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April 30, 2005

Have the Democrats finally given up?

My mother forwarded me an email from the Children's Defense Fund, decrying the Budget Resolution passed the night before... the following paragraphy caught my attention:

The vote in the House was 214-211, and the vote in the Senate was 52-47. In the House, 195 Democrats, 1 Independent, and 15 Republicans voted against the conference report on the resolution. All those in favor were Republicans. In the Senate, 43 Democrats, 1 Independent, and 3 Republicans voted against the conference report, while 52 Republicans voted in favor.^[1]

What's the first thing that strikes you about the numbers above?

I'll tell you what stood out for me: the Democrats were UNANIMOUS in their opposition. Not a single defector. The Republicans were NOT. Think about it: George W. Bush has accomplished the impossible - the Democratic Party is now MORE UNIFIED than the Republican Party.

You're probably wondering why the subject of this posting is "Have the Democrats finally given up?"

Well, aside from baiting you into reading on in order to find out what kind of scurrilous attack on the Democratic Party that crazy Green Party guy is going to launch into this time[1], I refer you to the same posting Dave pointed to a few days ago: "An Opposition Party Opposses", by Chris Bowers on MyDD (hey, can someone please, please, please get them to fix the typos and spelling errors?).

The title pretty much sums up the article's main point: the Democrats have more to gain by giving up on the idea that they have a role to play in governing the country (at least at a federal level), than by trying to pretend they still have the ability to make a significant impact on public policy at the national level. As Chris says, the Democrats are an opposition party right now, not a governing one, and they need to get used to that and play that role as effectively as possible.

In other words, in this case, "giving up" is a good thing.

[1] O.K., I couldn't resist: Open Letter to Howard Dean by Tom Hayden

Katrina vanden Heuvel asks the following questions in her introduction to Tom Hayden's letter:

I agree with Dean - a political figure I admire - that the war in Iraq has put the US in greater danger. But the question facing us today is who will speak for the millions of Americans who believe that continued occupation increases the danger? Who will speak for the millions who believe that the US has gotten bogged down in Iraq? Who will speak out against the (majority of the) Democratic Party's silent consent to the Bush Administration's Iraq war policies? Who will speak out about the wrenching human and economic costs of occupation? Who will speak out in support of a clear and honorable exit strategy? Who will make a clear, unequivocal declaration that the US will not maintain permanent military bases in Iraq?

Memo to Katrina: the Green Party has been steadfast in it's opposition to the war in Iraq, and to the continuing occupation.

To quote Sam Smith, in the Progressive Review ("THE BIGGEST MEDIA SIN"):

WHICH AMERICAN political party best reflects the views of a majority of citizens on the Iraq war, environmental issues, health care, campaign financing, population growth, genetically modified foods, and marijuana use?
The answer, based on various polls, is the Green Party.

While Tom's letter doesn't represent a "mea culpa" on the level of Medea Benjamin's December 20th, 2004 comments in the Nation:

MANY OF US IN THE GREEN PARTY made a tremendous compromise by campaigning in swing states for such a miserable standard-bearer for the progressive movement as John Kerry. Well, I've had it. As George Bush says, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me--you can't get fooled again."
For those of you willing to keep wading in the muddy waters of the Democratic Party, all power to you. I plan to work with the Greens to get more Green candidates elected to local office.

... it still represents an acknowledgement that the loyalty of the "progressive left" is back in play. Matt Gonzalez for President in 2008, anyone? :)

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 11:29 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


At his press conference the other night Bush said,

"We operate within the law, and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people."
Are you surprised to learn this was just a flat-out lie? Go read TalkLeft: Uzbekistan, Torture, and Rendition.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:42 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Cut Wut?

I like to start arguments by asking right-wingers just WHAT government spending they think should be cut. (And what the hell does "big government" even MEAN?)

Any right-wingers reading this, please leave a comment -- what would you cut and how much money would that really save?

And remember, if you think it saves money to cut from repairing highways, for example, please include in your comment why you think this won't be offset by other costs. Like state taxes going up to cover necessary repairs, or the cost of lawsuits for damaged vehicles and accidents. Also, the cost in unemployment and welfare, etc. for laid-off workers. (Not to mention the ripple effect because those workers aren't spending at corner stores, etc.)

Another thought on this subject. Bush's $400 billion yearly deficits require NEW SPENDING of $20 billion for every year after or so to pay the interest...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:59 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Retaliation and Intimidation

Lawyer Who Told of U.S. Abuses at Afghan Bases Loses U.N. Post,

A United Nations human rights monitor who accused American military forces and civilian contractors last week of abusing and torturing prisoners in Afghanistan has been told his job is over.

[. . .] The day before, he had released a 21-page report saying that Americans running prisons in Afghanistan had acted above the law "by engaging in arbitrary arrests and detentions and committing abusive practices, including torture."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:44 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Corrupt Is As Corrupt Does II

Lawmaker Should Step Aside in DeLay Inquiry, Groups Say,

Campaign watchdog groups said on Friday that it would be inappropriate for Representative Melissa A. Hart to oversee any potential inquiry of the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, because she had received $15,000 from his political action committee and held a fund-raiser at a restaurant owned by a Republican lobbyist at the center of a growing corruption scandal.

Ms. Hart, a Pennsylvania Republican, has been named by the House ethics committee chairman to look into accusations about Mr. DeLay, who is under scrutiny for overseas trips organized by Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist. Mr. Abramoff's far-reaching political work is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation. Campaign records filed with the Federal Election Commission show that Ms. Hart held a fund-raising event at his restaurant, Signatures, in Washington.

If you live in Rep. Hart's Pennsylvania district, please call her office and ask her to step aside from this inquiry. If fact, ask her to resign for not stepping aside after taking $15,000 from Delay.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:39 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Making Shit Up

Make stuff up, and claim Democrats said it. Play victim and get lots of readers. You guessed it, another "conservative" blog.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:12 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

It's All About Us

So the reason there are Terrorist Attacks in Iraq is actually to make George Bush look bad and hurt the image of The Party.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Dark Humor

[Got this in my email from my Mom. I needed a laugh. -Thomas]

Bush Wins Papal Vote

Reuters - 18 April 2005 0953 GMT

VATICAN CITY - In a turn of events that stunned Vatican officials, U.S. President George W. Bush has been named to succeed John Paul II as the next leader of the Catholic Church.

For the first time in history, the College of Cardinals employed electronic voting machines to select the next Supreme Pontiff. Bush won by a margin of 2,528 votes, despite the fact that only 115 Cardinals took part in the process.

The machines, which were last used in the 2004 Ohio presidential election, also registered -27 votes for Democratic candidate John Kerry. "It's a miracle!" cried Kenneth Blackwell, spokesperson for voting machine manufacturer Diebold Corporation.

"God has spoken."

Supporters of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whom early exit polls had leading by a comfortable margin in the voting, demanded a recount.

But Blackwell said the voting machines, which had been modified to emit a plume of white smoke when a plurality was reached, are unable to produce a paper audit trail, rendering a recount impossible.

When informed of his victory, President Bush expressed surprise. "I was not aware I was running for the popecy," he said. "I wish people would tell me these things."

However, he added that he would be "honored and privileged to serve as Supreme Pontoon for the rest of my natural life, or until I die, whichever comes first."

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 4:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush's Reasons and Right-Wing Lies

What Kevin says, except for the "I originally supported the war" part.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


24 at BlogStreet : Most Important 100 Blogs

It's the quality of the readership, not necessarily the writership.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:26 AM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 29, 2005

Bush Had Earpiece Again!

Crooks and Liars caught it. Go watch the video clip. No question about it. And why wouldn't he? I mean, he was caught and the device was photographed yet he got away with it, so why not?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:54 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


Congress Passes Budget With Cuts in Medicaid and in Taxes.

$106 billion MORE tax cuts for the rich. Massive borrowing. Massive debt. Massive interest payments that you and I and our children and their children will have to pay -- one way or another.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:44 AM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Apology To Firefox Users

Firefox users, I apologize for the gray background that you see for a few seconds. I also use Firefox so I see it, too. I'm trying to find out how to fix this so everyone sees the same thing. Blame Microsoft.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:34 AM | Comments (7) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

They Just Say Stuff

Steve at Left Coaster points out that Bush Blames Others For No Energy Policy - But GOP Tried To Eliminate DOE In 1990's.

The Republicans tried to get rid of the entire Energy Department. Never forget that. (And the Education Department, too, by the way.)

They say what they need to say to make the sale. If the focus groups and polls tell them to say something, they say it. That's all t is. Truth is just not a part of the calculation.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Get More Scared

A comment in the Opium for You thread suggested the Yurica Report as a good source for info about Straussians (and Dominionists.) Also suggested scrolling down to "Infiltrating the Military."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

Leo Strauss

I posted the following as a comment to the Opium For You post and Dave asked me to repost it as a blog.

I've been researching the devotion of the neocons to the philosophy of Leo Strauss for a long time. If I haven't posted anything about this here, I should have. He was a professor at the U. of Chicago, taken very seriously at the time by any number of bright young things who considered themselves intellectually elite. A lot of my friends considered themselves intellectually elite and went to the University of Chicago, which considered itself the most intellectually elite university, so this was the right place for Strauss. I wasn't considered intellectually elite because I couldn't afford to go there. It was a private school and very expensive. To be intellectually elite you had to be rich. Of course you also had to be a man, so I could only have become a second-class Straussian at best anyway.

Strauss himself was, well, nuts. No other way to put it. A victim of Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jews, he spent his life wasting his considerable intellect finding secrets that didn't exist hidden in ancient philosophers, using this to reconstruct Nazi style philosophy. Maybe he suffered from the Stockholm syndrome.

You had to be a member of the intellectual elite to be allowed to share those "secrets" and this created a vicious circle. Those who wanted to be considered elite were allowed into the inner sanctum and thus could forever consider themselves elite, and plenty of his former students are now in positions of power. I knew some of his followers. You couldn't argue with them because, of course, they considered themselves the cream of the intellectual elite in possession of "secrets' nobody else could grasp -- or were even allowed to know about. Strauss' writings contain their own hidden "secrets" only the initiated elite can interpret and understand. You have to have been given the Keys to the Kingdom or you can't play. The Chosen Ones, the would-be modern Philosopher Kings. Combine this with their cynical manipulation of the Dominionists, who believe that God has appointed them to establish and rule the Kingdom of God on Earth and you've got as poisonously dangerous a brew as has ever existed.

We would do well to research and understand this.

Posted by Meryl Johnson at 3:09 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post

The Housing Bubble: Media, Congress Need To Wake Up

The warning signs are everywhere that a mortgage/housing fiasco is unfolding and the silence is deafening. Except for newcomers like Cramer, the media isn't covering this debacle or the Doral matter. The home builders having their head handed to them after record existing and new sales, plus record earnings, should put the media on notice that we have a problem.

Perhaps asking the media to quit cheerleading and look at the housing crisis objectively is too much. What of our representatives in Washington? The congress had better be meeting to figure out what the heck they are going to do instead of debating who is more responsible for Fannie.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:49 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Al Gore On Rule Of Law

Al Gore gave a speech Wednesday on the Republican effort to set aside the rules of the Senate and not allow filibusters. Please read it. Exerpts:

The survival of freedom depends upon the rule of law.

The rule of law depends, in turn, upon the respect each generation of Americans has for the integrity with which our laws are written, interpreted and enforced.

That necessary respect depends not only on the representative nature of our legislative branch, but also on the deliberative character of its proceedings. As James Madison envisioned, ours is a "deliberative democracy." Indeed, its deliberative nature is fundamental to the integrity of our social compact. Because the essential alchemy of democracy -- whereby just power is derived from the consent of the governed -- can only occur in a process that is genuinely deliberative.

Moreover, it is the unique role of the Senate, much more than the House, to provide a forum for deliberation, to give adequate and full consideration to the strongly held views of a minority. In this case, the minority is made up of 44 Democratic Senators and 1 Independent.

And it is no accident that our founders gave the Senate the power to pass judgment on the fitness of nominees to the Judicial branch. Because they knew that respect for the law also depends upon the perceived independence and integrity of our judges. And they wanted those qualities to be reviewed by the more reflective body of Congress.

[. . .] I am genuinely dismayed and deeply concerned by the recent actions of some Republican leaders to undermine the rule of law by demanding the Senate be stripped of its right to unlimited debate where the confirmation of judges is concerned, and even to engage in outright threats and intimidation against federal judges with whom they philosophically disagree.

[. . .] Through their words and threats, these Republicans are creating an atmosphere in which judges may well hesitate to exercise their independence for fear of Congressional retribution, or worse.

It is no accident that this assault on the integrity of our constitutional design has been fueled by a small group claiming special knowledge of God's will in American politics. They even claim that those of us who disagree with their point of view are waging war against "people of faith." How dare they?

[. . .] This fight is not about responding to a crisis. It is about the desire of the administration and the Senate leadership to stifle debate in order to get what they want when they want it. What is involved here is a power grab -- pure and simple.

And what makes it so dangerous for our country is their willingness to do serious damage to our American democracy in order to satisfy their lust for total one-party domination of all three branches of government. They seek nothing less than absolute power. Their grand design is an all-powerful executive using a weakened legislature to fashion a compliant judiciary in its own image. They envision a total breakdown of the separation of powers. And in its place they want to establish a system in which power is unified in the service of a narrow ideology serving a narrow set of interests.

It is a historic speech that high school students will be reading 100 years from now (if the Right doesn't get away with this coup). Go read the rest. And watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

We need a new media, #10

Before I retired, my big issue was the need for a new media -- new national TV, cable, newspaper, and radio. I'm now convinced that elections are won and lost mostly among the people who depend on scuttlebutt and free media for their political information, and that the Republicans have a huge advantage there. So we need to scrape up half a billion and build the whole thing from scratch.

Many Democrats still don't get the point. Even today, proposals of this type get kneejerk sneers from a high proportion of liberals. I stopped asking myself why; I ended up concluding that the Democrats are worthless and deserve to lose -- it's a pity that the U.S. will have to lose too.

But maybe I'm wrong. Robert Parry of Consortium News (first-rank professional journalist, by the way) is working on this issue, and Carolyn Kay of Make them Accountable is also on top of things. (She sends out frequent email updates which I highly recommend.)

Right now they are trying to put pressure on MoveOn to put some energy (and money) into long-term media projects, instead of pissing to away on a series of one-time single-issue votes.

Write MoveOn here.

Posted by John Emerson at 2:11 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Opium For You

Billmon, on Straussians. Well worth reading, if you have time. Learn about the philosophy of the neo-cons in charge of this country. Part of the idea is to feed religion to the masses to get them to follow you... And yes, this stuff is for real. Billmon is writing about it because the neo-cons believe it.

To the Straussians, rationality does not provide an adequate basis for a stable social order. To the contrary, the Age of Enlightenment has ushered in the crisis of modernity, in which nihilism – the moral vacuum left behind by the death of God – inevitably leads to decadence, decline and, ultimately, genocide.

[. . .] What gives Straussian thought its special flavor – a bitter blend of hypocrisy and cynicism – is the fact that Strauss himself didn’t believe in the eternal “truths” he championed. He was a nihilist, in other words – but one who believed only the philosophical elite could be trusted to indulge in such a dangerous vice. In exchange for this privilege, the elite has a special obligation to uphold the “noble lies” the ignorant masses must live by if society is to survive.

[. . .] The rationale – or rationalization – for the populist ploy is that the common folk are a hell of a lot less liberal (again, using the Enlightenment definition of the word) than what the Straussians like to call America’s “parchment regime” – that is, the ideas and principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The masses want their opium, in other words, and with the right guidance, will happily sweep away the liberal elites who have been denying it to them.

This, in turn, will set the stage for a golden (or at least silver) age of religious orthodoxy, patriarchal values and a hierarchical corporate capitalism stripped of its original libertarian feistiness – all of it supervised by a moral nanny state freed from the confines of all that “parchment.”

Billmon comments on this,
[. . .] If there is a crisis of modernity, it appears to be more a function of the faithful – some whom are getting awfully violent for a bunch of opium addicts. When the 9/11 terrorists flew their planes into the World Trade Center, I can guarantee you they weren’t reciting passages from Mill’s On Liberty. The real crisis may be the lack of modernity, not a surplus of the stuff – an argument the neocons themselves are now making, at least about the religious fanatics in the Middle East.

The ones in Midwest, on the other hand, are another story. To the Straussians, it apparently doesn’t matter what kind of religious orthodoxy America has – as long as it has one. And so the highly educated followers of a Jewish refugee from demented old Europe have allied themselves with some of the most ignorant, racist and xenophobic people in modern crazy America.

That's a little bit, to get you worked up. It got me worked up. Anyway, go read it, and learn what shocking conclusions Billmon reaches.

Update - Digby weighs in on the subject.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:11 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Call Your NPR Station

Over at The Blogging of the President: 2004 (need to fix that title, people, it's 2005) they're asking you to call your local NPR station - if you are a pledging member - and ask why they give kid-glove interviews avoiding tough, key questions. Go read why.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Social Security for Tiny Brain Journalists

Love Brother Bush’s Traveling Social Security Salvation Show has mercifully come to an end. Because Love Brother Bush has been saying a lot of confusing things about Social Security, a lot of tiny brain journalists are . . . well, confused. Let's take a fresh look at how Social Security works just for them.

Programs that are financed through dedicated taxes are considered to be off-budget. Social Security with its FICA tax and Trust Fund is the largest off-budget program in the United States budget. In exchange for the privilege of using the excess FICA payments for general operating expenses, the Treasury Department issues special Social Security bonds to the Social Security trust fund.

In a nutshell, Love Brother Bush is stealing your FICA payments and giving them to Bill Gates in the form of tax cuts. Since Bill Gates needs lots of government welfare to keep Microsoft afloat, Bush is giving him not just your FICA payments, but the FICA payments of millions of other people as well.

The last couple of years FICA payments have been about $160 billion per year greater than the benefits due to retirees. FICA payments have been going into the general fund and the U.S. Treasury has been placing special non-tradeable Social Security "IOU" treasury bonds in the Social Security trust fund. That means Bush's actual deficit last year was actually close to $600 billion, but through this creative accounting gimmick, the budget deficit went on the books at a little over $400 billion.

The reason Love Brother Bush is so upset about this great arrangement, is that according to trust fund rules, someday the loans will have to be paid back to retirees in the form of benefit checks. The bad news is that because of Love Brother Bush’s tax cuts, the government will not have any money to pay retirement benefits, so Bush wants to divert some of the FICA payments going into the Trust Fund into private accounts. That means the Trust Fund will run out of money sooner. Why that is an advantage, not even the evil geniuses at the Heritage Foundation and CATO Institute have been able to explain.

Because Love Brother Bush cannot support Bill Gates in the manner to which he has become accustomed with surplus FICA payments alone, Bush must also give Brother Gates additional welfare in the form of tax cuts from revenue surpluses we don’t have. We are currently paying a little over $300 billion per year in interest on the national debt. Following the lead of supply siders at CATO and Heritage, Love Brother Bush wants to double that number with massive tax cuts for billionaires. In thirty years, nobody has been able to explain how tax cuts reduce budget deficits, but the theory makes Lawrence Kudlow giddy, and that seems to suffice for conservative economic policy wonks.

Astute readers are asking themselves why I am talking about the budget deficit. Let’s take a look at the future deficit chart from EPI. The teeny green box represents Love Brother Bush’s Social Security crisis. The tall blue column represents Bush’s tax cut deficits. To solve the teeny green crisis, Love Brother Bush wants to make the tall blue column about three times higher by extending his tax cuts.

To summarize, the fundamental flaw with Bush's stealth privatization plan is that it makes Social Security’s unfunded liability worse. His tax cuts make the budget deficit worse. To fix Medicare’s unfunded liability Love Brother Bush made it worse by giving a couple hundred billion dollars to Big Pharma. Does anybody detect a pattern here? In the private sector people get fired for fixing problems by making them worse.

