Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A few first impressions...

A few first impressions from Bush's state of the union speech.

“By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.” 1
That's what Al Gore was saying ten years ago! So, dig this: it's popular among rightwingers these days to claim that they are the true progressives, that liberals are stagnant while they have innovative ideas. And what are their ideas? To steal ideas from Al Gore, from back in the nineties? Oh, please. And you know what else? It's a great idea, but when we originated it years ago, and presented it at that time, the right condemned it. Now they claim it as their own. You see that pattern a alot from them.

“It is said that prior to the attacks of September 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy,” Bush said. “We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al-Qaida operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late.” 1
Bullshit. What we know now is that the Bush administration had ample warning about 9/11 and they deliberately chose to ignore those warnings. That deliberate choice was more than simple neglect. It was complicity. It was treason.

And finally, They invited Cindy Sheehan, then arrested her for wearing a shirt that had an anti-war slogan on it. This is evidence (again) that the Bush administration is comprised of either cowardly hypocrites.

First of all, conservatives are afraid of free speech. Oh, sure, they talk about free speech as if they are in favor of it, but the truth is that one of the cornerstones of conservatism is the suppression of any ideas that deviate from the establishment's party line. Conservatism is the preservation of the status quo. For Cindy Sheehan, or anyone, to be so brazen as to wear a T-shirt with an anti-war slogan on it is a thought crime. Attention, conservatives: while you contorted yourselves glee at your party's constant repetition of the word "freedom", you elected a government that arrests citizens based on words printed on their T-shirts. Do you people just love being lied to, or what? Listen, just because you enjoy it, you twisted masochists, doesn't mean the rest of us have to.

Besides, Cindy Sheehan was invited to the state of the union speech? How obvious is it that this was a set up? C'mon! We know there is no love lost between her and the Bush regime. We also know that the Bush regime pulls PR stunts to boost approval ratings. Isn't it obvious that they invited her knowing she would do something that they could pounce on, then waited for it to happen so that their base could cheer, their lapdog media could be distracted, and Sheehan could be stifled for a while.

I swear, this president and his associates are a proctologist's dream.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Dems Better Start Showing Results

I mean, come on... the republicans are the party of crooks and liars, corruption and contempt for our constitution. How hard can it be to make an issue of that? We bloggers do it, every day! But the rightwing-lapdog media ignore that and turn a blind eye to it. And the democrats are proving themselves to be little more than lapdogs of the right themselves, enablers of those who are drunk with power. Well, there's an editorial on Buzzflash (the news source), describing how the dems better shape up or they can piss off. Progressives are tired of waiting for them to become the progressive alternative to the republican corporate oligarchy. Either the democrats catch up, or they are history, and a new alternative party will emerge.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Afghani - what?

Meanwhile back in Afghanistan - a great piece on America's massive screwing-up of Afghanistan. Of course, we're just the lastest in a long line of empires that have screwed up Afghanistan. But that doesn't make it alright.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

In Living Color

The recent article Poverty now comes with a color TV describes data that has been referenced before in right-wing blogs that I have visited. One of them used to go on about how there are no poor people in America because data like this shows they all live a life of wealth and convenience:
"In terms of the items people have ... it amazes me the number of people who are at or near the poverty line that have color TVs, cable, washer, dryer, microwave," says Michael Cosgrove, an economist at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas. That's not to ignore the hardships of poverty, he adds, "but the conveniences they have are in fact pretty good."
But, are they really? Mr. Cosgrove examines data that presents averages and statistics, but does that data present a realistic picture of daily life for everyone below the poverty level?

I don't think it does. The first clue is the phrase "color TV". Color TV!? What is this, 2006 or 1966? Look, anyone who has a television in 2006 (or for the last ten years, really), is likely to have a color one simply because that is pretty much the only kind that has been manufactured (with very few exceptions) for many years now. It's harder to find a black & white TV than it is to find a color one. And, for those of you who are not in the know, low-income people don't buy their appliances new at Sears or Best Buy or wherever, they buy 'em in thrift stores or pawn shops or at yard sales, or receive them as hand-me-downs. So, the scenario implied in the article that poor people are going out and dropping a couple of c-notes on a new television is bullshit. Sure, they have a "color TV"... they skipped lunch for a few weeks and picked it up at Goodwill for forty bucks. The same holds true for microwaves, which can be picked up in thrift stores for a pittance these days, as can many kitchen appliances like coffee makers or electric can openers.

