Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Lift a finger for truth

posted by Jazz at 2/12/2005 03:53:00 PM

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While the warmongers are already rushing to discount this, Naomi Klein of the Guardian has summed up what really happened in the Iraq elections. Not only were the turnout numbers something ... shall we say "less than originally advertised" but the group the Iraqis voted for have an odd message for George Bush.

"Go Home."

Sorry George, but Iraq has given you the purple finger

The party likely to win the election opposes the US presence and policies

So it is with Betsy Hart and the other near-sighted election observers. They think the Iraqi people have finally sent America those long-awaited flowers and sweets, when Iraq's voters just gave them the (purple) finger. Judging by the millions of votes already counted, Iraqis have voted overwhelmingly to throw out the US-installed Ayad Allawi, who refused to ask the United States to leave. A decisive majority voted for the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA); the second plank in the UIA platform called for "a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq".

There are more single-digit messages embedded in the winning coalition's platform. Some highlights: "Adopting a social security system under which the state guarantees a job for every fit Iraqi ... and offers facilities to citizens to build homes"; the alliance also pledges "to write off Iraq's debts, cancel reparations and use the oil wealth for economic development projects". In short, Iraqis voted to repudiate the radical free-market policies imposed by the former chief American envoy Paul Bremer and locked in by a recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Tehran Builds Torpedos; Bush Snarls

posted by Jazz at 2/12/2005 12:03:00 PM

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During the prelude to the invasion of Iraq, a lot of critical information went missing from the public eye until long after the war was underway. The Pentagon, shockingly, seems to be trying to make up for lost time when it comes to Iran, warning that military attacks against the country were not likely to be frutiful.

Best Group Blog

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/12/2005 11:26:00 AM

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I was over at Wampum checking out the voting for best Group Blog and I just wanted to say thanks to Jim H. for his words of encouragement and his vote:
"Running Scared" gets my vote as an interesting and informative blog that deals with logic, reality and level-headed writing. I wish that the authors of some of Running Scared's posts could take the time to teach some of our so-called journalists a few lessons about humanity."
Thanks Jim
The rest of you don't have to feed our egos but a simple vote would be nice if you like some of the stuff you see here. Thanks to all who have voted.

So much for that

posted by Jazz at 2/12/2005 09:22:00 AM

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I had a long, link infested post created on the latest happenings with Iran, but as of this morning, Blogger is still acting up horribly. So, of course, almost all of the post was eaten, and I can't even delete the pathetic remainder. I can barely get anything posted unless it's very short and makes it out during some brief window of opportunity. (As I'm hoping this will.) I've contacted them and we'll try to get things operating more normally around here as soon as we can.

Powerblogger is looking more and more tempting.

In case I ever do manage to get this to publish, feel free to chat about whatever is on you mind. (Assuming the comments function is working.) I received several e-mails on good things to blog about, and if this starts working again, we'll try to get right on it.

Iraqi Electoral Commission

posted by Jazz at 2/12/2005 07:20:00 AM

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Just in case you were wondering, they do indeed have a web site. (Hat tip to John Hemming for this.) He's done some interesting research on this and come up with a surprise. (Ok... if you're not surprised, you could at least pretend to be a little startled.) The web site is registered, created and operated under the U.S. Embassy domain. Food for thought.

There's a breakdown (in the English version) of the various races being decided. Some of the navigation was a little dicey, but you may find it interesting.

Another Mission Statement

posted by Jazz at 2/12/2005 07:07:00 AM

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In case you missed it in the oftimes dysfunctional comments section, this was a good entry for a Democratic mission statement. It comes to us from LarryE, the author of Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time. (Nice blog... give it a look.) Here's the full text.

I'll offer this excerpt from a longer piece, too long for inclusion here. In fact, this is too long for a meme, but anyway....

"What we ultimately reject is the right of so few to have so much when so many have so little. What we ultimately resist is the power of so few to control so much when so many control so little. What we ultimately affirm is the right of every human being to a decent life free of hunger, fear, and oppression. What we ultimately demand from our society is the effort to guarantee that right.


"We've no desire to place a ceiling over anyone's aspirations, but we do want to put a floor under everyone's needs.


"That's the dream, a dream that reaches to the depths of the human dream. We don't dream of perfection, of idealized utopias, but of human justice. Justice in its truest sense: economic, social, and political. A justice that rejects the ascendency of bombs over bread, of private greed over public good, or profits over people.


A justice that centers on the preciousness of life and will fight to maintain and even expand that preciousness.


That dream is there for us, and if we can but have the courage to hold to that dream, to take risks for it, to look to the future, together we can do it. It won't be easy. It won't be cheap. And it won't be convenient. But it is possible. And after all is said and done, it is simply the right thing to do.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Adventures in Dining

posted by Jazz at 2/11/2005 07:26:00 PM

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CAUTION: Non-political post incoming. But it's social, so there you go.

You know... ever since I started reading Waiter Rant, I seem to obsess about dining out. Not in a bad way, mind you. It's just... obsessive.

(Side note: You can read the latest rant here. It's less of a look at problems with customers, and more of a view of the sick humor that can go on with the wait staff among themselves. You have been warned.)

Tonight we had another Adventure in Dining. I took my wife out for Valentines dinner. (Her job makes evenings tough during the week, so we have to celebrate early.) As I posted here previously, there's really only one five star restaurant in our area, plus two really good Japanese sushi places. However, a friend of ours who owns a local tavern we frequent told us about a newer place which opened that was supposed to be on par with the other top notch joint. With some doubt in my mind, I made reservations for a Friday early dinner for two. This evening we dressed up nicely and set out to explore it.

The name of the establishment is "P.S." I'm not sure exactly what they were going for with the name, but the chef and half owner is apparently a respected, accredited chef of good repute, so my hopes were up. The only problem was, as I mentioned earlier, that I keep having Waiter Rant flashbacks now when I go out to eat. Not only am I evaluating the restaurant, but I'm evaluating the wait staff while I wonder about how they are sizing up me.

We arrived and found that the location was something less than I thought might be desired for a top end eatery. It was in a smaller "strip mall" type building off of a larger strip mall. It shared a building with a grocery store, and the restaurant entrance was inside the building interior hallway with a big grocery store sign over the outside entryway. This took away, somewhat, from the initial impression.

