Friday, April 28, 2006

POLITICS - Another Assault On Individual Religious Freedom

Religion and religious practice is an individual's right, not the right of the majority to impose on individuals.

Senator Byrd (D-W. Va.) is sponsoring another assault on individual religious rights by proposing a Constitutional Amendment.

Nothing in this Constitution, including any amendment to this Constitution, shall be construed to prohibit voluntary prayer or require prayer in public school, or to prohibit voluntary prayer or require prayer at a public school extracurricular activity.

This is based on the lie from the Religious-Right that prayer is banned from schools. Prayer is, and never has been, banned from schools.

What is banned is:

  • Prayer led by a public school official
  • Prayer led by anyone that does not easily give the right to of individuals not to participate

"Byrd proposes constitutional prayer amendment again" by Justin D. Anderson, Charleston Daily Mail

The senior senator's office said today that Byrd believes the nation's courts in their rulings pay too much attention to the clause in the First Amendment that says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," and disregards the second part about "prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."

This ignores the right of individuals not to participate when prayer is led by students or non-officials in a setting like a classroom, mandatory assemblies, via a public announcing system, etc.

Where an individual cannot easily exercise his/her right not to participate as part of "free exercise thereof."

Byrd and the Religious-Right recognize only one "right," the right of a Christian majority to force individuals to participate in Christian practices indoctrination.

In schools today, all through America, students regularly hold private religious meetings, hold group private prayer, read the Bible (gosh... the ACLU protected this one on more than one occasion). The key word here is private.

MILITARY - The Truly Unbelievable

"Wounded Soldiers Fight Off Bill Collectors at Home" by Brain Ross, ABC News

Army specialist Tyson Johnson of Mobile, Ala., had just been promoted in a field ceremony in Iraq when a mortar round exploded outside his tent, almost killing him.

"It took my kidney, my left kidney, shrapnel came in through my head, back of my head," he recounted.

His injuries forced him out of the military, and the Army demanded he repay an enlistment bonus of $2,700 because he'd only served two-thirds of his three-year tour.

When he couldn't pay, Johnson's account was turned over to bill collectors. He ended up living out of his car when the Army reported him to credit agencies as having bad debts, making it impossible for him to rent an apartment.

"Oh, man, I felt betrayed," Johnson said. "I felt like, oh, my heart dropped."

And this is just the first example in the ABC article.

I mean, can you believe this! DOD bureaucracy in action. A real example of "supporting our troops." Tyson was not just betrayed, he was back-stabbed.

Thanks to Mike V's blog "Live: from San Diego" for bringing this to my attention.

POLITICS - Lets All Celebrate! - Help Paying At the Pump

YAH! Hip, hip, hooray! Jump for joy! The Republicans are finally going to give the "little guy" break paying for our gas, a $100 rebate.

Yap, that will almost pay my monthly auto-gas bill.

What hypocrites!

Read more: "Oil Profits Soar With Pump Prices" CBS News

POLITICS - Rove In A jumpsuit?

And I don't mean a parachute or jogging jumpsuit. I mean the orange jumpsuit with DCC in big bold letters on the back (Department of Correctional Custody).

"MSNBC reports Rove believes he is in legal jeopardy" in Raw Story

Karl Rove has described his three and a half hour meeting with a grand jury as grueling, and is more worried about being prosecuted than ever, MSNBC is reporting.

Raw Story has also learned that an MSNBC report tonight revealed that one of Rove's lawyers said the presidential adviser described his fifth grand jury appearance as "hell." MSNBC's David Shuster appeared live on Keith Olbermann's 8pm show this evening and stated that Rove was surprised by the tone of the questions as well as the length of time he was required to testify.

The three and a half hour duration is considered highly unusual for a fifth appearance before a grand jury, Shuster reported. Also not boding well for Rove is the fact that the grand jury plans to meet tomorrow. Some are speculating that an indictment for Rove may be handed up tomorrow, though others have claimed such a fast turnaround time is unlikely.

One MSNBC commentator claimed that the fifth appearance also ties the record held by Betty Currie, former President Bill Clinton's personal secretary.

The article includes a transcript of the MSNBC report.

If this indictment happens I, among many others, will throw a potential "going away" party and Rove would not be a guest. We then could historically place him next to that other guy, you know, Hitler's Propaganda Minister.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

CALIFORNIA - Prop 82, Do Not Take "Pro" or "Con" as Gospel

REF: California Secretary of State, Primary Voter Information part of the Elections & Voter Information page

First, I am not advocating for this proposition. How Californians vote is, of course, up to each voter.

Having said that, I note an example of misleading statements, like this one.....

From the Argument Against/Rebuttal to Argument Against PDF

When that happens or when tax revenues fall short, there’s a hidden provision in the fine print of Proposition 82 that allows the state to passes a fee on parents — a new “PARENT TAX.”

What is great about having all the Voter Information documents online in PDF format is that you can open the document and search for the keywords. After searching for terms like "parent tax," "tax," "revenue," etc., the only thing that applies is in Article 6 below.

Prop 82 text: Article 6. Funding, Sec 14132

(2) In the event of a Preschool for All funding emergency, as defined in subparagraph (1), the Legislature may not use General Fund revenues to fund this program; however, the Legislature may, by a vote and with approval by the Governor, for a single year, as permitted by subdivision (a) of Section 4 of Article IX of the California Constitution, institute a parent contribution.

Note the bold text above. Now you can decide if the Against statement is accurate. It is your call.

I do encourage voters in California, and all states, to use the Net to judge the truth of any side of a political argument. Do not take "pro" or "con" as gospel. You have the means to easily do your own research for the truth.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

FROM ANOTHER VIEW - Loving America

There is a personal story "Learning to Love America" by Nia Burleigh, AlterNet, that is poignant and begs serious questions about what America is becoming.

It is a story about the "New York hamlet of Narrowsburg" and her life there. Her life and her little boy's. Please read her article.

What type of questions does it raise? The atmosphere in a small American town and what we can take away from that, what we can learn. Do we want America to be what she experienced? Is today's politics poisoning the atmosphere and psychic of America?

POLITICS - "Anybody Out There" - No, Nobody Listening

"A deaf ear for America's concerns" by Jim Wright, Star-Telegram, 23 Apr 2006

Only 27 percent of Americans, by the latest accounting, think our national leadership is moving us in the right direction.

President Bush and his congressional followers sank last week to the lowest public approval levels they've registered in the five-plus years since Bush became president.

According to the most recent nationwide Gallup poll, the GOP-led Congress is more unpopular right now than the Democratic Congress was in 1994 when the public unseated the Democrats' 40-year House majority. Today, only 23 percent approve of the job that this Congress is doing. A thundering 70 percent disapprove!

Personnel shuffles won't change anything. That's razzle-dazzle. This goes deeper.

The conclusion seems inescapable: America's mythical "average" person believes that Bush and his GOP cohorts have habitually ignored the public's strongest concerns.

Jim then lists some specifics to support his contention.

