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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

And sometimes, you realize that pure evil really does exist in this world ...

posted by Mike at 1/15/2005 10:55:00 PM

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From CNN:

A woman angry with her 12-year-old daughter for having sex forced the girl to drink bleach and sat on her until the child died, a police detective said.

Jesus Christ. Sorry, but I don't have much to say about this one, either. It's just too massively awful that my expressive facilities lock up.

Pootie-Poot?

posted by Mike at 1/15/2005 10:11:00 PM

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So, I'm browsing through the various news tabs I've opened up in Firefox, and I run across this in CNN:

Sen. Ben Nelson finally has succeeded in getting President Bush to stop calling him by the nickname "Nellie."

And:

He has called Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, "Pootie-Poot," while aide Karen Hughes gets "High Prophet."

You know, there are days when the news is so bizarre that you really just can't top it with any additional commentary. I just kind of wonder when America suddenly became Pee-Wee's Playhouse.

Saturday Night Football Post

posted by Jazz at 1/15/2005 08:06:00 PM

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After the Jets - Steelers game, what can we conclude?

1. The offense, under Chad Pennington, failed to score anything but a field goal despite the amazing performance of their defense, so they should all have their testicles cut off and fed to wild dogs.

2. The field goal kicker was given TWO chances to win the fucking game and blew both of them. True... he wouldn't be in that position if it weren't for the pitiful performance of the offense, so he should be given a pass.

3. We feed the torn, burnt remains of the kicker to wild dogs anyway.

4. We trade the defense to a real football team.

You be the judge.

Social Security-ABC helps spread the lies

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/15/2005 03:15:00 PM

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Thanks to a tip from Make them Accountable.

I wasn't going to post anything on Social Security this weekend but I can't pass this up.
ABC Muddles the Social Security Debate
On World News Tonight, anchor Peter Jennings started off the distortions in the show's "A Closer Look" segment. Having allowed that there is "some argument" about whether Social Security would, as Bush argued recently, "go bankrupt" without congressional intervention, Jennings continued: "But there's no question that baby boomers will place great strain on Social Security as they retire. And by 2042, by some measures, the system may not have enough cash to pay full benefits."

Actually, there's plenty of question about the notion that baby boomers will strain the system; the whole point of amassing a surplus in the trust fund in the first place was to absorb the strain of their retirement. And if it's true that "by some measures" (i.e., the Social Security trustees) the system won't have enough cash in 2042, it's also true that by other, less pessimistic, measures, it will; for example, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects payment of full benefits through at least 2052-- at which point the oldest boomers will be 106 and the youngest 88
(Economic Reporting Review, 1/10/05).

Some economists point out that the system, if the economy grows about as quickly in the future as it has in the past, will most likely never run short of cash. These projected dates of Social Security running out of cash have been pushed steadily into the future in recent years as the dramatic slowdown that the Social Security trustees forecast continues to fail to materialize.
And there is the "it's just paper" argument.
The segment continued with ABC's Robert Krulwich providing commentary over an animated cartoon purporting to explain the Social Security system and Bush's privatization proposal. According to Krulwich, despite the widespread belief that money paid in to Social Security is put "somewhere safe," that money is actually spent by the government, leaving "no money, just IOUs." Bush's proposal, Krulwich said, allows workers to have "a nest egg you can call your own and government can never take away."

The IOU argument is a favorite of pro-privatizers, but it has little basis in reality. Those trust fund "IOUs" exist in the form of U.S. government bonds, just like those held by private investors and foreign countries like Japan and China. Such bonds are considered among the safest investments one can make; there's never been a historical instance of the U.S. defaulting on a bond. To suggest that those bonds are not "somewhere safe" is to suggest that the U.S. government might default on its loans to its own retiring workers-- an event that is far less likely than a bank or other private investment institution defaulting on privately held retirement accounts. But both Jennings' and Krulwich's points were presented unopposed, leaving viewers with a very skewed picture of Social Security.
I wonder how all the foreign investors feel about their treasury bonds being "just paper". But ABC wasn't through shilling for Bush.
The same day, ABC's Good Morning America aired a segment that promised to "cut through some of the political rhetoric and look at the reality of what [Bush's Social Security plan] might mean." The show presented Bill and Vicki Wilson, a two-income couple with two kids and "retirement 20 years off," and turned to Michael Tanner of the pro-privatization Cato Institute for expert analysis of the Wilsons' situation.

Tanner told the Wilsons that under the current system, Bill should receive approximately $2,250 and Vicki $2,200 per month-- but that there's a "catch." ABC's Claire Shipman explained:

"One thing everyone agrees on, the Social Security system as it exists now won't be able to afford those payments for long after the Wilsons retire."
Not only doesn't "everyone agree" with this statement, it's patently untrue. Since the Wilsons will retire in about 20 years (or 2025), they would enjoy their full payments for nearly 20 years even under the pessimistic assumptions of the Social Security trustees, and nearly 30 years according to the CBO. Statistically, the Wilsons are quite likely to be dead before there is any question about Social Security's ability to pay their full promised benefits.
I guess that since ABC is owned by Disney they are allowed to do Fantasy News.

The Feminator

posted by Jazz at 1/15/2005 01:15:00 PM

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(A warning for those who might wind up being horribly disappointed - this entry has nothing to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

While going through the old virtual mailbag this morning, an interesting letter jumped out at me. A portion is included here.

"In two of your recent posts I was pleased to see you using the phrase 'anti-choice' which I don't see nearly often enough. I was not aware that your a feminist. For that matter, I really didn't know anyone who had been a Republican for so long could even BE a feminist at all..."

I suppose I'm flattered that anyone would think to assign that particular tag to me, and I'm certainly sensitive to a number of issues which are of interest to women. The problem is that I've never been sure that anyone who's not a card carrying member of the womb holders' club can truly be a "feminist" per se. It is, as I see it, somewhat akin to the white people who, when I was very young, traveled great distances and faced serious (and on some occasions, lethal) dangers to fight for the rights of oppressed blacks in the South. Important, noble work to be sure, and we should admire them - however it will never, in my opinion, quite duplicate the experience of being black and facing racism on a day to day basis.

You can show up at the next big rally wearing your Feminist Peace Network tee shirt, your pink cape billowing magnificently in the breeze and a copy of Cosmo tucked under your arm, (i.e. "The Feminator") but again... it's not quite the same. If you weren't the one experiencing lower wages for the same work, sexual harassment in all environments and the ever present glass ceiling, I think the most you can hope for is to be an empathist with the feminists.

Men also, in my experience, tend to expect immediate gratification, even when it comes to justice. Sometimes social reform comes along at a glacial pace, and to be successful you have to be able to bide your time and pick your battles. Growing up, two of my relatives, both older than me, were lesbians - the first I ever knew. And I didn't know about them until I was an adult. Both were a huge influence on me growing up, but they were firmly in the closet when I was a teenager, and with good reason. Being gay wasn't exactly considered chic where I grew up. In fact, even if the drunken assemblage of bigots and homophobes in my home town had been aware of the word chic, they'd doubtless have felt that homosexuality was pretty much the antithesis of it.

Change takes time. This is something women and minorities have had to learn while traveling down a very long road. And I believe this is why men will mostly need to satisfy themselves with the role of empathists in the feminist movement.

Some Pre-Football Fun Reading (at Dick Cheney's expense)

posted by Jazz at 1/15/2005 11:21:00 AM

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I've been going through the nominations for Most Humorous Post at the Koufax Awards during my free time these last couple of days. I finally found the one I'm voting for. In case you haven't read them yourself, I wanted to share this one with you. It's over at The Poor Man and it's called "Poker with Dick Cheney." It gives the transcript of an evening poker game between The Poor Man's Editors and Dick Cheney, with a lot of high profile political figures and pundits watching and commenting. Just a small taste to get you started. ("TE" = "The Editors" and "DC" = "Dick Cheney" just in case that isn't obvious.)

TE: Fifty bucks.

DC: I'm in. Show 'em.

TE: Two pair, sevens and fives.

DC: Not good enough.

TE: What do you have?

DC: Better than that, that's for sure. Pay up.

TE: Can you show us your cards?

DC: Sure. One of them's a six.

TE: You need to show all your cards. That's the way the game is played.

