Saturday, December 31, 2005

John Yoo supports crushing testicles of children!

But, of course, only if the President feels the need to do it.

Audio--MP3 format.

This has apparently been around for some time, but I just now listened to the clip. I don't know whether I'd rather vomit or hit the computer screen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Those liberal FISA judges rejected .1% of our requests!!!

Streiff at RedState just proved he can't do math.

Take this wonderful passage:

But since 2001, the judges have modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for court-ordered surveillance by the Bush administration. A total of 173 of those court-ordered "substantive modifications" took place in 2003 and 2004, the most recent years for which public records are available.


That’s right. Since we’ve been at war this court has modified 179 of the 181 requests for warrants presented to it.


Uh...where did that "181" number come from? To me, it looks like it's what the source said: 179 of 5,645.

Or this gem:

Yes. That’s right. Since we’ve been at war the court has rejected or deferred six requests.


Six requests! Out of nearly 6,000! Damn those liberal obstructionist FISA court judges for blocking a little over .1% of warrant requests made to them! They must want the terrorists to win. Or maybe they're just following the rule of law.

Streiff also proves without a doubt that he is a Gestapo brownshirt:

Wars are not waged by warrants, writs, and depositions. They are waged by hard men, kicking down doors in the night. Wars are not waged by arrests and indictments. They are waged by whisking suspected enemy combatants and sympathizers off the street and spiriting them away to parts unknown. Wars are not waged by wiretaps justified by probable cause. They are waged by intelligence operations directed against anyone in communications with our enemies, and these operations may include intercepting their communications, and rifling their papers and possessions, before kicking down their door and whisking them away to some Third World hellhole.


Apparently, if you slap the word "war" on something, then any action is justified, regardless of any sort of rule of law. I wonder who the next "enemy combatants" are going to be. It's funny: when we had a "war on drugs" I didn't notice this sort of thing happening. Apparently, one terrorist attack is enough to make people want to turn this country into a Stasi-style "desaparecidos"-generating police state. I guess that if it works for South America, it works for us too.

Streiff also doesn't believe in separation of powers:

From the beginning of this pseudo-scandal I’ve held the opinion that it is ridiculous for any Administration, Democrat or American, to ask permission of a freakin court – a court, mind you, not Congress - to carry out actions it has the authority to do. This analysis of recent FISA warrants shows the Administration was not only justified in principle but required to do so by the actions of the FISA court itself.


Streiff apparently favors monarchical executive powers with no judicial review. Note also the phrase "Democrat or American." Apparently, Streiff does not believe I am an American patriot, when in fact I am the staunchest supporter of America and its foundation upon the rule of law. But a phrase like that should tell you something. Streiff might want to break down the doors of suspected terrorists in the middle of the night and whisk them away to third-world hellholes--and people might think that's okay. But the next type of person Streiff might want to go after? People like me. People whom he considers "un-American" and "terrorist sympathizers."

Who's next, Streiff? And why should I trust you?

On Spying: RedState just doesn't understand.

Reading this post by Leon H at RedState nearly made me throw up. Seriously. They simply don't understand what is at issue.

What is at issue is not whether or not the NSA has the right to intercept communications to help defend this country. That's what the NSA is there for. The issue is whether the President has the right to ignore laws he finds inconvenient and bypass the well-recognized process of judicial approval. What is at issue is respect for the process of government and the rule of law, and it is this that Bush has violated. We do not disapprove of efforts to keep this country safe. We disapprove of extralegal efforts that force us, the public, to rely merely on our trust in the judgment of the executive to do what is right, as opposed to clearly defined legal constraints--because once the rule of law and legal constraints have been abandoned for the sake of expediency, a line has been crossed, and it is hard to go back. This comment illustrates this perfectly--Bush didn't wiretap the DNC or Howard Dean. This is true. The problem is that the argument here is that there is no legal difference between warrantless wiretapping of Al-Qaeda and warrantless wiretapping of the DNC--we just have to trust that Bush would never wiretap the DNC, despite a constant stream of vitriol from Republicans calling us supporters of Osama bin Laden. Our freedom is based on the structural differences between the two as founded in the rule of law, not the judgment of the executive.

The reason we "America-hating liberals" have extreme issues with what Bush has done is that his failure to go through the proper channels--especially given the widespread latitude that Congress and the public has given him to handle issues relating to terrorism. Bush has not explained why, if he really did feel that the process of FISA court approval was not fast-paced enough to keep us safe, he bypassed the legislature and took it upon himself to ignore a law he just didn't like.

The other complete misunderstanding is that the spying that went on falls under the foreign intelligence-gathering aspects of the FISA act. It doesn't. The statute as I remember it states that if one person is within the United States, regardless of whether they are citizens or foreign nationals, then a proper warrant or court order from a court of competent jurisdiction must be obtained. They love to bring up the "Clinton did it too" argument, but every president since 1978 has engaged in foreign intelligence-gathering in accordance with the stipulations of the FISA act.

Every time the RedStaters write a new diary on this subject, all they do is expose their own ignorance, as well as their preference for monarchy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Goodbye petrodollar?

This Daily Kos diary by Soj is worthy of attention. Is the market hegemony of the Petrodollar about to end? And will Bush and the neocons invade Iran on the pretext of nuclear weapons and terrorism to prevent a major oil supplier from trying Petroeuros? (Remember that Saddam Hussein converted to Petroeuros even despite needing to finance the conversion costs--and look where he is now.)

By my reading, we're at the eve of destruction. Though Jerome a Paris' comments on this diary are noteworthy. It's hard to know which way China is going to go. Regardless, should Iran do this, the value of the dollar will cave on volatility concerns alone, with speculators wondering whether China will take an economic hit to destabilize petrodollar hegemony, or whether China views itself as profiting from the fact that the current petrodollar system returns its central banks a profit on financing U.S. debt.

After all--if China and other nations switch to a bourse with Petroeuros, the artificial international demand for the U.S. dollar will cease. If that happens, the value of foreign-held T-Bonds decreases dramatically. China will take a huge hit, but even more significantly, the shockwave from the collapse will send the U.S. economy into a massive recession.

The only hope for stability is the formation of a compromise system so the transition from petrodollar monopoly to mixed-currency oil trading is gradual and the economic hit can be gradually absorbed via the falling oil prices that will result from a portion of market-share being evaluated in stronger Euros. Or, the administration can do what it just might be planning: invade Iran to stop the bourse, lose thousands of American lives, send the economy into a complete tailspin, have massive civil unrest, and impose martial law to ensure the stability and continuing security. Regardless, a paradigm shift is coming.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What war powers?

With regard to the latest spying scandal, the one defense the Republicans (or, should I say, the Bush sychopants, since I know a few Republicans that have no taste for something like this) have used is that wartime powers give the President the authority he has taken in approving warrantless searches on U.S. citizens. The standard counterargument is that no wartime power granted recently or previously in U.S. history can override the 4th amendment with the exception of the clause that allows for the suspension of Habeas Corpus, but Habeas Corpus can only be suspended by consent of Congress and not by executive order alone; and furthermore, notwithstanding the fourth amendment, nothing has so far been found that overrides the provisions of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which forbids electronic surveillance on U.S. persons without a warrant or court order from a court of competent jurisdiction.

So there you have the main argument, and it seems to me that the President and his minions have legal little ground to stand on. But I'm going to venture on to ground on which Democrats thus far have not dared to tread. I'm going to ask: wartime powers? For which war?

You see, I'm going to challenge the contention that Bush has any war powers at all relating to this case.

In his press conference defending his authorizations, the President brought up the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. This central part of this resolution--an appropriate but vague authorization allowing retaliation for 9/11--allows the president the following power:

to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.


So there you go. The war powers that Bush is claiming as authorization for his wiretapping--"so he can use force but he can't do surveillance?" is the standard refrain from the right-wing blogosphere--seem to apply only to those with direct involvement in the 9/11 attacks. The war powers in question, by my reading, do not extend beyond punishing those who attacked us. The president has the authority to determine the persons, organizations or nations involved in the 9/11 attacks--this much is true. Ignoring the question of whether Bush's war powers actually enable him to conduct warrantless spying at the sole behest of the executive, Bush would have to officially determine that every single person on whom he authorized this program has involvement in, or aided in some way, the attacks of September 11th.

Technically speaking, then, Bush would have to demonstrate clearly that every U.S. person upon whom surveillance has been conducted is a member of or has ties to Al-Qaeda to justify using his war powers. Technically speaking, anyone with no involvement in any organization related to September 11th--even if they are known members of other terrorist organizations--is not a subject of the authorization of the use of force.

Am I saying that the government should not target, or pay less attention to, such persons? Absolutely not. The government must do its utmost within the law to protect the American people while preserving civil liberties. What I am saying is that even if it were found that Bush's war powers under the Use of Force Authorization allow him to conduct domestic surveillance, he would first have to prove that the targets actually fall within the specific wording of the Authorization approved by Congress. And I sincerely doubt that he can.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Osama, Saddam...What's the difference?

Apparently, Bush can't even tell.

It is truly a frightening thing that this man is president--and ordering secret wiretaps on American citizens within the United States.