Before we leave the subject of the national debt, let's take a look at our
National Debt clock.

The singular goal of all of Love Brother Bush’s economic plans and programs is to make our national debt clock spin like crazy. The faster the clock spins the better. Noted psychologists suspect it isn’ts massive government deficits themselves, but the frenetic spinning of the national debt clock that makes Lawrence Kudlow giddy. There are persistent rumors that Lawrence has been observed chortling madly at his desk while watching the national debt clock hecticly keep pace with Love Brother Bush’s deficit spending programs. Making Lawrence Kudlow giddy seems to suffce as a rationale for national economic policy.

We've covered an awful lot of ground today. One thing to remember about the economic reports you see on television and read in the newspaper, is that tiny journalist brains like Chip Reed and Dick Gregory are not capable of grasping complex mathematical concepts like pluses and minuses. Tiny brain journalists are almost as good as President Bush is at making the simplest economic issues completely unintelligible. Many of them are aspirijng to the exalted and dizzying heights of journalistic and economic malpractice achieved by Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews.

If you would like to become more economically informed, I suggest your spend thirty minutes a day, for ninety days reading the three best economic blogs on the web:

Brad DeLong

Max Speak, You Listen!

The Angry Bear

After reading those three blogs for ninety days, you will have a better understanding of economic issues than any of our tiny brain journalists.

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 8:04 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 27, 2005


Daily Kos :: Animal Exploitation, A Progressive Issue?

Click the "Recommend Diary" button while you're there.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Another Trick (Surprised?)

The headline says G.O.P. Will Relent on Ethics Rules, House Speaker Says and the story says,

Saying that an ethics impasse needed to be resolved to provide a chance for Representative Tom DeLay to clear his name, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said this morning that Republicans were ready to relent on rules changes that have left the ethics committee unable to do any work.
But gosh darn it, it's just another trick. You see, what isn't changing is that the Republicans pick the Ethics Comittee staff now, and it is the staff that conducts the actual investigation. So of course the investigations will clear Republicans while condemning Democrats. Doh!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:22 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Setting Aside The Rules

I participated in a conference call with Senate Minority Leader Reid Monday. The topic was the Republican "nuclear option" of not allowing filibusters anymore.

Senator Reid said something that I don't think the public is being made sufficiently aware of. He said that the Senate Parliamentarian has stated that this idea the Republicans have of changing the rules of the Senate to disallow filibusters of judicial nominations is itself against the rules of the Senate! (For one thing, the rule change itself could be filibustered, so the Republican insistence that 51 votes is enough to change the rules is against the rules.)

But the Republicans are saying no, they are just going to change the rule, regardless of what the Senate rules allow or do not allow. Just because they can, and no one can stop them.

I think the implications of this are disturbing, to say the least. The Republicans are saying they just will not follow the rules of the Senate, because they have the power to say this, and that's that. Rules will no longer apply. And as I understand it the Democrats can't take this to the courts, because separation of powers prevents the courts from getting involved with the internal rules of the Senate. (And if they could take it before the courts, would judges appointed under the Republican rules hear the case...?)

So this is a bigger deal than just a battle over appointing a few judges. This will be a full-blown Constitutional crisis, well beyond the 2000 Supreme Court decision to set aside the election and appoint Bush as President. This will be about the Republicans saying they will just make up the rules as they go along, because they have the power to do so.

My question is, how is this different from a coup, takeover, whatever you want to call it? I ask that question in all seriousness and I hope we can have a discussion in the comments, because I don't know the answer. I know I get worked up over things like this (I mean, I'm a blogger, right?) and I would like someone to calm me down and tell me how this is not a takeover. Leave a comment. Reassure me. Tell me not to worry.

Meanwhile, watch your backs.

Update - From The Carpetbagger Report has more on what this is about,

James Dobson did a lot of his usual shtick at “Justice Sunday,” railing against the judiciary, lambasting the culture that’s made him wealthy, demanding better results from the Republican Party, etc. But there was one comment from the weekend stood out for me.
“Five black-robed justices on the Supreme Court can tell us how it’s gonna be,” Dobson said. “They’re not gods. They don’t do everything right…. For 43 years, the court has been on a campaign to limit religious liberty.”
[. . .] This is significant because it speaks volumes about the far-right agenda. Focus on the Family and their followers in Congress aren’t just defending religion in the public square; they want the government to literally be responsible for writing and dictating prayers for all public school children. They want the biggest of all possible governments: the state as religious instructor. To do otherwise is “to limit religious liberty.”
Calling the Supreme Court "black-robed justices" and mocking the concept of existing law... Make no mistake, these people mean it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:43 PM | Comments (26) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Legal Free Music

You should know about iRATE radio.

iRATE radio is a collaborative filtering system for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X that downloads and plays music. As you rate music it automatically finds more free music that you'll like by finding people with similar music tastes.

The software is GPL, and it indexes and filters "free" music (Creative Commons, etc.).

You should also know about the Internet Archive's "audio" section. I particularly like their 78rpm collection - nothing more authentic than folk music straight from the hills and hollows.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 9:40 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 26, 2005

Today's Housing Bubble Post

You probably saw the news today, New Home Sales Hit Record High in March. But did you see this, buried in the story?

The median price of a new home sold in March actually declined to $212,300, a 9.3 percent drop from the February level of $234,000.
The Housing Bubble blog asks the important question,
Here is the question of the day; if new home prices fell 9% in March, does that mean those who bought in February are already underwater?
"Underwater" means the house is already worth less than they paid for it. Remember, everyone is depending on the price of houses continually rising to justify the enormous payments they are making on the loans they are taking out.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:31 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Clueful Union Organizing

No Hard Hats Worn Here

I especially like the bit where the scum-sucking corporate capitalist sends the workers a separate check from a different temporary company (at the same address as the primary one) to cover any hours worked beyond the normal 40 hour limit. Boy and howdy, we can't be paying time and a half on a $7.50 per hour base wage, can we? That'll just break the bank.

Bastards. I hope they get sued, big time. Eliot Spitzer, where are you? :)

I look forward to seeing more stories like this.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 7:17 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Federal funding for cities/counties now tied to NCLB.

In the face of a growing backlash against the unrealistic and continually escalating demands imposed on local schools, districts and even state governments (in more than a few cases, lead by Republican-dominated states), the Bush Administration has apparently decided to up the ante for those choosing to resist: if your area's schools aren't meeting NCLB standards, the surrounding cities and county could possibly lose hundreds of millions in federal funding under a consolidated competitive community block grant program (which is already being cut by 35% as it is).

More information about the Strengthening America’s Communities Initiative (don't you love how every single one of Bush's programs does the opposite of what it is called?) can be found on the Commerce Dept. web site... but when I took a look, all I saw was propaganda and bureaucratese. My life is too short to spend digging through this B.S. when obviously more interested parties have already done so.

The article below arrived in my email box via one of the activist lists I'm on. As far as I can tell, the article (and the publication it came from, "Federal Grants & Contracts Weekly", Vol. 29, No. 18 April 25, 2005) are not available on-line, and subscriptions are $300+ a year. Therefore, I'm going to post it verbatim, under the "fair use" and "public benefit" provisions of copyright law (I've written the person who originally forwarded the article for a copy of the PDF version she sourced it from).

Here's the money quote, from David Shreve, education committee director for the National Conference of State Legislatures:

"The detail is not important here — what's important here is that they have put as a condition for being eligible for the competitive grants a requirement for the community to demonstrate schools are meeting AYP goals," Shreve said. "Any communities that even thought about going their own way [by with-drawing from NCLB] would not be eligible for some of the money."

No kidding.

Another excerpt (the full article follows):

At issue is the president's Strengthening America's Communities initiative, which would consolidate 18 community and economic development programs, including the CDBG. The programs are housed across several federal agencies; CDBG is administered by the Housing and Urban Development Department. The president requested $3.7 billion for the new consolidated program, a 35 percent reduction in funding from all the programs combined, critics said. [My emphasis. -TL]

Page 1: Bush would tie city funds to school progress under NCLB

Local governments stand to lose hundreds
of millions in economic development
funding if their schools do not perform to
the standards under the No Child Left
Behind Act.

Under the president's fiscal 2006 budget,
counties and cities would be eligible for a
portion of a new economic development fund
only if their schools make adequate yearly
progress under NCLB.

Page 7

Bush would tie city funds to progress under NCLB (cont.)

The NCLB aspect of the proposal caught
local officials by surprise, as they have been
focusing their fight on preserving the 30-year-old
Community Development Block Grants,
which the president wants to consolidate into
other programs.

"Someone has to explain to me the connection
between meeting the AYP goals and the
need for community development," said David
Shreve, education committee director for the
National Conference of State Legislatures. "Can
you afford to wait to improve your community
until your schools improve, or is it something
you need to do right away?"

Funds hinge on NCLB

At issue is the president's Strengthening
America's Communities initiative, which would
consolidate 18 community and economic development
programs, including the CDBG. The
programs are housed across several federal
agencies; CDBG is administered by the Housing
and Urban Development Department.
The president requested $3.7 billion for the
new consolidated program, a 35 percent reduction
in funding from all the programs combined,
critics said.

Part of the $3.7 billion would pay for a competitive
bonus grant program for low-income
communities that have demonstrated "readiness
for development," according to the budget
proposal. The indicators for these "development-
ready" communities include: schools
meeting NCLB's AYP goals, reducing violent
crime rates and regulatory barriers to

Ed Rosado, legislative director for the
National Association of Counties, said tying the
funding to NCLB makes little sense because
counties and cities do not directly control

"County governments don't have [direct]
responsibilities in dealing with schools," he
said. "How are we going to be graded when we
don't have the ability to make changes to the
school systems to qualify for the grant? It would
not be a fair criterion placed across the board
on all counties and cities."

Sprouting effect

It is unclear how much money local govern-ments
could lose due to school performance.
The Commerce Department, which would over-see
the new initiative, is still ironing out the
details of eligibility and funding distribution, a
spokesman said.

In box:

NCLB a `good' yardstick

Schools' success under the No Child Left Behind
Act is a good measure for determining whether a
community produces an educated workforce, said
David Bearden, principal deputy assistant secretary of
commerce for economic development.

That's why NCLB is included as an indicator of
"development-ready" community under the president's
proposal, he said. "We think using the annual progress
standard under NCLB is a good method of determining

An interim advisory committee, assembled by the
Commerce Department, will recommend specific
eligibility criteria for funding distribution.
Approximately $200 to 300 million of the $3.7 billion
could be used for a competitive bonus grant; the
majority of the funds would be distributed by a formula
driven by poverty and unemployment rates, Bearden

Regardless, local officials appeared more
troubled at the prospect of NCLB expanding to
affect the distribution of other federal funds
outside of those administered by the Education
Department than they were about how much
they stood to lose.

"The detail is not important here — what's
important here is that they have put as a condition
for being eligible for the competitive
grants a requirement for the community to
demonstrate schools are meeting AYP goals,"
Shreve said. "Any communities that even
thought about going their own way [by with-drawing
from NCLB] would not be eligible for
some of the money."

County, city officials and mayors have
publicly criticized Bush's economic development
proposal. Now they fear NCLB will further
prevent them from accessing these funds.
Lelia Allen, housing director for Orlando,
Fla., said the school system in Orange County
faces many challenges in meeting federal and
state standards. Last year, all but two high
schools received grades of D or F under Florida's
accountability system.

Allen said she is "perplexed" by the president's
proposal. Florida "has some very stringent
requirements with NCLB," she added. "To
tie [NCLB performance] to a funding source
that creates safety and well being for children
so they can learn better ... I feel I am missing
something from the proposal."

For more on the president's proposal, see

Katherine Shek

Sheck is a report for sister publicaton,
Education Daily.

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Light Blogging Day?

I'm working today, so probably won't get much chance to blog. I don't know who else will be posting. So in the meantime I recommend prowling the list of EXCELLENT weblogs over on the left and down a ways. There are so many good bloggers, working hard, bringing you the best of Progressive news, opinion and analysis. Check them out.

As always, let me know if I have missed listing your blog, or have old or broken links.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:10 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Great Stuff

More great stuff from eRiposte: The Left Coaster: Why the Liberal Media Myth Persists - Part 4

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Frist Says He's Not Interested in Deals

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The Deal

Bush and Saudi Prince Discuss High Oil Prices in Ranch Meeting

Saudi Arabia's plan, which it began discussing publicly weeks ago, calls for spending up to $50 billion to increase its maximum sustainable production capacity to 12.5 million barrels a day by 2009, and to 15 million in the subsequent decade, from about 10.8 million barrels now. The Saudis are currently pumping about 9.5 million barrels a day.
Think about it this way: Who GETS that $50 billion to be spent on upgrading facilities? And who's worst enemy (and oil competitor) was invaded and occupied recently? And who's military and intelligence services are protecting which kingdom?

A Saudi official said that Mr. Bush had not requested a short-term production increase and that such an increase would not have any effect on gasoline prices in the United States in any case. The high price of gasoline in the United States, the Saudi official said, was mostly a result of a lack of refining capacity here.
Uh huh. The same refining capacity that had us under $2 recently.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:11 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

Corrupt Is As Corrupt Does

Just after taking office: Bush administration suspends contractor regulation - 03/31/01,

The Bush administration Friday ordered the suspension of a Clinton rule that would have significantly strengthened the government's ability to deny contracts to companies that have violated workplace safety, environmental and other federal laws.

In a rebuff to organized labor and a nod to business, the Bush administration is moving to rescind the rule -- which took effect the day before President Bill Clinton left office -- that directs federal agencies to assess whether prospective contractors have violated federal laws.

Would you call Bush's attitudes and behavoirs a flirtation with corruption, or just corruption?

Today, after undeniable evidence of Delay's corruption comes before the public, we get this: In Show of Support, Bush to Give DeLay AF1 Flight.

Yes, I'm talking about this guy.

Corruption , corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption, corruption.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:37 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


I visited Wingnutopia to see what the Republican "base" is talking about.

WingNutDaily has a big headline, "Iran plans to knock out U.S. with 1 nuke bomb"

Regular headlines:
"Tehran to resume nuke enrichment"
"Iran's imminent threat"
"Want to help bring liberty to Iran?"

Other headlines of note:
"On the 'sin' of sending kids to public school" ("Shortt, writing from a biblical perspective, presents rigorous research about the agenda and effect of government schooling on the nation's young people.")

Also, can't tell if this is an article or an ad, "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives have Penetrated Washington" reveals how Islamic extremists, taking advantage of Americans' blind trust and gaining footholds in the nation's education system, government, workplace, law enforcement and military, have been covertly working to destroy America's constitutional government and the Judeo-Christian ethics on which the nation was built

NewsMax has as its first headline, "Latest: Savage's Book Hits #6 on N.Y. Times List"

The Media Research Center has "Media: Dems 'Good-hearted,' GOP 'Evil'"

TownHall has "Bolton: Attacked for being anti-Cuba?"
"Black activists criticize NAACP for filibuster flip-flop, Group now supports Senate tactic that hobbled civil rights legislation."
"Public school "accountability" is a failure, The free-market system can solve corruption in the public schools."

These people are nuts.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:04 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Terror Fear

Hey, what happened to The Fear? Where is the "threat level?" Before the election we were getting terror threats all the time... I just checked Fox News and they don't have the "threat level" meter at the bottom of the screen now!

And remember before the Iraq war started, they were talking about attacks on local shopping malls and smallpox attacks and mailing things to our houses telling us what to do if there is a nuclear attack? Remember The Fear?

What changed?

Update - Agitprop in the comments following this post points us to this about the timing of the terror alerts.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:09 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 24, 2005

The Flight of the Creative Class

From http://www.salon.com/books/int/2005/04/21/florida/index.html

[Salon.com, of course, requires a subscription and/or sitting through a multi-media equivalent of a commercial, in order for you to read the full article... but it's worth doing. The review contains an in depth interview with Richard Florida where he discusses the collateral damage inflicted on our ability to attract the world's best and brightest by the culture war and the war on terrorism. Relevant to readers of this blog, he also discusses the failure of the left to effectively articulate a vision for how those left out of the "creative" economy can be integrated into it and their fears addressed. Florida goes into great depth about how BushCo/etc. is taking advantage of this to manipulate the electorate. Really good stuff. -Thomas]

"The gay/hipster index"
Richard Florida argues that unless America turns its cities into gay-friendly, hip creativity hubs like San Francisco, the best and brightest will opt for foreign climes.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Christopher Dreher
April 21, 2005 | "The United States of America is on the verge of losing its competitive advantage," economist Richard Florida wrote last fall in a Harvard Business Review article based on his new book, "The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent." "It is facing perhaps its greatest economic challenge since the dawn of the industrial revolution." Even more provocatively, he later declared that "Terrorism is less a threat to the U.S. than the possibility that creative and talented people will stop wanting to live within its borders."

A couple of excerpts:

[Florida:] The failure is on the left because they're the people who are supposed to be making a case for a proactively inclusive future. And why can't our left today -- instead of saying we're going to appeal to blue-collar voters by saying, "Well, what we're going to do is scale back women's rights and we don't even want to talk about gay rights" -- why can't the left do what you're supposed to do? Which is what Franklin Roosevelt did.
[Salon:] The idea of promoting "socially inclusive innovation" might fly in Australia and Scandinavia, but I can't think of any politician out there who could weather the fury of rote partisan criticism supporting that sort of change would bring out.
[Florida:] Yes, what scares me is that that force is absent from present-day America. Instead of bemoaning low-wage service jobs and then just talking about restoring manufacturing and dealing with outsourcing, someone somewhere has to say that the real key to the future is to make these service jobs good jobs. I mean that's the real policy point -- the service economy, which represents 40 to 45 percent of the lowest paying jobs in our economy with the least protection, has to become part of the creative economy. We have to change those jobs in the way industrial jobs were once changed from being terrible jobs to being good jobs. We're in deep trouble if we can't focus on and address the externalities of the creative age -- income inequality, the class divide, housing unaffordability, traffic congestion, and the one also talked about in the book, the incredible amount of mental stress, which is the occupational health and safety issue of the 21st century.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 11:25 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


What Chris says.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


Atrios might have answered the question.

Just speculation...

Update - Digby asks Who Created Jeff Gannon?

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Christian Fascism Has The Power

What the disparate sects of this movement, known as Dominionism, share is an obsession with political power. A decades-long refusal to engage in politics at all following the Scopes trial has been replaced by a call for Christian “dominion” over the nation and, eventually, over the earth itself. Dominionists preach that Jesus has called them to build the kingdom of God in the here and now, whereas previously it was thought that we would have to wait for it. America becomes, in this militant Biblicism, an agent of God, and all political and intellectual opponents of America’s Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan.

These are excerpts from Part II of an article in the May issue of Harper's magazine, Soldiers Of Christ. I provided excerpts from Part I, Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch in a diary at MyDD, Onward Christian Soldiers. This post covers Part II, Feeling the Hate with the National Religious Broadcasters by Chris Hedges, Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute.

After I heard an interview of Chris Hedges on Air America's Morning Sedition, I stopped by Barnes and Noble on the way home and bought their only copy of this month's Harper's. The interview is not available on the Morning Sedition site, but I sent an email request that they add it to their site. I encourage everyone to make additional requests that they add an audio clip of their interview with Hedges.

The L.A. Times has a couple of recent articles that add background and context to this article:

2 Evangelicals Want to Strip Courts' Funds: Taped at a private conference, the leaders outline ways to punish jurists they oppose.

Frist Initiative Creates Rift in GOP Base

With a couple of minor exceptions, I have refrained from any personal comments. What follows are excerpts from an unvarnished look at radical Christian evangelism:

Under Christian dominion, America will no longer be a sinful and fallen nation but one in which the Ten Commandments form the basis of our legal system, Creationism and “Christian values” form the basis of our educational system, and the media and the government proclaim the Good News to one and all. Aside from its proselytizing mandate, the federal government will be reduced to the protection of property rights and “homeland” security. Some Dominionists (not all of whom accept the label, at least not publicly) would further require all citizens to pay “tithes” to church organizations empowered by the government to run our social-welfare agencies, and a number of influential figures advocate the death penalty for a host of “moral crimes,” including apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy, and witchcraft. The only legitimate voices in this state will be Christian. All others will be silenced.

