Friday, December 28, 2007

A Hercullean Task

Jon Swift asked the bloggers on his blogroll to send him their best post of the year, to understand just what a piece of work he let himself in for you'd have to appreciate the extent of his blogroll. Awhile back he and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo decided the biggies of the blogosphere ( [c] Skippy) were over linked and self reinforcing and offered a link in return for a link to the "B" and down list. That's more than a few. I ego-manically demanded he pick from two, appalled at trying to pick one from 450. The extent of my hubris is his review of over 150 posts.

I encourage my readers to bookmark his post and peruse the articles. This is an opportunity to access the under appreciated "B" list of bloggers and find new 'Favorites.' This blog has benefited from Jon's interest over the past couple years and I'd like to pass that favor on. Most of us are discovered by accident, probably a Google search followed by a look at the article lists. Google hits make up nearly 1/2 of my readership and only a few link on in to the site proper. What is telling is that those who do link in tend to keep coming around, obviously I encourage this, here and on other's sites.

So, I'm asking you to temporarily expand your blog reading to Jon's list and maybe find some gems. I'm about to get started on the list and I'll reward you with what I find most striking, it's going to take awhile. Meanwhile take a look.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Baker City White Christmas

A Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday to you from the "Chuck for..." residence. There is about 1 foot of snow on the ground and temperature have been staying a bit below freezing for highs since mid-November when it started snowing. The ground has not been entirely clear from that time.

Toward the end of the year I'll do a bit of a wrap up of the year, now it's about saying thanks to my readers. Your presence is what makes the doing of this worthwhile, there isn't much fame and no fortune whatever involved with this endeavor, just me and you. Some special friends of "Chuck for..." bear mentioning, Middle Earth Journal, has been a supporter of me personally and this blog and Jon Swift has sent more than a few readers this way. Zak from Blue Steel Democrats for links and doing background research to add to my posts. Steve Cully's occasional posts have helped broaden the dialogue and bring a fresh voice. Thanks to my commenters for their input and keeping it reasonable. KISS has been a loyal reader and frequent commenter from very nearly the beginning.

I wish I had a present for the readers from around this country and the world to unwrap today, this is the best I can do.

Monday, December 24, 2007

CIA Fall Guy

Jose Rodriguez doesn't seem to want to take a fall for the destruction of the CIA "harsh interrogation" video tapes. He has retained Robert Bennett, a DC hotshot lawyer, to represent him. According to Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer, in the Sunday Times :
“The CIA and Jose Rodriguez look bad, but he’s probably the least culpable person in the process. He didn’t wake up one day and decide, ‘I’m going to destroy these tapes.’ He checked with a lot of people and eventually he is going to get his say.”
Having gotten his fingers burnt in the Iran-Contra scandal and being told to get his own lawyer at that time because it was "political;" he seems unlikely a mark.
Vincent Cannistraro, former head of counterterrorism at the CIA, said it was impossible for Rodriguez to have acted on his own: “If everybody was against the decision, why in the world would Jose Rodriguez – one of the most cautious men I have ever met – have gone ahead and destroyed them?”
There is an awful lot of ignorance being professed at this point. GeorgeII has no recollection of the tapes prior to a Dec 6 briefing by Gen Hayden. The CIA certainly seems to have left the POTUS out of a lot of loops, like the Iran nuclear NIE, but then, on the other hand...

“It looks increasingly as though the decision was made by the White House,” said Johnson. He believes it is “highly likely” that Bush saw one of the videos, as he was interested in Zubaydah’s case and received frequent updates on his interrogation from George Tenet, the CIA director at the time.
This would be the same guy whose specific language regarding the Iranian threat changed directly after he didn't get told the information that he was told existed.

I sincerely hope Rodriguez' lawyer is up to a real storm because there's almost no chance in the world that the full weight of the Executive branch is not going to fall on him. It would be very good for him if he managed to get himself some covering documentation at the time. If he is as cautious as his colleagues indicate; the Plame affair should have demonstrated to him the BushCo methodology where the CIA is concerned. He may also have had reason to know what use the Administration made of Iraqi intelligence that preceded the scapegoating of the CIA for the missing WMDs, in which case serious butt-covering would be called for.

This BushCo bunch has never taken responsibility for any mistakes that have been alleged and the totally obvious ones are discounted as unimportant. The drunken sailor spending of the first six years had Republicans stating that the deficit was immaterial, while the missing WMDs and the 9/11 attacks were the fault of disorganized intelligence agencies and the lack of ability to conduct illegal searches and detentions. Nothing is their fault and somebody else will be made to pay, the smaller and more helpless the better. Every time they have been warned of a coming disaster their reaction is not to adjust but to remove the irritant, Generals fired, NSA advisers "resigned," anything but not do what it was they wanted to do.

I don't know Jose Rodriguez, but I feel bad for him. He is exactly the size fish that this bunch will cut up for chum.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Frank Rich quotes Ted Sorrenson regarding Hillary Clinton's claims to experience versus her competitors, “Hillary should be careful about scoffing at other people’s experience,” Mr. Sorensen said. “It’s not as if the process of osmosis gives her presidential qualities by physical proximity.” Neither does it give her judgement in advisers, her foreign policy team includes Gen. Jack Keane, an author of the Bush "surge" and Lee Feinstein, who had this to say about Bush's Iraq, “we should take the president at his word, which is that he sees war as a last resort” and whether we might have to confront a lack of WMDs right before "Mission Accomplished, “I don’t think that that’s a situation we’ll confront.” Were that not disqualifying enough for any Democratic candidate, he had this to say about a policy of preemption, “the biggest problem with the Bush preemption strategy may be that it does not go far enough.” Now there's a crew that might undermine the idea that Hillary's vote to authorize force didn't mean go to war.

If one were to look at Mrs Clinton's advisers and campaign finances one would be very sure that experience counts heavily in her mind. The big problem is how the experience is processed. It has been noted that never making a mistake only proves you weren't trying, but is also of note that making a mistake can be the best learning tool available, Mrs Clinton seems not to have benefited from the latter. Her response to her signal failure in the health care debate during her husband's administration (his not her co-) has been to cozy up to the insurance industry and investment industry. Never mind that the chief architects of her failure were those very players, her response is to triangulate, cravenly bow to the foes of any consumer beneficial changes. Mrs Clinton has been able to rise to mild criticism of NAFTA and other so-called free trade treaties. Free-for-all trade is OK with her, the triangulation marches on, Unions get mouth noise. Her campaign is based on Bill Clinton, never mind her Senate record where she moved right up next to Joe Lieberman.

An extensive article by Matt Bai in the NYT Sunday magazine looks at the Bill 'Clinton Referendum' and how it will affect the public perception of the Hillary campaign. Bill Clinton gets credit for almost single handedly moving the discussion of the Democratic Party into a new space in the 1990s, words like new economy, information age, globalization, and at its best, Clintonism represented a more modern relationship between government and individuals, one that demanded responsibilities of both. But is that what we have or a huge squandering of the political charisma of Bill Clinton in the face of Republican opposition to any progressive politics? Were the Clinton years truly an advance or a short term invitation to destruction by BushCo?

It is difficult to sort out the lost political capital due to scandals and the deliberate triangulation and the real policy objectives of that administration. In most administration that should be a fairly simple procedure, even in BushCo it is not complicated, but in the Clinton administration virtually everything is open to debate. Whether or not Bill Clinton deserves much credit for the economic expansion during his tenure is open to debate, what he did do was effectively administer it. Even at that there are questions of what seeds were sown for the later dislocations of economic progress, as an example the huge influx of illegal immigrants began under Clinton and was never addressed, either domestically or in nations suffering unintended consequences of NAFTA.

Half measures and social stupidities haunt us today, 'don't ask, don't tell' is one; a half measure guaranteed to extend and complicate an issue into a larger mess than what it was intended to address. The Defense of Marriage Act contained the seeds of destruction, handing a tool and recruiting poster to the Religious Right. The ascension of the DLC's corporate mentality mainstreamed the idea of "what is good for business is good for the country" to the point at which the Republican version - plutocracy - seemed almost reasonable. The reform of welfare institutionalized the idea of families existing on minimum wage work, jobs that were always a means to entry to the work market became ends. A two-fold flood hit the lower end jobs, the reformed welfare recipients and illegal immigration which began the depression of wages at the bottom and ensured the continuation of a draconian minimum wage rate. The slide for workers began.

Job re-training for workers outsourced gained credibility, the workers would now have the "opportunity" to move from their dead-end smokestack industries into the future. The un-addressed problem was that the new jobs paid 70% of what the now gone job paid and there were nowhere near enough of them. The pickings were ripe for the BushCo, it was now "compassionate conservatism" to crush the worker's wages.

