Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Friday, March 31, 2006
Blow Off
I think this tidbit from Juan Cole pretty much summarizes our future in Iraq. Remember, Sistani is the most popular and most powerful official in Iraq:
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has blown off the president of the United States. Bush sent Sistani a letter asking him to intervene to help end the gridlock in the formation of a new Iraqi government. Asked about his response, an aide said that Sistani had not opened the letter and had put it aside in his office.
Bad Taste = CW UPDATED
I'm shocked, but I really shouldn't be.

I keep running across posts outlining how the right-wing media are lambasting Jill Carroll. The whole "shock jock" mentality of blogging and the media has gotten so out of hand, I'm sick of it. It seems that rather than have talent, or skill, all you have to do is be outrageous to gain fame and fortune.

Jill Carroll has been through untold horrors. Who knows what she really thinks at this point? And no matter what she says, doesn't she deserve some respect, even by critics? Can't they keep their mouths shut, at least for a few days until the dust settles and she gets a chance to get away from Iraq?

Of course, ultimately we're to blame. Those who read and watch these outlets do nothing but encourage it. I wonder how just how crass we have to become before the pendulum swings?

Update: I see Digby agrees with me. Badda boom, badda bing!
Corporate Profits
Did you get a 21% raise last year? (emphasis mine)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. corporate profits have increased 21.3% in the past year and now account for the largest share of national income in 40 years, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
Strong productivity gains and subdued wage growth boosted before-tax profits to 11.6% of national income in the fourth quarter of 2005, the biggest share since the summer of 1966.
For all of 2005, before-tax profits totaled $1.35 trillion, up from $1.16 trillion in 2004 and just $767 billion in 2001.
Meanwhile, the share of national income going to wage and salary workers has fallen to 56.9%. Except for a brief period in 1997, that's the lowest share for labor income since 1966.
I Love Rainbows

They can't.

They simply can't eliminate those really pretty colors. The country will go into shock! How will we know when to react to a threat?

I ... I ... won't know when to go buy duct tape!

A bipartisan push on Capitol Hill to strip the hue from the government's color-coded terrorist alert system is gaining momentum.

A package of legislation moving through the House eliminates the Department of Homeland Security's use of colors to change the threat level, and calls for more specific threat information to be shared with the private sector and local governments.

"The color code doesn't provide any information to people, what it does is foster a climate of anxiety without giving useful information to people," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, who worked with Rep. Rob Simmons, Connecticut Republican, on the legislation.

"It's not a proper way to give a nationwide response to actual threats."
On Top Of It
Zbigniew Brzezinski has a plan for a withdrawal from Iraq. I've avoided writing much about Brzezinski, mostly because I hate to spell his name. But never-the-less, the guy has been right-on throughout the entire Iraqi adventure:
The plan would allow Washington to disengage gradually in Iraq, ”without victory, but also without defeat,” said Brzezinski, who worked for US President Jimmy Carter.

The first step would involve “Washington suggesting to the Iraqi authorities that they publicly ask the United States to pull out of Iraq,” he said.

Next, a date would be set for US troops to be pulled out, following which the Iraqi government should invite its neighbours to a “regional conference of Muslim countries” aimed at stabilising the situation in Iraq, Brzezinski said.

Lastly, the United States should call an international conference to discuss funding for the reconstruction of Iraq.
It's a plan that offers the opportunity to "disengage" before a full defeat. A sensible plan. A well-thought out plan that acknowledges the regions role in peace. A plan, because of it's pure genius, that will be DOA on Bush's desk.

Of course the neocons would never accept such a plan because it would leave a mess in Iraq. But a mess in Iraq is a foregone conclusion, no matter how much longer we stay, how many U.S. soldiers die, or how much money is sunk into the black hole of Iraq. But the delusional Bush administration is incapable of seeing the truth.

There's really nothing new in this plan. But why oh why don't the Democrats just come out and state a plan like this, instead of the mealy mouth security position currently being taken?
Plame Opus
That's how The Booman Tribune describes the latest article by Murray Waas.

To be honest, I haven't read it yet but I will shortly. It apparently describes in some detail the events around the Plame affair, specifically how Plame was just a small part of an overarching program to protect Bush from charges of trumping up WMD claims in the lead up to the war. It's longish, but apparently a must read.

And how has our intrepid news media reacted? I'll let Dan Froomkin say it for me:
But in the traditional media, the reaction has been utter and complete silence -- both after Waas's well-documented March 2 story, and again today. There's not one word about it in a single major outlet this morning.

And that's just not acceptable. Waas's fellow reporters at major news operations should either acknowledge and try to follow up his stories -- or debunk them. It's not okay to just leave them hanging out there. They're too important.
This Should Fire Up The Troops
A Matter of Faith: The NYT fronts and the WP and LAT go inside with a study finding that prayer doesn't materially affect the rate of healing in sick people. In fact, those people who were told they were being prayed for actually got worse. Next on the agenda: examining the truth behind the contention that the family that prays together stays together.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Deck Chair Moving
Looks like the rumors continue to fly about the rearrangment of the deck chairs on the Titanic. Mind you, I'm not holding my breath. But if the polls look bad enough, anything is possible. Nelson's a pretty reliable source.

We shall see!
Don't Look Now ....
...But Afghanistan is heating up. And I'm not talking about spring.
The U.S. military plans to detonate a 700 ton explosive charge in a test called “Divine Strake” that will send a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas, a senior defense official said March 30.

”I don’t want to sound glib here but it is the first time in Nevada that you’ll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons,” said James Tegnelia, head of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Tegnelia said the test was part of a U.S. effort to develop weapons capable of destroying deeply-buried bunkers housing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
But remember, this is not a nuculur weapon or a weapon of mass destruction. It's only, you know, a conventional bomb that's really really big.

Hope the Las Vegas casinos warn those sitting on stools before the blast.
Take A Moment
Via Eric Alterman:
This animated map of coalition military fatalities during the Iraq war unfolds at ten frames per second. Each frame represents one day of the war. One dot marks each casualty site. A death begins as a white flash, then grows to a larger red dot, which turns black after 30 frames (days), fading at last to permanent grey.

Created by Tim Klimowicz
Wow. I wonder what it would look like if it included Iraqi casualties?

Walter Shapiro has a piece in Salon today about Joementum's primary challenge from Ned Lamont. Most of the piece is an up-close look at both candidates, but early in the article Shapiro puzzles at why Lieberman is so disliked by liberal Democrats:
As a punching bag for left-wing activists, Lieberman somehow ranks up there with Tom DeLay and Dick Cheney. Yet according to the National Journal's 2005 Senate vote rankings, Lieberman's centrist record is on par with that of West Virginia's Robert Byrd, the octogenarian war critic lionized by the blogosphere.

Other Democrats are forgiven their ideological transgressions, but never Lieberman. In Pennsylvania, Senate challenger Bob Casey has overwhelming party support even though he is antiabortion and supported Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court. (Lieberman, in contrast, is pro-choice and voted against Alito.) It is almost forgotten that California Sen. Dianne Feinstein supported all of Bush's deficit-creating 2001 tax cuts. (Lieberman voted against them.) And Hillary Clinton, the winter-book favorite for the 2008 nomination, has not exactly been marching in antiwar demonstrations.
Who said Casey, Clinton and Feinstein were off the hook? And when Byrd voted for the bankruptcy bill, I seem to recall that he received quite a bit of netroots feedback.

But I will admit that there's a special sort of animus towards Joementum. Maybe it's because of statements like this:
When I asked the Connecticut senator why he has become such a lightning rod, Lieberman said, "It is something that speaks to this moment in our politics, which is very partisan and very much are you with us 100 percent or are you not with us? And there's a lot of -- I can't think of a softer word than hatred. In the Democratic Party there are a lot of people who have the same kind of hatred -- which I find is self-defeating and almost certainly wrong -- towards Bush that a lot of Republicans had toward Clinton."
The guy repeatedly demonstrates that he just doesn't get it.