Monday, December 19, 2005

My letter to Waxman

Hon. Congressman Waxman,

As a constituent of your district, I am incensed by the relative lack of outrage by Congress in reaction to the President's recent proud admission of authorizing the NSA to conduct domestic surveillance on U.S. citizens without a warrant or court order--an act which appears to be unconstitutional under the provisions of the fourth amendment, and illegal under US Code Title 50, Section 1809, which restricts the use of electronic surveillance to those conducted "pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction."

Just as distressing, however, is the question of why these surveillance authorizations were made. Given that the FISA court, which is responsible for issuing warrants for surveillance related to national security, is known to approve nearly all requests and even issues retroactive warrants in cases of emergency, it is essential to ask why the President and the NSA did not seek FISA court warrants for the surveillance projects they wished to conduct. This convergence of facts suggests that the President and the NSA wished to conduct surveillance on persons or groups for which not even FISA would issue a warrant of probable cause. This possibility should alarm any Americans who value their right to free speech and free assembly.

As an American citizen, I demand that Congress conduct an investigation into whether or not these authorizations do indeed, as they initially appear to, violate the Constitution and the United States Code, as well as an investigation into why the President felt the need to issue such authorizations without FISA court order and whom the surveillance was conducted on. The sanctity of our freedoms deserves nothing less.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

So, when do we start the impeachment proceedings?

Now that Bush has freely and proudly admitted to spying on U.S. citizens without a warrant, when do we draft articles of impeachment? How many more violations of the U.S. constitution and international law will it take?

Just wondering.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Kyoto and its discontents

A good CNN/Netscape article on Clinton taking the current administration to task for its Kyoto stance. What's interesting about the article is that no matter how neutral the presentation of the information, the truth itself makes the U.S. look so bad that it can't help but put our country in a negative light.

It's hard to disagree with Bill. Technological progress will not only benefit the global climate, it will also benefit the U.S. economy, both directly and indirectly. Directly because technological development spurs the creation of high-paying jobs that will go to other countries if we're left behind, and indirectly because the effects of climate change will undoubtedly have a deleterious if yet undetermined effect on our economy. Furthermore, the benefits to consumers of being more mandatorily energy-conscious are appreciable and certainly must be considered. By continuing to value short-term profits for big energy conglomerates more than the health of the world, the U.S. under this administration continues to abdicate any remants of its position as a global moral authority.

Especially interesting is the last paragraph:

While rejecting mandatory targets, the Bush administration points to $3 billion-a-year U.S. government spending on research and development of energy-saving technologies as a demonstration of U.S. efforts to combat climate change.


Hmm. $3 billion a year. That'll buy 15 days in Iraq. It also amounts to one-fifth the amount given away to big oil in subsidies in the latest energy bill, and a little more than one-seventh of the annual $20 billion cost of extending the tax cuts on capital gains and dividends.

Shit happens when big oil runs the government--and everyone suffers, except--you guessed it--big oil.

Friday, December 09, 2005

CA-48th

Here are the appalling final results.

I say appalling not because Steve Young lost by so much--he was a Democrat running in a heavily Republican area who was mired by allegations of not being a good family man and got no support from the state party or the DCCC. I expected him to lose handily, and the 17% margin does not surprise me. What does surprise me is that Gilchrist, the founder of the minutemen, got well above the 18% everyone expected him to get. Yes, the representative of the American Independent Party, the California affiliate of the Constitution Party, garnered over one-quarter of the total votes cast.

If this isn't enough to convince Democrats that immigration will be the next big issue in the upcoming 2008 presidential cycle, I don't know what is. I've blogged about it repeatedly, and I fear that the Democratic party is going to remain silent on immigration for fear of alienating their Latino voters. But just like on terrorism--without a coherent message, we'll get killed, even if the other party's message will in fact make the problem worse.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

CA-48: election today

Here's hoping Steve Young can pull off a miracle. See Swing State Project for all relevant details.

The only way Young has a chance is if Gilchrist draws heavier support than expected. We'll just have to see.

UPDATE: Get live election results here.

Syriana

There are many things I don't like about living in L.A., but sometimes those are outweighed by the advantages. Take this weekend as an example. I went to go see Syriana at The Grove--it was, at the time, only showing in select theaters in New York and L.A., so I got to see it before the rest of the nation.

And the film is absolutely superb. Clooney made another hit with this one in my book--it's even more compelling than Good Night and Good Luck, which is quite an accomplishment. I'm not going to give away any of the plot details--that would be spoiling a good film, and you'll have to go see it for yourself. Suffice it to say, though, that the film left me feeling both hopeful and depressed--hopeful because the message it portrays about the complexities Mid-East oil politics and its relation to terrorism will finally get a broader audience, and depressed because 1) there's not much you can really do about it to create system change; and 2) the people that really need to hear the message aren't going to go see it, or if they do, they won't really understand it. Either way, it blows the whole "export democracy to the Middle East" idea out of the water--because everyone who knows anything knows that a free and democratic oil republic, as opposed to a puppet emirate, is not in the best interests of the U.S. oil conglomerates. Just look at Venezuela. The other good sign--something that made me very happy--is that the showing was completely sold out, and the popular movies that were playing weren't sold out. People out here in this liberal bastion are paying attention. So go see it when it shows up in your neighborhood.

Despite my feelings of depression, I still do have my own weapon of jihad against the oil conglomerates--I drive it to work every day. Yep, I'm talking about my Prius. Now that I know how to drive it in such a way as to maximize the hybrid engine's fuel efficiency, I can get 60 mpg in regular highway conditions, and even higher in the right type of driving situations. I've had the car for about a month and a half now, and I have only spent $100 on gas--and I already have 1600 miles on the car.

Conservation is undoubtedly one of the best methods to stop the cycle of tragedy that we see represented in Syriana, and a key element of conservation resides in consumer choice. I chose my Prius for a reason, and I encourage everyone to make a similar choice--not just in vehicles, but in every single aspect of your life. Ask yourself what you can do to help the country reduce its dependence on Syriana-style oil politics.

A big part of that will involve campaigning for your local Democrat. There's a reason all the oil companies (except for Shell--kudos are in order) donate all their money to Republicans: they know that Democrats actually care about the stability of our country more than their record profits.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What is it about failure that they don't understand?

Take this frontpaged entry on RedState taking Boxer to task for a fundraising email.

They must be living in their own world. Most of the nation agrees that the Iraq war was a mistake based on bad intelligence. Recent polling says that Americans on average are more likely to vote for Dem candidates for Congress. The approval rating for Congress in general is in the tank. Arnold is in the tank, and Republicans lost the governor's mansion in Virginia again, signalling the start of an ominous trend for the VA GOP. And the only thing these Redstaters can point to is that more moderate Dems like Hillary and Biden--whom we in the netroots don't generally like, incidentally--are "stepping away from the brink" and being more supportive, and telling us to hang ourselves with our own rope.

You know how I know that we're doing things right? When the opposition tries to tell us what would be good for our own party. Just like they did with their virulent opposition to having Dean be DNC chair. They were afraid of it, so they screamed about how bad it would be for us--and now look at the record fundraising by the DNC. The more they tell us that we're making a mistake and are about to commit suicide, the more I know that our party is on the right track.

And furthermore--if we critique policies because they are failing, it does not mean that we rejoice in failure. It means we want you to change your policies--which, incidentally, have failed.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Iraqi insurgency is good!!

One of the latest pieces of idiocy from the...well...idiots at Redstate. Read it here if you dare.

According to this diarist, the Iraqi insurgency that has killed 2000 U.S. troops and countless thousands of Iraqis is a good thing because it will give the Iraqis something to be proud of if they defeat it--whereas if the country had actually been stabilized by U.S. forces, if that were even possible to begin with, it would have had a detrimental effect long-term on Iraq because they wouldn't have earned it.

It's also too bad that there wasn't a long, drawn-out pro-Milosevic insurgency in Serbia that killed several thousand NATO troops because if there had been, the democracy might be a bit more stable now, and.../sarcasm

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The immigration divide

Currently frontpaged at RedState is California Yankee's disappointment with Bush about the President's immigration ideas.

The Republicans may indeed use immigration as the next scare tactic to keep people afraid enough to vote for them, despite whatever scandals and other illegal and immoral activity comes down the pipe to screw the middle class. But unlike a "get the bad guys" terrorism policy whose failure to address the subtleties and complexities of actually fighting terrorism is not generally well understood by the public, most Americans at home--liberal or conservative--know that immigration is far more complicated because they see it in their everyday lives--those of us on the coasts especially.

The entry on RedState mentioned above exemplifies this clearly. We have the people who say "deport them all, amnesty be damned!" arguing with the people who say, "ok, but what happens to their possessions? forced sale like Japanese internment camps?" The reality of it hits home--even conservatives recognize that tough talk about deportation and "no amnesty" should a guest-worker program be introduced, is fraught with difficult choices and decisions.

And something does need to be done. It is clear that the current situation is a result of a lack of foresight combined with a "let's not do anything about this" policy that has been eagerly supported by businesses, big and small, more than pleased about an endless supply of cheap labor.

