Archive for June, 2007

How to hire aliens instead of citizens.

Jun 28, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans

Here’s a video of some immigration lawyers explaining how to their corporate clients:

[youtube TCbFEgFajGU]

Sadly, this will do little to silence those keen on crying “but Americans wont do those jobs”.

-mg

Tales of Doom

Jun 28, 2007 in Economy, Housing Bubble, Politics

In today’s Gavel there’s some posting on the Budget Committees current hearing entitled “Foreign Holdings of U.S. Debt: Is Our Economy Vulnerable?” Rep. Chet Edwards questions Pete Orszag (Director of the Congressional Budget Office) about how much the Bush (Cheney) tax cuts amount to in proportion to debt and he responds that it’s approximately equivalent. Here’s a great quote:

Orszag:
“Economists generally agree that the current account deficit is unsustainable, because the nation’s indebtedness to the rest of the world will grow faster than its income, and foreign investors will not continue to be willing to purchase U.S. claims indefinitely, as their portfolios become more and more concentrated in such assets.”

I’ve spent a lot of time clickety-clacking away about economic concerns over the past year because I think these issues affect us more than up-to-the-minute updates about the whereabouts of John Edwards, Chris Dodd saying “jackass” in Cedar Rapids (OMG!), or the most boring Iowa news story of the year; the Board of Regents search for a new U of I president. We are able to live our current lifestyles because foreign nations are happy to purchase guarantees on our future productivity (bonds, or, more appropriately, the work of our children). The possibility that such may not be the case indefinitely is a likely situation as long as our attitudes remain preoccupied with the status quo. Websites like this, this and this have spent countless hours detailing how empires are more susceptible to the folly of foolish politicians and ADD-afflicted accountants than they are terrorists and assorted other foreign bogeymen. Or, most importantly, the constant flow of cheap energy which is a luxury that we no longer can rely upon.

-mg

Oh, Hell Yeah!

Jun 27, 2007 in Uncategorized, Where's the outrage?!?!

We’re back to doing business with known terrorist organizations!

-mg

Maybe someone else knows this.

Jun 27, 2007 in Politics

How many filibusters are the Republicans up to since the Democrats took over? Washington D.C. seems to have nodded off into a tacit understanding that whatever Republicans said about taking away the filibuster from Democrats, it is now the primary tool by which they operate. It’s “60 votes or it ain’t happening” in the Senate, which Democrats almost seem to treat as relief. Look, guys, it’s not enough to just show people you’re voting their way, you need to keep up the offensive and point the public’s eye to what the Republican flip-flop on filibusters.

No, for any obstinate righties reading out there, that doesn’t mean take them away. That just means speaking out and telling the public exactly who’s responsible. It means telling them the hard truth, that as long as there’s 41 Republican Senators it might as well be a Republican Congress. Republicans will do anything until they’re put in jail or voted out.

I will admit, 60 Democrat Senators is a lot to ask. But a Democrat President isn’t.

-jb

Richard “Cut and Run” Lugar

Jun 27, 2007 in Uncategorized

One less hero for the online faithful.

-mg 

Sully doesn’t claim to be an economic populist, doubtlessly.

Jun 26, 2007 in Politics, Religion

Sullivan on Obama:

He also threatens, if he pulls it off, to be a transformational candidate, turning American politics into a battleground primarily between those who believe the Gospels mandate an expansive welfare state and those who believe they mandate government’s moral regulation of human birth, death and sex.

Sullivan refers to National Health Care when he talks of “an expansive welfare state,” of course, directing his hatred for welfare as long as it’s for those most likely to need it if it means billionaires pay higher taxes.

Still, that’s a good choice. Ask people to have the government look after normal citizens with as much vigor as it looks after the rich, and the libertarian-conservatives will remind you that they will accept the second choice with little provokation.

-jb

They know you know they’re lying.

Jun 26, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Politics

McBride can’t possibly believe herself for a second.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Sunday that a court should decide whether the vice president belongs to the executive or legislative branch. “The vice president needs to make a decision,” he said.

Lea Anne McBride, a Cheney spokeswoman, said Emanuel is the one who has to decide. “He can either deal with the serious issues facing our country or create more partisan politics,” she said.

The vice-president is the new Fourth Branch of the government. Nothing to see here.

Naturally.

-jb

P.S. > any conservative readers want to stand up for Cheney on this issue?

UPDATE: Dana Pico steps up to the plate! I sure didn’t expect that!

Rush told me so.

Jun 26, 2007 in Culture, Health Care

From an AICN contributor review of Michael Moore’s Sicko, which I am really anxious to see:

Michael Moore travels to Canada, the UK, and France to do a comparative study of how socialized health care is possible in these countries, and what the drawbacks are. Socialism has long been a dirty word in America, and scare tactics have been used to convince Americans that socialized medicine would be a slippery slope and the downfall of democracy. Yet, its all unfounded. Many socialized services are provided by the government such as free service from the police, firemen, libraries, etc., but why not free health care? As these questions are explored in Europe, the answeres are not drawn out or forced, because it simply makes sense. Is anyone going to argue that they would rather pay out of their pocket than have the government pay health care?

The answer I always hear in response to those questions is that taxes are really high in those countries. Taxes are higher, but you know what, they live pretty well in those countries, Canada included. This is something that some people who have never travelled outside of the U.S. don’t understand, and Moore does a good job of illustrating this with his travels. Most people are not living in squalor in Canada, France, and the UK. Its a health care system based on humanity, instead of trying to shaft people for as much money as you can, even when they’re sick. And they are still able to afford all the luxuries they want in life, and to live quite happily. It seems that those who fear higher taxes seem to think that socialized medicine will prevent them from achieving their dream of a big pimpin’ lifestyle with a mansion and numerous sports cars, when the reality is that these people are usually slaves to jobs they don’t like and are often afraid of leaving them for fear of losing their health benefits.

Having studied abroad in Austria for a year in college, I understand this perfectly. Growing up in Iowa, hearing about the world out there, even watching “European Vacation,” I wasn’t completely prepared for the prosperity and good health I saw. Fear of nationalized health care because you don’t want to live like those miserable people in France? A costly delusion that will continue to exact a steep price on our nation.