The Republican Far-Right and their King Bush, act with a "frankly I don't give a damned" attitude when it comes to the "common man." They don't realize the protecting America is much more than just dealing with terrorism, and that is assuming belief that what we are doing on that score accomplishes that.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

ENVIRONMENT - Republicans Waking Up

"Bush Faces Growing Dissent From Republicans on Climate Change" by Kim Chipman , Bloomberg

Representative Bob Inglis, a South Carolina Republican, says he "pooh-poohed" global warming until he trekked to the South Pole in January.

"Now, I think we should be concerned,'' says Inglis, who heads the U.S. House Science Research subcommittee. "There are more and more Republicans willing to stop laughing at climate change who are ready to get serious about reclaiming their heritage as conservationists."

U.S. companies including General Electric Co. and Duke Energy Corp. have come out in support of national limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions that scientists say contribute to global warming. They are now being joined by Republican lawmakers who have parted company with President George W. Bush on the issue.

In addition to Inglis, who says he saw evidence of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere during his trip to Antarctica, the list includes Senators Pete Domenici of New Mexico, the chairman of the chamber's Energy Committee; Mike DeWine of Ohio; and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, as well as Representative Jim Leach of Iowa.

"Resistance to action on climate change is crumbling," says Reid Detchon, an Energy Department official under former President George H.W. Bush who is now head of energy and climate at the United Nations Foundation. "The business community has a number of prominent leaders arguing for action, and the science on climate change becomes clearer and more inescapable by the day."

At least, some Republicans are waking up from hibernation, so are companies that are now realizing that climate change could have a disastrous effect on business, and that any solution to mitigate the situation will take decades. The earlier we start the better. Note that the cause, while pertinent to finding solutions, should not be a political issue at this point. Mother Nature doesn't give a damn about politics.

Monday, April 24, 2006

POLITICS - Scared & Stupid

"That Guy. Yeah Him, the 9/11 Guy..." by Chris In Idaho, Bring It On!

The fall of Republicanism as a party of ideas, fiscal conservatism and limited government with the likes of Tom Delay and Rick Santorum at the helm is truly a scary moment in American politics. Gone is the delicate balance of two parties who both have the same intentions for this great country, just different means of attaining those goals. Now the Democratic Party and America herself is challenged by a party who looks to the Taliban for inspiration. The Religious Right and the Islamic Fundamentalist; allies in the war against Liberalism.

Scared, stupid and smiling George W. Bush wakes every morning not wondering about whether or not we’ve captured Osama Bin Laden, he’s not wondering if we lost any more American Soldiers while he was slumbering. He’s thinking about where he can bike that day. That Goddamn mountain bike of his. Mark my words; George W. Bush’s mountain bike will be the downfall of western civilization.

Osama is still out there either sitting on the beach somewhere or hiding in a cave in somewhere in the Middle East, Iraq is in shambles, the deficient is growing faster than I can type, but damnit, Georges heart rate resembles that of a 20 something track star. Thank God for that, I was almost worried.

Yes sir, General George is really gaining ground on bad ol' Osama. Any time now. "Check is in the mail." Just wait. Wait 2 more years at least.

What's the matter with you!?? The Republicans believe in General George and that's all the assurance America should need. Just ask them. You'll find them in their collective bed with the sheets pulled over their heads.

POLITICS - Al Qaeda Myth and Strategic Errors

"The Al Qaeda Myth" by Tom Porteous, TomPaine Common Sense
(slightly reformatted, numbering of paragraphs)

The recent revelations of the non-existent role of Al Qaeda in the London bombings and of the Pentagon's deliberate exaggeration of Al Qaeda's role in Iraq reinforce the argument that in their response to the threat of Al Qaeda (the so called "war on terror," or "Long War"), the United States and its allies are making strategic errors of monumental proportions.

  1. This war, as it is being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, is not principally fighting "Al Qaeda" but is creating and fighting new enemies: people who don't like being invaded, occupied and kicked around by foreigners and who are prepared to stand up and resist. These people may eventually become terrorists. But it will have been U.S. policies that created them. If Iran is next on the Pentagon's list, the same thing will happen there. To the extent that Israel is seen by the United States as pursuing its own war on terror in the Palestinian territories it occupies, it is happening in Gaza and the West Bank too.

  2. The Long War is a distraction from the real issues which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency in order to reduce conflict, violence and injustice in the region and thus to reduce the radicalization of a generation of angry and alienated Muslim youth at home and in the diasporas. These include: ending the Israeli occupation of occupied Palestinian territories through negotiation; pursuing peaceful nuclear reduction throughout the region; and engaging seriously with political Islam. Talk of "democratization" without engaging with political Islam is nonsense.

  3. On the grounds that it is fighting a "just war," the United States and its allies have justified using levels of violence, coercion and repression—including torture, collective punishment and the killing of large numbers of civilians—which are not only of questionable tactical efficacy, but have led to a collapse of U.S. prestige in a part of the world where it has long been seen as a necessary protector, stabilizer and arbiter.

If you agree with the his assessment, as I do, then you must question G.W.'s Administration assessment on everything, domestic and international. If they made such a far reaching strategic blunders, can we trust them on anything else? Should we trust them? I think not.

Friday, April 21, 2006

POLITICS - Christian Nation Movement

"The Christian Nation Movement and the Alabama-ban" by Bennet Kelley, Huffington Post

Christian nation advocates should leave their red state cocoon and stand on the banks of the Providence River. For this is where Roger Williams, who had been banished from Massachusetts by the Puritans for his religious views, founded the colony of Rhode Island in 1636 based on his vision that there should be a "wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the world,'" and that religious freedom must extend to all and not just Christians. As a result of Williams' vision, Rhode Island became known as "the safest refuge of conscience" and home to the New World's first Baptist Church and synagogue.

The seed sown by Williams ultimately blossomed into the First Amendment, which in the words of Thomas Jefferson prohibits Congress from enacting any "law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state." While it is true that the actual phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the First Amendment, the concept was invoked by the First Amendment's author, James Madison, who explained that "[t]he purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries." The Founders also addressed the Christian nation question in the Treaty of Tripoli, signed under President Washington and ratified under President Adams, which states that "the Government of the United States of Americais not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

The the spirit of fair disclosure, I'm a true Agnostic.

Our Founding-Fathers had an overriding concern, individual human rights. It's there in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and the writings of our Founding-Fathers.

They had the experience from our "Motherland" of, not only kings, but of religious persecution. "The Inquisition" ring a bell? Want to be burned at the stake for being Protestant in a "Catholic Nation" or a Muslim in a "Christian Nation?"

That is why there is a wall of separation between any church and our state. Government, at any level, shall not be in the business of promoting and single religion or religious practice. Our government is to protect the right of individual religious practice.

Religion and religious practice is an individual right, not a right of the majority to impose on others. That means the Christian-Right "Christian Nation Movement" does not have the right to impose their Christian religion and practices on anyone; not you, not me, not the neighbor next door.

Our Founding-Fathers did not want to repeat the mistakes of our Homeland. The "Christian Nation Movement" is nothing short of a direct assault on our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

POLITICS - The Enemy Really IS Us

"The Enemy Really IS Us" by Stephen P. Pizzo, News for Real, entire text with no comment

Say hello to the America's account deficit. And it's gonna get you.