Cable? In the mountainous rural area where I grew up, you could not pull in a TV signal with an antennae. You had to have cable to get the five channels that were available in those days (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and one local station from the capitol city 250 miles away - there was not yet any such thing as MTV, HBO or any of that). So, I happen to know that rural poor families might have cable simply because it is the only way to get television at all. Now, you may consider TV a luxury, but it is important to clarify that "cable TV" does not mean the same thing in every area of the country.

And how about the washer-dryer thing? This is where the passage quoted can be misleading: it doesn't say that poor people own a washer/dryer, it just says they have them. Now, unless someone can show me data to prove otherwise, I believe that most poor people are renters, and most of them live in apartments. Most apartment complexes have coin-op laundry facilities. So, most poor would have access to washers & dryers, even though they do not own them, or a home to put them in. For all we know, the data cited in the article may have included access to a local laundromat as evidence that a poor family, or even a homeless person, had a washer & dryer.

The apartment-life factor also renders the "air conditioning" thing moot. Quite frankly, in all the places I have lived it is quite difficult to find an apartment that does not have air conditioning, or at least a swamp cooler. Maybe things are different in different parts of the country, but I'll bet that where air conditioning is desirable, it is common in apartments, and low-income renter have no control over that. Hell, they might never even turn on the AC to keep their electric bill down, anyway.

Cars? Owning a car isn't always an indicator of convenience. Does it run? Is it registered? Is it reliable? Is it safe? Is it transportation, or is it your home?

My point is, having some stuff does not mean you aren't poor, and the things mentioned in the article are misleading. There are other things which could drive the point home a lot more credibly, in my opinion. For example, if you have enough money to support a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit, you aren't poor. If you support a cig habit and a six-pack of beer every day, you're not poor. If you blow your money on gas for a dumbass SUV when your kid needs a winter coat, you're not only not poor, you're an asshole. If you're a researcher who judges poverty level lifestyles based on an average number of "color TV's" owned by a sample of low-income households, then you have an unrealistic, inaccurate point of view.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

More From The Osama Chronicles

Okay, just a quick one before I head out the door. I don't even need links for this one because it is all out there and it has all been linked before. It's like this:

Osama Bin Laden is back in the news with a new videotape message. The US government and its lapdog right-wing media responds with the usual, as if it considers Bin Laden to be a problem or something.

How could it? This is the same government presided over by a flip-flopper-in-chief who said he did not care about Bin Laden anymore. Didn't know, didn't care.

The same government who could have used its superpower resources to pursue and capture Bin Laden, but instead chose to let him go free so it could use its "political capitol" to pursue other adventures that held promise of wealth and power for them.

The same government that pulls Bin Laden and/or 9/11 out of a hat every time their popularity dips low. It's been a while since we've seen him, but now that impeachment is becoming a real possibility, it has become necessary to recall Bin Laden from his life of leisure at the ranch in Crawford and dangle him like a scarecrow before the cowering masses. The politics of fear. Also called terrorism. A specialty of the Bush-Cheney regime.

If Osama Bin Laden is a threat, it is because the Bush Administration has refused to pursue and capture him. They want him to remain at large so that they can exploit his name whenever they need to, and use him as a tool to generate fear and support among their followers. He is Bush government's accomplice, and they are his protectors, and they do not give a shit about you or me or anyone's safety but their own. They are vile, treasonous bastards who deliberately jeopardize this nation for their own gain.

Whoever supports George Bush need not worry about Osama Bin Laden. They're all partners in terrorism.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Congress Begins Standup Comedy Tour

Republicans move for lobbying reforms
"...Republicans moved to seize the initiative for ethics reform..."

Democrats counter GOP on lobbying ethics
Okay, better late than never, I suppose. Just remember the old saying about glass houses...!

Here Goes...

Okay, everyone, I am going to try turning off the word-verification in comments because it is a pain in the ass. Maybe that old spam-comment thing has passed. We'll see. Hope this works...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Maryland forces Wal-Mart to spend more on employee health benefits

How can I let a story like this go by without comment? It's a fascinating turn of events, and the implications are interesting no matter what side of the political spectrum you're on.

For example, those of us who believe in a free market might be understandably concerned about government dictating terms to a private enterprise about how much health benefits to provide their employees.

On the other hand, those of us who believe in a free market know that Wal-Mart, which sucks mightily at the taxpayers' teat, is not really a free market enterprise at all: it is subsidized by the taxpayers and reaps huge profits at their expense, forcing the those of us who pay taxes to pay the balance on their so-called "always low prices" with our tax dollars.

