January 31, 2006
Same-day service. Alito sworn-in, 5 states readying abortion bans.
Moonie Times, Sweeping anti-abortion laws proposed,
Legislators in at least five states are proposing bold anti-abortion measures as the Bush administration reshapes the U.S. Supreme Court, a report said.As I said earlier, don't be fooled by Senators who voted 'No' on Alito today but voted to end the filibuster. They put Alito on the court.
With the goal of challenging the Roe vs. Wade ruling that ensured a woman's right to an abortion, lawmakers in Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee propose banning all abortions except when the woman's life is in danger, Stateline.org reported.
If enacted, legal experts said the laws would be the first absolute abortion bans since the landmark 1973 ruling.
Just a question. How many TV shows have you seen lately that have one of the character using torture? I'm watching a Tivo'd episode of Surface now, and one of the main characters is torturing someone. I was just thinking I've been seeing a lot of torture on drama shows for a while now. Just asking.
Believe it or not, I had to go to a business function this evening. I watched the SOTU from a DFA event, then had to leave before I had a chance to write about it.
But .. Dont't forget Mars!
Actually I am just following the SOTU from the Grand Casino Bakery & Cafe in Culver City. Culver City has free WiFi, so I didn't even have to search out a coffee shop, which also happens to be a bakery. Fortunately they have a terrific signature desert called Caja. It's right on Main Street in beautiful downtown Culver City. You can't miss it.
Someday soon the whole world will be free WiFi.
[Update: Grand Casino would not give me the recipe and even google could not pull up a dessert from Uruguay, but the ingredients were white cake, dulce de leche, peaches, chantilly cream and layered baked meringue. Next time I'm going to order two Chaja's instead of a Chaja and a Chocolate Mousse Cake.
The solution to a Supreme Court dominated by radical conservatives, is to pack the court, ala FDR's attempt in the 1930's. As a compromise measure, perhaps the deal could be that the incoming Democratic Party President will make only two appointments (to restore balance), and that the court will return to nine justices over time as others resign or pass on.
In the context of a Republican dominated Senate willing to consider "the nuclear option", and an executive branch that has unilaterally arrogated the power to itself to ignore the stated will of the Congress and Judiciary in the name of national security, this seems a temperate and measured response to an attempt to impose a radical agenda on a badly divided nation by a President and party who have lost their mandate and credibility... and far preferable to other options that will remain unnamed, but that I am sure have passed through the back of more than a few people's minds.
If you're still upset that Chris Matthews and others compare you to Osama bin Laden, stop by Open Letter To Chris Matthews and say so.
Senate confirms Alito to high court by a vote of 58-42.
If 42 Senators REALY wanted to keep Alito off the court, the vote yesterday to stop the filibuster would have failed, and Alito would not be on the court.
DO NOT BE FOOLED by any Senator who voted against the filibuster but also voted against Alito - that Senator was FOR Alito, and is only throwing you this "No" vote to get your money and vote for their next campaign.
REMEMBER these Senators, do not give them money, do not work for them, and urge others to oppose them. I'll have a list up later.
When Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell published the false claim on January 15 that Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats, the paper got a loud, swift and public lesson in the new realities of online interactivity and instant accountability. It was like watching a woolly mammoth being hauled shrieking and dripping with ice-age detritus into the twenty-first century.Go read the rest.
This lesson came in large part from the blogosphere, in the form of comments made on the newspaper's web site, and in posts made to political weblogs, such as DailyKos, Eschaton, and my own blog, Firedoglake. The collective daily readership of the largest political blogs now runs in the millions. We are news and politics junkies, instantly able to recite the last six jobs of Senate staffers, and the names of reporters who cover every beat. We follow politics in real time, and have zero tolerance for the kind of sloppy mistake Howell made. Hundreds of us swarmed to the site and immediately made our feelings known.
January 30, 2006
I noticed that Buy Blue has really been getting going. The idea is to support companies that support your values.
Go take a look: BuyBlue.org | Vote With Your Wallet!
Censored 2006, from Seven Stories Press, features the 25 most important news stories not covered by the corporate media in 2004-05. Government Secrecy, Media Failures in Iraq, National Voter Fraud, Citizen Surveillance, and Environmental disasters are just some of this year's topics.
Censored 2006 is dedicated to Gary Webb, the late investigative reporter who exposed the depths of the CIA/Contra drug dealings in the 1990s and lost his job over the story. "We will miss Gary a lot," commented Project Censored Coordinator Trish Boreta. "We are including Gary's original introduction to our Censored 1999 book to honor his passing this year," said Boreta.
Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006
#1 Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government
#2 Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Death
#3 Another Year of Distorted Election Coverage
#4 Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In
#5 U.S. Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia
#6 The Real Oil for Food ScamGo to the site to click for details on each.
#7 Journalists Face Unprecedented Dangers to Life and Livelihood
#8 Iraqi Farmers Threatened By Bremer’s Mandates
#9 Iran’s New Oil Trade System Challenges U.S. Currency
#10 Mountaintop Removal Threatens Ecosystem and Economy
#11 Universal Mental Screening Program Usurps Parental Rights
#12 Military in Iraq Contracts Human Rights Violators
#13 Rich Countries Fail to Live up to Global Pledges
#14 Corporations Win Big on Tort Reform, Justice Suffers
#15 Conservative Plan to Override Academic Freedom in the Classroom
#16 U.S. Plans for Hemispheric Integration Include Canada
#17 U.S. Uses South American Military Bases to Expand Control of the Region
#18 Little Known Stock Fraud Could Weaken U.S. Economy
#19 Child Wards of the State Used in AIDS Experiments
#20 American Indians Sue for Resources; Compensation Provided to Others
#21 New Immigration Plan Favors Business Over People
#22 Nanotechnology Offers Exciting Possibilities But Health Effects Need Scrutiny
#23 Plight of Palestinian Child Detainees Highlights Global Problem
#24 Ethiopian Indigenous Victims of Corporate and Government Resource Aspirations
#25 Homeland Security Was Designed to Fail
The Senate voted 72-25 to stop any filibuster of Alito. I fear that putting this guy on the court, with his strong belief in absolute Presidential power (as long as it is a Republican) might be a, if not the, "tipping point" in the erosion of our democracy.
Bush says he "is pleased" that so many Democrats voted against a filibuster,
"I am pleased that a strong, bipartisan majority in the Senate decisively rejected attempts to obstruct and filibuster an up-or-down vote on Judge Sam Alito's nomination," Bush said in a statement.Kerry and Kennedy led the fiulibuster. Others ran like little mice from the idea of doing anything that might make Rush Limbaugh say bad things about them.
From the news story,
There was sharp division within Democratic ranks about a filibuster, aides said. They said some argued it would help rally backers for the November congressional elections while others expressed fear it may backfire and portray Democrats as politically minded obstructionists.One of our trolls just commented on another post: "Well after all that grandstanding, the liberals could only muster 25 votes for a filibuster. A lot of dems cut and ran……." Yep.
In the end, 19 Democrats joined 53 Republicans in voting to bring debate to a close. Twenty-four Democrats and one independent opposed the motion. Two Republicans did not vote.
Over at The Agonist, Sean Paul had been holding his tongue,
First, no Democratic Senator on the list who voted for cloture (and against a filibuster) will ever receive a dime from me personally. Why? Because after such a catastrophic failure you don't deserve to be Senators. The Republicans schooled you. They beat with the ease of a heavyweight pounding on an grandma. You're more like cats runing from a vacuum cleaner than you are leaders. Comparing you to the 1962 Mets would be an insult too extreme to bear, for the Mets, that is.Oh, go there and read it.
What's more, in your miserable, wallowing, whiny-assed defeat you have betrayed your party and have left the republic you pledged to defend in the hands of a modern Girolamo Savonarola. Americans expect progress from you, not regress.
ndeed, Alito's fondness for a 'unitary executive' may put you out of a job sooner than we voters can. (Of course, you think that's alarmist. I call it checks and balances.) You should take pride in having emasculated what was once considered the world's most august deliberative body. Today, after your failure of nerve, it is nothing less than a quivering, quavering, gelatinous mass of timorous toadies.
To all the special interest groups who 'had prepared for years for this fight' I have a special send-off for you:
Thanks for coordinating so well with the Senators leading the fight. Thanks for wasting all of that money we put in your war chest. Thanks for lobbying those who wavered, stiffening their spine with promises of support. Thanks for playing hardball against the 'pro-choice' Republican tools in the Senate too, you were particularly brilliant there with Specter, Snowe and Chafee. What a knock-up job! Enjoy your forced birth, because it's your baby now.
Blogger Kevin Drum writes,
Still, even given the amateurish way that Senate Dems handled it, I expected it to get more than 25 votes.And then goes on to bash bloggers. And go read the coments. Sheesh.
Update - Everything Digby says.
...That study found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-adhttp://www.rightwingnews.com/archives/week_2006_01_22.PHP#005119mitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did.Meanwhile,
... "Obviously, such research does not speak at all to the question of the prejudice level of the president," said Banaji, "but it does show that George W. Bush is appealing as a leader to those Americans who harbor greater anti-black prejudice."
Vincent Hutchings, a political scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said the results matched his own findings in a study he conducted ahead of the 2000 presidential election: Volunteers shown visual images of blacks in contexts that implied they were getting welfare benefits were far more receptive to Republican political ads decrying government waste than volunteers shown ads with the same message but without images of black people.
Just this last Friday at Right Wing News, Q&A Friday #32: Are Republicans Doomed By Demography?
Question: "Are Republicans doomed by demography? By 2050 whites will be a minority. With the same voting patterns among African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians the right will get 40% or less.But John gave a pretty good answer. Were it only be true...
Many people seem curious or even skeptical why United States Senators believe it's so important to take a stand against the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court -- why we're willing to take on a fight that conventional wisdom suggests we will lose.
The reality is simple. We care about the future of our country. We care about the millions of Americans who expect Congress to stand up and fight for their rights and their freedoms, and we also know that the Supreme Court, again and again, is the battlefield on which those rights and freedoms are decided.
So let's get this straight. The time to fight is now - before we make the irreversible decision of confirming a new Supreme Court Justice. When you're talking about the Supreme Court, you don't live to fight another day. It's a zero sum game. Once Judge Alito becomes Justice Alito, there's no turning back the Senate confirmation vote. We don't get to 'take a mulligan' when choosing a Supreme Court Justice. The direction our country takes for the next thirty years is being set now. Will it matter if we speak up after the Supreme Court has granted the executive the right to use torture, or to eavesdrop without warrants? Will it matter if we speak up only after a woman's right to privacy has been taken away? Will history record what we say after the courthouse door is slammed in the faces of women, minorities, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor? No. History will record what we say and what we do now.
What on earth are we waiting for? We all know why President Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. He is packing the court with conservative ideologues who will extend the legacy of his presidency for years to come. After all, Judge Alito was nominated only after extreme members of the right-wing killed the nomination of Harriet Miers, an accomplished lawyer who ideologues fumed lacked a track record of proven, tested, activist conservatism. Those same individuals heralded Judge Alito's nomination. Ann Coulter, who last week suggested Justice Stevens should be poisoned, who denounced the nomination of John Roberts, celebrated Judge Alito's nomination, stating that Bush gave Democrats 'a right-hook' - high praise from an activist who said that Republicans need to nominate a person who 'wake[s] up every morning . . . chortling about how much his latest opinion will tick off the left.'
After reviewing Judge Alito's writings as a Department of Justice lawyer and a federal judge, I have no doubt why he is so heralded by the most extreme Republicans. There is no doubt about the kind of Justice Samuel Alito will be. He will make it harder for the most disadvantaged members of our society to have their day in court. He will allow the President's power to grow far beyond what the Framers of the Constitution intended. He will roll back women's privacy rights. Empty promises made in the heat of a highly-charged and exceedingly political confirmation battle cannot erase a twenty year record.
No one will be able to say, in five to ten years, that they are surprised by the decisions Judge Alito makes from the bench. They know that in his fifteen years on the Third Circuit, Judge Alito has almost never voted in favor of African-American plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases. They know that he routinely defers to government invasions into personal privacy, often going out of his way to excuse unlawful government actions. And they know that the only statement he has ever made regarding a woman's right to privacy is that she does not have one.
People who believe in privacy rights, who fight for the rights of the most disadvantaged, who believe in balancing the power between the President and Congress have no choice but to stand up against Judge Alito.
I know better than anyone that elections have consequences and that the President has every right to nominate whomever he chooses to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But I also know that Senators have the right - in fact, they have a constitutional responsibility, to question whether that nominee is the right choice. That is why the Framers required the Senate to provide advice and consent. We are not meant to be a rubber stamp. We need not rush to judgment simply to satisfy the political deadline of a State of the Union address.
I am convinced that Judge Alito is the wrong choice for America. In fact, I am convinced that he is a dangerous choice for America. This is a rare moment in Washington. We are facing the vote of a lifetime - a vote that will shape the law for generations to come. Despite the predictions of the pundits, the story is not over until the last vote is cast. We cannot win unless we try. The time to take a stand is now, to fight for the rights and freedoms of all Americans is when they're endangered not after they've been diminished. It is time to take a stand against Judge Alito, and take a stand for the kind of America we've been for over two hundred years.
Exxon Mobil Corp. posted record profits for any U.S. company on Monday — $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter and $36.13 billion for the year — as the world's biggest publicly traded oil company benefited from high oil and gas prices and demand for refined products. The results exceeded Wall Street expectations and Exxon shares rose nearly 3 percent on premarket trading.More on this later, but let me say now that Exxon Mobil is one of the prime corporate funders of the Republican machine.
January 29, 2006
In case you have missed this today, please read Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change. There is increasing concern that we are approaching "tipping points" beyond which global warming becomes irreversable and the climate rapidly shifts, with each effect increasing the warming even more.
One example of a tipping point is the potential for fresh water coming from ice melting in Greenland disrupting the North Atlantic current. This would bring the average temperature of Europe down by about 9 degrees in a few years. This happened about 8,200 years ago. Current estimates for the odds of this happening again are at 50 percent.
Here's another good filibuster post with a list of phone numbers to call: MyDD :: Fighting for Our Values
President Bush's $15 billion effort to fight AIDS has handed out nearly one-quarter of its grants to religious groups, and officials are aggressively pursuing new church partners that often emphasize disease prevention through abstinence and fidelity over condom use.Billy Graham's son is Franklin, known for saying this:
Award recipients include a Christian relief organization famous for its televised appeals to feed hungry children, a well-known Catholic charity and a group run by the son of evangelist Billy Graham, according to the State Department.
"The God of Islam is not the same God of the Christian or the Judeo-Christian faith. It is a different God, and I believe a very evil and a very wicked religion."The other day I wrote about Pat Robertson receiving millions in funding from the government. This is just one more example of how The Party is converting the government into a Republican campaign financing system.
Several interesting things to read over at happening-here?
Almost every conversation I have with someone over a certain age turns to how they have either lost or afraid they will lose their health insurance and pension.
In the Reagan days, they sold people on the idea that 401Ks were somehow a good thing, and started moving everyone off of pensions. But a pension means your company puts the money away for you, on top of your pay. A 401K means it is entirely on the worker to fund retirement out of a shrinking paycheck. And people just can't do that - take home pay goes almost entirely to the bills.
Meanwhile corporate profits are WAY up since pensions were replaced by 401Ks. Part of that if from the money that had been used for worker retirements and gave it out as profits instead.
Don't be fooled - the sharehlders are not "all of us" they are primarily the top one percent of with the rest in the hands of the next couple of percent.
New government data indicate that the concentration of corporate wealth among the highest-income Americans grew significantly in 2003, as a trend that began in 1991 accelerated in the first year that President Bush and Congress cut taxes on capital.So now the scam is not just shifting people away from pensions but taking pensions away from people who have already earned them, like what happened at United Airlines. What happened is that those pensions were supposed to be funded, with the companies putting money into the accounts each year. But the corporations didn't fund them, instead handed the money over to the shareholders as profits. And now, having handed the pension money out to their shareholders they're saying "hey, we can't afford to meet these obligtions."
In 2003 the top 1 percent of households owned 57.5 percent of corporate wealth, up from 53.4 percent the year before, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the latest income tax data. The top group's share of corporate wealth has grown by half since 1991, when it was 38.7 percent.
Well, where DID the money go? It went out to the shareholders (the top few percent) as profits - the very same capital gains and dividends that Bush has arranged will not be taxed at all, not even to help the government pay part of the pensions that the corporations stole.
Anyone recognize this song?
Efficiency and progress is ours once more
Now that we have the Neutron bomb
It's nice and quick and clean and gets things done
Away with excess enemy
But no less value to property
No sense in war but perfect sense at home:
The sun beams down on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light
Jobless millions whisked away
At last we have more room to play
All systems go to kill the poor tonight
Kill kill kill kill Kill the poor:Tonight
Behold the sparkle of champagne
The crime rate's gone
Feel free again
O' life's a dream with you, Miss Lily White
Jane Fonda on the screen today
Convinced the liberals it's okay
So let's get dressed and dance away the night
Kill kill kill kill Kill the poor:Tonight
-- Kill the Poor by The Dead Kennedys
80% of us Pacific Coast residents think there's a housing bubble. Almost as many of us expect it to burst within a year, or sooner. Around 50% of us would advise a young person to "rent until the market slows or drops".
... I wonder: who is still buying, and why?
Straight, Not Narrow, " a blog that promotes GLBT equality in Christianity and politics and addresses the agendas of those narrow minded people who are determined to prevent it. "
I'm linking to a post at firedoglake, asking you to go there and get the numbers to call enators and encourage them to support the filibuster of Alito. Go visit Strip Search Sammy Fax Fest Continues to get some numbers to call. Sending FAXes is also good.
This "Get to work" post by Georgia10
has phone numbers, advice on what to say, and updates.
(I was on this call, but only now am starting to have a chance to be on the computer...)
Smelling the Coffee: Wi-Fi Table Hogs? Are people who bring their computers to Starbucks to use the wi-fi and work spending too ong at the tables?
I'm writing this because I know so many traditional conservatives who are in shock over what the Bush administration has been doing. I think these conservatives, because our government has moved so far to the right that basic conservative values now seem progressive, are our natural allies and not the enemies of progressives. We need to stop using the term "conservative" to describe the activities of this administration and find some new term for them. Fascist doesn't quite describe it -- just yet, Neoconservative implies some kind of relationship to genuine American style conservatism, and there is none. Real conservatives try to conserve the best aspects of public institutions and customs -- and the environment, and prefer a limited amount of government interference. This surely does not describe the current gang in office.
