Sunday, December 30, 2007

Magical Thinking

“You simply can’t run an economy as complicated as ours on ideology alone.” -- Jared Bernstein, senior economist, Economic Policy Institute
Yes, you can. Just badly.

Peter Goodman, in this morning's New York Times, asks whether belief in the "unfailingly" wise unfettered free market is, in fact, a false idol.
. . . the invisible hand is being asked to account for what it has wrought. In this country, many economic complaints — from the widening gap between rich and poor to the expense of higher education — are being dusted for its fingerprints.
Some "fervent proponents of unfettered market forces have lately come to embrace regulation," Goodman observes.

Free market fundamentalists have for years approached the market with something resembling the unquestioning ardor of their religious fellow travelers.

Religious fundamentalists (especially, charismatics) sometimes display magical thinking when applying their theology. The Bible is perfect and inerrant, so their reasoning goes. Thus, verses containing "God's promises" are vows which God must, by his ever-truthful nature, keep. Recite the incantation with the appropriate reverence, goes the syllogism, and mere humans can make the creator of the universe jump on command. Crank in Bible verse, out pops God like Jack from his box.

If the magic fails, the fault lies not in God or in the Bible, but in oneself.

"Did you plead the blood, brother?" I heard a believer ask of a friend who complained a prayer had gone unanswered. "You've got to plead the blood."

If the magic doesn't work, you didn't do the spell right. The true believer never questions his theology. It, too, is perfection.

So it is with free-market fundamentalists from Milton Friedman's Chicago school of economics, Naomi Klein observes in "The Shock Doctrine." Market forces act like unchanging forces of nature:
In the truly free market imagined in Chicago classes and texts, these forces exited existed in perfect equilibrium, supply communicating with demand the way the moon pulls the tides. If economies suffered from high inflation, it was, according to Friedman's strict theory of monatarism, invariably because misguided policy makers had allowed too much money to enter the system, rather than letting the market find its balance.

[. . .]

According to the Harvard sociologist, Daniel Bell, this love of an idealized system is the defining quality of radical free-market economics. Capitalism is envisaged as "a jeweled set of movements" or a "celestial clockwork . . ."
As true to life as the Ptolemaic and Copernican models of the universe, but with more profit potential.

Klein continues:
Like all fundamentalist faiths, Chicago School, economics is, for its true believers, a closed loop. The starting premise is that the free market is a perfect scientific system, one in which individuals, acting on their own self-interested desires, create the maximum benefits for all. It follows ineluctably that if something is wrong within the free-market economy -- high inflation or soaring unemployment -- it has to be because the market is not truly free.
Faith and pseudoscience: both unfalsifiable. Like tax cuts, as Slate's William Saletan observed in 2004 (emphasis mine):
In 1999, George W. Bush said we needed to cut taxes because the economy was doing so well that the U.S. Treasury was taking in too much money, and we could afford to give some back to the people who earned it. In 2001, Bush said we needed the same tax cuts because the economy was doing poorly, and we had to return the money so that people would spend and invest it.

Bush's arguments made the wisdom of cutting taxes unfalsifiable. In good times, tax cuts were affordable. In bad times, they were necessary. Whatever happened proved that tax cuts were good policy. When Congress approved the tax cuts, Bush said they would revive the economy. You'd know that the tax cuts had worked, because more people would be working. Three years later, more people aren't working. But in Bush's view, that, too, proves he was right. If more people aren't working, we just need more tax cuts.
Keep flying, Yossarian:
Let me see if I've got this straight: in order to be grounded, I've got to be crazy and I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I'm not crazy any more and I have to keep flying.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Arguing for Edwards

A neighbor pointed out that Edwards is the only Democratic candidate with the will and experience to take on big corporate money. It's what he's done for a living.

Lambert makes the same case while addressing Obama's weaknesses. A must-read.

The creature we've created in the form of the public corporation has to be brought back under the control of its creators.

Technology -- whether political, scientific or legal -- may be used for good or for evil. There are enough cautionary tales set in the public consciousness about all three to give us pause: Terminator, Resident Evil, Aliens.

The age-old question is who is to be slave and who the master? Is government by the people or by the corporation in our future? Corporate interests are designed to serve their own interests, not ours. While extolling the benefits of globalization, unfettered markets and the global consumer paradise that awaits, in the end, are they really that likely To Serve Man?

Edwards seems to be the only one of the current Democratic crop likely to reprise Teddy Roosevelt and bring our creations to heel again.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Not available in stores

On Christmas Eve, two stories on NPR's Morning Edition celebrated the embrace of American consumer Christmas traditions in Turkey (99% Muslim) and India (80% Hindu). Red Santa hats, Christmas trees, and English-speaking, Jingle Bells-singing Chinese Santa dolls are appearing in Istanbul shopping malls and New Dehli street-vendor stalls.

Together, the stories conjured images of the Tyrell Corporation's Los Angeles, with its Latino/Asian/Anglo cultural blend and brightly lit blimps displaying Japanese advertising.

A happy Blade Runner Christmas to all, and to all renegade replicants, Good Night.

(Not available in stores . . . yet.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Bottom Line and the Flatline

Thank goodness we don't have "socialized" medicine.
RN's Statement on Death of Nataline Sarkisyan: 'CIGNA Should Have Listened to Her Doctors And Approved the Transplant a Week Ago'

On Dec. 11, four leading physicians, including the surgical director of the Pediatric Liver Transplant Program at UCLA, wrote to CIGNA urging the company to reverse its denial. The physicians said that Nataline “currently meets criteria to be listed as Status 1A” for a transplant. They also challenged CIGNA’s denial which the company said occurred because their benefit plan “does not cover experimental, investigational and unproven services,” to which the doctors replied, “Nataline’s case is in fact none of the above.”

[. . .]

CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro called the final outcome "a horrific tragedy that demonstrates what is so fundamentally wrong with our health care system today. Insurance companies have a stranglehold on our health. Their first priority is to make profits for their shareholders – and the way they do that is by denying care."

"It is simply not possible to organize major protests every time a multi-billion corporation like CIGNA denies care that has been recommended by a physician," DeMoro said. “Having insurance is not the same as receiving needed care. We need a fundamental change in our healthcare system that takes control away from the insurance giants and places it where it belongs – in the hands of the medical professionals, the patients, and their families."
Follow the link to Crook's and Liars' ABC video clip. (Quicktime format)

[h/t Crooks and Liars]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Taking the fight to al Qaeda - NOT!

Saudis biggest group of al Qaeda Iraq fighters: study
The researchers at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center found that 41 percent of the fighters were Saudi nationals.

Libyan nationals accounted for the second largest group entering Iraq in that time period with about 19 percent of the total, followed by Syrians and Yemenis each at 8 percent, Algerians with 7 percent and Moroccans at 6 percent.

[. . .]

"The United States should not confuse gains against al-Qa'ida's Iraqi franchises as fundamental blows against the organization outside of Iraq. So long as al-Qa'ida is able to attract hundreds of young men to join its ranks, it will remain a serious threat to global security."

Not even honest criminals

"After 10 full years inside the GOP, 90 days among honest criminals wasn't really any great ordeal." - former GOP political operative, former penitentiary resident, Allen Raymond, author of "How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Safer in the shallow end

Eric Boehlert on the shallowness of the coverage of the presidential race: It's never the media's fault.

ABC's The Note took Bill Clinton to task for complaining about the media's substance-free coverage of the presidential race. Boehlert observes:
As for Clinton's actual point about campaign coverage being void of substance, The Note never bothered to refute the charge. How could it? The day Clinton made his observation, itself pretty much proved his point when, in a round-up of the day's key Clinton-related news stories, it highlighted one of its own dispatches about how the Clinton campaign had dropped a Celine Dion song as its campaign theme. It presented that breaking news nugget as further proof that it was "another rough stretch for Camp Clinton." No joke. Also, that same day, the artwork for The Note featured a photoshopped image of Clinton dressed up as a man and a photoshopped image of Obama dressed up as a woman. Again, no joke.
Boehlert quotes a survey by Harvard's Center for Public Leadership National Leadership Index:
[T]he press receives the lowest ratings of all. This is troubling, because democracies rely on a vibrant, probing, and trusted press. This year, we dig more deeply into the public's views on news media election coverage. The key finding: Americans' lack of confidence in the press stems from deep unease about bias and editorial content.
According to the survey:
88 percent agree that the news media focuses too much on trivial rather than important issues.
Surely not.

