Monday, February 28, 2005

Self-Defeating

I suspect that the US will have less to do with the destruction of the Iraqi insurgency than the madness of the insurgency itself. Eventually the Iraqi people themselves will begin either turning these butchers in or just start applying justice on their own.

What the Repugs Really Want

Social Security "reform" is in fact a stinking smokescreen for what the Repugs really want. Here's what they want to accomplish:

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Friday that Social Security should be phased out rather than saved.

"I think if you leave people free to choose, it will be phased out by competition," the former Republican congressman from Lewisville told reporters before sharing a President's Day Dinner with the Smith County Republican Club.

Rrriiiighhhhttt. (via)

Lead Letter to the Editor in the Columbus Dispatch

It's amazing when you're used to Internet speed how slow the print media is. I sent in a letter to the editor of my local paper, the Columbus Dispatch, regarding Charles Krauthammer's rancid claim that the Social Security trust fund is "pieces of paper" and worthless. The article ran the Saturday before last; I emailed the letter the next day. Here it is, lead letter to the editor this morning. Whew!

I respond to the Feb. 20 Forum column by Charles Krauthammer, "Bush fails to convey issue’s urgency," in which he says Social Security is in crisis because the money coming in is being spent, not saved.

He claimed: "A piece of paper gets deposited in a vault in West Virginia saying that the left hand of the government owes money to the right hand of the government. These pieces of paper might be useful for rolling cigars. They will not save your retirement."

He said later, "There really is no trust fund."

In fact, these worthless pieces of paper in the Social Security Trust Fund are U.S. Treasury securities, backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Is Krauthammer suggesting that the government default on Treasury bonds?

If so, be prepared for the sky to fall, since the U.S. budget deficit is financed by foreign governments, overwhelmingly Japan and China, buying hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. Treasury securities.

They would not be amused to learn that they hold "pieces of paper," rather than the assurance that the United States will pay up. Neither would the many Americans who buy Treasury bonds as a safe investment.

In fact, what is obviously being planned by Krauthammer, President Bush and other Republicans, who talk endlessly about how the debt owed to the Social Security system is in worthless pieces of paper, is the largest looting of the Treasury in history.

Workers’ money has been used to pay for deficit spending and for tax cuts for the wealthy, and those in power have no intention of seeing that money paid back. Talk about class warfare.

Indeed. I'll let you know if any wingnuts - we have a lot of them in Columbus - respond.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Amusing

I find it fascinating that the African Anglican churches think they have anything to say to the American Episcopal Church about homosexuality when they are presiding over an unprecedented AIDS disaster at home. If they want to talk about Christian values, they need to look to their own countries, and their own members. They need to remove the beam from their own eye before they start bitching about the speck in ours.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bushspeak

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table."

Is Our Children Learning?

Bill Maher was evidently as startled as I was to learn that a new poll of American teenagers reveals that a majority of them believe that newspapers shouldn't be able to publish without government permission.

And what's so frightening is that we're seeing the beginnings of the first post-9/11 generation -- the kids who first became aware of the news under an "Americans need to watch what they say" administration, the kids who've been told that dissent is un-American and therefore justifiably punished by a fine, imprisonment -- or the loss of your show on ABC.

President Bush once asked, "Is our children learning?" No -- they isn't. A more appropriate question might be, "Is our teachers teaching?" In four years, you can teach a gorilla sign language. Is it too much to ask that in the same amount of time a kid be taught what those crazy hippies who founded this country had in mind?

I know the Morals & Values folks want us to take time out of the school day for prayer and the Ten Commandments and abstinence training and at least two theories of evolution -- the one agreed upon by every scientist in the world and the one that involves naked ladies and snakes -- but, lest we forget, last month the people of Iraq risked death and danger to send a simple, inspiring message: America, get out of our country. But also, we want the freedoms you take for granted.

Now, I didn't mind being on the losing side of the last election. But as a loser, I guess I have some "unpopular" opinions -- and I'd like to keep them. I'd even like to continue to say them right out loud on TV, because if I just get up there every Friday night and spout the Bush administration's approved talking points, that's not freedom or entertainment. It's Fox News.

Our children is learning well, evidently.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Swift Boat Asswipes Gay Bash

USANext, the parasites behind the Swift Boat Traitors, have released their first anti-AARP web ad and, what a surprise, it features gay bashing and accusations of treason.

Why is Piracy Tolerated?

It's incredible but true that piracy is a major problem at sea, two hundred years after the Royal Navy efficiently eradicated it from most of the earth. The problem appears to be we don't have the necessary guts to take the measures necessary to stop it. These measures are harsh: you catch a pirate, you hang him. Until now, piracy has primarily been a problem for shippers and insurers. But what if al Queda gets into the business?

Just as terrorists learned to be pilots for 9/11, terrorists may now be learning to be pirates. Purposely grounding a crude carrier hauling two million barrels of oil at a place like Batu Berhanti, where the strait is little more than a mile wide, would close the waterway indefinitely. The delay in oil supplies to China, Japan and South Korea could devastate their economies, setting off a global economic crisis.

The tsunami and the resulting heavy presence of naval units in the Indian Ocean seem to have given piracy a temporary pause. But we need to face up that measures must be taken. They must be harsh. The cost of doing nothing, once merely an irritant, may be unbearable.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash

...was what First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill described as the glorious traditions of the Royal Navy. Well, unlike our dimwitted services, thanks to the new European constitution, the Navy of Nelson and St. Vincent and Beatty and Cunningham is busy working with a prominent British gay organization to recruit and retain gay sailors.

...the navy will today cast off centuries of repression and inhibition by seeking Stonewall's advice on the recruitment and retention of gay and lesbian sailors. In a transformation likened by activists to turning round a supertanker, the navy will pay the pressure group for advice on curbing prejudice and ensuring gay personnel have equal rights to housing, benefits and pensions.

Despite the persistent swirl of sexual rumour around some of Britain's most celebrated war heroes, homosexuality remained the last taboo in the armed forces until 2000, when the government was forced by the European court of human rights to withdraw its ban on homosexuality in the military. Then, Stonewall was the sworn enemy of many admirals and air marshals for taking the case of sacked gay servicemen to the European courts. Openly gay soldiers and sailors have since seen active service in Iraq, but relatively few of the estimated 2,100 gay and lesbian sailors have felt sufficiently relaxed to come out since the ban was lifted. A spokesman for the navy accepted that pockets of prejudice remained and that there was "room for improvement" but said it was "committed to establishing a culture and climate where people can discuss their sexual orientation without risk of abuse or intimidation".

The partnership with Stonewall "will help the lesbians and gays within the Royal Navy be more comfortable and honest about their sexuality if they wish to", said the spokesman. "But no one has to reveal their sexual orientation in the armed services. It's an entirely private matter."

I shall go put up my White Ensign in celebration.

Swift Boat Asswipes New Target: AARP

Some of the retards behind the Swift Boat Traitors are up to new dirty tricks: going after that noted socialistic communistic liberal Bush-hating organization the AARP. What a surprise.

The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush's plan.

"They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next and former deputy under secretary of the interior in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."
...
To help set USA Next's strategy, the group has hired Chris LaCivita, an enthusiastic former marine who advised Swift Vets and P.O.W.'s for Truth, formerly known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, on its media campaign and helped write its potent commercials. He earned more than $30,000 for his work, campaign finance filings show.

Officials said the group is also seeking to hire Rick Reed, a partner at Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, a firm that was hired by Swift Vets and was paid more than $276,000 to do media production, records show.

