Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Salman Rushdie on Terrorism

Salman Rusdie give "Der Spiegel" an interview. From the interview:
"SPIEGEL:What makes apparently normal young men decide to blow themselves up?

Rushdie: There are many reasons, and many different reasons, for the worldwide phenomenon of terrorism. In Kashmir, some people are joining the so-called resistance movements because they give them warm clothes and a meal. In London, last year's attacks were still carried out by young Muslim men whose integration into society appeared to have failed. But now we are dealing with would-be terrorists from the middle of society. Young Muslims who have even enjoyed many aspects of the freedom that Western society offers them. It seems as though social discrimination no longer plays any role -- it's as though anyone could turn into a terrorist. [Snip]

...there's one thing we must all be clear about: terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate goals by some sort of illegitimate means. Whatever the murderers may be trying to achieve, creating a better world certainly isn't one of their goals. Instead they are out to murder innocent people. If the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, for example, were to be miraculously solved from one day to the next, I believe we wouldn't see any fewer attacks. [Snip]

Lenin once described terrorism as bourgeois adventurism. I think there, for once, he got things right: That's exactly it. One must not negate the basic tenet of all morality -- that individuals are themselves responsible for their actions. And the triggers seem to be individual too. Upbringing certainly plays a major role there, imparting a misconceived sense of mission which pushes people towards "actions." Added to that there is a herd mentality once you have become integrated in a group and everyone continues to drive everyone else on and on into a forced situation. There's the type of person who believes his action will make mankind listen to him and turn him into a historic figure. Then there's the type who simply feels attracted to violence. And yes, I think glamour plays a role too. [Snip]

Terror is glamour -- not only, but also. I am firmly convinced that there's something like a fascination with death among suicide bombers. Many are influenced by the misdirected image of a kind of magic that is inherent in these insane acts. The suicide bomber's imagination leads him to believe in a brilliant act of heroism, when in fact he is simply blowing himself up pointlessly and taking other peoples lives. There's one thing you mustn't forget here: the victims terrorized by radical Muslims are mostly other Muslims.

SPIEGEL: Of course there can be no justification for terrorism. But nevertheless there are various different starting points. There is the violence of groups who are pursuing nationalist, one might say comprehensible, goals using every means at their disposal ...

Rushdie: ... and there are others like al-Qaida which have taken up the cause of destroying the West and our entire way of life. This form of terrorism wraps itself up in the wrongs of this world in order to conceal its true motives -- an attack on everything that ought to be sacred to us. It is not possible to discuss things with Osama bin Laden and his successors. You cannot conclude a peace treaty with them. They have to be fought with every available means.

SPIEGEL: And with the other ones, the "nationalist terrorists," should we engage in dialogue with them?

Rushdie: That depends on whether they are prepared to renounce their terrorist struggle under a certain set of conditions. That appears to be showing at least initial signs of working with the Basques of ETA. I think we have Bin Laden to thank for that to no small extent -- the Basque leaders didn't want to be like him. And with the IRA it was the loss of credibility among their own people, who no longer saw any point in fighting violently in the underground. Remolding former terrorist organisations into political parties in the long term is at least not hopeless. It might work with those groups that are not primarily characterized by religious fanaticism -- the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, for example, a group which virtually invented suicide bombings, have no religious background at all. They have clear objectives: an independent state."
Although Rushdie claims he is no expert on terrorism, as a novelist of first rank he clearly has an insight into the reasons individuals become terrorists. This Der Spiegel interview has brought out Rushdie's insights.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hey! You thought the Katrina/Rita stuff was incompetence - but it was planned.

Frank Rich describes what happened in New Orleans with the benefit of hindsight, and Digby expands it.

This from Frank Rich:
"The ineptitude bared by the storm - no planning for a widely predicted catastrophe, no attempt to secure a city besieged by looting, no strategy for anything except spin - is indelible. [Snip]

What’s amazing on Katrina’s first anniversary is how little Mr. Bush seems aware of this change in the political weather. He’s still in a bubble. At last week’s White House press conference, he sounded as petulant as Tom Cruise on the ‘Today’ show when Matt Lauer challenged him about his boorish criticism of Brooke Shields. Asked what Iraq had to do with the attack on the World Trade Center, Mr. Bush testily responded, “Nothing,” adding that “nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks.” Like the emasculated movie star, the president is still so infatuated with his own myth that he believes the public will buy such nonsense. [Snip]

[This is the next] White House P.R. offensive, ... next week’s Katrina show. It has its work cut out for it. A year after the storm, the reconstruction of New Orleans echoes our reconstruction of Baghdad. A “truth squad” of House Democrats has cataloged the “waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement” in $8.75 billion worth of contracts, most of which were awarded noncompetitively. Only 60 percent of the city has electricity. Half of the hospitals and three-quarters of the child-care centers remain closed. Violent crime is on the rise. Less than half of the population has returned."
Then from Digby:
"We all talked about the African American NOLA diaspora sort of abstractly last year but it really has come to pass. A large part of the city and environs aren't coming back and as long as the rebuilding is so "slow" they won't. Eventually they will put down roots elsewhere. The result is that the Democratic base of Louisiana has been disappeared. I have no doubt that is no accident."
This was - first - incompetence in governance by Bush and the Republican Congress who refuse to provide oversight. The failure of FEMA was not intentional. It was a failure to plan and prepare.

But that failure was then taken advantage of for political gain. How do the Republicans get rid of the pesky Democrat Kathleen Blanco who is governor of Louisiana, or the Democratic Senators John B. Breaux and Mary Landrieu?

Well, when a widely anticipated hurricane causes the poor mostly Black and largely Democratic voting people of New Orleans to seek refuge in other states, the federal government simply closes down the low cost housing projects of New Orleans rather than rebuild them, fails to provide resources to rebuild the Democratic parts of New Orleans, and then after the hullabaloo dies down, finances Republican developers to gentrify what is left of New Orleans.

The result? A solidly Republican state of Louisiana.

How simple can it get?

What is your (philosophical) world view?

If you read and study a lot, you may wonder how your world view would be described by others. My daughter found this test which we both have taken and which - upon reflection - we both generally agree gets it right.

I rank highest as a Post-Modernist and slightly less as an Existentialist. I rank lowest as a Fundamentalist. As I say, this is totally what both my daughter and I think I should rank as. I won't give the scores to the public, however.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Comedy and satire - the appropriate response to Conservatives

Jessica Clark at "In These Times" explains why there has been such an explosion of comedy and satire in the last few years. She attributes it to being a reponse to the havy-handed ridicule of conservatives like Limbaugh. It performs a function in rallying the Progressives much as O'Reily and Limbaugh rally conservatives.

Go read it as see if you don't agree with her.

A review of "Veronica Mars"

I really like the TV show Veronica Mars. Kristen Bell is an excellent actress and the show is extremely well written. But if you want to see an outstanding essay on the show, go read the review by Chrstopher Hays Bio at "In These Times."

The review is less than perfect from my point of review, but very interesting for all that. Hayes emphasizes what he sees in the show, and I think he is correct in his discussion of the view of class the show exposes. But overall the show is a lot more than that. It is above all a highly entertaining mystery show which is well written, populated with interesting characters and well acted. A person watching the show will not be bored, and almost every show is worth seeing more than once. There are very few shows I will say that about.

Thanks to Matthew Yglesias for the link to the Hayes review.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Economic inequality, power and the discipline of economics.

Paul Krugman writes another of his outstanding editorials.
"Recently, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, acknowledged that economic inequality is rising in America. In a break with previous administration pronouncements, he also conceded that this might be cause for concern.

But he quickly reverted to form, falsely implying that rising inequality is mainly a story about rising wages for the highly educated. And he argued that nothing can be done about this trend, that "it is simply an economic reality, and it is neither fair nor useful to blame any political party."

History suggests otherwise."
The real issue is which society - through the government - values more, Wealth or Labor. Whichever is valued more will be what public policy will work to reward more.

So which has the greater power to increase the economy, wealth or labor? This is not an absolute. It is a balancing act. Both are required. The one in greater shortage is the one which society should work to reward more. So which matters more right now?

More from Krugman:
"I've been studying the long-term history of inequality in the United States. And it's hard to avoid the sense that it matters a lot which political party, or more accurately, which political ideology rules Washington.

Since the 1920's there have been four eras of American inequality:

The Great Compression, 1929-1947: The birth of middle-class America. The real wages of production workers in manufacturing rose 67 percent, while the real income of the richest 1 percent of Americans actually fell 17 percent.

• The Postwar Boom, 1947-1973: An era of widely shared growth. Real wages rose 81 percent, and the income of the richest 1 percent rose 38 percent.

• Stagflation, 1973-1980: Everyone lost ground. Real wages fell 3 percent, and the income of the richest 1 percent fell 4 percent.