A guest worker program would be a step in the right direction, in my opinion. First and foremost, it applies some sort of systematization and status to a group of workers that are necessary but criminalized under the way things currently work. Second, it might have the effect of reducing the Mexican economy's dependence on remittances from the States, which is a large problem that fuels this negative feedback cycle. One of my best friends is of Mexican descent, and has family back in Mexico. He told me that his uncle, who runs an avocado farm down in Mexico, has a hard time finding workers to operate the farm unless he pays high wages in U.S. currency--because otherwise, it's more worth it to the available workforce to sit around and wait for the ones who crossed the border to send their dollars back to Mexico. Picture it--an entire nation living off welfare. That's not good for anybody because at this rate, there is no incentive for the Mexican government to make the economy progress.

But the next thing that needs to happen is a dramatic increase in border funding. We should force Republicans to choose between extending the unnecessary tax cuts to the investor class, or funding the border patrol. Make them choose between billions of subsidies to the energy industry, or billions for the border patrol. The list could go on and on, because the border patrol in its current form is woefully incapable of performing its assigned duties. It does not have enough manpower or enough facilities to do its job.

The third thing that needs to happen is more extensive fines and even prison time for business administrators that knowingly hire undocumented labor.

But what about the ones that are already here? At this point, I really don't think we have a choice. We can't oust them from their homes in the middle of the night and force them to sell their possessions so they can be deported--as if the border patrol and the INS have the funding to engage in such an operation anyway. And what if we did? What about the businesses that all these people are already working at? The social and economic disruption would be huge. For the good of society and business, there needs to be a boundary of demarcation: "from this point on, we do things this way."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Why is it all about Hillary?

I'm really tired of everyone who's not deeply involved in politics assuming that Hillary will automatically be the Democratic nominee, if not the President-elect, in 2008.

I'll give a couple of examples--the first of which is a personal anecdote. I had a Christian conservative client in my office not very long ago. He's a nice guy and all, but certainly, our political views differ. He was complaining about the idiocy of the current Republican party and bemoaning the fact that Hillary was going to be our next President. I said, "hang on, not so fast. I'm a Clark supporter, and there are a lot more of us out there than you think. Lots of us Dems think Hillary is a corporate DLC sellout." He said that he had seen Wes Clark on Fox News and could easily see himself voting for Clark in 2008.

Next example: Christie over at Decafdemocracy--a blog I found through Christie's diaries on DKos--quotes a comedian's perspective on the prospects for a 2008 race:

Morris, who can earn as much as $10,000 for a corporate-party appearance, says he suffers panic attacks every presidential campaign. "Oh-eight should be very interesting, especially if Hillary is in the mix," he says.

Forte deadpans, "I'm already working on my Hillary Clinton."


Well, I've got some news for everyone and anyone who will listen: when you're being outpolled 5 to 1 in the most recent straw poll at Daily Kos, it's time to start talking about someone else, at least in the early going.

Netroots support will mean increasingly more over the course of the next few years, and in addition to that, even the most die-hard of the opposing party can see themselves voting for Clark. So tell Morris and Forte to start prepping their Wes Clark. Hopefully, they'll need it to keep up.

Friday, November 25, 2005

RedState on stem cells

From Steve Z's comment on Augustine's diary on stem cells:

Transplantation of adult stem cells is the moral equivalent of a blood transfusion--inflicting minor, temporary harm on a voluntary donor for the great benefit of a patient. Use of cord blood or placental cells after birth does no harm to either mother or child. Morally, taking embryonic stem cells kills a human being who could otherwise live for 70 or 80 years to try to prolong the life of an elderly person by a few years, and no clinical benefits have yet been obtained.


Better start ringing up the mass murder charges against all those fertility clinics. Destroying human beings who could have otherwise lived for 70-80 years.

The diary in and of itself gets a lot of its facts wrong and is completely misleading, but you can read the diary for yourself if you want--that's not my main purpose. In the diary, however, Augustine assumes that we inhuman liberals would somehow be in favor of a "The Island" style organ farm with cloned humans--as if that is the inevitable valley floor that one would land in should one start down the "slippery slope" of blastocyst-based embryonic stem cell research, in roughly the same way that conservatives assume that we inhuman liberals will all monomaniacally select Hillary to be our next presidential candidate. The sad truth is that beliefs like these demonstrate conclusively that these conservatives have no idea what the liberal mindset is, or what we believe.

To a religious conservative like Steve Z must be, there is no moral difference between blastocyst-based stem cell research, and harvesting cloned humans for organs--because rather than think rationally about the obvious moral differences between the two (and any moral philosopher anywhere along the spectrum of Hume, Mill or Kant would tell you so), Steve Z and his ilk base their decisions on a codified set of principles handed down from superiors that cannot be questioned.

Suffice it to say that I'm expecting the firebombing of fertility clinics to commence any day now. It's the only logical course of action for these people.

The GOP on Kosovo

Every Democrat--or, for that matter, anyone who doesn't support the war in its current manifestation--should keep a copy of this PDf in their back pocket. It's a complete catalog of (now hypocritical) statements by Republican leaders critiquing Clinton's successful foray--together with our NATO allies--into Kosovo. So, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Hannity--where were your claims about how important it was that Kosovars be free of oppression? Where were your celebrations about the birth of democracy in Serbia? Where were your "purple fingers" expressing solidarity with the democratic election of Prime Minister Kostunice? For that matter, how many of you even know that Kostunice is the prime minister there now?

You want to know why you don't know? Because things have been awfully quiet in Serbia lately. And before any nutcases complain that we Democrats are hypocritical for supporting Kosovo but not Iraq, let me remind you of a famous prayer--one of the few things you can relate to: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

There you go. Our objection to your idiocies is precisely contained in the third section: you do not apparently know the difference between a venture that has a chance at ultimate success and a venture that doesn't. And stop blaming us for pointing it out.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving or theocracy?

According to...[sigh]
Redstate
, the purpose of Thanksgiving is to give thanks to Jesus Christ. That is, at any rate, the best conclusion I can draw from the simple fact that in the posted transcript of Congress' 1782 resolution, any reference to the divine is capitalized, including the dating system in the "year of our LORD" 1782. Of course, based on the fact that Almighty God receives plenty of "hits" in the document, but "Jesus" never does, one can conclude one of two things: a) the 1782 Congress was comprised of a bunch of Old-Testament-worshipping Mennonites; or b) the references were intentionally non-denominational, except for the Anno Domini thing, which does seem to be a common reference point for determining what year something happened in, at least in the West.

If that's what these increasingly devoted followers of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson want to say Thanksgiving is all about, I have absolutely no problem with that. The only thing I can't really stand is hypocrisy. If they want America to be dependent on divine edict for its laws, that's fine. They have the right to that position, as long as they maintain the position that other nations--such as Iraq, Iran, and whichever other ones so choose--also have the right to govern themselves by the theocracy of their choosing.

I also agree with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, incidentally, that it is a travesty that our American soldiers are being sent to die to stabilize a country whose consitution now dictates that laws shall be based primarily on Sharia. I just think that because of this, our multi-millionaire preachers--who have not sold all they had to give to the poor, last time I checked--should recognize the folly of attempting to attribute the creation of Democracy to the Christian tradition, rather than to the epistemological principles established in the Enlightenment Period.

For the record, the [sigh] above should be read with the same intonation as that of Will Ferrell's Alex Trebek when he resigns himself to introducing "Sean Connery" yet again on Celebrity Jeopardy. It's that same sort of "here we go again" resignation.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pro-Life Carpool

via Andrew Sullivan:

A nine-month pregnant woman in Arizona is contesting a citation for a violation of the HOV lane. The state argues that there was only one person in the car. She argues that her unborn son counts as a person. I wonder on whose side the "law-and-order" pro-lifers would come down.

On a side note--it seems to me that had prop 73 passed here in the Golden State, it would have given pregnant women the constitutional right to ride solo in HOV lanes owing to the way that prop 73 would have redefined abortion in the state constitution.

Of course, one can easily imagine that had such an event taken place after an imaginary prop 73 passage, the pro-lifers would have tried to pass a law limiting HOV use to married women, because in their minds failure to limit according to these standards would just encourage welfare mothers to get pregnant so they can use the HOV lane while they leave their other children abandoned at home.

Out of Uzebekistan

And not a moment too soon. For once I actually agree with something I found on RedState.

Of course, it's still perturbing that it took a civilian massacre that Saddam Hussein would have been proud to lay claim to to get the Bush Administration to begin to reconsider who it should count among its allies. Kind of puts the lie to the whole "we support Middle East freedom" concept currently being spouted as the rationale for the Iraq war.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What Kennedy would have said

On this, the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, I quote prophetic paragraph from the remarks that Kennedy was about to deliver--but never got the chance.

...This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country's security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America's leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem."


Truer and more prophetic words were never spoken. I hope Stone's JFK is going to be on TV tomorrow. The final speech before the Warren commission brings tears to my eyes every single time I watch it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The state WILL control your consensual activities!

According to Carlos at RedState, to do otherwise would be an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state--in this case, the secular humanist church of Hedonism!!

Even I can't believe this one. At a gut level I can understand the people who argue against the necessity of a separation of church and state. They want a theocracy, and they express that belief honestly. OK. But this floors me--a statement that the fact that we have no impositions is in and of itself an imposition.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bill O'Reilly: terrorist sympathizer

"Bill O'Reilly is a terrorist sympathizer."