Michael Moore serves an important purpose. He isn’t an intellectual, he’s a feeler, and that’s how his films connect to the public. He nails the emotional perspective of the kinds of Americans who don’t often get covered in the media. And he does it best by simply pointing the camera and finding the real stories out there. Of course, Newsweek will run a fact-check article and find fewer quibbles than one would watching 90 minutes of Fox News, but there’s an important reason GOP propagandists need to keep people out of those seats.

-jb

Friends like these.

Jun 26, 2007 in War Crimes

Charles Taylor, ex-Liberian president, al-Qaeda sympathizer, disgusting war criminal and close friend of Pat Robertson (yeah, that Pat Robertson), is looking for a new lawyer.  I wonder if Pat will throw some cash his way for his legal troubles? 

-mg 

Highlight, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V

Jun 26, 2007 in Housing Bubble

For those of you suffering from market delusions Doctor Housing Bubble has an entertaining post regarding the five major failures of the housing market.

Here are a few gems:

The demise of many sub-prime outlets is justified. They created their undoing for instant gratification and fast money. Easy come, easy go. When I worked as an agent, I would constantly hit heads with brokers that laughed about creative financing they were able to pull on buyers. I would look at financial statements and shake my head as buyers fudged numbers encouraged by brokers to get into overpriced homes. “Don’t worry, banks never check especially if we go stated income. All we need is your signature here stating you make $100,000.” I would hear statements like this constantly and this was a few years ago. God only knows what has been going on in the shady underbelly of housing since I left the industry. Oh yeah, we are already seeing what is going on. Ridiculous loans on massively overpriced homes with folks unable to afford the monthly payment.  …

We know how scared the market is right now. Remember long ago (in March 2007) with the sub-prime implosion and the stock market dropping 400+ points in one day? Fears of mortgage implosions sent the market down hard. The market recovered quickly because all the talking head pundits would have you believe that it was contained principally to the sub-prime market. They also discussed in great detail the legend of the summer housing easter bunny and how the market will come roaring back. Summer is here and no bouncing bunnies are to be found. We now have Bear Sterns issuing warnings about Merrill Lynch pulling assets out of a mortgage hedge fund that made idiotic bets. Bear Sterns and Merrill Lynch are not New Century Financial. This is as prime as it gets. Bear is throwing money to keep this afloat because it is a major embarrassment to their asset management. The market got hit once again and bad money is chasing more bad money to keep the party going a little bit longer.

Keep in mind that we are only entering the first stages of trillions of dollars in mortgage resets. Nothing is contained. The main question everyone should be asking is can the American public sustain monthly payment jumps while real estate prices fall? If the answer is no, how long can the market withstand jumping resets and foreclosures before a panic arises? Ronald Reagan had one thing right when he said a “Recession is when a neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours.”

-mg

A straight-up copy-and-paste job, folks.

Jun 26, 2007 in Energy, Peak Oil

I stole this from Salon:

Oil prices: You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet

A couple of data points about oil.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that world oil demand is growing twice as fast as last year:

The International Energy Agency, which monitors oil markets on behalf of industrialized nations, is forecasting average global oil demand of 86.1 million barrels a day this year, up 2 percent from last year. That is twice as fast as the 0.9% growth recorded in 2006, compared with 2005.

Demand is expected to accelerate further in the fourth quarter to 88 million barrels a day, an unprecedented quarterly volume and up 2.6 million barrels a day from the year-earlier period. In the second quarter, global oil demand already has risen at a 1.7% rate, more than double the 0.8% a year ago, according to forecasts and data compiled by the IEA.

Where’s the demand coming from? All over, but especially China.

The China Daily reports:

In the first five months this year, China’s net oil imports roared to 65.83 million tons, an increase of 11.5 percent from the same period last year. At the same time, China produced 77.51 million tons of oil, a 1.7 percent rise year-on-year.

Customs statistics show that from January to May, China imported 67.43 million tons of crude oil, up 9.6 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, it exported 1.6 million tons, down 36.6 percent.

And people think the price of gasoline is high now.

Bwar-har-har! And they think gasoline will last forever. Zoinks!

-jb

Fair enough.

Jun 24, 2007 in Journamalism, Politics

Did you know most reporters vote Democrat? That’s why there’s liberal bias, right? Ever since corporate boards mangling news into infotainment were banned by law, all rightward influence has been eradicated.

Unfortunately, many reporters give money to candidates, which certainly seems to me like it can cost more than it accompishes. Wouldn’t any reporter, whether giving to Democrat or Republican, take that money back to avoid a story like this?

Whether you sample your news feed from ABC or CBS (or, yes, even NBC and MSNBC), whether you prefer Fox News Channel or National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal or The New Yorker, some of the journalists feeding you are also feeding cash to politicians, parties or political action committees.

MSNBC.com identified 143 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 16 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

Of course, what Republicans can’t seem to grok is that when it comes to worshipfulness of power, the media elite who vote Democrat compromise. They like gays, don’t see criminalizing abortion as a solution, leave corporate/public issues alone, got hornswaggled by Iraq, and more or less understand that now (feet held to the fire by bloggers), if still covering their asses whenever possible. But they’ll gladly do it all again if “our Commander in Chief” requires us to “support the troops” so that he can get a new war, and they’ll ever be the corporate media.

I really don’t know why CNN doesn’t experiment with ditching the personality gab-fests and doing straight-up pure journalism with style. Think 60 Minutes, 24 hours a day. Make people fucking CARE about the shit that’s on page 15 of the papers. Don’t repeat 4 minutes of material 15 times an hour, get 22 and 44 minute up blocks up there.

Somehow, I imagine the world contains enough stories to cover.

And it is fair to expect journalists who write about politics and editors to avoid political contributions. I just hope they can pull off voluntary bans without barring Will Shortz (editor of the NYT crossword puzzle) from making political donations.

-jb

Every sperm is sacred.