The kind of hatred towards Clinton was materially different than the disgust of the left with Bush. The dislike for Clinton was purely personal and had nothing to do with policy, at least overtly. Yes, many on the left take lots of potshots at personal characteristics of Bush. But the dislike of Bush is policy driven. The guy is in the process of dismantling the Constitution, responsible for torture, wants to suspend habeaus corpus, is destroying the long term prospects of the U.S. economy, has set back peace in the middle east for a generation, is responsible for the deaths of literally hundreds of thousands of people, and on and on and on. How in the world can any sane person even compare that to Clinton's misdeeds?

But ole' Joe just sees it all as business as usual. To Lieberman, the Republican administration of George Bush has just been a typical swing in politics that deserves no distinction from any other administration. In other words, it's just politics as usual. As he continually displays that attitude in everything he does and in all public appearance (many, many public/media appearances vs. Casey/Feinstein/Byrd and even Hillary Clinton), he is the poster child and lightening rod for everything that is wrong in the Democratic establishment. And he's delusional. He's the guy who sat with military people in Iraq saying that the war was going swimmingly, as mortars are going off in the background.

Ned Lamont is putting forth a significant, no-lose challenge to Lieberman. Even if Lamont loses, perhaps a message can be sent to Lieberman and other Democrats that the rank and file are fed up with "bidness as usual". The conservatives have put forth a whole other type of politics that is based a theocratic, dishonest aggression. Left unchecked, we end up with a dictatorship.

BTW, while I'm on the subject and if you can, send a little love Lamont's way.
Eye In The Sky
That Eye in the sky is Big Brother.

Unmanned aerial vehicles have soared the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq for years, spotting enemy encampments, protecting military bases, and even launching missile attacks against suspected terrorists.

Now UAVs may be landing in the United States. A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday heard testimony from police agencies that envision using UAVs for everything from border security to domestic surveillance high above American cities. Private companies also hope to use UAVs for tasks such as aerial photography and pipeline monitoring.
In a scene that could have been inspired by the movie "Minority Report," one North Carolina county is using a UAV equipped with low-light and infrared cameras to keep watch on its citizens. The aircraft has been dispatched to monitor gatherings of motorcycle riders at the Gaston County fairgrounds from just a few hundred feet in the air--close enough to identify faces--and many more uses, such as the aerial detection of marijuana fields, are planned.

We already know the government spies on anti-war groups. What a great tool this will be to keep tabs on those who disagree with the current regime.
We Are Bankrupt.
When are we going to wake up and acknowledge that fact?
Amazing. Although Clinton brought the numbers down, we still haven't had a zero debt balance since... uh, when? Jackson in the 1800s?
Some interesting info here:
By the beginning of 1981, the national debt had fallen to 32.5% of GDP. Then, Reagan took office and the national debt took off. It rose non-stop for 12 years to 66.3% at the end of Bush's term, erasing 25 years of progress in paying down the national debt.

There is also a great graph of debt per president here. (Blogger won't upload the graphic for some reason.) Although I don't have a degree in Economics, I can see that the Republicans have done the most damage by far.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Riverbend Watches TV
Riverbend is an Iraqi citizen who has been blogging from Baghdad for years. She notices something unusual on a television broadcast:
E. was sitting at the other end of the living room, taking apart a radio he later wouldn’t be able to put back together. I called him over with the words, “Come here and read this- I’m sure I misunderstood…” He stood in front of the television and watched the words about corpses and Americans and puppets scroll by and when the news item I was watching for appeared, I jumped up and pointed. E. and I read it in silence and E. looked as confused as I was feeling.

The line said:

وزارة الدفاع تدعو المواطنين الى عدم الانصياع لاوامر دوريات الجيش والشرطة

الليلية اذا لم تكن برفقة قوات التحالف العاملة في تلك المنط

The translation:

“The Ministry of Defense requests that civilians do not comply with the orders of the army or police on nightly patrols unless they are accompanied by coalition forces working in that area.”

That’s how messed up the country is at this point.

We switched to another channel, the “Baghdad” channel (allied with Muhsin Abdul Hameed and his group) and they had the same news item, but instead of the general “coalition forces” they had “American coalition forces”. We checked two other channels. Iraqiya (pro-Da’awa) didn’t mention it and Forat (pro-SCIRI) also didn’t have it on their news ticker.

We discussed it today as it was repeated on another channel.

“So what does it mean?” My cousin’s wife asked as we sat gathered at lunch.

“It means if they come at night and want to raid the house, we don’t have to let them in.” I answered.

“They’re not exactly asking your permission,” E. pointed out. “They break the door down and take people away- or have you forgotten?”

“Well according to the Ministry of Defense, we can shoot at them, right? It’s trespassing-they can be considered burglars or abductors…” I replied.

The cousin shook his head, “If your family is inside the house- you’re not going to shoot at them. They come in groups, remember? They come armed and in large groups- shooting at them or resisting them would endanger people inside of the house.”

“Besides that, when they first attack, how can you be sure they DON’T have Americans with them?” E. asked.

We sat drinking tea, mulling over the possibilities. It confirmed what has been obvious to Iraqis since the beginning- the Iraqi security forces are actually militias allied to religious and political parties.
Ahhhh. Daily life in Iraq. The police and military are so inundated with militia that no one can trust anyone.

Does anyone really think this is going to resolve itself in a year or two? If you get a chance, go read the entire post for a slice of life in Baghdad these days.
Next Stop on the Bush World Tour:
Saudia Arabia?

BERLIN (AFX) - Saudi Arabia is working secretly on a nuclear program, with help from Pakistani experts, the German magazine Cicero reported in its latest edition, citing Western security sources.

The excuses for not hammering SA for a nuclear program while decrying Iran's program are going to be good. Get your popcorn now. Oh, and Pakistan's mission seems to be to spread nuclear know-how around the whole world!
Fake Photos
The internet has made it a lot harder to fool all of the people all of the time, especially when you have bloggers who have nothing better to do all day than seek the truth!
Undercover at the "War on Christians" conference. Two interns report on the meetings. Interesting read.

Kinda quiet today, not a lot new going on. You know, a typical day of Americans and Iraqi's dying, Bush lying, the media sleeping, GOP cheating, Dems being spineless.... you know, a normal day these days.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
He Thinks He's Funny
Our asshole President really thinks he's pretty funny.

In honor of Andy Card leaving, here's a blast from the past:
"Go get me Andy Card," Bush said to one of the Secret Service agents. Card, the designee as chief of staff, entered from an adjoining room . . . Bush looked impatiently at Card, hard-eyed. "You're the chief of staff. You think you're up to getting us some cheeseburgers?"

Card nodded. No one laughed. He all but raced out of the room.
Good luck to Bolton
Have Some Fun
It's Fun!

It's Cheap!

Send Yours Today!

Have you sent yours yet? It's easy. Just follow the directions to let Congress know how you feel.
Cozy Cozy
Ole' Georgie has been on a charm offensive lately with the press. He held one of his regular off-the-record getting to know you get-togethers with White House correspondents the other day. You know, one of those times when everyone let's their hair down and they all do some White House brush clearing while drinking sweet tea.
"David Bohrman, the Washington bureau chief for CNN, one of whose reporters attended a session, said they were a good idea.

" 'Most of the time, the environments that our reporters deal with the president in are very structured, very managed, and they rarely get to just kick back and have a conversation,' he said. 'I think there's a lot of value in it for both sides.'
This is wrong on so many levels. Do reporters actually think they are going to gain some "insight" into the President? Like, he's going to act natural when he's around a bunch of press corpse's because it's all, you know, off-the-record.

