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February 28, 2007

Presidential Candidate Forum at YearlyKos

Last year's YealyKos convention made history. This year's YearlyKos convention is looking better and better!

YearlyKos Netroots Convention announces unprecedented forum for 2008 presidential candidates and progressive leaders,

Today organizers of the YearlyKos Convention announced an unprecedented forum featuring potential 2008 presidential candidates during the second annual YearlyKos Convention on August 4th in Chicago. Organizers touted the forum as an opportunity to use technology to empower regular citizens and grassroots activists to engage, vet and evaluate America’s potential leaders, both face-to-face and online.

...Organizers are also asking the candidates to spend time in individual, unscripted “citizen dialogues” with convention attendees, encouraging substantive discussions that transcend the competitive nature of most joint appearances on the campaign trail. The events and conference are open to media and blog coverage.

Go read the whole thing.

You can register here. It's in Chicago, August 2-5.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 27, 2007

Turn On The News - Stock Market Is Dumping

The Down Jones is down over 400, was down over 500. Turn on the news.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 26, 2007

A Far Too Convenient $mear: Part One - Updated - Rush Update

Co-written with (mostly written by) James Boyce

(Note - visit this follow-up post for a link to Tennessee Center for Policy Research tax forms.)

Did you honestly think that the Right Wing $mear machine was going to let Al Gore stand up with the terrific team who created and direct the movie and receive an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth?"

Did you really believe they would stand by and watch a Democratic leader validated for his life's work?

No chance in hell. As we have said here before, They destroy our leaders. Note to Senator Obama: spare us the hope and bi-partisanship talk and help us fight back.

Here's what we know, what we think, what we're trying to find out and how you can help.

Last night, Al Gore got very favorable national press and worldwide television exposure.

This afternoon, a group calling itself "The Tennessee Center For Policy Research" sent out a press release denouncing Vice President Gore for the size of his household electrical bills.

Let's start right there. How did they get the utility bills? They also didn't have the courtesy to ask Vice President Gore about them (despite their hollow claim of being non-partisan.) And why would a "think tank" possibly care about what Al Gore spends on gas?

Actually, let's start with a more basic question. Who are these people? Well , a quick check of Alexa reveals their web site gets no traffic. Are they legitimate? Well, again, they claim to be non-partisan but only link to far-right and conservative groups so regardless of what their status is with the IRS, this is a conservative, strongly-leaning Republican organization.

We will be digging through IRS documents tonight because if you follow the money, you always find the answers. We will let you know who their donors are as soon as we can.

This group drops the pebble in the lake and now the machine really goes to work.

Front page of Drudge Report at 5:16 reports this press release from a group no one has ever heard of, who may or may not have stolen Al Gore's utility bills. Now, the lie has legs.

In the last twenty minutes, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has updated its website TWICE - both with radio interviews. The damage is being done as we watch.

But guess what? We're going to fight back. All of us.

Why? Well, first of all, Al Gore turning his lights on doesn't make him a hypocrite, it makes him a human.

Second, we've seen this game a few too many damn times. The trick is for them to create doubt and distraction. They need to create doubt all around the country about Al Gore. But there is no doubt.

Al Gore is a hero.

Even heroes need help - join us, add to the comments, let's find out everything we can about these guys and stop them in their tracks. Now.

NOTE: this post is a work in progress and will be updated frequently.

The echo chamber is engaging. Instapundit, Hot Air, Free Republic, WorldNetDaily, TownHall and several others are echoing and amplifying the $mear. RedState, Captain's Quarters. More here and here, here, here, here, here, here, here. Wizbang.

OK, now of course ABC News is picking it up.

A comment at DailyKos: "Hannity got the memo as well and he and Annthrax Coulter are hammering Gore for the same thing tonight."

Tennessee Center's President Drew Johnson comes straight out of the right's network, coming from Exxon-funded American Enterprise Institute and the right-wing-funded National Taxpayers Foundation.

They are part of the right's State Policy Network. According to PFAW,

"SPN is a national network of state-based right-wing organizations in 37 states as well as prominent nationwide right-wing organizations. Through its network SPN advances the public policy ideas of the expansive right-wing political movement on the state and local level."

As of Feb. 16, the Tennessee tax dept. considers them "not a legitimate organization" because of their misrepresenting themselves involving questions about the group's opposition to a state crackdown on drug dealers.

Gore Responds:

Responding to Drudge’s attack, Vice President Gore’s office told ThinkProgress:

1) Gore’s family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology.

2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint — a concept the right-wing fails to understand. Gore’s office explains:

What Mr. Gore has asked is that every family calculate their carbon footprint and try to reduce it as much as possible. Once they have done so, he then advocates that they purchase offsets, as the Gore’s do, to bring their footprint down to zero.
Morning Echo Chamber Update

CNS News, local TV, another local TV, another, local papers, an, RW outlets (another), other RW "think tanks," more blogs, here, here, here, here, and many, many, others.

Rush Update - Rush Limbaugh is spending a great deal of time promoting this story today, mocking Gore, mocking global warming science, mocking the idea of a carbon footprint, with music to the tune of "Ring of Fire" - the world will be a ring of fire... Said CO2 is put in the air by vegetation... But even though mockingly he did also at least mention Gore's response, that Gore says he buys green - and even gave the carbon footprint website address on the air. This was not to encourage people to visit, but to mock, but it was there at least. Rush says his objection is that environmentalists want people to change their lifestyle - to downsize the American lifestyle. "Ultimate aim of global warming religion followers is to blame the United States ... and empower a larger government to make regulations over how we live." Says Gore is a hypocrite.

After the break Rush said that rich, elitist Democrats want to live better than regular people, etc. Says that Democrats say that only by getting poorer and being controlled by government can we solve the climate crisis - we are being scammed like never before.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:15 PM | Comments (40) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 25, 2007

The Talking Dog's Guantanamo Series

The Talking Dog has interviewed David Rose, author of Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights. This is only one of more than twenty interviews The Dog has conducted with people who have first-hand knowledge of what's happening in Guantanamo. (These are all linked at the end of the Rose interview).

The Guantanamo issue tends to get lost in the shuffle, but it's important in the long run because of what it signifies for the future of the U.S. If the Bush administration's lawless authoritarianism is not reversed, much of the Constitution will effectively have been nullified.

Posted by John Emerson at 3:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 24, 2007

What Exxon Money Buys

From a "senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute" we get this: Patrick J. Michaels on An Inconvenient Truth on National Review Online,

This Sunday, Al Gore will probably win an Academy Award for his global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth, a riveting work of science fiction.

The main point of the movie is that, unless we do something very serious, very soon about carbon dioxide emissions, much of Greenland’s 630,000 cubic miles of ice is going to fall into the ocean, raising sea levels over twenty feet by the year 2100.

Where’s the scientific support for this claim? Certainly not in the recent Policymaker’s Summary from the United Nations’ much anticipated compendium on climate change. Under the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s medium-range emission scenario for greenhouse gases, a rise in sea level of between 8 and 17 inches is predicted by 2100. Gore’s film exaggerates the rise by about 2,000 percent.

Except that the UN report specifically said they were leaving out a prediction of how much sea levels would rise from melting polar ice because they could not be precise,
The panel said that because there is no scientific consensus about how fast ice in the Arctic and Antarctic are melting, its estimates of sea-level rise are based only on the fact that ocean water expands when it warms.
A follow-up UN report says there is a 50% chance that the melting ice will raise sea levels by 13-20 FEET.

I'm just a Fellow, not a Senior Fellow, and not even in "environmental studies," but I knew that. I wonder if this clown got a $10,000 check for writing this stuff.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


My logs show that I am getting several spam comments per minute right now. I imagine this is going on across the blogosphere...

I have the blog set to only publish comments from authenticated commenters so you don't have to see the "webcam casino poker viagra" crap that the spammers are trying to post...

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

Why Wingnuts Toe The Line

Why do wingnuts toe the line? It isn't JUST the money. It's also because it is very, very ckear what happens to them when they cross the line and displease the Right's leadership, even a little bit.

A very well-known and popular hunter who writes for outdoors magazines, gives talks across the country and stars on his own TV show wrote one time that he doesn't think people should hunt with military-style assault rifles.

Bang, career over. They are making an example of him.

