27 April 2008

It's going fast so let's use if faster!

This is an example of the "vision" we can expect from a McClone presidency:

The GOP nominee-in-waiting rapped his Democratic rival for opposing his idea to suspend the tax on fuel during the summer, a proposal that McCain believes will particularly help low-income people who usually have older cars that guzzle more gas.

We've reached (or will be reaching in the next few years) peak oil--a point after which homo sapiens (sic) will never again pull as much oil out of the ground. And McCain's solution is to reduce tax incentives so that people can use more fuel. Hmmm. What's wrong with this picture? If the well's running out of water, can we solve the problem by buying a bigger water tap? McCain, through some leap in logic, somehow connects this with helping the poor who supposedly all have big cars. (Is he referring to the poorer millionnaires who haven't upgraded their old Cadilacs?) How depleting a necessary resource at an ever faster rate (sending more American dollars overseas to wealthy Middle East oilocracies) helps the poor is lost on me. Rational argument evidently takes a leave of absence during the election cycle.

23 April 2008

Brain Test

Does this really work? It worked when I took it.

The ABC debacle

Reading about the latest ABC debate debacle, I pat myself on the back for not subscribing to cable. Journalism has devolved into such tabloid fluff that I rack my noggin trying to fathom why anyone would waste their time watching the self-styled pundits on the corporate news endlessly paw over the latest political pecadilloes while ignoring the truly weighty issues that sit like an elephant in the corner of the room. Of course, peak oil, rising food costs, an undeclared pre-emptive war, the erosion of civil liberties, and a crumbling infra-structure aren't especially sexy and involve too much sublety to be squeezed into a 30 second media soundbyte, but in something as serious as a presidential debate, we'd expect a bit more gravitas, dignitas, and intelligence.

Brendan Nyhan claims that the media fumble has three root causes:

1. The media's commercial incentive to entertain rather than inform;

2. Journalists' professional incentive to display voice, debate the horse race, and avoid "boring" policy issues;

3. Ongoing efforts by almost ever major figure in network news to avoid being accused of liberal bias (for example, Tim Russert going on Rush Limbaugh's show, George Stephanopoulos going on Sean Hannity's show, etc.).

#3 seems to be the most important factor explaining the difference in tone and content between the Republican and Democratic debates. Even Rush Limbaugh admitted yesterday that the questions were harsh.

22 April 2008

Janus nation

More evidence that there really are "two Americas":

What the new analysis reveals is the reality of two Americas, one on par with most of Europe and parts of Asia, and another no different than a third world nation. For example, previous research has shown that the U.S. state of Georgia has a life expectancy and infant mortality rate similar to the impoverished Eastern European nation of Georgia. In Harlem, African American men are less likely to reach the age of 65 than men in Bangladesh, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

But we're still number 1, right?

The U.S. life expectancy already is nothing to brag about. The United States is the wealthiest country on earth, yet the life expectancy of its people is only about 78 years, which places us 41st on the 2008 CIA World Factbook list, behind Bosnia but still edging out Albania.

The United States might still be the destination for complicated surgery and cutting-edge procedures, but for the most part it fails its poorest citizens, with about 36 million of them (12 percent of the population, according to the CIA World Factbook) living below the poverty line. As a result, the U.S. healthcare system ranks 37th on a list of 191 systems compiled by the World Health Organization.

I guess we're only number 1 in terms of things that "really matter" (like military spending, weapons production and export, and the erosion of human rights).

21 April 2008

Paying the liers

Some of our tax dollars, in addition to paying for the 3 trillion dollar squabble over who gets to sell us gasoline, are now going to pay for the costs of creating publicly-financed propaganda spread by supposedly "neutral" experts. Many U.S. military analysts used as commentators on Iraq by television networks have been groomed and massaged by the Pentagon, receiving private briefings, trips, and access to classified intelligence. Many of these "experts" also have ties to military contractors and war profiteers, business ties that aren't disclosed to TV viewers.

16 April 2008

Obama comment

I couldn't agree more with Ole Blue's take on the Obama comment:

Barack Obama claims he did not say it as well as I should have! The statement was basically “..some small-town Pennsylvanians are "bitter" people who "cling to guns and religion."Well damn, I think he hit the nail on the proverbial head and hit it just right. Since I am a white male, I am privy to the thoughts of many white males and they hide behind their guns and religion because they feel marginalized in this country.

