Friday, September 23, 2005

TIME FOR A META-ENTRY--

Trying to become an influential blogger? Chris Bowers over at MyDD (cross-referenced here at Steve Gilliard) has some advice for you.

In general I agree with what Chris has to say here, though I think it's definitely possible for someone to break into the A-list based on their reputation. If Bonddad, for instance, formed and publicized his own blog, he would get a ton of readership, and might even become as popular as Atrios.

Speaking of Atrios--when Chris refers to A-list bloggers who do nothing but quote a paragraph from the newswire and add a couple of lines of commentary, I wonder if this is who he's talking about. I mean, it seems improper for a new arrival like me with no readership to critique one of the most popular bloggers out there, but that's what having my own blog entitles me to do, and I'm going to do it: it seems like Duncan is living more off his laurels at this point. Unlike The News Blog or AmericaBlog, just to name a couple of examples, Eschaton doesn't do anything for me any more these days, and I almost never go there any more. Then again, I am also addicted to DailyKos.

Which reminds me--the other obnoxious problem is that if I write a diary on DailyKos, I could get several hundred comments on it if the diary is worth something, and actually start some discussion--but if I post something here, it won't be seen by practically anybody. While the Scoop-powered blog has been a great community resource, it has pretty much sounded the death-knell of the small blog. It's amazing that consolidation can have such effects in the medium that was precisely designed to be able to combat...well...media consolidation.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

WHY DO REPUBLICANS HATE AMERICA?--

This, by way of Sirota at Working for Change.

The Republicans want to help pay for Katrina by cutting health care benefits for the military. Not by cutting $500 million for bridges that would serve about 100 people (that adds up to $5 million per person, if my math is right), but by reducing healthcare for troops. These people are sick. Absolutely disgusting. And somehow, we just can't get over the hump on the monopoly that Republicans have over the military, no matter how much they cut veterans' benefits, close VA hospitals, cut troop payments and healthcare, and send them to die in the service of creating an terrorism-rife Islamic Republic.

This makes me angry at three different kinds of people:

1) The Republican nutjobs who put their pork and tax cuts for the rich ahead of the good of our military;
2) The brainwashed idiots who continue to vote for them because they talk about gays and abortion;
3) The Democrats who do not proclaim loud and clear, every day, in Congress and elsewhere, that these people have been doing this for years, and when will you other people realize what's going on, thank you very much.

Because if I ever got into congress, or had access to power or crowds, I would say it every single day. I would talk about their gutting of our military to enrich their friends every day. Because I'm proud of the work that our military does, and it should finally have civilian and intelligence leadership to match.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

IS BUSH DRINKING?--

Steve Gilliard brings us a intruiging story: Bush just may be back on the bottle. The arch-conservative base won't be happy about this.

My prediction is that we're going to end up seeing with Bush what we unfortunately saw with Clinton--congressional candidates, as well as the Republican 2008 presidential candidate, keeping their distance from W, since by that time he will be a grave political liability if things keep on their current course.

Which reminds me--if it costs another $200 billion to clean up after Hurricane Rita, will it make Bush and the Repubs finally break down on tax cuts and the estate tax?

Stay tuned--the next few months could see the fission of the Republican party, and the re-emergence of fiscal conservatism. If so, thank the maker, whoever that is.
HURRICANE RITA--

Would anyone like to know why I just put down a deposit on a Prius?

Here you go:



Seriously. If this thing hits the gulf coast again or the Port of Houston, we could be looking at another disaster and, in the absence of a decent alternative energy solution, we could be seeing oil prices that go beyond the absurd--and I'd rather be as insulated from that as possible.

It makes me feel kind of bad too, because when I was in the dealership a couple of weeks ago to put the money down on it, I looked at the mandatory sticker that informs the customer about the percentage of US content in the vehicle--and when the number I was a big fat zero, I got kind of an icky feeling. I mean, I'm a big believer in balancing the trade deficit, and I know that when I buy a Japanese car, I'm really not helping to curb the outflow of American capital to Asia--but there's a reason that Toyota has waiting lists two months long on the Prius and Nissan is the fastest-growing car company there is, while GM has to offer employee discounts just to get some cars sold. GM counted on a continuance of the policy of style and bravado over quality and economics--and is getting hammered for it. And as a result, the American economy is suffering.