For public relations, USA Next has turned to Creative Response Concepts, a Virginia firm that represented both Swift Vets - the company was paid more than $165,000 - and Regnery Publishing, the publisher of "Unfit for Command," a book about Senator John Kerry's military service whose co-author was John E. O'Neill, one of the primary leaders of Swift Vets.

Let's take a minute and talk about what Social Security "reform" is really a cover for. I'm surprised to have seen no other bloggers take note of this (possibly some have but I haven't read them), but all this is is a cover for looting the Treasury. Look at what notable right wing hack Charles Krauthammer said in the Washington Post recently:

Let's start with basics. The Social Security system has no trust fund. No lockbox. When you pay your payroll tax every year, the money is not converted into gold bars and shipped to some desert island, ready for retrieval when you turn 65. The system is pay as you go. The money goes to support that year's Social Security recipients. What's left over is "lent" to the federal Treasury. And gets entirely spent. It vanishes. In return, a piece of paper gets deposited in a vault in West Virginia saying that the left hand of the government owes money to the right hand of the government.

These pieces of paper might be useful for rolling cigars. They will not fund your retirement.

Reeeaaallllly? The Social Security Trust Fund is in fact composed of United States Treasury bonds and securities, backed by the full faith and credit - that's the technical term - of the United States of America. These are the same kinds of bonds purchased by citizens who want a safe investment - and the same kind of bonds bought by Japan and China in the hundreds of billions of dollars to fund our gigantic deficits. What the right wing is trying to do is to declare those bonds worthless - in other words, to loot the treasury. Your FICA tax funds have gone partly to pay for current retirees and the rest has been used to pay for crap like tax cuts for parasites, weapons we don't need, missile defense that doesn't work, dumbass wars, etc. What the righties now want to do is never pay you back for the money they've borrowed and squandered. More people need to wake up to what's going on here - the biggest robbery in history. The right wing, bloody minded traitors that they are, is willing to do whatever is necessary. They're going to roll the Swift Boat assholes out again, they'll lie and cheat and maybe even murder because trillions of dollars is at stake. We can't let them win.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Sean Cuts Expenses, Just Not His Own

The useless Sean O'Keefe was put by the Shrub into NASA to hack and slash its budget. It's not a great surprise that Sean was great at cutting everything not related to his own privileges as administrator:

The investigative office of Congress is examining Sean O'Keefe's work as administrator of NASA, including whether he misused government airplanes and went on too many expensive getaways with subordinates, former and current senior NASA officials have said.

The focus of the inquiry, by the Government Accountability Office, is waste, not fraud, one of the four NASA officials told The Associated Press. The four - two at the agency and two who recently departed - insisted on anonymity, saying they feared reprisals. Two said the investigators had questioned them.

Heh.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

God Help Us

President Bush Jong Il names John "Death Squads" Negroponte National Intelligence Chief. This is a man who should be rotting in prison. God help us.

Fake "Reporter" Gets Press Pass; Maureen Dowd, Genuine Commentator, Doesn't

Maureen Dowd reports in the NYT today about her efforts to get her White House press pass renewed, something gay prostitute "Jeff Gannon" was apparently given by some Goebbels within the White House whose initials are presumably S McC or KR....

It's hard to believe the White House could hit rock bottom on credibility again, but it has, in a bizarre maelstrom that plays like a dark comedy. How does it credential a man with a double life and a secret past?

"Jeff Gannon" was waved into the press room nearly every day for two years as the conservative correspondent for two political Web sites operated by a wealthy Texas Republican. Scott McClellan often called on the pseudoreporter for softball questions.

Howard Kurtz reported in The Washington Post yesterday that although Mr. Guckert had denied launching the provocative Web sites - one described him as " 'military, muscular, masculine and discrete' (sic)" - a Web designer in California said "that he had designed a gay escort site for Gannon and had posted naked pictures of Gannon at the client's request."

And The Wilmington News-Journal in Delaware reported that Mr. Guckert was delinquent in $20,700 in personal income tax from 1991 to 1994.

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

"Jeff Gannon" was waved into the press room nearly every day for two years as the conservative correspondent for two political Web sites operated by a wealthy Texas Republican. Scott McClellan often called on the pseudoreporter for softball questions.

Howard Kurtz reported in The Washington Post yesterday that although Mr. Guckert had denied launching the provocative Web sites - one described him as " 'military, muscular, masculine and discrete' (sic)" - a Web designer in California said "that he had designed a gay escort site for Gannon and had posted naked pictures of Gannon at the client's request."

And The Wilmington News-Journal in Delaware reported that Mr. Guckert was delinquent in $20,700 in personal income tax from 1991 to 1994.

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

Mr. McClellan shrugged this off to Editor & Publisher magazine, oddly noting, "People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors."

Most convincing. The entire White House press office needs to be fired over this, and if it goes higher, then impeachment would be appropriate (hell, it already is). A man who brought "dignity to the White House" also brought a male prostitute. Interesting.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Hack Remembers Vietnamization

Retired Colonel David Hackworth was a hero of the Vietnam war. He still remembers, while our chickenhawk leaders clearly do not:

As with Vietnam, the Iraqi tar pit was oh-so-easy to sink into, but appears to be just as tough to exit.

This should be no big surprise! Most slugfests – from bar brawls to military misadventures like Vietnam and Iraq – take some clever moves to step away from once the swinging starts.

This is why most combat vets pick their fights carefully. They look at their scars, remember the madness and are always mindful of the fallout.

That’s not the case in Washington, where the White House and the Pentagon are run by civilians who have never sweated it out on a battlefield. Never before in our country’s history has an administration charged with defending our nation been so lacking in hands-on combat experience and therefore so ignorant about the art and science of war.

Now the increasingly flummoxed Bush team is stealing the page on Vietnamization from Nixon’s Exit Primer, coupled with the same deceitful tactics he used to get us out of the almost decade-long Vietnam quagmire: telling lies.

The Nixon gang kicked off its con in 1969 via a killer of a PR snow job to pacify an American public whose support for the war was exhausted. The guts of this spin show were: We have clobbered the enemy; the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) is main-event material and ready to take over the fighting; and we can bring our troops home. This propaganda was supported by ARVN combat-readiness reports systematically doctored by our brass to show that the units we were advising were good-to-go.

I was on the ground as an adviser to ARVN when the campaign launched, and I was completely floored. Even the elite outfits – Rangers, Special Forces, paratroopers – were not fully capable of defending their country when put to the test. And these gung-ho troops were ARVN’s finest. Average ARVN grunts down in the ordinary infantry divisions were so ineffective that they couldn’t have fought their way out of a day-care center without massive U.S. air support.

Meanwhile, U.S. units started redeploying. Two years after the last grunt climbed on the last silver “freedom bird” and headed home, ARVN folded like a wet noodle.

They did indeed, and instead of defending their country they fell all over themselves trying to escape. Tales of these "brave" soldiers throwing women and children off of evac planes in their desperation to get out of Dodge abound.

Needless to say, the Bushies are heading down the same happy path:

Thirty-five years later, President Bush told the nation that Iraq had nine fully trained combat infantry battalions. Just as he was proclaiming the prowess of the Iraqi army, a major in the Iraqi Training Command told me that the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, when committed to their first battle, threw down their weapons and ran. “Not sure where the president is getting his info, but we have only one battalion that's good-to-go,” he said.

Inquiring minds want to know: Is our president still being fed bad skinny comparable to the intel incorrectly linking Saddam to 9/11 or claiming that Iraq was chockablock full of weapons of mass destruction?

