Archive for November, 2007

If First Spouses matter to you…

Nov 28, 2007 in Barack Obama, Politics

…then Hillary is hardly the only candidate with a powerhouse partner. This Salon piece on Michelle Obama in Iowa damn near made me choke up as often as it made me laugh.

But judging by the reception she receives in northern and eastern Iowa, her approach is working. It shouldn’t be natural that Obama, with her advanced degrees, her height (she’s 5-foot-11), her grace, her killer Jimmy Choo boots and impeccably tailored bell-sleeved tunics, would connect to the comparatively pale, squat groups of people who crowd restaurants and theater lobbies to hear her speak. But she does. As Mary Blake, an 81-year-old from Dorchester, tells me, “I think she’s one of our own. Our different heritage probably doesn’t matter so much if her experience leads her to understand us.” Forty-two-year-old ultrasound technician Laura Hubka, who cries after embracing Michelle in Cresco, has never voted before, but is a precinct captain because of her belief in the Obamas. When I ask what she loves about Michelle, she says, “The strength that she has as a black woman married to a black man, running for president. The trust in the American people, that we can look past that, is such a courageous act. I would vote for her for president.”

Not to make a cheap comparison, but I think Michelle Obama has some very Oprah-like qualities with her ability to relate to white audiences at a level that instantly obliterates all notions of race.

-jb

What it really means to have Bush in office.

Nov 28, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, Media, Politics

Dirty shenanigans against the people like this every day.

Earlier this month the FCC convened the final of six public hearings to air out concerns about this proposed rule change. I have watched, listened to or attended all of these hearings and one thing is clear. The public is single-mindedly opposed to more media consolidation.

Martin himself admitted recently that he remembers “only one” public witness calling for relaxation of media ownership rules at these hearings.

This public opposition is not just evident in the passion of the thousands of people who testified against consolidation at FCC hearings in Seattle, Los Angeles, Nashville, Tampa, Harrisburg and Chicago. It’s a fact reflected in the public record.

The last time the FCC tried to change the rules in 2003, millions of people contacted Congress and the FCC to oppose the changes, which were ultimately thrown out by the courts. My organization, Free Press, checked the public comments of those who have written the FCC since June 2006 and found that more than 99 percent opposed changing the rules.

Despite the massive outcry, Martin has not wavered in his rush to let loose a new wave of consolidation by the end of the year.

This is what’s really been going on for the past 7 years under Bush. Corporations rest assured that whatever the public thinks, Bush will have a lackey in place that will allow them to essentially rewrite the rules for themselves. This never stops under Bush, it just keeps chipping away every day at the years of hard work spent defending the public good and keeping voices alive. And it flies under the corporate media radar for all the obvious reasons. All the more reason why the voting booth becomes our only chance to reverse such trends, and even then corporate Democrats (like, say, for example, Hillary Clinton) take that choice away. Value it while it still lasts.

-jb

Derbyshire exists why?

Nov 27, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Racism

Andrew Sullivan is ever entertained by this lackwit’s neverending attempts to reconcile civility with neanderthalism. The big rage among conservatives lately, and Sullivan has been fanning the flames, is being less than discreet about their feelings regarding race and IQ. Unfortunately, Sullivan seems to fail to realize that the topic is really very subtle and nearly useless, except as an excuse for rightwingers to vent their racism, i.e. descend into degeneracy. Case in point with John Derbyshire, the English idiot who lambasted the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre for not trying to tackle an armed madman:

There may indeed be different kinds of smarts, each worthy in its own way. In the world as it is, though, the kind of smarts that gets you a coherent nation under stable government, with a fair shot at security, prosperity, good health, and comfort for yourself and your descendants, is one particular kind — the kind measured by I.Q. tests.

In his lust to go after blacks, Derbyshire suffers amnesia and forgets the existence of the Middle East, much of China, all but the most recent history of Eastern Europe and the former USSR, Indochina, Europe’s long history of poverty and bloodshed, etc. etc. Or that high IQ scores haven’t necessarily done much to give Jewish people security or comfort. If you click and read the extended quote, Derbyshire indeed does rank as less valid the intelligence of those who are conquered or exterminated by other peoples. So indeed, since the Jews have managed to be persecuted throughout their existence, slaughtered en masse, and then decide the solution was to go set up camp in the middle of a bunch of Jew-hatin’ Arabs, how exactly, Derbyshire, is that reflected in their IQs?

Would Derbyshire’s feelings about Iran change because it’s the birthplace of algebra, accounting, highways, etc.?

Such is the Catch-22 of race and IQ…it’s almost impossible to try talking about how much smarter your people are without sounding like a complete moron…and inevitably turning into one. For every one person who can address the subject semi-responsibly, you get a thousand morons who gravitate to the subject out of insecurity borne of their own inferiority.

Personally, one of the only conclusions I can really draw from these still questionable reports are that maybe we should quit underfunding black students and cramming them into 35+ classrooms in factory schools functionally incapable of providing extracurricular activities for all their students. I already disagree with most quota systems (though I think quotas can be useful as smoke detectors to help us find where racism is calling the shots), believe in strict colorblind standards for admissions and job performance, and I think money should hinder nobody’s education. What else is there to add?

-jb

UPDATE: Not much, according to Sullivan. It’s all about affirmative action for him, he says in an earlier post I missed. Such are the perils of reading blogs top-to-bottom.

Mr. Fusion/Quote of the day

Nov 27, 2007 in Energy

Let’s start with the quote:

“This whole idea is loony and not worthy of too much attention,” Los Alamos Study Group Executive Director Greg Mello says. “Of course, factoring in enough cronyism, corruption and official ignorance and boosterism, it’s possible the principals could make some money during the initial stages, before the crows come home to roost.”

He’s talking about this guys idea to build portable, self-contained nuclear reactors to bury in the ground behind your house.  Any takers?

-mg

Percocet dreams.

Nov 27, 2007 in We'll post whatever we goddamned want to

I was in my childhood bed, except I was apparently Bill Clinton, and Hillary was in bed with me, buck naked, yelling at me and flinging sheets over various scandals because I didn’t take them seriously. She was curvy and solid, much like my newly-ex-girlfriend, definitely some sweet meat between the sheets, but I, being poor old Bill, wasn’t getting any that night.

See why I ain’t been posting much this last week? Cuz shit like the above paragraph gets written, yo!

-jb

Why do they hate America so much?

Nov 26, 2007 in Iraq, Middle East, Politics

These things happen when you have a functioning democracy:

Australia’s new prime minister Kevin Rudd will mark his arrival on the international stage by announcing the withdrawal of his country’s combat troops from Iraq and signing the Kyoto treaty on climate change.

Back in ’03, John Howard was censured by the Senate for misleading the public in regards to the rationale for invading Iraq.  That’s another frequently overlooked aspect of democracy; accountability.

-mg

Quote of the Day

Nov 25, 2007 in Uncategorized

From our favorite commenter who ventures over here from the misnamed Common Sense Political Thought, Dana Pico:

You’d be correct to assume that I voted for George Bush, twice. Were he constitutionally able to run again, I’d vote for him again.