'Terrorist' Remark Puts Outdoorsman's Career in Jeopardy,

Zumbo's fame, however, has turned to black-bordered infamy within America's gun culture -- and his multimedia success has come undone. It all happened in the past week, after he publicly criticized the use of military-style assault rifles by hunters, especially those gunning for prairie dogs.

... The reaction -- from tens of thousands of owners of assault rifles across the country, from media and manufacturers rooted in the gun business, and from the National Rifle Association -- has been swift, severe and unforgiving. Despite a profuse public apology and a vow to go hunting soon with an assault weapon, Zumbo's career appears to be over.

... The NRA on Thursday pointed to the collapse of Zumbo's career as an example of what can happen to anyone, including a "fellow gun owner," who challenges the right of Americans to own or hunt with assault-style firearms.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:12 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 23, 2007

It Really Is This Simple - Bloggers Are About The Real World

I glanced at "The Note" this morning to get the Washington Insider view of things.

"See the Democrats in Congress not falling into the Republicans' trap (yet) and avoiding a stop-the-war strategy that will (fully) open them up to charges of abandoning the troops. As they tinker with various legislative efforts to achieve their goal of bringing American troops home, Democrats have three main goals: (1) appease their base; (2) keep their coalition together; and (3) most of all, pressure enough Republicans to demand that the President change course. Oh: and: as a political matter, is the surge working?"
I have to give them credit for saying right at the start, "to achieve their goal of bringing the troops home." But the rest of it? The rest of it is about the politics of it. In fact the entire rest of today's Note is about "the politics" of everything - which is to say, about nothing.

The DC media perspective is about the politics. The blogger perspective is about what is happening in the real world. A lot of people are content to argue about politics and positions. I guess it's easier, emotionally, than thinking about the real world.

Here are some things going on in the real world:

Those people in Iraq are D.E.A.D.

That national debt is Money. That. We. Owe.

Houses and buildings Will. Be. Under. Water. from global warming.

Every single day that the posturing continues more people die in Iraq, more carbon goes into the air, more money is owed.

It really is this simple.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 22, 2007

Bush Forming Religious Police?

Hoo-boy here's one to worry about. Attorney General launches religious freedom initiative at SBC meeting. (SBC means Southern Baptist Convention.)

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with Southern Baptist leaders Feb. 20 to unveil a new Department of Justice initiative aimed at educating Americans about their religious liberties and to ask for the Southern Baptist Convention’s help in identifying and reporting abuses of those liberties. [emphasis added]
Great. The government working with the Southern Baptists to identify and report abuses of their religious liberties. And of course, the usual right-wing gibberish accompanies this new campaign,
“Why should it be permissible for an employee standing around the water cooler to declare that ‘Tiger Woods is God,’ but a firing offense for him to say ‘Jesus is Lord’?” he said to vocal affirmation from Executive Committee members. “These are the kinds of contradictions we are trying to address.”
Has anyone, anywhere ever been fired for saying "Jesus is Lord?" Of course not.

So it looks like we are about to experience a massive wave of right-wing Christians screaming that they are being victimized every time a Jewish or Muslim person appears on TV or gets a job they wanted. Backed by the full resources of the government. Just great.

With the unveiling of the “First Freedom Project,” the Department of Justice is creating a department-wide Religious Freedom Task Force, the attorney general told Executive Committee members. Another component is the initiation of a program of public education to ensure that people know their rights. Gonzales said the justice department will hold a series of regional training seminars for leaders interested in religious liberty issues, starting in Kansas City, Mo., March 29.

Also, the department has launched a new website, firstfreedom.gov, with information on the laws they enforce and how to file a complaint. Justice officials will be distributing informational literature to religious organizations, civil rights groups and community leaders on how to file a complaint, Gonzales said.

Talk To Action has more,

Imagine if the religious right's beloved "war on Christmas" was a year-round affair. Legions of lawyers ready to pounce on school and civic administrators, the persistent neon buzz of ACLU-paranoia in the air, Pat Robertson and the Bill O'Reilly Persecution Complex (nice band name...) pressuring corporate America to replace every "gezundheit" with a "God bless you." Now, imagine if the leaders of the effort weren't just the Jerry Falwell Admiration Society, but instead the full weight and force of the Department of Justice...
Watch your backs. Here it comes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 21, 2007

Bush Cutting Medicaid To Pay For ONE FAMILY's Tax Cut

Who is our economy FOR? Bush is cutting Medicaid by $28 billion. Bush is giving the Walton family (Wal-Mart heirs) a $32.7 billion tax cut. You do the math.

Go see who else wins and loses: Maybe We Deserve to Be Ripped Off By Bush's Billionaires,

If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family -- the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune -- would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.

[. . .] That's not only bad government, it's bad capitalism. It makes legalized bribery and political connections more important factors than performance and competition in the corporate marketplace. Beyond that, it's just plain fucking offensive to ordinary people. It's one thing to complain about paying taxes when those taxes are buying a bag of groceries once a month for some struggling single mom in eastern Kentucky. But when your taxes are buying a yacht for some asshole who hires African eight year-olds to pick cocoa beans for two cents an hour ... I sure don't remember reading an excuse for that anywhere in the Federalist Papers.

More information you will not see in your local newspaper or on the news...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 20, 2007

Who Is The Enemy?

Quick question to any conservatives reading this site. Your country is "at war." Leave a comment here and let us know who is "the enemy" we are at war with.

I bet there are as many different answers as there are commenters. Or ask around and see how many of your conservative buddies give different answers to the question. You can't even tell us who "the enemy" is. Shouldn't that tell you something?

"Insurgents?" They're insurging because they object to the people they call "Persians" being put in charge by us. Persian means Iranian. Was it your understanding that Iranians are the people we invaded to put in charge? And the Sunnis we are fighting are backed by the Saudis, among others - our "allies" in the region.

Is the enemy Mutada al Sadr? He's Shiite, and a part of the government we installed.

Et cetera. You get the picture.

Or did you not know about Shiites and Sunnis and the differences when you started this thing?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Roof Falling?

Is the Roof Falling on Housing?,

It was not particularly surprising to most housing market observers that January starts fell from their December levels. But what did have the market abuzz was the magnitude of the drop. With a 14.3% decline to a seasonally adjusted rate of just 1.408 million units -- versus December's revision to 1.643 million units -- the housing activity level for the first month of 2007 was the lowest in nearly a decade.

Not since August 1997 has construction been begun on fewer haciendas in the United States. Indeed, the magnitude of the drop-off has more than a few observers questioning whether the nation's current housing slump actually will last longer than recently has been anticipated.

Other news:

Home Depot profit falls on housing slowdown,
Blake cautioned, however, that the company does not expect a dramatic turnaround in the housing market this year and said the company would give its financial outlook at next week's analyst meeting.

[. . .] Existing U.S. home sales fell 8 percent in 2006, their biggest drop since 1989. Housing starts fell 13 percent last year, their biggest tumble in 15 years. Home sales and construction are key drivers of home improvement sales.

New-home sales dipped 29 percent in California in 2006

(Hartford) Sagging home sales leads to good times for apartment landlords,

A booming market in rentals as home sales sag is leading to rent increases throughout most of the Hartford area in 2007.
(Buffalo) Area home sales hit 7-year low in January,
The local housing market got off to a slow start in January, with home sales sliding to a 7-year low for the month, while the median sale prices of those homes dropped by 4.6 percent, a local real estate group reported.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:57 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Iraqis Not Happy With Americans

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack


Take a look at The Ybor City Stogie

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

It Also Gives You Heart Disease

Humans' beef with livestock: a warmer planet,

American meat eaters are responsible for 1.5 more tons of carbon dioxide per person than vegetarians every year.
I'm just sayin' ...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 19, 2007

When More Is Not Enough

HAVIDOL - When more is not enough.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:26 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Exxon Speaks

I think that someone's been getting money from Exxon.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:19 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

More Bad Global Warming News Coming

Take this seriously.

Climate change: scientists warn it may be too late to save the ice caps | Climate change,

A critical meltdown of ice sheets and severe sea level rise could be inevitable because of global warming, the world's scientists are preparing to warn their governments. New studies of Greenland and Antarctica have forced a UN expert panel to conclude there is a 50% chance that widespread ice sheet loss "may no longer be avoided" because of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Such melting would raise sea levels by four to six metres, the scientists say. It would cause "major changes in coastline and inundation of low-lying areas" and require "costly and challenging" efforts to move millions of people and infrastructure from vulnerable areas. The previous official line, issued in 2001, was that the chance of such an event was "not well known, but probably very low".

