Monday, July 31, 2006

Social Security phase out to be Republican priority in January 2007

The stakes in the November elections just got clearer. Rep. John Boehner, Republican Majority Leader, says:
"Q: Where does Social Security reform stand?

A: ...If I’m around in a leadership role come January, we’re going to get serious about this."
That means that every vote for a Republican Congressperson on November 8, 2006 is a vote to eliminate fixed, government-guaranteed retirement benefits and disability benefits for workers, as well as survivor benefits for the young families of deceased workers.

There is no adequate substitute for fixed, government-guaranteed benefits like Social Security. Private pensions have failed except as unreliable supplements in every country in which they have been tried. No one has profited except the bankers who manage the money, and theft of the money has been a major problem in both Chile and Great Britain.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Israel is losing the war in political terms - which are what count

Billmon describes how the Israelis are losing the war in Lebanon. They have failed to demonstrate any clear superiority over Hamas, so when the inevitable political end to the combat comes Israel will not have the necessary political power to get the results they are after.

In his next post, Billmon explains what will actually bring the combat to an end, and why the killing of the UN observers didn't cause that to happen.

Condi Rice was to fly into Lebanon to discuss what was needed to reach a ceasefire - then the Lebonese government told her not to come until after a ceasefire has already occurred. It seems that he views were not wanted by the Lebonese government. In addition, Kofi Annan has called an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council. Billmon points our that "...a resolution calling for an immediate cease fire no doubt will be offered,forcing the United States to veto it -- thus officially going on record all by its lonesome in favor of large and horrific massacres." While this will certainly not disturb Dick Cheney and the NeoCons, it will isolate the U.S. internationally to an even greater extent than is true at the moment.

If I were a fundamentalist christian and a believer in the Rapture, I would have to ask if this couldn't be a massive test by god to determine who the righteous were and who would be taken in the Rapture. My bet is that those who believe they are going in the Rapture would fail the test if they supported these Middle East Wars, and be horribly shocked to find themselve left alone on the world they created. But then, I am not such a believer. This set of wars is man-made and needs to be stopped so that the damage can be limited to what has already occurred.

U.S. Wants expanded war in Middle East

It's not enough that for some strange reason the Bush administration doesn't seem to think that stopping the useless caranage in Southern Lebanon and Northern Israel is worth their efforts. There are indications that the U.S. is pushing Israel to expand the war into Syria. From TPM:
"there do appear to be forces in Washington -- seemingly the stronger ones, with Rice just a facade -- who see this whole thing as an opportunity for a grand call of double or nothing to get out of the disaster they've created in the region. Go into Syria, maybe Iran. Try to roll the table once and for all. No failed war that a new war can't solve. Condi's mindless 'birth pangs' remark wasn't just a gaffe -- or perhaps it was a gaffe in the Kinsleyan sense of inopportunely saying what you really think. That seems to be the thinking -- transformation through destabilization."
That's Cheney-think at work again. Force hasn't achieved what they thought it would in Iraq, so the problem isn't that force doesn't work. It's that the entire Middle East needs to go to war against each other.

So expand the war into Syria, and the Syrians will get afraid and stop Hezbollah and make Peace, or Syria will suffer regime change. It won't sork in Syria any more than it would in Iran.

We Americans are screwed as long as Bush/Cheney are in charge. We better hope that the Israelis have more good sense than to listen to them.

If Bush really wants to eliminate the fundamental cause of the wars in the Middle East, he will resign quickly after Cheney is induced to resigh. Then one of the largest single causes will be gone.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Digby's take on Bush's "Freedom" vs "Hate" ideologies.

So far, Poputonian at Digby's Hullabaloo offers the best analysis of why the statement from Bush is so divorced from the reality of the actual situation.

He uses the history of the British misunderstanding of what motivated the American Indians to attack the British in an apparenlty coordinated set of attacks in what seemed to them to be the request of the French. What really was happening was that the American Indians were revolting against the expansion of the North American settlers and the conquist of the previously Indian land, and the only connection to the French was that the Indians wanted the support of another relativley benign European nation against the British. The Indians knew who their enemy was (the British) and did not need French guidance to direct the revolution.

Read the Poputonian's post at Digby to get a really good explanation of how Bush is misreading the situation. The historic example is very good.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Israel's failure is rooted in Israeli Nationalism - Bush is a fool.

Good article in Newsweek. John Barry describes how when Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, Syrian President Hafez Assad and the Saudis were all ready to work with Henry Kissinger to find a universal solution to the Middle East Palestinian - Israeli problem, Israel’s leader, Golda Meir scuttled it because she couldn't believe that Sadat and Assad were serious about wanting Peace.

There are so many factions with stakes in the outcome that if any one of them wants to scuttle the solution, he or she can easily do it. It is the penalty for living in a society in which revenge for a crime against one member of your own family requires revenge on other members of that family. But group puniishment for individual crimes does not deter further crimes. Instead it demands revenge from others not initially involved against those related to the original criminal.

Members of Hamas in Gaza randomly fired rockets into Israel as revenge for what the Israelis have previously done to Palestinians. So the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) fires artillery back into Gaze and, among other things, kills innocent Palestinians on the beach. But if the Isreaelis ask the Palistinians to capture the Hamas members and bring them to trial for their crimes (the original rockets), either it won't happen or the resulting trial will let the criminals off. So the IDF tries to suppress them using military means - artillery, bombs, and special forces. There is, of course collateral damage that the Palestinians blame the IDF for. Hamas cannot ask the Israelis to arrest the members of the IDF and punish them, so they take vengence on whatever Israelis are unfortunate enough to be where the Hamas Katusha rockets land. The IDF again responds militarily.

Now look at George Bush's response in today's press conference. Where in this vengence and revenge cycle is Hamas firing their Katushas because they hate Freedom, Democracy and Liberty? Because it ISN'T THERE!

Hezbollah is firing rockets into Northern Israel and Israel is firing artillery and dropping bombs back in a similar vengence and revenge cycle. This is a similar vengence - revenge cycle, complicated by the politics of Hezbolah being a part of the elected government of Lebanon while being funded and supplied with missiles by Iran and being also funded by donations and criminal activities in the U.S. (similar to the way the Irish Republican Army was.)

The guys in charge of Hezbollah thought that they could kidnap a couple of IDF soldiers, fire a few missiles at Northern Israel when they fired artillery at them, then trade the kidnapped soldiers for some Hezbollah members and go on with little change except a slight political advantage for Hezbollah, mostly with their constituency in Lebanon. But the IDF "severely overreacted." That is, they didn't play the game the way it usually was played. No one was expecting the full-fledged war the Israelis brought down on Hezbollah and on Lebanon. But the Israelis were already angered by the Hamas attacks, and this was an escalation. They wanted to let people know the had been pushed far enough.

Both sides are playing group punishment again. Even if Hamas gets sensible and goes for a deal, who can trust Hezbollah? And none of the Palestinians or Islamisticists trust the Isreaelis anyway. Nor do the Israelis trust any Islamic Arab.

Without trust, no one can accept the offers of the other side. And no one trusts anyone else. Just as Goldie Meyer simply couldn't trust Sadat and Assad.

They need an outside force to come in, with monopoly of weapons, and handle all criminal actions on every side. But the outside force has to be one both sides trust, and there is no such agency at this time.

Tell me. Are the root causes really that the terrorists hate Freedom, Liberty, and Democracy? No.

Will any policy based on that misapprehension be successful without causing those defined by Bush as "Evil" fighting back? No.

Is Bush an ignorant fool causing a lot more trouble than he is worth? Yes.

And he has no clue whatsoever.

Addendum at 9:40 PM CDT.
From the Seattle Times - a guy walks into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building in downtown Seattle at about 4:00 PM PST, announces "I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel," then began shooting.

He killed one woman and put five others into the hospital. Three are still in surgery. He is reported to have demanded that he wanted us to get our weapons out of Israel.

It is pretty clear that the shooter considers that his family/tribe/co-religonists/co-nationalists is being attacked by our family/tribe/co-religonists/co-nationalists, so he will take revenge for the actions occurring in the Middle East. This is the normal way societies that are based on social relationships rather than the rule of law operate.

If you don't believe that justice can be obtained through the application of law to the ~individual~ who commits a crime, then the family/tribe/co-religionists/co-nationals must take action. Since they cannot reach the individual criminal and prove his guilt, then they take revenge on the family/tribe/co-religonists/co-nationalists of the criminal, with some hope that those people will restrain the actual criminal.

This tradition grew out of small groups of people who actually interacted with each other. It does not and cannot work in a global society where there are nations with hundreds of millions of people and religions with over a billion co-religionists.

Somehow I do not see how the super-simplistic "Good vs. Evil" people of Bush's strange philosophy can work in such circumstances.

So Bush's stalling on Lebanon is a win for Hezbollah

Back to Kevin Drum again. He reports from the Guardian that our Arab allies are being squeezed by Bush's refusal to act to bring about a ceasefire, so they are having to shift to support of Hezbollah for domestic reasons.

