Monday, December 31, 2007

America the unrecognizable

This editorial was published today:
There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.

It was not the first time in recent years we’ve felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.

The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked — how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.

Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied America’s global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the world’s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.

In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a warrant.

We have read accounts of how the government’s top lawyers huddled in secret after the attacks in New York and Washington and plotted ways to circumvent the Geneva Conventions — and both American and international law — to hold anyone the president chose indefinitely without charges or judicial review.

Those same lawyers then twisted other laws beyond recognition to allow Mr. Bush to turn intelligence agents into torturers, to force doctors to abdicate their professional oaths and responsibilities to prepare prisoners for abuse, and then to monitor the torment to make sure it didn’t go just a bit too far and actually kill them.

The White House used the fear of terrorism and the sense of national unity to ram laws through Congress that gave law-enforcement agencies far more power than they truly needed to respond to the threat — and at the same time fulfilled the imperial fantasies of Vice President Dick Cheney and others determined to use the tragedy of 9/11 to arrogate as much power as they could.

Hundreds of men, swept up on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, were thrown into a prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, so that the White House could claim they were beyond the reach of American laws. Prisoners are held there with no hope of real justice, only the chance to face a kangaroo court where evidence and the names of their accusers are kept secret, and where they are not permitted to talk about the abuse they have suffered at the hands of American jailers.

In other foreign lands, the C.I.A. set up secret jails where “high-value detainees” were subjected to ever more barbaric acts, including simulated drowning. These crimes were videotaped, so that “experts” could watch them, and then the videotapes were destroyed, after consultation with the White House, in the hope that Americans would never know.

The C.I.A. contracted out its inhumanity to nations with no respect for life or law, sending prisoners — some of them innocents kidnapped on street corners and in airports — to be tortured into making false confessions, or until it was clear they had nothing to say and so were let go without any apology or hope of redress.

These are not the only shocking abuses of President Bush’s two terms in office, made in the name of fighting terrorism. There is much more — so much that the next president will have a full agenda simply discovering all the wrongs that have been done and then righting them.

We can only hope that this time, unlike 2004, American voters will have the wisdom to grant the awesome powers of the presidency to someone who has the integrity, principle and decency to use them honorably. Then when we look in the mirror as a nation, we will see, once again, the reflection of the United States of America.
For all my complaints with the dying newspaper, the New York Times, this time they got it right.

This is a reflection of George W. Bush, write large in the administration over which he presides. But Bush is a reflection of the panic and anger that is movement conservatism. It's not like the Democrats are going to be the nation's saviors, either. Nancy Pelosi has taken impeachment off the table, and she represents the Democrats in Congress who have seniority. Don't rock the boat. Protect the establishment at all costs.

The pundits, led by David Broder the (senile?) Dean of the Press Corps, are touting the bipartisan administration by New York City's billionaire Mayor Bloomberg. Salon's Glenn Greenwald explains what a travesty of establishmentarianism that is.
He [Bloomberg] also is as enamored of government control, police powers and surveillance as anyone in the Bush administration. He is an unrestrained advocate and enforcer of the War on Drugs (despite his own acknowledged use of marijuana, of course) and advocates the creation of "a DNA or fingerprint database to track and verify all legal U.S. workers," about which the NY Civil Liberties Union said, with extreme understatement: "It doesn't sound like the free society we think we're living in. It will inevitably be used not just by employers but by law enforcement, government agencies, schools and all over the private sector."

Clearly, this is just exactly what our country desperately needs, what it is missing most -- a neoconservative, combat-avoiding, Bush-supporting, Middle-East-warmonger who sees U.S. and Israeli interests as indistinguishable and inextricably linked, with a fetish for ever-increasing government control and surveillance, and a background as a Wall St. billionaire. We just haven't had enough of those in our political culture. Our political system, more than anything, is missing the influence of people like that. That's why it's broken: not enough of those.

Bloomberg is basically just Rudy Giuliani with a billion or two dollars to spend to alter the election. When it comes to foreign policy, war-making and government power, he offers absolutely nothing that isn't found in destructive abundance among the most extremist precincts in the Republican Party, while his moderate to liberal stance on social issues would prevent him from actually winning the support of his natural GOP base.

In fact -- despite his steadfast neoconservatism -- it's hard to see how the candidacy of a divorced, unmarried, stridently pro-gun-control, pro-choice, socially liberal New York City billionaire would accomplish anything other than offering the Republicans their best hope of winning in 2008. All of this seems to be intended as punishment meted out by the Establishment to the Democrats -- using Bloomberg's billions as the weapon -- for not repudiating their loudmouth, restless liberal base strongly enough. That, more than anything, seems to be the oh-so-noble and trans-partisan purpose of David Broder, David Boren and Sam Nunn: to find a way to stifle the populist anger at our political establishment after 8 years of unrestrained Bush-Cheney devastation, increasingly represented (on the Democratic side) by the Scary, Angry, Intemperate John Edwards campaign.

A Bloomberg candidacy would have no purpose other than satisfy his bottomless personal lust for attention and bestow the wise old men threatening the country with his candidacy with some fleeting sense of rejuvenated relevance and wisdom. His political views are conventional in every way and he's little more than an establishment-enabling figurehead. The whole attraction to his candidacy has nothing to do with any issues or substance and everything to do with an empty addiction to vapid notions of Establishment harmony and a desire to exert control, whereby our Seriousness guardians devote themselves to a candidate for reasons largely unrelated to his policies or political views, thus proving themselves, as usual, to be the exact antithesis of actual seriousness.
So the Bush administration consists of out and out reactionary loonies, so find someone just like Bush to replace him. and if David Broder puts his fingers in his ears and whistles real loudly he won't hear any Partisan complaints at the sloppy job he is doing as he tries thinking and writing about what is wrong with America.

Whatever happens, the Bush administration is incompetent and down-right scary, but the Democratic leadership does not want to rock the boat any more than David Broder and the pundits do. So they are all shrieking about the horrible Populists who are popping up in both parties (sounds suspiciously like people who are facing similar problems and finding similar solutions when it happens in both parties.) In the Republican Party it is first Huckabee, and to some extent also Ron Paul. In the Democratic Party it is the Dirty Hippy Bloggers who are doing all the complaining. David Sirota discusses the situation:
A pretty reliable gauge of Establishment fear is how far away from factual reality its chief spokesmen stray at election time. With economic populism now driving both the Democratic and Republican presidential contests, professional political pontificators in Washington are attacking candidates for being crazed and angry - when in fact their own rhetoric shows it is the pundits who are the angriest of all. An uprising is on - one against the hostile takeover of our government by Big Money interests. And inside the walls of the Washington palace, the elite are freaking out.
America is coming up against major changes, and the establishment is freaking out. George W. Bush himself represents an effort by movement conservatives and evangelical fundamentalists to deal with the changes that have been pounding more and more Americans for a generation, but Bush has been a solution driven by fear and ignorance and trying to apply military power and authoritarianism to solve the problems. The problems are real, but the Bush-led solutions have made the problems much worse.

Well, centralization of power, militarism, authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism have all failed, so we are seeing a rise in populism. The establishment is all cozy in financially protected ghettos with security guards, and they are getting panicked by "the rise of the masses." The pundit's solution is just ignore the problems and they will go away. That's the solution of the well-to-do geriatric set like David Broder.

It's time to try something new, and whatever it is, should embody the dream of Liberty that created America in 1776 and that established the U.S. Constitution. Those are two very powerful forces, and they can deal with the economic and social changes that are causing so much disruption in America today. Maybe we can remind Broder and the Establishment what they are?

They'll be better for it.

[See also The last stages of American world dominance have arrived for an explanation of what is causing all the problems that the conservatives and populists are reacting to, and that the establishment pundits and Wall Street want to ignore.]

2007 Bush admin politics in review

I have seen several good 2007 retrospectives so far, but the first one that springs to mind is Dahlia Lithwicks' Slate article Legal Fictions: The Bush administration's dumbest legal arguments of the year. Here are just the introductions to each:
  • 10. The NSA's eavesdropping was limited in scope.
  • 9. Scooter Libby's sentence was commuted because it was excessive.
  • 8. The vice president's office is not a part of the executive branch.
  • 7. The Guantanamo Bay detainees enjoy more legal rights than any prisoners of war in history.
  • 6. Water-boarding may not be torture.
  • 5. Everyone who has ever spoken to the president about anything is barred from congressional testimony by executive privilege.
  • 4. Nine U.S. attorneys were fired by nobody, but for good reason.
  • 3. Alberto Gonzales. [See her discussion for the full list under Al's heading.]
  • 2. State secrets. [This is a redefinition of what we used to call 'politically embarrassing. Musharraf is trying to apply this to Bhutto's assassination. And failing.]
  • 1. The United States does not torture.