Glenn Greenwald observes today how non-establishment candidates are handled by the establishment-leaning media:
Such outsider candidates begin as the nerdy losers to be held up by our campaign journalists for adolescent, giggly mockery. If their campaigns prosper, they become the target of outright hostility (see, e.g., the media's role in the destruction of Howard Dean's candidacy in 2003). In different ways, that has been the arc of media treatment accorded to Paul, Huckabee and Edwards, all of whose candidacies -- for better or worse -- represent something significant in our political culture, represent direct challenges to prevailing conventional pieties and dominant power centers, and yet (or, rather, therefore) are treated as silly jokes when they are discussed at all.
And the FCC want's McMedia to be able to get bigger and us even dumber:
WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission approved rules yesterday that allow publishers to own both newspapers and broadcast stations in the biggest US cities and that limit growth for cable companies.

Chairman Kevin Martin and the other two Republicans on the five-member panel backed the loosened rules for newspaper owners, which modify a ban adopted in 1975. Martin joined the agency's two Democrats in approving the cable limit.

Publishers Tribune Co. and News Corp. had said the ownership proposal didn't go far enough, while consumer groups said it threatened diversity in local media. The FCC disregarded 25 US senators who vowed in a letter released Monday to block the decision. They said more time is needed to review a policy that has "a substantial impact on the American people."
[h/t Glenn Greenwald]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Atrios the Wise

After quoting Greenwald on Chris Dodd's success, Atrios puts the naysayers in their places:
One of my pet peeves has long been a certain strain of defeatism. Understandably we all feel defeated at times, but there's a certain kind of defeatist out there on the internets, people who spend most of their time chastising others for thinking it's possible to have any influence and attacking the "stupidity" of those who even bother to try. Maybe those people are right. Maybe there never is anything to be done. But if that's the case, get a new goddamn hobby. It's rather odd to spend all your time following political news and blogs if the only reason to do it is to provide justification for your view that All Is Lost. Just go out and have some fun instead.
Like he said.

Always with the negative waves, Moriarty.

Dodd rocks their world

People power forces Harry Reid to put FISA on the back burner until next year:
All throughout the day, Judiciary Democrats such as Dodd, Edward Kennedy, and Russ Feingold took aim at the bill, even as Reid professed his hope that the Senate would pass the FISA bill today, in advance of its holiday adjournment. Dodd, a margin-of-error presidential candidate, vowed to filibuster the FISA bill on the floor if it granted large telecom companies such as Verizon and AT&T immunity from civil lawsuits for allegedly cooperating with the government. The Intel Committee bill did just that.

But early this evening, Reid surrendered, saying the FISA legislation would be taken up again in January, after the recess.

Watch Dodd's video thanking 500,000 of us for pressuring Harry Reid into pulling the FISA bill from the floor until next year:

Glenn Greenwald:
The most important value of victories of this sort is that they ought to serve as a potent tonic against defeatism, regardless of the ultimate outcome. And successes like this can and should provide a template for how to continue to strengthen these efforts. Yesterday's victory, temporary as it is, shouldn't be over-stated, but it also shouldn't be minimized. All of it stemmed from the spontaneous passion and anger of hundreds of thousands of individuals demanding that telecoms be subject to the rule of law like everyone else. And this effort could have been -- and, with this additional time, still can be -- much bigger and stronger still.
[h/t Glenn Greenwald]

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kennedy got pissed

in the Senate today. And not on alcohol. About FISA. (emphasis mine)
Let’s not forget why we are even talking about this issue. At some point in 2001, the Bush Administration began a massive program of warrantless spying. New reports suggest that the Administration began its warrantless spying even before 9/11. The Administration never told Congress what it was doing. In clear violation of the FISA law and in complete disdain for the 4th Amendment, it also never told the FISA court what it was doing.

[. . .]

There is still a great deal we don’t know about this secret spying, but what we do know is alarming. Numerous reports indicate that it covered not only international communications, but also Americans’ purely local calls with their friends, neighbors, and loved ones. A lawsuit in California has produced evidence that at the government’s request, AT&T installed a supercomputer in a San Francisco facility that copied every communication by its customers, and turned them over to the National Security Agency.

Think about that. The National Security Agency of the Bush Administration may have been intercepting the phone calls and e-mails of millions of ordinary Americans for years.

The surveillance was so flagrantly illegal that even lawyers in the Administration tried to fight it. Nearly 30 Justice Department employees threatened to resign over it. The head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Jack Goldsmith, testified that it was “the biggest legal mess I had ever encountered.”

Mr. Goldsmith himself acknowledged that “top officials in the administration dealt with FISA the way they dealt with other laws they didn’t like: they blew through them in secret based on flimsy legal opinions that they guarded closely so no one could question the legal basis of the operations.”

Think about that as well. The President’s own head of the Office of Legal Counsel states that the Administration’s policy has been to “blow through” laws it doesn’t like, in secret, so that its actions cannot be challenged. The Bush White House has repeatedly failed to understand that our government is a government of laws, and not of men.

[. . .]

Here’s another fact that no one should lose sight of. From the very beginning, telecommunications companies have always had immunity under FISA when they comply with lawful surveillance requests. In fact, the Senate Judiciary Committee worked closely with AT&T, and the company played a major role in drafting FISA’s immunity provisions in the 1970s.

To be completely protected from any liability whatever, all a company needs under FISA is a court order or an appropriate certification from the Attorney General. That’s it. Just get one of those two documents, and you’re off the hook.

So in this debate, let’s be clear that we’re not talking about protecting companies that complied with lawful surveillance requests. We’re talking about protecting companies that complied with surveillance requests that they knew were illegal.

[. . .]

Some of the telecoms might have been doing what they thought was good for the country. Some of them might simply have been doing what they thought would preserve their lucrative government contracts. We simply don’t know. But either way, it is not the role of telecommunications companies to decide which laws to follow and which to ignore. FISA is a law that was carefully developed over many years to give the Executive Branch the flexibility it needs, while protecting the rights of Americans. It is the companies’ legal duty—and their patriotic duty—to follow that law.

Nothing could be more dangerous for Americans’ privacy and liberty than to weaken that law, which is precisely what retroactive immunity is meant to do. Yesterday’s newspaper disclosed that in December of 2000, the National Security Agency sent the Bush Administration a report asserting that the Agency must become a “powerful, permanent presence” on America’s communications network. A “powerful, permanent presence” on America’s communications network. Under this Administration, that is exactly what the NSA has become. If the phone companies simply do the NSA’s bidding in violation of the law, they create a world in which Americans can never feel confident that their e-mails and phone calls aren’t being tapped by the government.

[. . .]

The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retro-active immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he's willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.

So the telecoms were entrapped by the government into breaking the law, huh?

And they knew it was against the law? (Quest Qwest did too. Except it's legal team said no, get a court order first.)

And now the telecoms should be immune from prosecution because the government instigated it?

Every John, pimp and drug dealer caught in a sting will be demanding that deal.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Most Persuasive Case

from Prof. Amy Chua in today's Washington Post, The Right Road to America?.

Chua examines both sides of the immigration debate and argues for both tolerance and toughness. Read the whole thing, including her prescriptions.
The United States is in no danger of imminent disintegration. But this is because it has been so successful, at least since the Civil War, in forging a national identity strong enough to hold together its widely divergent communities. We should not take this unifying identity for granted.
If there is any value to identity politics, Chua's analysis suggests (indirectly), it lies in America's historic success in "forging an ethnically and religiously neutral national identity" as a means to national cohesion amidst ethnic and religious diversity instead of a " 'white, Christian' identity and what Huntington calls its Anglo-Saxon, Protestant 'core values' ."