[Hedges footnote: When George W. Bush was first elected, Pay Robertson resigned as head of the Christian Coalition, a sign to many that Bush was the first in an expected line of regents that will herald the coming of the Messiah.

. . .
My new friends, evidently minor celebrities themselves in the world of Christian broadcasting, have come to Anaheim for the yearly convention because it is the only time they can see all the major Christian broadcasters in one place. They are picture-perfect members of a new Christian elite, showy, proud of how God has blessed them with material wealth and privilege, and hooked into the culture of celebrity and power

. . .
A bearded man dressed as a biblical prophet is pushing tours of the Holy Land. I see anti-abortion booths and evidence of fringe groups such as Jews for Jesus and Accuracy in Media, one of whose representatives hands me a report with the title “America Troops Cheer Attacks on U.S. Media.”

All the seminars and workshops are taking place on the upper floors. One seminar is entitled “Finding god in Hollywood.” Another is called “Invading Cities for Christ: The Thousand Day Plan.”

. . .
Bob Lepine, the round-faced co-host of Family Life today, a radio show broadcast from Little Rock, Arkansas, tells us that this session has been sponsored by the Family Research Council, a Washington think tank dedicated to promoting “the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.”

Editor's note: Or an unjust, oppressive and unstable society if you are not a radical Christian evangelist.
. . .
”Deep in the nation’s capital,” [the] baritone voice [of Tony Perkins, a telegenic man who authored the American History Preservation Act] booms as the camera pans across the Washington mall, “America’s culture was hijacked by a secular movement determined to redefine society from religious freedom to the right to life. These radicals were doing their best to destroy two centuries of traditional values, and no one seemed to be able to stop them – until now.

Will Congress undo 200 years of tradition?” the video asks ominously. “Not on our watch.”

The mood of the convention is set. All Christians, everywhere, are under attack.

. . .
”Today, the calls for diversity and multiculturalism are nothing more than thinly veiled attacks on anyone willing, desirous, or compelled to proclaim Christian truths,” [Perkins] says. “Today, calls for tolerance are often a subterfuge, because they will tolerate just about anything except Christian truth. Today, we live in a time when the message entrusted to you is more important than ever before to reach a world desperate to know Christ.

. . .
[Illinois evangelist and radio host James] McDonald quotes liberally from the book of Revelation, the only place in the New Testament where Jesus (arguably) endorses violence and calls for vengence against nonbelievers. It is, along with the apocalyptic visions of St. Paul, the movement’s go-to test. Rarely mentioned these days is the Jesus of the four gospels, the Jesus who speaks of the poor and the marginalized, who taught followers to turn the other cheek and love their enemies, the Jesus who rejected the mantle of secular power.

. . .

He reminds us, quoting theologian Peter Berger, that “ages of faith are not marked by dialogue but by proclamation” and that “there is power in the unapologetic proclamation of truth. There is power in it. This is a kingdom of power.” When he says the word “power,” he draws it out for emphasis. He tells the crowd to shun the “persuasive words of human wisdom.” Truth, he says, does “not rest in the wisdom of men but the power of God.” Then, in a lisping, limp-wristed imitation of liberals, he mocks, to laughter and applause, those who want to “share” and be sensitive to the needs of others.

McDonald leaves little doubt that the convention is meant to serve as a rallying cry for a new and particularly militant movement in Christian politics, one that is sometimes mistaken for another outbreak of mere revivalism. In fact, this movement is a curious hybrid of fundamentalists, Pentecostals, Southern Baptists, conservative Catholics, Charismatics, and other evangelicals, all of whom are at war doctrinally but who nonetheless share a belief that America is destined to become a Christian nation, let by Christian men who are in turn directed by God.

. . .
The strange alliance in this case is premised upon the Dominionist belief that Israel must rule the biblical land in order for Christ to return, though when he does, all Jews who do not convert to Christianity supposedly will be incinerated as the believers are lifted into heaven; all this is courteously left unmentioned at the breakfast. The featured speakers include Avaraham Hirschsohn, who is the new Israeli minister of tourism, and Mechael Medved, a cultural conservative and a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host. Medved is also one of the most prominent Jewish defenders of Mel Gibson’s biopic The Passion of the Christ.

. . .
The Christian writer Kay Arthur, who can barely contain her tears when speaking of Israel, professes that although she loves America, if she had to choose between America and Israel, “I would stand with Israel, stand with Israel as a daughter of the King of Kings, stand according to the word of God.” She goes on to quote at length from Revelation, speaking of Jesus seated on a throne floating about Jerusalem as believers are raptured up toward him in the sky.

. . .
I speak as well with an Israeli woman, who introduces herself as Marina. She has long blonde hair and is wearing knee-high leather boots. Marina, who emigrated to Israel from Holland and lives on a cooperative mango farm near the Sea of galilee, says she is “embarrassed” to be at the convention. “These people are anti-Semitic,” she says, speaking softly as conventioneers move past the large Israeli display space. The demonization of Muslims and Palestinians by the speakers makes her especially uneasy. I ask her why the tourism ministry is here in the first place. “Money,” she says. “It is all about money. No one else visits Israel.”

. . .
Dobson is perhaps the most powerful figure in the Dominionist movement. He was instrumental three years ago in purging the moderate chairman of the NRB from his post and speaks frequently with the White House. He was a crucial player in getting out the Christian vote for George W. Bush.

. . .

He likens the proponents of gay marriage to the Nazis, has backed political candidates who called for the execution of abortion providers, defines embryonic stem-cell research as “state-funded cannibalism,” and urges Christian parents to pull their children out of public-school systems. He has issued warnings to the Bush Administration that his extremist agenda must begin to be implemented in Washington and by the federal courts if the Republican Party wants his continued support. Dobson apparently believes that he is without sin.

. . .
I can’t help but recall the words of my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, Dr. James Luther Adams, who told us that when we were his age, and he was then close to eighty, we would all be fighting the “Christian fascists.”

He gave us that warning twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other prominent evangelists began speaking of a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all major Americcan institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government, so as to transform the United States into a global Christian empire. At the time, it was hard to take such fantastic, rhetoric seriously. But fascism, Adams warned, would not return wearing swastikas and brown shirts. Its ideological inheritors would cloak themselves in the language of the Bible; they would come carrying crosses and chanting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Adams had watched American intellectuals and industrialists flirt with fascism in the 1930’s. Mussollini’s “Corporatism,” which created an unchecked industrial and business aristocracy, had appealed to many at the time as an effective counterweight to the New Deal. In 1934, Fortune magazine lavished praise on the Italian dictator for his defanging of labor unions and his empowerment of industrialists at the expense of workers. Then as now, Adams said, too many liberals failed to understand the power and allure of evil, and when the radical Christians came, these people would undoubtedly play by the old, polite rules of democracy long after those in power had begun to dismantle the democratic state. Adams had watched German academics fall silent or conform. He knew how desperately people want to believe the comfortable lies told by totalitarian movements, how easily those lies lull moderates into passivity.emphasis added
Adams told us to watch closely the Christian right’s persecution of homosexuals and lesbians. Hitler, he reminded us, promised to restore moral vlues not long after he took power in 1933, then imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations and publications. Then came raids on the places where homosexuals gathered, culminating on May 6, 1933, with the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Homosexuals and lesbians, Adams said, would be the first “deviants” singled out by the Christian right. We would be the next.

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 4:52 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Jobs -- Party Members Only

I've been predicting that the next couple of years will bring greater and greater consolidation of Republican one-party control. They will use all the levers of power to enforce this. For example, the government funds pro-Republican video clips and pays columnists and TV pundits promoting The Party. Government funding for the infrastructure that supports The Party. The Social Security Administration running ads for the Republican Party privatization proposal. Labor unions, teacher organizations, trial lawyers, non-profits like the NAACP harassed for supporting the opposition. Purging the government agencies of non-partisans. Etc... But the big one I predict - I guess I should have written this prediction on the blog sooner - is that this effort will reach into everyone's daily life as Republicans find ways to threaten the jobs of those who don't support The Party.

Well, here it begins: Any Kerry Supporters On The Line?

The Inter-American Telecommunication Commission meets three times a year in various cities across the Americas to discuss such dry but important issues as telecommunications standards and spectrum regulations. But for this week's meeting in Guatemala City, politics has barged onto the agenda. At least four of the two dozen or so U.S. delegates selected for the meeting, sources tell TIME, have been bumped by the White House because they supported John Kerry's 2004 campaign.
Many jobs depend on your ability to attend government-sponsored conferences and other events. If you can't attend conferences because you haven't been loyal to The Party then you might as well not have the job. Soon security clearances, licenses and other necessary credentials will depend on Party loyalty.

This is they tip of an iceberg. It will get worse. Expect punishment of people not loyal to The Party. Watch your backs.

Update - A realization I just had. This also shows that the government is now checking the political loyalties of citizens. Think about that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:19 AM | Comments (8) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Framing the Issues

Readers of this blog should appreciate the logic underlying this essay, "The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World". It was written by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus under the aegis of the Breakthrough Institute (the essay uses George Lakoff's "strategic framing" concepts extensively... and Lakoff sits on their advisory board).

An excerpt:

If environmentalists hope to become more than a special interest we must start framing our proposals around core American values and start seeing our own values as central to what motivates and guides our politics.

Here's what the Breakthrough Institute's home page leads off with:

The Breakthrough Institute believes that we can create a better world by advancing a vision grounded in America's founding values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I found out about this essay, and the Breakthrough Institute, by extension, as the result of reading this article in the San Francisco Chronicle, which gives a good overview of the debate provoked by the publication of this essay.

In the "Future" section of the Breakthrough Institute web site, under the heading "Strategy and Values", they ask the same question we on this blog have tried to answer: 'What explains how we can simultaneously be "winning on the issues" and losing so badly politically?'

P.S. Michael Shellenberger is co-founder of the Apollo Alliance, which this essay cites as an example of the strategic direction environmental activism should take.

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April 23, 2005

Voting Machines Story

At corrente

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:53 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Question

When did the fight over Bush's judges become a fight over "Christianity?" I think this reveals a lot more about the real agenda behind this takeover of the judicial system than we understood previously.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:59 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Jose Padilla Update

Our friend The Talking Dog has an interview with Donna Newman, who's defending Jose Padilla (the "dirty bomber"). Her story is chilling. Apparently the government wants to keep Padilla (an American citizen) in jail indefinitely, without charges and without a trial.

Donna Newman: When is the last time you saw a criminal defense attorney BEGGING the government to charge their client with a crime?

There are so many bad things about the Bush administration that the civil liberties aspects tend to be forgotten. This kind of arbitrary exercise of power is exactly what the Declaration of Independence was talking about.

Posted by John Emerson at 9:36 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

Marla's Law

[Not sure where to put this other than "News". -Thomas]

"Marla often said that her dream job would be to work at a desk at the U.S. State Department dedicated to tracking civilian casualties caused by U.S. military action. What's needed is legislation to create such a desk. Congressional experts aren't yet sure whether it should be at State or the Pentagon or elsewhere -- something Marla closest friends on the Hill are working on now."

Michael Shellenberger has a piece in The American Prospect entitled Marla Ruzicka's Legacy, where he talks about the political significance of her work - how she managed to get parties on all sides of the war, including active duty U.S. military, to appreciate the importance and value of accounting for the civilian lives lost as a result of U.S. military action. Peace activists and progressives, because it puts a human face on the cost of war, conservatives and military professionals, because they know that collateral damage increases the political cost of war and reduces the effectiveness of operations aimed at not only military, but psychological victory.

He says, "no reason for progressives and conservatives alike not to get behind Marla's proposal for the U.S. government to at least track and study civilian casualties." He calls this "Marla's Law".

The true cost of war, in Afghanistan, Kosovo, or Iraq, requires an accounting of civilians casualties. Marla Ruzicka gave her life to this cause, and her death and the publicity surrounding it creates an opening for such a law to be passed--especially given her ability to rally support for her work from both peace activists and military professionals, conservatives and progressives.

If the blogsphere picks up on this and support for it is heard across the spectrum, Marla's Law could become a reality. If you're a conservative reader, check out this excerpt from the article, and write about Marla's Law on your blog:

Military expert Arkin argues that there is no longer a contradiction between military effectiveness and civilian protection and that the military fully understands its direct and indirect affect of civilian casualties.

"The United States' practice of stiff-arming civilian victims and ignoring civilian casualties has enormous negative consequences," he said. "We're seen as craven. We're seen as indifferent to civilian life. It harms our ability to operate on the ground."

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 8:00 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

NY Conference on Religious Right's Agenda

I just came across this. I can't make it, but I want people to know about it: Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right - a Conference

Found through TheocracyWatch. Also, they have a good page on Taking Over the Republican Party.

(I've been prowling the web for more info on Dominionists since I realized that They Mean It.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:21 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Digby! Digby! Dibgy!

But damn, we typed and shopped bravely, didn't we?

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Good Morning Vietnam!

I laid the groundwork and introduced this morning's topic in Pope-pouri II. The focus was Karen Pittman's article, Kinda Fonda Jane. Today I will focus on Pittman's "allow me to retort" follow up, Being Fonda Jane.

Specifically, Pittman raises this salient question:

And to those who would attempt to argue the empirical evidence with me, I can say only this: What is actually open to debate here is not so much what Jane Fonda did in Hanoi in July of 1972 as whether or not we should forgive her for it.

That was the gist of my closing question in Pope-pouri II:

(5.) Do Jane Fonda and Cardinal Law's critics have an obligation to examine their own faults in refusing to grant forgiveness under any circumstances? Since contrition and forgiveness are a two way street, do Fonda and Law's critics have a moral obligation to be forgiving?

Pittman also addresses another question I posed in Pope-pouri II;

(4.) Is there any point in either Jane Fonda or Cardinal Law attempting to make a public act of contrition, to critics who can never be satisfied?

Ms. Fonda’s detractors charge that she should “apologize,” which, truthfully, it seems to me, she has tried to do, on more than one occasion. But even this is not enough, for these folks in the main don’t like the way she has apologized. I guarantee you not even very public groveling and prostration would do the trick for most of them. They would still say her genuflections are fake and that she is only getting down on her hands and knees now to sell a few more lousy books. (The book is actually quite good, by the way.)

Since Wednesday, a former Vietnam vet was arrested for showing up at one of Jane Fonda's book signings and spitting tobacco juice in her face. He made it clear that he does not normally chew tobacco, but only indulged this one time for the purpose of spitting in Jane Fonda's face. The Vietnam vet had no remorse and remarked that he considered his action a moral duty to honor fallen Vietnam vets.

Editor's note: I would like to interject that the urban legend of war protesters spitting in the face of returning Vietnam vets has been thoroughly debunked. A professor who noted the similarities that every rumored case occurred in either an airport or a bus terminal and in every case the honorable Vietnam vet turned his back and walked away. The obvious conclusion is that it may have happened that way once, but if it had happened more than once, it could be validated by records of a long haired hippy freak who was hospitalized with a busted up face as a result of a serious ass whuppin.

That raises another question:

1.) How do you make amends to an entire nation? The obvious parallel is Robert McNamara, whose apologia, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, was less than favorably received by conservatives. The details of McNamara’s moral failure have been chronicled in Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster, a former history professor at the United States Military Academy.

Pittman asks pretty much the same question:

Ms. Fonda’s detractors charge that she should “apologize,” which, truthfully, it seems to me, she has tried to do, on more than one occasion. But even this is not enough, for these folks in the main don’t like the way she has apologized. I guarantee you not even very public groveling and prostration would do the trick for most of them.

And secondly:

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it disconcerting and discomfiting that many of the critics appear to drop all the blame for the carnage (the killing fields of Cambodia) and the quagmire (Vietnam itself) at the feet of one (hysterical) woman? Is Jane Fonda really the Helen of the modern age?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it was JFK, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon – not Jane Fonda – who sent these good men to those mayhem-strangled jungles in the first place, was it not? Whatever else we can say about her motivations (including her adversarial ideological leanings at the time), Jane Fonda did at least want to stop the bombing and bring the soldiers home, whether she achieved that mission or not.

Even if Hanoi Jane was directly or indirectly responsible for many deaths, how many more young men were felled before she went? Do we really think she was trying to add to the number of the dead or to quit the killing on both sides? How many deaths, do we suppose, belong to the ghosts of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon?

For my money, Jane Fonda should be admired as a national hero for helping stop an immoral and illegal war. The Theocons have been out in force attempting to rewrite the history of Vietnam. They have invented the novel idea that we didn't really lose Vietnam, because it was just one small battle in the mythical "War Against Communism". This is a blatant attempt to justify Bush's immoral and illegal Iraq war by making it part of an equally mythical "War on Terrorism."

Theocons also created the myth that Ronald Reagan won the cold war with his Jerico like speech exhorting Gorbachev to "tear down that wall." My analysis is that there were at least seven factors, in order of importance:

(1.) Our thirty year bi-partisan policy of containment
(2.) Internal Soviet corruption, decay and economic weakness
(3.) The Solidarity Union movement
(4.) Pope Paul II
(5.) Gorbachev's reform efforts that were manifested by his policies of glasnost and peristroika
(6.) Ronald Reagan's efforts to abolish nuclear weapons
(7.) Last, and most certainly least, Ronald Reagan's speech at the Berlin Wall.

We must not allow conservatives to hijack history the same way they are hijacking the truth to promote their ill considered economic and foreign policy objectives.

Allow me to close with two final questions:

(1.) Can Germany every atone for World War II and Hitler? This is especially poignant with the appointment of what some folks are humorously, or rudely if you will, calling our first Nazi Pope.

(2.) If David Horowitz is serious about including Juan Williams, Garrison Keillor and Roger Ebert in his list of anti-Americans who think America is The Great Satan, doesn't consistency and intellectual honesty demand that he also include Pope Paul II?

Let our grand national dialogue continue . . .

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 5:57 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 21, 2005

National Council of Churches on "Justice Sunday"

[This is the lead statement on the website of the National Council of Churches. -Thomas]

Disagreeing Without Demonizing

NCC General Secretary Challenges Planners of 'Justice Sunday' for Attacking Fellow Christians

A partisan political campaign to change the Senate filibuster rules has taken a detour through church-state territory, and NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar has challenged the tactics as "dangerous and divisive" to the nation's religious and public life. In a statement issued Tuesday, Edgar says:
"We are surprised and grieved by a campaign launched this week by Family Research Council and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who said that those who disagree with them on President Bush’s judicial nominees are 'against people of faith.'
"This campaign, which they are calling 'Justice Sunday,' should properly be called 'Just-Us' Sunday. Their attempt to impose on the entire country a narrow, exclusivist, private view of truth is a dangerous, divisive tactic. It serves to further polarize our nation, and it disenfranchises and demonizes good people of faith who hold political beliefs that differ from theirs.
"To brand any group of American citizens as 'anti-Christian' simply because they differ on political issues runs counter to the values of both faith and democracy. It is especially disheartening when that accusation is aimed at fellow Christians. [Emphasis theirs. -T] The National Council of Churches encompasses more than 45 million believers across a broad spectrum of theology and politics who work together on issues important to our society. If they disagree with Senator Frist's political positions, are these 45 million Christians now considered 'anti-Christian'?
"In the spirit of 1 Timothy 6:3-5, we urge Senator Frist and the Family Research Council to reconsider their plan. We will be praying for the Lord to minister to them and change their hearts so that they will not continue to take our nation down this destructive path."