The list I like best is Paul Kiel's TPM´s Great List of Scandalized Administration Officials at TPMMuckraker. I started to try to keep a list like this last Spring, but it overwhelmed me. Here are just the categories and the number of names in each:
  • Indicted / Convicted/ Pled Guilty [10 entries.]
  • Resigned Due to Investigation, Pending Investigation or Allegations of Impropriety [24 entries]
  • Nomination Failed Due to Scandal [5 entries]
  • Under Investigation But Still in Office [3 entries]

Paul did limit the list to only those "Bush Administration officials who'd been accused of corruption and/or resigned in the face of scandal."
Most of those below were the subjects of criminal probes, but we also included officials who were credibly accused of acts that, if not criminal, were a corruption of office (like the U.S. attorney scandal). And even then, such officials were only included if their accusers had them dead to rights (which is why Karl Rove didn't make the cut). We also limited ourselves to officials who were either political appointees or whose actions were so political that they were effectively political appointees (like John Tanner).
Without those limitations the list would have been endless.

More on the Bhutto assassination cover up

Today the New York Times provide more information on the cover up about how Benazir Bhutto was killed.
Athar Minallah, a board member of the hospital where Ms. Bhutto was treated, released her medical report along with an open letter showing that her doctors wanted to distance themselves from the government theory that Ms. Bhutto had died by hitting her head on a lever of her car’s sunroof during the attack.

In his letter, Mr. Minallah, who is also a prominent lawyer, said the doctors believed that an autopsy was needed to provide the answers to how she actually died. Their request for one last Thursday was denied by the local police chief.

Pakistani and Western security experts said the government’s insistence that Ms. Bhutto, a former prime minister, was not killed by a bullet was intended to deflect attention from the lack of government security around her. On Sunday, Pakistani newspapers covered their front pages with photographs showing a man apparently pointing a gun at her from just yards away.

Her vehicle came under attack by a gunman and suicide bomber as she left a political rally in Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani Army keeps its headquarters, and where the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency has a strong presence.

The government’s explanation, that Ms. Bhutto died after hitting her head as she ducked from the gunfire or was tossed by the force of the suicide blast, has been greeted with disbelief by her supporters, ordinary Pakistanis and medical experts. While some of the mystery could be cleared up by exhuming the body, it is not clear whether Ms. Bhutto’s family would give permission, such is their distrust of the government.

Mr. Minallah distributed the medical report with his open letter to the Pakistani news media and The New York Times. He said the doctor who wrote the report, Mohammad Mussadiq Khan, the principal professor of surgery at the Rawalpindi General Hospital, told him on the night of Ms. Bhutto’s death that she had died of a bullet wound.

[Highlighting mine - Ed. WTF-o]
This is further confirmation of BBC's channel 4 news on which I based last nights' post Bhutto was shot - Musharaff's government is lying.

It is interesting that it was the Chief of Police who would not permit an autopsy. This, combined with the complaints made by Bhutto's security chief before her assassination that on three different occasions the police had provided faulty cell phone jammers to her security contingent Makes you wonder who in the government was responsible for Ms. Bhutto;s assassination. Were the security guards who did nothing to prevent the assassination (see the video in yesterday's post ) provided by the police? And why did Musharraf refuse to permit the PPP to hire American or British security guards?

As more information becomes available, it seems very likely that the assassination was conducted by someone in the Pakistani government, and less likely that it was outside terrorists.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bhutto was shot - Musharaff's government is lying

Here is a U-Tube version of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

  • Three gunshots before the bomb went off.

  • The shooter walked right up behind the SUV, although there were three security guards there.

  • The bomber was also right next to the car, in spite of the security guards.

  • The reporter states that Bhutto had asked for American or British security guards, but Musharraf refused to let her use them.

  • The early reports from the hospital all state the Bhutto had been shot at least twice. Then, suddenly, the hospital changed its story to the strange story that Ms. Bhutto fell against a latch for the sunroof when the bomb went off. However, this video clearly shows that she fell inside the car before the explosion.

  • There was also no blood on the latch against which she was said to have struck her head.

  • Rawalpindi, the city in which Bhutto was assassinated, is the headquarters of the Pakistani Army and is considered a garrison city.

  • Musharraf was, until forced to resign to remain President a very short time ago, the Chief of Staff of the Army.
The government is clearly concealing something that would embarrass them. Is it that Musharraf called for Bhutto's assassination himself, or is it that someone in the Pakistani Army went behind his back and conducted the assassination?

It seems to me that the second choice would call for a scapegoat criminal to be caught and killed, rather than the strange lies that the government has been telling.

There is sure to be more coming out. At the very least, no one in Pakistan is going to believe anything Musharraf or his government says. That will require his replacement or a really sharp crackdown by Musharraf. In either case, his government has no remaining credibility.

That's what it looks like to me as a distant outsider. If someone who has further facts has a different read on the story, I will be very interested in hearing it.

Huckabee's populism frigntens the Republican corporate royalists

The Big Money Republican Party establishment is very upset with Huckabee's populism. David Sirota points to Huckabee's message:
This NY Times story is very telling about just how tied to Big Money the Republican Party Establishment really is - and how worried that Establishment is about its old tricks being exposed for the fraud they really are:
"Mr. Huckabee has struck a distinctly populist chord when it comes to economics. He has criticized executive pay, sympathized with labor unions, denounced 'plutocracy,' and mocked the antitax group the Club for Growth as 'the Club for Greed'...

'I see Huckabee as more of a Prairie populist than what I would consider a traditional conservative,' said former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania...He acknowledged that in some ways Mr. Huckabee’s combination of social conservatism and sympathy for the working class also touched a fault line that ran further through the Republican Party, including in his home state of Pennsylvania. 'He would do very, very well in southwestern Pennsylvania, Reagan Democrat country,' where many socially conservative working-class voters 'have a heart for the poor and, unfortunately, think of government as the answer,' Mr. Santorum said.
So basically, Republican Party leaders are acknowledging that they have been relying on tricking working class voters into not voting on economic issues. These leaders are chafing under the realization that Huckabee is implicitly undermining their old tricks in that he is gaining ground by applying his religious/altruistic rhetoric not just to social issues, but to economic issues as well.
Here's the problem the Big Money Republican establishment is facing. As I blogged earlier, America is in a period of global economic decline. One very significant characteristic of world powers as they go into such economic decline is that their economy becomes "financialized." That means that rent-seeking becomes the predominant method of making money, and actual production of goods is ignored. That is true in America and has been for decades.

When the American economy produced goods, the Big Money Republican Party establishment required a healthy middle class to buy it's products. That was the meaning of the story that Henry Ford was paying his workers a very high wage,$5 a day, so that they could buy his products. Ford was sharing his profits so that his workers could buy his automobiles.

When the economy becomes primarily one of rent-seeking, that need for the middle class disappears. Bankers don't need to produce goods. They send their money anywhere in the world that offers the highest percentage return on investment. They can shaft the middle class out of any share of the profits they make and not be hurt at all.

The Big Money Republican Party establishment has been using hot-button emotional and moral arguments to tap into the anger felt by the middle class as their income no longer has been growing while costs go up. The leaders of the Religious right have been happy to play along and operate as the Republican ward heelers who controlled the political organizations that operate through their churches, because this is a real position of power for the religious leaders. Their followers tend to look for authoritarian leaders who tell them why their lives are getting more difficult, a job the political preachers are glad to fill. The preachers say the problems are all based on "immorality" as they define it, and then deliver their followers' votes to the Republican Party.

This is a scam. The economic problems are based in power and economics, not morality or lack of religiosity.

Huckabee has blown the lid on the Republican scam that induced the "Reagan Democrats" middle class to vote against their own economic interest for ephemeral and ineffective moral and religious reasons while the CEO's destroy unions and take home unrealistically high pay checks. In the meantime middle class Americans are being laid off, being evicted from their homes, are sending their sons and daughters to Iraq for a useless war, and die for lack of health insurance (often because the insurance companies cancel the policy rather than pay claims. Hey, how else can they afford to pay their CEO's?)

That's why the Big Money Republican Party establishment has been lambasting Huckabee so much recently. Huckabee is threatening to hit them both in the pocket book and politically. Will the Reagan Democrats vote for Huckabee this time, against the Big Money Republican Party establishment candidates, and then meekly come back to some Big Money candidate who talks down to them in 2012?

Huckabee has really threatened the fault line down the middle of the Republican Party.


But will the threat last? There is a good chance it will last through the general election in November. But after that? Remember that the Reagan Democrats are the old Southern Democrats who moved to the Republican party because the Democratic Party they had grown up with had abandoned its deal with the racists Southern Democrats. The Reagan Democrats wanted a Party that could accept their Chauvinism and Racism, and the Republican Party was more than ready to accommodate them.