Jun 23, 2007 in Catholicism, Sperm, Uncategorized

Why, oh why didn’t Genarlo Wilson listen to the words of Michael Palin and the Catholic church?

[youtube 47P59ha9k9s]

-mg

The heart of Hillary Clinton’s problem.

Jun 23, 2007 in Disappointing Dems, Politics

The median household income in America is $46,000. The average credit card debt is $9000. Someone should probably do something about predatory lending — and things like universal default, and the traps and small print in credit card statements.

But it probably won’t happen any time soon, even if the good guys win the next election. According to the Christian Science Monitor, financial and credit companies made $7 million dollars in campaign contributions in 2006. Commercial banks made another $25 million in contributions to candidates and both parties.

The #1 recipient? Hillary Clinton.

The thing is, that news didn’t surprise me. She’s already beholden to the healthcare industrial complex. And she’s never said a thing that would indicate to me she would do anything to defy her bribers. It’s important for a Democrat to understand that there are fewer enemies to working class Americans than crushing medical and credit card debt.

-jb

BP gets the boot.

Jun 23, 2007 in Energy, National Security

Putin just tightened his grip on western Europe.

-mg

When bad debt becomes just that…

Jun 23, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, Housing Bubble

Bad Debt.  Bear Stearns is against the ropes because they failed to heed the warnings of those who foretold doom in the all encompassing housing sector and now one of their most lauded hedge funds is about to tank.  This might knock a little reality into the skulls of those that see a rising DJIA and conclude that all is well.  News flash; the Dow is a dumb animal and merely reacts to immediate stimuli.  It is not a crystal ball.  In fact, it is the opposite:

“The problem is not what we see happening, but what we don’t see,” said Joseph Mason, associate professor of finance at Drexel University in Philadelphia and co-author of an 84-page study this year on the CDO market. “We don’t know the price of these assets. We don’t know which banks are exposed to this sector. These conditions are the classic conditions for financial crises across history.”

Conclusion?  The Street was wrong (and Iowa Liberal was right) when they previously assured investors that housing woes were limited to the subprime market.  Merrill Lynch attempted to sell two of Bear Stearns’ embattled securities (not even the high risk ones) to help raise some capital and came up half a billion short signaling that they’ve got a long ways to go before they hit bottom and this time the Fed isn’t going to be able to turn on the spigot (lower interest rates) to help them.  In fact, Bank of America analysts are calling this the “tip of the iceberg”.

-mg

Cheney is a criminal- *yaaaaawn*

Jun 22, 2007 in Politics

Cheney doesn’t have to comply with executive branch regulations because, surprisingly, he’s not part of the executive branch. Well, it’s no surprise that he finds himself above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution, but I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to accept that.

Henry Waxman won’t.

“I know the vice president wants to operate with unprecedented secrecy,” Mr. Waxman said in an interview. “But this is absurd. This order is designed to keep classified information safe. His argument is really that he’s not part of the executive branch, so he doesn’t have to comply.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney, Megan McGinn, said, “We’re confident that we’re conducting the office properly under the law.” She declined to elaborate.

Cheney will, naturally, have “Go fuck yourself” chiseled on his tombstone. He’s still willing to bet on a raw battle of force with the legislature, which is entirely logical to expect from a Sith Lord pushing the same theory of progress through war and chaos as the Shadows from Babylon 5. (What if an evil alien took over the government and nobody cared?)

Republicans would like to voice some harsh press about the Bush administration and then filibuster anything Democrats do about them. Will the press catch on that the GOP is still head over heels in love with the Bush administration?

-jb

35 mpg mileage standard: Oh my Gosh!

Jun 22, 2007 in Energy

How will we ever make it?

The U.S. Senate agreed to approve the first increase in total fuel-economy standards since 1975 on Thursday, as backers of a 35-mile-per-gallon standard by 2020 won over enough senators to overwhelm the opposition of Michigan’s two senators and Detroit’s automakers.

The bipartisan deal, attached to the larger Senate energy bill late Thursday without objection, comes as a rebuke to Detroit’s automakers and Toyota Motor Co., which had lobbied furiously for a lower standard after calling the 35-m.p.g. target unachievable.

Impossible, more like! Why, it’s not like there are electric vehicles that can charge in ten minutes and 130 miles.

“The cost of driving 130 miles is about $3,” said Bryon Bliss of Phoenix Motorcars of Ontario, Calif., working with Altairnano on the project. “And you can recharge in as little as 10 minutes.”

It gets worse.

No one can attest to the vehicles’ long-term reliability yet, but in theory, there’s less to go wrong. An internal combustion engine is a melange of parts hammering up and down at high temperatures. That they last as long as they do is a monument to metallurgy. An electric motor, by comparison, is simple and lightly stressed.

“You can count the parts on your fingers,” marveled Bob Tregilus of Reno, a longtime electric car enthusiast who showed up at the meeting on his home-built electric motorcycle. “An (internal combustion engine) has 500 parts.”

Electrics also require less maintenance. Bliss said it’s not unusual for one-third of the vehicles in a gas-powered fleet to be out of service at any given time for oil changes, tune-ups and the like. Electric cars need none of those things.

Don’t inflict this upon Americans!

-jb

Still not concerned about bin Laden.

Jun 22, 2007 in Uncategorized

The FBI finally admits (through the Freedom of Information Act) that Bin Laden may have been allowed out of the country after 9/11. Forget the fact (most already have) that when Michael Moore suggested the above he was lambasted for being a conspiracy theorist. If the above is true, that’s twice Bush Co. has let bin Laden go free.

-mg

Bush is a criminal…*yawn*

Jun 21, 2007 in Constitution, Legal, Politics

Republicans view this as the administrative equivalent of speeding tickets:

“The findings of this report should come as no great surprise: When the president tells federal agencies they don’t have to follow the law, they often don’t,” Sloan said. “This report should put to rest any doubts as to the real impact of signing statements. The Constitution does not bestow upon the president the power to simply ignore portions of laws he doesn’t like.”