Just doing my part to participate in the Google bomb against Bill O'Reilly for encouraging terrorists to strike at SanFran.

Go ahead and give it a try if you haven't already: type in "terrorist sympathizer" in your google search and hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button. See what happens!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

What is liberalism?

The fact that a diary like this could make the recommended list at RedState proves unequivocally that these "people of faith" and "conservatives" really have no idea what liberalism is or what it stands for.

I have to go to bed. I don't want to get into all of it. But what offends me the most, actually is the part about liberals hating Christians and empathizing with Muslims. This statement, of course, comes about in the context of the idea that liberals are "abetting the enemy"--which, at the current time, happens to be Islamic extremism--and are waging a war against Christianity, with regard to such things as evolution vs. ID in schools, and religious displays on public land.

In any case, the statement is extremely off-base. We don't "empathize with Muslims" any more than we empathize with any other group, religious or secular. Just like Christians, Jews or any other group, we will get along with the Muslims that wish to live their life and practice their faith without making attempts to impose it on the rest of society. Our "war on Christianity" is not a war against religion at all. I have known plenty of Christians in my time, both on the more liberal and conservative side of things, and I have gotten along with all of them exactly to the extent that they did not try to impose their values on me in whatever capacity they might have been able to do so--and I'm sure they would say the same of me--and usually, I was able to get along with just about everybody. It's a "live and let live" policy--and you can bet that if Islam were the dominant religion and attempts were made to have the Qu'ran replace science classes in the United States, we liberals would be just as opposed. Same goes with Hinduism and the Bhagavad-Gita.

We also DON'T have an optimistic view of humanity. In fact, we're very negative about humanity. We see the greed, the selfishness, the corruption, the tendencies toward violence, and everything else, and realize that it needs regulation so as to form a decent society based on fair laws and a system that is above any individual that resides within it--such as the system founded by the United States Constitution. But we do try to appeal to the better nature of humanity if we possibly can--and prefer to count within our ranks those who are most motivated by such an appeal.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Apparently, we're "winning."

So says a recommended diary on RedState, apparently on the basis of the success of Operation Steel Curtain.

I have no doubt that Operation Steel Curtain is indeed a success. We have made many military operations that have been successes. The problem is that these military operations are like a game of whack-a-mole. We do it, but then they come back, and then when we think it's bad enough, we go on another clean sweep.

It's kind of like the machines destroying Zion in the Matrix. Sure, the operation may have been successful, but they keep on leaving the humans alive to rebuild. Of course, in the case of the Matrix that's an intentional choice to maintain the status quo; in our case, it's because we don't have a choice.

The Veterans' Day speech

I just read the full text of the President's speech. You know what? It's a damn good speech against Islamic extremism--except when he sets up fallacious arguments like this:

Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions in Iraq -- claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001.


You see that word STRENGTHENED? It's there for a reason. It means that, yes, it existed before, but it's WORSE NOW because of your war.

Or this:

The government of Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom -- and, yet, the militants killed more than 150 Russian schoolchildren in Beslan.


The logical implication is that terrorism never existed before Bush invaded Iraq, and current terrorism has no other causes besides Iraq. What a total piece of idiocy.

This complete denial of logic, as well as the partisan attack on Democrats I wrote on earlier, ruined a perfectly good speech. A damn shame too--because about 75% is worth hanging on to.

Remember the good old days

And what our government could have been doing for the past five years.

It makes me depressed.

Is Bush toast?

It's really beginning to look that way.

The fact that Bush used a Veteran's Day speech to conduct a partisan attack on Democrats who are raising questions about the origins of the war in Iraq would seem to suggest it, at any rate. Think about it: Bush used his yearly opportunity to solidify his stance as a tough, rugged war president to defend himself against accusations that his administration pressured the CIA--something which the L.A. Times article, following administration talking points, says didn't happen--but we bloggers who actually remember history know and can document according to the official reports that it did.

Will the Democrats capitalize? Will they stay on the offensive? As a Republican friend of mine told me a couple of days ago: the Democrats never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It's time to correct that.

This administration is flailing, stung by electoral defeats, horrible poll numbers, dissention in the ranks, and constant confrontation with the devastating results of its failed policies. 2006 is the time to deliver a killing stroke--without sacrificing our footing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

US ADMITS WAR CRIMES!!!!

Right in an Army Military magazine.

So who goes to the hague for war crimes now?

California's not a red state--it's the Golden State.

So said my hometown mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the victory party tonight. We were a little nervous early on, but soon began to put our minds at ease as the returns came in. I also got the chance to chat even more with Russ Warner and even got the chance to talk with Phil Angelides for a few minutes. I'm really looking forward to helping on those campaigns as well.

So there you have it--tens of millions of dollars spent on a special election that accomplished absolutely nothing and dealt the Republicans a stinging defeat at the polls, to go along with Democratic retention of the New Jersey and Virginia statehouses.

Still, I was hoping for at least one state issue in Ohio to pass, but I guess they love their machinery just as much as we in California love ours.

Now that I think about it, Arnold's failure here really opens the door wide for Angelides (or Westly) to seize the governorship in 2006. At this point, Arnold has pretty much been disgraced and is seen as completely ineffective and misguided.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Results

Kaine will be the new Governor of Virginia.

Corzine will be the new Governor of New Jersey.

And Ohioans apparently like corrupt elections.

I'll be heading to Alliance for a Better California's victory party tonight. The California returns should be exciting.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Did we use chemical weapons in Fallujah?

The Italian media certainly seems to think so.

Isn't it ironic. We take out Saddam because he had WMD--scratch that--because he had previously used the chemical weapons we gave him against civilian populations.

So we take him out and then what do we do to try to control the ensuing insurgency? Use "Willie Pete" and new, improved napalm against insurgent hotbeds.

Are we really trying to say that Iraq can only be controlled through use of unconventional weaponry? Would Redstate.org call me un-american for blogging about this?

Damn foreign media. How dare they report our use of WMD on Iraqi civilians.

This whole war is a sick joke.

Selective Enforcement

Via the L.A. Times

I didn't realize the IRS was into selective enforcement. I wonder if the Republican leadership will come to the defense of this church. After all, they're the ones that want to remove political limitations on church groups. Or was that only because they don't really care about freedom of speech and they just want to enhance their political power?

How dare they report our un-American atrocities.

You gotta love the stuff you see on RedState sometimes. I know that my blog is becoming increasingly fixated on ridiculing the stuff I see there, but sometimes the material is too rich to pass up.

Take this diary, which was frontpaged by the admins. In a nutshell, it comes to the conclusion that the MSM is harming our efforts in the "war on terror"--or was that a "global struggle against extremism", I really can't remember--by reporting the existence of CIA-operated secret prisons in foreign countries. Given our history of extraordinary rendition, as well as the administration request that the CIA be exempted from anti-torture legislation desired by congress, it seems almost certain when you put two and two together that the CIA was using these facilities to extract information from detainees through the most unscrupulous means possible--something the general public would most certainly not approve of.

The diary argues that exposure of our agreements with foreign governments to use their sovereign territory for secret prisons will lead to decreased co-operation with allies in anti-terror intelligence-gathering because they'll be afraid that their information will appear on the frontpage of the American MSM, and that it will hurt our war on terror by detracting from America's image abroad. That argument, however, just goes to show how absolutely illogical at best and deluded at worst the right wing is on the issue of torture and intelligence-gathering.

First and foremost, we see a clear difference in methodology concerning America's image. My methodology for improving America's image is to stop doing all the stuff that would harm America's image, while their methodology is to silence the press from accurately reporting all the stuff we do that harms America's image. Just like the American south: just keep on preaching morality while you sweep all the divorce, illiteracy and teen pregnancy under the rug. Same seedy idea.

But the next concept--the one about such reporting making foreign governments less likely to share intelligence because of reaction from their citizens or terrorist retaliation--is even more bogus. There is a strong difference between a) sharing intelligence, and b) allowing a foreign intelligence service to build a torture prison on your nation's soil. One would be a move that would be expected and approved of by your citizenry, and the other is something that you can expect your citizenry to be extremely unhappy about. One is completely normal and usual, and the other represents a complete lack of ethics on the part of your government. One is something that almost every free nation on earth does without significant reprisal from terrorist organizations, and the other is something you could expect some terrorist retaliation for BECAUSE YOU'RE ALLOWING THE YANKEES TO TORTURE THEIR OPERATIVES ON YOUR SOIL.

Furthermore, the supposed fear that will now be imparted to other nations concerning their intelligence being splashed above the fold of major MSM papers is also bogus. If you can name a single time that the American MSM endangered multinational cooperation to capture terrorists by revealing sensitive information relevant to an ongoing investigation, you let me know when that was. I can't recall such an activity. I can, however, name a couple of times in which the administration has done something similar to justify a purely political agenda. One was the public acknowledgment that Noor Khan was a mole--an admission made to justify raising the terror alert level during the Democratic Convention. Another was the leak of Valerie Plame's covert status to punish Joe Wilson for telling the truth about Iraq's ties to African uranium.

If I were a foreign government and I had to choose between trusting an American MSM newspaper or trusting this administration, I'd take the MSM any day of the week.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

"Dollar Auction in Iraq"

Via Mark Kleiman: the dollar auction in Iraq. Must-read.