But that was 1972, 1976, and through the Reagan years. Those old Reagan Democrats are now in their 50's and older, and their children are voting. The newer generation no longer suffers in such large numbers from the attitudes of chauvinism and racism. In the South those children have been voting the way the political preachers told them to, but will they buy the Republican scam to vote for moral reasons when they are losing their jobs and being evicted from their homes? The sharp tilt of the young voters age 18 to 30 towards the Democrats nationally suggest that they won't. Racism and religion may no longer trump economic motives and drive voters to vote Republican.

Huckabee may be a harbinger of this movement of voters. We won't have any reliable indicators of how long the voters will move away from the Big Money Republican establishment until about 2010.

I don't blame the Big Money Republican Party establishment for being upset with Huckabee's populism. They have a right to run scared. And I'll enjoy watching them as they run.

American Fascism

Are the movement conservative Republicans really Fascists? There are a variety of definitions and it is not always clear if any given political movement was fascist, but here is the definition of Fascism from Wikipedia.
Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers individual and social interests subordinate to the interests of the state or party. Fascists seek to forge a type of national unity, usually based on (but not limited to) ethnic, cultural, racial, and religious attributes. Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, statism, militarism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, corporatism, populism, collectivism, and opposition to political and economic liberalism
Let's see if the Republican Party has any of these characteristics. Does the Republican movement conservative ideology have an
  • Authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers individual and social interests subordinate to the interests of the state or party. Yes
Do the Republican movement conservatives want to
  • forge a type of national unity, based on (but not limited to) ethnic, cultural, racial, and religious attributes? Yes
Are the following characteristics integral to the current Republican movement conservative party?

TotalitarianismYesElimination of privacy and right to trial
CorporatismYesAs are the mainstream Democrats

Is the current Republican movement conservative party unalterably opposed to the following?

Political LiberalismYes
Economic LiberalismYes

The only conclusion this chart can lead to is that the American movement conservative Republicans are Fascists. The term is appropriate to a political movement which is "oppressive," "intolerant," "chauvinist," "genocidal", "dictatorial," "racist" and/or "aggressive," all concepts which apply to the current Republican movement conservative Party. They are characteristics that are at least loosely inspired by the ideology of fascism.

There is a real difference between my use of the descriptive term "Fascism" for the current movement conservative Republican Party and the strange book that Jonas Goldberg is trying to push that supposedly labels Liberals as Fascists. Goldberg has had to go way back and then make up his history to support is ridiculous claim. My claim applies to the current time and the preceding two decades, and you don't need history books to find the evidence. Just read the newspapers and listen to the Republican candidates for the Presidential nomination talking. Rudy Giuliani can 'out-fascist' Mussolini any day of the week, and if he couldn't he has Norm Podhoretz, one of the most outspoken supporters of Americans fighting Muslims in the Middle east in support of Israel who can be found. [Note: I support protecting Israel from those who would destroy it, but the Israelis need to be protected from their own right-wing authoritarian government also. We don't need to fight unnecessary wars in the Middle East just to make life more pleasant for Israel's right-wing Likudniks.]

American conservatives are Evil. Compromise with Evil is itself, Evil

David Broder has been remarkably silent as the movement conservatives have been shredding the American Constitution and destroying the American Republic as long as they were in power. I don't recall any compromise with Democrats or progressives any time in the last seven years. And now the disasters the movement conservatives have brought down on America are coming home to roost - this has been a Republican show, Iraq was a war for the Republican Party, not for America, and the financial disaster that looms before us was largely created by Alan Greenspan for the specific reason of getting Bush reelected - now that all the predictable results [*] are occurring and the Republicans face the appropriate electoral result, David Broder wants Democrats to compromise with the Evil that is movement conservatism.

Broder would, I'm sure, have recommended that the Italian Partisans who finally caught Mussolini during WW II should have compromised with him instead of stringing him up on a lamppost. They shouldn't have embarrassed Mussolini that way.

Digby has an excellent post on the subject. Now that the Republicans, dominated by the movement conservatives, are going to get their well-deserved removal from power, for some odd reason Broder and his bipartisans think the Democrats should let the losers share the power the Democrats are gaining.

Right. As if the movement conservatives have any compromise in their bodies. If the Democrats compromise with the defeated conservatives, they will get the same treatment that occurred to so many governments threatened by Communist rebellion got when they tried to compromise with the Communist insurgents. Give the Communists any power at all, and they took over the government. The fools and idiots who compromised with the Communists realized their error from the grave or from reeducation camps.

It is the nature of authoritarians not to compromise. Instead they demand that others compromise with them, then they destroy those who tried to act with honor. Conservatives, Fascists, and Communists are all Authoritarians. They all act the same way, and any effort to compromise with them will give them the tools to destroy those who attempt to conciliate them.

Authoritarians are inherently evil and anti-democratic. We have seen the way Bush acts that democracy is nothing more than a word used in rhetoric when he tries to sound like he is human and conceals his horns and tail. The 1776 American dream of Liberty that is built into that fascinating Enlightenment political document, the American Constitution, is under attack today like never before. The attackers are movement conservatives, a group of people fully as Evil as any other groups of authoritarians in history.

Compromise with Evil is itself Evil.

Is David Broder simply an ignorant fool who is letting the forces of conservatism use his for Evil purposes, or is he himself part of the Evil wave that has caught America up? Either way, he is an Evil man himself.

One thing that Digby wrote that I totally agree with and which needed to be said. Regarding the use of the word "Fascist" to describe the movement conservatives:
*Now that Jonah Goldberg has made the word acceptable for use against liberals, it's back in circulation as far as I'm concerned and I'm using it.
There really is not better word for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, John Bolton, Norm Podhoretz and his current master, Rudy Giuliani, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and the other anti-democratic members of their cabal like Rupert Murdoch.

[*] The results of movement conservative policies and behavior, like death, were predictable even though the timing when those results would become known was not.

What Broder and the "bipartisans" want is what is called the Rachet effect. It is a political method of moving America constantly to a right-wing authoritarian corporatist model (which is the definition of Fascism) and never allowing any backsliding towards government support for the American public.

Broder's proposed bipartisanship is the political rachet that moves America away from Liberty and democracy based on the Constitution and the Rule of Law and toward aristocratic and corporate rule.

Paul Rosenberg has an excellent essay on the importance of partisanship and polarization.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The last stages of American world dominance have arrived

If you want to understand what has happened to America, go read the short but very interesting article American Parallels. In it Ian Welsh compares the pattern of the decline of American world dominance to the declines of the Empires of Great Britain, Spain, Rome, and Athens. This is where we are:
American world dominance, as with British, was based on a military dominance that came out of economic dominance. From about 1890 on America had the world’s most powerful economy, out producing Britain industrially, and backed moreover by a continental resource base. At the end of world war II the US was producing about half the world’s goods.

Since then there has been a gradual decline, and the rise of larger powers – China and India, whose population are significantly larger than that of the US. As in the decline of Britain, capital is fleeing the old empire, heading for the rising powers.
  • As in the decline of Britain, the new powers flout intellectual property laws, refusing to pay rent to the old power.
  • As in the 1890’s – the rising power has now, on a pricing parity scale, an economy equal to the old empire.
  • As in the case of Britain military overstretch is straining the dominant power.
  • Financialization, the curse of late stage empires, has hit the US as it hit Britain, with rent-seeking the predominant method of making money, and actual production of goods ignored. American capital flows to other countries seeking returns, and builds factories there. American ex-pats teach other nations how to compete, even as Scottish engineers did during the decline of the UK. As with Britain, America, breathless with greed, is teaching others how to defeat it.

[Highlighting and bullet points mine - Ed. WTF-o]
If you have read my earlier posts you may notice that I have repeatedly pointed out the futility of trying to use tax cuts to stimulate the American economy. Tax cuts won't work, because the investors will try to seek the highest return, and like the British investing in mines and railways South American and India in the late 19th century, those returns are much more available in the rest of the world. The utter stupidity of a government policy based on a refusal of the government to interfere in - or even plan for - the American economy has made the American decline inevitable.

Mr. Welsh makes a final statement with which I heartily agree:
America will follow its own unique path. All Republics end, and so do all Empires. There is, in human history, a series of cycles of renewal, decay and renewal. Each one ends in a crisis period, and each crisis must be overcome. It is never inevitable that you’ll fail – but it’s never guaranteed you’ll succeed either. It is this generation’s task to renew the tree of liberty and keep the American experiment going – to remain true to the ideals that made America and have driven it since 1776. It is my profoundest wish, as we come up on the New Year and look both back and forward, that you are successful in doing so, and that America once again becomes the beacon of liberty and hope that its founders wanted it to be.
Go read the rest of Ian Welsh' article.

Our task as Americans is clear. We need to renew the ideals from 1776 that have made America great. The most urgent task at the moment is to destroy the power of the conservative movement who have betrayed those ideals.

Happy New Year.