Why wouldn’t they? Bush’s signing statements pass the buck onto him. Why should a government employee would feel afraid to do something illegal if the President says, “Fuggedaboudit, eh?”

But Tony Fratto , a White House spokesman, defended Bush’s use of signing statements and his expansive view of the president’s constitutional powers.

“We are executing the law as we believe we are empowered to do so,” Fratto said.

Memo to Democrat politicians from White House: go fuck yourself, try to do something about it.

Memo to Democrat politicians from public: You were told to do something about it.

-jb

The terrorists have won.

Jun 21, 2007 in Constitution, War on Terra

Start practicing your Arab lessons:

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s ruling against warrantless seizures of email. Law enforcement agents need to obtain a warrant before looking at a user’s email even if it is stored online, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday.

For 20 years, long before the introduction of knee-jerk law enforcement powers ushered in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Stored Communications Act (SCA) has been used by government agents to carry out secret searches and seizures of stored email, without requiring a warrant. A case brought by Steven Warshak challenged this practice.

In an important ruling, a district court said in July 2006 that the SCA violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing secret, warrantless searches of email stored with a third party. The government appealed arguing, in part, that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t protect emails at all when they are stored with an ISP or a webmail provider such as Hotmail or Gmail.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, upholding the lower court’s decision and affirming that users have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” about content in emails stored on a remote host.

Of course, George Bush doesn’t care where you store your e-mail, but for those actually concerned about the Constitution and warrantless searches, third party storage is hardly a worthy excuse.

-jb

I’m back. (no shit, you already knew that, right?)

Jun 20, 2007 in Uncategorized

Once again mistaken for Jimmie Clitheroe.

I’m back from Canada so posting should pick up a bit. I’m happy to report that the weather and the fishing was terrific. (I’m the one on the right)

Just checking…

Jun 20, 2007 in Politics

Is there anybody living in Iowa who hasn’t met John Edwards twice?

-jb

Hello Jim Nussle, Goodbye Fiscal Discipline*!

Jun 20, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Iowa

For his subservience, Jim Nussle has been named the new White House Budget Director. Better hold on to your wallets.

-mg

*Not that Republicans had any to begin with.

update>  Common Iowan has a more perplexing link.  The WaPo referred to Nussle as having “been seen as a hawk on spending issues.”  WTF?  I had some rubber stamp imagery in mind.

The problem with Democrat politicians-

Jun 19, 2007 in Disappointing Dems

-is that they’re politicians first. Markos spells out what still afflicts the Democrats, despite their success in 2006:

Many Democrats, especially its pathetic consultant class, still believe that the way Democrats show “strength” is by huffing and puffing and threatening to bomb the “f” out of Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, or whatever the latest boogeyman of the moment might be.

In reality, Democrats are seen as weak because they are afraid to stand for those things they believe in. And if they won’t fight for what they believe in, how can voters trust them to fight for anything that truly matters, whether it’s national security or anything else?

Dean was truly going to sink the Democratic Party because of the “civil unions” issue. Instead, his leadership and lack of fear over the issue appears brilliantly prescient given that it is now the default position. And can anyone doubt how right he was on Iraq, even while the know-nothing pundits hyperventilated over his “gaffes”? (Saddam’s capture didn’t make us any safer.) But Dean was a lonely voice, now muffled by the party lest he “gaffe” the truth some more.

It would be nice if Democrats could lay claim to progressive gains in this country, but alas, they’re too busy sticking their fingers in the air, chasing after the public, and trying to please David Broder and Chris Matthews rather than embracing their own convictions and leading.

This is why I still carry my Howard Dean sticker on my car, long after I peeled off the “Kerry/Edwards” one. Democrats should have stuck by him in 2004 (how I fantasize about a Dean/Bush debate), and they owe him for 2006. If they’re going to forget him in running for office in 2008, they risk returning to their interminable days of helpless failure, wondering why they lost when the Republicans were such obvious liars and charlatans.

This is why we here at IL aim to argue honestly and fairly, but if a rightwinger comes here thinking he can bluster and bluff and expect to get fluffed, we’ll go Sandperson on them and beat them with our “gaffe” sticks, then chop up their landspeeders. And do that other thing that Luke didn’t remember after he woke up. He shore had a purdy mouth!

-jb

Still no excuse to mix God into politics.

Jun 18, 2007 in Religion

In a review of Christopher Hitchens’ new book, God Is Not Great, Sam Schulman pulls out the usual tripe about Communist governments, which are supposed to be representative of “atheism” mixed with politics:

Indeed, in the face of the horrors perpetrated by “scientific socialism,” whether of the Communist or Nazi variety, most of today’s atheists tend to fall mute. Hitchens, however, has a riposte. Communism and Nazism “did not so much negate religion,” he writes, “as seek to replace” it. That is, the essential wickedness of “scientific” totalitarian regimes is traceable in his view to the fact that they are themselves religions. For Hitchens, in short, everything religion touches is bad, and everything bad is religious—including anti-religion. This is the sort of reasoning that gives syllogisms a bad name.

That’s the problem with putting things “in short,” Sam. Your own horsetwaddle tends to replace the original content. That said, I haven’t read Hitchens’ book, but let’s look at Schulman’s POV. Calling Naziism “scientific socialism” or even atheistic is a magnificent stretch. It’s done because, in short, anything that becomes evil isn’t religious anymore. Unfortunately, Germany was a Christian nation and the Nazi leaders employed religion quite effectively. Did Schulman forget that the slur of Jews as “Christ-killers” was readily exploited, or ignore the complicity of the Catholic Church?

But yes, Communism was pretty atheistic by definition and Communist governments have almost always treated religion as an enemy. The problem is in the inherent difference between religion and atheism. Religions are organized around certain beliefs. The members proclaim a faith that certain things not readily apparent exist, and they will usually follow the proclamations of various holy texts. In mainstream contexts, we can expect to primarily hear about the Abrahamic religions, Hinduism and its offshoot Buddhism.