Bush's reaction?

There is also a transcript here.

Short version of Bush's meandering statement -
'The terrorists have an evil ideology, and we counter it with the good ideology of Freedom and Democracy. Since our good ideology trumps their evil ideology, the only way we can lose it to quit before we win, so I will not quit and I will not change course.'
[This is my translation of what he said. He adds a great deal of irrelevant items to obfuscate what he is really saying.]

I wouldn't be so disturbed by this if I thought that Bush had a clue about what a good, working definition of "Freedom", "Democracy", "Fundamentalist Islamic ideology", or even just any ideology was. Or how blowing the hell out of Hamas, Lebanon and Iraq will change anything to make things more favorable for Israel, the U.S. or the Middle East in general. He is totally clueless.

Essentially Bush has the grandious fantasy that he is "Good", that anyone who opposes him is "Evil", and that God will inspire him to do what is needed to "Win." No need for analysis, no need to cater to weak kneed allies, and no need to listen to nay-sayers. America will win because God and Bush is on its' side, and there is no need of concern since God will make sure it works.

Are you frightened yet?

I am. This idiot has his finger on the nuclear trigger. Which Dick Cheney, his principle foreign policy and military advisor considers underused. Any strategy that comes out of the White House is what occurs when more analytical and verbal individuals around Bush take his inspired decisions and put them into more practical action-oriented instructions to the government and the military. But the extreme disconnection with reality is still at the core of the whole package.

Right now Bush is still restrained by people around him who say that some things he proposes will cost Republican seats in the November 2006 elections. Once those elections are over, Bush is a total lame-duck, and he is unrestrained by anything political. And domestic political restraints are the only things he has ever been restricted by. I suspect that this has been because Karl Rove still has a great deal of influence on him. After November 8th, Bush is not going to feel restrained by anything.

The results are described in this Newsweek article.
The real bottom line: Hizbullah is winning.

Economy looks like going into the tank

Kevin Drum has another of his charts up. He has charted the number of times that "stagflation" has been discussed on Lexis-Nexus each month this year, and it suddenly spikes up very sharply in June.

Stagflation is considered a (sometimes) predictor of Recession. In this case it is probably a reaction to the Federal Reserve's interest rate manipulations and their failure to dampen the inflation caused by recently increased oil prices.

If the discussion stays high through July and August (his July posting is an estimate since July is not yet over) that will set the economic expectations for voters in November. They will be quite negative. And a negative view of the economy in the summer is a strongly reliable predictor of political change in the November elections.

This fall will not the best time to be running for election or reelection as a Republican.

Karl Rove WILL have an "October Surprise" to try to limit that negative response. I wonder who we'll bomb in October.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A review of Fiasco by the NY Time Review of Books

If you don't have time to read "Fiasco" by Thomas E. Ricks, this NY Times book review will give you a fast summary. Go here.

Order the book here. Click the icon.

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq

Monday, July 24, 2006

Connecticut Repubs may have decided to field a serious candidate.

The upset between Lieberman and Lamont may have convinced the Connecticut Republicans to switch to a candidite who could win in a three way race. From Teagam Goddard' Political Wire we get an interesting analysis. Go check it out.

Since I am from Texas and hove no real insight to Connecticut politics, I have no idea how accurate this is. But it is worth considering.

Personally, I think that since Connecticut is genarally a Democratic state I don't really think thatthey will send a Republican to the Senate. But if the election in November becomes some Republican vs. Lamont vs. an Independent Lieberman, I may be wrong. I really hope not. But this is what the Republicans are hopping for.

I am also concerned about the three Connecticut Congressmen who should send Democrats to the House. Can Lieberman really do this to the Democrats?

Dunno. This is really a major election for Democrats.

Is media liberal/conservative biased? Depends on the view of the observers

A research study reported twenty years ago says that the person observing a news report will define it as biased against his/her own views. That is, if you are conservative it looks like it is biased liberally, and if you are liberal it looks like it is biased conservatively. See the article at the Washington Post.
"The endlessly recursive conflict in the Middle East provides any number of instructive morals about human nature, but it also offers a psychological window into the world of partisan behavior. Israel's 1982 war in Lebanon sparked some of the earliest experiments into why people reach dramatically different conclusions about the same events.

The results say a lot about partisan behavior in general -- why Republicans and Democrats love to hate each other, for example, or why Coke and Pepsi fans clash. Sadly, the results also say a lot about the newest conflicts between Israel and its enemies in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and why news organizations are being besieged with angry complaints from both sides.

Partisans, it turns out, don't just arrive at different conclusions; they see entirely different worlds . In one especially telling experiment, researchers showed 144 observers six television news segments about Israel's 1982 war with Lebanon.

Pro-Arab viewers heard 42 references that painted Israel in a positive light and 26 references that painted Israel unfavorably.

Pro-Israeli viewers, who watched the very same clips, spotted 16 references that painted Israel positively and 57 references that painted Israel negatively.

Both groups were certain they were right and that the other side didn't know what it was talking about.

The tendency to see bias in the news -- now the raison d'etre of much of the blogosphere -- is such a reliable indicator of partisan thinking that researchers coined a term, "hostile media effect," to describe the sincere belief among partisans that news reports are painting them in the worst possible light.

Were pro-Israeli and pro-Arab viewers who were especially knowledgeable about the conflict immune from such distortions? Amazingly, it turned out to be exactly the opposite, Stanford psychologist Lee D. Ross said. The best-informed partisans were the most likely to see bias against their side.

Ross thinks this is because partisans often feel the news lacks context. Instead of just showing a missile killing civilians, in other words, partisans on both sides want the news to explain the history of events that prompted -- and could have justified -- the missile. The more knowledgeable people are, the more context they find missing.

Even more curious, the hostile media effect seems to apply only to news sources that strive for balance. News reports from obviously biased sources usually draw fewer charges of bias. Partisans, it turns out, find it easier to countenance obvious propaganda than news accounts that explore both sides."

"If I think the world is black, and you think the world is white, and someone comes along and says it is gray, we will both think that person is biased," Ross said.

The experiment, of course, did not address whether news reports were in fact biased -- who would decide? -- or how the media ought to cover conflicts. Partisans argue that assigning equal weight to both sides is wrong when one side (theirs) is right. In any event, psychologists such as Ross are less interested in rating the news or in which side is right than in the curiosities of human perception: Why are partisans invariably blind to how news coverage might help their side?
This final line is really interesting. Are we always looking for enemies?

If you accept evolution as an explanation, then someone always looking for enemies to attack them seems to me to be more likely to survive without the nasty surprise of some friend out to kill you. If you don't accept evolution as an explanation, then I have no idea how you would explain this result. But whatever your explanation, it is statistically true over a large number of experiments. Using evolution as an explanation it makes perfect sense to me. We are geared to expect to be attacked because those of our ancestors who had that bias survived more often than those who did not have that bias.

Can anyone offer some other explanation for hat result of the experiment?

How do babies learn to talk?

Every parent of a new child needs to listen to this NPR radio report.

How does a child learn to recognize spoken sounds and differentiate them from other sounds? This report explains it. How does the same child begin to make sounds similar to those the child hears spoken? This report also explains that. The audio will be posted around 7:30PM July 24. The written part of the story gives a lot of the background of speech.

This is ground-breaking research. The stuff that scientists said they think had to be happening? This research was able to actually able to watch and report on the development of the brain as the neurons were developed during the first year of life between the speech recognition brain center and that center that actually reproduced the speech.

I have never heard or seen anything else as good or as clear.

My added experience with raising children.

My advice to new parents is to think of the new child as a wolf cub. Humans, dogs, and wolves are all pack animals. When the cub is born, the primary motivation that makes them happy is to watch a larger cub and copy them. The goal is to learn to do what the big wolves do. Of course, a baby is just another pack animal watching the family to see what the larger wolves/people are doing and do that same thing. Ever wonder why every baby loves to play with keys? Simple. The big people (wolves) are always doing things with keys.

This is ALSO why small children NEVER listen to what you SAY. They do what you do, and don't have any motivation to behave as you say. That's also why your kids will always learn your faults. Since you know what your own faults are, you see that immediately. Like all of us, that will be what they do that makes you the most angry.

The information on language development and the recognition that babies are little pack animals and are motivated to act just like wolves and dogs will give ever new parent a lot of comfort. Those things explain what they are doing and (more important)what they aren't doing. Keep these things in mind and you will know what the child learns and why the child won't listen. The reason is clear. They don't learn from words at that age. First they have to learn ABOUT words, and in the meantime they will just copy the behavior of others around them.

I think they recognize that the behavior of other children just a little larger than they are will be easier to copy than the behavior of adults. That's why in restaurants and grocery stores small children are always watching other children a little larger than they are. Watch adults with small children in stores and restaurants, and especially watch who the small children are looking at when they aren't directly interacting with the adults - or big wolves, as I call them. When they get the attention of the adults, small children love the interaction. When they don't get that attention, they are always watching other children slightly older/larger than they are to see what works to get adult attention. The motivation is to learn how to get the direct attention of the adult wolves/people. That is what motivates the little characters socially.