Colin Powell: Ladies and gentlemen. We have accumulated overwhelming evidence that Mr. Cheney's poker hand is far, far better than two pair. Note this satellite photo, taken three minutes ago when The Editors went to get more chips. In it we clearly see the back sides of five playing cards, arranged in a poker hand. Defector reports have assured us that Mr. Cheney's hand was already well advanced at this stage. Later, Mr. Cheney drew only one card. Why only one card? Would a man without a strong hand choose only one card? We are absolutely convinced that Mr. Cheney has at least a full house.



Even MSNBC says Bush is lying about Social Security

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/15/2005 10:57:00 AM

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Steve Soto over at The Left Coaster points out that even MSNBC, usually Bush lapdogs, are saying Bush's warnings about a Social Security Crisis are nothing more than hype and political spin and often just out right lies.
Nancy Altman, who was an aide to Greenspan on the Social Security commission, remembers �exactly the same kind of hype� as we are seeing today. �It was exactly the same � the sky is falling,� said Altman.

The difference is that the problems facing the system in the 1980s were truly urgent. "It really was a crisis," said Mary Falvey, a member of the Greenspan commission. She remembers being told that Congress had to act by April 1983 to keep the Social Security checks from grinding to a halt two months later.

This time around, Social Security is years away from anything that honestly could be described as a financial crisis. But that has not stopped President Bush from trying to whip up enthusiasm for his proposed personal retirement accounts by warning of an imminent disaster.
And how about a flat out lie?
�In the year 2018, for the first time ever, Social Security will pay out more in benefits than the government collects in payroll taxes,� Bush said.

That is just plain wrong. In 14 of the past 47 years, including 1975 to 1983, Social Security paid out more in benefits than the government collected in payroll, with the gap reaching $10 billion in 1983. So the projected �crossover� point in 2018 is a relatively meaningless milestone, say opponents of Bush�s privatization plans, even as they acknowledge the system faces long-term problems.

Bush�s statements �appear designed to further a widespread perception, especially among younger people, that Social Security will entirely collapse and that there will be nothing for them when they retire,� said Bob Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Nothing really new here, the Bush administration has a history of distancing itself from the truth. This time though it's not sticking. The Hill reports that Centrists steer clear of Social Security plans.
"There is a sense that no one really wants to stick their head out at this point in time for fear they�re going to have their head cut off," one Senate Republican aide said.
[.....]
"There are some senators in both parties that want nothing to do with this, wish it would go away,� said Graham, who organized a bipartisan meeting with senators last week to talk about his reform plan, which includes among its options a potential increase in payroll taxes. �There�s more people like me than I thought."
The lawmakers of both parties are going to be looking out for their own hides and would prefer it if the issue would just go away.
Cross posted at Middle Earth Journal

Stem Cell Research Technology Coming to Jersey?

posted by Jazz at 1/15/2005 10:35:00 AM

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Steven Hart at Opinion Mill has the goods. It may be happening sooner than you think. The commentary on this one is entertaining as well as informative.
[T]he most far-sighted proposal in acting governor Richard Codey's speech Tuesday was a pitch for $380 million in initiatives to support stem-cell research in New Jersey. This way, New Jersey will reap the economic benefits of encouraging scientific research while the red state wingers pursue their dream of returning their part of the country to the Bronze Age, only with Wal-Marts. Of course, that means New Jersey will continue to get back less for its tax dollars than what it puts into the treasury while the red staters continue to gorge at the public trough, but so be it.
Read the whole thing.

No Regrets

posted by Jazz at 1/15/2005 10:03:00 AM

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Attaturk at Rising Hegemon has a long breakdown of all the things The Worst President Ever doesn't regret about invading Iraq, even after our reason for doing it was proven false. Before you click on that link, I'll warn you: there are some extremely disturbing pictures included which are not for the easily upset.

The Latest from Titan

posted by Jazz at 1/15/2005 09:28:00 AM

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Big thanks to Ron for pointing out this site where you can get the latest updates as the data from the Cassini-Huygens probe is processed. There are hundreds of pictures for them to process, and they'll likely be coming in over the next several days. I can't help myself... I'm blown away by this. We've been wondering about the planet Titan as long as I can remember reading about it. (And while it is technically a moon, it really deserves to be called a "planet" since it is larger than some of the other true planets in our solar system and has an atmosphere thicker than Earth's.) To see this type of technological achievement, and be able to actually see through the clouds and listen to the wind and the storms gives me a feeling of awe.

They seem to have very solid bandwidth capabilities, so I won't highjack any of their content over here. Rather, I'll just point you to a couple of my personal favorites if you don't want to chase through the entire site.

First, my favorite picture so far. I know that nothing there is in liquid form, but if that doesn't look like a mountainous coast dropping down to an ocean shore, I don't know what does.

Second, and far more haunting in my opinion, is an audio file taken from the microphones of Huygens as it descended out of the clouds and into the clear atmosphere of Titan. The wind levels rise and fall, and I could swear you can hear thunder in the distance. I got chills listening to these sounds from an alien world.

Enjoy. I know I am. And we should all take a moment and thank George W. Bush for authorizing this amazing, first of its kind mission to... (Oh.... wait a minute.... that was Clinton. Never mind.)

Barbara Boxer Not Backing Down

posted by Jazz at 1/15/2005 08:42:00 AM

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Even in the face of huge odds, and with little or no support from her more cowardly colleagues in the Senate, Barbara Boxer continues to tweak the noses of Dubya and the neocons. Her PAC is currently getting set for the confirmation hearings of Condi "Peter Principle" Rice as she prepares to make her majestic assent to the office of Secretary of State.

She is promising (and from her dramatic stand on the Ohio electoral votes I don't doubt her) to "ask the tough questions" during the Rice confirmation hearings. Among these:
  • Why did the United States go to war in Iraq based on misleading -- if not false and fraudulent -- evidence?

  • Why did we divert valuable resources and intelligence personnel to Iraq, taking them away from Afghanistan and the pursuit of Osama bin Laden?

  • Why did you mislead the American people into thinking there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida before September 11th?
She has a petition available online which you can sign to support her in shining a bright, piercing light on the cockroaches in the Bush kitchen. Giver her some love, people.

It's Party Time

posted by Jazz at 1/15/2005 07:45:00 AM

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And for once, I'm not talking about a political party. Please join me in congratulating Jersey uber-blogger Joe Territo on the final, formalized adoption of his new son. Good for you, Joe. Hopefully you can get some pictures of the happy event up for us to see.

Finally and end to Santorum?

posted by Jazz at 1/15/2005 07:05:00 AM

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Betsy Newmark points us to an article in (of all places) the highly conservative American Spectator which just might put a ray of sunshine on the 2006 Senate race.
Earlier this week, polling data purportedly paid for by the DSCC began popping up on various Democratic-leaning websites. It showed that the current Pennsylvania state treasurer, Bob Casey, Jr., led Sen. Rick Santorum 52 to 38 in a poll of likely voters. The leaking of the polling data came coincidentally less than a week after both Schumer and Reid had begun courting Casey to run against Santorum. Casey, a pro-life Democrat, and son of the legendary Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, is said by associates in Pennsylvania to have warmed to the idea, but only if Schumer and Reid could assure him that the Democratic primary field would be cleared for him.

"He asked about it and Schumer guaranteed him a clear field," says a political consultant with ties to the DSCC. "That polling data, wherever it came from, is probably the first step toward getting Casey in line, and running off a few folks with eyes on running against Santorum"

Santorum was already girding for a bruising re-election battle, having been targeted by Democrats as Enemy No.1 in this election cycle, and Casey would make the campaign a tough one. "He's right on the issues that Catholics in Pennsylvania vote on, and moderate enough to get strong Democratic support," says the consultant. "He scares the hell out of Santorum's people."
Rick Santorum has been around, it seems, forever. Living just across the border from Pennsylvania, I have had occasion to come across Rick at a couple of his appearances and he gets considerable ink in our local papers. This guy is a complete disaster for anyone with any sort of progressive mindset. He is rabidly anti-choice and has a demonstrated history of trying to craft legislation based on a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible. It wouldn't take a very long Google search to come up with a laundry list of occasions where Santorum has made very thinly veiled remarks slamming homosexuals and minorities.

You might wonder how he manages to keep getting elected in an allegedly "blue" state like Pa. It's really not a mystery. Pennsylvania is fractured with a Red/Blue divide easily as deep as the nation as a whole. There are some massive pockets of liberal Democrats (e.g. Philadelphia and other larger urban centers) surrounded by an ocean of rural, bucolic wilderness, teeming with the Amish, Mennonites, and other devout souls who would likely be more comfortable in the Bible Belt. His elections are never blow-outs, but he keeps getting back into office.