More recently, Pentagon hype claimed 140,000 trained and equipped Iraqi troops were set to go toe to toe against an estimated 15,000 insurgents. But when congressional pressure from both Republicans and Democrats lit fires around the feet of both SecDef Rummy’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, they were quick to admit that only 40,000 Iraqi soldiers were ready to meet the tiger. The rest, according to Myers, “were useful in less-taxing jobs ... in relatively stable southern Iraq.”

The hard truth is that it takes a good 10 years to build an army from the ground up. And the major emphasis must be placed not on numbers such as how many battalions have been fielded or how ready the recruits are, but rather on good, old-fashioned officer training. Until this happens and the corrupt Iraqi officer leadership – from gold bar to four stars – gets a good scrub, our troops are stuck in the tar.

Bush needs to set up a truth squad directly outside his Oval Office door quicksmart. Then, whenever the Pentagon plays fast and loose with the truth, the liars can be immediately rounded up and punished.

Hack's mistake is in thinking that Bush wants a truth squad. He doesn't. He can't handle the truth, and he'll continue sitting in his little bubble being fed lies by the likes of Rum Dum, Condi Oil Tanker, and the evil genius Karl Rove.

"Real Dog" Triumphs

For the second year in a row, a real dog - as opposed to one of those old-lady dustmop type "things" - won Westminster. Last year it was Josh the Newfoundland, this year Carlee the shorthaired pointer triumphed. She's truly a beautiful and obviously smart dog. It was nice to see a Great Pyrenees do well too; my landlord owns a Great Pyrenees named Polar and she's a sweet, albeit slobbery dog.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Special Privileges for Wal-Mart

Here's what big donations to the Bush White House will get you if you're a family of wealthy parasites from Bentonville who mistreat and underpay their employees:

Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's largest retailer, has agreed to pay $135,540 to settle federal charges that it violated child labor laws in Connecticut, Arkansas and New Hampshire.

Labor Department officials said most of the 24 violations covered by the settlement involved workers under age 18 operating dangerous machinery, including cardboard balers and chain saws. In the agreement, Wal-Mart denied any wrongdoing.

Department officials said that one of the violations was in New Hampshire, three were in Arkansas and 20 were in Connecticut, where the investigation began in 2001. One violation involved a youth who injured his thumb while using a chain saw to cut Christmas trees.

The Labor Department and Wal-Mart signed the agreement on Jan. 6, but made no public announcement. The department disclosed the settlement yesterday after a reporter questioned officials about concerns raised by several department employees that the agreement gave Wal-Mart special favors.

The agreement states, "Compliance with the child labor laws and regulations will be an important factor in evaluating the performance of managers."

A provision also promises to give Wal-Mart 15 days' notice before the Labor Department investigates any other "wage and hour" accusations, like failure to pay minimum wage or overtime.

15 days to promulgate a full-bore coverup, in other words.

I don't shop there. You shouldn't either, and here's a new reason.

Gannon Goes Down

...literally as well as figuratively, apparently.

So in the end, why does this matter? Why does it matter that Jeff Gannon may have been a gay hooker named James Guckert with a $20,000 defaulted court judgment against him? So he somehow got a job lobbing softball questions to the White House. Big deal. If he was already a prostitute, why not be one in the White House briefing room as well?

This is the Conservative Republican Bush White House we're talking about. It's looking increasingly like they made a decision to allow a hooker to ask the President of the United States questions. They made a decision to give a man with an alias and no journalistic experience access to the West Wing of the White House on a "daily basis." They reportedly made a decision to give him - one of only six - access to documents, or information in those documents, that exposed a clandestine CIA operative. Say what you will about Monica Lewinsky - a tasteless episode, "inappropriate," whatever. Monica wasn't a gay prostitute running around the West Wing. What kind of leadership would let prostitutes roam the halls of the West Wing? What kind of war-time leadership can't find the same information that took bloggers only days to find?

None of this is by accident.

Someone had to make a decision to let all this happen. Who? Someone committed a crime in exposing Valerie Plame and now it appears a gay hooker may be right in the middle of all of it? Who?

Ultimately, it is the hypocrisy that is such a challenge to grasp in this story. This is the same White House that ran for office on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. While they are surrounded by gay hookers? While they use a gay hooker to write articles for their gay hating political base? While they use a gay hooker to destroy a political enemy? Not to mention the hypocrisy of a "reporter" who chooses to publish article after article defending the ant-gay religious-right point of view on gay civil rights issue.

Who in the White House is at the center of all of this? Who allowed this to go on in the People's House? Who committed the crime of exposing Valerie Plame? Jeff Gannon has the answers to these questions, and boy we know he loves to talk.

Let him talk to Patrick Fitzgerald.

No kidding. So, where is the right wing rage? Where are the Swift Boat Stupids? The Dan Rather persecutors? The cretins who went after Eason Jordan?

Their silence tells you everything, doesn't it?

Bumper Sticker Seen

"Yee Ha" Is Not a Foreign Policy

Monday, February 14, 2005

THIS Sounds Strangely Familiar!

If you've ever seen Patrick McGoohan's surreal series The Prisoner, you'll remember Rover, the wacky weather balloon that chased down escapees from The Village. Well, Rover lives!

A large black ball, originally designed by Swedish scientists for use on Mars, could be the latest weapon in the war against burglars.

The device, developed at the University of Uppsala, acts as a high-tech security guard capable of detecting an intruder thanks to either radar or infra-red sensors. Once alerted, it can summon help, sound an alarm or pursue the intruders, taking pictures.

It is capable of travelling at 20mph, somewhat faster than a human being. Even worse for intruders, the robot ball can still give chase over mud, snow and water.

The ball relies on an internal pendulum to control its motion which, when shifted, changes the centre of gravity and starts it rolling.

Actually the current test model is somewhat smaller than Rover - 2 feet in diameter. (via)

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Who's the Traitor?

The Right are getting ever more out of control in trying to pin the label of traitors and defeatists on the left. But who, really, are the traitors? The redoubtable Digby has the goods on the right wing hogs who are close personal friends of Islamic terror:

I especially enjoy this accusation of the libertine, decadent elitist left being in cahoots with the gay hating, women oppressing Islamic fundamentalists. Because when you think about it, isn't it much more likely that there are those on the Right who find common cause with religious radicals?

Oh my gosh, they did.

It's time for another edition of "Dana's Got A Secret!"

Federal documents reviewed by the Weekly show that Rohrabacher maintained a cordial, behind-the-scenes relationship with Osama bin Laden’s associates in the Middle East—even while he mouthed his most severe anti-Taliban comments at public forums across the U.S. There’s worse: despite the federal Logan Act ban on unauthorized individual attempts to conduct American foreign policy, the congressman dangerously acted as a self-appointed secretary of state, constructing what foreign-affairs experts call a "dual tract" policy with the Taliban.

A veteran U.S. foreign-policy expert told the Weekly, "If Dana’s right-wing fans knew the truth about his actual, working relationship with the Taliban and its representatives in the Middle East and in the United States, they wouldn’t be so happy."


And it's not just the tiresome and fatuous Dana Rohrbacher who's good buddies with mass murderers. Our usual suspect, the lunatic barf-bag collector Grover Norquist is, as has been pointed out before, in cahoots with these butchers as well:

Yes. The chief visionary of the modern conservative movement, Grover Norquist, was also in up to his ample hips with this crew. Here's a little something from everybody's favorite apostate's Front Page:


...Since then, Saffuri and Norquist have helped set up meetings in the Oval Office with the president for AMC and CAIR leaders. White House officials have acknowledged that Alamoudi attended at least one of these sessions with the president.

Saffuri and Norquist have also set up meetings for leaders of radical Muslim groups with FBI Director Robert Mueller and with Attorney General John Ashcroft, to urge the Bush administration to abandon the USA Patriot Act.