Fascinating, isn't it? I promise - watch the small children with their family in restaurants and grocery stores. If learning what motivates small children is interesting to you, that observation will be really fun. The only real difficult part is not telling the parents what they are doing wrong and why they are so frustrated with the child. Unfortunately, telling the parent what's wrong only works if you are an aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Strangers need not apply.

If you see this and have vignettes to report, Please leave a comment here.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Signing statements - Is Bush really superior to the Congress?

The US News & World Report tells us the ABA is going to ask for a study of the use Signing Statements by the President.
"George W. Bush did not invent the document known as the presidential signing statement; he inherited it. Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, and even James Monroe, in 1830, authored the statements, which spell out the president's sometimes controversial interpretation of the very law he's signing. But no president has used signing statements quite like Bush.

Although the president has not issued more statements in total than any other president, he has challenged more than 750 laws in more than 100 signing statements. And he has used them to, in effect, challenge parts of laws, and challenge them more aggressively, than any president before him. Bush's liberal use of those statements first attracted attention in December 2005, when he signed a torture ban—but then added a statement reserving the right not to enforce the ban, alongside his signature. Since then, Congress has held a hearing to investigate Bush's use of the statements, a bipartisan advocacy group has condemned their use, and Democratic Rep. Barney Frank has introduced a bill that would allow Congress to override content in them that contradicts signed legislation.

Now, U.S. News has learned, an American Bar Association task force is set to suggest even stronger action. In a report to be released Monday, the task force will recommend that Congress pass legislation providing for some sort of judicial review of the signing statements. Some task force members want to simply give Congress the right to sue over the signing statements; other task force members will not characterize what sort of judicial review might ultimately emerge."
[Via TalkLeft]

Signing statements previously were a way of telling the Executive Department how the President interpreted the legislation he signed. Under Bush it has become the way the President tells the Executive Departments to ignore the legislation Bush signs. This is more of the Executive over all other departments of the Federal government that Cheney and Rumsfeld have pushed since January 2001. Constitutional checks & balances? Forget it. The way Bush et. al. have been using Signing Statements, America has reverted to an absolute monarchy more powerful than the monarchy of George III from whom America revolted.

The way Bush has used the Signing Statements is totally unAmerican. It should be criminal, and may be. The ABA needs to get on it quickly!

impeachmentt? This fits the definition.

Aww. Joe is in trouble with the polls.

Got this from Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake:
"The new Rasmussen poll is out today, showing Lamont ahead of Lieberman 51-41 in the primary and tied 40-40 in a three way."
Would you believe it??

Entrenched members of the Democratic Party sitting pretty in Washington, D.C. are going to have to recalculate what they need to do to keep their jobs. Think we might get a few Democratic officeholders who are more willing to attack Republicans? Shouldn't be hard. The Republicans have done nothing right since at least 2000. America would be better off it they would all simply suddenly disappear.

Think the rapture will help the rest of us?

Please God! Please God! Please God! Take the Republicans. Now! All of them! Leave us here to work out the tough parts.

Tonight maybe??

Why did Hezbollah just now attack Israel?

AdvisorJim offers a fascinating analysis.

The timing was a direct result of the Cedar Revolution that freed Hezbollah from Syrian restrictions and on Iranian needs to display that they are the most powerful nation in the Middle East. The Cedar revolution and George Bush forced Syrian to pull out of Lebanon. While this does not mean that Syria is not calling a lot of the moves in Lebanon, Syria was able to abandon its earlier efforts to control and reign in Hezbollah.

At the same time, Iran is looking for ways to express the fact that it is the regional superpower, and that Iran is the logical and natural leader of the Islamic Revolution in the Middle East. There is competition between Iran and al Qaeda for this role, and the Iranians want to make sure that everyone knows that the natural leader of the Islamic Revolution is Iran, not some upstart stateless Sunni Arab organization whose leader has to hide in caves somewhere.

This played into the fact that there is also the shift of the Palestinian movement from the older Fatah (which grew out of secular Pan-Arabism) to the newer Islamic Fundamentalist revolutionary organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah which were effectively kicked off by the Iranian Revolution.

All of these elements were pretty stable until Bush/Cheney invaded and destroyed Iraq, while empowering the Islamic Fundamentalists. The Bush effort to spread democracy into Lebanon did even more to stir the pot, getting Syria out of its previous position of controlling Hezbollah and letting the Iranians ship in the missiles that are now hitting Northern Israel.

So why now? Essentially this is what has resulted when Bush/Cheney decided to follow the advice of the NeoCons in the PNAC and invade the Middle East to empower the spread of western style democracy whether they wanted it there or not. The real cause is the game of political 52-pickup that Bush Cheney set off in the Middle East with the Iraq invasion. It shook up all the stable relationships – as intended by the NeoCons. However, the NeoCons simply assumed that things would settle down around a set of western-style democracies based on free economic markets that the rest of the world could easily deal with. The latest events have proven that assumption to be totally without any basis.

This is a great deal shorter than advisorjim's Diary, but I cheated. He is offering an explanation of all the current battles in the Middle East, so I just narrowed the issue I was discussing down to the timing of the Hezbollah war and why it's all Bush's fault.

Friday, July 21, 2006

How smart is the current American leader?

Cenk Uygar points out what George W. Bush said to an open mike he was unaware of when speaking the the heads of the G-8 nations. From the transcript:
"The camera is focused elsewhere and it is not clear whom Bush is talking to, but possibly Chinese President Hu Jintao, a guest at the summit.

Bush: "Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home. How about you? Where are you going? Home?

Bush: "This is your neighborhood. It doesn't take you long to get home. How long does it take you to get home?"

Reply is inaudible.

Bush: "Eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country."

At this point, the president seems to bring someone else into the conversation.

Bush: "It takes him eight hours to fly home."

He turns his attention to a server.

Bush: "No, Diet Coke, Diet Coke."

He turns back to whomever he was talking with.

Bush: "It takes him eight hours to fly home. Eight hours. Russia's big and so is China."

Russia's big and so is China??????? This guys sounds like a third grader. Do you know anyone who would have a conversation like this with their neighbor, let alone a business associate, let alone a world leader? Who's proud to know that Russia is big and so is China?"[Snip]

Unfortunately, right now we are in the position of being pitied by the rest of the world. We have third grader for a President. And worse yet, the Vice President has him convinced he is the second coming of Winston Churchill. Scared yet?
If anyone can give me clear evidence the George W. Bush has more intelligence than a third-grader, I'd really appreciate hearing it. This is the guy with his finger on the nuclear trigger. This is the guy who has sent over 2500 American soldiers to Iraq to die for what appears a totally failed cause - and one that had no likelihood of succeeding. This is the guy who ignores the current account deficit and the increase in the national debt. This is the guy who tries to intuitively read the guy who is briefing him because he has no confidence in his own ability to analyze a situation.

This is our American pResident.

We are fucked.

Reuters: Iraq getting a lot worse.

Mariam Karouny at Reuters writes that there is no hope left among Iraqi leaders in Baghdad. All that's left is to divide up the country, split Baghdad into East and West zones for Shiite and Sunni, and to prepare for the inevitable, nasty civil war that is coming. From the article:
"Some Western diplomats in Baghdad say there is little sign the new government is capable of halting a slide to civil war.

"Maliki and some others seem to be genuinely trying to make this work," one said. "But it doesn't look like they have real support. The factions are looking out for their own interests."

The presence of 140,000 heavily armed foreign troops, most of them Americans, is keeping a lid on open grabs for territory by armed groups from various communities. But few see Washington willing to keep troops in Iraq indefinitely and many analysts question the new, U.S.-trained Iraqi army's cohesion.

Broadly speaking Iraq could split in three: a Shi'ite south, Kurdish north and Sunni Arab west. But there could be fierce fighting between Arabs and Kurds for Mosul and for Kirkuk's oil as well as urban war in Baghdad, resembling Beirut in the 1970s.

Officials say the Tigris river is already looking like the Beirut "Green Line", dividing Sunni west Baghdad, known by its ancient name of Karkh, from the mainly Shi'ite east, or Rusafa."
Since I recently read that the road to Syria has recently become a lot more crowded with people leaving Iraq and that more planes have been required to handle people flying out of Baghdad to safer nations, this doesn't surprise me much. I'm disappointed, but not too surprised.

I'd like to see the U.S. troops out of there as soon as possible, but the Bush administration is unwilling to make such a clear gesture of defeat. More than likely what we are going to see is the U.S. troops moving into the so-called "permanent bases" where they will remain until a new President replaces Cheney -- Oh, and his puppet, Bush. That should at least lower the American casualty rate, though.

I guess there is one other question - does the creation of Karkh and Rusafa mean that the ancient name "Baghdad" will disappear as did the name of the city of Babylon or Constantinople? There is a romance in the ancient name of "Baghdad" that just doesn't apply to "Karkh" and "Rusafa."

Jason Zengerle asks of Lieberman - Can he survive?