The Democrats may not be wild about Bob Casey jr. as he is anti-choice, and would definitely represent "somebody to watch" from the school of Zell Miller. However, he certainly does possess the bona fides position himself with the Donkey party and likely represents their best chance for unseating Santorum, if only because of he "legacy" status as Bob Casey's son. In any event, anything that gets Santorum out of the Senate is a positive step for those wishing to see less Bible thumping in the halls of the legislature.

Rude, Crude, and Certainly Not a Prude

posted by Jazz at 1/15/2005 07:01:00 AM

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Some words of hope about the battle to save Social Security from Bush's imaginary crisis are brought to us today by the Rude Pundit. (Warning: not for the easily offended. Thanks to Ta Ta for bludgeoning us into blogrolling and linking to this site.)
Democrats, still spitting out nut blood from the groin kick of the 2004 elections, are starting to puff up their chests about Social Security. As a New Republic article (via Daily Kos) explains, solidifying opposition to Social Security privatization is "one sign that the Democrats are learning how to be a true opposition party." Maybe we'll be spared the pathetic display of Democrats agreeing to some compromise on personal savings accounts, with Democrats saying, meekly, they "preserved" Social Security and Republicans braying like conquering howler monkeys on the tops of the trees, screeching out their triumph. Maybe there's a chance that we'll get to avoid that shame.

Maybe it's Burning Bed time for the Republicans. Maybe, just maybe, the drunk asshole husband that the Republicans have been for the last couple of decades is about to get his comeuppance. We all know the scenario. The asshole beats the shit out the confused, nowhere-to-turn wife for years. After all that time, all those bruises, all those rapes-disguised-as-marital-sex, something snaps in the victimized wife. A smart man wouldn't turn his back on his poor, beaten wife, not for a second, but, drunk on liquor and power, this asshole husband does, not knowing that, finally, at long last, the wife takes matters into her own hands, throws gasoline on the husband and his bed and sets that asshole ablaze. Who knows what drives someone to such desperate acts - the cumulative effect of all the degradation and pain reaching the tipping point? The husband started to beat the kids? Whatever it is, we in the audience may shake our heads that society, oh, society, let it get to this point, but, c'mon, we still love it that the motherfucker burns.


Friday, January 14, 2005

The Lows and The Highs

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/14/2005 06:33:00 PM

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No, I'm not talking about the weather, I'm talking Social Security and this piece from The Portland Press Herald.


  • First the Lows, Bush continues with the same old crisis BS talk.
    "If we do nothing, which some are suggesting we do here in Washington, the system is broke - bust," he said at a roundtable meeting with 15 reporters from regional newspapers, including the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

    "Now is the time to address it," Bush said. "The longer Congress delays, the harder it is to solve the problem. Step one is to remind people we have a problem, from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon."

  • And now for the highs, one of Jazz's favorites, Sen. Olympia Snowe, says wait just a minute.
    U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a member of the Finance Committee that will consider Social Security reform, questioned the extent of problems with the program and voiced caution about private accounts.

    "I don't think there's any consensus on what the problem is or the extent of the problem," Snowe said. "I have serious concerns about undermining the fundamental principles of the Social Security Trust Fund."
It's nice to see an island of sanity in the sea of madness known as Washington DC.

Link thanks to Josh Marshall

We don't need no damn human rights

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/14/2005 05:43:00 PM

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It could be you next.

Kidnapping the Innocent in the War on Terror
Khaled el-Masri just wanted to go on a short holiday to Skopje, he says. He needed some time alone -- away from the clamor of his four young sons. A couple of days. But it turned out to be a longer trip than he had planned. And he didn't end up seeing much of the Macedonian capital, either. Rather, he spent months locked up in a dirty prison cell in Afghanistan.

El-Masri, a 41-year-old German citizen who lives in the western German city of Ulm, was kidnapped on the Macedonian border by secret service personnel -- he doesn't know what country they were from -- on Dec. 31, 2003. From there, he was brought to a hotel in Skopje where he was not allowed to leave his room for three weeks. His captors began interrogating him there: "They offered me a deal," he told the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "I should sign a confession that I was a member of al-Qaida and then they would let me go."

He refused. A short time later, a hood was placed over his head, he was brought to an airfield and his clothes were cut off of him with scissors. Then he was photographed naked, given a jump suit to wear and flown to Kabul. Interrogations -- three months of questioning from agents he claims were American -- followed. They wanted to know about the mosque where he worshipped in Ulm. They asked about fellow worshippers and about suspected extremists.

Apart from the bent of the questions, el-Masri had no indication, for the first three weeks in Afghanistan, why he was being held. And he was desperate to get out. He began a hunger strike and held out for 34 days before giving it up. In the meantime, he was told that he would be let free. The prison warden told him, says el-Masri, "From the very beginning I had the impression that you don't belong here." But the release took a long time.

While he was away, his wife and children didn't hear a word from him. He was not allowed to write, call or communicate with the outside world in any way. In desperation, she gave up and moved the family back to her home in Jordan. He was released in the early summer of 2004 and now he and his family are back in Germany. His captors -- which he continues to insist were American -- obviously realized they had the wrong man
.
This should make you ashamed to be an American. When I read stories like this the only thing I can think is that al-Qaeda won. The US has become as bad as the horror stories we were told about the old Soviet Union. This is stuff that would make Stalin proud. Who knows, maybe reading Running Scared will be enough to flag you for a trip to Kabul before long.

Thanks for Nothing

posted by The One True Tami at 1/14/2005 01:24:00 PM

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Jazz is feeling melancholy, so that means it's the perfect time for me to jump in again with my ongoing persona of "angry Jewish woman".

Perhaps you've read my blog, and you recall my stance on the middle east. If not, learn this now - I think that the people there are too turbulent and unwilling to accept each other and live peacefully. I think that their elected leaders are a polite sham, because as long as there are so very many people committed so strongly to their own xenophobic ideas that they're willing to blow themselves up in crowded areas, there can be no "road map to peace". Yes, this is how I feel. And then, I see an article like this:
Israel Seals Off Gaza Strip After Border Attack

...Abbas, due to be sworn in as president on Saturday, condemned the assault and deadly raids Israel has mounted against militants.


Three militant groups said they jointly took part in the operation: Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Abbas's Fatah movement.


Israel signaled it would weigh its response carefully to avoid weakening Abbas, a leader it has said it could do business with after shunning his predecessor Yasser Arafat for years.
To me, Abbas is starting to look about as sturdy as one of those paper shoji screens.



You Speak - I Listen

posted by Jazz at 1/14/2005 11:16:00 AM

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Have a heart. This rain, turned to snow, turned to muck Friday is dropping me into a listless malaise. You do the talking for a little while. Got a link to an interesting news item I could go read? Feel like shamelessly blogwhoring your own material so I can tear it apart and insult you critique it in an appropriate fashion? Just want to rant, whine, bloviate or take up space? Go for it. I need to put a bag over my head for a short bit.

Friday poetry

posted by georg at 1/14/2005 11:13:00 AM

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A snippet of A. E. Housman:

The troubles of our proud and angry dust
Are from eternity, and shall not fail.
Bear them we can, and if we can we must.
Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale.

Emergency Fundraising

posted by Mu at 1/14/2005 09:43:00 AM

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Is it still legal to sell your family into white slavery if you really need cash?

Some Good Reading for Friday

posted by Jazz at 1/14/2005 09:39:00 AM

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The latest category put up at the Koufax awards is for Most Humorous Post. People have nominated dozens upon dozens of posts which they got a laugh out of. (From left wing blogs, of course.) Whether you plan to vote or not, this is a great list which you could spend as much free time as you have clicking and reading. A few of my early favorites which I found...

Delay Gerrymanders Middle East

In Defense of Internment: A number of photshoppes have a field day with the cover of Michelle Malkin's racist book on WW2 internments.

The Devil is dead. Me and Pete killed the Devil. Long but hilarious story.

There's a ton more, but I'll leave you to find your own favorites.

Lynn Woolsey Gets It

posted by Jazz at 1/14/2005 07:31:00 AM

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In addition to Woolsey, apparently fifteen other Democrats "get it." It's just a pity that the number is so small.

16 Dems urge Bush to start pullout from Iraq
Sixteen House Democrats led by Rep. Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma called on President Bush on Wednesday to begin the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, just as some administration supporters are starting to question the wisdom of staying the course in the war.

