Archive for July, 2007

Question for Mr. Romney; the two party system, dumb or plain stupid?

Jul 31, 2007 in Uncategorized

John Cole has some hilarious questions asked by our favorite bloggers at the next Republican debate:

Hugh Hewitt- Mr. Romney, how much worse than Osama bin Laden are the Democrats? A lot, a whole lot, or oodles?

Red State- Mr. Giuliani, if Obama is elected, will he declare defeat in Iraq and withdraw our troops before surrendering to Iran, or will he surrender to Iran first?

Michelle Malkin- Mr. Romney, if Hillary is elected President, how long do you think it will be before she institutes a policy of forced abortions and mandates the Quran be taught in schools?

Dan Riehl- Mr. Thompson, have you always had such strong shoulders and a chiseled jaw? And if elected, will you find out what happened to Natalie Holloway?

K-Lo- Mr. Romney, are you busy this weekend? As a follow up, you are aware Michelle is not the only one with a cheerleader outfit, aren’t you?

Dean Barnett- Mr. Paul, how long have you been a racist? Have you stopped attending anti-Semitic rallies? Why do you challenge George Bush, who is clearly the greatest thinker of our generation?

John Hindraker- Mr. Thompson, in the past I said the following about President Bush:

“It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can’t get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.”

Demonstrate to me that you possess the same level of brilliance- please spell CAT.

I think this idea will work out well. Feel free to add your own questions so we can get this thing rolling.

The sad part is that most of the above is not hyperbole. It seems that most of those that fancy themselves “conservative” bloggers can only distinguish themselves by how unwavering their devotion is to the current administration or the Republican party.

-mg

Shorter Alberto Gonzalez

Jul 31, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Uncategorized

Drrrrrrrrrrrrr…….

The Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t receive their letter. Most wingers think Arlen Specter is a despicable turn-coat anyway since he’s not in one hundred percent agreement with the current administration so what does he have to lose? Send Gonzales and that smug expression of his packing. We don’t need an Attorney General who thinks that the Constitution of the United States of America can be disregarded with a cynical smirk.

-mg

Farvael, Ingmar.

Jul 31, 2007 in Culture

I had recently, on a whim, watched Ingmar Bergman’s Persona for the first time and re-watched Wild Strawberries. Federico Fellini only had one equal. Bergman’s sense of chiaroscuro (light and dark, quite important for B&W films you probably already know) was so distinctive you can recognize an old Bergman movie just by looking at a few images. The scathing philosophical and religious dialogue against the pristine sunny backdrops of Sweden reveled in a similar contrast. The darkness in his films was cold, clinical, and ever lurked underneath every surface. Watching them today reveals their edges are still sharp enough to cut; only being buried in time and another language protects him from the wrath of the theo-cons. His films are so brave, one nearly cannot fathom them being made today.

The old man finally crossed over today at 89. Here’s a clip from Wild Strawberries, a film about an old professor on a road trip that turns pretty metaphysical as he spies on events from his early years he never witnessed. Death is presumably coming round the bend…or already passed. The question is raised, what would you learn if you could go back and see how people talked about you when you weren’t there…

-jb

The nail in the casket.

Jul 30, 2007 in Iraq, Middle East, Politics, Uncategorized, War on Terra

In the ideal world, the last US citizen to believe in Bush’s foreign policy “strength” just turned their back and vomited:

Saudis’ Role in Iraq Frustrates U.S. Officials — NYT, July 28

Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.

U.S. Set to Offer Huge Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia — NYT, July 29

In talks about the package, the administration has not sought specific assurances from Saudi Arabia that it would be more supportive of the American effort in Iraq as a condition of receiving the arms package, the officials said.

Bush’s foreign policy has been a perfect blend of the excited testosterone of a teenager fantasizing about war and the cynical bile of a corporate mummy entombed in the military industrial complex. Bogged down in Iraq, Bush still sells those fighting him weapons. If he’s learned the difference between Sunni and Shiite yet, it doesn’t show.

-jb

Staggering medical debt beats paying some extra taxes?

Jul 30, 2007 in Health Care

The genius of the American medical system, testified to in the House:

She told what it was like to have health insurance and still be crushed by medical bills. She explained how she put off medical visits because her husband was seriously ill. She told about how, when they finally had nothing, a hospital agreed to write off the copay after her husband’s surgery, but told her that if he wanted to come back for follow up treatments, that she would have to show up with cash in hand. She told how her husband was fired while he was in the hospital because he couldn’t do his job. She explained to the Judiciary Committee that she sold nearly everything they had to try to pay their bills. She went back to work six days after abdominal surgery because she needed the paycheck. She explained about the humiliation of filing for bankruptcy and how hard it was to get a job later on. In short, she told about how the American health care system tore apart her life and how bankruptcy was her last hope to try to put a few of the pieces back together.

This anecdotal, but representative of the widespread medical debt and the bankruptcies that follow.

Five million families since 2000 alone. For every one of them, sixteen others that could benefit from bankruptcy but won’t file out of pride or other reasons. They worked hard, played by the rules, and then a medical problem arose. They were healed, and then a pound of flesh was asked for. That’s a little inconsistent for my tastes.

-jb

The political evolution of Google.

Jul 30, 2007 in Media, Politics

Google evolves in the land of legalized bribery:

Google has not always been taken seriously in Washington. When co-founder Sergey Brin visited Capitol Hill two years ago, he had trouble persuading members of Congress to meet with him. The company didn’t bother to open an office in the District until 2005, when it hired Alan B. Davidson, formerly of the Center for Democracy and Technology, to tackle Internet policy issues. A year later, Google hired Robert Boorstin, who held several positions in the Clinton administration.

When the debate over the ability of Internet service providers to favor certain Web content for a fee, a concept known as network neutrality, heated up last summer, Google was late to the scene. It initially depended on public interest groups to lobby on its behalf.

Since then, Google has expanded its Washington presence. Besides increasing its effort to sell its services to government agencies, Google has taken what it calls a “Googley” approach to politics by seeking the business of political campaign managers and starting a public policy blog. Last week, the online video site YouTube, which is owned by Google, sponsored a debate between the Democratic presidential candidates.