Jason Zengerle offers an interesting article on Joe Lieberman's Senate reelection race and prospects over at The New Republic. The article seems will researched and is clearly well-written.

His conclusion is that Joe is getting it together at last, apparently after some tough talk by Connecticut's senior Senator, Chris Dodd. Here is how some of Joe's friends describe what has happened to him:
"It's how Lieberman talks about the war that people can't stand. He comes across as not necessarily being pro-war but being pro-Bush."

"It's not only an ideological thing. It's a temperament thing," says another former adviser, explaining Lieberman's approach to politics in general. "He really does believe that there's a bipartisan sort of consensus. That attitude worked for him politically in Connecticut for the last 30 years, and it worked for him nationally in the 1990s. But now the earth has shifted. One, I don't think the Bush Republicans play that way. And, two, most people in the Democratic Party don't want anything to do with that attitude." "
Zengerle doesn't think that Lamont has been especially effective or that the anti-war Democrats and the bloggers are the reason why Joe is currently performing so poorly. The problem seems to be the very poor campaign Lieberman has run. But Zengerle seems to think that the problems have been identified and are now being addressed.

It is a good, clear and well-written article, and if Zengerle is correct, the primary and November election are a lot more unpredictable than my previous post may have sounded.

That's part of what is so fun about politics. Even at the last minute you can get surprised, and the results may not match even that last minute surprise. This race looks like one of those.

[Thanks to TPM]

New Connecticut Senate race shocker

Sometimes I forget that the contest between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont is only the Democratic primary. The winner of the Democratic primary in August will go up against the Republican nominee, currently Alan Schlesinger, to determine who the voters of Connecticut will send back to Washington, D.C. as the junior Senator from the state.

It appears that Alan Schlesinger is now in the process of imploding over a Bill Bennet issue. From the Hartford Courant [Via TPM Cafe] we now get the story that not only has Schlesinger been a frequent gambler in the past, he was also sued - twice - by two New Jersey casinos for not paying his gambling debts.

Since there appears to be no Republican in Connecticut with sufficient political gravitas who at this time wants the Republican nomination for Senator, it really looks to me like the winner of the August 8th Democratic primary will be Connecticut's next junior Senator. If Lamont wins the Democratic primary over Lieberman, then for Lieberman to apply to run as an Independent (or even get drafted as the Republican candidate, as has already been talked about) would simply set the same race between Lamont and Lieberman up for the second time.

The voters in the November 8th election would include Connecticut Republicans, who are not voting in the Democratic primary, but the appearance of being a sore loser who will do anything to keep his Senate seat is not really the posture of a winner. Also, Connecticut is becoming a more Democratic state anyway.

So unless the Republicans can pull a real miracle out of the hat, the winner of the Democratic primary will very probably be the next junior Senator from Connecticut.

Josh Marshall has some interesting comments on the primary race.

Katherine Harris loses another aide.

This is good. From TPM Muckraker we hear that Katherine Harris had her speechwriter resign, but before she did, she sent this email around:
"Value of "George Harris Legacy Loan" to Senate campaign: $10 million

Value of "refurbishments" to Capitol Hill residence: $100,000

Value of Handing in my Resignation Letter: Priceless "
Obviously Ms. Harris is depending on God to perform a real miracle so that if she just sticks out the campaign period, she will be elected Senator from Florida. The list of difficulties experience by her campaign is merely God testing her faith.

Either that or Katherine Harris is so zonked out on Prozac that she has no clue what is happening around her.

Repubs: Making DeLay run for reelection could backfire

The Moonie Times Washington Times [via TPM Muckraker] has an article that says if the Courts require that Tom Delay's name remains on the ballot in November then he will run a strong compaign and maybe be relected.

This is a bluff. The Republicans want the scare the Democrats into backing off and letting them install a candidate who might actually win. All they have left is to try to run a bluff. The election results for TX CD 22 will be very pleasant for Democrats on November the 9th.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Digby points out the dangers of conservative "magical thinking."

Digby emphasizes David Ignatius' discussion of the dangers of using "magical thinking" to solve the current problems in Lebanon and the Middle East.

So what's magical thinking, you ask? I like Doreen J. Philpot's definition. Magical Thinking: The belief that one's thoughts, words, or actions will produce an outcome that defies normal laws of cause and effect; the belief that one's words have the power to make things happen. For example, a client may believe his or her thoughts can cause earthquakes. Occurs in schizophrenia.

Digby quotes the anonymous Republican
"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

That is what's known as magical thinking and it is the hallmark of this administration. Again, maybe the public really has the right of this. We've seen ample evidence over the last six years that these are not the people you want in charge during a crisis.
This is what is meant when Bush says he doesn't do analysis of facts and a situation. Instead he depends on his intuition for critical decisions.

Might just as well give all the Republicans magic wands and black, cone-shaped hats with moons and stars on them.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Lieberman to hire workers since he has no ground organization in CT

From Hotline we learn the latest problems of the Joe Lieberman campaign as the time runs down to only three weeks left before the Democratic Primary.

It seems that Joe was depending on using the CT Democratic organization to organize the vote for him. He wasn't planning on a Primary, I guess. So he called in a bunch of Democratic leaders to discuss his plans to use a Washington, D.C. hired gun, Tom Lindenfeld,
"... to put together an organization to call, identify and inspire Lieberman primary voters for the August 8th showdown.

The theme of a Saturday conclave of Greater Hartford Democratic town committee chairs was that if Lieberman loses the primary he will hurt all other Democratic candidates by running as an independent in November. The message was clear: help him now or your favorites suffer in November."
Since those favorites include three of the weakest Republican Congresspersons running for reelection, the national take on this has to be that if the CT Democrats don't renominate Lieberman for Senator, he will run as an Independent and it will possibly cost the Democrats control of the House of Representatives Since Lieberman will suck up the funds that otherwise would have gone to the Democratic candidates for those Republican seats. In state and local races the same effect can be expected.

Some people question why there is an animosity among many Democrats towards Joe Lieberman. What else do you need to see to know that he is a danger to the Democratic Party.

[Via Daily Kos]

GA Republicans - go vote for Ralph Reed in the Primary!

Georgia Republicans! TRex at FireDogLake needs your help! You have to vote for Ralph Reed and nominate him for Lt. Governor!

Don't bother with the reasons. Just go vote for him. You guys don't usually need any more marching orders than that.

For you Democrats who are curious why TRex and I are pushing a vote for Ralph Reed, go check TRex's screed at FireDogLake. He explains quite clearly, but here is his final paragraph:
"If any of you are reading this in the great state of Georgia and can vote in the Republican primary, well, you know what you have to do. A vote for Ralph Reed is a vote for a Democratic Lieutenant Governor. It is your duty. So, go forth and vote for Ralph. It’s the right thing to do."

The case against Lieberman

The members of the Mainstream Media have defined the issue as opposition to Lieberman's strong support of the Bush position on the Iraq War, but this is a severe oversimplification of the opposition to Joe. It is, in my opinion, the fault of modern pundits who either write 700 word essays of opinion or are given 30 seconds to one minute on TV in order to present an opinion. To sound intelligent in such a short space, they have to assume that their audience has a lot of agreement on terms. That means that they will use a lot of very simple terms without explanation or complication. They don't have the space or time to explain or discuss complication.

But I am explaining why I think the oversimplification of issues about Joe exists in the MSM. Duncan Black (Atrios) presents the much more complex case against Sen. Joe Lieberman in today's LA Times. Here is a sample:
"The war is certainly a reason — and given how events continue to devolve in Iraq, a perfectly sufficient one — but those who focus only on that miss the broader opposition to Lieberman and the kind of politics he represents.

For too long he has defined his image by distancing himself from other Democrats, cozying up to right-wing media figures and, at key moments, directing his criticisms at members of his own party instead of at the Republicans in power.

Late last year, after President Bush's job approval ratings hit record lows, Lieberman decided to lash out at the administration's critics, writing in the ultraconservative Wall Street Journal editorial pages that "we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." In this he echoed the most toxic of Republican talking points — that criticizing the conduct of the war is actually damaging to national security.

Lieberman has a long history of providing cover for the worst of Republican actions while enthusiastically serving as his own party's scold. After the Senate acquitted President Clinton on all impeachment charges, Lieberman called for his censure. More recently, he rejected a call by Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.) to censure Bush over the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program, calling the attempt "divisive."

Lieberman looks happiest when playing a "Fox News Democrat," as he did in a February appearance on Sean Hannity's radio program, during which the two exchanged compliments and expressions of friendship and Hannity offered to campaign for him. The senator seems to enjoy Sunday talk shows more than actually doing his job. New Orleans could have been spared the hacktastic performance of Michael Brown, the unqualified former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had Lieberman not shooed him through the confirmation process in a breezy 42-minute hearing."
For some reason Sen. Joe Lieberman has decided that his political position needs to be built in opposition to the positions and people of the Democratic Party and is support of the Republican Party. As long at the Democrats controlled the Senate and Congress generally, Democrats could afford such eccentrics. His destructive antics have been a real problem for the Democratic Party for the last six years, and he hasn't figured out that his environment has changed.