I think, rather than concentrate on all the problems the Bush administration has raised for the conservative members of his party, I'll use just one as an example; setting up the idea of the free market system as the new sacred ideal and allowing it to run rampant, as though everything can be turned over to it, including most government functions, and nothing should touch it or interfere with what any greedy psycho in power wants to do. I've worked for corporations, and my experience has been that on the whole they care terribly about what both their employees and their customers want, and their safety and welfare. For one thing, nothing hurts the bottom line faster than a public disaster like, say, poisoning people with contaminated food or killing one's workers. It's this concept of a sacred free market system that's sabotaging any sense of public, shared values.
In a secular commonwealth, the common goal has to be the common good. The goal of a democratic government has to be to provide the protections and services that individuals can't possibly provide for themselves. Genuine conservatism understands this and the real conservative value of a secular limited government is to provide these things without going to extremes or interfering in people's lives. Some activities have to be collective and under governmental control. That is not socialism. Obvious examples: the military, police, fire departments. Public works. The huge improvements in public health and longevity we've enjoyed didn't come from medicine as much as from the large collective public projects such as safe water supplies and sanitation constructed in the last century. Public health departments on the alert for epidemics. Highways, bridges and tunnels. People can't provide these things for themselves.
One obvious example of an obvious failure to hold to these conservative values -- the failure of the levees in New Orleans, in spite of warnings that they would fail in a severe enough hurricane. Ignore the need to protect the common good, as the present administration does, and the only possible result is, sooner or later, a series of disasters and chaos. Individuals can't possibly monitor and protect themselves from things like the failure of levees, epidemics, unsafe working conditions. There have to be limits and laws. Otherwise, there's nothing but barbarism.
I've sent the letter below to a few people who sometimes answer my emails. To me it seems like an obviously good idea, though no one has showed much interest so far. Pass it on.
I've been flogging the idea of a new national newspaper for well over a year. I even tried to persuade the Guardian to publish a US edition -- no luck.
I don't have much throw weight, and unless someone else picks up the idea it won't even be talked about.
I strongly doubt that the Times and the Post will reform themselves. I think that Sulzberger and Graham are much more strongly committed to a political agenda (probably neocon) than anyone realizes.
It would take a lot of startup money, but with good management and promotion it could be good business. The money is there, though liberals do seem to be much stingier than conservatives. the new newspaper would be a magnet for new journalists of the non-opportunist sort, and my bet is that some disgruntled major guys would jump from the Times and Post. There are also a lot of people like Seymour Hersh out there, who used to be newspapermen but got blackballed.
I am convinced that the center-right / right bias of the media dooms the Democrats to defeat. The free media are the worst, but the newspapers are also very bad and speak to a more significant demographic. Because of media skew, ambient political opinion -- the opinion of independents, moderates, and thoughtless people generally -- can usually be swung to the Republicans, and since the Republicans start out with a hard rightwing core representing 30%-35% of the vote, they usually win.
Right now I live in Minnesota. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is a skimpy, average paper, but the editorial policy is liberal. It really makes a difference for your morale to open a newspaper with the reasonable hope of seeing something you agree with, and I believe I notice a difference in the guy reactions of ordinary people around me who otherwise be cynical centrists. Ambient political opinion is a tremendous political force.
Nobody's going to listen to me, but maybe if someone else picks this up the idea will get a little traction.
January 28, 2006
Do private schools do a better job of educating our kids than public schools? Lots of people think so. But a new, large-scale statistical analysis of the 2003 NAEP test results suggests that when you control for things like income, race, home environment, and so forth, the performance of private schools actually turns out to be worse or about the same as that of public schools, not better.
From the NY Times story, Public-School Students Score Well in Math in Large-Scale Government Study,
A large-scale government-financed study has concluded that when it comes to math, students in regular public schools do as well as or significantly better than comparable students in private schools.
The study, by Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski, of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, compared fourth- and eighth-grade math scores of more than 340,000 students in 13,000 regular public, charter and private schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The 2003 test was given to 10 times more students than any previous test, giving researchers a trove of new data.
Though private school students have long scored higher on the national assessment, commonly referred to as "the nation's report card," the new study used advanced statistical techniques to adjust for the effects of income, school and home circumstances. The researchers said they compared math scores, not reading ones, because math was considered a clearer measure of a school's overall effectiveness.
The study found that while the raw scores of fourth graders in Roman Catholic schools, for example, were 14.3 points higher than those in public schools, when adjustments were made for student backgrounds, those in Catholic schools scored 3.4 points lower than those in public schools. A spokeswoman for the National Catholic Education Association did not respond to requests for comment.
... The study also found that charter schools, privately operated and publicly financed, did significantly worse than public schools in the fourth grade, once student populations were taken into account. In the eighth grade, it found, students in charters did slightly better than those in public schools, though the sample size was small and the difference was not statistically significant.
"Over all," it said, "demographic differences between students in public and private schools more than account for the relatively high raw scores of private schools. Indeed, after controlling for these differences, the presumably advantageous private school effect disappears, and even reverses in most cases."
David Sirota was the featured speaker at the 4:00 meeting. David talks a little faster than Scott Ritter and presents more of a challenge as far as taking down a literal transcription. On the other hand, David offered to respond to comments, so hopefully that will compensate for any message errors from my loose transcription.
Here goes nothing:
The Democratic Party is caught in a battle for its soul. The party permits and even congratulates those in its ranks who sell out the middle class and working Americans. Bills like bankruptcy, CAFTA, etc. When Democrats like Pelosi and Murtha say it's time to end the Iraq war once and for all, there is always someone who will rush out and say they are not speaking for all Democrats.
Let's be clear. I don't blame corporations; for pursuing the profit motive. The problem is that we have a government that has been bought. The government is supposed to make sure that corporate profits don't lower the standard of living of Americans.
The one thing corporate interests have never been able to buy is grassroots support. Ads, yes. They cannot compete with us on the ground if we invest in building a grassroots movement as all of you are doing. As you know, this is not a two or four year project. As the movement conservatives realized it takes more than a couple of election cycles and requires doing things that may be at odds with the powers that be.
It requires a focus on elections and education. We are fighting a massive wave of conservative propaganda. The propaganda is designed to keep the population cynical, cynicism keeps down voter turnout.
Part of your work is not only to win elections, but to educate citizens about what is really going on and what they can do to change things. I've worked on campaigns in places like Montana, where we used a massive grassroots campaign to elect Brian Schweitzer and take back the state legislature.
A lot of people have asked me why I work in progressive politics, which until recently has been for people who devote their life to never win anything. Ordinary people are talking to each other about the issues they care about. We have a long way to go. War and peace should be at the center of our debate, but has been completely depoliticized, while social issues which should be depoliticized have been pushed to the center of our political dialogue.
You all have to engage in movement politics. Stop leaving it up to the class of professional election losers. Grassroot movement politics is the way ordinary citizens will take their government back. You are taking the crucial first step. Feel confident that your state and your country are looking to you for inspiration and will follow.
Sirota L.A. Times Brownstein wrote that if Dems continue to argue against the lawbreaking the Dems will lose the debate. Perfect example of how the M$M ramrods political debate into a box.
In Montana the state was very eventy divided. Legislature passed a bill demanding the repeal of the Patriot Act. That is an example of how we can take issues out of the M$M and right wing box.
Have a vision of what we are for and don't be afraid to say what we are for. With everything biased against us in terms of media coverage, many of the messages coming out of D.C. don't fit into a model that most citizens can relate to. Dems need to speak in concise ways and contrast sharply with the Republican party. In the WaPo strategists get quoted saying they will not take a position until the time is right.
We have to urge and force if necessary our leaders not to equivocate like that.
Q: Is the national party doing anything to reframe arguments so we can take back our message?
Sirota: I see the fundamental problem that the GOP has provided a message that gets their base, their activists and their voters that gets them to walk through fire for them. Dems hope that candidates will be charismatic enough that we will be willing to walk through fire for them.
We will not win elections if we insist on people going into battle based on star power. The prescription sit that we have to articulate a message to people who are even totally disconnected.
Scott Ritter was the featured speaker at today's luncheon at the California Democratic Party's Executive Board Meeting in Manhattan Beach earlier today. I transcribed his speech fairly accurately, but please do not hold Scott Ritter accountable for any small factual errors in dates or syntax. Here it is:
There is another issue that is even a magnitude of order bigger, which is Iran. Let's look at some uncomfortable facts. If you ask Americans most polls say we should not go to war with Iran by 78%. Let's talk about poll numbers, if Iran represents a threat to the U.S. 82% say yes. If you ask why 76% will say Iran has an active nuclear threat. This plays into the ultimate fear perpetuated by Condelizza Rice's of a smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud. This fear has even more resonance if you bring in the threat to one of America's best allies, Israel.
Most Americans say we should turn Iran over to the Security Council of the UN. What happens ladies and gentlemen, if the Security Council says no, we will not support imposing economic sanctions against Iran. Where does that leave us?
It doesn't matter what the actual threat is, but what the American people perceive the threat to be. Now let me introduce you to John Bolton. What role does John Bolton play? Mr. Bolton has one job and one job only. When the Security Council fails to implement sanctions, John Bolton will stand up and say that America cannot be held hostage to the unwillingness of the UN to deal with this threat.
Remember that Americans already perceive Iran as an active nuclear threat. Our Imperial President has already said he does not need additional approval from Congress to go to war. If and when Bush declares war, say good-by to your business. Oil will go through the roof. Iraq, the second biggest producer may have to import oil soon. If we take Iran's oil off the market, China will now be competing with us to purchase oil in a restricted market. Every American airline will be out of business. Every car manufacturer will be out of business. There will not a single American manufacturer out there. We will see an economic collapse the likes of which we have never seen.
The first question we need to demand the Bush administration answer is where is the evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons? In 1970's Iran sponsored a terrorist to drive a bomb into marine barracks, so there is no love lost between me and the Iranians. But before we engage militarily, we have to make sure there is a threat that that is worthy of meeting it with military action. To this date the Bush administration has introduced no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program.
Iran is in full compliances with the non-proliferation treaty, which is more than we can say for our ally Israel. Between 1994 and 1998 I traveled back and forth to Israel several times. I am first and foremost an American. If we ask our men and women to go to war we have to make sure there is a reason that is worthy of the sacrifice we are asking them to make.
Have we learned anything since invading Iraq? Did we learn anything from the Downing Street Memos? The Bush administration has sold American public on the idea of regime change, but they have no evidence to back up their conduct. Whenever anybody stood up to talk about WMD in Iraq they were really talking about regime change. The same thing is happening in Iran. What anyone who talks about WMD in Iran they are really talking about regime change. This is the policy of the Bush administration; regime change.
Familiarize yourself with The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. In a nutshell, it says we can invade unilaterally and militarily with no regard to any other country in the world. They are dead serious about implementing a policy of regime change in Iran. Only one thing can stop a war with Iran. If you get a Congress that does not rubber stamp another war. I voted for George Bush in 2000. I'm telling you right now I will do anything I can in California or anywhere else to help Democrats take back Congress. Unless we have a Congress that respects the Constitution and the balance of power between the Executive and the Legislative branch there is no hope at all.
Scott: Fair question: I am still a registered Republican. But if I run for office, I guess I'll have to become a Democrat. Republicans have to say I reject the Bush agenda.
Steve: How do we get them to make that change?
Scott: A lot of Democrats voted for Ronald Reagan. You need a candidate who motivates Republicans. You are weak on foreign policy, national security and homeland security. All you have to do is tell Americans they should be afraid. Republicans exploit that fear. Democarsts need someone who can explain how to deal with their fear.
Q: What is the actual motivation of the Bush administration? Is it all just money for their narrow interests?
Scott:" I can only hypothesize, but the man I voted for in 2002 is not the man who is President. He is not carrying out the vision he articulated in 2002.
Scott: The PNAC are parasites. During the Reagan administration we ran a campaign against communism. Soviet Union collapsed. Bush 41 came into office and said neo-cons are crazy. Their policy is inherently un-American.
Neo-cons came along and said we need a Pearl Harbor to motivate the American people. 9/11 happened. That's how they exploited Aermica's fear to fulfill their vision of an Imperial America.
Q: Democrats taking back the House and separation of power?
Scott: I have no sympathy for anybody who supports this war. For anytbody who voted for this war or continues to support it.
Q: What about the Iranians starting their own oil market? Could this be what is driving their need for nuclear weapons? Euros, not dollars.
Scott: What we should call the dollar is a petro dollar. The U.S. dollar is basically useless, backed by a failing economy. The world keeps backing up the dollar because it is the currency used to buy and sell oil. China and others are going to switch to Euros when they get tired of propping up the dollar. The Iranians are the ones making the noise, but what happens when Russsian, Venezuela say they are tired of buying with petro dollars?
Q: Iranian policy?
Scott: We can't separate Iraqi policy from Iran. Sunnis. Sistanii is still an Iranian. Has refused to take Iraqi citizenship. There was a compromise reached one week before the Cosntitution that will satisify the Sunnnis. Sistani came out and said there will be no Amendments to the Cosntitution. Wait until 60% of the Iraqi population turns against us.
Q: Do you think we are going to have a draft?
Scott: Do I see a draft coming? No. Republicans don't want it. Democrats don't want it. Americans don't want it. That means we have to dumb down our military, whch means next time we go to war even more of our men and women will die.
It would be nice of Congresss asked some of the questions like Where are the WMD? Demanding evidence before we send our men and women to fight and die is not pro-terrorist, it is pro-American.
I'm at the Democratic Executive Board Meeting in Manhattan Beach. I just attended a Media Rapid Response workshop and asked a couple of panelists to participate in a diary I put up at MyDD this morning.
No guarantees, but check out Democratic Rapid Response Team. David Sirota is the featured speaker, discussing the concepts in his new book Hostile Takeover. I'll add something about that later.
January 27, 2006
MaxSpeak, You Listen!: is talking about the state of the economy, in THE EPI BOOK ON BUSHONOMICS
Televangelist's claim that Ariel Sharon's stroke was an act of God may have cost him the friendship of some Israelis, but it hasn't prevented his charity, Operation Blessing, from garnering faith-based grants from the U.S. governmentGo read the rest. Sheesh!
While the Reverend Pat Robertson was flayed recently over his suggestion that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was an act of retribution by God for the transfer of land in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians, the Reverend's charitable organization, Operation Blessing, was raking in wads of faith-based money from the Bush Administration.
Are any Seeing the Forest readers interested in writing up a good coffee story, for Smelling the Coffee? Let me know. You, too, can be famous beyond your wildest dreams. I smell a Nobel Prize for someone in this.
Yee-HA Hilarious. (Click the picture to start the movie.)
Can anyone recommend good e-mail encryption software? I think maybe it is time to start encrypting.
I mean software that is usable by regular people - even bloggers - not "command-line." And can I trust it, or is it like the voting machines - made by companies owned by The Party.
Please leave suggestions - if the comments are working today.
Did I just get myself put on a watchlist? No fly list? Paranoid guy list?
For some reason some comments just aren't showing up. Others are. Especially on the housing bubble post. ???
If you leave a comment I'll do what I can to get it to show up. Apologies.
January 26, 2006
“Other than voting to send our men and women to war, there is no more important vote in the Senate than our vote on a Supreme Court nominee. This is a vote of a generation and a test of conscience. Judge Alito does not share the values of equality and justice that make this country strong. He does not deserve a place on the highest court of the land.Go leave a coment at Kennedy's blog.
We owe it to future generations of Americans to oppose this nomination. If Judge Alito is confirmed, he will serve on the court long after President Bush leaves office, and the progress of half a century on the basic rights of all Americans is likely to be rolled back. He’s the wrong justice for justice and the rule of law in America.”
Kerry is asking you to call your Senators to ask them to join the filibuster.
Do I support a filibuster? The answer is yes.
Yesterday Senator Kennedy and I spoke with our colleagues about it. I don't have a shred of doubt in my opposition to Sam Alto's nomination. I know Senator Kennedy does not either. He has truly been a great leader in the effort to oppose Judge Alito.
I spent a lot of time over the last years thinking about the Supreme Court and who America needs on the highest court in the land. So I don't hesitate a minute in saying that Sam Alito is not that person. His entire legal career shows that, if confirmed, he will take America backwards. People can say all they want that "elections have consequences." Trust me, more than anyone I understand that. But that seems like an awfully convoluted rationale for me to stay silent about Judge Alito's nomination.
I voted against Justice Roberts, I feel even more strongly about Judge Alito. Why? Rather than live up to the promise of "equal justice under the law," he's consistently made it harder for the most disadvantaged Americans to have their day in court. He routinely defers to excessive government power regardless of how extreme or egregious the government's actions are. And, to this date, his only statement on record regarding a woman's right to privacy is that she doesn't have one.
I said yesterday that President Bush had the opportunity to nominate someone who would unite the country in a time of extreme division. He chose not to do this, and that is his right. But we have every right, in fact, we have a responsibility, to fight against a radical ideological shift on the Supreme Court. Just think about how this nomination came to be. Under fire from his conservative base for nominating Harriet Miers--a woman whose judicial philosophy they mercilessly attacked--President Bush broke to extreme right-wing demands.
This was a coup.
Miers was removed and Alito was installed to replace the swing vote on the Court. The President gave no thought to what the American people really wanted--or needed. So it's up to us to think about what America really needs - that's part of the true meaning of "advice and consent."
Here's the bottom line though and I'll just be blunt and direct about it. It takes more than one or two people to filibuster. It's not "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." I'm doing what I can, Senator Kennedy is doing what he can, but if, like me, you want to stop Judge Alito from becoming Justice Alito, we can't just preach to our own choir. We need even more of your advocacy.
The five-year housing boom is showing increased signs of cooling, and that's likely to mean slower growth for the entire national economy. The big question now is whether home prices will come crashing to earth with even more severe consequences.