I think most people would find that a little bit funny and a little bit scary.

-jb

Oil isn’t shocking the system, it is the system.

Nov 25, 2007 in Peak Oil

And the wild ride has barely begun:

Since January, the price of a barrel of oil has almost doubled and is now approaching $100. Blame tensions in the Middle East, speculators on a quest for profit and the hunger for energy of rising powers, including India and China.

The ripples from this price surge are washing up on every shore. It’s creating new wealth in such locales as Moscow, where oil barons are almost at a loss about how to spend their riches. But the effects in some other places are less predictable. Israelis fear a rush of people will chop down trees to heat their homes. Farmers in northern Iraq are abandoning their fields to sell gas. Fishermen in France, stung by the price of diesel, have rioted.

-jb

p.s. Thanks to those who have been patient while my body mends and my mind is a mush of painkillers. One week recovery time, ha! Takin’ her easy (for all you sinners) next week too…

Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

Nov 25, 2007 in Uncategorized

Receipts were up on Black Friday. Though not as much as compared to previous years, the increase was enough for retailers to breath a little sigh of relief. It looks like those credit cards aren’t completely maxed out just yet though high rotating balances are forcing more and more Iowans to seek help at consumer credit counseling agencies (which, contrary to what is claimed, are owned and operated by large creditors).

-mg

It’s that time of year!

Nov 24, 2007 in Uncategorized

It’s time for that holiday season media staple I love to hate; the ubiquitous news segments about airport congestion. Seriously, who gives a shit?

-mg

I forgot about this guy.

Nov 24, 2007 in Iowa City

Until Common Iowan jogged my memory.  I saw the Reverend Billy at the Memorial Union here in Iowa City about six years ago.  Back then he was evangelizing against Starbucks and other mono-cultural entities.  The crowd was tepid to say the least.  I don’t think anybody knew what the make of him.  Whoever booked him really dropped the ball.  He would have absolutely killed at the Gabe’s beer garden or on the ped mall.

-mg

Middle East “Democracy”

Nov 21, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Pakistan

(Musharraf) “hasn’t crossed the line” and “truly is somebody who believes in democracy.”    -George Bush

He just has a funny way of showing it, I guess, considering it’s been eight years since he seized power in a military coup and has routinely jailed dissidents and prospective opponents. One has to ask, where is the line drawn? Considering our complacent attitudes towards the monstrous conditions one could find in everyday Saudi Arabia, Musharraf doesn’t have much to worry about.

Platitudes like the one above regarding Musharraf remind me of the Clinton administration describing Suharto as “our kind of guy” or Thomas Friedman saying of post Gulf War I, Iraq that the “best of all worlds” would be an “iron-fisted military junta” to come in and resume power. The fact is that be you Republican or Democrat, whether or not a country is a democracy or not is of no concern. Being a predictable client state is.

-mg

Support the troops.

Nov 21, 2007 in Uncategorized

For real, instead of stupid posturing, for once:

In Jordan Fox’s case, he was seriously injured when a roadside bomb blew up his vehicle, causing back injuries and blindness in his right eye. He was sent home, unable to complete the final three months of his military commitment.

Last week, the Pentagon sent him a bill: Fox owed the government nearly $3,000 of his signing bonus.

“I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they’re telling me they want their money back,” Fox said.

What kind of goddamned vampires dream up this stuff? “We could save a lot of money by taking it from the wounded!” Gee, maybe we could bill orphans for the cost of raising them, to be paid for the rest of their natural lives!

Our Pentagon misplaces billions in Iraq while dicking wounded soldiers around for a couple grand. It sure would be nice if our policies truly did support the troops.

-jb

The Episode Where Peter Brady Tries On New Personalities

Nov 20, 2007 in Uncategorized

So I’m Mike Huckabee. I want to kickstart my campaign, really tell people how I stand apart from the other candidates. It’s so hard in the primaries, establishing your identity without seeming like a lone wolf! What can I do? I know: some of those jokes from that Chuck Norris email everybody was forwarding around five years ago! That thing was hilarious! Next week: Mike Huckabee visits the roller disco, tries on rainbow suspenders, says “Nanoo nanoo.”

Iowa keeps it real.

Nov 20, 2007 in Uncategorized

Why bother with the artifice and baggage of Hillary Clinton when you have Barack Obama to choose instead, I asked. Iowa rises to the challenge:

While Clinton still leads on more personal attributes than any of her competitors, just half of Iowa Democrats in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll believe she’s willing to say what she really thinks — far fewer than say so of either Obama or John Edwards. Obama beats her by 2-1 as the most honest and trustworthy candidate. Her advantage on experience, while substantial, has softened since summer. She has notably less support in Iowa than nationally in trust to handle a variety of specific issues — on Iraq, for example, Obama now runs evenly with her. And she’s third in Iowa among men.

Among those who say they’re “absolutely certain” to attend a caucus, Obama has 28 percent support, Clinton 26 percent — again very close, and a contrast to Clinton’s nearly 2-1 lead over Obama nationally.

Yes, yes, yes. Iowa is leaning toward the shrewd, smarter, more honest choice. This benefits both Barack and Iowa, affirming Iowa’s reputation for examining the hell out of candidates before making informed choices that can upset the conventional Beltway consensus. Iowans have the chance to say, “It isn’t over before we even get to start voting,” and should do so to say they don’t like others making their minds up for them.

Now, this dynamic mortally wounded my 2004 favorite, Howard Dean, but Barack stands to benefit from from it. Hillary is ahead nationwide because she’s got the name recognition and she’s got the press salivating for all the wild news stories 8 more years of the Clintons will generate. Obama is taking the lead in Iowa because Iowans took the time to investigate and explore the candidates in ways the media won’t.

Thank you, Iowa.

-jb

How could anybody not know Scott McClellen was a paid liar?

Nov 20, 2007 in Journamalism, Politics

That’s the job description if you want to work for Team Bush. Stand up in front of the press and deliver material without any regard for its truth or falsity. With McClellan, he always acted like a terrible liar, somebody shifty and sweaty and stammering as he kept trying to paint a rosy picture of Bush II’s record like he was trying to hammer a nail with play dough. He knew he didn’t have the right tools or the right material, but he kept plodding on, a dutiful servant til the end, when he was put out of his bovine misery.

And, big surprise, now Scotty wants confess his sins.

The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

There was one problem. It was not true.

I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the president himself.

Well, Scotty, I’d say a compliant media sure helped you out, didn’t they? Those priviliged enough to enter the White House briefing room preened and fawned in front of Bush’s four press secretaries (or cower in front of Ari Fleischer when he told them to “watch what they say.”), no matter how blatantly they fibbed and told tall tales. McClellan would lie to them every day, then step down from the podium and shake hands and pat backs.

The U.S. people deserved better from the press, and of course they deserved better from McClellan rather than keeping shut until he got a book deal. We deserved McClellan ripping off his tie and delivering this speech:

[youtube dib2-HBsF08]

-jb

Iowa sportsmen against global warming.

