Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spector A Local Story ???

Mitch McConnell just got done proposing that Arlen Specter's change to Democratic is not a national story, that it is about Pennsylvania. It is true that he is one of PA's two Senators and would be running in PA not nationally, but that still is a jaw dropping statement. Mitch just got done having a much closer call in his election than he would have before and Republicans are now down to 40, not a national deal? Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe aren't national issues to Mitch? The chances that Specter would have changed parties minus Toomey's challenge are pretty small and Toomey challenge isn't about national politics. Republican Senators in the 2010 election outside a few states face some real difficulties if the economy recovers.

I don't know what blanket Republicans like Mitch are hiding under, but it is poor protection from the earthquake that is bringing their house down. Not looking at something doesn't make it go away, Mitch. I don't mind if Republicans spend the next six years in the political woodshed - they've earned it - but at some point a responsible opposition party is essential to our version of democracy and they are proving they're not it.

I haven't heard about challenges from the right to anyone other than Specter and McCain and McCain certainly isn't in danger - yet. It is important to remember when the (R) incumbents were elected, 2004. That was quite a bit different point in American politics and I don't think they can manage to bring it back. When a 29 yr incumbent has to change parties to have a chance of staying in office the implications are national.

I'm really torn on whether I'd like the Republicans to pay attention to this story...

The Ghost Of Republicans Past - Specter

A poor pun, but in my own defense I'm a bit flabbergasted, to have to write Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA). I did know that the Toomey challenge to Spector from the right would be a problem in the 2010 Republican Primary, since his victory over him last time was narrow. The swing right by Republicans nationally and particularly in PA in the face of increasing Democratic margins in registration and popularity meant that a Club for Growth winger like Toomey would be a real force to reckon with - in the Primary.

Off year, non-Presidential election, Primaries traditionally have low turn outs and the base becomes more powerful than otherwise. The problem with this is that it moves the candidates from either Party farther away from the ordinary middle, a Toomey could take out an pretty popular incumbent politician. If today's political climate holds in 2010 it is very doubtful a Toomey can win the General putting PA in Democratic hands anyhow.

Specter's Republican politics have become increasingly an uncomfortable fit, the criticism from the right pushed him right in defense of his seat. Pressure from REpublican leadership and legislators now becomes meaningless to him - he's a traitor. The Democrats have now gained a lever over Spector, he will have to stand in a Democratic Primary and without the support of the Party his previous history is not appealing to the Democratic base - in this election base counts heavily for either Party. Today Specter may present himself as opposing "Card Check" but I'm quite sure it will be pointed out to him that his base as a Democrat won't be pleased with that and that if he's not supportive of basic Democratic issues there's little reason for the Party to dissuade Primary challengers. The Democratic base of today is still left of Spector and the general electorate is somewhat left of his current record, that could be problematic for him if he does not show a reflection of that. His statement today on not voting for cloture on "Card Check" can pose real problems with Democrats in PA and in the Senate.

I don't care for Arlen Specter much, but I'm a left Democrat from Oregon and my opinion doesn't translate into a vote. I'm not an automatic supporter because he's now got a (D) after his name, I can easily find a lot of reasons to kick the snot out of him. There is a difference between keeping quiet about a candidate and actively supporting or opposing one, especially nationally. I am a delegate to DPO and Baker County Democratic Chair so within Oregon I have to be careful of not crossing the non-interference rule in OR Democratic Primaries in those capacities. This site is a private affair and you won't get a Party line unless I happen to be happy with it.

I can understand Specter's calculations to make this switch, I'm not sure it will work out for him. I don't think he has a lot of confidence it will work out, either.

SERE Training

a rack, torture device

I don't know just exactly how unmitigated an ass you have to be to compare SERE training with intensive interrogation, but apparently Kit Bond is one. He asserts that waterboarding can't be torture because SERE does it to our own troops. I don't know exactly how large a truck would have to be for you to not be able to drive it through the hole in that logic, but damn big is for sure. You'd think that someone capable of getting elected could see how this doesn't work.

Hey Kit, let's just start right at the beginning with the SEREs thing, if you go there you're a volunteer and you know that the waterboarders are your friends. No kidding, butthead, there's a difference between a friend and an enemy - someone you eat chow with and somebody who tries to shoot you... Maybe I could understand how as a Republican you're confused about friends and enemies, you've sure made that mistake about the domestic opposition to the Iraq war. Something else that might occur to the victim of intense interrogation is that in the one case everybody, including you, knows you don't have any information they actually care about getting - not quite as likely in the other case. It might make a bit of difference that as a SERE you know you get to leave and do something else after just a bit of this treatment, in fact you will get respect and good treatment for having engaged in this bit of discomfort. One hundred eighty three in one month is a few dousings more than a bit, and still there is a long time.