Sierra Club Chronicles is a monthly TV series capturing seven David vs. Goliath stories: the dramatic efforts of committed individuals across the country working to protect the health of their environment and communities. The series is hosted by Daryl Hannah.And, from the e-mail introducing me to this,
"Sierra Club Chronicles" captures extraordinary efforts of ordinary people across America who are fighting to protect their families, communities and their livelihoods from pollution, corporate greed and ineffective government policies. It is an important and timely series, one that deserves to be seen and discussed, and one that needs to be seen by as many people as possible.
Earlier this month I asked, Was Bush Wiretapping the Kerry Campaign? The problem is, we have no way to know.
Let's get serious for a minute about Bush's assertion that as Commander in Chief he has the "wartime" right to do anything he feels is necessary, without warrants and regardless of laws. Asking if they are wiretapping political opponents is not a far-fetched question because without warrants there is no check or balance on what they do. THAT is why our Constitution requires warrants - so a judge can look over what they are doing. It's like asking us to trust Nixon, and we know how that worked out, don't we? Or Reagan and we know about Iran/Contra, or Bush's father, and we know about how many he had to pardon to keep himself out of jail. We're not supposed to trust our politicians - that's why we require warrants.
In the previous post I wrote,
They say the Democrats are traitors. They say they are helping the terrorists, supporting the other side, working to undermine the troops, offering aid and comfort to al Queda, etc. They SAY all those things, and maybe they believe them. And if they really do believe these things they say they certainly would feel it is necessary to take action, wiretap, disrupt, and anything else they can do to stop us. So we certainly should associate the things they say with the idea that maybe it actually might be related to the things they do.Since then they have been ramping up the rhetoric, accusing Democrats of siding with the terrorists, "providing comfort" to the enemy, etc. Explain to me how they can say that - call US the enemy - and NOT feel justified in listening to our calls and reading our e-mails.
It's not about listening to terrorists - they already had the means to do that - it's about lying and following the law. Bush assured the country that they were getting warrants and then we found out they were not.
The Mahablog : Points to Ponder on what it means if we let Bush abandon the 4th Amendment.
Soy Blue reminds us of stories that the NSA was monitoring phone calls of Colin Powell and Bill Richardson at the request of Bolton,
In a case ofGo read the rest over at Soy Blue.
art imitating life imitating artGov. Bill Richardson and then Secretary of state Colin Powell had their call monitored by [John] Bolton (Bolton, as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, was one of the architects of a hard-line approach toward negotiating with North Korea over dismantling its nuclear weapons program.)
This is all evidence of Chris Matthews' and MSNBC's lurch to the right. It is inconceivable why Toyota, Verizon and TurboTax would want to continue associating their brand with a man and a network who tell a "fag joke" and then don't even have the courtesy to apologize.NDNBlog has their usual morning roundup.
Everythng at The Left Coaster, of course.
As President Bush crows about his success in bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq, perhaps he can explain why Kamal Sayid Qadir has been sentenced to 30 years in an Iraqi prison for criticizing corruption in the Kurdish leadership.How far are we from that happening here - jailed for talking about Bush/Republican corruption?
Mark Morford's latest column, entitled: Horse Sex Porn Candy Teens!, asks the question: "Is Bush a fascist?" (evidence would seem to indicate so; as Mark points out, Bush "has slapped his color-crayon signature on over 500 signing statements so far, reserving his right to disregard the law more times than all former American presidents combined." Read the column for the ultimate irony re: this subject.)
He also suggests that we type in the following search terms, in an effort to confound the Justice Department's attempt to revive COPA (the Child Online Protection Act)... which is the biggest joke imaginable; do you have a child between the ages of 8 and 13? do they have access to chat, etc. on NeoPets? are they on MySpace? are they on AIM or Yahoo Messenger? I bet they are. ... and I bet you've never signed any sort of permission form. In my view, COPA actually accomplishes exactly the opposite: all those kids are busy lying about their age right and left, pretending to be 14, 15, 17, 19, 24, or even 30... and interacting with folks who are really that age... this has the perverse effect of further accelerating an already absurd premature teenhood and adulthood and overhyped sexuality (the link takes you to True.com, an advertisement for which greeted me on login). ... amazingly, most of these kid's profiles are pretty normal, but some of them just leave you shaking your head.
... rant off. Now, on with "Operation Screw With the DOJ and Make Lynne Cheney Squirm." Make sure you type the following into Google (and it wouldn't hurt to add them to your blog, or web page, too):
hot bunny terrorist fluffer banana
Osama butt pancake lube explosives yay
homemade nuke porn lollipop kiddie nipple bomb!!!
As Mark says:
Up, off the couch. Log in to Google. Type "Karl Rove eaten by giant homosexual squid." Type "George W. Bush beaten to lifeless pulp by swarm of angry kindergarten children." Enter "Samuel Alito loves his 'Weapons of Ass Destruction IV' DVD." It might not be much, but it sure sends the right kind of message. Don't you agree?
Hat tip to Obsidian Wings for analysis on a NY Times article about an audit performed by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Is There Nothing This Administration Does Competently? Short answer: No.
"A new audit of American financial practices in Iraq has uncovered irregularities including millions of reconstruction dollars stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis who plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe. The audit, released yesterday by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, expands on its previous findings of fraud, incompetence and confusion as the American occupation poured money into training and rebuilding programs in 2003 and 2004.
Agents from the inspector general's office found that the living and working quarters of American occupation officials were awash in shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills, colloquially known as bricks.
One official kept $2 million in a bathroom safe, another more than half a million dollars in an unlocked footlocker. One contractor received more than $100,000 to completely refurbish an Olympic pool but only polished the pumps; even so, local American officials certified the work as completed. More than 2,000 contracts ranging in value from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million, some $88 million in all, were examined by agents from the inspector general's office. The report says that in some cases the agents found clear indications of potential fraud and that investigations into those cases are continuing.
January 25, 2006
Defence lawyers for Saddam Hussein Wednesday distributed copies of a lawsuit against President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair for destroying Iraq.
The suit accuses Bush and Blair of committing war crimes by using weapons of mass destruction and internationally-banned weapons including enriched uranium and phosphoric and cluster bombs against unarmed Iraqi civilians, notably in Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi, al-Kaem and Anbar.
The Amman-based legal team had said Sunday that the ousted president intended to start legal action against the two leaders of the Iraq war in the International Criminal Court in the Hague, but the text of the suit was made available Wednesday. The suit also accuses the U.S. president and British prime minister of torturing Iraqi prisoners, destroying Iraq's cultural heritage with the aim of eliminating an ancient civilization, and inciting internal strife. Bush and Blair were also accused of polluting Iraq's air, waters and environment. The lawsuit demanded that Bush and Blair appear before court to answer the charges filed against them and requested the harshest punishment in line with Dutch legislation and the rules of international and humanitarian laws. It also requested compensation for all material and moral damage inflicted on the Iraqi people.
At the Open Letter To Chris Matthews blog there is a new push, asking readers to contact MSNBC, and a few of their advertisers, asking Chris Matthews for an apology for comparing people like us to Osama bin Laden.
6. What will it take for you to call off your protest?We are trying to stop this "Democrats = Terrorists" mantra now, before it becomes even more dangerous.
Chris Matthews and the senior management of MSNBC need to publicly apologize for comparing American critics of the war in Iraq to terrorist Osama bin Laden, and both must commit to stop functioning as an adjunct of the right-wing noise machine and to start acting like objective journalists.
The President launched this campaign, using "the language of treason", saying that Democrats are providing "comfort to our adversaries." The usual suspects then began to echo the charge, saying that Democrats = Terrorists.
Then a supposedly responsible journalist on a supposedly major media outlet compared Democrats to bin Laden, and we decided we have had enough.
If you have had enough of this, make a stand. Visit Open Letter to Chris Matthews and add YOUR voice to this effort.
Missed this a few days ago: As Elections Near, Officials Challenge Balloting Security,
Four times over the past year Sancho told computer specialists to break in to his voting system. And on all four occasions they did, changing results with what the specialists described as relatively unsophisticated hacking techniques. To Sancho, the results showed the vulnerability of voting equipment manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, which is used by Leon County and many other jurisdictions around the country.
... Then, in a warehouse a few blocks from his office in downtown Tallahassee, Sancho and seven other people held a referendum. The question on the ballot:
"Can the votes of this Diebold system be hacked using the memory card?"
Two people marked yes on their ballots, and six no. The optical scan machine read the ballots, and the data were transmitted to a final tabulator. The result? Seven yes, one no.
There is a very simple solution to this problem: The voting machine prints out a paper ballot that the voter walks over to a ballot box. This gives the voter the opportunity to check whether the machine marked the choices that the voter asked it to. This maintains all of the ballot-security measures that are in place in precincts like the ones I work in, in San Mateo County. But it also gives the voter the help that voting machines can provide. No more punch-card errors, no more overcounts, no more mistakes like West Palm Beach Jewish people voting for Buchanan instead of Gore...
The machines can report election results electronically, but a number of random precincts are counted by hand and compared to what the machines reported. If there is so much as a one-vote discrepency the entire election is then counted by hand -- AND someone maybe goes to jail for a long time. There -can't- be a discrepency if the machines are operating corrently.
Peter Daou was one of the sharp people in the Kerry campaign. He was their internet contact person, and if the Kerry people hadn't refused to listen to him they probably would have won the election.
His latest piece is as good a summary of how today's media works as I've ever seen.
A short sample:
Democratic strategists haven’t learned how to distinguish between stories and storylines. (The insidious effect of infectious narratives, the power of inoculation techniques, the concept of memetics and the role of the Internet, are alien to the Democratic establishment. And I say that having been in the belly of that establishment during the 2004 election).
But read it all.
Another day, another Alito Confirmation Seems All but Assured headline.
"The media" is The Party. The Party is the media.
And from the blog, some news:
Today, the WashingtonPost.com will have a live event to talk about how comments should have been handled and could be handled in the future, if and when the Post decides to bring that function back online. They've entitled the event: "Panel: Ethics and Interactivity."So go visit firedoglake and leave a comment.
The event will be "moderated," with readers asked to send in questions before it begins, which started yesterday.
JANE HAMSHER [firedoglake blog] will be participating in the Post event, which begins at 10:00 a.m./Pacific, but she'll be at a different location. Comments received on firedoglake will be not be subject to a moderator. It will be free speech in action.
OK I ratcheted the comment spam filter back down so it will move fewer comments into the "junk" list. Sorry.
I might change to "authenticated" comments, which means you will have to be approved or registered at TypeKey.
I'm getting more than 2500 spam comments a week, with the filter catching most of them now, but it's filtering out too many of YOUR comments and we can't have that.
"In a disturbing development this week, Iran broke open the seal on three of its nuclear facilities...which means even if they don't like them they won't be able to return them."
January 24, 2006
Juan Cole reports on the Bush Regime's judicial appointments elsewhere...
"Co-education violates Islamic injunctions and social morality."
"Cable tv undermines social morality and the people of Afghanistan oppose it."
This are direct quotes from media interviews with Afghanistan's Chief Justice, Fazil Hadi Shinwari (the head of their Supreme Court). Nice, eh? Real high quality democracy we've got going there, American style human rights are clearly high on the agenda... NOT. With this as an example, whadda ya think we're going to wind up with in Iraq?
Senator Rick Santorum recently urged his constituents NOT to enlist, and to instead "put on a bumper sticker." See Ask Not What Santorum Can Do For You,
What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker.Not supporting troops is one thing. Urging constituents NOT to enlist is wayyyyy over the line.
(Bumped to top for a while because of this post's importance to humanity of the Starbucks vs Peet's debate.)
I'm starting a new blog about coffee, coffee shops and chains, the coffee-shop experience, using a coffee shop as an office, wireless, computers, anything coffee-related, and dogs.
There's not much there yet, but please visit Smelling the Coffee.
And send me news and tips on what to write about. Thanks.
Here's a huge surprise: Microsoft lags in antitrust compliance, U.S. says,
Microsoft is falling behind in meeting certain obligations under its antitrust agreement with the U.S. government, the Bush administration said.Of course, this being the Bush administration, this only means that Microsoft has fallen behind in its payments to the Republican Party.
A question, has the Bush administration "settlement" - effectively letting Microsoft off the hook in the anti-trust case after the Government had won in court - led to increased competition? Increased investment in companies trying to compete?
It's a one-sided fight; we get hit and don't hit back. Consider the following account of David Horowitz -- perhaps the looniest loon on the right (and formerly the left) -- visiting George Bush at the White House (sorry, I won't link to his blog):I hadn't been at an event with the President (who is looking slim and trim) in four years and didn't know if he would recognize me. But the minute he saw me in the line he called out "Horowitz" with a big smile on his face, then embraced me in a bear hug. In the moment I had his ear I said, "Thank you for taking all those arrows for the rest of us." Graciously, he said, "You take more than I do," which I don't and said so. Then as I was walking away he called out, "Don't let them get to you." I called back, "Don't you either," and he replied in a strong voice. "I won't."I don't know if they swapped spit, but it makes you want to retch.
As Echo Chamber points out, the looniest of the right-wing loons (and never forget the Rev. Moon is a major figure on the Right) get the honor treatment from the President himself. Meanwhile,
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."But Michael Moore, MoveOn, etc. are "fringe" and "traitors" and every Democrat is supposed to answer for their "crimes."
STF bogger Meryl Johnson, (who hasn't posted here for a while), is one of the Top 20 Finalists in the Gather Short Fiction Competition, for Dark Songs,
There were over 400 submissions to the Gather Short Fiction Competition, and the entire Short Fiction Team agrees -- narrowing them down to 20 was no easy task.
From Scaife's NewsMax, Liberal Chris Matthews Slams Senate Dem 'Whiners',
Speaking Thursday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), he described President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top administration officials as the leaders "the adult drivers of the car."CPAC is where people like Ann Coulter speak (sharing a stage with Dick Cheney.) I guess Matthews feels at home there, talking trash on Dems.
Campaign Finance Reform is the hot reform issue du jour. Oversight of travel, meals and free trips on corporate jets have all been mentioned in passing. The elephant in the living room that neither political party has hardly mentioned is earmarking. CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has a Knight-Ridder article that has a short and sweet description of earmarking that suggests earmarking is the biggest problem:
Earmarking allows members of Congress to set aside money for specific projects in legislation without review by committees. The practice has ballooned in recent years: In 1998 the 13 appropriations bills contained 2,000 earmarks worth $10.6 billion, while in 2005 there were more than 15,500 earmarks that cost taxpayers $32.7 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog group.
"There are thousands of quid pro quos that occur daily in the halls of Congress," said Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Earmarking is the quo. It's what lawmakers can offer to lobbyists in exchange for political contributions and whatever else. It's part of the puzzle."
Ashdown recommends a 50 percent cut in earmarks and greater transparency for the earmarks that remain, such as requiring their placement in bills before they go into House-Senate conferences, which typically are closed to the public.
A 50 percent cut in earmarks sounds like a dramatic improvement. That means Congress would only be dishing out 7,250 earmarks worth a little over $16 billion. Is that what we are looking for when we're discussing reforming the culture of corruption? Why are anonymous earmarks tacked onto legislation in the dead of night an acceptable procedure at all? Why is it acceptable to allow even 100 anonymous earmarks per year?
Query: If lobbyists and their clients could not get rewarded for their efforts with multi-million dollar and hundred million dollar earmarks, what would happen to the culture of corruption?
Consider Sirota’s description of the problem:
No matter where you look in politics you can see this phenomenon, right up in your face. We can see it in the two parties' competing lobbying/ethics "reform" packages - both of which do not attack the real problem of elections being financed by corporate cash. That's by design - because to attack the real problem with public financing of elections would be to actually give the public - and not Corporate America - control over the political process.
We see the same thing on many major economic issues like bankruptcy, "free" trade, energy policy, health care and more. These are the bread-and-butter economic issues where the public consistently tells pollsters it wants radically different policies than comes from their government. Yet, politicians and the media dishonestly portray only a narrow set of policies in these areas as "mainstream," "centrist," or "politically possible” making sure the overall debate and realm of possible outcomes is narrowed to the point where votes don't really have to be bought, because whatever final result is already guaranteed to further enrich the powers that be.
This debate narrowing is really what lobbyists are masters of. They provide the talking points, justifications, background research and propaganda to both sides of a debate to make sure that politically taboo subjects (aka. the concerns of ordinary Americans) aren't really ever seriously considered in a debate over an issue. Lawmakers are happy to regurgitate the nonsense because they know that when they do, they will be rewarded like little puppies with a treat - namely, a campaign contribution.
hmmmmm. Mainstream. Centrist. Politically possible. Where have I heard those phrases before? They sound so familiar. It’s right on the tip of my tongue. Is campaign finance reform a sufficient reform or merely a necessary first step? Without the payoff of lucrative anonymous earmarks, would corporate cash continue to pour into our electoral process?
Of course GOP spinmeisters are all trying to pretend that corruption is a bi-partisan issue. For example, Mary Maitlin on Meet The Press
RUSSERT: Ten years later, nearly 14,000 specific earmarked projects by individuals congressmen and senators, $27 billion dollars. Republicans control both houses of Congress.
MS. MATALIN: They control both houses, but they’re not the only earmark appropriators.
At the risk of being too objective, is it remotely possible that earmarks are the reason Bush and the GOP have been so successful at picking off just enough Democrats to pass significant pieces of legislation? Could there be a reason, aside from political cowardice, that Democrats haven’t focused on putting an end to earmarking? Essentially all of the Abramoff corruption that has been uncovered has been funneled to Republicans. How much of the annual earmarking has been funneled to Democrats to purchase their complicity and their silence?The fundamental question is whether Democrats are serious about reform:
Mr. PAUL BEGALA: Well, yes, to the latter, absolutely. And Democrats are having an internal debate, which they are resolving now. They're coming out for reform. I have to say, when we were writing this book it was still a big debate. There were a lot of Democrats who didn't want to clean up the system, quite candidly. They, I think, were hoping to sweep out the corrupt Republicans lobbyists and bring in corrupt Democratic lobbyists.
A few sentences later Begala suggests the Democrats are finally ready to get serious about reform. I’m not convinced. A Newsday editorial points out that without an enforcement mechanism all of the talk about reform is just a lot of hot air. Perhaps reform is just too complex and difficult. Fromer SEC Chair Arthur Levitt Jr. has a few thoughts on the subject published in the Washington Post, Cutting The Corruption:
To remedy that, congressional lobbyists should be required to disclose weekly, online, which members of Congress they contributed to and met with, which staff members they lobbied, and what issues were discussed. Lobbyists also should have to affix their signature to these disclosures and, like CEOs who sign false financial statements, face serious criminal penalties if the disclosures are not accurate.
