Friday, July 29, 2005

Fox Inspects Henhouse: Film at 11

A new surprise in the Ohio coin scandal that's not really a surprise! This morning in the Toledo Blade:

U.S. Attorney Gregory White, a leader in a multiagency task force investigating powerful Republicans in Ohio, asked for help from Gov. Bob Taft’s office to get the federal post he now holds, records released by Mr. Taft’s office yesterday show.

Mr. White asked the governor to call President Bush on his behalf in August, 2002. A week later, top Bush aide Karl Rove was given the phone numbers of Brian Hicks, the governor’s former chief of staff.
In February, 2003, after Mr. White was named interim U.S. attorney, Mr. Hicks sent a congratulatory e-mail to Mr. White.

“Great to hear! The Gov. just asked me this morning if I had heard anything about your status. He was pleased to learn of the news,” Mr. Hicks wrote on Feb. 2.

The e-mails show a relationship between one of the lead attorneys in Ohio’s biggest corruption scandal in decades and the governor whose administration is under intense scrutiny.

This guy needs to come off the investigation. Now.

NASA: Nothing Changed

Turns out that nothing at NASA really changed after the loss of Columbia and her crew. In spite of the hard work of Admiral Hal Gehman and the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), NASA still has a concept of "acceptable risk" that is at odds with the facts:

NASA's engineers knew that the foam insulation around the space shuttle's giant external fuel tank was a problem. They were particularly worried about any hand-sprayed sections, like the foam that broke off and fatally damaged the Columbia in 2003.

But after spending millions of dollars, reviewing foam losses from dozens of flights and conducting five million computer simulations, engineers decided that a hand-sprayed foam ramp on the tank was an "allowable," a risk that was too unlikely to pose a danger to the shuttle.

"We had enough data that showed we had had very few problems with the PAL ramp," said William W. Parsons, manager of the shuttle program.

In fact, they had little data. Many tanks, post-launch, were not photographed well, leaving it a mystery as to whether foam had come off and where. The fact is, it turns out the PAL ramp foam is as dangerous as the bipod ramp foam, and had the piece shed from Discovery's tank on ascent come off earlier, it might have ripped a hole in the orbiter's leading edge similar to what destroyed Columbia. The nasty fact is, none of the foam problems have been solved at all. Photos of Discovery's tank show not only the loss of one of the PAL ramps, but considerable "popcorning" of acreage foam as well, where small pieces pop off and leave divots in the remaining foam. Popcorning can and has damaged orbiter bottom tile on previous flights; fortunately the tile is more resilient to damage than the RCC on the leading edge of the wing. From NASA, dumbass excuses like this:

Aldo J. Bordano, a retired NASA aerosciences division chief who was on a peer-review panel that studied the agency's analysis of the external tank and foam, said the panel believed that there should have been more physical testing of the external tank's vulnerable components before flying.

"We would have liked more hardware testing," Mr. Bordano said yesterday in an interview, "but that would have added another year to the delay. Ideally, you would want to be able to take a tank and actually put it through some kind of testing like what happens through the ascent phase and see if it hangs together."

I'm sorry, but two years is plenty of time for such testing. After the Apollo capsule fire, the capsule was completely redesigned and flying again in about a year - and the Apollo capsule was a much more complex item than the simple external tank. More stupidity:

The external tank used on this flight of the Discovery was one that had been assembled and sprayed before the loss of the Columbia and the flurry of reviews and changed practices, said June Malone, a NASA spokeswoman.

Amazing. As usual, NASA was forced to do this on the cheap, and the result was not particularly surprising. There will be more inspections of the orbiter today; God knows what the results will be, since every time NASA opens its mouth the situation gets nastier:

NASA said Thursday that Discovery escaped damage from the potentially deadly chunk of foam insulation that broke off from the fuel tank, but may have been struck in the wing by a much smaller piece. Even if the small foam fragment did hit, engineers believe the impact caused no damage of concern, Hale said.

Yes, that's what they thought last time. We trusted NASA to fix this. So did the astronauts, and the members of CAIB. This is going to get ugly.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Stiff Upper Lip Gone with the Wind

Britons reacted hilariously as a multi-vortex tornado, looking to have done approximately F2 damage from the pics I've seen, ripped through part of Birmingham today, causing several injuries and much damage. Wacky accounts here. Also check out the BBC news footage. Still pics here. Cripes, you'd think an F5 had hit. Of course those of us in tornado-prone parts of the US probably take these things with a bit more sang-froid than the usually twister-deprived Brits!

Norquist Watch

The current New Yorker has a a profile of Barf Bag that's useful reading even if it downplays his sheer weirdness, which includes his strange and sudden marriage. Although the article isn't online, author John Cassidy discusses it here.

For some dumbass reason, NPR is now giving Barf Bag a regular forum. Kind of as if the Weimar government in Germany had had a regular "Goebbels Hour" on the radio; appearing fair while slitting your own throat. As usual, Grover makes the same dumb arguments against the estate tax:

Today, we Americans pay taxes when we earn our paychecks, when we save, when we invest, when we buy products and services, and then, when we are foolish enough to die, the government wants half of what is left.

This means the same dollar of income is taxed three to four times BEFORE the tax collector asks many small businesses and family farms to liquidate more than half of their saved assets for estate taxes.

On April 15, by an overwhelming vote of 272-162, the House of Representatives passed legislation to end this immoral tax. More than 40 Democrats joined with Republicans to make repeal the onerous death tax permanent.
Playing to the politics of hate and class division, some will point out that a minority of Americans that pay this tax. What these critics miss is that Americans of all means believe the government should not tax the same dollar of income twice and in this case three or four times.

First of all, it's amazing that anyone would call a tax on a dead person "onerous." Remember, this is money going to people who did not earn it. Think of Paris Hilton battening off the ill-gotten gain of Grampa Conrad, who extracted it from millions of poor workers in his stinking hotels.

Stupider is his argument about money being taxed and retaxed. So what? Every dollar is taxed over and over as it flows through the economy. You pay a tax when your employer gives you the dollar. He's previously been taxed on it too. When you give that dollar to a business to purchase a product or service, you pay a sales tax and the owner of the business pays a tax too. He sends that dollar to one of his creditors, who pays taxes on it, or uses it to pay an employee, who pays taxes on it. And so on and so on. What's one more time? And while Norquist invites us to cry over farms and businesses liguidated, this hardly ever happens. I don't believe that a single good example of a family farm being broken up because of taxes has yet been found. Inherited family farms are usually broken up so the survivors can make a killing selling the land for development.

I keep wondering how Grover would like living in a tax cut paradise where the garbage is not collected, the streets are not kept in repair, infrastructure is not just crumbling but broken, public health is neglected, and most of the workforce is kept unemployed by the illegal immigrants he so dearly loves. Does he think the Army would protect the rich? Why should they? After all, which side of the fence are they recruited on?

"Winner take all" is not a recipe for stable government. Indulging morons like Grover Norquist guarantees we're going to learn that the hard way.