Woolsey and the other House Democrats, including Reps. Sam Farr of Carmel, Pete Stark of Fremont and Barbara Lee of Oakland, urged the administration to move swiftly.

"While it may be logistically difficult to immediately remove every American soldier, we urge you to take immediate action to begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. This is the only way to truly support our troops,'' said the letter signed by Woolsey and her colleagues.

Can you imagine? Somebody in Washington has finally admitted that the true way to "support our troops" is to get them out of the terrorist firing range which The Worst President Ever has created by invading the sovereign nation of Iraq on false pretenses.

The House Democrats, all of them longtime critics of Bush's Iraq policies, said the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 had stirred anti-American sentiments among Iraqis and other Arabs, made Iraqis and foreigners in the country less safe and "intensified the rage of the extremist Muslim terrorists.''

"By removing our troops from the country, we will remove the main focus of the insurgents' rage,'' the letter added.

They should be careful. In these times of madness, talking sanely like that in Washington can result in some pretty stiff penalties.

In reaction, noted Mars resident Hugh Hewitt immediately takes up the favored Bush policy of scare tactics. "[T]he consequences of allowing the left to succeed won't be two million dead Cambodians and hundreds of thousands of imprisoned South Vietnamese or boat people. This time surrender will mean dead Americans in American cities." Yep... and the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud, right Baby Hughy?



Paper Trail

posted by Jazz at 1/14/2005 07:11:00 AM

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Social Security Privitization, British Experience

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/14/2005 01:20:00 AM

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To see what happens when you privatize Social Security all you have to do is check out what happened in the number two country in the "Coalition of the Willing". Paul Krugman give us the details of the British disaster.
The U.S. news media have provided readers and viewers with little information about how privatization has worked in other countries. Now my colleagues have even fewer excuses: there's an illuminating article on the British experience in The American Prospect, www.prospect.org, by Norma Cohen, a senior corporate reporter at The Financial Times who covers pension issues.

Her verdict is summed up in her title: "A Bloody Mess." Strong words, but her conclusions match those expressed more discreetly in a recent report by Britain's Pensions Commission, which warns that at least 75 percent of those with private investment accounts will not have enough savings to provide "adequate pensions."
The British experience, the same and different:
The details of British privatization differ from the likely Bush administration plan because the starting point was different. But there are basic similarities. Guaranteed benefits were cut; workers were expected to make up for these benefit cuts by earning high returns on their private accounts.

The selling of privatization also bore a striking resemblance to President Bush's crisis-mongering. Britain had a retirement system that was working quite well, but conservative politicians issued grim warnings about the distant future, insisting that privatization was the only answer.

The main difference from the current U.S. situation was that Britain was better prepared for the transition. Britain's system was backed by extensive assets, so the government didn't have to engage in a four-decade borrowing spree to finance the creation of private accounts. And the Thatcher government hadn't already driven the budget deep into deficit before privatization even began.

Even so, it all went wrong. "Britain's experiment with substituting private savings accounts for a portion of state benefits has been a failure," Ms. Cohen writes. "A shorthand explanation for what has gone wrong is that the costs and risks of running private investment accounts outweigh the value of the returns they are likely to earn."

Many Britons were sold badly designed retirement plans on false pretenses. Companies guilty of "mis-selling" were eventually forced to pay about $20 billion in compensation. Fraud aside, the fees paid to financial managers have been a major problem: "Reductions in yield resulting from providers' charges," the Pensions Commission says, "can absorb 20-30 percent of an individual's pension savings."
The flip flop.
American privatizers extol the virtues of personal choice, and often accuse skeptics of being elitists who believe that the government makes better choices than individuals. Yet when one brings up Britain's experience, their story suddenly changes: they promise to hold costs down by tightly restricting the investments individuals can make, and by carefully regulating the money managers. So much for trusting the people.
The British realize they must go back.
Meanwhile, there is a growing consensus in Britain that privatization must be partly reversed. The Confederation of British Industry - the equivalent of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - has called for an increase in guaranteed benefits to retirees, even if taxes have to be raised to pay for that increase. And the chief executive of Britain's National Association of Pension Funds speaks with admiration about a foreign system that "delivers efficiencies of scale that most companies would die for."

The foreign country that, in the view of well-informed Britons, does it right is the United States. The system that delivers efficiencies to die for is Social Security.
That's Right, the British want to reform their system so it looks like the current Social Security System in the United States. That should tell you all you need to know.
Other Social Security Posts

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Early Friday Cat Blogging

posted by Jazz at 1/13/2005 07:50:00 PM

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Welcome to the early edition of Running Scared's Friday cat blogging. There are two this week because they both are holding hostages and want contracts with Animal Planet TV are so darned cute.

Remember to stop by the Friday Ark at the Modulator and Carnival of Cats, which this week will be held, for some reason, at IBeJo.

Here we have Colin giving Spider a bath before they start an evening of wrecking the house. (Click on photo for rediculously large picture.)



WWJD: Who Would Jesus Dis?

posted by Jazz at 1/13/2005 02:44:00 PM

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Allow Pacificus to explain. (Oh yes, and welcome to our blogroll. All of you pacifist hippie freaks, go pay a visit.)

Such a deal I have for you!

posted by Jazz at 1/13/2005 11:31:00 AM

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I was going through my spam trap e-mail box this morning, as usual, searching the subject lines in case I found somebody I might actually want to hear from who is still using the wrong address. I had to clean out the normal batch of dozens upon dozens of offers for Viagra, Cialis, services that promised to give me larger, fuller breasts and/or a bigger penis, and information about more Hot Local Bisexual Girls in MY AREA Who Want To Date Me than I had ever imagined could exist in such a small town. Then I came across one which, for some reason, stopped me in my tracks.

"YOU MUST TRANSFORME TO BEST POSSIBEL PERSON TO PLEASE YOR GIRL AND GET FREE LEGAL SOFTWAREZ AND MILFS."

Okay.

Now... I work in marketing for a living, and while I don't normally look into any unsolicited online offers, this was just a cry for help. I felt as if I really needed to reach out to this somewhat misguided entrepreneur and say, "Look... you really have to work on your advertising agenda."

If I'm understanding you at all correctly it appears that you are offering some sort of .... seminar? On self improvement and/or empowerment ... which will make my wife like me more and convince her to .... ummm... buy me some software?

Well, sure. On the surface anyone could look at that and see that it's a pretty good offer. I mean, I do always like to be the best person that I can for my wife, and hell... I'm always on the lookout for cheap upgrades on my computers.

But buddy... listen to me. The subject line of the e-mail is metaphorically the same as the lede graf in a news article. You've got to step out with your best foot forward and grab the consumer's interest before they move on to the next offer. This is no place for typos and poor grammar.

So next time, try something like this: LET US HELP YOU TO BE A BETTER PERSON, IMPRESS YOUR GIRLFRIEND, AND SHE MIGHT EVEN BUY YOU A NEW MILFS APPLICATION FOR YOUR PC!

See? Now that will probably have them beating a path to your online door. Good luck there, pal.

Martin Luther King Today

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/13/2005 11:30:00 AM

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One of my favorite pundits, John Sugg of Atlanta's Creative Loafing, has a good commentary today on what has happened to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Remembering King by erasing him. I'm going to copy and paste the entire article because archiving at Creative Loafing is complex.
.................................................................................................
It's hard to imagine a more noxious despoiling of the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. than George Bush's butting in on the King Day celebration in Atlanta last year, while he was on his way to stuff his pockets with cash from the South's throngs of neo-cons -- that's neo-Confederates.

But it was fitting. Even a party that built its base by appealing to rancid racism can lay claim to King's legacy. The "how" is simple: The real MLK has been all but erased from our history. What's left is so anemic -- and so distorted -- that even George Wallace or Lester Maddox or, heaven help us, Zell Miller could claim kinship.

The culprits in this desecration aren't hard to find. Here's the surprise: It's not the green-toothed, Confederate flag-waving redneck bigots. Nor is it the more well-heeled racists in the Republican Party.

Rather, it's the liberal establishment, beginning with Democratic Party leaders who, just as they flee from the true King, ran in panic from men of principle, such as Howard Dean, to embrace the grand waffler, John Kerry. And the perps also include the "liberal" media, where scribes have obliterated the great man's true spirit.

Here's the story you aren't told.

