Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bush Spends the Money O Yeah

From Masson's Blog yesterday:

Hey Big Spender!

"...Bush is the biggest spender since LBJ, and arguably a bigger spender than LBJ."


Robert Scheer
War Industry Regains Command:

What a boondoggle 9-11 has been for the merchants of war, who this week announced yet another quarter of whopping profits made possible by George W. Bush's pretending to fight terrorism by throwing money at outdated Cold War-style weapons systems.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Northern Rock

There was a run on the bank last month, and Northern Rock borrowed hugely from the Bank of England. Chairman Matt Ridley resigned. George Monbiot comments:
Before he resigned on Friday, the bank had borrowed £16 billion from the government and had refused to rule out asking for more. Ridley and the other bosses blamed everyone but themselves for this disaster.

I used to read Ridley’s columns religiously. Published by the Telegraph in the 1990s, they were well-written, closely-argued and almost always wrong. He railed against all government intervention and mocked less enlightened beings for their failure to understand economics and finance. The right-wing press loved him because he appeared to provide a scientific justification for the deregulation of business.

Bank of England's loan went up a few billion since then.

Some commentary from September 2007 --

Here Comes A Whale:
Investors Insight

Sadly for Northern Rock, which has been one of the world's most efficient exponents of new financial technologies and managerial methods, its whale-like £113 billion balance sheet rests on a £3 billion equity base better suited for a sardine.

Collapsing Global Credit Bubble Churns up Financial "Whales"
iTulip Forums

"Save the whales? How? I can see saving stamps and coins, but where am I gonna put a collection of whales?"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When It Mattered

How easily that can happen! There are those in our country today, too, who speak of the "protection" of the country. Of "survival". The answer to that is: survival as what? A country isn't a rock. And it isn't an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for, when standing for something is the most difficult!
from Judgment at Nuremberg

The votes of nearly all of the Republicans didn't surprise me when Congress authorized Bush to attack Iraq. They'd been on a rampage for years, and nothing was going to stop them if the Democrats didn't stop them. The word that resounded in my mind with news of the final vote was "betrayal."

In the time since then we've heard these leaders say "If I knew then what I know now...." It doesn't wash. The whole world knew Bush was lying but, somehow, you didn't know. We didn't ask you to serve with omniscience; we hoped you would serve with integrity.

David Corn:
What's So Funny?

[10-26-07] Last night, Elvis Costello played at the birthday-bash-fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, and one number he chose to feature was "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding?" This for a woman who voted to give George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq on his own say-so, and who then stuck by the war...until she saw that her potential competitors in the Democratic presidential contest could run as antiwar candidates against her. She then slowly changed her position, from resisting timetables for disengagement to vowing to the end the war ASAP. In the strategic play of the campaign, she managed to make sure there was little daylight between her and Barack Obama or John Edwards on the number-one issue of the election. What's so funny about that? Not much.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Iran Roll-Out

Wondering? Wondering? Who's Wondering?
Tristero, Hullabaloo

"Stupid understatement of the day:

Tucked inside the White House's $196 billion emergency funding request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is an item that has some people wondering whether the administration is preparing for military action against Iran.
"I stopped wondering a long time ago."


Just so we know Congress knows we're funding war on Iran:

The B-2 bomber and MOPs* are reportedly choice weapons for strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
*Massive Ordnance Penetrator, aka "Bunker Buster"


U.S. to impose broad sanctions on Iran:
Washington Post - via Journal Gazette

WASHINGTON – The Bush administration plans to roll out an unprecedented package of unilateral sanctions against Iran today, including the long-awaited designations of its Revolutionary Guard Corps as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and of the elite Quds Force for supporting terrorism, according to senior administration officials.
. . .
“This is a very powerful set of measures designed to send a message to Iran that there will be a cost to what they do. We decided on them because we have seen no change in Iranian behavior,” said a senior administration official...


Further reference to Cheney's war speech:
Scott Horton, Harper's

The first fifteen minutes of Cheney’s Iran speech started with a discussion of Iraq, and made the case that the foe Americans were facing in Iraq was already Iran. This contention is nonsense, of course, a pure fable cooked up to push the war cause. The claim that Iranian explosives are being used by insurgents in Iraq is certainly true. But it has to be considered alongside the fact that the insurgents are fueled much more heavily by weapons and money out of Saudi Arabia, a fact that Cheney would rather not mention.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

World War IV

TPM Election Central on World War IV:

“I was asked to come in and give him a briefing on the war, World War IV,” said Mr. Podhoretz, a founding father of neoconservatism and leading foreign policy adviser to Mr. Giuliani. “As far as I can tell there is very little difference in how he sees the war and how I see it.”

Informed Comment Global Affairs quoting Newsweek:

"Zakaria to Earth (come in, Earth):"

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?