The shortsightedness of American business and government is appalling. Their utter disregard for economic cycles, for the concerns of peak oil, for environmental destruction, and for every single other concern is frightening--all in the name of a vain attempt to please the expectations of Wall Street analysts.
TOM DELAY CLASSIC--

"The so-called Katrina tax hikes are not about Katrina; they're about tax hikes and will only serve to balloon the oversized, under-responsive emergency-management system that broke down three weeks ago in the wake of the hurricane," DeLay said in a House floor speech, according to prepared remarks provided by his office.

Utter brilliance. Except for the fact that the money in question is going to go to reconstruction of the damage to the gulf coast, not to fund bureaucracy.

See, what Tom Delay doesn't understand is that tax increases--or, since revenue has been gutted so much as it is, I should actually call it revenue restoration--don't create bureaucracy. Legislation creates bureaucracy. To that end, I propose that Tom Delay help streamline FEMA bureaucracy by making it a cabinet-level position outside the grasp of the Homeland Security Department, and then create a way to pay for it that doesn't include cutting all the funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting--such as, for instance, revoking the $500 million dollars for the bridges in Alaska. Or the $115 million in pork that Delay himself brought back to Houston. Take a lead from Bozeman, Montana. Or even from your archenemy Nancy Pelosi.

Act like you care. Act like you have a soul, Mr. Delay. Even if you don't really have one, it's good politics to pretend that you do.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

IMMIGRATION/ELECTION STRATEGY--

In the aftermath of Katrina, combined with worries about the economy and increasing impatience with the American venture in Iraq, smart Republicans are going to have to figure out something else to campaign on. The latest AP-Ipsos poll shows just how severe the situation has become for Republicans who are trying to spend their "political capital." The whole poll is striking, but I will excerpt some especially juicy numbers below.



(ASKED OF HALF THE SAMPLE)


A. I'm going to read you a list of EIGHT issues and I'm going to read the list twice. Please tell me which ONE should be the highest priority for President Bush and the U.S. Congress in the next few months:


(Results from late August in parentheses)

The economy and jobs, 25 percent (14)

The situation in Iraq, 19 percent (29)

Energy and gas prices, 17 percent (24)

Terrorism, 11 percent (9)

Health care, 10 percent (7)

Education, 7 percent (5)

Social Security, 5 percent (5)

Taxes, 2 percent (3)

Recovery from Hurricane Katrina (VOLUNTEERED), 1 percent (no trend available)

Other, 1 percent

Not sure, 2 percent

(ASKED OF THE OTHER HALF OF THE SAMPLE)

B. I'm going to read you a list of NINE issues and I'm going to read the list twice. Please tell me which ONE should be the highest priority for President Bush and the U.S. Congress in the next few months:

Recovery from Hurricane Katrina, 29 percent

The situation in Iraq, 19 percent

The economy and jobs, 16 percent

Energy and gas prices, 14 percent

Terrorism, 6 percent

Health care, 5 percent

Social Security, 4 percent

Education, 3 percent

Taxes, 1 percent

Other, 2 percent

Not sure, 1 percent



According to these numbers, less than 10% of the population now believes that terrorism is the most important issues facing Bush and the rest of America. Overwhelmingly, many more people are concerned by Katrina, the economy and the situation in Iraq than are concerned by terrorism--and it will be very difficult to get the American public concerned over terror again, barring another attack, because of how closely Bush has tied terrorism to Iraq--that's blowback for you. Another good indicator? This poll suggests that 2/3 of the nation believes we are spending too much and has no confidence that the money is being spent wisely, and 42% say that we should reduce our spending in Iraq to help pay for Katrina reconstruction.

Even worse for the Republican leadership is that they have completely cast off the mantle of fiscal conservatism. They can't even play up the "tax-and-spend liberal" in forthcoming elections because the hypocrisy would be simply atrocious.

So what does all this have to do with immigration? Everything.

In order to stay in power given everything they have screwed up in the past five years--and who knows what they'll screw up in the next three--Republicans will need to find an issue with which they can scare the voting public into letting them continue their fleecing of the US Treasury while calling the Democrats anti-american sellout traitors--and that issue is immigration. In the upcoming election cycles, the right wing will undoubtedly seek to use this issue to divide the country and scare our citizens.

This strategy is already unfolding--and thanks to a misdirected memo intended for Karl Rove from Rep. Smith that accidentally ended up in an anonymous Democratic congressman's fax machine, we know exactly how they're going to do it:



Enforcement of immigration laws, current and new, should come first to satisfy the increasing public demand for border security. It will not be enough to pass enforcement bills this fall that will take a year or two to produce results. Current laws need to be better enforced so that the American people see results immediately. (Liberals can easily and accurately be portrayed as opposing enforcement).