Not scared? Well, outta be. Because, under Bush, this little puppy has grown into a pit bull, and now it's right at our neck.

What is it?
The best way to understand it is to imagine that the nations of the world are companies that do business amongst themselves. They do so much business that rather than exchange cash with each transaction, they keep a record of credits and debits. Some companies sell more than they buy so they have a positive account balance. Others buy more than they sell, so they they have an account deficit. Ideally, over time, it should all balance out. Ideally.

But it doesn't. Countries with cockeyed fiscal policies almost always run account deficits. And, in order to keep doing business those countries run up a tab with the other countries.In other words, they borrow the money they need to remain in the game. That tab is secured with IOUs -- in the case of nations bonds.

How Bad is It?
Bad. Really bad. And, getting worse. The US is currently running an annual account deficit with the rest of the word of over $800 billion a year, and rising. Soon it will be a trillion dollars a year. The US has become the world's unrivaled debtor nation. No other nation on earth is as deeply in hock as we are.

So What?
America, once the richest nation on earth, has become Blanche DuBois- living off the kindness of strangers. And, as strangers go, they get no stranger than some of America's largest creditors: Saudi Arabia, China, UAE.

  • Popquiz:
  • Question: What part of the world hates America the most right now? Answer:
    The Arab world. Duh.

And guess which nations have the biggest account balances? Middle East, Arab, oil producers. In 2002 those oil exporting nations had $400 billion in loose change rattling around in their account balance, account. In 2005 that had grown to $700 billion... almost as much as we will have to borrow this year. And with $70 a barrel oil, you can bet that by the end of this year those little buggers will have shoved a trillion extra bucks into their account, much of it compliments of America's drivers.

(Factoid: Americans are spending $212 million a day more for gas than they did last year. A DAY!)

Up until this year those strange strangers have been kind, lending us all the money our government needed to stay in business, by investing in dollar assets, particularly bonds. But they really don't like us -- any more than we like them. And, while we have no other option but to do business with them, they have other options. And they are beginning to exercise those options when it comes to where they stash their cash.

Until recently the US could be smug about this precarious marriage of convenience. After all, the US was the only economy in the world that was growing and offered a secure investment environment. Ah, but that's not so any longer. Japan is emerging from 15-year slump caused by their own fiscal and business bubble back in the 1980s. Unlike us, they've wised up, straightened out and are on the rebound. We, on the other hand, are about to reap the bitter harvest of America's second dalliance with supply-side VooDoo economics. Likewise, China has become the world's most attractive growth market ripe for foreign investment.

Which is why those strangers have suddenly become demonstrably less kind to us. According to a recent report by the US Treasury, in the 12 months ending this past January, oil-exporting nations invested less than $50 billion in US securities. During the same period last year they invested $100 billion.

How Serious is This?
Pretty damn serious.

  • "We (the US) need enormous amounts of capital inflows just to tread water." (Lewis Alexander, economist, CitiGroup.)

What Can we Do Now?
Once you get into as deep a hole as the Bushies have dug there's only one thing you can do - raise interest rates -- and keep raising them until US dollar investments become too attractive for foreigners to ignore.

This tactic, while postponing the inevitable, simply makes the inevitable more inevitable. By paying high interest to foreign investors even more dollars go "that-a-way," further ballooning our account deficit. And, as America's credit rating continues to plummet we are forced to raise rates higher and higher to mitigate the higher risk we've become. It's the Debt Death Spiral.

What's it to You?
Where do I begin? Housing costs skyrocket, utility companies must pay more to finance capital improvements and that gets added to your bill, credit card companies, already loan sharks whose rates would have made John Gotti blush, will raise rates even further. Which will force more consumers into bankruptcy, which will force credit card companies to raise rates higher yet to cover those loses - the consumer version of the Debt Death Spiral.

But the biggest impact will be on the American government itself. Our military strength today is financed with borrowed money. Our domestic infrastructure, roads, bridges, airports, seaports, increasingly depend on borrowed money to finance repairs and improvements. Every time Congress passes a highway bill, they paying for it with borrowed money. Every time.

If the account deficit were an approaching hurricane we'd be evacuating right now. If it were an enemy preparing to launch an attack, the President would have sounded general quarters, jets would be scrambled, the fleet dispatched to meet the enemy.

But listen....... what do you hear? Nothing. Silence. No preparations, no sense of alarm at all. Why? Could I be wrong about all that? Now that we're a free trading, open markets, cheap labor one-world economy, maybe the rules of business physics that have been repealed. (You know, like the dot-com boom in the 1990s repealed them.)

There's absolutely no sense of alarm at the Bush White House. They believe in miracles. They believe that, just as Christ divided the fish and loaves feeding hundreds from a single lunch bucket, that they can do the same. For unbelievers there's Keynesian economics. For the Bushites, it's faith-based economics. Real economic theory fills thousands of books, none with pictures. Faith-based economics is much simpler -- cut taxes on the rich and they will share. Simple indeed.

I can hear you now. "I've been reading this blog for almost two years now and you've been predicting that the end is near since the get-go. And the end has not materialized."

The trouble with this kind of trouble is that it is never preceded by marching bands. There will be no warning from Homeland Security. And right up to the day the shit hits the fan, TV talk shows will be filled with the noise of economists debating how many trillions of dollars can dance on the head of a pin.

No, this kind of trouble creeps up on nations. The Roaring Twenties in the US. Everyone was having such a good time no one asked the key question: "Is the activity fueling all this sustainable? Is this the real deal, or are we just jerking off? The answer arrived unannounced on a very ordinary morning in October 1929. The gay and carefree "Life is a Caberet" society of 1920's Germany was reduced to ashes by the wild fire of run away inflation.

  • "The many parallels between 1924 Germany and present-day United States are cause for concern. We have not yet reached the depths to which Germany descended in that era, but few can look at the constant depreciation of the dollar since the early 1970's and fail to be alarmed. It seems we differ from 1924 Germany only in the duration between cause and effect. While the German experience was compressed over a few short years, ours has been more protracted. I think this has occurred for two good reasons: First, American central bankers have learned enough from the German experience to delay and extend the consequences of printing too much fiat money. Second, Germany was a small state isolated from the rest of the world --- a pariah nation of sorts --- and, as a result, it had a difficult time finding a market for its government bonds. German deficits had to be financed internally --- an impossibility which greatly accelerated the printing of fiat currency." (More)

We, unlike Germany of the 20's, have been able to borrow money rather than print. The day we can't borrow any more, we too will print.

So, the next time you are breezing through the business section and see the words, "US account deficit," stop and read the damn story.Because the rules of business physics have not been repealed. They still apply, and breaking them still carries serious penalty.

Bush has broken them, and broken them and broken them. He figures the rules don't apply to him. That, by ignoring those rules he can get things done quicker and more efficiently. He is like a man who resents the limitations imposed on him gravity, so instead of taking the elevator down from the 30th floor, he can get down quicker by just stepping out a window.

Yes, he will get down faster than if he'd taken the elevator. That part of his theory, at least, was correct.