• The New Gilded Age, 1980: Big gains at the very top, stagnation below. Between 1980 and 2004, real wages in manufacturing fell 1 percent, while the real income of the richest 1 percent — people with incomes of more than $277,000 in 2004 — rose 135 percent.

What's noticeable is that except during stagflation, when virtually all Americans were hurt by a tenfold increase in oil prices, what happened in each era was what the dominant political tendency of that era wanted to happen."
Krugman makes the point that this is merely an association, not proof of cause and effect. But it is a strong association.

What are the social differences between wealth and labor?

Wealth allows its owner to buy power. The amount of power bought is related to the size of the wealth available to the individual decision-maker.

Labor actually creates things and makes society and the economy operate, but does not by itself gain great power in society to the extent pure wealth does. Individual workers rarely gain sufficient wealth from their work to buy significant amounts of social power. The number of workers is too large compared to the total power of Labor. It is much more difficult for wealthy workers to gain enough power to actually have their individual decisions effect society. Workers can only have power by working together. Unions are the social organizations which allow workers to work together to use their power.

The totally free-market libertarian (and wealthy Republican) view is that labor needs capital to be most productive. The Libertarians then state that this means we need to add to wealth so that the wealthy can invest in capital and make society more productive. They gloss over the fact that American financial markets have gotten so efficient that anyone who can convince a lender or investor to provide the funds can get whatever is needed for capital. The real shortage in modern economies is highly effective labor, not capital.

Want to know how we can tell that there is no capital shortage? The S&P 500 companies are right now sitting on the largest amount of cash they have ever had as a percentage of their value. They literally have no place to invest that cash. The decision makers with the power to decide how to invest that capital cannot find investments that offer a return sufficiently greater than the return on cash to be worth the risk involved in investing it in productive investments.

The tax cuts of the Bush administration suggest that giving them more money will increase the productivity of the economy? How? The investors who have money and have the decision power to actually create jobs can’t find anyplace to invest the funds they already have?

So what value is there in giving tax cuts to wealthy people and at the same time increasing the price of tuition of education for those who actually produce the goods and services?

Financial people will try to convince everyone that the best way to increase Gross Domestic Product is to increase the reward to invested capital. But what happens when no one needs more capital? When there ARE no recognizable opportunities to invest cash? Companies begin to build up cash, that's what.

That's because capital, by itself, does nothing for the economy. If no one is producing anything to buy, it really doesn't matter if you walk into the market with $5, $500, or $50,000. There is still nothing to buy until someone decides to provide the goods or services. The people who do that are labor. And if no one knows how to provide what you want to buy, you are SOL.

The cash incentives are important, but they are secondary to the trained labor required to produce the goods and services you want to buy. The training of labor is a cost on the economy which does not provide a foreseeable return. Investors will not pay for it. The training of labor in the responsibility of the individuals themselves, and for extended training government has to pay for it. Refusal to pay taxes for such training is self-defeating, but the individual taxpayer who wants to pay less taxes is clearly acting in his own interest. This is the Free Rider problem. If the taxpayer doesn’t pay for training labor, then someone else will or the economy will be less productive. But at no time does the taxpayer who refuses to pay the taxes ever seen that his income drops as a direct result of his failure to pay for the training of labor.

Labor as a whole may become wealthy, but unless the rules of society favor labor over wealth, they will not become powerful. Because the source of power of labor is diffused over all productive workers and not concentrated in any small group or individual, labor will never become as powerful as the owners of wealth can. Because of this, a truly productive society must protect the power of labor from the power of wealth.

This is worth it, because it creates a larger total supply of wealth to distribute. The wealthy don't like it, because they see all the wealth escaping them and going to labor. As soon as the wealthy can gain enough power over the government and the propaganda outlets, they will gather the power and wealth to themselves and share as little as possible. The result is two-fold.

First, there is less total wealth in society, and second there is greater inqualityb of income.

Go read the Krugman Editorial we are now in a period in which inequality of income is growing. People have greater difficulty getting trained to be more productive, and even if they do they have less income. Why? Go read Perfectly Legal: The Secret Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else by David Cay Johnston.

Then try to separate in your mind the economic and the power effects of various groups of people. There are fewer wealthy people, so they have more power to cause their decisions to become real. Every dollar is worth one thing only. It causes someone else to do something for the posseser of that dollar. That's not economics. That's power.

The economists will consider such power elements to be what they call “exogenous causes.” Those are defined as things that effect an economic transaction, but are not explained by economics.

Economists work with economics since economic exchanges can be clearly explained by mathematics. Power does not easily find itself described in mathematical terms. That is why the study of economics and government are two different academic departments in Universities. An Economist is an applied mathematician, but a student of government and power is only a Social Scientist with a knowlege of statistics.

The problem is that power cannot be easily defined. Don't get me wrong. If you ask individuals in an organization who has power, almost everyone agrees. But ask them why, and it simply isn't clear. Whereas if you ask what is important economically, everyone goes to an accountant and asks for “the numbers.” The definition of economic transactions is quite clear and easily quantified (comparatively.) Power is not. How do you quantify who has more power and who has less? It depends on who they are and how they use it, in comparison with others around them. Each decision also has different distributions of power. There is no clear "power transaction" which throws off an easily quantifiable number.

Unfortunately, the most obvious and quantifiable item is used to explain what is happening. It is hard to argue against the total of quantified economic transactions in an organization, but it is easy to argue that the outcome of a decision by a powerful individual has a lot of non-quantifiable causes. This is the real source of the argument between economists and Marxists. Economists consider only the clear quantifiable transactions, and Marxists consider how those economic decisions affect human beings.

The result in American politics (the discipline of political power) has been that the economists dominate and ignore the effects of the political power they demand on real human beings. This is the reason for "Trickle-down Economics." Trickle-down economics is the direct result of the dominance of the economic discipline based on clear numbers over the much more vague disciplines of government and sociology.

In the end this free-market bias it will be self-defeating. The overall economy is the resultant of all of the academic disciplines of economics, sociology and government. The strongest and wealthiest international economy will be the one which gets the balance correct.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

How long does it take to realize the salesman is lying?

Robert Ellman at Intrepid Liberal provides a great discussion of lies and the marketplace. He then demonstrates how it applies to the Bush/Cheney administration, conservatism and the voters. Conservatism is nothing more than a set of easy-to-accept lies.

When conservatism fails and the incumbents who were elected as conservatives by conseratives, the failure of the ideology is then used to prove that the incumbents are NOT conservatives. They can't be. Conservatism as an ideology is perfect. The only failures are caused by indivuduals who fake being conservatives by are proven by their failures that they are NOT conservatives.

See? Conservatism (like Communism) is a perfect ideology. All failures are those of individuals to properly apply it, or to be less than totally resolute in applying it. As conservative prescriptions fail, the solution is to apply more energy to adopt those conservative prescriptions, because conservatism is perfect and cannot fail.

It's gone! Pluto is only an errant iceball, not a planet.

Suzanne Nossel at Political Animal (Kevin Drum is vacationing at the Science Fiction Convention at Anaheim) spreads the bad news.
"...the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets." The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun -- "small solar system bodies," a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites."
[Underlining by RB]
According to CNN the new rule was accepted to general applause by the the International Astronomical Union.

Cooking the books for a war on Iran

Over at Talking Points Memo Matthew Yglesias points out that the Republicans are now openly attempting to influence the Intelligence Agencies to offer "analysis" of their collected data that is biased towards justifying another war in the Middle East rather than simply stating what the available evidence actually proves. The similarity with what the same Republicans attempted with Intelligence prior to the so-called "preemptive war" (actually an unnecessary attack on Iraq) is quite blatant.

Yesterday, Matthew also blogged about the strange new term being pushed by the war-hawks of the right-wing Republicans, and recently picked up by George W. Bush. That term is "IslamoFascism" or "Islamic Fascism." This, I think, shows the mind set of the American right-wingers and NeoCons.

The implication of the word "fascism" is of an authoritarian and militaristic nation-state. The implication of the word "Islamic" (or Islamo-") is very clearly anyone who is Muslim. So the use of the term IslamoFascism incorproates all nations which are predominently Muslim and all the violent extremists which those nations contain -- and also, by implication, which those nations protect and support.

Now think about the Bush/Cheney reaction to 9/11. America was attacked by 19 airplane highjackers trained and supported by a small, rabid group of non-state and non-state supported religious extremists. Al Qaeda used the failed state of Afghanistan for a training ground, but was not supported by any government. Al Qaeda has been supported to some extent in Afghanistan by the Pakistani military intelligence agency (ISI).

The first move Bush/Cheney actually took in response to 9/11 was to turn the operation over to the CIA as lead agency and to go in to take control of Afghanistan and remove the Taliban and al Qaeda from what control they had in that failed state. But bin Laden was allowed to escape at Tora Bora because of too few American troops being provided. Almost simultaneously with the CIA directed attack on Afghanistan, Bush/Cheney redirected the American efforts and most resources to the attack on the nation state of Iraq under the direction of the Department of Defense and Rumsfeld.