Another conservative failure

Over the last century the U.S. government has found it necessary to regulate several economic functions for public safety. There have been a series of real success stories. The Interstate Commerce Commission forced railroads to price transportation services to isolated markets in the western U.S. at rates that did not include monopoly profits. This was a major boost to the American economy that otherwise would have been forced into central cities where competition would hold prices down. The ICC was one of the first victims of Gingrich's takeover of Congress, being eliminated in 1995. The result is seen in the report by the Dallas Morning News called Road Hazards, also reported by Expose: America under the title "Eyes on the Road" shown on Public TV.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is another success story which had infuriated the regressive conservatives. Rick Perlstein refers back to an excellent article by Greg Anhrig entitled "Who strangled the FDA?"
Recent fiascoes like the Melamine-tainted pet food and lead-laced Mattel toys, both imported from China, are sure to continue in the absence of meaningful accountability. The truth is that the carnage described in the report is as much a conservative-movement accomplishment as the creation of the FDA was a great progressive-era triumph.

For many decades, the right has been about as hostile toward the FDA as it has been toward Social Security -- another long-standing success story that undercuts the worldview that government is the problem rather than the solution. In a 1975 roundtable at the American Enterprise Institute, for example, Ronald Reagan claimed that the FDA was needlessly killing Americans. Referring to the drug Rifampin, he said, "I think something more than 40,000 tuberculars alone have died in this country who conceivably could have been saved by a drug that has been widely used the past few years throughout Europe." In fact, Rifampin had already been on the market in the U.S. for four years, approved by the FDA five months after the manufacturer submitted the application. {Snip]

Charting the phases of the FDA's decline lays bare the responsibility borne by movement conservatism. The first phase was the two terms of the Reagan presidency, when the FDA's staff declined by 30 percent. After a reprieve from 1988 to 1994, when more moderate presidents and a Democratic Congress provided ample boosts in the agency's budget and staffing, the FDA's garroting resumed with a vengeance in the wake of the 1994 Republican landslide that catapulted Gingrich to the House Speaker's chair. He led a highly effective jihad against the agency, pushing to privatize many of its activities. The onslaught continued under George W. Bush and the Republican Congress. From 1994 to 2007, according to former FDA chief counsel Hutt, the agency's appropriated personnel declined from 9,167 to 7,856, while its funding increased by only two-thirds of the amount that would have been needed to keep up with inflation.
Go read the article. It is worth reading.

The key is the conservative fiction that an unregulated market will deliver all the goods people want with complete safety because of the magic of the competitive market. If the government will just stop "interfering" - testing for safety and keeping records of who gets hurt is interfering - then America will become a utopia where everyone is rich.

Yeah, right. That's like Bush's demand that the cement companies south of Dallas Fort Worth not be forced by the government to clean up their air pollution. They6, like a number of other Texas companies, were permitted in the 70's to "voluntarily" include installing exhaust scrubbers as part of routine maintenance over the years. They never did, so when the Texas Legislature during the Bush administration wanted to force them to clean up their pollution because the federal EPA was rating Dallas Fort Worth as having some of the worst air in the nation, Bush threatened a veto if the rules were other than voluntary compliance. Over a decade later, there has been no progress and Dallas Fort Worth air quality continues to drop.

This Fall both Dallas and Tarrant Counties have passed regulations that state no contractor could get reimbursed for concrete purchased from those plants as long as another plant, no matter how much further away, has lower pollution emissions. The shrieking from the non-compliant concrete plants is a pleasure to behold, but at best they are promising that later they will correct the problems, and in the meantime they are lobbying the Texas government to make the actions by the County governments illegal.

How much more does it take to place a stake into the heart of the Republican Regressive Party conservatives? The CEO's want to make money, and don't care much who dies in the process. Yet the Regressives want total freedom from any oversight as they continue eliminate effective competition in the marketplace and make more money. They are no more trustworthy than their partners in China who paint children's toys with lead paint.

How many people have to die or become disabled so that the members of the Regressive Party can be free to make more money without working at it? Because regulation merely means that they have to consider all the effects and qualities of their products, not just how shiny the outside looks.

It's time to send the movement Regressives back to their caves and let competent people take over this nation - and get us out of the unnecessary war in Iraq while they are at it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A map that shows slavery was the cause of the Civil War

I like maps. They provide the most compact form of information display known to man. And if you click here, you will see the map that displayed the percentage of slaves in each county in America in 1861.

Abraham Lincoln was obsessed with this map and with the progress of the war as it freed those slaves. The map itself makes it clear that slavery was at the base of "The Rebellion," and Lincolns obsession with this map makes it clear how important the Civil War and its effect to free slaves was to him.

So who is suspected in Bhutto's assassination?

Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent for the Times online reviews who the most probable suspects are:
The main suspects in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination are the Pakistani and foreign Islamist militants who saw her as a heretic and an American stooge and had repeatedly threatened to kill her.

But fingers will also be pointed at Inter-Services Intelligence, the agency that has had close ties to the Islamists since the 1970s and has been used by successive Pakistani leaders to suppress political opposition.
Those are the groups. Page goes on to name likely individuals:
Earlier that month, [October] two militant warlords based in Pakistan's lawless northwestern areas, near the border with Afghanistan, had threatened to kill her on her return.

One was Baitullah Mehsud, a top commander fighting the Pakistani army in the tribal region of South Waziristan. He has close ties to al Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban.

The other was Haji Omar, the “amir” or leader of the Pakistani Taleban, who is also from South Waziristan and fought against the Soviets with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

After that attack Ms Bhutto revealed that she had received a letter signed by a person who claimed to be a friend of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden threatening to slaughter her like a goat. [Snip]

Analysts say that President Musharraf himself is unlikely to have ordered her assassination, but that elements of the army and intelligence service would have stood to lose money and power if she had become Prime Minister.

The ISI, in particular, includes some Islamists who became radicalised while running the American-funded campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan and remained fiercely opposed to Ms Bhutto on principle.

Saudi Arabia, which has strong influence in Pakistan, is also thought to frown on Ms Bhutto as being too secular and Westernised and to favour Nawaz Sharif, another former Prime Minister.
President Musharraf is going to have to quickly act to prevent Pakistan from devolving into Civil War. This action is also going to have severe effects on the legitimacy and public acceptance of the government formed after the January 8 election - assuming that the election is held at all.

Pakistan has just joined Afghanistan and Iraq as nations in real trouble internally.

Addendum 11:11 AM CST
Aryn Baker of Time Magazine reports:
Just days before parliamentary polls in Pakistan, leading Prime Ministerial contender and anti terrorism crusader Benazir Bhutto was shot dead during an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad. "She has been martyred," said party official Rehman Malik. The Associated Press, citing Malik, reported that Bhutto was shot in the neck and the chest before the gunman blew himself up. At least 20 bystanders were killed in the blast. Bhutto was rushed to a hospital But, at 6:16 p.m. Pakistan time, she was declared dead.
So this was not just a bombing. It was an assassination with more than one method of killing Ms. Bhutto planned and executed.

Who was close enough to shoot her in the back of the head?

Addendum 2 11:24 AM CST
From the Guardian we get some further reports of how Benazir Bhutto was assassinated:
Bhutto was killed as her jeep pulled away from an election rally in Rawalpindi. Standing up in an open-top jeep, she presented a clear target.

Eyewitnesses spoke of hearing gunshots followed by a bomb blast. Bhutto's security adviser, Rehman Malik, said the former PM was shot in the chest and neck. Conflicting reports from Pakistan's interior ministry said Bhutto was killed by the suicide bomber's collision with her jeep. [Snip]

Malik, Bhutto's security adviser, questioned the adequacy of protection for Bhutto.

"We repeatedly informed the government to provide her proper security and appropriate equipment including jammers, but they paid no heed to our requests," he said. [Snip]

It appears the Musharraf government had been considering ways to strengthen her security, and it forced Bhutto's PPP to cancel a rally in Rawalpindi in November due to security fears.

Today's Rawalpindi rally only went ahead after hundreds of riot police had set up security checkpoints. Rawalpindi is a so-called garrison city and popularly regarded as one of the most secure cities in Pakistan.
The Hindu reports that Bhutto's security chief, Malik, had complained prefiously that the government provided faulty radion jammers on at least three occasions.
Rehman Malik, a Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader and Security Advisor to Bhutto, asked the Interior Ministry to provide "fault-free jammers along with a technician to ensure full protection" to her from any attempted attack.

This is the third time that the PPP has complained to the Interior Ministry about jammers provided to Bhutto being faulty. Bhutto survived a suicide bomb attack on her homecoming rally in Karachi on October 18 that killed 140 people.

In his letter to the Interior Secretary, Malik, a former Federal Investigation Agency chief, said: "I regret to inform that the jammers provided by Sindh Police to cover the movements of Benazir Bhutto on 23-12-2007 did not work, which is a serious lapse in the light of the serious security threat already conveyed to us by Brig Javed Iqbal Cheema, Director General, National Crisis Management Cell, Ministry of Interior."