"Ya' all come on down and let's chat while my hair hangs down"

I recognize that past Presidents have had similar encounters with the press, albeit in a less formal way. But somehow past reporters seemed capable of seeing past the bullshit. This press corpse only fires on three out of eight cylinders on a good day. Does anyone really expect that they'll not be influenced by the charming chimp?
Joe Strupp writes for Editor and Publisher: " 'It was very pleasant, he seemed very thoughtful and frank,' said Stephan Dinan, a Washington Times reporter and one of about six reporters who took part in a session Monday afternoon. 'It was on a wide range of stuff.' . . .
Well Stephan, what were you expecting? Maybe Bush would start picking his nose? Or how about a tearful admission that he's been so totally wrong throughout his Presidency perhaps. Sheesh.

There was one good piece of news in the story:
"The New York Times, which was invited to attend a session today, has declined to participate.

"Philip Taubman, the Washington bureau chief for The Times, said in a statement last night: 'The Times has declined this opportunity after weighing the potential benefits to our readers against the prospect of withholding information from them about the discussion with Mr. Bush. As a matter of policy and practice, we would prefer when possible to conduct on-the-record interviews with public officials.' . . .
Well, waddya know. The NY Times may have learnt something from their Blair/Miller debacles. Here's hoping so.

And let's hope the rest of the press learns too without falling on their swords after helping the Preznit send us to another war on false pretenses.
Who's On First?
As you likely already know, there was a "government" attack on a "terrorist cell" in Iraq the other day. Shiites are claiming that it was an al Sadr group of militia who were purposely targeted by a Sunni led group of government forces. Juan Cole has a few words on it:
Some Shiites, according to al-Hayat, are saying that the US is deliberately attempting to provoke a civil war in Iraq. Among their concerns was the US military's announcement that the attack on the Mustafa Husayniyah in Ur was the work of an Iraqi military unit. Which unit? Where? To whom does it report? Is it little more than a death squad? Is it commanded by the Americans? Why didn't the Prime Minister know about this attack, which spilled over on Dawa Party offices? PM Jaafari is a member of the Dawa Party.

The Badr Organization, a political party that represents the paramilitary Badr Corps, the Shiite militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, demanded Monday that Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, be expelled from that country.

This moment is therefore a particularly inauspicious one for Khalilzad to press for the sidelining of Ibrahim Jaafari as candidate for prime minister of the United Iraqi Alliance. Jaafari narrowly won an internal party vote, but was backed by Muqtada al-Sadr and opposes loose federalism and unrestrained capitalism. For all these reasons he is unacceptable to the Kurds and to the US.
And people are wondering if the U.S. is "caught in the middle" of a civil war? Just try and figure out the intrigue of all the opposing militias.

One thing is easy to understand. No matter what happens, it will be the U.S.'s fault.

Had Enough?
Vengeance As Closure
Dahlia Lithwick writes a great article in today's WaPo about the death penalty,(via Majikthise) questioning the idea of victims getting "closure" with the execution of the perpetrator. This is a marvelous discussion of some conventional wisdom that producing some intersting facts:
In a seminal 1985 law review article, law professor Lynne Henderson examined the relationship between victims' rights and criminal justice policy. Looking carefully at the psychological data on the needs of victims, Henderson discovered a wide array of responses to tragedy -- responses that differ widely from victim to victim, and that change significantly over a victim's lifetime. More crucially, Henderson's research reveals that "common assumptions about crime victims -- that they are all 'outraged' and want revenge and tougher law enforcement -- underlie much of the current victim's rights rhetoric. But in light of the existing psychological evidence, these assumptions fail to address the experience and real needs of past victims."
Go read the entire article. It's short but quite revealing.

It only makes sense that the reaction of victims wouldn't be monolithic. People have a variety of beliefs, and beliefs that shift over the course of their lives. Unfortunately in a time when people expect a "solution" or "compensation" in some way for every loss, it's an unavoidable assumption that with justice comes closure.

My experience with the issue of vengeance as closure is that it often does quite the opposite. In fact, the entire process of seeking vengeance actually delays the start of the process of closure. If a victim's family becomes absorbed in pursuing "justice" that takes ten years, the real grief may not begin until ten years plus the execution. Put another way, vengeance can serve as a defense mechanism to deny the profound feelings of loss, and to avoid the real work "closure". When the grief ultimately hits in this delayed fashion, it can be a confusing and confounding experience due to the time shift.

This is yet another example of conservative politics producing a theme that galvanizes policy consistent with their beliefs. It's important for those who oppose the death penalty to insist that data be produced to prove the assertion that executions create "closure".
Gasoline Update
Click to enlarge

Here's a handy dandy chart on gasoline prices.

In psychology we call this process adaptation. Prices continue to inch forward, establishing a new "base" to which we all adjust. The good news is that the process has been relatively gradual thus far. This allows time for the economy to absorb the changes more gradually rather than "shock" the economy. Here's to keeping your fingers crossed that the adaptation continues to be gradual.

Anyone notice that prices have been creeping up again?
Monday, March 27, 2006
Democrats Mantra
Newt Gingrich, of all people, apparently has suggested a killer mantra for the Democrats. Imagine a commercial of images from Katrina, Iraq, Duke Cunningham etc. etc. etc. At the end, a simple statement:

"Had Enough"?
Here's a great bit from MoJo's blog:
"BUSHIT" Sticker Nets $100 Fine

Denise Grier, an Atlanta nurse, was ticketed for driving with a bumper sticker that read, "I’m tired of all the BUSHIT." Accused of brandishing "lewd" material, the officer approached her with his hand on his weapon and dispensed a $100 fine. Grier reportedly has no intention of paying the ticket, saying "I am so appalled at the officer’s attempt to squash my freedom of speech. It’s not just a Democrat/Republican issue. Y’all need to get beyond that. It’s my right to speak, and yours." Stay tuned for her court date, April 18.
What do you want to bet the officer is either a) illiterate or b) nearsighted?
Steve Coll at The New Yorker has written a piece about Cobra II, a book written about the study commissioned by the Bushies about Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, and the early phases of the Iraq war. Excerpt:
After the fall of Baghdad, three years ago, the United States military began a secret investigation of the decision-making within Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. The study, carried out by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, drew on captured documents and interviews with former Baath Party officials and Iraqi military officers, and when it was completed, last year, it was delivered to President Bush. The full work remains classified, but “Cobra II,” a recently published book about the early phases of the war, by the Times reporter Michael Gordon and Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor, has disclosed parts of the study, and the Pentagon has released declassified sections, which Foreign Affairs has posted on its Web site. Reading them, it is easy to imagine why the Administration might resist publication of the full study. The extracts describe how the Iraq invasion, more than any other war in American history, was a construct of delusion. Frustratingly, however, we now understand much more about the textures of fantasy in Saddam’s palaces in early 2003 than we do about the self-delusions then prevalent in the West Wing.
The study seems to verify what many have speculated. Saddam was a shell of a leader, sanctions worked, and both sides deluded themselves. No wonder parts remain "classified".

If true, these revelations show leaders at a level of delusion comensurate with the fumbles and misunderstandings leading up to World War I. Saddam was drifting into mysticism and increasing paranoia, fearing a coup at any minute. He kept the myth alive of WMD out of fear of an attack by Iran. Saddam had no strategic plan to resist the U.S. invasion and apparently did not put insurgent "cells" in place. This, of course, lends even greater credibility to popularity of the uprising.

In the meantime, the U.S. leaders were also delusional about the existence of WMD, the efficacy of sanctions/inspections, and the real threat posed by Saddam. Apparently military leaders thought (correctly) that Rumsfeld was an idiot and that they were invading with inadequate resources.

