitors of the Republican Congress. And if Bush had won a comfortable victory, I'm sure the ploy would have been abandoned as soon he took the oath. But the Florida dispute, and the effect it had on Shrub's numbers, made it necessary to continue the charade through the first few months of his presidency. Thus the early, token gestures towards bipartisanship on the No Child Left Behind Act and Bush's "faith based initiative," even though both efforts were designed primarily with partisan political purposes in mind -- to peel away slivers of Democratic support in minority communities in the first instance, and to help build the Christian conservative patronage network in the second.

What might have happened if 9/11 had not happened is an interesting hypothetical. After successfully negotiating with (read: peeling the shirt off) the "moderates" and passing Bush's first round of tax cuts in the spring of 2001, the administration then began to act as if it saw the way clear to move hard right -- that is, until Jim Jeffords's defection swung the Senate to the Dems and temporarily brought the whole project to a crashing halt.

And then, of course, everything changed.

Or rather, nothing changed -- except that the Rovians were handed a political windfall of the highest order. If Brownstein is just now noticing the use of partisan attack rhetoric to try to score electoral points in the middle of a war, then I guess he must have sleep walked through the 2002 mid-term elections. If there is one, single, overriding reason why I despise Karl Rove and his masters, it's because of the way they expropriated 9/11 and the social solidarity it created and used them for the basest, sleaziest partisan ends. Likewise the invasion of Iraq -- back in the giddy days of "Mission Accomplished." There is no greater proof of the moral bankruptcy of the Republican machine and the Rovian style of politics.

But the irony is that 9/11 also thrust upon the Rovians what they had deliberately not sought at the polls: a broad, sweeping majority. If they had adapted accordingly, and revised their fundamental strategy (or at least done a better job of camouflaging it) we'd probably be a hell of lot closer to the GOP equivalent of the thousand year Reich (well, twenty years, anyway). But the 51% solution -- the vision of a country run for the greater glory of the campus Republicans of the 1970s -- won out.

This was probably inevitable: The Rovian world view is both deeply pessimistic and infinitely cynical (which is one of the reasons why I feel I understand it so well). The working assumption seems to be that the partisan divide between Republican and Democrat -- or more accurately, between conservative and non-conservative -- is too deep to fill and too wide to bridge. That being the case, 51% is the best either side can hope for, as well as the most politically effective and efficient majority. In other words, the best of all possible worlds.

There is a double irony to that, because in pursuit of their 51% majority the Rovians have repeatedly felt compelled to betray their own conservative base -- digging into the pork barrel with both hands, passing the biggest boost in entitlement spending since Social Security was COLAized, cozying up to the gambling industry, etc. All so they can attract that 10 to 15 percentage point sliver of uncommitted voters, while giving nothing but the finger to Democrats and Democratic leaners, even though many of the latter were ripe for the picking in the wake of 9/11.

So now they have the worst of all worlds -- a Democratic base ready to walk over burning coals to vote against them, a broad mass of centrist ex-supporters who feel badly used and abused, and and a conservative base that is disillusioned and disgusted with the cynical compromises required by the 51% strategy.

Is it any wonder Shrub is cranking up the hateful, divisive rhetoric in a last, desperate attempt to make the old 9/11 magic work one more time? Fear literally is the only thing they have -- plus the bully pulpit and the money to spread that fear across the airwaves. But this certainly isn't the negation of Rove's original political hopes, it's a last-ditch defense of them.

Maybe it will work and maybe it won't. But the important lesson (one the Ronald Brownsteins of the world will never, ever mention in print) is what Rove's 51% strategy says about the America's future. Because if Turd Blossom is right (and he may well be) then this isn't really one country any more. It's a battlefield divided between two bitterly hostile partisan armies, with an indeterminate number of undecided or uncommitted voters -- "the civilians" -- left stranded out in no man's land.

Karl's OK with this, conceptually. He may be losing this particular battle, but those are just the fortunes of war. They'll be other opportunities to counterattack. Karl's troops are also OK with this -- they don't really see their political enemies as their fellow citizens any more, if they ever did. As one former White House speech writer puts it:

Friends, neighbors, and countrymen of the Left: I hate your lying guts

I guess I'm OK with it, too. After all, I hate them just as deeply as they hate me, if not more so. I also don't see much of a future in the plutocratic fraud that goes by the name of "democracy" in this country, nor do I expect the hollow men of the punditburo to suddenly wake up one day and see reality, no matter how patiently and politely they're asked to open their fucking eyes.