I'm not sure what idiot at Republican central churned out this particular talking point, but when a five year old would laugh at it an experienced pol ought not take it up. I know I keep coming back to this mess, as tired as I am of it I just cannot leave it alone when this level of stupidity is presented publicly for my consumption. This is the Party of Values? I don't get it, what value particularly is this about? I can almost understand protecting marriage and some of the other stuff put forward as being about values, but not even a strong stomach gets you there from here. Why the hell is this Republican?

Kit, none of the electorate was born on 9/11, even the latest ones were born before that date by about a decade, this torture idea comes post most of a voter's experience and quite simply torture was done by the other guys - the bad guys. Really bad guys. The world did not change on 9/11, everything is not different. A couple buildings came down and over 3,000 died, would anyone care to compare that to the London Blitz, or some other rough times? All kinds of bad things have happened over our world experience called history and we did not torture people. We had an international reputation as one of the good guys, in the face of some long odds at times. Not very long ago you could not have made these kinds of statements in polite society and most likely not in rough society without getting a bad reaction. This was the kind of crime there just wasn't any debate about, it would be akin to excusing child rape in the popular mind.

Things were desperate after 9/11? One narrow slice of history says WTF? Pearl Harbor was blown to smithereens, our ships were sunk all over the Atlantic, we lost all over the Pacific, we got handed our heads in N Africa, stalled in Normandy, bombers shot to pieces over Germany - we were doing very badly in WWII. Desperately badly. Somehow we acted humanely through very dark days, and now?

If these people get re-elected after this nonsense you people in their constituency better start looking at your neighbors and wondering what these subhuman cretins will get up to - or move the hell out. If you think this is a bit strong, as furious as I am you could not force me to do this crap to these punks that are excusing it. Don't mistake me for a pacifist, either.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Rule Of Man, Or The Rule Of Law

There has been cheap talk about third world juntas and mirrored sunglasses lately regarding politics and law. One of the main features of those mirrored sunglassed juntas is that they involve the rule of man, of personality. Whatever the nation's history or laws, the current occupants get what they want either through making new laws or just plain ignoring the existing ones. Nobody has an expectation of protection under the law or protection from abuse of the law.

One of the nastier charges against the GW Bush administration was the politicization of the Dept. of Justice. Enforcement of the law depended on political circumstances rather than the law; political circumstances are the rule of man. When the enforcement of law depends on politics or station in life it ceases to be law and becomes the rule of man and serious consequences flow from that. Elements in society become either immune to law or the victims of law when man rather than law rules. No nation can long afford to have such a split in its population.

I find it unfortunate that President Obama has already made statements about who would not be prosecuted for torture offenses. The idea is that exempting CIA personnel who followed OLC memos and administration directives would keep them effective in their jobs rather than demoralized. This places respect for the law as optionally dependent upon your form of employment or employer rather than a universal standard. Interrogators must be familiar with the history of their occupation and that history is clear, water boarding is prosecutable torture.

It is bruited about that the President's agenda is threatened by pursuing the malefactors of the torture mess by creating the appearance of a political witch hunt. Because it was a Republican administration this occurred within and Democrats are now the majority there is little chance that action within Congress would not be treated as political - on both sides. Unlike Congress, the DOJ is not involved in passing legislation, it is supposed to be involved in law enforcement. Considering Republican behavior over the past three months it is pretty questionable whether there are any votes or support to be lost if the DOJ takes this matter in hand.

The DOJ now has pretty public reasons to be taking an interest in this issue between released documents and public statements this is now far from a secret. The question now is not the President's agenda, it is what sort of nation and government we are. Are we the mewling puking cowards who misuse helpless humans under our complete control or are we not? Are we a nation of law or are we a nation that finds the law an encumbrance to ignored for convenience and the convenience of those special individuals who happen to be something other than ordinary citizens. This brings another issue into play, are we all citizens of this nation or are only some of us subject to those responsibilities and if so what do we call those others? The Oligarchy? The Aristocracy? God's Chosen? Republicans? Democrats?

I don't want revenge or retribution for the crap that occurred under BushCo, I want the politics taken out of the crimes. I don't want to hear another mealy-mouthed torture excuse from some damn politician who thinks he's covering his Party, I want it clear in a court of law that there is no argument, there is no politics of torture it is flatly a crime and it is not done in the USA. I care little if anyone serves more than thirty days, I care that a verdict is reached and a sentence pronounced.

I care that we are a nation of law, not man.