Nov 19, 2007 in Global warming

Anybody who has ever attended a Ducks Unlimited meeting or learned about catch and release techniques knows that those that enjoy outdoor activity in one form or another are usually way ahead of the curve when it comes to conservation techniques and rational environmental management and Iowa sportsmen are no exception.

-mg

The Bush economy; more dismal than ever.

Nov 19, 2007 in Economy

And you think the economy has problems now:

Merrill Lynch & Co. predicts either the United Arab Emirates or Qatar will cut their dollar peg within half a year. Standard Chartered Plc says the six Gulf Cooperation Council nations need to raise the value of their currencies 20 percent. The difference between the price of the Saudi Arabian riyal and the cost of buying it in a year using forward contracts has widened 10-fold since October as traders bet the kingdom will sever its 21-year-old link to the dollar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The dollar peg is doomed,” said Jim Rogers, chairman of New York-based Rogers Holdings and a former partner of hedge fund manager George Soros.

Woops, George Soros got mentioned so I guess that’s reason enough for 25% of the US population to completely disregard the frightening economic consequences of OPEC producers decoupling their currency from the US dollar.

Heads up, crazies; your mission now is to figure out how to blame this on Bill Clinton.  You know you can do it!

-mg

Neoconservatism: A philosophy based upon science fiction.

Nov 17, 2007 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Politics, War on Terra

I’m not sure if there’s a shred of rational thought in this paragraph from a reader’s letter to Andrew Sullivan:

I fear Obama/Paul, not because they too would suspend liberties, but because their inherent lack of aggression, their disinclination to use force pre-emptively, is more likely to create a situation that permits the horrendous attack, which then ushers in the new leaders who ‘will keep us safe.’ We don’t need nice people who will do the ‘right thing’. We need a man like McCain who will fight hard, cleanly but hard, and who won’t flinch. The best defense against an attack is to attack the terrorists everyday, to kill them and to make their lives so miserable and so difficult that they are perpetually on the defensive.

I think 2008 is a little too late for this comic book vision of foreign policy. How can this reader really believe George W. Bush has been tough on terrorists? President Bush II has been Osama bin Laden’s wet dream idiot president come true. I mean, that’s from a fact-based realistic foreign policy perspective, one employing clean reason as opposed to jingoistic sludge.

To this guy, I must say: Man, I understand you got the fear. Fear is a son of a bitch. We’ve all got our fears, but Bushism has given you nothing but PR slogans, torture, dead soldiers and many more dead innocents. Dead terrorists? Eh, you know. They seem to enjoy committing suicide for the cause and have great recruitment ratios (George W.’s face on a poster is all you need). So you gotta ask yourself what it means to kill a terrorist if it gains the terrorist boss two new recruits. Oh, and by the way, they’ve all received excellent training in Afghanistan and Iraq whacking our soldiers who get sent out to patrol until somebody gets blown up.

Is he really sure Obama is going to do worse? By what, not invading countries? By what, stepping down international efforts to bring in terrorists? I mean, what policy? What plan? Or is this simply manipulated fear? Is this a narrative sold to this fella by used car salesmen? I have to ask if this guy buys into the unspoken Republican belief that Al Gore would not have responded to 9/11 with force (this translates, of course, into not invading Iraq…it’s all the same to them).

In other words, this whole narrative about Republicans being tough and Democrats being soft has always been about Iraq. It clearly had nothing to do with the Cold War. It obviously has nothing to do with Clinton’s pursuit of Al Queda during the 90’s which nobody really cared about back then, since George W. Bush entered office and did radically less than Clinton (his eyes were set on Iraq and Missile Defense). What did George W. Bush do about the USS Cole? Excuses about Bush’s first months are the usual remedial treatment this stunted man receives. When exactly was Bush going to begin defending the country, eh? Is that not an obligation the first year?

Bush fans really hate answering those questions, btw. They tend to get really angry to make up for their purely irrational dismissal of George W. Bush’s colossal failure to protect our nation from Al Queda before 9/11.

If this person really concerned about doing something about Al Queda, the rational, sensible, wise choice is Obama. We’ve got to return to foreign policy realism. Drop the slogans and start doing some damn thinking.

-jb

Close, but no score.

Nov 17, 2007 in Energy

In the future, you will be able to shove a giant high-tech pump up your ass which will then begin to shrink your body’s fatty tissues thus charging a battery with the energy. This battery will power your car for 300 miles. Your car will emit no gases, make no sound.

In the meantime, we’ve always got the animals

Oof, my vegan girlfriend wouldn’t like that. But it seems she wants to be my ex-girlfriend as of this morning. By lunch I was wiping chicken grease off my face. I always cut the fat off my meat. Now we can make fuel out of it. Cool.

-jb

Friday Night Videos

Nov 16, 2007 in Uncategorized

My favorite New Order song:

[youtube MhNDKZmxRLM]

-mg

USD = second rate currency?

Nov 16, 2007 in Economy, Energy

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said today that talk of decoupling OPEC from the US dollar should not be talked about in public as it could lead to a currency crash:

“As for the monetary aspect and the dollar I would like to ask his Excellency, the minister of Iran, to leave this question to the appropriate party, the ministers of finance, without mentioning that we gave them this task so that there won’t be negative impact from OPEC,” Al-Faisal said, speaking in reaction to an Iranian proposal to discuss the currency…

“There will be journalists who will seize on this point and we don’t want the dollar to collapse instead of doing something good for OPEC,” Al-Faisal said.

Yeah…that’s how bad it’s gotten. Ten years ago, people wouldn’t have bothered laughing if you had suggested that OPEC adopt the euro as it’s default currency.

Update: And here we’ve got Jay-Z flaunting euro’s in his videos instead of $’s

-mg

Wawa weewa!

Nov 15, 2007 in Uncategorized

I guess I need to watch Fox News more often.
[youtube MHEXzlNHC8Q&eurl=http://foxnewsporn.com/?utm_source=rgemail]

-jb

The rationality of Bush hatred.

Nov 14, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Constitution, Politics

“Bush hatred,” was coined as a term several years ago to forestall conclusions based upon mounting evidence that Bush was not just a bad president, but one of the worst this nation has ever seen, if not the absolute worst. You could talk all day about Bush’s policies and politics, but the more evidence you piled, the angrier it was assumed you were. A forceful rebuke of Bush simply wasn’t considered suitable for polite conversations.

As most of you know, the charges that were thrown against Bush back then have mostly stuck. Those with “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” it turns out, were talking perfectly complete sense and identifying the early signs of Bush’s departure from America’s previously charted course. They were the ones actually behaving in a rational matter, basing conclusions off evidence and sticking with them when they weren’t popular.