Dick Cheney:

Dr. Bernard Lewis explained the terrorists' reasoning this way: "During the Cold War," Dr. Lewis wrote, "two things came to be known and generally recognized in the Middle East concerning the two rival superpowers. If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire. If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward, as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians, journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual pleading inquiries: 'What have we done to offend you? What can we do to put it right?'" End quote.

Scott Horton, Harpers:

So there you have Dick Cheney wonderfully summed up: traditional U.S. values are for sissies. Real international strongmen torture their own citizens like the Egyptians and bully the neighborhood like the Soviets. Yep, those policies served the Soviet Union very well, as I recall. The country collapsed and its entire southern underbelly was peeled away.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California Fires

kpete at Democratic Underground
San Diego Is On Fire-Had to Evacuate-Family is Fine & Together

"We are happy to be alive."

MSNBC:

By day three, more than a dozen wildfires had burned more than 1,300 homes and businesses and set more than 583 square miles ablaze — an area larger than New York City.

Fully a quarter of the California coast was ablaze. Flames climbed halfway toward the Nevada line, chewing through chunks of seven counties and devastating numerous communities.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Swiss Voters PO'd

Deutsche Welle
Voters End Bitter Election Campaign in Switzerland:
Despite being denounced by the UN special rapporteur on racism for inciting racial hatred in its xenophobic campaigning and for pledging to deport non-national criminals, the SVP has struck a chord with voters in a country where one in five people is foreign.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kelty's Cake Keeps on Offending

Marvin Hoot's letter in the Journal Gazette gave an interpretation of his wife Apryl's hilarious birthday cake for Fort Wayne mayoral candidate Matt Kelty. He says the cake wasn't meant to offend anyone. That's hilarious, too. Like, Rep. Mark Souder should have been amused to see his face on a roll of asswipe?

Showing how the theme of the cake's decorations was not meant to offend, Mr. Hoot says,

Matt Kelty, whose office is in GOP HQ, will take what some see as a city that looks like an outhouse and change it into an emerald city on a hill.
In what way (other than the brown rivers) does Fort Wayne look like an outhouse?

A friend who was traveling cross-country told me later that her favorite memory of the journey was Fort Wayne. I chose not to take it as personal flattery because it's been the same experience with out-of-town visitors many times. We go out for a walk, and I don't have to say anything, just let it happen. The visitor stops and says, "Wow, I never do this! I've been missing a lot. It's beautiful."

I have to concede, the brown rivers are a bit startling at first sight. Even on this point, though, it is mayoral candidate Tom Henry who presents a bit of vision for improvement of our waterways.

Mr. Hoot -- of Woodburn Indiana -- may see Fort Wayne as an outhouse and Matt Kelty as the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and that may just help to explain quite a bit about the whole campaign: do not look behind the curtain.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bush Chuckles Nuclear

It seemed more of a chuckle than a giggle, but I found it outstanding, too, that Mr. President would be chuckling/giggling about World War III and "nucular" bombs -- as if to say to those who are wary or doubtful of his actions, "Get a brain, morans!"

This bit of reasoning was typical, relating to Congress and FISA:

We found common ground on FISA. My only question is why change a good law? The way that law was written works for the security of the country.
A. It's a good law. Why change it?
That's what the American people want to know, by the way, are we passing laws that are beneficial to the American people. This law is beneficial because it enables our intelligence experts to -- and professionals to find out the intentions of al Qaeda. Now, the law needs to be changed, enhanced, by providing the phone companies that allegedly helped us with liability protection.
B. The law needs to be changed, enhanced -- enhanced, which doesn't mean changing it because it's a good law already so why change it? Except to enhance it to provide phone companies that allegedly helped us ... [break the law in the first place] ...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

FISA Mire

A very concise headline --

Article II to Article I:
Shut up and gimme my legislation, bitch
.

Kagro X, Daily Kos

'Quick note to lawyers: Please remove the pocket part "Article I" from the Constitution, and discard.'

Associated Press:

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell "formally invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent AT&T from either confirming or denying" any details about intelligence programs, AT&T general counsel Wayne Watts wrote in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Bush will veto a FISA bill if it doesn't include immunity to telecoms, and Congress is not allowed to know what the telecoms are up to.
The Bush administration has said the companies cooperated in good faith because of their patriotism and desire to protect the country in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and should not be punished.

However, last week a Colorado court unsealed documents in the case of former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, who was convicted of insider trading in April. Nacchio, who is appealing his conviction, maintains the National Security Agency asked Qwest to allow it to conduct electronic surveillance without a court order in February 2001, six months before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Shut up and gimme my legislation, bitch."