Translating for Americans: four to six "metres" is about 13 to 20 feet. This report says the oceans WILL rise. EVERY coastal city in the world WILL be another New Orleans. Take this seriously.

Two weeks ago I was at a meeting of a committee of the City of Menlo Park, where they were discussing whether to join the Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement. This is an attempt to bypass the Republican-controlled federal government and start working to reduce carbon emissions. I suggested that if they want to move this idea along, they should distribute maps showing which parts of Menlo Park will be underwater and when. (Menlo Park is on the San Francisco Bay.)

YOU, yes, YOU can help by checking whether YOUR city is part of the Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement. If they are, ask how you can help. If they are not, start working to get them to join up.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:55 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 17, 2007

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:17 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

End Bush's Aggressive-War Doctrine Of Preemption

In a post titled Resolve This, Digby discusses a Congressional Resolution "Disavowing the doctrine of preemption."

Please go read the "Whereas" list, which includes,

Whereas the doctrine of preemption threatens to set a dangerous precedent that might then be cited by other countries, including other nuclear powers, to justify preemptive military action against perceived threats;
And finally it resolves that,
Resolved, That--

(1) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States possesses the inherent right to defend itself against imminent or actual attack, as codified in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the traditions of international law, but that right does not extend to undertaking military action in the absence of such an imminent or actual attack; and

(2) the House of Representatives disavows the doctrine of preemption because it poses a threat to international law and to the national security interests of the United States.

Now, contact YOUR member of Congress and ask him or her to co-sponsor this resolution.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

"Agressive" legislation, DiFi style

Enclosed below is a letter (submitted via her web site) that I wrote to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) tonight in response to a puff piece she sent me announcing her support for Diane Feinstein's "Ten-in-ten Fuel Economy Act" aka "S. 357", a bill that DiFi has described as "aggressive" legislation to address oil dependence and global warming, but which I see as anything but: reducing our current baseline gasoline usage by less than 12.5% over twelve years is hardly "aggressive", and in the context of rapidly rising usage from China and India, represents a drop in the bucket with regards to addressing global warming.

I've included Boxer's original email, along with a email from DiFi in reference to S. 357 containing the "aggressive legislation" quote, which I received earlier this year in response to a letter to her about supporting higher fuel efficiency standards. If this represents the extent of the vision in Washington for reducing domestic gasoline consumption, things are in a sorry state.

Dear Senator Boxer,

I received your email today touting your support of Dianne Feinstein's S. 357, the "Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act". This is legislation that Dianne Feinstein, in a previous email, described as "aggressive legislation" to reduce dependence on oil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

In my view, increasing fuel efficiency standards by a mere 10 miles per hour by 2019 does not qualify as an "aggressive" response to the global climate / environmental crisis. The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid already approach or exceed twice the current standard - and European automakers have non-hybrid vehicles for sale *today* whose fuel economy doubles the proposed new standard.

In Silicon Valley alone, at least two companies are developing high performance all electric vehicles (WrightSpeed and Tesla), and elsewhere, engineers are discussing the possibility of 300 mpg "plug-in" hybrid vehicles that need to fill up just once or twice a year.

We have the technology, today, to do much better than 35 miles per gallon - and it seems more than reasonable to believe that, ten years from now, it could be deployed widely enough to be standard on all newly manufactured vehicles.

35 miles an hour is where we should have been ten years ago... let alone ten years from now! I drive a pickup manufactured in 1986 with a 2.0 litre engine that gets anywhere from 22-24 mpg depending on the mix of driving I do. By this bill's standards, an improvement of a mere 13 miles an hour in fuel efficiency over the subsequent 33 years will constitute adequate technological process.

S. 357 does the moral equivalent of raising the hurdles from 1 feet high to 1.5 feet high, and then applauding loudly as the contestants step over them with equal ease.

I urge you to support authentically
"aggressive" and timely targets that will make a real impact on global warming.

Thomas Leavitt
Santa Cruz, CA

Boxer Puff Piece, received 02/16/2007:

Dear Friend:

As Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public
Works, I have made it my priority to stop global warming and
improve our environment. As part of that effort, I am pleased
to let you that I am supporting a bill by Senator Dianne
Feinstein to improve passenger automobile fuel economy, reduce
greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
This legislation is known as the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act,

This bill would increase the fuel economy standards, known as
CAFE standards, for SUVs and other light duty trucks and would
increase the combined fleet average for all automobiles from 25
miles per gallon to 35 miles per gallon by model year 2019.

When CAFE standards were first established in 1975, light
trucks made up only a small percentage of total vehicles on the
road and were mostly used by farmers and business. The
standard for them and for SUVs was set at a level that does not
reflect the fact that today these make up more than half of the
new car sales in America. This bill would go a long way to
correcting this discrepancy.

Our bill would also significantly reduce the amount of carbon
dioxide -- the largest single cause of global warming -- from
being released into the atmosphere. If enacted, this
legislation would result in a reduction of 350 million tons of
carbon dioxide from being emitted by cars by 2025. This would
be roughly equivalent to removing 60 million cars from our
roads in one year.

Finally, S.357 seeks to actually reduce our nation’s fuel
consumption, making us less dependent on foreign oil and
reducing the demand for new domestic sources. In large
measure, our legislation is a step forward in creating a sound
energy policy for our nation that will also increase our
national security.

I am pleased to join a bipartisan group of Senators supporting
this important legislation and look forward to its passage.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

DiFi Letter re: fuel economy... notice how twelve years has been redefined as ten years, since the letter below was written.

January 10, 2007

Mr. Thomas Leavitt
PO Box 7095
Santa Cruz, California 95061

Dear Mr. Leavitt:

Thank you for writing to me to express your support for
increasing automobile fuel efficiency standards. I always appreciate
hearing from constituents on issues that are important to them.

I understand and share your concerns regarding automobile fuel
efficiency. America's cars and light trucks are responsible for
approximately 20 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide pollution, which is a
greenhouse gas that causes global warming. In addition, the United
States is the largest consumer of oil, using 20.4 million barrels per day.
By increasing the average fuel economy standards for all vehicles, we
can reduce our dependence on oil in addition to decreasing our
greenhouse gas emissions.

There are many new technologies on the market to help
automakers improve fuel efficiency standards. Unfortunately, without a
mandatory increase in fuel economy standards, many of these
technologies are being used instead to increase speed, size, or

You will be pleased to know that I have recently introduced the
"Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act" (S. 3543) that would raise the average
fuel economy standards for all vehicles from their current average of 25
miles per gallon (mpg) to 35 mpg by model year 2017. This legislation
would save 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, which is what we currently
import from the Persian Gulf daily, and prevent 420 million metric tons
of carbon dioxide from being emitted by 2025. I believe that this is
aggressive legislation that will provide a realistic solution to help the
United States decrease our dependence on oil and decrease our
greenhouse gas emissions.

Please know that I will keep your comments in mind as I
continue to fight for higher automobile fuel efficiency standards. Again,
thank you for your letter and I hope you will continue to contact me on
issues that are important to me. If you have any additional comments or
questions, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C. staff at
(202) 224-3841.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 3:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 14, 2007

If Iran And Islamofascists Are A Threat: What Bush Must Do

News story: Bush: 'Preposterous' to suggest intelligence on Iran is wrong.

President Bush says that the United States faces a threat from Iran, and has repeatedly said that we are in a war for our very existence against what he calls "Islamofascists."

Perhaps he is right. But there is a problem. President Bush previously said that Iraq was threatening us with weapons of mass destruction. He even said it was an "imminent" threat and therefore we had to invade that country.

That hasn't turned out so well. So now President Bush has a credibility problem. He "cried wolf." He used up his ability to come to us and say we need to believe him.

So if President Bush REALLY believes that the country faces this terrible threat that he says we face, he needs to recognize that his credibility problem is in the way of the country's ability to believe him. If he means it there is only one way the country will respond.

He must step aside to allow a leader who the public can trust to tell us about this threat. Not him.