The political establishment pounces on anyone who engages in the least bit of authentic analysis of the U.S. situation and starts talking about real causes and effects, whether it be economic class, history, or, in this case, the bitterness of poor whites (a bitterness that has been endlessly manipulated). I feel the same way: When I read this statement, it made me think that Obama might really be different, a cut above the fray.

13 April 2008

And the fog lifts, and we once more find...

an all-to-familiar gap between propaganda and reality:

Then: Bush calls the flare up in violence in oil-rich southern Iraq and parts of Baghdad "a defining moment in the history of Iraq."

Later: A closely held U.S. military intelligence analysis of the fighting in Basra shows that Iraqi security forces control less than a quarter of the city, according to officials in both the United States and Iraq, and Basra's police units are deeply infiltrated by members of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army.

Today: The Iraqi government has dismissed about 1,300 soldiers and policemen who deserted or refused to fight during last month's offensive against Shiite militias and criminal gangs in Basra, officials said Sunday.

I get the feeling sometimes that the Bush administration has mastered the science of exploiting the week or month lag between their propaganda and the moment when the facts come to light.

12 April 2008

It could happen here.

Paperwight's fair shot brings up an interesting catch 22, one that I'm sure the current administration, between torture advisory sessions, has thought about in great detail:

The post begins with the story of someone who was to be deported because he couldn't prove his U.S. citizenship. (In fact, he was born in the U.S.)

A worse problem is that under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 we now have another, even more pernicious two-tier system. If you're accused of "materially supporting" "hostilities" against the US or someone on the US's side and believed not to be a citizen, you have no right to challenge your indefinite detention (including on the grounds that you're actually a citizen), and you'll wind up in a kangaroo court like those down in Gitmo, which will have the power to do a hell of a lot more than deport you.

Actually, it is happening here. We just aren't allowed to hear about it.

Savvy investors

Hmm . . . While most of us were dumping our life savings into a "safe" investment -- purchasing a home -- some other people were investing in the 100 year war.

In all, 151 current members of Congress -- more than one-fourth of the total -- have invested between 78.7 million dollars and 195.5 million dollars in companies that received defence contracts of at least 5.0 million dollars, according to CRP.

10 April 2008

The competition goes on . . .

Any one interested in the current status of the Iraqi Civil War Interethnic Competition should watch this video.

9 April 2008

Just 6 more months . . .

How long will take to defeat the Shia Al Qaedas. Just 6 months + 6 months + 6 months + 6 months + 6 months + 6 months + 6 months + 6 months + 6 months + 6 months + . . . x infinity

Someone needs a two-sentence summary of Politics 101 for Dummies

or "Where is Joe when you need him?"

John McCain again confused Shiites and Sunnis during today's Senate Armed Services hearing:

JOHN MCCAIN: "There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq. Do you still view al-Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?"

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: "It is a major threat. Though it is certainly as not as major a threat as it was say, 15 months ago."

MCCAIN: "Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shias overall?

PETRAEUS: "No, sir."

MCCAIN: "Or Sunnis or anybody else then?

Evidently, the extreme complexity of the situation is just too much for McCain--the idea that there are TWO MAJOR RELIGIOUS SECTS THAT ARE IN CONFLICT. This is, after all, the one major theme driving U.S. involvement in Iraq and Iran at the moment, the general theme behind our support for the various dictatorships in the region (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and so on) and our hostility towards Iran. Evidently, two pieces of information are too much to juggle within the mind of McCain who is paraded in front of us as the political maven of the moment, intent on getting . . . them bad guys over der. We have definitely found someone to continue the Bush legacy, appealing to the lowest common IQ within the U.S. gene pool.