The company recently hired Johanna Shelton, formerly on the staff of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), an influential member of the House telecommunications subcommittee. Google also frequently invites prominent politicians to tour its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. But its 2006 congressional lobbying budget of about $770,000, according to public disclosures, is dwarfed by the $21 million spent by AT&T and $14.4 million spent by Verizon the same year.

Unlike many campaigns that use well-connected lobbyists to persuade members of Congress, Google and its opponents have fought this battle on paper, using their lawyers to make their arguments in filings to the FCC.

It’s unfortunate that our political decisions are for sale, but it is a small consolation to see somebody with money who’s on the right side making a dent.

Google is on the right side with this issue just like they were on net neutrality. This is a logical extension of net neutrality that could offer the public things like wireless neutrality, forcing all the telecoms to play on the same field so the consumer can decide. Yes, it’s very free market, enough to please a slightly drunk Cato staffer.

The telecoms want to buy up every bit of bandwidth they can and lock out the competition; this is simply how they function. Corporations will naturally drift towards monopoly.

My problem is I’m a people person. Real people, not legal artificial persons like corporations. Everybody who’s reading a blog, rightwing Nazi or leftwing Commie, can certainly understand the importance of keeping communication infrastructures uniformly open to all.

Google is the underdog here, but grassroots power and the weight of the Internet in political debate are powerful allies. I foresee Google’s inevitable victory.

-jb

We invaded Iraq for the oil? No waaaaay!

Jul 28, 2007 in Chomsky, Iraq, Middle East, Politics

While the American people and the Iraqi people supported the Iraq War, their support was seen as something essential to the endeavor. America has turned against the war for some time now, and while Republican politicians are going to pay a heavy price, Bush can play chicken until he leaves office. The American public presents to the Bush administration, at best, a minor obstacle. The opinion of the Iraqi people? As soon as it was lost, it meant nothing. We are meant to believe that we did all of this for the democratic freedoms of the Iraq people, but if they don’t want to go along with it, they’re savages who don’t know what’s best for themselves.

Noam Chomsky is The Great Satan in the eyes of any Republican ground trooper. This isn’t because what he says is wrong, but because if all Americans listened to him and learned a thing or two, they’d be much harder to control. If they’d done it five years ago, nothing that has gone wrong in Iraq since would be a surprise. All the bullshit aside, Noam, why doesn’t public opinion matter?

U.S. polls show majority opposition to the war, but they receive limited attention and scarcely enter into policy planning, or even critique of planning. The most prominent recent critique was the report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, widely acclaimed as a valuable critical corrective to the policies of the George W. Bush administration, which immediately dismissed the report to oblivion. One notable feature of the report is its lack of concern for the will of the Iraqi people. The report cites some of the polls of Iraqi sentiment, but only in regard to the safety of U.S. forces. The report’s implicit assumption is that policy should be designed for U.S. government interests, not those of Iraqis; or of Americans, also ignored.

The report makes no inquiry into those guiding interests, or why the United States invaded, or why it fears a sovereign and more or less democratic Iraq, though the answers are not hard to find. The real reason for the invasion, surely, is that Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world, very cheap to exploit, and is at the heart of the world’s major hydrocarbon resources. The issue is not access to those resources but control of them (and for the energy corporations, profit). As Vice President Dick Cheney observed last May (2006), control over energy resources provides “tools of intimidation or blackmail”—in the hands of others, that is.

In five hundred years, nobody will look back on this chapter in history and decide oil was anything less than the primary reason for the occupation of Iraq. So much propaganda has been purchased to persuade people that really, Iraq’s oil reserves were entirely coincidental, but nobody believes it. Who, the right? They’re very evasive about the subject, but prod one a little bit and you’ll hear, “Damn right it was about oil, all you damn hippies keep talking about the end of oil, who do you expect to do something about it when you can’t jump in your car and go to the multiplex?”

The American public isn’t trusted much more than the Iraqi public to know what is good for it. Dick Cheney is probably just as aware of peak oil as we are, Iraq is simply his answer.

-jb

Nice f*ckin priorities.

Jul 28, 2007 in Middle East, Stupidity

Let’s send advanced weaponry to the epicenter of radical Islam.

Needless to say, I think this is an illustrative example of how Republicans are completely devoid of seriousness when they express concern about the “War on Terror”.

Here’s a fun project for anyone interested; ask any die-hard Bush fan to differentiate between the Taliban and the Saudi regime.

-mg

Farm subsidies: Not for farmers.

Jul 26, 2007 in Agriculture, Politics

This is what legalized bribery results in:

On the first point, producers of just five crops — wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans and rice — receive nearly all farm subsidies. In fact, only one-third of the $240 billion in annual farm production is targeted for subsidies. All other farmers — including growers of fruits, vegetables, livestock and poultry — receive nearly nothing.

Who is it going to?

Of course, some family farmers continue to struggle. But if subsidies were really designed to alleviate farmer poverty, then lawmakers could guarantee every full-time farmer an income of 185% of the federal poverty level ($38,203 for a family of four) for under $5 billion annually — one-fifth the current cost of farm subsidies.

Instead, federal farm policies specifically bypass family farmers. Subsidies are paid per acre, so the largest (and most profitable) agribusinesses automatically receive the biggest checks. Consequently, commercial farmers — who report an average annual income of $200,000 and a net worth of nearly $2 million — collect the majority of farm subsidies. Fortune 500 companies, celebrity “hobby farmers” and even some members of Congress collect millions of dollars under this program.

This is how the system works, folks. Public financing is the only thing that ends the era of big money bribing politicians millions for billions in subsidies in return.

-jb

Video of the whenever I feel like putting up a video.

Jul 26, 2007 in Culture

Mountain Goats they eez pretty good. Singer John Darnielle is known mainly for his sexiness and dance moves, but if you listen closely to his songs, you’ll spy the lyrics hidden under a wall-of- sound Public Enemy-esqe industrial hip-hop war chant.

-jb

Oh what fucking bullshit.