If there is a threat I need to hear it from someone I trust. I don't trust Bush and neither does the country.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:52 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 13, 2007

A Reality Check re: Al Gore and the campaign to stop Global Warming

I was going to post this as a comment in response to the item Dave posted about the Draft Gore posting on DailyKos, but it developed into a full fledged posting, on a fundamentally different topic than Gore himself: the utter and complete unsustainability of the American lifestyle, and the fact that we are in massive denial about the scope of the changes that are required in our daily habits of living to create a sustainable society.

Gore is doing good work, but at the same time, I think it is important to acknowledge that Global Warming isn't a cause, it is a symptom of the much larger problem mentioned above. I'm sure Gore knows this, but what I'm not sure is that he's come to grips, himself, with the scope of the changes required to address the larger problem (let alone how to make them politically palatable).

Here are the facts that he, and every other "environmental leader" in the developed world are confronted with: we are living way beyond our means, way way beyond. Take the Earth Day Footprint Quiz, and you'll see why I say this. If any of you score a 1 or better, please let me know... because even though my most fanatical Green minimalist bicycle riding organic farmers market eating friends have "scores" that say if everyone on the planet lived like they did, it would take four "Earths" to sustain them.

... and we have only one.

On a personal basis, I've found that every single time, when I've brought these facts up for discussion, even to the most smart and thoughtful people I know, one on one, or in a group situation, they acknowledge the reality of this need for wholesale and fundamental change in our consumption patterns, but then, somehow, the conversation inevitably changes to another subject very quickly.

It seems that your average middle class American environmental sympathizer, living in their 2000 square foot home full of the wide variety of material possessions we now take for granted, driving several hundred miles a week just around town and to and from work in a relatively new car, eating out several times a week, recycling religiously, but still filling their garbage bin on a regular basis, simply can't come to grips with these facts. To be fair, no one else can either in my experience.

It is like folks simply can't look the problem straight in the face, it is too huge and too personal to come to grips with: each of us, individually, is killing the planet, by living an utterly unsustainable lifestyle... morning, noon, and night. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we strive not to participate in the machine's destructive effect, with every act we take, every item of food we eat, every item of clothing we purchase, every mile we drive, we are doing the moral equivalent of living off our children's credit cards. We are literally taking the food out of their mouths, and the clothes off their backs (and the gas out of their mopeds).

Who reading this can conceive of living on 10% of the resources they now consume? Not just energy, but everything else... and my math says that only gets the average American halfway to a sustainable world, if everyone else is brought "up" at the same time. We really need to be talking about getting to 5% (or even less!) of the resources we now consume on average as American citizens, if we're going to create a sustainable economy and leave the natural world enough resources to rebuild itself.

Look around the house you live in, right now, and think how that scenario I outlined above would change it: how much smaller would your residence need to be? How many fewer possessions would you need to have? How much longer would you need to keep them? How many intentionally disposable items have you run through in the last week? How would your eating habits change? Your travel habits? Where you live relative to where you work (and shop)? What would it take to live on just a quarter of what you do now, in terms of environmental resources (energy, material goods, land, etc.)? A tenth? A twentieth?

Lest we forget how many of us lived until recently, let me describe the house that one of my great grandmothers grew up in (Herbert Hoover's sister, my Great Grandma May Hoover Leavitt): "a 14' x 20' dwelling that consisted of one main living area and one tiny bedroom for five family members." I've seen this place, the pictures don't do justice to how small it is, we are talking TINY. The children slept on a trundle bed that was rolled out from under their parents' bed (my great great grandparents must have been very creative when it came to finding opportunities to expand the family) . The "kitchen" was moved out onto the porch during the summer. The entire house is smaller than my living room. I lived in an apartment this small once... it was rather crowded to say the least, and we had only two kids (we made them sleep on a loft in the living room).

Thinking about this, I understand why people can't come to grips with the implications of acknowledging the unsustainability of our current lifestyles. For myself, seeing this as a reality is at best an occassional thing, manifesting itself at only the oddest moments, such as when, over the holidays, I was sitting at a semi-nice chain restaurant in Los Angeles with my family. Looking around, it occured to me that I was looking at the face of unsustainability: a world which simply won't exist at some point within our lifetimes.

We are the socio-economic equivalent of a "dead man walking". Our children and grandchildren (and probably quite a few of us in our old age) will marvel at our profligacy, and look back on these days as some mythical (but corrupt) paradise: "Did they really live like that?" they will ask each other, and our children will secretly grieve for the world of their childhood, now lost, one full of bright and sparkly THINGS that they in their more straightened circumstances, can't even dream of possessing.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 6:55 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Another Republican Corruption Indictment

Federal grand jury indicts Foggo, Wilkes,

A federal grand jury on Tuesday issued indictments against Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes and former high-ranking CIA official Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, childhood friends from San Diego who are entangled in the Randy “Duke” Cunningham congressional corruption scandal.

The Bush administration appears to have tried to block this indictment by firing the prosecutor. But she seems to have managed to get this indictent in just before being forced out. It's against the "It's OK If You Are Republican" rules to indict Republicans no matter what they do. I'm serious. Go read Study: Feds Chase Dems More than GOPers,

A study of reported federal investigations of elected officials and candidates shows that the Bush administration’s Justice Department pursues Democrats far more than Republicans. 79 percent of elected officials and candidates who’ve faced a federal investigation (a total of 379) between 2001 and 2006 were Democrats, the study found – only 18 percent were Republicans. During that period, Democrats made up 50 percent of elected officeholders and office seekers during the time period, and 41 percent were Republicans during that period, according to the study.

"The chance of such a heavy Democratic-Republican imbalance occurring at random is 1 in 10,000," according to the study's authors.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

How the “Pelosi 757” Lie Was Spread

Another day, another right-wing lie spreads through the media and across the country...

The current $mear on Speaker Pelosi is a case study in how the right-wing $mear machine operates. The right has been working to spread a lie that Speaker Pelosi “demanded” a “luxury jet” to fly herself and “supporters” and “contributors” around. The lie is effective because it ties a current event to a deeper, long-term resentment narrative about “limousine liberals” that the right has been pushing for years. It is spreading across the country because it is passed through a prepared pipe to the places where the general public receives their information.

The facts are simple: since 9/11, for obvious security reasons, the Speaker of the House of Representatives (who is next in line behind the Vice President to become President) has flown on government rather than commercial aircraft. Speaker Pelosi is from California, so with the House now back to a five-day workweek the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives requested a jet that can make it to California non-stop. According to the Sergeant-at-Arms,

"The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable."
That is the entire story, period. But the right’s propaganda machine has been working to blow this up into a story that supports their “limousine liberal” resentment narrative, adding various embellishments with each passing day. According to this narrative, liberals are rich “elitists” from the coasts who think they are smarter and generally superior to the “regular people” in “the heartland.” This is meant to create a resentment backlash, bringing votes to conservative candidates so they can get into office … and give tax cuts to rich elitists.

Over several days, the “Pelosi plane” story has been expanded into a fable that has Speaker Pelosi “demanding” a “floating pleasure palace,” a “luxury 757” with two beds, a bar, and 40 first-class seats, so she can “transport her political cronies, favorite Members of Congress, congressional staffers, friends and relatives.”

An interesting point to note about this story is that such government planes do exist. The Bush administration has actually purchased such planes for use by executive branch officials and military brass. But this “use of luxury aircraft at taxpayer's expense” is not objected to in the retelling of this story. The objection is to their use by Speaker of the House Pelosi in particular. So perhaps part of the right’s anger driving this issue can be laid to authoritarian resentment about a member of Congress - “the People’s House” - a female Speaker, no less - being “demanding” enough to possibly gain use of one of “their” luxury planes.

As so many $mears do, this one originated with the Reverend Moon's Washington Times and was quickly spread across the right's echo chamber. Though the Reverend Moon preaches that Christianity must be “torn down” because he is the true Prophet and our “True Parent,” the Christian Coalition again joined forces with him to condemn Pelosi,

Christian Coalition of America condemns the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from San Francisco, for trying to get luxurious travel paid for by the American taxpayers. Is a first class seat on a commercial jet no longer good enough for Speaker Pelosi? Nancy Pelosi is demanding that the Air Force provide her with a large jet on demand - “Pelosi One” - so she can transport her political cronies, favorite Members of Congress, congressional staffers, friends and relatives back and forth to her district in San Francisco every week.
Others joined forces with Moon’s efforts. The New York Post wrote in the story,
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is demanding regular use of the military's "Lincoln Bedroom" in the sky - a luxurious aircraft of the same type that carries Vice President Dick Cheney and First Lady Laura Bush on official trips, officials said yesterday.
In a development that has some Republicans and defense officials fuming, Pelosi recently asked the Pentagon to give her access to the Air Force's super-opulent C-32 for flights to her San Francisco home and other official trips.