Now that’s a pretty extreme suggestion I haven’t heard anyone propose. It sounds like that would take care of the problem. Wouldn't it?
But disclosure is only part of the solution; independence is also critical. That's why auditing firms are now forbidden from providing non-audit services to auditing clients, why companies can no longer give personal loans to executives or directors, and why a majority of a board of directors must be independent of the company itself. In Washington, any number of conflicts of interest between members of Congress, their staffs, lobbyists and contributors must be untangled. To begin to do this, former members of Congress should be prohibited from visiting the floor of the House, the prohibition on lobbying by former members and their staffs should be extended from one year to four, and all gifts and travel for members and their employees should be banned.
Finally, accountability must be restored. Currently, Congress's ethics committees resemble some of the worst corporate boards from the mid-1990s -- appointed by management and wholly dependent on it for career advancement. Just as corporate boards have been strengthened by rules establishing independent audit committees, Congress would be well-served by scrapping its current ethics committees and replacing them with an independent ethics commission made up of former judges, former members of Congress and other eminent citizens.
Moreover, as with good corporate governance, there needs to be more democracy in American governance. Partisan gerrymandering has created a Congress in which more than 95 percent of the members are assured of keeping their seats for life. Just as shareholders must have access to the proxy to hold corporate board members accountable, citizens must be confident that when they go into the voting booth their votes will be meaningful. It's time to explore ways to lower the barriers of entry for challengers -- through, for instance, free television airtime for all candidates. And to create more competitive congressional districts, we need to follow the leads of states such as Arizona and Iowa and put the responsibility of drawing district boundaries in the hands of nonpartisan boards.
But ultimately, no rule or regulation can transform an organization on its own. What's needed is a cultural change in which those who do the bidding of lobbyists, cash in their positions on Capitol Hill for huge paychecks and accept gifts are scorned, not praised. Accomplishing that requires real leadership, and that's something that only we -- as citizens and voters -- can give to ourselves.
Speaking for myself, I don’t think either political party is serious about reform. If the progressive blogosphere and netroots are serious about campaign reform, we’re going t have to be just as skeptical of Democrats as we are of Republicans. We’re going to have to be just as demanding of Democrats as we are of Republicans. Business as usual, band-aid approaches and “pragmatically possible” solutions cannot be acceptable.
January 23, 2006
Please check in at the Open Letter To Chris Matthews blog. There's new posts.
Why are we mad? He said us and bin Laden are the same.
New Blog: Echo Chamber,
Today AlterNet launches a new blog, Echo Chamber, that will cover how progressive ideas and issues are communicated and gain traction in the overall media universe. We'll be looking closely at language and framing, and media initiatives and ads like Moveon.org's much-needed campaign against corruption in Washington, D.C. We will also spotlight progressive media figures, events, new books and films, and happenings in the blogosphere.
January 21, 2006
At Political Animal...
Some math ... then,
So: Indian tribes usually give most of their money to Democrats, while Abramoff clients — and only Abramoff clients — give most of their money to Republicans. Coincidence? I think not.http://atrios.blogspot.com/2006_01_22_atrios_archive.html#113802490296040969
Surely some enterprising reporter could do this kind of simple analysis for all of Abramoff's tribal clients?
Update - Thanks to Atrios, this at TPM Cafe, One More Look at the Washington Post Clown Show...,
Washington Post reporter Susan Schimdt, February 22, 2004: "Under Abramoff's guidance, the four tribes -- Michigan's Saginaw Chippewas, the Agua Caliente of California, the Mississippi Choctaws and the Louisiana Coushattas... have loosened their traditional ties to the Democratic Party, giving Republicans two-thirds of the $2.9 million they have donated to federal candidates since 2001, records show..."So the Post's reporters have printed the facts, and management ignores those facts and spreads the lie that the Abramoff scandal involved Democrats as well as Repubicans and therefore "they all do it" which is a strategic narrative leading to the conclusion "don't bother to vote." It look smore and more like the self-described "Leninist" conservative movement has infiltrated the Washington Post now.
And the late David Rosenbaum, New York Times reporter, April 3, 2002, page A1: "Mr. Abramoff says he represents only those [clients] who stand for conservative principles.... ''All of my political work,'' he said, ''is driven by philosophical interests, not by a desire to gain wealth.''...
So Repubicans want to make comparisons with Al Queda? And what is the Seeing the Forest Rule? When Republicans accuse...
They are vehemently against abortion, they resist progressive woman's rights. They view homosexuality as a crime against nature and God, some advocate the death penalty as an option for it. Separation of Church and State is despised by these folks; they insist the nation is founded on the principles of their religion, and they work hard to bring that de facto theocracy about. They deplore strong language, gay characters, and sexual content on TV and in the media. And they ignore the Geneva Convention when it suits their ideological purposes, including provisions against torture or due process.
They're anti-stem cell research, pro-creationism, and generally distrustful of science. These folks are easily whipped into a state of frenzy with ideological manipulation to the point where they will commit violence, or at least tacitly endorse that violence is acceptable, if it advances their Divine agenda. They then take great pains to justify that violence, including unprovoked attack of civilian areas, under certain conditions, with convoluted theological gymnastics. They are almost to the man pro-death penalty ... Am I railing against the religious right again?
Could be, but my target here is actually Al Qaeda and related fundamentalist Wahhabism; the source of terrorism, the scourge of our planet, the Axis of Evil.
The Matthews smear illustrates the fact that it has become routine in our national political dialogue, and among our nation's journalists, to equate opposition to George Bush with subversiveness, treason, and support for Al Qaeda.Please go read the whole post.
The national media has truly adopted this dissent-quashing dichotomy created by the Bush White House: one is either a follower of George Bush who praises his war and terrorism policies, or one is an enemy of the United States who is on the side of Al Qaeda. That is not hyperbole. This is the manipulative and decidedly un-American view that is re-enforced again and again.
In Wag the Osama, BuzzFlash asks,
Isn't it a mighty big coincidence that Osama returns for a bizarre appearance just as Bush is on the ropes for illegal spying on Americans -- and as Karl Rove announces that he is going to use fear again to maintain one-party dictatorial control over America in the fall elections?We report, you decide.
Not that we are skeptical or anything, but on top of that, the White House media echo chamber used the alleged and ludicrous "negotiate or I will attack" video to vilify Dems for being weak in the war on terror and "aiding" the "enemy."
Michael Moore responds to Chris Matthews accusing him of being the same as bin Laden. Visit the link and learn the TRUTH about Chris Matthews and Michael Moore. Is it the STF Rule? "When Republicans Accuse..."
January 20, 2006
I just restored a bunch of comments that had been designated junk. Sorry. I set the filter to a higher level and I'm not sure it's filtering any more spam than it was, about 10 got through today which is about the same as before... On the other hand 2745 spam comments were caught in the last 5 days... Yes, it's that bad.
Wait until you hear the rest of the story. It has all the elements of a good murder mystery.
* The congressman (an ardent and vocal supporter of G.W., by the way) resigns only six months after re-election, just prior to his aide's death. The reason: amid rumors of marital infidelity, the recently-divorced husband wants to spend more time with his sons.
* A medical examiner who had his license revoked in another state. Why? He lost it falsifying autopsies.
* The medical examiner's supervisor had contributed thousands of dollars to the congressman's election campaign.
* Contradictory reports about whether there is a visible head injury or not.Go find out who this invovles - it will blow your mind.
* A medical conclusion that contains several inconsistencies. First, that Mrs. Klausutis, who was a marathon runner, died of a cardiac arryhthmia. Second, that although she had suffered a fractured skull and a "contracoup" bruise on the opposite side of the brain, the injury could not possibly have been caused by a physical assault.
* Then there's the question of whether the office was locked and the lights were on. One report says the door was locked and the lights were off; another report says the door was unlocked and the lights were on.
* And if all this weren't enough, there's the scientist husband who does high level weapon design work for the Air Force.
These are only the more obvious elements of the case. And this is not newsworthy enough for the press?
(Yes, an old story, but still not investigated. No justice.)
Liberals are like Osama, Gay people are disgusting, animal rights activists and environmentalists are terrorists... and when their readers complain on their blog they just shut down the comments. Ah the public discourse in America under Republican control...
The Stakeholder:: Globetrotters has a story about investigators tracing down the Mariana Islands / Abramoff money.
In my opinion the Mariana Islands / Abramoff / Tom DeLay component is a KEY to this entire Republican corruption machine story, because the Bush Administration removed a prosecutor who was looking into the payoffs. The absence of law and accountability, with the Bush administration blocking rather than launching investigations each and every time signs of corruption appeared, is what allowed it all to fourish. The early White House actions to keep the law off the trail of the corruption machine show that it was government-wide, a scheme to loot the treasury.
(Another component, the appointment of L. Jean Lewis as chief of staff in the traditionally nonpartisan Defense Department's inspector general office.)
Big Terrorist Indictment! Massive concentration of government resources, focus of investigative capabilities leads to indictments!
Update - Stirling has more.
Please go to this blog and leave a comment. This is an opportunity to make noise and get something done about the way Democrats and liberals are openly badmouthed. This is about accountability in a democracy.
Yesterday, you compared Michael Moore to Osama Bin Laden. Michael Moore is an American filmmaker. Osama Bin Laden is a terrorist who murdered three thousand Americans. This type of McCarthyite smear has no place in American journalism, let alone on a major TV network.
You owe Michael Moore, and the American public you serve as a journalist, an apology.
MSNBC doesn't allow public feedback on its web site. I have therefore set up this blog as a public forum for discussion about this unfortunate incident. Please keep commentary civil.
What kind of corporate ethics justify the kind of tripe that passes off as political commentary over our public airwaves? Phil Donahue's show was cancelled even though his ratings were ticking upwards If Phil Donahue can be cancelled for political ideological reasons, then Chris Matthews should be cancelled as well.
Somerby has a partial transcript of Tweety's humilating command performance on the Imus show. Somerby's Daily Howler archives on Tweety contain pages of links to his journalistic malpractice. What boggles the mind is how this type of journalistic bottom feeding can slip under the radar of all of the self appointed M$M ethics nazis who whine about the ethics of bloggers.
Who's kidding who? Tweety and Michael Savage are ideological brothers by different mothers. They pollute America's airwaves with toxic waste and should be fined by the FCC for violations of public indecency. How is some poor schmuck saying "Fuck" more offensive than what Tweety and Savage put on the airwaves on a daily basis?
January 19, 2006
Chris Matthews compares Michael Moore to Osama Bin Laden!
on Hardball, Chris Matthews just blurted out that Bin Laden sounds like Michael Moore. Simple: Matthews should apologize. On the air. This has NOTHING to do with Michael Moore and everything to do with how far media figures can go slandering the left. And last I checked, Michael Moore didn't massacre thousands of innocent Americans.And Crooks & Liars has the video.
Don't let Matthews get away with this! Are Democrats just fair game for ANY KIND of nasty attack and smear???
Update - Joining us in our call for an apology, driven by the blogs:
"You'd think the only focus tonight would be on destroying Osama Bin Laden, not comparing him to an American who opposes the war whether you like him or not. You want a real debate that America needs? Here goes: If the administration had done the job right in Tora Bora we might not be having discussions on Hardball about a new Bin Laden tape. How dare Scott McClellan tell America that this Administration puts terrorists out of business when had they put Osama Bin Laden out of business in Afghanistan when our troops wanted to, we wouldn't have to hear this barbarian's voice on tape. That's what we should be talking about in America." -- John KerryDigby's on this story as well, with a list of phone numbers to call, and a list of other bloggers.
Update - A MyDD commenter caught CNBC's Joe Scarborough saying something similar, but about Democratic Senators. Who is their enemy - other Americans? We have to answer back and let them know they can't get away with this kind of outrage. They can't be allowed to inject this kind of hate into the public discourse without a fight.
DailyKos currently gets between 550,000 and 600,000 unique "visitors" per day. This number grows into the millions during elections and breaking news events. This is not "page views" where people who hit refresh are counted more than once. This is unique "IPs" which means that none of these are counted twice, and in fact some of these are sites where a number of computers count as a single "visitor" for technical reasons, like NAT routers. And the are plenty of people who do not visit every day, so the total number of people who visit DailyKos is much greater than this number. Crooks & Liars is getting more than 135,000 a day. Atrios more than 120,000. Add Raw Story, Talking Points Memo, etc... and there are a lot of readers, some duplicates, but adding up to big numbers. Any way you count it there are millions of progressive blog readers And there are millions more dedicated progressives who are not blog readers.
What would happen to the Right's stranglehold on America's public discussion if each and every one of those blog readers were in the habit of donating generously to the blogs they read, and to the kind of "Progressive Infrastructure" organizations that are designed to study and fight back against the Right? (more here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here...)
I'm not talking about what we primarily do now, donating to candidates and running defensively from one election to the next. That doesn't work because there is no progressive organizational infrastructure to support those candidates with issue education and general outreach. The way it works now each progressive candidate is expected to prepare, from scratch, alone, DURING the campaign season a "message" and an approach to reaching out to the voters. The Republicans have a huge network of organizations - The Party even calls them "GOP Groups" - that does that for them, all year, every year, putting out a central message, reaching the general public with that message, and then come election time training and coordinating the efforts of their candidates. All the Republican candidates have to do is show up - these organizations do most of the rest for them. (Do you really think that George Bush is an exceptional candidate, so much sharper than Gore or Kerry - or do you think he had help?)
So I'm not talking about election funding at all. I'm talking about long-term efforts to reach out to the general public, all across the country, to explain the benefits of Progressive ideas, and to rebuild the widespread Progressive consensus that brought us things like laws to protect consumers, laws to protect the environment, minimum wages, health insurance programs like Medicare (which should be extended to everybody), public parks, public schools, public universities, FEMA, birth control education, programs to help bring people up out of poverty... (I want to cry just thinking about the destruction the far-right has brought on America...)
But for all our talk about community and helping each other, giving generously is obviously, obviously not a progressive value.
Am I wrong? Many Christians give 10% of their before-tax income to their church. THAT is a value. THAT is giving generously because they believe it is the right thing to do. A person making $50,000 a year and giving $5,000 a year is a generous donor.
But never mind about 10%. If every single blog reader gave at least $100 to progressive organizations (and blogs) - a whopping $8 per month - that would completely fund all of the new "Progressive Infrastructure" organizations AND would begin to build an alternative media capable of getting OUR word out. And it would do it democratically, rather than forcing organizations to depend on a few very large donors, which is how funding works today. And don't think the organizations are doing much other than what those donors want them doing. Let me say it again, if every blog reader gave at least $100 to the right organizations this national nightmare would end. And to be clear, I do not mean instead of money you might already be giving, I mean along with that money.
I'll be building on this, and you should be thinking about it, too. You should be planning now to be giving soon. I think if we can come up with a clear plan, outlining each organization, what it will do, how it will make a difference, and how much money it needs to get going, that we really can raise the needed money by asking millions of blog readers and other progressives to each give money.
We are in a national emergency, we are losing our democracy, please begin thinking about sacrificing a bit to help change things for the better. Please start talking about it, please leave some suggestions here in the comments on how to begin instilling giving as a general progressive value.
Here's that list again, who did I miss?
Commonweal Institute http://commonwealinstitute.org/
Rockridge Institute http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/
Media Matters http://mediamatters.org/
Center for American Progress http://www.americanprogress.org/
New Progressive Coalition http://www.newprogressivecoalition.com
Media Transparency http://mediatransparency.org/
Spin Project http://www.spinproject.org/
Progressive Communications Network http://www.spiritinaction.net/pcn/
New Politics Institute http://www.ndnpac.org/npi/
Campaign for Americas Future http://www.ourfuture.org/
Rockwood Leadership http://www.rockwoodfund.org/
Progressive Leadership Institute http://www.progressleaders.org/
Well they've broken through the spam filter again, so I've bumped up the spam filter a notch. This means that comments with URLs might be flagged. Also, if your comment says, "Adult pleasures available at..."
If you leave a comment and don't see it after a refresh or two, it might have been flagged as spam. Please e-mail me if this happens and I'll un-junk it as soon as I get your e-mail. Unless it says says, "Adult pleasures available at..."
One recent afternoon in Los Alamitos, I watched Marcy Zwelling-Aamot, M.D., pick her way through a government website designed to help elderly patients select the right Medicare drug plan, based on their prescription needs and hometown.
The website, created for the launch of Medicare's new prescription drug benefit, identified 48 individual plans available for Southern California residents. All were sponsored by private health insurance companies administering the government drug benefit for a profit. The plans' monthly premiums ranged from $5.41 to $66.08; their lists of covered drugs differed from one another, sometimes significantly; and all imposed different annual out-of-pocket costs on enrollees — a critical consideration for patients on fixed incomes.
A marginally useful website that is hiding in plain site:
Why are people holding off?
Even the government acknowledges that selecting a plan is dauntingly confusing for those without access to its Internet help site. That's a big hurdle, because an estimated 70% of Americans over 65 have never been online.
Big oops? Or intended to boost profits for Big Pharma?
The toll-free information lines set up by Medicare and various health plans have been overwhelmed for weeks. Medicare regulations discourage physicians, pharmacists and healthcare advocates from helping patients select a specific plan. Yet many professionals say they themselves are so confounded by the program's intricacies that their patients will be hard pressed to make the right choices on their own.
The health plans have filled the vacuum with glossy marketing brochures, some of which are flagrantly misleading. "You're pitting big corporations against the most vulnerable people in society, and you're telling them that they can't turn to the people they trust for advice," observes Thomas R. Clark, director of policy and advocacy for the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, an organization of pharmacists specializing in geriatric and long-term care.
Isn’t that special? Hiltzig reminds us that Bush’s Medicare Prescription Drug Plan is a red headed step child of blatant and intentional fraud:
Its worth remembering that the prescription drug program was born in an act of fraud. The Bush administration sold it to Congress in 2003 by estimating its cost at less than $400 billion over 10 years. Scarcely a month after its enactment, the White House issued a new estimate: $535 billion. That figure might well have killed the bill, which had passed the House by a razor-thin margin even with the lower price tag.
It soon came to light that Richard Foster, Medicare's chief actuary, had known of the higher estimate — but had been told he'd be fired if he warned Congress before the vote. (The current estimate is $700 billion.)