Yet, she suggests,
America's glue can be subverted by too much tolerance. Immigration advocates are too often guilty of an uncritical political correctness that avoids hard questions about national identity and imposes no obligations on immigrants. For these well-meaning idealists, there is no such thing as too much diversity.

The right thing for the United States to do -- and the best way to keep Americans in favor of immigration -- is to take national identity seriously while maintaining our heritage as a land of opportunity. U.S. immigration policy should be tolerant but also tough.

Like all Americans, immigrants have a responsibility to contribute to the social fabric. It's up to each immigrant community to fight off an enclave mentality and give back to their new country. It's not healthy for Chinese to hire only Chinese, or Koreans only Koreans. By contrast, the free health clinic set up by Muslim Americans in Los Angeles -- serving the entire poor community -- is a model to emulate. Immigrants are integrated at the moment when they realize that their success is inextricably intertwined with everyone else's. (emphasis mine)
And that's true for each of us.

Just last night we were discussing the merits of mandatory national service for keeping the country out of wars of choice instigated by national leaders without buy-in by the citizenry. Chua's observations suggest its value as "cultural and political glue" as well.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Digby and others wonder why -- given the Bush administration's track record -- there's no introspection among the GOP's leaders about the future of their party. Instead:
They want a living incarnation of the party (Jesus, maybe, if he hated racial minorities and liked torture and tax cuts.)

The problem is that it's not easy to find a walking incarnation of a party based entirely on a dissonant image of narrow regional folkways and aristocratic privilege. Now that the Bush political franchise has been permanently tarnished, you can't just pull one off the shelf.
For a double dose of Digby, there's this:
Here's a little story from a book called "The Genius of the Jewish Joke" by Arthur Asa Berger:
Three Jews were going to be executed. They were lined up in front of a firing squad and the sergeant in charge asked each one whether he wanted a blindfold or not.

"Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the first. "Yes," he said, in a resigned tone.

"Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the second. "Ok," said the second.

"Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the third. "No," said the third.

At this point the second leaned over to the third one and said "Take a blindfold. Don't make trouble."
That's the Democratic electoral strategy in a nutshell.

Who will rid us of these ineffectual pols?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Empire Strikes Out

Jurors Deadlock in 6 of 7 Defendants

Thursday December 13, 2007 8:46 PM


MIAMI (AP) - One of seven Miami men accused of plotting to join forces with al-Qaida to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower was acquitted Thursday, and a mistrial was declared for the six others after the federal jury deadlocked.

The mistrial means prosecutors will have to decide whether to retry the six men.
Too busy chasing vote fraud.

But they're hell at propaganda.

[h/t Brad Blog]

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Civics 101

Watched the president spin the NIE Iran report this week, trying to hype a threat he's known for months the NIE wouldn't confirm.

I was struck by how this administration is a civics lesson in why the Founders gave the power to declare war to the Congress and not to one man. Congress needs to remind them (Bush & Cheney) of that fact before they preempt again.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sex on the City

The name nails it, her, him . . . whatever.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Voter fraud snipe hunt

"Everytime someone says, 'Show me the fraud,' there isn't any," said Coleman.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


This piece first appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times on November 11, 2007.
Flipping through channels last week, I caught the tail end of the 1982 movie, “Poltergeist.” It’s still unnerving decades later. Childhood terrors come to life: monsters in the closet, outside the window, under the bed. In one scene, JoBeth Williams runs to her screaming children, but in helpless slow motion as their bedroom door recedes impossibly before her.

Watching the rerun of the Bush administration’s war-starting strategy — this time featuring Iran — feels like those slow-motion nightmares.

We charge Iran with interfering in Iraq. They’ve supported fellow Shiites there since the days when the United States supplied Saddam Hussein with chemicals, but no matter.

We charge Iran with smuggling weapons across their border with Iraq. The U.S. smuggled Stinger missiles to mujahideen halfway around the world in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, but no matter.

Determined hawks

One influential hawk among many, National Review’s Michael Ledeen, insists a state of war with Iran has existed since 1979. Ledeen helped the Reagan administration transfer weapons to the Iran he repeatedly claims we were at war with, but no matter.

In “The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn’t Want You to Know” in the recent Esquire, two former Bush State Department Middle East policy experts outline their post-Sept. 11, 2001, discussions with Iranian diplomats. “Iran was ready to cooperate unconditionally,” Esquire reports. The Bush administration was not — is not — interested in diplomacy, but no matter.

The executive branch players reprise roles they made famous, pre-Iraq. President Bush warns of “nuclear holocaust.” Vice President Cheney threatens Iran with “serious consequences.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accuses Iran of “lying” to inspectors about its nuclear programs.

It doesn’t take a quarterback to see that the administration is running the same play again. Against Iran and against us.

Trumping up a case

They’ve been wrong about everything from weapons of mass destruction to Iraqi “dead-enders” to de-Baathification, Hurricane Katrina and Harriet Miers, but no matter. Regimes must be changed. Wars must be started. Reasons will be found.

In February, a story in London’s Telegraph newspaper reported that more than 100 .50-caliber Steyr-Mannlicher sniper rifles had been captured during American raids in Iraq. The weapons shipped to Iran in 2005 were now in use against U.S. troops, claimed the Telegraph’s anonymous source.

These formidable-looking Austrian weapons can take off a man’s head at a mile. Austrian native Arnold Schwarzenegger might wield one in the movies. What a jim-dandy backdrop for a press conference 100 would make, a picture worth a thousand words.

But no photos of the captured weapons appeared in any newspapers — only shots from Steyr’s online catalog. Skeptics asked if the serial numbers matched the weapons shipped to Iran, and the tale of the unseen rifles died overnight.

“Explosively formed penetrators” (EFPs) star in this year’s sequel too. Military briefers told reporters that the armor-piercing roadside bombs require machining too sophisticated for Iraqis. They had been manufactured in Iran.

“We have no evidence that this has ever been done in Iraq,” a senior U.S. military official told the New York Times in February.

Days later, a Los Angeles Times op-ed article cited a November 2006 raid on a Baghdad machine shop producing EFP components. Earlier reports of Iraqi EFP factories surfaced, and more questions. Military spokesmen backed away from earlier claims, prompting suggestions that the allegations against Iran had been manufactured. Bush called those suggestions “preposterous.”

Congress can stop this

These anecdotes don’t disprove Iranian weapons are reaching Iraq. Some indeed may. But these examples cast a cloud over tales — especially regarding Iranian nuclear programs — used to justify a disastrous new “preemptive” war by the same people who produced the last one.

Congress has the power to stop it. But despite receiving the voters’ mandate last November — to exercise its duty to flex its own constitutional war and oversight powers — Congress shies like an abused child who fears slaps and name-calling for doing so.

Hoping to wait out a reckless and power-hungry White House until November 2008 is itself reckless, as it is unconscionable.

Presidential spokesmen and candidates warn that a nuclear-armed Iran will destabilize the region. But that mission is already accomplished. Another American pre-emptive war will destabilize it further, and quicker.

Like a slow-motion nightmare, we watch it unfolding just as it did in 2002 and 2003. We scream warnings, but our leaders do not hear us.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Water Woes

Uptown Ruler takes note of the Southeast's water woes, highlighted in Orme, TN. (Cross-posted from Scrutiny Hooligans.)
The Associated Press reports “As twilight falls over this Tennessee town, Mayor Tony Reames drives up a dusty dirt road to the community’s towering water tank and begins his nightly ritual in front of a rusty metal valve.

With a twist of the wrist, he releases the tank’s meager water supply, and suddenly this sleepy town is alive with activity. Washing machines whir, kitchen sinks fill and showers run.

About three hours later, Reames will return and reverse the process, cutting off water to the town’s 145 residents.