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 1:35 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Theologians Warn of 'False Gospel' on the Environment

[This isn't what you think. This is National Council of Churches - the "good" Christians, fighting back, finally. They are clearly unhappy about the attitude of their fellow "Christians". Excerpt from press release below. -Thomas]

Theologians Warn of 'False Gospel' on the Environment

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 14, 2005 - In an effort to refute what they call a “false gospel” and to change destructive attitudes and actions concerning the environment, a group of theologians, convened by the National Council of Churches USA, today released an open letter calling on Christians to repent of “our social and ecological sins” and to reject teachings that suggest humans are “called” to exploit the Earth without care for how our behavior impacts the rest of God’s creation.
The statement, “God’s Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States,” points out that there is both an environmental and a theological crisis that must be addressed.
“We have listened to a false gospel that we continue to live out in our daily habits - a gospel that proclaims that God cares for the salvation of humans only and that our human calling is to exploit Earth for our own ends alone,” says the statement. “This false gospel still finds its proud preachers and continues to capture its adherents among emboldened political leaders and policy makers.”
The statement calls on Christians to take two important steps to enable socially just and ecologically sustainable communities for future generations: first, to “repent of our sins, in the presence of God and one another,” and, second, to pursue, “with God’s help, a path different from our present course.”

[... continued at link above ...]

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 1:26 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 20, 2005

They Mean It

This is so important and scary that I'm going to just steal some of it from Lambert at corrente as well as send you there for the rest.

Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ – to have dominion in the civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. But it is dominion that we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are afier. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after.

World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less. If Jesus Christ is indeed Lord, as the Bible says, and if our commission is to bring the land into subjection to His Lordship, as the Bible says, then all our activities, all our witnessing, all our preaching, all our craftsmanship, all our stewardship, and all our political action will aim at nothing short of that sacred purpose. Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land — of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ. It is to reinstitute the authority of God’s Word as supreme over all judgments, over all legislation, over all declarations, constitutions, and confederations. True Christian political action seeks to rein the passions of men and curb the pattern of digression under God’s rule. Fortunately, because of the theocratic orientation of our founding fathers, our nation has virtually all the apparatus extant to implement such a reclamation. Unfortunately, the enemies of the Gospel have hand-in-hand eroded the strength of those godly foundations. Thus, we stand at the crossroads.

That above passage can be found in The Changing of the Guard; Biblical Blueprints for Political Action, by George Grant. Published by Dominion Press of Fort Worth, Texas; copyright 1987. Grant is a former Executive Director of Coral Ridge Ministries.

You can read that passage, and many others, here: (see book pages 50-51 - online pages 81-82) The Changing of the Guard.

A more recent post is here and a related post is here. Meanwhile Lambert is sending people here for more:

Americans have long been in denial that there is a movement in the U.S. that seeks to impose a Christian theocratic government; that there is a movement that is effectively using the tools of constitutional democracy, (also known as elections) to end constitutional democracy as we know it; that this movement is growing in number and power. It can't happen here, we reassure ourselves. Americans won't let it happen. But in fact, we are closer now than we have ever been, to "it" happening here.
These people mean it. America is an experiment. Democracy is an experiment. American democracy has not been around very long, and we have never been so perilously close to losing it. All the checks and balances have been removed by allies of these people. They mean it. The leader of the Senate is saying that Democrats hate "people of faith." They mean it. Time magazine puts on their cover a person who calls for murdering us. They mean it. A Supreme Court Justice declares that rulers should be chosen by God, not the people. They mean it. The Vice President is the keynote speaker at a conference where other speakers called for "a new McCarthyism" to bring "terror" to intellectuals, saying "let's oppress them [liberals]," and that "the entire Harvard faculty" are "traitors." They mean it. They mean it.

Watch your backs. I mean it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:41 PM | Comments (42) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

By The Way

By the way, did Bush ever finally order the SEC to release the records of the probe of his insider trading at Harken Oil, which occurred while his father was President? Bush promised he would order these released, but I don't recall them ever actually being released. Didn't a terror threat suddenly distract everyone from the Harken scandal?

More here, here, here , here, here and here.

And another question never answered, were the loans Bush received from Harken (and others) ever paid off? If not that's tax fraud.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:07 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Seeing the Forest

New visitors from Left Coaster -- this post from 2002, one of my very first blog posts, explains. (And while you're there scroll down to my second post, about Nader - you'll like it.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:59 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush and DeLay and Frist, Oh My!

Tom DeLay wants to define good behavior. Don't take my word for it. Read Tom "I am the Federal Government" DeLay's words for yourself in this morning's L.A. Times article, DeLay Criticizes Justice Kennedy:

However, DeLay has called repeatedly for the House to find a way to hold the federal judiciary accountable for its decisions. "The judiciary has become so activist and so isolated from the American people that it's our job to do that," DeLay said.

One way would be for the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the clause in the Constitution that says "judges can serve as long as they serve with good behavior," he said. "We want to define what good behavior means. And that's where you have to start."

Is there a Jewish word for cosmic chutzpah? Have we given Tom DeLay enough rope yet Sen. Reid? Is it OK to call out the Democratic political lynch mob? To be fair, DeLay has a perfect insanity defense. I don't know how anyone can argue that Tom DeLay is not completely unhinged from reality.

In my first Bush and DeLay and Frist, Oh My! post, I argued that Bush and DeLay and Frist are "the Republican triumvirate that will emerge as either the Three Musketeers or The Three Stooges of the Republican party. Which one is largely up to the Democratic party."

Now that Tom DeLay has actually propsed that the House Judiciary Committee, i.e. Tom DeLay, should rewrite the Constitution to define what good behavior means, the same argument makes even more sense:

"Democrats can seize the opportunity to brand the Republican party as corrupt religious fanatics hell bent on destruction of our Constitution and our economy or allow them to seize the high moral ground as defenders of moral values and the American way of life.

Bush and DeLay and Frist. The triumvirate that will be the albatross and the anvil of the Republican party if Democrats can demonstrate a little spinal fortitude."

Is there a chiropractor in the house?

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 5:43 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 19, 2005

Victory in the "global war on terror" (GWOT).

Steven Bodzin wrote a throughly depressing opinion piece for this Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle, headlined thusly:

Fruitless pursuit of terror war’s endgame
No one seems to know how to define a win

In it, he describes his somewhat Kafkaesque and ultimately unsuccessful quest to find a single government document laying out the specifics of what "victory" in the "global war on terror" (apparently now reduced to the acronym "GWOT") would consist of.

Nothing really new... but it is still unsettling to realize that our government's strategy in the "war on terror" essentially boils down to playing "whack a mole" with terrorism whereever it pops up.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force On the Election of Joseph Ratzinger as Pope

[Joseph Ratzinger had served as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [this is the "modern" descendant of the Inquisition] since 1981, working zealously to suppress any and all dissent from hard-line orthodoxy. Not a good sign at all for those hoping for a more compassionate and "liberal" papacy/Catholic Church. -Thomas]

"Today, the princes of the Roman Catholic Church elected as Pope a man whose record has been one of unrelenting, venomous hatred for gay people, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. In fact, during the reign of John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger was the driving force behind a long string of pronouncements using the term 'evil' to describe gay people, homosexuality, and marriage equality. As a long-time Catholic from a staunchly Catholic family, I know that the history of the church is full of shameful, centuries-long chapters involving vilification, persecution, and violence against others. Someday, the church will apologize to gay people as it has to others it has oppressed in the past. I very much doubt that this day will come during this Pope's reign. In fact, it seems inevitable that this Pope will cause even more pain and give his successors even more for which to seek atonement."

- Matt Foreman
Executive Director, NGLTF

UPDATE: Two more commentaries.

Owen Broadhurst, posting to a Green Party mailing list...

Josef Cardinal Ratzinger | Pope Benedict XVI | Fascist

[Please note: It is not my purpose in forwarding this to demonize any faith, attack any religious belief, or to fan the flames of anti-Catholic bigotry. My late parents were both loyal and true Roman Catholics, and their politics were fueled and inspired (as my own are) by their religious beliefs. My father was a socialist. My mother was a Green. - OB]

[Explanatory note: Monsignor Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, the Hitler-praising
fascist who created Opus Dei, was canonized a Saint in October 2002. Monsignor Denis Faul, from Ireland's northern British occupied counties, once compared Opus Dei with the terrorist death squad known as the Orange Order. The martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated precisely because of his faith, was oddly never once even considered for canonization by the prior Papacy, which canonized over 450 Saints, more than any Papacy. When Cardinal Ratzinger presented Dominus Jesus on September 5 2000, a document regarded by most observers as an assault on faiths of Asian origin, he was flanked by two close associates including Opus Dei's Vicar General. Joaquin Navarro-Valls of Opus Dei has directed the Holy See press office since 1984. Opus Dei now has 'personal prelature', which means it answers only to the Pope and no Bishops. Opus Dei's Juan Luis Cardinal Cipriani, the fascist who defamed Father Gustavo Guitterrez, was a close associate of Peru's Fujimori. The Cabinet of the Spanish fascist Franco had 8 Opus Dei members.]

[Josef Cardinal Ratzinger has indeed long been involved in a peculiar form of
bigotry directed towards Asians: warning in December 1989 against Christian adoption of Asian practices of meditation; excommunicating in January 1997 Tissa Balasuriya; referring to Buddhism in March 1997 as "spiritual auto‑eroticism"; diluting in records regarding the Roman Synod on Asia the viewpoints expressed by the Asian Bishops' Conferences; and censuring in August 1998 the Indian Jesuit, Tony de Mello. His loathing for gay people was betrayed in 1992 when he spoke against civil liberties for gay people and claimed "neither the church nor society should be surprised" if "irrational and violent reactions increase" when gays demand civil rights. He declared Hinduism "morally cruel".]

Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of that which was once entitled the Inquisition and is now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was involved in his youth in a Nazi anti-aircraft battalion, and was trained in the Nazi wermacht. His actions against dissenting theologians include threats of excommunicating even the Rev. Frei Betto- whose many writings on liberation theology prompted me to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation as a Roman Catholic when I was in high school. He was antagonistic towards nearly all of the various liberation theologians who had informed my practice of Roman Catholocism, from Joseph Cardinal Bernardin and the Rev. Charles Curran, to Leonardo Boff and Hans Kung. Hans Kung had his license to teach theology revoked by Cardinal Ratzinger, despite (or perhaps, in many ways, because of) his being a principal architect of Vatican II.

The Cardinal's Crusade against liberation theology have often prompted his opponents to label him "Panzerkardinal." It was he who sent in August a letter to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington urging him to deny the Sacrament of Holy Communion to politicians who refuse to take advantage of and exacerbate gender, race and class inequities in outlawing abortion. This racist activist in August also had urged in Le Figaro that Turkey be refused European Union admission on the basis of religion.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been headed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger since 1981, and it is the successor to the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. According to biographer John Allen, "Ratzinger today believes that the best antidote to political totalitarianism is ecclesial totalitarianism." He called homosexuality an "intrinsic moral evil." He was involved in the Hitler Youth in Bavaria when he was a seminarian. For the record, he never became involved in the party.

This man authored the May 2001 letter to bishops claiming that the "Crimine
solicitationies" law requiring "perpetual silence" in sex abuse cases is still in effect; and this is the man who revealed the "Third Secret of Fatima" fueling Papal efforts to fan the flames of the Cold War. Josef Cardinal Ratzinger penned also what has often been described as having the strength of a Papal Encyclical, ""On the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World", an assault on feminism and gay marriage. It is said that it was Cardinal Ratzinger who stayed the prior Pope's hand when John Paul II planned to declare Mary "Co-Redemptrix".

Matthew Fox was kicked out of the Dominican Order for his dissenting views. These are his observations on this new Pope and the prior one:

Some Reflections on the Recent Papacy of JPII

by Matthew Fox, Ph.D.

While the media responds profusely to the telegenic pope who has just passed, and
while he accomplished some good things such as taking a stand against the Iraq war
and against capital punishment and against the idolatry of consumerism, I really do
believe that history will not be kind to this papacy. This pope and his
self-appointed German mafia headed by Cardinal Ratzinger will have to face the
judgment of history (and very likely God also) over issues that include but are not
limited to the following:

A pre-occupation with morality as sexual issues even when this morality is deeply
flawed. I include the following examples:

The forbidding of one billion Catholics world wide to practice birth control even
while the human population explodes at the seams.

The forbidding of the use of condoms even in a time when AIDS is killing individuals
and whole populations the world over.

The head-long pursuit of Augustine's theology of sexuality (all sex must be
legitimized by having children)

Ugly attacks in the pope's name against homosexuals and the complete ignoring of
what science and professional psychological associations have learned about
homosexuality (for example, that it is a natural phenomenon for 8-10% of any given
human population as well as over 460 non-human species).

Other attacks include documents against yoga (yes!); against Buddhism (calling it
"atheism"); against Thich Naht Hahn (calling him the "anti-Christ"); against
feminist philosophers; against women (girls cannot serve at the altar; nor can women
be priests); against theologians in general. Priests are forbidden to use the
pronoun "she" for God at the altar.

A prolonged effort to render fascism fashionable. This includes the rushing into
canonization of the card-carrying fascist priest who founded the Opus Dei movement
even though this man actually praised Adolf Hitler and also denounced women and has
been accused of sexual abuse of six young men who are alive today.

The taking of Opus Dei under the hand of the papacy granting it legitimacy and power
within and without the Catholic structure.

The conscious destruction and systemic dismantling of the Liberation Theology
movement and the very vital base communities it spawned in Latin America in
particular--a move which has opened up Latin America to an onslaught of Pentecostal
and right wing religious huckstering. The demise of the Catholic Church in Latin
America is now well underway--pentecostals are sweeping away the population--now
that this papacy (with the encouragment and support of the CIA) has destroyed
liberation theology and replaced it with opus dei bishops and cardinals.

The effort to eliminate theology and replace it with ideology by spreading fear
among theologians. The expulsion from the priesthood of three prominent theologians
on three continents in the 1990's sent fear into the ranks of theological thinkers
since. Those 3 theologians are Leonardo Boff from Latin America; Father Eugene
Dreuermann from Germany; and myself in North America.

The sorry appointment of ideological Yes Men as bishops and cardinals and with it
the scandalous pedophile priest situation where the scandal is less about individual
priest's crimes than about the cover-up of these crimes by churchmen who, lacking
either moral integrity or intellectual smarts, moved these criminals from parish to
parish and from diocese to diocese. (One legal commentator points to a Vatican
document on dealing with pedophile priests as "an international conspiracy to
obstruct justice.") Three close bishop friends of this pope in Europe were
themselves forced to resign for sexual misconduct.

Even more curious, is the elevation of one key American churchman, Cardinal Law,
head of the Boston archdiocese where the U.S. pedophile scandal first went public,
to a plum parish assignment in Rome this past year.

The rigid sticking to celibacy as a requisite for being a priest (as well as the
requisite of having exclusively male genitals) means fewer and fewer Catholics have
access to the sacraments and fewer and fewer persons are drawn to study for the
priesthood. The attendance at Mass on Sundays in San Francisco alone has plummeted
70% during this pope's reign.

As a result of his policies the demise of the number of practicing Catholics in the
Northern countries including Ireland and United States continues unabated. In a few
years 2/3 of parishes in Germany will have no pastors and no Eucharistic
celebration. Already, 1400 priests in Germany are from outside the country and the
number of new priests ordained there has dropped from 366 in 1990 to 161 today. The
average priest world wide is over 60 years of age.

The obstruction of Ecumenism and Interfaith to the point that most Protestant bodies
have, in the words of a key player in Canada, "given up a long time ago" on the
Catholic Church supporting ecumenism.

The raising of the papacy to a 'cult of personality' aided and abetted by the
fawning media.

Speaking of the fawning media, this papacy granted a "man of conscience" award to
Rupert Murdoch (who, the year after he got the award, divorced his wife of many
years to marry a young woman).

The Holy Spirit is far smarter and forward looking than any papacy and thus this
destruction of Catholicism's past may well be the Spirit's way of creating a flatter
playing field for Deep Ecumenism and Interfaith in the future. Meanwhile, though,
many good Catholics are deeply hurt and alienated from their church--there are a lot
more recovering than practicing catholics out there--and little leadership appears
on the horizon since this pope's appointments and policies have stifled so much
talent and blockaded so much potential for intelligent faith.

When I think of this pope I think of a hard-working priest who came to see me a year
ago from southern California. He cried as he told me how ALL of the budget for the
ministry to the poor was being cut to pay for a big new cathedral and for priestly
misconduct. He himself was close to leaving the priesthood. I think of another
priest who came to me three years ago and who was the person who actually ran his
entire diocese on behalf of his bishop. He was at his wit's end with the hypocrisy
and lies emanating from Rome--he knew many secrets. Rather than leave and rather
than play the game, he quit his position and diocese and found a ministerial
position in another diocese thousands of miles away.

Now that this pope has passed, let readers reflect on the seriousness of these
matters. And pray for this pope. I for one would hate to have to face my Creator
with a track record like this one.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 2:57 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post

U.S. housing starts fall sharply in March: Decline by 17.6%, largest since Jan. 1991

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:41 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Pope-pouri II

In Pope-pouri I made a clumsy attempt to address questions of forgiveness, contrition, pennance and redemption that were raised by Cardinal Law's role in the Pope's funeral mass. Today I'm going to approach the same issue from a different direction.

Doug McIntyre had Karen Pittman on his show McIntyre in the Morning the other day. Karen wrote an article for Newsmax.com, Fonda Jane, which was not your usual Newsmax.com fare:

And if we, some thirty-five years later, still can't get over it, that's our problem . . .
Agree or disagree with her political ideology, embrace or disavow her evolving brand of Christianity, at least Jane Fonda is herself evolving, and is committed to some cause larger than her own. At least she is earnestly searching.

I mean, my God, if the Pope could forgive Mehmet Ali Agca, can't we forgive Jane Fonda?

Doug’s interview, and the response from his listeners raised some interesting questions about contrition, forgiveness and redemption.

I’d like to look past the specific volatile issues of Vietnam, and examine the moral and ethical dimensions Karen Pittman raised. I'll give you an opportunity to discuss the Jane Fonda/Vietnam angle later this week. Let’s assume that Jane Fonda was wrong, which Fonda herself has said, and owes the American people an apology. McIntyre's interview and Pittman’s article suggest the following questions:

(1.) Can Jane Fonda perform any act of contrition that would be acceptable to her critics?

(2.) Can Cardinal Law perform any act of contrition that would be acceptable to his critics?

(3.) Does personal redemption depend on the opinion of others? As a general rule, redemption is a gift of Christ. Personal redemption for harm done to others is defined as “satisfaction, or the payment of a debt in full, means, in the moral order, an acceptable reparation of honour offered to the person offended and, of course, implies a penal and painful work.”

(4.) Is there any point in either Jane Fonda or Cardinal Law attempting to make a public act of contrition, to critics who can never be satisfied?

(5.) Do Jane Fonda and Cardinal Law's critics have an obligation to examine their own faults in refusing to grant forgiveness under any circumstances? Since contrition and forgiveness are a two way street, do Fonda and Law's critics have a moral obligation to be forgiving?

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 8:30 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Domestic Terrorists

Daily Kos :: Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh , and Ann Coulter.

What Wes said.

Coulter calls for a terrorist attack against the New York Times - the murder of hundreds of employees - and Time Magazine puts her on the cover.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:40 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 18, 2005

Global housing bubble? $20 trillion value increase in 4 years.

Opened up the copy of Parade Magazine packed in with my Sunday paper... this little gem caught my eye:

Housing prices aren't just skyrocketing in the U.S. In the years 2001-2004, they've risen by $20 trillion in developed countries worldwide.

Here's the full article - their source is The Economist, in a report published near the end of 2004 (so it doesn't take this year's craziness into account).

Here's what the Economist has to say in an article dated March 3rd, 2005, entitled "Still want to buy?".

[...]if rents continue to rise at their current annual pace of 2.5%, house prices would need to remain flat for over ten years to bring America's ratio of house prices to rents back to its long-term norm. There is a clear risk prices might fall. [My emphasis. -TL]

Here's how that article ends (talking about SF Bay Area real estate valuations):

To expect them to rise faster from their current dizzy heights smacks of irrational exuberance, to say the least.