ECONOMICS - Another Grim Jobs Report

"Another grim jobs report" by Paul Craig Roberts, CounterPunch

Is your job safe? Not if it can be done abroad. The only safe jobs are in domestic services that require a "hands-on" presence, such as barbers, hospital orderlies, and waitresses.

For a number of years the Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly payroll jobs reports have been sending US policymakers dire warnings, only to be ignored. The March report repeats the message. Ninety-five percent of the new jobs created are in domestic services. The US economy no longer creates jobs in export or export-competitive sectors.

Wholesale and retail trade, waitresses and bartenders account for 46% of the new jobs. Education and health services, administrative and waste services, and financial activities account for another 46%. (Wholesale and retail trade jobs for March were 40,000. These jobs would be sales clerks ringing up sales on registers, people stocking the aisles at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc.

Leisure and hospitality (primarily waitresses and bartenders) accounted for 42,000 March jobs.) In contrast, computer system services accounted for 3,600 jobs.

The biggest item (half) in education and health services is "ambulatory health care services."

This has been the profile of US employment growth for a number of years, along with some construction jobs filled by legal and illegal immigrants. It is the job profile of a third world economy.

Economist Alan Blinder estimates that as many as 56 million American jobs are susceptible to offshore outsourcing. That would be about half of the US work force.

Offshoring has contributed to the explosion of the US trade/current account deficit over the past decade to $800 billion annually and rising. The US has a trade deficit in manufactured products, including advanced technology products, of more than a half trillion dollars annually, a sum far larger than the oil import bill.

Traditionally, a trade deficit might indicate that a country's industries were not competitive against imports from abroad, resulting in a decline in the exchange value of the country's currency. This would make foreign goods more expensive for that country and its goods cheaper for foreigners, thus restoring a balance.

This does not work for the US for three reasons:

  1. The US dollar is the world's reserve currency. The dollar can be used to settle all international accounts. Therefore, there is a world demand for dollars. This demand absorbs what would be an excess supply for any other country running such large deficits.

  2. China pegs its currency to the dollar, thus preventing an adjustment in the price of the two countries goods and services. Other countries, such as Japan, intervene in currency markets by purchasing dollars in order to support the dollar and prevent its currency from rising in dollar value.

  3. Offshoring turns US production into imports. Much of the US trade deficit results from offshoring, not from traditional trade competition. The collapse of world socialism and the advent of the high speed Internet made cheap foreign labor available to US companies. US firms use foreign labor to produce offshore the goods and services that they market to Americans. For example, more than half of the large US trade deficit with China is comprised of goods and services produced by US companies in China for American markets. How can the US reduce its trade deficit when it deprives itself of exports and fills itself with imports by offshoring its production of goods and services, and when the devaluation of the dollar is limited by the dollar's reserve role and by other countries pegging their currency to the dollar or by intervening to support the dollar? Obviously, when balance returns to US trade, it will not come through traditional means.

Most economists are confused about offshoring. They mistakenly think offshoring is an example of free trade bringing mutual benefit through the principle of comparative advantage. It is not. Offshoring is an example of companies obtaining absolute advantage by combining high-tech capital with low-cost labor. The gains from absolute advantage are asymmetrical or one-sided. The cheap labor country gains, and the expensive labor country loses.

So, the question for you (my reader) is, how safe is your job?

The truth is your job is even less safe than normally (all jobs are not guaranteed after all) if you are not in a low-paying "hands-on" sector. So we are supposed to be satisfied with the low-paying or minimum-wage jobs that remain.

America is loosing economically. It's just short sighted Wall-Street that does not see it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


"Diagnosing the U.S. ‘national character’: Narcissistic Personality Disorder" by Robert Jensen, Alternative Press Review

Can a nation have a coherent character? If we take the question seriously -- investigating reality rather than merely asserting nobility -- we see in the U.S. national character signs of pathology and decay as well as health and vigor. What if, for purposes of analysis, we treated the nation as a person? Scan the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (the bible of mental-health professionals, now in its fourth edition) and one category jumps out: Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

DSM-IV describes the disorder as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy” that can be diagnosed when any five of these nine criteria are met:

  1. a grandiose sense of self-importance.

  2. preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

  3. believes he or she is special and unique.

  4. requires excessive admiration.

  5. sense of entitlement.

  6. interpersonally exploitative, taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.

  7. lacks empathy.

  8. often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.

  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Narcissistic tendencies to self-aggrandize are not unique to the United States, of course. But given the predominance of U.S. power in the world, we should worry most about the consequences of such narcissism here.

This disorder is bipartisan, and is virtually required of all mainstream politicians.

Remember, only 5 of the 9 criteria have to be met to diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

So, in your opinion, does the USofA suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Does the current Administration and Republican Party?

Show of hands please:

  1. Those for USofA......
  2. Those for the Administration and Republican Party.....

POLITICS - Sun Tzu and G.W.Bush

What has Sun Tzu (historically one of the most respected author on the "Art of War" taught in our military collages) have to say that applies to G.W. Bush?

In an article "Movements: From antiwar, to peace, to democracy" by Mike Ferner, in Smirking Chimp, quoting Tzu

  • "For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."

  • "There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare."

  • "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."

The article is a theses on today's Antiwar, Peace, and Democracy movements. "Not a day too soon the antiwar movement has begun a desperately needed discussion." He then presents ideas on reevaluating tactics of these movements. For details, read the entire article.

My comment is that the basic nature of these movements, Progressives, and the Democratic Party (Left) presents a problem when they face Ultra Conservatives and the Republican Party of today (Ultra-Right).

The Ultra-Right can be categorized as a march-in-unison, hail to the chief, no self-doubting, troops. They march to their tune and are well disciplined which has given them an advantage that is hard to overcome. Of course, I am not saying their policies are correct, they're not.

The Left, by their very nature, are not as disciplined. We are freedom loving, which tends to make us freewheeling and contentious within our politics. We do not act like troops, we act more as a crowd, each person with an independent outlook. We tend not to take marching orders, on the whole. This puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to facing the Ultra-Right on the political battlefield.

If the Left is to have more influence on our nation's politics and policies, we have to find a way to mitigate this disadvantage without loosing our own nature; freedom loving, freewheeling, cynics that we are.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

POLITICS - Nut-Job vs Nut-Job

1 nut-job Fundamentalist Christian + 1 nut-job Fundamentalist Muslim = 1 nut-job Holy War

"Recipe for Holy War: Add two nut jobs and stir" by Beth Quinn, Times Harald-Record

All right. I'm now officially scared.

What we have here is the bad guy versus the bad guy - two madmen playing an international game of chicken, ratcheting up the rhetoric to appeal to their fundamentalist followers.

There's no doubt that Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is mad in the head. In fact, it might help you remember his name if you pronounce it "Ah'm mad in ee head."

He's got a uranium enrichment program going on so he can build nuclear power plants. But since he's crazy, there's a lot of worldwide concern that he's going to build a nuclear bomb while he's at it.

The U.N. atomic watchdog agency, which paid him a little visit last week, says there's no evidence that he's working on weapons. Even so, the world is feeling a little squirmy about letting Ah'm Mad In Ee Head carry on with his nuclear program. Everyone keeps asking him to quit it, but he's dug in his heels.