The severe drought tightening like a vise across the Southeast has threatened the water supply of cities large and small, sending politicians scrambling for solutions. But Orme, about 40 miles west of Chattanooga and 150 miles northwest of Atlanta, is a town where the worst-case scenario has already come to pass: The water has run out.
The mayor wonders what the 4.5 million people in Atlanta will do. I had my own perspective on the problem:
As Dreyfuss once said, “Well, this is not a boat accident! And it wasn’t any propeller; and it wasn’t any coral reef; and it wasn’t Jack the Ripper!” But for Atlanta, anyway, it wasn’t a shark or the drought either. It was overdevelopment.

The drought just precipitated the crisis that’s been a long time coming. Atlanta’s been sucking hard on the Flint River Aquifer for years without regard to what sprawl was doing to the water supply.

“Heavens, we can’t tell developers no. That would interfere with their personal freedom and right to put their land to its ‘highest and best use’.”

In 1998, I put in a wastewater neutralization system for a lens coating operation in an office park in Alfalfa-retta, north of Atlanta. I asked what the small out-building was at the edge of the parking lot. The Culligan rep told me it was a well house (in an upscale office park!).

He knew clients (including hospitals) drilling wells all over Atlanta because the Metropolitan Sewer District wouldn’t let people use all the water they wanted (both because of the MSD infrastructure capacity and water source limits, I think). So they were drilling their own wells to get unmetered water.

I was on the edge of another client’s lawsuit in Duluth Buford, GA, in 1999 when the county Fulton reneged on its water contract to supply the water needed for a new, water-heavy manufacturing operation we helped design.

The drought is just the straw that’s broken the camel’s back. The Flint River Aquifer has been under strain for a decade as Atlanta keeps growing, the developers keep developing, and the water supply keeps shrinking.

It was only a matter of time before the taps started running dry. Nobody listens. Nobody cares. Anyone who raises the alarm is an anti-business kook.

For years, I’ve wondered when we’d start seeing bumper stickers that said, “Suppose they gave a subdivision and nobody came?”

Maybe soon, now.
Then from today's LA Times:
But experts say the Southeast’s struggles over water resources are far from over.

“What was not on the table, and what has got to be on the table, is Atlanta’s unrestricted growth and cavalier attitude to water use,” said Sally Bethea, executive director of Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a watchdog group.

[. . .]

“Atlanta is a greedy, poorly designed behemoth of a city incapable of hearing the word ‘no’ and dealing with it,” said a recent editorial in the Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times.

The editorial said Atlanta’s “politicians can’t bring themselves to tell their greedy constituents complaining about the low flows in their toilets this week that perhaps if they didn’t have six bathrooms, it might ease the situation a bit.”

There is sowing, and then there is reaping.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sandbox Rules

Dave Neiwert of Orcinus began a series this week, "The Politics of the Personal," over at Campaign for America's Future. Part 1 describes his journey from growing up in Idaho in a Republican working class family, to rejecting that ideology. But there's enough caution to go around for all:
A basic realization took shape, perhaps typical of the age, but it has persisted: even though I had always believed (and still do to some extent) upper-class and urban liberals are prone to indulging a paper-thin compassion that more resembles a parlor game rationalized with a tortuous intellectualism, it was also clear that conservatives, conversely, were fond of wrapping themselves in my old-fashioned, working-class values (along with the American flag, of course) even as they systematically undermined the ability of ordinary, working-class people to make a decent living and obtain equal opportunity.

[. . .]

I simultaneously came to almost instinctively mistrust ideologues of all stripes because it seems that to them, ideas are more important than people. This observation arose first out of personal experience, since ideologues are often likely to reject friendships with those who don't think like them or fit their ideologies. I might be able to maintain a relationship with an ideologue (right or left) for awhile, but inevitably, they would reject me because I didn't fit the pure mold they had in mind. People who disagree with them or challenge them assault their egos and are placed out of their personal realms. This dynamic – valuing ideas above people -- played out on the larger stage as well; indeed, it’s virtually a guarantee that when ideologues act out their ideologies, in both national politics and everyday interpersonal dealings, ordinary people in real life are harmed.
You see it at both ends of the ideological spectrum, as I've written myself after encountering liberal activists who wouldn't give pro-life Democrats the time of day:
It has been obvious to me for some time that the further right and the further left one goes in the political spectrum, the more alike conservatives and liberals become. They don't think the same things, but they begin thinking the same way: rigid, dogmatic and intolerant. They just don't see themselves that way: "You must mean those people."
Dave, who has followed the "eliminationist" trend in America for some time, also wanders, as I have, into exploring the mindset(s) behind the American Right. Dave, Digby and others have been puzzling over the coverage of Hillary Clinton's appearance at Wellesley -- for playing the "gender card" -- by the boys' club that unashamedly gushes over their favorite candidates' manliness. As Digby puts it:
Indeed, the entire Republican campaign strategy can be said to be one big gender card --- the only people they believe matter in this country are delicate, insecure creatures who are so sensitive that they have to be pampered and pandered to like a bunch of overfed princes who like to play cowboy and don't want to share their favorite binky.
Even more fascinating is Orcinus' Sara Robinson's take on fundamentalist/Right Wing Authoritarian ideology that traps people "somewhere around the age of five or six":
They also have to give up on adult-level emotional functioning (which, as I mentioned, may be welcomed as something of a relief after adult life has blown up under you a few times). Authoritarian followers crave someone who will keep things ordered and safe, someone who will provide and protect and set firm rules and boundaries; someone all-powerful and all-knowing who can teach you right from wrong and keep the harsh parts of the world at bay. Someone, in short, who looks like Daddy looked when you were about five years old.

RWAs would far rather curl up in Daddy's lap -- even if it means abandoning reason and taking the occasional spanking -- than try to deal with the world by themselves, on adult terms. This is also why RWA family and community relationships (as Lakoff has explained) are necessarily hierarchical. These people still need parents around, because they don't feel emotionally safe without the presence of a strong authority figure. Egalitarian relationships terrify them, because there's nobody in charge to make the rules and set the boundaries that keep people from hurting each other. And that's damned scary, because (as masters of projection) they're quite sure that everybody else in the whole world is also still five years old and playing by sandbox rules. Without a playground supervisor in charge, they know for sure that somebody will get hurt.
It takes us full-circle to the Bush joke that went around the Net awhile back. As Digby put it:
Avedon Carol snares a great quote that finally cleared something up for me: why does Bush always sound like he's talking to five year olds?
"He speaks to the audience as if they're idiots. I think the reason he does that is because that's the way these issues were explained to him." - Graydon Carter
All well and good. Now, what do we do with this information that will help us set this country right again? How do we elect leaders who will lift us out of the sandbox in Iraq and the political sandbox Washington has become?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why are we not surprised?

From this morning's WaPo:
In a series of internal musings and memos to his staff, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued that Muslims avoid "physical labor" and wrote of the need to "keep elevating the threat," "link Iraq to Iran" and develop "bumper sticker statements" to rally public support for an increasingly unpopular war.
Regarding the president's nominee for AG, Mr. Mukasey, today's NYT editorial weighs in:
Mr. Gonzales resigned after his extraordinary incompetence became too much for even loyal Republicans. Now Mr. Bush wants the Senate to confirm Michael Mukasey, a well-respected trial judge in New York who has stunned us during the confirmation process by saying he believes the president has the power to negate laws and by not committing himself to enforcing Congressional subpoenas. He also has suggested that he will not uphold standards of decency during wartime recognized by the civilized world for generations.

After a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which Mr. Mukasey refused to detail his views on torture, he submitted written answers to senators’ questions that were worse than his testimony. They suggest that he, like Mr. Gonzales, would enable Mr. Bush’s lawless behavior and his imperial attitude toward Congress and the courts.
Just another day at the Ministry of Truth.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Blogging still slow

My other political project continues to consume much time.

Op-ed: Coming soon in the funny papers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Propagandists Next Door

The right-wing Pass-It-On e-mails that come to me (via friends and relatives who know I collect it) was were a source of amusement for years. But what with the machinations of this administration and its lackeys - and a pending attack on Iran - I've come to see them in a darker light.

Folks, you're not just forwarding e-mail from friends. You're being used as propagandists by propagandandists.

An old one from 2002 came around again last week, already debunked by Among the lies it traffics in are:
Oliver North warned an unfriendly Senate inquisitor about Osama bin Laden during the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings. "Quotes" are included.