So in the terms of political evolution, when a politician finds himself in a sharply changed environment, the choice is adapt or go extinct. Joe hasn't adapted. He needs to go extinct.

[Thanks to Digby]

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The NY Times on Sen. Lieberman

Surprise, surprise. The New York Times has apparently sent some reporters out of their castle keep into the hinterlands to question the serfs - and they reported real answers, not the fictional news narrative that so often passes for news these days. Today they have a report on what is happening in Connecticut between Sen. Joe Lieberman and his Democratic Party challenger, Ned Lamont.

The general national news narrative for weeks has been that Lamont is leading a challenge of rabid and nasty bloggers and Democratic anti-war protestors against a senior Democratic Senator who refuses to kowtow to the rigid mold these insurgents wish to wrap around the Democratic Party. Today's NY Times report gives a much more nuanced and, in my opinion more accurate, description of what is going on.

Describing Lieberman, the NY Times says "He is in his 18th year in the Senate, where he has prided himself as being moderate, collegial and willing to work with Republicans. He has built the kind of seniority that often leads lawmakers to consider themselves invulnerable. [Snip]

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and one of Mr. Lieberman’s closest friends in the Senate, called him “one of the most decent men I have ever known."

This description confirms my impression of Joe Lieberman. Having never met him, or even anyone who knows him personally, all my information comes from the media. But the climate in Washington and in American politics nationally has changed a great deal since the Republicans have taken over. Lieberman has not. He is still trying to be a nice guy to everyone, Democrat or Republican, and the Republicans have been happily using his blindness to the changed political environment.

More from the Times: "Mr. Lamont and Mr. LiebermanÂ’s critics on the left say he is out of touch with his party, especially but not solely on Iraq, and cannot be trusted to advance what they say are core progressive values.

“Many Democratic activists and bloggers have concluded that some of the party’s most visible scars are self-inflicted,” said Ari Melber, a former staff member for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign who writes regularly for The Huffington Post, a Web site with political commentary. “When prominent Democrats regularly capitulate to Republicans, they undermine the rationale for an opposition party. Lieberman is seen as the serial offender.” [Underlining mine - RB]

Mr. Lieberman, who seemed slow to recognize the seriousness of Mr. Lamont’s challenge, also appears taken aback by the ferocity of the onslaught, particularly from liberal blogs. To Mr. Lieberman’s camp, the bloggers embody what his longtime friend Lanny Davis calls “the demonizing, hating, virulent, character-assassinating left of the Democratic Party.”

Mr. Lieberman began, “Some of the vituperations, some of the extremity of the language and anger,” before his voice trailed off. He paused for a second and started again: “They’re describing a person who is not me."

It looks to me like they are describing a person who Joe does not recognize as being who he is, and using tough political techniques to convince Democratic voters that really is who Joe is. In fact, Joe's failure to recognize that many Democrats do see him as an untrustworthy turncoat who prefers Republicans to Democrats and regularly stabs Democrats in the back merely shows how out of touch he is with the current national political environment. I also think that Joe Lieberman has set himself up by thinking that it really is all about him and who he is personally, and as a result he is unable to recognize how his behavior reflects poorly on other Democrats when he appears to be sucking up the President Bush and the Senate Republican Leadership while attacking his fellow Democrats.

The level of Joe's shock at the effectiveness of the Lamont campaign is a gauge of how much Joe and his supporters really are out of touch. One example of Joe's "out of touch" has been how poorly he and his campaign have responded to being effectively attacked. They seem to be blindsided. They never saw it coming and they are reacting angrily rather than intelligently.

Did they really weigh the damage they were inflicting on Joe Lieberman when he announced that if he loses the primary election to Lamont he will run as an Independent candidate? That decision clearly proves that Lieberman is ready to stab the Democrats in the back any time it is to his advantage.

When Lieberman was first elected Senator in 1988, loyalty to the Democratic Party was not a significant quality demanded of all Democratic candidates for office. It is now that the Democrats are a minority party nationally. Joe rather clearly has felt that his three terms as a Senator and running as the Democratic candidate for Vice President in 2000 has insulated him from such considerations.

I'm not sure whether the next Senator from Connecticut will be Lamont or Lieberman, but whoever it is, the message to Democratic office holders and candidates that loyalty to the Democratic Party has become a strong criteria of who will represent Democrats in the House and Senate.

The message to the voting public will be that Democrats do stand for something, and that they will pull out the stops to fight for what they stand for.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Why is Israel responding to the kidnappings so radically?

Steve Clements who writes Washington Note has been talking to a number of analysts and puts together a very interesting post on the subject.
"Why is Israel pounding most of Lebanon rather than just the South and rather than pinpointing its attack against Hezbollah assets? Why the dramatic bombing of explosive fuel centers? The attacks both in Gaza and in Beirut seem made for Fox News, CNN and the next Schwarzenegger movie."
Steve offers several reasons.

First, Israeli PM Olmert and his deputy are new in the job and do not have the long military experience that Sharon did, so they are demonstrating that they do not fear using military force.

Second, Steve thinks that this is an effort by the Israelis to limit the freedom of Americans to negotiate with Iran and the Palestinians in ways that the Israelis do not want. The Americans were subtly negotiating with Iran over and around the nuclear weapons issue, and apparently getting to some results. Also, Washington was negotiating with all the Arab Middle Eastern states in order to arrange a face-saving partial withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This could amount to a broad new game for all teh nations in the Middle East, and the Israelis didn't like some parts of it (like putting Syria onto a track like that of Libya that gets them out of the international doghouse.) Finally, the Americans and Abbas have been pushing the more reasonable leaders in Hamas towards a recognition of Israel, and the Israelis do not like the ramifications of that. The Israelis do not want the U.S. negotiating deals that they do not approve of in advance. Right now, the U.S. deals with the Middle East largely with guidance and assistance from Israel. They don't want American haring off on its own and damaging their security.

Third, the ability of Hezbollah and Hamas to plan and carry off the kidnappings showed a new ability that the terrorist organizations did not previously have. So did the ability to shower missiles onto Israel, and the ability of Hezbollah to attack an Israeli missile frigate at sea with an explosives-laden drone was both unexpected and quite a bit beyond what Israeli Intelligence expected was possible. These factors have all scared the Israeli top brass, so they are reacting very strongly.

I don't know how accurate all this is, but it makes sense to me. Which probably means it is nowhere close to really describing the byzantine processes in the Middle East.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Walter Pincus on what courageous journalism is today

Walter Pincus makes the point that courage in journalism in Washington today is to NOT publish pure Public Relations statement by the government just because they said it.
"I believe a new kind of courage is needed in journalism in this age of instant news, instant analysis, and therefore instant opinions. It also happens to be a time of government by public relations and news stories based on prepared texts and prepared events or responses. Therefore, this is the time for reporters and editors, whether from the mainstream media or blogosphere, to pause before responding to the latest bulletin, prepared event, or the most recent statement or backgrounder, whether from the White House or the Democratic or Republican leadership on Capitol Hill. Of course, I'm not talking about reporting of a bomb blowing up in a restaurant, soldiers being shot, police caught in a firefight, a fire, an accident, a home run in the ninth to win a game, an Oscar winner, or a drop in the stock market.

I also am talking solely from the point of view of a reporter who has spent almost 50 years watching daily coverage of government in Washington become dominated by increasingly sophisticated public relations practitioners, primarily in the White House and other agencies of government, but also in Congress or interest groups and even think tanks on the left, right or in the center. Today there is much too much being offered about government than can be fit into print or broadcast on nightly news shows. The disturbing trend is that more and more of these informational offerings are nothing but PR peddled as "news."


At the end of Reagan's first year, David Broder, the Post's distinguished political reporter, wrote a column about Reagan being among the least involved Presidents he had covered. The result was he received an onslaught of mail from people who repeatedly said they had seen him every night on TV working different issues. The often told Deaver story is that one night CBS News correspondent Leslie Stahl met him after narrating a particularly critical piece on Reagan, and Deaver told her as long as the President was on camera smiling it didn't matter what she had said about him. When President George H.W. Bush succeeded Reagan and occasionally drifted off the appointed subject, criticism began to appear that he "couldn't stay on message." When Bill Clinton arrived and as President did two, three or four things in a day, some critics went after him for "mixing up the daily message."

The truth of the matter is that with help from the news media, being able to "stay on message" is now considered a presidential asset, perhaps even a requirement. Of course, the "message" is the public relations spin that the White House wants to present and not what the President actually did that day or what was really going on inside the White House. This system reached its apex this year when the White House started to give "exclusives" -- stories that found their way to Page One, in which readers learn that during the next week President Bush will do a series of four speeches supporting his Iraq policy because his polls are down. Such stories are often attributed to unnamed "senior administration officials." Lo and behold, the next week those same news outlets, and almost everyone else, carries each of the four speeches in which Bush essentially repeats what he's been saying for two years.