The floating pleasure palace is a reconfigured Boeing 757 stored at Andrews Air Force Base with Air Force One and the rest of the fleet of executive aircraft.

The aircraft has a game room, stateroom, showers, a communications center and seats 42 to 50 people, according to the Air Force.

It costs taxpayers $22,000 an hour to operate, according to military and congressional sources.
“It will be a flying Lincoln Bedroom,” said House GOP Whip Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
“This shows an unprecedented sense of entitlement. This is a symbol of hypocrisy, this is a symbol of excess and this is a symbol of arrogance,” said a member of the House Republican Conference.

Far-right outlets like NewsMax echoed and amplified the $mear. The Republican Party itself put up a web page titled, “Non-Stop” Nancy Seeks Flight Of Fancy, claiming,
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Wants Non-Stop Military Aircraft For Herself, Staff, Family, And Other Members In California Delegation
And right-wing talk radio has, of course, echoed the $mear all day, every day.

But the right’s “echo chamber” reaches far beyond newspapers, TV and radio. People receive information in lots of ways, and the conservative machine has studied them and puts them to use. Online message boards and e-mail chain-forwarding, for example, can be a useful barometer of right-wing smear-planting operations. The same wording repeated at many boards often indicates that something is going on. The number of examples resulting from a Google search for the phrase “Nancy Pelosi's Gas Guzzling 757 Flying Bedroom”, for example, demonstrates that this may be occurring.

One message board example, posted by “Air Pelosi One” at various discussion groups, (also found here) reads:

Note: The author of this message requested that it not be archived. This message will be removed from Groups in 4 days (Feb 16, 2:21 pm).
The list of things Nancy Pelosi (allegedly) wants with relation to her air travel just gets funnier and funnier every day. Each new day someone comes up with something wilder she allegedly is asking for. So here's the Top Ten List of what Nancy Pelosi wants:
10. Hot male strippers as pilots
9. Young gay nubile boyz as flight attendants
8. Hot lesbian oil wrestlers for inflight entertainment
7. Nonstop supply of recreational drugs
6. Wall-to-wall mattresses for Democratic Party orgies
5. An olympic sized swimming pool
4. Dubya's bronzed balls mounted in a trophy case by the plane door
3. A Boeing 747 - previously the largest commercial plane in the world
2. An Airbus A380 - the current largest commercial plane in the world
1. The Space Shuttle!
Many similar examples can be found across the Internet. A Google search for the terms “Pelosi” with the term “757” already yields over 160,000 results. A quick check shows that a substantial number of the listed results are about this particular story.
“Heartland” newspapers piled on, picking up the “limousine liberal” narrative. The Evansville Courier Press, for example, in and editorial titled Air Pelosi, The Issue: House speaker demands airliner-sized jet, writes,
… She is demanding - and, given her style, “demand” is the correct verb - that the Pentagon supply her with an airliner-size jet, the military version of a Boeing 757, to fly her to and from her San Francisco district.

… One Republican-allied group weighed in, decrying the “42 leather business-class seats, a fully enclosed stateroom for Nancy Pelosi, stewards who serve meals and tend an open bar, and other such luxuries aboard.”

Maybe that's a little overwrought, but Pelosi should know from what happened to the House Republicans last November that voters resent what they saw as the GOP's overweening sense of entitlement and privilege.

Even though no facts supported Reverend Moon’s smear, the $mear quickly migrated to the corporate media, as documented by Media Matters and Think Progress, with CBS News (and here), Nightline, CNN, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, and , as the right's Media Research Center bragged, others. (Media Matters covers this topic in detail here.)

Right-wing weblogs also helped spread the story. The weblog GOP Bloggers, in Democrats Weak on America's Enemies, Tough on America's Armed Forces, wrote,

If these matters weren't so serious, it would be humorous to watch the Democrats wield their power in the clean, non-corrupt and open way they advertised prior to the election.
The weblog Redstate, in the post, Roy Blunt on "Pelosi One", wrote,
In case you have not heard, Nancy Pelosi is trying to take advantage of her position and force the military to provide her with a 50 passenger plane which would be about the size of a Boeing 757.
[. . .] For those of you who still do not believe Pelosi and Democrats are obessed with power I would ask you to think again.
The weblog Right Wing News, in the post Queen Nancy’s Plane, amplifying yet another Washington Times story on the subject, wrote,
At first, it was hard to pay attention to this scrap between the military and Nancy Pelosi over how big of a military plane she'd get, but when it gets to the point where Pelosi wants to inconvenience the troops so she can shuttle her political supporters around the country with her, that's a little much.
[. . .] If it were up to Nancy Pelosi, the troops getting ready to go overseas would sit and wait for a larger plane while she had the military ferry her and her campaign contributors across the country on junkets. The military is not a taxi service.
The "military weblog" Blackfive, in the post BLACKFIVE: Pelosi's Air Force wrote,
Coming from perhaps the least military friendly district in America, it is a little disgusting to watch Nancy Pelosi shamelessly try to use her new power to get as many toys and perks as possible.

She has basically put the Air Force on notice that she and an entourage must be transported at a moments notice in the largest and most luxurious manner possible. She shunned the C-20 that Speaker Hastert used as insufficient for her needs. It's a Gulfstream IV FFS, a luxury jet that billionaires fly on. But Speaker Grandma needs more. She wants her own military 757 and a crew of 14 to handle her and up to 50 guests, family, and hangers on.

Particularly revealing about these weblog posts are the comments they elicit. For example, one commenter writes,
The idea that Speaker Granny is too lofty to stop in Podunkia somewhere and gas up her Gulfstream IV is pathetic.
Another writes,
They'd have to stop somewhere in "flyover country," and exposure to how the real America lives would be too much for HM Queen Nancy to handle.
Note the "heartland resentment" narrative.

Other comments illustrate anti-democratic authoritarian resentment,

She should be happy the Pentagon makes jets available to her in the first place.
They despise the military, unless and until THEY need them.
Another commenter resorts to eliminationist threats, writing,
…Just throw her out in mid-air. Murtha, what a fat, bloated stuffed shirt. He really f'd himself, he needs a grenade stuffed down his throat.
So there you have it. Another day, another right-wing lie told and re-told. This is the pipe. At one end you have the strategic, coordinated $mear pushed out to the public. Coming out the other end you have the street-level reaction: resentment and threats of violence.

A final note - Newsweek today continues the circulation of the lie, complete with conservative narrative reinforcement, writing, (with a big, red down-arrow):

"Sure Hastert had military jet, but seeking bigger one (to go nonstop) makes her sound like a 757 liberal."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:38 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

Barack Obama. Don't Be Our Neville Chamberlain.

(Co-written with James Boyce)

Last Saturday, in the not new news event of the weekend, Senator Barack Obama made it official. He is running for President. He is a strong candidate and a welcome addition to the race. During his remarks, he said this:

"...I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America."
Senator Obama sincerely believes in his vision of a better country, a more hopeful and decent place. But as we checked through the reviews of his announcement, we were filled not with hope, but with concern.

In today's political arena, hope and decency will get you slaughtered. The forces that will line up against the Democratic nominee in 2008 will not be playing a hopeful and decent game - it will be a battle to the death with a neo-conservative, corporatist, authoritarian movement that has spent billions of dollars seizing power over the last forty years. The $mear machine is already directing its guns at Senator Obama with nasty whisper campaigns, racial insinuations, etc.

So would a President Obama be able to work with them, and get them to compromise and put the interests of the country before those of the conservative movement? No. (This has been another episode of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.)

As the old saying goes, "It takes two to tango," and the right isn't in a dancing mood. If we're going to get anything done for the good of the country we, as Digby says, need to drive a stake through the heart of the authoritarian right. Destroy them and then you can rebuild with hope. But have no doubt, you must destroy them first. Here are a few highlights of the recent tactics of this authoritarian-right strategy in action. Hope doesn't have a chance. As Digby wrote,

This is an issue with which every American, regardless of party, should be concerned. The founders knew that relying on the good will of men in power is stupid and we are seeing their predictions come true before our very eyes. The modern Republican leadership may currently have a monopoly on authoritarian impulses, but they are by no means the only people in this country who could be seduced by this Republican notion of executive authority. The constitution is what protects all Americans from the dark side of human nature when it has power over others, regardless of party or political philosophy. Those of us who worry about this usurpation of the constitution and degradation of the Bill of Rights know that this is not a passing fashion that will easily be tucked back into its former shape. Once you allow powerful men to seize power it's awfully hard to persuade their successors to give it back.