Congress to US Workers: Screw You

The latest in a long line of "free trade" agreements - which basically means that poor countries are "free" to take our jobs - was passed last night by the House after having earlier been passed by the Senate. The vote was agonizingly close, 217 to 215. 27 Republicans showed wisdom by voting against it, while 15 Democrats betrayed their constituencies and voted for it. Most Democrats stood firm, however:

“I don’t see any benefits for workers, for sugar people,” said Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon, who said his family owed everything to 225 years of sugar production in his home state of Louisiana.

“We’ve given away textiles. We’ve given away steel. We’ve given away fruits and vegetables,” Melancon said. “Now let’s just go ahead and give away everything and be dependent on every other country for our food and our defense.”

The only advantage is, as ever, to the rich, who will always be more than happy to sell out their country and their fellow citizens to pad their own pockets.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


The orbiter fleet has been grounded again due to at least two substantial foam shedding events from the external tank during Discovery's launch yesterday. These foam events happened in areas that have not previously been prone to shedding, making me wonder if aerodynamic changes to the tank caused by removal of the bipod ramps have had an unexpected side effect (although the location of the largest event would seem to be in a position far enough away and on the other side of a large fuel line to be unaffected). Thankfully, this event does not appear to have damaged Discovery and the rest of the mission should continue normally. Images of the missing foam are here. Program manager Bill Parsons has announced that there will be no flights until this new development is thoroughly understood and fixed.

Gambling: A Republican Family Value

Turns out Tom Noe wasn't just squandering Ohio's worker's comp money on coins, vacation homes, and contributions to assorted Repug candidates including the Chimp, he was investing it in that favored Repug family value, gambling. What a surprise! Bill Bennett must be so pleased.

Mr. Noe invested at least $100,000 of the state’s rare-coin money into financially troubled Games Inc., which has plummeted in value in the last year as its CEO Roger Ach II, a politically connected Cincinnati businessman, sought public contracts.

Mr. Noe is among several prominent Republicans who have invested in Games Inc.

Brian Hicks, former chief of staff to Gov. Bob Taft; Bob Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party; former Senate President Stanley Aronoff, and Lucas County Republicans Patrick Kriner and Sally Perz all own shares in the company, records filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission show.

Turns out there's a few dumb Democrats too who think gambling is an acceptable way to rip people off:

Jerry Springer, a Democrat from Cincinnati and a talk show host, is also listed as an investor.

Heh. There's a remarkable surprise. Other Democrats are less impressed:

“It’s outrageous. These are the same people who are continually harping about the gambling issue,” said Ben Rothenberg, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party. Mr. Taft and others have continually fought plans for casino gambling in the state, although the governor did support increasing the gaming options of the Ohio Lottery.

Interestingly, most of the evangelical churches that promote Repug candidates are heavily anti-gambling. This might be a small yet useful wedge issue for Democrats.

It's Important Not to Overreact

There's been a certain amount of noise from the media about the feed from onboard cameras during yesterday's shuttle launch that appear to show part of a tile coming off and another piece of light debris falling away, source unknown. It's important to remember two things; there has been tile damage on every shuttle flight, and that the orbiter's thermal protection tiles are remarkably resilient. In some cases hundreds of dings have been noted, with no damage to the orbiter structure underneath; in others, entire tiles have come off, with little or no damage resulting. The difference this time is that we can see it happening. More here.

UPDATE: Hoo boy...that "light piece" turns out to have been a major foam shedding event. See above....

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Off Again

Orbiter Discovery returned to space today for mission STS-114. Under the command of Eileen Collins, the crew will conduct experiments aimed at testing possible inflight repairs to the orbiter's thermal protection system and will dock with the International Space Station, bringing much-needed supplies and spare parts.

The Enemy Isn't Only Republicans

It's no wonder that the Repugs refer to the DLC as the "sane wing of the Democratic Party." After all, the DLC basically are Republicans themselves:

Nobody said it better than London Mayor Ken ("Red Ken") Livingstone, a leading leftist. Though openly critical of Tony Blair for his support of the war in Iraq, Livingstone was eloquent and unequivocal about the terrorists. Pointing out that London had been chosen for the 2012 Olympic Games partly because 300 languages are spoken in his city, Livingstone said the jihadists' "cowardly attack" was aimed not "against the mighty or the powerful, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners. Black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindus and Jews, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, class, religion whatever."

If only we could hear such moral clarity from our own party's left! Instead, we heard from Daily Kos, the ur-liberal ur-blogger, whose blog included a cheer for, among others, outcast Labourite George Galloway, who blamed the attacks on Blair's Iraq policy -- and was roundly denounced by virtually all British politicians. "See, Democrats? That's how it's done," lectured the blogger ignorantly. Likewise, Matt Yglesias, an articulate liberal voice at The American Prospect, who belittled Marshall Wittmann's call for moral clarity as a phrase never used "unironically" anymore. No wonder Democrats are perceived to have a values problem.

First off, it's hilarious to hear a DLC hack praising Red Ken Livingstone, who is off to the left of any wing of the Democratic party. Also, he evidently missed the fact that lefty bloggers of all stripes condemned the attacks while realizing that the war in Iraq has simply made things worse. And, as Atrios discovered, the post they condemn was not written by Kos at all. Figures.

The DLC needs to be flushed out of the party. We'll see what a warm welcome they get from their "buddies" the Repugs. Losing Hillary in the process would be a nice little bonus (via).

Monday, July 25, 2005

Kos Needs to Expunge Wingnuts

It would be a good thing if Daily Kos were freed from the one or two wingnuts who keep publishing batshit crazy conspiracy crap like this:

The CCTV pic of what was said was four bombers carried in newspapers turns out to look very much like a composite of people taken at different times.

No surprise that someone responding eagerly brings up one of the dumber 9/11 theories, that the planes were "remote controlled."

It's not a bad thing to be "out there" once in awhile, but this is just Rense-style lunacy.

Jim Cameron Takes a Bath

...a turkish bath, that is, as during his current and exceptionally ambitious Titanic expedition, Cameron's bots reached the ne plus ultra of Titanic exploration - the mysterious Turkish Baths on F deck. Only one photograph exists of the baths, of a small corner of the installation, so as well as being buried deep within the bow section of the wreck the room was practically undocumented. It was also suspected that the room, with tile walls and linoleum floors would be well preserved, and so it proved.

The expedition continues, with Cameron hoping to get his bots down "Scotland Road," the main bow-to-stern passage used by the crew. Cameron claims that this will be his last Titanic expedition; we'll see if he can stay away!

The Discovery Channel has some coverage (I took their quiz and scored a perfect 10 - a scary level of Titanic geekdom), but expedition participant Parks Stephenson has been posting regularly on Encylopedia Titanica's message boards here. Also, the somewhat confusing documentary shown last night will be recut and reshown next Saturday at 9 pm, according to Parks.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Petro Runs for Governor

Attorney General Jim Petro whacked the legs out from under his fellow Republicans planning to run for Ohio's governorship next year by coming out and announcing that Tom Noe is, as we all knew already, a criminal:

The attorney general said the theft began on March 31, 1998, the day Mr. Noe received the first of two $25 million payments from the workers’ compensation bureau, and continued until late May — more than eight weeks after The Blade first reported on April 3 that there were problems with the state’s investment.