Want to see something frightening? Type "economist housing prices" into Google. What comes up? How about an economics column in the Christian Science Monitor with this lead:

Economist Dean Baker was so worried about a housing bubble that he sold his Washington, D.C., condominium, at three times the price he paid for it, and rented an apartment instead.

Note: this same economist declared that there was a stock market bubble in 1997. Three years early. He sold his condo two years ago.

A year ago, the Washington Monthly ran an article entitled "There Goes the Neighborhood: Why home prices are about to plummet--and take the recovery with them." Here's a quote from it:

Virtually every housing economist is concerned that prices may be unstable, and growing numbers are becoming outright alarmed.

I lived through the dot.com bubble... all I have to say is that, if I owned a house today, I'd sell it. Unfortunately, I'm now a renter (sold my house a year ago), so I can't capitalize on this bubble... at least not yet. :/

On the other hand, long long term, I have to be bullish - California is going to have to pack in millions more people over the next few decades, and given that there is a fixed supply of land in the state, the laws of economics make the ultimate result pretty obvious: price increases. That said, it can take quite a while for prices to recover after a crash (as the NASDAQ and the SF Bay Area tech job market demonstrate).

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 10:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The War Snuffs Out Another Light In The Darkness: Marla Ruzicka

"God bless her pure soul, she was trying to help us," said Haj Natheer Bashir, the brother-in-law of an Iraqi teenager Ruzicka was trying to evacuate to the San Francisco Bay area for surgery. "She was just a kind lady."

I am furious, and very saddened. This miserable fiasco of a war and occupation has claimed two more lives of note, including someone I knew personally, someone who was making a difference in the world.

Marla Ruzicka, the founder of CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), was the victim of collateral damage from a suicide car bomb aimed at a U.S. military convoy in Iraq (the irony of this is immense). The opening picture on the organization's home page is just as I remember her - a little blonde spitfire with bags under her eyes from not enough sleep. Faiz Al Salaam, the driver of the vehicle and CIVIC's lead staff member in Iraq, was killed in the same incident. You can read several letters from him on the CIVIC web in "Marla's Journal" - he and Marla were dedicated to the same cause.

This is what Marla and Faiz were doing in Iraq: "working tirelessly in Iraq to help the many innocent victims of the U.S. invasion" (Alternet). Now, she has become one of them.

I met Marla during Medea Benjamin's campaign for U.S. Senate in 2000, when I offered to host a fundraising event at my home. She was one of several smart and saavy young women who accompanied Medea everywhere she went, part of what I assumed was Medea's own personal form of affirmative action. We exchanged email several times afterwards, following up on various details, and I saw her name mentioned her and there afterwards. I am not at all suprised by what she accomplished in the ensuing five years, nor by where her life took her - she was clearly someone who was going to make a difference in the world.

There is nothing profound in her death, nothing graceful that can be said to mitigate the utter waste of seeing a life cut short whose potential had only begun to be realized.

CIVIC was founded out of Marla's desire to see the impact of U.S. military action (and aid) fully accounted for - our military does not keep track of the number of civilians killed and wounded as a result of its actions. Therefore, Marla's death will not be accounted for in any "official" statistic related to the war in Iraq - exactly what she was working to change.

This needs to change. I ask you to honor her life, and work, by making a donation to CIVIC (this can be done on-line), and by writing Senator Patrick Leahy, the primary sponsor of legislation related to her work in Iraq and Afghanistan, and urging him to continue working on behalf of the innocent victims of war in Iraq and elsewhere.

Dear Senator Leahy,
I was one of the many people whose lives crossed Marla Ruzicka's path and were enriched by the experience. In her memory, I ask that you continue the work she started, attempting to ensure that the deaths of civilians killed as a result of U.S. military actions are fully accounted for, and that compensation is made beyond simple cash payments.
As Marla no doubt made you aware, her death and that of Faiz Al Salaam, will be nowhere accounted for in U.S. government statistics about the toll of the war in Iraq. This needs to change, and I hope you can rally the support in the Senate and House to make it happen.
The true cost of war cannot be measured without accounting for *ALL* the lives lost as a result of military actions.
Thomas Leavitt

Here is a list of links to various articles about her and her work that arrived in my mailbox along with the news of her death:

Tai Moses, AlterNet
Politicians and government officials learned the hard way
how relentless this sweet-faced girl, barely out of her
teens, could be.

Don Hazen, AlterNet
To say Marla was unique may seem a cliche, but in my many
years of political work and journalism, I have never known
anyone quite like her.

Medea Benjamin, Kevin Danaher, AlterNet
Marla Ruzicka was a bright, shining light whose work focused
on trying to bring some compassion into the middle of a war

Jill Carroll, Christian Science Monitor
Intrepid humanitarian aid worker Marla Ruzicka died in
Baghdad Saturday when her car was caught in an insurgent

By Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times

By Charles Buress, San Francisco Chronicle

Associated Press



CIVIC, Campaign for Innocent Victims In Conflict,

By David Wright, ABC News
May 28th, 2004

By Jane Ganahl, San Francisco Chronicle
December 20th, 2003

By Marla Ruzicka, AlterNet.
November 6, 2003

July 8th, 2003

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 1:05 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

America Not For Jews, Moslems -- Not Even Catholics!

Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is showing us where the modern Republican Party wants to take the country.

Frist Set to Use Religious Stage on Judicial Issue,

"As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.

[. . .] Some of the nation's most influential evangelical Protestants are participating in the teleconference in Louisville, including Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Chuck Colson, the born-again Watergate figure and founder of the Prison Fellowship Ministries; and Dr. Ao Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary."

That's the Republicans Senate Majority Leader appearing with this Ao Mohler:

Fearing the positive press given American Muslims in recent weeks and Bush's call for pluralism, one SBC [Southern Baptist Convention] leader attacked Islam in a seminary chapel address. He said Christians, Jews and Muslims did not serve the same God.

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told seminary students that Islamic theology "kills the soul." He said Islam "lies about God" and "presents a false gospel."

He made similar comments about Catholics a year ago on a cable TV program. Mohler said the Roman Catholic Church was "a false church and it teaches a false gospel."

Mohler, of course, gives Jews the same treatment. And do I need to explain who James Dobson is?

So we're learning where the modern Republican Party wants to take us. The people at this upcoming event are people who are on record denouncing Islam and Jews and even the Catholic Church. Do we hear the Republicans condemning this? No, they are on the stage with them.

This is certainly not an isolated example of Republican leaders lending their support to extremist fanatics. In February, VP Cheney appeared with a similarly nasty group:

The Vice President of the United States was the keynote speaker at a conference where other speakers called for "a new McCarthyism" to bring "terror" to intellectuals, saying "let's oppress them [liberals]," and "the entire Harvard faculty" are "traitors."
Are Republican Party leaders condemning this sort of thing? No, they are lending their support. These are dangerous times. Watch your backs.

Update -- Chris at MyDD is on this,aswell.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

What's The Matter With Democrats?

I stumbled across a discussion in The Atlantic Forum about "What's Wrong With Democrats?" A prominant theme of the discussion was centered around Marc Cooper's book review trilogy, Thinking of Jackasses. After skimming the comments I concluded an application of Occam's Razor was in order.

All of the philosophical analysis ignores the simple structural explanation. The DLC has no place in an organizational chart of the Democratic Party. I am not certain, but I have been told that the DLC is a 501(c)(4). Regardless of the precise legal structure, the sole purpose of the DLC is to act as a conduit for campaign contributions from large corporate contributors. In that capacity, the DLC acts as a corporate cancer on the body politic of the Democratic party, with tentacles of infuence that reach into every other organ of the party.

That explains why Democrats voted against the vested self interest of their own party and their constituents, by assisting Republicans in passing class action law suit restrictions and bankruptcy restrictions. My analysis does not explain all of the idiocy of the DLC. John Kerry's decision to co-sponsor conscience without consequence legislation with Rick Santorum is inexplicable. Joe Lieberman is inexplicable. I do not believe a unified theory of DLC idiocy is possible.

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 2:28 AM | Comments (7) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 17, 2005

Today's Housing Bubble Post

In Real Estate Fever, More Signs of Sickness,

But now the question comes up more and more: How long can this last?

"It feels like we're on the tip of the razor blade right now," said real estate agent Eric Stewart at Llewellyn Realtors in Rockville. "And we can't remain at the edge of this blade very long."

It will be a hard fall -- when it happens.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:56 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

What He Said

War of Ideas, Why mainstream and liberal foundations and the think tanks they support are losing in the war of ideas in American politics: [Note - PDF document]

[. . .] The advantage lies in how the money is spent. Conservatives have found ways to package and market their ideas in more compelling ways, and their money is providing more bang for the buck.

[. . .] The dramatic growth of conservative think tanks in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s was made possible principally with support from a small corps of newer conservative foundations, such as the Bradley, Smith Richardson, and Sarah Scaife foundations. Before the 1970s, many conservative foundations and their patrons reviled government so much that they refused to support efforts related to what was going on in Washington. But with the advent of increased government regulation in the late 1960s, the leaders of these foundations wanted to stop the tide of government activism. Funding organizations to fight the war of ideas became their way of doing it.

[. . .] Many older foundations put the brakes on activities in Washington that seemed overtly or overly political. These foundations happened to be those that supported what today are often thought of as more liberal or progressive think tanks and public policies.

[. . .] Think tanks on the left tend to be organized by issue area – around women’s issues, poverty, or the environment – rather than taking on the broad range of issues with which Congress and the president deal.

The specialization of think tanks and advocacy organizations on the left tends to mirror the programs and organization of their main foundation funders. These more specialized groups can be – and have been – tremendously effective. But they are not organized to do battle in the same ways as their conservative counterparts, across a broad range of topics. Whereas a multi-issue, conservative group can redirect portions of its resources and energy from promoting ideas for, say, environmental regulation to Social Security reform as the immediate priorities of Congress and the president change, more narrowly focused progressive think tanks cannot be so nimble – and, as they are currently organized, many would not want to be.

To make matters more difficult, progressive think tanks have a hard time getting general organizational support. Foundations want to support projects – specific, well-defined, discreet projects.

[. . .] By providing general operating support to policy institutes far more rarely than their conservative counterparts, progressive foundations make it difficult for progressive organizations to sustain operating staff and functions. As James Piereson, executive director of the conservative John M. Olin Foundation, commented about his liberal counterparts: “The liberal foundations became too project oriented – they support projects but not institutions. They flip from project to project. … We, on the other hand, support institutions. We provide the infrastructure for institutions.”

[. . .] As one longtime think tank leader observed, “Liberal foundations are liberal not just in their belief in social and economic justice, but also in their belief in the possibility of neutrality, which makes them uncomfortable with making grants that seem too ‘political.’” The comments of a research director of a new progressive think tank are even more pointed: “If you’re on the left, you have to go to the foundations and say you’re neutral, unbiased – not politicized. You’re certainly not liberal. If you’re ideological, they don’t want to support you. It’s frustrating – because, by contrast, if you’re on the right, the foundations will only fund you if you toe the ideological line, if you want to do battle for the conservative cause.”

[. . .] Today, it is not so much that progressive foundations will not support policy research. The problem now is that these foundations will not support progressive policy think tanks that are focused, in the ways that conservative think tanks are, on promoting progressive policy change through research, advocacy, and the marketing of ideas.

[. . .] At this moment, conservatives are still winning in the war of ideas, and that success cannot be chalked up only to the power of their ideas. It is because these ideas have a winning organization behind them.

Like I've been telling you...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:48 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Hastert, Too

From Business Week, Denny Hastert's Late Payment: A long delay in paying for a fund-raiser at an eatery owned by scandal-plagued Jack Abramoff could prove embarrassing to a GOP Mr. Clean:

Signatures restaurant, the expense-account haven owned by super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has hosted at least 60 GOP fund-raisers since it opened on Washington's Pennsylvania Ave. NW in early 2002. But the June 3, 2003, lunchtime gathering was special: The guest of honor was House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and the event was a relatively intimate gathering dominated by lobbyists from Greenberg Traurig, the law and lobbying firm where Abramoff then worked.

The problem? Nobody paid for the lunch -- or reported it in disclosure documents as an in-kind contribution -- as federal election law requires, BusinessWeek Online has learned. The tab -- which Hastert's office would not disclose -- was paid only this month, around the time that BusinessWeek Online began to investigate fund-raisers for Republican politicos held at Signatures. Hastert's office says his staffers uncovered the oversight.

Republicans and corruption, inseparable.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Its The Jews

It's the Jews

He left out one of my favorites. The "liberal media" myth partly grows out of the old right-wing practice of talking about the "Jew York Times."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 16, 2005

Bush and DeLay and Frist, Oh My!

That is the Republican triumvirate that will emerge as either the Three Muskateers or The Three Stooges of the Republican party. Which one is largely up to the Democratic party.

Is the Democratic party capable of presenting a unified message that combines Lakoff's approach,
Social Justice Sunday and kossack Delaware Dem's approach, Screw the Republicans, All of Them with a twist of Billmon, The One True Frist?

Democrats can seize the opportunity to brand the Republican party as corrupt religious fanatics hell bent on destruction of our Constitution and our economy or allow them to seize the high moral ground as defenders of moral values and the American way of life.

Bush and DeLay and Frist. The triumvirate that will be the albatross and the anvil of the Republican party if Democrats can demonstrate a little spinal fortitude.

Which begs the question: Will Joe Lieberman become The Fourth Muskateer of the Republican triumvirate? Will Joe throw the triumvirate a life preserver?

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 7:44 AM | Comments (8) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 15, 2005

Today's Housing Bubble Post

What Will You Do About The Housing Bubble?

Also, how about that stock market?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:30 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Folding Narrow Issues Into An Overall Progressive Context

The must-read article of the month is Making Connections: Why is the news so bad? What can progressives do to fix it?

Also, this post, A Gaggle of Losers, by eRipost over at Left Coaster, and this post by Kos, Half-baked observations of a VLWC conference.

The subject is the Right's effective message machine, and the development of a Progressive counter-machine. The first article above has some great download charts that describe how the Right's machine works. This has been my message since I started Seeing the Forest. We need to study and understand how the Right has managed to persuade so many Americans to accept their extreme ideology, and strengthen our own Progressive-oriented organizations so they can counter the propaganda and bring our message to mainstream America.

The problem is that Progressive organizations are mostly issue-oriented, reaching their own issue-oriented audience. It's preaching to the converted. Meanwhile the Right preaches to everyone.

For example, when environmental groups speak only to environmentalists and only about narrower environmental issues, they sacrifice the possibility of converting so many regular people to their side. This is the subject of the widely-discussed Death of Environmentalism essay. I was in the audience this week when co-author Michael Shellenberger talked about this at Stanford. He said the title means he is advocating the death of environmentalism, hoping for it to be folded into a larger overall Progressive structure that takes into account the needs of people, the environment, a sustainable economy, and other issues.

If Progressives all worked to "sell" the underlying Progressive values to the broad, general American public, then each of the narrower issues would be supported to a greater extent than now. For example, a Progressive voter is an environmental voter. A Progressive voter supports consumer protections. A Progressive voter wants national health insurance. A Progressive voter demands a strong Social Security system.

And, most important, a Progressive voter elects candidates who will vote to support each of these interests.

The Right knows these things. ALL of the Right's organizations talk about "free markets" and reach out to the general public-at-large, and only talk about their own narrower issues in the context of the larger overall framework that all of the Right's organizations share.

So Progressive organizations would do better to combine their efforts into a single, unified voice, reaching out to ALL of America, explaining why Progressive values of democracy and community and sustainability are superior values -- and explaining to people how Progressive values and ideas benefit them more than selfish right-wing values.

How to help? Where to donate? These are some of the new Progressive "infrastructure" organizations and they need your help:

Commonweal Institute - donate and subscribe to their newsletter.

The America! Coalition

Center for American Progress

Media Matters

Breakthrough Institute

Rockridge Institute

Roosevelt Institution (student think tank)

Help them out. This is how we take back America!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:44 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 14, 2005

The Religious Prejudice Protection Act

Sen. Kerry and Sen. Santorum have proposed an amendment to the part of the Civil Rights Act that governs unlawful employment practices. The Unlawful Employment Act generally prohibits discrimination by employers based on that individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Three problems:

1.) This bill provides protection to employees for their discriminatory conduct. It actually permits and protects discriminatory conduct, based on unstated religious beliefs. That is a very broad brush. I don't think we have a clue in how many different situations individuals will decide to exercise their "conscience without consequence" rights under this bill.

2.) I believe all of the penalties for non-compliance under the Unlawful Employment Act apply to employers. What is the penalty if a pharamcist or any other employee violates this law? I haven't seen anything about the consequences an employee faces if he or she violates the procedural safeguards built into this amendment.

3.) I could be wrong, but it seems like the penalties would be against the employer for failing to make the proper staffing and scheduling improvements that would allow an employee to exercise their "right" to discriminate based on their religious prejudices.

The fundamental problem is that this is a "conscience without consequence" bill, that protects an unlimited "right" of religious discrimination. I believe a similar battle has played out, in the judicial arena, under our fair housing laws. A person's religious beliefs do not allow them to discriminate against another citizen, in the area of renting or selling housing, based on that persons religious prejudices against blacks, inter-racial couples or gays.

Will this amendment to the Civil Rights Act over rule those judicial decisions sub silentio?

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Credit to The Daily Show, the only real news show in America, for my title. I'm a simple wayward Presbyterian, so I'm not real familiar with Catholic doctine. I was thinking about all of the bruhaha over Cardinal Law's role in the Pope's funeral. It looks like atonement is primarily a Jewish concept. Catholics focus more on contrition and penance. There seems to be some dispute over the idea of substitutionary atonement in both Catholic and Christian doctrine.

I bring these topics up because I was wondering just how much of an honor it really was for Cardinal Law to lead one of the funeral masses for the Pope. If I was a disgraced Cardinal, the last thing I would want to do is step on to the national stage once again.

Was Cardinal Law's participation in the Pope Paul's funeral mass a form of public absolution from the church or was it more similar to an act of atonement and recognition that the Catholic Church still has a lot of work to do to demonstrate genuine contrition for harm done?

I'm just asking.

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 8:02 AM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

America! Coalition

The America! Coalition Launches

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:17 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

No More Income Taxes On Richest

House Votes to End Federal Estate Taxes

Your government just voted to eliminate income taxes on the children of the really, really rich. They now don't have to pay taxes on THEIR incomes -- namely, inheritances. But the rest of us have to pay taxes on OUR incomes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:51 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

There Is No More Rule Of Law

Rep. John Conyers has a Kos diary up, Daily Kos :: Investigating John Kerry Post-Haste, While Condoleezza Rice Goes to the Back Burner.

Here's a summary. The Office of Special Counsel has purged their career personnel and replaced them with Republican partisans. They refuse to investigate complaints against Republicans, while initiating investigations of Democrats. They won't even respond to letters from Democratic members of Congress asking what is going on.

The Party is using the power of the government itself to perpetuate one-party rule. And who is going to do anything about this? The Congress? The Justice Department? There is no one left in a position to do anything about things like this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:06 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Memos Prove Bribery

DeLay Fundraising Plied Special Interests:

Fundraisers for a political committee founded by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay routinely solicited donations by identifying legislative actions that prospective givers wanted, from video gambling to lawsuit limits, memos show.

"What companies that you know of would be interested in tort reform in Texas with asbestos problems that might support TRMPAC?" one DeLay fundraiser wrote in a memo prospecting for donors to the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRMPAC).

That memo elicited an answer identifying several large companies and interest groups nationwide interested in lawsuit-limiting legislation in Congress and Texas, the documents show.

[. . .] Other TRMPAC fundraising memos mention that Texas racetrack owners needed state permission for video gambling, that banks wanted new Texas home-lending rules and that energy firms wanted less regulation.