As far as I am concerned, if Wal-Mart can't stay afloat without relying on taxpayers' money, then it is a recipient of corporate welfare in the worst way and should be required to reimburse the taxpayers with some of those $10 billion record profits they are so proud of. But since we know that will never happen, the least they could do is tale steps to ensure that their employees do not have to rely on public assistance (yes, the store even encourages them to do so).

So, to all those to condemn government meddling in Wal-Mart's affairs, and who also condemn what they describe as lazy deadbeat welfare recipients who are encouraged not to become self-sufficient by living off the taxpayers, it is time to put your money where your mouth is. It's time for Wal-Mart to stand or fall without being propped up by public assistance.

p.s. - more states are pickin' up on this, too...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Support the Troops !?

Why Won't President Bush Armor Our Soldiers?
A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.
Because lives are expendable to the neocons. Don't believe their rhetoric. Don't be seduced by their propaganda. They couldn't care less about the troops. To the neocons, the troops are simply tools, to be used and discarded. And people think our government supports the troops? Please.

UPDATE: Yeah, right. As usual, they suddenly see the light as soon as they're caught. This would never have happened if the first story, above, had not been publicized. That's why I keep calling them hypocrites. And it's also why we some media outlets, somewhere, who are willing to question authority.

Bush Has Gone Two Years Without Majority Support on Iraq

Milestone: Bush Has Gone Two Years Without Majority Support on Iraq. A majority of Americans oppose this president and his immoral, unjustified conquest of the middle east. He should be removed from office immediately.

Saturday, January 7, 2006

The Role of Water in the Iraq War

I found his piece that describes the role of water in the Iraq war to be very enlightening. I know it seems like common knowledge, but it is rarely addressed and I'll bet it is rarely even thought about. But, how much carnage has taken place so that we can control the water supply in the desert?
"Consider for a moment why we have not heard the mainstream media or the President mention the role of water in the Iraq war. The Middle East is home to five percent of the world's population and only one percent of the world's renewable water supply... [the] population, comparable to the population of the United States, is on track to double in just a few decades... Iraq is a critical strategic location for both al Qaeda and the United States not just because of Iraq's oil, but because Iraq has the most extensive fresh water system in the Middle East... Understanding the role of water in the Middle East explains why there is no exit strategy from Iraq and why many Middle East experts predict the United States will be in Iraq for decades. Even Donald Rumsfeld, with a track record of being overly optimistic about the cost and duration of the Iraq war, is now setting expectations that the war will continue until 2017... Pieces to the puzzle, like the locations of the 14 "enduring" or permanent military bases and likely duration of the American occupation, can suddenly become crystal clear when you consider the locations of the Euphrates, Tigris, Greater Zab and Lesser Zab rivers. One only need look at the Nasiriyah "enduring base" on the Euphrates in South-East Iraq to understand the strategic value of water. The truth is that in addition to oil, water is a real reason for the invasion of Iraq... Don't be fooled by the occasional messages that our troops will leaving in a few years. The Pentagon is planning on occupying Iraq for decades. The Pentagon's long-range strategic plan is likely to require an American occupation far beyond Donald Rumsfeld's optimistic 2017 forecast.

Friday, January 6, 2006

(Updated): The Republican Crime Party

The Republican Crime Party
"It is not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the Left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently." - Jack A. Abramoff

And how did they proceed with that plan? Why, by clinging to their tried-and-true gameplan of graft, corruption, and a complete lack of ethics. Sticking with what has worked for them in the past, conserving those old-fashioned tricks they used before.

It seems to follow the same pattern. Start out on top, and end up with a scandal. Take Nixon. His scandal became the one by which all others are judged since. Since Watergate, everything is "__gate." Humorously, even the republicans apply the "-gate" suffix to democrats' scandals, whether real or imagined, only serving to remind their audience where "-gate" came from.

Then there was Reagan. Again, started out on top, thanks to his willingness to endow the nation's sworn enemies with weapons. By the time his presidency ended, you couldn't swing a cat without hitting an indicted republican.

Then came Bush Sr. Besides pardoning the criminals from the Reagan presidency, he ushered in the era of Bush scandals. The S&L scandals. The gay child-sex scandal (to be fair, that one was a Reagan-Bush scandal). And so on.

Now, we live in the era of Bush Jr. The most corrupt administration ever, built on lies and hypocrisy. One that seems to revel in its repeated insults to America. Republican all the way.