Jul 26, 2007 in Politics

Gonzales committed perjury?

Documents indicate eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration’s terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The documents underscore questions about Gonzales’ credibility as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.

That’s impossible! Gonzales answered the questions the best he could for President Bush! That’s who he swore his oath to!

People who think Gonzales is a liar are just as insane as those who think Rove, Libby, Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush are liars. Never a more honest bunch did the Lord lay on His soil.

-jb

Oh, alright, that’s cool…

Jul 25, 2007 in WTF?

From Reuters:

“Al Qaeda is now in a part of Pakistan that is largely inaccessible to Pakistani forces, the Pakistani government. Always has been. And it is a very difficult operating environment for them,” said Edward Gistaro, the top U.S. intelligence analyst on transnational threats.

“It is just a very difficult environment for outside forces to operate in,” he added.

Uh, why?

-mg

Ingenious moments in incarceration

Jul 25, 2007 in Uncategorized

The video below is the rather remarkable sight of over 1,500 inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines recreating the video to Michael Jackon’s Thriller.

Free market for thee, not for me…

Jul 25, 2007 in Politics

Big surprise, whenever a corporation can choose monopoly over competition, they’ll choose monopoly. Steve Benen looks at Paul Krugman’s explanation of the results when “free market” types control “deregulation”: America has crappy broadband service.

In 2001, after the explosive growth of the Internet and online businesses in the 1990s, the United States had taken the lead online. In terms of percentage of the population with high-speed access, countries like Japan and Germany had half the penetration we did. France had less than a quarter.

Now, all three of those countries have passed us. We’re falling behind in providing high-speed access to the Internet, and just as importantly, our high-speed connections are much slower and more expensive than other countries.

How’d this happen?

What kind of choices do you have for internet?

-jb

No way!

Jul 25, 2007 in Uncategorized

A blow for those who believe everything they see on TV.

-mg

Disclaimer:  I *heart* Man vs. Wild

Things I see at the beach.

Jul 25, 2007 in Housing Bubble

Did you know that no home in Southern California has a basement? That’s right. That extra floor of your home that most Iowans enjoy for at least storage, if not as a whole extra floor to the house, doesn’t happen here. So when you see a California home, what you see is literally what you get. I don’t have a picture of the shack I saw in Point Loma the other day, but here’s another one advertised that looks awfully close:

Notice the cropping off on the right...

Notice the cropping to the right, altering the picture so it looks like the house keeps on going. It doesn’t.

This shack just sold for $690,000.

Quite a lot to avoid a ten minute drive to the beach, innit?

It’s not that simple. Dr. Housing Bubble notes the price madness in Lakeside, about 30-40 minutes from the beach. $400K for a shithole in the desert rocks, anybody?

California is stark raving mad. Hopefully I’ll be bailing in a few years, but one thing is sure: I will never buy a home in this state.

-jb

The Real OC

Jul 25, 2007 in Economy, Housing Bubble

Dr. Housing Bubble documents the West Coast housing atrocities so you don’t have to. If you can machete hack your way through the ubiquitous text ads (monetize!monetize!!) he’s got a damn good run-down of how people with seemingly healthy incomes wind up in foreclosure. Bummer!

-mg

Some good news.

Jul 25, 2007 in Iran, Middle East, National Security, War on Terra

Two party talks with Iran are proceeding:

Despite the tensions, the two countries appear to have common concerns – both support the Shia-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and neither wants the Iraqi state to collapse completely.

Deep-seated opposition in Iran to any talks with the US has been largely overcome since Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, last year backed the idea.

Iran has become increasingly concerned at the growing strength of militant Sunni groups, including al-Qaeda, in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion and at insurgents’ links with Saudi clerics and officials. Such groups regard Shia Muslims as infidels and have attacked both Shia civilians and shrines in Iraq.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting a war by proxy within the borders of Iraq and it’s a good sign that we’re sitting down with at least one side to address their issues.  The question remains, however, over when this administration plans on confronting the greater threats of Saudi sponsored militant Wahabism (you know, the group responsible for 9/11?) and al-Qaeda sponsorship by our good buddy Pakistan.

-mg

They got me flabberknackered.

Jul 25, 2007 in Health Care, Uncategorized

This really shouldn’t be happening. This isn’t how things are supposed to work. Newsweek isn’t supposed to feature Jane Bryant Quinn dispelling most of the negative myths about universal health care!

But the public knows the American health-care system is breaking up, no matter how much its backers cheer. For starters, there’s the 46 million uninsured (projected to rise to 56 million in five years). There’s the shock of the underinsured when they learn that their policies exclude a costly procedure they need—forcing them to run up an unpayable bill, beg for charity care or go without. And think of the millions who plan their lives around health insurance—where to work, whether to start a business, when to retire, even whom to marry (there are “benefits” marriages, just as there are “green card” marriages). It shocks the conscience that those who profit from this mess tell us to suck it up.

Shock? What’s shocking about it? It’s exactly how you would expect corporate interests to behave. If they didn’t, they’d answer to their stockholders. Anyway, as I was saying, go Jane!

Universal coverage costs too much. No—what costs too much is the system we have now. In 2005, the United States spent 15.3 percent of gross domestic product on health care for only some of us. France spent 10.7 percent and covered everyone. The French comparison is good because its system works very much like Medicare-for-all. The other European countries, all with universal coverage, spent less than France.

Why are U.S. costs off the charts? Partly because we don’t bargain with providers for a universal price. Partly because of the money that health insurers spend on marketing and screening people in or out. Medicare’s overhead is just 1.5 percent, compared with 13 to 16 percent in the private sector. John Sheils of the Lewin Group, a health-care consultant, says that the health insurers’ overhead came to $120 billion last year, of which $40 billion was profit. By comparison, it would cost $54 billion to cover all the uninsured.

Eeeek, your taxes would go up! Maybe not, if Sheils is right. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office have testified that the United States could insure everyone for the money we’re spending now. But even if taxes did rise, you might still come out ahead. That’s because your Medicare plan would probably cost less than the medical bills and premiums you’re paying now.