As written, the legislation complied with a drug industry demand that Medicare be prohibited from negotiating with manufacturers for lower drug prices. Among those helping the industry make its stand was Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-Louisiana), whose committee on energy and commerce oversaw Medicare. In an odoriferous development, Tauzin soon quit Congress to become president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America — Big Pharma's Washington lobbying group.
The program's implementation, meanwhile, was handed over to commercial health insurance companies, subject to indifferent oversight. That explains the perverse variations in monthly premiums, drug prices, even approved drugs, which will make it all but impossible for consumers to be sure they've selected the right plan.
Here’s a kicker from Kevin Drum over at Political Animal, The Prescription Drug Debacle .... Part 341:
It's a Government Accounting Office report, issued in December, warning that the Bush administration hadn't done enough to make sure the most medically and financially vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries could actually get their drugs.
If you do get around to reading it, make sure to check out the part where Mark McClellan, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, says the GAO has it all wrong — the part where he insists that "CMS has established effective contingency plans to ensure that dual-eligible beneficiaries will be able to obtain comprehensive coverage and obtain necessary drugs beginning January 1, 2006."You know, that sounds familiar. The Bush administration is warned that its planning is inadequate but it ignores the advice and plows ahead without listening.
Very familiar. It's on the tip of my tongue. Help me out here.
January 18, 2006
Melanie Sloan of Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington was on CSPAN just prior to the Democratic Reform Proposal and pointed out that they were not addressing the problem of earmarks and there was not an enforcement mechanism. Melanie Sloan was right.
Update 6:00 a.m. PDT - from L.A. Times, Culture of Lobbying May Resist Reform:
Despite the political theater Wednesday, Democrats offered proposals that in many respects were similar to those laid out the day before by Hastert and Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), chairman of the House Rules Committee
Please visit MyDD :: MyDD Polling Project: Can you top this thing off? Drop them a few dollars to get some polling going on issues important to us and the country.
If you weren't going to donate anything at least donate $1 -- make that a habit -- because there are SO MANY of us, each giving at least a dollar really can add up!
Having suffered a heart attack back in September, Allen had asked prison authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.OK, what's the bet that this is a Republican speaking. Sheesh. "Sanctity of life?"
"At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life," said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. "We would resuscitate him," then execute him.
The Agonist gives an opinion on Why Democrats and Lobbying Reform Is A Bad Idea
... just had Cindy Sheehan's latest passed to me on an internal Green Party list, an article entitled The Opposite Of Good Is Apathy. After reading it, I'm now going to be paying a lot closer attention when I hear her name.
The lead, "The apathy of most of America is stunning and appalling to me.", is just the start.
Here's a couple more excerpts:
If we don't get off of our collective apathetic and complacent backsides to stop the barbaric killing in Iraq, when will the next candlelight vigil be? George Bush and the evil neocons are killing our precious soldiers at the rate of 2.78 per day. By my calculations, we should be lighting our candles again and singing "Kum bah ya" by October.
If I hear one more rendition of "We Shall Overcome" and then watch the vigilers or marchers go home and turn on their TVs and crack open a brewsky, content in the fact that they have done something for peace that day, I am going to scream! We can't overcome unless we take the proverbial bull by the horns and overcome!
and I really like this one...
Hillary Clinton told me that the "wheels of government grind slowly." This is a tired cliche and it is unacceptable blather while the war machine is grinding the bones of our children.
... I was concerned that Cindy's "ordinary American mom" shtick wasn't... but, clearly, she "gets" it, the systemic nature of the problem with the Bush Administration and the neo-cons, that the problem isn't just the war in Iraq and the soldiers dying there... but all the innocent Iraqi civilians: "By his own admission, [Dubya] is ten times the terrorist that Osama ever was. If George says 30,000 ... who knows what the truthful total is. It fills me with sorrow and hurts my heart to even contemplate the number." and damn near every other anti-policy initiative pursued by the Bush Regime:
America: this is what you are allowing your government to do in your name: Detain and torture prisoners without due process. Use chemical weapons on other members of humanity. Spy on Americans without a court order (I hope my conversations put them in a coma of boredom). Carpet bomb cities filled with human beings like yourselves.
Destroy the infrastructure of other countries. Destroy the infrastructure of American cities. Cut taxes on the rich while pouring money and blood into the thirsty sands of the Middle East. Decimate our treasury. Rape the environment. Et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.
... "ad nauseum" is right. Every time I open up my email inbox, I'm confronted by an alert or plea about some new and emerging threat from the right... how is it possible for them to simultaneously do so many different things that are wrenchingly wrong and tragically stupid?
Hurrah for Cindy. She's right... we really need to pick up the pace, to take the movement to the next level... America will not be moved out of its apathy by anything less than truly radical action. Bluntly, we must make the nation ungovernable in the absence of action: this means direct action and mass non-violent civil disobedience on a large scale. The "Battle of Seattle" must be repeated a hundred times, until people wake up and realize there is a severe problem, until the governing elite of this country comes to the realization that we will not go away, that the "chaos" and "anarchy" on the streets will not stop until something is done, that "business as usual" is no longer possible in the face of opposition from the anti-war movement, and pull the reins in on Dubya and his gang of thugs and cronys.
Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, chairman of PRCB, was joined by fellow conservatives Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR); David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, in urging lawmakers to use NSA hearings to establish a solid foundation for restoring much needed constitutional checks and balances to intelligence law.
In one sense, this is a good thing. People on his own team are starting to resist Bush's unprecedented authoritarianism. This may be the turning point, and if we've dodged the bullet, that's great.
On the other hand, these are all reptilian hard-right ideologues. If we're relying on guys like them to save us, it's a sign of our own terrible weakness. The Democratic cadaver still twitches now and then, but from the beginning the Democrats have failed to effectively oppose Bush's excesses. The courts haven't been much better, and the media have been even worse. The only limits Bush has had to contend with are those which come from within his own party. That sounds like an authoritarian one-party state to me.
And if I haven't ruined your day yet: Norquist and the others are pretty nasty, but the Republicans supporting Bush are much worse, and they're still in the majority. Maximum Leader Bush might just decide to purge the intellectuals and ideologues in his party, and remain in power with the sole support of parasites, lackeys, and goons. This is something that's happened at other times and in other places, and it's an understatement to say that it ain't pretty.
January 17, 2006
The White House is refusing to reveal exactly who Jack Abramoff met with in the White House during his more than 200 contacts in the first ten months of the Bush administration. This is despite promising to do so, less than two weeks ago.Go read the rest, something's up!
Ever notice how Republicans will never say exactly WHAT "big government" spending they want to cut? And if you really, really press them, they'll name something that adds up to maybe a half a percent of the budget deficit and think they're all righteous.
ANYway, I just went to the Post Office because I had to get a utility bill into the mail and only had a 37-cent stamp. So I had to get a 2-cent stamp. When I got there the vending achine was broken and there was a line. 20 minutes later I get to the front of the line, slam down the envelope and two pennies, said "20 minutes!" and walked out.
Now I feel terrible for the employee. It wasn't her fault, but she had to soak up my anger - and probably has to do this dozens of times a day. No wonder they "go postal."
But this is about more than just that.
The reason I had to wait 20 minutes is because, as a result of "spending cuts," they don't have enough employees to serve the public. A better example is any government service, most notably state driver's license bureaus. In California it's called the DMV. The public demands "spending cuts" and the DMV reduces the number of employees. And then, of course, people are upset that there are long lines at the DMV and blames "the government" for being "inefficient." Same fthing or waiting for a police car.
My personal favorite is cutting the funding for public schools and then saying they should "compete" with private schools that charge thousands per year. (The something-thousand per year per student at public schools is mostly to cover the cost of students with special needs, that private schools won't admit.)
The Republicans have been persuing a strategy of purposely making people angry at government, fracturing society and dividing us, to gain power. And look how the use the power they gain...
Update - I'm NOT complaining about the price increase. I'll gladly pay a little more if they will hire enough employees to keep the lines down.
"If Al Gore is going to be the voice of the Democrats on national security matters, we welcome it,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a swipe at the Democrat, who lost the 2000 election to Bush only after the Supreme Court intervened.I'm not bringing this to your attention to comment on the substance of the White House statement. (Steve Soto does that better than I could.) I note this because it is the official White House spokesperson, a paid government employee, whose job is to inform the public of Administration policy and activities, not to promote a political party. It is grossly inappropriate for the White House to say that "we" anything when referring to a political party. Democrats are Americans, too.
[. . .] "I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds,” McClellan said of Gore.
This is an example of how this President sees himself as The President of the Repubican Party, rather than of the United States.
Hat tip to Mary at The Left Coaster, How Conservatives Argue: A Case Study:
Liberal: The USA has fifty states.
Conservative: No, it doesn’t.
Liberal: Yes, it does. The USA has fifty states.
Conservative: What about Guam? What about that Guam, huh? Or the Virgin Islands?
Liberal: Those are territories, not states. The USA has fifty states.
Conservative: Oh, so you’re saying those don’t count?
Conservative: Oh, so the people there don’t count? They’re not good enough, huh? I thought you liberals wanted everybody to be counted.
If that's not enough to get your motor started, check out an advisorjim classic How To Annoy A Conservative
AST WEEK, at the annual meeting of the American Economic Assn., we presented a new estimate for the likely cost of the war in Iraq. We suggested that the final bill will be much higher than previously reckoned — between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, depending primarily on how much longer our troops stay. Putting that into perspective, the highest-grossing movie of all time, "Titanic," earned $1.8 billion worldwide — about half the cost the U.S. incurs in Iraq every week.
Like the iceberg that hit the Titanic, the full costs of the war are still largely hidden below the surface. Our calculations include not just the money for combat operations but also the costs the government will have to pay for years to come.
Spending up to $2 trillion should make us ask some questions.
This ain't no tree falling in the forest folks. This is the shot heard 'round the world and of course in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
January 16, 2006
In case you didn't know, Al Gore gave a major, major, historical speech today.
Peter Daou discusses the press reaction, beginning with,
If a tree falls in a forest... A former Vice-President of the United States delivers a major speech accusing George W. Bush of breaking the law.Go read.
Glenn Greenwald explains that Bush followers are not conservatives.
Now Bush is telling us that Iran is a threat. (That's Iran with an 'n', not Iraq with a 'q'.)
Iran may well be a threat. This may well be a serious crisis. But we have a problem: a President with no credibility. Mid-2003 I wrote,
Saying there was an imminent threat from Iraq when, at the very least, the intelligence did not support such a claim, opens the public up to doubt the next time a President needs to protect us from an ACTUAL threat. .... He has broken the bond of trust between the public and the Office of the President on the most critical issue, and politicized the process, and this has placed us all in danger should there be an ACTUAL threat to our nation and our lives in the future.And here we are - maybe. A man who defends starting a needless war by saying it was an honest mistake is now telling us that Iran is a threat, and this time it's for real. Naturally, the reaction of many in the world is that Bush saying Iran is a threat makes it more likely that not that Iran is not a threat.
There is a way for Bush to convince the world that there really is a terrible threat from Iran and that we must deal with it.
If Iran is a threat to world peace, and Bush's credibility is the obstacle to dealing with the threat, Bush should show his sincerity and concern for world peace by stepping aside.
There is precedent for my idea. On March 31, 1968 President Lyndon Johnson faced a similar problem. He had lost credibility over the Vietnam War and the country was sharply divided. He wanted to end the war, but how could he prove to the country - and to the North Vietnamese - that he meant it, that it wasn't an election gimmick? He went on TV from the Oval Office with a speech I still remember. Toward the end of the speech he spoke about how the war was dividing the country, and how politics was exacerbating the problem.
For 37 years in the service of our nation, first as a Congressman, as a Senator, and as Vice President, and now as your President, I have put the unity of the people first. I have put it ahead of any divisive partisanship. And in these times as in times before, it is true that a house divided against itself by the spirit of faction, of party, of region, of religion, of race, is a house that cannot stand.
There is division in the American house now. There is divisiveness among us all tonight. And holding the trust that is mine, as President of all the people, I cannot disregard the peril to the progress of the American people and the hope and the prospects of peace for all peoples. So, I would ask all Americans, whatever their personal interests or concern, to guard against divisiveness and all of its ugly consequences.
... With American sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office -- the Presidency of your country.
And then Johnson shocked the nation, saying,
"Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term of office as your President."By not running for re-election LBJ effectively resigned from office to prove his sincerity and attempt to heal the divisiveness in the country.
If Bush really believes that Iran is a threat to the United States he should do the right thing to prove his sincerity and protect the country. He should say, "I understand that following the mistaken invasion of Iraq my credibility is an obstacle, but we face a terrible threat from Iran developing nuclear weapons. For this reason, and as a gesture of my sincerity when I say that we must deal with this threat I am announcing tonite that I resign the office of President of the United States."
Josh Micah Marshall gets it (read the whole thing):
The prospect of a nuclearized Iran seems far more perilous to me than anything we faced or seemed likely to face with Iraq. But for those of us trying to think through how to deal with this situation, we have to start from the premise that there is no Iran Question, or whatever you want to call it. There's only how to deal with Iran with this administration in place.
Do you trust this White House's good faith, priorities or competence in dealing with this situation?
Based on everything I've seen in almost five years the answer is pretty clearly 'no' on each count. To my thinking that has to be the starting point of the discussion.
Kevin Drum, on the other hand, seems to be preparing to be Charlie Brown again:
At some point it seems likely that the choice George Bush will offer the nation regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions is either (a) leaky and ineffective sanctions or (b) air strikes. I don't like this choice, but that's probably what we're going to get anyway.
Of course, you never know. Maybe diplomacy will work and Iran will back down. But just in case it doesn't, Dems would be wise to start thinking about whether (a) or (b) — or some hypothetical (c) — is the right policy.
Pro-war mouthpieces are going to say something like "partisan politics is much less important than terrorist threats against the United States, and the Democrats are behaving disgracefully". But this is garbage. All through history, demagogues have pumped up foreign threats for partisan advantage, and George W. Bush and his claque are as bad as anyone ever has been. Most of what Bush has done in Iraq has been dubious from foreign-policy or military points of view, but it's worked brilliantly as demagoguery.
The man's a liar who ruins everything he touches, and no one should ever take anything his administration says at face value.
From the incomparable digby, Grover's Eunuchs.
Wolcott says Lanny Davis: Looks Liberal, Tastes like Chicken:
I was traveling the cable dial this afternoon where I came upon a panel on CNBC's Kudlow & Company just as Lanny Davis, his insipid, ingratiating grin firmly in place, was saying that he hoped Democrats wouldn't "politicize" the Jack Abramoff situation but simply let the facts of the case emerge.
Beltway Dems like Davis and the DLC crowd don't want to politicize the Iraq war, or the Alito hearings, or the Katrina clusterfuck, or the NSA spying scandal; they shy away from every prospective fight and prevent any ongoing debate or controversy from gaining traction. Just as Jack Murtha's bombshell was gaining momentum, in droops Joe Lieberman to back up the president with a gift-wrapped testimonial.
Yes, I know Lanny Davis is not an elected official but he was representing the Democratic side along with Harold Ford against John Fund of WSJ and Arizona congressman Jeff Flake (R). Given how Davis was fawning over Flake (who was making mild reformist noises about the need to clean house)--saying that he wished he could vote for someone so bright and sensible--and how Ford was prudently urging us to stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was more of a barbershop quartet than a doubles match. Kudlow, of course, couldn't have been more pleased by the civility and consensus shown by the fab four. Lanny Davis and Harold Ford were his kind of Democrats--reasonable, moderate, mainstream, and completely housebroken. They were good little guests.
The problem lies with the alleged moderates like Ford and the gasbags like Biden who don't know the difference between partisan rhetoric and action (and fail to publicly play the game with any finesse.) But the biggest problem is the "liberal" pundits like Davis who should all be shunned. They don't speak for me and I don't think they speak for the Democratic party. They seem to speak for the conventional wisdom of the beltway which places a premium on obedient, neutered Democrats.
Again, it's the the old joke:"Harry and Lanny are facing the firing squad. The executioner comes forward to place the blindfold on them. Harry disdainfully and proudly refuses, tearing the thing from his face. Lanny turns to him and pleads: "Please Harry, don't make trouble!"
January 15, 2006
Hat tip to bryan over at MyDD, Hackett Calls It Like He Sees It:
With succinct coherence, Hackett said: "I'm pro-choice, I'm pro-gayrights, I'm pro-gun-rights. Call me nuts, but I think they're all based on the same principle and that is we don't need government dictating to us how we live our private lives." Asked to define being pro-gayrights, Hackett said anybody who tries to deny homosexuals the same rights, including marriage, as every other citizen is un-American. Are you saying, he was asked, that the 62 percent of Ohioans who voted in November 2004 to constitutionally deny same-sex marriages are un-American?
"If what they believe is that we're going to have a scale on judging which Americans have equal rights, yeah, that's un-American. They've got to accept that. It's absolutely un-American."
Simple, straight forward and to the point. I'd like to see a Republican or DLC Democrat try that.
January 14, 2006
Now that everybody has a Salon day pass, read Sen. Byrd's Dec. 19, 2005 speech Never have the freedoms we cherish seemed so imperiled.
Next consider this commentary about The Scandal Unfolds.
The Left Coaster has a story about how Bush secretly authorized domestic spying by the NSA months before 9/11.
Finally, (hat tip to Steve Soto at The Left Coaster) according to a new Zogby poll commissioned by After Downing Street.org a Majority of Americans Support Impeaching Bush for Wiretapping, if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval.
California's environmental bad boy: Republican Rick Pombo wants to drill, mine and develop America down to the last acre. But will close ties to Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff pollute his reelection chances? By Amanda Griscom Little [2006-01-10]
Let us prey: Jack Abramoff and his deeply religious right-wing cronies express their "biblical worldview" by swindling Indian tribes and bribing legislators. Verily, mysterious are the ways of the Lord. By Joe Conason [2006-01-06]
Bush's war on professionals: The president is determined to stop whistle-blowers and the press from halting his administration's illegal, ever-expanding secret government. But it may be too late. By Sidney Blumenthal [2006-01-05]
King George: It is slowly becoming clear that the Bush administration's real goal is not winning the right to torture, or to spy on Americans, or to lock people up without recourse. It is absolute power. By Tom Engelhardt [2006-01-05]
[The man can't think his way out of a paper bag. My cat would make a better President!!!