“On Day One, Tom Noe took $1.375 million and put it in his personal or his business account,” Mr. Petro said. Records show that Mr. Noe immediately began using the state’s money for his personal use, the attorney general said.

Petro was careful to avoid suggesting that Noe's enormous contributions to Republican politicians were made with stolen money, but I'm afraid that the evidence is going to be clear that Noe took taxpayer money and with it padded the pockets of George W. Bush and nearly every Republican politician of consequence in Ohio.

Meanwhile, in NY....

As usual political correctness trumps smarts and the NYPD have promised not to "profile" passengers who are asked to open their bags for search on the city's transit lines. So Granny Smith will have the piggery going through her tote and young Arab males - the profile of the suicide bomber - will undoubtedly remain unmolested. What crap.


A couple things about the latest bomb attack on the London occurs to me that the gang's master bomber either blew himself up on 7/7 or fled the country, leaving behind less experienced types who could not assemble a bomb correctly. The fact that all four misfired also strongly suggests that one person assembled all four devices. Forensic experts in the UK will be already pouring over the bombs for evidence. The bombers were also seen this time - it was again an obvious suicide attack - which should provide more useful leads. It will also be interesting to see if this morning's suspect shot dead by the police ties into the plot somehow. Expect more raids and arrests shortly.

Lots more at the BBC.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Blah Blah Blah

It's remarkable that we have a president who can't talk, but at least the press is beginning to report his babbling straight. Yesterday, Caligula was in Baltimore:

"When you're at war, you can't lose sight of the fact that you're at war."

Now isn't that good to know?

You can look inside in the truck, and you don't even have to get in it," Bush said afterward to an audience of state and local officials and port employees. "That's called technology. And it's working. It makes a big difference."

Also good to know. I had no clue what technology was.

Beamed Up

Jimmy Doohan died yesterday. I met him in 1978, very briefly, when he was touring around to support the upcoming Star Trek - The Motion Picture. Before he was an actor, Doohan was a Canadian Army vet of WWII, and made the landings at Normandy. It's worth recalling that all Canadians who served overseas during WWII had to volunteer to do so.


The Ohio coin scandal keeps rolling like that quarter you dropped that's rapidly heading under the vending machine. The latest wackiness:

Millions of dollars in coins and cash exchanged hands among managers of Tom Noe’s $50 million rare-coin venture in the days leading up to his admission that up to $13 million was missing from the state-funded operation, documents released yesterday show.

Nearly 15,000 pages of coin-fund transaction records provide evidence that there were hundreds of trades among the people charged with managing the state’s rare-coin investment throughout its seven-year existence.

The documents also show Mr. Noe authorized millions of dollars in loans from the state’s Capital Coin funds — including $285,000 to himself — while using state money to foot the bill for legal work to fight public records requests to release coin-fund documents.

There's a lot more. Should be plenty of ammo to put a lot of people in jail...and, if Ohio Democrats play their cards right, enough ammo to kick Ohio Repugs back into the corner where they belong.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Jo Has the Facts

Jo Fish has the poop on Bush's Supreme Court nominee. He's not quite the colorless white guy some people think.

Other wonderful Roberts moments which are sure signs that we'll all be cherishing our pre-Orwellian Fascist Golden Years that were...he disagrees with the Endangered Species Act, says Congress can't make inconvenient rules. Also doesn't particularly care for Affirmative Action (he and Clarence will do so well together there). Other fun facts, he's written amicus briefs on behalf of Operation Rescue, and finally he really dislikes the disabled.

Check out the whole post. Lots of ammo there.

UPDATE: the redoubtable Avedon Carol has more here. This guy is a Federalist Society fascist. 'Nuff said.


Yikes, South Knox Bubba is no more. No more Friday bird blogging? Nooooooooooo!

Clark Wins Second Kos Straw Poll

For the second time running, retired General Wesley Clark has won the Daily Kos straw poll. Clark was first with 34 percent of the vote, versus 26 percent last time; second was "No Freaking Clue" with 13.

Bad Choices

You have to wonder who smokes what on the BRAC, the committee that is busy consolidating the US military into a few bases wonderfully easy to take out in a first strike. In particular, the attempt to close the naval shipyard at Pearl Harbor - which failed, barely - is beyond stupid.

Earth calling BRAC: terrorism is a diversion. Gutting the military, especially in the Pacific, is national suicide.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Flip Flop!

Considering that President Caligula never appears before an unfriendly crowd, I guess it would do us no good to buy a bunch of flipflop sandals and do what the Repugs did to John Kerry. But Dubya certainly is a waffle when it comes to defending his beloved "Turdblossom."

Faced with growing questions about the role of his close adviser Karl Rove in the C.I.A. leak case, President Bush said on Monday that he would fire any member of his staff who "committed a crime."
The president's answer to a question at a news conference on Monday, however brief, articulated a standard for keeping or dismissing members of his staff that appeared to differ from some past statements made both by him and by the White House spokesman.

At one point last year, Mr. Bush said yes when asked whether anyone involved in leaking such information about a C.I.A. officer would be dismissed. Another time, in 2003, he said that anyone who had violated the law against such leaks would be "taken care of."

Turdblossom is certainly being "taken care of." Bush doesn't dare lose his brain, after all.

It's instructive to sit back and think how the Repugs would have responded had something like this happened in the Clinton administration. Considering they impeached Clinton because he lied about consensual sex, they probably would have burned the White House with him in it.

Monday, July 18, 2005

So Much for Patriotism

The Republican party, believing itself the avatar of all that is good and patriotic and Christian in American life, is frantically busy making excuses for why it was good and patriotic and Christian to out a CIA agent, all so Dubya could have his terrible, horrible, stupid, very bad, no good war. As Kos puts it:

It is quite instructive and shocking, even with this administration, that the outing of a CIA agent, her front company, and god knows how many other agents and operations, is met with a collective shrug from wingnut circles. While a blow job gave them the vapors, a genuine breach of national security gives them no pause, gives them no reason to abandon "the architect". Political power trumps everything -- even the safety of our nation.

Given what we know of the case, we know that Rove violated his non-disclose agreement. We know that Rove acted unethically, without regard to the consequences of his actions. Whether a crime has been committed remains to be seen, but shouldn't matter a whit.

The technical letter of the law isn't a shield from accountability, an antidote to endangering national security, an amnesiac from the lies McClellan -- and by extension Bush and Co -- spewed to the American people two years ago.

Right-thinking people -- even Republicans -- should look at these unfolding events with horror. I would certainly feel betrayed and angry if a Democratic administration thusly endangered national security and undermined our non-proliferation efforts. I wouldn't make apologies for it. I wouldn't rationalize it, attempt to distract with irrelevant, tangential points. I would demand accountability.

But to modern-day Republicans and their apologists, they can do no wrong. No Republican's action is worthy of scorn or censure. They are perfect. Flawless. Immune to error. Godlike.