War on the CIA

Redstate.org is getting worse and worse. Examine the current front-paged article.

This blows my mind on so many different levels. First, the continuing snark against Valerie Plame--calling her "undercover brother" in a deriding, mocking tone. What ever happened to the constant refrain of respect for our men and women in uniform? The people serving our country? The ones risking their lives? All that just goes out the window all of a sudden? But I've addressed this before. I don't need to do it again. There's more.

What really gets to me is this assumption on the part of Red-Staters that the CIA "provided flawed intelligence" and "went to war against the Bush administration." What utter malarkey. The CIA provided all sorts of intelligence of varying reliabilities, with the proper caveats attached, and as the Downing Street Memo clearly indicates, the Bush administration hand-selected and cherry-picked whatever intelligence it felt best made the case for the policy it had already decided on. And when the CIA did a double-verification of something it had already told the administration was a lying forgery, it's all of a sudden declared by these Republicans that the CIA is "declaring war on the administration."

No, the CIA is not "declaring war on the administration." The administration declared war on the truth. The CIA's job is to work to best ascertain the truth, not to come up with whatever best supports the decision that the administration has already made.

But in this, just like in so many other political arenas of the day, we see the difference between a faith-based policy and a reality-based policy. In a reality-based policy, the CIA analyzes data and presents it to the administration for the administration to be able to make a well-informed policy decision. In a faith-based policy, the president "goes with his gut" and the administration spin doctors and strategists destroy anyone who dares to take a stand for the objective truth--namely, in this case, that a drunk named "curveball" provided most of the intelligence hyped by the administration, that Ahmed Chalabi provided the rest while on the payroll of Iran, and the declaration that Saddam tried to buy yellowcake from Niger was a forgery--and irrelevant in any case, because the international intelligence community knew that Iraq had yellowcake to begin with and they were completely unconcerned by it because of the difficulty of turning yellowcake into enriched uranium.

The CIA didn't act at cross-purposes with the administration, as this comment suggests. It just dared to stand up for the truth--what we all know to be the truth. But apparently, it's still "evil" and "a war against the administration" to point out what even the RedStaters would have to admit is true.

This is just sickening.

Photo: Clark with the Bloggers


Click for full size (photo credit: Jackie Wollner)
Here's a picture of the bloggers, myself included. with General Clark.

One of the things about the conversation with Clark that made me happy is that he didn't feed us any pablum about how important the blogosphere was or try to pander to us in any way. He wanted us to know about what was on his mind so we could report it, and then we let him know what was on ours. It wasn't catering--it was a give and take. I respect that.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The same old face of terrorism

From CNN:


Click to view full-size image

Now imagine if India took an approach to terrorism similar to that of the U.S.: i.e. "making Kashmir safe for democracy." I wonder what the results of that would be. Of course, the situation isn't exactly analogous because Kashmir actually is a security threat to India, unlike the previous relationship between Iraq and the United States.

So make of it what you will. The basic point is that when you see incidents like this and the continuation of problems in Israel and Palestine over four years after the event that "changed everything," it makes you wonder why we're not actually doing what we can to solve problems rather than create more of them.

My meeting with General Clark

General Wesley Clark was in Los Angeles today for a WesPAC fundraiser at a private residence in Cheviot Hills. The event was supposed to start at 7:00, but Michael Webber of SoCalGrassroots prevailed on the General to meet with some bloggers as a preamble. So there we were, in a private room at a roundtable with the general. The bloggers in question included myself, John Amato of Crooks and Liars, Mark Kleiman, MS_in_LA of Who's Counting, and Steve and Pam of SteveAudio. So essentially, seven bloggers, together with Wesley Clark and his wife Gert, all just having a conversation. Arianna Huffington was supposed to show up, but she had other obligations. Quite a forum, and a singular occurrence. I should be getting a picture soon from WesPAC--when I see it there I'll post it here.

We were only supposed to meet for 15 minutes, but the General gave us twice that amount of time, sharing stories about his encounters with Pat Robertson and talking about his ideas for foreign policy and his critiques of the administration, and what type of talk and mentality appeals to voters. One of the especially memorable exchanges on this topic was on the topic of torture. Mark pointed out that while we all know that torture isn't okay, there's a broad swath of America that doesn't think that. But I took that a step further and said to the General that we have to fight battles on the blogs every day with people who think that torturing prisoners actually makes us safer, and don't realize that it doesn't actually produce any more actionable intelligence--and we don't have any credible military personnel pointing that out.

I think that the General would have kept on talking to us for hours, but we finally had to break it off so he could address the rest of the donors at the fundraiser. And what a public speaker he is. He advocated that the Democrats change the public perception of their party to be the one that represents the common good, faith, values and service and patriotism. He also pleaded that each one of us needs to put the good of the nation ahead of our individual pet causes--a message that many people need to hear. If you haven't gotten a chance to hear the General speak, you're really missing a treat. He's warm and charismatic, but clear and powerful when he needs to be--a fantastic public speaker who can captivate and hold your attention.

As a side note, I got to meet a couple of other congressional candidates seeking election in 2006: Mary Pallant, who is seeking to unseat Elton Gallegly in CA-24, and Russ Warner, who is doing the unthinkable by challenging David Dreier in CA-26. Mary is a very fun and engaging lady--we had a little football rivalry going on, since she's USC and I'm UCLA. Russ is very friendly as well--he brought his son with him, who just got done serving a tour of duty in Baghdad. It was very intriguing to speak with him because it was the first time I had actually spoken face-to-face with someone who had served in Iraq. I asked him to describe his experience if he could, and he only had one word for me: "chaos."

When I get some pictures from the event I'll post them. This was a very fun day, and solidified my initial primary support for the General--presuming he runs in 2008. But first, we have 2006 to attend to.

Friday, October 28, 2005

My Prius.

I just got my Prius in a couple of days ago. Why don't more people have one? Given the $2,000 tax incentive, the low MSRP of the car, and the mpg benefits, isn't it a no-brainer?

Whatever. I guess Cadillac will keep rocking and rolling all the way to the collapse of the oil industry.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

There's plenty of oil. So what?

Rantissmo has a diary up on RedState.org proclaiming that all the hullaballoo about running out of oil is utter nonsense--not citing any facts or figures from any sources, of course. More proof that Republican policy is entirely faith-based. Incidentally, this diary made the recommended list, which is why I bother with commenting on it here. Notice that I'm not questioning whether he's right, I'm merely pointing out that he doesn't cite anything as proof for his statements.

But the whole point is that the quantity of oil in the ground is only half the battle, even if we weren't running out of oil that can be inexpensively extracted (which the diarist concedes is a possibility). The whole point of the author--and of many of the comments attached to the diary--is the standard refrain that the free market as arranged by the laws of supply and demand will dictate oil prices. But guess what the author forgot to mention entirely? DEMAND.

The Department of Energy forecasts that oil consumption will grow by 1.9% annually through 2025, reaching an astounding 118 million barrels per day in 20 years. For the record, that's 5 billion gallons a day. Consistency in oil prices would only be obtained by an increase in supply commensurate with demand. While the Department of Energy estimates that OPEC and non-OPEC countries will be able to increase output to match demand at a rate that would keep average oil prices around $51 per barrel, the following paragraph from the IAGS condensation quoted above should provide some pause:

But the EIA, by its own admission, has no mechanism to conduct reliable, independent reserve data analysis. Like other agencies it relies on data provided by petroleum ministries of oil producing countries, which are often deliberately exaggerated, and on data provided by oil companies. As the recent Royal Dutch/Shell scandal showed, reserve data by major companies may be overstated. On March 18, the company slashed its reserve estimate by 21%.


So even if we assume that the EIA estimates about demand are correct, and that foreign governments and oil companies (in whose best interests it usually isn't to tell the whole truth) are entirely honest about the state of their reserves, production, and refining capacity, oil prices would still hover close a non-inflation-adjusted price that not too long ago was seen as a harbinger of bad news for the world economy. And this does not count political or meteorological upheavals, or even the possibility that OPEC countries are operating at close to peak extraction capacity. Nor does it include the possibility of collusion among large oil corporations to fix prices at something more favorable to the industry--because for these companies, no profit is too much profit.

So even broken down into the most basic issues of supply and demand, it's obvious that the volatile nature of the "free market of oil" will almost certainly not produce results that are inherently favorable to the consumer. But on top of that, there are two other undeniable factors:

1) There is such a thing as maximum production capacity, even with unlimited supply.
2) Assuming that the world economy continues to grow, there will be a time when demand significantly outstrips supply, even at maximum supply capacity.
3) Oil supply is definitely limited, and will become more expensive on average to extract as cheaper sources are exhausted.

So much for free-market economics--I haven't even gotten into the larger issues of adverse health effects of burning fossil fuels, or the damage from global warming, or any other such issue.