We get world-class care; don’t tamper with it. On average, we don’t. International surveys put France in first place. On almost all measures of health care and mortality, we lag behind Canada and Europe. Many individuals do indeed get superior care, but so do people in single-payer countries, and at lower cost.

They have long waiting times. No advanced country has waiting periods for emergency surgery or procedures that are urgently needed. The United States has shorter waits than Canada and England for elective surgery. Still, queues are developing here, at the doctor’s door. In a study of five developed countries, the Commonwealth Fund looked at how many sick adults had to wait six days or more for an appointment. By this measure, only Canada’s record was worse than ours. But waits depend on how well a system is funded, not with the fact that it’s single-payer. Many countries that cover everyone, including France, Belgium, Germany and Japan, report no issue with waits at all.

There’s no problem; people get care even if they’re uninsured. They don’t. They get emergency treatment but little else. As a group, the uninsured are sicker, suffer more from chronic disease and rarely get rehabilitation after an injury or surgery. They also die sooner—knowing that, with insurance, they might have lived.

This is a momentous occasion. Has Sicko broken the ice? Are the Democrats prepared to sign in blood that a Democratic White House and Congress will make it happen? If the business class is discussing single payer health care positively then the winds have unmistakably shifted. Kaiser Permanente may not want you to hurt their billion dollar profits, but your boss is tired of paying for health insurance. And somewhere further down the line the costs of 45 million uninsured people gets factored in.

-jb

Ethanol: bad for the Gulf

Jul 25, 2007 in Economy, Energy, Ethanol

The increased use of nitrogen based fertilizers to fuel the ethanol boom is taking it’s toll on Gulf fisherman who find it increasingly difficult to eek out a living in the “dead zone” created by run-off pollution from the Midwest.

-mg

102!

Jul 25, 2007 in Uncategorized

The number of mortgage lenders that have gone under since ’06.

And for those of you who think that we’re just going to bounce right out this slump here’s a chart showing the monthly trend of crude oil prices.

I don’t know who the next president is going to be but I do know some of the real issues that they’re going to be dealing with. First and foremost will be the impending dollar collapse. Here’s a graph of the latest U.S. dollar index:

It’s now do-or-die for both the US dollar index and the yen versus the US dollar and with all the bad news in the housing sector (3/4 of the stateside economy) it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing a “return of the bulls” any time soon considering the worst of the loan resets are yet to come. The U.S. dollar is on the verge of collapse, and the yen is at lows compared with the British pound and the euro. (Go on…log onto eBay and try and purchase anything from the UK or EU and you will see just how much the dollar is worth)

With trillions in carry trade bets riding on the outcome, the impact of a major breakdown in either currency could be very significant. Primarily, the willingness of foreign economies to finance our extravagant living style (and perpetual Middle East wars) will fizzle as our ability to deliver on future productivity is hindered by restrictions on previously easy-breezy credit standards. A lot of liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats and other assorted free-market fantasizers who have ignore the importance of energy independence are going to figure out real fast the difference between real wealth and imagined “equity”.

-mg

Fighting the librulz here.

Jul 24, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives

Max Blumenthal got some startlingly original viewpoints from the College Republican’s at their recent national convention.

From Glenn Greenwald’s recent post regarding the Weekly Standard’s “9/11 Generation”:

I am a full-throated Supporter of the Epic War of Civilizations, but I can’t fight in it, because my knee hurts and I need to collect advance checks from Regnery and I want to stay at home and wipe dribble from my baby’s chin. But those people over there can and should fight. And between watching Star Trek on television and playing war video games, I will log off periodically to write articles and posts about how great these wars are and I, too, will therefore be strong and noble and resolute and brave.

That is the grotesque and principle-free face of the “9/11 Generation” which believes there is wisdom in the Weekly Standard and praises Barnett’s article and, from a safe and sheltered distance, cheers on one American war after the next. They steadfastly refuse to “answer the phone” even as the wars they urge suffer from insufficient numbers of willing volunteers.

-mg

Now it’s November.

Jul 23, 2007 in Iraq

The press simply cannot understand that September never meant anything. If they did, they’d understand that November doesn’t mean anything either, at least not this one. We’ll have to wait until next November’s elections for an “accountability moment” for Bush.

The No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq said yesterday that he needs at least until November to accurately assess results of the current increase in troop strength and operations, even as senators from both parties warned U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker that time is running out.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said he will participate in a much-anticipated report due to Congress in mid-September, but “to do a good assessment,” he said, he would need 45 more days. Odierno cited “significant success” over the past four weeks in military operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq and in the training of Iraqi security forces, and said there has been movement toward political reconciliation.

Eh, of course, we’ve been moving forward for four years, don’tcha know? Check out today’s good news from Juan Cole.

-jb

Problem solved.

Jul 23, 2007 in Immigration, Labor

So, you’re reluctant to go after the employer of illegal aliens but sooner or later you have to start looking like you’re doing something.  What do you do?  Incarcerate the union officials!

“These arrests send a clear message that criminal charges are a very real consequence of facilitating the employment of illegal aliens,” said Estela Biesemeyer, resident agent at the Des Moines ICE office of investigation.

No consequences for Swift, of course.

-mg

btw…

Jul 20, 2007 in Sport

…David Beckham and his attractive-only-by-English-standards wife are boring.

Beckham’s main quality in the U.S. market is, of course, his brand-name celebrity aura. If in doubt, witness the image of Becks as a fetching prince on a white horse, saving his Sleeping Beauty as part of Disney World’s “Year of a Million Dreams” advertising campaign. Thus Beckham has joined Donald Duck and Goofy in the U.S. soccer pantheon. Unlike the elitist circles of global soccer, where professional players are actually required to win games between their celebrity stunts, American sports-as-entertainment culture seems ready to worship unconditionally Beckham’s right foot and boyish attractiveness. It also appears to be hungry for Mrs. Beckham’s impressive vacuity–she once frankly owned up to never having read a book in her life–which should reach its height on U.S. television: Victoria has signed up with NBC for her own fashion reality special, in which David might be subjected to kinder, gentler hair-drying treatments.