It isn't a new Repug attitude, either. Repugs shrugged when Ronnie Raygun traded weapons for hostages; he now has a peculiar god-like status just short of Jesus in Republican circles, a kind of junior fourth member of the Trinity. As for Democrats, they are consigned to the outer darkness. Evidently there was a belief in the White House that Joe Wilson could Not Be Trusted because he was a "Democrat," this in spite of his service in Republican administrations and donations to Republican politicians. In the LA Times (via Digby):

Prosecutors investigating whether White House officials illegally leaked the identity of Wilson's wife, a CIA officer who had worked undercover, have been told that Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove, and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, were especially intent on undercutting Wilson's credibility, according to a person familiar with the inquiry.

While lower-level White House staff members typically handle most contacts with the media, Rove and Libby began personally communicating with reporters about Wilson, prosecutors were told.

A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove responded: "He's a Democrat."

So therefore he had to be lying about yellowcake, right? Right?

As it happens, Joe Wilson was telling the truth. But it was a truth inconvenient for God's Own Party and the war they lusted for. So to attack Wilson, they "outed" his wife - and all of her contacts in foreign countries, some of whom are now presumably dead. But what are a few deaths to the Repugs. They seem to thrive on it.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Our "Friends"

I hope the liberals who have been claiming that China's attempt to buy Unocal is "not a problem" read this:

"If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," the official, Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu, said at an official briefing.

General Zhu, considered a hawk, stressed that his comments reflected his personal views and not official policy. Beijing has long insisted that it will not initiate the use of nuclear weapons in any conflict.

But in extensive comments to a visiting delegation of correspondents based in Hong Kong, General Zhu said he believed that the Chinese government was under internal pressure to change its "no first use" policy and to make clear that it would employ the most powerful weapons at its disposal to defend its claim over Taiwan.

"War logic" dictates that a weaker power needs to use maximum efforts to defeat a stronger rival, he said, speaking in fluent English. "We have no capability to fight a conventional war against the United States," General Zhu said. "We can't win this kind of war."

Whether or not the comments signal a shift in Chinese policy, they come at a sensitive time in relations between China and the United States.

The Pentagon is preparing the release of a long-delayed report on the Chinese military that some experts say will warn that China could emerge as a strategic rival to the United States. National security concerns have also been a major issue in the $18.5 billion bid by Cnooc Ltd., a major Chinese oil and gas company, to purchase the Unocal Corporation, the American energy concern.

They're not our friends. We're fooling ourselves to think they are. And totally revamping our military to concentrate exclusively on terrorism is just stupid.

More Truth from Krugman

Paul Krugman unveils an important truth in his column today:

What Mr. Rove understood, long before the rest of us, is that we're not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern.

Indeed, and it's incredibly creepy to see people one would expect to be reasonably intelligent line up to quack along with the Repug duckspeakers. These are people who are quite ready to agree that if the party says so, two and two do indeed add up to five. When something is proven false - the WMD claims that Dubya used to incite the war against Iraq, for instance - they smoothly transition to the next Admin talking point and doublethink erases the previous one.

Evidently these people don't realize that they're behaving like disciples of Kim Jong Il. Or maybe they do and don't care. Reread Nineteen Eighty-Four, especially the scenes where O'Brien is torturing Winston Smith. There's a lot of truth about the modern Republican party to be found in Orwell's prescient work. Power is what interests them - nothing else.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Question

Has the CIA looked into what might have happened to Valerie Plame Wilson's contacts in foreign countries after she was "outed" at White House behest? My guess is that at least some of them ended up dead. An investigation is needed; it's possible the CIA may have already done this. If so, it needs to be made public.

It would certainly put all this in perspective if someone (or "someones") had ended up dead so Chimpy and Turdblossom could have their little revenge, wouldn't it?

Yes, He Is.

Mark Kleiman nails it:

The sad news is that the President of the United States is, not at all a fool, but rather an utterly unprincipled coward.

Well, yes. And he's always been one, skating through life supported by his father's friends. An underachieving bully in college, an entirely unsuccessful businessman, an unprincipled drunk, a rich boy who skipped Vietnam and then skipped out of much of his National Guard real life, George Bush would be flipping burgers, not running a country (into the ground, I might add). Without his enablers, that's precisely where he'd be.

Blade Wins Suit

My old hometown paper, the Toledo Blade, has been a bright star in the otherwise bland world of Ohio newspapers. Last year it won a richly deserved Pulitzer for its series on Tiger Force operations in Vietnam. Now it's leading the way blasting "Coingate" open:

Ruling in a lawsuit filed by The Blade, the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday ordered the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to release all transaction records from the $50 million rare-coin investment that Tom Noe controlled.

In a 5-2 decision, the high court rejected the state’s argument that the records — which show the sellers, dates, and purchase prices of coins in the state’s inventory — are “trade secrets” exempt from the Ohio Public Records Act.

The documents should be released immediately for public inspection, wrote Democratic Justice Alice Robie Resnick of Ottawa Hills for the majority.

Justice Paul Pfeifer, a Republican, added in a concurring opinion: “From the outset, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s ‘trade secret’ argument seemed more a delaying tactic than a legitimate legal issue.”

This is going to be good, I suspect. Once again, if the Democrats don't take this gift and run with it, they deserve to lose.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Eliminationist Rhetoric

When Repugs hear the truth, they get kind of freaked. Congressman Peter King of New York got so freaked by the recent Plamegate revelations that he wants to butcher the messengers:

And Joe Wilson has no right to complain. And I think people like Tim Russert and the others, who gave this guy such a free ride and all the media, they're the ones to be shot, not Karl Rove.

Listen, maybe Karl Rove was not perfect. We live in an imperfect world. And I give him credit for having the guts.

Someone needs to start bringing charges against these bastards.

The Enemy Within

European Muslims have a stark choice: deal with their junior jihadis themselves or face the consequences. The Problem: the murderer of Theo Van Gogh:

"I did it out of conviction," he said. "If I ever get free, I would do it again."

At one point he turned in his chair and spoke to Anneke Van Gogh, the victim's mother, who was in the public gallery. "I don't feel your pain," he said. "I don't have any sympathy for you. I can't feel for you because I think you're a non-believer."

The Solution: British Muslim Labour MP Shahid Malik:

"The challenge is straightforward - that those voices that we have we tolerated will no longer be tolerated, whether they be on the streets, in the schools, in the youth clubs, in a mosque, in a corner, in a house.

"We need to go beyond condemning - we need to confront."

Indeed. An enemy within is a problem best solved from within. Let's hope the wise words of MP Malik are widely heard.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Norquist Watch

What's Grover up to as his buddy Karl Rove goes down?

1. He's complaining that South Carolina (gasp!) spends money:

...South Carolina increased spending more than any other state in the country for the time period of 1998 - 2002, as a percentage of the state's economy.