One of Bill Clinton's favorite quotes is from Machiavelli's The Prince,
It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor
more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a
new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by
the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by
the new order, this lukewarmness arriving partly from fear of their adversaries,
who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of
mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had an
actual experience of it. Thus it arises that on every opportunity for attacking
the reformer, the opponents do so with the zeal of partisans, the others only
defend him halfheartedly, so that between them he runs great danger.
There is assuredly a great deal of truth in Machiavelli's observation, it is also true that absent a drive from a principled point rudderless policy results. There certainly does come a point at which one must be satisfied with what is obtainable, but that is also determined to a great extent by where one starts on the quest. Bargaining room is seriously constrained when one starts nearer the opponent's position rather than farther away.

There is little doubt that today's center is virtually the right of thirty years ago, and there is also little doubt that much of how the debate was framed by Bill Clinton will be the basis of the center again. Neglecting Dennis Kucinich, the candidates today would then have been derided by Democrats as hopelessly conservative. Despite the quarreling between campaigns there is scant difference between Obama and Hillary in their approaches and even the most populist candidate, Edwards, is framed by the Bill Clinton era. For Democrats the question of whether the frame will change may be the most important of all questions asked. It sure isn't going to come from osmosis.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Forever War

Not my cup of tea but from a conservative it is somewhat refreshing.
After saying some nice things about his host, President George H.W. Bush, Rudy launched into a stemwinder about the “war on Islamic fundamentalist terrorism” that basically repudiated everything the former president stood for in his foreign policy. Moreover, in the space of 40 minutes, Giuliani never once mentioned Osama bin Laden, the man who masterminded the attack on his city.

I was so appalled by the mayor’s simplistic message that terrorists were attacking us because they “oppose our freedom and ... want to impose their ideology on us” that I ignored protocol and challenged him during the Q&A. To the accompaniment of hisses from the rabidly pro-Rudy students, I reminded the mayor that Islamic fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere in the Middle East have taken our side against al-Qaeda at various times. Like the students, Hizzonor was not amused, and I got five minutes of unvarnished Rudy chiding me for just not getting it.
There is a well researched look into Rudy's advisers, and these folks are scarier than Rudy's rhetoric might lead you to think.

Happy Birthday, Jon Swift

Jon Swift has his second birthday this month, quite a haul for a single author blog. Jon is one of my favorites despite certain attributes.

I am a reasonable conservative who likes to write about politics and culture. Since the media is biased I get all my news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno monologues.
You have to respect the inherent honesty in such a proclamation, and even more so the learned stance taken in regard to publications.
I have long said that you don't have to read a book to review it and I have to admit sometimes I can't even read my own posts all the way through, much less entire posts on other people's blogs.
Considering the number of times I've read that Republicans have killed irony, it is a true testament to the esteemed Doctor that he has survived. If you haven't, go and see what I'm congratulating. Jon has been a friend to this blog and considering the little niche it occupies that is saying something.

Happy Birthday, Jon and
Thanks for brightening many gloomy days.

The Experience Card In Campaigns

Since it is primarily the Clinton campaign making the issue , let's address it there on two fronts, both experience and inexperience. I'm sorry Hillary, being a wife isn't a resume, I don't care who the husband is. Being completely out of the responsibility loop with voters (or other) is not experience, it's play time. Your Senate tenure is your resume, those are your votes and speeches on a responsible level. As for your "experience" somehow qualifying you above the other candidates, what does that say about Bill Clinton? Your experience level trumps the guy you claim to have gotten the immaterial experience from. A governor from Arkansas is not a US Senator, not now, not ever. But, then on the other hand being a governor involves some responsibilities that a US Senator doesn't have, that have in the past trumped senators. Your experience claims are getting you into all sorts of logical trouble, you have a name and a Senate resume, the name is immaterial as qualifications and the Senate record reeks for a Democrat.

Bashing Clinton's faux experience is fun, but it's too easy, there remains the real issue of what experience means. In '04 GeorgeII had much more extensive experience than Kerry, that counted for exactly what? It has done this nation exactly what good? Experience is meaningless when it is undercut by bad judgement or bad appointments. You are not electing experience, you are electing a manager. Nobody has Presidential experience except an incumbent or former President. Even a President is not truly experienced, not in the sense of the doing of a thing. The President is the source of judgement, the expertise is provided by his advisors or appointees. This is the foundation of experience, the President cannot be an ignoramous, but the skill of taking in information and synthesizing a principled and effective course is not the same as having done.

One reason governors are such good candidates is that they can point to that type of managerial experience, this is what they have already done and Senators cannot make that claim. At least not with as publicly identifiable successes (or failures) can they point to their managerial experience. Hillary Clinton's managerial experience is already laid upon some extremely shaky ground with her inclusion of her husband's experience, Whitewater and Travel Office all seem to have been laid at her feet. The fact that these were Republican generated scandals does not negate the fact that there was enough wrong with them to give them something to hang their hats on. The BushCo culture of loyalty doesn't much surpass the Clinton one, and the stupidity engaged in for the sake of loyalty is a matter of record.

For a simple example of an experience gap, let's see exactly how many of the candidates are rocket scientists - hmm - not a one. But hey, NASA is an important program as are military rocket programs, what is to be done? Send them to MIT? Health care is an important issue, which one of these people has long term experience in the industry? Or is it that in order to begin to solve this difficult problem we need to run a candidate from which part of the industry? An insurance company comptroller? A hospital director? I want a very good manager with principles and policies that mostly reflect mine, I don't give a rat's patoot about experience in particular policy areas.

Policy and principles are, of course, the tough calls. Does the candidate mean it and will he follow through? This experience counts. Is there a track record of dedication to the causes reflected in their rhetoric? Does their rhetoric make sense in the face of reality? Is the candidate a fighter? I'm afraid the bogus experience metric counts for almost nothing in that respect.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Candidates and the Lobbyists

The word lobbyist has become rather dirty in the public mind after DeLay and Abromoff got done with it, and in many respects it deserves that approbation. There is a lot of dirt floating about. There are also other aspects of lobbying that are getting buried in the dirt.

I have varied interests as my readers may have noticed, and though some are not political in practice, they of political interest. Others are directly political. These interests cannot be represented by me alone; I simply do not have the reach. I do some reaching out with this blog I work within DPO to try to see some interests are included, and I have used the candidate forum as a stage; but none of these give me direct access to policy makers nor the clout of being able to point to a large interested group. Simply the ability to point to a large interest segment is of value, but beyond that are the skill sets involved in person to person persuasion and understanding of the politician's political considerations. These varied skill sets are not easily obtained in the ordinary workplace; this type of schooling is obtained by being near that action. Professionalism in lobbying is scarcely a sin; it is a requirement.

As usual, in something like politics there is a caveat, while professionalism is a requirement, there is the who employed the professional when they are working in a political campaign. This actually matters, their expertise is developed in fairly narrow areas and their influence can be narrowed by the 'who' they know. Just as framing carpenters and finish carpenters are both carpenters; they are not the same jobs. A lobbyist's area of experience may well say something about the agenda of a campaign. Some of the candidates have registered lobbyists, either on leave or currently employed, working for them as aides.

The Hill took note of some of the aides/lobbyists. Hillary Clinton's campaign employees Rachel Kelly, a lobbyist on leave from Great American Insurance Company and her finance director Jonathan Mintz, registered in '05 with the Podesta Group. Obama's campaign has Teal Baker, on leave from Podesta and Brandon Hurlbut on leave from B&D Consulting. John Edwards has Adam Jentleson formerly of the Center for American Progress and Matthew Morrison formerly from American Federation of Teachers.

Over at Mitt's campaign Barbara Comstock, a partner at Corallo Comstock, continues to lobby because she is a consultant to the campaign rather than an employee. (cough)

In '06 the primary sources of the Podesta Group's income were the medical industry, defense, investment and media. B&D Consulting's income is a very mixed bag but primarily medical, education, and local government. Corallo Comstock's primary income has been Hearst Corp.

The emphasis of these campaign's is reflected in the interests of some of these aides: health, education, labor. What gets interesting is 'who are the players at the table.' The links will take you to Open Secrets' table of lobbying organizations and the groups and their expenditures. The Clinton campaign is real heavy on the industrial aspect of medicine and the insurance side. Investment groups are a huge benefactor of insurance companies' capital; insurance companies are actually investment groups using your premiums as their investment source. The linkage between insurance and investment cannot be overstated.

The Podesta Group's 2006 lobbying income is listed at $12.2 million and as Tony Podesta told The Hill:

“I talk to them all time,” said Tony Podesta, who as the head of Podesta Group worked with Baker and Mantz. “Either one of them is welcome to return.
Podesta downplayed the potential benefit to his firm if Clinton or Obama win the presidency and his former colleagues land influential positions.

“If Teal works in the White House, I’ll know someone on staff,” he said. “But it’s not like this would be a special point of access. I’m pleased and proud [the campaigns] recruited someone from here."