So that's one madman on the loose.

The other one - our very own nut job in the White House - is licking his chops over what he perceives as a stubborn challenge from Iran's president.

In last week's New Yorker magazine, Hersh provided a detailed look at Bush's response to Ah'm Mad In Ee Head. According to Hersh's sources, Bush wants Ah'm Mad In Ee Head to defy U.N. demands to quit playing with uranium.

You know why? Because our own madman wants to trot out one of our own nukes and bomb Iran's madman out of business - along with a few hundred thousand other Iranians, of course.

As one congressman told Hersh, "The most worrisome thing is that Bush has a messianic vision." Bush is waging a holy war. He's on a crusade. And so is Ah'm Mad In Ee Head.

One nut-job fundamentalist Christian plus one nut-job fundamentalist Muslim equals one nut-job Holy War.

"Descent into anger and despair" by James Carroll, The Boston Globe

An Iranian official dismissed the talk of imminent US military action as mere psychological warfare, but then he made a telling observation. Instead of attributing the escalations of threat to strategic impulses, the official labeled them a manifestation of ''Americans' anger and despair."

The phrase leapt out of the news report, demanding to be taken seriously. I hadn't considered it before, but anger and despair so precisely define the broad American mood that those emotions may be the only things that President Bush and his circle have in common with the surrounding legions of his antagonists. We are in anger and despair because every nightmare of which we were warned has come to pass. Bush's team is in anger and despair because their grand and -- to them -- selfless ambitions have been thwarted at every turn. Indeed, anger and despair can seem universally inevitable responses to what America has done and what it faces now.

While the anger and despair of those on the margins of power only increase the experience of marginal powerlessness, the anger and despair of those who continue to shape national policy can be truly dangerous if such policy owes more to these emotions than to reasoned realism. Is such affective disarray subliminally shaping the direction of US policy?

So what do we have as a national government policy? Nut-Job Policy? Slowly spinning toward a nuclear Holy War? No way, "fantasyland" according to G.W. We do trust him, right (pun intended)?

Do you trust any President when it comes to nuclear policy, in secret and without our consent? Do you trust this President?

OPEN LETTER - "Your" House

Without comment:

TO: George W. Bush
FROM: Peter Kurth
SUBJECT: “Your” House


I’m writing you directly because nothing else seems to work. I mean, we can’t all take Mr. Patterson’s approach by jumping the gates of the White House in an effort to get your attention. I’m not a Republican, not in the military, and not a fundamentalist Christian, so I don’t stand a chance of being invited to one of your pre-screened question-and-answer sessions and talking to you that way. And we know that Cindy Sheehan’s tactic also failed – that is, camping out in Crawford and demanding an audience with the Great Panjandrum. All it did was make Ms. Sheehan famous and give her a platform – a much larger platform than she’d have had, George, if you’d only taken a few minutes off from bike-riding, brush-clearing and barbecues and pretended to listen to what she said.

So, a letter it is. I tried this a month ago with your Homeland Security director, Michael Chertoff, but I never had a reply. Probably Mr. Chertoff is too busy figuring out how to keep Mr. Patterson off your lawn, but I know you have more time on your hands than Chertoff does, what with the bike-riding, brush-clearing, etc., so I’m hoping that you or someone you know (at the NSA maybe?) actually reads your mail.

Of course, this is an “open” letter, George, which means a lot of people will read it even if you don’t. But, as you said so smartly while refusing to provide Congress with documentation of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, "That's just the way it works."

Anyway, George, you’ll have to forgive me for not addressing you as “Mr. President.” I’d like to honor your office, at least, but in your case I’m not allowed. I mean that literally: My mother won’t let me, and there’d be hell to pay if I went against her wishes.

You know how mothers are, George – you’ve got one of your own. Yours is the one who wears pearls and once called you “a dirty dog” on the “Today” show. Mine is the one who lets out a little shriek – OK, a big shriek – whenever she sees you on TV, and especially when anyone refers to you as “the president,” “this president,” or “Mr. President.” My mother’s lived under 14 presidents, George, and I’m afraid she thinks you’re a punk. No amount of arguing is going to change her mind.

“It’s that wave,” she says. “You know – whenever he gets off a plane and struts around, he waves as if he were a five-year-old boy going off to his first day in kindergarten. He waves as if he’s saying, `Wook, Mommy! I’m de Commandew-in-Cheef!’ Somebody needs to give that man waving lessons.”

My mother was especially upset, George – well, we all were – about your response last week to mounting calls from ex-military men that you fire your Secretary of War, Donald Rumsfeld. (Please don’t insult us by calling him your Secretary of “Defense.”) You said that Rumsfeld has your “full support and deepest appreciation,” despite the slaughter and devastation that he, and you, have wrought in your illegal, immoral and fruitless war in Iraq, and despite the fact that Rumsfeld has now been connected directly to your policy of torture, abuse and degradation of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and other “extraordinary rendition spots” around the globe.

"Secretary Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period," you declared on Friday. Then you, or someone, threw a lot of still-serving military honchos onto the Sunday talk shows to say that calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation are “inappropriate in time of war.”

“Inappropriate?” my mother cried. “Inappropriate? Tens of thousands of innocent people dead, no end in sight to this phony war, the Pentagon now planning nuclear strikes on Iran – and we’re told that even talking about tossing these bums out on their ears is `inappropriate’! Point of order!”

I won’t tell you what my mother said after that, George, because it isn’t pretty. But I dare you – I dare you – to haul your sorry ass to Iraq for more than a photo-op and ask any mother there, any one at all, exactly how “inappropriate” it would be to put an end to your incompetent, criminal regime, and, for that matter, to you. I mean your presidency, of course, George, not “you” as a person. But that’s only because, unlike you, I’m not a murderer, and I don’t want to end up at Guantánamo myself.

Meantime, George, I think you need more than just lessons in waving. I think you need lessons in politics, diplomacy, statecraft and human decency. I think you need a crash course in history. I think you need remedial reading and a whole new set of friends. I think your own mother ought to give you a good hiding, Texas-style, and I hope to hell we’ll see the last of you, Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney and the rest of your lying cabal before the world goes up in flames. Capisce?

My best to Laura and the twins.

Peter Kurth


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

POLITICS - What Does "Top Secret" Really Mean?

"Federal Confidential " by Larry Beinhart, Common Dreams News Center, is an article looking at "this business of classified information."

The idea of secret intelligence, at the core, is a simple military paradigm.

Imagine that it’s May 1942, five months after Pearl Harbor.

Somewhere in the vast darkness of the Pacific, two fleets are maneuvering. Admiral Yamamoto wants to force the Americans to battle so he can finish off what’s left of them. If he can do that, he believes, the Americans will accept a negotiated peace.

Admiral Nimitz has many places to defend. He needs to know where the Japanese will attack next and with how much force.

Fortunately for the Americans, they’ve broken the Japanese code. But there is a code within the code. The Japanese aren’t using real place names, they’re using military designations and Yamamoto is heading for “AF,” which could be Midway or Oahu or the west coast of the United States. The Americans send a radio signal “in the clear,” that Midway is short of water. The Japanese intercept it, as the Americans hope they will, and when they pass the information up the line to the their own headquarters, they use the island’s designation, which is indeed AF.