It's ironic that both Saddam and Bush depended on the same delusion ... that Iraq had WMD. It's tragically criminal that hundreds of thousands of humans have to pay the price for the idiocy of these two morons.
Global Warming Impact Maps
Good site for maps of the changing coastlines due to global warming.

Isn't it interesting that GW stands for George W. and Global Warming? Both are catastrophic.
Jane Smiley Knows the Score
Desi is right. This is Post of the Year stuff. Please go read it.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
WATB = Whiny Ass Titty Babies, aka the GOP.

In the continuing game of trying to blame anyone but themselves, the administration was working overtime this week to pin it's failure in Iraq on the media. The GOP talking point was that the media has selectively picked only the "bad" stories to report.

Of course this is nonsense on many levels, and completely reminiscent of administration strategy during the Vietnam war as we were losing that one too. But Atrios picks up a quote today from (I think) Peter Daou, who has reported from Iraq on numerous occasions:
Oh, yes. Absolutely. And, I mean, our own -- you know, our own editors back in New York are asking us the same things.

They read the same comments. You know, are there positive stories? Can't you find them?

You don't think that I haven't been to the U.S. military and the State Department and the embassy and asked them over and over again, let's see the good stories, show us some of the good things that are going on? Oh, sorry, we can't take to you that school project, because if you put that on TV, they're going to be attacked about, the teachers are going to be killed, the children might be victims of attack.

Oh, sorry, we can't show this reconstruction project because then that's going to expose it to sabotage. And the last time we had journalists down here, the plant was attacked.

I mean, security dominates every single thing that happens in this country. Reconstruction funds have been diverted to cover away from reconstruction to -- they've been diverted to security.

Soldiers, their lives are occupied most of the time with security issues. Iraqi civilians' lives are taken up most of the time with security issues.

So how it is that security issues should not then dominate the media coverage coming out of here?
Aside from all the other arguments of how the GOP talking point is bull, this one highlights the catch-22 nature of the problem. Anything the U.S. touches in the region turns to absolute do-do.

But I also had another thought on this issue.

During the Vietnam war, Dan Rather virtually lived in my living room each night reporting from the front lines of the Vietnam war. There were no embeds and the war came to you in living, or dying, color. As a result of the belief that the media lost Vietnam for us all, the Pentagon embarked on it's program of embedding journalists and taking a high level of control over the media reports from any war. Since then, images have been limited and highly censored. We've also endured the bought-and-paid-for "journalistic" reports with the goal of putting lipstick on any pig.

To me, this really begs the question? Given the amount of control of the media by the Pentagon, who really bears the responsibility for reporting on the war? Can the same tired argument be used to write off the misdeeds of Iraq that conservatives used in Vietnam, given the level of control by the government of the media?

Of course, no matter how logical, they'll find a way to not take responsibility.

But still, I wonder .....
Fair and Balanced
This Week With Georgie had an interesting pundit lineup today. The usual stone faced George Will was there as was Fared Zakaria. But Steph actually invited a real, live, breathing progressive to join them!

That's right, Katrina vanden Heuvel from The Nation was on the panel. And oh boy, Will looked like he'd been sucking on an onion through most of the debate. He had that look of an aristocrat having to sit to supper with the help. Katrina did a great job representing the liberal point of view and assertively called George on a number of points. But alas, Will starting slinking back in his chair and likely ended up in the green room with his valet dusting off his coat.

If they keep this up, I might actually have to start watching Stephy again.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Take A Walk
So the latest conservative wedge issue is going to be immigration "reform". TalkLeft has a post up with most of what you need to know about the actual bill being push by James Sensenbrenner. The short version is that conservatives in Congress want barbed wire fence, machine guns and a kill zone (snark intended). Seriously, the right wingers think they can get rid of the 12 million illegals in the U.S. and keep any others out. What nonsense.

There was a pretty good sized march in L.A. today of those who oppose the bill. I think a nice general strike done by all those who are illegals would make a nice point about illegals working in America today.

Of all people, David Brooks mentioned last night on The Newshour that he thought the conservative immigration gambit was a real loser for Republicans. I think he's exactly right. The vast majority of Americans really don't want to eliminate illegal immigration as it would severely impact our economy. Illegals efficiently do jobs that Americans simply don't want, particularly given an unemployment rate below 5%. It's also negative for the efforts of Republicans to court the hispanic vote, an area in which they had made inroads in the last couple of election cycles.

So dear readers, take a moment and send that Republican nutbar Congressman James Sensenbrenner a note telling him to keep up the good work on his fascist anti-immigration bill. It's good politics for progressives!

Friday, March 24, 2006
Missed It
I should have known that this was the case as soon as I put the post up. But alas, I'm just not quite cynical enough:
Back on the question of how Barbara Bush donated money for Katrina aid and 'earmarked' part of it for the purchase of educational software produced by Ignite!, the company her son, Neil Bush, to bag money from international potentates, tycoons and crooks. Taxprof's got a post on a subject I've been curious about. George and Barbara Bush -- like a lot of other folks investment for non-economic reasons -- are actually investors in Ignite!
Yep. Those earmarked donations not only went to benefit their other loser son, but they are investors in his company.

Nice family. Eh?
I Ain't Gonna Do It
There's quite a buzz about the revelation of Bush's latest "signing statement".
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | March 24, 2006

WASHINGTON -- When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.
It is another thumb in the eye of oversight. But it's important to remember that these "signing statements" have no force of law. However, put together the signing statement with the knowledge that Bush has no respect for the law and you get a huge red flag. And indeed, I have no doubt that Bush is flaunting the law any way he pleases.

But we didn't need a signing statement to know that.
Hell ... Even China Gets It!
The Chinese government announced plans on Wednesday to increase existing taxes and impose new ones on April 1 for everything from gas-guzzling vehicles to chopsticks in a move to rein in rising use of energy and timber and the widening gap between rich and poor.
New or higher taxes will fall on vehicles with engines larger than two liters, disposable wooden chopsticks, planks for wood floors, luxury watches, golf clubs, golf balls and certain oil products.
Media In The Tank UPDATED
Digby rips another one in the mainstream media today in a post that quite accurately summarizes how Washington journalists have swallowed all the GOP kool-aid. It's a very good read and I recommend it highly. But I also want to add to what Digby has to say.

First, a little background.

Some time ago, the right-wing bloggers got their panties all twisted because they considered Dan Froomkin's blog on the WaPo Online to be "liberal", with no conservative "counterbalance". Nevermind that Froomkin will rip into any politician of any persuasion who's an idiot and that it just happens to be that the main idiots in recent drama are Republican. The WaPo got all nervous (why?) and decided to add a new blogger, Ben Domenech.

For the last two days, a number of very prominent bloggers have been doing their research. It turns out that Domenech is the 24 year old son of a Bush administration official, is a known plagarizer (too many links, just go to Atrios), and has made some pretty stupid statements in the past. In short? He's a rabid wingnut. Digby's article examines why WaPo felt the need to bring Domenech on board, and why the mainstream media in general feels a need to kiss Bush's ring.

But I think there's something missing in Digby's analysis.

The concensus seems to be that the media is in the tank because of their inside connections, need to be close to the power, incompetence, and laziness. I propose this. I think along with those reasons, the movers/shakers in the media are also getting older. Age generally = establishmentarianism and conservatism. It's true that the media audience is aging and I think that is true of media decision-makers. What do you want to bet that the average age of the prominent bloggers is significantly younger than the average age of any media outlet's policy movers and shakers?

If that's true, media outlets would be easily swayed into publishing information consistent with their biases, just as was the accusation of the right in past years when we were all a lot younger. It could be as simple as this. The main media outlets are putting out stories that they actually believe, not stories simply to placate and pander to power.

If true, it would go a long way toward's explaining the incredible tension between the left-wing bloggers and outlets like the WaPo, as the two sides battle over deeply held beliefs.

Another generation gap?