Bob Fertik's contention that Bush is a literal puppet, echoing whatever comes down over his wireless prompter, is looking better and better...
Courtesy George Margolin on Dave Farber's Interesting People mailing list.
BUSH EXPLAINS MEDICARE DRUG BILL - - Verbatim Quote submitted on 2005
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: "I don't really understand. How is it the new
plan going to fix the problem?"
Verbatim Response (Bush)
"Because the - - all which is on the table begins to address the big
cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example,
is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage
increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the
formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those
different cost drivers, affecting those - - changing those with
personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more
likely to be - - or closer delivered to that has been promised. Does
that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a
series of things that cause the - - like, for example, benefits are
calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the
increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate - - the
benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increased.
There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into
effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the
promised benefits grow, if those - - if that growth is affected, it
will help on the red."
[Actually, re-reading his statement... this is CEOspeak. They have no clue how most of the stuff that comes in front of them actually works, all they know is the big picture, the most basic and fundamental aspect of what a proposal is supposed to accomplish and how that will occur: "reduce cost drivers" by "changing the way benefits are calculated". Bush is just too stupid to say anything that simple (setting aside the question of how true such a contention is). -Thomas]
The L.A. Times has back to back stories about how Bush's Medicare Prescription Drug Bill has already turned into a colossal failure.
State Orders Help for Elderly as Medicare Glitches Spread: California joins other states in giving seniors emergency assistance. Bush's signature program draws sharp criticism nationwide
Medicare Situation Still Chaotic: With some drugstores unaware of emergency state measures to cover medication costs, many patients are turned away for lack of money
Also on the healthcare front, courtesy of Matthew Yglesias, filling in for Josh at TPM, Maryland's passage of a historic WalMart health care bill
The bottom line to all three stories is that you can't trust the private sector with your health care benefits.
January 13, 2006
I will be away all day, attending Mac World Expo in San Francisco.
January 12, 2006
Republicans do not believe that people can work together and help each other so they do not believe in government and law. Instead they believe in a dog-eat-dog, everyone on-their-own and out-for-themselves society where the strongest survive and it doesn't matter what happens to everyone else. So whenever conservatives gain power they abuse it and use it to get money for themselves and their friends.Always add the "Because".
"A true revolution of values will say of war, 'This way of settling differences is not just.'…I call on Washington today, I call on every man and woman of goodwill all over America today: Take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late; a book may close. And I don't know about you -- I ain't going to study war no more."
- Martin Luther King
The email I got from CODEPINK advertises "Martin Luther King: Watch & Be Inspired!" and the Flash video truly lives up to that billing... but then, anything using Martin's voice would be inspiring. I could hear him speak a hundred times, and not be left unmoved.
But... but... here is my question: Where is the Martin Luther King, Jr. of today?
Why is the greatest moral authority on the conduct of this war a voice forty years out of the past? Has the stature of our leaders diminished so much since then... or their courage?
Something is very wrong here, when we as a movement have no choice but to reach back to iconic figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. to get our message across with any moral authority.
Has the mainstream media have so stifled alternative voices, that none have had a chance to develop the same stature... is that the answer? Or could it be that, perhaps, no one in today's establishment has determined that permitting someone to achieve the same level of recognition and moral authority suits their political convenience?
Has the right wing really crippled our ability to develop and communicate our message so badly, that even our most prominent voices are folks known only to a few... who in the anti-war movement qualifies as a household name? Or are we, ourselves, in the anti-war movement, doing something wrong?
Or is it that we are just lesser men and women than our predecessors... what am I missing?
A successful Karl Rove tactic has been to create a sense of inevitability. Check this out:
TalkLeft has it -- Sparks Fly at Alito Hearing
Please. While I'm not convinced as is Jane they were crocodile tears, engineered by Sen. Lindsay Graham, I do think they were pretty lame. Read James Wolcott who calls Ms. Alito the "new first lady of the American Theater." Then again, consider this, from Time Magazine Wednesday night:Remember the first Iraq war, the babies thrown from incubators? Also from a PR firm.The always-alert Creative Response Concepts, a conservative public relations firm, sent this bulletin: "Former Alito clerk Gary Rubman witnessed Mrs. Alito leaving her husband's confirmation in tears and is available for interviews, along with other former Alito clerks who know her personally and are very upset about this development."I also think Lindsay Graham has some explaining to do about his dual role as murder board coach and hearing officer.
January 11, 2006
Several organizations are calling for "reform" of the campaign-finance and lobbying system. This is a mistake. It is very important to understand that this Abramoff scandal is about breaking laws, not about any need for reform of existing laws. But more than that, it is about an attempt to change America into a one-party state.
This scandal is about the leadership of the Republican Party creating a self-perpetuating system where public money is spent to promote a non-democratic, divisive, destructive ideology and perpetuate one-party control -- THEIR control -- of the country.
The Abramoff scandal shines a light on how the currently-constituted "conservative movement" / Christian Right-controlled Republican Party, not isolated individuals, are systematically using the power of government to finance and extend an illegal, corrupt machine of one-party domination. Their leadership implemented a comprehensive, party-wide system wherein companies paid for legislation and were punished by the government itself if they refused to pay. The committees of the Congress itself were used to intimidate lobbying firms and others to purge all but Republicans and then become tools to increase Republican Party control. The money received was used to strengthen this system and further promote the ideology and candidates. Meanwhile, the agencies of government are systematically and rapidly being purged and replaced with "conservative movement" operatives, and increasingly used to enforce one-party control.
I believe this system is a component of an organized threat to our democracy from a well-financed, self-described "Leninist," subversive, cult-like, conspiratorial movement intent on imposing a corporatist/theocratic authoritarian system on us. I think history teaches us that we are already well down the "slippery slope" of increasingly repressive government, with a president who says laws do not restrict his authority and that Democrats "provide comfort to our adversaries" and I fear the signals such language sends to "the base."
I think this ideologically-driven threat to our freedom is a national emergency as grave as that which we faced from Germany or the Soviet Union. But when we faced those threats we were able to recognize and fight back against the propaganda with the resources of our own government. Today, however, the government's resources themselves are increasingly turned on us.
So when you hear that this scandal is about Democrats as well as Republicans, or "everybody does it" don't buy that crap for a second. This is a very very different situation from simple graft. This is not about an individual member of Congress taking a payoff or otherwise cashing out from the position. This is NOTHING like Former Speaker of the House Jim Wright selling self-published copies of a book for cash or Dan Rostenkowski getting free stamps and trading them for cash. This is systematic abuse by the leadership of a political party in a scheme to take over the country.
Watch your backs.
Steve at The News Blog writes about Color free magazines. An important subject - why is the media predominantly white, reflecting and reinforcing a white viewpoint and white perceptions of the world? Go read.
I'm at a Starbucks (read why) and there are two Silicon Valley business types near me (one in a suit) talking about reading Ayn Rand. Talking in all earnestness about how government is a disease that "6-year-old minds" need. They're also talking about a Board meeting and "their financial guy" so these are upper-level types. Can't really hear it well enough with the cappuccino machine going...
January 10, 2006
The same President who insists he has the authority to wiretap "enemies" without warrants, imprison "enemies" without hearings or lawyers or even notifying families, even torture "enemies," said today that YOU are an enemy.
In some of his most combative language yet directed as his critics, Mr. Bush said Americans should insist on a debate "that brings credit to our democracy, not comfort to our adversaries.""Comfort to our adversaries" is a carefully chosen phrase. As in "aid and comfort."
United States Constitution, Article III, Section 3,
Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.Treason is a capital offense.
The increasing use of eliminationist language on the Right has worked its way to the very top. Watch your backs.
I'm going to write about Peet's again because I like to go out to a coffeeshop, sit down, get a GOOD coffee and get some work done. And Peet's has great coffee. Really, really good coffee. In my opinion you can not get better coffee. If you don't live near a Peet's you should order some beans online and try them.
But Peet's refuses to put wireless in their coffee shops! I have rarely seen a more obvious case of a problem with management of a company. They "get" beans. They don't "get" coffee shops at all. On the one hand, they are expanding their outlets, so they at least have the appearance of wanting a coffee shop presense. But at the same time they do nothing to make their coffee shops into places people want to go to and sit down. A Peet's employee today told me they aren't getting wireless because they think they have enough customers. There were no other customers in the shop at the time.
Meanwhile their main competition Starbucks does such a good job creating a comfortable environment for their customers to enjoy. You feel welcome in a Starbucks and most Starbucks I have been in have been great places to work. Peets' problem with refusing to get wireless is just one example. They finally decided to put some chairs in a few of their coffee shops, but ... Oh never mind. I guess I have too much free time.
Other people writing about this, too. Starbucks Gossip: Peet's is never going to get wi-fi, says employee, (read the comments!!). (I do want to say that Peet's employees are just great, it's not the empolyees it's the management that doesn't "get" how to set up an environment that people want to be in.)
January 9, 2006
Barry Ritholtz, a contributor to RealMoney.com, has a free article on TheStreet.com entitled: Rethinking the 'Strong Jobs Recovery' Scenario in which he discusses how the Bush Administration has been playing games with job creation numbers.
More analysis and details below the fold, but the ultimate upshot is this: at best, the job creation rate under the Bush Administration has fallen 1.6 million jobs short of what is needed to simply keep up with population growth (1 million new jobs a year)... at worst, fully half of the 3.4 million "jobs" created during the Bush Administration's term of office are simply "vapor", a best guess estimate / fudge factor that many economists find suspect. Which, if heavily but not altogether discounted, would put the Bush Administration's job creation numbers at 50% of what is necessary to simply keep running in place, a "deficit" of 2.5 million. That's pretty substantial, I'd say.
While the Bush Administration says that 4.4 million jobs have been created, this count is made from a low point that occured in March of 2003... Ritholtz says that:
you typically don't get to pick your time periods when measuring performance. You especially don't get to base it on trough-to-peak numbers. In most any series, there are more natural time periods, e.g., year to date, one, three and five years. As opposed to cherry-picking the most favorable-looking time periods, job creation historically has been measured from the end of the recession, which the National Bureau of Economic Research puts at March 2001.
Running the numbers this way, you get 3.4 million "jobs" created (of course, that says nothing about the quality of said jobs, which is another thing entirely - and generally presumed to be lower than the ones replaced, as he mentioned). Or maybe not... as Ritholtz points out, the numbers provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics include a pretty significant "fudge factor", designed to account for newly created jobs not otherwise measured; it is a legitimate tactic, but in this case, Ritholtz finds the numbers to be a bit suspect:
Of the 4.4 million new jobs from the March 2003 low until present, the birth/death estimate accounts for 1,639,000. That is an extremely significant 36.7% of new jobs.
By any measure, that's a hefty estimated adjustment to an actual data-based number. It is not particularly credible to me to have a statistical projection be more than a third of a measured data series. To be blunt, it is a game-changing "adjustment."
Or, put another way: almost half of the "jobs" created since the end of the recession, under the Bush Administration, are the product of what is essentially a guesstimate.
Ritholtz concludes this by saying that "the macro environment is far worse than most people believe" and leads him to have "bearish expectations for 2006".
The reaction from one insurance company spokesperson to widespread reports of problems?
Thomas T. Noland Jr., a spokesman for Humana Inc., a major national insurer, said that some problems were "to be expected in a new program with lots of new enrollment taking effect all at once."
Yeah, o.k., I feel better now - it is clear that the Republican's cherished and efficient private sector takes our healthcare ever so seriously - NOT. Are any of these companies going to lose their contracts as a result of this? Are any executives going to be required to commit corporate hari-kari? Not likely. How about any of the folks in the Bush Administration responsible for overseeing the implementation of this program? I doubt it.
More deadly incompetence from our nation's "leaders" in the executive branch.
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 - Low-income Medicare beneficiaries around the
country were often overcharged, and some were turned away from
pharmacies without getting their medications, in the first week of
Medicare's new drug benefit. The problems have prompted emergency
action by some states to protect their citizens.
At least four states - Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota and
Vermont - acted this week to make sure poor people received the
drugs they were promised but could not obtain through the federal
Daily Kos: Crashing the Gate Excerpt: Psychic Income. Go read it.
You can make a living being a conservative. In fact, the pay is so good that they can compete with business for the best talent. There are plenty of talented conservatives who don't buy into the whole thing, and are there just to make a living. As I've said before, that doesn't say good things about the content of their character, but a lot of them do good work, and they are beating the pants off of us.
The first topic at any gathering of progressives (and bloggers) is where will the money come from and where will the participants find the time away from their day jobs to help the project. There are some well-funded progressive organizations but their entire schtick is about keeping their funding sources, not about how to be effective and help the overall progressive cause. And they all largely speak only to their own funding base, not to the public-at-large. So over time support from the public-at-large necessarily erodes. How much good do you think the big environmental organizations are doing for the environment these days? And to top it off, the funding shortage causes tremendous turf wars -- pretty much every progressive-oriented organization leadership acts as though they believe all money is either/or -- that any money going to any other progressive organization is money they should be getting instead.
Meanwhile right-wing funders "get it." They provide huge multi-year general operating grants to organizations that do nothing BUT ideological advocacy PR. So these organizations are out there every single day talking about how conservatives are good, conservative ideas are good, and progressives and their ideas are bad. The same message, repeated over and over again, 100 different ways, from hundreds of well-funded PR organizations, and the country is pushed ever more to the right.
Who is to blame? First, the big funders and the funding system. But there is a story behind how it got to be this way. Part of it is that has been a long-term ongoing strategic "defunding" campaign to intimidate the big philanthropic foundations away from giving money to organizations that might actually fight back against the "conservative movement." Go to anyone who works at one of the foundations and say the word "advocacy" and see how fast they run away. Or say "general operating expenses" and see the reaction (hint: duck). Just go to their websites and look at their grantmaking statements. It's the opposite of the situation on the Right.
But let me add that I think Progressives in general are also at fault. Giving to organizations is NOT a core Progressive value, but it certainly should be. Let me explain. Howard Dean demonstrated the power of lots of people giving money. He showed that this people-power can overcome the power of the moneyed interests. But actually, Dean raised around $50 million in average donations of about $80. ONLY 625,000 PEOPLE GAVE MONEY TO DEAN. And $80 is hardly "giving till it hurts." Progressives are cheap.
What do you think would happen to the direction America is taking if 6 million Progressives gave only $100 a year to build organizations designed to fight back against the Right? The Right's funding is about $400 million a year for this purpose, and THEY have the difficult task of persuading blue-collar workers to give up their pensions so some rich fuck can buy a bigger private jet! Imagine what would happen if we could convince Progressive to actually donate money!
American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.
I had several rather dismaying conversations over the holidays, filled with morbid jokes about the FBI knocking on one's door subsequent to even slightly ill-advised comments. Found myself thinking, several times, "it is hard to believe I'm in America, and having this conversation." Sigh.
A US man who threw a mouse onto a pile of burning leaves could only watch in horror as it ran into his house and set the building ablaze.Oh, wait, does pointing to this story with that headline put me on a government "animal rights" terrorist watchlist?
There's a corporate clock that ticks and corporate computers that grind, and a schedule to follow.
I remember when Salinas, California passed 100,000 population. It was a sleepy half-Mexican Ag city with an old downtown and independent stores. And then the 1990 census said it passed 100,000, a computer was alerted, a bell went off at a marketing person's desk and the Wal-Mart and the Target and the Outback and the entire rest of the strip-mall scene just arrived the next day. The immediate transformation of the city was really something to see.
I'm at a Starbucks. I noticed the whole place is color-schemed and stocked for Valentine's Day. The displays have pink-heart Starbucks mugs for sale. Even the coffee-cards are pink with hearts. I asked when this showed up and they said Jan. 2. So the DAY after New Year's they were starting full-on selling Valentine's. Corporate commercialism is America's religion.
And then there's Peet's. Great coffee but you just can not GET them to get wireless. The employees say every third customer asks. Many days I get a Peets and drive to a Starbucks and use the wireless from the parking lot.
It is hard to figure out which is more alarming...
One in three children born in the United States five years ago are expected to become diabetic in their lifetimes, according to a projection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The forecast is even bleaker for Latinos: one in every two. [Emphasis mine, TL]
or this: FEDERAL DEFICIT REALITY: AN UPDATE
When the U.S. Treasury reported the official 2004 federal budget deficit at a record $413 billion last October, the hisses and boos in the financial media were unrelenting. Two months later, the Treasury reported the actual 2004 deficit -- using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) -- was really an incredible $11.1 trillion , up from $3.7 trillion in 2003, yet nary a word was heard in the financial media, from Wall Street or from any political denizen of that former malarial swamp on the Potomac. [Emphasis mine, TL]
or this: The utter and complete failure of our political class to come to grips with the cumulative long term crises facing our nation.
Now, it is fair to say that Republicans bear a large portion of the blame for the latest and greatest manifestations of these problems - but it is undeniable that Democrats and Republicans alike bear collective responsibility for the overall systemic crisis. This is beyond partisan bickering, and involves a total and systemic failure of will by our governing class. What kind of future are my children going to inherit (or I, myself)? A very very very bleak one, if I look at the situation objectively.
These are just two examples of completely and totally unsustainable social and economic situations. Here's another: Americans saving less than nothing: Spending could outstrip income in 2005, which hasn't happened since the Depression. I could easily point to a half-dozen others, environmental, economic and social, many of which I've raised in previous postings to Seeing The Forest.
Yet, serious discussion of these issues is absent from our political dialogue. Why is this, when, no matter how politically untenable to our current elected leaders, and no matter how discomforting it may be to the public, the pain involved in addressing these issues now would be only a fraction of what we, inevitably, will have to confront later on. Are we so blind and irresponsible as a people, as to leave our children with an inheritance this bleak... or, our let this be our own future, just twenty or thirty years down the line? I simply cannot accept that.
We have to demand more from our elected officials... ask them what they think the answers to these problems are in letters to the editor, in "town hall" meetings, in interviews with the media, in endorsement forums, in personal conversations. Hold them accountable, individually, and collectively. ... and we have to demand more of ourselves, be willing to sacrifice short term gain and benefit, for long term sustainability.