A new element of courage in journalism would be for editors and reporters to decide not to cover the President's statements when he -- or any public figure -- repeats essentially what he or she has said before."
Walter, from your keyboard to God's ears!

News is defined as the announcement of new events that will change the decisions that recipients of those facts would otherwise have made to something else. PR is data presented to make the presenter look good to supporters. PR simply is NOT news.

But PR is all the TV news and other mainstream media now gives us.

Gee. The newspapers and free TV news organizations wonder why people are no longer asking for their products? Why should I waste my time and money on them if what they give me will not change anything I had intended to do anyway? The only reason I buy a newpaper any more is because I keep up with the comics. Some people get the paper for local sports. I don't.

So if all the national so-called news is merely PR, why waste my time and money on the "news" providers who copy and present the PR statements from the government?

Valerie Plame Wilson is a doll!

Today we got the announcement of the lawsuit by Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband Joe against Dick Cheney, Scooter Libbey and Karl Rove for their exposure of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative working to prevent WMD proliferation. That exposure appears to have destroyed the anti-WMD network operated by Valerie Wilson. The exposure was intended by the White House to punish Valerie's husband, Joe Wilson for his exposure of the falsity of the Bush claim that Saddam had attempted to buy Yellow-Cake Uranium from Niger.

July 14th was the three-year anniversary of the publication of that classified information by ultra conservative Chicago Sun Collumnist Bob Novak. This appears to be the determination of the Wilson's attorney of the final date of the statute of limitations on the case.

The civil case reported here will probably be delayed until after Fitzgerald's criminal case against "Scooter" Libby is finished, but it will remain as a threat to Cheney and Rove in the White House.

I don't know for sure where this civil case by the Wilsons will go, but if the courts let depositions occur the results may be extremely interesting. This is possibly (I hope) an enforced entrance into the secrecy of the White House, especially the office of Vice President. I really hope this is not delayed too much.

July 14th was the three-year anniversary of the publication of that classified information about Valerie Plame Wilson's CIA status by Bob Novak. This appears to be the determination of the Wilson's attorney of the final date of the statute of limitations on the case.

The civil case here will probably be delayed until after Fitzgerald's case against "Scooter" Libby is finished, but it will remain as a threat to Cheney and Rove in the White House.

I don't know for sure where it will go, but if they let depositions occur the results may be extremely interesting. This is possibly an enforced entrance into the secrecy of the White House, especially the office of Vice President. I really hope this is not delayed too much.

But did I mention that Valerie Plame Wilson is a really gorgeous doll? That's besides the romance of being a CIA operative.

Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah

I just heard a Palestinian on NPR complaining about the way Israel was attacking the Palestinians in Gaza and the Lebanese in Lebanon. After several minutes of his tirade, the reporter asked if it wasn't true that Hamas had first kidnapped an Israeli soldier and then demanded the release of all Hamas prisoners in exchange, then continued to fire rockets into Israel. The Hezbollah in Lebanon also kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, demanded the freedom of hundreds of prisoners and fired rockets into northern Israel.

The Palestinian spokesperson agreed that those facts were true, but the problem was that Israel's reaction was disproportionate.

Sorry. I don't see it. The provocations were unnecessary and designed to call out massive retaliation.

The first kidnapping was essentially either a criminal or terrorist action by the party that controls the Palestinian Parliament. That is an act of war. So it the business of firing rockets from Gaza into Israel. Hamas is the elected Palestinian government. The actions of Hezbollah are the same. Hezbollah is an accepted Lebanese political party holding seats in the Lebanese Parliament. Their actions of kidnapping and firing missiles into northern Israel are acts of war.

When you conduct acts of war, you cannot be excused because the victim of your actions reacts in ways you consider "disproportionate." Those acts of war against Israel must be responded to and the criminals of Hamas and Hezbollah have no right to complain that the responses are somehow disproportionate.

On top of that, when you use the term "disproportionate," how do you describe kidnapping a single soldier and then demanding the release of over a thousand prisoners in exchange? That is clearly disproportionate. Such ridiculous demands clearly justify strong reactions.

Hamas and Hezbollah have instigated the violence in these two cases. They have no right to complain about the extremity of the response they were demanding. Israel is the victim here, not the Arabs.

I am making this determination based on these Hamas and Hezbollah incidents only. Don't bug me with the history of the whole damned conflict.

You have irrational religion on both sides instigating actions that no reasonable civilized person would accept as anything other than criminal. Religious irrationality passed down from parent to child is unacceptable. The idea that people who pray to the same damned God have to fight each other over land is ridiculous. The fault is heavier on the Islamic side because the Israelis have nowhere else to go. The Palestinians do. But the other Islamic peoples won't permit it because it lets the Israelis appear to be the winners.

Both sides have a great deal that is good about them, and if they worked together the ground that is today Palestine and Israel could well become a true Garden of Eden. Even if it has no oil under it. Perhaps even because it has no oil under it. The idea that one side or the other must win is irrational and horribly destructive of people and of the land. The history of the land alone is a world treasure. It should be available to the entire world.

The anger and bloodletting must be stopped. The problem is with those who instigate the bloodletting, not in who did what historically. IN the most recent case, the problem belongs to Hamas, Hezbollah, and those who are handing them weapons and pointing them at someone to kill. The Israelis can either leave or counterattack. Unfortunately, there is no place for them to go to, so they have to counterattack.

That leaves it up to the terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah to stop the bloodletting and start talking seriously. Iran and Syria seem to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Psychological tests.

I find questionaires fascinating. Sometimes they tell me things about myself that I was mildly aware of, but did not know how to put into words. So let me offer you a set of Psychological Tests to play with. click through and try them out.

One I did not find on this list was the "F-Test", designed to find Fascist tendencies in your personality. It was based on the post-war (that WW II) research of Theordore Adorno into the idea that their is a Fascist Persobnality. Wikipedia provides a short discussion of the instrument, its history and the theory. Click through here and take the F-Scale Test - or else!

Anyone who knows of a fun or useful psychological test that is online should leave a comment with a link to it. If possible, also give links to an explanation of the theory behind the test (if any) and discussion of why we should care. OK?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Informed opinions on Lieberman

CQ Politics has assembled a panel of five individuals with some knowledge who provide their opinions on the Lamont - Lieberman Democratic Primary in Connecticut.

Probably the best thing about this race is that I, as a Texan normally not a bit interested in any state north of New York, am having to learn to spell Connecticut. Next I try that state Ted Kennedy comes from. Weird names, these yankees have for their states.

N. Korea - Another Bushie failure

Well, Bush did warn us that Iran, Iraq and North Korea were the axis of evil. What he didn't tell us was that he would totally fail to deal with even one of them adequately. This is his track record on North Korea:
[Asst. Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific and chief envoy on North Korea negotiations Christopher] "Hill has been close to some serious breakthrough deals with North Korea over the last 18 months, but each time Cheney and his team have unceremoniously and quietly strangled Hill's initiatives. Cheney's fervent opposition to negotiated outcomes with North Korea was more flamboyantly on display when his then State Department puppet John Bolton attacked and blew up the North Korea related initiatives of then Secretary of State Colin Powell and then chief North Korea negotiations envoy Jack Pritchard in 2001.

But Cheney has been at war with the Six Party Negotiations process throughout the entire Bush tenure.

The tug-of-war over North Korea INSIDE the Bush administration has created a climate of uncertainty and inconsistency in the Six Party Talks. The absence of coherent U.S. strategy combined with astute North Korean exploitation of tensions and divisions among the U.S., Japan, South Korea, China, and to some degree Russia has produced a dangerous climate where rather than deploying a sensible and compelling strategic framework and judging progress or setbacks against that -- we have moved into a far more fragile situation where micro-moments of Bush or Kim's twist this way or that have been substituted for considerations of strategy.

In other words, Bush rather than shrugging off the North Korean missile tests might just as well have announced a limited military strike against North Korean launch sites or other military assets, or might have announced a naval buildup of U.S. and allied ships off of the Korean peninsula, or could have initiated with Japan and South Korea strident and threatening joint military exercises.

But the problem with any of Bush's actions is that they are not measured against a coherent strategic game plan."
[From The Washington Note]
So the Bush administration has been sending Christopher Hill to the 6 power talks and he has been devising a strategy for getting what we need from North Korea, while behind his back Cheney and his minions have been sabotaguing the efforts.

That's a recipe for guaranteed failure. The U.S. has to be the key party in the talks and has to provide a strategy for the other four parties to use to get North Korea to cooperate. With Cheney savaging every effort, then there is no strategy and there is no hope that the talks will produce any decent result.

Since Japan is the most in danger from North Korea, we can expect their frustration with American incompetence to cause them to go it alone without us. That will almost certainly mean that Japan will also develop nuclear weapons to counter those of North Korea and build an aggressive military.