"Similarly, the jammers provided for the protection of Benazir Bhutto during her trip to Rahimyar Khan on 24-12-2007 also failed to work, exposing (her) to a high risk."

Malik said the PPP had "made repeated requests for provision of proper fault-free jammers for the protection of Benazir Bhutto but in every trip the jammers have failed to work."
Jammers should make it more difficult for assassins to know where the target is. In this case it looks like both a gunman and a bomber knew where Benazir Bhurro was. If the police have failed three times to deliver working jammers, then the police appear implicated. Whoever ran security for the government should not have let that happen a second time unless he was complicit in this assassination.

If Rawalpindi, Pakistan, is considered a Garrison City and is the headquarters of the Army, then suspicion must also be directed at the Pakistani Army.

Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto assassinated today

Benazir Bhutto, one of three candidates running for the post of President of Pakistan in the election to be held January 8, was assassinated by a bomber in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. She died in the hospital a little over two hours ago at 6:16 PM PKT.

See MSNBC for details. See also this Associated Press report.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Romney's father was an illegal immigrant from Mexico

I wonder if Tom Tancredo knew this history before he dropped out of the race for the Presidential nomination and endorsed Mitt Romney.

It seems that Mitt Romney's father was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and illegally entered the U.S. across the southern border.

A deep consumer-driven recession is just starting - expect at least two years.

First let's look at the overall financial situation the economy is now in, then I strongly suggest that you click through to the Calculated Risk article, scroll down to the bottom, and click on the picture of Howard Davidowitz for his analysis and prediction of the consumer-driven recession. Then I will explain why the snake oil of tax cuts will not solve the problem of the Recession!

Calculated Risk describes how the commercial real estate market is headed down, following the individual mortgage market.

A part of the problem is that the banks that have a lot of exposure to individual mortgage loans find that they don't have enough assets they can rely on to extend loans to commercial real estate. The risk driving down prices of office buildings, shopping malls and apartment complexes.

Another part of the problem is the Commercial Mortgage-backed Securities (CMBS) market. These are a commercial real estate security that operate in the secondary finance market for real estate loans much like the mortgage-backed securities (MBS), Collateralized mortgage obligations (CMO) and Collateralized debt obligations (CDO) do in the home real estate market. As Calculated Risk points out (from the Wall Street Journal)
The CMBS market was the engine that drove the commercial real-estate boom. Over the past few years, the issuance of CMBS allowed banks to get rid of the risk on their books, lend with cheaper rates and looser terms and that made it easy for private-equity firms to do huge real-estate deals.
This kind of transaction hides the risk of loans from the final investors, so that now the large-money investors simply don't know how much risk there is in the loans they have already purchased or the money they lend to banks. It is this kind of risk-invisibility that is driving the credit crunch in all its glory.

Combine this effective freeze on much commercial lending, and deals are not getting done. So what makes the commercial real estate problems so severe a blow to the economy? Back to Calculated Risk:
The typical pattern is for CRE to follow residential by about 4 to 7 quarters, so this slowdown is right on schedule. It's important to note that the impact on the economy will come from a slowdown in new CRE construction (non-residential structure investment) and from rising CRE defaults.
This explains in part the fact that (from Nouriel Roubini ) "excluding spending on gasoline retail sales were up a mediocre 2.4% relative to a year ago; including gasoline they were up 3.6% on the lowest end of forecasters’ expectations." Since inflation is now running above 4%, a 2.4% increase in nominal sales is a net negative is real sales.

But the net negative in real sales is even worse than it looks at first glance. For that you need to go watch as Howard Davidowitz explains in the video at the very bottom of the article at Calculated Risk.. The net negative real increase in retail sales comes on top of an increase of 5% in new retail stores opened this year. All that additional overhead contributed absolutely no new revenue to retailers over the Christmas season. Davidowitz' discussion is a very fact-filled clear analysis, explaining why we are going into a deep consumer-driven recession that will last at least two years.

Two points I want to focus on. First, Davidowitz points out that the real problem is that the consumers are tapped out. The housing bubble was designed (by Alan Greenspan) to keep the economy afloat during President Bush's first term in office. [My analysis, not Davidowitz'.] It did so. But in spite of the tax cuts that the Republicans claimed would stimulate the economy, there was no net demand created by the tax cuts to cause the economy to expand. What net increase in demand that occurred came from defense spending, and from home-owners refinancing their homes as the value went up to pay off credit card debt they had run up. The economy is driven by demand in three areas:
Demand (and GDP) = consumption (70%) + Investment (20%) + government spending (10%)
The consumers are tapped out. No pay raises since 2000, no savings, and now no mortgage gains to tap to keep the economy afloat. A symptom of the inability to the consumers to further support the economy is the rising rate of delinquencies and defaults on credit cards.

Now the investors are finding it more and more difficult to get loans, so deals aren't being made, making investment a net negative also. And military spending, the only part of government spending that was increasing, has little secondary economic impact. Military weapons systems simply are not economically productive. all of which leads me to my second point.

The Republicans are going to be selling more tax cuts as a solution to the economy. But this is a consumer-driven recession, not an investment-driven one. Tax cuts, even if they did work, will not resurrect an economy in a consumer driven recession! Nor will they increase investment in an environment is which investors have no way of knowing which potential investments are high-risk and which are not. Investors will either sit on their cash or invest it overseas in Euro-denominated investments. Neither investment nor consumption can be increased by tax cuts.

So now go and watch Howard Davidowitz's excellent analysis at Calculated Risk. Unfortunately, he confirms much of what I have believed about our miserably mismanaged economy.

Americans will now suffer from listening to the snake oil sold by the conservative ideologues about a free market and minimal government regulation. [For more on this, go see Rick Perlstein's blog, with particular emphasis on his items labeled "The Big Con."]

Oh yeah, and have a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Another reason private companies cannot insure health care fairly

What's really wrong with America's health care lack-of-system? Here is the answer.

Insurance companies make money by not paying for claims.

Here is another example of the way private insurers avoid paying legitimate claims. The story was reported in the Los Angeles Times on Christmas day.

A California State Appeals Court looked into the way California insurance companies cancel health insurance policies. Steve Hailey, an Orange County small-business owner, had an insurance policy with Blue Shield of California when he had a car accident that disabled him. Blue Shield first approved more than $450,000 worth of hospital and other medical care, but when the costs of care exceeded the amount or premiums he had paid, they canceled his policy and demanded reimbursement for more than $104,000 they had spent on his account.

The reason for the cancellation? They claimed that Hailey lied about preexisting conditions when he purchased the policy. However, the appeal court found that his wife had filled out the application, and it was written poorly so that it was not sure how she should have answered the questions. The key point, though, was that Blue Shield had become aware of the apparent misrepresentation about two months after the policy was issued, but waited until their was an accident and the payouts exceeded the premiums paid before canceling the policy and demanding reimbursement. Had they canceled the policy when the errors were first noted, the Haileys could have gotten coverage for Mr. Hailey on Mrs. Hailey's policy through her employer. By the time they did cancel, after an unnecessary delay simply to collect premiums, it was too late for the Haileys to make other insurance arrangements.

The California appeals court rejected the cancellation of the Hailey's policy, sent it back to the lower court for trial, and required Blue Shield to pay for the Hailey's costs of appeal.

The insurance company policy, then, was to delay canceling the questionable policy as long as the insured was paying premiums but not making big claims. Only when claims exceeded premiums did they cancel the policy, which prevented the newly uninsured from making other arrangements for insurance.

The decision by the California state court of appeals has no power in any other state. This technique is available to any health insurer who want to use it outside California. So remember

Insurance companies make money by not paying for claims.

This is another post that describes how private health insurance fails to deal fairly with the insured. My earlier post was Here's why private insurance companies can't finance decent universal health care.

Bill O'Reilly defeated my war on Xmas - this year

This is really frustrating. I had all kinds of really good plans for defeating Xmas this year, but I received an email From Bill O'Reilly informing me that Xmas had been rescheduled to Saturday, December 29th this year.

By the time I woke up this morning and learned that the conservatives had slipped Xmas in on me already, it was too late to implement my plans. So O'Reilly won. You Xtians get your Xmas this year. Again.

But I'll stop it next year!

Bwa hahahahah.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Slavery was clearly the cause of the American Civil War

Ron Paul has been infected by the typical Southern conservative view that the Civil War was not about slavery. That's a load of defensive Southern crap. Eric at The Edge of the American West explains why slavery was the direct cause of the American Civil War, and I have added a comment that agrees with him. Here are the article and my comment:
Slavery did too cause the Civil War.

December 24, 2007 in history and current events by eric

I know everyone’s having a grand time debating the causes of the Civil War all over again, so I thought I would light my own piece of touch-paper: just because Lincoln did not mean to fight a war to end slavery, doesn’t mean slavery didn’t cause the Civil War.

