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August 31, 2006

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Roundup

Bloomberg.com: Opinion,

Housing headlines are dominating the news these days in the same way the Nasdaq did in the late 1990s.

And no wonder. Successive years of sizzling sales and spectacular price appreciation have given way to falling sales and starts, record inventories of unsold homes (new and existing), a plunge in housing affordability and a flattening out of prices on a nationwide basis. The residential real estate market may never match the Nasdaq's vertiginous 78 percent decline from the 2000 top to the 2002 bottom, but it is captivating potential sellers, late-to-the-party speculative buyers and analysts looking to assess the impact on the overall economy.

... One area that has received next to no attention is the risk to the banking system, which, like everyone else, got caught up in the housing-market froth, extending credit seemingly without much due diligence. [emphasis added]

The Strongest and Weakest U.S. Housing Markets,

Over the next year or so, as the real estate market begins to soften, where will home prices remain highest? Potential buyers should look for more than beachfront location, nearby golf courses, or even good schools to determine whether their investment will be a smart one. The best thing to find? A strong local economy.
Don't blame interest rates for housing slowdown,
Nationwide, July's sales of new homes were down more than 21 percent from a year earlier and the inventory of unsold new homes hit an all-time high.

Residential building permits are down nearly everywhere. So far this year in the 11-county Twin Cities metro area, permits are down 18 percent. Comparing this July with July 2005, they are down 37 percent.

Sales of existing homes are slowing as well, according to the National Association of Realtors and other sources. For the nation as a whole, sales are at a 2½-year low and the inventory of unsold homes is at a record high.

So sales and construction clearly are down. Some interest rates clearly are up. The Federal Reserve started to constrict growth of the money supply two years ago, forcing its short-term target rate up by 4.25 percentage points since then. The prime lending rate is up about the same amount. Even so, mortgage rates — especially for fixed-rate loans — haven't climbed as much.

Yes, these rates were a percentage point or so lower a year ago. They currently are at the upper end of a narrow band in which they have hovered for four years. They remain very low by historic standards and in comparison to inflation.

... So if mortgage rates are not all that high when compared with long-run averages and adjusted for inflation, what is going on in housing?

... The most important factor, however, is that real estate and construction were in an unsustainable boom. Many people were building and buying houses with the primary objective of selling them for a profit.

Such booms are self-propagating for a while but must eventually die out even if interest rates do not rise. Irrational exuberance is fun while it lasts. When it abates, there is a frenzied rush for the door and someone always gets trampled.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:28 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Watch Olbermann's Special Commentary

This is history you're seeing.

Also at Crooks and Liars サ Keith Olbermann Delivers One Hell Of a Commentary on Rumsfeld

This is one to send to friends and family. (Click on E-mail this story below.)

The transcript: (And a good-quality video)

Feeling morally, intellectually confused?

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril—with a growing evil—powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the “secret information.” It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s -- questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.

It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.

It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions — its own omniscience -- needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.

Most relevant of all — it “knew” that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic’s name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History — and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England — have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty — and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute -- and exclusive -- in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscient ones.

That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.

And, as such, all voices count -- not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their “omniscience” as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes?

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we -- as its citizens— must now address, is stark and forbidding.

But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note -- with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that -- though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: “confused” or “immoral.”

Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” he said, in 1954. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

And so good night, and good luck.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:02 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 30, 2006

The STF Rule

The STF Rule: When Republicans accuse, it usually means they're doing what they are accusing others of.

Question -- does it embolden the terrorists to intentionally split the country right down the middle? Does it weaken the country in a time of war to accuse half of the country of being traitors and helping the enemy? Doesn't THAT "embolden the terrorists?"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:34 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Gas Prices Dropping for Election

Did I call it, or what? APRIL: Seeing the Forest: Bush Was BUYing Oil At These Prices!

This also means, by the way, the perception that oil prices are dropping just as the election approaches.
Did I call it? Come on, who's your daddy?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:15 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post

The Raw Story | Slower US growth as housing starts plunge,

US economic growth slowed to an annual pace of 2.9 per cent in the second quarter as housing starts fell more than initially believed, the government said Wednesday.
House price crash could dwarf the 'dot-com' collapse

Consumer Confidence Plunges in August

US housing market and the global economy,

"Things do seem to be getting worse very quickly. Free-fall is a strong word, but I think it's the right one to use here," says Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics.

But most Americans look into the future, see a weakening property market, and fear not. They have been told that soft housing prices pose no problems for the rest of the economy. They have no reason to doubt that it is true; no reason to squint and try to see further. They dread neither slump nor boom, neither war nor peace. Everything will be managed by the authorities so as to do no great damage to the homeland, they believe.

But you typically don’t lose money or make it when things happen as expected. No one plans on losing his life savings. It comes as a surprise – along with sudden death, financial crashes, and other crises.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:08 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 29, 2006

Will Bush Justice Dept. Investigate ANY Incidence Of Corruption?

No.

The summary of the ... inspector general’s report said the United States attorney’s office in Washington had been given the report and decided not to conduct a criminal inquiry into the matter.

Details:

  • ... improperly hired a friend on the public payroll for nearly $250,000...
  • ... used his government office for personal business, including running a “horse racing operation” in which he supervised a stable of thoroughbreds he named after leaders from Afghanistan, including President Hamid Karzai and the late Ahmed Shah Massoud...
  • ... repeatedly used government employees to do his personal errands and that he billed the government for more days of work than the rules permit...
  • ... hiring of phantom or unqualified employees...
  • ... violated rules meant to insulate public television and radio from political influence...
OK, so the Bush Justice Dept. WON'T investigate that. What WILL happen to the guy?
His renomination by President Bush to another term ... is pending before the Senate. ... Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, said President Bush continues to support Mr. Tomlinson’s renomination.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:34 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Photoshop Quiz

Bloggers are all going on about this photo:

couricaug29.jpg

Of course, the right-wing blogs are making it out to be a liberal conspiracy - but that's what they do.

(Here's the right attitude.)

ANYWAY the reason I bring it up is, HOW did they do it? This is a photoshop quiz - leave your answers in the comments.

Update - Just go see.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:35 PM | Comments (7) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Did Paul Galanti Sell His Medals?

This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project

Paul Galanti has earned the nation’s respect. He graduated the U.S. Naval Academy in 1962 and entered Naval flight training, where he became an instructor. In 1965 he was assigned to the USS Hancock, a carrier off Vietnam, and flew 97 combat missions before being shot down on June 17, 1966.  He was captured and kept as a POW for almost seven years, released February 12, 1973. There are good write-ups describing some of his time as a POW and later career available online here, here and here, and the text of a Virginia Senate and Assembly Joint Resolution commending him is available here.

Following post-POW rehabilitation Galanti completed a Masters degree and went on to complete a distinguished career, retiring as Commander in 1983. His military decorations include the Silver Star, Two Legions of Merit for combat, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star for combat, nine Air Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal for combat and two Purple Hearts. He was on the cover of Life Magazine in October, 1967 and Newsweek, February, 1973. His bio at the Vietnam POW site also notes that he:

"is a recipient of the Liberty Bell Award, the Outstanding Virginian Award and numerous other awards and citations for civic service. He is Past President of the Science Museum of Virginia Foundation, Past President of Nam-POWs, the national Vietnam POW Fraternity, a River Rat, POW Coordinator for the Skyhawk Association and an Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia. Additionally, he was President of his class at Annapolis."

Paul Galanti served with honor and endured a great sacrifice for this country. He stands as a model for overcoming the worst that can be thrown at a person, and honors all of us as Americans. Like his fellow veterans Paul Galanti has earned the respect of every American.

After his retirement from the Navy, Galanti became the first non-pharmacist executive director of the Virginia Pharmaceutical Association. Later he became CEO of the Medical Society of Virginia. These are Virginia trade associations with lobbying arms, similar to and associated with the kind of national lobbying associations that make up Washington’s notorious "K Street."

In 2000 Galanti joined with fellow-former-POW, Senator John McCain, becoming the Virginia Chair for McCain’s campaign for president. It was early in this 2000 campaign that a new kind of political operation was being perfected, and was test-marketed against John McCain in his South Carolina primary fight against George W. Bush. Facing questions about his own National Guard record – especially when running against veterans who served with honor and distinction – Bush's strategists needed a way to turn the attention of voters in another direction. It was already a tried-and-true tactic of Bush's strategist Karl Rove to use a smear for such purposes, and McCain became the victim of an escalation of this approach. 

From Patriot Project’s The Swiftboaters Are Back in the Water:

"… Bush surrogates (several later involved in the Kerry swiftboating effort) skillfully turned McCain's service record against him (thereby deflecting questions about Bush's own service record.) They planted stories that the torture McCain suffered as a POW had brought about mental instability, including rumors that he had been programmed as a "Manchurian candidate" who "collaborated with the enemy." No longer could McCain use the fact that he had endured torture as evidence of dedication to serving his country."

In the 2000 South Carolina Presidential primary Bush surrogates circulated stories that McCain’s five years as a POW had made him "mentally unstable," gave him a "loose screw," that he "committed treason while a POW" and "came home and forgot us." The stories also called McCain "the fag candidate," called his wife a drug addict, said McCain “chose to sire children without marriage” and had "a black child" (the actual wording of that last smear from the flyers and e-mails that circulated is not printable here).

And when McCain responded by asking whether this kind of smear campaign showed that voters should think twice about trusting Bush, saying Bush was "twisting the truth like Clinton," Rove was able to turn that against McCain¸by accusing McCain of "going negative."  Unlike Rove and Bush, McCain hadn't understood the value of attacking with surrogates.

A former POW himself, how did Galanti respond to such attacks on his fellow veteran POW? The attacks were designed to turn honorable military service to the country from an asset into a liability. Surely Galanti well understood that McCain's five years as a POW had seasoned McCain as a leader, not turned him into the mentally unstable "Manchurian Candidate" as the Bush surrogates claimed – for he himself had counted out the days, hours and minutes of seven years. But a few years later he joined with some of the same people who had been behind them, first in a very similar attack on another honored Vietnam veteran - John Kerry – and then in a series of similarly-conducted raids-on-honor, always siding with the conservative chickenhawks in their attacks on honored fellow veterans.

It was not an immediate migration from the McCain campaign into joining the conservative movement – in 2001 Galanti supported Democrat Mark Warner for Governor of Virginia.  But then Paul Galanti became one of the infamous "Swiftboaters" during the 2004 Presidential campaign between George W. Bush and John Kerry.  The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was formed by some of the same people and organizations who had participated in the 2000 McCain smearing, and was formed for the same purpose – to deflect voter attention from Gaorge W. Bush’s own service record.  But Galanti joined the attacks on fellow veteran Kerry with the fervor of the converted, saying things like:

"Galanti joined ... in attacking Kerry by accusing him of treason for "[a]iding and abetting the enemy in a time of war"

Paul Galanti went on to become a fixture in the far-right’s extremist attack structure, helping divide and weaken the nation in a time of war by accusing fellow Americans of treason.  For example, in June of 2005, he joined the far-right’s coordinated and misleading PR attack on Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, writing a letter that was echoed throughout the farthest right of the far-right’s outlets:

"Your remarks comparing Guantanamo to the regimes of Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot are outrageous. I tried to think of why a rational human being could make such an outlandish statement but I keep coming up short. I thought I'd seen it all when Howard Dean performed his infamous scream in Iowa but your diatribe yesterday eclipsed Dean's moment of Hannibal Lecter lunacy. And your moment of pique will be infinitely more damaging to members of our Armed Forces serving in harm's way.

… You, sir, for having aided and abetted the enemy in time of war, have been relegated in my mind to the status of Jane Fonda and your colleague, John Kerry as contemptible traitors."

And in September 2005 he joined with Vets for Kilgore,  again joining the team of behind-the-scenes professional Swiftboater Chris LaCivita.

And now, most surprisingly, Paul Galanti has joined with LaCivita again, forming the organization Vets for George Allen. It is particularly surprising that Galanti is supporting Senator George Allen against former Reagan Navy Secretary Jim Webb, a Marine who served in Vietnam and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts.  Previously Galanti had been a supporter of Webb, who resigned as Naval Secretary in 1988 after refusing to agree to a reduction of the Navy's force structure during congressionally-mandated budget cutting. Galanti said in 2001:

"I had a great final three years in the Navy despite the devastation Carter's policies had wrought on the military. My last Navy year was under one of the finest-ever Commanders-in- Chief, who led the country out of Jimmy Carter's unlamented and self-caused "malaise."

(An aside: current events in the Middle East make this an ideal time to revisit Carter's "malaise speech.")

But now Galanti has turned against Webb, a fellow honored veteran., to support a candidate who skipped Vietnam for a "dude ranch,” a candidate who spots a dark-skinned man in an all-white crowd and starts addressing him with the racial slur “macaca,” and saying “welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.” (Ironically the man, S.R. Sidarth, was born and raised in Virginia, George Allen was not.)

In What Currency Is Galanti Paid To Attack His Fellow Vets?

Why does Paul Galanti lend his name and the honor he has earned to be used like this to attack his fellow Veterans?

Is it for money? There is a great deal of "Swiftboater"-type money circulating, but there is absolutely no evidence that money is Galanti's price for selling out his fellow veterans.

Is it for position? Before attacking Kerry Galanti and fellow swiftboater Kenneth Cordier were appointed by the Bush administration to a Department of Veterans Affairs advisory panel – even though federal regulations bar advisory committee members from engaging in political activity while performing their committee duties. But he was also appointed to Virginia’s Department of Veterans' Services by Democratic Governor Mark Warner and these are organizations in which Galanti certain has expertise to contribute. Certainly he would not sell out his fellow veterans for this.

Did his time as executive director of the lobbying organizations Virginia Pharmaceutical Association and Medical Society of Virginia somehow draw him into the lobbying/corruption machine that conservatives were forming in Washington? Again, there is no evidence of that.

Is it done for right-wing ideology? Probably not – Galanti is an American hero and in spite of some of his rhetoric, what kind of "American" ideology lends itself to favor the kind of high-level corruption the country is currently witnessing, or to be purchased by an anti-Christian, Korean/Japanese cult.  Surely Galanti sees this occurring, so it could not be that.

So the question is, why does he do it? 

Paul Galanti earned our respect. But he is lending his good name and allowing his reputation to be used to smear other veterans who also served their country. By allowing this he is squandering that respect in service of a cynical smear operation, and knowingly or not is used as a front for people who do not share the hard-won values of the American military, and he should stop it.