The windows, interior and exterior, were blinded over so it blocked the view of the rest of the strip mall atmosphere, which helped. Upon entering, we saw a comfortable, though small looking lounge which was nice. Our table, however, was crowded in with a bunch of others in a room that looked as if it was a bank in a previous life. There were a number of nice decorations and artwork which added a lot, but I couldn't escape the feeling that I was in a bank lobby.

Our waitress was simply amazing - clean, personable, and a great personality. The presentation was fantastic... the service was top notch. The food however, had a few glitches. Mine was excellent. I had one of the specials for an appetizer - pan fried shrimp on guacamole served on a cracker of some sort. Hard to eat, but very tasty. I had chicken a la' orange (pardon the spelling) for a main course. They were both excellent.

My wife had the foie gras in an amazing sauce for an appetizer. Her main course, however, was a tuna steak that was advertised as "seared" but was cooked hard straight through. So, all in all, the food was mostly very good, but with some shortcomings. The atmosphere was simply not there.

We got the bill, which was less than at the five star, and seemed reasonable. It was $83, and after some soul searching with Waiter Rant in mind, I left a $22 tip. That wasn't high roller generosity, but I thought it was good and the waitress earned it, even if the design of the place and the food didn't rate a top notch comment. I suppose I was thinking more of her than of the chef and owner.

Bottom line... blogs can change how you look at ordinary aspects of life. In this case, I think it was in a positive way.

Spot of Poetry

posted by georg at 2/11/2005 04:39:00 PM

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Scale

If I could only see the scale,
I'm sure that it would state
That I've lost ounces ... maybe pounds
Or even tons of weight.
"You'd better eat some pancakes--
You're skinny as a rail."
I'm sure that's what the scale would say...
If I could see the scale.

-Shel Silverstein, "Falling Up."

Mike's Response to "Mission Statement"

posted by Mike at 2/11/2005 04:23:00 PM

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Another way that one could approach Jazz's question is what the Democrats' "elevator pitch" is, a topic recently discussed both at the American Prospect and on Kos' website.

I've followed those threads with particular interest because of my aforementioned interest in framing. (An example of framing would be Reid framing our massive deficit as a "birth tax" of $35,000.) For comparison, the Republican elevator pitch, according to the Prospect is:

We believe in freedom and liberty, and we're for low taxes, less government, traditional values, and a strong national defense.


Obviously, they've betrayed that pitch in any one of a half-dozen ways -- but that's the way they're marketing themselves, and obviously, Ma & Pa America fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

The reason I made this reply a blog entry and not a comment is that there's just been so many good entries between the two entries. My favorites, however, come from the Spectator's webpage:

We believe in balancing competition with cooperation, balancing strength with wisdom, balancing personal responsibility with responsibility towards others, balancing individuality with community, and that we are stronger united than divided. — C.U.

We stand for a moral society, a sound government, cost-effective national defense, compassionate taxes for the poor and the middle class and liberty unfettered by government intrusions. — Anonymous

Liberals believe that every American deserves a fighting chance, and a fair chance. We passionately believe that America's strength flows from excellent education, strong businesses, quality healthcare, and justice. — K.W., Bellevue, WA


I think the best, though, was:

Liberals believe our common humanity endows each of us, individually, with the right to freedom, self-government, and opportunity; and binds all of us, together, in responsibility for securing those rights. — T.W., Brookline, MA


That last one is definitely what I think the Democratic Party's "mission statement" should be.

Mission Statement

posted by Jazz at 2/11/2005 01:56:00 PM

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Do you remember the Tom Cruise movie, Jerry Maguire? Most of the movie was fairly bland to me, but in the beginning, Jerry is in a mad frenzy in his home. He's pacing back and forth, wearing a path in the carpet. He's chewing through pencils. Inspiration strikes, and he's at his computer writing in a mad frenzy.

The end result? His mission statement for his sports agency. He has a vision of making less money, but doing better for their clients. For a new, enlightened vision that will take them forward into the future, less concerned with corporate profits and bottom lines, but more in tune with the needs of humanity.

Of course, this results in everyone edging carefully away from him... and he gets fired.

I saw an editorial cartoon this week which pictured Howard Dean, holding hands with a donkey, leaping from the roof of the DNC building. He's screaming, "WE CAN FLY!" and the donkey has a petrified look on its face and is yelling, "AAAARRGGHHHH!"

This got me to thinking... I'm not a political party visionary who could structure the future for a minority party in need of a new vision. But I'm betting some of you are. What is the mission statement that Dean needs to write which won't send the Dems screaming off of a cliff? The voices I hear from around the Democratic community have some people giddy with excitement, but others seem to have a hollow sunken look in their eyes, saying, "Good God. What have we done?"

What is Dean's mission statement? The comment section is too small for something like that, so please feel free to blog it elsewhere and I'll link to it. Or e-mail it to me if you don't blog and I'll post it here. Seriously, though... what is the message? What is the mission? The GOP neocons are rising like Titans to rampage across the land. If Dean is to lead them out of the desert, he's going to need ten commandments carved from the native stone that will gather the flocks together.

What does that message need to be?

For the Birds

posted by Jazz at 2/11/2005 01:56:00 PM

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I really don't know what to make of this story. It comes down to a question of who is further off the beam... the zoo or the gays protesting?

BERLIN (Reuters) - A plan by a German zoo to test the sexual appetites of a group of suspected homosexual penguins has sparked outrage among gay and lesbian groups, who fear zookeepers might force them to turn straight.

"All sorts of gay and lesbian associations have been e-mailing and calling in to protest," said a spokesman for the zoo in the northwestern city of Bremerhaven on Friday.

He said the zoo concluded the penguins might be gay after seeing male penguins trying to mate with other males and trying to hatch offspring out of stones.

German media reported that female Swedish penguins would be brought to the zoo to test the theory, but when word got out about the plan, the phones started ringing.

"Nobody here is trying to break-up same sex pairs by force," the zoo's director Heike Kueck told public broadcaster NDR. "We don't know if the three male pairs are really gay or just got together because of a lack of females."


Thanks Blogger!

posted by Jazz at 2/11/2005 01:55:00 PM

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If posting is sporadic today, Blogger is up to its usual tricks. Working on it.

R.I.P., Arthur Miller

posted by Mike at 2/11/2005 12:54:00 PM

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Playwright Arthur Miller passed away last night at 89.