Atheism, however, is simply the absence of such a belief. An atheist is not a theist. Even a professed theist who turns around and behaves like there isn’t a God like, you know, televangelists and other snake charmers, could be lumped in just like the Nazis.

What comes after one says, “Eh, methinks this God business is a bunch of malarkey,” however, can vary dramatically, and is often identical to the thought process of the theist. A person wants peace, and so they construct a system of belief around peace. Another individual craves power, and so the belief system conforms.

The question is, what is the specific benefit of atheism for those who pursue power? Does it make things easier than manipulating religion?

Evidently, it didn’t.

Sooner or later a government had to experiment with the idea of building itself on a foundation of reason rather than religion. It seems curious that Americans, living in the first country to try it, would scoff at the notion. The fact that some authoritarians states later tried to enforce atheism the same way other authoritarian states enforce religion should hardly surprise anybody.

What is instructive is how extensively they failed, and how long the USA, as a non-religiously founded nation that practices religious freedom, has succeeded.

-jb

Terrified.

Jun 17, 2007 in Uncategorized

[youtube _cHrEbrBEfc]

ARM reset schedule.

Jun 16, 2007 in Housing Bubble

We’re not out of the woods yet.  Here’s an adjustable rate mortgage reset chart.  The next six months are going to be pretty hairy.

-mg   

A defeat for bigotry, a victory for marriage.

Jun 16, 2007 in Christian Right, Constitution, Culture, Politics, Religion

And for the Constitution.

AFTER WEEKS of intense lobbying and endless speculation about who might vote how, a joint session of the Legislature made blessedly quick work yesterday of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In a State House mobbed with revved-up campaigners on both sides of the issue, lawmakers took a quarter hour to dispatch the proposal by a decisive margin. The vote was a victory for decency and civil equality, and underscored Massachusetts’ long history of protecting individual rights.

Congratulations, Massachusetts, on leading America forward and eschewing the hatred and fear that the Republican party has worked so hard to stoke in America. Right now millions of “conservatives” (i.e. theocratic authoritarians exploiting the Bible) are gnashing their teeth in unrighteous, depraved fury. Their anger has been blocked, their hate-fever stunted, their assumed gratification of raw willpower over reason denied. They still have their bigotry enshrined in law in 49 other states in defiance of the Constitution, but in Massachusetts their Berlin wall of mindless oppression has had a healthy chunk knocked down, and it’s unlikely to go back up.

Time is on the side of equality. The state’s first same-sex married couples have already celebrated their third wedding anniversaries. With each year that passes, it becomes ever clearer that the sky will not fall; that the institution of marriage has been strengthened, not weakened; and that giving everyone the right to marriage makes Massachusetts a happier place overall

Anti-gay activists have done a good job of framing the debate, persuading millions of Americans that they’re not on the assault, but rather on the defense. Even Clinton signed the “Defense of Marriage Act.”

But what this has been is the ending of aggression and assault on the rights, humanity, and citizenry of America’s homosexuals. And that truth keeps seeping through, no matter what apocolyptic terror Christianists have shrieked. They lost the debate long ago, they lost the moral high ground, all they’ve had is the well-honed tools of propaganda, fear, and bullying, cloaked in a layer of self-righteousness more akin to Pigpen’s layer of grime. They have not been just, or good, or kind, and have certainly not paid much of any attention to the teachings of Jesus they supposedly put above all else. They have been hateful, divisive, dishonest, and ultimately evil in their actions, no matter how lovingly they gaze upon each other or what other good things they have done with their lives.

It is the hope and promise of America that liberty will prevail.

-jb

US shores bombarded with WMDs.

Jun 15, 2007 in Environment

Not a bad policy if you think the Rapture is coming in the next ten years anyway:

“The Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and rockets and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste – either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.”

It’s not like seawater is corrosive or anything.

Hundreds of dolphins washed ashore in Virginia and New Jersey shorelines in 1987 with burns similar to mustard gas exposure.

Click for maps and a nasty picture of a fucked-up dolphin. They deserve the traffic and I still can’t figure out how to put up pictures.

Yet I can do YouTube. Go figure.

[youtube AQ6PEZUFz3I]

-jb

The lynching of Genarlow Wilson, continued.

Jun 14, 2007 in Constitution, Legal, Racism

There ain’t been much for new posts at IL lately, mostly because we’ve been having some raucous comment wars that have taken up most of my spare time. One has been over the legalistic lynching of Genarlow Wilson, a guy who’s spent 27 months in prison for receiving oral sex from a 15 year old girl when he was 17 (he would have been exonerated if they had actually had intercourse, naturally). Our favorite commenter, Dana Pico, has leapt to the defense of Genarlow’s sentencing. I’ve mostly commented on the issue of justice and blamed Georgia’s legislature just as much for this fracas, but one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers illustrates the virtues of knowing something about the law:

However, the comment by your correspondent that the court lacked the authority to release Wilson and that General Baker is the only person standing up for the rule of law is deeply flawed. This was a habeas petition, and Georgia law gives the county containing the prison exclusive jurisdiction to determine habeas petitions. Additionally, section 9-14-48 of the Georgia Code requires that habeas relief be granted “to prevent a miscarriage of justice.” Section 9-14-42 makes clear that the judge has the right to decide the case on grounds of both the Georgia Constitution and, more importantly, the US Constitution. In this case, the judge found Wilson’s sentence to be not only a miscarriage of justice, but also “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitition. That conclusion, by the way, is one that is supported by a number of US Supreme Court cases, most notably Salem v. Helm (1983), which defined even a prison sentence as cruel and unusual if it was overly harsh compared to the underlying offense, the sentences imposed on other criminals in the state, and the sentences for the same act in other states. Wilson’s sentence would seem to be excessive under each of these tests.

Gosh, I was righter than I knew. Dana has backed away from the morality and justice of Wilson’s sentence, but it turns out his legal justifications were weak also.

I’ve got to stop making concessions to rightwingers. They almost always turn out to be unnecessary.

-jb

Hey, Daredevil wasn’t a bad movie.