The reason for the attack on Iraq was that Cheney in particular considers terrorism to be something that must be state-sponsored, and that to get at the terrorists the easiest way is to go after the state that supports and directs their terrorist actions.

This is Cold War thinking. Claire Sterling wrote at least two books rather convincing which purported to describe the terrorist activities in the 1970's and 1980's as being directed by the USSR. Terrorism was considered as a tool of assymetric warfare used by weaker states against much stronger states. But even during that period the Palestine Liberation Organization under Arrafat was becoming an organization independent of state control. The PLO took resources and money from various states and individuals, but after the Israeli Army kicked them out of Lebanon they were financed from numerous sources independent from each other, and were self-directed.

Al Qaeda has taken this model. They are an independent non-state supported organization. They operate in areas of various nation states that are outside the control of the central government such as the borderland between Afghanistan and Pakistan, or some of the less controlled areas of Indonesia such as Aceh was before the Tsumani hit it. These are areas nominally under the control of central governments, so that for an outside nation to cross the national border and performing police work against these bandits would be considered an act of war against the central government, but the central government cannot go in and do the needed police work themselves.

In the area of Pakistan next to Afghanistan (North and South Wiziristan and other Pushtan areas) is such an area. When the Pakistanis government was finally convinced to try to go get control, they lost over 600 troops. At the moment there is a truce. The U.S. does not want to go in there either, because the American troop losses would be high and the blow to prestige of the national government would of permitting American operations there could well cause Musharrif to be overthrown.

There is also a strong possibility that a resurgent Taliban may take over the Southern provinces of Afghanistan. Since this is the main poppy growing area with a lot of revenue from heroin, they could well become an independent state within a state much like the FARC.

The Bush/Cheney admininstration reveal their "state-sponserships is required for a terrorist organization" mentality when they make the unfounded claim that Hezbollah was "directed" by Iran (or Syria) to attack the Israeli troops in Northern Israel. This same idea is behind their hectoring of Intelligence analysts for "cautious assesments" - that is for not offering Intelligence analysis of known facts which supports their bias.

The problem is that control of these relatively independent terrorist organizations is much more difficult than using our military against some rogue state which can be identified and attacked. The difficulty was demonstrated right after 9/11 when the invasion of Afghanistan was controlled by the DIA as the central government agency rather than by the DoD.

Cheney and Rumsfeld both have low regard for the CIA and for most of the Intelligence community because those agencies report the more complex and messy reality. Such messiness does not make it easy to simply send in ground troops with air support.

So when you hear someone use the term "Islamofascism", this is an over-simplification of large orders of magnitude that will be used to direct military forces againstvarious targets. Unfortunatley, those will usually be the wrong targets.

The result of such ignorance will be to create more terrorists, not fewer, just as America's preemptive invasion of Iraq has created a failed state and turned it over to various terrorist groups and militias.

But not all terrorism is by independent terrorist groups. Some are in fact state-sponsored. But they are state-sponsored only as long as they want to be, until the terrorist group decides it has different goals from the state they are associated with. The availablity of funding, weapons, and training locations in a globalized world makes it relatively easy for such groups to become independent from a sponsoring state. Carlos the Jackel and Abu Nidal both started out as Communist-sponsored terrorists, but ended up as independent terrorists.

Back to the term "IslamoFascism." Language is a model of reality. It is only a model, not reality itself. As S. I. Hiakawa pointed out, "The map is not the territory." Another truism is that any model that is designed to control something which is real must be at least as complicated at the reality it is intended to control. That's why complex situations cannot be adequately controlled by simple solutions. Simplicity offers easy answers to problems, but does so by ignoring most of the causes and potential outcomes of those problems. Such simplicity is very dangerous and usually wrong.

Conservatism holds as a truism that there are simple solutions to everything they find troubling. The result is that Conservatives are by definition wrong. Essentially the term "IslamoFascism", besides being offensive to Muslims, is misleading and wrong.

How do you describe "Centrists?" Try corporate political whores.

Ralph Nadar famously said that there's not a dimes bit of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. George Bush, Dick Cheney and the NeoCons have spent nearly six years proving him wrong, but there is a large area in which his statement was and remains completely correct. Over at Alternet Russ Baker describes the way that people who go to Washington as idealists become bought and paid for members of the corporatocracy, and he names the top Ten corporate Democrats-for-Hire.

He does make the point that the corporatists are still more likely to be Republican than to be Democratic. But the article is well worth reading.

[Hat Tip to TPM Muckraker.]

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

1800 Days and counting

Steve Clemons at his Washington Note points out that it has been 1800 days since George W. Bush told the world that he would get Osama bin Laden. So what has kept bin Laden out of the clutches of Bush?
"Two things -- Dick Cheney and Iraq.

Had Bush stayed on track, shut down bin Laden and gotten to work on redressing some of the bubbling grievances in the Middle East, the world might look substantially different today."
Actually that is one other thing keeping bin Laden free. George W. Bush is not capable of organizing a dog fight with angry dogs. The man who supervised the botched Iraq invasion and the botched rescue of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is simply incapable of organizing a complec international manhunt. He doesn't know how, and he doesn't know who does know how. So bin Laden is still free.

1800 days now. Soon it will be 2000. Then 2500.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Paul Hackett and Chris Matthews tear a Repub idiot (Van Taylor) a new one.

Daily Kos has a great story up. Chris Matthews had both Van Taylor Republican running in Texas CD 17 to defeat Chet Edwards) and Paul Hackett from Ohio on his "Hardball." Apparently it was Iraq war veteran day for Matthews, because both Hackett (the Democrat) and Van Taylor are veterans of the Iraq war. Taylor is the ONLY Republican veteran of the Iraq War running anywhere in the United States.

Chris Matthews started by asking why the U.S. was in Iraq, and Taylor dodged the question. But he emphasized that we are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq so that we didn't have to fight them over here. Matthews asked why the al Qaeda was in Iraq, and Taylor said that they went there in Summer of 2003 to fight the Americans. Matthews jumped him with a statement that al Qaeda would not have been there if we had not previously invaded Iraq. It went down hill for Taylor after that, and Paul Hadket was great.

Daily Kos has a good transcript, but if you really want to see it, go to Crooks and Liars for the video. It is a great 8 minutes 30 seconds, and if Chet Edwards doesn't use clips from it in his reelection campaign he isn't the experienced Texas Democratic Pol that I happen to know he is.

Go watch the video. Republicans will be too sick to click through, and Democrats will love it.

Paul Hackett has a real future in the new Democratic Party. We just don't yet know what it is. He seems to love the political combat, and he is really good at it. Digby offered an interesting idea a few days ago, and named Paul Hacket by name. His performance on "Hardball" certainly demonstrates he has the chops for it.

The Christian Science Monitor had a good article on how many veterans against the way the war in Iraq is being run are standing for election this year. It was published inthe February 22, 2006 issue, so it is a little more pessimistic that we will be today. There were then 11 Iraq War veterans, and Van Taylor is the only Republican veteran running, and he is a total apologist for the war, doing nothing but quoting RNC soundbytes.

Jason Leopold and Truthout still defend story on Rove indictment

OK. I don't know that I believe Truthout and Jason Leopold any more, but I wish I could. They still claim that Fitzgerald has a sealed indictement on Karl Rove and is still working on it. Truthout has teamed Leopold up with Truthout Executive Director, Marc Ash. So it seems clear that both Ash and Leopold are staking their reputations on the accuracy of this reporting. Leopold's reported previous problems as a reporter should be given less weight, and Ash's reputation more weight in the evaluation of the reporting. Go see the Previous Posts which are listed below.

Here is the story dated August 21, 2006.

Previous posts on this story:

OK. OK. Jon Benet Ramsey. Karr's crazy, but not her killer

WTOL-Toledo has posted a interview with a retired forensic psychologist regarding the so-called confession by John Karr that he "...was with Jon Benet Ramsey when she died." The psychologist considers it very unlikely, but he also thinks that this arrest will end any realistic investigation of her death.

Read it. He makes a lot of sense. That's unlike anything else I have read or seen recently on the subject.

God! How low can I sink? A Jon Benet Ramsey post!


I love it. I REALLY love it. DeLay's CD likely to go Democratic

Tom DeLay tried hard to choose his own successor in the Congressional seat he has held for two decades. That was why he tried to drop out and let the Republicans choose his replacement, but the Democrats scotched that effort.

Finally, "The Hammer" had no choice but to ask that his name be removed from the ballot in November and Texas law does not permit the Republican Party to replace his name on the ballot after he won the Primary. Nick Lampson, the Democrat, is now set to take the seat. From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Free reg required)
"No question it's possible," said Thode, GOP chairman in DeLay's home county until a few months ago. "I would hope that any logical thinking Republican will realize where the blame lies. The blame lies with Tom DeLay."