On a basic theory of causation, we’re talking about that x without which no y, where y is the Civil War. It is profoundly difficult to believe any Civil War would have occurred without slavery, or if you want to be precise, without slavery concentrated in one part of the country. Even if you think some version of the states’-rights debate would have occurred without a geographically concentrated slave interest (which I don’t) it’s hard to believe it would have come to war.

And yes, I’ll concede that that imaginary American republic — the one without slavery, which preserved a compact theory of the Union — might have been a nice place to live. But we don’t live there.

We live here, where the war was about ending slavery. Don’t take my word for it, consider an astute student of the war:

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war.

Does this mean that the war was necessary to end slavery? No; Paul could be right that slavery would, eventually have gone away. Does this mean the war was the best way to end slavery — where “best” means cheapest, most painless, most just? Probably not — in theory, it would have been much better to have an immediate and peaceful emancipation.

But of course we don’t live in theory, we live in America. And it pretty much appears that in this country, forcible emancipation had become by the middle nineteenth century, the only plausible kind of immediate emancipation. And, you know, justice delayed is justice denied. The need of ending slavery was not only the first but the final cause of the Civil War.

So you’re in favor either of force or of indefinitely continued slavery. Note that yes, prior to the outbreak of war, Lincoln and most white people favored indefinitely continued slavery. Would we be morally better than they, were we transported back then? Perhaps not. Should we be better, having as we do the luxury of hindsight, and knowing what penalty our forebears paid for their comfortable positions? Yes. Is Ron Paul acting as if he had this luxury? No, and I don’t know why not.

By the the time you get to the Civil Rights Act, Paul is onto entirely untenable positions. With the conclusion of the Civil War you had the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. That was what you bought with your 600,000 dead — a new Union devoted to — in the frank words of the Civil Rights Act of 1866,

All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens.

All persons shall have the same rights as white persons — Congress of the United States, 1866. That was what you bought with your war, with (to repeat) your 600,000 dead, with the wrenching crisis of the Union: a new Constitution and racial justice.

Only, you didn’t: because Andrew Johnson and a bunch of weak-kneed Republicans fumbled it away in the face of racist resistance, because the Supreme Court helped gut those amendments, leaving them all but meaningless, thus necessitating a century-long march toward reclaiming the civil rights recognized in 1866. Was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 wrong, Mr. Paul? No, because the side that thought so lost the Civil War.

Only our collective betrayal of that war, our shared desecration of the memory of the dead, in which we participate every time we deny the purpose of the war and the meaning of the victory the United States Army and Navy won in it, has made the absurd position of Ron Paul possible.

And a Merry Christmas to you!

Followed by my comment
I think you have it exactly right. The existence of slavery was the cause of the Civil War. And I think there are two clear reasons for that.

First, had the slave owners simply remained in control of their own states, the threat of slavery would not have been considered so bad by the North. But the slavers were aggressive, and tried to push the legality of slavery as far West and North as they could make it go. They not only wanted “Their special institution”, they wanted it spread to where it hadn’t been before. Normal political reactions to such aggressiveness will cause or intensify opposition.

The Second reason to consider that slavery caused the Civil War includes your analysis and my first point. The attack on Fort Sumter was purely Southern aggressiveness caused by the distaste of the South for the northern abolitionists and for Lincoln’s election, but it was a local rebellion. There was no real reason for Lincoln to have considered it any more significant than Shay’s Rebellion during George Washington’s administration. Lincoln took the very rational decision to put down the rebellion, just as Washington had done seven decades earlier.

The difference is that putting down Shay’s Rebellion did not spread the rebellion. Putting down the rebellion in South Carolina caused a spread of the rebellion across the entire South and Texas. What was the difference between the two incidents? Slavery as the basis for a society. The rest of the slave states saw the federal government effort to put down the local rebellion in South Carolina as an attack on all of them and on their way of life. The only unique factor of their way of life was slavery.

There is no reasonable way to look at the beginning of the Civil War and try to say that slavery was not its’ cause. None.
Agree or disagree with the two of us, but if you have any interest in American history I strongly suggest that you bookmark this site.

[Of course, I see no possible way that you could disagree with me. :-} ]

This discussion was, of course, set off by the uncontrolled, irrelevant and ignorant ruminations of Ron Paul yesterday morning on Tim Russert's TV show. Here is earlier post at on the subject of Ron Paul's comments.

Here's one reason for the Ron Paul phenomenon

Taylor Marsh reports discussing why all her Mormon relatives like Ron Paul and detest Mitt Romney. Go read it.

If I hadn't lived in Ron Paul's district for an election, I might have agreed with them. They're right that the speaks his mind honestly. And he has some really good ideas. Unfortunately, he has some ideas that are really screwed up, too. His comments on the American Civil War simply run off into insanity. Not that his approach wouldn't have been far better in 1860 - had it been close to possible, but Jesus, Man, this is 2007!

He is right that it would have been far cheaper to have the federal government simply buy up the slaves and free them, but at the time the Southerners fired on Fort Sumpter and Lincoln properly sent in troops to put down the local rebellion (similar to Shay's Rebellion under George Washington), no one seriously thought combat would last six months or that the rebellion would spread to the entire South and become serious warfare. With that attitude, how could a bill to buy the slaves and free them ever pass Congress? Not to mention the fact that the Southerners could have easily blocked it and certainly would have. Which is entirely beside the point. Ron Paul may think this is 1860, but it's really not. Ron Paul is simply a wack job and a fruitcake. It's just that sometimes only the insane dare speak the Truth publicly. That doesn't make him acceptable as President on all these issues.

Back to Taylor Marsh's relatives, though. They want Ron Paul to run as an independent when the Republicans refuse to nominate him, and Ms. Marsh thinks that if he does he will also get a whole lot of Democrats who are disgusted with the Democratic Party to vote for him also, seriously messing up any predictability in November 2008. I know that my disgust with Harry Reid, Nancy (impeachment is off the table) Pelosi and the Democratic so-called leaders has reached a high level, so that the only reason today to be a Democrat is that the Republicans are headed rapidly towards Fascism, and the Democrats are only assisting them to get there, not actively pushing.

So that's my opinion. Go read Ms. Marsh's article and see what you think.

Is Obama as unprincipaled as Romney?

I think that Obama has totally lost me with his attack on Unions as somehow "special interest groups." This is from SusanUnPC at "No Quarter."
Mark Halprin posted the following memo from the Obama camp earlier today – take a look:

“Right now groups supporting Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are flooding Iowa and the other early states with millions of dollars in paid ads, phone calls, and mailings. Some of it is negative and even deceptive, and a lot of it is paid for by huge, unregulated contributions from special interests. Taking on these groups isn’t just a matter of setting the record straight about me or my positions. It’s about proving that a new kind of campaign - funded by ordinary people who want something better for all of us - can defeat the same tired, old political textbook that so many Americans just don’t trust anymore.”

…and Halperin includes the following data…

So who is Obama talking about? Here is the most up-to-date independent expenditure information in Iowa.

For Hillary Clinton

AFSCME: $907,177.24

AFT: $635,822.19

Emily’s List: $297,806.69

Total: $1,840,426.12

For John Edwards

Working for Working Americans/Carpenter s: $516,216.51

Alliance for a New America (SEIU): $760,801.00

Total: $1,277,017.51

(emphasis mine)

He goes on to beg for donations, calling Emily’s List, teachers unions, carpenters, SEIU and AFSCME “Special Interests“, like they’re something evil and dirty or working to undo what we’ve accomplished in the area of worker’s rights, social justice, and other areas over the years.

Obama wants to be the party’s standard-bearer in next year’s general election, and he not only failed to garner the support of these stalwart Democratic allies, but he’s attacking them in an effort to generate campaign contributions.
I've had some doubts about Obama, but this tips me over the edge. There is no way I will vote for a candidate who takes this position against unions. I will also do whatever I can to defeat him.

Republican Party falling apart (Americans should be so lucky)

The Washington Post has reported on what I have felt for weeks. Each of the major Republican candidates for the Presidential nomination represents a strong faction in the national Republican Party, but none of them can break out of the factions and be a unifier for the party.
DES MOINES -- For three decades, the Republican presidential nominating contest has served to unify the national party's coalition of social, economic and foreign policy conservatives in advance of a general election fight with Democrats.

This year, it is ripping that coalition apart.

Is the GOP grounded in the social issues embodied by Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee or the foreign policy experience of former POW John McCain? Do Republicans see their futures in a former CEO such as Mitt Romney, who promises to tackle Washington incompetence, or in a leader such as Rudolph W. Giuliani, who talks tough on terrorism and crime? Should the party embrace anger about immigration or optimism about America's potential? [Snip]

Soul-searching during a presidential campaign is typical for the Democratic Party, which seems to engage in philosophical rethinking every four years. But it is a rarer instance for Republicans, who typically rally around an establishment candidate, a consensus "next-in-line" who would be a shoo-in for the nomination.