7 April 2008

John Yoo's 2003 memo

The 2003 "Abu Ghraib" memo is now available (full text here). The memo essentially legalizes any action (including illegal actions) against enemy combatants as long as the torturer has his or her heart in the right place. We should read John Yoo's memo within the context of the Winter Soldier hearing at which soldiers from Iraq describe the random killing of farmers, firing randomly into "free fire zones," and the regular torture of those picked up on the street under the flimsiest of pretexts. The Iraqi farmer, the loitering youth, and virtually anybody (including, presumably, the South American union member picked for protesting in front of a Coka Cola plant) can be legally tortured--a "necessary" sacrifice in the fight against Al Qaeda.

Americans need to re-develop a healthy fear of their government, an idea that conservatives give lip service to but don't really believe.

Winter Soldiers

The Winter Soldier testimony is now online. This is one very depressing reality show that everyone should see.

4 April 2008

Falling stars and bathtub mishaps

I've been having a "discussion" over at Dr. Sanity with all the chicken littles trying to assure them that they sky isn't falling and Osama isn't going to spray poisonous gas all over their home in the South Dakota hinterlands. It's hard to let go, I guess. These people, lumbering along in their slow SUVs with Nukem til they Glo stickers on back cling firmly to the illusion that they're barely dodging fearless terrorist kazekamis who want to take away their Bibles and stacks of Playboys.

The statistical facts make this fear appear utterly ridiculous. John Mueller, a renown expert on terrorism, says that "your lifetime chance of being killed by an international terrorist outside of a war zone at present rates is about one in 80,000 . . . about the same as your chance of being killed by an asteroid."

Compared to terrorism, there's actually a much greater chance (by many order of magnitude) of drowning in your bathtub, choking to death on peanut butter, or dying from eating a raw carrot or a grilled hamburger. And the risk of dying in a car accident as you drive the SUV to the store to buy the duct-tape exceeds the risk of terrorism, asteroids, thunder bolts, raw carrots, Big Macs, and peanut butter munchies all lumped together. And now we're supposed to elect as president McCain who has built an entire campaign on the fear of the camel-herder invasion?

I recommend John Mueller's paper: Atomic Terrorist: Assessing the Likelihood.

John Mueller's book Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them is also definitely on my reading list.

John McClone for prez? I don't think so . . .

This is a nice piece of analysis from the Huffington Post (bolding and blue-type is mine):

Want a Taste of the McCain Presidency? You've Already Had One

Our country is facing two serious crises right now, one foreign -- the disastrous war in Iraq -- and one domestic -- a mismanaged economy on the brink of collapse.

This is obviously why the right track/wrong track polling numbers are at such stunning extremes: 22 percent "satisfied" to 72 percent "dissatisfied" in the latest Pew poll, 19 percent/80 percent in Gallup.

John McCain may not have a clue about what's going on in Iraq, but he's certainly seen those poll numbers. That's why he's suddenly running as fast as he can from the Bush presidency, telling ABC, "The point is, I'm not running on the Bush presidency, I'm running on my own service to the country, my own record in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate and my vision for the future."

Well, he can run, but he can't hide because running on his own record isn't going to put much distance between him and Bush either. That's because it's the policies of McCain and those most closely associated with his campaign that got us into both our foreign and domestic disasters in the first place.

Two important pieces explained the roles played by McCain and his advisors in creating our current foreign and domestic crises.

In Politico, Lisa Lerer detailed how former Senator Phil Gramm, the general co-chair of McCain's campaign and one of his top financial advisors, was the primary force behind the banking deregulation bill in 1999 that helped pave the way for the current subprime meltdown. Two years after Gramm dutifully did the banks' bidding, he was rewarded, after a quick trip through the revolving door, with the title of vice chairman at UBS and, along with two others, with $750,000 in lobbying fees. UBS investors weren't as lucky as Phil: the bank has written off over $18 billion in subprime loans, while 8,000 UBS employees were laid off. And McCain has hinted that Gramm might be his Treasury Secretary.

The new McCain has started backing away even from campaign finance reform, his signature maverick issue. And with his buddy Phil best-friend-the-banks-ever-had Gramm right behind him, the idea that McCain is some sort of financial reformer is absurd.

But don't tell that to the media -- it would be like telling an 8 year-old there's no Santa Claus. They worked hard constructing their McCain narrative, and dammit, they're going to keep believing in it.