Still, the Wall Street Journal’s Peter Berkowitz clings to the old ways:

Of course, these very examples illustrate nothing so much as the damage hatred inflicts on the intellect. Many of my colleagues at Princeton that evening seemed not to have considered that in 2000 it was Al Gore who shifted the election controversy to the courts by filing a lawsuit challenging decisions made by local Florida county election supervisors. Nor did many of my Princeton dinner companions take into account that between the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, 10 of 16 higher court judges–five of whom were Democratic appointees–found equal protection flaws with the recount scheme ordered by the intermediate Florida court. And they did not appear to have pondered Judge Richard Posner’s sensible observation, much less themselves sensibly observe, that while indeed it was strange to have the U.S. Supreme Court decide a presidential election, it would have been even stranger for the election to have been decided by the Florida Supreme Court.

A sensible observation? There’s nothing strange about the Florida Supreme Court determining how Florida’s vote gets counted, being that this is an electoral system. Florida didn’t decide the election, by the way. Fifty states did.

Unfortunately the Supreme Court did treat the case politically, voting with party instead of principle. Were Bush the loser convinced a recount would make him president, the decision would have gone precisely the other way. Can anybody honestly argue that the Constitution could prohibit a recount?

Nope. If somebody wants to give it a try, bring it on.

Berkowitz, overlooking this, seems to have spoken irrationally in defense of Bush. That’s what true Bush Derangement Syndrome is…the ever present need to spin reality to avert public eyes from the disaster for this country that Bush’s presidency has been. Our country was once dominated by this mental sickness, but most of the country has shaken it off. Not Mr. Berkowitz.

-jb

UPDATE: Oh, snap, Glenn Greenwald takes the mitts off for Berkowitz- who turns out to be Giuliani’s Foreign Policy Advisor. This, as the GOP dives headlong into Hillary-hatred, led by Giuliani.

Some people just ain’t got no shame.

Of course, Reagan exploited racism.

Nov 13, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Politics, Racism

Please. Just tell me he was from an older generation and get it over with. Old people get passes for being racist because we tell ourselves they don’t know any better.

But why pretend that the racist things he did and said were unlucky accidents?

It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you.

And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation.

Congress overrode the veto.

Reagan also vetoed the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Congress overrode that veto, too.

Throughout his career, Reagan was wrong, insensitive and mean-spirited on civil rights and other issues important to black people. There is no way for the scribes of today to clean up that dismal record.

To see Reagan’s appearance at the Neshoba County Fair in its proper context, it has to be placed between the murders of the civil rights workers that preceded it and the acknowledgment by the Republican strategist Lee Atwater that the use of code words like “states’ rights” in place of blatantly bigoted rhetoric was crucial to the success of the G.O.P.’s Southern strategy. That acknowledgment came in the very first year of the Reagan presidency.

Reagan’s been caught red-handed. There’s no rational reason to dive into Imaginationland yet again, but the rightwing authoritarians will continue to drive the propaganda of The Dearest Leader of All.

-jb

Thought-deprived goon of the day.

Nov 13, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Energy

This call to arms comes from the…ah, “Astute Blogger.”

THE ONLY THING STANDING IN THE WAY OF US EXPLOITING THE OIL IN THESE REGIONS (AND US BUILDING MORE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS AND MORE COAL-BURNING POWER PLANTS) IS THE DEMOCRAT PARTY.

REPEAT: THE ONLY THING BETWEEN US AND CHEAPER ENERGY AND A GROWING WORLD ECONOMY IS THE DEMOCRAT PARTY.

WE MUST DEFEAT THEM.

FOR THE CHILDREN.

Wow. Sometimes the sensation of disconnect from somebody who is drifting in Imaginationland is like a chill wind. It takes some serious sociopathic tendencies to say with a straight face, “We must increase our burning of coal…for the children!”

Yes, if it weren’t for the children we really wouldn’t be that concerned about powering the giant trucks scooting around the suburbs of America and keeping our TVs on. It’s all for the children! They’re the ones who have spent their whole lives in a technologically advanced world! They don’t know about simpler times like we do (we had four channels when I was a kid!).

Imagine the glee among coal executives that actual human beings are willing and ready to say such things without being paid massive sums of money. This “Astute Blogger” is blowing them and not even charging a quarter. He could at least ask for a cheeseburger!

-jb

Rightwingers and Art don’t mix.

Nov 12, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Culture

Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog echoes my feelings on art and politics.

Yeah, Lions for Lambs and Rendition and In the Valley of Elah are flopping — but so are Things We Lost in the Fire and Reservation Road and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Hollywood is good at making blockbusters and cartoons, and it thought it was good at making dour films with big stars that win Oscars and (despite the huge salaries of the big stars) make a reasonable amount of money. It isn’t, or at least right now it isn’t.

Hell, I’m a liberal and I don’t even see most of these movies. If the reviews are poor (as they are for most of this year’s crop), I stay away. I don’t care if the political point of view jibes with mine. I get news from newspapers and radio and TV and the Internet. I don’t get it from fictional films. A lousy movie is a lousy movie, even if it has my politics.

I was only tempted to watch In the Valley of Elah, among the three, but I decided to wait for video. Apparently Rendition is a bit of a bore and Lions for Lambs is further proof that Redford has been burned out for some time. The guy had a nice run, let him spiral into irrelevance peacefully.

Art is not meant to be something that tells you what you already believe. Art is supposed to communicate meaning through technique. The more profound the meaning, the more astounding the technique, the higher it ascends within our souls. Art, however, may choose to depict the world through a person’s eyes, and every person is flawed. Art may tell you about terrible people, but it may serve to merely open a window into that horror, not necessarily endorse it. As Roger Ebert notes, (paraphrased) “it’s not so much what a movie is about, but how it is about it.” Or better yet, Oscar Wilde:

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are either well written, or badly written. That is all.”

That’s why I read and love the novels of James Ellroy. The man is a stone cold psychotic racist rightwinger in many respects, except he has the genius to put it in the place it belongs, in ball-bustingly exciting hard-boiled crime fiction that drags you directly into the fevered minds of his obsessive anti-heroes who float above the law. Yes, they spurt the word “nigger” every five words, but Ellroy is really just being brutally honest. His books are so well written that the power of his talent just makes you laugh with dizziness. What does Art do if not evoke?

Of course, I don’t see any right-wingers making star-spangled blockbusters, either. What’s the problem? Why isn’t there a Fox News of Hollywood? (Why isn’t it, er, Fox?)

Hollywood is a town of immense capital calculation. If a movie can make money, they’ll give it a shot. Oh, they don’t like your shitty rightwing propaganda tract? Get in line with the rest of the failed writers. Just because Hollywood passed on Mel Gibson’s plan to shoot a Jesus movie in a foreign language with no stars doesn’t mean they had an agenda. The stories of missed opportunities in Hollywood are longer than the stories of success. Did you know Mel Gibson turned down the title role in The Terminator?

The shelves at Blockbuster are lined with low-budget flicks that get distributed, some of which are rightwing religious crack like the Left Behind movies. Rush Limbaugh could take one year’s salary and fund dozens of such films. If there’s a great rightwing script that nobody’ll film, and you can explain to me how it’s more special than the thousands of other scripts written in today’s market that go nowhere, I’d love to hear about it. What’s the budget? Megachurch pastors live on multi-million dollar estates and you monkeys can’t budget a film, which you think is going to be insanely profitable because “Normal Americans” will flock to it?