[See "FISA Lawsuits" post, Sept. 1st]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blue Dog Boat

Open Left and Daily Kos focus on Blue Dog Brian Baird's earmarked navy boat boondoggle, but the source report has other interesting examples as well as viewpoints on earmarks. From the Oct. 14th Seattle Times report, $4.5 million for a boat that nobody wanted:
The Times found:

People who benefit from earmarks generally give money to those who deliver them: Of the nearly 500 companies identified as getting 2007 defense earmarks, 78 percent had employees or political action committees who made campaign contributions to Congress in the past six years.
Earmarking has exploded in the past decade, quintupling from 1996 to 2005, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The examples show how and why Congress buys things that the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard don't want. The useless products "create jobs," per Sen. Patty Murray:
"People tend to talk about earmarks as something that is a bad thing," she said. "I see it as a way to make sure that the tax dollars that are spent are spent in a very wise way."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lake Pollution: China & U.S.

The description of numerous industrial plants along the shore of Lake Tai in China is familiar and understandable: we want to produce and profit, and we do not want to know anything about the effects of our waste products.

Eventually we do have to sorta know that dumping crap into a lake messes it up. In the meantime a guy who protests may be known as an "environmental warrior," and end up in jail.

In the U.S. we had a couple of having-to-face-it moments in the past, like when the river in Cleveland caught fire, and when Lake Erie went kaput.

In Indiana, the dialogue continues ... yes, we want to be productive and make money ... yes, we'd also like to be able to live here ...

The Gary Works, a massive complex of blast furnaces, coke ovens and steel-finishing mills about 15 miles southeast of Chicago, already is the largest source of water pollution in the Lake Michigan basin, dumping more than 1.7 million pounds in 2005.

Experts who have analyzed the mill's proposed new permit say that at some points where the steel mill discharges waste into the Grand Calumet, Indiana regulators eliminated or failed to include limits on toxic chemicals and metals that have turned the river into one of the most contaminated sites along the Great Lakes.

[Both reports via BuzzFlash]

Saturday, October 13, 2007

David Sirota in Journal Gazette

A blast of good news -- Al Gore wins the Nobel Prize, and David Sirota's column is picked up in Fort Wayne by the Journal Gazette. From Fort Wayne Left:
UPDATE: I've been told by Tracy Warner that the JG has a one month trial period on Sirota so check out his column, daily blog and book. And if you would like to see the JG stick with his column then send Tracy (twarner@jg.net) your feedback

Sirota's book, Hostile Takeover, is an important read. ("Every politically engaged citizen should read this book." - Al Gore)

Friday, October 12, 2007

WTG Mr. Gore

"Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."

He is a great person. The story rings true -- that, after the lost election he went home and slumped, until someone who loves him suggested he get up and get on with his business in the world. It has the tone of poetic truth as well: it may not be the way you pictured it, but a way was made for you.

Guardian Unlimited reports from the UK on scientific errors in An Inconvenient Truth. It's important to have these points cited as errors within the body of the work. Let errors be noted and amended. Let us hear what's true to the best of our knowledge. I believe he has that kind of integrity. Very much, any errors in his work are a far cry from the deliberate lies pumped out constantly for and by the 30 Percenters.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Trickle Up

Monbiot:
Governments love growth because it excuses them from dealing with inequality. As Henry Wallich, a governor of the US Federal Reserve, once pointed out in defending the current economic model, “growth is a substitute for equality of income. So long as there is growth there is hope, and that makes large income differentials tolerable”... Growth is a political sedative, snuffing out protest, permitting governments to avoid confrontation with the rich, preventing the construction of a just and sustainable economy. Growth has permitted the social stratification which even the Daily Mail now laments.

Too Much:

The latest sign of our bifurcated times: A Los Angeles-based company, Golden Eagle Publishing, has launched a glossy magazine “catering to the devoted domestics of millionaires-turned-billionaires.”

To wit ...

Guidelines for hiring staff
for your home or estate
:

Management skills are as important within the home as they are in the corporate world. However, it is also important that employers be knowledgeable and realistic about the time required to accomplish individual tasks, with an emphasis on understanding what one person can actually accomplish in a work day. With this said, it is important that you are always prepared to hire extra staff for busy times, especially if you enjoy frequent galas in your home or often accommodate houseguests...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pension Myth

"Consider this fact: corporations are not required to set aside adequate money to actually pay the pensions they've promised to their workers. Let's repeat that because, really, it is so appallingly hard to believe, it needs to be said twice: though your employer may be promising you a nice pension, federal laws actually permit companies to pocket the retirement money that they should be putting aside to follow through on those promises. And boy are they abusing these loopholes to the extreme."

Hostile Takeover, page 133.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Total Traders

Free Trade Zones and Free Speech Zones ... Freedom Twilight Zones.