UPDATED: Ben Domenech has resigned.
Bobo's World
Anyone want to take bets on this story?

I'm betting that the "nice family" with the wonderful "charismatic" minister turns out to be hell.
U.S. Education
This is just tragic. (emphasis mine)

Teachers at his facility are forbidden to use the “e-word” (evolution) with the kids.
But Bob’s personal issue was more specific, and the prohibition more insidious. In his words, “I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are. I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD ... but I am NOT to say that these rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old.”
The explanation that had been given to Bob by his supervisors was that their science facility is in a delicate position and must avoid irritating some religious fundamentalists who may have their fingers on the purse strings of various school districts. Apparently his supervisors feared that teachers or parents might be offended if Bob taught their children about the age of rocks and that it would result in another school district pulling out of their program.
At a time in our nation's history when we need the brightest scientific minds to solve the greatest threats to our world, American teachers are being held hostage by the American Taliban. Tragic is the only word that describes it.
More on the Plasmatron
More info on the plasmatron from MIT

Essentially the device, which is about the size of a large soup can, works as an onboard "oil refinery." It converts a wide variety of fuels into high-quality hydrogen-rich gas. Adding only a small amount of such gas to the fossil fuel powering a car is known to make possible a significant decrease in emissions of pollutants like nitrogen oxides.

"This device might dramatically reduce air pollution from autos and trucks without a major increase in costs and inconvenience," said Daniel R. Cohn, a senior research scientist at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC). "The device has near-term applications. No major advances are needed in internal combustion engine design to incorporate it."

I want one.

Biocrude oils have their own environmental benefits. "Such oils might be produced by fast-growing trees or other crops that absorb carbon dioxide, compensating for the carbon dioxide produced by combustion," explained Dr. Cohn.

Living in the south as I do, the first thing that comes to mind is KUDZU!
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Take a moment and go read about Richard Rainwater, one of Bush's multi-billionaire "personal friends".

He's made his money investing well during crisis. He sees another big money-making opportunity coming along, and he's put much of his fortune behind that bet ... except of course the $500 million in cash he's keeping around just in case things go to hell quickly.

Why is he telling us about it? Because this particular investment opportunity could also threaten the existence of mankind, and thus feels a civic responsibility to say something.
A Chip of the Ole' Chippy
Is it any wonder our Preznit is so screwed up? This woman has done more damage to the U.S. of A. than typhoid mary.

This is an excerpt of an article that came to my attention via Suburban Guerrilla:
Former first lady Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund with specific instructions that the money be spent with an educational software company owned by her son Neil.

Since then, the Ignite Learning program has been given to eight area schools that took in substantial numbers of Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

“Mrs. Bush wanted to do something specifically for education and specifically for the thousands of students flooding into the Houston schools,” said Jean Becker, former President Bush’s chief of staff. “She knew that HISD was using this software program, and she’s very excited about this program, so she wanted to make it possible for them to expand the use of this program.” […]

Regarding the fact that Bush’s earmarked donation also benefited her son’s company, Becker said, “Mrs. Bush is obviously an enthusiastic supporter of her son. She is genuinely supportive of his program,” and has received many letters from educators who support it. Bush “honestly felt this would be a great way to help the (evacuee) students.”
I'll tell you what is really amazing about this. I'm sure that Barbara "let them eat cake" Bush and others of her ilk see nothing wrong with this.
Acting Up.
American corporations are being called to task in other parts of the world.
Indonesia has warned of legal action against a huge US-owned mine in Papua province, unless it does more to protect the environment.
I'm hoping "the people" around the world stand up as these people are doing and demand human rights and environmental responsibility.
No Comment
The comments function is acting up again. Blogger.
No, no, no!
ATLANTA - A bill that allows public high schools to offer classes on the Bible sped through the House Monday, passing overwhelmingly with no debate.

The proposal, originally introduced by a band of Senate Democrats, surprised many by urging that the Bible should be taught as an elective in Georgia's public schools.

Republicans quickly substituted their own version, which specifies that the Bible itself would be the course textbook. The measure easily passed the GOP-controlled Senate last month by a 50-1 vote.

With Democrats like these, who need Republicans? And will it now be okay to teach physics in churches? I mean, as long as we are mixing the two...

The article concludes with this reassurance:
The proposal also requires that the courses should be taught "in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students."

Sure. Uh huh.
Spending Facts
One of the myths that is propogated by the conservatives is that the federal government is out of control. The oft cited reason is that spending growth in entitlements, discretionary spending and other "unnecessary" programs is the problem.

Well folks, Angry Bear does the heavy lifting for all of us so you don't have to listen to that nonsense any longer:

Click to enlarge.

One chart is worth a thousand words, particularly if you put Homeland Security where it really belongs, under Defense Spending.
This Is Depressing
There have been a few news reports out regarding a study done of the effectiveness of anti-depressant medication over the last day or so. One of them is this WaPo article. Excerpt:
Antidepressants fail to cure the symptoms of major depression in half of all patients with the disease even if they receive the best possible care, according to a definitive government study released yesterday.

Significant numbers of patients continue to experience symptoms such as sadness, low energy and hopelessness after intensive treatment, even as about an equal number report an end to such problems -- a result that quickly lent itself to interpretations that the glass was either half empty or half full.

The $35 million taxpayer-funded study was the largest trial of its kind ever conducted. It provided what industry-sponsored trials have rarely captured: Rather than merely ask whether patients are getting better, the study asked what patients most care about -- whether depression can be made to disappear altogether.
I have a couple of points to make about this report and the way the media is covering it.

1) The WaPo article is extremely negative. ABC News did a report last night that was far more positive. Why did WaPo focus on only the negative? In a rare turnaround, the print article was a much more cursory look at the study as compared to the ABC New TV piece.

2) None of the news reports put the results in context. As little as twenty to thirty years ago, the available medications were often not as effective and had terrible side-effects. Medication for depression was an iffy possiblity at best during these times. The new medications have far fewer and less severe side-effects than the precurors.

3) The study highlights a very important consideration in looking at drug therapy for depression. Each of us is slightly different chemically. The anti-depressants are all somewhat different. It's important for depressed patients to get on the best medications for them as an individual. As most anti-depressants take anywhere from one to three weeks to become effective, it's a timely process requiring diligence to find the right drug for you.

4) The study showed that many individuals respond well to a combination of drugs. The media is highlighting the results of those who took a single drug. Again, it takes patience and skill to find that combination.

5) Most people go to a general practictioner for anti-depressants. Unfortunately, few G.P.'s are really qualified to treat those who do not respond (50% according to the study) to a single, initial anti-depressant. Yet, most patients are reluctant to take the next step of seeking a psychiatrists. Unless controlled for in the study, this fact would greatly lower the efficacy rates.

Board Certified Psychiatrists are specialists in understanding the panoply of medication options available. I emphasize "board certified", because any M.D. can call themselves a "psychiatrist" despite having no specialized training. Most psychiatrists no longer practice therapy, but rather work with patients on their very specialized medication management needs. As an example, it was found that the anti-convulsive drug Depakote was quite effective in the treatment of some cases of bipolar disorder. On the other hand, the anti-depressant Trazadone has been found to be a very effective sleep aid. This is the kind of specialized information not available to most G.P.'s.

6) Study after study after study has shown that medication, alone, is not nearly as effective in treating depression as medication combined with psychotherapy. These results are clear, and it's only a very small portion of the population that needs only medication. None of the media reports the number of study participants who were in psychotherapy.

7) For those with intractable depression, electro-convulsive therapy may help. Yes, good old shock therapy is still around. The procedure is done under anesthesia with much lower electrical impulses. But for some individuals who have responded to nothing else, it can be a life saver.