Perhaps...meanwhile, who has the candidates' ears?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

John Edwards, Listen Up

I've made some pretty strong cases against the Hillary Machine, and to an extent they seem to be more and more reflected in the public view of her, "Getting To Know You" isn't working well for that campaign. Obama's campaign seems to be the beneficiary of this process and while he seems a "nicer" guy than Hillary, there are some real problems going on - and I don't mean drugs and inexperience - I mean political stance. I don't like Hillary Clinton's record as a Democrat and I don't want "Hillary-lite;" and that seems to be Obama. So I'm kinda getting pushed into John Edwards, with a certain reluctance. The reluctance centers around guns and illegal immigration, I'm not going to get illegal immigration addressed by any Democrat (mind boggling) and Richardson is the one with the best gun record. Sadly Richardson just cannot seem to connect at all with Democrats and I have no idea why.

My reluctance aside, Edwards wins in a cakewalk against Republicans. Not get that one, his populist message wins. But the deal is, he's trying to be nice about it, IT AIN'T NICE. It's a body blow against business as usual and most of us are past being tired of it. Paul Krugman in an NYT OpEd puts it pretty well (I know, I just recently blasted the NYT):
There’s a strong populist tide running in America right now. For example, a recent Democracy Corps survey of voter discontent found that the most commonly chosen phrase explaining what’s wrong with the country was “Big businesses get whatever they want in Washington.”

And there’s every reason to believe that the Democrats can win big next year if they run with that populist tide. The latest evidence came from focus groups run by both Fox News and CNN during last week’s Democratic debate: both declared Mr. Edwards the clear winner.
Now Edwards may have been the winner, but there's no evidence the wider range of voter is taking it seriously and there are a couple of reasons for this. Krugman notes one:
But the news media recoil from populist appeals. The Des Moines Register, which endorsed Mr. Edwards in 2004, rejected him this time on the grounds that his “harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change.”

And while The Register endorsed Hillary Clinton, the prime beneficiary of media distaste for populism has clearly been Mr. Obama, with his message of reconciliation. According to a recent survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Mr. Obama’s coverage has been far more favorable than that of any other candidate.
This is certainly an element of the equation. There is a question Krugman asks that begins to address my other concern.
As a result, drug and insurance companies — backed by the conservative movement as a whole — will be implacably opposed to any significant reforms. And what would Mr. Obama do then? “I’ll get on television and say Harry and Louise are lying,” he says. I’m sure the lobbyists are terrified.
What terrifies me is a continuance of business as usual, particularly with a Democratic Party controlled Legislature. And this is exactly where we're headed according to national polls. Edwards is short in the money race and he's not getting any of mine until he shows me something. That something is a part of a November post of mine and I'm real sure it has something to do with the national polls as well. The media coverage doesn't help with this part, the feeling that Edwards isn't honest about it. You cannot take such a stance and be low-keyed about the choices faced by voters; it is too extreme. If voters are to take seriously the proposal to end business as usual they expect some fire to accompany it, and there is no fire involved in Edward's debate performances. Edwards is caught in a bad position, corporate big business media portrays him as a pretty boy light weight and he doesn't do what is required to off-set that apparently out of fear that he'll look mean to the other candidates. Well I've got news for you John, they're gonna kick your butt if you keep this up, if you want my money and time - Listen Up.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

NY Times And Civil Liberties

The NYT is a vocal proponent of the protection of civil liberties, the ones they like. The fact that I also like the ones they like only means just so much. You see, the NYT has what you might call selective approval, they pick and choose and mangle whatever is convenient for mangling at the moment. The NYT is currently pretty hot on the 4th Amendment, they believe the government has now overstepped the bounds, a good question might be, "where were you on RICO?" Since they are the press, one shouldn't be too surprised that they wish to protect their corporate welfare and since that's rolled into one Amendment they don't want any messing about, though the strength of their support for "freedom of assembly" got pretty weak during the '04 RNC Convention in their fair city. They were pretty muted on the issue of the government paying religious organizations for "social work," (the quotes are intended).

When the Appeals Court overturned the DC gun ban, the NYT finished their Editorial with this paragraph:
A lot has changed since the nation’s founding, when people kept muskets to be ready for militia service. What has not changed is the actual language of the Constitution. To get past the first limiting clauses of the Second Amendment to find an unalienable individual right to bear arms seems to require creative editing.

Beyond grappling with fairly esoteric arguments about the Second Amendment, the justices need to responsibly confront modern-day reality. A decision that upends needed gun controls currently in place around the country would imperil the lives of Americans.
One is tempted to ask questions about the NYT's editing process and whether words mean what the dictionary says or if it is a matter of personal preference, their latest OpEd piece by Adam Freedman has more in common with the fiction he writes than law.

The decision invalidating the district’s gun ban, written by Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, cites the second comma (the one after “state”) as proof that the Second Amendment does not merely protect the “collective” right of states to maintain their militias, but endows each citizen with an “individual” right to carry a gun, regardless of membership in the local militia.

How does a mere comma do that? According to the court, the second comma divides the amendment into two clauses: one “prefatory” and the other “operative.” On this reading, the bit about a well-regulated militia is just preliminary throat clearing; the framers don’t really get down to business until they start talking about “the right of the people ... shall not be infringed.”
This gets to the guts of his argument, he's unhappy about the comma, and commas were pretty much optional tag ons at the time. He has a solution for this awkward piece of punctuation.

The best way to make sense of the Second Amendment is to take away all the commas (which, I know, means that only outlaws will have commas). Without the distracting commas, one can focus on the grammar of the sentence.
Now that we've dispensed with that comma we can get down to the business of dismantling the Second Amendment:
Likewise, when the justices finish diagramming the Second Amendment, they should end up with something that expresses a causal link, like: “Because a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” In other words, the amendment is really about protecting militias, notwithstanding the originalist arguments to the contrary.

Advocates of both gun rights and gun control are making a tactical mistake by focusing on the commas of the Second Amendment. After all, couldn’t one just as easily obsess about the founders’ odd use of capitalization? Perhaps the next amicus brief will find the true intent of the amendment by pointing out that “militia” and “state” are capitalized in the original, whereas “people” is not.
That seems pretty clear, we take out that nasty comma and things are all fixed up. We've got it all covered, um, except for a couple points, there's the little matter of the definition of militia and even worse is that adjective in front of state - free - which tilts things a tad. So far maybe this seems like legalese hair splitting, but then there is the absolute kicker, people, the word does not appear in the Second alone and it turns the BOR into a diagram for repression if people means State, which it does not.

The Bill of Rights is not about the government giving people rights, that is a commonly played card of immense falsehood, it is about rights that pre-exist the formation of the government and the government's guarantee that it will stay out of them. A state has no rights other than those conferred on it by its citizens. It has a presumed "right to self-defense" just as the citizenry has the right to smash it as King George III found (not to be confused with the American wannabe kinglet George II). The people are the people, always, to attempt to confuse the word with an organization is only argumentation back from a preconceived point - they are something different because my argument only works if I change a word. Had the Founders meant the word to mean militia they would have used the word militia rather than people, there is absolutely no grammatical reason to use people in place of militia, there is no sense of his meaning that requires people in that part of a sentence. In point of fact, there were people excluded from the militia by law at that time, the words are not interchangeable. They are not equal with or without the comma, the comma only makes that abundantly clear.

The NYT's editors seem to believe that because some things belong within a group, all similar things belong, Because robbers are human and people are human works in this sense - all robbers are people - but it does not work at all in this sense - all people are robbers. Nobody in their right mind tries the latter - well, the NYT certainly does.

This sort of intellectual dishonesty, the re-framing of definitions and class inclusions makes one wonder just how accurate the NYT's reporting really is...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pentagon Curiousity And Waterboarding and Hartman

Someone from the Pentagon on an AF server had this curiosity going. By the time I checked the page it was 11 down from the top. So I've tagged it again in the title, get this real straight, I very much give a damn what happens to our troops and I also very much give a damn what this country stands for and I would personally spit on any government official that advocates terror in my presence.

I can almost understand the complete lack of honor within the political machinery of BushCo, what I cannot begin to understand is finding it in an officer of the USAF. I hope your curiosity is satisfied.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Puddle Variations Review

It is best to start with disclosures when there are reasons for it, so here it is. I first got acquainted with Jeff through a policy disagreement when I first blogged in my Primary campaign. Jeff Alworth became one of my most visible and public supporters, which was appreciated. We have supported each other's blogging work over the intervening years and I'd say we're friends. I have rather obvious reasons to want to like Jeff's first novel. I do like it.

Charlie di Paulo is a Portland, Oregon cabbie who is also a film maker in the making. He is a part of a matrix composed of the Portland you only know by extended experience and some interesting people, carefully and yet sparingly developed. Jeff takes you on a journey through Portland, film making, and getting to know people.

The pace of the book is relaxed despite being episodic, reminiscent of quick cut indie films. The technique is effective and keeps the relaxed pace moving. There are a couple transitions that are too quick and prompt a back track to see that a page hasn't been missed somehow. The story holds together but the effect is jarring. These are the quibbles I have, and I have now dealt with them.

It would be unfair to the book to delve into the plot, but it should be obvious that for a cabbie the funds to make films is an issue beyond the issue of the creativity of making films. These processes, artistic, technical, and economic run through the story, forming it and directing it. The characters circle the art of film making, weaving into the art and through the life of the protagonist. The development of each character is treated differently, in a manner fitting each one's relationship to Charlie, whose character grows through the entire novel.