John McCain in South Carolina in 2000. Robocalls were used against John McCain by Bush operatives in which South Carolina voters were asked if they really wanted to vote for a man with a 'nigger' baby. (Senator McCain has an adopted daughter from Bangladesh.) Whisper campaigns spread even worse things about him.

Max Cleland, severely wounded serving his country in Vietnam, was $meared as unpatriotic in Georgia in 2002. Saxby Chamblis, who deferred out of Vietnam with a bad knee, ran ads showing pictures of him with pictures of Osama Bin Laden while Max was being attacked for being soft on national security. If he had lost his one remaining limb, would that have been enough sacrifice? No, and they continue to $mear him.

Ambassador Joe Wilson in 2003. Perhaps Senator Obama should take a moment to understand the lessons of the current trial of "Scooter" Libby. The White House, in order to justify a war that will cost $500 billion and thousands of American lies, attacked Joe Wilson (who told the truth) by revealing that his wife was a CIA agent (whose job,by the way, was tracking down terrorists who were attempting to obtain weapons of mass destruction) and didn't bat an eye doing it.

John Kerry in 2004. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were funded largely by three men who gave almost $10 million to pay veterans - veterans who never served with John Kerry - to lie and create doubt about his three Purple Hearts and medals for heroism. The key "Swiftboater" John O'Neill had first been used as a 'counterfoil' to John Kerry by Richard Nixon.

How about the Republican Party running an operation to jam Democratic Party phones during the 2002 election in New Hampshire?

Racist ads. Racist robocalls in Virginia.

Is Senate buddy John McCain ready to be fair and "decent," Senator? A clue may be found from his hiring a campaign manager known for using racist tactics.

You can't beat this with hope, Senator Obama. Hope and decency and belief on fundamental fairness doesn't make you President - touch base with Al Gore about that. Strength beats strength. A degree of evil is required to overcome pure evil. Anything else is not hopeful, but naive - just as Neville Chamberlain discovered when he tried to negotiate peace with the devil.

You can have all the hope in the world, Senator Obama, but you better remember to at least bring a gun to a gun fight.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:23 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Task Force to Fight Smears

Frameshop: DNC Must Launch New Task Force on Republican Smears

The recent Republican smear attack of John Edwards' should serve as a bellwether of how the Republicans will once again try win the White House, and of what Democrats must do to moving forward to defend ourselves.

This we know as fact: from this point forward until the election day 2008, every leading Democratic candidate will be attacked by the multi-headed hydra of the Republican smear machine. As a result, the 2008 election season will be marked by a destructive, highly-funded, well-organized, succession of smears--all of which will have shady ties to the RNC, the assistance of a complicit and unwitting broadcast media, and a clear mission of delivering election victory for every Republican.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:03 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 11, 2007


No, Ted hasn't changed his mind about the unwise nature of the war in Iraq... he's just being forthright about what he thinks a serious commitment to making it work would require. All the liberals (and conservatives) who say we have to "do the right thing" and fix the mess in Iraq that we've made would be well advised to read this posting.

[I haven't posted in a while. Just too busy with other things, and not much to say that I haven't said already. Was listening to a Bill Hicks routine from the early 1990's... 90% of it could have been him talking about today's events. Everything old is new again.]

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

If You Want Gore

If you want Al Gore to run for President, go read this Daily Kos diary recommend it, leave a comment, AND, most important, go sign the petition.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:55 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 10, 2007

Reid Fighting Back?

Everyone says that suing the right-wing media machine for their lies and smears would start to turn things around, but nobody ever seems to do it.

But maybe, just maybe, Harry Reid is going to do it ... Is Harry Reid getting ready to sue AP & John Solomon? - AMERICAblog -- go read it there.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

More Obama Smearing

The right wants to make sure everyone knows that "Barak Hussein Obama" is a strange name. They want it to sound sinister. They want people to react with a feeling: scary black man with a suggestion of terrorist associations.

They destroy our leaders. They are spreading stories that he attended a terrorist school as a child, that his middle name is the same as Saddam's last name, that his church "isn't really Christian," etc. Scary black man with a suggestion of terrorist associations. Eventually people will say, "There's just something I don't like about this guy."

And now they are trying to manufacture a controversy hoping that big media will spread the word for them. To that end, now they are suggesting that Sen. Obama is being cagey - maybe even covering something up - about the origins of his name. Maybe the press will pick it up and spread the smear.

From MyDD's When Petty Reporters Get Mad,

This latest is penned by Mike Allen.
Now, Obama's about to endure a going-over that would make a proctologist blush. Why has he sometimes said his first name is Arabic, and other times Swahili?
How suspicious! The answer, as both Brad Delong and The Poorman note, is that Swahili and Arabic are extremely similar languages because of millenia of trade between East Africa and the Middle East. Delong writes, ""Barack" is both a Swahili word meaning "blessed by God" and an Arabic word meaning "blessed.""
Swahili AND Arabic. Get it? There is no controversey, the point is to just get the words "Swahili" and "Arabic" out to the public, preferably in a headline.

Matt continues,

Whoever gave Allen the smear sought him out because they are building a political narrative around Obama divorced from important political issues. And Allen repeated the smear without checking because it seemed to fit into the story he wanted to tell.
One more thing. "Barak" is not just Swahili and Arabic. It's also Hebrew: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam... (Update - Brad DeLong also noted this. I should have clicked through.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 9, 2007

Democrats With Spines, Giving It Back

Instead of actually showing up to get work done, Republicans spent hours trying to trick the public that Speaker Pelosi asked for a luxury plane. Through Atrios, here is how it's done:

This is Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York taking them to task for this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The Media Does Not Act In The Public Interest

Before 1987 the government required that our broadcast frequencies be used in the public interest. Broadcasters were required to present a diversity of information and opinion. This was because it was understood that it was essential to democracy that the public receive diverse ideas and information.

In 1987 the Reagan administration removed the requirement that our broadcast frequencies be used in the public interest. They said that “the market” (a few people with lots of money) rather than the public (the public) should decide the best way to use this public (public) asset.

No longer required to act in the public interest, the media immediately ceased acting in the public interest. Instead they, of course, began to advance the profit interests of the corporatocracy, exactly as was predicted back when the requirements that the broadcast media act in the public interest were imposed. That is what "the market" means. The market serves the market's interests, not the public's.

The results are obvious - we no longer hear the ideas of, for example, labor leaders. (For just one example out of hundreds of examples.) We do not see comprehensive, informative, investigative documentaries on the problems facing society. We do not hear news that harms the interests of advertisers - or media companies and the companies that own them. (When was the last time you heard about the benefits of being a union member on a TV show? What percentage of broadcast time is used for commercial entertainment purposes rather than informative or educational topics?)

People who complain about "the media" and expect them to be impartial, neutral, informative and/or objective and balanced - or otherwise act in the public interest - do not understand the difference between required to act in the public interest and not required to act in the public interest. If you require them to, and enforce that, they will occasionally act in the public interest. If you do not, they will not -- and expecting them to is entirely misunderstanding the conflict between the requirements of "the market" and democracy.

This has been an episode of medium-length answers to simple questions.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:43 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack



Posted by John Emerson at 8:31 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 8, 2007

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Still Falling

Housing still falling, midyear bottom in sight, economists say,

The U.S. housing market has not reached bottom and will likely not begin to recover until the middle of this year, three housing economists said this week.

The weakness will extend to existing-home and new-home sales and housing starts as well as to home prices, which are likely to show their first full-year decline nationally since records have been kept, the economists told home builders at their annual convention here.

"I don't think we've seen the bottom," said David Berson, chief economist for Fannie Mae. "We're going to see a much bigger drop in investor demand this year. But by the second half of the year the market will stabilize, if investors pull out quickly."

Yep, good times are "just around the corner." Unless, of course, you look at the long-term median prices, run-up charts, affordability, default rates, foreclosures, etc.