North's inquisitor was Al Gore.

9/11 mastermind, Mohammad Atta, in prison in Israel for a bus bombing conviction, was released from prison in 1993 at the behest of the Clinton administration. This "fact" was reported in the U.S. press immediately after 9/11, but subsequently censored.

Oceana has always been at war with Eastasia.
Okay, that last bit wasn't really in there. But as is customary, the spam urges readers to pass it on (to everyone in your e-mail list).

All lies, of course. It was Abu Nidal, not Osama bin Laden. Gore wasn't on that panel. It wasn't that Mohammed Atta - different guy, same name. Ollie North even disclaimed the e-mail on his own site. Newspapers did report the Atta story after 9/11, but stopped after the Boston Globe discovered the error.

The disquieting thing is, these things continue to crop up - along with new ones - and fan out like a chain reaction. And they fly comfortably below the radar, day after day, passed from e-mail list to e-mail list. The mail I got had 75 e-mail addresses on it.

What makes Pass-It-On mail such an efficient conduit for spreading propaganda is that it arrives from a friend, colleague or relative - sources less impeachable, and much less likely to be challenged than the Mainstream Media. A 30-sec Google search would reveal the mail to be false, less time than it takes to attach dozens of your friends' addresses to the forward. Yet few bother. It reinforces existing prejudices. It came from a friend. Why inquire further?

What especially strikes me about this one is, it's not just one falsehood that slipped through the cracks, but many. The newspapers got the Atta story wrong. Okay. But Oliver North (Iran-Contra transcripts are readily available)? Al Gore?

As with other mailings in my collection, somebody went to a lot of trouble to assemble and distribute these lies with World Trade Center graphics and extra-large, extra-bold red, white and blue formatting - not uncommon for Pass-It-Ons. Given what we've seen from the administration and its supporters, it's not a stretch to assume that the authors already knew these things were lies ... and didn't care so long as they furthered the cause and poisoned the well of public discourse.

Such tactics filter from the top down. We shouldn't be surprised.

With evidence that the recent right-wing blogger smear campaign against twelve year-old SCHIP recipient, Graeme Frost, was orchestrated out of Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office, one wonders if the persistent Pass-It-On spam has similar parentage, though perhaps not regularly originating in the Senate.

These things do their jobs discretely, quietly poisoning minds, breeding mistrust of the unpatriotic Others, laying a foundation of support - almost subliminal - for secret prisons, military tribunals, indefinite detention, kidnapping, torture of prisoners, and the next preemptive war.

As a child reared during the Cold War, I was cautioned what would happen to freedom-loving "trouble-makers" if the Communists ever took over: surveillance, imprisonment, show trials, friends and relatives informing on each other, secrecy and ubiquitous propaganda.

They just never anticipated talk radio and the Internet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Greatest Hits Party

At recent and not-so-recent Democrat events I've attended, invariably someone gets up to remind us what Democrats are all about. To cheers and applause they reel off a list of 40-to-70-year-old programs and policies of which Democrats are justly proud. Only it begins to have the air of a late-night K-tel commercial: Democrats' Greatest Hits - All your favorites from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.

Makes me want to put on some plaid golf pants, a white patent-leather belt, and dance the Shag with Mrs. Blue.

Folks, you'd better get off your widening rear ends and create some new hits if you want to remain relevant in the 21st century. This democracy may not survive your biding your time until the end of Bush's term.

Here are a few off-the-cuff suggestions:
Restore habeas corpus.

Insist the Executive branch obey the law or impeach the blackguards.

Cut off the Boy King's war-waging allowance -- give him a G.I. Joe and send him to his room.

Demand an Attorney General who's not another presidential toady.
Need more ideas? You know where to find me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Eliminationists United

This is a few days old, but worth reading in full.

Ezra Klein renders a diagnosis of the latest Malkin/wingnut crusade -- against 12-year-old Graeme Frost -- into plain English:
This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he “really” needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.

The shrieking, atavistic ritual of personal destruction the right roars into every few weeks is something different than politics. It is beyond politics. It was done to Scott Beauchamp, a soldier serving in Iraq. It was done to college students from the University of California, at Santa Cruz. Currently, it is being done to a child and his family. And think of those targets: College students, soldiers, children. It can be done to absolutely anyone.

This is not politics. This is, in symbolism and emotion, a violent group ritual. It is savages tearing at the body of a captured enemy. It is the group reminding itself that the Other is always disingenuous, always evil, always lying, always pitiful and pathetic and grotesque.
To punctuate the point, Klein cites a recent account by Jim Henley of road rage, threats and a near assault provoked by simply ... well, let him explain it:
I yell back when he stops for air, “What is your FUCKING problem? What did I do to you?”

He leans out to point at my car bumper. Which is entirely unadorned except for a Kerry-Edwards sticker from 2004.

“YOU FAGGOT YOU VOTED FOR THAT WAR CRIMINAL. I’M GOING TO BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU.” Guy is turning a shade of purple. I don’t think he’s just putting on a show. He actually sped up, nearly rammed with his car at high speed and is now seriously contemplating attacking me over a bumper sticker.
Liberal protesters may camp out in front of Nancy Pelosi's house, but that's about it. Malkin's mob falls into this disturbing brand of conservatism, the kind of insecure, easily threatened people who beat up guys with long hair in the 60s before wearing theirs long in the 70s.

There are plenty of sane people on the right, to be sure -- some of my relatives among them -- but for too many twisted individuals conservatism isn't a political philosophy, it's a personality disorder.

Dave Neiwert has the last say:

It's important to make an issue of eliminationist talk precisely because it is so poisonous to the national discourse. For starters, its innate divisiveness belies its practitioners' demands for "national unity." Moreover, its targets are in a lose-lose position: if they attempt to continue to practice the old-fashioned politics of traditional civility out of principle, they are doomed to be bulldozered; but if they stand up and fight back, they're accused of being uncivil. (It's funny how bullies act all wounded and picked on when somebody punches back.)

This is easily the ugliest facet of a conservative movement that doesn't have many attractive ones to begin with, and the more the general public sees it in all its mouth-foaming glory, the less they want anything to do with them. With polls a month ago showing something like 86 percent support for SCHIP, nasty attacks on 12-year-olds seem unlikely to change the public's mind. (A more recent Rasmussen poll showed 57 percent disapproved of President Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill.) More important, there's a growing consensus that, like the centrists at Poliblogger, we are "sick to death of these people and their views of both politics and public discourse."

Yet at the same time, eliminationist rhetoric creates a vicious upward spiral that inevitably expresses itself in violence: When its practitioners face the inevitable retaliation, their response always is to ratchet it up another notch, until the back-and-forth gets so ugly that hardly anyone can tell who is worse. This is not discourse; it's a recipe for the destruction of our democratic institutions.

[h/t Dave Neiwert/]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A little history lesson

from "Last of the Mohicans," on cable tonight:
I believe if they set aside their law as and when they wish, their law no longer has rightful authority over us. All they have over us is tyranny, then. -- Jack, a militiaman

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wake up on the wrong side of the bed?

Every day for the last several decades?

Rick Perlstein (citing James Fallows)observes that Al Gore isn't the first Nobel winner to give conservatives a hissy fit.

For conservatives, everything is political war. Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize, reflecting the entire world's consensus that man-made climate change is a crisis? For conservatives, that means: time to discredit the Nobel Peace Prize itself as a pathetic racket—or, as National Review's Steven F. Hayward puts it, "a once-prestigious award," now suffering its "final debasement."

It raises an interesting question. When did conservatives first begin questioning the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize? Steve Benen and James Fallows point out that would be 1964, when the Prize was won by Dr. Martin Luther King.

[. . .]