And the final question: why are these people going out of their way to defend the status quo when Exxon makes $10 billion in one quarter and the consumer gets squeezed at the pump? They're normal people too. Are they masochistic?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Andrea Mitchell: Blogger call for action

Following up on the blogger call to action put forth by VirginiaDem over at Daily Kos regarding Andrea Mitchell. It's time to start flexing our muscle and get it widely distributed over the "internets" that we won't stand for this type of lying--and the more places it appears on the internet, the better off we'll all be. It is completely unacceptable for a major news network to spread blatant, disproven falsehoods in an attempt to provide "balance"--just to have an excuse to have something negative to say about Joe Wilson, as if that makes exposing a CIA agent fair game just to "set the record straight." Nothing they won't stoop to.

Attention mainstream media: if you want to maintain your relevance, try telling the truth. Otherwise we'll be on you faster than you know it. You start it, we finish it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Make the bad news stop"

One of the main reasons I keep on visiting Redstate.org and blogging about their diaries and comments is because it's interesting to take a gander at an organization that constantly looks like it's on the verge of imploding--even if it never actually does.

My latest example in this vein comes from an interesting piece of news about the Miers nomination, as written by Leon H. In this piece, he writes about how Miers, according to this story in the Washgington Post, completely misinterpreted the Equal Protection Clause as mandating affirmative action.

What is interesting to me about this particular piece is not how incompetent Miers is--we knew that already. Nor even is it about how Miers misinterpreted the law in favor of a distinctly liberal cause. Nor even is it the usual "look how they're imploding!" crowing that is so common on Daily Kos.

To me, rather, the most interesting sentence in Leon's post is the last one:

Someone has got to make the flood of bad news regarding this nominee stop.


To me, this is a better indicator of what is wrong with current Republicanism than anything else. If the equivalent were happening to a Democratic president appointing a Democratic nominee, I imagine that most Democratic bloggers would have instead written something like, "we need a new nominee."

But the Republicans? No. They won't do that. You see, they're going to do exactly what they're going to do. And if it's a complete and total public embarrassment, the solution isn't to change the policy to something that works--rather, it's to shut down the news.

A note to Leon: since you're so concerned about making the bad news stop, I'll give you some ways of doing that. You want the bad news to stop about Miers? Try appointing a qualified non-crony like Roberts. You Republcians want the bad news to stop about Iraq? Pull out and distance yourself from the incompetent fools who lied their way into it. You want the bad news to stop about Social Security? Don't gut it. You want the bad news to stop about the economy? Stop looting the U.S. treasury. Want the bad news to stop about global warming? Try doing something, anything, to help us achieve gain energy independence based on renewable sources. You want the bad news to stop about Delay? Try maintaining House ethics standards, instead of easing them. Want the bad news to stop about Rove and Libby? Not committing treason is an easy solution.

In short, you won't have nearly as much bad news if you don't create it.

The McCarthy types in the Republican party need to understand that you can only create a limited amount of bad news to serve your own self-interests before it comes back to bite you in the ass. And when bad crap happens because of it, it's not the fault of "liberals playing partisan politics" for pointing it out--it's your fault for encouraging it for all these years.

Tom Delay's mugshot!

Here it is, in its full glory:



Not with the prison uniform and height bar backdrop I was hoping for, but it works.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I agree with RedState! Coburn Amendment

For once, I see something on RedState I agree with that won't result in the banning of the poster: the Coburn Amendment, which would redirect the funds for Ted Stevens' and Don Young's infamous Gravina Island bridge to nowhere and use it to rebuild a damaged bridge in Louisiana.

I never imagined agreeing with Coburn (Wingnut-SouthEast OK Lesbian School Bathrooms) on any issue, but hey--if someone preaches fiscal conservatism and reducing pork-barrel spending, who am I to complain.

More RedState blogging...this time, it's choice.

Peruse the comments attached to this diary on abortion at RedState.org.

What's interesting to me is the number of people commenting on this diary that oppose a woman's right to an abortion in the case of a pregnancy arising from rape. While such a position is not based on any sense of humanity toward the victim and is based purely on religious speculation, at least the position is consistent--a human life begins at conception. People like this could only support an abortion, then, when a seriously anomalous medical condition occurs--such as an ectopic pregnancy--in which the consequences to life according to this definition will probably be worse than doing nothing at all.

The inconsistency actually begins with what we might consider a more moderate position--namely, no abortions except in the case of rape or incest. The reasoning is this: when proponents of this line of thinking permit abortion in these cases, it cannot be because they genuinely believe that abortion kills a human life, because if that were the prevailing opinion, one would be constrained by logic to say that the commission of one crime--either rape or incest--does not justify the commission of the more serious crime of murder.

What becomes instantly clear when you see these positions contrasted and argued is that there is a rift between those who would seek to outlaw all abortions purely on religious grounds in keeping with their definition of human life, and those of a less principled faith who seek merely to legislate morality--i.e., legislating the difference between those who "deserved it" and those who didn't--while using protection of fetuses as a false pretext for keeping young women in line.

Because of this, I contend that one cannot be considered pro-life if one thinks that rape or incest qualify as suitable pretexts for an abortion, because the life in question does not deserve to be ended based on the circumstances of its creation. This category of thinking needs a new term altogether--and I'm open to suggestions.

Stern changes NBA dress code

And with good reason--it's part of changing the culture of the NBA. The fact of the matter is that in the recent Olympics and FIBA World Championship, the United States and its "baller" NBA players have been consistently humiliated by international competition because international talent, though still significantly less than what is found in the best American players, has caught up to a point at which it can excel through superior teamwork.

Because of this, the NBA--and American basketball in general--has a good deal of egg on its face, and most of the structural problems causing the NBA's increasing deficiencies are viewed--correctly, in my opinion--as owing to the glorification of "playground ball", hip-hop culture, and the escalation of violence and crime that NBA players are increasingly involved with.

Stern is instituting this dress code for the same reason that schools institute uniforms: to change the self-image of the players, and enhance their public image as well.

And it needs it, because "hip-hop" culture will not appeal to the fans in China, and what they see in Yao Ming. It will not appeal to Europe, which is following Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker and Sarunas Jaskevicius. And it will not appeal to South America, which is following Nene, Varejao, Ginobili and Oberto. To grow outside the U.S., and to regain the respect the U.S. used to enjoy in international competition, the culture and values of the NBA will have to change. And good thing, too.

And while I'm at it, I'll go ahead and make a statement on hip-hop culture while I'm at it: it's not good. There is no cultural relativism here. You won't see the posses of Britney Spears and Hillary Duff killing each other in a feud backstage, like we see all too often with rap feuds. You won't see any other form of music glorify violence against police and women nearly as much anywhere else.

Is this racist? You tell me. From my perspective, it wouldn't matter who was doing the glorification in question, or what color his skin is. What matters is the essence. Is rap as a musical form inherently bad? Is wearing chains and whatever those headpieces are called inherently bad? No. The problem comes with the association of these things with a culture--not a race, a culture--that has historically glorified violence and other forms of crime. And eliminating that image brings the NBA one step closer to what it should be--a global game, enjoyed by all.

And before I get more complaints than I otherwise would have: BUSINESS CASUAL IS NOT "WHITE" ATTIRE. IT'S UNIVERSAL ATTIRE. IT IS A GLOBAL STANDARD FOR POLITE AND FORMAL DRESSWEAR, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER IT STARTED IN EUROPE OR NOT. GET OVER IT.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

RedStaters believe Joe Wilson outed his own wife.

Read it here. If you dare.

It's getting too ridiculous for words at this point. So desperate to protect the criminals in their own party that they are willing to make these ridiculous assertions that Joe Wilson outed his own clandestine operative wife to gain political notoriety.

I forgot to mention: Bush lied in his SotU address. Joe Wilson exposed those lies. Who would have more reason to punish whom for political retribution?

RedState.org is now just Free Republic with Scoop. Perhaps, given all my entries today, I should rename my blog "RedState hurts my brain."

"Return every illegal entrant"

From Chertoff, via the San Jose Mercury News. This, together with the inclusion of a guest-worker program, sounds like an interesting goal--the merits and ideology may be debatable, but it doesn't change the fact that entering this country illegally, is, well, illegal, and current laws should be enforced, IMHO.

What gets to me most, though, is the last quote:

[Chertoff] agreed with Kennedy that trying to deport all illegal immigrants would not be possible. "It would take billions and billions and billions of dollars to do it," Chertoff said.

How many billions, Michael? Say, how about...200 billion? Throw in a few extra hundred million from some Alaskan bridges and you're well on your way.

A month ago I wrote on Daily Kos about how immigration was going to be the next major issue, and it looks like we're well on our way--but to me, it's a discussion that needs to be had, and unlike terrorism, it doesn't cut just one way. Opinions on this issue are widely divided, even within individual political views. Furthermore, the racial, economic and social problems associated with the immigration issue are so broad and complex that discussion of them cannot simply be broken down into "get the bad guys" and "my opponents hate America." Furthermore, the Movement Conservatives do not care too deeply about this issue, choosing instead to focus on their core issues, abortion and homosexuality (and boycotting any organization that shows any degree of understanding). This leaves the Southern Strategist Freepers at odds with the business community. On the Democratic side, we can't be seen as ignoring the law or tolerant of wasting public money on illegal entry, which will put us at odds with each other. But all in all, it's a debate that concerns the future of America, and it needs to be had.

Defense of Treason continues at RedState

I used to enjoy going to RedState for the dialogue and discussion that used to occur between people of opposing political ideologies. Unfortunately, that time ended long ago. Now I peruse RedState for a different reason: just seeing what they'll come up with next.