As with most medical care these days, the key is persistence. If an individual is experiencing depression that does not seem to respond to treatment, they need to persist in the pursuit of relief using specialists and a willingness to try alternatives. It's only a very very few individuals who cannot receive relief from their depression if treatment is pursued.

And above all, resist getting your information about treatment .... ah ... well about anything .... from the media alone.
A Matter of Hours
It is only a matter of hours until the Canadian seal pups are clubbed and skinned. Please sign the online petition here.
And after the carnage is over, please keep up the pressure on the Canadian government.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Go watch the video made by Spike Jonze just before the Democratic Convention when Jonze was invited to meet with Al Gore. It's thirteen minutes of a genuine person.

And of course, the "consultants" buried it.


Makes me want to know the Gore family.
Nattering Nabos of Negativity
Haven't heard that in awhile, eh?

The new defense of Iraq is that it's the media's fault. Are they reading from the Nixon years or what. You watch. When the U.S. does a post-mortem on our pullout of Iraq, the media will be one of those institutions blamed by the right.

Anyway, the media is fighting back. Go to this site and watch the video. Warning: You must be using Internet Explorer to watch this video, and you have to sit through a 15 second commercial. But the video, by Richard Engel who I often quote, is worth the watch.
I Told You
And not even mentioning the fact that even if sterilized, you're immediately infested the moment you move or touch anything.
Ahhh, Well, ahhhhhh
This is astounding. John McCain recently hired a former Bushie who was heavily involved with Tom DeLay. In fact, the guy was named in the DeLay indictment. Yet, when confronted with the information by a caller to a talk show, McCain seems to have not known?
CALLER: Thanks, I had a question for the senator. For a reformer, I'm kind of curious why he would hire a guy like Terry Nelson as a senior advisor.

Here's a guy who was actually in the indictment of DeLay on his money laundering charges. When he was at the RNC, he agreed to take the corporate contributions from DeLay's PAC and then recycle them back into the Republican congressional races.

And he was also, this guy Nelson was also the supervisor of James Tobin, who was the guy convicted last year for helping jam the Democratic get-out-the-vote lines in New England a couple years ago.

So I'm curious why would you hire someone with such a shady background?

MCCAIN: None of those charges are true.

CALLER: You don't believe what was actually written in the indictment from Texas?


CARLSON [show host]: All right.

[nervous laughter]

MCCAIN: I will check it out. But I've never heard of such a thing. I know that he was a grassroots organizer for President Bush year 2000 and 2004, and had a very important job in the Bush campaign as late as 2004, but the other charges I will go and look and see if any of them are true, but I've never heard of them before.
This sounds like Bush redux. He's either:

1) Lying.

2) Incompetent.
Pass the Buck UPDATED II
I love it.

The other day I received a (another) solicitation from Senate and Congressional campaign committees for money. I got these despite having "unsubscribed" from their mailing list after the Paul Hackett debacle. Ok. No biggie. I just hit the delete key. But I thought I would take another opportunity to let these folks know how I feel. In that spirit, I sent this email to both the DCCC (Dem Congressional Campaign Committee) and the DSCC (Dem Senate Campaign Committee):
Just to let you know.

I'm a small donor. But still, I've given literally thousands to Democrats. In the last election cycle, I gave a lots of money to the party appartus.

That's stopped, and here's why.

1) Paul Hackett and the role you played.

2) Lack of guts. The total strategry of avoiding a stand on Iraq is ridiculous. How much public support for ending the war do you need?

As the old saying goes......

"stand for something or fall for anything".

I'm sick of losing on strategy. I want to stand for something. If I lose, then the majority has spoken and I'll take my medicine. But I don't think that will happen. If people think you actually stand for something, they'll follow.

Santa Rosa CA
As with most of these types of communications, I don't often expect a response. But today, I got this response from the DCCC:
Thank you for taking the time to share your views with us. However, as you can appreciate, the DCCC focuses exclusively on electing Democrats to the House of Representatives. We do not comment on actions taken by U.S. Senators, such as with regards to Senate races.

If you wish to pursue your concerns about the events taking place in the United States Senate, please contact our Senate counterparts at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (

Again, thank you for contacting us and we hope that we will be able to count on your support as we fight to restore a House of Representatives that will be motivated by the public interest rather than greedy and narrow special interests.


DCCC Action Center Team
Huh? I have a problem with this response on several levels. First, do the Congressional Democrats really have nothing to say to Senate Democrats? Is there no coordination at all between these two groups? I guess I shouldn't be surprised, and perhaps there is but they don't want to admit it in this case. But is it really good P.R. to blame your collegues, pass the buck as it were, in answer to a party member's concerns?

Which brings me to my second issue. I made two points. I got a response only to the point where they passed the buck, Paul Hackett. How about point two? You know, that little tiny ten ton elephant in the living room, Iraq?




I got spun. They're email response is EXACTLY my criticism in a nutshell.

Of course, being the opinionated S.O.B. that I am, I had to give it another try, so I sent them a response email. If they respond to that, I'll publish both.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE: This is interesting post from FireDogLake about the war between the "netroots"/activists and the Democratic political activists in which she also quotes Chris Bowers of MyDD. The post outlines the problem that the above email exchange epitomizes. Excerpt:
[Chris Bowers explains] We can’t win if we continue to operate like this. The netroots and grassroots can’t win by themselves, and the Democratic electoral establishment is hardly any better. At some point, there is going to have to be a way for us to work together, or we are just going to keep losing and losing and losing. We can’t go on like this. We can’t win without them, and they can’t win without us. There has to be a way for us to work together, but that doesn’t mean just treating the netroots like an ATM, not even mentioning the name of our candidates on official literature, or simplistic, authoritarian demands that we all "fall in line." There is an activist class war taking place in the Democratic Party–I can see it even happening in my own neighborhood. Those who currently hold sway over the movement better recognize that it is happening as well, and they better be willing to work with the people who make their position possible. We can’t simply continue to be told to go back and keep toiling in the volunteer activist salt mines. Something needs to be done to solve this mess. I’m sure there are thing that both sides can do, but the overwhelming onus to fix this situation and create some sort of détente rests on those people who currently control the Democratic Party and the progressive movement. You have to find a way to show us that you care, that you appreciate our efforts, and that you are willing to work together.
Indeed. We can be reasonable, but we’re far too sophisticated to accept token efforts or pats on the head. And we’re quickly becoming too powerful across America to ignore.

Rahm, Nancy, Chuck, Harry: your move.

UPDATE II: At least someone "gets it".
Here's One Answer.... my post below. At least, this is our government's answer to some of the questions about peak oil:
The U.S. military has developed a ten-year plan for "deep storage" of munitions and equipment in at least six countries in the Middle East and Central Asia to prepare for regional war contingencies.

The plans, revealed in March 2006 contracting documents, call for the continued storage of everything from packaged meals ready to eat (MREs) to missiles in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, as well as the establishment of two new storage hubs, one in a classified Middle Eastern country "west" of Saudi Arabia ("Site 23") and the other in a yet to be decided "central Asian state."
The World's Canaries
The Inuit should be considered the world's canaries and what they are seeing is frightening in its implications for us all.

"These are things that all of our old oral history has never mentioned," said Enosik Nashalik, 87, the eldest of male elders in this Inuit village. "We cannot pass on our traditional knowledge, because it is no longer reliable. Before, I could look at cloud patterns or the wind, or even what stars are twinkling, and predict the weather. Now, everything is changed."

The Inuit alarms, once passed off as odd stories, are earning confirmation from science. Canada's federal weather service said this month that the country had experienced its warmest winter since measurements began in 1948. Nationwide, average temperatures this winter were 7 degrees above normal. Some of the larger temperature increases were in the arctic north.


In this month's issue of the journal Science, a team of U.S. and Canadian researchers said the Bering Sea was warming so much it was experiencing "a change from arctic to subarctic conditions." Gray whales are heading north and walruses are starving, adrift on ice floes in water too deep for feeding. Warmer-water fish such as pollock and salmon are coming in, the researchers reported.