Steven Spielberg was hailed for his one-two punch of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, which did much to define the public consciousness and reignite passions towards WWII. Years later he did Munich, which made the mistake of depicting Israel in a way that deviated from Likud propaganda. Spielberg was tossed into the fire, described as a liberal self-hating Jew who just made a movie to bash Israel.

How can an artist who merely pursues the truth of storytelling ever fit into a rightwing mold? Life is so much bigger than what they see. The rightwinger wishes to push certain things out of sight, certain uncomfortable truths that will make him/her think. The artist wishes to depict ever new facets of Truth. Compatibility between the two is strained and rarely profitable.

-jb

Do your sharks have conventional lasers?

Nov 12, 2007 in Science

Mine will have femtosecond lasers.

Raydiance has purportedly developed a laser that “looks like an ordinary slide projector,” yet can emit “burst of photons so intense that it can vaporize matter without creating heat.” Its uses could span every area from removing tattoos…without burning the skin, killing cancer cells without affecting healthy ones, or handling any undercover task that the military may require.

One step closer to editing reality.

-jb

An open-source wireless network.

Nov 12, 2007 in Apple, Economy, The Internets

As the auctioning of the 700mhz spectrum approaches, there’s been a vigorous debate over whether or not our future wireless world will continue to be owned by a couple giants, or if it will attain the freedom and independence of the Internet.

When I first heard that the iPhone would only be available to subscribers of AT&T, I immediately dismissed it. “That won’t last long,” I said.

But while Google’s much-anticipated plan has encouraged talk of a Google Phone, the company said that for now it had no plans to build phones. Instead, it has signed up powerful partners to develop and market the phones, including handset makers like Motorola and Samsung, carriers like T-Mobile, Sprint and China Mobile and semiconductor companies like Qualcomm and Intel.

The group, the Open Handset Alliance, expects to start selling the Google-powered phones in the second half of next year.

If Apple won’t wake up and make the iPhone available to everybody, Google will. And Google will be rewarded for it. I use Sprint, and I’m staying with it for now. Sprint needs to get on board with its own future-phone to compete, and signing on with the Google phone is essential to keeping the market competitive. It’s not surrendering to an open network, it’s accepting reality. Eventually, Apple will have no choice but to either continue being a niche in the phone market, or go into the battlefield. One would assume they trust their abilities to win based on design.

-jb

I say, good man, that was certainly not too esoteric for the befuddled masses!

Nov 12, 2007 in Journamalism

Peter Beinart hands cartoonish rightwingers a welfare check:

His portrait of the rising conservative movement is a little cartoonish. There’s no question that corporate money and racial division played powerful roles, but to describe the early years of William F. Buckley’s National Review only by mentioning its support for segregation and admiration for Franco, with no mention of fusionism, isn’t worthy of someone of Mr. Krugman’s intellectual sophistication.

Yes, yes, he didn’t mention fusionism. How unsophisticated. Everybody’s got fusionism on their lips at the cocktail parties nowadays.

Looking up “fusionism” on Wikipedia produces this:

Fusionism is an American political term for the combination or “fusion” of libertarians and traditional conservatives in the American conservative movement.

Certainly relevant. But what could possibly lead one to believe Krugman doesn’t remember that there was an alliance between libertarians and anti-libertarian conservatives?

-jb

Beauty in destruction.

Nov 11, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives

A poem, if you will.

“The Unknown”

As we know,

There are known knowns.

There are things we know we know.

We also know

There are known unknowns.

That is to say

We know there are some things

We do not know.

But there are also unknown unknowns,

The ones we don’t know

We don’t know.

Improv poetry from Donald Rumsfeld

-jb

Quit messing around!

Nov 11, 2007 in Barack Obama, Politics

You must vote for Obama. Watch these two videos, then ask somebody to slap some sense into you if you still don’t want to vote for him.

One absorbing interview.
[youtube XXNGg38UcxU]

One powerful damn speech.
[youtube tydfsfSQiYc]

You are helpless before the Truth. You can only run from it, but you cannot make it go away. Iowa must take a stand for principle and integrity and choose Barack Obama.

-jb

Goodbye, Privacy.

Nov 11, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans, National Security, Politics, The Internets, Where's the outrage?!?!

We’ll miss you.

Millions of people in this country — particularly young people — already have surrendered anonymity to social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, and to Internet commerce. These sites reveal to the public, government and corporations what was once closely guarded information, like personal statistics and credit card numbers.

“Those two generations younger than we are have a very different idea of what is essential privacy, what they would wish to protect about their lives and affairs. And so, it’s not for us to inflict one size fits all,” said Kerr, 68. “Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that.”

Thus the government can read all of your e-mail and listen to all of your phone calls whenever it wants and if you don’t shut up about it, you’re letting the terrorists win.

-jb

Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

Nov 11, 2007 in Barack Obama, Clintonitis, Clueless Conservatives, Politics

Andrew Sullivan says, “The Clintons tend to be lucky in their enemies.”

That’s one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that the anti-Clinton machine is composed of the worst of the GOP. The faux-scandals fly fast, furiously, and free of facts. Not to mention doggedly authoritarian, if one notes Kenneth Starr’s unconscionable abrogation of Susan McDougal’s Constitutional rights. It’s the very modus operandi that led directly to all things Bush.

The fact is that the only sensible case against Hillary Clinton is one that comes from the left. She’s a centrist Democrat who triangulates by making concession towards Republican policies. The fact that Republicans think they hate this woman reveals them as completely irrational. The reason why Clinton triangulation works is because sane moderates actually pay attention to how Bill Clinton governed in the ’90s and to how Hillary behaved in the Senate. It’s the left she’s been driving crazy through unbelievable betrayals like voting for Iraq. The Clintons, for all their human imperfections, have a governing philosophy America likes. Most lefties can whack them on certain policies and still rate their job performances highly.

As furious as those who hate the Clintons personally get at the thought of Bill Clinton smugly walking back into the White House, the fact simply is that it will be better for America. The rightwingjackass brigade has nothing on them. But they won’t stop. That doesn’t make the Clintons lucky. That makes all of us unlucky.

Of course, we could simply sidestep all this adieu and elect Obama instead, who only the most vile could hate. The primaries are coming, Iowa. Why not take this chance to vote for the best candidate? President Barack Obama…how exciting is that? I dare any non-rightwingjackass to tell me how that doesn’t give them a bigger woody than “President Hillary Clinton.”

-jb

UPDATE: That didn’t mean disguise yourself with a fake Hillary site, rightwingjackass! See comments.

Ja, das stimmt.

Nov 11, 2007 in Economy, Housing Bubble, Journamalism

Well, I sure wish I knew what it would take for our country to develop some foresight. Our current version of “looking forward” has gotten us in Iraq, allowed profiteering to drive health care costs beyond our means, and passed massive credit reforms friendly to loan shark credit card companies while respectable members of the elite bellyache about the cost of fighting global warming. That is, of course, an incomplete list. If there’s anything we have planned well for, I’m not sure of it.