That kind of party discipline helped George H.W. Bush win the nomination in 1988, gave a boost to former Kansas senator Robert J. Dole in 1996 and was crucial to George W. Bush's victory in 2000. But finding a successor to President Bush, and a new direction for the party, is proving to be more difficult.

"I'm homeless," said Jack Kemp, a former congressman and housing secretary in President George H.W. Bush's administration and the party's vice presidential nominee in 1996. "There isn't that Reagan sense of optimism, of an inclusionary Republican Party."

"It's about as clear as mud," said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), who has talked to Giuliani and has met with Romney and former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) but remains undecided.

For conservatives, the flaws of each major candidate are just too glaring, GOP lawmakers say.

Giuliani tends to win them on economic issues, but they cannot get by his stand on social issues. They like Huckabee on the social agenda, but do not trust his economic stands. They like the Romney they see now, but they cannot forget the positions he once embraced in Massachusetts. And they dislike McCain's opposition to Bush's first-term tax cuts and his crusade to overhaul campaign finance laws.

"Everybody's looking for Ronald Reagan, and believe me, I knew Ronald Reagan, and he's not here," said Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who dropped out of the race for the White House on Thursday and gave his support to Romney. "We're seeing the manifestation of frustrations that have been in the Republican ranks for years. Frustration with the president, frustration with Congress, and nobody sees in us a way out."

Huckabee, in particular, is challenging the three-part coalition that Reagan built, but not only because of the unabashed focus on the former Arkansas governor's Christian faith. He is increasingly casting himself as the champion of "the people" against what he calls the "Wall Street-Washington axis." He said this past week that he wants to represent "Boys and Girls Clubs Republicans" not "country-club Republicans." [Snip]

The chairman of one of the presidential campaigns, a longtime party activist, said, after soliciting a promise of anonymity: "There is no party here anymore. It's just a shell."

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has been at the top of the Republican presidential field in New Hampshire for months, but his competitors have been a puzzle to many in the state. In early summer, an aura of expectation was created about Thompson's candidacy, but his initial appearances fell flat. Then Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, upped his television ads and personal appearances, but he has now canceled some events, cut back his ad spending and is no longer making a major effort.

That has allowed McCain, the Arizona senator, to restart the heavy schedule of town meetings and television ads he had curtailed when his campaign ran out of money early in the summer. Huckabee is thought to have a "low ceiling" in New Hampshire, where far fewer of the Republicans identify themselves as evangelical voters than do so in Iowa.

In Iowa, the race has largely narrowed to a two-man contest between Huckabee and Romney, with Thompson doing his best to surprise people with a strong third-place finish. McCain and Giuliani have all but abandoned any retail efforts in the state.

Party officials and strategists for the Iowa presidential candidates predict that about 80,000 people will participate in the party's caucuses, a drop from the 125,000 who participated in 2004. By contrast, some Democratic Party strategists expect to see as many as 150,000 Democrats gather the same night.
It's been my opinion that the main thing that has unified the Wall-Street Republicans, the Foreign policy Republicans, the Evangelical Republicans and the Libertarian Republicans has been the opportunity they had to take advantage of the power of the Presidency once the Republican candidate took office. This time, though, there is very little prospect that the Republican candidate, whoever he is, can possibly win next November.

That lack of a real prospect for winning removes the glue that made the factions of the Republican Party swallow their pride and agree with the other factions. I think that lack of prospect of winning is what has really torn the national party apart.

Right now this looks good for the Democrats in November. Of course, if the Republicans get really desperate at the losses they face, that very desperation may drive them back into some semblance of unity before November. Could either McCain or Romney sell that? I don't know. As it is, November looks good for the Democrats. November is still a long ways off, though. So things look very murky right now.

But that's not too surprising, I guess, since not a single vote has been cast in the primaries yet. Things that look very murky right now may very well become completely clear on February 6, 2008.

I guess we'll see very soon.

The American Republic is dead. Does anyone care enough to hold a funeral?

Former CIA analyst and Presidential briefer Ray McDaniel says that Bush and Cheney knew clearly that there were no WMD's in Iraq and Knew that there was no active Iranian nuclear weapons program as early 2005. They were lying to the American public in order to start a war with Iraq, then more recently were lying to start a war with Iran. Here is Ray McDaniel's article:

Former CIA analyst says evidence abounds for impeachment

PORTSMOUTH — The evidence for impeachment of the president and vice president is overwhelming, former CIA analyst and daily presidential briefer Ray McGovern told a room full of people at the Portsmouth Public Library Monday night.

McGovern, who provided daily briefings for former presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as well as other high ranking officials during his 27 year CIA career, said he has witnessed a "prostitution of his profession" as the Bush administration lied to the American people about the evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"Don't let anyone tell you the President was deceived by false intelligence ... they knew," McGovern said.

For the next 40 minutes, he relayed a series of events leading up to 9/11 which illustrate the President's desire to go to war with Iraq well before 9-11, that reliable CIA evidence showed that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and was presented to the administration and the "facts were fixed" in order to legitimize the invasion.

"The estimate which said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was prepared to the terms of reference laid down by Dick Cheney in a speech on Aug. 26, 2002. It was the worst estimate of intelligence and came to the wrong conclusions, but it was designed to do that," McGovern said.

McGovern has been an outspoken commentator on intelligence-related issues since the late 1990s and since 2002 has been publicly critical of Bush's use of government intelligence in the lead-up to the war.

The recent report detailing Iran's stopping its nuclear weapons program four years ago, is an example of how the administration knows it can no longer hide such "incontrovertible evidence" from the American people in the fallout from the misinformation they received on the Iraq War, McGovern said. He added that he had almost given up on believing their were people still working at the top with a conscious and enough people at the top willing to let analysts do their job and accept independent analysis.

In late 2005, Congress requested an estimate on Iranian nuclear capabilities.
"My former colleagues got really good, incontrovertible evidence that the program, such as it was, has been ordered stopped since 2003. The evidence was such that not even Dick Cheney could deny it. That's why the report was not produced until three weeks ago," McGovern said, adding that the Bush administration has been putting "spin" on their rhetoric ever since.

McGovern also addressed the reasoning he believes is behind the threat of war with Iran. He said he believes Israel thinks they have a pledge from the White House to deal with Iran before Bush leaves office and relayed the story of the U.S.S. Liberty, which was attacked by the Israelis in 1967 and covered up by the United States. Thirty-four U.S soldiers were killed and about 170 were seriously injured.

"It seems to me, that on June, 8, 1967, Israel realized it could literally get away with murder," McGovern said.

McGovern said he also believes Congress will be of little help. Recently House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admitted to learning about torture and illegal eavesdropping in briefings, but said it was her understanding when briefed, that she will not share the information with anyone else, including other members of the House Intelligence Committee.

McGovern called Pelosi out on violating her oath to uphold the Constitution "against enemies, foreign or domestic" by allowing acts in violation of the Constitution to continue by not saying "diddly."

He added that although an impeachment bill currently in Congress is gaining more support, Democrats are shying away because of the influence of lobbies and political analysts telling them to "wait it out" until the election.

Charges in the impeachment bill sponsored by Dennis Kucinich, are very detailed and "as good as any," McGovern said, and referenced the illegal eavesdropping of American citizens. He added that the President has "admitted" to this "demonstrably impeachable offense."

"The argument for impeachment is overwhelming," Randy Kezar of Kingston said after the event. "Impeachment is constitutionally required."

McGovern's visit was co-sponsored by NH Codepink, Seacoast Peace Response, NH Peace Action, NH American Friends Service Committee, Seacoast 9-11 Questions Group, NH Veterans for Peace and Witness for Peace-N.E.

[Highlighting mine - Editor]
Bush has been a rogue madman in office, and the evidence keeps growing. Yet no leader in government - including the Democrats - has stood up to expose this criminal cabal. Anyone who fails to understand that America's government has failed America completely is either bought off by them, corrupt, or simply stupid.

The Democrats are almost as bad as the Republicans, doing anything to avoid conflict and get their personal graft. Then there is the media which seems seems to be more interested in the entertainment values of the war than in the deaths and financial cost. Oh, and the corruption of getting the government to allow it to consolidate. That's not for profit. It's for power. The media now elects our Presidents.

I wonder how many Romans realized that their Republic had died when it became the militarized Empire? Those of us alive in America today have seen a very similar destruction of the Constitutional government that created our Republic, and everyone seems to be moving on, fat, dumb and happy, whistling past the corpse of the the American Republic and the Constitution which was its core lying dead in the street at their feet.

Will anyone police up the corpse, or will it just be left to lie there and rot?

Bush admin wastes spends money to protect YOU!

The Bush administration is doing everything - spending anything - just to protect Americans from terrorists and the Taliban, right?