Off the coast of Nova Scotia, ice on Northumberland Strait was so thin and unstable this winter that thousands of gray seals crawled on unaccustomed islands to give birth. Storms and high tides washed 1,500 newborn seal pups out to sea, said Jerry Conway, a marine mammal expert for the federal fisheries department in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

"We are seeing dramatic changes in the weather systems," Conway said. "To be honest, we don't really understand what are the potential impacts. If you look back in history, there have been warming periods that have gotten back to normal. But we don't know if that will happen this time."

The Washington Post has the full story.
Peak Oil Is Coming!, Peak Oil Is Coming!
Salon has a terrific article in today's issue on peak oil, talking about the Paul Revere's of the peak oil movement.

The article chronicles the analysis and efforts of those who believe that peak oil is not only imminent, but is going to mean an enormous shift to our society. The predictions range from changes of apocalyptic proportions, to more measured albeit dramatic shifts in how we live life. The scariest part of the article is that some of the individuals who think this, and those who are interviewed are not wild-eyed ex-hippie wackos. These are educated professionals with credentials in the field. In other words, people who should know.

I'm proud to say that many of those interviewed are from my local community. Communities such as Willits, Sebastapol, and Marin/Sonoma Counties in general are actively working toward energy independence in anticipation of peak oil. The city of Sebastopol is actively planning, and positioning itself, for the inevitability of gasoline prices in excess of $10/gal .... in the near future.

It's a very good read for anyone wanting some sense of what peak oil actually means to everyday life.

I'm quite ambivalent on the subject. Not about peak oil, I'm sure peak oil is here. When huge price fluctuations occur simply because a Middle Eastern potentate farts, you know that supply is quite tight. No, my abivalence is on how the scenario plays out. Will technology rescue all of us? Will changes occur gradually enough for the adaptation to take place that allow our economic health to remain robust? Will international relations be a series of wars fought to retain access to an increasingly sparse resource? I just don't know.

These, and many many other questions remain, and no one knows the answers. But being wrong in your estimation of the answers could be disasterous. Which is one of the many reasons I'm really glad to live where I live. While not immune, local civic leaders are taking the initiative now to mitigate the coming changes.

And most importantly?

Food can be grown here ....

Friedemann, a systems analyst for a large transportation company. She's been studying the history of agriculture in California and learning sustainable farming techniques.

"As energy gets more expensive, food will get more expensive," Friedemann says, citing a stat that's often mentioned in peak-oil circles: In our era of industrial agriculture, it takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel inputs for fertilizers, pesticides, farm equipment and transportation from natural gas, oil and coal to produce one calorie of food.
No matter which scenario you subscribe to, it's clear that life is going to get more expensive and access to food may become problematic.

Time will tell. My biggest concern is apathy. We've known this was coming for 40+ years. It may take further/more/worse crisis to wake folks up to the issue. I think one thing can be said with confidence. It should be quite interesting!
Disturbing the Clowns
William Greider has a great editorial piece at The Nation. He writes about a peculiar politician.
Feingold has a reputation for such quaint deviations--a naïf who voted against the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act. On principle! How naïve is that? He talks like he might run for President, yet he seems tone-deaf to the artful resonances of power politics--the cutesy games insiders play and the press cherishes. Hey, what is this Constitution thing anyway? The senator is peculiar in this era of decaying democracy. There was a time, believe it or not, when his type was a familiar presence in the Senate.

Get to know Feingold. Check out his voting record. We desperately need a man of principle in the White House. I hope he runs in 2008.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Woof Woof
I've always loved Helen Thomas.

She's been holding Bush accountable since the beginning when they moved her to the back of the press room bus because of her "pointed" questions.

Well, tonight she was interviewed by Leslie "Wolf" Blitzer (yes, that's his name) wherein he she took wolfie to the woodshed:
For some strange reason Leslie [Wolf] asked Helen why she thought the US invaded Iraq. Helen gestured toward Les (is our boy Les a neocon?) and said, (paraphrase)

"Well because of the neocons at the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Their plan was to invade first Iraq, then Syria, then Iran."

Les interrupted with some irrelevancy about all the 9/11 dead, and Helen leaned toward him and said,

"They had nothing to do with each other...."

Then Helen said to Leslie,

"Come home, you'll be welcomed."

But the best part was as she continued,

"You and I were at the WH together and you used to ask tough questions. You asked Clinton why he didn't resign."

Les was perturbed, cut her off and said,"That was a different time" and went to commercial.
You go Helen!
A Question
I've been thinking about this for some time.

The United States and many other countries have a policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists. For the Bush administration, this extends to Iran and North Korea as well. My question is really quite simple.


Maybe I'm being incredibly naive or stupid or something. But exactly what do we lose? Does sitting down and talking in some way mean we're committed in any way to a particular action? Does not talking discourage international rouges? What exactly is accomplished with such a policy? Is it a policy to simply pander to vengeance driving voters? Is it not possible to convey toughness more clearly face to face?

Talk about turning the tables. What if Bush came out and said that he wanted to immediately open negotiations with al Qaeda. Wouldn't that change some dynamics in the international arena?
And Another
There's been yet another innocent man released from a Texas prison after serving 18 years for rape and robbery.
"I don't know how she picked me," he said. "I was sitting at home, and they came and arrested me. The next thing I know, I'm standing trial."
Why is it that Texas seems to have so many of these?
Via Digby, quoting Russ Feingold's appearance on Charlie Rose when asked about his Censure Resolution:
Shades of October 2002. These are the same pundits, consultants, and spin miesters who said you've gotta vote for the Iraq war or George Bush is going to hang you out to dry and he's gonna show that you don't care about the troops and you don't care about the fight against terrorism.

They pull it every time. And the Democratic insiders in Washington and the consultants fall for it every time. They don't realize that the thing that bugs people about the Democratic party right now is that we don't seem to stand strongly enough for what we believe in.

How can we be afraid at this point, of standing up to a president who has clearly mismanaged this Iraq war, who clearly made one of the largest blunders in American foreign policy history? How can it be that this party wants to stand back and allow this kind of thing to happen?

And then add to that the idea that the president has clearly broken the law --- and a number of Republican senators have effectively admitted that, by saying "you know, we need this program so let's make it legal," --- so they are admitting it's illegal.

The idea that Democrats don't think it's a winning thing to say that we will stand up for the rule of law and for checking abuse of power by the executive --- I just can't believe that Democrats don't think that isn't something, not only that we can win on, but it does, in fact, make the base of our party, which is so important, feel much better about the Democrats. The Republicans care deeply about making the base of their party feels energized. What about the people of our party who believe in the Democratic Party especially because they fight for the American values of standing up for our rights and civil liberties?
What can anyone possibly add?

Case closed.
I'm hating blogger just now.
Hey Dude, HALT!
From Slate:
USAT fronts an interesting news feature on a new trend in, ahem, law enforcement: States are now passing laws that grant immunity from prosecution to crime victims who retaliate against their attackers with deadly force. The laws, championed by the NRA, are meant to deter carjackers, muggers, and the like.
That doesn't sound so crazy, does it? I mean, if you're attacked, you should be able to defend youself .... right? I mean, I want every legal defense available to me if I feel the need to protect my loved ones ... don't you?
Critics say they are a license for vigilantism, since it's hard to define what constitutes an attack. Case in point: A tow-truck operator who shot a man for driving his car away without paying a fee is invoking the defense, saying the driver could have run him down.