DeLay's voluntary withdrawal from the ballot Tuesday, the product of an attempt to have the party handpick his successor, has left Republicans with no choice but to try a long-shot write-in campaign. Yet they are in such disarray now that the hope of backing a single write-in candidate has essentially vanished. There are three declared write-ins, and one top state Republican, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, is urging Republicans to consider voting for the Libertarian candidate, who does have a spot on the ballot.

Citing the divisions and the $3 million that Democratic nominee Nick Lampson has raised, two leading political analysts -- Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato -- changed their ratings of the seat this week to "leans Democrat."

It had been "leans Republican" only a few days ago.

"This is extremely strange," said Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. "No one could have predicted this. No one did predict it. It's a comedy of errors, but the joke is on the Republicans."

Even many Republicans now acknowledge the race is all but lost."
Mother was right. There IS real justice in the world! I love this.

[Granted, I am looking at eggs and counting chickens, and there are two-and-a-half months to go. If I were Nick Lampson I wouldn't take any plane rides until I was sworn into Congress next January.]

See Previous posts:

Monday, August 21, 2006

Addicted to Food? Brain scan suggests it's very possible.

Today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Free registration required) has a fascinating article on obesity and food addiction.
"Science suggests that you can be hooked on chocolate, cookies and chips. Recently, high-tech medical scans have revealed surprising similarities in the brain chemistry of drug addicts and chronic overeaters -- resemblances that have caught the attention of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Here, the latest evidence, plus a program for regaining control. Addiction and obesity both run in families, and experts believe that genetic components account for at least some of a person's vulnerability. But animal research also suggests that the environment -- mainly, how often you're exposed to an addictive substance -- can shift brain neurochemistry, increasing the likelihood of addiction. [Snip]

...research at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York suggests they may be missing something else instead: adequate brain receptors for dopamine, a chemical that is part of the brain's motivation and reward system. One hint that environment plays a role comes from studies in which animals were repeatedly given cocaine: Frequent use actually decreased the number of dopamine receptors, says Dr. Gene-Jack Wang of Brookhaven, leader of a series of studies investigating the brain chemistry of chronic overeaters. In fact, he says, the brains of obese people and drug addicts look strikingly similar: "Both have fewer dopamine receptors than normal subjects."

If that's the case, we live in an environment perfectly designed to nurture food addictions. For decades, food-industry scientists have been working hard to figure out how better to hook people, says Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Conn., and author of The Flavor Point Diet. Manufacturers now excel at hitting the sweet spot -- making us crave more and more of a food.

"In a supermarket recently, I actually found a pasta sauce that, serving for serving, contained more sugar than a chocolate fudge sauce, though the sweetness was hidden because the pasta sauce was so salty," Katz says. "The question is, why would anybody pour a packet of sugar over their pasta? And the answer is that if you get used to that much sugar, another pasta sauce will taste too bland. The food industry wants us to need more and more of the substance to feel satisfied, so we'll go out and buy more and more of it."

Animal research at Princeton University has also shown that the way you indulge may have consequences. Dr. Bart Hoebel, a professor of psychology, placed rats on an alternating schedule of 12 hours with no food, followed by 12 hours of access to both rat chow and a solution of 10 percent sugar, which is about as sweet as a soft drink -- a pattern that results in binge eating. As the days went by, the rats began upping their intake of the sugar solution, drinking more and more at a time. Hoebel found that after about a month, the rats' brains were producing surges of dopamine during their binges.

"In rats, binge eating promotes addiction, just like binge drinking promotes alcohol addiction," Hoebel says. "It's possible that repeatedly bingeing on sweets could actually change the circuitry of your brain" -- and make you want ever-increasing amounts.

Researchers aren't ready to declare the case closed on the causes of our collective weight problem."
The article goes on to provide a program designed to reduce overeating.

The key is that 1. our environment is designed to make us want to overeat (Well, Duh) 2. Such overeating can lead to a food addiction (This is a bit surprising) and 3. (the really interesting part of this article) someone addicted to overeating tends to have a reduced number of Dopamine receptors in their brain reward system very much like people addicted to drugs such as cocaine. There is also a 4. and that is that the addictiveness of food grows less quickly than does addiction to cocaine. But that merely suggests it is rather like addiction to alcohol.

Food sales people are out to get us hooked. It means more money to them. It is hard to walk down a supermarket isle while being aware of the marketing techniques that are being used there and also ignore that this is a fact. Why are salted snacks so expensive? They are mildly addictive. Why do the best selling soda waters all have caffeine in them? Because caffeine is addictive. So is sugar. That's also why fast foods which are fried sell better than submarine sandwiches. Fat is a big addictor. These are sort of low-level addictions, but enough so that they cause us to choose the "better" (that is, the addictive products) over the ones which are not similarly designed to attract our attention. These addictions also seem to cause us to eat more of the addictive foods.

And don't try to tell me you haven't gotten lazy, bought a large bag of Fritos corn chips or salted tortilla chips along with a large can or jar of dip and eaten that instead of a decent supper. Most of us have.

Just remember, this research rather strongly suggests that these decisions are being hard-wired into your brain. As the dopamine receptors are reduced in number, it becomes more difficult to get the same amount of satisfaction from the same amount of addictive foods, so you get either more of them or you switch to stronger ones. What was that old advertisement for Lay's potato chips? Bet you can't eat just one! wasn't it? They weren't lying to us. Odds were on their side, and this research shows why.

It is known that cocaine addicts require more and more coke to get the same high. Or ask Rush Limbaugh about whether the same amount of OxyContin continues to provide the same high, or whether you need more and more. Now consider this process also working with fattening foods.

Anyone who has ever given up red meat will tell you how addictive that stuff is. Without the fat, you don't feel full, no matter how much rabbit food you have eaten. It is the reason most people cannot become vegetarians. Army soldiers who were advisors to the South Vietnames Army discovered this within days of leaving American foods.

This is an area of research to follow. It could largely restructure how Americans eat, meaning changing food distribution and restaurants.

Just remember, those industries will fight back, and this research could well disappear. There are fortunes on line here. What does public health matter when money can be lost by wealthy people?

Why are middle class wages not increasing with the economy?

Kevin Drum has what seems to me to be a rather strong argument. He starts with the differences in the wages for average players before and after WW II, and shows what the key difference has been in the last few decades. He then goes on to show how this analogy applies to the general American economy.

Why has the income distribution in the U.S. changed from rather broadly based to instead more relatively poor workers and a few much more highly paid already wealthy individuals? I find his argument quite compelling. Go look at it.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Joe Lieberman is a growing cancer on the Democratic Party

Joe Lieberman from Connecticut is from all stories, really a rather nice guy. Unfortunately, he is too nice to make enemies of powerful people he may want to use later on for his own purposes. So he does them favors.

The problem is, those powerful people have all been Republicans, lobbyists or single issue pressure groups for the last decade or so. He isn't accountahle to those who elected him. He is accountable to those powerful people. He describes this as catering to his own conscience and "working to get things done by working with both sides." His concept of getting things done is voting so that he is on the winning side in passing legislation, mo matter how bad the legislation is. It is clear that he sees no difference between the Democratic Party which has sent him to Washington to represent them, and the Republicans who are the current powerful men in the Senate. Over at MyDD Chris Stoller writes:
"The pervasive lack of accountability among Democrats is a real weakness for progressives, and the fact that there is some measure of accountability in the form of potential primary challenges means that there will be a behavioral change on the part of many members of Congress. No longer will they be able to listen to former staffers turned lobbyists, because they know that Lieberman's example could be their own. No longer can they take for granted their safety in safe districts, because Donna Edwards isn't the only principled and connected progressive around. And some of the tools and methodologies we're developing can be used to effectively damage Republican candidates, as we saw with the internet's mauling of George Allen after his macaca comments. Accountabiliy works all around."
So when Lieberman was defeated in the Connecticut Democratic Primary by the newcomer Ned Lamont who (successfully) charged that he was too close to the incompetent President George W. Bush, he has moved to an independent run in the general election.

He is doing this by using the Republican side of all the issues that matter, especially our position in Iraq and with Isreal. This has become very obvious, since he has a lead in the polls for the general election, but it is made up mostly of Republican voters.

This causes two problems. Connecticut is a strong Democratic-leaning state. The Republican candidate there has no chance of election at all, which is demonstrated by the fact that the Republican Party is in fact actively campaigning for Lieberman rather than for their own candidate. With Lieberman running, there is a strong likelihood that there will be a significant turnout of Republicans to vote for Joe, where as the Republican candidate will cause them to sit at home and not bother. Since three Republican House members are facing a strong likelihood of being defeated (thus giving the Democrats 20% of the 15 seats needed to take control of the House) that turnout could defeat the Democratic effort to gain control of the House. Self-centered Joe does not care. He just wants to keep his fancy office on the Hill.