When you are working to reduce the likelihood of war, why would you cause your allies and enemies to arm and prepare for it if they don't have to with your cooperation? Is this another example of the Bushies responding to the Xtian evangelists desire for Armegeddon to come sooner? Lord, I hope not, but with this set of nuts in the Presidency and supported by the Republican Party in Congress, it is all together too likely.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Just a polite question of Joe, one-on-one

Maura is an Irish-American from Stamford, CT, so when she heard Joe Lieberman was going to campaign there along with Joe Biden, she showed up. Which is more than Joe Biden did.

After the formal activities with Lieberman were over, she went through the line to shake his hand, and while she was there talking to him, she asked a question.

Click here to see how that worked. Spazeboy provides the video.

I reached Maura's blog through Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake. Jane provides a bit more information on who Maura is.

OK. So asking a polite question of your Senator as you pass through the line to shake his hand is now "harrassing" the Senator. I have to conclude that this is more evidence that Lieberman is really running scared of Lamont. He is spinning any disagreement or even a question of his behavior in nasty ways. A winning politician doesn't need to do this.

Democrats need to be identified with change

Digby summarizes the strategy memo from "insider Dem establishment polling outfit, Democracy Corps run by none other than Carville and Stan Greenberg."

In essence the memo validates what the blogosphere Democrats have been saying (at high volume) all this year. A key element - Any discussion of Iraq at all causes support of Republicans to fall. Add demands for accountability to that, and the Republican support falls even further. Include promises to investigate how the money to contractors in Iraq has been spent and the Republicans are even deeper into the whole.

So why haven't the Democratic leaders gotten the message? Personally I think it is because they are attempting to copy successful techniques from winning politicians and over the last two-and-a-half decades, those politicians have been overwhelmingly conservative Republicans. Combine that dynamic with the revolving door for Democratic election strategists regardless of their record of success, and the entire culture of Washington Democratic leadership has taken on a very right-wing ting because they have never seen left-wingers winning.

Now they are afraid to change. They are locked into the passive lean-to-the-right losing ideas.

So go read Digby. Then look at what we need to do as a Party to win Congress back in November.

N Korea policy under Bush: Talk tough, don't act

Josh Marshall has a succinct summary of the history of North Korea's nukes and the Bush policy for "dealing with" the problem:
"The salient fact is that under Clinton plutonium reprocessing stopped and under Bush it restarted. The Bushies angle was that you don't coddle bad actors like the North Koreans. You deal with them in the language they understand: force. But the NKs called their bluff, they weren't prepared to use force. So they decided to forget about the whole thing.

That's the record. That's the policy. A total failure. "
Go to his blog and read the history for the full story of how the Bush administration really screwed the North Korea situation up.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What Democrats need to be saying

I just read two posts that make exactly the point Democrats need to take into the November election against Republicans everywhere. The first is (of course) Digby quoting Jim Webb from this mornings' interview with George Stephenapolis. When George told Jim Webb that he was part of the "I told you so chorus" Jim responded:
"Well, I think there are a lot of people who don't want to be reminded that they were warned. I think it's relevant, when you talk about how you build national strategy, and how you use the military -- to talk about how these decisions should be made. There should be some sort of accountability."[Underlining mine - RB]
Is that too much to ask of an administration who specifically created a so-called Preemptive War Doctrine just so they could attack a nation that was no danger to America?

Face it. The Republican attack on Iraq was intended to use the great American military power on an easy target that had already been shown vulnerable to American military firepower so as to apply "Shock and Awe" and intimidate our REAL enemies out of attacking us.

Digby further quotes something he says Jim Webb wrote back in 2004 (but does not provide a link that I can find):
"Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence.

There is no historical precedent for taking such action when our country was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military that, to this point, has protected him from the harsh judgment that he deserves."
So Bush gambled that he could prevent other Middle Eastern terrorists from attacking America by demonstrating the massive firepower that our military could apply and showing that we would use it.

Or in terms of a cheap potboiler, he stood up and said to the enemies in the dark "I have a gun and I'll use it!!"

Guess what. Just like in the potboiler, the panicky threat into the darkness failed.

Here is the other item I read today. Via TPM we get this report from the Baltimore Sun:
"Critically important reporting in this morningÂ’s LA Times Baltimore Sun on what amounts to a complete collapse of U.S. efforts to establish an Iraqi civil police authority:

Brutality and corruption are rampant in Iraq's police force, with abuses including the rape of female prisoners, the release of terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes, assassinations of police officers and participation in insurgent bombings, according to confidential Iraqi government documents detailing more than 400 police corruption investigations.

Some have argued, persuasively, that any effort to create a professional and effective Iraqi police force was doomed from the earliest days of the occupation when the Pentagon failed to put enough boots on the ground, especially police and civil affairs units, to secure the peace.

Not only did the insurgency step into that power vacuum but a fearful population, including, undoubtedly, members of the police forces themselves, also turned instinctively to their religious and tribal associations for protection. That doomed the chances of establishing an impartial civil authority:"

The Bush administration has attacked the wrong target, totally wasted our American ground forces on his misdirected attack, failed to change the view of any other Middle East nation, and wasted four years and God only knows how many dollars, lives, and other resources (not the least being the American reputation for trying to do what is Right for people generally) in the effort.

There IS NO POSITIVE OUTCOME that can be worth the Bush administration's failed gamble.

So they do not want to be held accountable. That is a given. Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and the Republican Party have royally screwed to pooch. So they don't want to hear "I told you so!" Of course they don't. They want to try to let it slide until it is essentially forgotten.

But the clock is ticking, and those "ticks" can be measured in American lives and other nasty effects. We can't win in Iraq. We can't even get the Bush admin to give us a description of what it means to win beyond "As the Iraqis stand up, the Americans will stand down."

Right. And they aren't going to stand up.

So the Bush administration has decided to play to American politics. The U.S. economy is on life-support, being held up by the military spending. When the U.S.does begin to back out of Iraq, the result is going to be a recession as military spending is reduced. And spending has to be reduced, since it is currently supported only by excessive borrowing from foreigners which cannot be kept up much longer.

The result politically will be that the Republicans can blame the then current President (probably a Democrat) for both losing Iraq (he will pull out the troops) and for causing a Recession.

See how it works? The U.S. will go through a Republican-caused Recession (similar to what happened to Argentina after the Generals were removed from government) but the Republicans can try to shift the blame to the Democrats who are in charge when it happens, The Republicans will get their base back to elect them back into office. This will be easier since they will blame the Democrats for losing Iraq in addition to causingthe Recession.

Every real terrorist incident after the Republicans leave office will be blamed on the "soft" Democrats, in spite of the fact that the Republicans haven't bothered to fight them or protect us from them. They can't. All the American resources are being wasted in Iraq.

Simple, isn't it.

That's why the Democrats need to demand accountability for what the Republicans have done - as Jim Webb has been doing to George Allen.

Libs challenge to Joe L. is news; Cons challenge to Akaka and Chaffee is not.

Once again, Digby points out the strange behavior of the political news media.

Reporting on the article by Chris Bowers Digby stresses the point that the news media is agog that Liberals and Progressives are challenging the conservative Joe Lieberman, and question whether "these people" should be challenging the incumbent of a Democratic Senate safe seat.

Yet in Hawaii conservative Democrat Ed Case (supported by the Democratic Leadership Council - DLC) poses a serious threat to incumbent Senator Daniel Akaka (Senator since 1990) and in Rhode Island the extremely conservative Republican Stephan Laffey a seriously threatens moderate Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee (Senator since 1999) in the Republican Primary. The latter two cases go effectively unremarked in the national media.

What's the difference? Well, in the news narrative, conservatives are supposed to challenge moderates within each party, but Liberals are not supposed to go after Conservatives.

"It just isn't done."

This appears to be the news media in its "Man bites dog!" mode. So the news narrative has set the agenda. Only the agenda will be discussed Sunday morning.

There's 33 Senators running for reelection this year. The political climate is such that there could be a change in the party running the Senate. Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum is not in good shape, causing a likely Democratic pickup of one seat. Rhode Island leans Democratic, so if Chaffee is replaced by a Wingnut Republican, then this is another possible pickup for the Democrats in the Senate. The news November 8th will revolve around the close elections. Connecticut is going to send a Democratic Senator (or one who caucuses with the Democrats.)

Where are the news media? If they were fox hounds they would be giving an example of what the old saying "They are haring off on an irrelevant chase." means. This pack of (news) Fox Hounds doesn't realize where the Foxes (i.e. real news) are, so they are chasing hares.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ken Lay cheats thousands; then cheats justice.

Being from Houston and knowing people who worked at Enron, I carefully followed the trial of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. Their fraud swindled thousands of people for billions of dollars. A lot of businessmen push the limits of the legal rules to get rich, but Lay and Skilling not only pushed the limits, they worked the political system to get the rules changed so that they could push the limits even further.

This is what Ken Lay was doing when he supported George W. Bush for Governor and for President, and he was a strong supporter of then Texas Senator Phil Gramm and Phil's wife, Wendy Gramm. Phil was, among other favors for Ken Lay, able to get his own wife appointed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) where she arranged to loosen the regulations so that the kinds of transactions Enron conducted were no longer regulated.