Dave Johnson is the lead blogger at Seeing the Forest and a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute, where he studies the conservative movement’s network of foundations and think tanks and the extent of their influence on American society.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:01 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Extensive Corruption

Read this story, written by Bob Johnson, running for Congress in New York's 23rd CD, about extensive corruption in US Government contractiing in Iraq (and follow the links). Daily Kos: Judge: Contractors Are Above the Law; We Can Fight Back. And here's the key line:

And the Republican government has actively blocked all efforts at investigating this in any way.
And how can this continue?
The committees responsible in the House, especially the Armed Services Committee ... have, to my knowledge, not held a single hearing on this matter. Every attempt at even holding hearings gets bottled up in the Rules Committee in the House. The corruption is so obvious and blatant, and the efforts to block looking into it so complete, it's hard not to get the feeling that it's deliberate.
Here's one part of the problem: The corruption is so extenive and so profound, and so un-reported in the media, that YOU sound like a crazy person, a fanatic, if you try to tell people what is going on!

The Republican Congress blocks oversight hearings into the corruption. The Republican Justice Department blocks investigations and harasses whistleblowers. Republican judges throw the cases out of court. And the corrupt contractors kick back a portion of the tax-dollars they are paid to fund the machine that keeps them in office.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 28, 2006

Another Housing Crisis Post - A Very Big Deal

Just after posting below I came across this: Stephen Roach: Bursting Housing Bubble A Very Big Deal ,

If the US consumer slows, the demand expectations that typically drive capital spending will also weaken. So, too, will the growth dynamic of America’s export-led trading partners -- thereby undermining support for US exports, as well. In short, for a wealth-dependent US economy, the bursting of another major asset bubble is likely to be a very big deal.

It is also likely to be a big deal for an unbalanced global economy. In 2000, when the equity bubble burst, the gap between current account surpluses and deficits was less than 4% of world GDP. This year, as the housing bubble bursts, that same gap is likely to be around 6% of world GDP. The disparity between current account surpluses and deficits -- and the added point that the US accounts for about 70% of all the deficits in the world -- underscores the increased dependence of the rest of the world on the US. For that reason, alone, a bursting of the property bubble poses equally serious risks for America’s key trading partners and for the rest of an increasingly integrated global economy.

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

Housing Bubble Bursting

Housing bubble is finally at bursting point

When the air is expanding inside a speculative balloon, stretching the film of credibility that contains it to an ever-more improbable thinness, you can always find someone to explain why this time it’s different — why technological/demographic/astrological factors justify valuations today that have always proved historically unsupportable.

*
Until the bubble actually starts to deflate or burst, there’s just enough doubt about whether prices really will revert to their historical mean to keep us all guessing. Even the most convinced sceptic can never say with any certainty when a bubble will collapse, and so the science of identifying bubbles is an inherently retrospective activity.

But it looks now as though we can say with some confidence that the long American housing bubble is over.

So what might happen next?

In previous periods of weakness in property markets there have been huge institutional collapses. The savings and loans debacle of the early 1990s is the most recent example. Today, again thanks to increased financial efficiency, the risk of such a massacre seems smaller. The securitisation of the nation’s mortgage market has spread the geographical and sectoral risks to the broader economy.

But there will still be many financial institutions with significantly impaired balance sheets as the value of their mortgage-backed securities declines sharply over the next year. All in all, even on the most optimistic assumptions, post-bubble conditions in the housing market would be highly uncomfortable for America and could seriously sap demand in the world.

And another from the UK, through Taiwan, US housing slump feeds fears of crash,
The downturn in the US housing market will force businesses to slash 73,000 jobs a month in the new year and could be more damaging to the world economy than the dotcom crash, economists have warned.

After official figures last week showed that the number of new homes sold last month was 22 percent lower than a year earlier, while prices were almost flat, fears are mounting that the "orderly" housing slowdown predicted by the US Federal Reserve will become a full-blown crash.

"Things do seem to be getting worse very quickly. Freefall is a strong word, but I think it's the right one to use here," said Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics.

From Canada, Downturn leads to higher risk of U.S. recession,
Mounting evidence of a slowdown in the U.S. housing market has led some forecasters to increase the chances that the world's largest economy will be limping into a recession next year.

"We have decided to raise the odds of a U.S. hard landing to 40 per cent from 25 per cent," National Bank Financial economists Clément Gignac and Stéfane Marion said in a note yesterday.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:15 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 27, 2006

Sunday Panda Blogging

panda.jpg

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:53 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - HARD Landing

All of a sudden, lots of bad news. Except that some of us have been talking about what's coming for some time now. The signs were all there.

How much of the seeming prosperity of recent years was based on borrowed money? People were refinancing their houses as prices rose, and using the money to buy SUVs, etc. But now we have the opposite situation - these people now owe that money yet prices are falling. And with prices falling few new people will be refinancing. Meanwhile the government has borrowed massive amounts of money and pumped it into the economy - something usually done only to get us out of downturns - so if there is a downturn they won't be able to borrow money to pump into the economy. Bush has used up that trick during the good times when we should have been paying off debt. (Clinton paid off debt, which is what allowed Bush to borrow so much...)

Here are a few of today's stories:

How a Housing Slowdown Will Cause a Recession

The news has been universally bad: inventories are rising to 10-year high levels, buyers are already saddled with massive amounts of debt, homebuilders are cutting profit projections and overall investment is negative. And here is more from Nouriel Roubini: housing is already in free fall and will cause a recession by the summer of 2007.

Housing Ponders a Hard Landing,

...last week was one big series of uh-ohs.

[. . .]So where is the market headed? Nobody can be certain; much depends on whether the number of unsold homes continues to rise. Last week, doom-and-gloomers, emboldened by the new data, were citing reasons to believe that the latest bulge in inventories is just a taste of things to come. Plenty of new homes remain under construction. Speculators who haven't yet unloaded their properties will do so for fear that things will get even worse. And then there are the hordes of recent buyers who, having assumed adjustable-rate mortgages that are becoming increasingly unaffordable as interest rates rise, may be forced to sell.

Housing Numbers Dampen Investors’ Outlook,
Stocks declined last week as investors worried that rising energy costs and a slowdown in the housing market could send the economy into a slump.
And the theme is sinking in around the country -- Heartland Housing Market in Buyers Favor,
It can be a nightmare...as you wait and wait and wait for that house to sell. The bad news, it seems the housing boom is over.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:17 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 26, 2006

The Message The Conservatives Are Getting

I have said that the way to understand what Bush and the conservative movement leaders are saying is to listen to what their followers are hearing. And you don't have to go far at all to get the message - the conservatives want war with all of Islam, especially American Muslims.

Over at Townhall - which is a Republican commentary hub, this: Home grown terrorists,

“We are not at war with the Muslim faith.” So say various members of the media and government, either because they actually believe it, or because their blind adherence to political correctness dictates as much.

... Make no mistake, these were your fellow citizens cheering a terrorist organization that has already proudly killed hundreds of Americans. If they would cheer such a despicable group, what else might they do for them or Al Qaida? A logical question that political correctness forbids us to ask.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:35 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - More News Stories

When the Bubble Bursts - Los Angeles Times,

It's too early to say whether the slowdown will turn into a crash presaging a recession, as happened in the late 1970s and '80s, although the economy's other fundamentals remain healthier now than then. But it's worth bearing in mind which homeowners are most likely to be affected by a possible downturn and which ones can lay off the antacids.

... A separate point of anxiety is the prospect of higher interest rates for buyers with adjustable-rate mortgages. The Federal Reserve recently took a break from its prolonged increasing of short-term rates, but lingering risks of inflation could push borrowing costs, and therefore adjustable mortgages, back up. Owners who can't afford the higher payments might be forced to sell their homes at a loss.

The AP story is in most newspapers, Housing, fuel strain shoppers,

Fresh evidence shows high energy prices and sagging home values are pinching the main driver of the U.S. economy: Average Joe's wallet.

Retailers and economists say many Americans are waiting to buy big-ticket items and cutting back on frills.

Homeowners are shelving plans to remodel kitchens. Families are dining out less and tightening their budgets.

OK, look. There are a huge number of interest-ony and adjustable rate mortgages out there. The negative effects of most of these do not hit until next year, when people's monthly payments will suddenly go way up - forcing many to sell. So this thing hasn't even started yet. Combine this with the number of people who bought for speculation and never had any intention of holding on to the property for very long. Then combine those factors with the higher fuel costs that are straining everyone's budgets. And finally add in the federal government's massive borrowing that is pushing up interest rates AND rising inflation rising which also puts pressure on interest rates. This has all the makings of something much worse than a recession.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:24 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Free Music Downloads and MP3s

I was looking around the web today for music and thought I’d tell you about some of the stuff I found.

From Mike Crawford’s site, Links to Tens of Thousands of Legal Music Downloads,

You don't need to worry about getting sued by the Recording Industry Association of America or arrested by the FBI if you download legal music. Many independent and unsigned musicians offer downloads of their music in hopes of attracting more fans.
Some of the sites he lists include:
Jamendo - Open Your Ears
Ogg Frog Free Music Torrents - Bit Torrent downloads of Creative Commons-licensed music.
Trotch - Music is Timeless. The Music Business is Not.
Asian Classical Music in MP3 Format
Public Domain 4U - Best in Public Domain MP3s
kahvi collective - sound has the power to make the world a better place
micromusic - (I'm not sure how to describe it -- Mike)
Unsigned Band Web - We are a music portal featuring artists from all genres and all nations!
Motagator Music - Cajun, Zydeco, Folk, Roots and Blues music
ACIDplanet - your world of music
There’s lots more at his site, so go take a look.

I usually prefer independent artists to the commercial stuff, so I looked around and found a few sites, like GarageBand.com. Also take a look at ArtistGigs.com, ArtistLaunch.com and AudioStreet.net.

Meanwhile, MTV has a free music download site. Artist Direct Free Music Download MP3 looks OK and keeps a featured download list.

Leave a comment and lt me know about other places and good bands that you know about.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:51 AM | Comments (9) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 25, 2006

Suddenly One Or Two Terror Stories Each Day

Have you noticed that there are at least one or two terror stories each day now, in the news?

Terrorism threat grounds Bakersfield bound plane

No one has been injured, but the plane made an unscheduled landing in El Paso and all passengers were been removed. A part of the airport near the plane has been evacuated, according to television station KTSM in El Paso.
Flight diverted due to security concerns,
An American Airlines flight carrying 179 people from Manchester, England, to Chicago has been diverted to Bangor, Maine because of security concerns.
Six flights disrupted by security concerns ,
Security concerns disrupted six U-S flights today.
A college student's checked luggage contained traces of dynamite. It was found on flight from Argentina to New Jersey. Authorities are checking why the student got off at the stop in Houston, where the traces were detected.

In other incidents:

-- An American Airlines flight from England to Chicago was forced to land in Bangor, Maine. No word on why.

-- A U-S Airways jet was diverted to Oklahoma City after a federal air marshal subdued a passenger who had pushed a flight attendant.

-- A Continental Airlines flight from Texas to California was held in El Paso, one of its scheduled stops, after the crew discovered a missing panel in the lavatory.

-- A utility knife was found on a vacant passenger seat of a U-S Airways flight from Philadelphia to Connecticut.

-- And an Aer Lingus flight from New York to Dublin was evacuated this morning during a scheduled stop in western Ireland. A bomb threat turned out to be unfounded.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:29 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Look Who's Paying For Republican Campaign Ads

The Stakeholder:: Even Dirtier Than We Thought... links to this AP story, Medicare Ads Paid by Drug Industry

The pharmaceutical industry quietly footed the bill for at least part of a recent multimillion-dollar ad campaign praising lawmakers who support the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, according to political officials.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims credit for the ads, although a spokesman refused repeatedly to say whether it had received any funds from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

At The Stakeholder, read a DCCC press release that details how pharmaceutical companes are funding the Republicans.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:41 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - It Is Hitting the News

It's becomming "the story." This has to go on for a while, for the news to filter out to "the masses." In a few weeks it will be generally understaood that housing prices are heading down. Next will be stories about how fast prices are dropping, and then about people being hurt by this. Each will feed the next phase.

Selling In Slowing Housing Market, Expert Offers Uncommon Tips To Help - CBS News

How do you know how to price your house? Fletcher says, "Look at what other similar houses in the neighborhood are selling for and then set your price at 10 percent under the market.
If you want the house to sell, price it lower than the last one that sold. This is necessary - if you want to or have to sell - but feeds the drop.

Washington Post: New-Home Numbers Add to Housing Woes

New-home sales fell more steeply in July than economists forecast, and the number of unsold houses climbed to a record, deepening a slump in an industry that fueled economic growth for five years.

New York Times: Housing Reports Reveal a Slowing Market

A backlog of unsold new homes continues to pile up. Last month there were 568,000 new homes on the market — enough that it would take 6.5 months to sell them all at the current sales rate. That is the most in more than a decade.

Business Week: Housing: The Roof Won't Collapse On The U.S. Economy,

All of this is not to downplay what is essentially a recession in housing. Housing starts sank further in July. Permits to begin new construction plunged close to a four-year low, and an industry measure of builders' sentiment sank to a 15-year low. Forward-looking indicators from declining mortgage applications to depressed attitudes of potential home buyers to moribund buyer traffic in model homes indicate more weakness to come.
Chicago: Midwest July new home sales drop 21%,
Sales of new homes dropped in July while the inventory of unsold homes climbed to a record high.
US News & World Report: New-home sales swoon,
Economists said the market for new homes may be in worse shape than the government's figures show because they don't take into account rising cancellations reported by many home builders in recent weeks. "This was probably an even weaker month than it looks," says Michael Carliner, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders.
Richmond: Home sales are cooling further

Krugman - all you need is the headline: Housing Gets Ugly, but I'll quote just a bit:

Why the sudden crackup? When prices were rising rapidly, some people bought houses purely as investments, betting that prices would keep going up. Other people rushed to buy houses, or stretched themselves to buy houses they couldn't really afford, because they feared that prices would rise out of reach if they waited. And all this speculative demand pushed prices even higher. In other words, there was a market bubble.

But eventually prices reached a level beyond what even optimistic potential buyers were willing to pay, especially after interest rates rose a bit. (They're still low by historical standards.) As demand fell short of supply, double-digit price increases declined into the low single digits, then went negative everywhere except in the South.

And with prices falling in many areas, the speculative demand for houses has gone into reverse, as people try to get out with a profit while they still can. There's now a rapidly growing glut of unsold houses. This is a recipe for a major bust, not a soft landing.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:43 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Iran And The Price Of Oil

The Republicans are pushing for war with Iran. They say Iran is an enemy, a threat, "evil," behind terrorism, etc.

This may be so. But if this is so, maybe the Republicans should give us some reason to think they believe this themselves before they ask us to believe them.