Ouch.

-mg

Get used to living on less.

Jul 20, 2007 in Energy, Peak Oil

IEA future Saudi productivity.

It’s time to start looking into local railroad and utility stocks (like MidAmerican Energy) and domestic coal futures.

-mg

Ethanol: bad for Iowa water

Jul 20, 2007 in Energy, Environment, Ethanol, Iowa

I’m providing a link to the brochure The Rush to Ethanol which details some of the hard-to-swallow realities regarding corn based ethanol. For now, let’s leave aside the fact that even if 100 percent of the U.S. corn harvest was dedicated to ethanol, it would displace less than 15 percent of national gasoline use, and look at some of the other negative impacts corn-based ethanol would have. Intensive mono culture planting of corn results in depleted nitrogen levels in the soil. Soybean rotation was the productive solution for years since soybeans naturally restore nitrogen levels in the soil and is also a very lucrative crop to grow (though soybeans regularly trade in the $8 a bushel range, corn productivity per acre is far more making up for the $3 to $4 per bushel corn usually trades at). To replace the nitrogen that corn uses farmers typically resort to the use of liquid fertilizers which are derived exclusively from rapidly depleting fossil fuels like natural gas. Judged in terms of nitrates and phosphates Iowa already has some of the worst water quality in the world. With the increased nitrogen needed to support a strict, non-rotational crop schedule it can only get worse.

-mg

ps> some decent comments here.

NUCLEAR MELTDOWN

Jul 19, 2007 in Politics

From TPM:

McClatchy on why tonight’s filibuster isn’t a filibuster …

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said Republicans would speak on the floor, not just yield to Democrats, but that it wouldn’t be a true filibuster because the lawmakers in the minority party weren’t the ones who wanted it.

Here’s another beaut just out from the AP in which David Espo describes tonight’s events but refuses to use the word ‘filibuster’ until he gets around to describing what the Democrats did four years ago in the judicial appointments fight — that is to say, when the Democrats did precisely what the Republicans are going to do tonight. (ed.note: Thanks to TPM Reader AR for the catch.)

Like I said, the ploy that dare not speak its name — except when Democrats use it.

(ed.note: Honestly it’s gotten so flagrant, especially with AP, that I start to wonder if it’s not intentional rather than a product of sloppiness and being cowed by GOP flacks)

Late Update: And then there’s Reuters. When is a filibuster not a filibuster? When it’s a “procedural roadblock.” (ed.note: Thanks to TPM Reader AH.)

Because Filibusters Must Stay in the Closet Update: Even the Washington Post goes in for the song and dance. In this story in tomorrow’s paper, the word ‘filibuster’ doesn’t appear until the final graph when Moveon.org’s “counter-filibusters” are mentioned. (ed.note: This one was flagged by TPM Reader AS.)

Really Late Update: Sigh. I’m not sure anyone can top this nonsense from Diane Sawyer who says Harry Reid “vows to filibuster.”

Here’s my commentary: Holy fucking goddamn fuck a monkey blue motherfucker, what the fucking fuck is the fucking hell going on here, ZOMG!!! FUCK! HAVE THEY ALL GONE COMPLETELY FUCKING NUTS!!!

-jb

p.s. This post did not follow consumption of a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck’s, but rather precedes the downing of some 94 proof Beefeater gin.

UPDATE: Diane Sawyer apologizes. Enjoy it, folks, it’s the only one we’re getting.

Just wondering.

Jul 19, 2007 in Catholicism, Christian Right, Clueless Conservatives, Religion

I’ve often wondered whether Catholic voters are aware of the rampant anti-Catholic views held by a large majority of Pentacostals and SBCers.

-mg

No big deal!

Jul 19, 2007 in Economy, Housing Bubble

99 mortgage lenders have gone under so far this year.   Who will make it an even 100?

I was told by a coworker yesterday that there’s nothing to worry about because the stock market is doing well.  If this is conventional wisdom then we’re most certainly doomed.

-mg

Two-buck Chuck

Jul 19, 2007 in Booze & or Drugs

Our honored beer today is actually a wine, Charles Shaw, affectionately known as “Two-Buck Chuck.” Any time one goes into Trader Joe’s, Charles Shaw is sold at the price of two dollars. What’s that mean? That you get fucked up for less money!

Being a Philistine, used to primarily $7 wine, it tastes just as good to me. The merlot gives a light, buoyant buzz after the consumption of an entire bottle, without the indigestion I get from drinking beer or the sudden annihilation provided by various combinations of vodka or gin. Plus, I can be more productive on merlot than any other kind of booze. Try to identify the blog posts written after a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck!

-jb

Don’t bet on ethanol.

Jul 18, 2007 in Ethanol

Commodities and futures market researcher Kevin Kerr details the obvious about corn-based ethanol:

  1. The industry has never been profitable, even with gigantic subsidies
  2. It’s ultimately bad for the environment
  3. The ratio of energy invested versus energy gained is too steep in order for it to become a reasonable replacement for liquid hydrocarbons

-mg

Harry Reid says to Republicans: “Bring it on.”

Jul 18, 2007 in Iraq, Outstanding Democrats, Politics

Now this is how to do it, Democrats. The Republicans wanted to establish a new system where all bills now require 60 votes to pass, the MSM immediately assimilated the information as established fact. This pattern of the GOP gaming the system however the fuck it wants and the MSM nodding amiably is long established now. The only question was, were Democrats going to assume their usual role, bent over with ankles clasped?

The article is hardly sympathetic to the Democrats.

WASHINGTON — Democrats steered the Senate into an attention-grabbing, all-night session to dramatize opposition to the Iraq war but conceded they were unlikely to gain the votes needed to advance troop withdrawal legislation blocked by Republicans.

“Our enemies aren’t threatened by talk-a-thons, and our troops deserve better than publicity stunts,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

McConnell and many other Republicans favor waiting until September before considering any changes to the Bush administration’s current policy. They have vowed to block a final vote on the Democrats’ attempt to require a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days.