The Banality of Bush White House Evil

I'm going to recommend this Frank Rich column without comment. If I say any more about torture I'll just be repeating myself and getting more furious.

Friday, April 24, 2009

False Equivalence

I call it false equivalence and jay Rosen over at Press Think covers it in "He Said, She Said" terms regarding the "journalistic" tendency to use two sources competing views as reporting on an issue. Jay is a professor of journalism and so he covers the whys and wherefores in more depth than I will. He sees hopefulness of a decline of the practice, I see its usage as a reason for the decline of newspapers.

False equivalence is the presentation of opposing views as though they are equal and somehow doing so is representative of some truth. This practice is to me reflective of laziness and butt covering, especially in this age of search engines. There is no excuse for printing a story that contains outright falsehoods or misrepresentations as a side of an argument. If a legislator criticizes a parliamentarian tactic of their opposition after having also previously engaged in it that fact is not only pertinent to the story, it is also available. The author of a story that simply quotes such a statement makes a false presentation of that stance as a principled one rather than one of political convenience and spin. The two sides of a dispute are made falsely equivalent.

One could point to the pressure of deadlines or the pressure to be balanced in reporting, both are no more than excuses. Deadlines may exist and the presence of a story covering an event may have value, but there is a serious cost in damage to reputation involved because, now, someone will find out the facts and the story will be slammed for it. It is not balance to create false equivalence, it is virtually lying and at the least leaves the reader uninformed - until a later source coughs up those facts and again a damage to reputation occurs.

It is not only the Judith Millers of reporting that have damaged the credibility of major papers, it is also the practice of false equivalence. Both are a form of propagandizing and the reading public won't stand still for a lot of it - and there has been a lot of it. The cheerleading of the Iraq War was an egregious failure and hugely damaging but to my mind it stands as more an exception than general practice. False equivalence is a general practice and has to be infuriating to a public searching for something close to the truth. Readers walking away from a story not knowing which statement has validity or more relevance get whipsawed when more is revealed, especially if they had an inclination to agree with an inaccurate statement later revealed to be so. There is a sense of betrayal involved and that is fatal for organizations that depend on the faith of their consumers.

There is no doubt that the presence of "free" issues of papers on the internet impacts the advertising revenue for the print versions through falling sales, but this also ignores the greater reach of those papers through such editions. Much more troubling is the failing trust in those sources. Whether it is fear of being labeled tools of an ideology or laziness, false equivalence destroys the credibility of the source. I will generally find out I've been led down a primrose trail, mostly due to suspicion of political statements, but also thanks to the efforts of others with suspicions. At that point I begin to wonder why I've bothered to take seriously the efforts of a newspaper on many fronts.

I don't like anonymous sources though I recognize their necessity in some cases, but I become doubly suspicious when I've found that publication engaging in false equivalence. Why should I give credence to their source when it has been shown to me that they do not fact check on the record sources? The false equivalence given a legislator over a parliamentary tactic is small potatoes compared to doubts about stories regarding secret governmental actions unexpected and unanticipated regarding secret prisons and torture.

Even disregarding the impact on credibility, false equivalence betrays the fundamental purpose of communication, which is the exchange of information. I am not informed by being presented falsehoods or misrepresentations unchallenged, communication has broken down. At best I am confused, at worst I am misinformed and in the position of acting on a mistaken view. One can scarcely be surprised to see "Teabaggers" running around making spurious statements in the face of the reporting on the issues they react to. If Democrats propose and pass actions with statements supporting it balanced by the oppositions completely inaccurate or misleading or fact free statements treated as equivalent there is not reason for them to doubt their stance. If the oppositions' statements about the crushing of the spirit of endeavor by a 3% increase in taxes on income in excess of $250K aren't balanced with historical facts regarding tax rates under various Presidents and the economic outcomes there is no reason for them to doubt their emotional attachment to the stance and the Party. While some people would still engage in complete stupidity on the basis of emotional attachments many would not. Reasoned behavior is thwarted by the actions of those who should be trusted have enhanced it.

To be sure there are and always will be sources consulted for agreement rather than information and those aren't really an issue in this discussion. It is too bad that such slants aren't confined to the editorial pages or opinion segments rather than the news, but it is something to be lived with. False equivalence isn't something to be lived with, it is something to mock and push back against in the interest of reasoned decision making.

A Torture...Debate???

I'm trying to think of something that is much more frightening than the fact that there is actually a debate about torture. There is a debate about a procedure that is designed to be absolutely terrifying and whether it is torture and worthwhile. My mind gets stuck here, it circles and jerks and stops, I cannot fathom how this state has come into existence in my nation, in my home. I can understand liars and cheats getting elected and I can understand differences regarding economic policy and foreign policy but this is different.