No, not really, what they are doing is shovelling money out the door and not looking at where it goes or what it does. Just hand the Pakistan military the money and they''ll go after the Taliban and the terrorists in Northwest Pakistan. No need to put controls on who gets the money and how it is used - the Pakistan military is reliable just like the American military, right? Hey, it worked in Iraq! All those pallets of cash bought - I wonder where that money actually went? Probably graft to contractors and administrators. But that's what Republicans do best, isn't it? Corruption and sharing the graft?

Apparently it never occurred to the Bush administrators that the Pakistan military was the key supporter and organizer for the Taliban in the first place. Instead of helping the Pakistan military to build up and go after the Taliban and the terrorists, the money is being diverted to graft, corruption, and building up the Pakistan military to combat the Indian army. From the New York Times:
After the United States has spent more than $5 billion in a largely failed effort to bolster the Pakistani military effort against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, some American officials now acknowledge that there were too few controls over the money. [Snip]

In interviews in Islamabad and Washington, Bush administration and military officials said they believed that much of the American money was not making its way to frontline Pakistani units. Money has been diverted to help finance weapons systems designed to counter India, not Al Qaeda or the Taliban, the officials said, adding that the United States has paid tens of millions of dollars in inflated Pakistani reimbursement claims for fuel, ammunition and other costs.

“I personally believe there is exaggeration and inflation,” said a senior American military official who has reviewed the program, referring to Pakistani requests for reimbursement. “Then, I point back to the United States and say we didn’t have to give them money this way.”

Pakistani officials say they are incensed at what they see as American ingratitude for Pakistani counterterrorism efforts that have left about 1,000 Pakistani soldiers and police officers dead. They deny that any overcharging has occurred.

The $5 billion was provided through a program known as Coalition Support Funds, which reimburses Pakistan for conducting military operations to fight terrorism. Under a separate program, Pakistan receives $300 million per year in traditional American military financing that pays for equipment and training.

Civilian opponents of President Pervez Musharraf say he used the reimbursements to prop up his government. One European diplomat in Islamabad said the United States should have been more cautious with its aid.

“I wonder if the Americans have not been taken for a ride,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. [Snip]

Early last week, six years after President Bush first began pouring billions of dollars into Pakistan’s military after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon completed a review that produced a classified plan to help the Pakistani military build an effective counterinsurgency force.

The plan, which now goes to the United States Embassy in Islamabad to carry out, seeks to focus American military aid toward specific equipment and training for Pakistani forces operating in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where Qaeda leaders and local militants hold sway.

For their part, Pakistani officials angrily accused the United States of refusing to sell Pakistan the advanced helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft, radios and night-vision equipment it needs.
What's the surprise? Where you find Republicans in government you find corruption and incompetence. Why should anyone be surprised to find more of it in shovelling money out to the Pakistani military? And what would you expect their partners in crime in Pakistan to tell the Press when called? "Oh, yeah. THAT money. No, No, it was spent properly and we resent the implications that there is gambling going on here -- no,wait. That was in the Movie Casablanca, wasn't it?"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Giuliani's lack of efforts to provide radios killed Firemen on 9/11

Let's not forget that the radios that the New York Fire Department was issued had failed in 1993. Rudy Giuliani was mayor during the period after that and was directly responsible for obtaining radios that worked. Here is the story from Think Progress.
the firefighters on 9/11 were forced to use old equipment that had malfunctioned eight years earlier, during the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center.

But it wasn’t “impossible” to get new radios to these firefighters, as Giuliani tried to claim. After the 1993 incident, Giuliani gave Motorola a $14-million no-bid contract. Despite this exorbitant sum, the radios were faulty and had to be taken out of service in March 2001, after a “distress call from a firefighter trapped in a burning house” went unheard. A New York City Council report on the fire department’s radio procurement process concluded:

Thus, despite its acknowledgment two years earlier that several manufacturers were developing technology that might meet FDNY’s CAI specifications, and in apparent disregard of its pledge to evaluate new technologies and products, the FDNY appears to have elected to accept a radio representing an entirely new communications technology from Motorola rather than conduct a competitive review of products and prices.
Brave New Films has put together a video on Giuliani’s record on the 9/11 radios HERE.
I posted on this earlier, and someone commented that the decisions were those of the Fire Department, not Rudy.

Sorry. Rudy was Mayor. He was responsible for everything his people did or failed to do. That is leadership 101. Rudy is running for President as a proven leader, and a leader can't take credit for his subordinates successes and then blame them for the failures.

Those roughly two hundred firemen who died in the North Tower because their radios failed were the direct responsibility of Rudolph Giuliani, and he can't duck the responsibility for their deaths. They died because he failed.

Did FDR's attempt to enlarge the Supreme Court end the New Deal?

Mark Graber kicked off an interesting discussion over at Balkinization. Here is the beginning:
Professor David Adamany in an essay written many years ago maintained that one consequence of the FDR's Court-packing plan of 1937 was that Roosevelt lost vital political capital that could have been spent on other liberal reforms. Most scholars agree that after the failed Court-packing plan and the failed purge of southern conservatives in 1938, the momentum for the Second New Deal was largely over, not to be revived until the 1960s.

Roosevelt’s experience may teach two related lessons about politics. The first is that politics cannot be about everything at once. Political movements must choose their issues. Abraham Lincoln urged his former Whig followers not to raise tariff issues in order to maintain a united front against the expansion of slavery. Ronald Reagan during his first term downplayed opposition to abortion in order to maintain a united front in favor budget cuts. Roosevelt, by choosing to emphasize judicial reform, diverted vital resources from previous fights for economic equality. The second is that politics makes strange bedfellows. To paraphrase Churchill on his alliance with Stalin, he would make a pact with the Devil to fight Hitler (I’ve forgotten the exact quote). Roosevelt’s coalition of racist southern populists and northern workers (who, as Paul Frymer points out, were not exactly racial egalitarians) accomplished much good. Roosevelt’s effort to forge a purer coalition stalled his program completely.

[Emphasis mine - editor.]
I was ready to buy this reasoning completely, until further down I read this comment by Bart DePalma:
Professor David Adamany in an essay written many years ago maintained that one consequence of the FDR's Court-packing plan of 1937 was that Roosevelt lost vital political capital that could have been spent on other liberal reforms. Most scholars agree that after the failed Court-packing plan and the failed purge of southern conservatives in 1938, the momentum for the Second New Deal was largely over, not to be revived until the 1960s.

Forget the "Second New Deal." The First New Deal would not have survived constitutional muster without expending that political capital bullying the Supreme Court. From FDR's perspective, if not arguably the country's, that was political capital well worth expending.

The New Deal was hardly a case of a job half done. FDR was one of the two most powerful Presidents in the 20th Century because he finished the job of convincing the country to embrace the concept of government run social insurance and entrenched the Dems as the majority party for a half century as the defender of that concept.
This part of Depalma's comment I agree with. He goes on to accuse the New Left of attempting the guarantee an equality of outcome, which I don't think is true. But that's neither here nor there.

The real question is whether FDR's effort to restructure the Supreme Court actually derailed the New Deal, or if it was merely an event that occurred at the same time the New Deal was winging down, or (as a third possibility) if it was a necessary effort to ensure that the New Deal could survive intact. [I suspect that the options are not mutually exclusive. All three could have been true at once.]

The key issue as I see it is that the Constitution set up a very conservative structure, one that demanded a true super majority to effect permanent change. Another comment by someone named Joe added:
Many constitutional historians have pointed out there was no one "switch in time that saved nine," but actually a steady development of constitutional law that increased the understanding of "public interest" in the early 1900s up to the 1930s. This reflected a growing understanding, by a super majority, of what the Constitution meant. One that involved a "living Constitution"...
which I found to be an interesting insight.

It seems to me that what America has is a Constitution that requires a long-term super majority before any permanent structural change can be made. Until such a permanent change is locked in by a change to the Constitution, we have a system that permits flexibility, currently described by the term "a living Constitution". The "living Constitution" allows some things to be tried out, but if they don't gain a super majority of acceptance they are not locked in permanently. An example was the income tax - first imposed during the Civil War, then later declared unconstitutional. But it gained sufficient acceptance (apparently a super majority) so that the 16th amendment was passed to permit it in spite of Supreme Court objection. The income tax thus became locked in permanently to the basic law of the land.

That seems to me to be an interesting combination of a rigid base law (the Constitution) with flexibility provided within the boundaries set by the Constitution by both Stare Decisis from the Common Law and the concept of the "living Constitution". Both the rigidity of the base Constitution and the flexibility to experiment provided by the concept of the "living Constitution" will have strong opponents.

I don't think that the efforts by the religious right (and currently Presidential candidate for the Republican nomination Huckabee) to impose a theocracy on the U.S. can make it through this system. Thank god. But those of us in Texas and Oklahoma will suffer from the theocrats for quite a while anyway.