This, of course, is their version of the Friedman Unit, just as the surge was. In September there will be new excuses, possibly another “surge,” “peace increase,” or “ten thousand man mega-slam,” whatever the fuck new buzzword the White House can borrow from their Frank Luntz computer simulation program. Regardless, the Republicans will not want to change course in September. What’s going to be different two months from now?

Of course, while Republicans have been ruling by filibuster on just about any bill they feel like, this is all “six of one, half dozen of another,” by brainless Beltway standards:

But the political roles were reversed. Four years ago, Republicans demanded votes on Bush’s judicial nominees, and Democrats filibustered to avoid certain confirmation of several conservative appointees.

Then, Reid labeled the Republican-led all night-session a “circus,” while other Democrats stoutly defended their right to set a 60-vote threshold for confirmation.

And then, McConnell talked critically of “unprecedented filibusters of President Bush’s nominees” by Democrats, while other Republicans said they simply wanted an “up or down vote” on judicial appointments.

Of course, Republicans were also threatening to put an end to the filibuster. And in the end, they got what they wanted, and all of Washington was in awe of their a’mighty power.

The public is squarely on the Democrats’ side here, and their constituency has one primary expection: Goddammit, fight for us. If the Republicans want to wrap the chains of Iraq around their neck a few more times, let them make a grand show of it nobody will forget. But if Democrats cave in again, that’s what the public will remember.

-jb

Crap.

Jul 18, 2007 in Uncategorized

There goes my favorite newspaper.

-mg

CNN just wants to be helpful.

Jul 18, 2007 in Health Care, Media, Politics

Moore and CNN continue the back and forth. Again, it’s interesting to note that CNN is the adversary here. They attempt to portray themselves as just doin’ some honest reporting, but they end up making more goofs than Moore.

CNN pulled out a statistic about elective procedures. Of the six countries surveyed in that study — United States, Canada, New Zealand, UK, Germany, Australia — only Canada had longer waiting times than America for sick adults waiting to schedule a doctor’s appointment for a medical problem. Eighty-one percent of patients in New Zealand got a same or next-day appointment for a non-routine visit, 71 percent in Britain, 69 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Australia, 47 percent in the U.S. and 36 percent in Canada (“The Doc’s In, but It’ll Be a While,” Catherine Arnst, Business Week, June 22, 2007).

“Gerard Anderson, a Johns Hopkins health policy professor who has spent his career examining the world’s health care, said there are delays, but not as many as conservatives state. In Canada, the United Kingdom and France, ’3 percent of hospital discharges had delays in treatment,’ Anderson told The Miami Herald. ‘That’s a relatively small number, and they’re all elective surgeries, such as hip and knee replacement.’ “…

…One way America is able to achieve decent waiting times is that it leaves 47 million people out of the health care system entirely, unlike any other Western country. When you remove 47 million people from the line, your wait should be shorter. So why is the U.S. second to last in wait times?

And there are even more Americans who keep themselves out of the system because of cost – in the United States, 24 percent of the population did not get medical care due to cost. That number is 5 percent in Canada and 3 percent in the UK…

CNN RESPONSE:

We believe our example of so-called “elective” procedures such as hip replacement and cataract surgery is accurate and is helpful information.

Ah, they were just being helpful. That’s why they only chose to offer the waiting times for elective procedures, a stat that private health-care defenders immediately reach for.

A commenter says it all:

I wish CNN would put as much energy into fact checking White House press releases as they do Michael Moore’s movie.

Moore’s Sicko is a vitally important film for Americans to see for themselves. It’s not perfect or completely comprehensive, but the energy put into dismissing Moore’s movies and hammering him over minor quibbles in an equally sloppy manner is unsurprising.

This is how the status quo is maintained.

-jb

Oh, those cheaky Saudis!

Jul 17, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Uncategorized

Bush has gotten a lot of mileage over the years by beating his chest over the fact that foreign fighters have been pouring over the borders into Iraq to take a crack at defeating the Great Satan.   Iran and Syria are frequently named as the primary culprits but like most claims that this administration makes it’s not entirely true.  Turns out that the greatest percentage of foreign fighters are from Saudi Arabia; the Bush administrations long friend and ally in the War on Terra which also happens to be the epicenter of militant Islam and the place where fifteen of the nineteen terrorists responsible for the 9/11 tragedy called home.  Yet no talk of sanctions, no panel discussions, no outrage.  Such is the selective indignation of the extreme right wing.

-mg

How Tony Snow sees himself.

Jul 14, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Politics

From Froomkin:

“Q If you don’t know it’s eroding, could you characterize the degree of Republican support for the war on the Hill?

“MR. SNOW: No. Again, what I think is — if you talk about the war in absence of the war aims, it’s very — let me try to — maybe I’m being too cute here, so you can tell me I am. . . .

No, Tony, what you do isn’t “cute.” You’re paid to stand up there and lie constantly to the American people, and you do it with a smile on your face. It’s ugly, depraved, and disgusting.

-jb

An upfront godless priest.

Jul 14, 2007 in Religion, Uncategorized

Godless priests are, in my lexicon, those who find themselves to be intelligent and rational enough to see through organized religion, yet cannot stomach the thought of the masses running wild without, “It’s bad because (I) God says so,” taming them. It’s about public control for them, keeping the stupid and shameless reined in. Their public pronouncements about what is right and wrong, which they have very rational reasons for, feel weak and powerless to them unless they can underline them with God.

Michael Gerson writes an op-ed in today’s Washington Post which operates entirely from this premise. To him, whether or not God exists is secondary to what the people need to be told.

So the dilemma is this: How do we choose between good and bad instincts? Theism, for several millennia, has given one answer: We should cultivate the better angels of our nature because the God we love and respect requires it. While many of us fall tragically short, the ideal remains.

Atheism provides no answer to this dilemma. It cannot reply: “Obey your evolutionary instincts” because those instincts are conflicted. “Respect your brain chemistry” or “follow your mental wiring” don’t seem very compelling either. It would be perfectly rational for someone to respond: “To hell with my wiring and your socialization, I’m going to do whatever I please.”