Federal law and congressional ethics rules prohibit government officials from connecting political donations to their official actions. DeLay was admonished last year by the House's ethics committee for creating the appearance of connecting energy industry donations with federal legislation.

[. . .] In 2002, a fundraiser's handwritten note appears alongside the name of a Texas racetrack owner who — along with other state track operators — wanted state permission to begin offering video gambling at the tracks.

"Brings $1 billion. Polls 83 percent in favor," the fundraiser's note said.

Weeks after that visit to the company's chief executive, track owner Maxxam Inc. contributed $5,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority. [emphasis added]

There's more, but you get the picture. We have here a public official calling up big donors and saying "pay me and I'll work to get issue so-and-so passed." That is a bribe. As blatantly as Republicans do this, it is flat-out illegal -- prison-time illegal. These memos are proof that DeLay took bribes.

(Through the appropriately-named Crooks and Liars)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:05 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Prices II

What Steve says: The Left Coaster: The Lunacy Of Wall Street And The Fed's Current Game Plan.

Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:53 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Who, Again?

This is pretty stunning, considering... : -THE CUNNING REALIST-: A Question Of Priorities....

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Mark Morford on The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment

In his usual immitable fashion, Mark Morford lets it all hang out in his commentary on the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment. I commented about this a few days ago, but Mark Morford says it the way I wish I could... here's how his latest column starts out:

The Earth is going down. Way, way down. To the mat, hard and painful and with a sad moaning broken-boned crunch.
We are chewing her up, spitting her out, stomping and gobbling and burning and gouging and drilling and sucking her dry and we are carelessly replicating ourselves so goddamn fast we can't even stop much less even try to slow the hell down, and all we want is more and faster and with less consequence and pretty soon the Earth is gonna go, well, there you are, I'm finished, sorry, and boom zing groan, done.
Don't take my world for it. Just read the headlines, the latest major, soul-stabbing report.

Read the whole thing here.

He's also hip to James Howard Kunstler's item in Rolling Stone, The Long Emergency, calling it "one of the most distressing and sobering pieces of journalism I've read in ages" (no kidding).

If you're not familiar with Mark Morford, you owe it to yourself to get on his update list. The man's columns are passionate rage and ecstasy incarnate. He writes like most of us only wish we could.

Here's another excerpt:

Maybe the nutball evangelical born-agains have it right: Maybe it's best to just burn up this whole godforsaken lump of Earth as fast as possible and then watch in giddy flesh-rended glee as Armageddon rains down and only those who've given tens of thousands of dollars to secretly gay televangelists will rise up and be saved and the rest of us will merely drive our Priuses off a collective cliff into the fiery pits of gay-marriage-friendly hell.

All I can do is shake my head in amazement. As the Metro Times Detroit says:

Morford writes like a man possessed by demented angels. His twice-weekly column routinely features jaw-dropping, unflinchingly liberal prose so biting and sweet and innovative it amazes us that a mainstream daily would keep this guy on the payroll.

Me too. Maybe there is hope.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 2:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 12, 2005

NRDC "exploding myths" about drilling in ANWR

An excerpt from a letter recently sent me by the NRDC (the image below is a thumbnail of a larger map with much more detail that is available on their site in PDF format) - very useful information, graphic and detailed:

In the meantime, the NRDC Action Fund is hard at work exploding many of the myths that the oil lobby and the Bush administration are trying to sell Congress and the American people. First and foremost is their claim that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would disturb only 2,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain.
Check out the map below to see for yourself why oil development could easily industrialize and despoil the entire expanse of this irreplaceable sanctuary for wildlife. Clicking on the map will take you to a larger map and a fuller explanation on the Action Fund website.


Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 6:50 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Pope of Convenience, R.I.P.

Politically, our late Pope was a mixed bag -- in American terms, liberal on some issues and conservative on others. American conservatives, Catholic and otherwise, followed him when convenient and ignored him otherwise. The Pope's strong opposition to the Iraq invasion had no influence on them, whereas his strong opposition to abortion recently allowed the egregious Wolf Blitzer to joke that the Democrat Paul Begala might not be a very good Catholic. (Bill O'Reilly's opinion during the Iraq war was that the Pope was senile, though he denies that now.)

In the extended entry I've put an exchange I had with a local rightwing Catholic journalist who had just published a string of fulsome tributes to John Paul II. I've deleted his name, partly for legal reasons, partly because the guy isn't the worst of the lot, and partly because I no longer have the energy for big pissing matches.

You'll find that he supported the Pope only when he already agreed with him, and only on the questions on which the Pope spoke authoritatively (ex cathedra).

On questions about which the Pope's opinion was not binding, our Catholic friend just ignored it. His respect for John Paul's own personal opinion was nil; he was only interested in the man in his offical role as the head of the Catholic church.

I ended my part of the exchange by hoping for his sake that the next Pope would be more congenial to him. He didn't think that that was funny.


Dear XXX,

Like you, and like almost every American, I agreed with John Paul II about half the time, and disagreed (and ignored what he said) the other half. I'm not a Catholic, and I guess you aren't either, so I guess that's fine. For me it's capital punishment, the Iraq war, wealth and poverty, the consumer society, and relations between the rich and the poor nations. For you it's abortion, gay marriage, and probably a few other topics related to sex and gender.

You still do run into people who accepted his view on everything, but not often. They're always very nice people, and the things we agree upon are more important to me than the ones we disagree upon, so we can get along.

I have more problems with half-Catholics.

John Emerson


Dear John

I am a Catholic. I take very seriously all that he said and, as a faithful Catholic, am obligated to follow his and his predecessor's ex cathedra teaching in their area of faith and morals -- those concerning abortion, marriage and homosexuality. His words that appeal to you in those other areas, while important, are not non- negotiable beliefs that all Catholics must hold. Don't be upset about your misunderstanding of this distinction, many Catholics do, too.



Dear XXX

So you disagreed with most of his personal opinions, but were forced to accept his official pronouncements? Maybe this time you'll get a new Pope whom you actually respect personally.



It's hard to imagine a pope I would respect more, but where I come from respect doesn't mean agreement on everything. Thanks for writing


As far as I can tell, where this conservative comes from "respect" doesn't mean much of anything except refraining from direct insult. It sounds pretty content-free. Pope John Paul II would have had as much luck preaching to mud and rocks and the beasts of the field as he did with this guy.

Posted by John Emerson at 6:42 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


The stock market suddenly reversed course and shot up 140 points from its low today, so I thought I'd see if I could find out why. Apparently there was a paragraph in a Federal Reserve document in which they said they didn't think they would need to "accelerate" interest rate increases.

In that paragraph members of the committee noted that even though "the required amount of cumulative tightening may have increased, an accelerated pace of tightening did not appear necessary at this time, as a degree of economic slack apparently remained, productivity growth would probably continue to damp increases in unit labor costs and prices, and inflation would most likely continue to be contained."

For Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist, at Spencer Clarke LLC, the phrasing shows "that while the FOMC is aware that inflationary pressures are moving to the upside, excess slack in the economy combined with still solid productivity growth and contained inflation expectations should allow the Fed to continue raising rates at a measured pace over the next several meetings."

Productivity growth - meaning fewer people working more hours for the same money - will "damp increases" in labor costs.

OK, I filled up two gas tanks yesterday for a combined $70. SEVENTY DOLLARS. I just came from the supermarket where cereal is now over $6. Housing costs are increasing 20% a year here, and 20% a MONTH in places like Reno.

But LABOR COSTS (namely: you) are under control so everything is copacetic. Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:45 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

And You Can't Do Nothing About It


Via Susie, it appears that LexisNexis didn't have 32,000 names stolen from its database after all. It was 310,000.
So what can you do about it?
So, anyone up for a class action suit here? Oh, wait. That's pretty much impossible thanks to tort reform, isn't it? Maybe some regulation of the industry? Too bad business groups are opposed to even the mild regulation that California currently has in place.
More and more our own government serves to protect a few special interests from the citizens they fleece or harm.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:25 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Woman to change her legal name to [gamblingcorporation].com

Apparently, some lost and deluded soul has auctioned off her legal name on eBay to the highest bidder, in this case, a gambling entity well known for publicity stunts. I refuse to mention that company's name (or link to them) and thus encourage this behavior. If you are curious enough, I'm sure you'll be able to find more information on your own.

Somehow, this bothers me even more than then plague of corporate sports stadium renamings ...

(and what is signaled when such institutions are commoditized and the center of power shifts from community to corporations), or even that town in Oregon that (I think just temporarily) renamed itself to [a company now owned by eBay].com. Your legal name is an essential feature of your personal identity -- this woman will have to sign her name as "[publicityseekingcorporation].com" for the rest of her life, on her drivers license, all legal documents (wills, title papers), any public references to her must include it, etc. She just got a real estate brokers license - who in their right mind is going to take her seriously? "Call [corporatevultures].com to list your house today!" Sure. Not to mention how confusing it will be to have [deathoftheculture].com on her signs.

This is the ultimate in intrusive advertising -- from now on, every single person who wants to interact with her, will be forced to also encounter and interact with the company who paid to change her name. The most intimate of personal interactions, an exchange of names, has now become commodified and branded. What was once sacred, is now profane.

This is just wrong, wrong, wrong... it leaves me deeply disturbed; what point talking about resistance to corporatization of the culture, when people are so willing to let it invest the most intimate parts of their lives? Stuff like this used to be the domain of cutting edge science fiction, dystopian parodies of corporate commercial culture; I guess this shows that life will almost always trump fiction, eventually.

What do you think? Am I over-wrought, or do you agree that this is a signal that something is seriously wrong with our culture, that we've allowed the corporate world far too much leeway to intrude into our personal lives?

--Thomas Leavitt

P.S. We really need a new category... maybe "Culture"?

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 10:01 AM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble post

Everyone should read James Wolcott: We Can't Say We Weren't Warned even though it doesn't mention housing.

There's a pattern here. As with Peak Oil, global warming, the real estate bubble, and the various US deficits, there's a general awareness of Trouble Coming and yet no sense of urgency or battle plan. It isn't that the media, the political class, and the media are paralyzed by fear or overwhelmed by alternative solutions, it's as if everyone is assuming that we can sleepwalk through the next crisis and muddle through as we always have with only minor hiccups, if any, in our lifestyles.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:44 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 11, 2005

Apollo Alliance

I want to bring the Apollo Alliance : Good Jobs, Clean Energy to the attention of Seeing the Forest readers. Take a look.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:20 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Moving Update

We're moved. The kitchen is somewhat usable now. The bedroom is sleepable. The phone works. The cable modem works.

Moving. What can I say? (Anything that starts with a pit bull attack...) Trip after trip after trip and there is still stuff in the old house. And the dust! Not to mention accumulations of dog hair in places that the vacuum never reached...

I haven't really read a blog for three days. The horror!

More later. Meanwhile, watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:07 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 10, 2005

E-voting system decertified in P.A., determined unreliable and insecure.

[The decertification report, by MIT's Michael Shamos, gives much more information about the failings of this particular system (Unilect's Patriot voting system).

None of the failures cited in the full article would surprise any experienced IT professional - they are symptomatic of a system that was inadequately Q/A tested, whose UI was designed by engineers without input from usability experts, and which was never given a thorough security evaluation by a specialist. All of which is entirely normal in a typical commercial development environment constrained by budget pressure, all of which is entirely unacceptable when the context is public confidence in the voting system. -Thomas]

County voting system invalid
By: J.D. Prose - Times Staff

BEAVER - The Pennsylvania Department of State said
Thursday that Beaver County's $1.2 million electronic
touch-screen voting system is unreliable and can no
longer be used, even in the primary election that is
only five weeks away.

"Needless to say, we're all shocked by this finding,
and we need to work our way through," Commissioners
Chairman Dan Donatella said. County elections chief
Dorene Mandity declined to comment, saying she had not
yet read the state's report.

In decertifying the UniLect Patriot system, Secretary
of State Pedro Cortes cited concerns he had after a
re-examination of it on Feb. 15 by Carnegie Mellon
University computer professor Michael Shamos that was
prompted in part by a petition filed by Beaver County

Cortes said in a five-page report that the Patriot
system does not meet the state's criteria of being
"safely and efficiently useable" in elections, or
"capable of absolute accuracy." Cortes said the system
is also confusing and difficult to learn, "displaying
messages whose import is misleading or unclear."

[... continued at the link above ...]

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 9:59 AM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Legislative Medical Directives and Abortion

I’ve been thinking about all of the hullabaloo surrounding the attempt by Congress to shred the Constitution by interfering in the Terri Schiavo case, and all of the attention that has been focused on advanced medical directives. Perhaps this is the time to apply the lessons the American people have learned about medicine and Congress to the issue of abortion. The sticking point, that violated the conscience of a very substantial majority of the American people, was the attempt by Congress to impose their will on the private medical decisions of all American families at the end of life.

A reasonable description of what Republicans in Congress, and in State legislatures across the country, are going to try to do is write a legislative advanced medical directive that will impose the will of politicians on all American families at the beginning of life. If Americans are repulsed by the idea of mangy politicians having that much control over private medical decisions at the end of life, shouldn’t the same revulsion apply to mangy politicians imposing their will on private medical decisions at the beginning of life?

This deeply personal medical decision, of whether or not to have an abortion, is one that is made by literally millions of women and their families every year. I trust the mother and the father, in consultation with their family doctor, to make the best decision under the specific circumstances of each specific case. I do not trust politicians to impose legislative advanced medical directives on me, my family or my community.

Would you want a politician making this decision for you and your wife? For your daughter or grand-daughter? Politicians are not smart enough to write legislation that can cover all of the thousands of complicated medical and ethical situations that are raised by the necessity of an abortion. Would you want this guy or maybe this guy to make the decision for you and your family? Does anybody really want this character mandating what decision your wife, daughter or grand-daughter will be compelled to make next year or five years from now, or even ten years down the road?
Food for thought

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 4:41 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

This I Believe

First, an introduction. I was invited to be a guest blogger, and Dave suggested I introduce myself. I began my political activism as that rare political creature known as a Bush 41 Democrat. At the time I was fed up with the Democratic party for the reasons detailed in a Washington Monthly article, Party Down! I attended my first State political convention and that was pretty much the end of my political activism for a while.

Towards the end of Reagan's second term, my brief stint as a RINO ended. I went back to school to finish my degree, and did an internship for a couple of Democratic State legislators. That didn't lead anywhere career wise and my next brief political hiatus from the real world was to canvass on Universal Health Care in the early 90's. We all know how that turned out.

That's the sum total of my prior political involvement. I did not make the effort to become politically active again for another ten years. President Bush changed everything.

This I Believe

Nothing real heavy here. Since our political beliefs are the sum total of our previous life experience, I thought I'd provide a little background in the evolution of my political ideology. I missed or took a pass on the Vietnam war. I was not politically engaged in the greatest political and social issue of my generation. I had two older brothers who were drafted and sent to Nam. They both advised me to do whatever it took to avoid going. The easiest out was a college deferment. The lottery saved me from being compelled to make any personal moral decisions based on my unformed personal convictions.

In 1979, frustrated with the Democrats, I become a Bush 41 Democrat and went to my State Republican Convention as a Bush delegate. Reagan won the nomination, and that was fine with me. I didn't have any big problems with President Reagan. He was a little too socially conservative to suit me, but he listened to his economic advisors and pulled us back from the brink of economic disaster. During my brief stint as a RINO, I educated myself about conservatism. Kirk's Ten Principles weren't published until a few years later, but in general terms, my conservative beliefs were summed up by Russell Kirk's "Ten Conservative Principles with a tinge of libertarianism thrown in for spice. To this day, I still believe they are admirable guidelines for a political philosophy.

Reagan's social conservatism and the conservatism of the Republican party kept me from ever being more than a RINO. I didn't have a favorite between Dole and Clinton, but I thought Clinton turned out to be the best choice at the time. Not out of any great political conviction, because like most Americans, I was preoccupied with the business of living and hadn't bothered to educate myself about Clinton's political beliefs, except in broad terms. Clinton seemed perfectly acceptable to me, but I was still what I describe in today's terms as a Lou Dobbs conservative, or pragmatic/utilitarian conservative.

Newt Gingrich changed all of that. I wasn't paying a great deal of attention, but what I heard from Newt concerned me. Not enough to actually do anything politically, but enough to trigger my First Amendment right to bitch. Probably the primary reason I continued to vote regularly, was the old saw "If you don't vote, don't bitch." Since I have always been quite accomplished at flapping my gums about political issues, I wanted to preserve my right to bitch about politicians, unfettered by the petty distraction about whether or not I had forfeited my right to complain, by not even taking the small effort required to vote.

Newt was a clearly a radical and not in a direction I approved of. His grenade throwing tactics and extreme conservative viewpoints triggered a visceral reaction. He was also quite loopy. Based on the political science courses I had taken in college, and the reading I had done since, a lot of the things Newt claimed as fundamental principles and the things he tried to do did not ring true. The Contract On America ended my brilliant career as a RINO. I became an ex-RINO, but I wasn't quite a DINO yet. I believed in the necessity of Health Care for All and I approved of unions. Two of the primary reasons I could never be more than a RINO. The strongest disagreement I had with Reagan was when he fired the PATCO strikers.

I was too unsatisfied with how BillandHillary had botched their health care initiative and not all that certain about the rest of their platform. The only thing I was certain about was that Newt and the direction the Republican party had taken were bad news for America. In 1993 I moved to sunny Southern California and registered as a Democrat. I wasn't a strong Democrat, but all I knew about California Republicans was Ronald Reagan, B -1 Bob and Dana Rohrabacher. No way I was one of those.

I continued to be a dispassionate Democrat. I didn't see any reason to get actively involved in politics. I didn't care for Gov. Pete Wilson at all, but didn't have sufficient reason to really do anything about it, except bitch of course. I kept busy starting my new life in California. I clearly recall the event that triggered my slow transformation. Like most Americans, I was following the Starr investigation; probably a little closer than most. Like most Americans, I couldn't make heads or tails of Whitewater, but the process the Republicans used, and the course Ken Starr took were deeply troubling. The trigger was Filegate and Travelgate. I looked at those two ludicrous charges and I thought, How could you possibly be that stupid?

My bitching reflex kicked into high gear, but not enough to actually do anything. I watched the whole sorry episode from the sidelines and thought, this too shall pass. Surely the American people will punish the dummies who put our country through this turmoil. Unfortunately, the Democrats followed their natural instinct to select seriously flawed candidates. Having said that, Al Gore's biggest problem was his inability to deal with a very hostile national press corp. Regular readers of The Daily Howler know exactly what I'm talking about. That and bungling the aftermath of the Fiasco in Florida.

In the meantime we had chosen a new Governor of California and Gray Davis certainly didn't do anything to excite my political passion. The energy crisis came and went and The Ahnold became our new governor. I painfully and regretfully admit that I voted for The No Neck Porkinator. The Ahnold talked the talk to get elected, but doesn't have a clue how to walk and chew gum at the same time. The Ahnold has also adopted the Bush/Rove/Republican party/conservative principle of pathological lying as political strategy.

During the 2004 Presidential campaign I was in high bitchin' dudgeon. I actually made my first political campaign contributions to a variety of sources and I started blogging for fun and political enlightenment. I was by that time an ideological ex-smoker, who was repulsed by all things conservative and Republican. I was still a political arm chair quarterback, because I didn't believe 59 million Americans could be that dumb! I bought Amy Goodwin's book, lots of other books, and finally got off my dead and dying political butt.

I attend DFA Meet Ups and am an active participant in politics in cyber-space and in the real world. I intend to do everything I possibly can to stop the tide of Compassionate Fascism that conservatism has morphed in to. I don't use that term lightly. Psuedo-fascism is certainly a more intellectually accurate description of the phenomenon formerly known as conservatism. I prefer Compassionate Fascism because it has a more folksy ring to it, and the only substantive missing elements are the ruder aspects like pulling citizens from their homes in the dead of night and assassinating them. Well, domestically anyway.