But what if the Democrats get 50 seats in the Senate, plus Joe. With his advantages as an incumbant and the Republicans overwhelmingly votig for him, the Republicans may lose the Senate Majority except when they really need it. Joe has promised to caucus with the Democrats. But he hasn't promised to vote with them. When it comes to approving another right-wing anti-abortion Supreme Court Justice, Joe will vote for him, and Cheney will break the tie. America loses. The Democrats lose. Only the wacked out right-wing wins by electing Joe Lieberman.

When it comes to investigating Haliburton and others for war-profiteering, Joe has always voted for the big companies. He voted, for example, for the bankruptcy bill to support the big banks gouging the public with credit card debt. Joe will not vote with the Democrats to investigate war-profiteers.

Joe Lieberman, for all his smiles and friendliness, is an on-going and growing cancer on the Democratic Party. With him in the Senate as an independent, the Republicans retain effective control over the Senate.

Add that to the strong possibility that he will cost the Democrats the House come November, and it is clear. The Democrats need cancer surgery to survive. They need to excise Joe Lieberman.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A review of Sirota's "Hostile Takeover."

Boadicea writes a review of David Sirota's "Hostile Takeover.

If you are interested you can click through here.

Hostile Takeover: How Big Business Bought Our Government and how We Can Take It Back
Hostile Takeover: How Big Business Bought Our Government and how We Can Take It Back

A framework for Democratic Congressional candidates.

Over at MyDD Chris Bowers, Rick Jacobs, Matt Stoller and Joel Wright analyze the outcome of the CA 50 election in May for an idea of what issues will defeat Republicans. If you want to see their analysis, go read the post. Otherwise, here are the issues that they recommend be used against Republicans:
Candidates should run aggressively on accountability and the war in Iraq. Here are six specific `rules of thumb' we recommend you use for planning purposes.

* 1. Iraq must be central in your campaign and you must blame Republicans for it Ignoring Iraq, downplaying its significance, or accepting Bush's framework by not blaming leaders is a sign to voters that you are weak, unlikely to bring change, and not addressing the main issue of the day. Regardless of how you approach the policy going forward in Iraq, the key trait that voters seek is a willingness to hold failed leaders accountable for the debacle. Be willing to uncover the truth, place blame, and demand consequences.

* 2. The debate on whether Bush is a competent, trustworthy President is over. He is considered among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents a leader who makes mistakes and then won't tell the truth about those mistakes. This is not about competence. This is about massive failure of leadership with no end in sight.

* 3. Republicans cannot run against Bush and Iraq. Voters do not think that Republicans are willing to hold Bush or other administration figures accountable for those mistakes, so Republican Congressional dissent on the war is unlikely to help Republicans. But dissent will, in fact, work to Democratic candidates' advantage. It shows strength and, most importantly, principle and personal values.

* 4. `Terrorism' scares only work in the absence of strong accountability messaging, since Republicans are no longer trustworthy on issues of war and peace. Voters know Republicans will let mistakes slide and they want accountability in the face of that.

* 5. Oversight beats withdrawal. Journalists or other messengers who frame politics in terms of a need to have an alternative plan in contrast to Bush are insulting voters, and should be taken to task aggressively for framing false choices and misrepresenting the role of Congress. Congress primarily serves as military oversight, not military policy. Voters know that.

* 6. Pick a fight, any fight. Voters need to be convinced that Democrats can credibly challenge Bush. Whether the fight is over de-funding Cheney's personal staff, attacking John Bolton's confirmation, impeachment hearings, or stopping war profiteering with a new `Truman Commission', Democratic candidates must demonstrate strength through aggressive confrontation where the term "accountability" is more than just an abstraction or corporate lingo. It must be made real through a fight you plan to pick.

When presented with squeals from journalists and Republicans over your fight, a resolute willingness to not back off in the face of criticism is key. Your willingness to hold Bush accountable must be made real. For example, demand that the president and the party in power come to account for having squandered lives, security and treasure while enriching CEOs of major corporations such as Halliburton.

Here's a real-world example of this dynamic from US history: Harry Truman became vice president because as a US Senator, he had the backbone to demand that major figures in the American economy either give back money stolen in the provision of shoddy materiel for World War II, or go to jail for treason.

In sum, whatever fights you pick, whether specific local issues or national ones, our poll shows that accountability regarding Bush, Congressional Republicans and your opponent is crucial to building the credibility you need in order to break through with a majority vote in November. Democrats, Independents and even many Republicans want this to occur. Do it."
In short, the lessons seem to be that the public has given up on the Bush administration and the Republicans, but they are looking for someone who will fight for what is right to vote for. Using these rules of thumb will position a Democratic challenger to be that fighting opponent of the failed Republicans.

2006 is going to be an interesting election. REAL interesting. And it is just the lead-up to the 2008 Presidential election.

The Iraq disaster explained

Let’s look at Digby’s excellent comparison of the mistakes made in Viet Nam to those mistakes that Bush and the Republicans have made in Iraq. That comparison can then be used to see why we actually invaded Iraq and what we are doing there.

Digby has provided the best comparison I have seen between the mistakes America made in Viet Nam and the utter disaster that the Republicans have made in Iraq.
"Bush has always been trafficking in cognitive dissonance with his Iraq talk and it's caught up with him. He tried to gloss over some fundamental illogic with slick PR and it didn't work.

From the very beginning he framed his war on terror as being "with us or with the terrorists." He then consciously conflated Iraq with 9/11 and sent many soldiers over there with the idea that they were fighting those who attacked us. But the facts never supported that and they knew it. Since we live in a world in which outright conquest is no longer acceptable, once his WMD rationale evaporated, he was forced to lean on the idea that we are there to help the Iraqi people and "spread democracy." He obviously came to believe it.

He has tried to make distinctions between the good Iraqis who are "with us" and the bad ones who are "against us" --- "terrorists" "bitter enders" "insurgents" --- but many of the soldiers over there and their families back home and Bush's racist supporters see the "enemy" as simply Iraqis --- or just Arabs or Muslims. And I suspect that a whole lot of other Americans are just plain confused. It's very hard to finesse all that and it's one of the reasons why the occupation has been such a disaster. Nobody really knows what we're doing there, not us, not them. Now Iraqis are boldly demonstrating in favor of terrorists and even Bush can no longer hide his own confusion and dismay.

In that sense, this war makes Vietnam a moment of foreign policy clarity. It was certainly a mistake to put so much importance on the idea that the US could not afford to fail in a small proxy war or risk communism taking over the Far East. But at least everyone understood the premise and could either agree or disagree with it. This war in Iraq is totally incomprehensible to everyone. We invaded for dozens of disparate reasons none of which were entirely compelling and all of which have been proven to be mistaken. We are throwing away hundreds of billions and yet there are now many more terrorists in Iraq than there were before the invasion and many more all around the world because of it. Oil prices are sky high and rising. The Middle East is more unstable than it’s been in many decades. Lots and lots of people are dying.

This is all because after 9/11 we had a leadership who ruthlessly exploited the crisis for political gain and an influential advisory cabal who had waited for 30 years to unleash their half-witted ideological experiments on the world. None of it ever made any sense and now that the fog of 9/11`has lifted, that much, at least, is starting to become clear to most people. The problem is that the mess they've left is so huge it's virtually impossible to clean up. Damn, I don't think I've ever seen a case of "sow the wind, reap the whirlwind" unfold so quickly and so starkly right before my very eyes."
Let's be very clear about this. The disputed Presidential election of 2000 gave us a President with no qualifications for the job beyond the name of his father and the associated ability to raise political money, an in with the Christian Right, and some ability to read a teleprompter and not look scary doing it. "W" had no prior interest in foreign affairs and only a very surface familiarity with conservative Republican political issues. He also had his trusted friends and faith in his intuition at reading people.

When a small fanatical terrorist jihadi group with the goal of sending martyrs out to die to spread Allah spectacularly attacked America on September 11, Bush had no clue how to respond. So he turned to his closest advisors, starting with the ultimate executive Department insiders, Vice President Dick Cheney and Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

These were two men who had entered service in the White House during the Nixon administration, come to personal power together in the Ford administration following Nixon's resignation, and had worked together in Republican administrations ever since. Along the way they had grown close to the intellectual descendents of Leopold Strasser and Washington Sen. "Scoop" Jackson who came to be known as Neo-Conservatives inpart because of their hardrock basic belief that America was failing in international relations because the failure of the Vietnam War and the devisiveness it created in America led to a strong reluctance to use military force to get what it wanted. Cheney and Rumsfeld agreed on this.

Also, both Cheney and Rumsfeld had previously been Sec. of Defense and both very much distrusted the Central Intelligence Agency and the Intelligence analysis process that was centered there.

Both also wanted control of the oil in the Middle East since that was the world's largest supply of the stuff and it was and remains critical to the functioning of an effective modern military force. Both also believed that Bush 41 had failed when he stopped the Persian Gulf War without invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein. This had left Saddam in power where they felt he was the most important source of instability in the Middle East.