More on diabetes:
Within a generation or so, doctors fear, a huge wave of new cases could overwhelm the public health system and engulf growing numbers of the young, creating a city where hospitals are swamped by the disease's handiwork, schools scramble for resources as they accommodate diabetic children, and the work force abounds with the blind and the halt.
The prospect is frightening, but it has gone largely unnoticed outside public health circles. As epidemics go, diabetes has been a quiet one, provoking little of the fear or the prevention efforts inspired by AIDS or lung cancer
More on the deficit:
With less than one tenth of the actual deficit being reported each year, a cumulative negative net worth for the U.S. government has built up in stealth to a level that now tops $45 trillion, with total obligations of $47.3 trillion (more than four times annual GDP). The problem has moved beyond crisis to an uncontrollable disaster that threatens the existence of the U.S. dollar and global financial stability. [Note: see editorial footnote at bottom of this posting, TL.]
More on personal savings:
... in the 1980s the personal savings rate in the United States averaged 9 percent. Put another way, back then Americans spent 91 cents of every after-tax dollar they earned, which left a 9 cent surplus for savings or investment. During the 1990s, Americans spent about 95 cents per dollar earned and had a nickel left. The nation ended 2004 with an annual savings rate of 1.8 percent. The rate has continued down through 2005 ...
... the Federal Reserve's debt service ratio, which compares consumer debt payments to disposable income, hit records in each of the three quarters of 2005 for which data are available.
This is wrapped around a lot of blather about increasing net worth via stocks, bonds, and home equity, all of which are extremely volatile and subject to rapid and sudden devaluations if demand dries up or economic growth slackens. The fundamental economic truth is that the nation as a whole cannot expect to indefinitely substitute capital gains, especially in the housing market, for real world gains in income and productivity. Capital assets have zero value, when there is zero demand for them. That is a fundamental economic fact. All you have to do to verify that is walk through downtown Detroit.
These is not a case of Chicken Little chanting "the sky is falling", or the boy who cried "wolf!" - these are undeniable, factually verifiable and statistically defensible projections of what the future will bring. These problems make even the war in Iraq, and all the costs associated with it ($2 trillion?) look like chicken feed compared to the real problem ($47 trillion?!?).
We, as a society, collectively resemble Wile E. Coyote - we've gone flying off the cliff (or are about to, being optomistic), but have yet to realize it... the situation is flat out terrifying, if you let the full scope of it hit you. It is almost to the point where storming Congress with pitchforks and torches seems like a reasonable collective response.
Footnote: I always take anyone who portends financial doom, and advocates a return to the gold standard, with a grain of salt. That said, the figures cited, not the solution advocated, are what is of concern here. We, as a nation, can no more ignore our pension and health insurance / care liabilities than can GM and Ford... and, unlike them, we can't shed these liabilities and force someone else (aka the general public) to assume them.
Hat tip to Bob Geiger:
The New York Times reported yesterday on a secret Pentagon study concluding that a large number of Marines killed in Iraq – perhaps up to 80 percent of those who died of upper-body injuries – would have survived had they been properly equipped for battle.
How many times and for how many years have Bush and Rummy been promising they were doing everything that could possibly be done to provide our soldiers with the proper equipment?
January 8, 2006
You're reading a lot about a corruption scandal in Washington. Some people are trying to tell you that "everybody does it" and that both parties are involved and that whenever you try to take the money out of politics it finds another way in. These are smokescreens designed to make you think this is not as bad as it sounds. These are smokescreens designed to make you think there is nothing you can do about things like that, that you have no power, and that you should just let the politicians take care of these things for you.
Don't be fooled. See the forest, not the trees. This corruption scandal is about people breaking existing laws. This is about Republican Congressmen and White House officials indicted for illegally taking bribes. They took payments in exchange for abusing their power, providing favors to cronies, and for using their power to block investigations and oversight.
Just like with New Orleans and FEMA, this is just one more example of Republicans in Congress not doing their job. This is what always happens when so-called "conservatives" gain power, because Republicans do not believe that people can work together and help each other so they do not believe in government and law. Instead they believe in a dog-eat-dog, everyone on-their-own and out-for-themselves society where the strongest survive and it doesn't matter what happens to everyone else. So whenever conservatives gain power they abuse it and use it to get money for themselves and their friends. Just look at what has happened to pensions, health insurance and wages since the conservatives took office -- everything is going the wrong way. The rich are getting vastly richer and the corporations don't have to follow any rules, while the rest of us are getting squeezed harder and harder.
Government can work, laws can work and society can work for all of us, but only when everybody plays by the rules, and the system's checks and balances are enforced. Government is supposed to be about "us" working together for the betterment of everybody - don't ever let Republicans tell you that government is a "them."
Progressives believe that the ideals of community and democracy CAN work -- that people CAN work together to help each other out -- that businesses CAN make money while following the rules, serving their customers and bettering the community as a whole.
David Brooks has been getting some undeserved praise for this piece, in which he speaks rather harshly of Republican corruption and proposes some rather stiff measures which the Republicans should take to become the party of reform.
This is ludicrous. The present majority was put together with the help of billions of corrupt dollars, and the famous party discipline that allowed them to pass so many extremist bills was the result of corruption.
This is the most fiscally-irresponsible administration in American history, and vote-buying is the reason why. Every time a Republican starts to waver, Rove throws a hundred thousand into his campaign fund, or a billion-dollar "bridge to nowhere" into his district. The tremendous deficits we see are the result of vote-buying and nothing else.
My guess is that Brooks fears that the Democrats might take over, and is proposing the new ethics rules in order to make sure that they will be crippled when they do so. Brooks is telling the Republicans to pull up the drawbridge once they're done with their looting.
There's really nothing left of conservativism any more but militarism and low taxes. Fiscal responsibility and limited government are utterly gone. The Bill of Rights is almost gone. Even the militarism hasn't been very successful.
The time is now for conservatives to realize that they are not Republicans any more, but I don't really expect any of them to figure that out. (The time was yesterday and last year, too, but now would be fine). They'll grumble and whine, but the Bush coalition will remain firm.
However, when I talk about "true conservatives" I don't mean Brooks. I don't know if any real conservatives survive, but Brooks is just one of the cagiest and smoothest of the Republican hacks. He's offering the Republicans an "out" which will make it possible for them -- against all logic -- to look like good guys at the end of the movie.
January 7, 2006
From TalkLeft I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpayers.
Watch your backs.
I wrote a whole post about the Consumer Electronics Show, and somehow instead of saving it I closed the wndow and it's lost. I'll try to write it again soon. Sheesh.
It started out by saying I had 253 e-mails waiting for me this morning, went out of coffee and walking the dogs, and at noon there were 63 more...
Oliver Willis says to See the Forest, and don't get caught up in right-wing words that are intended to distract you from the point at hand.
There is a lot of work spent sitting around doing debunkery of right wing nonsense.
...If you’re talking about “X”, talk about “X” and don’t let them get away with it.
People are still arguing about Katrina. Here's what I wrote on Crooked Timber, slightly edited:
"Jet, all of the blame has not been shifted to Bush, except in your paranoid mind. The hurricane has almost been forgotten. A few people who weren’t already Bush-haters blamed Bush for it, and this was one of the very large number of nonfeasances and malfeasances in various areas which have caused his popularity to drop somewhat, but basically nothing happened and nothing will happen. Even the hapless "Brownie" has not suffered significantly for his incompetence; he’s just changed jobs.
Because it is an article of faith deep in your heart that government is just plain no damn good, you will never, ever, be able to distinguish between better government and worse government, nor will you ever try to do so, and you will actually cheerlead “anti-government” governmental leaders like Bush or Schwarzenegger who deliberately sabotage government in order to increase the mindless anti-government cynicism of the blind, ignorant masses of little" jets" out there.
Everything that was not done, or that was done badly in NOLA, has been done well elsewhere in the world -- most of Holland is below sea level, for example. Grand Forks was destroyed by a wintertime flood a few years back, but that was under Clinton, not Bush, and it was white people, so the government reponse was adequate. Downstream in Winnipeg damage was slight, because the jackbooted, parasitical thugs of Canadian Communism had used the tax dollars of the poor, helpless Manitobans to force them to prepare for a big flood which no one could prove was even going to come at all."
January 6, 2006
Check out eriposte's comprehensive smackdown of GOP talking points on Bush's creeping fascism, Talking Points For Felonious Republican Presidents : (click through for links)
1. Bush did not violate the FISA 2. Bush did not break the law 3. History shows Presidents have the power to violate the law, especially in times of war 4. History shows that other Presidents like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter did the same by overriding FISA 5. Secret warrantless spying of Americans was/is required for national security reasons, since FISA was inadequate, and secret spying could have prevented 9/11 6. Secretly spying on foreigners is legal and constitutional 7. The secret spying only focused on Al Qaeda, terrorists and their supporters and one end of the intercepted communications was always in foreign soil 8. The leak to the New York Times, of Bush's secret spying on Americans, was a crime and had nothing to do with whistleblowers 9. Bush's critics are just partisan political hacks 10. Top Democrats in Congress supported the illegal spying 11. You can trust Bush 100% to not misuse the spying program
4. History shows that other Presidents like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter did the same by overriding FISA
TALKING POINT: Bill Clinton bypassed FISA to order warrantless physical searches of Americans.
TALKING POINT: Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter authorized warrantless wiretapping/spying on Americans.
TALKING POINT: Bill Clinton and Jamie Gorelick (who was in the Clinton Justice Department) argued that Clinton had the power to ignore FISA.
FACT: False and false. As Judd Legum (Think Progress) noted: "Both her testimony and in the Legal Times quote [sic], were about physical searches. In 1994, the FISA did not cover physical searches. She was explaining what the President’s authority was in the absence of any congressional statute. She wasn’t arguing that the President had the authority to ignore FISA. In 1995, with President Clinton’s signature, FISA was amended to include physical searches. That law prohibited warrantless domestic physical searches. No one in the Clinton administration, including Gorelick, ever argued that the administration could ignore the law, before or after it was amended."
TALKING POINT: Bill Clinton's top secret Echelon project violated FISA and spied on Americans.
There are ten more just like it where that one came from. Once again Republicans are just making shit up. Which one is your favorite lie?
January 5, 2006
I will be at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, leaving here at 5am and not returning until long after midnight. No news, no blogs...
Click on several random blogs from the blog list in the left column - especially ones you have never visited. You'll find plenty of good stuff.
What do you think about this? Welcome to Mars express: only a three hour trip,
The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.See also here for more details.
Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.
Bill Berkowitz, writing at Media Transparency, has a piece titled Paying to play, expanding on why the Abramoff investigation should trigger a look into the "conservative movement" think tanks that Abramoff was working with.
Revelations that Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff bought op-ed pieces from fellows at right wing think tanks should unleash an investigation into two decades of so-called research paid for by conservative philanthropies
Part of the Abramoff scandal is the funding and use of these "charity" organizations to put out propaganda for Abramoff's clients and to help consolidate Republicans in power.
On Friday, December 16, another branch from the "pay to play" tree of journalism came crashing to earth.Yesterday, in Abramoff Indictment Hides Connection to RWNM, I wrote about Abramoff's use of his own phony "foundation" to dispense money, and how the Bush Justice Department is working to hide this connection because any investigation would reveal the underpinnings of Republican power. I wrote,
Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the fiercely libertarian Cato Institute, resigned after BusinessWeek Online revealed that he had been paid ample chunks of change by indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff to produce columns in support of issues of interest to Abramoff and his clients. Many of these columns were related to Indian gambling, and "extol[ing] the virtues of the free-market system" particularly in the Northern Mariana Islands, the New York Times reported.
Abramoff's connection to and abuse of a "clearly phony" non-profit organization is a lead the Bush Administration's Justice Department doesn't want to follow, because it is this network of organizations that pays - and pays well - for the army of right-wingers who write op-eds, articles and books supporting the Republican agenda, who make appearances on so many radio and TV shows and who offer "informed opinions" for news articles and programs. These are the PR and marketing organizations that send out the repeated pro-conservative messaging and strategic narratives that move American ever more rightward. An honest investigation of their funding and operation would threaten the underpinnings of the conservative movement's "Right Wing Noise Machine." So it ain't gonna happen as long as Bush is in charge of where the Abramoff investigation leads.Berkowitz's article explains,
Since the 1980s, the political landscape has become thick with conservative and libertarian think tanks. For a time, it seemed that every other week or so, yet another press release announced the establishment of a new think tank or public policy institute. During this period, more than 100 such organizations were founded, staffed and funded. Some appeared to fly-by-night operations run by one person or by a skeleton staff whose sole purpose was to issue canned press releases on the public policy issue of the day. Other organizations appeared to engage in original research and received a substantial amount of funding support from conservative philanthropies and foundations.Berkowitz goes on to say that,
Special studies, op-ed pieces, and so-called "highly documented" studies, covering a broad swath of conservative/free market issues cascaded forth from these institutions. Similar to the Bush Administration's faith-based initiative, where little attention has been paid to discovering whether these groups actually serve the public better than government agencies, much of the information generated by these think tanks was accepted without much investigation into the substance of their assertions. It appeared that the sheer volume of the material that was generated -- especially when similar-conclusions came from different groups -- was enough for editorial writers, reporters, op-ed writers and radio talk show hosts to spread their findings as gospel.
Uncovering the ties -- and the amounts of money involved--between researchers and op-eders at right wing think tanks and industry lobbying groups and /or their powerful political patrons is no easy task. As the New York Times' Philip Shenon recently noted, "Executives in the public relations and lobbying industries say that the hiring of outside commentators to promote special interests - typically by writing newspaper opinion articles or in radio and television interviews - does happen, although it is impossible to monitor since the payments do not have to be disclosed and can be disguised as speaking fees and other compensation."The Abramoff scandal, if pursued honestly, will lead directly to an investigation of the illegal use of tax-free contributions to fund the infrastructure of the so-called "conservative movement."
We've got more important things to deal with - Bush is a figurehead... we're barking up the wrong tree by focusing our energy on him and impeachment, which would be nothing more than a symbolic beheading of the beast, and ultimately change nothing. Bush is not the problem, and centering attention on him distracts from the very real Constitutional crisis his presidency, and our Congress, have engendered via the war on (some) terror.
What is vastly more important, is to reverse the "use of force" authorization that Bush contends gives him (and just as importantly, when you're talking about impeachment, anyone who replaces him) carte blanche to ignore the Constitution's built in checks and balances, and declare non-operative any and all laws he finds inconvenient, as evidenced by today's headline in the Boston Globe (sourced via truthout.org): Bush Could Bypass New Torture Ban - the cynicism of his actions in this matter is appalling beyond measure, and should outrage Americans of all political persuasions, if it could only be brought to their notice.
The "use of force" authorization is the most Constitutionally dangerous cop-out that our Congress has ever passed. By permitting the President to act as if we "at war", without defining who the enemy is, what the terms of "victory" are, or putting any sunset date on the authorization for the use of force, Congress has basically put the nation on a permanent "wartime" footing (as far as I can tell, it will take exactly what I am advocating, an explicit repudiation by Congress, to end it), and decisively shifted the balance of power in our system of government in favor of the executive. Reversing this open-end and Constitutionally dangerous measure, and putting explicit constraints and defined limits on Presidential authority in its place (along with sunset provisions), is the single most pressing public policy initiative we face -- and it is one that should unite sane people of all political persuasions: right, left, center, libertarian, green, liberal and conservative.
... and yet, you hear almost nothing about action on this front, not from the pundits, not from the politicians, not from the blogosphere. Any complaints you hear from mainstream political circles regarding Bush's behavior in office pertain to "abuse" of the power granted him, rather than any fundamental questioning of the nature of the beast. In March of 2002, Michelle J. Kinnucan wrote an article entitled: Rethinking the 'Authorization for Use of Military Force' in which she quotes reservations about the open-ended nature of the resolution by several "reluctant" endorsees.
Where is the rising chorus of concern about the resolution itself? Bush's sole legal authority for his ever more clearly imperial presidency lies in his status as a commander-in-chief during wartime, and the "use of force" authorization. Eliminate that, and Bush's actions become vastly more legally tenuous, possibly to the point where even today's apparently somnolent judiciary might begin to take alarm.
If you're not outraged, then you're not paying attention, and if you don't think reversing the "use of force" authorization is more important than impeaching a puppet President who is nothing more than a proxy for the neo-conservative conspiracy to undermine the Constitution and put in place an imperial Presidency free of Constitutional, legislative, or judicial constraint, then you're REALLY not paying attention.
If anyone out there is listening, if anyone has influence with the 'net and the political sphere's movers and shakers, please do everything in your power to get them to take on this issue and move this meme into the national dialogue.
January 4, 2006
Arrived in my email box via my wife, via a knitters "flame" email list.
Bush is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh logs to be cut down in national forests.
He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness.
He restoreth my fears.
He leadeth me in the paths of international
Disgrace for his ego's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution
And war, I will find no exit, for thou art in office.
Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media control,
they discomfort me.
Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the
Presence of thy religion.
Thou anointest my head with foreign oil.
My health insurance runneth out.
Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall
follow me all the days of thy term.
And my jobless children shall dwell in my basement
Note: Former Democratic Party Congressional candidate Andrew Kaza saw it first.
Bonus time: here's an earlier political reworking of the Lord's Prayer, perhaps even angrier and more cynical... final verse:
Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me as long as I donate to the Party.
And In Bush’s house forever more
My dwelling place shall be, as long as I keep giving until it hurts.
As for the Abramoff scandal having an effect on Republicans, see Wenesday's front page of the San Jose Mercury News. The third picture under "Lawmakers under suspicion" is Senator Harry Reid. He is "under suspicion" because he received a contribution from the VICTIMS of the fraud for which Abramoff was indicted. Below that is "Others in Abramoff's Top 20." Even though 100% of Abramoff's contributions were to Republicans, the top 20 lists several Democrats as "individual recipients of Abramoff's fundraising, and does not explain what it even means.
The story is "balanced" -- The scandal proves that Democrats are just as bad as Republicans. They all do it. Proof that government is bad. Don't vote. Every single Republican strategic narrative is reinforced.
"Surprisingly, his old Republican comrades don't seem to hold any grudges.
"We're keeping a seat warm for him," says O'Beirne.
"Marshall reacts against the stifling orthodoxies he confronts, so he goes over to the other side," says William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard. "On the other side, he finds the same idiotic orthodoxies, so he reacts against that."