Observant readers will have noticed that I have strong opinions about certain things. My distaste for all things Republican and conservative, has not enamored me of the DLC. I also harbor strong opinions about the failure of the DLC to take aggressive, bold actions to protect our Constitutional Republic. We will undoubtedly get into that later.

Observant readers will also have noticed that pith is not one of my strong suits. I will make a valiant attempt not to be so tedious in the future. In part this lengthy introduction is a defensive mechanism against a pet peeve of mine. There is a very regretable tendency in the blogosphere, and in the political sphere, to impute value and beliefs to your political adversary. On occasion, people will even attempt to put words in your mouth that you clearly did not say. For those people I post The Shootist's Warning:

"I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them."

Don't attribute values or beliefs to me that I do not hold. Do not try to tell me what I really mean. Most certainly, do not put words in my mouth that I did not say and I will gladly do the same in return. Reasonable inquiry for purposes of clarification are frequently in order. I have no problem with that. There is a line that none of us should cross in this regard and I sincerely wish it was more rigorously observed.

As I said, this is in part a defensive mechanism as well as an introduction. I also hope I have met the stringent disclosure requirements that are being discussed for the blogosphere. In the future, when someone accuses me of believing or saying something that is not true, I can simply link to this post and save everybody a considerable amount of keystrokes and trouble. Since it is early Sunday morning, hopefully this lengthy post will slide quickly down the page to oblivion. Now that the Pope has been laid to rest, Breaking News should also return from it's respectful sabbatical. Hopefully, other guest bloggers at Seeing the Forest will have astute observations on the newly unleashed Breaking News and perhaps The Sunday Funny Shows as well. I for one look forward to Senator Biden's comments on his vote for bankruptcy legislation. Since he's opposite Sen. Lugar on The Late Edition, the topic is probably foreign policy, and I suspect that his bankruptcy vote will be politely ignored by Wolf.

Assuming my role as guest blogger works out and Dave does not immediately banish me for an exorbitant use of bandwidth, I appreciate your indulgence and look forward to getting further acquainted.

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 12:37 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 9, 2005

Ron Paul on The War In Iraq

Posted to a comment below, I felt it deserved highlighting on its own.

Who's Better Off

Ron Paul is just about the last Republican member of the House with any integrity left. ... and as I said in a comment below, that's because he's really a libertarian, a freedom loving species apparently otherwise gone extinct in his party. While I often disagree with them, real libertarians are at least consistent and principled.... in dramatic contrast to their "conservative" brethren, whose political principles and philosophies seem to shift with the winds of opportunity and public opinion. The Jesus so many of them claim to worship thought the greatest sin of all was hypocrisy, one far greater than the sexual pecadillos they seem so eager to have the state suppress.

--Thomas Leavitt

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 8, 2005

More Energy Efficient Alternative Technologies

[These eco-geek items don't really fit the "News" category, but I can't think of where else to put them. Serendipitously discovered this item in the course of researching a comment for the last one. Again, mega-cool - this system has the potential to increase applied energy efficiency in wheeled transportation by at least 50%. Their site suggests that fuel efficiency could be as much as 3x a conventionally geared bus once you factor in their use of regenerative breaking! Basically, what this does is eliminate the drivetrain used in a conventional vehicle to transfer energy from the motor to the wheels (and the associated efficiency loss). -Thomas]

I did a bit of background research to assure myself this wasn't "crank" science... nope: turns out the New York Times has covered it, as well as other media outlets, and a prototype is being tested in a Dutch town.

News article on e-Traction bus from Dutch science site: The Whispering Wheel

A new Dutch invention can make cars, busses and other vehicles no less than 50 percent more efficient and thus more environmentally friendly. Better still, the technology is already available; it all comes down to a smart combination of existing systems.

This winter, in the city of Apeldoorn, a city bus will be used to prove that the claims about the new invention are true. These are quite bold. E-traction, the company that developed the bus, boasts fuel savings of up to 60 per cent, with emissions down to only a fraction of the soot and carbon dioxide an ordinary bus would blow out of its tailpipe.

In addition, the test bus requires no adaptation, its drivers need no extra training and there'll be no discomfort for passengers. It will simply run on diesel, just like all the other buses, and it should be just as reliable. One thing however will be very different; the Apeldoorn bus hardly makes a sound, hence its nickname "the whisperer".

This could make the air-powered vehicle mentioned in my previous post even more efficient. As the e-Traction web site points out, up to 50% of the energy used to drive the wheels is lost due to friction, etc. in the drivetrain between the motor and the wheels. Plus, as a bonus, this system uses regenerative breaking to recover even more efficiency... and electric batteries last longer when used in less taxing ways!

Not to mention the reduction in noise pollution, particulate exhaust, and that they have exactly one moving part, and thus are extremely low maintenance.

All in all, mega cool. Maybe there is hope for our society. Note that these innovations are being driven by small companies, and often at least partially funded or validated by public institutions, acting as early adopters (such as in this case).

Why aren't the big car companies all over this?

--Thomas Leavitt

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 10:23 PM | Comments (7) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Question For Press

A question. If you are a newspaper or TV network or some other journalistic endeavor, and you use someone as a source or quote someone, or refer to someone as an expert or something like that, and that person is shown to have lied to you or otherwise lied to the public, and then you use that person as a source, or and expert, or a quote or whatever again, and don't inform your audience that this person is not to be trusted because they have lied in the past, what does that make you?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:30 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Those OTHER People - The BAD Ones

I've written that the Bush crowd might have the best of intentions, be totally honest and committed to democracy, etc., but that by removing all of our political system's checks and balances and processes of oversight & accountability, they are leaving the door open for other people, bad people to seize the reigns of absolute control of our country, casting our democracy aside. To say the least, there is historical precedent for this. In fact, I think I can venture to say that it always happens when democracies let their guard down like we have. You've heard the expression, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

Well, here we are, at the crossroads. From Congress Daily, through Eschaton:

Christian conservatives and a core group of congressional supporters are launching a significant new push to restructure the federal judicial system to reflect a more explicitly biblical world view, in the hopes that these changes will pave the way for broader social and political changes, leaders of the movement said.

Some of the most prominent conservative leaders in the country -- including Vision America's Rick Scarborough, Coral Ridge Ministry's James Kennedy and the Free Congress Foundation's Paul Weyrich -- launched the effort Thursday in Washington.

Members of the new coalition said they would immediately focus on bringing an end to Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees before pushing Senate Majority Leader Frist to enact sweeping changes in the judiciary.

They also warned that Frist and other politicians who have thus far been reluctant to force a confrontation with Senate Minority Leader Reid over the nominations would be held accountable if Democrats continue to block conservative judges.

Participants at this week's Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration meeting said the group also will focus on forcing Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against any judge who does not conform with their biblically based interpretation of the Constitution, as well as permanently curb judicial authority over matters of church and state, marriage and governmental acknowledgement of a Christian deity.

"What it is time to do is impeach justices," Texas Justice Foundation President Allan Parker extolled a crowd of a hundred or so conservative lobbyists, attorneys and activists. "The standard should be any judge who believes in the 'living constitution' should be impeached." [emphasis added]

There is no doubt where these people intend to take the country. Ad the only people standing in their way at this point are the so-called "moderate Republicans." The current leadership of the Republican Party has brought us to this point, intentionally or not.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:31 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Just Another Day

I have to tell you, any day that starts out with getting attacked by a pit bull is not the best day. And I'm not even moving until tomorrow.

I'm OK, Sudeep is OK, the dogs are mostly OK but Buddy will be limping for a few days and Espresso has a cut on her mouth.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:46 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Go read this

The entire right-wing movement is like a hovercraft floating on the perpetually roaring whirlwind of sub-rational, self-reinforcing nonsense that gusts through the minds of its adherents. It goes on and on and on, and nobody stops the people who feed it; most of the time, nobody with a prominent voice even stands up to them and calls them on their nonsense. For writing this column, and numerous other pieces of garbage like it, for filling people's minds with offal, Jonah Goldberg will never face judgment; he'll die peacefully, with a fat bank account and a kid gloves obituary.

Posted by John Emerson at 11:27 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Pneumatic-Hybrid Electric Vehicle

[I couldn't resist. This is seriously cool. Not to mention the shivers of terror it must make run up and down your average oil mogul's spine. -Thomas]

Car that runs on compressed air

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 Posted: 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)

(CNN) -- A Korean company has created a car engine that runs on air.

The engine, which powers a pneumatic-hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), works alongside an electric motor to create the power source.

The system eliminates the need for fuel, making the PHEV pollution-free.


Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 1:32 AM | Comments (12) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 7, 2005

America's Corporations: Credit Card Junkies Like The Rest Of Us

I woke up this morning, picked up the paper(*) as I walked out the door, and found this: Triple-A credit rating takes corporate pounding, at the top of the Business section. Summary: Corporate America's credit-worthiness is at an all time low... far worse than in 1980.

I think the author, by focusing on the near disappearance of AAA rated firms, misses the bigger story (a huge shift in the overall quality of corporate creditworthiness, and the number of firms with "junk" or near-"junk" grade credit). I'm also annoyed by the "spin" that this is merely a re-balancing of corporate priorities between bondholders and equityholders. Nevertheless, the article makes it absolutely clear that Corporate America is as debt-ensnared as any other sector of our society. I'm not surprised, but at the same time, I haven't seen this laid out so starkly anywhere before.

This completes the triumvirate... every sector of our society (public, individual, and corporate) is massively overextended.

Want more information... horrifying stuff? The Grandfather Economic Report, put together by Michael Hodges, has a ton of it.

Did you know that America's total debt exceeds $40 trillion dollars (not counting unfunded liabilities of various sorts)? That's ~$136,500 for every man, woman and child in the country... and counting. Did you know that household debt as a percentage of national income has been soaring like a rocket, and that the ratio now exceeds 100%? Or that the percentage of equity Americans hold in their homes has dropped to 55%? (scroll down)

Setting aside the author's political leanings (libertarian/limited-government), the overall picture he paints (very carefully documented and sourced) is pretty damned horrifying. Why isn't this the number one item on our elected representatives' agenda?

The author also links to an article on the housing bubble -- the source is suspect (a Lyndon LaRouche associated newsletter), but the information in it is troubling, to say the very least... how deeply leveraged is the entire housing market? Is it vulnerable to a Long Term Capital Management style financial market meltdown (with far greater consequences)? If I had more time, I'd try and find more information from a less suspect source. Anyone care to do that, and post a link in a comment below?

--Thomas Leavitt

* Yes, I do subscribe... although only because I got a super-deal from the SF Chronicle last year at San Francisco Pride... $82 net for a full year's subscription after receiving a $50 Safeway Gift Card. I sincerely believe that part and parcel of being an informed citizen is subscribing to a daily newspaper... and yes, the Chronicle is a sorry ass rag, compared to the Los Angeles Times of my youth, but - it still keeps me somewhat in touch with the flow of the culture; not to mention putting the occassional very informative piece of information in front of me, and/or provoking me to dig deeper on a subject.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 2:11 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

We need our own media

Atrios has just published a request for donations to John Aravosis, who did most of the heavy lifting on the Gannon-Guckert story but who has also done a lot of other good work. Aravosis wants to be able to work full time on political stuff, and he's shown that he's good at it. I endorse this drive, and let me throw in Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerilla. Susie has a media background and is job-hunting, and she should be doing political writing for pay.

This brings up my pet theme: Democrats need their own media. Amateurism and voluntarism are fine, but you don’t want to be in a position of depending on it. If someone’s doing valuable work, they should be paid for it. People with jobs and families (who also want to have lives) should not be expected to make enormous sacrifices forever for their political cause.

There’s a lot of money out there. The DNC spent over a half a billion dollars in 2004. There are dozens of foundations and political groups spending tons of money. So why aren’t John and Susie and Billmon and Steve Gilliard and my partner Dave Johnson and a couple of dozen others fully funded?

Dozens of mercenary, treacherous, and incompetent consultants have milked the Democrats for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars over the last fifteen years or so. The outcome has been the near-destruction of the Democratic party. Couldn’t some of that cash have gone to some of the people I just named?

This isn’t really a blogosphere thing. Blogging is just the place where new people with new ideas happened to be able to make their voice heard. It has more to do with the domination of the media and the Democratic Party by an old-boy network of credentialized and well-connected mercenaries skilled at losing elections.

In the media and in the larger society, there’s little place for a partisan Democrat or a strong liberal. Not just media people, but even Democratic officeholders and party workers know that if they want to have a future and further their careers, they have to be moderates who are able to get along with Republicans. That's why the liberal media are so chicken.(And that's where the treachery comes from: Stephanopolous, Estrich, Chris Matthews, and dozens of retired-officeholder lobbyists).

Bob Somerby tells the truth about the media, but no one will back him because that would kill their careers. What we need is a new media where Bob Somerby and people like him could make a real living.

I’ve been told and told that the money is there, but I don’t see any of it being passed around. I’ve been told and told that the blogosphere is doing important work and that people appreciate it, but I don’t see anything more real than occasional pats on the head.

Partly, I suppose, it’s the control of the Democratic party by a coterie of incompetent leeches who’re protecting their turf. Partly it’s because Democrats with money are, as the right is happy to point out, decadent hedonists who have lots of fun things to spend their money and time on. Partly it’s probably because Democrats are almost all credentialed organization insiders promoting people similar to themselves. (Certainly the populist streak of the Democratic Party is ancient history by now – Republican populists are total fakes, but Democrats are constitutionally incapable of telling anyone that.)

Is this sour grapes? Damn right it is! I would have been willing to work 30 hrs. a week doing internet stuff for 400$/ mo. plus medical insurance -- roughly what McDonald’s would pay. Did I have any realistic possibility of getting that? No. Maybe I’m just not good enough, but what about all the other people I mentioned?

George W. Bush should have been vulnerable during the 2004 election because of his favoritism toward the Saudis, and I spent a whole month documenting that and published the results here. But no one showed any interest and the Democrats refused to pick the issue up; when Michael Moore talked about the Saudis and Bush, the big Democrats ran home and hid under the covers.

The Swift Boat Liars played a major role in destroying Kerry’s campaign. Along with the now-retired Hesiod, I spent another month researching various smear groups of that type, and published the results here. Again, no interest from the Democrats, and I’ve been told that everyone in the Kerry campaign was told in no uncertain terms to have nothing to do with the blogosphere.

And the loser who made that disastrous decision is still doing very well for himself or herself, and I’ve given up even wishing for $300/ mo. They say that things have changed, but I don’t see it happening.

Posted by John Emerson at 11:45 AM | Comments (12) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Allow me to be a wet blanket again

Recently people have been gloating about Bush's low ratings, DeLay's problems, and the generally bad poll response to the Republicans' Schiavo demagoguery. While none of this is good news for the Republicans, none of it makes much difference either. The next election is eighteen months away, and the very successful Rove strategy (pioneered by Jesse Helms) consists of squeezing out narrow victories with intensive, state-of-the-art campaigns during the last few months before the election. Rove's magic lies in getting key voters to vote for a candidate whom they don't actually like very much.

Bush is home free as far as the voters are concerned, and DeLay can easily be replaced by someone equally bad. The administration seems to be having trouble with the Social Security rollback (even the mushmouthed David Broder has openly come out against it) -- but trying to destroy Social Security was an unbelievably bold stroke, and they're sure to have a backup plan.

Right now I'm waiting for a couple of shoes to drop: first, some kind of crisis of war or terrorism, whether fake or real; and second, a really serious attempt to destroy the lives of some group of "disloyal Americans."

(Don't thank me. I'm always glad to come out of retirement to spread gloom and doom.)

Posted by John Emerson at 11:19 AM | Comments (9) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 5, 2005

US Military Recruiting Children

The US military is so short of recruits that it is using false advertising and misleading fine print contracts to recruit 14-year olds for combat duty.

In an effort to increase its ranks for coming wars, the U.S.
military is recruiting--and paying--children as young as 14 years old
for future combat duty. It's called a "pre-enlistment" program.

Excerpted from "Pointblank", one of Des Moines's alternative newspapers. From a recent column written by Tim Schmitt.

The military is faced with a shortage of manpower not seen in decades, so it claims it is appealing to the patriotism of parents to guarantee a future fighting force. In reality the army is bypasing the parents and tricking, seducing and bribing young boys to sign up for combat as young as 14.

Here is how it works. "Section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act (No Child Left Alive??)enables recruiters to gain personal information about students from school records. (The only time parental involvement is required is when it comes time to sign papers.) Recruiters, often pretty young female soldiers, gain access to the high school campuses to buttonhole boys and set up off campus meetings, confirming them by calling them at home. The off campus meeting can involve both male and female recruiters arnd ofter takes place at a coffee shop or pizza place known to the kids.
The army recruiters offer the kids a bonus of $10,000.00, paid in yearly installments plus $350 a month stipend until the boys go into the army in four years. Sometimes the meetings are at places like comics shops where the boys can see how much they can buy with the money. Then they go home and pressure their parents -- or parent -- to sign the permission slip so they can get the cash. Their parents have no idea they are being recruited, much less about to sign an agreement that requires them to enlist when they graduate from high school -- no college deferments, no sports scholarships, no matter what changes happen durng the 4 years of high school.

The army says it is a simple agreement. A young man who is at least 14 years old and has a parent's permission (one parent only that is) can enlist in the U.S. military but will not report until he is legally of age. Combat duty is a requirement, a point not always clear to the boys.

One mother took a close look at the fine print. It revealed that, not only was her son unthinkingly signing up to be in combat, the $350 monthly stipend her son receives is actually an advance on his $250 per month combat pay and $100 per month hardship duty pay. What the army is doing is guaranteeing that the boy will go to war and the Pentagon is paying him now so he can't back out later. Any recruit faces strictpunishment if they refuse duty when coming of age. If the recruit is incapacitated or killed before two years of service, he or his relatives will have to pay back the rest of the money "owed" to the government.

High school students can petition their high school to remove them from the recruiting lists given the army if they don't want to be pressured into enlisting. And they can just say no.

Posted by Patrick O'Heffernan at 8:40 PM | Comments (12) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Heart of the Beholder

The trials and travails surrounding the making of this film (and the original story itself) demonstrate the frightening level of control that ultra-conservative Christian morality police have over our media production infrastructure.

"HEART of the BEHOLDER is based on the true story of how a young couple was ruined by a group of religious fundamentalists because they were the only video store owners who dared to carry Martin Scorsese's controversial film, The Last Temptation of Christ. The couple stood up against relentless harassment, intimidation, and even death threats. When the couple refused to buckle, the religious zealots blackmailed the District Attorney into destroying their business and family."

Turns out the D.A. frequented prostitutes... and one of them wound up joining one of the religious groups harassing these folk, and telling them all about his secret life. Pretty effective blackmail material.

As you can imagine, the Christian right isn't particularly eager to have this sordid tale of unethical behavior by their fellow believers given any prominence, and they've been doing anything and everything possible to prevent these people from successfully making and/or distributing this film. Now that the producers have actually succeeded in producing it (on a shoestring, for less than $500,000), they are trying to get it into film festivals... and elements of the Christian far right are organizing to prevent this.

Amusingly enough, the producer is a Fox employee, the "Vice President of Broadcast Standards and Practices for Fox Cable Networks in Los Angeles", doing this on a waiver. I guess not all the folks working for the masters of the dark side are evil. :)

Visit the Heart of the Beholder web site for more information.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 7:10 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Blog Taken Hostage!

The Stakeholder :: Hostage Crisis at RedState.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:31 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush Admin Protects Oil Companies Again

Another request from a Democratic Senator is turned down. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, asked for information about oil companies who are exporting American oil. (268 million barrels of American oil were exported last year.) The Bush administration refused to provide the information. By refusing to answer the Bush administration is blocking Sen. Wyden from pursuing his oversight function. Meanwhile the Republicans on the committee refuse to ask for such information.

Since the Republicans took control of the Congress the Bush Administration has refused to answer any requests for information of any kind from any Democratic members of Congress, while Congressional Republicans assist in the cover-ups.