Along with author John Gardner (Sunlight Dialogues, October Light, Nickle Mountain, Grendel) I believe that the reader's participation in a story is key to its success. I enjoy the process of seeing the character in my mind through the process of filling in the description, an owning of the character. If this is to be accomplished a measured spareness of description is required, enough for the framework, but not enough to be dictatorial. Jeff manages this nicely with all the characters, including Portland.

The structure of The Puddle Variations is unique in some respects but not distractingly so, the flow is not broken and the story line makes sense. The effect is very nearly that of looking at the story by viewing editing clips, with an occasional piece lost behind something on the table, which is different than the complaint mentioned previously. The omniscient narrator is affectionately interested in the characters and their circumstances though he has a slightly distanced wry smile. This affectation is well enough carried off that the reader willingly adopts the same frame. After the last page and the book is resting on the table, the reader will continue to regard the characters in the same light, with an affectionate smile.

One very distinct mark of a good book is how willingly the reader suspends disbelief in the matter of this known falsehood of a fictional novel; Jeff provides the hook to hang that on. You have a sense of friendly reality, these people must exist somewhere in Portland and the lives and intersections of their lives seem as though they should happen. You will not finish this book and wonder why you bothered with these people in this place, you will have enjoyed getting to know them.

This is a first novel and occasionally betrays that it is. It is not a "mainstream" work of light fiction, it places certain demands on a reader that much current popular fiction does not. This is not to indicate that it is some deep philosophic treatise on an obscure philosophical point; it is an enjoyable read, but there is an attempt to create art along with telling a story and a reader must process that to get the entire value of the work. There is storytelling (even very good storytelling) and there is literary art, this falls in between. There is an obvious reach to go beyond a simple story and yet keep a simple story and a book like this one asks the reader to make that reach as well. I would guess that this is the element that has kept the book out of mainstream publishing; if you pass on it for this reason, you will have missed a good bargain for your money.

You can get a copy of The Puddle Variations at Lulu for $15.00 + shipping. I hope you do and enjoy it. Thanks Jeff - I did.

Clintonian Stupidity NH Style *Update*

You would practically have to go over to the Republican campaigns to find someone to say something this stupid about an opponent, but no, the Clinton camp can handle it just fine. Billy Shaheen, Clinton campaign NH Co-chair in regard to Obama, "The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight ... and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use." Jeeze, maybe they can crank up a few more Muslim e-mails. Or maybe go for the throat with Kindergarten.

I'm pretty sure we all know that politics isn't for the faint-of-heart, it can be pretty rough and I'm not really suggesting that what numbnutz had to say isn't so, but... There is exactly one Democrat running with negatives around 50% and there actually are some reasons for it. Is it real smart for Hillary Clinton's campaign to start worrying about another candidate's skeletons? One would be tempted to mention some skeletons she's dragging around, and with considerable less elected experience time. Proper nouns like Whitewater and Travel Office start to crop up in conversations. Or, once elected there are things like Flag Burning, Iraq Authorization, Iran Terrorism Resolutions, Bankruptcy Bills... I think it would behoove the Clintons to let another less challenged candidate to take that slippery slimy slope, not that any would necessarily.

Is that the problem? Ethics???

Today Hillary denied any responsibility for Shaheen's statements and apologized. Uhuh.

Politics And The NIE

The Iran NIE just exploded in the Republicans' faces a couple days ago. Their President not only looks like a propagandist, but an outright liar. That would be tough enough to take, but now the war on Iranislamicfascismterr'ss looks to have developed a hiccup. Since in 2002 George II could get the NIE to say what he wanted it to say about Iraq and smoking mushrooms, this one is a fake political gambit by the intelligence agencies to..........what?

Just to make sure the experts at 16 separate agencies aren't idiots Sen John Ensign (R-NV) wants an independent bipartisan commission to look into it. "We just see politics injected into this," said Tory Mazzola, Ensign's spokesman. "When it comes to national security we really need to remove politics. We're saying, let's take a second look." No, really; there's more than one; Last week, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., said at a committee hearing he does not trust the new findings. "I'm not sure we have a good, clear signal of what's really happening inside Iran," he said. "We've got a very big batch of mixed signals." Mustn't forget that Fred Thompson ran a Nuke Sub (in a movie), "They’re undoubtedly intent upon nuclear weapons. I don’t care what this latest NIE says. That’s foolishness that represents our own inability to get a handle on it more than anything else."

So we need a commission to weed this out, a panel of experts with no political agenda - where do we get them - the US Senate. Exactly, a place crammed with intelligence experts with no politics anywhere in sight.

Just exactly how stupid do you have to be to qualify to be a Republican Senator?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

USAF Brig. General OKs Torture Evidence

If you're thinking that's a joke shock title, it is not. The character in this little morality play is USAF Brig. Gen. Thomas A Hartman, the guy who prompted the resignation of USAF Col. David Morris as lead prosecutor. In answer to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CS) he answered that the use of evidence obtained from waterboarding if that " evidence is reliable and probative, and the judge concludes that it is in the best interest of justice to introduce that evidence, ma'am, those are the rules we will follow."

You do understand that a hacked up body in your living room is not evidence in your murder trial if the police found it with an improper search. But this jerkoff, a military officer sworn to uphold the Constitution, proposes to use "evidence" obtained through torture. The exact kind of torture that US soldiers were prosecuted for using in the Philippines and Japanese officers were prosecuted for after WWII. If you can understand this, he claims to not know if waterboarding is torture. When did they stop teaching military history in Academies?

What did Col Davis have to say to the Senate? The WaPo tells you all about it:

Hartmann's testimony conflicted with the views of the former military commissions chief prosecutor, who resigned in October after concluding that the process had become too politicized. In recent interviews, Air Force Col. Morris Davis said he categorically rejected the idea of using any evidence derived from waterboarding because he believes that the technique produces unreliable information. Davis was invited to testify at yesterday's hearing, but the Defense Department ordered him not to attend.

Why would the Defense Dept be so ashamed of their former lead prosecutor? "In my opinion, evidence derived by waterboarding is not reliable, and I took it off the table," Davis said. "I think the vast majority of people were relieved. By and large, most everybody involved in the process, the whole team, was really committed to trying to do this in a way that wasn't an embarrassment to the country."

We have turned into a nation of savages, the rule of law and simple ethics no longer stand in the face of our fear. We have let the neo-cons and the fear mongers of BushCo turn us into the very thing they claim to oppose. Which young American soldier will die in a foreign country in the name of these people's principles? This garbage has been spoken of openly in the US Congress, the law makers of the United States - I could just puke.

BushCo Union Busting

There has been a fair amount of reporting regarding BushCo's relaxation of regulatory boards rules or lack of enforcement. Some government agencies have switched direction, such as the DOJ electoral enforcement arm, seemingly now tasked with a contradictory agenda. One that has escaped much notice is the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

The WaPo reports on a Center for American Progress study that shows:

Political operatives in the Department of Labor are using federal reporting requirements to undermine trade unions and conduct a "political misinformation campaign" against them, a report released yesterday charges.
There certainly seems to be a pattern of harassment by an office lead by Don Todd, a former Republican National Committee strategist best known for his role in the Willie Horton ad. The 1959 Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act tasked the Dept of Labor according to Department of Labor spokesman Richard Manning with "the express purpose of safeguarding the hard-earned dues of union members and their right to democratic union elections." That's what he says, on the other hand the Bill states:

Declaration of Findings, Purposes, and Policy
(29 U.S.C. 401)

SEC. 2. (a) The Congress finds that, in the public interest, it continues to be the responsibility of the Federal Government to protect employees' rights to organize, choose their own representatives, bargain collectively, and otherwise engage in concerted activities for their mutual aid or protection; that the relations between employers and labor organizations and the millions of workers they represent have a substantial impact on the commerce of the Nation; and that in order to accomplish the objective of a free flow of commerce it is essential that labor organizations, employers, and their officials adhere to the highest standards of responsibility and ethical conduct in administering the affairs of their organizations, particularly as they affect labor-management relations.

(b) The Congress further finds, from recent investigations in the labor and management fields, that there have been a number of instances of breach of trust, corruption, disregard of the rights of individual employees, and other failures to observe high standards of responsibility and ethical conduct which require further and supplementary legislation that will afford necessary protection of the rights and interests of employees and the public generally as they relate to the activities of labor organizations, employers, labor relations consultants, and their officers and representatives.

(c) The Congress, therefore, further finds and declares that the enactment of this Act is necessary to eliminate or prevent improper practices on the part of labor organizations, employers, labor relations consultants, and their officers and representatives which distort and defeat the policies of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, as amended, and the Railway Labor Act, as amended, and have the tendency or necessary effect of burdening or obstructing commerce by (1) impairing the efficiency, safety, or operation of the instrumentalities of commerce; (2) occurring in the current of commerce; (3) materially affecting, restraining, or controlling the flow of raw materials or manufactured or processed goods into or from the channels of commerce, or the prices of such materials or goods in commerce; or (4) causing diminution of employment and wages in such volume as substantially to impair or disrupt the market for goods flowing into or from the channels of commerce.