In other news, HSBC warns over US mortgage bad debt,

HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, last night gave warning that bad debts in its troubled US mortgage lending business would be 20 per cent higher than forecast.

The bank blamed the impact of slowing house price growth, which it said is being reflected in accelerated delinquency trends across the US sub-prime mortgage market. It said that the level of loan impairment provisions for 2006 for its mortgage services operations will be higher than is reflected in current market estimates.

And more bad news, see Home Lenders Plunge as More Subprime Mortgages Sour and Subprime meltdown ...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:33 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 6, 2007

Pallets Of Cash - Billions

Well, years later it's finally hitting a mainstream outlet - the Bush administration sent pallots of cash to a war zone, and didn't have any way to track where it went (which was probably the plan): U.S. sent pallets of cash to Baghdad,

The U.S. Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes ...

... Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve...

On December 12, 2003, $1.5 billion was shipped to Iraq, initially "the largest pay out of U.S. currency in Fed history," according to an e-mail cited by committee members.

It was followed by more than $2.4 billion on June 22, 2004, and $1.6 billion three days later. The CPA turned over sovereignty on June 28.

And where did it go?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:53 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

They Destroy Our Leaders

Most of the Democratic leadership are veterans, and all the veterans who ran for Congress or the Senate in this last election ran as Democrats. I think no Republican leaders except McCain ever served in the military. But that doesn't matter to the so-called "Dean of the Washington Press Corps."

Start with Oliver Willis: David Broder Libels Democrats,

David Broder, the most insider of Washington insiders, perpetuates a lie and smears the Democratic party in "reporting" on this past weekend's meeting of the DNC.
One of the losers in the weekend oratorical marathon was retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who repeatedly invoked the West Point motto of "Duty, Honor, Country," forgetting that few in this particular audience have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military.
That's just a boldfaced lie by Broder, no two ways about it. I happened to be in attendance at the speech in question, just a stone's throw away from General Clark when he gave it. What David Broder is saying here is an absolute lie. The crowd in attendance stood on their feet, clapped their hands loudly and strongly time and time again when speakers - including Gen. Clark - invoked the service and sacrifice of America's fighting men and women.
Then Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report,
I expect these kinds of dishonest smears from Limbaugh, Hannity, and O’Reilly, but Broder is supposed to be credible and serious. Why take such a gratuitous shot at the entire Democratic Party? Why intentionally perpetuate a right-wing lie? Why libel a political party with an observation that’s the opposite of the truth?

There are two angles to Broder’s maliciousness — the facts about Clark’s reception at the meeting, and the broader myth Broder is inexplicably anxious to propagate.

... As for the broader point, how long will Dems have to put up with such transparent nonsense about the party not supporting the troops? How many war heroes — Kerry, Murtha, Webb, Cleland, etc. — have to become Democratic champions before Broder and his brethren give up on such ugly lies?

They destroy our leaders. They $mear us. They $ell the myth of the masculine, all-powerful, all-protecting conservative Saviour.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:39 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 5, 2007

Expanding Blog Readership

In today's post, Apex Reached? Moving From Bloggers To Communities, Chris Bowers at MyDD discusses whether progressive blog traffic may have reached a plateau.

I think that what is happening is that the blogs have reached a point that commonly occurs in tech ventures. We have saturated the early adapters but are not doing the right things to reach out to the larger mainstream "consumer" audience. Up to now, adapters came to us. We offered "cool" so there was a reason to seek us out. But expecting that people will find you just because you offer something great is a path to failure. Reaching the larger mainstream audience requires a different approach. They don't come to you, you have to go to them.

Silicon Valley tech marketers talk about this problem as "Crossing the Chasm." That's the title of a 1991 book by Geoffrey Moore, and I think the theme of the book applies. There is a chasm between the early adopters and the the next group that might be interested, called the "Early Majority" by Moore. This is a larger group than the early adopters - the beginnings of the mass-consumer market you really want to reach with your product - but they are not as adventurous and are more risk-averse. Where the early adopters will seek you out, you have to reach the early majority with different methods, and seek them out. And where the early adopters would teach themselves how to use what you offer and what it is for, the early majority is different. You have to educate them and you have to make them feel comfortable with your offering.

So bloggers, now we have to understand that we need to go to the next audience and bring them in to us. We need to be explaining who we are and what we offer to people who are not going to just happen to discover us, which is what has happened up to now. We need to start marketing, advertising and changing from the insider focus we have had to a more inclusive, approachable "product" that they the next and larger group of people can easily understand. We can't expect the next level of audience to just somehow magically appear without us doing outreach to draw them in.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The Activists Need To Make A Living

In Paying the New Politics, Stirling Newberry writes about how "the well oiled parts of the establishment are busy not funding the progressive space known as the blogosphere."

He's writing about how bloggers can survive to continue doing the work they do. But he is also talking about "Progressive Infrastructure" -- building up a power base outside of any political parties. The would consist of organizations that support the activities of progressives, that reach the pubic to inform them about issues and ideas, that provide the foot soldiers for campaigns and initiatives.

And he writes,

Many people will take this as a threat, in a sense, it is history's threat: when a new body of people emerge, either the established means fund them, and thus bring them in - or those new people establish new institutions, ones which are not beholden to the old world. Being a student of history, I could rattle off a dozen examples beyond the conservative movement. But realize that the liberal blogosphere is a couple of ticked off billionaires away from not needing the inside.

And there are a growing number of progressive billionaires or hectamillionaires, who are less than impressed with how the liberal establishment and Democratic Party have run things. One of them could be the Scaife of the progressive movement, and one of them will be.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:46 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Super Bowl Ads

OK, these are funny.

The Super Bowl Ads, ranked

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February 4, 2007

Is Giuliani A Hero?

James Boyce says Rudy Giuliani Is Not A Hero. Go see why not.

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A Legal Question

My wife's credit union just took a bunch of money out of her account. They say they discovered that nine years ago her ex-husband (they had been divorced five years at that time) "took out a loan from a joint account" that still had her name on it. She already had a different account there under her own name, and had asked that her name be removed from the joint account. They had never notified her that there was an amount due. They just took the money out of her account, have not provided us with any documentation of anything.

So the question is, what recourse do we have? Getting a lawyer and fighting this might cost more than the amount they took. And doesn't consumer law say there is a statute of limitations on such things? (We are in California.)

Update - Dealing with corporations... Pretty soon it will be against the law not to buy from whatever corp is currently paying the legislators the most. We will have a minimum quota of what you are required to buy. Corporations will be able to just draw on people's bank accounts at will if they feel that person is not doing enough to keep their profits up. Maybe there will be special taxes to support the Party-favored corporations. Are these good ideas? Send me my check.

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Oliver Willis might be getting superpowers soon.

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February 3, 2007

What Is 'Mainstream?'

Kos nails it. Daily Kos: So what makes Biden "mainstream"? His whiteness?

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Long-Term Strategic Narrative: Liberals Hate Christians

Over at Townhall, the "conservative" Republican website: Why Liberals Hate Christians,

Liberals in America despise Christians of true faith.

They do this because in doing so their own guilt is appeased, their anger is justified, and they can finally lay blame for their own misery at someone else's feet.

It's tied to some current event...

This is a strategic narrative - part of a long-term drumbeat designed to bring identity "Christians" into the Republican Party. The script is always tied to some current event, and then the event is used to teach the lesson. I call it "adding the because." Such-and-such happened because of the thing we keep telling you about those people. They hate you, so you should you should vote for us and pay them back by cutting taxes on the rich, etc...

Another "because":

Yes, Bush appointed cronies. Yes, Bush's administration wasn't ready, etc. But -- and here is the important thing -- people added the word BECAUSE, and tied it all to something more fundamental. And this was effective. Bush wasn't ready to respond to Katrina BECAUSE Republicans don't believe in government. Bush appointed cronies BECAUSE Republicans don't believe in government. People suffered and died after Katrina BECAUSE we need government and that is the primary thing government DOES.

See what I mean? When we are criticizing Republicans on narrow issues we should always tie our criticisms to make a point about how Progressive values are better than conservative values.

(Yes, I used to use bold type a lot more than I do now.)