Only then, as enforcement begins to gain traction, should the twin subjects of guestworkers and long-time illegal residents be addressed...Extensive hearings should be held to evaluate the impact of any new immigration programs on American workers, the economy and taxpayers.


So there you have it. The immigration issue will because the little cousin of the xenophic Republican family of political gamesmanship that brought us the Southern Strategy and the egregious political exploitation of terrorism. And we Democrats need to get this down:

Anyone who runs for a statewide office in 2006 needs to start developing a comprehensive strategy on immigration, have due diligence done to figure out how the Republicans will attack the candidate on this issue, and do opposition research on the Republican candidate in the same way. We cannot be blindsided and concede on this like we conceded on terrorism in 2002--a concession which cost us the 2004 election cycle.

Let's hope we've learned a little something from our mistakes.
THE VULTURE NEED NOT BID--

A wonderful entry at DysBlog on Halliburton. Recommended reading.
FISCAL POLICY--

To some, white is black and black is white. In the latest version of topsy-turvy, Nick Danger at Redstate argues that Bush is actually a brilliant economic strategist because our massive borrowing is apparently preventing China from building battleships. and debt always gets rolled over and doesn't have to get repaid, and the Democrats need to stop talking about the children becuase nobody's going to have to pay it until the sun burns out.

I could go into the fact that we've spent $335 BILLION in interest on the public debt so far this fiscal year, but that would be boring. I don't want to get into how laughable this argument is--it's so ridiculous that even the commenters at Redstate all know better (you can venture over there and read the link--they won't bite unless you post something).

Thankfully for us, we have Bonddad over at Daily Kos. I don't know whether he maintains a site of his own--if he did I'd link to it in a heartbeat--but failing that, here's his refutation of that whole stunning piece of illogic, more concise and well-put than I could have constructed. I cannot believe that all these people who call themselves conservatives are now trying to justify a regime that spends more recklessly than LBJ ever thought possible--and that according to the Cato Institute.

The more these diehards place party loyalty above ideology, much less credibility, the worse off they'll be in 2006. Or at least, that's what logic would dictate. Let's see if it happens.

Monday, September 19, 2005

KARL ROVE OFF THE RECORD--

As initially reported by The Huffington Post, Karl Rove made some controversial/insulting remarks about a variety of hot-button issues at a a businessman's private gathering in Aspen. Needless to say, these comments have been used around the liberal blogosphere to demonstrate that Karl Rove is, to paraphrase Steve Gilliard, "the mouth of Sauron."

But I take a different perspective: I think Karl Rove is right. Let's go down the list and analyze the statements as reported, one by one.

1) IRAQ WILL TRANSFORM THE MIDDLE EAST. It's really hard to argue with this one, isn't it? I mean, we're seeing Iraq transform the Middle East in front of our very eyes! After all, the standard model for Middle East Islamic countries is a strong, usually totalitarian government that controls all aspects of life and crushes insurrection and political dissent quickly. Iraq used to fit that model to the tee, and now look--a total 180-degree reversal! Now the government has absolutely no control whatsoever over its citizenry. Furthermore, most Middle East countries are aristocratic kleptocracies in which the ruling elite takes most of the wealth from the country's GDP--but in Iraq, look at how we've reversed that trend: now, we have $1.8billion siphoned offshore from Iraq's military and utilities! See? the polar opposite. And what a transformation.

And dear me--when I think about the ramifications of Iraq's sectarian violence, the potential for change just floors me! I see the Shi'a south forming an alliance with Iran to create the new powerhouse in the Middle East; the Kurds pushing for greater autonomy leading to independence, inspiring their fellow Kurds in Turkey to push for the same, potentially leading to increased militarization in one of our best allies in the Muslim world; continued terrorism by the Sunnis against the Shia- and Kurd-held oil and gas pipelines, further exacerbating the high cost of energy...I could go on and on. Safe to say that Karl has nailed this one right on the head.

2) WE HAVE NOT BEEN GOOD IN EXPLAINING THE SUCCESS IN IRAQ. Right again, Karl! As a matter of fact, your successes in Iraq have pretty much been kept under wraps. And when I say your successes, Herr Rove, that's exactly what I mean--because your successes and the nation's successes do not exactly coincide. One can take this example from shortly after the reconstruction period began. Or this. Or any wide number of similar reports that could be dredged up in a moment's notice. You see, Karl, the successes of the private sector firms and industries to which your fellow administration officials will be returning (provided that you avoid prison time) has not been adequately explained, and intentionally so--because if it were fully disclosed, the private sector company you would be returning to could well be Wackenhut. You go, Karl.