Now Nimitz can commit his fleet. When Yamamoto gets there the Americans are waiting in ambush for him.

The Battle of Midway is considered the decisive battle of the War in the Pacific. It is the end of the Japanese advance and the beginning of the American offensive.

Nimitz needed secret intelligence. He also needed it to be a secret that he had that secret intelligence.

He goes on stating the fact that secrecy "grows layer-by-layer" based on that need to keep the idea that we have specific secret intelligence. This layering grows form the need to keep indirect information that could give an enemy a clue into our secrets thereby compromising our advantage. He gives examples, like specific information on military funding of specific programs.

Having spent 22yrs in the military and having experience with Secret information, I can tell you his examples and explanation are correct.

My personal example of the idea of classified information is in the "Desert Storm" campaign. Intentional or not, we had the decisive and swift victory of the campaign due, in part, to how the military handled the press. They (the press) may not like it, but they did play a part in how we won "Desert Storm." The military manipulated the press in such a way to gave Saddam's military inelegance the impression that we were going to attack from the South and the sea (the off shore Marines). Result, they were not paying attention to the West where our end-run attack actually came from. The press was manipulated by tightly classifying what they could show and talk about, what information they were given in the very orchestrated briefings.

For the above situation, here is my scenario for an innocent security slip that could have compromised "Desert Storm:"

  • A reporter is interviewing a Army Sergent outside. Innocent and something the press should be allowed to do without approval form the military, correct?
  • BUT, if in the far background, there was a convoy of flatbed trucks with tanks on them, fuel tankers, and troop transports going West?
  • This could have caused Saddam's Intelligence Officers to question "why was all this going West when the attack is supposed to be coming from the South?" Remember, Saddam's military intelligence were no dummies, they just did not have all the tech-tools our intelligence community has.

The above scenario did not happen because of how the military classified information and thereby restricted the press.

The problem with "King" George, and Nixon for that matter, is they classify things Secret or Top Secret not because it is a threat to military security, directly or indirectly, but because they see it as a threat to their political agenda or to them personally.

The idea being that a threat to an agenda or to a President (the person) is not necessarily a threat to America. That is something that "we-the-people" should judge and should not be left to an individual who has a personal stake. Especially if that person is the only one making the judgment. Being human, do you really expect that a personal threat would not be rationalized into a threat on America by some people? Well G.W. Bush is, and Nixon was, such a person and we should not allow them to be the only judges on what threatens America and to do that we need information. This President has definitely not urned our trust.

Monday, April 17, 2006

POLITICS - Our Feudal Tax System

"Fighting Feudal Taxes" by Gar Alperovitz, from Tom Paine Common Sense

It’s no secret that the Bush administration has showered high-income groups with federal tax benefits. Nor is it news that income and wealth is highly concentrated at the top. What have gone largely unnoticed, however, are new signs that outside of Washington, state by state, the public is quietly beginning to challenge the privileged position of those at the top.

The United States is the most inequitable advanced nation in the world. Every year since 1996 the top 1 percent has garnered more income than bottom 100 million Americans taken together. Wealth ownership is even more concentrated than income. Indeed, it is literally feudal: The top one percent of wealth holders owns roughly half of all financial and business wealth. The top 5 percent owns almost 70 percent of such wealth. In 2003 the top 1 percent alone received 57.5 percent of all capital gains, rent, interest and dividend income—up from 37.6 percent two decades earlier. A recent analysis by The New York Times and Citizens for Tax Justice found that 43 percent of the Bush dividend tax cuts went to taxpayers with incomes greater than $1 million, who make up a mere 1/10th of 1 percent of all taxpayers.

This is an example of "Compassionate Conservatism" we have today? Do we need this, NO!

This extraordinary situation is bad not only for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid, but for the nation as a whole. You don’t have to be a radical to recognize that, historically, huge political power regularly follows huge wealth, with disastrous implications for democracy.

As he contends that, state by state, things are changing. Individual states are beginning to shift more of the state tax burden away from the poor and middle economic classes and back to the top (rich) economic classes. I contend that this is a much needed reblancing of public financial responsibility.

POLITICS - Who Pays Taxes in California?

You can guess, not the rich.

According to the California Budget Project's "Policy Points: Who Pays Taxes in California"

Measured as a share of family income, California’s poorest families pay the most in taxes. The poorest fifth of the state’s non-elderly families, with an average income of $11,100, spent 11.3 percent of their income on state taxes in 2002. In comparison, the wealthiest 1 percent, with an average income of $1.6 million, spent 7.2 percent of their income on state taxes.

The entire document is only 3pgs long. The most telling feature is the first bar graph.

This is just how "good" California Tax Code is for Californians..... if you yearly earnings are in the top 20%.

If you're in the lowest 20%, they're going to take much more of what little money you earn.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


It started gradually - an assassination, then a bus ambush. Slowly, gunmen took to the streets and sporadic fighting erupted.

Then the tit-for-tat kidnappings broke out, and the "liquidations" and the car bombs. Those lucky enough to survive quickly picked up and moved - to another part of town or away altogether.

Sound familiar? Deja Vu? This is from the article "Will Iraq Follow Lebanon's Path to War?" by SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer

These days, many are harkening back to that time - in worry - wondering if Iraq and specifically Baghdad might not be headed for much of the same.

But a look at the first days of civil war in 1975 in Beirut is instructive about how things might look in Iraq, if they get worse.

It was 31 years ago - on April 13, 1975 - that the first major spark flared in a Christian suburb called Ein el-Rummaneh.

Lebanon already was on edge. Its old Christian-dominated power structure was under pressure as the country's demographics changed. Muslims sought new power with the help of Palestinian guerrillas whose presence exacerbated the tensions.

The initial spark - the assassination of a Christian Phalange Party official - was followed shortly afterward by a reprisal ambush on a busload of Palestinians that drove through the neighborhood, killing 22. Sporadic gunfire erupted, followed later by heavy gunbattles.

So, is Iraq headed down the same path? Possible, no? Not according to King George of course, he just cannot see it. It has to do with "the blind leading the blind."

POLITICS - Plague On You!

In an article that address the issue of retired senior officers becoming military contract "advisers" ......

The problem is that these contractors are businessmen, and business is a whore. The goal of business is profit, not truth. Profit requires getting the next contract.

The plague of senior officer contractors has effectively pushed those still in the military out of the thought process. Meeting after meeting on issues of doctrine on concepts are dominated by contractors. The officers in the room know that if they wave the BS flag at the contractors, they risk angering the serving senior officers who have given their "buddies" the contract. Junior officers, who have the most direct experience with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are completely excluded. They have no chance of being heard in meetings dominated by retired generals and colonels.

Not only does contracting out thinking bring intellectual corruption, it adds a whole new layer of dinosaurism to the thought process. Most retired senior officers' minds froze in the Fulda Gap many years ago, and that remains their vision of war. Further, any change is automatically an attack on their "legacies," which they are quick to defend. Twenty years ago, once the dinosaur retired, you could push him into the tar pit and move on. Now he is back the next day in a suit, with a six-figure contract.