Progressives should learn from this. (I mean, learn to use "because" - not bold type.) Don't just talk about what the right-wingers did today, make it a lesson. Tie the current-event story to a larger view of conservatism and why it is bad for people, and why liberal and progressive values and ideas are better for people. This happened because conservatives think that people should be left on their own, alone against the powerful interests they represent, while progressives think we should all stick together and take care of one another.

In a previous 'Because' post I wrote,

What I mean is, drive the point home, don't make your listener guess. When you cite something bad that the conservatives do, add the "because" that ties it to core right-wing philosophy, and explain why it's the philosophy that's bad and led to the bad thing that is in the news. Make the deeper point -- not just a complaint about the current event. For example, Republicans screwed up Katrina BECAUSE conservatives don't believe in government, they believe in a "you're on your own, dog-eat-dog, everyone out for themselves" philosophy that is not good for regular people. But progressives believe we're all in this together and in watching out for and sticking up for each other.
Always add the because. Drive the point home. They do it -- you should, too.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:43 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

February 2, 2007

Sen. Obama

Here is a YouTube of Senaotr Barak Obama talking at the DNC winter meeting. This helps gives you a feel for the guy.

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

February 1, 2007

Will the US Invade Iran? Mixed Signals

Is the Administration trying to prepare the US and world publics for military action against Iran? Is Iran a threat to the US? We are seeing some mixed signals, but I two analysts I respect think that is what is going on. One of them, - an Arab, says war is coming and it is over oil.

First the signals. The raid on the home of an Iranian diplomat last week and the capture of 5 Iranians by Amreican troops is a pretty clear shot across Iran's bow. Add to that the movement of a second carrier group with Patriot missiles into the Gulf and we see a second shot - especially since Iran is the only country with missile capability that could be the target of the Patriots. And then add to this Bush's refusal to talk to the Iranian government despite the urgings of the Iraq War Commission and Jim Baker, backed up by particularily threatening remarks by the VP on Sunday talk shows, all point to an Administration getting ready to do the unthinkable again.

However, from their point of view, Iran is becoming very dangerous and has already begun an attack on the US. An ABC report today details new armor-piercing IED's being used in Iraq by but made in Iran (if ABC has its facts right). There is little doubt among most MIddle East experts that Iran's President Ahmadinejad would build nukes if he could. Ahmadinejad is in deep political trouble at home and may not be re-elected, so he is doing what national leaders have done for centuries when faced with defeat at home - start a war. Only starting a war for him is not massed troops, but IED's, Hizbullah demonstrations, training for insurgents, pressuring Saudia Arabia to raise oil prices, supplying weapons to Nigerian insurgents trying to take over the delta oil fields, etc. In other words, there is evidence that the Administrtion is right - Iran is harming US interestrs and killing US soldiers.

Is a perceived threat from Iran what is behind the Administration's war signals? Francis Fukuyama, no progressive to be sure, sees something else: he wrote yestereday in The Guardian that " certain neoconservatives [advocate] military action against Iran. Some insist that Iran poses an even greater threat than Iraq, avoiding the fact that their zealous advocacy of the Iraq invasion is what has destroyed America's credibility and undercut its ability to take strong measures against Iran. All of this could well be correct. Ahmadinejad may be the new Hitler; the current negotiations could be our Munich accords; Iran could be in the grip of undeterrable religious fanatics; and the west might be facing a "civilisational" danger."

But, he continues, " I believe that there are reasons for being less alarmist....What I find remarkable about the neoconservative line of argument on Iran, however, is how little changed it is in its basic assumptions and tonalities from that taken on Iraq in 2002, despite the momentous events of the past five years and the manifest failure of policies that neoconservatives themselves advocated. "

In other words, Fukyama thinks the Bushies are being pushed by trhe remaining no-cons - i.e., the American Enterprise Institute - who refuse to accept anything other than the use of overwhelming military force as the solution to all of America's problems, even when the evidence that it does not work is obvious in Iraq.

Jamal Dijani, Director ofr Middle East Programming for LinkTV, sees a much more complex picture. Dijani daily program on Link TV, Mosiac, features news broadcasts from Arab, Iranian, Israelie television, translated into English, so he sees the detail that Fukyama, and the Administration, miss. His take, posted on YouTube, is that Saudia Arabia and the Sunni Community of the Middle East is already in a proxy war with Iran and the US is on the Sunni side - in effect, in a proxy war with Iran. Privately, Jamal has told me that he thinks the Administration will attack, with oil being as much part of the motivation as regional politics.

While I think both Fukuyama and Dijani are correct, I think there is something much more simple going on, the Administration is panicked. Bush and Co. realize that the Congressional testimony of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that Bush has committed the worst military and diplomatic fiasco is American history is right, and that Bush will be forever known as our worst ever President and have the blood of thousands of Americans and Iraqis on his hands. Moreover, they are panicked that Rep. Waxman's investigations of the management of the occupation will turn up massive corruption inside the Administration and among big time Republican donors - leading to jail time for Republican appointees and fat cats, and the elimination of Republicans from the White House for decades.

The White House is panicked and is trying to do anything they can to either (1) Fix it - i.e, the "surge"; (2) Blame someone else, and since it won't stick to Clinton they are trying to tar the Iranians, and (3) if all else fails, start a war with Iran so they can rally the base, repeat "War President" to every question, and shut down Congressional investigations .

Hopefully, as Fukuyama says, while the neo-cons and panicked White house refuse to change, What may change is the American public's willingness to listen to them. Then all we have to worry about is blood for oil.

Posted by Patrick O'Heffernan at 1:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Monster Beneath the Surface

Housing Threatened by Defaults in Sub-Prime Mortgage Market,

In the year since Ben Bernanke became chairman of the Federal Reserve, the nation's central bank has led a push by regulators, including the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision, to raise mortgage lending standards, making it tougher for borrowers ... to get a loan. Reducing the number of people who can secure a mortgage also may threaten the recovery of the U.S. housing market that the National Association of Realtors is predicting for the end of 2007.

[. . .] U.S. foreclosures begun on sub-prime adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, rose to a four-year high of 2.19 percent in the third quarter as borrowers struggled to pay mortgage bills while interest rates increased, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported. During the five-year boom in housing prices, homeowners who fell behind on mortgage payments could sell their homes and pay off their loans or get better refinancing terms based on the higher value of their property.

[. . .]``There's a monster beneath the surface of the financial markets,'' Shaughnessy said. ``No one knows when or where the credit crisis is going to rear its ugly head.'' [emphasis added]

Other news:

Survey: Half of consumers say housing price collapse possible,

Nearly half of all consumers (47 percent) say they think a housing bubble and collapse of housing prices is very likely (16 percent) or somewhat likely (31 percent) in their local residential real-estate market within the next three years, according to an Experian-Gallup survey.

... Fears of a potential housing price collapse are greatest in the West (52 percent) and the East (49 percent) but lower in the Midwest (41 percent) and the South (44 percent).

... "Housing market conditions may not have reached bottom at this point, with 57 percent of renters thinking there is the potential for a price collapse in their local areas over the next few years and 18 percent of all Americans expecting prices to decline during the year ahead," says Ty Taylor, president of Experian Consumer Direct.

Risky mortgage lending practices bring backlash,
California lawmakers are considering new restrictions on unorthodox mortgage lending.

The loans have let hundreds of thousands of residents with shaky credit or lower incomes snap up homes using features like no money down, variable interest rates and interest-only loans.

About half of all new loans in California are nontraditional. They offer riskier borrowers low introductory payments in exchange for higher monthly bills that in many cases will begin kicking in this year.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Start Challenging The Conventional Wisdom

Conservatives have spent literally billions of dollars on a propaganda campaign since the 1970s to convince Americans that corporatism and greed are better for them than democracy and community.

So take a look at AlterNet: Note to Progressives: Challenge Market Fundamentalism asks us to,

...challenge Market Fundamentalism, the exaggerated and quite irrational belief in the ability of markets to solve all problems, an economic fundamentalism that has dominated our national political debate for a generation.
How is Market Fundamentalism a "conventional wisdom?"
Market fundamentalism has become like the air we breathe; we hardly notice it. Every time George W. Bush argues for more tax cuts, he relies on the unquestioned assumption that we all embrace Market Fundamentalism. Like religious fundamentalism, it is based more on faith than on reason. Through constant repetition, however, the American public has been bullied into believing that private spending is rational and efficient while public spending is always wasteful and unproductive. (Tell that to people in New Orleans.)

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