As I wrote in an essay last January (subscription only; email me at and I'll email you a copy), conservatives "hated King's doctrines. Hating them was one of the litmus tests of conservatism." Prominent conservatives even went so far as to blame him for his own death—for didn't the doctrine of "civil disobedience" mean you got to choose the laws you followed? Strom Thurmond: "[W]e are now witnessing the whirlwind sowed years ago when some preachers and teachers began telling people that each man could be his own judge in his own case." Ronald Reagan: this was just the sort of "great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they'd break." Civil rights? That was just a front. A have here in front of me a slim 1965 pamphlet c0-authored by Lee Edwards, a present-day fellow at the Heritage Foundation, entitled Behind the Civil Rights Mask, whose cover features King's face as a mask, hiding their true goal: "revolution."

And they go after children the same way.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Separate and unequal

Glenn Greenwald opines today on the naked corruption on display in the Telecom Immunity law winding through Congress with bipartisan support. It's designed to exempt telecoms from lawsuits spawned by violations of communications laws, committed at the behest of the NSA for the White House's domestic surveillance program.
. . . these corporations are using their vast resources to give money to key lawmakers and pay huge lobbying fees to politically
well-connected former government officials
to pressure the Congress to write a new law that has no purpose other than to declare that they are immune from accountability for their lawbreaking. They're conniving, literally, to be specially exempted from the rule of law.

[. . .]

By definition, our Beltway establishment does not believe in the rule of law -- at least not for them. They are creating a completely segregated, two-track system where high Beltway officials and their corporate enablers arrogate unto themselves the power to decide when they can break the law. They are thus literally exempt from our laws, even our criminal laws, while increasingly harsh, merciless, and inflexible punishments are doled out for the poorest and least connected criminals -- who receive no consideration of any kind, let alone presidential commutations or special laws written for them by Congress retroactively rendering legal their patently criminal behavior.

The Telecom Immunity law that Congress seems well on its way to enacting is one of the most conclusive pieces of evidence yet not only that our Royal Beltway Court is corrupt and decayed at its core. It also proves that they no longer care who knows it.
This weekend, the WaPo reported allegations by former Qwest Communications CEO, Joseph P. Nacchio, that "the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal."

Per Nacchio's lawyer:
"Mr. Nacchio made inquiry as to whether a warrant or other legal process had been secured in support of that request," Stern said. "When he learned that no such authority had been granted and that there was a disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process, including the Special Court which had been established to handle such matters, Mr. Nacchio concluded that these requests violated the privacy requirements of the Telecommunications Act."
Granted, Nacchio is appealing convictions for insider trading, and the substance of his allegations could be suspect, but company records of the alleged Feb. 27, 2001 meeting with the NSA could easily confirm whether the NSA was working on a domestic surveillance program six months before September 11, 2001.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What will Fox News say?

Gore Wins Nobel Peace Prize

First Jimmy Carter, now Al Gore. Clearly, the Nobel committee is weak on defense and hates America. They don't even have a Nobel Belligerence Prize do they?

Those socialists are as crazy as Gore is.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

More from the Times

Today's editorial:
Is this the country whose president declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” and then managed the collapse of Communism with minimum bloodshed and maximum dignity in the twilight of the 20th century? Or is this a nation that tortures human beings and then concocts legal sophistries to confuse the world and avoid accountability before American voters?
Uh, "B"?

And worse. These "leaders" are giving license for their followers to behave likewise.

“Surprise, surprise, surprise."

"That ain’t my finger, neither.”

From this morning's New York Times:
Tens of thousands of Medicare recipients have been victims of deceptive sales tactics and had claims improperly denied by private insurers that run the system’s huge new drug benefit program and offer other private insurance options encouraged by the Bush administration, a review of scores of federal audits has found.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Road to Damascus

experience -- circa 1st century A.D. -- is what America needs: scales falling from eyes. Courtesy of Glenn Greenwald, evidence that that's happening from John Cole at Balloon Juice:
Seriously- what does the current Republican party stand for? Permanent war, fear, the nanny state, big spending, torture, execution on demand, complete paranoia regarding the media, control over your body, denial of evolution and outright rejection of science, AND ZOMG THEY ARE GONNA MAKE US WEAR BURKHAS, all the while demanding that in order to be a good American I have to spend most of every damned day condemning half my fellow Americans as terrorist appeasers.

And that isn’t even getting into the COMPLETE and TOTAL corruption of our political processes at every level
Follow the link above and this one. I was only vaguely aware of the Siegelman case in Alabama. The article in Time should change that for a lot of people.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Round-a-view with destiny

Slate's Fred Kaplan uses a recently released transcript of a pre-Iraq invasion conversation between President Bush and Spain's then-Prime Minister José María Aznar to give advise on picking the next president. The critical exchange is:

AZNAR: The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism.

BUSH: I'm an optimist because I believe that I'm right. I'm a person at peace with myself. It was our turn to face a serious threat to peace.

Here, in three sentences, is the first lesson on how to assess the current crop of presidential candidates: Don't pick anyone who utters, or seems capable of believing, those three sentences.

"Beware the politician who sees his life as an appointment with destiny," Kaplan writes. "Ditto a president who thinks it's his 'turn' to do anything, much less to go to war and save civilization."

Amen to that.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Holding up a mirror, Pt. 2

Rick Perlstein and I seem to be on the same page. He shows how far we've come. We once welcomed the leader of the USSR with salutes and state dinners -- back when the US of A's "manliness" wasn't so easily threatened.

I'm working on an op-ed on a very similar topic: the over-the-top reaction to dissenting voices and the hair-trigger on the use of force. This atmosphere is coming from the top down. Can you tell?

A cascade of recent events showed how far things have deteriorated. At the recent B-52s concert at the Biltmore House, security guards manhandled some concert-goers in front of the stage. A prankster creating a scene at an appearance by John Kerry was dragged to the ground and tasered by campus police, as he yelled, “Don’t tase me, bro!” When another protestor (a woman) began yelling at an NRA event (according to Roll Call), members of the crowd began chanting, “Tase her! Tase her!”

And a flake like Ahmadinejad? Nuke him before he calls us names again.

But it's hi-ho, hi-ho time, so Perlstein speaks. You listen:
Bed-wetter Nation

Here's a big question that I want to start addressing in upcoming posts: what is conservative rule doing to our nation's soul? How is it rewiring our hearts and minds? What kind of damage are they doing to the American character? And can we ever recover?

[. . .]

But look now what we have lost. Now when a bad guy crosses our threshhold, America becomes a pants-piddling mess.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Holding up a mirror

Reading Slate this morning, it seems this guy has a future in our office of faith-based initiatives:
Most of the papers front Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University, where he was met by protesters and an audience that was anything but friendly. Having faced lots of criticism for even inviting Ahmadinejad, Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, gave Ahmadinejad a strongly worded introduction where he said, "Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator." He went on to criticize several of Ahmadinejad's views, "You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated." The Iranian smiled during the introduction but then called it "an insult to the knowledge of the audience here." Ahmadinejad then "offered evidence of why he is widely admired in the developing world" as he criticized the Western world, and especially the United States, says the NYT. Everyone notes the biggest laugh of the day came when Ahmadinejad said that "in Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country."
Like others we could mention, Ahmadinejad too is not stuck in the reality-based community.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Now even God hates America!

Still locked in my lab-or-a-tory working on "Project X."

Meanwhile, Digby wonders why the GOP can hop about the media altar, slashing themselves and crying out like the prophets of Baal over MoveOn's "Betray-us" ad. Their own America-loving (hating?) acolytes from "Faith to Action" who sponsored a debate for second-tier GOP presidential candidates wonder aloud why God should give a rat's patootie for America.

Why should God bless America?
She’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back
On everything that made her what she is

Why should God stand beside her
Through the night with the light from his hand?
God have mercy on America
Forgive her sin and heal our land

The courts ruled prayer out of our schools
In June of ‘62
Told the children “you are your own God now
So you can make the rules”
O say can you see what that choice
Has cost us to this day
America, one nation under God, has gone astray

Why should God bless America?
Shes’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back on everything
That made her what she is

Why should God stand beside her
Through the night with the light from his hand?
God have mercy on America
Forgive her sins and heal our land

In ‘73 the Courts said we
Could take the unborn lives
The choice is yours don’t worry now
It’s not a wrong, it’s your right

But just because they made it law
Does not change God’s command
The most that we can hope for is
God’s mercy on our land

Why should God bless America?
She’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back on everything
That made her what she is

Why should God stand beside her
Through the night with the light from his hand?
God have mercy on America
Forgive her sins and heal our land

(Reading from 2nd Chronicles 7:14) If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land

God have mercy on America forgive her sins and heal our land
So does that make George Bush into Job, and Osama bin Laden into Satan's agent? Was Al Qaeda doing the smiting so Satan could win his bet with God, all the while doing God's work in imparting a lesson in humility to America?