"South Carolina residents should be shocked that their state government spent more money than California's recalled Governor Gray Davis and left wing Vermont Governor Howard Dean," said Grover Norquist, president of ATR. "Even worst, the sharp rise in state spending came while the economy was in an economic downturn and tax revenues were slumping. This fiscal irresponsibility placed South Carolina taxpayers at a huge risk for future tax increases."

2. He's kissing up to right wing grape-juice "Christians:"

The Christian opposition to eminent domain shows how the often opposed religious and limited-government wings of the conservative movement have come together for the expected court fight. At a moment when the White House is urging its Christian allies to tone down their talk about abortion, school prayer or other cultural issues, others in the movement applauded their Christian counterparts for pulling together.

“If you are Jerry Falwell, it is probably wise to spend some of your time reminding the head of the Chamber of Commerce why he and you are on the same team,” said Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and a strategist close to the administration.

3. He's kissing up to a right-wing rabbi:

For evangelicals who are used to reading about Jews as God's chosen people, Lapin solves an essential mystery: "A lot of people are surprised when they leave church and encounter essentially Dershowitz Judaism, Jews who are liberal," says conservative activist Grover Norquist, who is also a friend. "Lapin is the opposite of that."

For conservatives searching for biblical foundations for their political positions, Lapin is validation from the original source. His specialty is finding support in the Torah for what turns out to be the current Republican platform: lower taxes, decreased regulation, pro-traditional family policies.

"The principles of the Republican Party and the convictions of our president more closely parallel the moral vision of the God of Abraham than those of anyone else," Lapin said at the dinner with Bush, hosted by Ralph Reed.

Note to Grover: Jews don't go to "church." They attend synagogue.

4. Llewellyn King is making fun of him:

When it comes to Grover Norquist, the man is inspired. Who else without office could reveal an entirely new concept for the nation: governance without taxation? I have unfairly accused him of taking corporate dollars and playing to the greed of the moguls. No, no. After counseling, I see plainly that a great nation in debt is a great nation triumphant.

It is abysmally low of me to suggest that the United States is becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Asian financiers because of Norquist's philosophy. It is brilliant that we can leverage the world's lenders to keep ourselves afloat. Right on, Grover!

Yick. Watching Grover so you don't have to. It's an ugly job.

Monday, July 11, 2005

What, the White House Lie?

Of course the spin machine was going full blast at the White House press briefing today, so much so that you could have powered all of Washington had you wound some copper wire around it. A few bits:

QUESTION: Does the president stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in a leak of the name of a CIA operative?

MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked related to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point.

And as I’ve previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it.

The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation. And as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren’t going to comment on it while it is ongoing.

QUESTION: I actually wasn’t talking about any investigation.

But in June of 2004, the president said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak to the press about information. I just wanted to know: Is that still his position?

MCCLELLAN: Yes, but this question is coming up in the context of this ongoing investigation, and that’s why I said that our policy continues to be that we’re not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium.

The prosecutors overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference to us that one way to help the investigation is not to be commenting on it from this podium.

And so that’s why we are not going to get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation — or questions related to it.

Is it just me or is Scotty babbling? Probably thinking Shit, I wish GANNON was out there!

QUESTION: Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003, when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliot Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, I’ve gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this ?

QUESTION: Do you stand by that statement?

MCCLELLAN: And if you will recall, I said that, as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation, we’re not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time as well.

QUESTION: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you’re going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you’ve decided not to talk.
You’ve got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?

MCCLELLAN: I’m well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation…

QUESTION: (inaudible) when it’s appropriate and when it’s inappropriate?

MCCLELLAN: If you’ll let me finish.

QUESTION: No, you’re not finishing. You’re not saying anything.
You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson’s wife. So don’t you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn’t he?

MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

Blah blah blah, ad infinitem.

Probably there's a cell waiting for Scotty too.

Repug Whining Redux

They're back, the whining, crying, squalling, wetting themselves Repugs. If you're a Repug, it's OK - fun, in fact - to call Hillary Clinton a bitch, a whore, a closet lesbian - you name the filth that has poured from the Repug slime machine. But when Hillary utters a painful truth about the mindless lay figure in the White House, it's Katy bar the door:

"I sometimes feel that Alfred E. Neuman is in charge in Washington," Clinton said during the inaugural Aspen Ideas Festival, organized by the Aspen Institute, a non-partisan think tank.

The former first lady drew a laugh from the crowd when she described Bush's attitude toward tough issues with Neuman's catch phrase: "What, me worry?"

It wasn't the first time that Clinton had likened Bush to the Mad kid. In April, she told New York Daily News reporters and editors, "We're in a very dangerous fiscal situation, and this administration is Alfred E. Neuman -- what, me worry?"

Note that in April, the Repugs said nothing. But with Karl Rove's obvious complicity in treason, the noise machine has to be kicked into action to drown the incipient scandal.

This time, thank God, I don't think it's going to work. I think Karl Rove, one of the two most dangerous men in the United States - the other is Grover Norquist - is going down.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Who "Souvenired" Laurel Clark's Jewelry?

Last week I mentioned that NASA does not appear to be coming entirely clean about the loss of Columbia. This week, it gets uglier:

Dr. Clark said he learned from a friend who was involved in the autopsy of his wife that a gold post earring was found on her ear, and as soon as he learned of it, he tried furiously to find out how to get it back, but was told by NASA officials it had been lost, he said. Then he heard they had found a ring on her finger - her left hand and forearm had been torn apart in the accident - but it was another item Dr. Clark tried to find and did not recover.

Jon Clark is writing a book. One suspects it's not going to be pro-NASA. This time NASA may not be able to paste a happy face on a disaster.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Swords into Plowshares

Keith Cowing of NASAWatch remembers the last time London was terrorized:

Yesterday morning, as I listened, half asleep, to the names of the London Underground stations that were hit by the terrorist attack, I suddenly froze when they named one station in particular: Aldgate East. Two years ago, when I was in London, I got off at that station and wandered around the immediate neighborhood. I was trying to locate any remaining indications (alas, none found) of the site of a V-2 impact in spring 1945. You see, my father was billeted nearby when the rocket hit.
A decade or so ago, during a visit by my parents to Washington, I showed my Dad the V-2 on display at the National Air and Space Museum. He was surprised at how small and harmless it seemed. The irony was not lost on him that his son worked on things - and knew people - who would fly on rockets of exploration that could trace a direct lineage to this weapon of terror - one that could have easily killed him.

I am at a loss, however, to see how today's terrorist weapons - their swords - will ever be pounded into plowshares as was the V-2.

Indeed, and well said.


Meanwhile, the investigation continues, and early indications are that the bombers used timers, not cellphones as were used at Madrid; the bombs appearently contained about 10 pounds of high explosives. More here.

Cheap Shot

I have to admit I took a cheap shot yesterday at blaming the London terror attacks on Blair's support of the Iraq war. We are dealing, after all, with people who hate and despise us, our way of life, our religion or lack of it, and our connections. Those who believe in multiculturalism forget that the first necessary element of a multicultural society is toleration, and radical Islam tolerates nothing.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Expect Arrests Soon

I believe we can expect arrests very quickly in the London bombings; security cameras are ubiquitous in London and the security services efficient.