It's an important piece; check it out.

Karl Haas

Karl Haas passed away, I'm sorry to say, at the venerable age of 91. Haas' program, Adventures in Good Music, where I and I'm sure a lot of others have learned a great deal about classical music, began in 1959 on WJR in Detroit, and was later produced by WCLV in Cleveland. Although he stopped taping new shows two years ago, his program is still carried by hundreds of stations, and WCLV has promised to continue distributing it.

YEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHH!

Sorry, couldn't resist. Howard Dean is the new Chairman of the DNC, and I think he'll be a damn good one. No more "Repug Lite."

Incidentally, and on another subject, is anyone else as impressed as I've been so far by Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader? He's been standing tall and doing well, and is a pleasant change from Daschle.

Media Caves Again

The truth again was just too strong for the right wingers, who are celebrating at forcing CNN executive Eason Jordan out of his post for saying something their tiny minds just couldn't handle:

Eason Jordan, a senior executive at CNN who was responsible for coordinating the cable network's Iraq coverage, resigned abruptly last night, citing a journalistic tempest he touched off during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, late last month in which he appeared to suggest that United States troops had deliberately aimed at journalists, killing some.

I think that there's good evidence that in a few cases American troops have deliberately killed journalists, and in other cases they have accidentally killed journalists. Also, you're not telling me that bombing al Jazeera offices in Afghanistan and Baghdad were both "accidents." But even when Jordan backpedaled, that wasn't good enough for the war lovers:

Though no transcript of Mr. Jordan's remarks at Davos on Jan. 27 has been released, the panel's moderator, David Gergen, editor at large of U.S. News & World Report, said in an interview last night that Mr. Jordan had initially spoken of soldiers, "on both sides," who he believed had been "targeting" some of the more than four dozen journalists killed in Iraq.

Almost immediately after making that assertion, Mr. Jordan, whose title at CNN had been executive vice president and chief news executive, "quickly walked that back to make it clear that there was no policy on the part of the U.S. government to target or injure journalists," Mr. Gergen said.

Mr. Jordan was then challenged by Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who was in the audience. Mr. Jordan then said that he had intended to say only that some journalists had been killed by American troops who did not know they were aiming their weapons at journalists.

Nonetheless, accounts of Mr. Jordan's remarks were soon being reported on Web logs as well as in an article on Feb. 3 on National Review's Web site. Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that 54 journalists were killed in 2003 and 2004 . At least nine died as a result of American fire, she said.

Among Mr. Jordan's responsibilities at CNN was be an advocate - often a forceful one - in discussions with the Pentagon on issues concerning the security of journalists in Iraq.

In other words, the righties have forced Jordan out for doing his job. But that's par for the course. One thing the righties may not have bargained with is that Jordan is now free to say whatever he wants - and one suspects he knows a lot more than he said at Davos.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Keith Cowing Still Living in Dreamland

Keith Cowing just can't believe - can't believe! - that anyone would dare accuse Beloved Leader of pandering:

Bruce Moomaw, a regular contributor to SpaceDaily.com and occassional writer for Astronomy Magazine has speculated on why the White House has yet to name a NASA Administrator - and why Fred Gregory has been appointed Acting Administrator. Moomaw posted the following on two widely-read Yahoo Groups with hundreds of members including many prominent space scientists:

"Of course, there may be another reason for this move -- Fred Gregory is black, and this administration (as we know by now) is very fond of utilizing a thin facade composed of the very small coterie of nonwhites who support it, in order to cover up its Simon Legree-ish actual policies."

To publicly assert such motives on the part of the White House or to imply that Fred Gregory would be a willing participant is utterly reprehensible. If Mr. Moomaw has a shred of decency he will apologize - immediately.

Gosh, Keith, hate to disabuse you, but your Emperor is naked and when he's done, there will not be a space program of any kind. WHAT AN ASS! Do us a favor, Keith, and stop claiming to be a Democrat, because you're not.

And, visiting the original message board (one of two, actually - the other is members-only), we find that Keith proceeded to jump all over Bruce, a much smarter man, and Bruce has a good time whacking back:

Keith Cowing: "Only a complete asshole would post something like this. Then
again, Bruce, you are a shut-in, so your socialization skills are lacking."

Well, Keith, you can take that up with the very large number of political
reporters who have also noted that (as the polls routinely show) most of
America's nonwhites detest most of this administration's policies, and that the
GOP in general and this administration in particular have from the start been
frantically rooting around (particularly among blacks) to find a small
sprinkling of conservative minoirity members to appoint to high-ranking
government positions in order to help cover up that unpopularity for PR
purposes. It's a classic political game, after all -- the Democrats do it with
white Southerners. It may or may not be a contributing factor in the
Administration's decision to keep Gregory in control of NASA for the time being
-- alternatively, it may be that they really can't find anyone else naive enough
to parachute onto the bridge of the Titanic at this point. (As I say, they
certainly had to do a lot of frantic digging just to unearth O'Keefe last time
-- including hiring an unsuccessful headhunter.)

As for my "lack of socialization skills": well, Keith, I wasn't the one who got
kicked out of the Planetary Sciences webgroup for consistently obnoxious and/or
obscene behavior.

LOL. You GO, Bruce!

Poor little Keith. Living in a dreamworld with Chimpy, writing stupid books about a political ploy. Life is hard at NASA Watch.

Oprah

Waiting to get my hair cut yesterday afternoon, I was watching Oprah. Not by choice, it just happened to be on at Ray and Jon's. First thing I noticed was that Oprah scarily looks younger than ever, and her remarkably immobile face shows little emotion. Too much surgery, or too much Botox? Who knows. The important thing was that her entire show is an inducement to unhealthy wealth fantasy. Oprah's good at giving away other people's money (never her own, although she gets lots of credit for "giving away Pontiacs" that in fact Pontiac provided - on the show yesterday she "gave away" a wedding shower, "gave away" some maternity clothes, and "gave away" a set of J.C. Penney dishes to everyone in the audience, all of whom disgustingly swooned at the news), and showing a lifestyle people should yearn for - a lifestyle that requires Oprah-size wealth. Part of the problem with this country is that too many people believe that someday they too will be wealthy and therefore they are all too willing to support things like Bush's push to eliminate the federal estate tax and Bush's tax cuts for the rich. Oprah does nothing but encourage this.

People need to get real. They need to turn this kind of crap off.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

No One Wants This

Someone over at Political Animal, Kevin Drum's blog, after reading the comments about Condi Rice's asinine "next steps" comment, asked, in effect, do you want Iran to have nuclear weapons?

My answer to that, and I suspect the answer of most of the other commenters, would be, hell no. But the Chimp, by his behavior, has done more than any other President to encourage unfriendly countries to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, because it's obvious that once you actually have them, Chimpy will give you a pass. (update: Kos put it like this today: Seriously, with Bush/Cheney/Rice/Rumsfeld running around threatening war on any country that raises their ire, we're going to see more countries going nuclear in the next decade.)

While Caligula was getting off on the Mess in Mesopotamia, North Korea, ignored, proceeded to build nuclear weapons. Probably only one or two, but enough. Have you seen Condi Oil Tanker or the necrocons threaten North Korea lately? No, and you won't. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden is one Pakistani coup away from putting his hands on that country's nuclear arsenal, and the world's first third world nation with nukes, India, continues lurching around from semi-democracy to Hindu nationalist lunacy while doing its level best to export its poverty to the United States, with the full cooperation of Bushco.

I don't want any of these idiots to have nuclear weapons. It's like giving a one day old a loaded gun. But Bush has done nothing useful to control any of it.