It's funny. Upon hearing this news, The Crucible and Death of a Salesman immediately come to mind as containing lessons this Administration desparately needs to learn.

2004 Koufax Awards: The Finals Begin

posted by Jazz at 2/11/2005 10:51:00 AM

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The Koufax Awards at Wampum have finally gotten into the finals phase. (The crew at Wampum has been working overtime on this non-stop while battling a large number of problems, and they have my sympathy.) While it is an honor for anyone even to be nominated in the first place, I am elated beyond belief that Running Scared has made the final cut in the Best Group Blog category. Yay!

We are obviously up against some seriously high quality competition, (just take a look at the list linked above) so I hardly expect us to win. But, even in the face of certain defeat I will still take this opportunity to shamelessly beg and blogwhore. If you enjoy reading the daily offerings from the staff of unpaid gullible slaves dedicated bloggers who contribute to this little effort at enlightening and hopefully amusing the masses, we would be most grateful if you would consider stopping by and tossing us a vote.

Several other categories are already up for voting as well, with the rest to come in the next day or so. Voting will close one week from today. In the Best Blog category, I was a sad to see that my personal favorite, Brilliant at Breakfast, didn't make the finals, but up against competition like Atrios, Daily Kos and the others, it was an awfully hard cut to make. My congratulations to Jill for making it as far as she did anyway.

Most Humorous, Best Writing, and Best Series are all also posted as of this morning. (It's a shame that Ron's continuing series on Social Security wasn't fully fleshed out and organized before the initial nominations got underway, or I think he'd have been in the running.

James Wolcott is up for Best Writing (though he could easily have been up for almost any category except group) and I wish him the best. For most humorous, with no Wolcott to pick, I'll probably be wrestling with a decision between Tbogg, Rude Pundit and Jesus General.

As always, though, I urge to you to explore the links to all of the choices in each category when you find the time. No matter who you vote for, if you enjoy left leaning blogs, you'll find a ton of really excellent ones there and you can probably expand your bookmarks and blogrolls considerably.

Iran, driving the reformers into the arms of the hardliners.

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/11/2005 09:54:00 AM

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Juan Cole has a short but very important closing paragraph this morning.
In other news, Iranian president Muhammad Khatami threatened that Iran would turn into "a scorching hell" to fight off any intervention by Americans. Khatami began in 1997 by being a liberal who called for a "diaologue of civilizations". Many observers were taken aback by the vehemence of the moderate's language. The Bush administration may well be driving the reformers into the arms of the hardliners.
As it eyes Iran the Bush administration is oblivious to the cultural and nationalistic factors in play. This is one of the "good" guys not an Ayatollah telling us to keep out.



Tort reform starts

posted by Jazz at 2/11/2005 09:52:00 AM

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The senate has now passed a bill to put certain limits on class action lawsuits - the first step in some long overdue tort reform. (Articles on this in the nyt here and here, and in the wapo here.) As I've written here before, this is something that I looked forward to with both anticipation and trepidation. There is a definite need for some sort of reform in an America which has become increasingly litigious. But at the same time, allowing lawmakers to limit the rights of citizens to pursue grievances through the legal system leaves the door open for abuse. Large industry interests (who tend to finance most politicians) obviously have a vested interest in stopping people from suing them, and if they are overly protected, the rights of truly injured consumers could be stepped on.

This bill seems to have some flaws, but it also addresses some serious existing problems. In cases of large, multi-state class action suits, one main issue is the habit of plaintiff's lawyers to "venue shop" for a hearing in a state with laws favorable to their clients to the detriment of a fair hearing for the defendant. This bill addresses that, moving such cases to a federal level.

Protections for the consumer seem to have also been built into the bill, stating that these reforms (and subsequent transfer of the cases from state to federal courts) would not apply to "smaller" suits under $5M nor to cases where all or most of the plaintiffs were in the same state. That seems sensible to me.

Looking around at what some other bloggers are saying, though, there are still questions to be answered. Kevin Drum points out that the bill does appear to handle some serious problems, but that it may create others.
At least, that might have been my opinion except for one thing: a series of Supreme Court rulings starting in 1985 have made it difficult on procedural grounds for nationwide suits to be heard in federal court. This means there might be cases where it's impossible to bring suit in either state or federal court.
This can lead to a sort of "catch 22" situation where some suits may never be heard in either state or federal court, effectively eliminating the plaintiff's only avenue of redress.

James Joyner likes the bill in most regards, but has the same concern.
Obviously, taking away the ability to sue at all is something that even the most hard-hearted capitalist would oppose. I'm unfamiliar with the case in question, so don't know upon what basis it was decided. There may be a simple statutory solution to the problem. If the issue is constitutional, there will need to be a standardization of tort law along the lines of the Uniform Commercial Code.
Julia at the American Street takes a look at why a certain group of Democrats voted against this measure.
"...all the Democrats who voted against it were wholly motivated by their doglike devotion to trial lawyers."
I don't think that's really a fair statement. I'm sure that trial lawyers are heavily invested in the Democratic party, but I think many of these Senators have legitimate concerns over the federal vs. state issues of the bill.

Sam Heldman, an attorney himself, has a long and detailed analysis of the bill. He finds it uniformly unacceptable and brings up a number of points against it not covered by some of the other pundits. He points out that the federal court system is already clogged with more cases than it can hear, and furthermore, the wording of the bill would, in his opinion, allow a number of smaller, single state cases to still be elevated to federal court where they may be rejected or not heard at all. Interesting analysis, and well worth a look.

Dave Johnson is just flatly against this bill and finds it sufficient cause to work against the 18 Democrats who voted for it in their next primary elections. I do see problems with the bill, but that might be a bit extreme.

We will undoubtedly be posting more on this as it develops. There are a lot of details in a very long, complicated piece of legislation for people to pour over before we can determine if this is true, needed reform to the legal system, a giveaway to large corporate interests or, as is so often the case, a little bit of both.

Friday Cat and Dog Blogging

posted by Mu at 2/11/2005 09:01:00 AM

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For absolute equality in exposure:


Friday Cat Blogging

posted by Jazz at 2/11/2005 08:12:00 AM

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Giving fair and equal time to both the canines and the felines, here's a current picture of one happy cat. It's the kitty equivalent of hitting the lottery when somebody drops a nice warm blanket into a chair as you're walking by. Spider jumps in and manages to fall asleep before her head even hits the blanket.