Sen. Bernie Sanders:

What happened with the passage of Nafta? In Mexico, the agricultural sector has been decimated by cheap exports from American agribusiness. Poverty has increased, the middle class has declined and people are literally dying in the desert trying to flee Mexico for the U.S. Working families in Mexico suffer, the rich have gotten richer and we now have the obscenity of the wealthiest person in the world, Mexican Carlos Slim Helu, coming from a country in which millions of families struggle to feed their children. This may be the kind of economic development championed by you, but not by me. We can have trade policies that can do better, that must do better.

That's NAFTA, and now CAFTA...

ABC News:

President George W. Bush's chief trade negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, also warned Costa Rican voters this week to think twice about rejecting the pact, and the White House continued that line.

Sirotablog:

This is what's known as solidarity ... how Democrats should be acting - they shouldn't be running from Bush, they should be running at him ...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ciara Durkin

More on the investigation of National Guard Spc. Ciara Durkin's death in Afghanistan.

Stars and Stripes:

“The family is confident that the Army is conducting a thorough investigation of Ciara’s death and intends to give the Army time to complete its inquiry,” the statement read. The family has said that Durkin’s body was found near a chapel on Bagram.

In interviews this week, they have wondered whether Durkin was killed for one of two reasons: she was gay, and she had allegedly told family members that she had stumbled across “strange” information in the course of her work.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Afghanistan Casualty Question

Patriot Ledger:

"Her family was initially told that Durkin was killed in action on Friday. But on Monday, the family learned that she died about 6:30 p.m. of a single gunshot wound to the head in a non-combat situation.

"Durkin had been assigned to a finance unit at the base since February. Her tour of duty had been scheduled to end in February."

[This report is by way of Crooks and Liars, and War and Piece.]

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

More, More, More...War

How Did We Get Into This Mess?
George Monbiot

"Many of our current crises are the long-term results of a meeting which took place 60 years ago."

[Short answer is, money.]

...wherever the neoliberal programme has been implemented, it has caused a massive shift of wealth not just to the top one percent, but to the top tenth of the top one per cent...
. . .
The conditions that neoliberalism demands in order to free human beings from the slavery of state - minimal taxes, the dismantling of public services and social security, deregulation, the breaking of the unions – just happen to be the conditions required to make the elite even richer, while leaving everyone else to sink or swim.

Very rich people doing excellent global things:
New York Times

Founded this summer by a dozen wealthy conservatives, the nonprofit group is set apart from most advocacy groups by the immense wealth of its core group of benefactors, its intention to far outspend its rivals and its ambition to pursue a wide-ranging agenda. Its next target: Iran policy.
This is Freedom's Watch, the group that brought you the 9/11=Iraq media ad. Here's a true-believer's happy smile in the report:
Mr. Blakeman denied the accusation that Freedom’s Watch is a White House front group. “I don’t need their help,” he said of his former colleagues at the White House. “I don’t seek their help. And they don’t offer it.” Mr. Blakeman is a long-time friend of Ed Gillespie, the new counselor to Mr. Bush who succeeded Dan Bartlett. Mr. Blakeman said that he speaks with Mr. Gillespie, but that they are careful not to discuss the activities of Freedom’s Watch.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"Edifice of Concealment"

Executive Order 13,233
...drafted by Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, gives either an incumbent president or a former president the right to withhold the former president’s papers from the public. It was issued to block the release of 68,000 pages of records from the Reagan administration, which contain confidential communications between President Ronald Reagan and his advisers, including Mr. Bush’s father, George Bush, who was Reagan’s vice president.
[NYT]

National Security Archive:

“The Presidential Records Act of 1978 was meant to shift power over White House documents from former presidents to professional government archivists and ultimately to the public,” commented National Security Archive director Thomas Blanton. “But the Bush order attempts to overturn the law, take the power back, and let presidents past and present delay public access indefinitely.”

Public Citizen:

“We’re delighted by the court’s recognition that the executive order unlawfully impedes access to presidential records,” said Public Citizen attorney Scott Nelson, who brought the case. “Although its failure to strike down the order in its entirety is disappointing, the court’s rejection of the government’s unfounded constitutional theories of executive privilege sends a warning shot suggesting that the other provisions of the order are unlawful as well.”

“The executive order was one of the first indications of this president’s obsession with secrecy,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “Finally, the court has begun the process of dismantling the edifice of concealment that President Bush has been trying to build over the past six years.”

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ach

Okay, we have totally saturated the Heimatland with the word Schadenfreude now. Seedum sayin?

Inequality Surge

Paul Krugman
The Conscience of a Liberal:
It’s important to know that no other advanced economy has seen a comparable surge in inequality – even the rising inequality of Thatcherite Britain was a faint echo of trends here.

On the political side, you might have expected rising inequality to produce a populist backlash. Instead, however, the era of rising inequality has also been the era of “movement conservatism,” the term both supporters and opponents use for the highly cohesive set of interlocking institutions that brought Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich to power, and reached its culmination, taking control of all three branches of the federal government, under George W. Bush. (Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy.)