Jun 10, 2007 in Christian Right, Clueless Conservatives, Culture, Politics

Our favorite commenter, quick to stand up and easy to knock down Dana Pico, has his own blog which I never read. I know that’s a bit selfish of me, but if I do read it, I’m just going to end up raining on Dana’s little party over there, and then what fun will he have? But today I thought I’d pick on one of his co-bloggers, Mr. Grey Ghost. Oy vey…

This week the star of the Catholic-bashing “Dogma“ went on CNN to bash President Bush (assailing the President’s administration as “one of the worse ever”) as well as Christians (calling them “neanderthals”.

First of all, Dogma was written by a Catholic and is definitely pro-faith, it was just anti-dogma. There’s no need to make up things about it, just call it what it was: a really shitty movie.

Secondly, calling President Bush one of the nation’s worst ever is fairly astute analysis, and Bush well deserves his bashing no matter how much rightwingers brainlessly tried to persuade Americans that George W. Bush was an unfairly abused minority unto himself. That aside, Mr. Ghost’s retort to “one of the worse ever” is this:

I mean, besides the fact that someone needs to school Ben on the administrations of Andrew Johnson or Warren G. Harding, is any Hollyweird liberal able to explain WHY they think the Bush presidency is so bad without using typical leftwing talking points?

So by Mr. Ghost’s math, Bush still not being as bad as Harding or Johnson excludes him from the broad “one of the worse”??? Why is it rightwingers seem perpetually challenged by the English language?

And what are “typical leftwing talking points” anyway? That Iraq was one of America’s greatest military blunders? That Bush has repeatedly violated the Constitution and the law, overseeing the elimination of habeus corpus? That he was dismissing Osama bin Laden up until 9/11/01? That he blew the pursuit of bin Laden afterwards and went off to start a war he’d already wanted before 9/11? That he seems to have little understanding of our system of checks and balances? That he’s defiled America’s standing in the world? That he invaded a country without knowing anything about the people there? That he hires loyalists and lackeys instead of qualified people? That he’s lied repeatedly to the American people about serious matters, not about where his dick has been? That he bungled Katrina?

Have I hit a “typical leftwing talking point” yet, or has everything I’ve said been objectively true, only disputed by a tiny minority of diehard Republicanists? The truth is that it’s too late to debate, we’re at the point where we need to start fixing the damage Bush has done.

Finally, Affleck did not call all Christians Neanderthals.

BEN AFFLECK: I think Huckabee actually framed his position in a much less dramatic way than had been made out. Which was he said it could be six days, or it could be six epochs, which I thought was much more along the kind of intelligent design lines than his position had been cast. In other words, he had been made out to a little bit of a kind of like a real sort of Neanderthal about it, a literalist.

He just called Biblical literalists Neanderthals.

And I’m sorry, folks, but if you think Adam rode a dinosaur to church 6000 years ago, that scraping sound you hear is definitely your knuckles on the ground. You have indeed either jammed your fingers in your ears to a mountain of scientific evidence and willingly chosen to believe a fantasy-land concoction whipped up by people who considered running water amazing technology, or you’ve been living in a cave. Either way, you may choose to believe ridiculous things but don’t whine when people can’t help giggling. It’s your burden, mate. Wear it with pride, or God will wonder whether or not you’re one of the truly faithful chosen:)

-jb

Them Southerners just can’t help themselves.

Jun 08, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Racism

They lynch niggers without even trying. Just a reflex, I guess.

ATLANTA — A man sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17 should have to serve out the widely criticized mandatory term, a prosecutor told a judge Wednesday.

A lawyer for Genarlow Wilson, now 21, asked the appellate judge to throw out the aggravated child molestation sentence on the grounds it is grossly disproportionate to the crime. Defense attorney B.J. Bernstein noted that state lawmakers passed a law to close the loophole that led to Wilson’s sentence.

“It gets back to common sense,” Bernstein said. “This very act is only a misdemeanor with no sex offender registration today.”

But prosecutor Paula Smith argued that the new law cannot be applied retroactively.

“The General Assembly did not make it retroactive,” Smith said. “They had the prerogative to do so; they did not.”

I wonder if they’d be able to muster the stamina to so doggedly pursue a white kid? It seems everybody knows this case is a mistake, but, “honest, Judge, the law just went and done handcuffed us, this nigger’s got to hang!” Ah, but they’re trying to change…

If Wilson had had sexual intercourse with the 15-year-old he would have fallen under Georgia’s “Romeo and Juliet” exception. But under the law in 2003, oral sex between teens constituted aggravated child molestation and carried a mandatory sentence.

Georgia lawmakers changed the law in 2006 to make consensual oral sex between teens a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year behind bars. Offenders do not have to register as sex offenders, as Wilson will be required to do.

Them wise old Georgia lawmakin’ men…they’re awfully sorry about that loophole. They’d just prefer it that oral sex between teens only carried a year in prison as punishment. Bless their backwards lil’ hearts. It’s too bad that this black kid got caught in their snare, but honestly, they’d love to throw black and white kids in jail for oral sex, equally.

And people were surprised to see the poverty of New Orleans existing in this country. The moral poverty of Georgia offers even more reason to ask ourselves how this can happen in our country.

-jb

UPDATE: Who wants to do a pool on when a rightwing blogger stands up to defend this?

UPDATE II: Blogger Dana Pico steps up to the plate in the comment thread!

Honda kills the Hybrid Accord.

Jun 08, 2007 in Energy

At first you may say, “Oh, but why?” Here’s why:

Accord buyers tend to be a sober bunch, and the numbers didn’t impress them: The Accord Hybrid costs $31,090 and delivers 28/35 mpg. Compare that to a standard 4-cylinder gas-engined Accord for $25,050 that delivers 26/34 mpg.

Well, folks, it’s going to take more than the frickin’ word “hybrid” slapped onto the chassis to get people to pop out an extra six grand.

More damaging to the Accord is the Camry hybrid which costs $4,890 less and delivers much better mpg of 40/38.

Any particular reason, Honda, that you decided to start acting like GE? Poor design and inflated prices just aren’t a winning combination, folks, and don’t look for the trend to shift.