As we celebrate King's birthday -- he'd be 76 this year -- we could do a lottery on guessing the number of times TV news shows depict his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. You'll see plenty of footage from the Civil Rights marches in Selma and Birmingham. There will be the usual cacophony of chattering heads scratching their chins and ruminating on whether the Civil Rights Movement was a success.

Pay close attention to the broadcast reports and newspapers. You'll notice that discussion of King's life ends somewhere in 1966. Seldom, almost never will you view or read about his post-1966 days, other than a mention that King was murdered in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

Why?

Put another way, why do we ceaselessly hear "I Have a Dream," while we never are enlightened with the equally moving "Beyond Vietnam" speech King made at New York's Riverside Church a year before his death? The message King thundered was revolutionary -- a word I am very specific in choosing. He declared:

"If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read 'Vietnam.' It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over."

Substitute "Iraq" for "Vietnam" and King's words are as true now as 38 years ago.

Civil Rights leaders had been muted on the war -- and generally avoided the even more dangerous turf of questioning the basic inequalities in America's economic system. The reasons were simple: The movement needed Lyndon Johnson's support, so its strategists, including King, for many years were publicly neutral on LBJ's war. And the backbone of the movement, especially when it came to funds, was the liberal establishment, which might want to tweak capitalism a bit but certainly opposed any radical changes.King was a dynamic, growing and ever-changing force, a righteous rocket whose trajectory veered sharply left in his last days. He broke with many in the Civil Rights Movement and declared not only that he was opposed to Vietnam but that the conflict was anathema to the values and principles Americans cherish.

Much, much more important, King realized that racism was only a symptom, that the nation's true struggle was with pervasive economic disparities. He was busy organizing the Poor People's Campaign, a far-reaching movement that called for what amounted to Christian socialism, when he was gunned down in Memphis.

The campaign's wheels fell off under the post-King captaincy of Ralph David Abernathy, but the vision nonetheless had the potential of reshaping America. I'd argue that had King lived -- even realizing that weak-kneed liberals would have abandoned him -- the campaign's coalition of blacks, poor Appalachian whites, Chicanos, Native Americans and all who truly embraced religious and moral values could have reshaped the nation and world. It's conceivable that an America invested in human rights and economic justice would have quieted the world's suffering -- and prevented Sept. 11, 2001.

As Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, the closest thing to a revolutionary in Washington, observed to me: "To understand Dr. King, you have to understand the whole tapestry of his life. His message was peace abroad, justice at home. It was a message that was dangerous to many. The Poor People's Campaign was an economic bill of rights. We still need that bill of rights."

No doubt. Census figures show that unemployment for blacks is more than double than for whites -- and the gap is wider than in 1972. Black infant mortality, 146 percent higher than for whites, is greater than in 1970. Even more troubling, median income for black families was 60 percent that of whites in 1968. It had slipped to 58 percent in 2002.

King would have used taxes to redistribute wealth -- just as the Republicans are doing in reverse. He would have fought for housing, education, jobs.

"We're dealing in a sense with class issues," King said. "We're dealing with the problem of the gulf between the haves and the have-nots, between the privileged and the underprivileged. And we're taking on a mammoth job now, and it isn't going to be easy."

For the profiteers who run the shadowy war machine, for those who steal the wealth of the middle and working classes, and for their media shills, King was a very real threat.

Time magazine excoriated King's anti-war sentiments, stating that they "sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." In 1968, Doreen Roy, a columnist for Atlanta's daily newspaper, sneered that Poor People's Campaign marchers would do better if they "marched to the nearest employment agency instead of our nation's capital."

With that economic picture -- and with Bush's imperial war machine making enemies of much of the world -- you'd think King's final messages on peace and a wholesale restructuring of economics would be offered to counter the administration's programs.

After all, Bush's regime thrives along with terrorism, much as drug cops need drug lords and vice versa to keep both sides in business. A world aflame is the tool Bush uses to keep a frightened America enthralled, and it's the justification for everything from conquest to torture.

King, in 1967 and 1968, offered an alternative.

But the media is out to lunch. The more liberal the journalist, the less likely you'll find mention of King's final days. The conservatives at least pick up on the issue in order to bash King.

AJC editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker, for example, is supposedly the liberal counterpoint to the Cox media empire's ultra-white-right demagogues such as columnist Jim Wooten and radio ranter Neal Boortz. Nowhere in any of the AJC's archives could I find a mention by Tucker of where King was headed when he died. No mention of his Vietnam speeches, no mention of the revolutionary concepts in the Poor People's Campaign.

Last year on King's birthday, the Atlanta paper ran an editorial on "King's vision for America" that completely skipped over his endgame passion. I had to go back more than a dozen years to find any significant mention in the AJC of King's radical economic and anti-war agenda.

Tucker may be a liberal, but her boss is 11-times-over billionaire Anne Cox Chambers, who certainly isn't interested in the downward distribution of wealth and whose company happily marquees its racists.

Remember that on Martin Luther King Day. Rereading his words and contemplating the symbiotic Bush-terrorism world, the evisceration of American workers' wealth, the regime's relentless attack on our liberties -- I'll march with the spirit of the real King. Not a liberal, but a revolutionary.
............................................................................................
Sugg points out that the real Martin Luther King has been lost to history. And who's responsible for this?
The culprits in this desecration aren't hard to find. Here's the surprise: It's not the green-toothed, Confederate flag-waving redneck bigots. Nor is it the more well-heeled racists in the Republican Party.

Rather, it's the liberal establishment, beginning with Democratic Party leaders who, just as they flee from the true King, ran in panic from men of principle, such as Howard Dean, to embrace the grand waffler, John Kerry. And the perps also include the "liberal" media, where scribes have obliterated the great man's true spirit.
That's right, it was the Democrats, the left and the so called liberal media. Another example of the cowardice of the "DC Democrats". So who was Martin Luther King? A man who's words about the war in Vietnam have a new application today.
Put another way, why do we ceaselessly hear "I Have a Dream," while we never are enlightened with the equally moving "Beyond Vietnam" speech King made at New York's Riverside Church a year before his death? The message King thundered was revolutionary -- a word I am very specific in choosing. He declared:

"If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read 'Vietnam.' It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over."


Substitute "Iraq" for "Vietnam" and King's words are as true now as 38 years ago.
Profound words we never hear. Read the entire article posted above and take Sugg's advice.
Remember that on Martin Luther King Day. Rereading his words and contemplating the symbiotic Bush-terrorism world, the evisceration of American workers' wealth, the regime's relentless attack on our liberties -- I'll march with the spirit of the real King. Not a liberal, but a revolutionary.


DRM - the revenge

posted by Mu at 1/13/2005 09:58:00 AM

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If you're into techblogging, DRM (digital rights management) has been one of the most contentious issues for years. Not only does it cover a variety of copy protection schemes, it's often used to get identifying features onto your machine, and finally get rid of that pesky annonymous internet user.
MS has introduced DRM features with XP SP2 and their latest media player version. But now the meanies have fought back, immedieately taking this new feature as an avenue to serve you better - with trojans that is. One researcher reported 78 new folders, over 700 new files and more than 11,000 registry entries after getting one of these little trojans.
So be carefull with that next episode of survivor you download because cable was out at the wrong time.

Iraq Election Workers Under Fire Literally and Figuratively

posted by Jazz at 1/13/2005 09:55:00 AM

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There is a rather disturbing piece in the Times today about how the Iraqi resistance is attacking elections workers in the runup to this month's highly trumpeted election.
There are mysterious knocks on his door at night. His friends ask him not to visit. He declines to allow even his first name to be published.

This shadowy figure, a young Sunni Muslim from Baghdad, is neither spy nor criminal. He is an election worker helping Iraq prepare for its historic national poll, scheduled for the end of the month.

Threatened, attacked, kidnapped and killed, Iraq's election workers are finding that being at the forefront of the electoral process means surviving the frontlines of an insurgency determined to stop it.

Things are so bad that one of the officials from the Independent Electoral Commission, Adil al-Lami, compared the workers to a clandestine political movement. "They function like an underground," he said in an interview.

I have no doubt that there are many Iraqis (primarily Shiites and Kurds) who want to see these elections happen and are working to pull this off. And personally, I sincerely hope that they do manage to hold an election. I have no real expectation that it will result in any form of legitimate (say nothing of stable) government in the long run, but I still think that it represents our best (and possibly last) opportunity to get our troops out of there and safely back home.