Where's the Right's Anger?

So several bloggers have taken down right wing noise machine stooge "Jeff Gannon." Where is the righteous anger of the right at the lying media, the thunderous whining that accompanied their attacks on Dan Rather?

Hypocrites.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

"Next Steps"

"Next steps" have clearly been decided upon, judging from the lunatic pronouncement made by Condi "no human relationships" Rice today:

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today that Iran must live up to its international obligations to halt its nuclear program or the next steps are in the offing. "And I think everybody understands what the 'next steps' mean," Rice told reporters after a meeting with NATO foreign ministers and European Union officials.

Condi tried to cover herself by suggesting that "next steps" referred to the UN, but they're not even a rubberstamp anymore. These are words worthy of Hitler, not the Secretary of State of a democratic republic.

But then we're no longer a democratic republic anymore, are we?

Let's Make a Reality TV Show About Torture!

I really wish the reality TV craze would go away. It's hitting rock bottom with this dumbass idea from the UK's Channel Four:

A British TV channel is preparing “Guantanamo Guidebook,” a show that will test the effectiveness of interrogation techniques like sleep deprivation which freed inmates say were used by the U.S. military at its camp in Cuba.

Channel Four, which brought the world reality TV hit “Big Brother,” will film seven British volunteers as they are subjected to extreme temperatures and mild physical contact while being kept awake for long periods.

The techniques are based on information from declassified U.S. government documents, and will be carried out by expert interrogators from the United States, a Channel Four spokesman said, declining to provide additional details.

Thank God Chris Noth is coming to Law and Order: Criminal Intent in his L&W role as Detective Mike Logan. A brief wisp of normalcy on the insane tube.

It's Happening Here

Digby has a great post on the creeping fascism of the Repugs. It's a must-read, especially for those of you who still wander around innocently thinking "it can't happen here!" Yeah, they felt that way in Weimar Germany too, pal. Read the comments too. (via)

President Dim Rapes NASA

I have to wonder if NASA Watch's Keith Cowing is ashamed yet of the stupid book he cowrote about the Chimperor's glorious plans for conquering space. Because, as it turns out, Bush is so busy raping NASA there's not going to be much left for the glorious conquest. In particular, the aeronautics budget - the part of NASA that has the most to do with actual practical life on earth - is getting slashed. Comments sent to NASA Watch include:

Yesterday at Glenn we heard our Center Director's interpretation of what the new NASA Aeronautics budget would contain. In his words, only "Breakthrough Technology Demonstrators" would be funded, no more fundamental research. I take this to mean full size hardware with mature technology. I would like someone in the Bush administration to explain to the Aerospace engineers here how you can show breakthrough technology WITHOUT doing fundamental research. I really don't think that this administration gets it. Corporations usually fund the full scale demonstrators in aeronautics, at least in the systems NASA deals with. They depend on NASA to do the legwork and show that it can be done in research and small scale testing first. NASA has been the organization to fund the risky and long term research. It had gotten this country to be number one in aerospace. Not any more. Boeing lost its edge in aircraft production to Airbus. I wonder if engineers in the U.S., including those at NASA in aeronautics, will be job-shopping to Airbus in the future.

Of course basic research proves that the earth is neither flat nor 6000 years old, so it has to go. There's more:

I have been a civil servant at LaRC for over 20 years and have witnessed first hand the demise of this once-great national asset. If the goal of the "President's Management Agenda" is to destroy NASA, he is well on his way to accomplishing that goal.

Many ultra-conservatives have been advocating the privatization of NASA for decades. In fact, the Libertarian Party publicly supports NASA's privatization as one goal in their agenda. If the President shares that view he should publicly state it and not covertly dismantle NASA from within.

It seems this Administration is using NASA as a "Cash Cow". The Moon-Mars initiative is simply corporate welfare for Boeing, LockMart, and the rest of the military industrial complex who are now the prime contractors for NASA. I doubt Bush came up with this idea on his own. My guess is the people who advocated this project are the same ones who are profiting by it. By the time the next president is elected billions of our tax dollars will have been wasted on this boondoggle, nothing will have been accomplished and it will be canceled. Leaving NASA in ruins.

A friend of mine works for NASA and he says the general belief among his coworkers is that as soon as the shuttle is retired - five years before "Project Constellation," the spam-can copy of Apollo, is scheduled to fly - the manned space program will be shut down. And why in shit's sake does it take 10 frigging years to build a copy of Apollo?!

Morale could not be lower and if this situation is not handled quickly, strategically and with a prospect of something worth staying for, many of the best people will simply walk away. Frankly, most of the researchers have come to the conclusion that this is the desired outcome.

So, Keith, ready to burn that asinine book of yours? New Moon Rising my ass.

Some of Chimpy's Lies Start to Catch Up

Everyone with half a brain - the blue folk - knew that the Chimp was lying when he claimed that his Medicare drug benefit would cost $400 billion over ten years. Well, that amount has already almost doubled, and it's Katy bar the door for the future of a program with no price controls:

The higher figure, which provides the first glimpse of the true cost of the drug benefit, could touch off a political uproar in Congress, where conservative Republicans were already expressing alarm about the costs of Medicare, including the drug benefit.

In a recent interview, the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, said he wanted to "put the brakes on the growth of entitlements" and take a close look at the new Medicare law.

"Since it was sold as a $400 billion program, that's what we should keep it at," Mr. Gregg said.

Mind you, I'm not necessarily against the Medicare benefit. I think we're insane for putting up with the fact that we're the only country in the developed world without national healthcare. But it's always fun to see Caligula's lies catch up - even if the dumbshits who voted for him will continue doing their appropriately chimp-like "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" act as they fail to recognize that their Chimperor is in fact nude.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

President Dimbulb

The Chimp claims that his new budget has its priorities straight - fighting the "war on terror" (in spite of the fact that no money for the Mess in Mesopotamia or Afghanistan is included - that gets slipped in on future Slow News Fridays) and "homeland security." Well, perhaps the Chimp can explain cuts in funds for first responders and for the CDC? No?

Too much money in the wrong hands, friends. That's what's wrong with America.

British Taxpayers About to be Raped

Tony Blair evidently decided it's time to give some payola to his friend the Shrub, so KBR, that monstrously corrupt and inefficient part of the monstrously corrupt and inefficient Halliburton empire, is going to be paid 5 million pounds to do something the Royal Navy can do itself; manage the construction of the Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers.

Bringing in private companies to do the military's work is an invention of the United States. It's a great way for the Pentagon to reward its friends and often itself (what do you think senior military officer types do when they retire? Yep, they get hired by defense contractors). To permit the military to do things itself is inevitably cheaper and more efficient, but it's just not a big enough waste of money for the generals and admirals looking forward to life after the military. To see this spreading to the UK is disheartening, to say the least (this actually started there several years ago with the "privitization" of most of the Royal Dockyards), and to see the Royal Navy forced to put up with this crap is just appalling.

Needless to say, Halliburton has the same horrible record in the UK they have here:

Vincent Cable, the Liberal Democrats' treasury spokesman, told MPs that Halliburton had "an abysmal track record of cost over-runs on British naval contracts, notably the Devonport shipyards".

Mr Cable added that Halliburton was also "being investigated for corruption in several countries, including Iraq, has spent the last year in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and has a chief executive who is trying to sell it to an unknown purchaser."

And, no surprise, KBR appear to be planning to ship the work on the ships to a shipyard it partly owns, the former Royal Dockyard at Rosyth:

That approach had sparked concern among British shipbuilders who feared KBR might funnel work to a Scottish shipyard with which it is affiliated and which is not among those lined up to build the carriers.