(Click on image for full size picture)




Remember to stop by the Modulator for lots more animals, living and prehistoric. Also, this week's Carnival of the Cats will be held at The Conservative Cat.

Friday Dog Blogging

posted by Jazz at 2/11/2005 08:08:00 AM

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Check out the Friday Ark at the modulator for more pets.

We haven't heard from Kenya for a while, so here's a current picture. As you can see, at more than 13 years old, Kenya is getting a bit gray about the snout. She's still a fun loving active dog with a good apetite, though. Unfortunately, like me, she's getting pains in her joints on cold wet days and is taking medication for that.

(Clickon image for full size picture.)



Visions of days to come

posted by Jazz at 2/11/2005 07:41:00 AM

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Ron has an interesting post at MEJ where he predicts the future of the political landscape through 2008. I can't say that I agree with every aspect of it, but it's food for thought to chew over with your bagel this morning.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Tripping the Light Blogtastic

posted by Jazz at 2/10/2005 05:07:00 PM

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Just a few interesting things I found today. They got me thinking... they may for you as well. Happy reading.

Doug Petch asks some troubling questions about who should profit from blog aggregators who syphon off the work of other bloggers?

Stop reading this crap and go read a book. Poetic Leanings has a damned fine list of reading material. I feel a small swelling of pride to say that I've already been through nearly half of it. Some of you, I imagine, could top that.

Martinis, cigarettes and hookers. I really can't say any more.

This site is certified 21% EVIL by the Gematriculator This site is certified 79% GOOD by the Gematriculator
If you want to know what the hell I'm on about there, go ask Prophet or Madman. It's all his fault.

Adam and Steve. Red Hair, Black Leather explains what I don't have the heart to go into today.

If Satan banged Eartha Kitt, what would the offspring look like? Shakespeare's Sister shows you. (Warning... do not view directly before or after a meal.)

No weekly roundup of posts would be complete without a visit to Waiter Rant. This week, we see the pain that can come to somebody for being a poor tipper.

"Hello, The Bistro, how may I help you?" I chirp brightly.

"I want to make a reservation for February 14th," a slightly accented voice demands.

"Let me just get over to that day sir," I say turning to the reservation computer.

"That's Valentine's day," the voice huffs. No shit Einstein.

"What time would you like to make the reservation.?" I ask.

"Seven o'clock. I want a window table for two."

Since most guys make Valentine's Day plans at the last minute we have plenty of open tables.

"And your name, sir?"

"Dr. Zamir."

Zamir, Zamir, hmmmmm. I flip through my mental Rolodex of bad tippers. Ah, here we are.

Five months ago, Dr. Zamir left me $12 on a $175 check - 6.8%. I remember him. My memory is long. My patience for justice - infinite.

Time to bring the pain.

"I'm sorry Dr. Zamir, my first available table is at 9 o'clock." I offer sweetly.

"9 o'clock?" Zamir sputters, "that's way too late!"

"It is Valentine's Day and those slots filled up early," I lie.

"Can't you do something for me?" he begs.

"I'm so sorry sir."
A story like that makes me feel all warm inside. I was able to get a good table on 48 hours notice at one of the only two top end eateries around here for Valentines weekend. Then again, I've never tipped a waiter 6.8% unless it was my first time at a place so truly awful in service that I knew I was never coming back and was trying to send a message.

Gannongate Tied Up

posted by Jazz at 2/10/2005 04:14:00 PM

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Hopefully, by now, you're familiar with the adventures of Jim Guckert (a.k.a "Gannon") - the guy who was apparently a shill for GOPUSA and received press credentials to get into White House press conferences and throw softball questions and right wing spin to the President and Scotty McClellan. It's a terrific story which always gets me rolling. Brilliant at Breakfast has the latest scoops all rounded up into one huge post which, I assure you, will be worth your time to read. When you finish cleaning off your monitor you can come back and thank me.

Edit: Joe Gandelman has an excellent roundup of some more references.

War on tyrants. The next move?

posted by Jazz at 2/10/2005 03:23:00 PM

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I have to thank Ron for sending me a link to this editorial from Truthout. Steve Weissman has an interesting take on the preznit's visions of grandeur concerning the Arab Street. His basic premise is that he's shifting his rhetoric from the somewhat tarnished "war on terror" to a new platform of a "war on tyrants."
Look again at his State of the Union address, where he made the War on Tyrants his central theme and organizing principle. "America," he declared, "will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

Too many political observers have dismissed this as little more than hot air and hypocrisy. With failure looming in Iraq and our military stretched to the breaking point, why would Mr. Bush seek new conquests. It hardly seems realistic.

But that is precisely the point. Mr. Bush operates on Christian faith and Neo-Con ideology, not on a rational weighing of our vital national interests against the resources available to secure them. Mr. Bush shuns such reality-based thinking and has banished foreign policy realists like his father's National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft from even peripheral posts in his second administration.

Sometimes you need a plain spoken person to come out and say what most of the MSM are too meek to proclaim. Weissman spends some time prognosticating about what our next moves will be in Iraq, (a long term base of operations for decades to come) but then moves on to how Bush has Iran in his sights.
Today, said the president in his State of the Union, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror - pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve.

The Ayatollahs are clearly Mr. Bush's tyrants of choice, though not necessarily the most immediate. Staying on message as only they can, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, and even Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's resigning Neo-Con, have gone out of their way to insist that they are biding their time and using 'diplomatic tools' to deal with Iran and its nuclear program.

Think of it as foreplay. Just as Mr. Bush went to the United Nations Security Council after his Higher Father had already convinced him to use force against Saddam, he is again using diplomacy to set the stage for the glint he already has in his eye.

As in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, he is acting in extremely bad faith. But this time Congress, the media, and the American people have no excuse for getting sucked in. Fool me once, your fault. Fool me twice, mine.

I feel a lot better seeing that I'm not the only one who's been saying that since Condi's rock star tour of Europe kicked off. (See the link below for previous posts on this.) This is an excellent editorial and I encourage you to give Steve a little love and go read the whole thing.




Senator Al Franken?

posted by Mike at 2/10/2005 11:48:00 AM

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Sen. Al Franken? Hey, I like Jon Stewart a lot. But I don't think a President Stewart would be a good idea. Same deal here.

I can just picture the Senate now:

"Mr. Cheney, I believe this legislation needs to be presented to the Senate as a whole."