-jb

Staying on Message.

Jun 07, 2007 in Iraq, Media

The National Security Archive has a declassified white paper detailing the Pentagon’s designs on a “free” Iraqi media.  In 2003 it was recommended that a “Rapid Reaction Media Team” be created to control the public airwaves for propaganda purposes. 

As Pentagon planners saw it, the themes of the “strategic information campaign” were to be crimes of the old regime, and a bright new day. They included “Mine awareness,” “Re-starting the Oil,” “Justice and rule of law topics,” “Humanitarian assistance . . . care and management of population and internal displaced persons,” “Political prisoners and atrocity interviews,” “WMD disarmament,” and “Saddam’s palaces and opulence.”

So basically they wanted to duplicate the propaganda already being broadcasted by stateside media outlets but unfortunately the “Iraqi Free Media” project couldn’t duplicate the same results.

Judged in terms of money funneled into the hands of private corporations, however, the program was a huge success.  Mission Accomplished!

The article also features an instructive timeline of US military offenses against Iraqi free speech.

-mg   

“These individuals, I tell you, have their heads buried in the sand.”

Jun 06, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, Disappointing Dems, Energy, Environment, Global warming, Politics

So said Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall in my recent post about the multi-million dollar lobbying effort to get billions in subsidies for the coal industry.

I was also told by an intelligent commenter that looking at Rahall’s voting record shows support for coal AND the environment and that he was not merely a bought-and-paid-for politician. Here’s Rahall’s votes for the past two years.

Imagine my enormous surprise to see this post at Libs Earth Watch leading to this article.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) today sharply criticized a provision in a new bill introduced by Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) in the House Natural Resources Committee that the group said would “essentially outlaw the generation of electricity from new wind power plants in the United States and even phase out power production from existing wind turbines.”

The provision, Subtitle D of H.R. 2337, would:

* Bar any new wind power project until new Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rules are issued – a process likely to take years – and require FWS certification of every turbine
* Require all existing turbines, even small residential units, to cease operating 6 months after issuance of new FWS rules until they are “certified,” an unwieldy bureaucratic process applying to many thousands of turbines that, again, will take years
* Make it a crime, punishable by a $50,000 fine or a year in jail, to construct or generate electricity from an unapproved turbine, even for home use
* Undermine state and federal efforts to promote renewable electricity generation and subvert the growing movement to reduce global warming pollution
* Create an unworkable bureaucracy that will delay clean, emissions-free wind energy projects throughout the U.S.

The legislative proposal follows on the heels of a May 3 report from the National Academy of Sciences that states, among other things, that “Clearly, bird deaths caused by wind turbines are a minute fraction of . . . total anthropogenic bird deaths – less than 0.003% [three of every 100,000] in 2003.” And the wind industry is already helping to fund groundbreaking collaborative research programs on bats and grassland birds to develop a knowledge base that would allow intelligent and effective conservation measures. Existing evidence suggests that fossil fuel-fired electricity generation, not covered by H.R. 2337’s requirements, has far greater wildlife impacts.

Commented Gregory Wetstone, AWEA Senior Director of Government and Public Affairs, “Wind energy requires no mining or drilling for fuel, no fuel transportation, no hazardous waste disposal, and no water use; and wind energy generates electricity without toxic pollutants like mercury, without greenhouse pollution, and of course without the conventional pollutants that cause smog and acid rain. Is this really an energy sector Congress should close down, for environmental reasons?”

Isn’t that curious? Congressman Nick Rahall, not in the pocket of the coal industry, is set to try destroying wind energy.

It seems Congress, even our Democratic one, will be quite content to let Nick Rahall run wild and even vote in his bills if the netroots aren’t looking. Perhaps they should become aware that to maintain their credentials for supporting environmental issues, Nick Rahall and whatever coal-funded crackpot schemes he comes up with should be relegated to a tiny, tiny minority. Taking another look at where he stands on the issues, he’s barely even a Democrat. Yes on the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (the one that ended your right of habeus corpus), yes on every vote in favor of criminalizing aspects of abortion, yes on the credit card “reform” bill, yes on the Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage, etc. etc. etc. Obviously he’s got some good votes in there or he’d just be a Republican, but clearly his judgment is not to be easily trusted. Perhaps we should keep our heads out of the sand when it comes to Nick Rahall.

-jb

Liberal humor.

Jun 06, 2007 in Culture

This clip isn’t thinking about the children.

[youtube D3Lr70lwaVg]

-jb

Get this bum outta here!

Jun 06, 2007 in Disappointing Dems, Politics

Finally, the William Jefferson indictment. All respect for due process aside, this guy was plain fuckin’ guilty and was a pain in the ass. Granted, most Democrats wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole after allegations of videotaped bribe-taking and $90,000 found in his freeze, but they couldn’t haul him off fast enough.

Naturally, if he was a Republican and I was a rightwinger I’d be defending him and making baseless speculations about liberal FBI agents planting the cash, etc. I wouldn’t defend William Jefferson for a second, but allow me the baseless speculation: Alberto Gonzales intentionally stalled the case for two frickin’ years to keep an example of Democratic corruption out in the open!

Now I just need a hundred other bloggers to repeat that, then it’ll become true in our world. After all, Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction, was best pals with Osama bin Laden, and Valerie Plame wasn’t covert.

-jb

What Culture War?

Jun 04, 2007 in Uncategorized

With all the constant Culture War ™ belly-aching conservatives are so fond of bellowing about they really don’t have much in the way of accomplishments to show for it.  On the issues they have historically defined as being the most morally imperitive they have so far resoundingly failed.  This would include the two most popular winger favorites; abortion and gay rights.  And considering that Red States lead the nation by far in divorces, children born out of wedlock and a host of other moral barometers this whole idea of a Culture War, from the perspective of a conservative, anyway, seems like a bit of a head scratcher.  My favorite Republican welfare recipient, George Will, makes mention of a few stats:

By 1972, 16 states with 41 percent of the nation’s population had liberalized their abortion laws, and the Republican platform did not mention the subject. The next year the Supreme Court ripped the subject away from state legislatures. In 1976 the Republican platform protested the court’s decision, recommended “continuance of the public dialogue on abortion” and endorsed a constitutional amendment “to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.”