For example, Iran's income comes mostly from selling oil. As the price of oil rises, Iran has more income to use against us. So if the Republicans are serious when they say that Iran is a threat to the United States, shouldn't they be pursuing policies that result in lowering the price of oil, thereby reducing Iran's oil revenues?

What about raising the fuel economy requirements for cars? What about pushing energy conservation? What about funding serious alternative energy research? What about putting solar panels on all government buildings?

I could go on, but the point is that the Republicans are opposing all of these things. And this is just one more reason - along with the lack of a draft or taxes to pay for the war - to make me think they are not serious when they try to scare us about Iran and terrorism. In the propaganda age you have to learn to look only at what they do rather than what they say, and as far as I can see the terrorism/Iran/"Islamofascism" stuff is all talk, with little action on their part to back it up.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 24, 2006

Come And Get Me Out Of Here

Are there any other Oingo Boingo fans out there? Come 'n get me out of here.


OK - that's enough YouTube for today...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:59 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Hendrix

Wow. Nothing else to say.

I saw him at Woodstock...

And of course, this:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:51 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Cable Company CEO Arrested For Allowing Viewers To See al Manar

The Raw Story | FBI: Brooklyn HDTV company provided users with 'Hezbollah TV'

Javed Iqbal, a.k.a. "John Iqbal," 42, of Staten Island, N.Y., has been arrested and charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), RAW STORY has learned.

A complaint announced today by the FBI alleges that through a company called HDTV Ltd. located in Brooklyn, Iqbal and others provided customers in the New York area with satellite broadcasts of al Manar, which is a television station owned and/or operated by Hezbollah.

Washington Post has it today.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:36 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - PRICES Are Starting To Fall

The price drop begins. Sales have been slowing down and inventory has been building up, but prices were not dropping yet. Now we're starting to see the first signs that "real estate always goes up" isn't a law of physics. Home prices in Mass. fall 3.5 percent in July - The Boston Globe,

Home prices in Massachusetts fell 3.5 percent in July, the largest decline in 13 years, as the slowdown in the real estate market finally led sellers to cut their prices.

... Sales of single-family homes began dropping last fall, but prices were slow to respond to the weakening demand.

... Massachusetts is not alone, though the sales slowdown began here before spreading to the rest of the country.

What does this mean? Yesterday I talked about how news of dropping prices will change everything.
Here's the thing. Sales slowing and rising inventories necessarily mean that prices will start to drop soon. And just wait until THAT starts hitting the news. That's the tipping point. That's when people's expectations change. Once people stop seeing house prices rising, everything will change. And when they realize that prices are dropping, everything will really change.
So as of now people understand that this is a market to get out or stay out of or you will lose money. From the article,
But Newton agent Rona Fischman said many are ``still in denial." The steep drop in July sales ``tells me we're in the first year of the price declines," said Fischman, who is with Buyer Brokerage Realty. ``Sellers who really have to sell are waking up and smelling the coffee. There's more coffee coming."

... ``It's possible we're standing at the edge of a cliff, and if we wait the bottom will drop out" of the market, Wagner said about predictions prices will fall further. [emphasis added]

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:33 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Has the marketing campaign against Iran begun?

Over at Washington Monthly, Laura Rozen asks: Has the marketing campaign against Iran begun?

The trial balloons were up at least six months ago, and every week since then there's been some little increment.

What I said back then was that the Democrats should expect and prepare for a pre-election security crisis or military action, and prepare public opinion (using their own trial balloons) for the idea that the Republicans were going to involve the Commander in Chief in a dangerous military adventure motivated by demagogy and fraud.

The Democrats wouldn't and couldn't do that -- first, because they never think ahead; and second, because a significant, possibly controlling faction of the party is terrified of the "dove" label.

Without a powerful Democratic response, Rove's magic could very easily erase the Democratic polling advantages we now see. Media cooperation with Rove will be virtually total -- Chris Mathews is already pushing the Rove line, and he's far from the worst of the bunch.

People don't like naysayers, but this is what I've been thinking during the last six months while the rest of the Democrats have been gloating about polls.

If I'm wrong, I'll be the happiest man in the US, and the beer's on me.

(Adapted from my comment to Rozen's piece.)

Update: Matt Yglesias has been thinking about the same thing. He's just less depressed:

Democrats had better be prepared to confront this business aggressively. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that they won't be. Months and months ago when the groundwork for all this was being laid by conservative pundits and so forth I made it a habit to ask every Democratic politician I came across whether or not they were prepared for Iran to be an issue in the '06 midterms. Absolutely none of them seemed to be. People were either confident it wouldn't come to that, confident they could gin up a counter-pan if it did come to that, or else just expressed outrage at the idea that the GOP might politicize national security. But of course the GOP will politicize national security. What's more, they should politicize national security -- it's an important and legitimate issue in political debates. Democrats can't just plead for the refs to call a foul, they need to try to engage in this debate and win it.

Posted by John Emerson at 7:45 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

War For Free - Just Go Shopping and Be Afraid

This Washington Times op-ed echoes and amplifies the right-wing narrative that we are in a glorious world war against Islam. Iran scores in world war

A world war in which we face extinction - but don't need a draft, or taxes to pay for it, or fuel economy standards, or ... well anything. Just go shopping and be afraid.

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

August 23, 2006

Bush Purging NASA of Scientists

Advisors Who Questioned NASA Priorities Leaving Agency,

Levy, a physics and astronomy professor as well as provost at Houston's Rice University, said the men's commitment to scientific research didn't jibe "with the kind of advice that the administrator and the chairman of the committee were looking for."
My source tells me there's more behind this story than is reaching the public yet,
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin yesterday read the riot act to the outside scientists who advise him, accusing them of thinking more of themselves and their research than of the agency's mission.
That's BUSH's NASA mission the Administrator is talking about, which is publicly said to be about Mars, but maybe is a lot more about weaponizing space.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:38 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Reaching Low-Information Voters

The other day I wrote that many people probably don't understand that "GOP" means Republicans. And I often say that those of us who read blogs should keep reminding ourselves that we are hyper-informed, and most people are not. And, of course, we're reminded of this every time we hear that a huge percent of the public thinks WMD were found in Iraq, or that the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis...

Along these lines I recently came across an interesting article, "The Uninformed Bloc, at Democratic Strategist,

So, to put it in provocative terms, how ignorant is the electorate? Bennett found that nearly one-third of adults were unaware that the Republican Party is more conservative than the Democratic Party. And lest the reader think that this is an expression of cynicism rather than a lack of knowledge, Bennett found that whether or not respondents knew there were major differences between the two parties was associated with the amount of knowledge they had of major politicians and the parties but not with their levels of governmental trust.

Only one in ten adults knew who Denny Hastert is. Out of eight similar questions about politicians and the two parties, the average adult got just 4.5 right. One-third of adults said they follow politics “hardly at all” or “only now and then”.
It's so important to understand that we are not the audience we need to reach. We think that others know what we know. And we get so far ahead of regular people in our online discussions that people tuning in for the first time can barely understand what we're talkig about -- or can't understand at all. Once, when pondering this I wrote,
We think facts are important. But in fact most of the public knows very little about politics and the news and the issues and understands even less. Many of the people who bother to vote at all base their decisions on things that would make informed people like us just pass out if we heard them.

The key to winning elections is learning how various groups of voters make their decisions, and being there with the information they need in the form they need it and in the channels where they receive it.

Chris Bowers at MyDD discovered that when a certain percentage of people can identify one party as controlling Congress, that party loses seats in the next Congressional election. It doesn't even matter if they identify the correct party.

On this subject I wrote previously,

Regular people are in a different world than the one we are in, get their information in different ways, and retain information for different reasons. The better we understand and utilize this, the better off we will be at getting regular people to see things our way.

So before we work to pump "facts" out there, we need to cover the basics. Let's start by making sure that the public identifies their troubles with Republicans.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:40 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post

This is the beginning of the housing crash. It is JUST starting to hit the mailstream news that sales are slowing. Sure, it's old news to you and me but "regular people" are only now going to start hearing about it.

Since it's early in the cycle, we're still hearing that buyers are "waiting on the sidelines to jump in." These are people who still think that "real estate always goes up." (Remember the people who believed that stocks always go up?) When those last few "always goes up" people are shaken out of the market things will really start happening.

And, since it's just the beginning of the downturn, we're now hearing comforting, calm words about a "soft landing" and that "this is a healthy thing," etc.

Here's the thing. Sales slowing and rising inventories necessarily mean that prices will start to drop soon. And just wait until THAT starts hitting the news. That's the tipping point. That's when people's expectations change. Once people stop seeing house prices rising, everything will change. And when they realize that prices are dropping, everything will really change.

Right now, people are willing to pay these high prices because they believe that prices will be even higher next year. They see housing as an investment, rather than just as a place to live. People are willing to pay mortgage payments that are much, much higher than rents because they believe that prices will be higher next year. But what will happen when people start realizing that prices will be lower next year? Everything changes.

First, people who are overextended will start being forced to sell. When people have to sell, they will drop the price until the house sells. And as each month's housing price report tells people that prices are dropping, people who have to sell will be willing to lower the price even more.

After that starts, people will wait to buy. And with people waiting to buy, prices will have to start dropping even faster.

As with all bubbles, the unwinding of unrealistically high prices will accelerate.

So how low will prices fall? They will fall to the place they should be, which is the place where demand and supply meet, and return on investment makes sense, without the unrealistic expectation that "prices always go up" involved in the equation. In other words, prices will not reflect an expectation of future price appreciation. There has been a lot of new housing build, reducing demand, and prices are incredibly high, so they could fall QUITE a lot. It is possible that this bubble could unwind as seriously as the stock market bubble did.

Update - Mary has more at The Left Coaster.

Atrios, too, linking to Is a Housing Crisis Approaching?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:00 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Republicans and Illegal Immigration Revisited

The Republicans are supposedly against illegal immigration ... unless ...

Unless the Republican newspaper Washington Times is doing it.

(More info here and here.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Great Video At The People Choose 2006

The other day I wrote about a new website, The People Choose 2006,

Think of it as a political YouTube for "citizen journalists" -- inviting regular people around the country to submit videos you make about your local Congressional races. Anyone can go to the site and view the videos, and use them on blogs, etc. Some of these will end up broadcast nationally on Dish and DirecTV.
I mentioned one great video they had already recieved, and today I finally figured out how to post a video from The People Choose. You have to click on the "JumpCut" in the lower right corner, and if you are logged in at JumpCut you see a "Post to Website" button... They will be added this directly to The People Choose website soon. (Still working out the kinks...)

Make a video and go upload it.

And here is "Married To the Man":

If YOU want to post this on YOUR blog, click on JumpCut on the video, log in, and click the "Post to Website" button to get the embed code. But PLEASE send people to The People Choose Site itself at http://thepeoplechoose2006.org/, not just to JumpCut.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:07 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Charlie Brown for Congress

I met Charlie Brown, who is running for Congress against super-corrupt John Doolittle, at YearlyKos. He's a great guy. Go to his website and send him some bucks. He has a diary up at DailyKos: Daily Kos: My son flew John T. Doolittle out of Baghdad ... and other reasons I'm running for Congress,

You see, John Doolittle has the unique distinction of being the only member of Congress that's actually entangled in BOTH the Abramoff and Randy "Duke" Cunningham corruption scandals -- both of the big Congressional corruption scandals of our time.
Go read, and recommend.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Why I don't trust economists

I now think of economists the same way I think of lawyers. They're highly skilled advocates who have, in the best cases, a high degree of mastery of their material. But they work in the interests of their own political principles and those of their employers and grantors.

The range of economic opinion goes from the Ayn Rand far right to the center-left (more center than left). Perhaps a third of Americans are to the left of Krugman and DeLong, and well over half of Europeans. (But few of those who hire economists are left of center.)

Besides the economists' own biases, the science of economics itself is skewed. Labor, for example, is a cost, and the lower costs are, the better. (There are countervailing factors, of course -- for example, the buying power of labor. But these hardly override the need to keep labor costs low).

There are lots of ways to skew results -- choosing a dataset, deciding on which statistical analysis to use, selecting which variables to study . The gross skews get caught, but the little tweaks don't. Skewing is not done consciously, I suppose, but results that "don't look right" get a second look, whereas results that look right get reported.

The best way of getting the right skew, of course, is to not study a question at all, and just report what basic economic principle say should happen. For example, economists have been condemning the minimum wage for decades without bothering to look for empirical backing. When a study was finally done, it was found that there wasn't much backing there.

Now, basic economic principles tell us that of course outsourcing and high immigration will both reduce wages -- it's simple supply and demand. But economists, including Krugman and DeLong, don't want this result, so now they do empirical studies (!) which prove -- hold your breath -- either that there's no effect on wages, or that the effect on wages is very small.

There's always a subtext, too: only the lowest-paid, lowest-skilled workers are impacted. People we wouldn't care to know.

Economists don't like Stiglitz's book on his experiences with the World Bank / IMF. I haven't read it (it's on my list) but my guess it's because it isn't written in economic terminology, because the kinds of things Stiglitz wants to say can't be expressed in within economics. Economics as such has enormous blindspots, and just by working professionally, economists effectively adopt a rightward bias.

(Revised version of my comment here.)

Posted by John Emerson at 10:35 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Why Bush Policies Are The Way They Are

If you are wondering why Bush sounds SO far, far right lately - things like his new war against Islam ("Islamofascists") theme - it's because of who he is spending time with.

Yes, it is that bad.

Update - OK, yes, I was being too insider there, and need to explain for those not familiar with Power Line. Power Line is a far, far right-wing weblog. This is the Democrats-are-terrorists-who -must-be-executed-for-treason and immediately-nuke-Iran crowd. Power Line has a big picture of Ann Coulter - in an ad from Scaife's NewsMax - on its front page right now.

On Monday Power Line quoted a recent column calling Democrats "covert enemies ... in our midst" and went on to write that Democrats and liberals are,

a segment of our society that wields great power and wishes its own country great ill. I would only add that these liberals want us to lose, not just in some small corner, but with their whole hearts; in fact, our defeat is the only thing they whole-heartedly work for.
That was Monday. On Tuesday the person who wrote that was getting a personal tour of the Oval Office from President Bush.

The news that Bush is spending time with (i.e. endorsing and validating) the far-right webloggers is very, very distressing to say the least.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:31 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Questions

Why are Israeli soldiers "kidnapped" but Hezbollah soldiers are "terrorists" who are "captured?"

Come to think of it, why are Palestinean legislators and cabinet members "arrested" rather than "kidnapped?"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 22, 2006

Think That the Dems Will Win?