My parent's generation fought and died in opposition to nations that practiced such techniques as a matter of course, and that was part of why they fought them - that they did so. Trials were held and people hung and imprisoned for such behavior. Thousands and thousands of our young men died so those trials could be held and we had the stature to hold those trials.

How can the death of a few thousand in America due to airplanes suddenly turn our world upside down? How does such behavior honor or show any recognition of their fates? Over two hundred years of our history are denied by even having a debate about this, much less actually practicing it. To physically torment someone into absolute terror is torture, there isn't even an actual question about that, no one would begin to talk about results if it were not so.

As more details leak out or are released I become sadder and more bewildered. It may be a function of age, but I find myself approaching tears. I do not understand the actions themselves and have even less understanding of those who support it being in positions of authority or responsibility. Karl Rove's words are meaningless, he's a hired hack for Fox News - nothing more - but Senators and Representatives hold positions of authority and responsibility and their behavior is incomprehensible. If it is about politics then things have patently gone much too far in that respect.

Torture is not ideological or political, it is the abuse of helpless human beings by those with the power of life and death over them and it is evil. Despite the rhetoric regarding the evils of socialism or theocracy the real meaning of that is regarding dangerous mistakes, not actual evil. The negation of the ethical values of an entire nation is something different entirely, it isn't about bad or dangerous policy it is about the soul of a people and it cannot be held as reasonable. There are those who do so and that passes reason, it becomes some primal fear driven limitless reaction - it is virtually the definition of cowardice.

I'll be blunt, it isn't an argument, it is the difference between mewling puking pussies and those with a shred of decency. It is either that or it is politics run amok, run into such a state that there are those whose pursuit of power leads them to propose that absolute evil is righteousness and supportable. You have to take a measure of such people and wonder how it is that society at large even tolerates their having an office of any sort. If you do that you begin to take a measure of an electorate that allows it and even encourages it and that is truly frightening. Your fellow citizens in certain areas are of such a mind set, think about that as you walk by them. That person you just passed would have such a thing done to you, in fact would do it to you and they not only walk about free, they elect such to national office.

In this setting we wonder about mass shootings or child killings and propose astonishment? Why? What is it we are earning?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Real Terrorists - The Bush Administration

About the time you start to think that you might possibly have plumbed the depths of the BushCo political malfeasance; something like this comes up. McClatchy, the outfit who as Knight-Ridder got the run up to the Iraq war right, reports that in order to justify the invasion of Iraq the BushCo used torture to elicit confessions of Iraqi involvement with al Qaida. The reporting uses two kinds of sources, one on the record attributed and some anonymous sources and I'm no fan of anonymous sources. Considering the nature of the disclosures and the attributed back-up I'm a bit more willing than usual to accept it. We'll start with 2006 testimony from A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney.
"While we were there (Guantanamo) a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq," Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. "The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."

Now regarding the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 an anonymous senior intelligence official had some things to say that are scary. A primary concern was follow up attacks after 9/11 but also important was an invasion of Iraq.
"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder," he continued.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information," he said.

If you think firing US Attorneys because they wouldn't engage in political witch-hunts is offensive or you were put off by being accused of treason for opposing the Iraq war because it is politics run amok you might find torture as a political end something beyond that. Well, welcome to the the new nadir of Bushco and don't even bet this is the end of the plumbing. In order to try to get cover to run a preemptive war in violation of US history these cretins tortured helpless humans. Think about that and then mention it to the die hard Republicans you know.

Why doesn't somebody just go ahead and explain to me how it is that these terrorists aren't in orange jumpsuits and manacles? Ask John Ensign, he's a Republican Senator... (see below)

Medical Personnel?

John Ensign just asserted on Hardball that we had medical personnel on hand for enhanced interrogation and that excuses the practices from being torture. Now hold on just a whole damn minute here, if it isn't torture then what possible use or need are medical personnel? If there is no danger of personal damage or physical risk then exactly why is it required to have medical personnel present? If I ask you a question or talk to you about various ethical or moral implications of your behavior in order to persuade you that you should tell me what is going on there is absolutely no reason to think a doctor or medic or any such would need to be at hand.