WWND. What Would Nelson Do? Probably smile and remind us of the "forty thieves," a class of ships built in private dockyards in his day that were famous mostly for falling apart after a short period in service because the private shipyards had stolen most of the metal fittings they were supposed to put into the ships. Those who fail to learn from history....

Monday, February 07, 2005

Grover Screws Kentucky

Kentucky lawmakers realize now that they have to raise taxes to save their state. But the smirking, lotion-smearing, barf-bag collecting Grover Norquist has fixed them good:

Some Kentucky lawmakers who long ago pledged to never raise taxes are starting to wonder if they've registered in the Hotel California.

You know -- it's that mystic place memorialized in the 1976 Eagles hit. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

Several Democrats and Republicans have declared recently that they're feeling boxed in by the so-called "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" aggressively urged upon politicians nationwide by a conservative group, Americans for Tax Reform, and its feisty founder, Grover Norquist.

Signing up seemed like a good idea at the time, they say, but times have changed.

Kentucky needs money for education, health programs and salaries, and it might need new taxes to get it. They want out.

But to their amazement, they're finding that nearly impossible to do.

Last Friday, Sen. Walter Blevins, D-West Liberty, and Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, proudly announced at a press conference that they were rescinding their promises.

They're among the 50 of Kentucky's 138 lawmakers who, along with Gov. Ernie Fletcher, have signed the pledge -- the second-highest state participation rate after South Carolina.

"I don't want to hide behind this no-tax pledge," said Blevins, a 1996 recruit. "I think the people of Kentucky realize to some extent that it's a scam." It's irresponsible to dismiss tax increases as an option just because of a campaign pledge, he said.

He and Gooch said they'll tell Norquist and his group to remove their names from the pledge list forthwith.

Good luck.

Ask Republican Steve Nunn of Glasgow, who did the taxation equivalent of publicly burning his draft card last month.

No dice, Norquist told him.

The pledge is a promise to constituents, not to the tax reform group, Norquist explained. So only voters can "release" him from his promise.

In an interview, he went further: Not even voting for a tax increase is grounds for removal.

"That doesn't get you out of the pledge, just like committing adultery doesn't get you out of a marriage," Norquist said. "It just makes you a bad person."

Lawmakers have just two ways to get off the list, Norquist said, voice rising: Either lose an election, or announce an intention to "break the promise" at a press conference with Norquist and manage to get re-elected anyway.

Norquist explained that he must be present "to make sure it gets enough attention."

Norquist is a dangerous man. We need more investigations of him. Reporters, get to it; there's plenty of dirt there to dig. Rid your country of him, do your country a service.

Guess Who's Enjoying Himself?

What a surprise that lunatic Grover Norquist is getting a large charge out of watching the government disintegrate:

Grover Norquist, a conservative activist who speaks regularly with senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, argued Republicans are dismantling laws Democrats passed while they were in power.

``It is both good policy and good politics to de-fund left-wing institutions created by the government,'' said Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Norquist believes that this will cement Repug support among voters. Well, Grover, maybe among some voters. But people will eventually figure out what you've been up to. That won't be a good moment for you and yours.

To Hell with Veterans

The Bush administration claims to worship the military. The military in turn vote overwhelmingly Repug. Of course once people get out of the military, the attitude of Bushco is, screw you, loser:

President Bush's budget would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government health care, administration officials said Sunday.

The proposals, they said, are in the $2.5 trillion budget that Mr. Bush plans to unveil on Monday. White House officials said the budget advanced his goal of cutting the deficit, which hit a record last year.

"We are being tight," Vice President Dick Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday." "This is the tightest budget that has been submitted since we got here."

The military are deluded. But then many Americans who voted for these people are.

To Hell with the Poor

In his manic desire to make sure the rich no longer pay their fair share towards the running of America, Bush will continue the ruining of America today with a butchered budget slashing important programs but leaving Holy Tax Cuts sacrosanct. It's all part of Starving the Beast:

Mr Bush inherited a budget surplus from Bill Clinton but is now running deficits of over $400bn (£215bn) a year, partly as a result of an economic slump and the September 11 attacks. But the turnaround is also due to huge tax cuts which disproportionately benefit the wealthiest 1% of Americans, and the war in Iraq, for which the administration has asked for another $80bn this year.

Some state governments provide food stamps not only to families on welfare but also to those receiving job-related aid such as for childcare. The new budget would restrict that practice, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday.

A programme that helps the poor pay heating bills is to be cut by more than 8%, while 18 housing and community programmes will be consolidated with total savings of about 40% - almost $3bn.

The administration has also said it will save $60bn over 10 years on the Medicaid programme, which provides health services to the poor. It argues that the savings will largely come from administrative costs, but there will be severe cuts in several health programmes.

A health department preventative programme aimed at obesity and other chronic diseases is to be cut by 6.5% to $841m, according to the New York Times. Health training schemes will be slashed. One such scheme for nurses, dentists and other health professionals will be reduced by 64% and another to train doctors for children's hospitals will be cut by a third

Perish the thought that the slovenly, useless rich would pony up their fair share. They ship your job overseas, then, when you can no longer make a living, they slash any government benefits you might receive and claim you're "lazy." Charming. And so very, very Christian.

Working Towards the Fuehrer

The indispensible Frank Rich points out that the Bushies hardly have to dictate; the media just cave in. It's familiar if you've studied Nazi Germany. Historians call it "working towards the Fuehrer."

The second Bush term began with the installation of a powerful new government censor in another big job, Secretary of Education. Margaret Spellings hadn't even been officially sworn into the cabinet when she took on "Postcards From Buster," threatening PBS with decreased financing because one episode had the show's eponymous animated rabbit hobnobbing with actual lesbian moms while visiting Vermont to learn how maple syrup is made. Though Buster had in previous installments visited Muslims, Mormons, Orthodox Jews and Pentecostal Christians, gay couples (even when not identified as such on camera) are verboten to our new Secretary of Education. "Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode," Ms. Spellings wrote in her threatening letter to Pat Mitchell, the C.E.O. of PBS.

The letter, as it happened, was unnecessary: Public broadcasting says that it had decreed on its own only a few hours earlier that it would not distribute the offending show - the most alarming example yet of just how cowardly it has become and how chilling the Janet Jackson effect has been. (Since then, some two dozen member stations out of a total of 349 have rebeled and decided to broadcast the episode anyway.) But the story won't end with this one incident. Ms. Spellings' threats against PBS are only the latest chapter in a continuing saga at an education department that increasingly resembles an authoritarian government's ministry of information.

A month before the election, The Los Angeles Times reported on its front page that the department had quietly destroyed more than 300,000 copies of "a booklet designed for parents to help their children learn history" after Lynne Cheney, who has no official government role, complained about its contents. The booklet burning occurred under the watch of Rod Paige, the education secretary who, we would later learn, was simultaneously complicit in another sub rosa exercise in heavy-handed government information management: the payment of $240,000 in taxpayers' funds to Armstrong Williams, a talking head and columnist, to plug Bush administration policies on radio and TV.

Mr. Paige fled his post last month without adequately explaining what he knew about these scandals. Enter Ms. Spellings, previously a White House aide who by some accounts had been a shadow administrator of the education department during Mr. Paige's out-to-lunch tenure. With all the other troubles in public education, why would she focus on a single episode of a single children's program on her second day in the job? We don't yet know. But her act was nothing if not ideologically synergistic with still another freshly uncovered Bush propaganda effort. Just as Ms. Spellings busted Buster, two more syndicated columnists copped to receiving taxpayers' dollars, this time siphoned through the Department of Health and Human Services, to help craft propaganda for a Bush "healthy marriage initiative" that disdains same-sex couples as fervently as Ms. Spellings did in her letter to PBS.