Anyone thinking the Democrats are going to pick up the House or Senate this year had better read this from a year ago. For Democrats, a Troubling Culture Gap,

Democrats Karl Agne and Stan Greenberg, who conducted the focus group, said Democrats need a reform-oriented, anti-Washington agenda to overcome the culture gap. At this point, Democrats are in no position to capitalize if there is a clear backlash against Republicans. "No matter how disaffected they are over Republican failures in Iraq and here at home," they said, "a large chunk of white, non-college voters, particularly in rural areas, will remain unreachable for Democrats at the national level."
I haven't seen a reform-oriented agenda to overcome the cultural gap from the Democrats. Have you? More importantly there still is not any kind of coordinated campaign from non-Party organizations ("progressive infrastructure" (also see skippy part I, part II and video), that reaches out across America to regular voters and promote the benefits of progressive/liberal values and a progressive/liberal approach to issues.

Without reaching out to the public, explaining WHY liberal and progressive values are better for them, nothing is going to be getting better. Why SHOULD the public think our values and ideas are worth considering when we aren't bothering to even TELL THEM what they ARE?? This is what the conservatives are doing -- you can't go anywhere without hearing, over and over, how conservatives are better than progressives or liberals, how their ideas are good and liberal ideas are bad, etc. The public is STILL not hearing anything to counter that.

If you want to help do something about this, send Commonweal Institute a healthy, healthy check.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:28 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

And the Campaign Doesn't Even Start Until September

USATODAY.com - Poll: GOP up after terror arrests

The arrest of terror suspects in London has helped buoy President Bush to his highest approval rating in six months and dampen Democratic congressional prospects to their lowest in a year.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, support for an unnamed Democratic congressional candidate over a Republican one narrowed to 2 percentage points, 47%-45%, among registered voters. Over the past year, Democrats have led by wider margins that ranged up to 16 points.

And this doesn't take into account the huge Republican voter turnout machine.

What were you people thinking, anyway?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Can't Tell The Difference Between Bush Propagandist and ABC Reporter

Yesterday while driving I tuned into KGO, a local ABC talk-radio station. The host was talking with a woman guest about Bush, Iraq and the coming election. The nature of the conversation led me to wonder which Bush-administration official he was talking with, as she argued the positive points of every single White House talking point. After a while it got so bad that I figured it had to be Bush propagandist Karen Hughes, back on the circuit.

I shouldn't have been, but I was really surprised to discover that the guest was ABC White House reporter Ann Compton, sounding very much like a Republican Party official. "Apologist" is the word that comes to mind.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The STF Rule - The Accuser Describes The Accuser

The STF Rule: When Republicans accuse, it means they're probably doing what it is they are accusing others of.

In this fantastic (in the true meaning of the word) piece at right-wing Townhall, Our covert enemies, Michael Barone tries to accuse anyone promoting what he calls "multiculturalism" of being "covert enemies" of the country (i.e. traitors). He follows the narrative's script about "elites" pretty well, so he might get his bonus,

Our covert enemies are harder to identify, for they live in large numbers within our midst. And in terms of intentions, they are not enemies in the sense that they consciously wish to destroy our society. On the contrary, they enjoy our freedoms and often call for their expansion. But they have also been working, over many years, to undermine faith in our society and confidence in its goodness. These covert enemies are those among our elites who have promoted the ideas labeled as multiculturalism, moral relativism and (the term is Professor Samuel Huntington's) transnationalism.
Of course, following the STF Rule, he's describing the conservative movement's own attack on all of the fundamental institutions of our society - government, public schools, the justice system, etc.

But then, OOPS, look how he ends his piece:

We have always had our covert enemies, but their numbers were few until the 1960s. But then the elite young men who declined to serve in the military during the Vietnam War set out to write a narrative in which they, rather than those who obeyed the call to duty, were the heroes. They have propagated their ideas through the universities, the schools and mainstream media to the point that they are the default assumptions of millions.
What is that a description of? "Young men who declined to serve in the military during the Vietnam war?" That's not a description of Gore, Kerry, Murtha, Cleland, etc., it's instead a description of Bush, Cheney, Limbaugh and every single leader of the conservative movement! And this thing about propagating their ideas until they become conventional wisdom -- is a description of the conservative movement itself!

OOPS! Maybe he won't get his bonus after all.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:30 AM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 21, 2006

Bush: Hedgehog on Hallucinogens

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:16 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Never Learn

The Cult of the Offensive,

Israel suffers from the cult of the offensive, which also afflicts the U.S. military. Believing that grabbing the initiative and taking the fight to the enemy wins wars, both of these militaries have stumbled into the tar pit of fighting wars that only guerrillas could love.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush Accuses Right-Wing Bloggers Of Distorting Facts

Nitpicker: Bush: Right wing bloggers are distorting the facts

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How To Win

Republicans understand marketing. They understand about "low information voters." They know that the public wants a change - so they are campaigning by saying to the voters that voting for them "sends "A Message for Change".

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August 20, 2006

Credit Where It's Due

This post took some courage to write: Right Wing Nut House -- IRAQ: QUIT OR COMMIT

Go read it to the end.

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Terror Alerts Causing General Racist Reaction

President Bush recently changed his definition of who "the enemy" is from bin Laden and the al Queda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 to "Islamic fascists" in general, sending the right after Islam in general and Middle Easterners in particular. The other day I wrote about how the Right's amplification machine was picking up the signal on this, calling for "racial profiling" of Middle-Easterners, even though not all Muslims are Middle Eastern. Of course, never mind about Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph and others of domestic origin.

Let's be clear what "profiling" means - it means singling out all people of a certain racial appearance for harassment and intimidation. And let's be clear about what complaints about "political correctness" and "multiculturalism" are - they are racist phrases demanding domination and privilege for those of European descent.

The Right is also heavily promoting books like, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam,

When PC propagandists assure us that jihadist terror doesn't reflect "true," "peaceful" Islam, they're not only wrong, they're dangerous...
... reveals all the disturbing facts about Islam and its murderous hostility to the West that other books ignore, soft-pedal -- or simply lie about.

This book is a unique guide to the bloody teachings and history of Islam, and to the Crusades that still stand today as the Western world's most sustained and successful defense against the warrior hordes who were inspired by those teachings.

and The Life and Religion of Mohammed, sold with
"Mohammed: the ugly truth about the founder of the world's most violent religion." and "With Islam on the march everywhere and Muslims streaming into the U.S. in record numbers, the candor, common sense, and solid Christian faith of this book are needed more than ever."
Today the Right is promoting a story about a "mutiny" aboard a British flight in which fearful British passengers refused to let a plane take off because there were two dark-skinned, Arabic-speaking men aboard, encouraging people to follow this example and start taking matters into their own hands. As I write this the lead post at the "respectable" right-wing hub Towhhall has the very popular TV and radio celebrity Bill O'Reilly writing,
Of course, the sane way to protect Americans in the sky is to stop looking for nail files and begin profiling people who might actually cause terror damage. That is not "racial" profiling, that is "terror" profiling. Most of the recent terror activities have been perpetuated by young Muslim men.
Now take a look at this right-wing blog post, British Air Passengers Mutiny and the comments it solicits, the post blaming "politically correct touchy-feely multiculturalism" for the passengers' reaction.

This one, like many others, make the appeal for people to take matters into their own hands.

It appears that if “we the flying public” are going to be safe, no one but ourselves is going to save us. The hell with political correctness! We need more mutinies of this nature. It’s our money paying for these trips and, ultimately, our lives that are in jeopardy. If the airlines and our “PC” brethren don’t like it, I say “Then follow your own rules!”

I now doubt that anything will bring the so-called “moderate Muslims” out from their hiding places, in order to speak against their suicidal and homicidal brethren. But, at least a few, or many, more of these mutinies might just get the airlines to step up and listen. Contrary to politically-correct opinion, profiling is a good thing—at least if you want to have your best chance of remaining alive.

Or take a look at this one that goes after those who resist "profiling," writing,
One mustn’t risk offending anybody, after all, even if tippy-toeing around the obvious truth leads to hundreds or thousands of dead civilians.
This one says "'Asians,' of course, is UK mediaspeak for Muslims." It goes on to make the typical victimized claim that there will now be
"calls by Muslim leaders and their willing Leftist stooges for some kind of institutionalized and nationwide "education" (i.e. propaganda) campaign to prevent this sort of thing."
The comments at these MAINSTREAM hate sites talk about having the "guts" to go after "towel heads" and praising the "Second Amendment," asking for "Arab-free flights" and saying things like, "Arabs and Muslims need to feel the pain." "They [Muslims] Mshould all be banned from flying and have to pay for their own extremists directly by not flying, the extremists and moderates have caused all of this murder and chaos." "I have been reading the articles and comments for over a year and have to say they have woken me up to the reality of Islam."

Is this just a conservative build-up to the election -- or the beginnings of something worse?

Watch your backs.

Update Lawyers Guns and Money noticed this, too. And Mahablog. Glenn Greenwald.

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August 19, 2006

Today's Voting Machines Story

Touch-Screen Machines Stir Election Anxiety in Md.,

Touch-screen polling machines, which will be used statewide in Maryland when voters go to the polls for the Sept. 12 primary, were intended to calm fears of election flimflam raised in the wake of the infamous 2000 presidential balloting in Florida.

But the new machines themselves have become a politically charged topic in Maryland. Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who agreed to purchase them three years ago, now questions whether they can provide fair and accurate elections, given their vulnerability to computer hackers and their lack of a paper trail to document votes.

[. . .] The Brennan report notes that systems without paper trails -- a paper record or receipt that voters can use to confirm votes -- lack an important countermeasure to software attacks: the ability to compare paper to electronic records.

They can talk all the want to about "securing" the machines, etc. But here is the problem. NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO, as long as there is no "paper trail" - a physical record of each vote that is CHECKED BY THE VOTER, then there is NO WAY TO KNOW if the machines were hacked or not. With no paper trail THERE IS NO REASON TO TRUST THE RESULTS of the election because no one can PROVE that the results are accurate.

Period, end of story.

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Lakoff Interview

I'm reading George Lakoff's new book, Whose Freedom, right now, so it is with interest I see that there is a good interview with Lakoff over at the talking dog. Go read.

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August 18, 2006

Something New Coming Tonite -- UPDATED

Tonite The People Choose 2006 is launching has launched. Go see it! Think of it as a political YouTube for "citizen journalists" -- inviting regular people around the country to submit videos you make about your local Congressional races. Anyone can go to the site and view the videos, and use them on blogs, etc. Some of these will end up broadcast nationally on Dish and DirecTV.

It won't be publicized for a while because there won't be a lot of content yet. You are getting advance notice. It launches tonite but yYou can go upload now. So if you're into making videos, or if you want to see what other people - regular people - have to say about this election, go visit.

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Doolittle -- Corrupt or Ineffective?

Is Rep. John Doolittle Corrupt or Ineffective?

Charlie Brown is the Democratic candidate running against Doolittle. Go visit.

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Go Read

Go read slacktivist: 3.14159265 ...: The area of the circle of the barrel of a gun.

(Through The Sideshow.)

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Does Bush Denounce This Stuff?

My experience is that ANY time you hear someone use the phrase "politically correct' you're dealing with a bigot. I'm not holding my breath for Bush or other Republican leadership to denounce this kind of crap -- these are surrogates getting the Republican election messaging out to the public.

Townhall.com::Politically correct airport screening puts us at risk,

...So when I calmly suggested that there be a “Muslims Only” line at security checkpoints in our airports, Mr. Gross, predictably, almost became unhinged.

...When they’re not suing to remove crosses from public view or fighting for the rights of child molesters, the ACLU loves to complain about “racial profiling.” They don’t like the fact that privately, police officers everywhere admit that profiling is a valuable and effective tool in law enforcement.

... Racial profiling is a tough tactic that can effectively keep another 9/11 from happening again.

..Let’s stop playing politically correct games and being worried about what the ACLU is going to do. This isn’t some charade, this war is real. The terrorists who want to kill us are looking for every opportunity to pounce. It’s time to formally and officially launch profiling in our nation’s airports.

As I often say, not all Muslims are terrorists. But all the terrorists are Muslims.

Timothy McVeigh. Eric Rudolph. And this guy doesn't even know that Muslims aren't a "race" - or even that not all Muslims are Middle-Eastern. But, of coure, that's logic and reason and the right-wing message isn't about logic or reason, it's about hatred and bigotry and fear. And it's used to get votes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:41 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 17, 2006

Tobacco Companies Killed - But Won't Be Fined

Tobacco firms lose ruling but escape damage,

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that a group of tobacco companies had broken the law, but could not be forced to pay monetary penalties such as funding a large anti-smoking campaign, as the government had sought.

...Kessler said the companies suppressed research, destroyed documents and manipulated nicotine levels to perpetuate addiction, but an appeals court ruling prevented her from slapping the companies with costly remedies. [. . .] That opinion, written by U.S. Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle, barred the government from seeking $280 billion in past industry profits, depriving the government of its biggest potential weapon in the case.

This was because in 2005, two Republican judges - David B. Sentelle and Stephen F. Williams - ruled that the government can't go after the tobacco companies for past wrongs.

Yes, THIS Sentelle and Williams. Ken Starr, Iran/Contra, warrantless wiretapping, Microsoft ... and a long list.

All the tobacco and other corporate money, all the millions and millions spent funding the Right paid off, and has left us with this country and its culture of corruption that lets corporations rob from us - even kill us - with impunity.

From the BBC story, Tobacco firms lose civil lawsuit

In her ruling, Judge Gladys Kessler said it was clear that "smoking causes disease, suffering, and death".

But the firms will not be fined or forced to fund anti-smoking programs.

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Dem Senators Refuse To Support Connecticut Dem Candidate!

In the post BobGeiger.com: Dayton Supports Lamont, Landrieu and Inouye Go For Joe, Bob Geiger updates his list of Democratic Senators who do and do not support the party's candidate in Connecticut. Believe it or not, there are several so-called Democratic Party Senators who are refusing to support the winner of Connecticut's Democratic primary, and are instead supporting the candidate who is officially supported by the Republican Party! (See also)

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Expect Daily Terrorism Alerts Until Election

It is really starting to look like the latest terror alert, warning about "mass murder on an unimaginable scale," was yet another Repubican pre-election PR set-up designed to instill fear in the voting public.

But there is still an election coming, so for now it will be daily terrorism alerts. (more and more and more.)

Bush Sees No End to War on Terrorism

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Politicizing Security

Orrin Hatch is a Republican Senator from Utah. Hatch says Demo win could help terrorists.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, who continuously decries the bitter partisanship in Washington, implied this week that Democratic success in November's election could result in terrorist attacks on America.

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Judge Orders Immediate Halt To Wiretaps Without Warrants

Judge nixes warrantless surveillance,

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

Keep in mind that all this means is they have to start getting warrants -- follow the law and Constitution just like how we have always done it in this country.

So, how will the right react? Will they have respect for the Constitution and the law? We'll see.