You mean. If you give a license to kill, some people will like, actually use bad judgement? Nah.....
(Holding My Head In My Hands)
Now I KNOW I'm stuck in a bad remake of the movie, Goundhog Day:
The LAT fronts a story about the "murky relationship" between Iran and al-Qaida. Some American intelligence officials believe that much of the terrorist organization's remaining leadership is based out of Iran, where some elements of the regime are willing to turn a blind eye, or maybe even lend a hand. The evidence, however, is decidedly sketchy, and some spooks are doubtful about a link, citing the Sunni-Shiite split. The fact is no one really has a clue. "It blows me away the lack of intelligence that's out there," one counterterrorism official tells the paper. Though that's not stopping some anonymous saber-rattlers from leaking vague assertions. Sound familiar?
As with Iraq, this is highly unlikely. Iran is an Islamic, Shiite, fundamentalist state. Al Qaeda is an Islamic, Sunni, fundamentalist organization. We've seen how well those two get along in Iraq. Sure, they may be driven by a common hatred of the U.S. They still don't cooperate with each other, even in Iraq where there is a U.S. presence. Besides Al Qaeda doesn't need Iranian assistance. It has Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sudan and any number of other Sunni friendly region with which to cooperate. This story looks suspiciously to me like another "leaked" intelligence report to our forever discerning media.

BTW, just as a note. Blogger has been really screwed up lately. The pictures part is especially techy. I like putting up little pictures, but it's limited right now.
Moussaoui Mess
The hits just keep on coming in the Moussaoui death penalty trial. In this edition how the FBI agent, who is a witness for the prosecution by the way, labeled the governments actions in investigating Moussaoui "criminally neglegent":
Prosecutors had called Harry Samit, an agent in the FBI's Minneapolis field office, to bolster their contention that Moussaoui deserves the death penalty because had he confessed when first arrested, "the FBI would have raised 'alarm bells' and could have stopped the Sept. 11 attacks," the WP says. On cross-examination, Samit admitted that even though Moussaoui wouldn't talk, he was sure the Moroccan was working with others to hijack a plane—there was even a suggestion that one might be flown into the World Trade Center, according to the NYT—and said that he raised the possibility to his superiors more than 70 times. Samit says his bosses didn't care and just wanted to "run out the clock" and deport Moussaoui. Samit was a key prosecution witness, but his testimony "might have backfired on the government," the LAT says, putting it a mildly
The prosecution is really trying desperately to fit a round peg in a small hole. Moussaoui's actions clearly don't rise to the legal standards of the death penalty. We've never (yet) executed someone for not informing on fellow criminals. The case is flawed, continues to deteriorate, and makes the Justice Department look like fools while (again) exposing law enforcements actions in the pre-911 days as lackadasical.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Hansen Speaks
Although James Hansen is an extremely well-known scientist, he was not allowed to talk with 60 Minutes without having a government minder sitting in the room. To my mind this shows what a threat the Bush administration believes him to be because now it is on the public record that they feel that he cannot be interviewed without someone watching what he is saying. Of course, this is because what Dr Hansen has to say is quite upsetting to the Bush corporate backers.

Dr. Hansen believes that we must slow down and reverse our carbon emissions within this decade or it will be too late to stop the worst of the consequences from global warming. In fact, he believes if we let things go on as they have been, by the end of the century humans will be living in a world that is totally different than mankind has ever known. Dr. Hansen has decided that he cannot be silent because if he doesn't say something he will not be fulfilling the NASA mission which is to understand and protect the earth.

Read the whole thing over at the Left Coaster. From what this esteemed scientist is saying, we are in grave danger and can't wait until Bush is out of office. The Left Coaster has another good link, to the Cool It Campaign.
I know my posting has been erratic lately. One day a gazillion posts. Another day nada. But there really is a reason. First off, the local campaign I'm working on is moving into a higher gear. I've been doing a whole lot of database work and visiting many fundraisers. But in addition, there was this little incident that took me out for several days as well (yes, I did miss the Barrel Tasting extravaganza). I'm the "pop" in the aforementioned post, and this is the third bout this year for me (two, thanks to Mr. B).

Hopefully now my life settles down a bit now and posting can resume some sort of rhythm.
Monday Smiles
I needed a smile today:

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.

Full story at the Toronto Star
I actually quite often agree with Kevin Drum. But when it comes to Democratic strategy, I think he's so 1990's.

He's been critical of the Feingold censure since the beginning. Mind you, not because of substance, Drum agrees with Feingold. Rather, Drum sees Feingold as using bad strategy. I find his arguments (and those made by other's criticizing Feingold) to be circular:
I'm sure someone can point to an exception somewhere, but so far every single column or news story I've read on the subject has been about (a) Feingold the maverick and whether this helps his presidential chances, (b) the disarray his motion has caused in the Democratic party, (c) whether the censure motion was politically smart, or (d) Republican glee that Feingold has shifted attention away from all the things that were hurting them.
Feingold's not wrong. He's just diverting attention away from Bush. But isn't the censure about Bush? Well, not if you're a liberal party leader or a liberal pundit.

Let's take them one at a time.

a) "Feingold the maverick and whether this helps his presidential chances."

Isn't this type of analysis true of any politician who takes a stand on any issue? The media, particularly the punditry, loves a good dust-up and is always trying to find reasons why politicians do what they do. If Feingold's strategy was considered to be "perfect", this analysis would occur.

b) "the disarray his motion has caused in the Democratic party"

Interestingly, most of the punditry cited by Drum for his assertion are folks considered to be "liberal". Some call this a circular firing squad. Instead of the party leadership/punditry either 1) disagreeing with their mouths shut, or 2) openly supporting Feingold, they've been quite public in their disagreement. And by the way, the argument that they "have to" respond is nonsense. The Republicans have perfected the art of not taking a stance in opposition of the party position while making a statement.

c) "whether the censure motion was politically smart"

Again, the Democratic establishment run-amok. This analysis paralysis is a hallmark of establishment liberal thinking and a key reason we keep losing. Make the politics a lower priority for a change. Stand up and be counted for a change. What have we got to lose?

d) Republican glee that Feingold has shifted attention away from all the things that were hurting them

Another self-inflicted wound. If a, b, and c, were not true, d wouldn't be happening. Rather, Republicans would have to be countering the buzz about Bush's wrongdoing, not sitting back and relaxing while liberals self-immolate.

Suppose I'm a Democrat who disagrees with Feingold. Further, let's suppose I'm asked about the censure resolution. Here's my answer:
"I think Senator Feingold is a proud and courageous Democrat who has rightly pointed out a series of problems, possibly including illegal wiretapping, by the Bush administration. There have been a number of revelations that I find quite disturbing for which I think the administration should answer".
Period. Lather, rinse, repeat. Over and over and over again. Reporters get tired of asking the same question and have little choice but to report on the illegal taps. And the punditry? Focus with laser-like beams of the facts of the wire-taps. If that really is the story, why waste ink on other nonsense, particularly opines that have no basis in any facts?

But alas. Liberals don't sing from the same choir sheet and the meme of Democratic disarray continues, creating the self-fulfilling prophecy that Drum identifies.

And so it goes .......

UPDATE: This is so hilarious. Right after posting this, I ran up against this post on Needlenose where Dick Durbin performs beautifully. Then there's this post saying the same thing. I guess I was on a bandwagon and didn't know it.

UPDATE II: Go read Digby:
One can call it a political ploy (although Fiengold is one of the few guys in the congress with a real reputation for integrity) but to the base it's a political ploy in service of bedrock principle. Democrats cannot pass legislation. They cannot force the president to change his Iraq policy. They don't have the power to call hearings or subpeona witnesses. Even when they have hearings, the Republican chairmen refuse to put the witnesses under oath.

Political ploys are the only way the minority can make its voice heard. I have the cable blathering on in the backround most days, much of the time tuned to C-Span. There are dozens of press conferences held each week on both sides of the aisle. It's is a very rare one that anybody sees or hears. This is no way to get your message out.