"Why, Mr. Franken? It's not even gone to commitee yet."

"Because, sir, I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."


Seriously ... he'd be as good for the Democrats as Rush Limbaugh would be for the Republicans. He belongs as a polemic, not as a legislator.

Search Function

posted by Jazz at 2/10/2005 09:53:00 AM

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If you scroll down a ways below the blogrolls in the right hand column, you will find a new feature. It's the Technorati search tool. You can use it to search this blog, or all blogs, using any keywords you choose. It's a good way to either find old posts here quickly, or to find other blogs which are talking about a particular topic in which you may be interested. Enjoy.

Two sets of books, two assumptions

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/10/2005 09:39:00 AM

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I think most of us realize now that Bush's private accounts plan is nothing but a ponzi scheme to destroy Social Security, divert money to Wall Street and avoid paying off the treasury bonds held by the Social Security Trust Fund. Jonathan Weisman and Ben White of the Washington Post explain that Bush is using different economic assumptions when talking about the bankruptcy of Social Security and the returns one could expect from private accounts. This should come as no surprise since we have seen that lies and deception are the major tools the Bush administration has used to sell it's policies.
If economic growth is slow enough that we've got a problem with Social Security, then we are also going to have problems with the stock market. It's as simple as that," said Douglas Fore, director of investment analytics for TIAA-CREF Investment Management Group. A spokeswoman said the company has not taken a position on the Social Security debate.
So, if economic growth is slow enough to cause a Social Security shortfall the stockmarket will also perform badly. Some predict that if money that now goes into the Social Security trust fund is invested in securities the demand will result in an increase in equity value. There is one problem with that, if stock prices go up without earnings and actual value increasing we have a bubble. As we learned in the 90's bubbles always burst.

It's a different economy
White House officials think the decision is easy. Social Security's chief actuary assumes that an account invested half in stocks and half in corporate and Treasury bonds would yield a 4.6 percent return above inflation, enough for a comfortable profit over the traditional benefit. An index of stocks alone would return 6.5 percent over inflation, based on historical performances.

But some economists are not so sure. Richard Berner, senior U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley and an opponent of diverting Social Security taxes into private accounts, said strong stock market returns of the past 20 years were an anomaly driven by a confluence of low inflation and low interest rates that is not likely to repeat. "The administration's assumptions, especially for a balanced portfolio, sound pretty high," he said.
We know that the Iraq war was not about WMD so we should not be surprised the "private accounts" aren't about you have more money when you retire. Just like the WMD in Iraq you have additional money when you retire is a myth and a lie.

Index of Social Security Posts

At last... the exit strategy

posted by Jazz at 2/10/2005 09:26:00 AM

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Ok... this guy is funny.

BUSH PROMISES TO BRING TROOPS HOME THROUGH IRAN

Most Direct Route, President Says

Under pressure to detail an exit strategy for Iraq, President George W. Bush said at a White House briefing today that he would not designate an exact timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. troops but added, “The fastest way to bring the troops home would be through Iran.”

After reporters audibly gasped, the president explained that bringing the troops home through Iran would be “the most direct route” and produced driving directions from Mapquest to back up his claim.

But less than an hour after his remarks, Iranian president Mohammed Khatami blasted Mr. Bush’s exit strategy, arguing that bringing U.S. troops home through Iran was far from the most direct route, and was, in fact, going totally in the wrong direction.

Using a map of the world and a magic marker, President Khatami showed that by traveling east rather than west, U.S. troops would have to circumnavigate the globe in order to reach their final destination.

In response, Mr. Bush acknowledged that it would be a long journey, but added, “If necessary, we’ll stop in North Korea.”


Thursday's Question of the Day

posted by Jazz at 2/10/2005 08:21:00 AM

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A recent series of reports on CNN indicated that a growing number of Americans are getting less and less vacation time per year. In many cases, people reported that they had no paid vacation time at all in 2004. There was a parallel report showing a disturbing number of employers who offered no sick time, either. The result was that many people were exhibiting dangerous levels of "presenteeism." (The opposite of being absent.) In other words, they were showing up for work when they were sick, and likely contagious, simply because they couldn't afford to miss the pay and time at work. This was particularly worrisome in the food service industry.

Personally I feel very fortunate not to have experienced these things. I currently get eighteen days of paid vacation combined with "floating holidays" per year. In two more years that will become a full month of paid time off. The company I contract under also has a policy of paid sick time with no hard limit on it. (Though of course they monitor it for abuse, and any sick time in excess of three consecutive days is supposed to be transferred over to disability claims.)

How is your experience in this regard, and what have you seen in the situations of other people you personally know? Are we getting more, less, or just enough vacation from employers? Are benefits becoming a thing of the past?

Iran pushing back

posted by Jazz at 2/10/2005 07:07:00 AM

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Showing no signs of being impressed by any sort of bullying tactics, the president of Iran laid it out on the table yesterday for the international community.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- President Mohammad Khatami vowed Wednesday that no Iranian government would ever abandon the progress that the country has made in developing peaceful nuclear technology.

"If other parties [to the negotiations] are not committed to their promises, we will not be committed to our promises at all," Khatami told a meeting of foreign diplomats in Tehran. The Europeans have promised Iran economic and technological aid in return for cooperation on the nuclear issue.

Khatami then went further and warned of a course of action that would reach far: "If we feel you [Europeans] do not fulfill your promises, we will adopt a new policy, and the responsibility of its huge consequences will lie with those who broke their promises," he said. He did not say more about this policy.

Ah... American diplomacy at its finest. Push them hard enough, and they will push back. This next bit is rather important to remember.
Khatami reiterated that Iran would never make nuclear weapons. He said the country was a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and had reaffirmed its commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear power in November.
Wouldn't it be just a tad embarrassing if we invaded Iran, searched all of their nuclear facilities, and found out that they really were only making fuel rods for their reactors? Oh, wait... what am I thinking? This administration is never embarrassed about anything.

Continuing their recent history of showing more common sense than testosterone, Germany took an early stand on this.

Bush has refused to rule out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, but German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Wednesday that his country could not support such action.

"We want to help Iran. We want economic cooperation. But we want no military intervention," Schroeder said to applause at a meeting of his Social Democratic Party in Cologne.

Good for you! Schroeder for preznit in '08! (Hey... why not? People are pushing for Arnold.)



Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Bush Popularity Soars! (Among Republicans)

posted by Jazz at 2/09/2005 05:58:00 PM

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You may have recently seen the CNN poll showing that Dubya had gotten an amazing boost in popularity, up to 57% favorable, after the Iraqi "elections" this month. That's so great for the preznit, eh?

Not so fast. The Left Coaster was all over that like white on rice. It turns out they published a poll that had 9% more Republicans than democrats. No... that's not a typo.

CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll
February 4-6, 2005
Bush Approval/Disapproval 57%-40%

Republicans: 378 (37%)
Independents: 353 (35%)
Democrats: 279 (28%)

He still doesn't even have half the country behind his agenda. Don't drink the Kool Aid, folks.



Indexing George and Dick's Next Excellent Adventure

posted by Jazz at 2/09/2005 05:00:00 PM

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Since it seems that Dubya (and his new "Mouth of Mordor" Condi) are serious about greasing the skids for his next invasion, we may as well get serious also. I'll try to keep an index of information about Bush's designs on Iran in a single post which we can update as needed. So, in chronological order, oldest to newest...
  • Pot... Kettle... etc. (2/6/05)Tehran hears Bush's accusations about their country and don't buy it.
  • Something burning on the horizon. (2/7/05) David Kay points out the similarities between this rhetoric and the ramp up the Iraq invasion, providing a blueprint on how not to make the same mistakes.
  • Iran: Thanks, but no thanks. (2/8/05)Tehran warns Bush and Israel against bombing their reactors.
  • The real way to work for change in Iran. (2/8/05) A Nobel Peace Prize winner from Iran explains why invading her country won't help anyone there.
  • There are other steps... (2/9/05) Condi does more saber rattling and lets Iran know just what Bush has in mind for them.
  • Iran pushing back. (2/10/05) Iranian president denies weapons, vows to keep peaceful nuclear technology. German chancellor says they will NOT support an American attack on Iran.
  • War on tyrants. The next move? (2/10/05) An editorial by Steve Weissman on how Bush moved from the "war on terror" to the "war on tyrants." Good reading.
  • Iran: Driving reformers into the arms of hardliners. (2/11/05) Ron takes a look at a Juan Cole piece explaining how Bush is chasing the wrong bad guy here.
  • The Five Morons. (2/12/05) An editorial analysis of how the Bush administration has shifted the blame for the failures in Iraq and how they might affect Iran.
  • Sunday Iran Update. (2/13/05) Washington commisions a new "Intelligence" estimate on Iran, the Germans call for diplomacy and a petition to the UN is started over this.
  • Don't you just miss the cold war? (2/18/05) Russia speaks up on Iran's behalf, declares partnership for peaceful nuclear ambitions.
  • More Sugar, Less Vinegar (2/23/05) Bush declares rumors of Iran attack "ridiculous" along with an excellent Lighthouse article on relations with Syria and Iran.
  • Kharazi: West ignores realities in Iran (2/24/05) The Iranian foreign minister talks about American double standards and lack of cultural understanding.

Take some Tumbs

posted by Mu at 2/09/2005 03:21:00 PM

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before you click at this link. But then, maybe you get lucky and she does run for president.

Pass the Spinach on the Lefthand Side ...

posted by Mike at 2/09/2005 02:04:00 PM

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You know, with all this discussion about Spongebob Squarepants, no one's been wondering about Popeye and what he's smoking in that pipe of his. (The funny thing is that they make a very convincing case!)

You can't make stuff like this up ...

posted by Mike at 2/09/2005 01:22:00 PM

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MS. MORNIN: That's good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.

THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?

MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)


Sometimes, he just does my job for me.

Neal Stephenson on "Power Disorders" in Government

posted by Mike at 2/09/2005 01:08:00 PM

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I'm running across a lot of gems today. There may even be a few more to come.

Neal Stephenson has always been a favorite author of mine. He wrote the seminal science fiction novel Snow Crash -- and if you consider yourself even slightly libertarian (or even if you don't), you really might want to enjoy this novel -- and has some absolutely amazing insights into society.

I found this remark of his in a recent interview with Reason magazine really quite insightful:

It's clear that the body politic is subject to power disorders. By this I mean events where some person or group suddenly concentrates a lot of power and abuses it. Power disorders frequently come as a surprise, and cause a lot of damage. This has been true since the beginning of human history. Exactly how and why power disorders occur is poorly understood.

We are in a position akin to that of early physicians who could see that people were getting sick but couldn't do anything about it, because they didn't understand the underlying causes. They knew of a few tricks that seemed to work. For example, nailing up plague houses tended to limit the spread of plague. But even the smart doctors tended to fall under the sway of pet theories that were wrong, such as the idea that diseases were caused by imbalanced humors or bad air. Once that happened, they ignored evidence that contradicted their theory. They became so invested in that theory that they treated any new ideas as threats. But from time to time you'd see someone like John Snow, who would point out, "Look, everyone who draws water from Well X is getting cholera." Then he went and removed the pump handle from Well X and people stopped getting cholera. They still didn't understand germ theory, but they were getting closer.

We can make a loose analogy to the way that people have addressed the problem of power disorders. We don't really understand them. We know that there are a couple of tricks that seem to help, such as the rule of law and separation of powers. Beyond that, people tend to fall under the sway of this or that pet theory. And so you'll get perfectly intelligent people saying, "All of our problems would be solved if only the workers controlled the means of production," or what have you. Once they've settled on a totalizing political theory, they see everything through that lens and are hostile to other notions.


And, by the way, I'm not somehow thinking that Democrats are excluded from this "power disorder" concept. It's most obvious among the neocons at the moment, but it's been a longstanding problem with most government, it seems.

Whassup, Dawg?

posted by Jazz at 2/09/2005 01:02:00 PM

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Yes... I even annoyed myself by typing that title. Sorry about that. This post, however, has nothing to do with common urban euphemisms. But it does have to do with dogs. There is an article in Newsweek (which I'm unable to find online thus far... sorry) about next week's Westminster Dog Show. The title of the article is what initially caught my attention.

'Ugliest' dog to join Westminster show on Monday
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show doesn't offer a ribbon for Ugliest in Show. Not that there would be much competition this year anyway.