So why bother pretending to be polite? Why not turn politics into the verbal equivalent of mud wrestling.

But while Karl may be OK with this, and the pod people of the authoritarian right may be OK with this, and I may be OK with it, I don't think the indeterminate number of uncommitted voters who are stranded out there between the partisan lines are OK with it. They seem to want something more than a 51% solution, and they don't seem to understand why they can't have it.

Who's going to tell them?
Posted by billmon at 03:30 PM
Is this where we really are? Are we in a religious war between the American evangelists and the modernists, with a large group in the middle who don't know really which side to choose?

Dear God, I hope not. Go back and read the history of England between about 1500 and 1700. We don't need that war all over again. There isn't that much disagreement between us modernista and the religous evangelists for it to be worth killing or imprisoning each other. But that is where this is headed.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A comment on the Michael J. Fox advertisement

I very much agree with Digby . Limbaugh's utterly disgusting personal attack on Michael J. Fox is an entirely self-serving political attack on someone who dares to disagree with the conventional wisdom of the (very sick) Republican Party and who has presented a highly effective advertisement in support of stem-cell research. Limbaugh and his minions from Hell cannot support their idiotic position on stem-cell research, so instead of presenting argument on the merits or demerits of the policy, they make personal attacks on Michael J. Fox because he actually had the temerity to inflict a tiny bit of the truth of what his Parkinson's Disease has done to him - and does to him every day.

Remember, the twitching, bobbing and weaving that Michael J. Fox demonstrated in his advertisement is mostly side-effects of the medication he takes to control his Parkinson's. Without that medication, his face freezes up and he is totally unable to speak at all. He takes the medication because the side effects, bad as they seem to us, are the best he can hope for. The "uncontrolled" Parkinson's disease is even worse.

Digby also makes the point that Michael J. Fox does not have to work to support stem-cell research as he does. He could simply go home and stay out of the sight of healthy people and not inflict the appearance of his infliction on those with weak stomachs like Limbaugh. But he doesn't do that. He is using his celebrity status and the personal appearance of his tragedy to fight for stem-cell research in the hope that others with the same affliction might someday be able to live more normal lives.

So he exposes himself to the attacks of the hateful Republican conservative "Know-nothings" like Limbaugh in order to give some hope to others with Parkinson's.

I am proud to watch him perform his acts of courage - the acts of going public and fighting for what he believes.

I have spent a lot of my life in the military, and there have been some real actus of heroism that I remember daily. One was the story in "Blackhawk Down" of the two young Ranger Sergeants in a helicopter hovering over the downed Chopper in Mogadishu as the humdreds of militia types were attacking the few Americans on the ground. The two sergeants directed the Chopper pilot to put then down in the middle of the fight because they were needed there. Neither survived, and they probably had little doubt that would be what would happen, but they went anyway.

A second event, less well known, is when a lot of troops at Fort Benning [The Infantry School] were out running one morning. Some idiot with a rifle got up in a patch of woods and started shooting the unarmed soldiers in the sweat clothes. He was up there with a rifle, no one else was armed, so everyone started running for cover. All except one senior Captain. The Captain ran towards to sniper. The story made the civilian news because the Captain was one of those killed before the sniper was taken down, but I have always hoped that I could be capable of such an act of courage.

It is a tradition that long-time soldiers hear gunfire and run towards the guns, not away. This is the kind of courage Michael J. Fox is displaying. His set of circumstances is rather unique. He has his celebrity status and is well-known, his Parkinson's Disease makes him a personal example, and his act of courage allows the rest of us a glimpse of what kind of life people with Parkinson's live.

We should all recognize the great courage he is showing us. As much as seeing what the Parkinson's disease has done to Michael J. Fox, his great act of courage for letting us see him and showing the human cost of blocking stem-cell research is an honor to watch. I like him as an actor, but this battle he has entered has earned from me as much respect as any of the examples above of soldiers in battle who ran towards the sound of the guns.