Random thought: it's funny that the same people who tar all Christians with the broad brush of loony tune fundamentalism are warning everyone to be tolerant of Muslims today. Hm.

Shiites Creating a Taliban Paradise in Iraq

For all those who hoped a democratic Iraq would somehow arise from the ashes of Saddam's horrors, here's a little bit of a correction from Basra:

Ahmed Ali walked through a shop that sold musical instruments before it was gutted by a bombing a week earlier, the latest in a series of mysterious attacks in this narrow alley in the last half-year, he said. The men here, just a block from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, sell instruments by day and perform at weddings in the evening.

"They say it's forbidden by Islam," Mr. Ali, 18, said as he went back to his own shop, its shelves stocked with drums. "We're afraid of everything. I'm afraid of it all. I'm afraid even when I'm talking to you."

The once libertine oil port of Basra, 350 miles south of the capital and far from the insurgency raging in much of Iraq, is steadily being transformed into a mini-theocracy under Shiite rule. There is perhaps no better indication of the possible flash points in a Shiite-dominated Iraq, because the political parties that hold sway here also wield significant influence in the central government in Baghdad and are backed by the country's top clerics.

Civil war is the least we can expect. It's not impossible we'll see a large bloq of Shiite Iraq joined to Iran, whether officially or unofficially. And then, the Iraqis WILL have weapons of mass destruction. Good job, Dubya!

Paying the Price

It appears that innocent people have paid the price for Tony Blair being George Bush's stooge and possibly for Europe's tolerance of extremist Islam in its midst as multiple bombings struck London transport this morning. Early accounts are confused and I suspect the casualty total will rise. Here are a few early links:

Accounts from witnesses here.

BBC report here.

CNN here.

Barbarism everywhere.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Norquist Watch

Ari Berman of The Nation argues that Democrats should get off their duffs and turn corrupt barf-bag collector Grover Norquist into, as he puts it, "a household name." Indeed, he's a perfect poster boy for Repub corruption:

Grover Norquist is known as a brilliantly effective strategist and ideologue, a Reagan Revolutionary who more than anyone deserves credit for turning Washington, DC into a one-party town. From his perch at Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), his weekly Wednesday meetings with conservative activists and his ruthlessly successful K Street Project, Norquist has created a new Republican political establishment. A Nation profile of Norquist in 2001 dubbed him "the managing director of the hard-core right in Washington." Norquist has been the go-to-guy on virtually every right-wing priority, from tax cuts to Social Security privatization, holding the GOP's big business and Christian conservative constituencies together.

Now, the man who once bragged of wanting to "cut government in half" and "drown it in the bathtub" is up to his neck in hot water because of ties to uberlobbyist Jack Abramoff. Newly released emails from the Senate Indian Affairs Committee confirm Norquist's role in helping Abramoff milk millions from Indian tribes, in one of the most extravagant corruption scandals to reach the Capitol in decades.

Over the course of several years, Abramoff and fellow lobbyist Michael Scanlon charged the Choctaw Indian Tribe of Mississippi $7.7 million for lobbying services directed against rival gambling opportunities in neighboring Alabama. In 1999, Norquist approached Abramoff about getting involved, citing "a $75k hole in my budget from last year." The Choctaws gave ATR $1.5 million, which Norquist funneled to the Alabama Christian Coalition and Citizens Against Legalized Lottery, both of whom opposed a proposal to create a state lottery. Neither group was allowed to accept casino money, so Norquist, with the help of former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, kept the money's source secret. The state lottery and video poker machine initiatives were defeated in 1999 and 2000. Norquist subsequently invited tribal groups to meet Bush at the White House for discussions on tax policy.

John McCain's assistant Mark Salter comments dryly:

"There's never been a shortage of blowhards and bores in this town," says McCain assistant Mark Salter. "I'm sure Grover is comfortable in their crowded ranks, but that hardly merits the attention he craves...Most Reagan revolutionaries came to Washington to do something more patriotic than rip off Indian tribes."

No kidding. Here's Barf Bag Boy on McCain:

...conservative ideologue Grover Norquist recently termed Republican Sen. John McCain "the nutjob from Arizona." When called on it, Norquist noted he didn't go far enough, adding: "I meant to say gun-grabbing, tax-increasing Bolshevik."

Uh, right. Meanwhile, Grover's tactics are being adopted by the lunatic Gropenfuhrer in California. This is one of the best exposes of what the Repugs are up to that I've seen, so it bears close attention:

Now the public sector and public sector unions were enemy number one for the governor whose "reform" agenda is taken right out of the playbook of the likes of Bush Administration confidante and anti-government zealot Grover Norquist, whose agenda has long been the radical dismantling of the public sector, the destruction of the power of public sector unions, and the elimination of the collective power of public pension funds to check corporate abuses. When Norquist advised Republicans nationwide to turn state capitals into battlegrounds, he was articulating a strategy that reveals the ultimate goal of the Right -- to fundamentally and permanently reshape American political and economic life on the national, state and local level.

When the Governor pulled his pension reform after botching the first attempt, only naïve observers thought that was the end of his assault on California workers. Now, he and his corporate allies are back with a special election designed to bust unions' political clout this November and he has announced his intention to take a second shot at busting the pension system in June 2006. It's all part of the master plan.

This is not a conspiracy theory. In his September 2004 article for the Washington Monthly, "The Democratic Party Is Toast," Norquist quite overtly argued that the Democratic Party could not survive a second Bush term and that the key to eviscerating the opposition, which he calls "the Dependency movement," composed of "the coercive utopians -- the radical environmentalists, animal rights activists, feminists" as well as "government workers," "middle managers in state and federal government," "local government" and especially "labor unions," was to starve the beast.

For Norquist, the attack on government is an end in itself and his shrewd Machiavellian logic is simply that eliminating government will eliminate Democrats and unions. As he puts it, "Every worker who doesn't join a union is another worker who doesn't pay $500 a year to organized labor's political machine."

If you are not a union worker or supporter of unions, all-the-better, for it will be just that much easier to eliminate or privatize your position. As for pensions, the more one transfers the risk of retirement savings from the government to individual workers, the more Republicans you create. In Norquist's estimation, "Every demographic group, including race, gender, age and income, becomes more Republican with stock ownership." The goal of eliminating Social Security or the State Teachers Retirement System is not economic reform for the public good; it is a purely ideological move designed to consolidate and increase right-wing hegemony. Hence, like it or not, Democrat or Republican, public sector workers are all in the crosshairs of the coercive market utopians who see them, whether they be teachers, nurses, cops, firefighters, food service workers, office workers or any other "public servant" (remember that quaint notion) as public enemy number one in need of a good dose of social Darwinism.
Like Norquist, the Reason Foundation folks -- the men behind the curtain for the governor -- seek an anti-bureaucratic revolution that moves toward "market-based government" based on the same principles that brought California the marketplace utopia of energy deregulation. Unfazed by such failures or the larger lessons of United States history before the New Deal and Progressive Era reforms, the libertarian right maintains a rigid ideological faith that the golden era of the past, before big government, was better for everyone from the Robber Barons to child laborers and the majority of Americans who never went to college and spent their old age in wholesome poverty free from the burden of government handouts.