The 1980 platform was similar, but four years later and afterward, the party, while continuing to favor a constitutional amendment, advocated “legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections” — no “person” shall be deprived of life without due process of law — “apply to unborn children.” So, the party has repeatedly endorsed a constitutional amendment it thinks is a redundancy.

Writing in the New Republic, Thomas B. Edsall notes that in the late 1980s voters by a margin of 51 to 42 percent believed that “school boards ought to have the right to fire teachers who are known homosexuals.” Today voters disagree, 66 to 28. In 1987 voters were evenly divided on the question of whether “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior.” Today voters disagree, 72 to 23.

So what do the wingers have left besides some vague, factually inaccurate ramblings about “the Sixties”?  Taxes?  Well, they can’t cut taxes too much because most of the money that gets funneled through the state and federal governments goes right back into the pockets of the corporate manager so taxes are only considered a moral issue by some of the libertarian loons.  All that’s left is “vote for us or bin Laden will kill your kids!”

-mg

Rest in peace, Steve.

Jun 04, 2007 in Uncategorized

You reached a lot of people, and your voice will be missed.

-jb

Let the market fight global warming, right?

Jun 01, 2007 in Energy, Environment, Global warming, Peak Oil, Politics

The coal industry is spending millions lobbying for billions (gotta love the political system!) to subsidize the construction of coal-to-liquid plants which would likely double greenhouse gas emissions. “In addition to the carbon dioxide emitted while using the fuel, the production process creates almost a ton of carbon dioxide for every barrel of liquid fuel.”

A very interesting article…here are two paragraphs devoted to the environmental justification:

With both House and Senate Democrats hoping to pass “energy independence” bills by mid-July, coal supporters argue that coal-based fuels are more American than gasoline and potentially greener than ethanol.

“For so many, filthy coal is a dirty four-letter word,” said Representative Nick V. Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “These individuals, I tell you, have their heads buried in the sand.”

Zoinks, I just got pwned! Case closed, sir! The finely honed logic of a Democrat bought and paid for by the coal lobby. Of course, they must now be granted subsidies on a larger scale than ethanol plants!

Among the proposed inducements winding through House and Senate committees: loan guarantees for six to 10 major coal-to-liquid plants, each likely to cost at least $3 billion; a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of coal-based fuel sold through 2020; automatic subsidies if oil prices drop below $40 a barrel; and permission for the Air Force to sign 25-year contracts for almost a billion gallons a year of coal-based jet fuel.

Carbon capture and storage is still far off, and likely to face stiff opposition.

…no company has built a commercial-scale plant that also captures carbon, and experts caution that many obstacles lie ahead.

“At best, you’re going to tread water on the carbon issue, and you’re probably going to do worse,” said Howard Herzog, a principal research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-author of “The Future of Coal,” a voluminous study published in March by M.I.T. “It goes against the whole grain of reducing carbon.”

But we can make it happen by buying enough politicians!

But coal executives anticipate potentially huge profits. Gregory H. Boyce, chief executive of Peabody Energy, based in St. Louis, which has $5.3 billion in sales, told an industry conference nearly two years ago that the value of Peabody’s coal reserves would skyrocket almost tenfold, to $3.6 trillion, if it sold all its coal in the form of liquid fuels.

Coal industry lobbying has reached a fever pitch. The industry spent $6 million on federal lobbying in 2005 and 2006, three times what it spent each year from 2000 through 2004, according to calculations by Politicalmoneyline.com.

With such a potential return, what’s a few million?

People who babble about the existence of the free market might as well be talking about the existence of Sasquatch. It simply isn’t the way this country works, and hasn’t been for a very, very long time. And until public financing of elections is reached, legalized bribery will ensure that our current system continues to harm the environment.

-jb

UPDATE: Obama endorses these kinds of subsidies, which puts on him a burden to justify or drop it. I’m sure that in ten, twenty years when oil is increasingly scarce, there will be a lot of people saying, “I need some juice to put in my car NOW!” This may look like some sort of easy out, but it isn’t. It just makes it more difficult getting out. This isn’t going to change my support for Obama, but he’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

The excruciating inconvenience of testing for mad cow.

Jun 01, 2007 in Agriculture, Corporate shenanigans, Politics

The Bush administration has taken up another noble cause: fighting to stop meatpackers from testing all of their beef for mad cow.

You read it right. This isn’t fighting a regulation, it’s regulators fighting to stop a meatpacking company choosing to do the tests. Perfectly backwards.

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

I guess they’re far less concerned about a false negative coupled with sporadic testing. Fortunately, a federal court has recognized the obvious and ruled that the meatpacking company can’t be prevented from testing its beef for mad cow.

This is Bush administration industry pandering at its absolute worst. What perturbs me is that frequently Beltway insiders will claim that Iraq is Bush’s only really big problem as a president, but stories like this have been going on for six years. When it comes to horrific corporate pandering though, never expect a word of concern from the corporate media. Things that are openly repulsive to almost every ordinary American who isn’t a dittohead simply don’t count.

-jb

Witchcraft 1, God Nill

Jun 01, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives

An activist judge in Georgia has ruled in favor of witchcraft and against God. Unfortunately, Laura Mallory appeared before the judge without counsel and expressed a need for “a whole new case from the ground up.” I know a lawfirm that I’d bet would take the case.  Anybody have PiggVomit’s office number?

-mg

Who gives a sh*t about Glenn Beck?

Jun 01, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Uncategorized

Nobody, apparently. The insurance company I work for only has a few channels on in the break room* and unfortunately Headline News is one of them and no matter how hard I try to avoid that obnoxious Glenn Beck he seems to be on all night. Here’s to hoping that he gets cancelled soon. I’m sure he’d make a great blogger.

-mg

*Needless to say Fox isn’t one of them because according to my boss, the second richest man in the world, they’re really not news.