Digby provided a description of the story inthis comment.

Conservatives losing now - so what happens next year?

Digby has a clear explantation of what to expect next January.
The Republicans have fielded five presidents since 1968 and only one of them can be considered politically successful. One out of five. The rest have crashed and burned each time on incompetence, corruption or some combination of the two. I think it's fair to say that neither the modern Republican party or the conservative movement is capable of governance.
So what happens next is that the current leaders who will have failed -- that is, not won an election. Iraq and Katrina are not failures to conservatives, since government can't do anything anyway. Only losing elections is a failure to a conservative or Republican, and since Conservatism is perfect, those who lose do so because they are not conservative enough.
Democrats believe in government and they want to make it work. Republicans see government purely as a means to exert power. Unfortunately, they are not very good at that because in the modern world sheer, dumb might is no longer possible. The best they can do is loot the treasury and leave the rest of their mess to be cleaned up by the Democrats.

What they really excel at is politics. Governance just hangs them up. And don't think for a moment that they will be chagrined or ashamed and crawl off into a hole to lick their wounds. Being defeated liberates them to do what they are really good at --- destroying the opposition and pushing their agenda with sophisticated, scorched earth political rhetoric. It's not natural for them to be on the defense and they don't like it. They are going back to their natural state --- victimhood and the aggressive attack.

Get ready. The Democrats will not only have to govern, but they will have to fix all the problems they've created while fighting them every step of the way. They're not going away. And they will pull out every stop to win every election, not because they necessarily want to govern but because that's how you keep score. For a long, long time they've been able to get their way whether they win or lose and they see no reason to doubt that will continue. And unless we put a stop to this they might be right.
Conservatives are natural outsiders. They have no measure for success as outsiders except winning elections.

There is no Katrina rescue for an outsider to fail. It is the insiders, those who run the government, who have such tasks of governance by which success and failure can be measured.

So House Republicans will move back to their natural position as the minority party. Perhaps this is true for the Senate Republicans. They will then set up screams and attacks on Democrats that make those against Clinton seem mild, because they will resent being replaced.

It's not going to be pretty.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Republicans are desperate! They have only racism and lies left to campaign with!

TPM Election Central debunks the Republican claim that the ads they are using in Tennessee against Harold Ford are not racist.

Corker is such innate slime himself that he must depend on the Republican southern racist base to try to beat Harold Ford to become Senator from Tennessee.

How many congressional Republicans are under federal investigation -- so far?

Go look at TPM Muckraker. Somehow it seemed like more. But as far as I can tell, there have NEVER been this many Democrats in Congress under investigation at any time.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ABC's Docu-drama-lie was a ratings flop

I must admit that I was curious how well the so-called docudrama "The Path to 9/11" did. As near as I can tell, viewers of the Sunay night part I preferred to watch football per Broadcasting & Cable .

Unfortunately I have not been able to confirm the report from the moderate voice about the ratings on Part II from Monday night, September 11, 2006. I have no reason to doubt them, however. Apparently more people were interested in a rerun of CSI: Miami than were interested in the ABC offering which was interrupted by George W. Bush for a short piece of his propaganda.

Frankly, I am surprised that the show got such poor ratings on the fifth anniversery of September 11. Delighted, but surprised.

The management of ABC may be as conservative is the ultra-conservative Walt Disney, but their professional success is measured on Wall Street by Nielsen ratings and the resulting advertisement revenues.

Boing Boing reports Katherine Harris is number one - dumbest Congress-critter in office today.

Boing Boing reports that Rep. Katherine Harris (R.-FL) has been awarded First Prize in the Dumbest Congresscritters countdown.

I have had no doubt of it, which is why I have followed her campaign this year to replace Sen. Ben Nelson (D-FL). It has been a year-long exercise of finding out the answer to the question "She did WHAT this time?"

For previous articles on Katherine HarrisOK, Ok, so who were the other nine Congress-critters on the list, and why? As you might guess, I consider K. Harris to be in a class by herself. No one else can compete for number ONE!

But here is the full list of all ten from Radar with reasons. This is fun reading if you can just ignore that these people are a central part of the American government!