"Generals as Private Contractors, The Fourth Plague Hits the Pentagon" by WILLIAM S. LIND, Counter Punch

What he is pointing out is the revolving-door of senior officers becoming big money contractors whose interest is making more money, not giving good or new advice. They will always tend to give the type of "advice" that will keep getting them contracts in the future, which today means tailoring to what pleases this Whitehouse. This means that the real truth gets minimized or disappears altogether.

This Whitehouse awards those who fall into ranks and hail, "So it is said, so let it be done." And will punish anyone who dares to disagree or na-say. So, if you want another contract.......?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

POLITICS - 6 Reasons Why the Iraq War Will Not Be Won

In the article "Withdrawal Symptoms" by James K. Galbraith, Mother Jones, he gives 6 reasons why the Iraq war is unwindable. He gave the reasons in a speech, by invitation, and "many in my audience — mostly generals and colonels — had spent over a year there" (Iraq).

But the reality is that the Iraq war could not be won by a force of any size or by an expenditure of any amount. Against determined opposition, occupations in the modern world cannot prevail. They haven’t for more than 60 years. The reason is that the basic economics of warfare have changed. Here are six reasons I gave to the officers in Germany—a pure exercise in stating what they already knew.

  1. Sixty years ago the then-colonial world was mostly rural; today it consists of enormous cities. These urban jungles of concrete provide vast advantages — concealment, fortification, communication, intelligence — to the defender. In cities, troops on patrol are isolated and exposed; their location is always known, while that of the enemy is not. More patrols mean more targets. The superior firepower of the occupiers just means that a lot more innocent people get hurt.

  2. So does the “crude” weaponry of insurgents. Car bombs, booby traps, and suicide belts are cheap and effective. Detonated by radio or wire from within a nearby building, roadside bombs equalize the insurgent and the invader. Detonated by fanatics, suicide bombs are extremely difficult to stop. Shaped explosives, which have started to appear in Iraq, are able to burn right through armor plate. To prevent these attacks means emphasizing force protection; this gets in the way of everything else.

  3. The violence in Iraq is horrific, but it’s the media that makes it intolerable. Indeed, the violence is horrific only by modern standards. To truly cow a colonial population (as in British India in 1857, or on the American plains in the late 19th century) requires mass murder on a far larger scale. The presence of the media makes this most inconvenient. As we demonstrated at Fallujah, the sure way to subdue a hostile city is to destroy it. But that’s no way to win a political war back home—or hearts and minds in Iraq.

  4. Jet travel is a military mixed blessing. Today’s army works on rotations; soldiers are deployed for about a year and then (in principle at least) they come home. When that happens, local liaisons and intelligence relationships must be rebuilt. On the other hand, if soldiers are denied the right to rotate home, their morale is going to suffer far more than in the old days when there was no such expectation. Email and blogs make sure that morale problems get home fast when the soldiers do not.

  5. As if that were not enough, war today cannot escape the free market. When we invaded Iraq, the borders collapsed and import restrictions were eliminated. Imports surged, notably of electrical appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators. By the time the electricity supply was rebuilt, demand had skyrocketed, and the power could run for only a few hours a day. Without control over electrical demand, the reconstruction effort was crippled, and the Americans couldn’t win the Iraqi people’s respect and support. They were expecting miracles, after all, and they didn’t get them.

  6. Finally, there has been a fundamental change of expectations: call it the presumption of independence. The British may have believed that their empire would always be the “dread and envy of them all,” but today no one believes the American presence in Iraq can endure over the long term. So unless you are in a safe zone (like Kurdistan) or part of an exiled elite with a posh flat in London, it does not pay to cuddle up to the occupying power. The retribution could be most unpleasant.

Remember, he was invited to give this speech, to give just this view to audience mostly generals and colonels.

Could it be "we-the-people" ought to listen too?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

POLITICS - Iran, What is Truly Frightening

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”

"The Iran Plans" by Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker

I highly recommend that you read the whole article. The very idea that bombing Iran would "lead the public (Iranian) to rise up and overthrow the government" is the same crazed idea that the Iraqi people would welcome us with open arms and flowers for a long stay. Not to mention what problems may will be caused with all Muslims worldwide.

I know "what they are smoking," it's called POWER, the kind that corrupts absolutely.

POLITICS - Nothing Is Believable

President Bush once famously stumbled over the phrase "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." It was a Freudian slip. Bush knew just how often he's put one over on the American people. Why rub it in?

Slowly this country has come to the realization that nothing the president and his minions say is believable, yet they still want us to just trust them. There hasn't been a more dangerous combination of incompetence, mendacity and arrogance since Lansford Hastings encouraged the Donner Party to diverge from the Oregon Trail and take his "short-cut."

Bush recently dropped a whopper by telling veteran journalist Helen Thomas that he never wanted to go to war, even as insider memos keep popping up detailing Bush's early intention to attack Iraq. But nowhere has the bald-faced lying been as fierce as in the "war on terror." Here, Bush has raised prevarication to national policy. From the president's disingenuous proclamations that all prisoners are treated "humanely" to the administration's laughable claim that it couldn't disclose the names of those swept into detention after 9/11 because it would violate their right to privacy, there is nothing this crew won't say to avoid accountability.

"Lies lurk behind U.S. terror policy" by Robyn E. Blumner, Times Perspective Columnist, St. Petersburg Times, FL

"There is nothing this crew won't say to avoid accountability." That is an absolutely correct statement. This "crew," the G.W. Bush Whitehouse, has tried this with the Supreme Court (DOJ calmed SC does not have jurisdiction in Guantanamo even for an American citizen) and Congress (has the right to ignore law in the name of protecting America, as if law is not there to protect).

This Whitehouse wants to be a law unto itself. That is one definition of a totalitarian government.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

POLITICS - Global Warming: What, Me Worry?

From the article "Global Warming: What, Me Worry?" by Molly Ivins, on Truth Dig:

Naturally, having seen the media set off endless alarms, the public is inclined to discount them, not to mention that global climate catastrophe is not an inviting topic. We’re somewhere between “Don’t panic yet” and “Panic now!” — edging toward “Now!”

What is happening is not just what climatologists told us would happen. Global warming turns out to reinforce itself by a number of feedback mechanisms. For example, when the polar icecaps start melting, there’s less blinding bright ice to reflect heat back into the atmosphere—over 90% of sunlight simply bounces off ice and back into space. Whereas the dark water left behind by melted ice does the opposite, pulling in more warmth and accelerating the process.

The political fight over global warming is over, except in the Bush administration, which has some weird problem with science in general. I’m still not sure what’s behind that: I recall Rush Limbaugh and the radio right taking great glee in pooh-poohing the Kyoto treaty and the whole idea of global warming. Maybe they associated global warming with Canadians or something equally awful.

I can tell Molly, and my readers, what Bush and other super-conservatives problem with science is: Scientists are "Satan worshiping atheists," and not to be trusted. After all the majority support Evolution over Creation and other ungodly ideas, and a majority gasp! are actually atheists.