If the people of Iraq can put up their own slate of chosen leaders, there is still a fair chance that the new government will immediately tell the United States to pack up its things and get the hell out. This will, unfortunately, give George W. Bush the golden opportunity to pull the troops out and still walk away whistling with his fingers in his ears, pretending that he wasn't the author of the worst, most devastating presidential blunder ever seen in this country. But if it achieves the goal of Supporting Our Troops by Getting Them Out, then I'll take it.

The voices from the far right side of the aisle will likely still trumpet this as a "victory", I'm sure. Capt. Ed has rightly commented on the tragedy of young election workers being killed in the quagmire of Iraq, but is quick to slip in the now discredited Bush line about how enthusiastic the Iraqi people are about these elections.
Election workers have resigned out of fear or direct threats to their lives, and it's understandable, if regrettable. However, thousands more have remained and want to see the elections move to fruition. They understand that the only way to defeat the Islamofascists that threaten them with a second genocidal darkness is to create a pluralistic and democratic federal government. In that, they are joined by 85% of their fellow Iraqis, who rely on them to help deliver a new day.
The numbers he is citing come from a series of local polls done by the pro-US local newspaper, al-Sabah. However, as Juan Cole has pointed out, those numbers are seriously flawed.
Rightwing pundits ... have taken up this al-Sabah poll as a cause for optimism. But they ignore the I & R findings. The Baghdad poll is flawed for several reasons. First of all, it was limited to Baghdad. Baghdad is about half Shiite and has a million Kurds, and both Shiites and Kurds are very enthusiastic about the elections. So a poll in Baghdad doesn't reflect the resentments in Baqubah, Tikrit, and other Sunni Arab cities. Second, West Baghdad is more secure and more politically oriented that other Sunni Arab areas. Third, we don't know if scientific weighting was done for the poll published in al-Sabah. Fourth, al-Sabah was set up for propaganda purposes by the Bush administration and its staff at one time resigned in protest over all the propaganda.
There were some far more detailed polling numbers (almost entirely ignored by the Bushies) which gave a more revealing look at this sense of "optimism" about the elections. This poll was done by the Intelligence and Research division of the State Department. The poll was conducted in the mixed ethnic cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk; the mainly Sunni cities of Baquba and Tikrit; the Kurdish cities of Arbil and Sulaimaniyah; the mid-Euphrates Shiite cities of Hilla, Najaf, Diwaniyah, Kut and Karbala; and the southern Shiite cities of Basra, Nassiriyah, Ammara and Samawa.
Only 32 percent of Sunni Muslims are "very likely" to vote. Among Shiites, 87 percent said they are "very likely" to vote. Only 12 percent of Sunni Arabs consider the elections "legitimate." Only 12 percent of Sunni Arabs think the elections will be completely fair. 52 percent of Shiites think the elections will be completely fair. 61% of Sunni Arabs are very concerned about their family's safety. 24% of Shiites are very concerned about their family's safety. Among Shiites, 76% would boycott if a figure such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani told them to. Only 32 percent of Sunni Arabs said they would boycott simply because a religious figure asked them to. 88% of Sunnis would stay home if they felt voting would put them in danger.
Those high supporting numbers come almost entirely from the Shiite and Kurdish supporters of the U.S. invasion living in Baghdad. The study above shows that nearly half of the Shiites (who are supposedly our allies and the ones we are supporting in the current, unacknowledged civil war) don't have any faith that the results will be legitimate.

As usual, Juan Cole has a more expert take on this situation.
Every path forward has costs. Postponing the elections leaves in place the increasingly unpopular Allawi interim government, populated by old CIA assets, which destroyed its credibility by acting as a cheering section for the US destruction of Fallujah. It could be argued that the Sunni Arab guerrilla war benefits from the perceived illegitimacy of the Allawi government, which has disappointed those who hoped it might restore order.
But, as I said above, I've long since reached the point where I frankly don't care what sort of results the election produces as long as it gets our troops out. We need to bring down the curtain on this act of the tragedy, and get on with the business of repairing the lives of all the Americans who are paying the price for Bush's horrible little adventure.

The Koufax Awards Grind On

posted by Jazz at 1/13/2005 07:28:00 AM

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Additional categories are up for their second round of votes to make it to the final cut. The latest one is for the blog most deserving of wider recognition. There are a ton of candidates in there. I was highly disappointed that my nominee (Middle Earth Journal) didn't make that list. However, I sent it in by e-mail and one of the site's owners posted recently about a laptop meltdown, so it may have been lost. I'm sending a new e-mail today. Anyway, there's a ton of blogs on that list to look over if you are so inclined.

Best New Blog , Best Expert and Best Writing are also open for nominations. Again, there are a ton of entries. And of course, if you never got around to putting in your vote for Best Group Blog, there's still time to do so. (That's the one that we were nominated in... not that I'm hinting or anything.) Likewise, Best Overall Blog is still being counted. (I'm sure Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast could use a few more votes if you haven't used yours yet. hint hint)

Bottom line, it's a contest and it's a party. It's all for good fun, so go participate. Plus, if you enjoy reading blogs, you'll find links to tons of them there. You just might find some new ones that you enjoy and want to add to your regular reading list. Go forth and browse!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Power Loons Translated

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 08:55:00 PM

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The kids at Power Line makes some very good points about the electoral process in America. It obviously had a few typos, but they're busy guys. I'll go ahead and make the corrections here and join with them in calling for reform on an issue that will affect all of us.

Electoral fraud. It is a grave and growing threat to our democracy. Major elections have turned on it, and it is only a matter of time until voter fraud precipitates a constitutional crisis. Consider what is happening now in Washington. Christine Gregoire was sworn in as Governor today, but a legal challenge to her "victory" is pending. It appears reasonably clear that the Democrats stole that race Republicans tried to steal that race like they have several others, and they will probably get away with it they nearly got away with it. Al Gore George Bush tried to steal the Presidency in 2000, and nearly succeeded, with the aid of a grotesquely partisan majority of the Florida Supreme Court, which issued one of the most absurd decisions in the history of litigation, lacking even a fig leaf of legal coherence.

It seems to me that we have two choices: upgrade our electoral system and guard its integrity with at least the fervor that we bring to preventing, say, underage drinking, or face the inevitable crisis when it comes.


Well done, Power Loons. Somebody needed to take this up.



Reality...If they have freedom they won't like the US

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/12/2005 05:31:00 PM

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In his piece in the Asia Times, Street-wise Washington backs off, Ashraf Fahim discusses the reality that is descending on the Bush administration; a truly democratically elected government in Iraq or anywhere else in the Middle East will not be pro-American.
"We hope, at some point in time, everybody is free."
- US President George W Bush , responding to a question about Iran during his December 20 press conference.

As the above quote indicates, the Bush administration's rhetorical zeal for democracy-making in the Middle East appears to be waning. While "freedom" is still spoken of as the desired end state, it isn't being suggested that its reign is imminent with the same fervor that preceded the Iraq war. As a recent op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor put it, after Iraq, "A crestfallen America seems to have abandoned its idealistic aspirations to the point that it now favors working with the same unsavory regimes that promise the chimera of stability."

To a degree, the return to realism is a reaction to the sheer trauma of the ongoing bloodbath in Iraq. But it may also reflect heightened uncertainties about what will emerge in Iraq and the wider Middle East as a result of democracy's promotion or imposition. In Iraq, the United States is now caught between an insurgency and a theocracy, and both are broadly anti-US, because most Iraqis oppose US policies. The potency of Iraqi nationalism, which fuels the insurgency, has been a stultifying reminder to US policymakers that the popular will won't necessarily comport to US strategic interests, especially in the narrow and one-sided way they are currently defined.
As we are all painfully aware the Iraq war was based on a multitude of faulty assumptions.
The US neo-conservatives had built their campaign for instantaneous democratization on two erroneous assumptions: that the nationalist, anti-US policies of such states as Ba'athist Iraq, Syria and Iran defied the popular will; and that regional violence is the product of tyranny and failed societies more than unpopular US policies. Bush has swallowed the second assumption whole. "The root causes of terror and hatred ... is frustration caused by tyranny," he said last Friday.

Those two assumptions have unraveled in Iraq, where the US is, for once, up close and personal with the mythical "Arab street" and discovering both that it is just as nationalistic as the former Iraqi regime, and that wariness of US intentions is destabilizing Iraq more than the dysfunctional nature of Iraqi society - a microcosm of the regional dynamic.

