Monday, February 28, 2005


Fred Barnes’ article in the Weekly Standard attempts to make the case that Cheney could still possibly run for president, and why he has a chance at winning.

Despite the VP's proclamations to the contrary, Barnes insists that Cheney is still a possibility. He states that Cheney’s lack of charisma is “nonsense. So what if he can be characterized as Bush without the pizzazz?” he writes. Barnes is seriously underestimating the importance of charisma in a presidential election. Many voters elected Bush because his plain-talking manner made them feel as if they were electing a regular person – someone who understood them. Cheney’s big-business history is about as far from a regular person as one can get, and he has about as much charisma as a dying goat.

Military history – for better or worse – played a large part in the 2004 election. Even the Swifties couldn’t stand behind Cheney’s five deferments during Vietnam. The man has also had four heart attacks -- not a good prognosis for a potential commander in chief.

Luckily, it looks as if Cheney has no plans on running.

How will the fed deal with this problem?

Apparently income is falling and inflation is picking up. Also disturbing is the news that, "The personal saving rate was 1.0 percent in January, indicating that Americans were setting aside 1 cent from each dollar earned. That was down from 3.6 percent in December." What do you do to tame inflation when people are earning and saving less? Raising interest rates could have catastrophic ramifications.

The new factor to consider when assessing the risk of an economic meltdown is the HELOC (home equity line of credit, usually a variable rate second mortgage). When the prime interest rate was around 1% people started to buy all kinds of luxuries with their new found credit. Now interest rates are increasing the HELOC is becoming more and more difficult for families to pay.

Credit card interest rates have also dramatically increased over the past 2 years. My credit card has gone from 9.5% in 2003 to 19.2% in 2005. The reason for this increase isn't late payments (I don't keep a balance), it's a change in the prime rate and, according to a customer service representative, a policy change.

I would feel more comfortable about the direction the economy is taking if I thought there was a plan, beyond raising interest rates, to spur wage and savings growth.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Quality vs Right to Life

Here is a cartoon from the Age newspaper in Australia. It definitely sums up my feelings about the right to life movement and abortion...

Biden for President

On Meet the Press this morning, Biden did everything but announce his candidacy for President in 2008. He's realistic about the difficulty of beating Clinton for the nomination but he seems to be seriously interested in trying. I've always liked Biden, he articulates the fundamentals of the Democratic party philosophy in a clear manner that the average American can understand and relate to.

Biden and Santorum agreed that they would both fight Bush on his plans to drop Amtrak subsidies. It's lucky for Americans that many Senators understand the environmental and economic necessity of a nationally subsidized rail system. The alternative is 6 lane highways and more cars. I'm not sure how that would help with the Greenhouse effect or our dependence on mid-east oil.

Also on MTP, Maureen Dowd hesitated when Russert asked whether in retrospect Iraq was a good idea. Her response that the American people were lied to was a little lame. I'm not as excited by progress in Iraq as everyone else seems to be. I'm still skeptical that we can win the "war of ideas" and "bring democracy to the middle-east". A Dawa lead Iraq brings terrorist ties to the government. The idea that Jafari will embrace Kurds and Sunnis has a similar resonance to Bush saying he would work with Democrats in 2000. Let's wait and see.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

They've Gone From "Speaking In Tongues" to "Cat's Got Their Tongues"

"Why have the 'traditional family values' folks erected a wall of silence around the Gannon scandal?" asks Bill Berkowitz. Indeed - why is it that they are loathe to condemn their own when sex scandals occur in their domain? Geez, it happens often enough. He also asks, what would have happened if the tables were turned and this was discovered during the Clinton administration? I suppose millions of dollars would have been spent investigating it, no doubt, and it would have been the topic of conversation on the Rush O'Hannity network forever.

Well, never fear, Bill. Here's a site that defends Gannon/Guckert (or as I like to call him, GiGi). It's not all that easy to find a someone willing to defend the fraudulent, hypocritical shill whose smug confidence as a White House lapdog got the better of him.

There are other sites out there defending GiGi, if you want to look hard enough to find them. Funny, they suddenly find themselves defending the sort of behavior they condemn so heartily in others (H). They even resort to lies to do so, stating in one article that GiGi was the "one" person caught playing for the Bush Leagues, when in fact it is just another example (the fifth? it's hard to keep track) of the Bush regimes' corruption of the media. Of course, they still remind us as often as they can that they are victims of the "Liberal Media"... a conspiracy theory that loses its luster every time another one of the neocons' machinations are exposed.

ManDate Update 1: GiGi's back online, at his own site. He defends himself by playing the victim - the left is out to get him because he is from the right. Well, that's not the issue. No one expects news conferences to be free of biased reporters. The issues are that he was exposed as a fraud, and that the republicans appear to be complicit in that fraud, and that they ally themselves with a purveyor of gay porn while winning votes from the "moral values" voters by condemning what they call the "gay lifestyle". Maybe they feel they are representing their constituents by opposing gay marriage but supporting gay porn. Maybe they should have mentioned that on the campaign trail. Maybe one of their planted shill questioners at one of their loyalty-oath-sanctioned campaign stops should have asked, "Mr. President, I run a gay prostitution and porn website, and perform my other professional duties under an assumed name. How do I know I will not be 'brought down' by left-wing wackos if this is discovered?"

ManDate Update 2: Every president has sought to manipulate the media. But historians say that Bush, unhappy with what he calls "the filter," is courting controversy in his quest for innovative formats. Several conservative commentators have been paid to trumpet Bush policies in their work; one recipient, Armstrong Williams, is being investigated by the Federal Communications Commission. And two agencies have disseminated pro-Bush videos that look like TV newscasts, without disclosing the Bush sponsorship - a breach of federal law, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Analyzing the blog

Believe it or not I found an article on that didn't make me mad. In fact it's informative and does a good job of addressing the fundamentals of blogging and it's contribution to the media. It's written by Radley Balko, you can check out his blog here.

Just to be fair and balanced there is also an article by my favorite "journalist", Steven Milloy. I'm waiting for him to write something on how Chernobyl never really happened or how nobody can prove it isn't safe to consume arsenic.

La Bush

Bush's trip to Europe was a success. Considering the gap between European and US thinking Bush did a very good job of putting relationships back on track. European leaders have come to the realization that they must deal with Bush for another 4 years and Bush has learnt that an antagonistic relationship with France and Germany makes his foreign policy ambitions unachievable.

The one issue that Bush didn't handle effectively was Putin. Putin needs a beating with a diplomatic stick and Bush doesn't appear willing to administer it. Unless Putin repeals policies that are driving Russia back to totalitarian rule Russia should be suspended from the G-8. I worry that Bush will accept Putin's assurances that he is not turning his back on democracy and let the problem advance while the US focuses on Iraq, Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Russia is a reminder that democracy is a tenuous concept that requires careful observation and management. It is also a reminder that Bush's goal of democratizing the globe is not realistic without the assistance of allies that share in the vision.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Liberal Factories?

Candace de Russy's piece in the National Review Online uses Ward Churchill to make her point that universities have become liberal-making factories, and that changes need to be made.

Her first flaw is equating Churchill with all liberals. Churchill is not a liberal; he is an extremist. His remarks were repugnant and not indicative of what the majority of the Left believes.

Her second flaw is assuming that all students who attend college are unduly influenced by their professors to become "conscripted as footsoldiers in the army fighting — usually — for left-wing causes." (She is quoting John Kekes here.) I assume de Russy attended college. I know Dick Cheney went to college. Bush received his MBA from Harvard, in what's thought of as the most liberal state in the county. They certainly haven't become liberal robots. College professors, while influential, are not brainwashers. The pressure that students often feel from having to agree with their prof's beliefs is not limited to politics; the same difficulties are found in nearly all liberal arts classes.

But her proposal for change is a good one. As I've noted before, the higher percentage of liberal professors at college is troubling. And her suggestion that colleges adopt the Academic Bill of Rights by allowing them to enforce it through measures deemed appropriate by the college, is fair and reasonable. But using Churchill as an example of what is wrong with all colleges is a flawed comparison. Churchill is an unfortunate byproduct of free speech, not a standard.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The administration who cried wolf

The Bush administration would have us believe that we are on the verge of a social security crisis that needs to be solved now. Not in 15 years when there will be a 200 billion dollar shortfall but today. I maintain that I don't believe we will see any social security reform during Bush's second term, but I have to admit I never thought Congress would allow him to go to war in Iraq either. If social security reform is in such a crisis then Bush should repeal the tax cuts, repay the money borrowed from the surplus and strengthen the social security coffers for future generations.

When my income stream is at it's lowest and I'm barely keeping my head above water, would I decide to refinance my home and pay thousands of dollars in closing costs? Probably not. Instead I'd try to cut costs increase my income and wait for a better time. Bush has probably never had a mortgage so it's hard for him to understand. What he needs to realize is that the tax cuts are suffocating the governments ability to meet it's social obligations. Unfortunately you need to keep poor people relatively happy even if you don't think they contribute to society. Ask Louis the 16th about the power of the lower and middle classes when they get angry about inequities. Give them 4 years of reduced services, higher costs of living and wages that rise behind inflation and they will be storming the ranch in no time. If they can find it.

Social security reform should be on the agenda of a government that is able to effectively manage debt and fund it's social programs. I don't think that is too much to expect. Why would we trust a government that has dismal economic record and has been less than honest with the American people in the past with one of the most challenging political undertakings of our lifetime?

Friday Night Lights

I saw Friday Night Lights for the first time last weekend. It is a powerful movie that captures the passion a town in Texas has for their high school football team. The pressure on the coach and students to win a state championship is extraordinary and the movie does a great job portraying the inconsequence of the result. I would definitely recommend it.

Passion is an interesting facet of the human personality. I often wonder how the political landscape would change if we could get people as impassioned about elections and government as they are about sports. Imagine a protest of a million Red Sox fans, angry about social security change or job losses, headed for the White House. It would be straight to Air Force 1 for the President.

I often try to question my sport loving friends about their apathy towards politics. I suggest that sport will do little to affect their lives whereas the leaders in government will have a profound affect. This is usually countered with some comment about politics being boring and me being a liberal fanatic. I'm trying to understand their perspective but I really don't get it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Let Terri Die

The political circus surrounding Theresa Schiavo is repulsive. Both her husband and parents have been used as pawns to further the agenda of conservative and liberal politicians in Florida. Jeb Bush should learn more about the divisions of the three branches of government before considering a bid to become President. Eventually the courts will rule that Terri's husband has the right to end her life and remove her feeding tube. How will any of this have benefited Terri, her husband, or her parents?

The right to life blogs are working hard to convince readers that Terri is showing signs of recovery. They are arguing that stem cell research will make it possible for her to receive future treatment (in the same blog they also claim that stem cell research on new lines is unethical). The reality is that Terri Schiavo has no quality of life, that beyond the religious implications it is fundamentally wrong to keep her on life support and force fed with a tube when it is against her stated wishes. 15 years this woman has been kept alive with a respirator and force fed, does anyone really think this woman would prefer to be alive?

Yee Haw

Monday, February 21, 2005

Boycott O'Reilly

So George Bush is on his "fence mending" tour of Europe. Every time I hear that phrase, I think about Will Ferrell imitating George Bush on the ranch. George Bush understands that without Europe it's going to be difficult to accomplish anything anywhere, so why does Bill O'Reilly still need to be such a moron? Check out his offerings on his online store. This guy thinks the ACLU is a supporter of terrorists so I'm not surprised, but still it's about time he got with the agenda. Boycotting France is a politically bad idea and anyway they make great cheese.

Mr not so perfect

The new Bush tapes should serve as a wake up call for the evangelicals. We all knew Bush had a tough past and hearing him admit to marijuana use isn't a surprise. After all he was into alcohol and cocaine as well. What evangelicals should be concerned about is the fabricated agenda.

Many people put social and financial issues aside when they voted for Bush based on their religious ideals. They thought he would support them through the impending values war and protect them against evil gay couples wanting to corrupt their children and destroy their lives. They also thought he would appoint justices that would overturn Row v Wade.

Think again. With Orrin Hatch heading the judiciary committee it is unlikely any right wing judge, with an anti-abortion agenda, will be appointed to the bench. Many people in this country don't realize how rarely the Supreme Court reverses decisions, especially decisions of such magnitude.

These tapes reveal Bush's reluctance to pursue a gay marriage amendment. I am glad he is intelligent enough to understand the hypocrisy of such a push. It never seemed likely considering the lack of appetite for any constitutional change in Congress. With social security reform being on the front burner I would be surprised if the gay marriage issue is even discussed.

One day evangelicals will realize the whole election was designed to scare them into voting Republican. Instead of addressing their issues Republicans will now implement policies that will corrode their social services, send them to war, bankrupt their retirement and deny their children adequate education.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Happy Presidents Day

For Presidents' Day, I offer the following.

Acording to Forbes' article Presidents And Prosperity:
Clinton's two terms in office (1993-2001) were marked by strong numbers for gross domestic product (GDP) and employment growth and especially for deficit reduction. His overall ranking puts him first among the ten postwar presidents.
The article only compares presidents whose terms have run their course, so current president George W. Bush was not included in the ranking. Forbes, by the way, is not a member of the "liberal media".

Here are some other nice sources of information about past presidents: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

If you find history too boring, these may be more to your liking: 1, 2, 3, and don't forget 4!

The Fall of Cosby

Bill Cosby had been doing some great work helping black families to help themselves. That's all unraveled since the allegations of sexual misconduct with a former acquaintance. Kevin Merida wrote an interesting article in Today's Washington Post that analyses the allegations and reveals how they have tarnished Cosby's reputation enough to blunt his message. I'm not a conspiracy theorist but it is interesting the second Cosby's message started to build momentum he was accused of something that happened more than a year ago. The article is titled Cos and Effect. Since the Washington Post requires subscription, and it's too long to post here, I have linked to it via Google's news service.

Clinton McCain

Hillary and John will be duking it out over Iraq on Meet the Press this morning. Or will they? I have a feeling they are going to find themselves aligned on most of the issues. That would be an interesting 2008 ticket. Clinton McCain. John would play the same role as Bush's Dick (sorry).

Other rumors circulating are that Rice will take over from Cheney as VP. I heard, from someone who occasionally eats breakfast with the guy, that Romney (MA Governor) has also been approached about the same job. Now there are two complete opposites. A woman of color and a mormon white guy. I wonder who Bush is more likely to choose...

Saturday, February 19, 2005

There They Go Again...

Oops! The right-wing media strikes again!.

Good thing there's still some "liberal media" out there to remind them that re-writing quotes is not journalism. It's lying. Or, as we liberals might say, the right-wing media is "factually challenged."

Defining Right Wing

Never one to not accept a challenge I have submitted an essay to adressing the following question and guidelines. For anyone interested I'm sure they would appreciate more submissions.

In regard to United States politics, define "right-wing" and name at least two prominent right wing politicians and what makes them "right wing"

You will be judged based on content more than presentation.

1. Essay must cite examples and not generalities.
2. Examples must be fact based and not internet rumor.
3. When stating opinion, it must be pointed out.
4. Your examples must logically back up your definition.

My response:

The dictionary indicates that “right wing” is defined by those who support political or social or economic conservatism; those who believe that things are better left unchanged. Who knew? I’ve obviously got to rethink my own directional affiliation. I didn’t support the war, the tax-cuts, NCLBA, the PATRIOT act, huge budget deficits, social security reform, lawsuit reform, increased poverty, lower employment and faith based initiatives. I liked it all the way it was. Richard Clarke was being listened to and the world was a happy place. By this definition I am “right wing”, but sometimes the dictionary just doesn’t keep up with societal change.

Under Bush the definition of “right wing” has morphed making its central focus evangelical Christian conservatives or, as I like to call them, the crazy people. These people are eager for strong leadership that will protect them from “evildoers” and “costume malfunctions”. One of their most outspoken leaders is Bob Jones III President of Bob Jones University. His letter to Bush after his reelection gives the world an insight into mind of a lunatic and helps us to understand why we now see such a strong affiliation between the right and religion. Not to offend all the religious zealots out there, but there isn’t any place for the influence of people like Jones in the government of a modern industrialized nation.

“Right wing” has also become synonymous with marginalization creating the deep divide Americans now suffer between red and blue. The cause of this division began with the decision to attack Iraq and was cemented by the religious based values war. To be “right wing” indicates a lack of willingness to self-reflect. Going beyond conviction, it assumes everything you believe to be true. Bush’s entire Administration has suffered from this. When Rumsfeld addresses the continuing insurgency in Iraq he considers it a slight flaw in a plan that is essentially sound. If Rumsfeld could admit that the entire plan was disastrous and a consequence of Wolfowitz’s false assumptions he could accept a new direction and possibly learn from their foreign policy mistakes. As it is now we will continue to pursue a foreign policy course that doesn’t work. When I’m wrong, I’m willing to admit it. When the “right wing” Administration is wrong they are right.

The single most important aspect of the definition of “right wing”, and the magnitude of an individuals “right wing” lean, is the degree they are removed from the realities of society. George Bush is at the far end of this scale. He has no notion of the harsh realities the impoverished face in his “ownership society”, nor does he have any understanding of why society needs to protect individuals that haven’t been given the opportunities to succeed or even survive. While selling social security, his comments to the single mother in Ohio who is working 3 jobs were astounding.

“Uniquely American isn't it, I mean three jobs? Fantastic.”

What ever happened to George W. Bush, the compassionate conservative? Maybe Bush just thinks this woman is working three jobs so she can save for a Ferrari. It is a common theme amongst members of this “right wing” administration that they are becoming increasingly distanced from mainstream society, since the majority of their constituents are equally isolated. They spend money on programs that have little benefit to the citizens and serve only to further personal ideologies. Rumsfeld’s missile defense program is a prime example.

The true definition of "right wing" is those who are fiscally frivolous, socially alienated, reality challenged evangelicals that prosper in maximum state of societal division.

Friday, February 18, 2005


The 2004 presidential campaign, and the resulting election, holds special significance for progressives. For many of us, it was the last intolerable blow against democracy as fascist plutocrats consolidated their power and, riding the crest of their 2% margin of victory, claimed a "mandate" to transform the country into a neocon nightmare.

But many of us remain skeptical of the process that led us here. More people are coming to grips with an idea that was only a sick feeling in the pit of progressive's stomachs following the election. It has developed from a suspicion into a conclusion. One author describes how many of us feel when she writes, "I'm now ready to admit that I strongly suspect that John Kerry threw the election".

One reason I bring this up is because right-wing bloggers still say idiotic things like "those whining liberals can't accept the fact that they lost the election." Actually, progressives won't accept the fact that the election was a soul-crushing neocon dance of madness straight into the firey pits of hell. Nor should we, ever.

More and more people have served notice to the democratic party: Never Again.

*In the words of Johnny Rotten - "did you ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

Haters of freedom are back from vacation

After a 2 day hiatus it appears the violence in Iraq is escalating, or at least becoming more newsworthy. I guess nothing of note happened to Camilla and Charles today. Although Rumsfeld won't tell us exactly how many insurgents are responsible for the attacks in Iraq he did indicate the number was somewhere between zero and two hundred thousand. Apparently not all of these are full time suicide bombers, he indicated some are transient in their support. I wonder if they get benefits...

Also today while being questioned on the 419 billion dollar budget he was forced to defend the missile defense program. Since the missile defense program doesn't work, wouldn't it be wiser to spend the money on armor for the humvees in Iraq? Of course not. Rumsfeld is way more interested in getting more money for an updated nuclear arsenal so he can refight the cold war. I'm sure he thinks the US won that way too easy.

And I thought Bob Jones was nuts...

President of Harvard University, Laurence Summers made some interesting comments at the NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce on January 14. Not any idiot can go to the college but apparently any idiot can run it.

I have quoted some of his statements and provided an interpretation of each statement below. The link to the speech has the transcript of the question and answer session at the end. It is well worth the read.

Quote: "I've had the opportunity to discuss questions like this with chief executive officers at major corporations, the managing partners of large law firms, the directors of prominent teaching hospitals, and with the leaders of other prominent professional service organizations, as well as with colleagues in higher education."

Interpretation: "All my ideas come from white men."

Quote: "To buttress conviction and theory with anecdote, a young woman who worked very closely with me at the Treasury and who has subsequently gone on to work at Google highly successfully, is a 1994 graduate of Harvard Business School. She reports that of her first year section, there were twenty-two women, of whom three are working full time at this point. That may, the dean of the Business School reports to me, that that is not an implausible observation given their experience with their alumnae. So I think in terms of positive understanding, the first very important reality is just what I would call the, who wants to do high-powered intense work?"

Interpretation: "This girl I was sleeping with once told me this story that basically made me come to the realization women are lazy."

Quote: "I looked at the Xie and Shauman paper-looked at the book, rather-looked at the evidence on the sex ratios in the top 5% of twelfth graders. If you look at those-they're all over the map, depends on which test, whether it's math, or science, and so forth-but 50% women, one woman for every two men, would be a high-end estimate from their estimates."

Interpretation: "I did some crazy math and worked out not only woman are lazy but dumb too."

Quote: "The second empirical problem is that girls are persisting longer and longer. When there were no girls majoring in chemistry, when there were no girls majoring in biology, it was much easier to blame parental socialization. Then, as we are increasingly finding today, the problem is what's happening when people are twenty, or when people are twenty-five, in terms of their patterns, with which they drop out. Again, to the extent it can be addressed, it's a terrific thing to address."

Interpretation: "Why don't women just give it up? What's with this persistence thing?"

Quote: "So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination."

Interpretation: "White men are smart everyone else is stupid."

Quote: "On the discouraging side of it, someone remarked once that no economist who had gone to work at the President's Council of Economic Advisors for two years had done highly important academic work after they returned. Now, I'm sure there are counterexamples to that, and I'm sure people are kind of processing that Tobin's Q is the best-known counterexample to that proposition, and there are obviously different kinds of effects that happen from working in Washington for two years."

Interpretation: "I just wanted to reinforce the point that if you leave work to have a baby you are screwed."

Quote: "Let me just conclude by saying that I've given you my best guesses after a fair amount of reading the literature and a lot of talking to people. They may be all wrong. I will have served my purpose if I have provoked thought on this question and provoked the marshalling of evidence to contradict what I have said."

Interpretation: "I just spent the last 30 minutes speaking out of my ass."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The demise of the frivolous lawsuit

It's happening! No more frivolous lawsuits.

"Frivolous lawsuits are clogging America's judicial system, endangering America's small businesses, jeopardizing jobs and driving up prices for consumers," said House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Missouri.

I can't wait for the new America. The elimination of frivolous lawsuits will cause prices to fall, employment to increase and small businesses to prosper (watch out Wal-Mart).

I really thought it had something to do with that whole deficit and price of oil thing, I'm such a moron.

The Black Bridge

Ironic that a party claiming to be the promoter of smaller government seems to be hell bent on creating redundant bureaucracies hand over fist. Negroponte's appointment as Director of National Intelligence is an interesting exercise in futility. This guy seems to get all the positions no one else wants. Ambassador to Iraq? That must have been a bundle of fun.

The 9/11 commission had good intentions when making the recommendation to create this post. Unfortunately Congress made a mistake by not clearly defining the relationship between the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA and Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Basically the DNI's main interaction will be with the CIA. The CIA under Goss has been severely diluted and now many functions of the CIA have fallen under Rumsfeld's Department of Defense.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

He just doesn't get it

A friend passed this along, it's probably old news to a lot of people. This is a transcript from the Leno show last week:

Leno: For the past week President Bush has been traveling the country talking to regular people about Social Security reform. Now, here's a women in Omaha, Neb., talking to the president about her plight. She's a single mom and she holds down three jobs. I don't think President Bush understands — he's a nice man — but I don't think he understands the gravity of the situation.

Woman [on tape]: I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.

Bush [on tape]: You work three jobs?

Woman: Three jobs.

Bush: Uniquely American isn't it. I mean three jobs? Fantastic.

Leno: You see? Who says President Bush doesn't create jobs. This women has three of them right there. And I bet by this time next year she's working a fourth job.

Bush just doesn't get it. He's right about one thing, it really is uniquely American. I wonder whether one of those jobs is at Wal-Mart...

Unionizing Wal-Mart

I have just finished reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s "Nickel and Dimed – on (not) getting by in America". Great book. Every Wal-Mart employee should take the time to read the chapter about Ehrenreich's experience as an associate at Wal-Mart. She tries to convince fellow workers that unions are essential if they are going to negotiate reasonable working conditions. Problem is the company's brain washing leaves people interested but not willing to pursue the idea. God help Wal-Mart if they had to pay their employees a liveable wage and give them healthcare without an employee contribution their profits may plummet from 14 to 13.5 billion dollars per year.

Apparently Canada, full of socially compassionate extremists, is leading the way in this fight and is trying to unionize a few stores. But what does Wal-Mart do to the store in Canada that was closest to reaching an agreement with the union? They close it. Wal-Mart exploits the least fortunate amongst us. Sure I know there are stories of old retirees supplementing their pensions as Wal-Mart greeters. For everyone one of these retired greeters there are many more single mothers who can't afford to pay their rent, let alone provide adequately for their children. If you buy the Wal-Mart bullshit, take a part-time job as a Wal-Mart associate and find out the reality yourself.

I found a website dedicated to unionizing Wal-Mart in the US. It looks like a blog that hasn't been updated since May 2004. Maybe they got sick of trying. It must be almost impossible to organize Wal-Mart employees into a mass movement since most people that work at Wal-Mart probably can't afford internet access, or due to shift constraints can't attend meetings. With the Republicans at the helm and Bush preparing to cut programs for the poor the situation is likely to worsen over the next 4 years. I'm not proposing bankrupting the company, but would it really hurt the Walton's and their shareholders to make sure their workers are able afford life's necessities?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sending children to prison

Label me a bleeding heart liberal, or a compassionate fiscal conservative, but the 30 year sentence for Chris Pittman just doesn't sit right with me. This boy was 12 years old when killed his grandparents with a shotgun at close range. Aside from his age Pittman was prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft, a factor the defense argued contributed to the murders.

At age 12 we don't believe our citizens are old enough to vote, drive a car, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, purchase certain music or video games or attend certain movies. We have these laws because we don't believe children like Chris Pittman can determine right from wrong. How then can we hold a 12 year old as responsible as an adult for murder, without consideration of the circumstances? Logic would dictate we can't, but for some reason our legal system has decided we can.

When Chris Pittman leaves prison he will be 42 years old. His incarceration will do little to benefit society. It seems the sole beneficiary will be Pfizer who can now delay having to contend that Zoloft doesn't lead people to violent behavior. I realize that the execution of two people demands consequences irrespective of age, but it's important that age is a factor in determining the punishment irrespective of the crime.

I Come Bearing Gifts...

Well, it's two days after Darwin Day and Valentines Day to boot, so in honor of that I have arrived with a first-time post offering a gift to all. A box of candies of my own recipe. I call them... Govern-mints! Candies.

They come in many flavors, each designed to compliment a particular ideology, or national government, or world leader, or political movement. In no particular order, here are the many flavors of Govern-mints:

Anarchist: everyone will have to make their own candy of this flavor, and hopefully they’ll cooperate when necessary.

Capitalist: you may buy as many as you are able; sell some to others for more than you paid for yours; buy more, and repeat the process. If you can only afford to buy one piece, well, too bad. (If you’re lucky, you can be kept alive selling pieces for the guy who bought the box. If you weren’t so lazy you’d have a box of your own. Hint – borrow a box or two from someone, pocket the profits and let your kids pay off the loan!)

Chinese: only one piece per family is allowed.

Communist: you will share in the production of this flavor, each according to their ability, and you will each be given a piece according to your need.

Conservative: you may have one, but do not try to change the recipe. And don’t take off the wrapper – that’s obscene.

Democratic: everybody gets one candy each from the box. Fair is fair.

Fascist: these practically discontinued until a new market was discovered. They've been repackaged and reintroduced as the Neocon flavor. Market research done by the original manufacturers claims these are popular with around 51% of Americans. they're not doing too well in overseas markets, however.

French: this flavor was tremendously helpful in establishing the candy company, but they offered little help during a hostile takeover of a rival company, so they have been all but discontinued. They still do very well among intellectuals. We keep marketing them because the company’s founder likes them so much.

Isolationist: keep the box, and don’t share with anyone.

Liberal: take some, but please share them with the less fortunate. We welcome suggestions about how to improve the recipe. Try the fruit-n-soy flavor in hemp wrappers!

Libertarian: this flavor is what you make it. It’s up to you. Our only responsibility is to provide a secure box.

Moderate: Not bad. Not great, but not bad. Well… yeah. Pretty good.

Monarchy: the box is divided in to upper- and lower-classes. Which do you like best?

Neocon: Give us the candy or we will kill you. It is God’s will. In fact, God told us you were threatening to take our candy, or thinking about possibly taking our candy, or developing the necessary tools to take our candy, so we are going to kill you anyway. You’re welcome.

Pacifism: please, don’t break them in half to see what’s inside, or bit off part of them, or shake the box like that…

Republican: let’s see, there are 20 people in the room and 20 pieces of candy in the box… that means the 2 richest people in the room get 16 of the pieces, 10 more people in the room get to fight over the remaining 4 pieces, and 8 people get to work for the first 2, cleaning up their wrappers.

Socialist: you are required to share at least half of them with others who are less fortunate.

Theocracy: the faith-based flavor. Righteous! But remember – don’t put two of the same kind together.

Totalitarian: you must eat the flavor we tell you to eat, when we tell you to eat it… or else. As a cost-saving measure, these are the same as the neocon flavor, but without the patented biblical coating.

Tribal: it takes a village to make one of these.

There are lots more, of course... we are currently researching older flavors to be reintroduced, as well as constantly developing new ones. Enjoy! And please, let us know which ones you like best! (serving suggestion – mix-n-match!)

Bon Apetit! SheaNC

Monday, February 14, 2005

Sistani's Top Ten

Now liberty, freedom and democracy had prevailed and the Shiites have taken power in Iraq here are 10 policies Sistani may want to implement:

1) Deny woman the right to vote.
2) Follow the Saudi lead and instigate a partially democratic electoral process in which 49% of representatives are elected and 51% are appointed by the reigning cleric.
3) Support public executions,
4) Allow Shiites to keep 3 Bathists as slaves.
5) Accept billions of dollars in aid from the United States.
6) Funnel billions of dollars in aid to Iran.
7) Persecute through imprisonment any political or religious dissenters. This includes anyone in the aforementioned 49% who is not a member of the Shiite ruling party.
8) Ban Kurds and Sunnis from ever taking power in Iraq until every Shiite has received their 72 virgins.
9) Using Afghanistan's economic model plant poppies to supplement oil production.
10) Make Allawi disappear.

Fortunately the election outcome indicates Shiites will have to partner with secular parties to form a ruling majority government, so none of this likely. Hopefully Allawi can galvanise enough support to make a run for prime minister. Allawi is one person who can keep the US dream alive.


I had several comments that the forums were too complicated. Since Blogger has revised their comment format, and allows pop-ups I'm going to revert back to the old system. When I have time I'll push the forum comments back to the blog.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Howard Dean

Howard Dean becoming chairman of the DNC is good news for Democrats. Republicans will claim this is a victory that will ensure they keep control of all branches of government for decades to come. They will cite the "Dean scream", his background as Governor of Vermont and his social liberal ideals as a death knell for the Democratic party. What they won't recognize is that 4 more years of reckless fiscal policy, incompetent foreign policy and poor economic management will result in an environment that will embrace a Dean lead Democratic Party.

The extent of the revival is uncertain. Dean will have to recognize that a sound platform encourages economic growth and shouldn't focus primarily on social or environmental policy. He needs to learn from his experience running in the primaries that the US won't tolerate sharp turn left, but they are definitely ready to bend a little (no gay marriage pun intended).

A friend of mine wrote this in reaction to Dean's appointment to DNC chair:

"I think Dean is a nut. I have always thought so, so this was not based on his over-zealous speech during his campaign days. It frightens me that he is in politics and has such a large following."

This person obviously speaks for many moderate conservatives and some wary liberals but what is this founded upon? Did Dean create a disaster in liberally tolerant Vermont? Did he shut down the maple syrup factories and insist the apples be organically grown? Did he allow NAMBLA members to marry pre-teen boys? Did he close the ski slopes to avoid snow erosion?

For those who buy the conservative propaganda about Dean, I have a suggestion, do some research. Check out his Democracy for America website and let me know what in fact makes this guy nuts. I see him as a fiscally conservative and socially compassionate man who reflects many of my own ideals. Then again maybe I'm nuts...

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Making friends in the neighborhood

Recently I became intrigued with the reason behind the lack of diversity amongst my friends. Other than a Japanese sushi chef my friends are overwhelmingly white (as an aside, never take a sushi chef to a sushi restaurant for lunch, it's a recipe for disaster).

I joined a discussion group, in a civic center near my home, that aimed to address racism and build bridges across ethnic groups. Living in one of the most diverse neighborhoods of my city in which white people are the minority, I expected this discussion group to be a representative sample. Instead, arriving a few minutes late, I was greeted with a sea of white faces. Dejected after this initial meeting I decided to give up on the group. It was obviously not a forum in which blacks, Hispanics or Asians felt comfortable and over the course of the evening it did seem contrived. At this point, other than going around knocking on people's doors, I'm really at a loss as to what to do...

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Lynne Stewart Guilty Verdict

Honestly I’m conflicted about whether Lynne Stewart’s guilty verdict was deserved. On one hand she willingly broke the law by passing a message from her client to a terrorist organization, on the other you have to question what the US government's motives are in prosecuting her. The New York Post crucified her following the verdict stating, “Her conviction was the culmination of a 30-year career that increasingly focused on defending the indefensible.” The indefensible? I thought in our judicial system everyone has the right to a defense. If this is just a ploy to dissuade good attorneys from representing accused terrorists then this is bad policy on the part of the government. How does it benefit us if we start adopting the policies of countries terrorists support? This is America, not Iran. An attorney should be free to defend each individual not half heartedly but vigorously and as an advocate for their client’s innocence no matter how “indefensible” they may appear.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Getting comfortable with the "N" word

From AP:

"We have manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with the Bush administration's ever more undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the (North)," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Nukes? Wow, they really must be feeling comfortable with the idea of having nuclear weapons to abbreviate it in official statement. Since Bush can't pronounce the word he should also consider adopting the abbreviated form.

I wonder if they meant Nikes...

Dodging and Weaving

I'm not sure how Rice expects to regain the respect of "old" Europe when she can't even attempt to answer the questions Europeans want to ask. This is classic: "A State Department official said later that the U.S. Embassy had only asked the school to choose five people to ask the first two questions and that the rest could come from anyone. Rice took a total of five questions."

From the Washington Post:

A Scripted Follow-Up For Rice
State Dept., School Vetted Questions

By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, February 9, 2005; Page A16

PARIS, Feb. 8 -- It had all the trappings of a modern-day Daniel in the Lion's Den: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice venturing bravely into the heart of French intellectual opposition to America, the Institute of Political Sciences, an elite school in the heart of Paris's trendy Left Bank.

But if the roar from the audience was mostly polite and restrained, that was partly because only a handful of the school's 5,500 students were allowed near the auditorium where Rice spoke, and the initial questions were vetted in advance by the school and the State Department.

The first student chosen to question Rice was 24-year-old Benjamin Barnier, the son of Foreign Minister Michel Barnier. He asked Rice about the possibility that Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority might opt to form a theocratic government, allowing Rice to expound on the evolution of Iraqi democracy as a process of negotiation.

But that was not the question Barnier had wanted to ask most, he said later. That one, submitted to the school on Monday as required under the ground rules, was: "George Bush is not particularly well perceived in the world, particularly in the Middle East. Can you do something to change that?" That question was rejected, but he was told he could ask about the Shiites.

"I gave two, and they chose one," Barnier said.

A State Department official said later that the U.S. Embassy had only asked the school to choose five people to ask the first two questions and that the rest could come from anyone. Rice took a total of five questions.

Like the questions, access to the hall was controlled. Of 500 seats, only 150 went to the school's students and staff. Another 150 were given to French opinion leaders and government officials. Fifty went to American organizations, including the American University of Paris, the French-American Foundation, the American Chamber of Commerce and Sisters, a group of black American professional women. Seats were also reserved for officials of the French Institute on International Relations, which initially had been considered as a possible venue for Rice's speech.

When Rice spoke, the first row of her audience included the French ambassador to the United States, Jean-David Levitte; former prime minister and presidential confidant Alain Juppe; and former president Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

Meanwhile, scores of students from the school, which is also called Sciences Po, were kept well away from the session. Several complained of being pushed back by police. And some students who did manage to secure a ticket left disappointed.

"There was a lot of 'liberty,' " said Jennifer Brett, 26, an American from Columbia University who is at Sciences Po on an exchange program. "It was liberty, liberty, liberty and freedom. . . . I find their justifications about the war for the liberation of the Iraqi people to be a little lame, when before it was all about weapons of mass destruction."

Barnier was more upbeat, saying he hoped the speech would help to mend French-U.S. ties. "What I heard is the relation between France and the U.S. is not that bad," he said. "People are still buying champagne. And the hip-hop singers still drink cognac, so that's good for us."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Outsourcing Torture

This week’s New Yorker features a fantastic article on the ethicality and usefulness of the United States’ current practice of outsourcing torture to Egypt.

It’s no surprise that the United States gives the green light when it comes to torturing terrorist suspects, and it’s no surprise that they adamantly deny this violation of human rights. Most (or many, I should say) people would agree that torturing one man in exchange for saving the lives of thousands can be justified. If Mohammed Atta had been in a cold, dark room with water up to his chin, it’s conceivable that 9/11 never would have happened, and few citizens would lose sleep over this. Of course, this is hindsight, when it’s easy to make these Philosophy 101 decisions, and when the man in question is always guilty.

But one main point in Jane Mayer’s article is that torture may be nearly useless anyway. A man threatened to be boiled alive will always say whatever his captors want to hear, whether it’s true or not. There is also the “sticky” legal situation of what to do with the detainees after they have been exhausted for information (i.e. those in Guantanamo). They cannot be entered in the legal system because all confessionals obtained through such coercion will be thrown out, not to mention the ugly PR the United States will incur.

The idea of torturing an innocent person is horrifying, even (and especially) in the name of protecting U.S. citizens. As pointed out in Mayer’s article, much more information can be obtained through strategic, informational operations (wire tapping, infiltration, etc.).

A friend of mine directed me to this link last week. Apparently thinks we are in the top 10 liberal blogs, who knew? We now know there are more than 2 people reading this thing. Al Franken better watch his back.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Budget 2006

The budget George W. Bush is sending to Congress should serve as a wake up call to society. If this budget represents the “values” of the majority of Americans, then the majority of Americans believe in “values” that don’t benefit the majority of their fellow citizens. The budget contain cuts to education, affordable housing programs, food stamp vouchers and other social services while increasing the Pentagon’s budget to 419 billion dollars. The US is spending almost 10 times any other country on its military. Meanwhile the disparity in wealth between the richest and poorest Americans continues to grow.

The Economist magazine states “(Bush’s) current deficits are primarily the result of a collapse in tax revenues, down from 20.8% of GDP in 2000 to 16.8%.” There is no logic in making the tax breaks permanent. The tax cuts were a mistake to begin with. A tax cut in a time of war when a government consistently fails to balance a budget is fundamentally wrong. The high oil prices and massive foreign debt require fiscal management now. Dropping funding for education and social services is a disgusting method to obscure a rapidly growing problem. The Administration should reverse the tax cuts, decrease military spending particularly on advanced weapons programs and fully fund its domestic programs.

What's Free Is Often Offensive

Scot Lehigh’s column in the Boston Globe addresses the issue of free speech on college campuses, mainly when it’s restrictions go to far. His argument focuses on the University of New Hampshire’s decision to force Timothy Garneau out of his dorm for making a – at worst – tacky poster. You can see the poster here.

Do Americans have the right to live their life free of any offensive images or words? Absolutely not. The line between offensive and non-offensive is so mind-bogglingly broad, it’s impossible to suit everyone. The real kicker is that if the kid had thought to stick a male cartoon character on his poster, next to the woman, there would have been no problem at all. The only reason this poster is different than one that might be up in the college’s health center is because he forgot that guys get fat in college too.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Rice, Abbas and Arafat

I wonder who decided this would be a good idea? I'm not sure why Rice would agree to a photo that includes a smiling Arafat. Diplomacy 101 would tell you that won't over joy the Israelis.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Half Time at the Superbowl

Did anyone else felt the irony of McCartney singing the words "get back to where you once belong"? I'm sure conservative America will be overjoyed with his choice of songs. Live and Let Die for the war mongers and Baby you can Drive My Car for the NASCAR fans. Hey Jude is one for the blue states.

It's bizarre that a man who was part of a group that symbolized bad values in the sixties and seventies now represents the height of moral standing in 2005. Look for Janet Jackson to be the star at Superbowl 2035.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Compassionate Conservatives?

The first map indicates voting in the 2004 Presidential election. The second represents states that meet, exceed or are below the federal minimum wage. Green is above the federal minimum wage, red is below, blue is the same and yellow means there are no state guidelines. The second map is taken from the DOL website.

What does this mean? I'm intrigued that a population of people so enraptured with religion tend to be the least willing to provide their least fortunate residents a living wage. Other than Alaska, there isn't a single red state that exceeds the federal minimum wage. The reason for that is obvious, nobody in their right mind would live in Alaska unless the pay was good.

For me "values" mean that I value other people, respect them, want them to live active, healthy lifestyles. To Republicans "values" mean controlling peoples lives, limiting people and forcing people to accept their ideology through legislation. How can a pregnant woman living by herself on five dollars an hour reasonably be expected to have a child? If society places such little value on the work the mother does then how does that translate to how we perceive her child?

There is an expectation that unskilled workers should work hard, pay taxes and contribute to society. This expectation is unrealistic when we don't give them enough money to live a healthy lifestyle then deny them health insurance. A glance at the percentage of the population without health insurance represents a similar red/blue divide. Massachusetts having one of the highest rates of insured people, Texas with almost the lowest.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The State of the Union after the State of the Union

Watching the State of the Union, I got the impression if the President said that he needed to use the bathroom, the Republicans would stand and give him a standing ovation, the Democrats would clap politely and the Joint Chefs would sit solemnly. It's scripted ego feeding garbage and inevitably will have little affect on the way the Administration or Congress does business.

Some thoughts on the speech:

"America's economy is the fastest growing of any major industrialized nation."

Yes it is amongst G-7 countries, but with China's economic growth at 9% (more than double the US), I'm not sure we can rely on existing benchmarks for comparison. Economic growth is predicted to decline in 2005.

"In the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra $200 billion to keep the (Social Security) system afloat "

I laughed out loud when the President said this. When he is about to ask congress for 200 billion dollars for the war in Iraq that is independent of his budget, how could he openly wonder how the government will find 200 billion in 2027?

"Now we need to focus on giving young people, especially young men in our cities, better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail."

Does anyone have any idea what this means? Are we planning to make church compulsory for young men in our cities? Are there going to be tax breaks for young men in our cities? Are young men in our cities going to get free houses? I'm a young man in a city and this sounds interesting to me.

"America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

I can buy the possibility of Bush being able to change the tax code and social security but isn't this objective a bit far fetched? Tyranny is going to exist in one form or another no matter what you do, it's natural for a percentage of us to become tyrannical. Who are these "allies of freedom"? Are they the Shiites in Iraq, the Israelis, the Pakistanis perhaps the Libyans? I'm starting to think "USA" is analogous to "freedom".

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

State of the Union

No doubt the President will outline a bold agenda for his second term during the State of the Union address. He will discuss the protection of human life, the successful vote in Iraq, frivolous lawsuits, freedom and liberty, freedom and liberty, and quite possibly freedom and liberty. I'm guessing the national debt, NCLBA, violence in Iraq, the success of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, poverty and a still less than strong economy won't even rate a mention. After all we are working together for freedom and liberty and freedom and liberty demands sacrifices. Not that any of the President's friends have had to sacrifice much.

Maybe I'm being overly cynical. I hope so.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

All prisoners have rights

Jeffrey Dahmer was afforded all the legal protections the US had to offer but a group of men captured during a war have remained isolated and without legal rights for more than 3 years. It's about time these people were able to question their captivity. Imagine if the roles were reversed and a country held US citizens without legal counsel, or ANY public forum in which to plead their case. It would not be tolerated. The government is probably bemoaning the timing of this latest decision, unless they can get an ultra-conservative on the Supreme Court I've got to believe it will be a 5-4 decision upholding this ruling.

On a related note, over at the Heritage Foundation Ashcroft had some parting words aimed to drive fear into anyone not agreeing with his ideology of perpetual incarceration and the renewal of the Patriot Act. I am happy to see him go.

AP: A typical paranoid angry conservative white guy.