OK, we're seeing. It's the usual -- attack the judge. For example, comments promoted by a post at Ace of Spades HQ,

Not only is she a Carter appointee, she is Black. Want to bet she was admitted to Yale on a Minority set a side? Maybe she's related to Conners, the other Black nut from Mo Town.
...
As said by Abraham Lincoln: The court has made thier decision. Now let's see them enforce it.
...
The judges and lawyers will doom this country.
Similarly at RedState,
The Justice Department should reply to this ruling by announcing that they are really busy monitoring the race and sex of all government employees to comply with "diversity" requrements. This task will render the DOJ unable to comply with this ruling for several....years.
...
Anna Diggs Taylor - appointed May 1979 by President Jimmy Carter
Confirmed by Democratically-controlled Senate in October 1979

One of Carter's last actions to destroy this country before he was booted from office. Ugh.

Remember, we're talking about requiring warrants, that's all.

Strata-Sphere writes, (apparently not knowing that there WERE warrants for all the taps mentioned),

Remember how phone calls and money transfers from Pakistan to the UK helped expose the plot details and the fact we were days away from its implementation. Recall how all the lefties from Lamont on have claimed America cannot be allowed to monitor terrorist communications with their associates here in the US and monitor their financial transfers to detect and stop the next 9-11. Well hold on folks, but another unelected judge has decided Terrorists need protection because we may listen in on their calls to the Holiday Inn reservation line and that risk is more dire than 3,000 + people dying in an attack (more hear at WaPo).
... OK Al Qaeda - it is now open season on Americans. Go to it. We are disarming.
... Lamont supporters at Kosland are all ecstatic that we have been ordered to surrender to Al Qaeda...
Which inspired comments:
You may believe all that nonsense about how we must uphold the constitution! How many times do you suicidal idiots have to be told that the constitution is NOT a suicide pact!
...
However, even if the Supreme Court ruled against the President, he could tell them to go urinate up a rope.
...
Anna Diggs Taylor, Clinton appointee. Campaigned in 1979 for Jimmy Carter. Ruled in favor of the ACLU to have nativity scenes removed from public property in Dearborn (Islamonazi haven) and Birmingham in 1984. Married to S. Martin Taylor who, according to his U of Michigan bio, is a DEMOCRAT.
Any questions?
This wingnut posts a picture of the judge and says,
[judge] rule in favor of the ACLU and its raft of Islamist, America-hating plaintiffs. ... She seems to hate America and fairness almost as much as the Plaintiffs do. She certainly hates a fair, impartial Judiciary. It's not just that she's a shameless liberal who always allows her politics to enter into her decisions. It's that she's so shameless she improperly interferes with cases that are not even hers.
And go read how this one cries and moans on and on about requring warrants.

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August 16, 2006

Big Republican Get-Out-The-Vote Effort Coming

Group to Rally Evangelical Voters,

Conservative Christian radio host James C. Dobson's national organization, Focus on the Family, said yesterday that it will work with affiliated groups in eight battleground states to mobilize evangelical voters in the November elections.

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Was There REALLY A Plot To Blow Up Airplanes?

Mission Accomplished. You can. not. turn on the TV or read a newspaper without everything being about terror.

From the Time Magazine blog,

So far, no one has been charged in the alleged terror plot to blow up several airplanes across the Atlantic. No evidence has been produced supporting the contention that such a plot was indeed imminent.

... Then we have the following comment from Craig Murray. Craig Murray was Tony Blair's ambassador to Uzbekistan whose internal memo complaining about evidence procured by out-sourced torture created a flap a while back. He is skeptical. Money quote:
None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth ...

We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why?

Murray is referring to this report: Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Liberal agonies,
Reports from Pakistan suggest that much of the intelligence that led to the raids came from that country and that some of it may have been obtained in ways entirely unacceptable here. In particular Rashid Rauf, a British citizen said to be a prime source of information leading to last week's arrests, has been held without access to full consular or legal assistance. Disturbing reports in Pakistani papers that he had "broken" under interrogation have been echoed by local human rights bodies. The Guardian has quoted one, Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who has no doubt about the meaning of broken. "I don't deduce, I know - torture," she said. "There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all."
It's time for the government to cough up some evidence. Or is this like the WMD?

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Bigots

In The Weekly Standard's Bigot Eruption Oliver Willis says, "Conservatives cannot help themselves."

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Indian-American Republicans Say "Macaca" Not Offensive

On July 6 the Indian American Republican Council issued a strong press release rightly denouncing Joe Biden for saying, "You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking." Shame on him.

In response to Republican Senator George Allen's racist slur against Indian Americans they, they issued a press release insisting the term is not offensive. Shame on them.

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Today's Housing Bubble Post - How Far Can Prices Fall?

Kevin Drum says he thinks housing prices in Southern California will drop 10-20%, bottoming out in 2008.

Here in Northern California housing prices have more than tripled during the housing bubble. They average around $750K for a 3BR in my area. So how much might we expect them to fall now that the bubble is popping? Let me try a calculation based on getting a return on investment for a rental property.

Suppose rents are $2000 a month for a 3-bedroom house. Subtract from that repairs, maintenance, etc., and let's say you are clearing $1800. Instead of trying to calculate property taxes let's just say $400 per month - which is lower than what they would be ($650) if purchased now but you'll get my point in a minute.

So you're clearing about $16,800 a year from your investment. Let's say you are shooting for a 7% return. That means the house SHOULD be priced at about $240K, approx 1/3 of current pricing. (Except that those property taxes are now too high for this purchase price, but you're starting to get my point.) This happens to be about what prices were before the bubble, plus a bit for inflation. EXCEPT for a few things -- the bubble provided incentive for a LOT of new homes to be built, so demand will be weaker. AND a lot of people are going to be wiped out financially so overall ability to purchase will be lower. AND, with all those houses on the market, rents are likely to fall. So these are some of the factors that could contribute to prices going lower than about $240K around here. But you get my point.

Prices have a LONG way to fall, and when they do there are a lot of factors which could make them take much longer than usual to recover.

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Hopeless

Congressman Rahm Emanuel and DLC President Bruce Reed have released a book. Chris Bowers says Don't Read This Book. Go read why he says this.

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Behind the Front: The Creation of Vets for Freedom

This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project. Please help support their work.

If there is one underlying belief of modern conservatives, it is that the truth is not as important as what you can get people to think is true. Hence, the importance of a good PR strategy.

Since launching the Iraq war, the White House has frequently complained that the mainstream news media is not reporting enough "good news from Iraq." In the fall of 2005 the approach of the 2000th military fatality brought with it a new round of conservative complaints about the treasonous American media. With remarkably coincident timing the far-right, Republican-aligned Media Research Center (MRC) released in October a study of war coverage that, surprisingly, echoed and amplified the White House’s complaints, claiming that "the three commercial network nightly news broadcasts have been overwhelmingly biased in their coverage of Iraq". MRC claimed in their summary that:

"• Network coverage has been overwhelmingly pessimistic.
• News about the war has grown increasingly negative.
• Terrorist attacks are the centerpiece of TV’s war news.
• Even coverage of the Iraqi political process has been negative.
• Few stories focused on the heroism or generous actions of American soldiers.
• It's not as if there was no "good news" to report"

Columbia Journalism Review commented at the time on the MRC study:

"Our biggest caveat about MRC's numbers is this: Balance does not require reporting an equal number of good acts and bad acts if you are in an arena where bad acts prevail."

As public approval of the Iraq occupation – and of President Bush and Republican candidates in the upcoming elections – declined, the White House grew more adamant on this, and finally began to take steps to turn things around. (Not to turn around the war effort itself, mind you, only public perception of how it is going.) One component of the White House turnaround effort came to light in November of 2005, when the Los Angeles Times reported that the Defense Department was paying a defense contractor to "place" "good news" stories in Iraqi newspapers:

"As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the US military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the US mission in Iraq.

... The stories trumpet the work of US and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout US-led efforts to rebuild the country. 

... Records and interviews indicate that the US has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles, with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism," since the effort began this year.

The operation is designed to mask any connection with the US military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets.

[. . .] The arrangement with Lincoln Group is evidence of how far the Pentagon has moved to blur the traditional boundaries between military public affairs - the dissemination of factual information to the media - and psychological and information operations, which use propaganda and sometimes misleading information to advance the objectives of a military campaign."

A quick look at the Lincoln Group shows that it was co-founded in 2003 by Christian Bailey and unknown partners, a 30-year-old with "a reputation as a socialite with ties to young Republicans," according to England’s Sunday Times. The Times goes on to say:

"In America, he linked up with fashionable young Republicans and became a co-chair of Lead 21, an organisation linking business and politics, which he once described as "the big supporters, the big donors to the Republican party in five years' time". Public relations firms with warfare information experience - some of which have come under uncomfortable scrutiny themselves - were amazed when Bailey's fledgling firm leap-frogged over theirs to win huge defence department deals."

So here we have a mysterious, recently-formed, politically-connected PR firm that is formed to set up a stealth campaign effort to use soldiers as fronts to put "good news" stories into the press.

And as this PR effort was being undertaken in Iraq, it appears that a very similar White House-promoted PR effort was getting underway here at home.

First, Some Background

The Herald Group PR firm was formed in September, 2005, by former White House spokesmen Taylor Gross, who had, according to SourceWatch, "coordinated Republican media coverage during the 2000 presidential election ballot recount in Florida," Matt Well, who "resigned his position as Director of Public Affairs with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission June 30, 2005," and had "also headed field operations for the American Tort Reform Association" (for more information on how this relates to the conservative movement see the Commonweal Institute report, The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law), and Doug McGinn, another Republican Party-connected conservative movement operative including a stint with Empower America (see this, this and this.)

In the story, PR Group to Strive for a 'Campaign Mentality', the Washington Post wrote:

"Three communications and political veterans have launched a strategic communications and public affairs shop, the Herald Group . The principals are Matt Well , director of public affairs for the Securities and Exchange Commission; Taylor Gross, a Bush White House spokesman; and Doug McGinn, who worked at Dittus Communications and earlier at Empower America.

Well says they want to bring "a campaign mentality" to strategic communications and public affairs by integrating communications, lobbying, grass-roots mobilization and other disciplines to influence public policy."

An early Herald Group client was Wal-Mart, or, more accurately, Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFFWM), a stealth front-group for Wal-Mart. From the story Dec 22, 2005 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story, Wal-Mart chipping in for advocate:

"Washington, D. C., team of professionals behind Working Families make up the media campaign's stealth bombers.

They include a former White House spokesman Taylor Gross, 30, who coordinated Republican media coverage during the 2000 presidential ballot battle in Florida, when street fights flared over who won the presidency.

Gross's public relations firm, The Herald Group, opened in September. It includes Matt Well, another veteran of the turbulent 2000 campaign as the Republican Leadership Council's director of issues advocacy. Well also headed field operations for the American Tort Reform Association, which advocates caps to punitive damages awarded by courts."

Illustrating the stealth front-group nature of WFFWM, the article, Secret Wal-Mart Memo Exposes Wal-Mart Front Group:

"The truth is Working Families for Wal-Mart is nothing more than Wal-Mart's own personal right-wing front group. Many of its board members are either paid by Wal-Mart directly or have business relationships with the company, and the group has contracted with two right-wing firms, The Herald Group and Crosslink Strategies."

In Wal-Mart Tries to Enlist Image Help, the NY Times writes:

"As a result of the close relationship between the company and the Working Families for Wal-Mart, some current and former suppliers say, the advocacy group's membership drive amounts to Wal-Mart's leaning on its suppliers to help burnish the company's image - a request many said would be hard to turn down, given the company's importance to their business. ... The Working Families for Wal-Mart representative who made the Texas presentation in late April is Terry Nelson, the former political director of the 2004 Bush presidential campaign, whose firm, Crosslink Strategy, consults for both Wal-Mart and Working Families for Wal-Mart."

Pay close attention to the modus operandi operating here: Just as with the Swift Boat Vets for Truth, what we have here is conservative, party-aligned political operative PR firms setting up well-funded front-groups to attack opponents. Using a front group provides the real backers a degree of separation, insulating them from criticism for the nature of the attacks and smears.

(Incidentally, one of the first projects of The Herald Group was The Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund, beginning September, 2005, which promoted former Republican Party Chairman and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. See also, 8 months later, Storm aid donations still await disbursing. Was this yet another Republican operation that leaves people asking where all the money went?)

Enter Vets for Freedom

Almost immediately following the The Herald Group's formation (September), client-organization Vets for Freedom was launched (January), describing itself as:

"...a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the unbiased, nonpartisan truth of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to educate the public and mobilize public support for the Global War on Terror."

This "non-partisan" organization’s website was designed by The Donatelli Group/Campaign Solutions, which previously had worked with the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, as well as the White House-associated Judicial Confirmation Network, yet another well-financed, party-affiliated front group. Other Donatelli Group/Campaign Solutions clients include Bush-Cheney 2004, The Republican National Committee, the 2004 Republican National Convention, several state Republican Party organizations, the Republican Attorneys General Association, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Citizens for a Sound Economy and Tom DeLay. (To really get the picture go see the whole list. Really.)

The "non-partisan" Vets for Freedom originally had a privacy statement on their website that read, "We may from time to time share the information our visitors provide with other Republican candidates and other like-minded organizations."

The "non-partisan" Vets for Freedom included William Denman "Wade" Zirkle, who had helped run Republican Jerry Kilgore's 2005 campaign for governor of Virginia, and was campaign manager for Republican Todd Gilbert's 2005 race for the Virginia House of Delegates.

The "non-partisan" Vets for Freedom also included Vice-Chairman David Bellavia, a former Army Staff Sergeant, who shortly before the announcement of Vets for Freedon, which is supposedly "...a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the unbiased, nonpartisan truth..." had published an anti-Democrat article, The Party of Defeat at David Horowitz's FrontPageMagazine.com, writing:

"...I am at a loss to understand what Representative John Murtha (D-PA) was thinking when he recently delivered his defeatist comments about our military efforts. 

... Rather than acknowledging the vital mission being carried out by the troops, the Democratic leadership prefers to disparage our efforts. 

... Former administrations ignored the present danger in this region for years before 9/11, and today we in the trenches pay the price for our past inability to confront our enemies. 

... The actions of Kerry, Kennedy, Dean, et al.- voting against the immediate pullout of the troops and then supporting Murtha’s ignorant remarks on every television program that offers an invitation - constitute a political attack on the troops, an attack that is aiding our enemy.

… dissent will embolden our desperate Islamofascist enemy... Instead of supporting our cause, they stoke the fires of the Islamist faithful...