3) (katrina) THE ONLY MISTAKE WE MADE WAS NOT OVERRIDING THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT. Well, from a certain point of view, one can see the truth in this--in the same way that the police make mistakes by not overriding women soon enough when it comes to controlling rapists. Excellent point, Karl, though I would have thought that this would have been self-obvious.

4) CINDY SHEEHAN IS A CLOWN, ETC. This is a little bit of a stretch, but if you take the analogy that clowns can sometimes be street performers, and street performers need a permit to perform in public, then the fact that Cindy Sheehan and her rally organizer were arrested for "performing" without a permit makes her relevantly similar to a clown in some respects. And if we take the analogy further and start using this in conjuction with the term "media circus"...well, at that point, all bets are off. But I can see where Karl is coming from on this one. And as for the statement that that nobody worth anything would show up at an anti-war rally? Well, you might suppose that this notion would be discounted by the majority of the public now opposes the war, but Karl is actually one step ahead of you. You see, he knows that the opinion of the voting public is completely insignificant now--Diebold took care of that little problem.

5) JUDY MILLER IS IN JAIL FOR REASONS I DON'T UNDERSTAND. True again, though I think in this particular case it has more to do with ignorance of experience than anything else. You see, Karl Rove isn't used to seeing his political allies be punished for committing crimes. So, as you can see, it's not exactly the case that Karl isn't aware that Judy Miller committed a crime--it's merely that he doens't understand why that's a problem.

6) JOE WILSON ATTENDS THE WACKY MASS. Now, I'm not exactly sure about Joe Wilson's religious preferences, but one can well imagine that after 15 years as a diplomat in Baghdad, Gabon and the rest of Africa (note the infamy of the citation here!), Joe Wilson has seen his share of interesting religious services, and has no doubt attended quite a few wacky masses in his time. When compared to this, Karl's regularly scheduled religous services must seem quite mundane.

So there you have it! Karl Rove is right about everything once again!

/snark
WISDOM FOR THE DAY--

If you're a politician, always remember: the person next to you could be a blogger.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

MARCH OF THE PENGUINS--

So, I finally went to the theater this evening and saw March of the Penguins. I had been wanting to see it for some time--I love nature documentaries as it is--but my interest had been especially piqued because of the recent espousal of the movie by the Christian conservative movement because of its promotion of family values and monogamy--though I would be remiss if I didn't point my readers to other excellent blog entries that blow this idea out of the water, such as this or this.

So when I watched the movie, I went into it looking for something and seeking the answer to one fundamental question: what was it in the movie that that prompted the religious right to wholeheartedly endorse the penguins in this film, as opposed to any other of the 91% of bird species that practice monogamy (although this percentage is far less among mammals), or the innumerable species that show such dedication to their young--even among the world of insects and spiders/. What was it that prompted them to ignore the annual serialization of the monogamy they are espousing, or the complete lack of difference between the sexes regarding their roles as parents?

And not very long into the film, I realized what it was the moment the first egg showed itself on the screen. There's only one egg per penguin pair, remember, and that in and of itself gives it a much more "human" feel. The sight of all those strong males dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to the protection of unborn (or unhatched, as the case may be) children must have been like a wet dream for the conservative right. This is what I see when I read between the lines of the "sacrifice, family and dedication" phrase as I try to understand the difference between the penguins in the film and all the monogamous nesting birds out there that have gone heretofore unnoticed--you see a bunch of males who are willing to starve and freeze themselves to death to defend the individual egg.

The eggs--which, incidentally, are the first indication we see of the dedication that has endeared the penguins to the conservatives--are also featured in the New York Times article I referenced above, though in this case as an argument for intelligent design:

"That any one of these eggs survives is a remarkable feat - and, some might suppose, a strong case for intelligent design," [Andrew Coffin] wrote. "It's sad that acknowledgment of a creator is absent in the examination of such strange and wonderful animals. But it's also a gap easily filled by family discussion after the film."


Everything else on top of this was just icing on the cake for them, even if it is representative of behavioral traits shared by the majority of all bird species, or completely out of line with the values they are trying to promote. They're using penguins to keep them company as they convince themselves that their complete and total obsession with embryos, to the total detriment of any other aspect of life, actually has a precedent in the natural world of "intelligent design."