Case in point: defending treason.

One would imagine that the unmasking of a covert operative working on WMD intelligence in the middle east would make even Republicans and RedStaters want to get to the bottom of the scandal and find out who was responsible. But no. The days of loyalty to the country are over, and the flag of the elephant now flies higher than the flag of the United States--as evidenced by passages like this:

If this is true, then Libby did not know that Plame was classified as James Bond in drag, super-secret, licensed-to-kill with an AK-47 when he let the cat out of the bag.


This mockery of a CIA agent toiling thanklessly and risking her life on behalf of her country is something we think we shouldn't expect from Republicans--but actually, we should start expecting it more and more. We all know what Bush has done for soldiers in addition to sending them to Iraq: stop loss, cutting combat pay, cutting VA benefits, and everything else. We see that Rush Limbaugh called Paul Hackett a "staff puke" as his thanks for Paul's service in the Armed Forces of the United States.

And last but not least, I'm tired of comments like this one: handwringing about how exposure of the leakers in this case will make leaking of important information less likely. No, guys, you have it wrong: exposure of the leakers will make BLOWING THE COVER OF CLASSIFIED PERSONNEL FOR POLITICAL REVENGE less likely. I will repeat something I started this blog with: this case has nothing whatsoever to do with whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is the exposure of illegal or unethical activity. Sometimes, classified information must be exposed to blow the whistle--but this case shares no similarities to this, and the MSM can continue to be confident that anonymous leaks by whistleblowers should be able to continue as planned.

Monday, October 17, 2005

RedState crows over Iraq Constitution??

Read it here.

Some things in life are funny; others are downright hilarious. This falls into the latter category.

So here they are, feeling all self-assured and confident because the Iraq Constitution was apparently ratified, a full 2 1/2 years after the occupation of Iraq commenced. Not only that, but they're celebrating the passage of a constitution that could essentially be used to turn the country into an Islamic theocracy--a constitution that many social and religious conservatives were completely unhappy about. They're celebrating taking a country that posed no threat to us and turning it into a country that will probably ally itself with Iran, with Sunnis staging an armed insurrection from time to time.

Of course, whether or not Iraq has a constitution says nothing about our army's complete and total inability to stop the insurgency, which continues to get more violent as time goes by with no sign of relenting. This new constitution will do nothing to address the vacuum that will be created by the departure of U.S. troops. It does nothing to address the fact that there is at most one Iraqi army battalion ready to take on insurgents. Furthermore, it does nothing to address the fact that the Sunnis have no political power: Apparently, if 100% of Sunnis had voted against the constitution--opposition to the document in Tikrit was 96%--it still wouldn't have mattered, and the Shi'ite and Kurdish support would have carried the day. As Armando points out--does anyone really think that the demonstration of the total lack of political power of the Sunni areas will cause the insurgency to lose support?

So that's right, Republicans. Revel in the insignificant solidification of Islamism in the model democracy you wanted to create in the Middle East. Or was that your way of getting WMD's and defeating Al-Qaida? Because as Condi said: the people that flew the actual planes into the buildings just weren't all that important.

As a final note, I appreciate the usage of the term "Cassandra." Yes, Cassandra prophesied doom and gloom, and that's what Mr. Yousefzadeh is mocking us for here. But I would like to make a point: Cassandra's source of fame is what? You guessed it: THE FACT THAT SHE WAS ALWAYS RIGHT, YOU PHILISTINE FOOL OF A WINGNUT! So keep on calling us "Cassandras" because at this point I'm quite happy with the term. We were right about your tax cuts and the economy; we were right about the environment; we were right about abstinence education; we were right about Iraq...we've been spot on about just about everything. So thank you, Pejman, for finally calling us a name that we can agree with.

On a final note--if you like the way things are going in Iraq, you can be paid to move there: www.goarmy.com.

Friday, October 14, 2005

CA propositions: same old religious exploitation

One of the main strategies that Republicans used to increase the turnout of their base voters in the 2004 Presidential election was to include state amendments on the ballot outlawing equal righrs for gay couples, especially in potential swing states like Missouri and Ohio. The logic behind this, of course, is that the presence of these amendments will encourage these single-issue voters to get to the polls, where they would then be more likely to vote for Republican candidates and issues on the remainder of the ballot, where they may not have even cared enough to go to the polls had it not been for the amendment on that one issue.

Well, now they're up to the same old trash with Schwarzenegger's "reform Sacramento" initiatives in California.


(click on image or this link to see full-size)

For those that are not familiar with them, the four propositions you see Schwarzenegger campaigning for in that photo--propositions 74 through 77--do the following:

74: lengthen the provisory period for teachers from 2 to 5 years and allow administrators to fire teachers with little process and no cause;

75: Hamstring the political influence of unions;

76: Give the governor new powers to cut budgets without legislative review or consent;

77: redistrict California in a way more favorable to Republicans through the use of retired judges.

The problem for this initial salvo in the war to turn California into a red state is one of popularity, turnout and special interests. For anyone who has been following, Schwarzenegger's approval ratings are in the tank, and special elections are renowned for their abysmal turnouts, and people have a tendency to vote no on propositions they don't really understand--and these issues are a little complicated for those who aren't political junkies. Furthermore, the California Teachers Association and the labor unions are spending a good deal of money and mobilizing heavily to defeat these propositions, while no Republican special interest group would have the motivation to send out the manpower to get them passed.

So what do the Republicans do? The same thing they did in 2004: get something on the ballot that will appeal to the religious right. Enter proposition 73. This measure would not only require parental notification prior to an abortion procedure, but would also define an abortion as "killing an unborn child."

As the L.A. Times reports, we once again have an evangelical-based turnout strategy for the Republicans to pass initiatives that would otherwise suffer from lack of familiarity and poor turnout--and it just might work. Schwarzenegger is not very popular with religous conservatives because of his moderate stance on social issues, but the California Republican party has by-passed him completely and gone straight to the churches to help get their political agenda passed.

We need to learn two lessons from what happened in 2004. The first is that any time there is anything on the ballot that will appeal to monomaniacal religious voters, we must mobilize with uncommon intensity. The second is that we need to work harder to stop these initiatives from appearing on the ballot in the first place--audits, signature challenges, information panels at the supermarkets where they get these petitions signed...whatever it takes. The Republican party is like a lightbulb that keeps on attracting moths. They'll keep flying into it, no matter how many times they get burned by it--but they do a lot of damage in the process. So it's time to turn off the switch.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The religious right doesn't own the party.

But they're just now beginning to figure that out. This article from the Boston Globe essentially sums up the difficulties the Bush administration would have had in nominating an openly fundamentalist judge for the Supreme Court--namely, that as it is in the current congress, such a judge would have 49 almost certain votes against her in the Senate (assuming the replacement would be a woman), and even if there were enough votes to confirm, the Democrats would certainly have filibustered.

And this would have been the scenario if Bush were riding high in the court of public opinion, which he is most certainly not, after wasting his "political capital" on privatizing social security and defending the debacles in Iraq and New Orleans--and about to be damaged further by the impending trials of Delay and Abramoff, as well as the impending indictments against high-ranking administration officials involved in the Valerie Plame fiasco.

The problem that the GOP has is that in order to win elections nation- and state-wide with their corporatist fiscal agenda, they have to use electioneering tactics that appeal to a more fringe element in order to put them over the top. Those fringe elements, believing that they are then solely responsible for the victory at hand, wish for a more prominent place in the agenda, as well as a right to be recognized as such and treated with public deferece. This then leaves the GOP in a position similar to that of a college girl trying to get the resident geek to keep on helping her with her homework: enough alluring promises to keep the geek interested, but no actual action or public acknowledgment of the relationship, both of which would hurt her reputation on campus.

Eventually, however, the geek gets bored and realizes that she doesn't actually like him, and is just using him for grades while she keeps on pursuing that MBA student who drives to class in a Mercedes. The religious right is now feeling themselves in a similar position with regard to the Harriet Miers nomination--the only difference being that geeks actually have some modicum of intelligence.

This is why the Democrats can win. Because the liberal message of equality, people first and corporations second, war when necessary, responsive government, environmental protection, etc. will become more and more resounding as things get worse and more malaise sets in about the current state of affairs. The Democrats also have the advantage of not relying on one single monomaniacal special interest group to push them over the top. Minorities, women, choice activists, labor unions, environmental groups, the anti-war movement, etc--none of these groups believes that it and it alone is solely responsible for Democratic victories. We don't have to play hard to get because no group is particularly embarrassed with the activities of any other group. It's just a matter of getting them to work with some degree of coordination and continuing to preach the message that Americans actually agree with.

Monday, October 10, 2005

What type of judge is Bush looking for?

In one of his recent defensees of Harriet Miers, Bush said this to reporters concerning her lack of history or written opinions: "Miers knows exactly what type of judge I'm looking for." Now, I think it could be universally agreed that that statement is code for, "psst, hey you, religious base. It's okay." But I like to take the statement more at face value, and then ask the question: so...what type of judge is Bush looking for?