What makes this story more insidious still is the glaring reality that the most prominent Republican lesbians in America are Mary Cheney, a former gay and lesbian marketing liaison for Coors beer, and her partner, Heather Poe, who appeared as a couple in public and on TV during the presidential campaign. That Ms. Spellings would gratuitously go after this specific "lifestyle" right after taking office is so provocative it smells like payback specifically pitched at those "pro-family" watchdogs who snarled at the mention of Ms. Cheney's sexual orientation during the campaign whether it was by John Kerry or anyone else. Surely Ms. Spellings doesn't believe in discrimination against nontraditional families: by her own account, she was a single mother who had to park her 13-year-old and 8-year-old children in Austin when she first went to work at the White House. Then again, President Bush went on record last month as saying that "studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is being raised by a man and a woman" (even though, as The New York Times reported, "there is no scientific evidence that children raised by gay couples do any worse").

That our government is now both intimidating PBS and awarding public money to pundits to enforce "moral values" agendas demonizing certain families is the ugliest fallout of the campaign against indecency.

Maybe not the ugliest. I would submit that the self-censorship of Saving Private Ryan by ABC stations was, if anything, even uglier, as cowed people continue working towards the Fuehrer.


Zen TV

Animal Planet, knowing that a large percentage of their regular audience would be joining most Americans watching the Super Bowl, indulged in some truly Zen TV yesterday with their "Puppy Bowl."

The concept was simplicity itself; a play area shaped and painted like a gridiron, littered with football-shaped toys, and a bunch of puppies. No voiceover, just a little music, and hours of puppies playing, loafing, goofing off, gamboling clumsily around, and just being puppies (when a "puppy foul" was committed a guy dressed in a ref uniform would come onto the field, throw a yellow flag, then clean up the mess - it was a hoot). One wacky feature was "bowl cam" - a camera in the bottom of the puppies' water bowl. All in all it was surprisingly pleasurable and while I doubt many watched it all the way through, I'm sure more than a few viewers flipped back and forth like I did.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Flak

I get flak for my comments about the wealthy. There is, I am told, nothing wrong with being rich. And indeed I have no argument with those who profit from their labor, their talent, or their entrepreneurial skills. But two things have to be asked: 1) how much is enough, and 2) what about those who inherit their wealth?

How much is enough cannot be answered, really, because it will vary from person to person. But surely those who have benefited from living in this country should pay for the privilege. No man is an island, and surely no businessman is. There really is no such thing as a "self-made" millionaire. Without our infrastructure, without our defenses, without our laws, flawed as they sometimes are, the kind of wealth many Americans enjoy is simply not possible. To point out one example, unlike many other countries, bribery is not a normal cost of doing business in the US, nor is ponying up to the local strongman/dictator. Taxes in the United States are, frankly, compared to the rest of the developed world, ridiculously low. I know many will disagree. But increasingly we live in a country where the infrastructure is being permitted to degrade, where the poor are kicked to the curb, and where wealth and the wealthy are creepily worshipped. To claim to be a Christian country at the same time is laughable. Jesus' concern was for the poor, not the wealthy. And as for taxes, Jesus, asked by his disciples if they should pay tribute to Rome, took from them a denarius, pointed to the stamped head of Tiberius Caesar, and said simply, "Caesar's things to Caesar. God's things to God."

As for inheritance, I find it truly sickening that Americans watch a show in which Paris Hilton and her equally parasitic friend flounce around making fun of the hoi polloi. The joke this season is that they're interns. Ha ha, how funny, Paris Hilton pretending to work (cripes, no wonder Southeast Airlines went under!)! Should parents be allowed to pass wealth on? Certainly, but again, the question as to be, how much?

Our priorities are obscenely wrong. We worship wealth and hate the poor - the opposite of Jesus, who so many Americans claim to worship as Lord. Jesus is Lord, and we play with fire by taking pride in being the fattest hogs on the block. Yes, I am angry, and part of the reason is that I fear for my country. Until we truly live up to our small-d democratic ideals and our religious yearnings, no matter our religion, we all should.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Winner Take All

The state of Ohio, its government controlled by a particularly corrupt crowd of Repugs, has decided to continue "starving the beast" by doing away with a last-ditch health care program for the poorest of the poor. SHAME.

The state is ending a program that paid for medicines and treatment for homeless and extremely poor Ohioans with chronic health conditions such as heart problems, diabetes or mental illness.

Disability Medical Assistance is a $73 million state effort designed to bridge the gap while people await approval for Medicaid, Social Security or other benefits. Income guidelines mean a single person would have to earn less than $115 a month to qualify.

Gov. Bob Taft warned agencies he'll be cutting many services in the two-year state budget plan he releases Thursday. State lawmakers have until the end of June to pass a budget that fills an anticipated deficit of up to $5 billion.

Other cuts could include stricter eligibility requirements for adults to qualify for Medicaid, lower Medicaid payments to nursing homes and less money for pollution enforcement, industry and agency leaders have said.

We have plenty of rich people in this state who the money should be beaten out of, but instead a program that only people who earn $115 a month or less is cut. And no doubt all the Repugs will march to church tomorrow and feel pleased with themselves, waiting for the Rapture. Well, friends, if there is a last day, I think we can be assured that Christ will turn his backs on these foul bastards with a quiet, I do not know you.

"I'm absolutely panic-stricken," said Judith Austin, 55, of Columbus, whose two heart surgeries were covered by disability assistance at a cost of $372,000. "I have no medical care again. I have no clue what I'm going to do. This could cost me my life."

Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said the state can no longer afford the aid.

We can afford welfare for corporations, but not a dime for the poorest of the poor. SHAME.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Ugly Truth

George Orwell once said that if democracy means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear, i.e., the truth. Bush is a liar on a monumental scale, and never more so when he opens his mouth and starts flapping about social security. From Paul Krugman, the truth:

Here's the money quote: "In return for the opportunity to get the benefits from the personal account, the person forgoes a certain amount of benefits from the traditional system. Now, the way that election is structured, the person comes out ahead if their personal account exceeds a 3 percent rate of return" - after inflation - "which is the rate of return that the trust fund bonds receive. So, basically, the net effect on an individual's benefits would be zero if his personal account earned a 3 percent rate of return."

Translation: If you put part of your payroll taxes into a personal account, your future benefits will be reduced by an amount equivalent to the amount you would have had to repay if you had borrowed the money at a real interest rate of 3 percent.

Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution got it exactly right: "It's not a nest egg. It's a loan."

Hell, even your average 401k isn't as big a ripoff. It gets worse:

The only way to get ahead would be to invest in risky assets like stocks, and hope for higher yields. But if the investment went wrong and you earned less than 3 percent after inflation, your benefit cuts would leave you poorer than if you had never opened that private account.

So people are expected to take a loan from the government and use it to buy stocks, and if that turns out to have been a mistake - well, too bad.

Experts usually tell people to plan for their retirement by investing in a mix of stocks and bonds. They disapprove strongly of speculation on margin: borrowing to buy stocks. Yet Mr. Bush wants tens of millions of Americans to do exactly that.

What indeed happens the next time the stock market crashes and takes millions of retirees' accounts with it? Let them eat cake! - or dog food.

Here's the senior official again: "In a long-term sense, the personal accounts would have a net neutral effect on the fiscal situation of Social Security." The government would have to borrow huge sums up front to create the personal accounts - $4.5 trillion in the first two decades - but it would supposedly make up for all that borrowing with offsetting cuts in account holders' benefits many decades later.