The housing meltdown is getting the attention, but there’s so much more. Bankruptcies and homelessness are on the rise. The job market has been weak for years. The auto industry is in trouble. The cost of food, gasoline and home heating oil are soaring at a time when millions of Americans are managing to make it from one month to another solely by the grace of their credit cards.

The country has been in denial for years about the economic reality facing American families. That grim reality has been masked by the flimflammery of official statistics (job growth good, inflation low) and the muscular magic of the American way of debt: mortgages on top of mortgages, pyramiding student loans and an opiatelike addiction to credit cards at rates that used to get people locked up for loan-sharking.

One of the joys of living in America is that we have a nearly useless punditry that works hard to create the experience of being on top of everything while offering next to nothing People like Bob Herbert who are out there digging up the bad news are both rare and ignored. While our news media does manage to record a number of facts available for searches and discerning readers, it has become so enmeshed with foul punditry one must struggle to unsnarl them. Mainstream media outlets have begun to grow dimly aware of encroaching challenges to America’s economy that neoliberal economic policies have engendered. Given the corporate structure of such entities, such a simple pronouncement becomes impossible for them to make, so they must pretend they have no idea what’s causing all this alarm.

There is really no excuse for The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream news media to not understand what is going on out there. The pervasive cluelessness is a symptom of another complex system out of whack — the system that informs us what’s going on. Meanwhile, the danger mounts. The heating season is underway and the furnaces are clanking. Many Americans will have to start choosing whether to pay their mortgage, fill the tank of the Chevy Suburban, buy that brick of Velveeta, or pay the heating oil guy. It looks like China will be spending more of its accumulated dollars bidding up the price of oil (or making favorable contracts with foreign suppliers) instead of buying Freddie Mac bonds. The USA could not find itself in a less favorable position among all these forces roiling the scene. It certainly can’t afford to continue its pathetic pose of cluelessness.

James Howard Kunstler inevitably sounds like a crank, yammering away at how the world is going to turn to shit, writing the book of Revelations for the suburbs via his books and blogging. He makes us feel grumpy and sad. Unfortunately, he is a crank only because fate proves him right every day. Kunstler has looked at the unique nature of oil and its fundamental importance to every facet of modern life, and extrapolated the logical consequences of it running out. They’re not easy to digest, definitely earning a rating of two Tums up.

I prefer Rolaids, but the pun called…

There are some who maintain that the country will simply be unable to react to a true energy shortage until it faces it, and then we’ll fucking grab ourselves by our invincible bootstraps and leap right over the problem. They’re half right.

-jb

Chomsky – The Immaturity of The Left.

Nov 10, 2007 in Chomsky, Librulz

Chomsky sticks it to Kennedy, Cambridge liberals and various other hacks.

[youtube cqrJ2s6lDT4]

-mg

Storm Lake teen charged with terrorism.

Nov 09, 2007 in Iowa

A thirteen year old boy from Storm Lake, IA who threatened his teachers is being charged with terrorism. 

Pointless.

-mg   

Whoops!

Nov 09, 2007 in Economy, Housing Bubble

Here’s a classic case of “be careful what you wish for“.  Lenders are now getting bitten in the ass for pushing harsh new bankruptcy laws through the Congress.  Since homeowners can’t as easily file Chapter 7 or 11 to get rid of credit card debt they’re being forced into delinquency on their mortgage payments.  Unlike credit cards, a home loan is a secured debt, so the homeowners have the ability to leave the keys on the kitchen table and walk.  The entire goal of the so-called “bankruptcy reforms” was to shield a lender from the risk of over-extending themselves.  With the new laws in place, companies like Chase or Citi could underwrite credit lines to customers they knew couldn’t afford the terms and not have to worry about the consequences.  Talk about a colossal backfire.

-mg

Welfare Queens (the one’s that actually DO drive Cadillacs)

Nov 09, 2007 in Welfare of the rich

Bernanke still has plenty of fingers to stick in that leaky dike. Thanks to Ben and Chuck Schumer, tax payers are facing the possibility that they’ll be assuming the risk for rich homeowners.

-mg

Giuliani’s health care statistics still a joke.

Nov 08, 2007 in Health Care, Politics

Dan Finkelstein tries to support Rudy’s statistics junk regarding Britain’s NHS (which, one shouldn’t have to say, isn’t the world’s best socialized medical system) and prostate cancer survival rates. Turns out, just like our press pleads for people to look past some of our negative health care statistics, the numbers for prostate cancer survival in Britain have been chosen very selectively without a broader look. A commenter, Nick Strong, takes Finkelstein down.

The hypothesis that patients are dying in the UK of undiagnosed prostate cancer is ridiculous. Patients do not die of prostate cancer unrecognised. If the disease has advanced sufficiently to cause death the signs are obvious and would be cited as the cause of death. So there is not an epidemic of undiagnosed prostate cancer deaths in the UK. It remains the case that the statistics show that prostate cancer death rates are approximately equal in the two countries.

So why might a larger proportion of patients diagnosed with prostate cancer die of it in the UK that in the US? To understand this one has to understand the nature of the disease and the different approaches of the health systems of the two countries.

Prostate cancer is very common among older men. At post mortem examination of patients dying of other causes an incidental finding of symptomless prostate cancer occurs frequently – as many as 80% of men over 80 . Hence the saying about prostate cancer that goes “you are much more likely to die with it than of it”. In the UK most patients with prostate cancer do not have the condition diagnosed prior to dying, and the cancer has no bearing on the cause of death.

On the other hand in the US there is a vast industry of early cancer diagnosis, hence your chance of being diagnosed with early symptomless prostate cancer before you die – of something else – is much higher in the US that in the UK. So as a result it is true to say that a smaller proportion of all patients known to have a diagnosis of prostate cancer during life will die of it in the US than in the UK. But it is not true to say that if you have prostate cancer – either diagnosed or unknown – that your chance of dying of it differs between the two countries. In fact the similar death rates per head of population strongly suggest that there is little difference.

The likelihood of developing prostate cancer is the same in the US as in the UK. The rate of diagnosis is higher in the US but the death rate is the same. So the only conclusion that can be drawn from these facts is that the US health system spends a lot more money than the UK in the diagnosis of early prostate cancer without any demonstrable benefit.

Where’s the beef?

-jb

Pakistan Coup – the Aftermath

Nov 07, 2007 in Pakistan

Here’s part 2 of my previous post, about the recent coup in Pakistan.

The story so far….

Supreme Court is dissolved, with the provincial supreme courts facing the same treatment.  Lawyers are beaten up and arrested en masse.  The Human Rights Commission offices are ransacked, and all who are found inside are locked up and jailed.  Martial law is imposed.  Telephone services, TV stations, all forms of communication are disabled.  For the most part.  People are still able to, however, call out on some cellular services.   I think some people are also able to get some sort of internet access, since I am able to receive Pakistani news via the newspapers’ websites.  All of whom are critical of the current regime.

One would now assume that this now a military police state, where not even a mouse can move without a military officer noticing, right? 

So what’s happening in the rest of the country?