Also, see Rep. Henry Waxman's Washington Post op-ed on the subject, Free Pass From Congress:

"During the Clinton administration, Congress spent millions of tax dollars probing alleged White House wrongdoing. There was no accusation too minor to explore, no demand on the administration too intrusive to make."
Ah, but times have changed,
"Republican Rep. Ray LaHood aptly characterized recent congressional oversight of the administration: "Our party controls the levers of government. We're not about to go out and look beneath a bunch of rocks to try to cause heartburn."

Republican leaders in Congress have refused to investigate who exposed covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked after her husband, Joe Wilson, challenged the administration's claims that Iraq sought nuclear weapons. They have held virtually no public hearings on the hundreds of misleading claims made by administration officials about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda.

They have failed to probe allegations that administration officials misled Congress about the costs of the Medicare prescription drug bill. And they have ignored the ethical lapses of administration officials, such as the senior Medicare official who negotiated future employment representing drug companies while drafting the prescription drug bill.

The House is even refusing to investigate the horrific Iraq prison abuses. One Republican chairman argued, "America's reputation has been dealt a serious blow around the world by the actions of a select few. The last thing our nation needs now is for others to enflame this hatred by providing fodder and sound bites for our enemies."

Compare the following: Republicans in the House took more than 140 hours of testimony to investigate whether the Clinton White House misused its holiday card database but less than five hours of testimony regarding how the Bush administration treated Iraqi detainees."

Perhaps the refusal of the Republican Congress to provide any oversight of or demand any accountability from the government should be an issue in next year's elections. I can see the ads now. "Nine billion dollars disappeared from Iraq. Republican Congressman (Senator) XX not only refused to ask where it went, but helped block efforts to find out!"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:27 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Blog Issues

If you are using Firefox, you see a grey backgorund for a while. The problem is that this is what fixed some of the even worse Internet Explorer problems - and you don't see the grey background in IE. I'm still trying to get the whole thing working (whle packing for the move and trying to get work done, too)... Sorry.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:35 AM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post

Bush to Back Curbs on Fannie, Freddie. This could have a dramatic effect on housing prices. Here's why. Much of the reason for the frenzy in home-buying is that banks are making incredibly risky loans. A no-down-payment, interest-only, adjustable loan enables people who don't make a lot of money to qualify for the monthly payment on a very expensive house. No down payment means that buyers have very little incentive to stay in the house (and keep making those monthly payments) if something goes wrong - they have literally nothing invested. Paying only the interest for the first five years means that their payments will go up dramatically in year six when principal payments are added. Adjustable means that if interest rates rise (and they will) the monthly payments will go up. Meanwhile the whole point of these loans is they make the house purchase possible for people who can't afford higher payments. The bet is that the price of the house will go up dramatically, so the buyer can sell the house before the end of the five year low-payment period. These are loans that are guaranteed to fail. The only question is when.

So why do the banks and other lenders make such loans? Because they can turn around and sell the loans to "Freddie Mac" and "Fannie Mae." From There Goes the Neighborhood: Why home prices are about to plummet--and take the recovery with them, in April's Washington Monthly,

Getting a home loan used to be a particularly nerve-wracking and unpleasant process. A stern loan officer behind a big mahogany desk would pore over your income and credit, suspiciously probing your portfolio for weaknesses. And sensibly enough: The bank that lent you the money would have to collect on the mortgage for the next 30 years and had to make sure you were really good for it. It hired independent appraisers to make sure the price was in line. [. . .] The one exception to this general process was mortgages sold on the secondary market. In the 1930s, Congress created the Federal National Mortgage Corporation (Fannie Mae) to encourage banks to make loans to low-income Americans by agreeing to purchase those mortgages from the banks. In 1970, Congress created a second agency, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), to do much the same thing. By the late 1980s, these two entities, which belong to the category known as Government Sponsored Entities (GSEs), were buying up and reselling 30 percent of new mortgages and packaging the mortgages to be sold as securities.

Fannie and Freddie's market share was limited by their ability to attract investment capital. But in 1989, Congress instituted some modest-seeming technical changes that made Freddie and Fannie much more attractive to investors, and able to draw much more capital. Under the new rules, for instance, they were allowed to customize securities at different levels of risk and return to meet more precisely the demands of different sectors of the capital market. Then, too, bank regulators let pension funds and mutual funds class Fannie's debt as low-risk. As a consequence, during the 1990s, investors practically threw money at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which became enormously, steadily profitable. The GSEs used the new capital to buy up every mortgage they could, and banks were only too happy to sell off the mortgage paper. The price cap on the mortgages Fannie and Freddie could insure was raised. As a result of all these changes, Fannie and Freddie went from buying mostly mortgages for low-end homes to those of the middle- and upper-middle class. And the share of the nation's conventional mortgage debt which they insure has swelled, to more than 70 percent today, double its share in 1990.

So the risk is off the banks and on these "GSEs." They used to buy 30% of mortgages, but now they buy 70%.
Once banks knew they could automatically hand off the mortgages they wrote to Fannie and Freddie with basically no risk, the old incentive system dissolved. "Banks and other mortgage lenders are not watching home prices carefully because they rarely hold onto the mortgage paper they create--they just sell it upstream to mortgage investors," John R. Talbott, a housing researcher at UCLA's Anderson School of Business, has argued. "It is a dangerous situation indeed when neither home buyers nor the institutions that finance them are concerned with the ultimate price being paid for the housing asset."
With the risk off the banks, why should they care if these loans fail? See if you can guess who the risk is on now - who will pay if these loans can't be paid off by the house buyers?

Those who understand that the entire financial system now rests on these loans supporting housing prices are trying to make behind-the-scenes changes to shore up the problem. But this would make loans harder to get, which would pop the housing bubble.

And, of course, Realtors oppose new test in GSE reform bill:

"The 'bright-line' test could inhibit innovations associated with Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's automated underwriting systems and result in higher loan costs and decreased access to mortgage credit that would make it more difficult to buy a home," said NAR [National Association of Realtors] President Al Mansell.
Requiring reasonable credit checks before making $700,000 loans? No, realtors don't like that at all!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:16 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Pope Stuff

Body and Soul is covering all the Pope stuff. (He's still dead.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:22 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Housing Bubble

The Housing Bubble: Flashback: Rental Vacancy At All Time Highs.

The only question is when.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:42 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bankruptcy Bill

Mary reminds us that the bankruptcy bill is not yet passed, and that there are still things we can do.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 4, 2005

Republican Blames Judges For Violence and Threats Against Judges

Senator John Cornyn today, blaming violence and threats against judges on the judges themselves for not doing everything Republicans want:

"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence."
Damn that pesky Constitution, giving judges independence from Party control!

Update - Kos writes,

Violence against judges is nothing short of domestic terrorism. And Cornyn (along with DeLay and their ilk) are nothing more than apologists for such violence.

The GOP's war on the judiciary is now entering dangerous territory.

And Steve at Left Coaster writes,
First, Tom DeLay went over the edge with his veiled threat against judges last week who are allegedly unaccountable to the public, stemming from the right-wing disappointment that they couldn’t intimidate a GOP judge into ruling in their favor on the Terri Schiavo manipulation.

Now another Texas GOP crack head is excusing courthouse violence and attacks against judges by claiming it may be the actions of folks who think that judges make political decisions while being unaccountable to the public. This time it is GOP senator John Cornyn, who used to be Texas AG and who should know better.

Watch your backs!

Further update - Atrios:

We get so used to hearing this kind of wingnuttery, and while it's wrong when Michael Savage says something like this, it's certainly way beyond any standard of decency for a United States Senator.
And AMERICAblog,
We now have Republican Senators making excuses for terrorists. Explaining why terrorism is understandable. Why terrorists have legitimate concerns. Justifying why the victims of terrorism are really to blame for these heinous crimes. Wonder what Senator Cornyn thinks of rape victims?

This is utterly outrageous. Outrageous. The GOP is now embracing domestic terrorists who are trying to undermine our democracy. And they're doing it so they can take down the judges who "killed" Terri Schiavo, and instead impose some Pat Robertson-like theocracy on our country. This is absolutely utterly beyond contempt. Tell Judge Lefkow in Chicago that her mother and husband are dead because she brought it on herself.

And the ultimate irony is that it is people like John Cornyn who now risk inciting violence against judges by giving aid and comfort to these homicidal maniacs. Cornyn should resign immediately.

Senators advocating domestic terrorism. There's isn't much of a "what next" after this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:38 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


A Very Short History of Neoconservatism over at Media Transparency

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:22 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Housing Prices

Housing boom defies trends, likely to bust soon -- won't it?

I don't know how many conversations I have been in recently in which people say that the extremely high prices means that people should buy houses here. Almost everyone seems to believe that real estate prices never go down. So people think that they have to "get in" before prices go "even higher." Others are dumping their retirement accounts and putting the money into rental units because they aren't getting very much interest anyway, while housing prices are rising more than 20% a year. (24% a month in places like Reno.) It doesn't matter that their payments are twice what they could get in rents, because they believe they will be able to sell for a much, much higher price in a year or two.

People are taking out "interest-only adjustable" loans, which means they only pay the interest for the first five years, and then they have to pay both principal AND the probably-much-higher interest rate. But the people getting these kind of loans are doing so precisely because they can't afford more.

There is only one direction this can go. The only question is when.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:43 AM | Comments (7) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Newspaper For Who?

My local paper is about to lose a subscriber. Not long ago the San Jose Mercury News started packing the Op-Ed page with far-right stuff from the Hoover Institution, and others. Today, this article, Digital bliss: Soon-to-be-married couple get help wiring their love nest, headed up the "Tech Monday" section. It was full of regular-people stuff, like,

But there's no better time to splurge on home electronics than during a remodel, when $10,000 here and $20,000 there don't seem like big deals.
Answering my own question, this newspaper is for people to whom spending "$10,000 here and $20,000 there" doesn't seem like a big deal. That's not me.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:23 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 3, 2005

Moving Soon

We found a new house to rent, and signed the lease yesterday. We're packing this weekend and through the week, and moving next weekend. Then our life can start to get back to normal.



Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:55 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


From today's NY Times, Do Taxes Thwart Growth? Prove It:

In theory, the issue seems simple enough. According to basic economic principles, a tax can have a negative effect on behavior by reducing the incentive to do whatever is taxed. Impose a tax on wages, and people may decide to work less.

That's the theory, anyway. In practice, how many Americans will work less if their taxes rise? With mortgage bills, college tuition and car payments looming, who can afford to work less? Relatively few have the option of cutting back without risking the loss of their jobs.

Nice theory, huh? Yet all the data shows the opposite happens. In this example it's kind of obvious to me that raising taxes would make people work harder so they can pay their bills, or otherwise end up with the same amount of money.

Interestingly, it is the times of highest taxes when we have been most prosperous.

And then there's the evidence. Over the last 30 years, economists have undertaken hundreds of studies to determine whether taxes hurt the economy. So far, they've turned up little to convict taxes of the charge. After reviewing the literature on the topic in 1993, two economists, William Easterly of New York University and Sergio Rebelo of Northwestern, concluded in a joint paper that "the evidence that tax rates matter for growth is disturbingly fragile."

A leading tax specialist today, Joel B. Slemrod of the University of Michigan, would agree. He notes that in the 20th century, a rising tax burden in the United States and other developed countries went hand in hand with rising prosperity.

Maybe that is because we have a consumer economy, and higher taxes usually really means higher taxes on the rich - which means a lower share of the tax burden is on the great masses of non-rich. In a consumer economy obviously more people having more money to spend is good for the economy. In other words, redistributing the income down from the top is good for everyone, even the rich. And higher taxes would mean the government would not be borrowing, which is bad for the economy in the long term.

Higher taxes also enable the government to spend more, which is obviously good for the economy. Government spending means more jobs, and more money circulating in that consumer economy of ours. That's what spending is. Also the government usually spends money on things that are good for the economy in the longer term, like education, science, infrastructure (the internet, roads, etc.) Investment.

When I learned about science, I learned that science is supposed to DEscribe what happens. But a lot of this kind of economics seems to be about, "If only people did so-and-so, so-and-so would happen." That does not describe, it prescribes. And it's also wrong.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:28 PM | Comments (9) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


I just heard something about the Pope died. Is that true? Was he sick?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:03 PM | Comments (7) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 2, 2005

People's Park

Someone I know found some old pics and scanned them in. Here's his message:

In 1971 I lived two blocks from People's Park in Berkeley, the scene of a riot (one killed - one blinded) in 1969. On the second anniversary of People's Park, the student newspaper, the Daily Californian, called for people to tear down the fence that U.C. had erected. I was there with my camera and took some slides. I have scanned them and placed them onto the web. You are cordially invited to view these slides at:
People's Park Anniversary Riots
Keep in mind that this is the anniversary of the original riot. The pictures give a feel for the times.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:52 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

If You Can See This

If you are using Internet Explorer - and if you can even see this - Do you know why posts and text might be disappearing? And I do mean disappearing - big spaces where there should be text... Sometimes you can see the top half of a line of text but not the bottom half.

It is just fine in Firefox. Aside from asking everyone to switch to Firefox (you should) I guess I should fix this problem. Any suggestions? Also, for text sizes...

The problems of switching to a new blogging system...

Update - I'm closing in on the problem thanks to an e-mail from a reader. It's a known IE bug, and shows up commonly with Movable Type blogs. Check here for an example. (The font color fix and the .content style color fixes are good, thanks, but didn't fix this.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:52 AM | Comments (14) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 1, 2005

Bad in IE?

I use Firefox as my web browser, and this weblog looks fine. But using my Internet Explorer it does not. Is anyone out there having the same trouble? Leave a comment.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:22 PM | Comments (13) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

After The Boom

Business Week has a story, After The Housing Boom, talking about what might be coming as the housing boom slows.

Update - The Housing Bubble writes about the Business Week piece:

That the story was published at all is proof the big media are being forced to admit there is a bubble, but this fluff piece jumps past that recognition into how swell things look going forward.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

All Fixed

I'm able to get to the site. Everything looks good. I'll be tweaking the HTML. Thanks.

I am SO HAPPY to be away from Blogger!!!!!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:38 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


Well, I can't get to this site because my nameserver hasn't caught up to the change. I'm still sent to the old blogspot site. (UGH!) Yesterday everything was fine, today no. How can a nameserver be updated one day but not the next?

I hope this site looks OK - people have told me it is fine.

Meanwhile, check out April Fools Day at American Street!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:09 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Our Mass Media's Distorted Priorities

So, I pick up The San Francisco Chronicle as I walk out the door this morning, and what do I see plastered across most of the front page? "A's NEW ERA". Mass coverage on the sale of the Oakland A's baseball team to various and sundry investors.

As is my habit, I start reading the paper from the back pages (where the "real" news is) and what do I see on page A17 (second to last page)? "U.N. Study: Earth's Health Deteriorating" ... the AP article available through the SF GATE web site doesn't have the most alarming statistic (the viability of 60% of the world's ecosystem services are threatened), but you can see it as the lead paragraph on the latest entry on the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment web site. It appears that the print article in today's Chron was based on this release.

Here's the lead paragraph I'm talking about... hell, here's the three lead paragraphs:

A landmark study released today reveals that approximately 60 percent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth – such as fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and the regulation of regional climate, natural hazards and pests – are being degraded or used unsustainably. Scientists warn that the harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years.
“Any progress achieved in addressing the goals of poverty and hunger eradication, improved health, and environmental protection is unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem services on which humanity relies continue to be degraded,” said the study, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) Synthesis Report, conducted by 1,300 experts from 95 countries. It specifically states that the ongoing degradation of ecosystem services is a road block to the Millennium Development Goals agreed to by the world leaders at the United Nations in 2000.
Although evidence remains incomplete, there is enough for the experts to warn that the ongoing degradation of 15 of the 24 ecosystem services examined is increasing the likelihood of potentially abrupt changes that will seriously affect human well-being. This includes the emergence of new diseases, sudden changes in water quality, creation of “dead zones” along the coasts, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate.

Let's have a vote: which is more important?

1. A change in ownership for the Oakland A's.


2.A declaration by 1,300 scientists from 95 countries that human impacts on the planet have made "changes [that] have resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss to the biological diversity of the planet", to quote Walter Reid, director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

I'm willing to be I know how most of you will answer. Why isn't this front page news?

Is the Chronicle afraid of being seen as playing "Chicken Little"? Does it think the average reader won't give a damn? Do they think that the average reader would be unable to understand that the Earth's ecosystems are overstressed and some of them are on the virge of collapse? Or would it be too upsetting to the powers that be (corporate and governmental) to see the evidence of their collective malfeasance and mis-stewardship splashed across the front page?

... probably not. Setting aside the more paranoid of interpretations, it seems to me that the American newsroom has a major cultural problem - stuff like this just isn't "news". News is "dramatic", fast-developing, "personalized" and personality driven... Terry Schiavo's husk passing on is news... studies showing the 55 year old men without health insurance are 40% more likely to die than those with it are not. There's no immediate crisis, no fast breaking story to continually update... sure, there is a "human interest" angle that might result in a feature, but it isn't worth a headline or a series of stories from different angles. Or... could it be?

"World's Primates On The Verge of Extinction: Defenders Call It Genocide", "Antarctic Ice Pack Breaking Up: Shipping Threatened, Sea Levels May Rise Significantly", "Water Tables Sinking Rapidly Across Planet, Food Harvests Threatened"', "Energy Demand From China Threatens To Drive Prices Through Roof", "Asian Pollution Blocks Western State's Progress Cleaning Up Air"... are headlines like these not attention grabbing enough?

What would happen if a major U.S. newpaper started putting ecological news like this on the front page of the paper nearly every single day... how long would they be able to keep it up? Indefinitely? (there's certainly enough news of the sort to do this on a regular basis) ... would circulation crash? (I somehow doubt it.) Would advertising disappear? (Probably not - the capitalist will sell you the rope you use to hang him.)

How much would it cost for "the left" to buy a leading newspaper in a major media market and start running headlines like this? While a pretty intensive session with Google was unable to pin down any specific numbers, it seems reasonable to assume that one could be bought for $200 million. Seems like this would be a cost-effective investment.

Or could we do this even more cheaply ... by making this "news" ourselves, among the blogging community? Could we flog the story of the looming death of the planet into the mainstream media, like we've done with so many other stories? Or do we, ourselves, not see this as "news", as "blog worthy"?

Hmm... it seems the verdict is split. I was about to start sobbing uncontrollably, when Daypop and Blogz produced one and zero hits respectively, when Technorati saved the day and produced 29 hits. 26 in the last 24 hours or so. Of course, a number of them are folks ranting about how the most important aspect of this is how it promotes "free markets", but most of the others seemed to "get" the idea that this is a significant report. ... maybe the blogsphere simply needs time to react? I hope so.

I guess I'm not alone in my thoughts on this... Jumping on the Bandwagon has also commented about the lack of coverage in major media about this.

Two more tidbits:

a) wonder why your newspaper seems so threadbare?

Read this article (found it while poking around for info for this one): Valuation of the newspaper publishing industry

Here's a choice quote: "successful companies have reduced total payroll costs from 40% of revenues to 30%" (the Times-Mirror company is cited as an example)

b) totally off topic: John C. Danforth (conservative Republican former Senator from Missouri) says, " Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians"... and that this is not a good thing.

--Thomas Leavitt

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 12:02 AM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack



Buddy and Espresso welcome you to the new home of Seeing the Forest. They are slightly abashed by the move.


But now they are somewhat more relaxed. ("Get that camera out of our faces and we'll be more relaxed.")

Everything older than this post can be found at the old blog, or by clicking the Archive links in the right-hand column here, down a ways.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:02 AM | Comments (14) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


Please let me know if there are any problems. If you have trouble subscribing to any of the feeds on the right - which allow you to receive Seeing the Forest via e-mail, or if you stopped getting your e-mails, let me know. If you have trouble leaving comments, let me know. Etc., let me know. Thanks.

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