Somehow I don't think that question will be resolved in the voting booth on Nov. 4, 2008.

Even more daunting, how is a left-leaning blogger even supposed to be able to see such things in Biblical terms?

I need an Advil.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

This is the last stall

Once again, the last stall in the men's room yields blog fodder. No Bible tracts or printouts from NewsMax this time, but the August 2007 issue of "The Phyllis Schlafly Report."

Along with the conspiracy talk about NAFTA and a North American "union," there was a report on some moves in Congress to bring U.S. patent law into greater "consistency" with Europe and Japan. Schlafly paints the Democrat-sponsored and Bush administration-supported Patent Reform Act of 2007 as another pro-corporate effort by " 'world is flat' globalists" to make it easier for corporations to secure and/or violate patents and tougher on the little guys to secure and defend their intellectual property.
The common thread in the changes to be made by the new Patent bill is that they favor big companies like Microsoft and hurt individuals and small-entity inventors. (emphasis in original)
I must admit this one was below my radar and the blogs are unusually silent on it. One blogger(?) posted the same piece to John Edwards' and Barack Obama's sites raising red flags on this one as well, as did a poster on Daily Kos, joining the AFL-CIO, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and the United Steelworkers. Still, the bill passed the House on September 7 (220-175), with Democrats voting 3 to 1 in favor and Republicans voting 2 to 1 against. In NC-11, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) voted against the bill.

If what Schlafly wrote was accurate, then I found myself agreeing with her. The anti-corporatist tone coming from an old-line conservative like Schlafly struck me as signaling an area where conservatives and liberals can find common ground. The virtual takeover of the U.S. government by corporate money is something we all have reason to mistrust and oppose. Democracy of, by, and for those able to buy influence is no democracy at all, but something far less wholesome.

In The America Prospect this week Robert Kuttner wrote of Wall Street's partnering with the Chinese government's domestic surveillance operation:
More Like Us, or More Like Them? The New York Times' Keith Bradsher reported today in a fine piece that U.S. hedge funds are bankrolling Chinese high-tech surveillance operations. What a perfect marriage of capitalism and totalitarianism! What a perfect symbol of the weird permutations of globalization. Capitalists, of course, are famous for getting along with almost any brand of dictator. German industry coexisted nicely with Hitler and had many American business partners such as DuPont and Standard Oil, right up until the United States entered World War II. U.S corporate interests likewise had congenial relations with despotic regimes in Iran, Iraq, Cuba, the Dominican Republic -- and often influenced American foreign policy to keep these regimes propped up.

[. . .]

This globalization stuff gets curiouser and curiouser. Not so long ago, many writers were claiming that we would soon see a happy convergence, in which formerly communist nations would become more capitalist. And as they became more market-oriented, they would also become more democratic. However, recent history suggests the possibility of a rather darker convergence. Nations like China remain repressive one-party states, enabled by American multinationals. Far from creating a pro-worker communist society, the current Chinese mandarins actually help foreign capital get access to a cheap and docile workforce. Meanwhile, the western democracies become more despotic themselves, and the convergence is in the direction of a universal security state in league with global finance.
Imagine liberals and conservatives wondering, just what kind of democracy have we become anyway? Think we can put our other differences aside and work together to contain a common antidemocratic foe?

Friday, September 14, 2007

If "victory" has become "success"

what is "dead"?

From today's L.A. Times:
WASHINGTON -- -- For more than four years since the invasion of Iraq, President Bush most often has defined his objective there with a single, stirring word: "Victory."

[. . .]

But this week, the word "victory" disappeared from the president's lexicon. It was replaced by a slightly more ambiguous goal: "Success."
Listen to the last installment of Iraqi dentist Dr. Hassan's journal on NPR's Morning Edition site later this morning and the entire series. It's an unambiguously chilling account of the reality of life in Baghdad.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Profile of Josh Marshall

and Talking Points Memo in the Columbia Journalism Review.

A good read on an important site(s).

[h/t atonemusic]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Odds & Ends

Glenn Greenwald's Thursday appearance in Asheville, NC has been postponed.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The neocon apporoach to all human interaction

They believed cooperation and compromise signaled weakness . . . they viewed every encounter outside the innermost core of most trusted advisers as a zero-sum game that if they didn't win they would necessarily lose.
And in "power as the absence of constraint," as Jack Goldsmith, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel from October 2003 to July of 2004, writes in The Terror Presidency. Excerpted this week and next in Slate.

Psychologists are going to have years of fun analyzing this administration.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Battle of the statistics

What you'll hear on the Iraq situation depends on who's mining the statistics? Go figure. From this morning's WaPo:
The U.S. military's claim that violence has decreased sharply in Iraq in recent months has come under scrutiny from many experts within and outside the government, who contend that some of the underlying statistics are questionable and selectively ignore negative trends.

Reductions in violence form the centerpiece of the Bush administration's claim that its war strategy is working. In congressional testimony Monday, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is expected to cite a 75 percent decrease in sectarian attacks. According to senior U.S. military officials in Baghdad, overall attacks in Iraq were down to 960 a week in August, compared with 1,700 a week in June, and civilian casualties had fallen 17 percent between December 2006 and last month. Unofficial Iraqi figures show a similar decrease.

Others who have looked at the full range of U.S. government statistics on violence, however, accuse the military of cherry-picking positive indicators and caution that the numbers -- most of which are classified -- are often confusing and contradictory. "Let's just say that there are several different sources within the administration on violence, and those sources do not agree," Comptroller General David Walker told Congress on Tuesday in releasing a new Government Accountability Office report on Iraq.
NPR's Morning Edition just ran a piece (available online later) on the Iraq lies, damned lies, and, well, you know.
Sometime around February 2004, a top military official in Iraq estimated that there were about 15,000 total insurgents. About a year later, U.S. military leaders in Iraq announced that 15,000 insurgents had been killed or captured in the previous year.

In private, a skeptical military adviser pointed out to commanders that the numbers didn't make sense. "If all the insurgents were killed," he asked, "why are they fighting harder than ever?"
Are we fighting the Un-dead?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When steadfast goes bad

In the aftermath of the Utah mine disaster, after several more minors died in the rescue, the mine owner halted digging operations, eventually deciding that there was no hope left for rescuing the lost miners.

If President Bush had been in charge, would he have adopted "a failure is not an option" stance and continued throwing men into the effort? Would Fox & Co. called naysayers defeatists. Would Bush have argued that not to continue would be to dishonor the sacrifice of the men who had already lost their lives in the rescue?

Monday, September 03, 2007

That's why the military has Supply Companies

Intermittent blogging continues as my other project consumes my time.

Meanwhile, at the LA Times:
"Is it wise to use civilian contractors in a war zone? Was it wise to send the convoy along the route [to Baghdad airport] on April 9, 2004?" Miller wrote. "Answering either question and the many questions in between would require the court to examine the policies of the executive branch during wartime, a step the court declines to take."
On Good Friday, 2004 KBR, the prime defense contractor in Iraq, sent out a convoy of 19 trucks -- driven by civilians -- to the Baghdad airport with an emergency supply of fuel. Only 6 trucks made it.
The final tally was grim. Six KBR drivers were dead. Most other drivers were wounded. Besides the kidnapped Hamill, another was missing. Tim Bell now is presumed dead. Two soldiers were killed. A third, Matt Maupin, was captured by insurgents and is still listed as missing. Hamill escaped after nearly three weeks and is back in the U.S.