Well in one of the northern provinces in the country, all police and armed forces officers surrendered to Taliban forces.  What the fuck?  Didn’t Musharraf just claim that the Judiciary was to blame for all the terrorists running free and rampant, and that’s why he had to impose a state of emergency?  Anyway, so not only did the Pakistani Armed Forces surrender in the North of Pakistan, but the Pakistani flags have been removed from that region.

It’s like Branch Davidians, taking over Maine,Texas  and all US government officials and armed forces peacefully giving up and handing them the reins.  Then on top of that having all US flags from the state of Texas Maine removed. [I removed Maine, since I figured Dana would say that, well they’re socialist anyway so they can have Maine]….

I’m not making this up.  This is from one of the leading Pakistani newspapers:

The imposition of emergency in Pakistan has not put any pressure on Taliban in Swat district, who have not only imposed Shariah but also removed the National flags from all government buildings in areas under their control.

By they way, I used to vacation there. Those people are peace-loving, and did not welcome the Taliban with open arms, they have been held hostage. It’s terrible and tragic what’s happening there. It’s one of the few regions that has an ancient Christian minority as well as other pre-historic animist religions which have been allowed to prosper since time immemorial. Obviously, all these ancient cultures and traditions will be brutally ravaged.

-aa

Can’t blame this one on the press.

Nov 07, 2007 in Disappointing Dems, Politics

I’m disappointed the headline didn’t read “Democrats cower like abused foster children before the mighty and fearsome Dick Cheney.”

WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Tuesday narrowly managed to avert a bruising debate on a proposal to impeach Dick Cheney after Republicans, in a surprise maneuver, voted in favor of taking up the measure.

Republicans, changing course midway through a vote, tried to force Democrats into a debate on the resolution sponsored by longshot presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

Whew! Close call, eh, Dems? The Republicans almost forced you to stand up and suggest that Dick Cheney wasn’t the superbest!

I’d write more, but it would just contain words like, “you,” “fucking,” “miserable,” “pantywaste,” “chickenshit,” “craven,” “idiot,” “clam-faced,” “pussy-ass,” and finally the completely justified use of the word, “Defeatocrats,” followed up with the question, “how dare you call yourselves ‘representatives?'” Then I’d follow that up with another string of adjectives resembling the previous one, with some noteworthy repeats.

Democrats won 2006 promising to stand up to Republicans and the Bush administration. Count that as one campaign promise broken. The war, wiretapping, torture, Iran, the Constitution (which encompasses everything else)…Democrat politicians have told voters that as long as there’s a Republican out there who’ll call them cowards for not supporting everything George W. Bush wants, they’ll tolerate all Democrat voters calling them such.

There’s only one option left to us. May the primary challenges be numerous and fierce.

-jb

Dark Secrets

Nov 07, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Legal, National Security, Racism, Straight-up madness, War Crimes, War on Terra, Where's the outrage?!?!, WTF?

If a person gets tortured, but no one sees or hears him, did he really get tortured?

Stephen Gray, and independent British journalist has a very intriguing documentary,that will be aired on PBS.   The documentary is called “Extraordinary Rendition”.  He interviews some of the victims of rendition, all carried out by the CIA.

Up until now we have heard that our gov’t has been outsourcing torture. That it’s not really Americans who are doing it, that they hand the victims over to authorities in countries where torture is common. However:

The dark prison was run by the Americans,” a former inmate, Bisher al-Rawi, tells Grey. “It wasn’t Afghani people flying the aircraft, it wasn’t Afghani people who sort of shackled me and did whatever they did to me. It was Americans.”

Although some of the victims of Rendition are genuine suspects of terrorism, there are countless who are not.  The most famous being Maher Arar, the Syrian Canadian programmer, who was deported to Syria and tortured and then released without explanation or any charges against him.
Amy Goodman interviewed him yesterday about this documentary.

This is what he told her after he had interviewed a victim of rendition in Egypt who was also released without explanation or any charges:

And he also leaves behind dozens of people that he says are still in Egyptian jail, and they all wear a white uniform. The uniform says “interrogation” on it. And that means they haven’t been charged with anything. They are still there, held in secret, without access to any lawyers, and they’re held indefinitely. And they’re all people who have been sent there by the CIA in the rendition program.

If you live in an area where PBS does not air, or if they aren’t airing this program it will be available on their website later this week.

I am really interested in seeing how NeoCons defend this. I guess the same way they defend the Patriot Act and other erosion of our civil liberties…

If anyone saw it when it aired, please leave your comments, I’d love to hear about it.  I missed it.

-aa

Neverland Ranch in foreclosure.

Nov 07, 2007 in Uncategorized

Got $23+ million? That’s what Michael Jackson owes on Neverland Ranch which is currently in foreclosure.

-mg

What do Sun Myung Moon and Rich DeVos have in common?

Nov 06, 2007 in Uncategorized

They’re both scumbag hucksters.   I’ve been watching Scoobie Davis wage war on these charlatans for years and now he’s mounted a two prong attack.  Scoob’s got two separate blogs doing the Lord’s work.  One is dedicated to Amway and the other is dedicated to the Unification Movement.

The man is strong like bull.

-mg

Welcome, military voters!

Nov 06, 2007 in Christian Right, Clueless Conservatives

The rightwing social police just can’t help themselves.

Dozens of religious and anti-pornography groups have complained to Congress and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that a Pentagon board set up to review magazines and films is allowing sales of material that Congress intended to ban.

“They’re saying ‘we’re not selling stuff that’s sexually explicit’ … and we say it’s pornography,” says Donald Wildmon, head of the American Family Association, a Christian anti-pornography group. A letter-writing campaign launched Friday by opponents of the policy aims to convince Congress to “get the Pentagon to obey the law,” he adds.

As long as I breathe, I will defend the right of soldiers to jack off to porn.

How is it the right still commands military votes? They’ve been trying to discredit liberals for years now for swearing (to which I say 2 plus fucking 2 is still fucking 4), and now they’re going after titty rags. Not to mention most are chickenhawk cowards who dodge any real combat but consider themselves brave to keep dreaming up new wars for the American soldier.

Welcome to the Democratic Party, soldiers. You get porn and body armor!

-jb

Hat in hand.

Nov 06, 2007 in Economy

Can’t believe I missed this:

Banks shut out of the market for short-term loans are finding salvation in a government lending program set up to revive housing during the Great Depression.

Countrywide Financial Corp., Washington Mutual Inc., Hudson City Bancorp Inc. and hundreds of other lenders borrowed a record $163 billion from the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks in August and September as interest rates on asset-backed commercial paper rose as high as 5.6 percent. The government-sponsored companies were able to make loans at about 4.9 percent, saving the private banks about $1 billion in annual interest.

Now that the credit markets have shriveled the Big Boys are going to Big Government hat in hand.  So much for moral hazard.  And besides some wonks at Cato, how many Republican bloggers do you think are jumping up and down about the welfare queens at Countrywide?  Or decrying Washington Mutual for violating the sacred laws of free-market capitalism?  I can say with some degree of confidence that the number is likely hovering around zero because it’s simply easier to beat up on Graeme Frost than it is Ameriprise.