It certainly seems that by definition the Act also has to do with Employers, you know, people BushCo likes if they're big enough and rich enough. BushCo has been a part of the diminution of union membership and certainly has fought any legislation favorable to labor organizing activities.

The amount of information required from unions has increased by 60% since Todd took over, including expanding the conflict of interest form from 3 pages to 9 pages and include 100,000 new filers in the AFL-CIO alone. Shop stewards who volunteered to work on health and safety committees would be required to submit forms defining any or no relationship between lending institutions with their car loans or mortgages and their union or any other company with business with their union. Having dealt with conflict of interest forms I can assure you that it would be a meaningless nightmare for those people.

The Act's purpose was not to be an arm of harassment for unions or employers, the purpose was to have some measure of control of the corrosive effects of money on the relationship between labor and management and to protect labor's money. BushCo and their never ending campaign to use government as an arm of the political party doesn't see it that way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How Do You Like Your Government, Now ?

There are always political differences within this country, it is to be expected and even encouraged. Then there are the things that aren't political as such, they are a matter of ethics or even law. This isn't about politics.

We have a government that actively lies to its citizens, not puts the best face on information, lies. We have a government that tortures people, not enhanced interrogation, torture. Torture that our opponents in warfare have been prosecuted for by our government. Understand that piece, we have prosecuted people for doing waterboarding to our people. It is against the law, DOJ opinions are not required. We have a government that disappears our citizens, the individual was just recently tried and convicted - after being disappeared. We have a government that actively participates in and encourages war profiteering and corruption. We finance and support the 3rd most corrupt government in the world in Iraq. Our government is complicit in the murder of Iraqis and rape by contractors, immunizing their actions. Murder and rape are committed in our name.

It is unnecessary to list the insults to the Constitution proposed and indulged in by this government. The First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and the ancient right of Habeas Corpus have been assaulted. A sitting President has written over seven hundred times that he need not obey the law of the land, that he is exempt within the same framework as any third rate dictator. A Congress exists that believes it is powerless in the face of an enhanced executive branch and narrow partisan interests. Sufficiently powerless to allow free passes to the executive on clearly dangerous issues.

America has a few options, ballots somewhat in the future, the streets, and finally rebellion. Ballots and contacting representatives to push them into action are preferable, if your representative is too weak, then there are primaries.

Polls Are Odd

When you look into the details of a poll you are sometimes struck by what seem complete disconnects in answer percentages. Some pieces of CNN's pdf poll analysis offer clear contradictions from Democrats.

Most likely to keep same position on important issues: Clinton 37%, Obama 27%
Is most believable: Clinton 31%, Obama 34%

Do you find yourself asking questions about what people are thinking? These two questions are intimately related, how can you believe someone you think is a flip flopper? Or more telling, why would you think someone you don't believe would keep the same position? The believability numbers are close, within the measure of error, but they are the numbers for answers from those polled. That is not in dispute. Questions were given in random order so there is no telling how close the questions were.

Some Democratic answers run afoul of polling results, perception does not match polling data.

Which candidate has the best chance of beating the Republican nominee C 53%, E 11%, O 25%

Note that Democratic confidence in Edwards is low, oddly nationally a poll shows Edwards polling the highest margins against all Republicans and Clinton actually losing to McCain and Obama in a tie with him. Now you have to ask yourself why there is such a disconnect between what Democrats seem to believe and what national polling shows. Is this a sales job by a candidate or simply an uncritical prejudice? Of the three candidates Clinton actually polls lowest against the Republicans. I believe there are reasons that can be teased out for Clinton's lower showing versus the other two and Obama's lower numbers than Edwards, and whether those are "valid" reasons to prefer another candidate they do not change the polling. Very shortly: candidate negatives, gender, race, populism, campaign emphasis on religion, would be the heaviest weighted factors in win percentages.

The difference between the base and Democrats in general may be more extreme than generally acknowleged:

Best reflects the values of Democrats like yourself: C 38%, E 14%, O 29%

Clinton's lack of appeal to the base is on display on a regular basis on the Internet and quietly within Party activists and yet she has a 9 point lead over her closest competitor, Obama. For those touting Clinton inevitability it is important to note that Edwards and Obama together total 5% higher and neither's supporters are reasonable cross-overs for Clinton. In fact, 62% given another choice do not pick Clinton as a match. This is an important number in a Primary and Clinton has shown a slide as voters get better acquainted with her and the others.

There are Democratic opinions in this poll that are flatly against the established grain of political opinion; on the question of who will best unite America: C 30%, E 16%, O 32%. Hillary Clinton is the out and out leader of all candidates, Republican and Democratic, in negatives. Her negative polling hovers below but near 50%. This is in no possible consideration a uniter candidate. For 30% to answer Clinton is beyond wishful thinking, this approaches fanaticism. I make no statement that the negatives are deserved, they are in fact primarily stupid, as little as I like Hillary.

Taking something away from a poll like this is difficult, there is still a getting to know you phase going on in the Primary. While money is a large factor in name recognition, the actual getting of votes has much more to do with the candidate. Name recognition is about getting candidates attention, having them listened to when they make statements. The media has given the Clinton campaign invaluable free advertising and even a political boost, this will wear off as the polling narrows and it actually becomes the race they discounted. Edwards tends to poll low with Democrats nationally, but shows real strength in early Primary states, another oddity.

Edward's inability to connect with Democrats with his progressive populist message raises real questions as do his trust ratings. There is no doubt that Obama saps quite a bit of the left and populist sentiment, regardless of policy stances but this does not account for the entire difference.

I'd like to encourage Democrats to vote on policy; the facts of race, gender, last name have nothing to do with whom we need as a President. I encourage you to do what you can to raise awareness of your candidate and their policy stances. The words of a known person carry weight that no amount of advertising can generate.

Nobody Tells Poor George Anything

George II found out the CIA destroyed videotapes of torture last Thursday, apparently he must have had somebody read a newspaper to him. Not that something that happened in 2005 might take awhile to filter up to the CiC, but really? That sounds a bit like an NIE that nobody bothered to tell him about, you know, like it really didn't make squat difference that Iran had suspended their weapons program. But we should have been prepared for such disconnect, there was that little matter of yellow cake uranium and aluminum tubes. You'd probably be less than surprised that nobody thought it was important that he know something like "Bin Laden Determined to Strike US."

Then again, one might start to wonder if even a bunch as incompetent as BushCo could manage to be that uninformed and lackadaisical. You might be forgiven if you were to start thinking in terms of over used excuses. Slipping down that slope could put you into the realm of outright lies - something that has been mentioned in relation to this bunch.

Here's the problem if you're getting all overwrought with the importance of this issue, it really doesn't mean anything. For it to have any particular meaning there would be consequences attached to such a discovery. By now, George II has discovered that his minions need only say "Executive Privilege" or "On-going Investigation" and all the good little serfs will make mouth noises and scatter some ink around and it will just go away. There will be a great deal of scurrying around in hearing rooms and immense amounts of right wing stupidity published on the intertubes and that will be about it.

Now if you did some math along with some reading you'd come up with 2007-1776=231 years ago there'd have been a hanging, probably following a little ride on a fence bar involving some tar and feathers. Since we're a bit more civilized now, maybe an orange jumpsuit, manacles, and a guy in a black robe should precede. OK, fat chance. Sit down and shut up my little friends, because you won't do anything whatever about it.

Oh no, did I hurt your little Congressional feelings, well so what? Exactly how many chances have you had? Habeas Corpus? Military Detentions? Illegal Search and Seizure? Torture? Waging War Under False Flag? Hatch Act? Corruption? War Profiteering? I'm supposed to believe that the buck stops with Destruction of Evidence? Oh sure. You are exactly described by the words "Pathetically Ineffectual." The real question isn't what did George II know and when, it's why bother to tell you people anything?

Old Bad News

Just to get this out of the way, the only way I'd vote for Hillary Clinton is against a Republican. She represents most of what was wrong with the Democratic Party a dozen or so years ago, most of what is wrong with Congress today and about not one new idea. If the Democratic success of the 1990s is real attractive to you, she's your candidate. Polls are beginning to show that she isn't really very much use to the Democratic Party.

Some polls have her running behind the top tier Republicans and behind Democratic Congressional prospects, others have her running neck and neck with the Republicans. This is not true of Obama and Edwards, they reliably beat the Republicans. Part of the problem is the irrational hate the right has for her, generating votes, part of the problem is her old way of doing things. The polls are showing a general disgust with the status quo, a desire for new and different, and that is not Hillary. Another problem is that she alienates the left wing of the Party. There is a general view that having no other choice the left will vote for her versus a Republican, that may be the case, but it also strips her of the activism available there.