[...] Not only does the Democratic leadership deny the transparent fact that Iraq is indeed the front line in the War on Terror, but it feels the need to apologize for our nation's ability to deliver unrelenting, but prudent lethality onto our deserving enemies. .. Against this strategy of defeat, the president has called for staying the course."

But though Vets for Freedom repeatedly claimed to be "non-partisan" it turned up recently that “Vets for Freedom Action Fund” is a "527' organization. (This information only became available after the IRS released July 31 filing data.) So-called "527" groups are named after section 527 of the tax code, and are created primarily to influence the nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates for public office. For example, Swift Boat Vets For Truth and Club for Growth are 527 groups. Opensecrets.org writes:

"527 groups are tax-exempt organizations that engage in political activities, often through unlimited soft money contributions. Most 527s on this list are advocacy groups trying to influence federal elections through voter mobilization efforts and so-called issue ads that tout or criticize a candidate's record."

And Common Cause writes:

"In the 2004 election, 527 groups influencing federal elections spent an estimated $400 million. About 25 individuals alone gave $146 million to these groups, some of which were staffed by political operatives who had close ties to the national political parties. The fear was that 527 groups would be a backdoor route for parties to once again collect soft money, and to evade Federal laws on the books for more than 50 years that have prohibited labor unions and corporations from using their treasury funds to influence federal elections."

So there are questions about whether Vets for Freedom is really an "unbiased," independent organization. Adding to these questions, on June 25, The Buffalo News published a ground-breaking expose of Vets for Freedom, titled, Former vets with GOP ties boost war effort in blogs, (reprinted here) exposing how Vets for Freedom was yet another Republican-Party-affiliated front-group, along with organizations like Swift Boat Vets for Freedom:

"A former spokesman for President Bush recently offered to several newspapers supposedly objective freelance stories from Iraq by two combat veterans who lead a pro-war group with deep Republican ties.

Several months after revelations that a Pentagon contractor was paying Iraqi news outlets for favorable war coverage, former White House spokesman Taylor Gross approached at least four major newspapers, including The Buffalo News, with the offer.

Gross' pitch to The News said the two highly decorated veterans could serve as embedded correspondents and "offer balanced and credible viewpoints gained directly from those closest to and most affected by the Iraq War." One of the reporters, former Marine Lt. Wade Zirkle, helped run Republican Jerry Kilgore's 2005 campaign for governor of Virginia."

The Lieberman Wedge

An August 9 Vets for Freedom Action Fund solicitation letter from Wade Zirkle directly aligns the organization with current White House PR efforts, stating their mission as being, "To stand in opposition to any candidates that calls for the irresponsible, immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan." Echoing an August 9 White House statement that "the extreme left in their party" defeated Joe Lieberman, for example, the Zirkle letter says "the radical left ousted Joe Lieberman." A clue to why the messages were so similar arrived in the following day’s LA Times story, Partisan Crevasse May Be Widening, which explained:

"The Republican response Wednesday was highly coordinated, tightly matching a set of GOP talking points distributed to activists and strategists. The effort also paralleled an internal strategy memo ... that laid out the party's intent to mobilize its base for the election by highlighting Bush's actions in Iraq and the notion that Democrats were weak in their approach to "foreign threats."

The Zirkle letter went on to say of Vets for Freedom's mission, "To reject the notion of preset timetables to dictate troop withdrawal, which is a signal of defeat to our enemies." The letter echoed the White House claim that "the majority of the mainstream media is only focusing on the bad news,' and joins in the coordinated campaign to attack Congressman John Murtha for criticizing the White House Iraq strategy, nearly accusing him of treason, saying "John Murtha's words are detrimental to our Nation's fight against global terror."

In the last few days Vets for Freedom has directly entered Connecticut politics, taking out full-page ads supporting primary-loser Joe Lieberman against the Democratic nominee. (Patriot Project will have more on this development in the near future.) Clearly intending to drive a wedge into the Democratic Party, the modus operandi looks to be part of a larger election strategy with Vets for Freedom operating as yet another front-group set up to advance the conservative agenda and attack Democrats.

Is truth really only what people can be made to think it is? Will there someday be consequences to our democracy from this use of professional "perception management?" Over and over again we see well-financed, politically-connected front-groups, posing as something they're not, insulating their real backers from exposure and criticism. They hire a PR firm -- make that "strategic communications specialists" -- to set up a front-group to plant stories in the press and manipulate the public. The planted stories typically evolve into smears, and good people are hurt. But it seems to work, over and over again.

The Patriot Project is working to expose this tactic and to thereby diminish its effectiveness.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 15, 2006

Blame Dems For Partisanship?

I've been seeing signs, and I thnk we're going to see a strong, nationwide Republican effort to blame Democrats for the partisanship in politics. The Republicans have been saying "Dems are rabid Bush-hater partisans" as a ploy to win votes and I think this is going to become a drumbeat.

People really are fed up with the rabid partisanship and nothing getting done for the public, and the Republicans understand this -- that's why they're being such rabid partisans. They know that the public doesn't pay attention and blames everyone equally for it so they're building the pressure.

Don't forget the power of Bush's "I'm a uniter not a divider" messaging -- never mind that it was the Republicans who had impeached Clinton. The broad public just doesn't pay enough attention to differentiate WHO is doing it, all they know is politicians call each other names and aren't getting anything done and they don't like it. Leading up to the 2000 election the Republicans screeched until everyone was holding their ears. Bush came along and promised to do something about it, and got votes for promising that.

So here's what I think might be about to happen: the Republicans continue to call everyone names. The public is sick of it. Then this fall they come to the public saying "vote for us because you don't like name-calling and we'll do something about it." That message has a huge appeal to an uninformed (or, more accurately, misinformed) public.

BUT I'm also seeing signs that this anti-partisan push might instead come from a new "centrist" party, sort of a McCain/Lieberman backed by the Freidmans and Broders and the entire insider "centrist," "conventional wisdom" machine. But really it would be the corporate machine, corporate-funded, corporate PR, leaving the Republicans with their Christian-right fanatics and Progressives labelled "socialist" and "out of the mainstream." Sort of a "friendly fascism."

My gut feeling is that would probably get about 40%, Republicans would keep about 30%, and Progressives no more than about 20% because they have no marketing/messaging infrastructure to counter what will be said about them.

This is what I suspect we will be seeing a lot of: BostonHerald.com - Opinion & Editorial: When partisan polarizers win, nation loses

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:59 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 14, 2006

Virginia Senator Uses Racist Slur To Describe Dark-Skinned Man

A video is online of Senator George Allen of Virginia insulting a dark-skinned man, and saying "welcome to America," at an otherwise all-white Republican gathering. He calls the man "Macaca" and then says, "Well friends, we're in a war on terror." See for yourself.

NOTE - Alternate video source at AlterNet

Jeffrey Feldman of Frameshop did some research and found that the term is used on far-right racist sites, and provides examples. Frameshop: 'Macaca' or 'Macaque'. Go read it, but I warn you, it's pretty sick stuff.

So seeing how it is used on the right-wing, racist websites Feldman found, there is no question what Sen. Allen was saying. Also, it seems that Senator Allen has had a problem with this in his background. From GEORGE ALLEN'S RACE PROBLEM,

Campaigning for governor in 1993, he admitted to prominently displaying a Confederate flag in his living room. He said it was part of a flag collection--and had been removed at the start of his gubernatorial bid. When it was learned that he kept a noose hanging on a ficus tree in his law office, he said it was part of a Western memorabilia collection. These explanations may be sincere. But, as a chief executive, he also compiled a controversial record on race. In 1994, he said he would accept an honorary membership at a Richmond social club with a well-known history of discrimination--an invitation that the three previous governors had refused. After an outcry, Allen rejected the offer. He replaced the only black member of the University of Virginia (UVA) Board of Visitors with a white one. He issued a proclamation drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans declaring April Confederate History and Heritage Month. The text celebrated Dixie's "four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." There was no mention of slavery. After some of the early flaps, a headline in The Washington Post read, "governor seen leading va. back in time."

[. . .] Before there was a Governor Allen, there was a state legislator Allen. Allen became active in Virginia politics in the mid-'70s, when state Republicans were first learning how to assemble a new political coalition by wooing white Democrats with appeals to states' rights and respect for Dixie heritage.

Allen was a quick study. In his first race in 1979--according to Larry Sabato, a UVA professor and college classmate of Allen's--he ran a radio ad decrying a congressional redistricting plan whose main purpose was to elect Virginia's first post-Reconstruction black congressman.

... In 1984, he was one of 27 House members to vote against a state holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, "Allen said the state shouldn't honor a non-Virginian with his own holiday." He was also bothered by the fact that the proposed holiday would fall on the day set aside in Virginia to honor Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That same year, he did feel the urge to honor one of Virginia's own. He co-sponsored a resolution expressing "regret and sorrow upon the loss" of William Munford Tuck, a politician who opposed every piece of civil rights legislation while in Congress during the 1950s and 1960s and promised "massive resistance" to the Supreme Court's 1954 decision banning segregation.

One thing ab out the video was his comfort using the term with the all-white Republican gathering, and the assumption they all understood and appreciated hat he was doing.

Update - This pro-Allen blog calls it "good-natured ribbing" and one of the commenters says, "He should have called him Saddam!" Go read the racist sites cited above and think about that.

skippy gets into the good-natured spirit of it all.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:32 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush's Medicare Changes

Here's a video over at Current TV, about the effects of Bush's Medicare plan.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

You Know things Are Bad When...

You know that our news media situation has gotten pretty bad when foreign news outlets run stories about it. This British news story, America's one-eyed view of war: Stars, stripes, and the Star of David, discusses how America's news coverage of Israel/Lebanon has deteriorated to pure propaganda dissemination.

The media, more generally, has left little doubt in the minds of a majority of American news consumers that the Israelis are the good guys, the aggrieved victims, while Hizbollah is an incarnation of the same evil responsible for bringing down the World Trade Centre, a heartless and faceless organisation whose destruction is so important it can justify all the damage Israel is inflicting on Lebanon and its civilians.

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

CNN Calls Lamont "The al Queda Candidate" - Media Matters Responds

Media Matters - Media Matters to CNN: Will anchor Roberts be disciplined for suggesting Lamont is "the Al Qaeda candidate"?

Jonathan Klein
President, CNN

Rolando H. Santos
Executive Vice President and General Manager, CNN Headline News
One CNN Center
Atlanta, GA 30348

Dear Messrs. Klein and Santos:

I am writing to express my great concern over an incident that occurred on your network Friday, August 11, 2006. As the Think Progress weblog noted, during a discussion on CNN Headline News of the recent Connecticut Senate Democratic primary won by Ned Lamont, anchor Chuck Roberts asked: "Might some argue, as some have, that Lamont is the Al Qaeda candidate?"

One expects to hear this kind of hyperbolic rhetoric -- which also perfectly plays into the Republican Party's baseless smears of Democrats as soft on national security -- coming from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, or Michael Savage. CNN, however, is supposed to be a legitimate news organization.

Mr. Roberts might have a defense if it were actually the case that people were calling Mr. Lamont "the Al Qaeda candidate." But as Arianna Huffington pointed out on CNN's own Reliable Sources yesterday, the smear appears to be entirely the creation of Mr. Roberts. We note that Mr. Lamont's opposition to the Iraq war is shared by a majority of the American people; we hope it is not common practice among CNN anchors to refer to most Americans as Al Qaeda sympathizers.

I presume you have a sincere commitment to responsible journalism and accountability within your news organization. We at Media Matters for America, along with your viewers, would like to know what action you intend to take in response to this incident. Will CNN be issuing a retraction? Will Mr. Roberts be offering Mr. Lamont an on-air apology? Will some disciplinary action be taken against Mr. Roberts?

We eagerly await your response.

Sincerely,

David Brock
President and CEO
Media Matters for America

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Patriot Project

As always, be sure to check in with The Patriot Project to see what's up.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

ANOTHER Republican Sec. State Purging State Voter Rolls!

One Republican-controlled state after another is purging its voter rolls, just in time for the election.

Now it's Michigan. Michigan Liberal :: 'The voter registration you currently hold...may be cancelled'

Tell everyone you know what's going on and ask them to make sure they are still registered - wherever you live.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Democratic Senators - Will You Support the DEMOCRATIC Nominee?

Bob Geiger asks why there are still 22 Democratic Senators who haven't said whether they will support the Democratic Party's nominee for the Senate in Connecticut, and is offering them a free press release they can send out:

So, to you weary Senate Democrats who haven't yet taken a stand, I've written your press release for you. Here it is:
Press Release of [Insert Senator name here]

"Senator ____________ Calls for Party Unity in Connecticut Senatorial Race"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Washington, DC -- U.S. Senator ____________ of [State] watched with great interest as Connecticut Democrats went to the polls in large numbers last week to choose the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by [his/her] colleague, Joe Lieberman.

... Senator ____________ is pleased to announce his support for the candidacy of Ned Lamont for the U.S. Senate and wishes Senator Lieberman the best in all future endeavors.

Go read the rest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

HOW Big A Threat?

Many Republicans say that terrorism is the most serious threat ever faced by the United States. President Bush said on Thursday:

...this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," ...
Cheney, in March,
“They seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman, and child lives in total obedience to a narrow, hateful ideology. The terrorists have targeted people of every nationality and every religious faith, including Muslims who disagree with them,” said Cheney, adding, “The war on terror is a fight against evil; victory in this war will be a victory for peaceful men and women of every religious faith.”
Sounds pretty serious, no?

I've often said that in The Propaganda Age we need to learn to look only at what they DO, not what they SAY. So, in order to determine just HOW serious a threat the Republicans actually think terrorism is, let's look at what they actually DO about the threat.

So just how serious a threat does the United States face from terrorism? Let's look at the ways they could be asking the citizens to involve themselves.

Taxes to pay for the war? Nope.

Instituting a draft to fight the war? Nope.

Fuel economy standards to reduce our dependence on oil from the Middle East? Nope.

Federal energy conservation requirements like a 55mph speed limit or lowering the thermostats on air conditioners? Nope.

Increasing port security and searching all cargo containers? Nope.

How about the recent news that the Bush administration had CUT the budget for R&D into detecting explosives on airplanes?

Please - add in the comments more things they could be doing that are real, not just propaganda.

If you do believe that terrorism is a serious threat to our safety and security, perhaps you should consider whether the Republicans really are the right people to be handling things. They SAY a lot, but what are they actually DOING that's real? Maybe their attitude of saying instead of doing is sending the wrong signal to the public.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:30 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Politicizing?

GOP.com | Republican National Committee :: Blog Post - The Counterterrorism Policies Many Dems Oppose Have Protected Us Again

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:24 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 13, 2006

Only Complain About Democrats?