Sort of a cross between a gargoyle and a brontosaurus, with a little sphinx thrown in for good measure, the Neapolitan mastiff is the most prehistoric looking branch of the Lassie family tree. And it will lumber around the ring at Madison Square Garden for the first time Monday at Westminster's 129th annual dog show.
After being prodded for far too long by my wife, I have finally started attending the odd dog show in our area here and there, and I am forced to admit that they are a lot of fun. They are much more humanely handled than I had previously been led to believe, and you get to see dogs of many interesting breeds that you generally don't run into at your friends' homes.

The money quote for this article, however, was from the owner of one of these beasts. This is a person with rather eclectic taste in animals, I think.
"I like things that look like they were hit by a car," said Jim Deppen of Freehold, N.J. whose 3-year old Champion Ironstone's Sirius Black is one of three Neapolitan mastiffs entered.
It may just be me, but I think the phrase "hit by a car" should never be used in describing your dog. I did some digging and found a picture of one of these dogs. The author's description really wasn't far off the mark.




Talk about a face only a mother could love. Hell's bells... even a mother would probably run away screaming from this guy.

To Silence Everybody & Anybody Who Dares to Question Any Part of the Agenda ...

posted by Mike at 2/09/2005 12:21:00 PM

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Wow! I just read Sen. Durbin — one of my Senators — yelling at the Republicans on Monday over the RNC's Reid character assassination campaign — and, man, does he get some choice ones in there:

This is not a discussion they're planning. This is an effort to try to intimidate political opponents into silence — and it is shameful.

Why is the RNC doing this now? Because they do not want to debate their radical proposals on the merits. They don't want to talk about the details of Social Security privatization, which is becoming increasingly unpopular in America. They don't want to talk about the budget they released today, which will make deep cuts in health care, veterans care, and education. They want to silence everybody and anybody who dares to question any part of the agenda.

That is not what America is about. It is not the way this Senate is supposed to work.

I say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, is there one amongst us who could withstand this type of withering scrutiny and criticism? I think, frankly, my friends should stop and realize we have 2 years ahead of us in this session. We need to work with one another. We have and we will. Starting with this approach is bad.


Here's another great bit:

There is another element here, too. I have some rules in my life that are hard and fast when it comes to politics, and one rule is that I never attack my opponent's family. Never. There have been ample opportunities when some relative of my opponent did something very embarrassing or I could have issued a press release and taken advantage of it. I never did it because I never want people attacking my family.

The Republican National Committee starts off their campaign by attacking Senator Reid's family. I think the hottest ring in hell is reserved for politicians who attack their opponents' families, and I hope Senator Frist believes that, too.


Another gem I would have missed if not for GovTrack.Us.

Are you feeling safer?

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/09/2005 11:19:00 AM

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Are we safer now than before 9-11? Thanks to the regime of King George the answer is a resounding NO. Most of those who are still capable of independent thought realize that the invasion of Iraq has inflamed the Islamic world and made us less safe. In order to invade Iraq we had to leave Afghanistan before the job was finished making us less safe. Now Nicholas Kristof explains how Bush has totally screwed up the North Korea nukes situation making us, you guessed it, less safe.
[T]here are two words the Bush administration doesn't want you to think about: North Korea.

That's because the most dangerous failure of U.S. policy these days is in North Korea. President Bush has been startlingly passive as North Korea has begun churning out nuclear weapons like hot cakes.
The famous "Axis of Evil" speech may have done more to contribute to nuclear proliferation than anything else.
North Korea is particularly awkward for Mr. Bush to discuss publicly because, as best we know, it didn't make a single nuclear weapon during Bill Clinton's eight years in office (although it did begin a separate, and secret, track to produce uranium weapons; it hasn't produced any yet but may eventually). In contrast, the administration now acknowledges that North Korea extracted enough plutonium in the last two years for about half a dozen nuclear weapons.
So, do you feel safer?
But U.S. policy on North Korea for the last four years has only strengthened Mr. Kim and allowed him to expand his nuclear arsenal severalfold.

The risk is that Mr. Bush will respond to the failure of his first term's policy by adopting an even harder line in the coming months, seeking Security Council sanctions (he won't get them) and ultimately imposing some kind of naval quarantine. That would only strengthen Mr. Kim's grip on power, as well as risk a war on the Korean peninsula. A Pentagon study in the 1990's predicted that such a war could kill one million people.

In short, our mishandling of North Korea has been appalling - and it may soon get worse.
The "rapture" may be closer than we think.

Undifferentiated Opposition

posted by Mike at 2/09/2005 11:19:00 AM

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Being a legal secretary can be tough work at times, but it does have its occasional collateral benefits, such as when you return from your Christmas vacation to find that every vendor in the darn free world has decided to try to bribe you with Christmas trinkets. Very often, they're absolutely useless (oooh, a cheapo pen that flickers red and green), but one vendor actually gave out some sort of brief discounted magazine subscription to the mag of your choice. Since I wasn't really up for a fly fishing magazine or Cosmo, I ended up subscribing to Time, and accordingly, I've lately been finding myself drawn to Joe Klein's "In the Arena" columns each week.

This week's column is called "The Incredible Shrinking Democrats" — which is unusual for Klein, given that, unless I am wildly off on this, he usually seems to write from a liberal perspective. But in it, he makes an incredibly good point that hits directly right to we "opposition forces" of the blogosphere, too:

The current Democrats resemble nothing so much as the Republicans during the 25 years after Roosevelt's death — negative, defensive, intellectually feeble, a permanent minority. There are reasons to oppose this President — arrogance abroad, crony capitalism at home — but undifferentiated opposition is obtuse and most likely counterproductive.


(Emphasis added.) That one line hit home hard for me, especially the concept of undifferentiated opposition. Why? I — like many, many, many of my brethren — have been so overwhelmed by the onslaught of idiocies coming from the Bush Administration that, indeed, no one in the Bush Administration can possibly do any good, in my eyes. I have definitely grown accustomed to undifferentiated opposition — as did mainstream liberals and Democrats, as shown by Kerry's campaign, which failed, I believe, because it did not take a clear stand on and for progressive values, but based the bulwark of its campaigning on anti-Bush rhetoric. Not that Dubya didn't deserve it, but mainstream America responded more to Republicans' smooth, insincere come-on lines about 'values' than to the important criticism of Bush's horrible first term.