Independents who are the swing vote aren't offended by the same things that upset the base, they are tired of lies and double dealing and Hillary not only gives the appearance of duplicity, her record shows it. Just exactly how stupid was a vote for a flag burning ban? Who in that group that is upset by the Iraq war separates her vote to authorize force from the Iran terrorism vote? Which Independent is it that sees a continuation of the BushCo foreign policy program as desirable? Triangulation isn't seen as a useful tool, it is seen as pandering - which it is.

Hillary's experience amounts to participation in failure, duplicity, and the same old way of doing things. She isn't Bill Clinton, we don't get Bill Clinton by voting for her and the good old days of Bill Clinton set up much of what is wrong with this country's economics today. Now I certainly don't expect to get much of my left wing agenda from any candidate, but I do object strongly to nominating a weak candidate on the nonsense rationale that her husband was somebody.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Scared Of Lead Toys, How About Your Medicine Chest

You're unhappy about lead paint and other contaminants in toys your children might stick in their mouth, that's understandable. Media is all over the question raising fear levels so it is reasonable that people are scared of the idea. You may be testing toys or checking for recalls, but I'll bet you're not looking into your medicine chest.

McClatchy Papers takes a look at your medicine, not your patent medicines, your prescription drugs. The stuff that is supposed to be so safe because it's made in the US. Well sort of made in the USA.
China's booming pharmaceutical industry has doubled exports to the United States in the past five years, undercutting competitors and making American consumers reliant on the safety of Chinese factories and captive to any disruptions in Sino-U.S. commerce.

There might be an end to outsourcing and in sourcing, there might be but don't hold your breath. You might think with the number of drugs and precursors and other components that there would be some FDA involvement, you'd be wrong.

The Chinese and Indian companies are all but exempt from oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"Only 13 inspections were conducted in China in 2007," Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said at a hearing Nov. 1. "At this rate, it would take the FDA 55 years just to clear this backlog."

The Chinese took some action after it was revealed that the head of the drug agency was taking kickbacks resulting in a counterfeit drug that cost 13 lives. This was supposed to reassure the global market. So all is well?

Although Chinese authorities warn against foreign finger-pointing, the government's own reaction to the scandal over bogus and substandard drugs earlier this year was extremely harsh.

After drug chief Zheng Xiaoyu's execution, the state began a vast housecleaning. This week, it said it had shut down 300 drug and medical-device makers, convicted 279 people of irregularities and prompted drug companies to withdraw 7,300 applications for drug approval, indicating more rigor in the approval process.

Seems to be a bit of an ongoing problem. Now your kids might stick that toy in their mouths, but I will guarantee that you will swallow that Chinese drug. Good luck with that.

Why Are Children Driving The Car?

I'm sorry, I thought the adults were supposed to be in charge. First it's no backing down on Iraq funding, then it's tie it to domestic spending. And so, here's the real surprise, per NYT :

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 — The White House budget director warned on Saturday that President Bush was prepared to veto a $500 billion spending package being assembled in Congress if Democrats pushed for too much additional money for domestic programs.

Jim Nussle, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, accused Democrats of trying to tie money for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to what the president considers excessive spending for federal agencies and home-state projects.

“Instead of trying to leverage troop-funding for more pork-barrel spending, Congress ought to pass responsible appropriations bills and the funding for the troops our commanders say they need to build on their battlefield success,” Mr. Nussle said.

And yes, the Democrats have something to say about it:

“America expects this president to lead — that means working in a bipartisan way with Congress to responsibly address our country’s priorities rather than issuing veto threats without even knowing what he is threatening to veto,” said a joint statement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader.

No, actually we kind of expected this President to act just exactly like he did to begin with and our mistake was thinking that somebody with two live brain cells that spoke to each other was in charge in Congress. You see, Nancy and Harry, we didn't look at how he has acted over the last 7 years and start thinking he'd do something different with either one of your ideas. In fact, any other 4 year old could have told you children that stamping his feet and throwing himself on the floor was exactly what he'd do, and that there also wouldn't be any adults around to spank him for it.

If you propose to play power politics you'd best make up your minds to do so. You'd best make up your minds to make BushCo pay for its ways by taking the risk of saying no and then building a frame that fits the actions of the Child in Chief. But the problem is that the 65% of America doesn't count, you're afraid to the dead-end kids that comprise his 28% or maybe offending the little 7% that can't make up it's mind whether he's just incompetent or stupid or both but just mislead by the criminally negligent.

What expert in political maneuvering told you that things would work out differently? Or, told you that this mess would be easier to frame to a public that is beginning to see you as toothless lying hypocrites? You've got people out knocking themselves out to build you a useful Party and this is what you've got to offer? How do you propose to do anything about anything after you offend the entire activist side of the Party and disappoint most of the rest of the people who gave you your narrow majority? Why exactly should we give you one minute of our time and effort, what is it that you expect us to offer to voters?

You didn't need to pick either one of these fights if you didn't mean to go ahead and fight. There's an old saying, "Don't take a knife to a gunfight," and you didn't even show up with a limp rag. When it comes to taking principles to the Floor, you guys are packing water in a sieve.

I've about reached the point where if one of your PACs backs a candidate it's an automatic disqualification, the only ones that seem to have any sense are the one's whose votes you discount in search of Republicans'. Your empty threats and empty promises have become simple noise, I'd rather listen to static on a mis-tuned radio.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

War Funds, Why Bother

George II's response to the House refusal to pass Iraq war funds without strings was predictable, to anyone bothering to pay any attention at all. He would dig his heels in, call it refusal to support the troops, and make somebody or more accurately, everyone else pay. So bases would close, civilian contractors would be laid off, and nothing would pass his desk without a veto. BushCo had no intention of doing anything other than what they wanted to do, and a willingness to hurt whomever was available. Not one bit of that should be a surprise.

The question then becomes, why would the Democrats bother to stamp their feet and talk about no free passes? If you know a temper tantrum is coming you need to decide how to deal with it before you take any action - or even talk publicly about it. Evidently nobody bothered to mention that or if they did they were ignored. How ignored?

The House is working on a deal to pass a massive spending bill that gives BushCo its war funds with no strings but adds $11 Billion additional domestic spending. That sure seems to have a lot of effect on the war in Iraq. That will certainly instigate progress from the Iraqi government.

I guess disappointment is over-rated as an emotion in politics, not improving with practice.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Science In Texas Science Curriculum?

Evidently Texas wants to be very careful that science doesn't sneak into their science curriculum. Now anybody familiar with the BushCo theocracy and the fact that Texass spawned this Constitutionally challenged kinglet shouldn't be surprised that the 19th, 20th, and dawning 21st Centuries have passed them by. They have fired the Texas Education Agency's head of science curriculum for an email informing of a speaking event by an opponent of Creationism. The person demanding the head of Chris Comer is...wait for it...a former Bush appointee to the US Education Department, Lizzette Reynolds, who was also an advisor to Gov. GW Bush.

The Austin American-Statesman quotes Lizztte, an hour and a half after the email, "an offense that calls for termination." To get a feeling for what is going on in Texass one need only check Agency spokesperson Debbie Radcliffe:

Ratcliffe said that although there are no written rules defining what agency employees can say regarding evolution, creationism or intelligent design, employees in the curriculum department were verbally warned recently to be careful when dealing with issues that might come up as part of the state's upcoming curriculum adoption process.

"An employee shouldn't say something that's contrary to the curriculum, and they shouldn't look like they are siding with one camp over another," Ratcliffe said. "It's no secret that there are political differences on the State Board of Education. ... And employees have to be able to work with all the members in a fair way without the perception that they are siding with one group or another. That's why it's important for us to be neutral on issues and just to say what the policy is and not to create it ourselves."
Now there certainly is no reason to think theocracy and politics might have something to do with this:

She said charges of misconduct against Comer were prompted by a lack of professionalism and not by politics associated with the hiring of a former Bush administration employee as Comer's boss or the appointment of a self-avowed creationist to chair the State Board of Education.
Nah, GeorgeII and religious nuttery certainly certainly had nothing to do with this mess. I don't really care about religions and their views of creation and the age of the Earth, it just isn't my business. I do have real strong views about the importance of science being science. The game of pretending ID is not a religious postulation and that it is not a Judeo/Christian postulation is ridiculous. Getting naked and painting yourself blue to dance around oak trees is no more scientific. I have all kinds of tools on a job site that demand that you don't believe they're magic, even if god is looking over your shoulder a power saw will take your hand off.

Board Chairman Don McLeroy said that he does expect evolution to be a hot topic during the upcoming review and that neither he nor anyone else on the board had anything to do with Comer's resignation. ...

...McLeroy said that although he is a creationist, he doesn't necessarily think creationism should be taught in schools. Rather, he said, he supports current curriculum standards that say students should "analyze, review and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses."

McLeroy said he would support changes that further spell out what evolution's strengths and weaknesses are.

As the world gets to be a more competitive place, the US descends into a morass of superstition and theocratic science of wish it were true. You know of any real important jobs that have a use for a degree in magic? We've already had the international politics of wishing is truth, let's perpetuate it in our public schools - in Texass anyhow.