A few months after that happened, Wendy left the SEC and took up residence on the Enron Board of Directors where she was on the Audit Committee. As a Ph.D. in Economics, Wendy was in the position to know how shaky the company was and had the education to understand what she knew. She quietly accepted the excessive fees she got for filling space on the Board and doing nothing while the company was lying about its revenue and hiding debt on the Financial Statements. This was just a small bit of the overall fraud Lay and Skilling were ramrodding.

Then the company collapsed in a welter of lies and rewritten financial reports that finally showed the billions of dollars trusting investors and employees had lost. When Enron collapsed, it also took the Andersen Accounting firm (one of the Big Five at the time) into the dustbin with it. After about a year of rifling through the files that had not been shredded during the collapse the federal government began to try Lay and Skilling for their fraud.

The trial took four years. The jury worked it out and declared Ken Lay guilty of fraud. Lay was waiting for sentencing when he once again cheated everyone by dying - surrounded by his unearned luxury at his vacation home in Aspen, Col. This is one of several homes he still owned in spite of his protestations that he was "Broke."

From The Age we find the legal ramifications of his death before being sentenced:
"There will be no closure on a case where more than 4000 jobs and billions of dollars in shareholder wealth, savings and retirement incomes simply vaporised. And certainly no closure on a fraud that has left the US with one of the most stringent, and vilified, corporate governance regimes in the world.


US legal experts have said that when a defendant who pleads not guilty dies before being sentenced, the conviction is wiped out on grounds that the defendant did not have the opportunity to appeal. Lay declared his innocence after his conviction and lawyers were reportedly taking steps to appeal."
I've spent the time waiting for the jury's decision, and hoping Lay would not skate. I was delighted that he was found guilty. Now, with Lay's death, I have been robbed! Justice has been robbed. The shit DID skate!

I know I am not the only one who feels this way - but I do feel this way and I can only imagine how others are feeling. We were all robbed of justice.

So now what happens to Jeff Skilling? He's the last hope for some - even symbolic - justice. He'd better get it!

More on Coulter's plagiarism

This is getting to be fun reading. Madame Coulter is beginning to take it the way Wonkette (Ann Marie Cox)says she likes to get it. TRex skewers the plagiarist Coulter quite nicely.

Madame Coulter shall henceforth be known as "Ann Coulter, the Republican pundit who faced plagiarism accusations over her last book..."

Rude Pundit very kindly lists all of the allegations of plagiarism against "Ann Coulter, the Republican pundit who faced plagiarism accusations over her last book..." all in one place for easy access.

The latest on the NH phone jamming Republicans

The New Hampshire 2002 Republican phone-jamming scheme still has many teeth with which to bite the National Republican Party leadership. The Senate Majority Report provides the latest filing by one Defendant Shaun Hansen. Here is the write-up of the best part by the Senate Majority Report:
"Apparently, Hansen's defense strategy is not going to focus on whether or not he jammed Democratic phone lines on Election Day in 2002. Rather, his defense strategy will be to persuade a jury that he may have been persuaded not just that the phone jamming was legal, but that he would be carrying out the scheme on behalf of the United States government.

(Far fetched? Maybe not. GOP Marketplace, the firm which brought Hansen into the phone jamming scheme, was owned in part by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. In addition, phone records show hundreds of phone calls from the NH Republican party and convicted phone jammer James Tobin to the White House Office of Political Affairs during the time the scheme was being planned, carried out, and covered up.)"

This has the potential to really get to the Republicans.

Bloggers discussing this post include:Then the legal filing is:Followed by the list of calls to the White House:

Friday, July 07, 2006

Anti-Liebermanism is tribal, not policy differences

FINALLY! An explanation of why so many Democrats are angry at Joe Lieberman that I can understand! Mind you, I am one of those angry at him, but I was hard pressed to explain why. But Digby, riffing off Ezra Klein at TAPPED, has nailed it. It's tribalism, not policy differences. From Ezra Klein:
"Because it's not about the war. Or moderation. Or ideology at all. It's about partisanship. The lines are brightly drawn, but in unexpected places. [...] You can vote with Republicans, but you can't undermine Democrats. You can be a hawk, but you can't deride doves. The politics here are tribal, and Lieberman's developed too severe a crush on the neighboring chieftain to participate."
I missed the debate between Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman, but many of the comments from it amounted to "Why did Lieberman attack Lamont so strongly but was so kind to Dick Cheney when they debated in 2000?" The times are six years different, so there are reasons for the difference, but one of the largest reasons is that Joe Lieberman has already written off the majority of the Democratic voters in Connecticut. He was working to attract the Republican voters he needs in order to win as an independent after he loses the Democratic Primary to Lamont.

Digby says about the Lieberman-Lamont debate:
"Last night Lieberman did it again, chastizing Lamont and his supporters for ruining the Democratic party. When's the last time you heard a Republican candidate attack his own voters?"
Joe sees that as a tactical political gambit which he feels that his experience and super intelligence will allow him to pull off and win reelection again. Many of us in the blogosphere see that as treason to the Democratic Party. Lieberman has gone over to the Republicans, but is running for office in a marginally Democratic state. Lieberman also showed that he has gone over when he led off the Republican side of the Senate argument about holding the course in Iraq. He was way too obviously happy to be there with all those Republican Senators. Like he belonged there with the guys who are running the show in the Senate.

I don't think that Lieberman is out of touch really. He is just out of touch with the Democratic voters. He is trying to sell his 18 years experience in the Senate as a plus for the voters of Connecticut - and it might be. But it isn't an advantage for the Democratic voters of Connecticut. Think about it. There are three marginal Republican house members running in Connecticut in November. If Lamont runs as an Independent, then the Democratic contenders for those three House seats can expect a lot of the otherwise Democratic funding to dry up and shift to Lieberman. So there is a good chance that Lieberman, if he loses the Democratic Primary to Lamont, will take down the chance the Democratic Party has of winning back control the House.

This is not the position of a member of the Democratic Party tribe. If it were to mean the difference between being likely to take back Democratic control of the House or reelecting Joe Lieberman to the Senate, then Joe should do the right thing for the party and fall on his sword. That is what a member of the tribe would do.

A bit of Congressional history here. Lieberman came up in the Senate in his first two terms when the distinctions between the two parties were not nearly as strong as it is now. Working across the aisle was considered good form, especially when it was working for the nation. That's what it means to have bipartisan cred. That has changed because the Republican Party wanted it changed. The Republican leadership in both houses no longer allow such independence in Republicans.

Lieberman doesn't recognize the change. Under the older system, the Congressional leadership of both houses would create bills that the moderates of both parties could vote for. Then they would work from the middle to get enought bipartisan votes to pass their legislation. With the Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, however, they now fashion the most extreme right-wing bills possible, then move from the far right to pick off a few moderates to pass such extremist leglislation. Instead of being the targets for whom the legislation is fashioned, the moderates become the least objectionable left wingers who can be bribed, cajolled, or otherwise enticed to abandon all morality and party loyality and join in with the extremist right-wingers to pass truly odious legislation. In the Senate Joe Lieberman is working hard to be that Democrat who abandons party to join with power.

Steve left an excellent comment to Ezra Klein's posting describing the history of that change. While there were difficulties between the two parties after the 2000 elections, when 9/11 occurred the Democrats rallied behind the Bush administration wholeheartedly to defend America. The result was that in 2002 the Republicans kicked them in the teeth for their efforts. The race against Max Cleveland calling his patriotism into question was one example and the anti-union poison pill they placed in the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security so that Democrats had to vote against it was another. As steve said:
"Many liberals saw these tactics as a repudiation of the de facto partisan truce which had existed since 9/11, and things have never been the same since.

[The theft of the 2004 Presidential election has added greatly to the Democratic anger. - Editor.]

Many Democratic voters are deeply, deeply frustrated with those few politicians, like Lieberman, who don't understand what they see as the new world order, and want to play nice and accumulate bipartisan cred even as the Republicans kick them in the teeth at every opportunity.

Things truly could have been different after 9/11, and different in a way that most Americans would favor, if not for a Republican leadership that cared more about consolidating political power than moving forward as a unified country. It's a tragedy."
Although there is also a lot of difference of opinion on policy issues between the liberal Democrats and the Republicans, that really is not why Lieberman has become Senatora non Grata. Lieberman simply acts like he is too good to belong to the Democratic Party or even associate with them any more than he has to. I understand that Lieberman rarely even left Washington D.C. to return to Connecticut until he realized he was going to have to actually run for reelection to the Senate. All the powerful people are in D.C., and most of them right now are Republicans. That's where he wants to be.

His attitude shows, even on TV. That's what's really wrong with him. It really is a tribal thing rather than a policy thing. Essentially, Joe Lieberman dislikes belonging to the Democratic Party. It is now just a necessary habit for him if he is going to associate with the D.C. power elites he prefers to rub shoulders with, hug, or kiss.

Here is a discussion on the debate from Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake with some excellent quotes from Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post, in an online chat today reporting on the event.