The results of a poll by Zogby International conducted in November in five Arab countries on the subject of reform confirmed that people in the region are far more interested in a change in US policies, such as unequivocal support for Israel, than US assistance in democratizing. In fact, the Arab-Israeli conflict ranked second in issues of importance, while such issues as expanding democracy ranked near the bottom. In no country polled did a majority want US help democratizing (in Saudi Arabia, only 1% did).
So there is little interest in "democracy" and a great deal of interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict. I think many of this knew this a long time ago, unfortunately the delusional neo-cons in charge did not. But as much as they may hate it "reality" is intruding. The experience in Iraq has resulted in a re-evaluation of policy towards Syria and Iran and less bellicose rhetoric from the administration. The Iranian gas deal by a Halliburton subsidiary may be a part of this new policy.
Analysts say that the agreement may be more than just business and part of a larger diplomatic effort to convince Iran to abandon plans it may have to develop nuclear weapons.

Sean Murphy, a law professor at George Washington University, told RFE/RL that US laws that prohibit firms from working in certain countries usually allow for exceptions to serve diplomatic ends. He said the US may be using the Halliburton deal to send a positive signal to the Iranians.


Hump Day Reading Assignment

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 04:22:00 PM

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Should you be lucky enough to actually have free time in which to seek out pleasant, engaging reading material, I'm going to save you some time spent searching and provide a list. (Warning: There may be a quiz on Friday.)

First, to set the background, it's always good to have some music. If you are reading this in a place where you can either crank up the speakers or put on your headphones, tune in to Altrok internet radio for some eclectic audio entertainment while browsing. (Bookmark this.)

On to the reading list for this week. I'll try to entice you.

Tata explains why she has such a hard time dealing with doctors. (Personally I think they're all just trying to get her to undress. Especially that creepy eye doctor. But that's probably just me.)

Sideways meets Star Wars, from a waiter's perspective.

Howard Dean may just be barking up the wrong tree. Waveflux explains why.

A lovely (and winning!) piece of poetry on the magic of love, from Blogosphere Zoo.

A meditation on the joys (or lack thereof) of Yoga, watching the Jets, and hoping to get laid more often, courtesy of Brutal Honesty.

Five rules to follow if you're hoping to get NYC Babylon naked.

Why is Angela Bowers (of Tales from under the bar) a Dirty Old Lady?

Go forth, read, laugh, eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow Dubya will still be the president.

Ali G. Baits Rednecks - Tragedy Barely Avoided

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 03:57:00 PM

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No.. I didn't know they had rodeos in Virginia. But apparently Ali G. tried to have some fun with the rednecks and nearly got lynched. (Hat Tip to Red Hair, Black Leather.)

Neuroplasticity

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 03:42:00 PM

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You single men get an extra fifteen bonus points for using the word in the title of this post at any party where you meet a girl wearing a button that says, "Intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac." (My wife, in her single days, actually wore such a button and had a guy attempt to hit on her by asking, "What's an aphrodisiac?" Warning to Red State Bush voters: This is not a way to get a date.)

On to the subject at hand. We all know how much the Bush voters love to make fun of "intellectuals" and their various pursuits. Brainwise, over at Prophet or Madman brings us an article detailing exactly how meditation (a favorite pastime of some of those awful "intelligent people") can actually enhance development of your brain as an adult, and how brain growth is not fixed in childhood. Give it a look. I'll warn you ahead of time... put on your thinking caps to digest this one.

PGA Pork

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 01:45:00 PM

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Any follower of this blog knows how much I love pork stories. I also, however, like golf. What do the two have in common, you ask? Unfortunately, more than you might think. I was sad to read at Doug Petch's blog that the last pork laden excuse for a spending bill which was passed in Washington had some top cut white meat to dish out for the PGA. And the sneaks didn't even mention them by name.

In a section of the bill intended to limit corporations' use of deferred compensation plans, an exemption is included for any plan �established or maintained by an organization incorporated on July 2, 1974.� That organization would be the PGA Tour Inc.

Sounds good for them, right? Well, you don't know the half of it - The PGA pension plan is tied to performance. Golfweek magazine reported in 2001 that a 26-year-old player who began his career that year, plays 17 seasons without winning a tournament, and ranks No. 75 would get a retirement nest egg of nearly $43 million.
Thanks for letting us know, Doug... even if I am getting a severe headache now.

Holy Hatefest, Batman!

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 01:19:00 PM

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And I thought *I* really gave a hard time to Michelle Malkin! Having read the various e-mails she receives today, I probably look like one of her biggest fans. Yikes. I just take her to task to being a heavily partisan shill for the Bushies, but the hate mail she gets makes the worst I've ever received look like baby food.

I'd cut/paste some of them in here, but they are simply too awful. (I suppose it's some evidence of what a truly terrible person I am that I actually wound up chuckling at a couple of them. But for the most part, these are some seriously awful e-mails.)

Laugh Until You Lacerate

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 01:10:00 PM

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I found this item at the Left Coaster after following a link from Tbogg. I'd like to post more, but I can't stop laughing. Apparently, this is an excerpt from Kitty Kelley's book on the Bush family, so we can't stand 100% behind its veracity, but it's still funny as all hell.

Page 253: At Andover, George W. Bush writes a morose essay about his sister's death. Searching for a synonym for "tears," he consults a thesaurus and writes, "And the lacerates ran down my cheeks." A teacher labels the paper "disgraceful."

Ladies of Liberty Protest

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 11:44:00 AM

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An interesting Bush Coronation ... Triumph of Evil ... inaugural protest was brought to my attention by Mr. Left. A group called the Ladies of Liberty will be joining Code Pink for a bus ride down to Washington, D.C. to stage the protest. L of L is apparently a political theatre and protest group working for women's rights. You can join up with them by signing up here.

I will confess that I got a bit of a chill reading the description of their event.

"Women's March and Jazz Funeral"

brrrrr... did somebody just walk over my grave?

The Slam Dunk was a Doughnut

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 09:12:00 AM

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"Justice is a certain rectitude of mind whereby a man does what he ought to do in circumstances confronting him."
-- St. Thomas Aquinas

These are some words which, in a perfect world, George W. Bush would be reflecting on in a sober fashion after this news became public. Sadly, I believe that Vegas would give you slightly worse odds on that happening than the Miami Dolphins winning the Superbowl this year.
Search for Banned Arms in Iraq Ended Last Month The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley. The CIA declined to authorize any official involved in the weapons search to speak on the record for this story. The intelligence official offered an authoritative account of the status of the hunt on the condition of anonymity. The agency did confirm that Duelfer is wrapping up his work and will not be replaced in Baghdad.
I realize that every pundit and their mothers are already commenting on this, but I couldn't let it pass without making a few observations. Every time some rabid, right wing Bushie tries to pull the usual revisionist history trick out of their hat, saying that "the weapons weren't the main reason we invaded" or "we're there to spread democracy", be sure to ask them one question in a loud, clear voice.

"If, in the spring of 2003, the President had told Congress that Saddam had no WMD's and was not an imminent threat to the United States and her allies, but asked for permission to invade Iraq to liberate its people and establish a democracy, how many congressmen would have voted to authorize the war?"

You just keep asking them that question over and over. Who knows? Some day a few of them may wake up and begin to "get it." That was all this war was ever about. It wasn't part of some greater "war on terror" and it certainly wasn't spread democracy over the Middle East like a ray of sunshine. We were told why we were invading their country and overthrowing their government, and the reason was pure, 100% horse hockey. The vast majority of the U.N. nations suspected it. They knew that it was too soon to invade when inspections and diplomatic measures might still have carried the day. That's why they opposed the war. They were right and Bush was wrong. END ... OF ... STORY.

Of course, the usual suspects over at Power Loons, Captain's Quarters, Michelle Malkin and the other bobbleheads will immediately screw their tinfoil hats on a bit tighter and insist that the WMDs were smuggled out to Syria at the last moment, or are hidden up some camel's rectum. (Oddly enough, they are all still silent on this story as of this posting.) It doesn't matter. This report is the beginning, middle, and end of the analysis. We screwed the pooch so badly the poor thing will never walk again.

Some other people from around the blogosphere are already taking this story apart nicely.

Atrios is a bit upset. "Bite me, warbloggers."

Kevin Drum adds in a bit of snark. "... And we've given up pretending to look."

Mary of Pacific Views has a long, well written analysis. "Now the only legitimate reason for the war (the only one that could prove that Iraq was an imminent threat) is null and void."