If Cheney and Rumsfeld are teamed up with Karl Rove, the ultimate Republican political strategist for whom the only limits to what can be done to win an election center on whether you are caught and successfully prosecuted, you get both control fo the military and great political power, perhaps enough to actually use the military.

Rove had already bamboozled nearly half the American voters into voting for the single most unqualified man ever to actually hold the office of President, and had effective control of the propaganda mechanisms built by the Conservatives to place their politicians into office. FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report, the National Review and the Weekly Standard under William Kristol (son of Irving Kristol, one of the original NeoConservatives) could all be pulled together to propagandize for an invasion of Iraq which would topple Saddam and give U.S. troops a place for bases from which they could influence the various mostly tribal and national entities in the Middle East.

So together Rove, Rumsfeld and Cheney offered the confused and lost George W. Bush a quick and easy solution to the problem of al Qaeda and 9/11. Don't spend time chasing the non-state entity that actually conducted the attack on America. This would be a shadow war against a phantom enemy that depended on the capabilities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as the lead government department and all others including Rumsfeld's military) in support of the CIA operations. But the CIA had failed to predict the collapse of the USSR, failed to predict that Iraq would invade Kuwait, and failed to predict 9/11. [This last ignores the many warnings that Tenet had given the President prior to 9/11.] So the flawed and illogical idea of solving Terrorism by invading Iraq was sold to Bush.

Instead of fighting a shadow war with the flawed CIA, why not use the great strength of the American military to bring the Middle East out of its barbarism and into the new, modern, globalized world that is already feeding off their oil stock. This could be done by regime change in Iraq, eliminating the dictatorship of Saddam and replace it with a modern western-style democracy based on the kind of free market that so many would-be immigrants from the Middle East prove they want by trying to get to America. Such an effort would use the ability of the U.S. military to defeat the Iraqi national military in a conventional war in which America is clearly the finest in the world. The U.S. military could easily defeat the Iraqi military and remove Saddam. All that was needed was to give the American public the political will to use the American military in this way. This was a political problem.

To solve the political problem, all they had to do was string together a political fantasy long enough to convince the U.S. Congress to approve some sort legislation that could be interpreted as authorizing the preemptive invasion of Iraq. Once that is done, everything else would just fall in place. And after the fact, when it all worked, no one would blame them for shading the truth a bit to get that legislation passed. As CIA Director told President Bush, “It’s a slam dunk!”

See? That's why we invaded Iraq. Not WMD. Not bringing "Freedom" to the Iraqis. We just wanted a stable Middle East that would sell us their oil cheaply and quit sending those damned terrorists who keep sky-jacking airplanes and killing people in big western cities. WMD? Terrorist connections of Saddam? Bringing Freedom to the Iraqis? All just PR fluff to bring in the rubes in Congress to pass some legislation that would then be used to justify the preemptive attack on Iraq and then ignored.

That's not so incomprehensible, is it?

The only minor problem is that it didn't work! Sensible people knew it wouldn't work, but sensible people do not become conservative NeoCons. And since the NeoCons could not convince their critics that the NeoCon arguments would work, they simply quit listening to their critics, grabbed power, and rammed this Iraqi - Middle Eastern idiocy through - at a roughly predictable cost that the NeoCons and Republicans refused to even look at before starting.

Now, as Digby so succinctly put it "...the mess they've left is so huge it's virtually impossible to clean up."

Does anyone really think that the Republicans are sufficiently "Tough on Terrorism" that they should be left in charge of protecting America? I sure don't. They've been shadow-boxing phantoms that exist more in their own minds than in reality. They have failed for five years. They really need to be replaced by more reality-based individuals. Does anyone really think that the Republicans are sufficiently "Tough on Terrorism" that they should be left in charge of protecting America? I sure don't.

Want to see the solutions that this administration have offered to clear up the mess they have created in Iraq? They pushed to Israeli government to invade Lebanon so as to destroy Hezbollah, and they are discussing air strikes on Iraq, possibly including nuclear weapons. Their idea of a diplomatic solution is to send Condi Rice out to delay the end of the failed Israeli attack on southern Lebanon. Conservative military solutions haven't failed. Conservatives have simply not pushed them to their obvious successful conclusions. So don't stop the failed process, increase it.

The Republicans offer nothing but ideology-based fantasy and war as ways of fixing the mess they have made by starting the Iraq war because of their ideology-based fantasies. The first step in fixing this massive mess the Republicans have created is to remove the Republicans from power. After that, perhaps some other nations will help us out of the hole Bush and the Republicans have dug for America.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What really happened to Lieberman?

The first blogs I read when I get online are TPM - Josh Marshall and Washington Monthly - Kevin Drum., followed by Digby. Marshall does immediate reporting, Drum adds explanation and relationship to the mainstrream media and thorws in some less topical but interesting subjects. Digby is third, because his insight adds a real long-term element.

Recently Marshall and Drum wrote about the meaning of Joe Leiberman's defeat in the Connecticut Democratic Primary, followed by an outstanding analysis by Digby. What they are doing, collectively, is writing a description of what happened in the Democratic primary in Connecticut. Forget the hype. Something really did happen that all Democrats should rejoice.

I'm a Democratic moderate (what else could you call a non-Hispanic Democrat in Texas today?) I have followed the Connecticut Democratic Primary because it seemed to be crystallizing something significant about the strange and self-defeating "bipartisanship" that the so-called "Democrat" Lieberman represents. I haven't been sure what was happening, but it has been clear for months that it was really significant for the national Democratic Party. Then the Connecticut primary happened, and - WOW! - Lieberman lost!

We are now in the stage of trying to determine what happened. Joe Lieberman, the three term Democratic Senator from Connecticut with all the advantages of incumbency, lost the Primary to someone who wasn't even known in January 2006.

That Joe only went down 52% to 48% belies the real tectonic change in Democrats. The change has been coming, but it was a movement of individuals opposed by the Democratic elites, the people with a major personal stake in the existing structure, the DLC, and the routine money sources.

This change in the Democrats is also rather strongly opposed by the Republicans. Notice that it is now the Republicans who are now supporting Lieberman. They speak for him to the national media and they are the source of a lot of the campaign money he is using. They understand that the forces behind Lamont are really, really dangerous to current Republican right-wing supremacy in national U.S. politics.

Joe Lieberman himself is not the target of the new movement. He is a rather tragic dinosaur left over from the past, who was almost perfectly adapted to the position he moved to occupy through the 1990's, and through his total inadaptivity to the new environment has become politically extinct. The tragedy is for the well-meaning individual that he clearly is. The change is that of new species moving into the changed environment.

I was not previously a strong partisan in American politics. I reserved my strong partisanship for Nazis, Fascists, and Communists internationally. They needed to be destroyed. Within American politics I considered the racists and segregationists to be beneath contempt but not politically significant except within specific locations like Pasadena, Texas. Bob Dole was usually wrong, but was an honorable opponent.

These new Republicans are the same ultra-Right authoritarians who hate the rule of law and the Constitution. They demand that their opponents not only be defeated but also be destroyed. Since they are basically wrong in almost all areas, they must be defeated at all costs. There is simply is no moderate middle in that Calculus. You cannot compromise with opponents who will use that compromise to destroy you.

I recognized in the 60's that nations that allowed Communist movements to join the government soon became totally Communist. This is the mechanism they used. Every compromise was used to destroy their opponents. They simply are not honorable political opponents who battle out ideas in democracies. They are autocrats who demand the total destruction of any who oppose their takeover of political control. I find it interesting that the American right wing has learned so much from their Communist opponents. There is no room for moderate compromise with such opponents. Ask Max Clelland.

The Lieberman - Lamont primary has crystallized this fact for the American public, whether they realize it or not.

Digby has clarified the Marshall - Drum positions quite well. His ability to do that is why I read him regularly.

What should Democrats do when they retake the House?

Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under Clinton, gives his ideas on his blog. I really like the way Bob Reich thinks. This could lay the groundwork for a real change in the relationship of the American people with their government. Here is is:
I told him House Dems should use the two years instead to lay the groundwork for a new Democratic agenda. Bring in expert witnesses. Put new ideas on table. Frame the central issues boldly. Don't get caught up in arid policy-wonkdom.

For example, instead of framing basic economic question as whether to roll back Bush's tax cuts, make it how to recreate good jobs at good wages and rebuild the middle class. Consider ideas for doing this through trade policy, industrial policy, antitrust, publicly-financed research and development, and stronger trade unions.

Instead of framing central foreign-policy question as whether we should have invaded Iraq, make it how to partition Iraq into Shiite, Suni, and Kurdish zones while America gets out. Focus the national security debate on how to control loose nukes and fissile material, and secure American ports. Open direct negotiations with North Korea and Iran.