Well, as long as whatever they please doesn’t involve treading on their neighbor, it is perfectly rational. Gerson, however, is intent on a cartoonish picture of atheism, ethics, and morality. If you remove “God sez so!” then suddenly people can’t figure out why rape is wrong? If we’re not magical creatures that just skip over into an eternal fantasy land after dying, then the universe, all its workings, and our one chance at life, are meaningless? No fractal expansion of eternal principles such as truth, beauty, harmony, etc. over the course of billions of years into a world where creatures such as ourselves can understand and embody such things, eh, Gerson? Even a strong sense of spiritual, energetic power in tune with the universe can’t guide a person towards a morality that makes sense?

Of course, not. The human as a beast to be controlled is the fundamental guiding principle of any godless priest. God is Truth, but the truth to him is, what to do with mankind? Ultimately, he is a far more base and bestial creature than most atheists.

One must then ask, who determines what it is that “God” says? Jerry Falwell? A religiously chosen monarch? A council of guys like Gerson? What happens when they prove to be wrong about slavery or homosexuality or what patch of damned land they think God promised them? How do you control the person inflamed to commit evil by “God,” who’ll hear nothing else?

Perhaps Gerson will one day achieve this epiphany: this desire for a harmonious society filled with people at the highest levels of personal evolution pervades us all. It exists with or without a belief in a God who kindly tells us what to do. And if you’ve sunken to using God as a blunt instrument to keep others in line, you’ve earned little right to place yourself or your beliefs above that of any atheist, or any other person whose sense of spirituality lacks a central disciplinarian. Such a view of morality is superficial and far flimsier than the answers of philosophers and ethicists.

-jb

Why the needless capitulation?

Jul 14, 2007 in Disappointing Dems, Politics

Cheney doesn’t think he’s in the executive branch, but the House gives him funding anyway. Why? What the hell are they afraid of? Pissing off the thronging masses who love Cheney? Cheney telling them to go fuck themselves? The terrorists winning?

The counterargument was truly amazing:

n a spirited debate, Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) warned Democrats to “remember you may have a vice president, too” and “be careful what you wish for,”

Oh, well, fuck me. There you go, Republicans, you win. Democrats apparently want to have their own fourth branch someday and want to protect this precedent. What else is the message, besides, once again, more chickenshit caving in to an outlaw administration?

At least the Republican message is clear: They still have their rubber stamps in hand for whatever, absolutely whatever, the Bush administration wants.

-jb

*Bleep* *bloooop*

Jul 13, 2007 in Very rare movie reviews

Nowhere else in the world will you find a Transformers review with an Autechre reference.

-mg

Fuckin’ A – RABS!

Jul 13, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Middle East, Racism, Religion, Uncategorized

Here’s how the First Amendment is revered by the fanatical right wing:

The irony here is that we have an administration that is completely integrated with a regime that is the rats-nest of Wahabist sentiment yet the mouth-breathing base can reflexively identify a peaceful Hindu man like Rajan Zed with the same ridicule and scorn as a Syrian imam.

As James Woolsey points out in this Wall Street Journal editorial, reaching out to other religions in a tactful way, much as Tony Blair had done with mainstream UK Muslims, would do a lot to undermine radical Islam and  to also quell those keen on stateside xenophobia. By cozying up to the main purveyors of radical Islam this administration has done exactly the opposite. They’ve done jack-shit about terrorism and even worse they’ve sat about while al-Qaeda has become as strong as they’ve ever been because for this administration politics trumps policy.

- mg

The dutifully obedient corporate media defends corporate medicine.

Jul 12, 2007 in Chomsky, Health Care, Media

Question…why does CNN believe its job is to take up an adversarial position against single-payer health care and defend America’s current system?

Those who’ve read or seen Manufacturing Consent or some of Noam Chomsky’s other works know the answer: they are a corporate entity designed to sell advertising and protect corporate interests first, loosely draped in the form of a news organization.

Those who attempt to reform America and push for changes that threaten to weaken corporate power will run into a brick wall in the corporate media. This isn’t hard to understand; in fact, it would be rather hard to understand how it could happen any other way. If the corporate media wasn’t looking to protect their corporate health care friends, you’d have to ask yourself what went wrong.

Our health care system has turned into a corporate profit-care system, designed to look after the bottom line first and ensure healthy multi-million dollar megasalaries for the CEOs. Like the corporate media, the supposed function, health care, is simply a tool by which to reach that goal. If your kidney operation hurts Kaiser Permanente’s CEO’s plans to buy a new yacht, you’re just going to have to sacrifice.

Some may choose to disagree, but obviously single-payer systems around the world are working, providing all of their citizens care, and making enough people satisfied to stand up for that kind of system. Michael Moore has asked Americans to consider the issue. Others would love to disagree with him, but by what grounds does CNN believe a “fact-check” on Moore containing its own errors is all the issue deserves?

Perhaps this is an issue America needs to look at and debate, instead of being told by CNN, “There’s nothing to see here, go home!”

-jb

UPDATE: Sullivan gets bimbotastic on Moore.

Same song, verse twenty.

Jul 11, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives

Dr. Richard Carmona, former Bush Surgeon General from 2002 to 2006 started singing a familiar tune before the House of Representatives.  Namely, the one with lyrics about Republicans using non-partisan offices in the government to advance their political endeavours.  You’ll be surprised to know that while he was SG the administration didn’t listen to a damn thing he said nor did they take any of his recommendations seriously.  I know, I know.  It’s a shocka.  Here’s a link to all the video testimonies.

Hullabaloo already covered this to a greater extent so go read it there.

-mg

 

Whore chasin’

Jul 11, 2007 in Uncategorized

Thank God it was a Republican on that list and not a Democrat.  We’d be hearing about it for months.   Not that I care who the guy slept with, when or where.  Unless you’re some hypocrite bastard like Bob Livingston that’s your business.

-mg  

Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially at peak.

Jul 10, 2007 in Energy, Peak Oil

Here’s some disappointing news for the perpetual motion crowd.