-mg

Fred Phelps takes one on the chin.

Nov 06, 2007 in Christian Right

Nobody around here is shedding any tears over Fred Phelps getting dealt an $11 million judgement for picketing the funeral of an Iraq War veteran.

-mg 

Pakistan Coup Part Deux

Nov 06, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Middle East, Pakistan, Politics

As the title mistakenly suggests, this is not a second installment of a previous post.

Pakistan has been all over the news lately, and provides the US with cannon fodder for their exploits, I mean war in Afghanistan.

So here I am a Pakistani American, offering my analysis of the situation.  I apologize in advance, for the length of this post, but, it’s as short as I could make it.  I could go further in length, on any of the issues or subjects brought up here.

The first was to topple the democratically (fairly?  Well as fair as a US election….) elected gov’t, a few years ago.  It was a bloodless coup, and without much protest. The democratically elected prime minister at that time, was a political and religious conservative.  He privatized many industries in the country and improved general infrastructure.  However he also allowed the religious fundamentals to prosper and grow into the 9 headed hydra we see today.  So during the first coup, Musharraf played to the hearts and minds of those that did not want Pakistan to become another Saudi Arabia. 

Musharraf started off good and set towards a path of actually reviewing what the madrassahs (Islamic religious schools) were actually teaching.  For example were they teaching ballistics training or transcendental meditation?  Or….  How to behead a white devil vs. learn to read and write Arabic.

To his credit, the first and only female Prime Minister in a Muslim country, Benazir Bhutto did nothing to reform these institutions, and actually supported the Taliban regime whilst she was ruler of Pakistan (TWICE).

Fast forward to today.

Musharraf’s current coup is against a supposedly independent branch of gov’t that offers checks and balances to the other branches, the judiciary.

Why?  You might ask?

Where the first coup went wrong……

First of all, please understand that Musharraf is the head of the army and has access to the military at his disposal.  Musharraf really didn’t make good on his promises.  All those mullahs and madrassahs that were picking up poor disenfranchised youths and turning them into suicide bombers, that Musharraf promised to do away with.  He didn’t.  Instead, they became his friends too and maybe he gave them some money and other support.

He claimed to be helping their US in their fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban.  Under Musharraf’s watch, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, in the most secular city in the country, militants held the city hostage, undeterred.   I’m talking about the Red Mosque scandal.  Where for almost a year, it was being used as a safehouse for Al Qaeda.  No one in the country, believes for a second, that Musharraf didn’t know what was going on.  It was only after they kidnapped a Chinese national, did the Chinese pressure Musharraf to take care of it.

Secondly, 50% of the country which borders Afghanistan has become a safe-haven for Al-Qaeda and Taleban.  Mountainous areas in the north which were tourist and vacationing spots, known for their peace-loving and docile people, are falling under the oppressive yoke of militants kicked out of

Afghanistan.  All under Musharraf’s watch.
So back to the Why?

Musharraf’s answer:

I’ll paraphrase from what I’ve seen and heard through various news outlets.

Basically he claims that the judiciary are to blame for the current lawlessness.  He also accuses them of allowing militants and religious extremists to operate undeterred.

Based upon what I mentioned about, you be the judge.

All the judiciary can do is pass judgements, they have no way of enforcing any edict or law or ruling.  He’s the head of the army.  If there are militants running amok, he has the wherewithal to at least try and stop it.

What I believe are the 3 main reasons:

1) The Supreme Court was questioning the legitimacy of Musharraf’s rule, and whether or not he can even stand for elections as President of Pakistan without giving up his position as Chief of Armed Forces.

The backdrop for this is that the Bush Administration has been pressuring Musharraf to have “free and fair” elections.  He finally agreed, but also put himself in as candidate.  The Supreme Court is trying to block his candidacy, as being unconstitutional.

Also for the first time in history, the judiciary has grown some balls.  Under all previous coups and dictatorships, the dictators have altered the constitution and coerced the judiciary to claim their regime as legitimate.

Basically, Musharraf tried the same thing that other dictators before him tried.  That is, to get the blessing of the Supreme Court for the legitimacy of his rule.  No such luck.  They were actually “debating” the legitimacy of his rule and the legitimacy of his candidacy for President. Well, if they were actually debating it, rather than giving him a carte blanche, that meant they were going to come to an unfavorable decision.

2) The Supreme Court was getting ready to repeal the amnesty offered to Benazir Bhutto.  They have several charges of corruption against her, as does Interpol.  In addition the Government of Switzerland already found that she had looted some billions of Rupees from the people of Pakistan.

This ruling doesn’t suit Musharraf’s or the US interest.  Benazir has always been a golden girl for the

US.  Brought up in the US and educated in Harvard, she is someone that is easy to talk to, for the US gov’t.  They pushed Musharraf to pardon all the crimes she committed and allow her to come back to Pakistan.
The people of Pakistan have suffered for 2 terms in the past under Benazir.  They don’t want a repeat of that.  However, hers is the most organized political party.  She can draw crowds.   Incidentally, Musharraf served in the army while she was Prime Minister.  Their relationship goes way back, they supported terrorists in Kashmir, and were 1 out of 2 nations that supported the oppressive Taliban regime.

3) The third and final nail in the coffin was an actual ruling by the Supreme Court.  They ruled the exile of former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif as unconstitutional, and that he be allowed to return immediately to Pakistan.

A small footnote to this, is that there were several cases pending in the Supreme Court where they were investigating the “disappeared” of Pakistan.  The prisoners of conscience.  This also works against Musharraf’s interests.

Below are links to the analysis of the situation by Pakistani scholars and journalists based in the US. 

A more eloquent and concise writer than myself, is the Pakistani Scholar/Novelist/Historian, Tariq Ali, an infrequent guest on Democracy Now.  He sums the situation up pretty nicely here:

http://thenews.jang.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=79015

Another analysis is by Liaquat Ali Khan, a professor in Kansas:

http://www.counterpunch.com/alikhan11062007.html

-aa

There is no legal argument against Bush’s impeachment.

Nov 06, 2007 in Middle East, Politics

Andrew Sullivan tells us what he really thinks:

It tells you all you need to know about some neoconservatives that they now side with the arguments of the Gestapo against the arguments of the US to defend their own willful ignorance and power.

Of course, this reveals how elementary and relevant to centrism Chomsky is:

Also, bear in mind, people ought to be pretty critical about the Nuremberg principles. I don’t mean to suggest they’re some kind of model of probity or anything. For one thing, they were ex post facto. These were determined to be crimes by the victors after they had won. Now, that already raises questions. In the case of the American presidents, they weren’t ex post facto. Furthermore, you have to ask yourself what was called a “war crime”? How did they decide what was a war crime at Nuremberg and Tokyo? And the answer is pretty simple. and not very pleasant. There was a criterion. Kind of like an operational criterion. If the enemy had done it and couldn’t show that we had done it, then it was a war crime.

We’ve tortured, thus it’s not a war crime anymore.

-jb