Also at MyDD, why does Lieberman only complain that DEMOCRATS are being partisan? See MyDD :: Senator Lieberman, Condemn These Partisan Polarizers which has several examples of Republicans recently calling Democrats things like "the Taliban" and traitors, etc... No complaints yet from Lieberman about that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:27 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Value of 50-State Strategy Illustrated

MyDD :: Why We File Everywhere

Democrats managed to find 425 candidates to run for Congress this year. But that still left ten districts without a Democratic candidate. One of the ten districts without a Democratic candidate is CA-42, which is represented by Republican Gary Miller.

Republican Representative Gary Miller just got caught stealing millions of dollars by not paying taxes after selling 165 acres of land to the city of Monrovia. (And I wonder what will happen when THAT transaction receives scrutiny.) Chris writes,

We have in CA-42 a congressman who ripped off taxpayers by more than $3M, and then pocketed the money himself. Suddenly, the CA-42 looks like it might be winnable. If this story blows up, than Gary Miller is finished. Defrauding a local town for more than $3M of taxpayer money? Look at me with a straightface and tell me that won't make this district close.

Actually, it will not make this district close, because no Democrat qualified for the ballot here.

So if you live in CA-42 and decided not to file to run for Congress - it's too late now, the filing deadline has passed.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:21 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

John Laesch for Congress

This guy is running for Congress against Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Seriously, send him some bucks to help him win - I just did. I met him at YearlyKos and this is a guy who should be in the Congress, not corrupt Dennis Hastert.

John Laesch wrote this diary at DailyKos today. Go read it and you'll agree that this guy should be elected. (Except the pig roast thing. I'm a vegetarian.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:51 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Just Get Rid Of Government?

Today my local newspaper' subjects me to this right-wing propaganda comic strip (click to enlarge):

Mallard_FillmoreAug12.gif

Today the cartoon's message is: Get rid of public schools, then we don't have to pay property taxes, and everyone can pick out for themselves what education their kids get. At least today we get to see the pure, honest message of the Right without the usual disguises -- today's cartoon is not even offering the usual pretense of vouchers.

The larger exchange offered is clear: just get rid of government and the taxes it requires, and leave everyone to fend for themselves.

This exchange extends beyond just schools -- it's about parks, water systems, sewer systems, roads, bridges, highways, public transportation, public health systems, hospitals, Social Security, Medicare and everything else that we as a people, a community, have decided to gather together and provide for the people of this country. The Right dismisses all of this as "collectivism."

I'll just make a couple of points here. If you get rid of schools only the richest will be able to get any education at all. This is the way things used to be. But in America every town got together to build a school and hire a teacher, and this is how public education grew. Everyone understood (learned the hard way) that more education for everyone ends up being better for everyone. If the kids in poor neighborhoods are provided with an education, the community is a better, safer and more prosperous place.

And, likewise, if you get rid of public health systems, the rich are still just as susceptible to catching diseases as everyone else. If we as a collective group don't work to keep the poorest among us from catching TB, then we ALL are at risk of catching TB.

Democracy is about one-person-one-vote and not about one-dollar-one-vote. History has proven that systems based on the Right's dream of one-dollar-one-vote just do not work. But we don't hear this side - the pro-democracy side - of the argument anymore. The increasing concentration of our sources of information into just a few corporate hands means that we even have to be subjected to this kind of far-right propaganda in our Sunday comics. (And when was the last time you saw someone on TV advocating that workers form unions?)

But the reason we are constantly subjected to far-right propaganda like this without hearing counter-messaging is not just because of this concentration of media. It is also because the counter-messaging just isn't being produced and distributed. The Right has a vast messaging machine pumping out propaganda designed to systematically attack the institutions of democracy. But Progressives -- the forces of democracy and community -- aren't doing much to counter it.

We need to build organizations designed to reach the general public with messages that explain and reinforce the values of democracy and community, to counter the Right's incessant messaging.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:35 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 12, 2006

Kilroy for Congress

I'm doing some research for a project that I'll be telling you about next week, and I came across this campaign website: Kilroy For Congress. The things talked about on this website make me want to vote for her. Except I live in California, not Columbus, Ohio. (Actually, growing up in Ann Arbor I'm supposed to hate Columbus. Some of you know what I'm talking about.)

Go visit Kilroy for Congress, and throw a few bucks to help the campaign.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:16 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bolton --The Next Wedge

Matt Stoller says the next big fight is over filibustering Bolton's nomination to be UN ambassador, which is really about Israel. I've been saying the Republicans plan to use Lieberman as a wedge to split Democrats, and Matt says Bolton is the tool..

MyDD :: Bolton's Pull versus Lamont's Push, Matt says,

We'll learn just how committed the Democratic Party insiders are to opposing Bush's foreign policy objectives in the wake of Ned Lamont's stunning victory.
Go read all about it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:20 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Musical Saw Festival

One of my favorite things about Santa Cruz is the music. The radio, the clubs and just on the street...

So today I'm in Santa Cruz for a bit, and walking down the street I come across this: (sorry, cell-phone pic)

SawLg.jpg

It's a musical saw gathering in front of the statue of saw-player(and labor organizer) Tom Scribner. They're in town for a festival.

Researching this post I learned that,

Tom had been a logger, and a labor organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (aka the Wobblies). The Wobblies were active from 1905 to WWI, and their aim was to organize unskilled workers all over the world into "One Big Union". "Solidarity Forever" was their slogan. He also editied a local newspaper called "The Redwood Ripsaw" during the 60's.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Upcoming Republican Primary in Rhode Island -- Compare and Contrast

In recent weeks we have been treated to a press firestorm over the Connecticut Democratic primary, in which the "netroots" DARED to run a candidate against Senator Joe Lieberman, and beat him. The insider press and political system is in absolute SHOCK that this could happen, with a good dose of anger at the voters for daring to go against their wishes. (Never mind that a far-right candidate beat a moderate candidate in Michigan's Republican primary -- for some reason that is different and remains unreported.)

You might also have noticed that since the primary, the press has paid far more attention to Lieberman - the loser of the primary - than to the winner. This is because the Republicans are promoting a wedge narrative intended to split the Democratic Party. By amplifying the voices of disgruntled Lieberman supporters, the Repubicans hope to keep a segment of the Democratic Party from voting this November.

In illustration of my point, contrast this firestorm to the situation with the upcoming Rhode Island Repubican primary. Lincoln Chafee is an old-style Republican Senator from Rhode Island. By "old-style" I mean he precedes the Christian Right/conservative movement takeover of the Republican Party and remains independent of The Party's corruption machine. And the far right is not happy about that, so they are running a candidate against Chafee in Rhode Island's upcoming Republican primary. You would think the "on the surface" similarities would drive press coverage, but the opposite is the case. (I say "on the surface" because in this case it is actual radicals running a candidate against an incumbent, where in Connecticut the opposition candidate actually had a more centrist voting record than the incumbent.)

Conservative group sets sights on Chafee,

Since its inception in 1999, the group has spent millions to help dozens of conservative Republicans win seats in Congress - often at the expense of more moderate party members. The Club's president, former Rep. Pat Toomey, nearly defeated Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter in 2004.

This year, the group's top priority is defeating Chafee, who angered many Republicans by voting against President Bush's tax cuts and then casting a write-in vote for the president's father in the last election.

... Republicans who support the Club say its refusal to compromise its ideology gives it credibility.

"They're not about getting more Republicans elected, they're about getting real Republicans elected," said Jerry Stacy, spokesman for Sharron Angle, a Club-endorsed House candidate in Nevada.

Learn how the American system operates now. Keep an eye on this one -- compare and contrast the coverage and commentary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:42 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 2001 All Over Again - Except With Donors?

Remember how Bush received an August, 2001 CIA warning that bin Laden was going to use airplanes to attack America -- and went on vacation instead of acting on the warning? Here we go again: AMERICAblog: With America under "imminent attack," Bush stays on vacation and holds a BBQ at his ranch for rich Republican donors

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

August 11, 2006

Men Arrested For Having Funny Arabic-Sounding Names

And for Local Links to Terrorist Arrests

The activity seems to be more than just a coincidence. All three men are from Dearborn, Michigan
And they had ... CELL PHONES!!!!!
"They are digital for detonating car bombs and they have a particular digital frequency and that's what they're using them for," said Sheriff Larry Mincks.
Althought there were no car bombs involved... Just cell phones. But wait, there's MORE!
Wal-Mart places a limit on the number of cell phones that can be purchased at once, that number is three. The three men allegedly bought 80 by purchasing them three at time so that an alert wouldn't be triggered by the cash register. They also paid cash. An alert clerk grew suspicious and called Tuscola County central dispatch. The Caro Police Department sent a unit and stopped the rented van on M-81 just east of Caro. The suspects were headed towards Bad Axe on M-81 where there is another Super Wal-Mart.
Headed toward ... BAD AXE! Where there is ANOTHER WAL-MART!!!!!

But wait, there's MORE!!!

The three men are described as being of Palestinian descent but live in Texas.

... The men have been "cooperative, upfront, not hiding" anything according to police. They also told officers they get stopped frequently and say they buy the phones for $20 and sell them elsewhere for $38. They sell them without the packaging or charger.

Sigh...

Update - Even the FBI is rolling their eyes at this one.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:19 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush Tried To STOP Bomb Detection Plans!

Bush staff wanted bomb-detect cash moved,

While the British terror suspects were hatching their plot, the Bush administration was quietly seeking permission to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new homeland explosives detection technology.

Congressional leaders rejected the idea, the latest in a series of steps by the Homeland Security Department that has left lawmakers and some of the department's own experts questioning the commitment to create better anti-terror technologies.

[ . .] The administration also was slow to start testing a new liquid explosives detector that the Japanese government provided to the United States earlier this year.

The British plot to blow up as many as 10 American airlines on trans-Atlantic flights was to involve liquid explosives.

By the way, are they still also blocking funding for checking cargo containers at ports?

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

George Galloway Takes On Britain's Fox News

With a longer-term view of what's happening in Lebanon.

"What a silly person you are." "No justice no peace."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 10, 2006

Documenting Politicization of Terror Alert

Go read The Stakeholder:: Timeline: A Profile in Politicizing Terror.

Just go read it. You won't believe it. Actually I'm wrong about that -- after everything we've seen this crowd do, you will believe it. Party over country, tearing the country apart. Anything to bring them more power...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:53 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Real or Not - Republicans Politicizing Terror Alert

Glenn Greenwald writing at Salon (click through the ad...) Politicizing the terrorist plot,

Roughly 12 hours have elapsed since it was disclosed that the British police thwarted an attempt to blow up transcontinental airplanes. Few facts are known about how the plot was uncovered and exactly who was behind it. Nonetheless, supporters of President Bush have wasted no time attempting to exploit this event to make what they evidently perceive are powerful political points in defense of the president and his most controversial policies.

Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds excitedly points to this terrorist plot and then claims that "some people" -- he does not, of course, say who these "some people" are -- "have decided that the war on terror is passe. But although you may not be interested in terrorism, terrorism is still interested in you." Michael Ledeen in National Review attempts to use this incident to argue that we should confront Iran: "But here was a secret plot we found out about, and we acted. Iran announces its intentions openly, however we don't act."

Much more, go read and to click through links.


Update - AmericaBlog has a French press story about White House officials overjoyed that this is happening.

Yes, overjoyed over a story about people wanting to commit mass-murder. THAT is who runs our country.

Snow said Bush first learned in detail about the plot on Friday, and received two detailed briefings on it on Saturday and Sunday, as well as had two conversations about it with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

But a senior White House official said that the British government had not launched its raid until well after Cheney held a highly unusual conference call with reporters to attack the Democrats as weak against terrorism....

... But Bush's Republicans hoped the raid would yield political gains...

"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big," said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won't "look as appealing" under the circumstances.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:34 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Republican Party Adds Hitler Mustache to Dean Photo

Dependable Renegade: I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation.

See also Interesting Times: GOP paints Hitler moustache on Dean

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

BLOGGERS! Wild In the Streets!!!

BLOGGERS GONE WILD! SAYING THINGS!!! SAYING ANYTHING THEY WANT!!!

The story that BLOGGERS had something to do with Lieberman losing was the lead-in story on the local news last night, before even news from Lebanon! The story featured some maniac named Johnson from a blog called Seeing the Forest, or something like that! He SAID stuff! On TV! A BLOGGER!

Be afraid! ANYONE can just get a computer, and write stuff! And then OTHER people will READ IT! And DO STUFF!

The world might come apart! There are NO CONTROLS on what these people say! ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROLS! They can say ANYTHING! And it can lead ANYWHERE! It can even lead to a CONTESTED PRIMARY! And they can even incite VOTERS to show up at the POLLS and vote AGAINST A SITTING SENATOR!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:14 AM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 9, 2006

SF News Tonite

If you're in the SF Bay Area I should be on ABC-7 11pm News tonite talking about bloggers and the Lieberman campaign. I just finished a short interview.

Mostly what I said was, yes bloggers helped trigger the Lamont candidacy, but the people of Connecticut were fed up. Blogs provided a channel for that to coalesce.

But the point I made repeatedly is that bloggers are just people - the public. ANYone can be a "blogger." Blogs are democracy. Blogs are just a means for people to express opinions and get involved themselves. There are no special, selected "bloggers" -- it is just democracy, the public, the people.

One thing I said wrong and I know they'll use is I referred to a "we" that looked for a candidate to run against Lieberman and backed Lamont early. I meant bloggers, not some group that I specifically was part of.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:39 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Lamont Win Good

Here and there I'm seeing comments that Lamont's victory only puts off the day of reckoning, whereby the Right will make things bad enough and the public will finally see the light... Last year I wrote a post about this "give them enough rope" strategy,
Inches and Rope to Right-Wingers?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:13 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

We should gloat

We were all very cautious last night. Even when Lamont had a 3.6% lead with 91% of the vote in, none of the liberal bloggers claimed victory.

But now is the time to gloat over that mealy-mouthed bastard's defeat. During the last eighteen years Lieberman and his kind have spoken very harshly about people like me (anti-war liberals), and the feeling is mutual.

The insider fatheads who bitch all the time about entrenched incumbents should have been supporting Lamont, but they weren't. How very, very odd.

The experts who were talking about how Lamont was hurting the Democrats should be attacking Lieberman now for the same reason, but somehow I doubt that most of them will.

Now that Karl Rove seems to be entering the race on Lieberman's side, a lot of people are going to have to take a look at themselves. Wasn't Lieberman always a Trojan Horse in the Democratic Party? -- he won his first race with Bill Buckley's help. Aren't a lot of those guys Trojan Horses? Wouldn't a lot of them rather be bigshots in a weak party than share power within the governing party?

What a goddamn time to talk about bipartisanship. Jesus. Bush is the worst President in American history, and it's wrong to expect that Senators from the opposition party oppose him?