And you know what? I hear that all the corruption-cash in the Abramoff scandal went to republicans. All of it. Not a dime to democrats. Hmm. I guess God's chosen, morally superior party of family values, is just repeating history again. Now that's conservative!

Update: First, go here. Scroll down to "Individual Search". Type in "Abramoff, Jack". Voila! All republicans!

Monday, January 2, 2006

We Told 'Em So, Didn't We?

The beginning of the end of the Bush administration

"Last year at this time, the Republicans felt triumphant. They were now firmly in control of everything. They thought they had a mandate.

However, they forgot their natural inclination to overreach. They soon discovered how few people actually supported the most extreme parts of their agenda. When the truth started to seep out, everything imploded.

Despite the narrowest win for an incumbent president since Woodrow Wilson's victory in 1916, President Bush spoke of all the "political capital" he had earned and his intention to spend it. We heard grand talk about the creation of an "ownership society" and how the cornerstone of it would be the privatization of Social Security.

But the GOP underestimated the widespread support for Social Security, arguably the best run and most successful government program in history. The scaremongering by the Bush administration that Social Security was approaching bankruptcy was seen as being as trustworthy as the myriad of lies used to justify the invasion of Iraq."

The Republican crack-up

"Shortly after his reelection, George Bush bragged that he had bags full of political capital for his second term. But Bush both miscounted the political coins in his pocket and blew his wad on some bad gambles, such as the war in Iraq and Social Security privatization. Then he lost more with the bad luck, largely of his own making, of a botched response on Hurricane Katrina.

By late November [FC], he was less popular than Clinton, Reagan or Eisenhower was at any point in their second terms, with his approval ratings down in the mid-30 percents. On the two leading issues for voters--the war in Iraq and the economy--his ratings were even worse.

And despite hard-core loyalty from the Republican base, there are signs of disaffection from both moderates and the party's far right, including anti-government budget-cutters and anti-immigrant militants. Cracks have even emerged in the previously impregnable Republican Congressional political machine over both scandals and strategy. "The hopeful sign is that on all kinds of fronts where Republicans hoped to be united and victorious, they're now defensive and disunited," says Roger Hickey, co-director of the progressive advocacy group Campaign for America's Future (CAF)."

Saddam Hussein: Made in America [Updated!]

When pressed to justify the illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Repukes, and some Democrat bootlicking enablers who love them, always include in their arsenal of responses this little chestnut: "Don't you think the world is better off without Saddam Hussein?" This is known among practiced debate practicioners as Stupid F__king Backward logic. Because, you know, these are the same people who nurtured and developed Saddam Hussein; who made in the US's man in the middle east and armed him with the weapons we would later condemn him for having; who practically invited him to invade Kuwait a decade-and-a-half ago.

Now, if someone will please get the lights, and turn the speakers on, our presentation will begin: MADE IN AMERICA

Update: Sizeable Minorities Still Believe Saddam Hussein Had Strong Links to Al Qaeda, Helped Plan 9/11 and Had Weapons of Mass Destruction

Neocon FAQ

In my blog, you'll find frequent mention of the Neocons - a popular term for adherents of the neoconservative ideology. I find that many commenters who support current Republican party policy, also deny the existence of neoconservatism. They dismiss it as non-existent in a hear-no-evil, fingers-in-the-ears-singing-la-la-la sort of way, and quite frankly, their steadfast refusal to listen to an explanation of neoconservative ideology makes it pretty much futile to discuss it with them.

However, for those who do wonder what the hell we are talking about when we go on about the neocons, here is a Neoconservative FAQ that offers some more tidbits of information. Bon appetite!

Sunday, January 1, 2006

It Wasn't All Bad 8^)

Was the glass half-full or half empty? Here's a look back at some positives in a year that saw the Republican party go from a moral compass (in their own minds, anyway) to a barometer that says a big storm is brewin'...
It Wasn't All Bad
by Katha Pollitt
[from the January 9, 2006 issue]

All year long it's been one piece of bad news after another, but now it's time to put on the rose-colored glasses and list some of the good things that happened in 2005. I had to e-mail about fifty people to come up with these items, but that's OK. Keeping you cheerful is part of my job. I mean, the war could be wrong, but the Iraqi elections could still be good. So fill that glass half full with whatever and...and...well, just drink it.