You see, the type of judge Bush is looking for could probably be best predicted by what Bush has cared about most during his tenure in office. So, let's name the things that Bush and his congress has accomplished or pushed for here on the domestic policy front, and divide them by into two categories:

1) corporate money
2) social and religious issues.

I make this division in this method because it is well known that one cannot serve both the Lord and Mammon. So, let's get to it.

IN CATEGORY ONE:

Privatizing Social Security; rollbacks of environment regulations; massive energy industry subsidies; regressive tax cuts; estate tax repeal; disallowing the federal government from negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry; no-bid contracts for Halliburton and other oil services firms; I'm sure the list goes on and on.

IN CATEGORY TWO:

Well...let's see...this is a tough one. I guess we can name the faith-based charities initiative, and the recent attempt to allow political contributions from churches. But even these in and of themselves are money-related. What about pure social issues? Reproductive rights, domestic partnership issues, and other things? I think there are only two things I can really name in this regard: one is the "partial-birth abortion" ban, which was unconstitutional from the moment of its creation for failing to provide exemptions for the life of the mother (and they all knew it), and another is the push for abstinence-only education. And Terri Schiavo, I suppose--but that's political opportunism, not policy initiative.

My conclusion here is that Bush obviously supports Mammon, with actually very little regard for god--because lots of what he has done for "God" has only been to allow God's followers to provide his allies with more Mammon.

So when Bush tells the zealots that Miers knows exactly what type of judge he's looking for, they all assume that's a good thing. But based on Bush's history, I think they're making the wrong assumption. "By their fruits ye shall know them," the scripture says--and Bush's tree has borne enough fruit for everyone to know exactly what type of shrub he really is.

Hey! A shout out to all the radical religous conservatives: If it hadn't been beaten into you to do whatever the leader tells you, you might actually be able to draw these connections for yourself. But since you keep on trusting so much, the burden falls upon me to enlighten you. And then, when you have Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Miers, with a Democratic president and congress in 2008 and many of your former targets of unmitigated praise and adulation indicted, and Roe and Griswold still aren't overturned, and the civil rights movement finishes its march toward its just end--equal economic opportunities for gays--, and the Democratic administration tries something, anything, to slow down our economic depending on Asia's floating our massively bloated debt...when all that happens, there I'll be, writing on this blog laughing at you for not voting for the Constitution Party and ruining America by giving its reins to plundering Neocon corporate overlords.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

THE LSAT--

I took my LSAT on Saturday. I think I did reasonably well on it--by my standards at any rate. I hadn't had all that much time over the previous period of time to actually study for it as much as I should have, though that doesn't bother me as much as one would expect--after all, I only took because a friend encouraged me to, and I'm not really more than halfway committed to going to law school as it is. None of this in and of itself, however, is what upsets me about my experience. What upsets me is that tests like this create such a huge division between the haves and have-nots.

I was at the gym doing my regularly scheduled Thai kickboxing lesson a couple of days before my test, and I told my master that I wouldn't be coming in the rest of the week so I could get some hours of uninterrupted study in for my test. Someone else in the gym overhead and asked me what courses I was taking to study for it. I was a bit taken aback by that statement. Now, my gym has a lot of aspiring actors, actresses and other film personalities that train there, including the daughter of a very famous director, and it's a relatively high socio-economic demographic. But still, I was surprised that someone would expect by default that I would be taking classes to study for the LSAT. I don't have the time or money--upwards of $1000--to spend on special prep courses for a test. It already costs $115 to register for the damn test as it is.

Combine this with two other facts: 1) the fact that your LSAT score is a prime determining factor of what law schools you get into, and 2) certain parts of the LSAT don't test anything having do with the skills you'll need for law schools as it is, and you've got all the indicators of a money-making racket that should be indictable under the RICO act. It's borderline criminal.

First of all, why do the applicants have to pay to be tested? One would think that the law schools themselves would fund LSAC for providing, developing and honing a standardized method of testing applicants. Second, one can't govern the amount of time one can take to prepare for a test, or prevent someone from publishing a book to help people with the test. But...come on. Over a thousand bucks to take specialty courses to prepare you for and improve your score on a test for which you have to pay, and whose relevance to your actual activities at law school is marginal at best? That should be illegal in and of itself. But tack onto that the fact that it enables those who can afford it to get into better law schools than those who can't, when said classes, between two test-takers who otherwise would have had similar scores, can make the final scores sent to law schools look dramatically different. It's a plutocratic education access protection racket that is a large factor in denying students of lesser means equal opportunity.

Being able to buy a nicer car is one thing, but being able to buy a better score is quite another. If it were up to me, it would be illegal to profit from offering classes to improve scores on standardized tests. If foundations want to offer free classes to improve their constituents' educational opportunities, so be it--and I'm sure that concerned people would figure out how to get around that restriction anyway. I'm not resentful in any way, honestly. I don't believe in taking those classes, because it would me feel dirty--and I believe I can outperform the majority of those who do anyway. I can compete with them regardless. What irks me is knowing that plenty of other people who would have been able to compete are having their curve raised on them by people who would have been exactly at their level--except for the fact that they--or their families--had the money to buy a better score.

Friday, September 30, 2005

CIVIL WAR? OVER DELAY?--

Mark Noonan over at Blogs for Bush has now warned Democrats that continuing to attack Delay will apparently somehow result in civil war--though what exactly they intend to do beyond what they have already done, short of declaring Palpatine's "Safe and Secure Society," is beyond me.

Hunter at DailyKos put this piece of idiocy right back in its place with a very satisfying smackdown concerning the hypocrisy of the position in question, but I feel that there are some important considerations that Hunter did not cover.

Hunter's primary angle is "you started it, we'll finish it"--essentially, a justification of engaging in personal destruction--or even witch-hunting--of prominent Republicans. I do feel, given the previous history Republican political and campaign strategy ever since Clinton's election, that all such activity is thoroughly justified, because if we do it too, and prove that we're good at it, perhaps they'll realize it wasn't such a good idea. But the indictment of Tom Delay, and Mark Noonan's warning shot, is about more than that.

I would argue, however, that Delay's indictment does not reach to the level of Whitewater, Swiftboating and Vince Foster. Delay has been rebuked three times for ethics violations by his own party's ethics committee, and we all know about Abramoff. There's certainly enough smoke there to justify the search for a fire, unlike Vince Foster, and it is integral to very relevant current events (unlike Whitewater). So I would argue that in the Delay indictment, we haven't even come close to matching the scorched earch policy that the Republicans have shown to the political climate. We've just shown that we're finally capable of not being cowed into not doing what we should have been doing all along--calling a spade a spade. If the Democrats take control of Congress in 2006, however, I hope we do see a witch-hunt--just so Mark Noonan can know what it really feels like.

But an even bigger point is--why on earth would these people want to take a stand in support of Tom Delay? He has a negative reception. Congress as a whole has a dismal aproval rating. He has, as previously stated, been rebuked for ethics violations three times. A fight was beginning to brew in Congress between Delay, who said that there was no fat in the federal budget to trim, and fiscal conservatives in Congress, who saw plenty. His unpopularity was so marked that the whole Democratic congressional campaign strategy was to tie incumbent Republicans to Delay as closely as possible. So why are they defending this guy? As it is, congress was stalled on Bush's agenda because of the hurricanes and other things that are pushing economic issues back into the mainstream. Bush is even pulling a Carter and pushing conservation, for the sake of everything that's holy. So it's not like they'll miss Delay's effective leadership. And you can bet he'll still be working behind the scenes, he just won't have the official title.

Next question for Mark Noonan: if, as you say, the actions of Tom Delay are relevantly similar to that of every single congressman with regard to fundraising practices, why aren't we seeing investigations and indictments into a whole ton more members of Congress? Because frankly, that's why your legislative heroes were voted into office in 1994--to sweep out the corruption that had overtaken the Democratic House after so many years of majority status. Fulfill your mandate and your purpose then! Clean it up! Go after everybody, Democrats included. Stop talking about Pelosi and get something done. Your boys are in charge of Congress, after all, and personal destruction is your specialty.

Further question: whence comes this "trying to overturn an election" crap, and all the comparisons to 1861? Last time I checked, indicting a corrupt representative does not overturn the results of an election. It's an investigation of potential crimes committed while in office. Tom Delay is still the representative of his district, is he not? Republicans still have the House majority, do they not? Your guys still get to select the next majority leader, do they not? So what is it exactly that's being overturned? The only elections that really ever got overturned in that sort of way happened in 1876 and 2000, and in both cases they had to do with a 1-vote Republican majority on some influential panel or other. And how does this accusation of yours compare with constant attempts to find, something, anything, to impeach Bill Clinton with? Talk about overturning the will of the voters. Tom Delay is the choice of a few Houston suburbs, and that's just about it. And if you can't handle the heat of TRMPAC, try raising money the way Democrats now do--through the people that want them in office, not the corporations that want special favors.

I know you want to keep attacking, Mark--and I will call you Mark--because you don't know how to do anything else, really. But between Franklin, Frist, Delay, Abramoff, Rove, Safavian and who knows what else coming up, you'd better hire a defensive co-ordinator really quick. And here's one thing a defensive co-ordinator doesn't do: he doesn't lie about his opponent's offense to make them feel better about themselves.

I wonder how you sleep at night, Mark. I really do.