On energy and the environment, they should offer ideas for developing new non-fossil based energy industries in America, and how to ratify a realistic Kyoto accord.

Help the public understand how these are all related. Show why, for example, we'll never have a sane foreign policy unless we reduce our dependence on oil, how the creation of new alternative-energy industries can help create good jobs in America, why good jobs are essential to a reviving the middle class and saving the environment.

Most important, be positive. Avoid the blame game. Bush's shameful record is plain enough. Start the new record. Help America dream again.
If Democrats really think that government is key to bring back the American middle class and recreate a society based on equality of all individuals before the law, freedom and creativity, then there must be a major education of what the government does that is worth the money to Americans and how it works. This is a major step in that direction.

Almost as important, it makes a real distinction between the Democrats and the Republicans who gain political power only by building fear in the voting populace and claiming that the only real power America has that is worth anything is its military power.

This could lead to a world in which every person has the opportunity to build a real future for themselves and their families, and do it by building things instead of destroying what others have which is what wars do. As we should all recognize now, no one has won anything from our invasion of Iraq which is worth what has been and continiues to be destroyed. The Hezbollah attack on Isreal that set off the war which has devestated Lebanon only maked that a lot more clear. Once again military forces have been unleashed, and everyone in the Middle East is a net loser.

Robert Reich's suggestion for the pending new leaders of the House of Representatives should be required to read his views.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Direct mind control of machines has arrived

Scientists have developed a sensor which when implanted in a paralyzed man's brain allows him to control machines directly with his thoughts. See the story at BBC.

This should first be great for paralyzed persons and quadraplegics, but it should also help build even better prosthetics for those who lose a limb.

On the reverse side, the fact that this control of machines has been made to work could also provide more evidence regarding what thoughts are, and how they can be read externally. Once that happens, thoughts might even be transmitted directly to other brains.

But I am, of course, merely "Blue-skying." A year ago, though, this device itself was nothing more than "Blue-skying."

Monday, August 14, 2006

George Will dispensed his "wisdom" on ABC show Sunday

I watched ABC's Stephanopolous news show yesterday morning, and was surprised when George Will stated - dripping with sarcasm - that there would be a whole sub-genre of paranoid bloggers who will be describing the Bush administration as attempting to use the recent arrests of alleged terrorists in Great Britain to suggest that the Bush administration was using that action for political purposes.

"Paranoid?" Where has Will been? The Bush administration used the build up to the invasion of Iraq to maintain control of the House of Representatives in 2002. The Bush administration then used the on-going and worsening war in Iraq to slip by Kerry and keep the Presidency for Bush in the Presidential election of 2004.

So it is now Paranoid to think that the Bush administration will trumpet the arrests of 24 alleged terrorists in Great Britain and Pakistan to try to manipulate the public fear so that voters will send Republicans rather than Democrats back to Congress this year? Dick Cheney, Ken Mehlman and others have already been describing the threat the arrests show America faces and claiming that the Democrats are "too weak" to deal with it. The same Republicans have been spouting the line that the rejection of the renomination of Joe Lieberman by the Connecticut Democrats shows that Democrats are weak on security.

This is in spite of the fact that the continuously worsening situation in Iraq shows that the current ‚“Continue the Course in Iraq” supposed plan has been as much a failure as the original invasion of Iraq which was sold as supposedly to prevent Saddam from giving his Nukes (nonexistent) to al Queda and bin Laden (who was a much greater threat to Iraq than any other external threat Saddam faced. Except us, of course.) The threat was total fantasy designed by the Bush/Cheney administration to increase public fear and get more voters to vote for the Republicans. It worked.

Is it paranoid to think that the current administration which has failed every time it took action to prevent terrorism will continue with its failed ideas? EVERYTHING THE BUSH/CHENEY ADMINISTRATION HAS DONE WHICH SUPPOSEDLY WOULD DEFEND AMERICA FROM TERRORISTS HAS IN FACT INCREASED THE NUMBER OF TERRORISTS AND OTHER ENEMIES WE FACE! Except from their PR fake-outs, they have NO successes in their so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT). None! None at all.

Right now they are trumpeting the British success in arresting the alleged terrorists (using criminal and Intelligence procedures, not military procedures) as justifaication for their continued failures.

The GWOT has increased the terrorist threat while it was being used to increase the number of Republicans elected to government.

The news stories that show the administration wanted the arrests to occur before the Connecticut Democratic Primary so that Joe Lieberman could be renominated are rife. [See US pressured Brits to arrest airline terrorists early for an example. There are many others.]

George, if you think that no patriotic American would use a War for partisan political advantage, you are correct. This administration is NOT made up of "Patriotic Americans." It is made up of rabid partisan conservatives who are working hard to create an authoritarian right-wing ideological nation out of America, one which no longer looks back to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with its irritating "Bill of Rights" as foundation documents. They will use every political advantage they can find or create to change our American society into their right-wing utopia. They have proven it for six years with no exceptions. Given choices to work for their right-wing fascist militaristic ideology or to build an America that looks like the ideals Thomas Jefferson wrote into the Declaration of Independence, they have never failed to chose the right-wing fascist militaristic ideology.

That's not "Paranoia" George. It's history repeating itself. I guess you are just blind.

Solar sustem may lose a planet

Could it be true? Will the Solar system be reduced to only eight planets?

Yep. It's possible. Go check CNN.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Internal US politics is more important to bush administration than effective counterterrorism.

If you give the Bush administration a choice between the most effective anti-terrorist actions and those which provide the most political bang-for-the-buck, the Bush people will always chose the option that gives them the political advantage. Long term effectiveness is irrelevant to them.

Via Digby I offer this report from Daily Kos.

The Bush administration, when informed by the British of the airline plot, wanted to expose it before the Connecticut Democratic Primary to give Joe Lieberman an advantage. The British wanted to let the plot run a bit longer so that they could collect some more participants, since there was no real threat the plot would go off very soon.

Once again the Bush administration finds the political advantage of exposing an on-going investigation matters more to them than does the effectiveness of that investigation.

Sounds like Dick Cheney at work again. Why would any American ally bother to tell the U.S. about an on-going investigation?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

US pressured Brits to arrest airline terrorists early

I've been waiting for this, or something similar. MSNBC reports that the airline terrorists were not ready to activate their plan, but the White House wanted to arrest them immediately.
"A senior British official knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

In contrast to previous reports, the official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports."[Snip]

Monitoring of Rauf
[suspected ringleader Rashid Rauf in Pakistan], in particular, apparently played a critical role, revealing that the plotters had tested the explosive liquid mixture they planned to use at a location outside Britain. NBC News has previously reported that the explosive mixture was tested in Pakistan. The source said the suspects in Britain had obtained at least some of the materials for the explosive but had not yet actually prepared or mixed it.
Trust the White House to push for the most politically advantageous timing (in America) of arrests rather than the timing that advances the investigation better.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ohio Atty Gen says Padgett can replace Ney

Last Monday I wrote about embattled Congressman Bob Ney [R - OH 18] withdrawing from the Fall election because of his problems with investigations into his dealings with Jack Abramoff. The Republicans wanted to replace him with Joy Padgett. The question is whether she would be eligible because earlier this year she ran in the Republican Primary for Lt. Governor - on a ticket in which Attorney General Jim Petro was running for Governor.

Now the Ohio Attorney General has ruled [Surprise!!] that Padgett's earlier run for a State office should not prevent her from running in the General Election for the Federal office of Congressman in district 18. Ohio's "Sore Loser Law does not prevent her from running to replace Bob Ney. The Columbus Dispatch carries the story.

Needless to say, the Democrats are crying "Foul!" and plan to get that ruling overturned. How they are going to do it has not yet become clear.

Today's bomb scare and Red terror code.

Since I have little faith in the objectiveness of reports from the police and Intelligence agencies, and none whatsoever in the Bush administration's politically-oriented color-coded warning system [Warns of new Bush political moves, not real terror events which they either don't know of or don't tell us of.] I have not yet felt like anything I might write can add to clarity. Whatever, Billmon suffers under the same paranoia snd distrust that I do, and writes something that seems to clarify it a bit. Here's part of what he has to offer:
"Juan Cole has his typical informed comments -- in this case pointing out the implications of the growing polarization (and the radicalization of a substantial minority) in the British Asian Muslim community. The presence inside Britain of such a large terrorist cell, capable of at least preparing for major attacks, despite the crackdown after last year's London bombings, has some fairly chilling implications. Londonstan indeed."

Or it would have such implications, if the official story were essentially true. One can choose one's degree of paranoia here, since the only information sources about the plot are the police and intelligence agencies involved, plus the political spinmeisters.

Many of us have grown accustomed enough to the pointless politicization of color-coded alerts to be instantly skeptical. But the idea that Al Qaeda had a "big one" in the works -- and would have loved to have pulled the trigger in the middle of Israel's war on Lebanon -- certainly isn't inherently implausible. I've mentioned the possibility myself.