Next up, the Left Coaster digs a little deeper: "They even concluded that the Iraqi scientists who were though to have worked on WMD programs and have been in US custody since the fall of Saddam have in fact not worked on any Iraq WMD programs since 1991."

Jill has some rather scathing words for the Misinformer in Chief. (I know you're shocked.) "1,353 young American men and women are dead in the war that George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of the neocon posse said was necessary because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. What sayeth thou now, George? Don?"

The Moderate Voice, as usual, has a good breakdown on the end to this long, sad story.
I'm sure there will be more, but that should get you started.

Boo!

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 08:54:00 AM

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Checking out some changes to the Haloscan comment tool. Please bear with us.

Rogues Gallery - A partisan propoganda arm of the RNC

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 08:03:00 AM

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"The quality of journalism and the quality of democracy go hand in hand."
-Bill Moyers


Gannet columnist Dave Rossi has a nice column today which pays sad tribute to the retirement of Bill Moyers from journalism just, as Rossi says, when we need him the most.
With television news, or what now passes for news, marked by a degree of timidity that approaches self-censorship, the retirement of Bill Moyers from broadcasting could not have come at a worse time.

Moyers, 70, was one of the last, if not the last, major broadcasting figure with enough spine to stand up against the right-wing Republican juggernaut, which, having seized control of the federal government, is attempting to influence, if not actually control, what the public finds out about its machinations.
He goes on to point out a few things about the recent xxx scandal, of course, but then hones in on Moyers' observations on the so called "liberal media" myth.

Moyers' final appearance on NOW, a one-hour public affairs program he started in 2002, came on Dec. 17. Most of the program was devoted to an examination of what is called "conservative media," conservative in this case being a polite way of saying rabid right. Moyers, with characteristic accuracy and honesty, called that crowd what it is: "A partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee."

It's a rogues gallery all too familiar: Limbaugh, Hannity, the endlessly self-promoting fraud O'Reilly and the entire crew at Fox News. Moyers' most telling remark, however, was this observation: "The quality of journalism and the quality of democracy go hand in hand."

How very true, and at the same time, how very sad. Rossi closes with a nice compliment for Jon Stewart, even if it is delivered in a tone of despair for our nation.

All of which means your best shot at honest political coverage for the next four years figures to be The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

When your best source of warts-and-all news coverage is a show that jokes about dispensing "fake news," you know broadcast journalism is in worse shape than even Bill Moyers feared.

I surely can't be the only one who gets tired of hearing Power Loons and all the rest of the Rabid Rightie Brigade pontificating endlessly about how the MSM is so horribly liberal, and fair coverage is never given to conservative issues, reporters are "too hard on the president", etc. Please. Just give me a break. You're making me ill.

If you like his work, you can e-mail Rossi via his editor at rjensen@binghamt.gannett.com Be sure to tell him I sent you. :-)

Digit Day (and I missed it)

posted by Jazz at 1/12/2005 06:52:00 AM

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Sunday was Digit Day, and I let it slip by without even noticing. Digit Day marks the anniversary of the last time that the calendar lined up the date in six alternating pairs of numbers. On Jan. 9, 1919, the numerical date was 1-9-1919. Prior to that, at least during America's history under our current government, it happened on Jan. 8, 1818 and Jan. 7, 1717. As a young man, I first saw this phenomena noted in a farmer's almanac.

Ours is the first generation in a very long time which will not see a Digit Day come round during the early part of the century. All four of my grandparents saw the last one, and my father just missed it, but I wasn't even thought of yet at the time. It would have been coming up in 2020, but the problem is, there is no February zero on the calendar. It obstinately rolls over from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1. The last time this occurred, William the Conqueror was only a gleam in his father's eye.

The next digit day will not happen until February 1, 2121, roughly 116 years from now. Some of you may have newborn children who will live to see it, given the way modern medicine is progressing, but it's highly unlikely that anyone reading this post today will do so. Until then, we're stuck with January 9th as the Digit Day anniversary.

Sometimes it's fun to sit back and try to imagine what life in America will be like when we finally get a new Digit Day. What will remain the same, and what will be different for John Q. Public? I imagine that there will be peaceful scenes across the country. On Sunday, Americans everywhere will wave to each other and smile as they walk to one of the three mandatory Christian church services per weekend. (They're walking because the oil is going to dry up towards the middle of this century and we seem to be in no hurry to find a new energy source.)

One of Jenna Bush's grandkids will be in the White House, and we'll be quietly fretting over the safety of Our Troops who are finishing the demolition of London and finally bringing "real" Democracy to those heathen Brits. (We'll be fretting "quietly" because public dissent against government policies will no longer be tolerated from all of you unpatriotic traitors. Blogs will be only a quaint memory of years gone by.)

Ah, it's a grand future indeed. Digit Day... I salute you.

The President of Fabricated Crises

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/12/2005 01:41:00 AM

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Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post had a commentary last Saturday where he explained to us that Bush Paints His Goals As "Crises" and Steve Soto at the Left Coaster had a good analysis of that piece. Today Harold Meyerson of the Post tells us Bush is the President of Fabricated Crises.
Some presidents make the history books by managing crises. Lincoln had Fort Sumter, Roosevelt had the Depression and Pearl Harbor, and Kennedy had the missiles in Cuba. George W. Bush, of course, had Sept. 11, and for a while thereafter -- through the overthrow of the Taliban -- he earned his page in history, too.

But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none.
Just like the WMD "crisis" in Iraq the Social Security "crisis" has been manufactured out of necessity. The American people and a majority of lawmakers would not have agreed to the war without a crisis. Bush knows that the lawmakers won't touch Social Security unless they and the American people can be convinced there is a crisis. It's not working this time. The American people and the lawmakers of both parties know the truth.
In fact, Social Security is on a sounder footing now than it has been for most of its 70-year history. Without altering any of its particulars, its trustees say, it can pay full benefits straight through 2042. Over the next 75 years its shortfall will amount to just 0.7 percent of national income, according to the trustees, or 0.4 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That still amounts to a real chunk of change, but it pales alongside the 75-year cost of Bush's Medicare drug benefit, which is more than twice its size, or Bush's tax cuts if permanently extended, which would be nearly four times its size.

In short, Social Security is not facing a financial crisis at all. It is facing a need for some distinctly sub-cataclysmic adjustments over the next few decades that would increase its revenue and diminish its benefits.
The only Social Security Crisis is a political one.
For the first time in its history, it is confronted by a president, and just possibly by a working congressional majority, who are opposed to the program on ideological grounds, who view the New Deal as a repealable aberration in U.S. history, who would have voted against establishing the program had they been in Congress in 1935. But Bush doesn't need Karl Rove's counsel to know that repealing Social Security for reasons of ideology is a non-starter.

So it's time once more to fabricate a crisis. In Bushland, it's always time to fabricate a crisis. We have a crisis in medical malpractice costs, though the CBO says that malpractice costs amount to less than 2 percent of total health care costs. (In fact, what we have is a president who wants to diminish the financial, and thus political, clout of trial lawyers.) We have a crisis in judicial vacancies, though in fact Senate Democrats used the filibuster to block just 10 of Bush's 229 first-term judicial appointments.

With crisis concoction as its central task -- think of how many administration officials issued dire warnings of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein or, now, by Social Security's impending bankruptcy -- this presidency, more than any I can think of, has relied on the classic tools of propaganda.
Indeed, it's almost impossible to imagine the Bush presidency absent the Fox News Network and right-wing talk radio.
Meyerson gets right to the meat with this statement."For the first time in its history, it is confronted by a president, and just possibly by a working congressional majority, who are opposed to the program on ideological grounds, who view the New Deal as a repealable aberration in U.S. history,...". That of course is the key, they quite simply want to reform Social Security out of existence. There are two reasons that they really hate Social Security, it works and it's efficient and there is that nasty little fact that the system has been buying treasury bonds to build up a needed surplus and about 2018 the system will start cashing those bonds in. Those pesky New Deal programs are bad enough but one you owe money to is abhorrent. Make no mistake, that's what "Social Security Reform" is all about. Not paying back the money owed to the Social Security system. Meyerson ends by explaining what Bush's place in history will be.
We've had plenty of presidents, Richard Nixon most notoriously, who divided the media into friendly and enemy camps. I can't think of one, however, so fundamentally invested in the spread of disinformation -- and so fundamentally indifferent to the corrosive effect of propaganda on democracy -- as Bush. That, too, should earn him a page in the history books.
The creator of crisis and the propaganda chief, that's George W. Bush.