This is the unconscious backdrop to their pooh-poohing of global warming and other scientific ideas. Add their worship of business and you get the political fight on global warming.

These people will not believe in warnings about global warming until water is 2ft deep in their beach-front homes for months, or entire crops have been decimated by weather several years in a row. Even then, don't be surprised they will try to rationalize it away. God's will, right? (pun intended)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

POLITICS - A Democratic "Contract for America"

1. Speak frankly, honestly and forthrightly about the public's business. If we fall short, we will quickly correct the record. We will fully investigate alleged violations of the public trust, with subpoena power if necessary.

2. Defend Social Security as America's traditional safety net and work for its perpetual solvency. We will not allow its privatization.

3. Revitalize America's public schools and endeavor to maximize the potential of every student regardless of economic condition. We will not allow the diversion of public funds to private schools.

4. Restore fairness to America's tax structure with a progressive design that spreads the burden across all sectors of the economy and that rewards thrift, savings, business investment and domestic job creation.

5. Balance the federal budget as quickly as possible, through wise spending and fair taxation. We will not leave to our descendants the responsibility of paying for our generation's irresponsible budget practices.

6. Engage business, labor and the public to work together to reestablish American jobs on American soil, to resist outsourcing and reinvigorate domestic industries.

7. Commit ourselves to making affordable, quality healthcare available to all Americans and providing basic health-insurance coverage for all that will not depend on where, or whether, an individual is employed.

8. Develop a fair immigration policy giving energetic and talented foreigners a reasonable and legal path to residency and citizenship and providing a fair opportunity for currently illegal residents to achieve legal status.

9. Promote a comprehensive plan to sharply reduce our nation's reliance on oil and encourage the development of alternative, sustainable and environmentally responsible domestic fuel sources.

10. Deploy U.S. military might only where necessary to neutralize immediate and legitimate threats to America or a trusted ally or to defuse an imminent and extraordinary threat to human life and dignity. Where our current commitments are inconsistent with this principle, we will remove our troops as quickly and efficiently as possible while endeavoring to leave stability in our wake.

11. Pledge the United States to be a cooperative and effective leader and partner with allied nations in the fight against terrorism and the pursuit of global accords on human rights, economic justice, ecological protection and alleviation of disease.

12. Promote science, and base governmental policy decisions on sound and verifiable scientific research. We will seek sensible responses to issues of global warming, environmental degradation and sustainable energy.

13. Keep the affairs of church and state separate, while defending the freedom of religious practice outside government.

14. Recognize and preserve the reproductive rights of women, while also striving to minimize undesired pregnancy and making abortion safe, legal and rare.''

"A Democratic 'Contract'" by Robert Steinback, Miami Herald

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

ECONOMICS - Looking Grim

You probably saw the story the other day that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that real wages in 2005 had dropped 0.9 percent from the year before.

That was big news because in 2004 overall real wages were flat. For the first time as long as wage records have been kept, American workers' income had not increased in two straight years.

There was other disturbing economic news that came at about the same time but didn't get as much publicity.

For instance, the Federal Reserve not so surprisingly found that "growing numbers of American households face mounting debt and financial instability."

Roughly 76 percent of households carry a debt load averaging $55,300 or about 128 percent of the median household income. That's not surprising either since costs for health care and education alone have been rising well above wage increases, not to mention the cost of gas for the car and natural gas for the furnace. Many American workers are now sacrificing annual raises so that their employers can afford to pay the increases in health insurance.

All of that has caused a 10 percent average family increase in credit card debt and a proliferation of bigger home equity loans almost all of it, of course, in America's middle class.

"Grim economic news gets grimmer" by Dave Zweifel, The Capital Times

Humm... Wonder if the Whitehouse could be so obsessed with something else that they cannot pay attention to the real world, real Americans?

POLITICS - Mission: Accomplished!

By the way, Afghanistan is regressing, as U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen observed in a Washington Post op-ed article.

"Last year attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government groups jumped 20 percent," wrote the Maryland Democrat. "Suicide bombings increased fourfold, and strikes with improvised explosive devices, a tactic imported from Iraq, doubled."

Mistakes made early in the war turned Iraq into a nannystate. Bushvolk were in such a rush to topple Saddam Hussein and frame him for the Sept. 11 attacks that they neglected Afghanistan and allowed the Taliban to regroup. Mission: Accomplished!

"Where's Osama? When's it gonna be over?", by Rhonda Chriss Lokman, Belleville News Democrat

She also points out just how shocked the "Bushvolk" are that we have created an Afghanistan "Democratic" government where "you can still be executed for converting from Islam to Christianity."

Yap, mission accomplished in Afghanistan!

Oh, and just where is Osama? - long silence

The answer is we're too busy in Iraq and Afghanistan was never really a Bushvolk target. The real target was Emperor Bush's ego-building. Wonder if his Whitehouse portrait is going to show him standing in a military uniform with his hand stuck in the shirt front.

Monday, April 03, 2006

POLITICS - The Shadow of Orwell

Terrorist surveillance program. Consider those three words for a moment. Who could be opposed to a terrorist surveillance program? No one. The operative question is how such a program should function. Who should be monitored? What guidelines, procedures and protections should govern the program? By using this term in a demagogic fashion, Bush is explicitly charging that if a person objects to wiretapping American citizens without a warrant he or she is opposed to penetrating terrorist operations. With such talk, Bush and his aides are engaging in — dare I say it — an Orwellian exercise.

They are crassly exploiting the rhetoric of fear. The critics of the warrantless wiretapping okayed by Bush are not saying that they desire no terrorist surveillance program. Yet Bush presents the issue as a harsh either/or — just as he did with the war in Iraq. Prior to the invasion, he claimed that the choice was either to mount a full-scale military attack against Saddam Hussein's WMD-loaded nation or do absolutely nothing, even though others advocated more aggressive and intrusive inspections and perhaps limited military action.

Dick Cheney has gone even further down the Orwell highway, equating criticism of the no-warrant eavesdropping with "the outrageous proposition that we ought to protect Al Qaeda's ability to communicate as it plots against America." In doing so, the vice president recasts expressions of constitutional concern as active protection of Al Qaeda. Give me another word for this — other than Orwellian.

Now ponder the frightening logic behind these statements and see how easy it can be stretched. If you do not support, say, the open-ended detention in secret jails of American citizens suspected of terrorism without any charges, then you are opposed to the terrorist apprehension program — and you are obviously protecting the ability of Al Qaeda operatives to concoct schemes to kill Americans and destroy this country.

From "Orwell Again" by David Corn, TomPain Common Sense

The key sentences are, "The critics of the warrantless wiretapping okayed by Bush are not saying that they desire no terrorist surveillance program. Yet Bush presents the issue as a harsh either/or — just as he did with the war in Iraq."

Correct, we who are criticizing the surveillance are not saying we want to end the surveillance program. What we are saying is that, when it comes to American citizens, our rights under the Constitution must be protected, especially when Congress has provided a means to do so.

What we object to is the Administration ignoring the law in the name of protecting America. As if one part of the Constitution overrides all others. As if protecting citizens against abuses of government is not protecting America.