It's much the same on the foreign policy front. In the great new site The Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman has a dead-on analysis of Mccain's foreign policy. The money shot:

"Since he began running for president, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has embraced President George W. Bush's foreign policy. He has done so for a simple and understandable reason: it was McCain's policy first."

That's right -- the reason McCain will be a continuation of George Bush's foreign policy is because George Bush was following McCainism all along. Or, as Ackerman puts it: " McCain represents not a break from the Bush Doctrine, but rather its intensification."

Here's John McCain circa 2000:

"I'd institute a policy that I call 'rogue state rollback'...I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically elected governments."

(Isn't this what got us into this mess to begin with--the arming and training of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, under various names and guises, and the arming and funding of Saddam Hussein.)

Now over seventy percent of Americans believe that "rogue state rollback" has not worked out that well.

McCain, of course, sees the same numbers. So he's careful to throw in a few qualifiers for the media -- the equivalent of dangling keys in front of them -- as he did in a foreign policy speech last week. Did it work? Sadly, all too well.

As Ackerman notes, CNN's Dana Bash called it a world view "quite different from the president's." And Gail Collins in the New York Times said that McCain "broke dramatically with the administration."

What was this "dramatic break?" That we should "listen to the views" of our allies. Yeah, sure, we should "listen" to them. And after they say they vehemently disagree with us, as they surely will (good luck getting a coalition together for that invasion of Iran), what then? Much was -- rightly -- made last week of McCain's "McCain Moment" which shone a spotlight on how clueless he is about the region. But given McCain's foreign policy views, it's hard to know whether we should be more afraid when he's confused and clueless or when he's thinking clearly and coherently.

2 April 2008


1 April 2008

Tuesday nooz

Doga (yoga for canines) is evidently gaining in popularity. It's about time. Cat's have been stretching for years and have developed great flexibility. Dog stretching has been limited to rubbing their crotch against the carpet. It's about time all these mutts get out and do something.

Speaking of dogs, the sliver of the international community that once supported Bush has finally jumped ship. Spain has dumped Jose Maria Aznar, Italy has given lo stivale to Berlusconi, Blair has faded off into the sunset, and even the Aussie have managed to get rid of John Howard. Now America has the chance to elect McClone or toss a rock into a crowd and choose someone more qualified for high office.

As part of the latest administration malfeasance to emerge from the sludge, HUD personnel are all under investigation. With an administration that looks a lot like the rest of the Bush administration, HUD had evidently managed to hire every hird-cousin twice removed on the flimsiest of pretexts.

In other business news, today's WaPo article by Karen DeYoung talks about how the Afghans were telling the U.S. government during the Soviet period that they did NOT want weapons shipments going directly to non-Afghan fighters (e.g., Al Qaeda). They were of course ignored. Business is business after all. We can't have revolutionaries telling American businessmen who to sell their wares to.

Speaking of weapons, the GAO says that 95 weapons systems are $295 billion over budget (WaPo, April 1st). Of course, what's a billion here and a billion there in a war that costs trillions and requires U.S. tax payers to pay the cost of oil imports to a country with the third highest amount of oil reserves on the globe.

And in other news, Hillary Clinton has proposed that she and Obama settle the Democratic race through a bowl-off.

Party X

I came across a political organization called Party X. I must admit that I fully agree with some of its statements:

The Plan for Elections

In the interest of fairness and democracy, no vote must ever be allowed to be "wasted". To accomplish this, the federal government must force states to use an "Instant Run-off" type of ballot so votes are not "wasted" and people do not feel like they are forced to vote for the "lesser of two evils". (This is a great idea!)

Find Regular People to Run for Office-

Trying to influence career politicians has proven to be a fruitless effort throughout history. The only way to affect change is to become the representatives. We could randomly select 100 individuals and they would perform much better than the 100 individuals who now constitute the U.S. Senate. Imagine what we could do with 100 Senators who are dedicated to restoring America to the great nation it once was rather than a group of career politicians who occupy the Capital today solely for their own self-interests. (This is another good idea. There should be a party that elects solely those who aren't insiders, who have never owned a large business, and have no corporate ties.)

Unfortunately, Party X calls for placing much more power in the hands of the federal government. We've seen the dangers of federal power and a strong executive under Bush.