Color me skeptical: will retirees with private accounts that performed badly really be forced to repay their loans in full? Even if they are, private accounts will at best have a "net neutral effect" - that is, they will do nothing to improve Social Security's finances. Mr. Bush says the system faces a crisis; what does he propose to do about it?

The answer, presumably, is that his plan will also involve major benefit cuts over and above those associated with private accounts. And it's true that you can improve Social Security's finances with privatization, as long as you also slash benefits - just as you can kill a flock of sheep with witchcraft, provided you also feed them arsenic. (Thanks, M. Voltaire.)

Any Democrat who does not oppose this is not a Democrat. Anyone who does not oppose this is either a monster or a fool.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Speaking of Which...

...the one Bush comment that really floored me, and still floors me, is his crack about "frivolous asbestos claims." What a monstrous, evil son of a bitch that man is.

Bushnochio

No, I didn't watch the State of the Union last night. Blood pressure can't take it. Other bloggers will have plenty of analysis...all I can say, having glanced through the transcript, is that if there was any justice at all, Bush would now require external supports for his nose.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

"Battle Barbie" Held Hostage

Some particularly dumb Islamic militants (is there any other kind?) are even as we speak evilly holding a Dragon Models, Ltd collectible soldier doll, model "Special Ops Cody," hostage.

Liam Cusack, the marketing coordinator for Dragon Models USA, said the figure pictured on the Web site is believed to be "Special Ops Cody," a military action figure the company manufactured in late 2003.

"It pretty much looks exactly like the same person," he said.

Cusack said he was contacted Tuesday morning by one of his retailers, who informed him that the alleged hostage appeared to be one of the company's action figures.

"I thought it was a joke at first," he said.

But after reading a report on a news Web site about a U.S. soldier allegedly being captured, "I looked at it and said, 'It does look like one of our action figures.'"

I should add for my readers who aren't familiar with the modeling world that "Battle Barbie" is a derisive term for collectible dolls, the same size and general appearance as the older full-size G.I. Joe figures, that are sold in a wide variety of both historical and contemporary uniforms for grown men to collect; Dragon have probably the largest range of figures (and are a well known maker of plastic models as well). Guess we have Islamofascists collecting them now too!

UPDATE: Islamofascists now threatening to behead "Special Ops Cody!" Will Mr. Bill put in an appearance?!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Halliburton Busting Defense Budget

Halliburton is so frantic to gorge itself on your tax dollars that it's breaking the Pentagon's budget, much to the horror of dumb generals who thought getting their troops out of KP was a good idea. This according to that Commie rag the Wall Street Journal, here quoted with quiet glee by al Jazeera:

The top US commander in Baghdad is facing a budget gap of at least $4 billion between what Halliburton Co says it will cost to provide services for US troops for a year and what the government has budgeted.

According to the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root unit - which provides food, mail, telephones and other basic services to US troops in Iraq -submitted an estimate to the Pentagon for expected spending in the year starting 1 May, based on a list of army requirements.

The company said its costs for the year could exceed $10 billion, the newspaper said.

But the Army has budgeted just $3.6 billion to support the KBR-provided services during the same period, the newspaper said.

No wonder Dick Cheney wears that stupid smirk.

Bush the Looter

Frederick Sweet looks to history and asks, can we trust the Shrub with Social Security? Hell no.

Soon after George W. Bush was sworn in as Texas governor in 1995, he transferred billions of dollars of public endowment money from the University of Texas to the control of his billionaire friend Tom Hicks, a “privatization” move similar to the one now proposed for Social Security. Bush’s friend headed the private U of T Investment Management Co. (UTIMCO) that had been set up to invest the U of T funds.

According to a March 1999 report in the Dallas Morning News, a committee that the Board of Regents uses to decide upon how the University of Texas invests its billions was run by billionaire Tom Hicks, a Bush appointee. Hicks was a major campaign contributor to Bush’s 1998 gubernatorial race and also the maximum contributor to and one of the major fundraisers in Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Hicks is an investment banker to whom Bush and his billionaire mentor Richard Rainwater had earlier sold the Texas Rangers. Hicks owns a vast sports and media empire. Bush allowed him to head up a committee charged with “investing billions of dollars of public university money in the form of investments in private companies.”

Questions were asked in 1999 because “almost a third of the $1.7 billion has been committed to funds run by Hicks’s business associates or friends . . . [and] five funds run by major Republican political donors.” Hicks was unwilling to answer questions about his activities on the public’s behalf.

It's no surprise to learn that Hicks is a major owner of pro-war Clear Channel Communications. Or that Hicks made Bush rich by buying the Texas Rangers in 1998, turning Shrub's $600,000 stake in the team into $15 million.

In mid 2004, Paul Krugman of the New York Times nailed the legitimacy issue with this lead: “Why are George W. Bush’s business dealings relevant? Given that his aides tout his ‘character,’ the public deserves to know that he became wealthy entirely through patronage and connections.”

“But more important,” Krugman continues, “those dealings foreshadow many characteristics of his administration, such as its obsession with secrecy and its intermingling of public policy with private interest.”

Then Krugman recalled, “Under his [Governor Bush’s] direction, at least $450 million was invested in private funds managed by Mr. Hicks’s business associates and major Republican Party donors. The managers of such funds earn big fees. Due to Mr. Bush’s change in the rules, these investments were hidden from public view; an employee of UTIMCO who alerted university auditors was summarily fired. Even now, it’s hard to find out how these investments turned out, though they seem to have done quite badly.

Just as poorly as your social security contributions will fare when they are handed over to wealthy parasites like Hicks to loot, the one and only true reason for "reform."

They Just Can't Handle the Truth

Where's Jack Nicholson in a Marine Corps uniform when you need him? Like Tom Cruise's wimpy Navy lawyer, hack Fred Barnes just can't handle the truth:

ON THE EVE of the election in Iraq, Democratic senator Edward Kennedy called President Bush's Iraq policy "a catastrophic failure." He demanded that American troops immediately begin to withdraw. "We have no choice," he declared, "but to make the best we can of the disaster we have created in Iraq." Kennedy said the retreat of American forces should be completed "as early as possible in 2006," and suggested that, in Iraq, American troops are a bigger problem than terrorists.

Though appalling, Kennedy's statement was not out of character for Democrats these days. "I don't like to impugn anyone's integrity," said Democratic senator Mark Dayton, before impugning the integrity of Condoleezza Rice. "But I really don't like being lied to, repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally. It is wrong, it is undemocratic, it is un-American, and it is dangerous." After Rice took exception to being called untruthful by Democratic senator Barbara Boxer, Boxer complained on TV: "She turned and attacked me."

This is madness, but there is method in it.

Only a Repug could call the truth "madness," but then you have to be nuts to believe even half of what they claim to hold dear.

The media tolerate or even encourage Democratic rage. But the White House can't afford to. Senate Democrats have enough votes to block major Bush initiatives like Social Security reform and to reject Bush appointees, including Supreme Court nominees. They may be suicidal, but they could undermine the president's entire second term agenda. At his news conference last week, Bush reacted calmly to their vitriolic attacks, suggesting only a few Democrats are involved. Stronger countermeasures will be needed, including an unequivocal White House response to obstructionism, curbs on filibusters, and a clear delineation of what's permissible and what's out of bounds in dissent on Iraq. Too much is at stake to wait for another Democratic defeat in 2006.

Yes, too much is at stake to allow budding fascists like Fred and his friends in Congress to remain in charge of the smoking remnants of the United States. It's not just that they're Republicans; they're crazy.