If I start putting your physical or psychological well-being at risk then it starts to be important to have a doctor around. Once you reach that point you are in violation of virtually every legal statute involving the treatment of human beings. If I can not do it to you and a sheriff or policeman cannot do it to you then crossing that line is torture. Making statements to the contrary on the basis of the federal governmental employment of the torturers is flatly assisting in a felony, either its cover-up or the commission of it. I'd say that John Ensign is not only a unprincipled prick he is involved in criminal behavior - take a good look at him and see a clean cut well-dressed rich scum bag. He may be acting in partisan fashion - I'm not, I don't care what Party he belongs to, though it figures there's an (R) after his name.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jay S Bybee Isn't In Jail, Where Is He?

No, he's not in jail, Jay S Bybee is Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Maybe you're wondering how a devout Mormon came to be a Justice on the largest appellate court in the US and a central figure in authorizing torture. You would be forgiven for wondering exactly what version of Christianity a person adheres to that would allow him to write things that sanctioned the psychological torment of pseudo drowning and confinement with an insect they are deathly afraid of or the physical torment of sleep deprivation, slapping, stress positioning to generate muscular pain, or intemperate conditions.

A US Federal Judge proposed that the imposition of pain repeatedly on a helpless human was sanctioned under the law of the US. This puke passes judgement on people in the United States of America. You are supposed to believe that at the last step before the US Supreme Court you will receive something like justice at the hands of someone who OKs interrogation procedures that only stop short of permanent damage. Looking up at that bench you will see the face of a monster.

If you behaved to a fellow human in any of the manners that Jay S Bybee authorized for interrogation you would go to jail for a very long time as a felon. These authorizations were handed down as legal opinion, the sort of thing that is a judge's job. Try real hard to wrap your head around the idea that legal opinions put forward in any case by this guy have any meaning, whatever.

You can find the 18 page pdf. of this mess here. I hope you have a strong tolerance for undiluted evil because you're going to be subjected to page after page of it. One very revealing measure of a society is how it treats the helpless and this is exactly what Bybee addressed in this memo and his measure is criminal. He not only doesn't belong on a bench, he belongs in front of one in irons.

Wanna make any bets?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Nick Would Approve

People who knew Nick found him charming in the extreme. There is a story about a four year old Nick and motorcycles - Harleys to be accurate. First I'll show you something new to our household.

****Click for full size****

The town of Joseph OR is famous for scenery and bronze castings so it was reasonable that they would host a blues festival named Bronze Blues and Brews and even more reasonable that my wife and I would attend - with Nick. As we entered the park we walked past quite a few parked Harleys with their riders appropriately attired. Any time there are bikes and riders in one place throttles will be jacked and exhaust notes roar - they did. Nick was entranced and further so when I noted that I'd at one time virtually lived on a bike in N California.

While we were getting ourselves set up on a spot in the grass suitable for listening and dancing Nick managed to get stung by a yellow jacket between his fingers and tears ensued. The tears and sobs were nearly unending until he wandered off a ways. I went looking for him and found him at the beer tent surrounded by bikers in leather, dew rags, and tatts and as I led him away there was a chorus of, "See ya, Nick." As the day went on, if I needed to find Nick all I had to do was look for bikers. Leaving at the end of the festival it seemed every biker in the place knew Nick, "Hey, Nick," and variations came from most corners which made the little fellow shine.

For several years Nick could spot a Harley from our car or the street by looks or exhaust note and never confused any of the look-alikes or wanna-bes with an actual Harley. The above bike is a 1998 Super Glide 80 cubic inch Harley Davidson purchased about three days ago. Compared to the rest of my vehicles it gets great gas mileage but it is a ludicrous transportation vehicle. It is massively over powered and extremely weather limited and flatly really cool.

It's been 30 years since I was putting 30,000 miles a year on a bike and running with a ... fast crowd. Bikes have changed a lot, this bike has a lot more power per cubic inch and the handling and ride are hugely superior to anything available in my riding period. In some ways I bought this bike in honor of Nick, he'd love it, it would appeal to the looney tune portion of his character. Every time the exhaust roars I think of Nick and grin.

BTW, I own an absolute fleet of Chevrolets and now a Harley and every one of them was made in America by American labor.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Protesting For Their Masters

I guess you can take this picture as representative of the previous tea parties and what you'll notice is an entire lack of designer clothes. In fact the dress seems considerably more Walmart-ish than quarter million dollar annual income levels. That would be the folks that Barack Obama is fixing up with a tax cut. Since the 3% tax increase on incomes in excess of that is a marginal rate it doesn't touch the $250,000 only the excess which means the people who will pay very many dollars more make quite a bit over that amount.

Look again at the picture, what you've got is a bunch of people who are pissed that their economic betters are getting taxed a bit harder than George W Bush wanted. Honestly, it isn't much of an exaggeration to cal this the slaves protesting for the masters. This, of course, assumes that the tea party label means what its historical meaning held, taxation - neglecting the part about "without representation."