1. The Bush Administration is on the defensive. The President's poll numbers rival Nixon's at his nadir, most voters say they don't believe him on Iraq, he's had to admit that the prewar intelligence was wrong, Plamegate stalks the White House. Social Security reform is off the table. Hurricane Katrina proved the grown-ups were definitely not in charge--"You're doing a heckuva job" enters the lexicon as Bushese for "You have screwed up totally but I don't care."

2. The Republican Party is mired in corruption and cronyism. DeLay's on trial, Randy Cunningham's going to jail, Frist's AIDS charity ladled nearly half a million to his friends, Jack Abramoff seems to have the whole party on his payroll. The Supreme Court is looking into that mid-Census redistricting in Texas that gave them five new seats in 2004. David Brooks openly wonders why working-class people should vote for the GOP. Good question!

3. The media are waking up. In The New Yorker, Jane Mayer revealed the shocking role of doctors and psychologists in torturous goings-on at Guantánamo and the CIA's role in the killing of a detainee at Abu Ghraib. In the Washington Post Dana Priest exposed the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. The LA Times's Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi reported that the Pentagon paid the Iraqi press to publish pro-US stories. The New York Times finally got rid of Judith Miller and just this December revealed that Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens without a warrant. Too bad the Times didn't break the story when they got it, before the 2004 election.

4. The Christian Taliban is going too far. Terri Schiavo, pharmacists denying women birth control and emergency contraception, creationism in the public schools--oh, excuse me, "intelligent design," just bounced from the Dover, Pennsylvania, school system by federal court Judge John Jones III as, well, creationism. When your claim to be victims of secularism rests on Wal-Mart greeters wishing shoppers Happy Holidays, you are clearly a bunch of great big babies.

5. Civil liberties are making a comeback. ACLU membership is at an all-time high of more than a half-million. The Senate failed to reauthorize the Patriot Act, at least for now. The House banned "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of detainees (but it also voted to deprive them of habeas corpus).

6. The world is becoming more gay-friendly. Really! Gay marriage was legalized in Spain, South Africa and Canada (it's already legal in Belgium and the Netherlands), and Britain and Connecticut now permit civil unions, joining Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Iceland, Luxembourg and Sweden. Capote and Brokeback Mountain, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger as lovelorn gay cowboys, are huge successes. Basketball star Sheryl Swoopes came out and kept her Nike contract. Gay studies classes have started up in China.

7. The left is alive in Latin America. Evo Morales has just been elected president of Bolivia on a platform of Indian and poor people's rights, opposition to US-backed privatization schemes and support for coca farming (well, it's their country). Socialist candidate Michelle Bachelet--pediatric surgeon, single mother, agnostic, feminist, former political prisoner--is the frontrunner in Chile's presidential runoff. Just to show he doesn't hold it against Americans that Bush tried to overthrow him and Pat Robertson wanted to kill him, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez is sending cheap home heating oil to the poor in Massachusetts and the Bronx.

8. DNA evidence exonerated twelve death-row inmates (that makes 168 so far). Little by little, support for the death penalty is declining.

9. Heroes and whistleblowers spoke truth to power. Cindy Sheehan put a family face on the antiwar movement. Dr. Susan Wood quit the FDA over its anti-scientific refusal to sell emergency contraception over the counter. Bunnatine Greenhouse blew the whistle on Halliburton's no-bid Army contracts in Iraq.

10. Third World women are on the move. War-weary Liberian women elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Africa's first female president. Malalai Joya, the fiery young feminist who excoriated the warlords at the 2003 loya jirga, won a seat in Afghanistan's Parliament. In Pakistan three sisters refused to be forcibly married to settle a dispute with another family; their father supported them.

11. Harvard president Larry Summers said women might not have the genes for science and caused such an outcry he's been atoning ever since with tenure offers, study commissions, millions in recruitment funds. Advertising biggie Neil French said women didn't have the moxie to be creative directors and lost his job. That leaves opinion journalism as the single remaining field in which conventional wisdom says women just can't cut the mustard--and women believe it.

12. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot initiatives went down in flames, along with a parental-notification abortion referendum he supported. With his failure to commute the death sentence of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, they don't even like him in Austria anymore.

13. The Women's Review of Books is starting up again, with work by Dorothy Allison, Linda Gordon, Alicia Ostriker and other wonderful writers--this time, subscribe! And while you're at it, treat yourself to a copy of The Solitude of Self, Vivian Gornick's deep and moving meditation on Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which reveals Stanton as a heroine for our times.

14. Hardly anyone believes that global warming isn't happening. The bad news: It's happening. But we'll talk about that next year.