Turns out that oil and gas are finite and no amount of sideways drilling or salt-water displacement is going to change that fact.  Furthermore, no amount of ethanol, hydrogen, hog shit digesters, or what-have-you is going to replace the lifestyle that millions of barrels of oil a day could previously afford us. This dovetails beautifully with a teetering housing market built upon the largest credit run-up in human history. With no increases in future productivity to inflate the value of current assets we can look forward to some pretty nasty write-downs so I guess I might as well kiss my 401k goodbye.

Here’s raving liberal moonbat whacko Matt Simmons*:

-mg

*originally aired 3/07

Turkey vs. the Kurds

Jul 10, 2007 in Iraq, Middle East

Turkey’s attitude towards an independent Kurdistan was a serious issue to consider well before the Iraq war. Which means, of course, George W. Bush never considered it. Jim Hoagland thinks the issue is getting critical.

Neither the Pentagon nor the CIA appears to have stepped up to the mission. This inaction feeds Turkish suspicions that hidden anti-Iranian agendas and alliances among U.S., Saudi, Jordanian and other intelligence services have more influence over American priorities than do commitments from Bush or his senior aides.

A month ago, a consensus among trained observers and diplomats held that the Turks were unlikely to intervene despite their threats. That opinion is changing as disillusionment and electoral desperation take hold in Ankara. Moreover, predictions that any intervention would be limited to airstrikes and mopping-up operations by Turkish special forces at PKK sites are giving way to fears of a much larger operation that could be aimed at forestalling Kurdish control over the disputed Kirkuk region. Rice telephoned Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on Friday to try to head off intervention but received no firm assurance.

A Turkish invasion that turns Kurdistan’s relative calm into chaos and bloodshed would be the nail in the coffin for Bush’s legacy in Iraq and for U.S. public support for the American presence there. Making sure this does not happen should be Priority One for Bush and for everyone working for him in the weeks ahead.

Turkey has been one of the primary obstacles to a safely divided Iraq. They believe a Kurdistan will be destabilizing to their Kurdish population, and the Bush administration has done very little here except to declare a divided Iraq a “non-starter.” Turkey, however, is doing something about it.

BAGHDAD (AP) – Turkey has massed 140,000 soldiers on its border with northern Iraq, Iraq’s foreign minister said Monday, calling the neighboring country’s fears of Kurdish rebels based there “legitimate” but better resolved through negotiation.

The Turkish military had no comment to the remarks by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd from northern Iraq, and it was unclear where he got the figures. If they are accurate, Turkey would have nearly as many soldiers along its border with Iraq as the 155,000 troops which the U.S. has in the country.

Zebari’s comments came amid calls by Turkey’s military for the government to give it the green light to carry out military operations in northern Iraqi against the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

My question has always been, what makes Turkey’s position an absolute that we can do nothing about? Their status as an ally suggests to me that negotiations with Turkey are one of the few options we have at our disposal to improve our options in Iraq.

-jb

Bad Fed Data

Jul 10, 2007 in Housing Bubble, Immigration

Like a pack of dumb animals, Republican bloggers, in their perpetual quest to express the highest degree of fealty to this administration, will frequently point to the job market as the basis for all sorts of exotic claims regarding the economy. If jobless numbers go down it’s proof that Bush’s tax cuts were a success, cats are getting along with dogs and all is going well in the universe. If they go up, well, it’s the NEGATIVE LIBRUL MEDIA!! Such is the average analytical capacity of the online devoted. I’m interested in where the economy is headed, they’re interested in defending Bush. C’est la vie.

The big question lately is why has labor remained relatively stable in a market that is beset by tumbling real estate values and the subsequent construction slow down that has impacted most of the country? The answer appears to be that employment has gone down, it’s just that construction companies employ legions of illegal immigrants and are therefore able to keep them off the Feds books.

We seem to be going at the immigration issue the same way we approach cocaine; we blame Colombians because Americans demand it. Immigration reform needs to address those businesses that insist on breaking the law and hiring illegals.

-mg

Live Earth, etc, etc

Jul 10, 2007 in Uncategorized, War on Terra

Kunstler:

Looming behind the spectacle like some Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon, is the puffy figure of Al Gore, who has managed to turn his journalistic accomplishment into something uncomfortably like a Nuremberg rally. I say this perhaps incautiously, not because I believe that Al Gore is a bad person, but because it could get to the point here in America, not far down the line, when a desperate public will beg some political leader to push them around, to tell them what to do, to direct their behavior in some purposeful way to save their asses. And these prancing, preening rock and roll celebrities may be paving the way, so to speak, for some corn pone American fascist to strut his stuff for an American audience worried about the growing darkness, and the falling needle on their car’s gas gauge.

The last thing we need now is the carefully packaged postures of concern from “stars.” Al Gore could do a lot more good militating to get regular hourly passenger train service running between Nashville and Atlanta, or stomping his state, from Memphis to Chattanooga for swapping sales tax on regular merchandise for a higher tax on gasoline. Or, he could just put aside his pretensions for being a kind of global Wizard of Oz and just cut the shit and run for president of the US, where he might actually make a difference.

Like most sane people I remain unconvinced that gigantic pop concerts can provide enough impetus to mitigate Armageddon. My main issue is that profligate fossil fuel consumption, the main producer of greenhouse gases, seems to be the least addressed issue. What I do notice is a great deal of enthusiasm for trendy products and services, promoted by Serious People, that supposedly help the cause. As if purchasing more of the appropriate thing is going to make some sort of difference. Morrissey once quipped about Band Aid; “One can have great concern for the people of Ethiopia, but it’s another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of England.” Is it too much to ask that American Express, out of sheer good will to the American people, remove that idiotic advertisement featuring Sheryl Crow and Ellen DeGeneres? Perhaps the owners of the million dollar bungalows that line Lake Winnipesaukee are amused by it but I certainly am not.

-mg

A low-grade narcoleptic with a penchant for buggery.

Jul 09, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Politics

Sorry, I just wanted to use that title.

Rovin over at Dana’s site tells me the war in Iraq is going swimmingly.

Survival rate of the 101st fighting keyboardists: 100%

-jb

Live Earth

Jul 08, 2007 in Britpop

The only band I’m interested in seeing.

-mg