If you take it as having something to do with government spending, it is peculiar that BushCo's deficits didn't matter, even neglecting the missing Iraq and Afghanistan war costs. These people squeal about spending their grandkids money now and didn't mind running wars on the cuff or GWB's tax cut induced deficits. The poll numbers on the economy and confidence in the President mirror the BushCo approval rates, 23% disapprove and 63% approve. Evidently if you liked BushCo you like tea parties.

The plethora of Socialist signs is particularly funny in concert with the anti-bailout sentiments. Honestly, the administration is bending over backwards to preserve private enterprises rather than nationalize banks or see the smaller stock investors and businesses get taken out by auto industry bankruptcy.

OK, let's be blunt, these are idiots. The unifying principle is Barack Obama and since their "issues" have spit to do with the policies you start running into the two things that are evident - Democrat and Black. Well, there is also Fox News consumers...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Seventeen Socialists

Baucus Says Socialist Candidate Should Be Arrested:
President Wilson has been urged to order the arrest of Morris Hillquit, Socialist candidate for Mayor on a charge of high treason, as a result of his utterances in a speech made on Sunday afternoon at the New Star Casino, Lexington Avenue and 107th Street. In this address Mr. Hillquit said that a Socialist victory in New York City would... (October 30, 1917, Tuesday)

Oh, either we've got Portrait of Dorian Grey going on or there's just not much new in the world, including names. Maybe something a bit more current...?

Sen Spencer Bachus (R-AL) is a bit more modern version of the homonym blast from the past as he told The Birmingham News (April 9, 2009) that Obama listens better than GWB but he's worried about Congress.
But he said he is worried that he is being steered too far by the Congress: "Some of the men and women I work with in Congress are socialists."

Asked to clarify his comments after the breakfast speech at the Trussville Civic Center, Bachus said 17 members of the U.S. House are socialists.

So far nobody has managed to get names to go with the number though it would be fairly safe to say that Sen Bernie Sanders might just qualify. We do keep hearing the word "socialism" from Republicans and their fellow travelers in the loon right but they don't seem to be very definite about the measuring stick they use.

The Economy Professor defines socialism for us which would cover the practitioners known as socialists.
Socialism is an economic system under which the means of production and distribution are owned by the state, and not the individuals.

In a socialist economy, the state owns the industrial plants, and centrally controls production.

The idea of socialism was enunciated by Karl Marx.

Socialism is different from communism, which, in fact, is the ideal and final stage of socialism where the state is no more, and the people are equal as proletarians.

So is this the latest iteration of Sen Joe McCarthy's waving of a piece of paper with supposed Commie names? If you throw Rep Michelle Bachman into this mix with her "re-education camps" rhetoric one has to start to wonder. You will note that in the definition the "perfected" form of socialism is communism. The Republicans do manage to throw around words questioning the patriotism of Democrats or anyone who doesn't follow their version of political policy. I'm sure quite a few people can remember the BushCo versions of "terrorist appeasers" and other offensive appellations for opposition to the Iraq war.

Quite frankly I have seen less than no evidence of socialism from anybody in Congress, what I have seen is the propping up of the oligarchy and plutocrats through loans and the purchases of stupidity generated "assets." To assert that attempts to keep private enterprises afloat in the face of Republican encouraged stupidities that threaten the entire financial system with destruction as socialism is beyond lunacy. If we were to see deliberate attempts to use these various forms of bailouts as mechanisms to level the economic field there might be some justification in the allegations of socialism. Rather what we do see is the same old crap headed our way in regard to economic justice with no more that a bit of proposed oversight to prevent today's type of meltdown. For pete's sake, the median income in this country is around $50K/year and we're looking at bonuses that are 100 times that. Bonuses???

I could think of a boatload of names to call these people and most of them are not only rude but also true.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Gay Marriage, Where?

What would you have thought Up East Vermont would have in common with Corn Belt Iowa? If you had said gay issues you'd have made a rational guess and have been right and probably on completely the wrong basis considering two unlikely states have decided to acknowledge gay marriage.

Two completely different avenues lead to these results; in Iowa the State Supreme Court threw out legislation limiting marriage to a men and woman and in Vermont the Legislature over turned the Republican Governor's veto of a bill authorizing same sex marriage. The Iowa Supreme Court went directly to the question I have always had on the issue which is equal treatment under the law. As a heterosexual the sexual element of same sex marriage is of no interest to me, what is of interest to me is that my law abiding fellows are treated the same under the law as any other law abiding fellows. I am not in the least interested in the religious views or or moral views of opponents, I make no proposal to interfere with them in the least. This is a question of law and contract not of religiosity.