"His politics have changed, but he's never lost his sense of idealism," says McCain, who can't resist adding a gentle dig at his friend: "I expect him to be employed by the vegetarians next. The vegetarians and the libertarians are the only groups he hasn't worked for yet.""
Gee, he couldn't be trying to sabotage the Democrats, could he?
The whole business of Wittman / McCain making overtures to the Democrats is all about Bush being too strong for McCain, and the Democrats being so weak that it seems that a stranger could walk in off the street and take over the party.
In a sign that the Bush Justice Department is working to minimize damage to the "conservative movement" stemming from the Abramoff scandal, the indictment and plea agreement ignore his misuse of the Capital Athletic Foundation. According to philanthropic watchdog National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy the indictment reveals "the debilitated condition of government oversight of nonprofits and foundations."
The indictments and resulting plea agreement acknowledge the dubious if not illegal grantmaking of Abramoff’s Capitol Athletic Foundation (CAF) in more than one instance, but fail to penalize Abramoff on his abuse of the CAF as a personal cash reserve.You see, the entire "conservative movement" operation depends on tax-free donations to so-called "charitable" organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and hundreds of other national and state organizations that are supposed to be non-partisan but in reality operate almost entirely to the benefit of the Republican Party. So any kind of crackdown on the misuse of tax-free charitable donations would threaten the continued existence of the right-wing noise machine itself.
... For the past two years, alone among national philanthropic nonprofits, NCRP has detailed and denounced a variety of Abramoff’s misuses of philanthropy and called for IRS investigations, to no avail.
Abramoff's connection to and abuse of a "clearly phony" non-profit organization is a lead the Bush Administration's Justice Department doesn't want to follow, because it is this network of organizations that pays - and pays well - for the army of right-wingers who write op-eds, articles and books supporting the Republican agenda, who make appearances on so many radio and TV shows and who offer "informed opinions" for news articles and programs. These are the PR and marketing organizations that send out the repeated pro-conservative messaging and strategic narratives that move American ever more rightward. An honest investigation of their funding and operation would threaten the underpinnings of the conservative movement's "Right Wing Noise Machine." So it ain't gonna happen as long as Bush is in charge of where the Abramoff investigation leads.
“We share the frustration of Senators Dorgan and McCain,” added Cohen, “that foundations like Abramoff’s CAF could do so many clearly unwarranted and illicit activities that should have raised red flags at the IRS, but received no oversight or legal action.” Cohen added, “This underscores not only the need for stronger government oversight and enforcement, but stronger laws outlining what foundations should not be allowed to do under the guise of philanthropic grantmaking. Because Abramoff and his tax advisors may have found loopholes to make the CAF’s grantmaking nominally legal, that doesn’t make the grantmaking ethical or right.”Note - more on Abramoff, phony non-profits, and the operation of the RWNM here.
NCRP calls on the IRS to investigate the Capital Athletic Foundation’s grantmaking, and to pursue civil and criminal actions against not only Abramoff, but also against the attorneys and tax advisors who conspired with Abramoff to find ways of using foundations to make grants and expenditures that violate the public’s expectations of philanthropic institutions. “These tax exempt moneys, once they were entrusted to the CAF, were public funds to be used for public benefit purposes, not Abramoff’s private stash to be used for self-enrichment and political advancement,” Cohen charged, “and the American taxpayer shouldn’t have to lose out on millions of dollars of tax exempt funds due to the misspending of the likes of Abramoff, and inadequate oversight and enforcement offered by the federal government and by the leadership of the nonprofit and foundation sector.”
Remember how Bush blocked a prosecutor from looking into Abramoff, back in 2002? Well Bush has put a right-wing political operative - with ties to Tom DeLay - in charge of the current Abramoff prosecution.
Fisher is a career Republican who in her former job was registerd as a lobbyist for HCA, the healthcare company founded by Bill Frist's father. Her appointment was also controversial due to the fact that like her boss Abu Gonzales, Fisher has no trial experience and with Comey gone there would be no senior member of the Justice Department who was an experienced criminal prosecutor.
Now, ask yourself if an investigation was being held into powerful Democrats under a Democratic administration if there would be shrieking harpies flying all over the airwaves today demanding a special prosecutor.Daily Kos: Abramoff prosecutor has reported ties to DeLay defense,
Yeah, I know. Whatever.
Alice Fishser has never worked as a prosecutor. She worked as a litigation associate in the Washington office of New York-based Sullivan & Cromwell. Where she represented corporate scum.So, do you think Abramoff is goig to name other Republicans? Or, maybe ... frame a bunch of Democrats with Bush Justice Department help?
The Republicans are going with "bipartisan scandal" and "everybody does it." Which comes down to "don't vote."
Here is some ammunition. In this list of Abramoff's political donations there is not a single Democrat: NEWSMEAT - Jack Abramoff's federal campaign contributions.
AMERICAblog has more, "That's 229 donations and not a DIME to Democrats." And,
I just counted, and I think this list of GOP donors and organizations is around 15 feet long. Someone on our side REALLY needs to print out this list and get in front of a camera. Hell, every single one of our pundits should have this list with them on TV and just roll it out on the table.This is entirely a REPUBLICAN scandal, folks.
Also indicted a while back was David Safavian the Bush administration's top federal procurement official, working in the White House. Karl Rove's assistant Susan Ralston was previously Abramoff's assistant. And Bush blocked a prosecutor from looking into Abramoff in 2002.
Update - Bob Geiger has more.
January 3, 2006
Mark Schmitt at the Decembrist makes some interesting observations about the NSA wiretapping scandal, in Our Long National Nightmare Continues,
Roughly speaking, there have been four great showdowns over abuse of executive power in modern U.S. history. The earliest has to do with domestic surveillance by the CIA, and other ill-conceived schemes, as revealed by the 1975 Church Committee hearings. The second, closely overlapping the first, involved all the excesses of the Nixon administration, including Watergate itself, the "Plumbers," the secret bombing of Cambodia, Kissinger"s wiretapping of staffers, etc. The third, the Iran-Contra scandal in the Reagan Administration, seems quaint compared to the fourth, the Bush administration"s NSA domestic surveillance program, and the broader assertion of executive authority to torture and otherwise ignore international law.More over there. Go read.
These episodes have certain themes in common.
OK, this one - about the unfolding Abramoff Republican corruption scandal - should generalte a nice, long comment thread.
Miller went to the FBI after Scanlon broke off their engagement and announced his intention to marry another woman.Heh. So ALL the right-wingers in Washington remained silent. Not one whistleblower, until this. Heh.
... While still engaged to Miller, Scanlon had started an affair with a manicurist and broke up with Miller because he planned to marry the other woman.
Crooks and Liars says NewsHog: You don't have to a sociopath to be Republican, but it helps. is the best blog post of 2005.
Of course, it isn't from Seeing the Forest, so it by definition could not be the best blog post of 2005. Hello!!! But the name of their site DOES say they are Liars. Maybe they were drinking or taking drugs. But, aside from that blatant flaw in their logic, what do you think?
January 2, 2006
In a decision sure to please everyone, Raw Story has decided to eliminate popup and popunder advertising from all areas of the site.
Go read, and spread the word - Bush is sneaking VOUCHERS FOR RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS in the back door!
I have a question about the NSA wiretapping scandal: Was Bush wiretapping the Kerry campaign? Were they wiretapping campaigns for the Senate and Congress?
Is this the reason they couldn't get warrants?
This is one of the questions this brings up. Another is, were they wiretapping anti-war leaders?
They say the Democrats are traitors. They say they are helping the terrorists, supporting the other side, working to undermine the troops, offering aid and comfort to al Queda, etc. They SAY all those things, and maybe they believe them. And if they really do believe these things they say they certainly would feel it is necessary to take action, wiretap, disrupt, and anything else they can do to stop us. So we certainly should associate the things they say with the idea that maybe it actually might be related to the things they do.
Update - Actually this is a serious post asking a serious question. Why do we have a Constitution at all, except to prevent the kind of abuse Bush is engaging in?
If Bush declares that he has the right to order wiretapping of Americans without a warrant, AND declares that allowing Americans to know he is doing such things violates national security, then how does any American have any way to know whether ANY laws are being followed? Is there anything that Bush feels he can NOT do?
And if Bush says he may bypass the law and Constitution to wiretap whoever he feels are enemies of the country, while at the same time sending surrogates out to attack YOU AND ME as enemies of the country, then don't we have a NEED to ask the very questions I am asking here?
January 1, 2006
Just for fun I Googled the phrase "I used to be a democrat but" .
This May 2005 STF post explains how Republicans use the phrase as a persuasion tool.
It's the oldest trick in the book. A basic principle of influence is "the actions of similar others," where people tend to do things because others do. (This is so strong in people that suicides can even work this way.)(That post looked at the same phrase without the word "but", but I couldn't name this post "But Watch" if I did that again.)
Go read several of the Google links for examples. Try to go out all the way to page 15 or 20 of the links. Seriously, that's how you really get a sense of it. And spend some time looking at the links without the word "but" to see some of the variations. After a while you see the pattern. What is interesting is to see how many letters-to-the-editor, etc. pop up. Also, note how many use exactly the same words.
I used to be a Democrat, but now I bitterly despise the cruel deception and betrayal they work on all their male voters.
I used to be A Democrat, but since the Reagan era - the Democratic party has put forth nothing but hate, ignorance, class warfare and race baiting.
I used to be a democrat but again they are on the wrong side of the issue just like when they supported slavery!!!
The Winner Is:
I used to be a Democrat But after Bill and Hillary and their affinity to every nut Group out there I now find myself reading Bill Bennett, Sean Hannity, ...
Runner up: (Richard?)
I used to be a democrat..but then I switched over to communism.
We now know that the Bush administration is scanning every conversation and e-mail with computers, looking for interesting information, and doing this without warrants or any other kind of legal authorization. (Note - The Bush people say they are only scanning communications into and out of the country, and say they are only looking for "terrorists.") So I have been looking back at President Clinton's controversial "Clipper Chip" proposal. This was a standardized chip that would go into computers and phones and would encrypt (securely code) every message and call made by anyone in the US, so no one could eavesdrop.
Opponents said the Clipper Chip would have led to the government monitoring our communications. I say it would have prevented what is happening now, and that is why the Right mounted a campaign of disinformation to kill it.
Essentially the clipper chip would have given the NSA a back door into every computer in the US. For that reason alone it would have killed our computer industry. It also would have been the defacto end of the fourth amendment.And later
Under Clinton's proposal the legal requirements for wiretap would have been untouched. However, the idea that you would put something like that in place and future governments would respect it is laughable. Besides, who is going to buy IT equipment from the US if it is known that it all comes with a NSA compatible clipper chip? The end of any exports we might have.I think this reflects a very high level of disinformation that was spread about this initiative. (Disinformation spread by Republicans! Imagine that!) (Update - I certainly don't mean Alice, I mean what she wrote reflects what people were led to believe.)
Today, no one needs a "back door" of any kind to monitor our e-mails or phone calls because no phones or computers have encryption built in. Anyone can currently listen in on any voice or email communications in. Not just our government -- anyone. That is WHY Bush is able to scan every email and phone communication. Again, computer and phone communications are wide open NOW because there is no encryption whatsoever. Once more, just to make it clear, with the system we have in place now ANYONE can tap into ANY conversation without requiring any "back door." And currently there are non-American business and intelligence interests doing just that.
The Clipper Chip was a device that would be built into every computer and phone. It would have SECURED all voice and email communications by encrypting them before they went out over the wires. It would have made EVERY voice and e-mail communication impossible to tap. The reason this is needed is because non-American business and intelligence interests ARE listening in.
But this high level of security on every single call and email would have prevented law enforcement from being able to listen in, even with a warrant. And we want law enforcement to be able to eavesdrop on bad guys, like terrorists - and corrupt guys like Abramoff - as long as they get warrants first. So Clinton proposed a complicated system for placing the "keys" to unlock the messages that each chip encoded in escrow, for use when a warrant is obtained. The system was complicated because there were several steps involved in keeping anyone from getting any chip's key without a warrant. However there would have been nothing to prevent people from encrypting messages themelves before it went through the Clipper Chip, so even with the keys the government would not be able to eavesdrop on those communications any more than they can eavesdrop now on encrypted messages.
But there is another thing about this idea of people being able to do their own encrypting of messages before they went out through the Clipper Chip. Currently anyone using encryption stands out just because they are using encryption when no one else is. This actually makes them targets of surveillance because encrypted messages stand out in the flow of voice and e-mail. Of course, spy agencies want to look at those encrypted messages in particular to see why the senders think they need to keep others from listening in. So these messages are singled out and sent to powerful computers for analysis. But WITH the Clipper chip there would be no way for interested parties to know who was adding their own encryption, so they would not know who to focus in on.
I found a good summary of the Clipper Chip initiative at this web page. It summarized the arguments against the initiative as follows: (Keep in mind as you read them that without such a device NO communications are secure and anyone can tap in.)
Privacy and Security ConcernsSo here we are. Opponents said that the Clipper initiative would have led to the government listening in on our communications. And now the government IS listening in on our communications. So I guess it is all Clinton's fault again.
Failed to protect privacy rights of individuals. Placing sensitive private keys in the hands of the government violated the privacy of individuals. Moreover, procedures to obtain keys raised concerns. To obtain access to a key, the law enforcement official would have had to obtain a warrant to perform a wiretap. However, they were permitted to fax a request to the key escrow agents merely claiming to have a warrant, without having to present actual documentation of the wiretapping order. Furthermore, there were no requirements for the destruction of the key after wiretapping was completed. Obtaining the key would have allowed those law enforcement officials to access all conversations for as long as that particular phone was operational.
Created risky key escrow system. The Clipper Chip initiative proposed placing all keys for all encrypted communications into the hands of only two or three agencies. This scenerio provided an opportunity for corruption and abuse of power.
Used potentially insecure algorithm. The encoding algorithm, known as "Skipjack", was developed in secret by the National Security Agency (NSA). Cryptographic experts viewed the secrecy surrounding Skipjack with skepticism, because algorithms are usually submitted for peer review to identify weaknesses. On June 24, 1998, the NSA finally declassified Skipjack.
Violated principles behind Computer Security Act of 1987. Congress passed the Computer Security Act in 1987, limiting the role of the NSA in developing standards for civilian communications. Despite this law, the NSA was still integrally involved in developing the Clipper Chip, a civilian communications device.
But what gets me about this is that it is the people who blocked the Clipper Chip who are now listening in on our calls and e-mails. And they can do it because there is no Clipper Chip. In 1997 then-Senator John Ashcroft said of Clipper,
"The Clinton administration would like the Federal government to have the capability to read any international or domestic computer communications. The FBI wants access to decode, digest, and discuss financial transactions, personal e-mail, and proprietary information sent abroad -- all in the name of national security. To accomplish this, President Clinton would like government agencies to have the keys for decoding all exported U.S. software and Internet communications."Read his whole speech and keep in mind as you read it that that the communications he is talking about were and are NOT encrypted, so there is nothing to decode. And also remember that Ashcroft was Bush's Attorney General when Bush started the government listening in on our calls and e-mails, which they could do BECAUSE there is no Clipper Chip. Ashcroft was accusing Clinton of proposing the opposite of what Clinton was proposing, and of what Ashcroft himself DID do once in office.
A note about the keys - EVERY encryption system uses keys. So the question is, where do you want to get your encryption system from? A major corporation? The Japanese or Chinese? Or a system the government guarantees no one can listen to without a warrant?
Update - I've been digging around for who led the opposition to Clipper. Ashcroft was the leader in the Congress. Here's a transcript from a show on Clipper on Pat Robertson Christian Coalition's 700 Club, (keep in mind while reading this, the chip would have encrypted every comunication, while phones and computers as they were and are are completely open to anyone listening in)
...And if you're a big fan of large government, this tiny computer chip could now give the government, Big Brother, instant access to every detail of your private life.
[. . .] Privacy advocates like Jerry Berman point out the government has been known to spy on citizens when it believes they hold dangerous political opinions.
From the Libertarian Reason Online,
...In February, the administration officially adopted "Clipper Chip" technology that will make it possible for government agencies to read all coded telephone and computer communications.NewsMax,
... Although the administration maintains that any back-door access offered by the Clipper Chip will require a court order and the use of two digital keys kept by separate, still-to-be-determined federal agencies, past governmental abuses of less-sophisticated surveillance techniques undercut any guarantees of privacy.
... Even if the NSA's role is not contrary to the letter of the law, it remains profoundly unsettling to see the Clinton administration embrace a technology as insidious as it is highly classified. One of the great achievements of the United States has been an unparalleled freedom of expression, not just between citizens and government but among private individuals. The Clipper Chip, with its potential for unlimited and undetectable eavesdropping, threatens the free flow of information that is the precondition of all democratic societies. Who can talk freely--or conduct business--with a third party listening in?
Once citizens cannot talk openly among themselves, they cannot speak openly in public, either. As George Orwell pointed out in 1984, the mere possibility of extensive governmental surveillance curtails individual liberty: "They could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live--did live, from habit that became instinct--in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."
The Clipper chip contained advanced "key recovery" surveillance technology, allowing the government to secretly tap phone conversations and monitor computer communications.NewsMax again,
Lots of stuff like this,
Al Gore wanted to be Big Brother. In 1993, Vice President Al Gore spearheaded a project called "Clipper" which was designed to monitor America. Gore's leadership in this scheme to allow the Feds to have easy access to bug American telephones is all too well documented for him to deny.
In 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno tasked Mr. Hubbell to encryption under the CLIPPER encryption chip project. Hubbell had access to highly classified materials on encryption chip design, including algorithms and software. Hubbell met often in the White House with now CIA Director George Tenet on the CLIPPER project.
According to a Republican Capitol Hill staff member the "NSA does not want Hubbell investigated." The NSA has quietly threatened to "out any congressional member like (Congressman) Burton" who mentions Hubbell with encryption and China.
... NASA administrator Benita Cooper wrote in 1993 that "compromise of the NSA keys, such as in the Walker case, could compromise the entire EES (CLIPPER) system." Ms. Cooper at NASA knew convicted spy John Walker sent tons of materials on U.S. secret code systems to Russia for years during the Cold War. One breach of CLIPPER in a NASA computer could kill many and ruin the agency.
In 1994 President Clinton began personally authorizing the export of advanced, nuclear hardened, encryption technology directly to communist China.