What exactly has happened to that place? It just doesn't seem possible that a couple Bush terms could ... -oh-

Florida Versus DNC

The DNC told states who got to run their Primaries first and what was the earliest date other states could use. Florida didn't like the rules and set their Primary earlier, stating that they deserved the attention. DNC disagreed and voted to strip the state of its delegates to the Convention if they went ahead. Florida sued.

Florida argued that it was a violation of the Constitution to not count the people's vote, the DNC argued that it had a right to set the schedule. A Federal judge dismissed Florida's argument. WaPo's Michael Shear quotes Sen Bill Nelson vowing to fight on:
"This fight is not over. This fight is going to go on another day," Nelson said. "This decision in the court today just emboldens by determination to not let party bosses make the decision over the people's right to vote."
I'm sorry, Bill's an ass. The question is not whether the people can vote, and even have their vote counted, the question is what the DNC has to do with that. Note the "N" in DNC, that is National; it is not "N"for Florida. Florida Democrats have options to have their delegates counted, but their early Primary isn't one. DNC sets the rules for its Convention, Florida doesn't get to.

There are probably better ways to run a Primary season than the way it is now. I recently read a suggestion that the Primaries be set across the entire 6 months with the smallest going first, working up to the biggest progressively. That actually seems like it might have some merit, though squeezing 50 separate Primaries into 180 days might be really rough on candidates. It does have the benefit of allowing campaigns some time to build momentum and practice for a lower price tag. Frankly (heresy) I think the Super Duper Tuesday is stupidity piled onto an already money loaded election system.

Michigan and Florida have pointed up the weakness in the Super Tuesday Primaries, states get lost and candidates just cannot barnstorm all those states in the time between the early States and February 5th. Campaigns that might grow, 2nd tier, are killed off by the early big money campaigns and the onerous demands of hitting the big markets all at once. This benefits, in this case, Hillary and Obama but there are other voices out there with other ideas and Democrats deserve to hear them and should hear them. Money will always be in elections, but there is no need to aid its influence.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What Did You Want To Be In Kindergarten?

Honestly I don't remember, it probably had to do with cowboys or something. I do know that in third grade I got thick glasses hung on my face and my heart was broken because I wanted to be a fighter pilot. That and glasses don't go together.

I guess I should have wanted to be President, glasses aren't required. Though apparently according to Hillary wanting to be is a disqualification. Pot meet kettle?

Oddly enough I distinctly heard the lady criticize running for President, I thought that was part of getting elected... It seems she's accusing Obama of running since he's been a Senator - what was that huge Senatorial war chest you built, Hillary? You certainly haven't spent the time since your election dissuading the people who said you were running.

Hillary you don't wear desperation well...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

NIE, Boy Am I Ever Confused

Back in the summer, this summer, there was noise about the NIE and it not getting published, there were rumors that the intelligence had to be fixed, it was too dangerously secret. Congress was, by then, complaining about the lack of release.

Now a document directly refuting the BushCo rhetoric over the past six months is released. The NEI does not sort of contradict, it flatly refutes it. The President found out about this last Wednesday. Iraq stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

The questions surrounding this are mind-boggling and run the gamut of considerations. Why was this released? Whose decision was it to release it? Who knew about it? When did GeorgeII know? What does this mean to BushCo policy and who is running it?

NYT: Monday, Donald M. Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, said that since the new estimate was at odds with the 2005 assessment — and thus at odds with public statements by top officials about Iran — “we felt it was important to release this information to ensure that an accurate presentation is available.”

That all sounds very responsible, but there is a distinct problem with it, it has been say upon for some time now while nonsense statements were being made. The thing is released and GeorgeII is on TV the next day stating, essentially that it is meaningless. Congress seems to be denying having pushed for release and if it were the Democrats they surely would claim credit. Hadley was not a happy camper during release press op. McConnell and Gates are keeping their heads down, so what - Darth Cheney? Did the intelligence agencies freak out and demand it? No answers forthcoming.

Now supposedly George found out last week that he has been FOS. There is nobody in BushCo who wins by having GeorgeII make a fool of himself. I understand that it is easy enough to accomplish once things become public but unless you can come up with a recently fired or resigned official with enough clout to know about this you are short of suspects. I'd speculate, but I have nothing to go on. I can think of all kinds of reasons to not release the NIE, but short of DoD realism regarding our military strength opposing the BushCo hasn't proved fruitful for anyone. If DoD had knowledge of this and opposition to poking at Iran, having it wait this long would be counter-productive.

Bush made it pretty clear that he figures Iran will try for nukes no matter what the NIE says about their evident agenda. His rhetoric showed no sign of easing and he seems to be pushing the same policy line. About as far as the President was willing to go was to acknowledge that the NIE even exists. This is all getting very tail chasing...

If there is a saving grace it is that the American people and much of the world are very dubious of BushCo claims, now. The biggest drawback is that it begins to look as though nobody is in charge and and no one knows what is going on.

I've Got To Find A Way To Quit The Republican Party, Too

John Cole over at Ballon Juice is almost always good, and he's in form regarding the recent Iran NIE:
I gotta admit, when I heard the news that the new NIE stated that Iran had rolled back any designs on nuclear weapons as far back as 2003, I knew it would be spun by the Bush dead-enders, but even I didn’t see this coming. The Instapundit:

"This story lets the Bush Administration take credit for pressuring Iran into stopping its weapons program by invading Iraq—meaning that the invasion really did end a major WMD threat—and also punt further serious action on the Iran issue to the next administration. Cui bono? I think it’s pretty obvious. . . . "

Up next, why we should invade Japan to solve our North Korea problem. You gotta give these guys some credit for chutzpah, if nothing else.

*** Update ***

Now that's a good start and it gets better, but the comments section contains a real jem, and I couldn't make this up:

Peter Johnson Says:

This probably was leaked by the CIA to hurt Bush. But that doesn’t matter if it is an accurate assessment. Two points though:

(1) The CIA screwed up Iraq and Pakistan badly, thinking one had WMD when they didn’t and that the other didn’t have nukes when they did.

(2) If the Iranians really did stop their nuclear program in 2003, isn’t that quite a coincidence? I mean, nothing happened in 2003 that might scare a country into giving up its WMD, did it?

Now stick with me a bit there's quite a bit in between and then:
Peter Johnson Says:

"-I’d find plenty of evidence that the Bush administration said we had to invade Iraq to end Iraq’s WMD program."

Call it collateral success. The bottom line is that if this is true, then Bush’s policies have worked. You just can’t bring yourself to admit that, can you? The Clinton “flowers and candy” approach didn’t work. The Bush “drop your weapon” or else did. The party of John Wayne trumps the party of Richard Simmons, yet again.

I've got to admit it, I was jealous, and I just couldn't help myself:

Chuck Butcher Says:

Can I have peterjohnson, please. Hey, no caps and no ticking nukes in a grade school. Please, he’s such a step up from my overwrought righties. Really, I just finished wiping CocaCola off the screen and keyboard.

goddam, “collateral success” is wonderful in a cretin sort of way. C’mon John, you’ve got all these other commenters, you can afford one little rightie, let me take it home with me.

Man it’s all there, the CIA is out to get us, it’s Clinton’s Fault, A RonnieR line, “Drop Your Weapon” for faux cowboy GeorgeII, oh man I’m jealous. I’ll even admit that heartstopping finishes are no way for the Browns to win football games, c’monnnnnnnn.

I promise not to try to poach any more than this one…

Really, I could wind this one up tighter than a cheap watch.

Now all I’ve got to do is figure out how to quit the Republican Party, too.

Oh darn, I’d have to join it first?

Nah, I like my commenters, but this one was too good to leave laying around loose. It is just a classic, think just a little while about what he's proposing, with a straight face. That and the GOP would probably have to do something to itself if they found out I'd joined up.

I know it's cheap snark, but really...

The Puddle Variations

Huhh, you said. My good blogging buddy Jeff Alworth has written a novel by that title and he'll even tell you how to buy it and a little about it. My copy arrived today and I've gotten 35 pages into it, Portland OR, a cabbie, some women, some different sorts, Portland OR, and a movie and some more. I don't have a tag to hang it under other than current day fiction. I'm enjoying it so far, other than knowing the author.

If you don't get that part, I don't blame you. I like Jeff so I'm stuck wanting to like it, the problem is that I'm very literate and I'm a pretty harsh judge of literature. I'll give you an example of how harsh, I think Michner's 'Tales of the South Pacific' is one of the great pieces of writing of the 20th Century, it's also the last good thing he ever did, from there he headed downhill farther and farther with every book. Wordy over long dreadfully detailed descriptions padded stories into behemoths of books. How's that for a take on a real popular author? Poor Jeff. Nah.

I can already tell you that there is an economy of styling and language and protagonist is well drawn and developing over time without the irritation of the author doing all the work and leaving me just reading words. Portlanders may be a bit miffed, well really, you do have some coming. When I'm done, I'll tell you about that, until then if I've whetted your interest that's good. Authors are a good thing to have around.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Muhammad Is A Teddybear

That's right, said such a thing right there in a headline, he's also an Arab boy - it is only the most common male name in the area, and shoot, he's a black American prize fighter. Now oddly enough, the word or name Prophet doesn't appear in those appellations, so it's a name, a rather common name. My dog, all 145# of drooling shedding Pyrenees, is named Gus - anybody out there named Gus who is offended? Anyhow, that's not the issue; there is something else at play here.