Such notions would be laughable if they weren't driving Schwarzenegger's efforts at "reform" in the name of "the people." Sadly, the Governor's reform crusade borrows its rhetoric from an earlier era when Gov. Hiram Johnson favored big government as a buffer against the excesses of corporate greed and abuse. As historian and political writer Peter Schrag has pointed out, California's first progressive Republican reformers would find the current brand of pseudo-populist grandstanding to be inconceivable. Even less-ancient conservative notions such as deficit reduction have been thrown overboard by the corporate anarchists running the show today. Indeed, as we ponder the fact that despite massive borrowing via ballot measures, the Schwarzenegger deficit is now larger than the Davis deficit, it becomes clear that deficits are not altogether unwelcome for these reformers. By refusing to ever address the problem by bringing in new revenues, the governor and state Republicans are showing their hand.

As the Democratic Leadership Council's Vice President for Policy Ed Kilgore has noted of the New Right's affection for debt, no tax pledges and debt are "good in themselves because they will ultimately force a shrinkage in government -- without the pain or controversy of identifying specific cuts in popular government programs." Hence, by refusing to even consider increasing taxes on the wealthiest Californians or corporations and by calling for the creation of an automatic trigger for budget cuts when expenses exceed revenues, the governor's plan would create a permanent scarcity model for state services. It would, quite effectively "starve the beast," as David Stockman once called the strategy, as privatization or elimination of services as well as the radical restructuring of existing programs and pension funds would become a necessity.
Gov. Schwarzenegger is not the moderate he plays on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno;" rather, he is a pretty front man for a radical agenda at odds with the interests and priorities of most Californians. As the dog and pony show in front of the Brinks trucks in San Diego illustrates, he is perfectly willing to demonize teachers and other state employees and call on Californians to terminate the "special interests." Arnold could care less if his "reform" agenda does nothing to address the budget deficit or that spending tens of millions on his special election is not favored by most Californians (61 percent oppose it).

The governor is not a populist, but rather a political thug with rich friends. When his party can't win the seats necessary to support his agenda and the polls show his popularity tanking with his job approval at an all time low 40 percent, his gut tells him to impose his will.

Grover is betting he's on the winning side, and the winning side for Grover is a kind of libertarian fascism, a paradise for the rich, an "ownership society" in which the rest of us are owned. He's a dangerous man. He needs to be treated as such.

It's London!

The 2012 Olympics will be a Union Jack-waving affair. I suspect the next Olympics in the US may not happen in our lifetimes...can't imagine why....

My Good Deed

I was able to rescue a lost dog and return him to his home last night. Evidently an escape artist, he got out wearing only his chain collar with no tags, but I vaguely remembered seeing a dog like him several blocks from home, and thankfully when I walked him that way his people were on the porch fretting over how to find him and spotted me.

Please, get your dog an ID tag. Have one made for each of his collars if he has more than one. Thank God I got Rocky home; it might not have ended so well.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Rum Dum Must Be Kept Safer Than Troops!

Soldiers for the Truth is understandably amazed that when Rum Dum comes to town - Baghdad, that is - he gets a huge armored vehicle to ride around in. They're just as amazed that contractors ride around in them. Meanwhile, our troops are still riding in those God-damned Humvees:

The vehicle, aptly called the Rhino Runner built by Labock Technologies Inc., is as armored and well-protected as the beast for which it is named. This vehicle, which costs $250,000 and more depending on features, will withstand a bomb blast and is fully protected to Type IV (NIJ standard), with armored sides, front, back, roof, floor, and even glass, against everything up to and including NATO calibers and armor-piercing projectiles like the infamous anti-armor .50 BMG sniper rifle employed by today's forces. The Rhino Runner also has significant protection from Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and suicide bombers.
While Rumsfeld and his buddies got to tour the safer parts of Iraq in this mobile bomb-shelter, the common grunts still have to traverse the Iraqi killing fields in lightly equipped Humvee death-traps that a well-placed pineapple fragmentation hand grenade could take out.

Don't get me wrong: No one begrudges Rumsfeld using a vehicle that significantly increases his safety and chances of survival. It's just that the grunts would like to enjoy such protection themselves.

Here is an example of what life could be like for our troops:

On Nov. 27, 2004, insurgents ambushed a convoy of three Rhino Runners making the five-mile trip from Baghdad to BIAP. The passengers included 17 military contractors and a driver. A BMW sedan loaded with approximately 250 pounds of explosives ran against the side of one of the Rhino Runners, then pulled out in between two of the Rhino Runners and the third vehicle. The driver detonated himself and the BMW vehicle no more than two meters from one of the Rhino Runners. The explosion left a crater nearly six feet wide and two feet deep with a blast felt over 300 feet away.

After the ensuing flames and smoke died down, it became clear that the explosion had hurt no one in the convoy except for several instances of blown-out eardrums.

One wonders, does one not? Where are all the excess M-113s? Obsolete, yes, but better than a Humvee, and sitting by the thousands in vehicle dumps in the US. How about modifying obsolete tank chassis into urban fighting vehicles like the Israelis do? Nope. And the dumps are full of old M-48 and M-60 MBTs.

Cannon fodder, that's what you are...unless you're the SecDef, or a contractor making $100,000, or a Repug radio announcer going over to spout propaganda.


The South Won't Rise

The South won't rise ever, until it realizes that pig ignorance isn't an option. SKB picked this up from one of his readers:

Ontario workers are well-trained.

That simple explanation was cited as a main reason why Toyota turned its back on hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies offered from several American states in favour of building a second Ontario plant.

Industry experts say Ontarians are easier and cheaper to train - helping make it more cost-efficient to train workers when the new Woodstock plant opens in 2008, 40 kilometres away from its skilled workforce in Cambridge.

"The level of the workforce in general is so high that the training program you need for people, even for people who have not worked in a Toyota plant before, is minimal compared to what you have to go through in the southeastern United States," said Gerry Fedchun, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, whose members will see increased business with the new plant.
...Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

"The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario," Fedchun said.

Translation: Toyota will take smart Canadians (with government health insurance) over illiterate red state white trash any day. I would not be greatly surprised to see other companies take this option in the coming months and years.

Work 'til You Die

Kevin Drum had a post yesterday about the differences between European and American work habits. Americans are stupidly willing to slave 50-52 weeks a year, 40 + hours a week for ingrates who fritter away or steal their pension money, while Europeans work closer to 48 weeks a year and 35-40 hours a week and have a wide array of benefits guaranteed by the state, not by Mr. Burns of The Simpsons. Read the post, and then check out the spirited comments, especially from the couple of wingnuts who showed up. There evidently are a lot of nitwits and cretins out there who fully believe that your vacation is stealing from the company. With the added demands on working ever more hours and the gradual disappearance of pension benefits (coupled with Repug attacks on Social Security), it's pretty clear that the right wing wants us back where they had us a hundred years ago - you work until you die, seven days a week, sixteen hours a day, while the rentier class lives in luxury above you.