Only six of the 19 KBR trucks reached the airport. Across Iraq, all 122 convoys sent out by KBR on April 9 were attacked, according to KBR.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"When we say 'progress'

it means just what we choose it to mean, neither more nor less."

From this morning's WaPo:
Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.

[. . .]

The draft provides a stark assessment of the tactical effects of the current U.S.-led counteroffensive to secure Baghdad. "While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved."

Trust Begins with Honesty

. . . seen last night on a church billboard in Greenville, SC, the epicenter of church marquee wisdom.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Welcome back to Whose War Is It Anyway?

. . . where everything's made up and the facts don't matter.

Responding to President Bush's latest rewrite of history, Mahablog has an incisive post on how the right prefers mythology to facts anyway. Someone after my own heart, Maha draws from sources as varied as Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, and Star Trek: The Next Generation to paint a picture of a group who speaks in archetypes rather than information. Or, as Greenwald put it last week:
Love war? You are Churchill, a noble warrior. Oppose war? You’re Chamberlain, a vile appeaser. And everyone else is Hitler. That, more or less, composes the full scope of “thought” among this strain on the right.
Maha elaborates:
In the rightie mind, any attempt to avoid war is “appeasement.” In his new book A Tragic Legacy, Glenn Greenwald writes (p. 177) that when Ronald Reagan signed the INF treaty with the Soviet Union in 1988, rightie editorialists everywhere evoked Neville Chamberlain and accused Reagan of “appeasement.” Earlier, in 1984, Newt Gingrich scorned Reagan’s rapprochement with Gorbachev as “the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolph Hitler met with Chamberlain in 1938 at Munich.”

Got that? All “enemies” are Hitler (whatever you think of Gorbachev, he’s hardly Hitler). So much as meeting with “enemies” is Chamberlain and Hitler at Munich. So how do we deal with nations whose interests don’t harmonize with ours? Rightie mythos leaves us with no option but war.
Those who after WWII swore, "Never again" have been pretty slack, I guess. Gorbachev was Hitler. Bin Laden is Hitler. Saddam was Hitler. Kim Jong-il is Hitler. Ahmadinejad is Hitler. Even Markos Moulitsas is Hitler. Throw in Dick Shawn and you've got a casting call for Springtime for Hitler.

There is some reason to the right's reflex for reference, I grant you. There's an economy to speaking in archetypes. I prefer using images from popular film. For a columnist, it's cheap shorthand that allows you to cram more message into limited column inches. It has its place. For a White House in which message discipline is the one thing at which it excels, speaking in commercials comes naturally, but it's no substitute for effective governance. Katrina proved that graphically and tragically.

Democracy works best when the electorate can make informed decisions. Rhetoric -- especially from our leaders -- designed more for conveying impressions than information doesn't serve citizens or democracy well. Salesmanship is no substitute for leadership.

Read the whole post over at Mahablog to get the significance of:
“Sam Waterson and John Malkovich in Phnom Penh! FDR at Yalta!”

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tired of the medicine show

In today's L.A. Times Newt Gingrich challenges presidential candidates of both major parties to new "Lincoln-Douglas" style debates -- nine 90-minute debates on Sunday nights in the nine weeks leading up to the 2008 election:
Our system to elect a president is not working for the American people. The big-city-machine bosses of the past have been replaced by professional political consultant bosses. Sadly, the role of the candidate -- the man or woman who would lead the most powerful nation on Earth -- largely has been reduced to raising the money to hire consultants and then reading what the consultants scrawl on 3-by-5 cards. It's a stunningly dangerous development for a democracy.

We don't really have presidential debates today; we have a kind of meaningless political performance art: a recitation of talking points choreographed to avoid any risk.
Agreed. Sounds good, Newt. But is the current, consultant-driven "debate" format the cause of political malaise, or merely a symptom? Will your proposed solution remedy "news media coverage that is narrow, negative and so short in its attention span that no serious idea gets full consideration." And by the time we get there, will anyone be left watching? Or will they instead go to bed on Sunday nights to prepare for their 50+ hr weeks at multiple jobs they hold to keep their financial lives afloat?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Glenn Greenwald coming to Asheville

The good doctor is bringing Glenn Greenwald to town:

Glenn Greenwald coming to Asheville

Posted by: ecthompson

Glenn Greenwald

The Errington Thompson Show is bringing Glenn Greenwald to Asheville. September 13th. He will be lecturing on UNCA’s campus at 12:30. A book signing is planned and a trip to Drinking Liberally that evening at 7 pm. He will be doing an interview for the Errington Thompson Show.

Mark your calendars!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Another project

Weekends are when I normally get in some more lengthy, thought-out pieces. Right now, however, I'm trying to get a non-blogging political project off the ground. It's threatening to rust on the launch pad for lack of attention.

The ten-day forecast calls for heavy project work with intermittent blogging.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

State secrets and the secret secrets that hide them

Trying to get at the truth in the domestic surveillance lawsuits is tough when anything you say can or even remember may be declared a state secret in the wiretapping lawsuits:
“Is it the government’s position that when our country is engaged in a war that the power of the executive when it comes to wiretapping is unchecked?” Judge Harry Pregerson asked a government lawyer. His tone was one of incredulity and frustration.

Gregory G. Garre, a deputy solicitor general representing the administration, replied that the courts had a role, though a limited one, in assessing the government’s assertion of the so-called state secrets privilege, which can require the dismissal of suits that could endanger national security. Judges, he said, must give executive branch determinations “utmost deference.”

“Litigating this action could result in exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the United States,” Mr. Garre said, referring to the assessment of intelligence officials.
That is, when we say "terrorist," you say "case dismissed." It's a patriotic Pavlovian imperative.

Terrorist -- salivate -- take a pellet.

The New York Times reports that all three judges were inclined to hear "one or both" of the cases at issue.

But to sue, you must have standing. To have standing, you must have proof you've been targeted, and that's a state secret.
“Whether plaintiffs were subjected to surveillance is a state secret,” the Justice Department said in a recent brief ... “and information tending to confirm or deny that fact is privileged.”
In a the case brought by an Islamic charity, the plaintiffs had mistakenly received a government document the charity claims proved they had been subjected to surveillance. It has since been reclaimed by the government. Even their memories of the document are secret.
Judge Pregerson, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, appeared irritated with the government’s arguments, and he became frustrated when Mr. Garre said he could not provide simple answers to questions about the scope of a recently amended 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Mr. Garre said it was a complicated law.

“Can’t be any more complicated than my phone bill,” Judge Pregerson said.
Can't say. It's a state secret.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Another day, another recall

Will someone please get the government off Chinese manufacturers' back? The Los Angeles Times explains the recent trend:
First it was tens of millions of containers of pet food recalled because of tainted ingredients from China; then it was 1.5 million of the popular Thomas & Friends wood trains, made in China, recalled for lead paint.

Two weeks ago, El Segundo-based Mattel Inc., one of the most trusted names in playthings, jolted consumers with warnings that 1.5 million of its Chinese-made Fisher-Price toys also could contain lead paint.

And on Tuesday, Mattel recalled more than 18 million more toys worldwide because of new worries about lead paint and, because of design problems, magnets that can come loose and cause serious health problems if swallowed.
Parental responsibility is the answer here, clearly. Responsible parents teach their children not to put things in their mouths. It's not toy manufacturers' job. Business Week explains that while Mattel works hard to ensure product safety, even a minimum of parental responsibility could minimize ingestion risks:
Not all recalls are due to suppliers cutting corners. In the case of the recalled magnetic toys, technology advanced faster than toymakers' perceived risk. Mattel's quality guru Walter noted in an interview with BusinessWeek in late July that the company puts products through rigorous stress tests. The industry didn't anticipate, however, that if two or more of the high-powered magnets were ingested at once they could close off the intestines of small children. In newer versions of the toys the magnets will be locked into the products in such a way that a child cannot break them free.
See, parents? Keep your child from ingesting more than one magnet and there's no problem.

Just now on NPR, a Mattel spokesperson noted that each year the multinational has many recalls, so this one, while regretable, is nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

Nothing a tax cut wouldn't solve.