On the other hand, none of the previous known plots hatched by the British wing of the movement have come anywhere close to the alleged scope and sophistication of this one. To expect a bunch of idiots who literally couldn't figure out how to set their own shoes on fire to pull off the simultaneous destruction of up to 20 planes using liquid explosives is a bit of a stretch.

I'm also dubious about the claim that the plotters were following -- almost to the letter -- an 11-year old plan developed by Al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to blow up a dozen or so U.S. airliners over the Pacific. Following the script for a previously exposed and foiled operation doesn't exactly seem like a global terrorism best practice. Are we dealing with professionals or amateurs here? Or is it a little bit of both, plus a healthy dose of hype from a couple of guys (Bush and Blair) who right now can use all the hype -- and raw, adrenalized fear -- they can get?

Like I said, it's a BYOP (bring your own paranoia) party. The truth behind the latest episode of the "Osama bin Laden Hour" is one of those unknown unknowns Rumsfeld talks about. Would the security apparatuses of two leading capitalist powers (including the commercial heavyweight champion of the world) really turn the global transportation system on its ear just for the sake of a temporary political advantage? And if that's really what's really going on, why isn't it October right now? "

My first thought is always that the Bush administration Republicans don't want me to know anything about the real terror threats, just the faked ones they gin up to gain political advantage in the next American election.

If I know about the real threats I might try to hold them responible for not actually trying to stop them. As Ron Suskind points out in his book "The One Percent Doctrine", many experts on bin Laden in the CIA have concluded that bin Laden specifically has times some of his statements to support the Reelection of Bush in 2004. That's not too surprising considering how closely the Bush family and the bin Laden family have been over the decades since WW II.

We'll have to see how this current set of warnings plays out, and maybe they won't sputter into made-up threats as the Miami group and the Northeastern group did. Still, I'm glad I'm not going anywhere by air in the next few weeks.

The Lessons of '72 and Vietnam

The Republican spinmeisters have been touting a warped view of the so-called lessons of Vietnam. Fortunately we have Digby to set the record straight. Here is a quote:
"The fact is that most Democrats, not being natural authoritarians, don't put up with this crap from their leaders, of either party. They hold them accountable. Now I realize that for some twisted illogical reason that means they are seen as unserious and irresponsible in American politics, but it doesn't change the fact that it's the right thing to do. When your country is engaged in dangerous wars based on lies and obscure reasoning, it is immoral to say nothing simply because you are afraid it will make you look bad. I'm proud of the history of Democrats standing up and opposing these two wars.

In 2006, despite all the hyperventilating in the press, the party is not split at all, and it's easy to see why. This is a war that was relentlessly hyped by the Republicans who ruthlessly bullied anybody who even thought about opposing it. That war is now a proven disaster. Today's polling shows that nearly 90% of the Democratic party want the US to withdraw from Iraq and believe it was a mistake. Sixty percent of the nation as a whole feels the same way with a fair number of Republicans in that group. This is not a fringe position and there is no reason to fear that the Democratic Party will be seen as unrepentant hippies unless the press insists on repeating this narrative ad nauseum."
From here Digby goes into the history of the politics behind the Vietnam war and Nixon in ways the Republicans don't dare.

So go read Digby. It is one of his best posts ever.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rove to Lieberman: "Boss wants to help you any way he can."

From Hotline On Call:
According to a close Lieberman adviser, the President's political guru, Karl Rove, has reached out to the Lieberman camp with a message straight from the Oval Office: "The boss wants to help. Whatever we can do, we will do."
This is single source stuff so far, apparently from George Stephanopolis.

If true, it tells everything Democrats need to know about Lieberman. Lieberman's best response is "Thanks but no thanks." but there mere fact that it is so easly believable shows what Lieberman's real weakness is. He really IS too close to Bush. Lieberman is in fact a Bush enabler, and what America needs is to isolate Bush and stop him from doing any more damage to this nation.

Tom DeLay to take name off ballot for November

The Houston Chronicle reports today that Tom DeLay will ask that his name be removed from the November 7th ballot.

Texas Law allows him to do this, but the Republicans cannot select a replacement to be placed on the ballot. The Republican Primary which Tom DeLay won did that, and the will of the voters cannot be overridden.

The Republican will instead run a write-in candidate. This is a real longshot. They aren't going to let the Democratic candidate Nick Lampson have the seat by default, but this is pretty much the next best thing.

Next we will wait to see who the Republicans run and how much money that candidate can raise. The sources will be especially interesting. Currently Lampson has about $2.2 million on hand with which to run the race.

Previous post
Tom DeLay must stay on ballot for Nov.

This post includes links to all my previous posts on the subject of the DeLay reelection effort.

Billmon does some math

Billmon is looking at the comparative casualty rates between the Israeli Defense Forces and the Hezbollah in South Lebanon. The report of casualties is what U.S. Army General U.S. Grant used to call "the Butcher's Bill." It is the daily report evey military commander reads, and the one he always wants to avoid. In this case, it has a lot to do with who wins and who loses militarily in South Lebanon.

The IDF is on the attack against a dug-in and well prepared defending force, and is still apparently killing two Hezbollah for every killed Israeli. The Israelis are quite casualty-averse, while the Shia Hezbollah are attracted to the idea of death in battle. A good part of this is demographic. Israelis find it a lot harder to replace deald and injured soldiers than the Hezbollah does. Politically this puts the Israelis in a rather bad position. The Butcher's Bill is the first thing everyone will look at when determining who won and who lost in combat in South Lebanon. Largely this is because everyone is aware that whatever territory in Lebanon the Israelis take militarily now they will give back later.

Modern conventional war gives the advantage to a well-dug-in and prepared defense force. That's what made WW I in France such a very bloody war. It becomes a war of attrition in which the attacker loses many more troops than the defender does.

That's why the tank was invented. Unlike Infantry, tanks could survive against machine guns and travel over barbed wire, so in an attack they could break through the infantry trench lines and get into the enemy rear. The infantry forces were then lost unless they retreated. Anti-tank weapons and anti-tank mines have made such attacks much bloodier for the attackers, and the Hezbollah has plenty of those weapons. The result is that no direct attack on prepared, trained and supplied infantry is a low-casualty operation. The Butcher's Bill has gone up on this kind of operation again.

In Korea the North Koreans had taken all of South Korea except the port of Pusan at the southern tip of the penninsula and seemed likely to conquer all of Korea. The American and ROK defense of Pusan was extremely bloody, until General MacArthur made an end run with an amphibious attack through the port of Inchon on the west central coast of Korea.

By taking Inchon and moving across central Korea to the west the Americans and Republic of Korea (ROK) forces cut the supply lines supporting the North Korean armies in the South. This quickly stopped their supply of food, ammunition and fuel. The North Korean army quickly started its retreat and never recovered. The Chinese had to cross the Yalu and counterattack in December of 1950 to recover.

The Israelis have to be looking at "an Inchon." They can't go to the west and circle Hezbollah without going through Syria, bringing the Syrians into the war against them. I have no idea how likely an amphibious attack from the mediterrenean is, either geologically, demographically or politically. Nor do I know how likely and reasonable an air assault to some location north of the main Hezbollah lines is. [The two are not exclusive, either.]

Unlike Korea where the North Koreans were an attacking army which had no time to set up prepared positions and supply depots, the Hezbollah has had six years to lay in large supplies of food and ammunition. Cutting the supply lines will not automatically cause them to retreat as the North Koreans were forced to do in 1950. But it would set up the conditions for what is effectively a siege. The IDF could quit attacking in high casualty battles and wait for the Hezbollah to start running out of food and ammunition. When they do, their choice would be to attack into Israeli prepared positions or sit still and starve. Neither is a high casualty operation for the IDF. The Israeli Butcher's Bill, which seems to be the key political marker to winning and losing for the Israelis, would be much lower.

I have no idea what the political repercussions of these operations might be, other than being reasonably certain that circling the Hezbollah through Syria on the East is likely to drag Syria into the war against Israel. Nor do I know if the Israelis could logistically handle either an amphibious attack into Lebanon or an air assault into Lebanon, or the necessary resupply of the attacking troops. But such an effort would be a lower casualty route to appearing to win against Hezbollah in South Lebanon.

Billmon is quite negative on the likely favorable outcome for the Israelis if they continue the current attacks against the dug-in and prepared Hezbollah. This is true IF the battle continues as a war of attrition. My suggestions are that it be made a war of movement. Should that occur, then the political outcome is a lot more favorable to the Israelis.

Anyway, that's my opinion of the current situation. Of course, what I would prefer is a situation in which the Butcher's Bill is no casualties on either side. This war is a frigging waste on both sides.

Addendum Aug 09, 2006
What I have describes above assumes that Hezbollah has taken on the characteristics of a conventional army to a large extent. From what I have read, this seems to be the case. That's why the Israelis are suffering such high casualties as they attack.