Vermont took the legislative approach to treating its citizens equally. The legislature took the electoral risk of first passing the bill and then the greater one of over-riding the Governor's veto. I am always a fan of legislators taking a stand and risks in the interests of their citizens.

A marker has been set for other states and particularly for so-called progressive states. Time to step up.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Everyday Low Prices - Sen Blanche Lincoln

So who is Blanche Lincoln? Well she is a Senator from Arkansas and she has a (D) after her name so she makes some claim to being a Democrat. Arkansas is home to somebody else, a true friend to working Americans, Walmart - as long as you aren't one working for them.

Walmart is one of those places that is so friendly to unions that Think Progress has taken notice.
Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Wal-Mart has been warning its managers that a Democratic victory in the fall would lead to unionization at Wal-Mart stores. “In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings” discussing the downsides of unionization and not-so-subtly telling employees not to vote for a Democrat.

Center for Media and Democracy takes note of Walmart's love for unions.
"Back when I was in a union, I was just a number," laughs a man in a Wal-Mart Stores training video. "If a union got in here," he adds, "every benefit we got could go on the negotiating table. ... And with all our benefits, we'd risk losing a lot."

There certainly is no reason to think unions have problems with employers.
From 2000 to 2005, the National Labor Relations Board found Wal-Mart guilty of 15 cases of illegal conduct; seven of the giant retailer's competitors collectively had four rulings against them over the same period. Yet, HRW warns, "penalties under US labor law are so minimal that they have little deterrent effect."

Google displays 3,120,000 results for Walmart unions 2008, now granted some of these have nothing whatever to do with union busting, but there sure are a lot.

Funny things happen if you peruse places like Open Secrets where they will give you things like the top 5 contributors for Lincoln.
Stephens Group $34,200
DaVita Inc $32,000
Wal-Mart Stores $25,800
Tyson Foods $24,750
Goldman Sachs $24,000

Now I can't think of a reason why a Democratic US Senator from the state with the 47th lowest median income in the nation would oppose the Employee Free Choice Act. $37,500 is what they've got versus the national average of $50,000 something. You could buy a couple six packs with $13,000 a year doncha think? A visit to her website will leave you dry if you try to find a mention of unions. I'm kind of curious if there's much of anything there that makes her a real appealing version of a Democrat. That really gives pause.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Slow Days At Chuck for...

Various factors have been contributing to a slowdown in posting at this blog. Nicotiene withdrawal, lack of my coffee leveler, grief, economic woes have played havoc with my interest. I'll get over it so keep checking back.

If you care to use this comment section for your own playground.

Friday, April 03, 2009

WSJ Gigs CEO Comps, What?

It seems that CEOs and corporate compensation boards didn't get the memo, you know, the one that says something to the effect that ordinary Americans are a bit ticked by the Masters Of The Universe scale compensation of CEOs. If the government isn't bailing out a company or buying the damn thing it can't really tell a company how much to pay its CEO, but there is a little issue of a great big chunk of a fixed amount of money going to one individual. There is an idea that huge compensation is required to keep the kind of talent needed to run a corporation, comparing these folks to athletic superstars. The Wall Street Journal has a report, For Some CEOs, the Perks Keep Flowing, that I wouldn't refer to as complimentary to the process.
The Toledo, Ohio, auto supplier, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2008, spent $2.3 million last year on chartered planes to fly its chairman and chief executive, John M. Devine, and its vice chairman and former CEO, Gary L. Convis, to and from their California homes, according to its latest proxy statement.

Dana makes pretty good products, they have a reputation within the auto community that is good. In relative terms some of their stuff is pretty expensive, but you could buy a lot of that for $2.3M and that buying would involve incomes for making it. Note that this is not salary, this is a perk - an add on to their income in value.
Dana sold its six corporate aircraft to cut costs before and after entering Chapter 11 in March 2006. Company spokesman Chuck Hartlage said directors agreed to pay for Messrs. Devine and Convis's commutes to lure the seasoned auto executives out of retirement.

He said the executives' total direct compensation last year, not including benefits, which is valued by the Journal at $8.5 million for Mr. Devine and $6.2 million for Mr. Convis, is "very much in line with similarly situated peers."

Dana also reimbursed the pair for more than $43,000 in taxes associated with the travel expenses, highlighting another controversial benefit: tax "gross-ups" on perks.

Dana isn't alone in the practice of "gross up" and isn't particularly egregious considering the median of 76 companies surveyed is $16,400 but you can consider this:
Oil-field services provider BJ Services Co. spent the most on gross-ups, reimbursing CEO J.W. Stewart $718,800 for the taxes on his bonus and certain equity awards. A BJ Services spokesman was unavailable for comment.