Not a model for a democracy. Not very Christian, either.

Monday, July 04, 2005

This is Odd

As we await the scheduled launch of Discovery, astronaut Dr. Jon Clark, who lost his wife Laurel aboard Columbia, has been studying what can be done to prevent another such disaster and improve astronaut safety. But something he says in this article in the Washington Post is rather odd:

...Clark and a team of injury-analysis experts spent several days in February sifting through the Columbia wreckage that's stored at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. They studied what was left of the crew cabin, where Laurel Clark and her six fellow astronauts sat during their catastrophic re-entry two years earlier almost to the day.

Clark says the emotional part of going through the wreckage was overcome by the importance of the job.

"Did the crew perform switch throws that might have made it worse? There are things about that that may actually have been the case," he says. "Do you want to tell the next crew that if they're in a horrible loss situation in the shuttle, to do this or not do that?" (my emphasis)

Once the CAIB report was published, NASA shut down providing information about the loss of Columbia to the public, even though many of the reports included with the main CAIB document in fact contained mentions that they were not final reports and that work was continuing. For one thing, bits of wreckage have been recovered since - including the escape hatch from the top of the crew compartment which appears to have separated from the orbiter in one piece. Did someone hit the wrong switch? And why does the NASA report on crew survivability claim that none of the crew closed their helmet visors? Surely that would be the first thing to do in an emergency at this altitude. Seems to me some FOIA requests need to be made.

Fond Moment Approaching

Well, it's looking like former ambassador Joe Wilson is about to get the moment he's dreamed of for two years; seeing Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. Something we should all look forward to, indeed.

Friday, July 01, 2005

This Bothers Me

Well, a lot of things do, obviously, but one thing I find really frightening is the current push on the left for an "exit date" from Iraq. Is there anyone out there smart enough to realize that we are setting ourselves up to become the fall guys for a "stab in the back" theory? If you don't know the history of that, you need to read Richard Evans' The Coming of the Third Reich, the first volume of his magisterial new history of Nazi Germany. Read it, and shiver.

Please, everyone. Stop pushing for an exit date. That's unrealistic and stupid and in the long run damnably dangerous.

Hearts and Minds

Soldiers for the Truth is a pretty conservative site, as you'd expect. So when William Lind, Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism, says this:

If other American units in Iraq could learn from cops like Lt. Waters how to de-escalate on the local, tactical level, and we could combine that with de-escalation on the strategic level through a deal with Ba'athist insurgents, we might still be able to avoid outright defeat.

Given the consequences of earlier errors such as disbanding the Iraqi army, that is as close to victory as we can now realistically hope to come.'s pretty serious for Bushco. The entire article is extremely interesting and tells how one Army unit led by a cop from Sacramento are slowly but surely making peace in their neck of the woods using police-type tactics:

"When the patrol (in Humvees) passes a busy street, Lieutenant Waters . . . tells his men to get out and start walking. As the foot patrol makes its way through the streets, an old Shiite woman in a black hejab invites Waters into her house. At the threshold, Waters politely waits.

"'I don't want to track the dirt from the street into your house,' he tells her .... Waters is trying to gain the trust of this tense district, where the US has previously been regarded with hatred and suspicion ....

After long months in this sector of Baghdad, Waters's company has not killed anyone nor has it lost a single soldier.

"'We are not killing machines; we are men,' Waters explains. 'I think if we can deal with the separation from our families, and not become hardhearted, we might just be able to leave here changed in a positive way.'

"'It's just like the Hippocratic oath,' he says. 'First, do no harm.'"

Amen! And for Lt. Waters and his soldiers - and, importantly, the civilians in their area - it's working. As Lind aptly points out:

He is dealing with the people of Baghdad the same way he deals with the people back home, politely and with a genuine desire to help. His unit has not killed anyone because Lt. Waters knows that cops succeed by de-escalating, not by escalating violence. Cops try very hard not to kill people. In fact, cops don't want to fight at all.

Just as having soldiers who want to fight is important in Second and Third Generation war, so not wanting to fight is key to success in the Fourth Generation. Any fight, whether won or lost, ultimately works against an outside power that is trying to damp down a Fourth Generation conflict.

Fighting ramps up disorder, and Fourth Generation entities thrive on disorder. Disorder undermines the local government's legitimacy, because disorder proves that government cannot provide security. Fighting usually means that locals get killed, and when that happens, the relatives and friends of the casualties are then obliged to join the fight to get revenge. Violence escalates, when success requires de-escalation.

Again, cops know all this. Here we see another lesson for 4GW: Reserve and National Guard units are more valuable than regular troops. Why? Because they contain a lot of cops. Lt. Waters is not the only cop who has succeeded in Iraq. Other Guard and Reserve units have let their cops take the lead, working the same way they do back home to de-escalate violence and bring security.

And security is what Iraqi civilians crave. All that the vast majority of them want to do is live their lives peaceably, the same as most of us.

Even so, what's worrisome is that Lind believes that these tactics cannot bring victory. All they can do is stave off "outright defeat." Is Rumsfeld listening? We know the Shrub isn't.

Minnesota Learns to "Love" Repugs

Minnesota's Republican governor and Repug-majority legislature are teaching Minnesotans just what Repugs in power lead to:

Minnesota's government shut down Friday for the first time in state history after lawmakers failed to pass a temporary spending plan and left 9,000 employees jobless and highway rest stops unattended for the July Fourth weekend.

The shutdown came at midnight after lawmakers failed late Thursday to pass a temporary spending plan to keep the government up and running.

Repugs, of course, blame Democrats:

The governor said Democrats wanted a government shutdown to embarrass him in the run-up to his 2006 re-election campaign.

''The Democrats turned and left tonight when Minnesota needed them most,'' Pawlenty said at a late-evening news conference.

Dean Johnson, leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, said the sides had whittled the gap to less than $200 million in a two-year, $30 billion budget. But with the new fiscal year looming Friday, lawmakers remained deadlocked over issues including school funding and health care for the poor.

Ah, Repug favorites! School funding and health care for the poor. Perish the thought that the rich might be required to spend a tiny percentage of their often ill-gotten gain on helping the losers in our "winner take all" economy.

Like the Ohio coin scandal, this is a gift. If Democrats don't run with it, they deserve to fail.

I'm Tired of These People

Repugs continue their efforts to warp history at, of all places, the Lincoln Memorial:

The marble memorial to Lincoln, the first Republican president, draws more than 4 million visitors a year. Many stop at a first-floor exhibit to see an eight-minute video that showcases Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, presidential visits and glimpses of dozens of protest marches at the memorial on the National Mall.

Park Service documents, released recently under the Freedom of Information Act to two liberal advocacy groups, show the agency moved quickly to assuage conservatives’ ire.

The service bought footage of President Bush, pro-gun demonstrations and pro-Iraq war rallies and even considered cutting out a section showing former President Clinton, a Democrat.

What a bloody pestilence these people have become.