Now I don't pretend to understand the loon fringes of religions, I only just understand religion as it is. The idea that a rape victim is due 60 lashes for getting a car with someone not a family member seems outrageous, adding insult to injury with 200 lashes for shooting her mouth off about it and disbarring her lawyer reaches ludicrous. Certainly is.

But then I have to turn around and look at some of the other loons, like maybe the Irish blowing each up for years, lots of innocents gone. Maybe the KKK with it's race/religion agenda and burned houses and murdered Americans. There certainly are Aryan churches extending that violence onto gays as well as the KKK's agenda . How about bombing abortion clinics and murdering practitioners? There was plenty of violent rhetoric on display outside Terry Schiavo's hospital, speaking of governments taking a religious stand on civil matters there was the Republican Congress and George II rushing back from vacation to sign an un-Constitutional bill - you remember, the guy who couldn't be bothered with Katrina. Congress spent time on a Constitutional Amendment to bar gay marriage, that's exactly right, to be enshrined right up there with freedom of speech and religion and press and association.

It sure is tempting to call 'those people' lunatics for marching to get some teacher for naming a teddy bear after some folks made real sure to shove it in their faces, but then one remembers a jar of pee with a cross in it. Once that one was jammed in some folks' faces all hell broke lose. As for the Saudi's ridiculous behavior, it seems to that I remember some States taking cases to the Supreme Court so they could execute the retarded and minors. Oh but there's a difference in crime - yep - tad bit of difference in punishment, too.

So what am I getting at here? Pretty simply, the outrages of cruelty and stupidity aren't the sole property of 'those other people,' the outrages are all too common in all too many nations and cultures. Reducing them is a good idea for all of us.

Corruption Destroying What's Left Of Iraq

You probably are thinking that a little corruption is to be expected in an Arab nation, you also may be a little jaded by Halliburton, KBR, Parsons, Blackwater, and other assorted US corruption, but Iraq has passed what levels may be sustainable. If you think maybe BushCo has really lowered the bar for Iraq's government by putting it at passing a budget, you don't understand the depths of their tolerance. If you'd like a taste for just how tolerant of corruption this Administration is you could re-visit this October post and see that they not only don't want to hear about it, they want to bury it. And from the looks of it, bury anybody who talks.

Nonstop Theft and Bribery Stagger Iraq is how a NYT report describes the situation. Now bearing in mind that Radhi al-Radhi the ex-head of governmental corruption investigation lost 31 staff members to killings, you can understand that folks aren't real hot on talking and being identified but what NYT reports is horrific. Some will talk:

“Everyone is stealing from the state,” said Adel Adel al-Subihawi, a prominent Shiite tribal leader in Sadr City, throwing up his hands in disgust. “It’s a very large meal, and everyone wants to eat.”
He's not kidding around, police applicants pay from $400 to $800 to have their applications taken and approved, one stated that not one of his class of 850 did not pay a bribe and that his commanders collect the salaries of recruits who quit. So you commit a crime to become a policeman. Everyone is stealing? Estimates run to $18 billion in Iraqi government money that has been lost to corruption since 2004, some American officials estimate that a third of what they spend on Iraqi contracts or grants winds up stolen or unaccounted for.

Cash is also often what leads to promotions — with the help of a fake college degree, purchased for about $40 — and theft is no less common. One government worker, who goes by the name Abu Muhammad, said a senior administrator at the ministry where he worked recently sold off computers, laser printers, office furniture and other supplies that appeared to have been paid for with American aid. The official was never caught or prosecuted, he said.
It is not just a matter of getting rich, it involves schemes as simple as hand washing cars for survival money. Abbas Wadi Kadhim, 42, takes water from a broken water pipe to earn $4 per car - the water is "stolen" and he pays no rent on the abandoned government building he uses to house his operation. He is ashamed to violate the Koran's prohibition on corruption but avoids more forbidden acts which rescues some of his pride.

Maybe the mess would be tolerable in a war torn chaotic nation, Iraq rates as the 3rd most corrupt in the world, if there seemed to be some form of pushback by anyone, there isn't. Consider the government's stance on corruption investigations:

Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who runs the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki actually undercut anticorruption efforts this year by requiring that investigators get permission from his office before pursuing ministers or former ministers on corruption charges.

Mr. Maliki has also not rescinded a law, opposed by the Americans, that lets ministers exempt their employees from investigation. “Those two legal positions within the fledgling Iraqi government are incompatible with democracy,” Mr. Bowen said in an interview. “My concerns about the corruption problem have risen.”
Does anyone think that maybe this might rank right up there with passing a budget with BushCo? Well, in a reasonable world maybe, but it sounds an awful lot like the Administration's policy with our own Inspector Generals. In fact, in the US it is starting to look as though if it isn't nailed down it's for sale or stolen. You could almost make a case that we blew up a country so favored contractors could make a buck - well, billions or so. Stop and consider that Halliburton was seriously looking at bankruptcy before Cheney et al got the reins of power and others were just ordinarily profitable operations, now it sure is a different picture.

The Surge that was supposed to give Iraqis a breathing space to get their act together seems to have done that,
The collective filching undermines Iraq’s ability to provide essential services, a key to sustaining recent security gains, according to American military commanders. It also sows a corrosive distrust of democracy and hinders reconciliation as entrenched groups in the Shiite-led government resist reforms that would cut into reliable cash flows.
So who is it that is supposed to have an incentive to get this war over with? The war profiteers in Washington or maybe the Iraqis who gain to the tune of billions would want to cut the spigot off? Maybe the right who insist that it's all about terrorism could take a look at who benefits and wonder if the blood and treasure really needs to be spent for this cause - theft.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

How This Blog Is Doing

Readership is up, averaging just over 100 per day, and doing a bit more international business than previously, the national (outside OR) readership is increasing and the instate out of Portland readership is up. Readers since start up now exceed 24K. Technorati has moved "Authority" up a few points to 37 and ranking is now 217 some K instead of 340K. (I've seen 9 millionth) OR BNN has had "Chuck for" in the top 20 for 2 weeks, including a top 10 entry this week. Blogburst has had a continuous headline profile over the last week with one published, by linking, article. Headline exposures are opportunities for someone to link in from a news site like Reuters, they register as published when someone links. These headline impressions have varied with 200/day, several 100/day, and a couple 25/day, they get pretty buried.

Main page entries have settled back into first place after the Scott McClelland weirdness, with Ruger No1 45-70 not far behind. As has been usual, gun post entries are near matches to political entries. Encouragingly some gun entries are going to the main page.

Outside links are wildly variable from week to week, varying hugely in "Authority" and how linked. There were a couple real complimentary links, peer approval is nice, and these were from more respected blogs than this one. Some readers are coming in from Balloon Juice, a blog with a very active commenting section. Our comments sections have been more active than previously and for the most part holding in their quality. I ashcanned one comment that was not in itself a problem, the problem was the link back to a White Supremicist site, not happening here. I'm pretty relaxed, but this ain't total free speech.

Regular readers include UK, France, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Brazil, and Mexico. If I missed your nation, blame memory malfunction. Out of state regulars pretty much in order top down, NY, WA, MI, FL, MO, WI, OH, GA, TX and some single readers from a few more. It is always kind of cool to see readers come in from places I've been, even the search engine ones. Search engine hits are interesting, I've been first or near first listing on several articles and on several more first page. Some incoming hits are too weird for me to even figure out from the key words and some, oddly, looking for porn. I say oddly, because I've back linked the search and the introductory sentences are there and I really can't see them porn related.

You may have noticed the BNN rating, I figure I'm allowed to brag when it's good and you get to know when it sucks. The Zimbio button leads to a webzine, a different sort of deal that formats articles in magazine form. Somebody linked in from it and the backlink looked kind of interesting so I registered the site. Poke around over there at Zimbio and let me know what you think. I find Technorati pretty useful for keeping track of who is linking to me and generally what national influence the blog has. It is also useful for tracking the general regard blogs are held in that strike my interest. I'm an inverse snob that way, most of the blogs on my blog roll are smaller efforts. The big guys don't need a link off my page, and the bigger ones that are there drive traffic over here, so I give a convenience for getting there.

Steve Cully's articles generally do a good hit number. Of my titles, what sparks interest is generally tough to predict; some I expected to do well just sort of sit there. I am gratified by the attention, about 6 months ago I was ready to quit; I don't need mass approval but at a certain point it becomes about as useful to yell at the TV (ok, I've done that-GWB).

I admit I'd like to see the "comment" button get a bit more use, you don't seem to be a talkitive bunch, but that's ok. I've visited quite a few blogs that I like and respect that get much less comment use than this one.

Once again, I thank you all for coming around, I hope to keep meeting your expectations,