When you're paying the taxes on the things you probably ought to be able to present the stockholders with good reasons for them - or not.
Ferro Corp., a Cleveland maker of industrial coatings, reimbursed CEO James F. Kirsch for a $100,000 initiation fee at the Pepper Pike Country Club. The board had suggested he join "to enhance networking opportunities with other Cleveland area CEOs," according to Ferro's proxy statement.

Ummm, Ok...?
One company trimmed perks after an unusual shareholder revolt. InfoGroup Inc., an Omaha, Neb., database concern, sold its corporate yacht for $1.5 million in October 2008 after a shareholder suit alleged abusive personal spending by founder Vinod Gupta, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Mr. Gupta resigned as CEO last August and agreed to repay $9 million. But he received a $10 million severance package and remains on the company's board, according to the filings. Mr. Gupta couldn't be immediately reached.

Go ahead and figure that one out.

I really don't have any real objection to people making money, even a lot of money but there is an issue of how much goes into one place and how much gets spread around the company. There is also an issue as to what the actual value of any given CEO amounts to. It would seem that if the CEO took some level of personal responsibility for the performance of the company, in other words risk, there would be a justification for this kind of compensation.

I'm pretty sure this is a matter of an artificial market price.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Palin Re-illustrates Stupidity

Given the limited pool, one wouldn't expect the Alaskan Republican Party to provide real esteemed members of the intelligent policy types, they haven't. McClatchy reports some of the less than thought through of ARP Chair Randy Ruedr.
"We had a complete collapse of the Department of Justice case against him, and I think the proper way for this to be played is for former Mayor Begich to stand for election under fair terms, rather than presumed terms, so we have an opportunity for Alaskans to pick who they want to be their United States senator."

Enter Sarah, bright as ever.
"I absolutely agree."

Both of these people have decided that since the felon in question is a Republican that it is not just another case of a prosecution created technicality resulting in dismissal of charges. Teddy is not exonerated by any stretch of the imagination, the DOJ will not pursue and has asked Judge Sullivan to dismiss. Somehow in the face of their near constant mantra about liberal judges and other liberals being soft on crime and letting rat bastards off on technicalities, Ted isn't one. This is laughable. Their ordinary judgements are suspended if it involves the tribe.

Palin and Ruedr would like to play at what ifs. What if Ted had not been charged or had been found not guilty, but they don't want to go to what if the prosecution had played it right and Ted was still guilty, or what if the moon had crashed into the earth. What if is one of the stupidest games humans play, what you can be pretty sure of is what did happen after that it is pure guess work. But Palin and her coterie want to state this as though there is fact backing up their assertions. What if in 2000 FL had recounted the vote? Well we sure don't know because they didn't.

If wishes were fishes ...

April Fools Is Over, But

...but over at Real Oregon Reality there is a good deconstruction of a Kevin Mannix joke.

Stevens Is...Well....Free

US Attorney General Eric Holder has asked U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan to drop the case against former Senator Stevens (R-AK). Prosecutors did not turn all required evidence over to the defense team along with other miscues. Steven stated that he is "grateful that the new team of responsible prosecutors at the Department of Justice has acknowledged that I did not receive a fair trial and has dismissed all the charges against me."

This has led to some right wing crowing that Stevens is innocent and that a Senate seat was stolen by Democrats and even that this is somehow Obama's fault. Now what Holder has done is to give up on a case that is poisoned by prosecutorial behavior not to declare or represent any sort of innocence on Steven's part. As for this case having anything to do with Democrats or Obama ignores the time line, Obama was a Senator in the midst of and election campaign and the Justice Department is run under the Executive Branch - Bush/Cheney.

Holder finding that Stevens did not receive a fair trial is disturbing, and it is at least somewhat reassuring to see the DOJ go toward correcting it. Holder has established an internal investigation to find out who and what went wrong. Judge Sullivan is also wanting answers. This would be bad for some careers.

I do find it odd for Republicans to be getting all up in the air about a convicted felon getting off on technicalities - I thought that was liberal judges and Democrat territory...

So much for consistency.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rush And Anal Poisoning

Media Matters watches some of these ... (provide your own explitive) people so the rest of us don't have to. Frequently they come up with stuff that the rest of us ought to take note of and the fact that some millions of people listen to the Rush crap means it isn't a bad idea to have some grasp of what they're cheering on.

Now you can take offense or you can laugh, but one thing you need to remember is that a bunch of your fellow citizens actually take this guy seriously.