Lieberman even succeeded in degrading his reputation another notch with his bogus charge that Lamont's people hacked him. I hadn't thought that that could be possible.

(Note: I am indeed full of hate, but I am a semi-retired third-rank blogger and represent no one but myself and the millions of ordinary Americans who feel the way I do. I don't represent the Democratic blogging community or the Democratic Party. They're a bunch of timid motherfuckers.)

Posted by John Emerson at 12:00 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Ask Connecticut Republican Candidates

Someone needs to ask Republican candidates in Connceticut if they agree with their party that,

“Connecticut should have its statehood taken away from it. The foolishness of its pampered residents should be demonstrated to others by a government program to bulldoze the entire state, salt the land and construct a windfarm to supply NYC with electricity. And its residents should be relocated to Guantanamo Bay where they can take a number behind the 3 who hung themselves this weekend, since they seem so intent on suicide.”
Let's hear them explain why they are running as Republicans in a state that Republicans hate.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:14 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 8, 2006

I'm Going To Call The Race Now

OK, I'm going to go way out on a limb and call the Connecticut race for Lamont. But I think that Lieberman will possibly run anyway, as an independent.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:56 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Vote Lieberman Out

Joe Lieberman is the guy who said it would be OK to count absentee ballots even if postmarked after the election. He did that because the Repiblicans said people who insisted that the election laws be followed were "anti-military." He is the epitome of the "afraid Rush Limbaugh will say something bad about him" Democrat.

Joe falls for every single right-wing, focus group-tested scam line. He thinks estate taxes are "death taxes." He thinks "junk lawsuits are out of control" and "children are trapped in failing public schools."

I'll let John say the rest for me.

So if you live in Connecticut vote Lieberman out today.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 7, 2006

Warming Warning

Super Computers Make Global Warming Visible,

If warming currents, such as those already detected by scientists at depth, begin to thaw these [frozen undersea] methane beds, it will make the atmosphere, and consequently the sea currents, even warmer, and melt out more methane.

A number of scientists tell me that would take the Earth up into temperatures humankind has never experienced -- and probably could not survive.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:39 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 6, 2006

Corporate/Conservative Infiltration of YouTube Videos

A video that mocks Al Gore and people who believe that global warming is real has shown up on YouTube. When reporters tracked down who made the video they discovered that it came from a Republican Party-linked PR firm with ExxonMobil as a client. From ABC News: Al Gore YouTube Spoof Not So Amateurish,

The film actually came from a slick Republican public relations firm called DCI, which just happens to have oil giant Exxon as a client.

... Another question is why would this movie be done in a seemingly unprofessional way, to be shown alongside YouTube's mostly amateur videos, which feature lip-synching, odd performances and funny satires?

"They want it to look like this came from someone who really believes this, who is really critical of Al Gore and global warming," Farsetta said.

Here is the video. See how many forms of propaganda and psychological manipulation you can spot. For example, can you spot an appeal to the actions of similar others, which is when people see others following a behaviour they tend to follow that behavior themselves?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:12 PM | Comments (7) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Why Liberals Love Pedophiles

Because right-wingers say so - that's why.

How often do you hear one or another variation of the message that liberals are bad and conservatives are good? And how often do you hear messages that counter that? Right. That is because one side is marketing a viewpoint, and the other is not.

At the right-wing Townhall.com, Why liberals love pedophiles

"Since modern liberalism's true goal is the actual eradication of God, moral values, and the ideas of absolute right vs. wrong, it should surprise no one that not a single leftist politician in America has denounced [pedohile no one has ever heard of]. Nor did they denounce [pedohile no one has ever heard of]. The truth is liberals seek sexual utopia where no rules apply. Restraint has in fact become a dirty word to them. Self control - a throughly foreign concept.

... For liberals to denounce pedophiles, ultimately they would have to denounce, lesbianism, homsexuality, and their particular favorite - adultery. And that's just no going to happen.

At the end of the day there are such a thing as moral values, and liberals despise them - because as they see it - those moral values limit their sexual freedoms. And if this is "America" - isn't it all about the freedom to get your groove on?

Liberals love pedophiles.

Isn't it shameful?

And don't we all wish - that they loved the well being of children more?"

The guy tells a story about some pedophile no one has ever heard of, and turns it into a lesson about liberals being immoral. So let's learn from this. Let's look at how movement conservatives do it. They "always add the because". They tie every small story to a larger ideological lesson - a strategic narrative.

But here's the thing. They have that strategic narrative in place to tie their stories to, even if they have to fall back on the old basic one - conservatives are good and liberals are bad. So they have a ready-to-go angle to use with any story that comes along. And they understand the basic marketing reasons to do this. Progressives don't. (Is that because progressives are bad and conservatives are good?)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:37 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Right-Winger Explains What's Wrong With Leiberman - It's Not Just the War

At far, far-right-wing Townhall.com, wingnut Mark Alexander explains what's wrong with Leiberman better than I could. Remember that this is a core-conservative movement perspective:

Lieberman had proved his mettle two years earlier, when he scolded then-prevaricator-in-chief Bill Clinton for having debauched a 21-year-old intern -- and for having perjured himself during the cover-up.

... Lieberman dealt his integrity a fatal blow by lending his name to Gore. Indeed, shortly after hopping aboard the ill-fated Gore ticket, he flip-flopped on key issues such as school choice, social-security reform and affirmative action.

... From the onset of hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, many of Joe Lieberman's Senate colleagues have been vociferously anti-American -- in fact, their actions have been nothing short of traitorous. However, Lieberman refused to trade his integrity for party loyalty, which separated him from the pack of Northeastern liberals like uber-Leftist Jean-Francois Kerry. Said Lieberman earlier this year: "It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge [that he is our] commander-in-chief. We undermine the President's credibility at our nation's peril."

In other words, Leiberman supported the far-right positions on school vouchers, getting rid of affirmative action, getting rid of Social Security, and called other Democrats traitors. If DEMOCRATS vote him out this week I say Good Riddance.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:19 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 5, 2006

War Expands

Airstrikes Hit Christian Area North of Beirut - Los Angeles Times,

Israeli forces killed 33 agricultural workers Friday in northeast Lebanon in a wave of airstrikes that also pierced the country's Christian heartland for the first time and severed its last major highway link to the outside.
Christian support to Israel dies under hail of bombs,
For the first 24 days of Israel's campaign against Hezbollah, Lebanese Christians in the Beirut area believed they were protected from the mayhem gripping other parts of the country.

...The Israelis' target was not the Christians of Jounieh but its bridges, two in the town and two a little to the north. The intent was to sever the last artery connecting Beirut to the outside world, and in that the Israelis succeeded.

But the strikes also destroyed whatever support Israel still enjoyed among Lebanon's Christians.

Among the dead was Joseph Bassil, a Christian. Out for his morning jog, he passed under the 300 metre Fidar bridge, to the north of Jounieh, just as it was destroyed by a huge bomb that pitched cars into the ravine below. Bassil was crushed to death and three motorists were killed.

I wonder if Bush or the right-wingers calling them "ragheads" even know that Lebanon has a large Christian population.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:00 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush's Buddies Chant "Death To America"

Iraqis March, Chanting 'Death To Israel, America',

Tens of thousands of Shiites thronged a Baghdad slum Friday to show support for Hezbollah as Arab anger toward Israel mounted on the Muslim holy day. Such protests have even reached Saudi Arabia, where public discontent is rare.

...Demonstrators wearing white shrouds symbolizing willingness to die for Hezbollah waved the guerrillas' banner and chanted slogans in support of their leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

"Allah, Allah, give victory to Hassan Nasrallah," the crowd chanted before burning Israeli and American flags.

Will the Republicans pass a law against going to war to put into power people who burn American flags?

For those of you who, like President Bush, don't know about Shiites and Sunnis, Iran is Shiite. Iraq has a Shiite majority that was controlled by Baathist Party Sunnis until we invaded. Now the Shite majority in Iraq has come to support Hizbullah against Israel. Iran is a major backer of Hizbullah, and is gaining influence with the Shiite Iraqis. Iraq's Shiite Grand Ayatollah Sistani, even though he is independent from Iran and does not want Iraq run by Iran, has sided with Hizbullah over Israel and previously had publicly forbidden America from attacking Iran AND has said that he would consider an Israeli attack to be an attack by America. And of course the more militant pro-Iran Muqtada al Sadr's position is even more hostile to us.

Southern Iraq is Shiite, and from the little I know about these things it seems to me that we face a danger that Iran has the ability to shut off the logistical "tail" of our forces in Iraq if they decide to. You see, almost ALL of the supplies for our forces in Iraq come up from Kuwait, through Southern Iraq, and surrounded by Shiites the whole way. That leaves our entire Iraqi military force vulnerable to the whim of Iran.

So here we are. From the start I have said that America's interest, far from "bringing democracy to Iraq," might really be to prevent democracy there. "Democracy" sounds nice - a really good PR word - but democracy in a country with a Shiite majority necessarily strengthens neighboring Iran, possibly even leading eventually to a merger of Iraq with Iran -- and thereby brings Iraq's oil over to Iran/China/Russia's advantage in the world strategic picture. How is this in America's interest? Sorry, but that is just cold, hard "realpolitik."

I think Bush's father and his circle understood this. They didn't want Iraq/Saddam in control of the region AND they didn't want Iran in control either -- the standoff between the two worked for our interests. When Saddam went into Kuwait, that upset the balance so they pushed him out. But they stopped before Baghdad because removing Saddam and his Baathist Party from power would also upset that balance. So that is why Bush's father abandoned the Shiites when they revolted against Saddam -- to keep that balance in the region, with the Shiites (Iran), Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, etc) and Baathists (Iraq and Syria) all in a kind of balance that reflected our interests.

Now Bush II has handed the whole playing field to Iran. Everything Bush has done has played into Iran's hands there. So let me go a little further. Is it just an accident that everything Bush has done has played into Iran's hands? Were the neo-cons conned -- or paid -- by Iranians? Ahmed Chalabi, for example, was the head of the Iraqi National Congress exile group that was feeding the neo-cons the phony "intelligence" about WMD... Was he working for Iran, feeding the neo-cons what they wanted to hear? What do you think?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:26 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bring Back the Draft - And Taxes

During VietNam we had a draft and taxes covered the cost, which meant that the voters felt the pain of war. If we had a draft do you think the public would ever let us get into a war unless we were attacked? The reason conservatives are against a draft (and taxes) is because they want their wars.

The conservatives seem to think the world is just a big Risk game and doesn't matter what you do because the little pieces you move around the board are from other people's families anyway.

If there were a draft now I think there would never have been a war in the first place. This is one reason we need a draft. If we HAD one we wouldn't need to USE it. Would the public passively allow wars like Iraq if there were a draft, or taxes to pay for it? And if there were a draft, and taxes that covered the costs of government, I think people would start voting again - because the things government does really would affect them.

And if we ARE attacked, don't we need to have a draft in place so we're ready?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:20 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Pentagon Says 40,000 Deserters Since 2000

AirForceTimes.com, Thousands of troops say they won’t fight,

Since 2000, about 40,000 troops from all branches of the military have deserted, the Pentagon says. More than half served in the Army. But the Army says numbers have decreased each year since the United States began its war on terror in Afghanistan.
Desertion these days is not usually about the war,
The vast majority of soldiers who desert do so for personal, family or financial problems, not for political or conscientious objector purposes,” said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman for the Army.

In fact, the numbers deserting for political reasons are very low compared to the Vietnam era.

Jeffry House, an attorney in Toronto who represents Magaoay and other deserters, said there are about 200 deserters living in Canada. They have decided not to seek refugee status but instead are leading clandestine lives, he said.

Like many of the people helping today’s war resisters, House fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War. About 50,000 Americans sought legal residency in Canada during the Vietnam era.

Of course, people in the military signed up voluntarily, so deserting is very different from the VietNam days. More on this later.

Is it treason?

Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said deserters aren’t traitors because they’ve done nothing to help America’s enemies. But he rejects arguments that deserters have a moral right to refuse to fight wars they consider unjust.

“None of us can choose our wars. They’re always a political decision,” Davis said. “They’re letting their buddies down and hurting morale - and morale is everything on the battlefront.”

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:54 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Yosemite

I'll update this post as more pics are ready. Click to expand.

VallyViewSM.jpg BabyRaccoonSM.jpg ReflectionSM.jpg LowerValleyViewSM.jpg


valleyPanSM.jpg

widevalley2SM.jpg

trainSM.jpg

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:17 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 3, 2006

Other People's Families

Through AMERICAblog

Since the Vietnam War era, it has been common to say that wars are begun by powerful men whose sons stay home, while the sons of men and women with calluses on their hands and dirt under their nails cross oceans to fight, and perhaps to die.

... A White House aide, who requested anonymity because his information was preliminary, said Wednesday that he knew of no top Bush administration official who had a relative who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:07 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 1, 2006

Conservatives Really Do Hate America

The STF Rule -- when Republicans accuse, it means they're doing it themselves... And Republicans love to say liberals hate America.

This post at TownHall just drips with elitist hated of Americans. Townhall.com::A military draft?::By Thomas Sowell,

Back in the days of World War II, the military were drafting young men who were, by and large, patriotic Americans, people who felt that they had a duty to protect this country from its enemies.

Today, a military draft would bring in large numbers of people who have been systematically "educated" to believe the worst about this country or, at best, to be non-judgmental about the differences between American society and its enemies.

The fact that we could use a larger army of the kinds of people who have already volunteered to put their lives on the line does not mean that we can get it by adding warm bodies fresh from our politically correct schools and colleges, where standards and self-discipline are greatly lacking.

Just getting such people used to the idea of duty and discipline could be a major drain on the military, not to mention a plague of lawsuits from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union if the little darlings were not handled with kid gloves.

More than that, so many American institutions, from the Congress to the courts, have degenerated into irresponsible self-indulgence that the military is one of the very few institutions left with a sense of purpose for which it is prepared to make sacrifices.

We dare not destroy that institution, or undermine its morale, by pouring into it very different kinds of people, who will be like sand poured into the gears of machinery.

Nasty.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:46 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Gone For A Few Days

I will be gone to Yosemite Wednesday through Friday, and might not be able to access the Internet from our motel. I thought I should post about this now, so you can begin preparing yourselves. For those who have trouble coping with this, I am trying to make arrangements with a national suicide hotline, and will post the number -- if I can work out a reasonably priced package. (If not you're on your own - maybe you should have hit the Tip Jar once in a while.) But either way, if things get really, really bad remember that I will be BACK Friday evening, and then everything will return to normal and be OK. Just keep that in your minds through the worst of it. Be Strong. Ride it out.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:52 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack