Saturday, December 10


New Jersey has a new Senator.

Menendez pledged to serve the interests of working families and called for affordable health care and middle-class tax breaks. The father of two also criticized the war in Iraq.

"I pledge to you that I will never send New Jerseyans into a war that I would be unwilling to send my own son or daughter to fight," he said."

Wish the chickenhawks would follow such a guideline.


My own pastor gets into the "war on Christmas" fray.

Lake Pointe Church, an evangelical megachurch based in Rockwall, has three services scheduled for Christmas Eve, a Saturday, but none on that Sunday.

Lake Pointe's pastor, the Rev. Steve Stroope, said: "I respectfully disagree with Jerry Falwell. ... We're going to have 16,000 people who come joyously together to celebrate Christ's birth on Christmas Eve."

He's encouraging his congregation to spend Christmas Day with family and friends. "Long before the church was established, God established the family," he said.

On years when Christmas does not fall on Sunday, his church has no Christmas Day service. Those who object to not having a Christmas service this year are focusing on "legalisms," he said.

"I'm kind of blindsided that anybody would make a big deal of it."

For more on the issue, read my post "God didn't ordain Christmas."


Drudge is linking to an article detailing Margaret Thatcher's condition.

When The Sage and I heard the tail-end of a news report that she had been hospitalized, we somehow got the idea that she had died. We immediately began to reminisce about our meeting with her several years ago.

One of my closest friends (I'll call him CT) is the best friend of Mark Thatcher (yes, he's a scoundrel, but my friend isn't). CT has been acting as surrogate father to Mark's children in Dallas while Mark tries to get entry into the U.S. (Inside gossip: His Dallasite wife has recently sued for divorce, but I haven't seen that reported anywhere.)

When The Sage and I spent a couple of weeks in England a few years back, CT arranged for us to have tea with Lady Thatcher in her office (which, by the way, was identical to the 10 Downing Street set in the movie Love Actually). We spent more than an hour with her, just listening to her reminiscences about Ronald Reagan and insider tidbits about world events. It was fascinating. When talking about corruption, she threw off, "Of course, you expect that from the French." She related how she bawled out Ronnie, of whom she was obviously very fond, on the phone when he invaded Grenada, how she always checked to be sure that Sir Denis, her husband, tipped the waiters properly. She expressed bitterness about the way her protege, John Major, had ousted her.

Lady Thatcher's politics were, in most cases, completely opposed to our own, but it was her graciousness that we'll always remember. We expected a 15-minute audience, and instead had to be the ones to insist we'd taken enough of her time. Instead of saying goodbye to us at the door of her second-floor sitting room, she escorted us down the staircase and explained the context of every framed photograph along the way. When we got to the front door she remarked that The Sage is "the strong, silent type," advised us on what sights we mustn't miss, and said that the reason she had a picture of herself at 40 next to the door was "so the last impression of me people will take is when I was young and good-looking." She was altogether charming, and when she visited Dallas later that year to speak at a conference she invited us to have lunch with her, and to ask 10 of my coworkers to join us.

That lunch was also memorable. When I'd asked my friends to come, some of them apparently thought I was inviting them to one of those luncheons with 1,000 people, with Margaret Thatcher as featured speaker. When we walked into the dining room, which had been emptied by the management for this special guest, one of them said, "Where's everyone else?" When I explained that I thought they understood that this was a private luncheon just for us, they nearly fainted. They recovered quickly once they discovered, as we had, how unpretentious and warm she was.

Looking out on the Dallas skyline from the windows of Nana Grill in the Anatole Hotel, she asked, "Why do you build in such clumps?" She's right, Dallas IS a city of clumps. There's downtown/uptown Dallas, the I-35 business corridor, Las Colinas, the Telecom district, etc., with wide swaths of housing and low-lying buildings in between. My CEO promised to look into un-clumping the city. She talked about the value of citizen service and encouraged us to enter local politics.

Afterwards, she posed for pictures with us and later autographed them with a personal note. Mine hangs in my office.

Since that time I've often asked CT for updates on her. He attended her 80th birthday party, was a pallbearer at Sir Denis' funeral, and a frequent visitor to Mark's home in South Africa, where he spent one recent Christmas helping her Christmas-shop. He also taught her how to use e-mail. He's reported that her short-term memory has been deteriorating badly. For instance, after Sir Denis' funeral she threw out all Mark's clothes, thinking they were his father's. She'd forgotten which room was which. CT visited her during the time of Mark's house arrest and found that her staff was trying to keep her from leaving the house. It seems that every time she exited and was confronted by the press, it had to be explained to her that Mark was in trouble and she'd get upset all over again -- she had forgotten. He confirms that she can still converse about distant events.

Many members of my family have political sentiments directly opposed to mine. I love them anyway. So it is with Lady Thatcher. It's not every day a former head of state sits down with ordinary people and makes them feel at home.


Great Rosa Brooks op-ed.

Friday, December 9


So who's surprised that staff attorneys in the DOJ's Civil Rights Division are being marginalized by political appointees? What else would you expect of the Bush administration?

Many congressional Democrats have sharply criticized the Civil Rights Division's performance, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said this week that he is considering holding hearings on the Texas redistricting case. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said in a statement yesterday: "America deserves better than a Civil Rights Division that puts the political agenda of those in power over the interests of the people its serves." [Emphasis mine]

This is a critical sitution, since under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act all or parts of 16 states (including Texas) are required to submit any redistricting plans or changes in their voting laws to the U.S. Department of Justice (or a federal court in D.C.) for approval before those plans can become law. Texas did just that in 2003, and WaPo reported last week that the unanimous opinion of lawyers in the DOJ voting section was that the redistricting plan was illegal. That opinion of the career lawyers was buried and overruled by Principal Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights Sheldon Bradshaw, a Bush appointee, and the DeLay plan was approved. If other red states, like Texas and Georgia, propose discriminatory voting laws or redistricting plans, the public will have no reassurance that the same thing won't happen again.

Here's more about Section 5, which expires in mid-2007.

It affects all or part of 16 states: all of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas; and most of Virginia, 4 counties in California, 5 counties in Florida, 2 townships in Michigan, 10 towns in New Hampshire, 3 counties in New York, 40 counties in North Carolina, and two counties in South Dakota. A formula designed by Congress applies Section 5 to any state or county where a literacy test was used as of November 1, 1964, and where a participation rate of under 50 percent by eligible voters in the 1964 presidential election showed the test had a racially discriminatory basis. Later amendments to the Act included the years 1968 and 1972 in the coverage formula.
A covered jurisdiction that wants to change laws and practices affecting voting is required to submit the change along with a letter explaining the change to the Department of Justice. The jurisdiction must demonstrate that the change does "not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color [or membership in a language minority group]." Citizens may submit comments to the Department of Justice on how the proposed change will affect their community. Within 60 days, the department responds either by approving or "pre-clearing" the change or by objecting to it. An objection bars the jurisdiction from implementing the proposed change. If an objection is issued and a jurisdiction wishes to appeal, the jurisdiction may seek pre-clearance through the D.C. District Court. The jurisdiction may alternatively pre-clear its changes through a lawsuit in the D.C. District Court.


Newsfare raises an interesting question:

But McVeigh’s admitted accomplice, Terry Nichols, is still alive and in prison. How about Nichols? Should he be tortured now in order to obtain more information about that bombing and possible additional actions coming up? Can we be sure that nothing more is being planned, that sleeper cells are not at this very moment waiting patiently for the signal to wake up and kill more innocent Americans?

Trouble is, we badly need some clarification here. Is torture perhaps only approved for use on non-Europeans? Or on non-Judeo-Christians? What about for people whose skin is dark? What about those whose skin is dark but who are Christian or Jewish?

Note to Repuplican supporters of torture: please get this messy and confusing situation straightened out toute suite, so we all understand the rules and can get on with it.


Mikevotes of Born at the Crest of the Empire is keeping us up with the latest on the Cheney-McCain torture/anti-torture negotiations.


The House passes $56 billion in tax cuts for dividends and capital gains.

The tax measure's cost would more than offset the savings in a tough budget approved by the House last month, which would trim federal spending by $50 billion over five years by imposing new fees on Medicaid recipients, squeezing student lenders, cutting federal child-support enforcement and paring the food stamp rolls.

Democrats charged that those spending cuts, largely affecting programs for the poor, are making way for tax cuts mainly for the rich that would increase the federal budget deficit. "The poor suffer, the rich benefit. The middle class is paying the bill," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"The Democrats want to take away the paychecks of [my constituents], replace them with welfare checks and call that compassion," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.).
(Emphasis mine)

Well now, I just happen to be one of Congressman's Hensarling's constituents.

According to 2000 census data, just 10.2% of the families in the fifth district had a combined income in excess of $100,000. The median family income was $40,581, median household income $36,451. Overall, 15.4% of the people live below the poverty line, specifically 12.4% of those 65 and older, 20% of the children under 18. Approximately two thirds of households had an income below $50,000. Nearly a third of households were headed by a female with no husband present.

Now it appears to me that my fellow constituents are, in the main, highly unlikely to benefit from reductions in the tax rates on capital gains and investment dividends. To the contrary, they are more likely to suffer from "new fees on Medicaid recipients, squeezing student lenders, cutting federal child-support enforcement and paring the food stamp rolls."

How our Tom DeLay-wannabe Congressman could equate opposition to this bill with "taking away [our] paychecks" can only be inferred to be an attempt to equate such tax cuts with job growth. As I posted last week, this argument doesn't hold water.

Jeb Hensarling obviously considers himself to be employed solely by the more affluent of his constituents.

Just another Texas Rethuglican pimple.

Tags: , ,


Unlike reporter Robert Novak, whose disclosure of her status as a CIA agent effectively ended Valerie Plame's intelligence career, Time reporter Viveca Novak's testimony before the grand jury may be the stone that brings down Karl Rove.

Sources familiar with their conversations say Novak's and Luskin's accounts to Fitzgerald appear to conflict on when they spoke.

The timing of Rove's actions since the leak investigation began in September 2003 have been of keen interest to Fitzgerald, according to sources familiar with the prosecutor's questions. Rove did not mention his contact with Cooper to the FBI during interviews in 2003, or to the grand jury in February 2004.

He revealed to the grand jury that he spoke with Cooper on Oct. 15, 2004. That was one month after Fitzgerald subpoenaed Cooper to testify about his confidential conversations with administration sources other than Libby. It also came two days after a federal judge ordered that Cooper cooperate.
A source familiar with Novak's account said she believes the conversation took place in March or May, and definitely took place after February 2004, when Rove first testified before the grand jury.

But one person close to the case said the conversation took place before Rove's first grand jury appearance in February. This person said the conversation was not the event that led Rove to change his testimony.

If this account is accurate in that Novak testified the conversation with Luskin took place AFTER Rove's testimony, any reasonable person will conclude that it was the prospect of Cooper's appearance before the grand jury, and the resulting revelation that Rove WAS his source on Plame, that was the trigger for Rove's suddenly improved memory.

In other words, this would be additional, convincing evidence that he lied to the grand jury.

In other words, Bush will be more "brain"-dead than he already is.

My film crew and I have a saying, "Is it something or nothing?" when referring to a shot we're contemplating.

This is definitely something.

Tags: , ,


On the subject of megachurches canceling Christmas Sunday services, I have a few thoughts.

First, Christmas is a man-made occasion. It is appropriate and natural for believers to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, just as any family commemorates the birth of a loved one. But Jesus was not born on December 25. As with Easter, the date was chosen as part of a practice by early Christians of appropriating pagan festivals as a means of stamping them out.

John W. Ritenbaugh writes, "People say they keep Christmas and Easter to worship Christ, but they are also defining the nature of God according to their own ideas. Just as surely as the ancient Israelites blended paganism with what God truly revealed, so people do today. This is the basic principle of acts of presumption, and each of us has done this, not once, but sadly, repeatedly, even though we may know better."

In other words, mankind has created its own forms of worship undirected by God. The Lord did not tell us, "Remember Christmas Day, to keep it holy." By closing the doors of a worship center on Christmas, no one is disrespecting God.

In my family Easter was always considered to be the greater of the two traditional Christian holidays. As my mother used to say, "If Christ hadn't risen from the dead to promise eternal life for believers, it wouldn't have mattered so much that he was ever born." Nonetheless, we've always enjoyed the trappings of the Christmas season, the good will, the opportunities to gather together and express our love for family and friends through gift-giving, and especially to pause to thank God for his greatest gift to us, his son. We attend Christmas Eve services because it's an opportunity for us to celebrate that gift, before we become immersed in our celebrations of a more material nature. But let no one mistake a "celebration" with an act of obedience to God.

God didn't ordain Christmas. Man did. And how we choose to observe it should not be a source of division among believers.

Now, as to the issue of closing church on Sunday ("What some consider the deeper affront is in canceling services on a Sunday, which most Christian churches consider the Lord's Day, when communal worship is an obligation."). Hebrews 10:25 (REB) says, ""We should not stay away from our meetings, as some do, but rather encourage one another, all the more because we see the day of the Lord drawing near." This is a suggestion, not a commandment, that we meet to build up one another in the faith; it does not refer to worship. In addition, it should be noted that Sunday worship itself was never ordained by God. To the contrary, the commandment was to observe the Sabbath, which is Saturday, and that day of rest was in the nature of a blessing from God to man, "not as an oppressive legal yoke." Jesus and the apostles observed the Sabbath and it was not until decades later that the early Christians began to set aside Sunday in commemoration of his resurrection. Here again, though, it was man's decision, not God's commandment.

Mark 7:6-9: And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.' Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."

He was also saying to them, "You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition."

Throughout the Bible God makes it clear that he looks with disfavor upon man enshrining anything in creation, whether it be a day, a statue, a person or a ritual, unless explicitly commanded by God himself, lest that thing become an object of worship itself. Christians throughout the years have erred in that, and this utterly fatuous "war on Christmas" controversy is surely displeasing our Father. As Christians, we are supposed to worship "in spirit and in truth" -- from the heart, not the pew.

Tags: , ,

Thursday, December 8


What do C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and John F. Kennedy have in common?

Answer in the comments.

Wednesday, December 7


The 9/11 Commission closes up shop.

THE 10 members of the 9/11 Commission formally disbanded yesterday with an impassioned plea for bipartisan urgency to improve the nation's defenses against another terrorist atrocity in the United States. But the Bush administration and Congress are stuck in bureaucratic inertia or institutional bickering on major issues, keeping Americans less protected than they have a right to expect more than four years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
During its three years of work, the commission set an example of bipartisan cooperation and civility as it comprehensively explained the origins of the Sept. 11 attacks and devised recommendations to improve national security. Perhaps the commission members were inspired by the example of the families of the Sept. 11 dead, who demanded its establishment to determine why the nation was unprepared. The commission was so dedicated that it stayed in operation as a private entity for a year after its official dissolution to goad the government into action.

As Kean said yesterday, it is time for the normal agencies of government and the American people to assume the burden of protecting the nation. The commissioners, five from each party, need to keep a close watch as individuals to make sure the nation does not forget the lessons that the commission tried urgently to teach.

Perhaps it's because none of the members of the 9/11 Commission were serving in or anticipating running for public office, or maybe it's just because they felt that the security of the nation was more important than scoring partisan points, but taken as a whole, their performance was the best example of bipartisan public service we have seen since BushCo began its crusade to establish a Rethuglican hegemony for a thousand years. I suspect their unity was in large measure a result of the leadership of its co-chairmen, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton. If the Bush administration exercised half such principled leadership, perhaps Congress and the Cabinet would enact legislation and implement procedures that actually have a chance of making the country safer.

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, December 6


(Image courtesy of

Bush and the wingnuts are trying to make hay out of Howard Dean's remarks that the idea that the war in Iraq can be won is "just plain wrong." Bush responded by saying that the vast majority of Americans stand behind the troops and that we have a strategy for victory.

I seldom have the opportunity to say this, but here goes: Bush is half-right. The vast majority of Americans DO stand behind the troops. The other side of the story is, the vast majority of Americans DON'T think Bush has a strategy for victory. A CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll released last Wednesday night reported that 55% of respondents said they did not believe Bush has a plan that will bring victory to the U.S. in Iraq; 41% said they believe he does.

A less scientific poll on CNN's web site right now: Can the United States "win" the war in Iraq?

Yes, within two years - 13%
Yes, but a long haul - 24%
No - 62%
(109,454 votes)

Three cheers for Howard for saying outright what most Americans know, and believe.

Tags: , , ,


Demonstrating once again that he is tone-deaf to the needs of the nation and priorities of the citizens, Dumbya has resumed his campaign to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy. He has, in fact, a single tone that he knows how to sound: fear. "When you hear people say that we don't need to make the tax relief permanent, what they're really saying is, they're going to raise your taxes," he said yesterday to an audience or workers at a John Deere plant. I venture to guess that the number of those workers who would benefit from a reduction in taxes on capital gains and investment dividends is close to zero.

House leaders will try again for a vote Thursday, but moderate Republicans in the House have expressed deep misgivings about approving a measure so beneficial to affluent investors so soon after they approved a budget-cutting bill that would cut people off food stamps, squeeze student lenders, impose new fees on Medicaid recipients and slash federal aid for child-support enforcement.
Another obstacle has arisen over the Bush administration's insistence that tax breaks to induce economic investment in the Gulf Coast region apply to all businesses, including casinos that vowed to rebuild even before the incentives were proposed..."How do you go to the American people saying we're going to give out tax breaks to rebuild an industry which has already said, 'We're going in and we're going to be bigger and better than ever'?" Wolf asked. "If a tornado came in to Nevada, should we give out a tax break to help rebuild a brothel?"
A recent Gallup poll found that more than three in five Americans rate the economy as fair or poor, while 58 percent say it is getting worse.

The disconnect between gross economic measures and public sentiments, some analysts note, is occurring partly because many economic benefits are not making their way to ordinary workers. Poverty is up in the nation, inflation outstripped wage growth during a recent 12-month period and median household income has declined for five straight years.

Also, recent surveys have shown that small businesses are deeply concerned about the cost of energy and health care, dampening their enthusiasm for the current economic climate, said Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Small Business Committee.
As federal spending increases with the continued war in Iraq and the cost of rebuilding the Gulf Coast region, even some Republicans in Congress have been reluctant to heed the president's call to make the tax cuts permanent.

I addressed the subject of tax cuts a few days ago in this post, in which I cited recent studies disproving Bush's toolbox of justifications for his tax cuts (in particularly that they fuel job growth).

Tags: ,


What does this headline mean: Not Guilty Verdicts in Florida Terror Trial Are Setback for U.S.

The former professor, Sami al-Arian, a fiery advocate for Palestinian causes who became a lightning rod for criticism nationwide over his vocal anti-Israeli stances, was found not guilty on eight criminal counts related to terrorist support, perjury and immigration violations.

The jury deadlocked on the remaining nine counts against him after deliberating for 13 days, and it did not return any guilty verdicts against the three other defendants in the case.

This is a story about a government prosecution of a university professor largely based on 10-year-old wiretaps of conversations in which he expressed disdain for Israel, opposition to its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and celebrated Palestinian attacks on that country. All objectionable to most Americans, perhaps, but hardly illegal. Many Americans of Irish descent have not only openly sympathized with deadly IRA attacks upon Irish Protestants and British soldiers and officials, but have actually donated big bucks to the organization. How many of them have been prosecuted?

A Tampa, Florida jury finds 20,000 hours of wiretap conversations insufficient to convict the man, and THAT'S A SETBACK FOR THE U.S.? Why isn't it, rather, an affirmation of our system of justice?

The failure of the prosecution to win convictions against al-Arian and his associates may be a setback to certain law enforcement agents, it may be a setback to Bush administration public relations aspirations, but setback to the U.S.? Our country isn't defined by individuals, political parties, even presidents -- it's defined by our laws and our values.

That this headline could pass editorial review is terribly revealing -- it leads one to suspect that despite Judy Miller's departure, nothing much has changed at the Times.

Tags: , ,


Regarding the right-wing "war on Christmas" crusade, Mikevotes of Born At the Crest of the Empire makes (as he so often does) a good point:

Where exactly in the bible is the chapter on the proper ornamenting of the tree?

And why aren't they mad about stockings, or Santa? I mean Santa has hijacked Jesus' holiday, and the crazy christians seem cool with that. None of the mainstream wackos is out there saying we should get rid of Santa.

Nobody is boycotting department stores because they don't have a baby Jesus painted all over their frosty windows.

The fact is, the two major Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter, have long been hijacked for secular enjoyment of material pleasures. Years ago my husband and I initiated "Easter bunny" and "Easter egg" festivities for our family on the Saturday before Easter so there would be no distraction from the religious nature of Easter Sunday, the celebration of Christ's resurrection. And we've always insisted upon the reading of the "Christmas" story from the Bible on Christmas morning before the family begins to tear into our presents to one another.

If right-wing "Christians" want to reserve December 25 for a personal celebration of Christ's birth, there's nobody that will try to stop them. Religious observances are a personal choice; it is unnecessary to force them upon others in order to enjoy them oneself. Ergo, this whole charade of a "war against Christmas" is a political red herring and wholly disrespectful of the teachings of the Bible, which include injunctions against worshipping idols of any kind.



Heard Bill Bennett this morning on his radio show saying, So what if we're still in Iraq in 5, 7, 10 years and lose 1,000 troops' lives a year? That's what they signed on for when they enlisted, after all. They knew they could die. Then Bennett's sidekick said, And you know, when I enlisted they asked me to catalog all my scars so they could identify my body if I was killed. We all know we could die.

Isn't it interesting that the wingnuts consider the people with this type of thinking and/or sentiment as "supportive of the troops" -- but those who advocate withdrawal of our military from Iraq because our guys are targets for the insurgents are "military haters."

Bizarro World.

Tags: , ,


Valerie Plame is leaving the CIA.

I don't say "is ending her career at the CIA" because that was done for her.

"She did not have a career left," said Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA officer and a friend of Plame since the two were in the same agency training class in the 1980s. "She was no longer able to work as a clandestine officer, which was her reason for being."

Johnson said that although Plame still had allies at the agency, her ability to function effectively was irreparably harmed after her status became publicly known.

"She is either a non-entity or radioactive," Johnson said. "Getting connected with her is not something that is going to enhance your career. She has been something of a leper."

This administration leaves nothing but destruction in its wake -- human lives, our national security, American values, the economy. And we have to endure three more years of it...

Tags: , , ,

Monday, December 5


Just heard on CNN: Tom DeLay is going to trial on money laundering charges.

The way Blogger's been acting tonight, that may be all I get to post.

Whoops, there's more here and here.

A spokesman for DeLay, Kevin Madden, said Monday's decision in Austin, Texas, by Judge Pat Priest to dismiss the one conspiracy count against the congressman "underscores just how baseless and politically motivated the charges were. "

But Cris Feldman, an Austin attorney who represented Texas Democrats in a civil suit involving allegations of campaign irregularities in the 2002 House races, said, "DeLay still has to go to trial on a first-degree felony, and I don't think anyone would call that a victory."

Even if DeLay is acquitted, he may face his most serious electoral challenge yet next fall. In 2004, he won his 11th term with 55 percent of the vote. DeLay, who was first elected in 1984, had never won less than 60 percent of the vote.

Democrats have recruited former four-term Rep. Nick Lampson to challenge DeLay in 2006. Lampson was one of several Texas Democrats ousted from their seats in 2004 after DeLay engineered a redrawing of House boundaries in the state.

Ironically, DeLay may be more politically vulnerable in part because of the redistricting. As reconfigured, his Houston-area district included many voters he had not previously represented -- and they are hearing more about him largely through news coverage of his indictment and other ethical controversies.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll in the district released Monday found that 49 percent of registered voters said they planned to support a Democrat in next year's election; 36 percent said they would vote for DeLay.

Tags: ,


Thanks to Corrente, we learn that BushCo is taking applications for a billion-dollar-plus contract for someone, anyone!, to "design and implement a social and economic stabilization program impacting ten Strategic Cities, identified by the United States Government as critical to the defeat of the Insurgency in Iraq."

Think this is a job for Manchurian Global?


I am so sick and tired of the "Democrats have [no][bad] ideas" (take your pick) meme, when it is the Republicans -- who control the White House, Senate, House of Representatives, and even the judiciary -- that have gotten us into this mess, that I could [climb the walls] [scream my head off] [tear out my hair] (again, take your pick).

Anyway, I don't believe the public is buying that argument. I haven't heard a single human being not on television, radio, or in print, echo that sentiment, Republican, Independent, or Democrat. Only the press and talking heads are willing to sound like the fools such a contention makes them. Even the right-wingers I talk to would be embarrassed to say such a thing. It's so patently obvious that we have no obligation to dig Bush out of the hole he's dug before he passes from power.

As Joe Biden said on Don Imus this morning, the president and his people haven't listened to a single suggestion we've made thus far, even the most hawkish among us. In big business I've often seen CEOs call in high-priced consultants to analyze and advise. We spend tens of millions of dollars on their services. To make the investment worthwhile, we have to open the books to them, be completely candid in all our dealings. But the consultants have no power to affect change. Unless we TAKE their advice and adopt their recommendations, they're eunuchs.

Dubya and Dick aren't going to "open the books" for Democrats. And they're not going to take our advice. So we DON'T have to and SHOULDN'T offer a detailed brief of how we'd clean up the mess in Iraq. Democratic leaders simply aren't privy to the information necessary to do so. We have absolutely no reason to trust that the Bush administration is, or will, candidly share such data, and every reason NOT to trust them to be truthful about it.

Our most winning response to the charge of "no ideas," I believe, is "we can't fix it until we're in charge."

Tags: , ,


Love it, love it.

A former GM senior executive and lifelong Republican echoes my last post in "Mr. Bush, have I got an exit strategy for you!"

Any CEO of a corporation who screwed up as many things as George W. Bush would have been fired by its board of directors. Here's a few of the ways:

Invasion of Iraq, which is the biggest strategic blunder and scandal in U.S. history. Saddam Hussein never initiated a belligerent act of aggression or terrorism against us. The buildup to that war was based on fabrications, deception and lies.

Death of 2,100 U.S. soldiers, wounding 15,000 more, and the death of 30,000 innocent Iraqi men, women and children.

Immoral and unconstitutional trade policies that caused $2.824 trillion in trade deficits in just five years.

The worst fiscal performance in our history, piling up $2.472 trillion in added federal debt in five years en route to a major economic collapse.

Tax policies that are an insult to working people who make dividends possible but who are required to pay a higher marginal tax rate than those who collect dividends without working.

Foreign policies that have alienated most of the rest of the world.

A misguided attempt to turn future Social Security pensions over to Wall Street.
In view of his miserable record, his arrogant lack of good judgment and his failure to understand the gravity of his record, President Bush (and Vice President Dick Cheney) should be shown the exit door with a proviso to never darken the Oval Office again.

That should be exit strategy No. 1!


We've known this for some time, but it's becoming ever more obvious that Bush's foreign policy is badly hurting Brand America. A significant number of Corporate Annual Reports and other investor communications have included statements that the war in Iraq is at least partly responsible for certain downturns. The tourist industry and American brands marketed globally have suffered particularly. Only businesses in a few select industries, such as those that supply and support the war effort, have actually benefited.

If Bush is an oil president, he's not a Disney president, nor a Coca-Cola one. If Vice President Dick Cheney is working diligently to help Halliburton rebound, the war he helped lead hasn't worked out nearly so well for Starbucks.
In this context, it's not surprising that Republican realists like Brent Scowcroft (who warned in a Wall Street Journal essay before the war that "it undoubtedly would be very expensive, with serious consequences for the U.S. and global economy") are making noise again. And it would make perfect sense if an increasing number of those Bush CEOs were by now pining for a return to Clinton- style multilateral globalization of a sort still championed by many Democrats.

Neither of these camps will seem particularly appealing to progressives, but they pose a genuine threat to the imperial globalists who seem incapable of extracting themselves from Iraq. Indeed, intra-party rivalry among the Republicans, which is likely to increase as we enter an election year, could play a vital role in turning White House hawks into dead ducks.

All the better if this transformation is sped by dissatisfaction from corporate leaders re-evaluating the costs of Bush foreign policy and deciding that empire just doesn't pay.

After the first term of Bush I, many CEO's (including my own at the time) decided that Bill Clinton's vision of a cooperative international economy would be more of a boon to American business and supported The Big Dog -- it paid off, "big-time." It's time for more American business leaders to declare what a disaster Dubya's policies have truly been.

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, December 4


Common sense, and sensitivity, from Dr. Bruce Prescott:

Across the nation, Jerry Falwell and his Liberty Counsel affiliate are currently waging a "Friend or Foe" Christmas campaign in their culture war to make America a "Christian Nation."

Essentially, except for President Bush and his wife, everyone who substitutes "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" for "Merry Christmas" has been labelled a "foe" of Christianity.

Falwell has been getting a lot of press over this campaign. It is a shame that the press doesn't know to ask him why he has abandoned the faith of his Baptist ancestors.

Early Baptists were concerned with sharing the gospel, not with preserving the culture of renamed pagan symbols or the language that merchants use to greet their customers.

The idea that naming trees either "Christmas" or "Holiday" has anything to do with making disciples would have been as foreign to the early Baptists as it is to Jesus.

The Jesus of the Bible never saw a "Christmas" tree and he never commanded anyone to make merchants greet people with a "Merry Christmas."

More good stuff on the "war against Christmas" from Dr. Bruce here. A taste:

A lot of Christians are displaying the same bigoted, prejudice and insensitive attitude toward people of other religions that they used to express toward people of different races. Worse than that is the campaign that many of these Christians are now waging to bully businesses, public schools and politicians into displaying the same insensitivity toward people of other faiths that they insist on exhibiting themselves.


United for a Fair Economy (UFE) recently issued a report, "Nothing to be Thankful For: Tax Cuts and the Deteriorating U.S. Job Market," in which they examined periods after significant tax cuts and tax increases to discover if there is, as the Bush administration claims, a correlation between large tax cuts and job growth. With GM, Ford and other companies announcing massive layoffs, it's a fair question.

The Bush administration’s promise that tax cuts for the rich would trickle down to workers has been broken. And when tax cuts and more tax cuts haven’t succeeded in job creation or economic stimulus, how can we expect that still more tax cuts or permanent tax cuts somehow will? As another year of jobless recovery draws to a close, this report exposes the false claim that tax cuts have the power to create much-needed new jobs in our economy, and asks the question: “Have tax cuts given most of us anything to be thankful for?”

Among the findings:
1. The Bush tax cuts did not produce new jobs.
2. Changes in tax policy have no clear impact on job growth.
3. The quality of jobs as measured by income, health insurance and retirement benefi ts has declined appreciably since the 2001 tax cuts.
4. African-American and Latino families have seen their economic security deteriorate at an even greater rate than white families.
5. Tax cuts for today’s taxpayers are a tax burden for tomorrow’s taxpayers.

Since 2001 when the tax cutting party began, declining family incomes, reduced access to health care and anxiety about retirement security have occurred on a widespread scale — not the shared prosperity, high employment and better life that were promised in the invitation to the feast. Only the richest receive these benefi ts, along with the increasingly low tax rates that are the hallmark of the plan. We see the broken promises of White House forecasts to deliver millions of added jobs. Worse still, we see a widening of the gap between rich taxpayers and everyone else, and an exacerbation of the wealth divide among the races, with unemployment among blacks and Latinos diverging from white unemployment by ever-widening margins.

The perceived public appetite for tax cuts is not born of a desire to deprive government of funding adequate to carry out its mission, as many administration offi cials would maintain, but rather a desire by insecure citizens to have a more economically secure life. In poll after poll, when voters are surveyed about their desire for tax cuts as opposed to improving valued government services like education and health care, signifi cant majorities choose the government services they most value.

The tax cutting policy is bankrupt — it has no effect on GDP, and its windfalls are just as likely to fund the purchase of jewels or artwork for private collections as to fi nance new factories that create new jobs. It’s time to recognize that jobs are both created and destroyed during times of tax decreases. The same is true during periods of tax increases. If what we value as a nation is opportunity and economic security for all, if we believe that everyone should have a job and that work should pay, if we believe our nation has enough so that every hungry child can be fed, then it is these measures that should be evaluated in light of calls to reduce tax cuts.

What have tax cuts given us to be thankful for? Nothing. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were a feast for the rich taken directly from the tables of the poor, the working class, the middle class, people of color, children and the elderly. Tax cuts were made in the name of jobs that have not materialized. Instead, they reveal a government acting in service of the voracious appetite of a tiny minority, the very richest few, in the United States.

The entire report can be found here.

Moreover, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported a year ago that the majority of the benefits that small businesses receive from the tax cuts enacted since 2001 go to an elite group of owners with considerable wealth and high incomes (their report can be found here).

Now the House was forced to back off making the cuts permanent, but the Rethugs will call for a vote again soon. In the face of the mountainous debt Republicans have enabled this moron we call a president to roll up, with the astronomical costs associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with vital domestic programs needing to be funded such as implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, disaster relief in the wake of the rash of killer hurricanes experienced this year, healthcare and education priorities, there is no possible justification that can be made for making the tax cuts permanent. The only argument the Rethugs have tried successfully, that of the promise of jobs growth, has just been refuted.

Tags: ,


John McCain was on Meet The Press and said he agreed with Bush that Iraq is critical to U.S. security. Once again, he said we just didn't have enough troops to handle the situation after we toppled Saddam. He told Timmeh that he has no problem with our selling fake news stories to the Iraqi press. Tim seemed a little surprised. McCain expects lots of indictments to result from the Abramoff scandal, and said Congressional investigative committees haven't been doing a very good job of looking into ethics problems. Duh.

Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) told George Stephanopoulos that the military is stretched so thin it can't do the job in Iraq, and that withdrawing our troops would help quell the insurgency. He suggested that the administration is coming around to his way of thinking, that we need a political solution rather than a military one

Robert Reich noted on This Week that we had an average job growth of 240,000 per month under Bill Clinton, and he never held a Rose Garden press conference to crow about it -- as George W. Bush did for a single month at 215,000 last week. George Will blustered about how well the economy is doing, but Reich pointed out that there's a disconnect between economic statistics and how the people feel. Hey guys, that might be attributed to the fact that wages and salaries are at an unprecedentedly slow growth rate, a million more people have been added to the poverty lists under Bush, ordinary workers are losing their pensions, Congress is cutting benefits for the poor as quickly as they cut taxes for the rich, and higher oil prices and healthcare costs are pinching the American middle class. But oh sure, as long as the stock markets are doing well and corporations are reporting record-high earnings, the economy is just dandy.

Well, blow me down. Cokie Roberts just made the point (TWICE) on This Week With George S. that if our mission in Iraq is to "export our values across the world," then our use of torture, subversion of a free press, and secret prisons aren't very likely to help the effort. She must have read this.

Stephen Hadley told Wolf Blitzer that we have a simply terrific Vice President. He sidestepped questions about his own involvement in the CIA leak scandal, using the same tactic as once before, referring to "press reports" instead of his own knowledge.

UPDATE: How could I forget to mention that McCain told Timmeh that Jack Murtha is being "too emotional" and recommending policy from "the heart" instead of the mind. Murtha, he said, goes to lots of funerals, and he thinks that's influencing him. McCain is such a jerk, and I'm really tired of hearing Democrats praise him for being a "maverick."