I suppose that's why I've been reaching out for Dean (and Lakoff) — to me, they represents much more of a "we stand for this" platform than a "can you believe the shit this guy is pulling?!?!?" platform. Instead of saying "this is fucked up" to everything Bush says, we need to clash with his crap by saying, "This is wrong, because [conflict with Democrats' positive platform plank]. And what we have in mind is better, because of .

"Undifferentiated opposition." That's the Democrats' biggest P.R. problem summed up in two words.

The 2005 Irony Awards

posted by Jazz at 2/09/2005 10:49:00 AM

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We have a winner.



Quote of the Day

posted by Mike at 2/09/2005 10:32:00 AM

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Shirley Chisholm, first black Congresswoman, when reflecting on her failed 1972 campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination, as quoted in CNN:

"The term democracy ... sounds wonderful, sounds beautiful, but it's not carried out in the real sense of the word when you realize what goes on behind the scenes. When you realize how people bargain for votes, how people deal to get three more delegates to a convention. That's not democracy. What a cost."


An unfortunate truth.

"There are other steps"

posted by Jazz at 2/09/2005 10:03:00 AM

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It is quickly approaching the time that a concerted effort needs to be made to organize contacts with Senators and House members about Iran. In Iraqn Part II: The Sequel, Condi Rice is making daily verbal shots at Iran her number one priority.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that Iran cannot delay indefinitely accountability for a suspected nuclear weapons program, but said the United States has set "no deadline, no timeline" for Tehran to act. [S]he warned Tehran that the United States would not accept foot-dragging by the government there as officials weigh various diplomatic overtures that European nations have made to resolve the nuclear question.

At a news conference with NATO officials, Rice told reporters that Iran must live up to its obligations.

"I think the message is there," Rice said. "The Iranians need to get that message," she said, adding that Tehran should know that "there are other steps" the international community can take.

"Other steps" Condi? Indeed. And I believe those "steps" will be once again heard in marching of jack boots in sandy far off places. This is the same woman with the "smoking gun... mushroom cloud" invective. How much more clear does this need to be? Bush has sent her out to put a perfumed and lipstick decorated face on a very thinly veiled threat. Yet again, the Europeans are trying to work through a long and complicated series of diplomatic channels, and we've got somebody out there threatening war.

Stay tuned for some ideas on how people can get involved in a grass roots movement to head this off at the pass before Bush lights the entire damned world on fire.

My further opinions on Israel and Palestine

posted by The One True Tami at 2/09/2005 09:10:00 AM

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For those of you who remain interested in my opinions on the "Road Map to Peace", I've posted a fairly long piece over on Tami, the One True.
Pop on over if that's the sort of thing you want to read.

Today's Question

posted by Jazz at 2/09/2005 09:01:00 AM

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You're out for a walk on a sunny day, just enjoying the weather. As you pass some shrubs and deep grass on the side of the road, you see a briefcase in the weeds. Thinking to find some hint as to the identity of the owner so you can return it, you check to see if the case is unlocked. It is.

Upon opening it, instead of identification, you find more than ten thousand dollars, three large plastic baggies filled with a white powder which you immediately assume is either cocaine or heroin, and a loaded 9 mm handgun.

What do you do?

Possible choices:
  1. I close the damned thing, leave it where I found it and get the hell out of there. This looks like trouble.
  2. I close it up and proceed immediately to the police station to turn it in and complete a report. This is obviously part of a crime.
  3. I take the entire thing home and put an ad in the paper saying I've found a lost briefcase. Drug dealers are entitled to have their property back too.
  4. I take the cash and keep it, but leave the other stuff in the case.
  5. I take the cash and the gun, but leave the drugs there.
  6. I take everything. I won't have to pay for drugs for a year! Woo Hoo!
  7. Something else entirely
So... what would YOU do?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Today's winning spam e-mail subject line

posted by Jazz at 2/08/2005 03:12:00 PM

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"Amend your sperm cell count and character. A breathtaking boost to your portfolio."

You get full points for spelling and sentence construction. You get beyond full points for making me say, "Huhwazzashi... huh?"

Brrrr ... tough time sleeping tonight ...

posted by Mike at 2/08/2005 02:29:00 PM

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Ever wonder about the full details of the presidential line of succession?

I have something to give you the heebie-jeebies ...

This country is four deaths away from President Condoleezza Rice.

(Note to NSA/FBI/CIA/KGB/Men in Black: Not advocating those four deaths.)

Another reality check from Krugman

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/08/2005 11:10:00 AM

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The George W. Bush Social Security "reform" plan is just one part of an attempt of the administration to undo the "New Deal" and give feudalism an encore in the United States. Today Paul Krugman explains how Social Security privatization is nothing more than a Grover Norquistian attempt to Spear the Beast.
[P]resident Bush isn't trying to reform Social Security. He isn't even trying to "partially privatize" it. His plan is, in essence, to dismantle the program, replacing it with a system that may be social but doesn't provide security. And the goal, as with his tax cuts, is to undermine the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt.
Why do I say that the Bush plan would dismantle Social Security? Because for Americans who entered the work force after the plan went into effect and who chose to open private accounts, guaranteed benefits - income you receive after retirement even if everything else goes wrong - would be nearly eliminated.
Taking the Security out of Social Security.
Here's how it would work. First, workers with private accounts would be subject to a "clawback": in effect, they would have to mortgage their future benefits in order to put money into their accounts.
This will not only not "fix" Social Security it will actually make the problem worse.
Second, since private accounts would do nothing to improve Social Security's finances - something the administration has finally admitted - there would be large benefit cuts in addition to the clawback.
It's all about ideology, Social Darwinism where the "haves" get more and "have nots" have even less, that is eliminating the "New Deal" and that evil dragon "The Welfare State.
Why expose workers to that much risk? Ideology. "Social Security is the soft underbelly of the welfare state," declares Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute. "If you can jab your spear through that, you can undermine the whole welfare state."

By the welfare state, Mr. Moore means Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - social insurance programs whose purpose, above all, is to protect Americans against the extreme economic insecurity that prevailed before the New Deal. The hard right has never forgiven F.D.R. (and later L.B.J.) for his efforts to reduce that insecurity, and now that the right is running Washington, it's trying to turn the clock back to 1932.

Medicaid is also in the cross hairs. And if Mr. Bush can take down Social Security, Medicare will be next.

The attempt to "jab a spear" through Social Security complements the strategy of "starve the beast," long advocated by right-wing intellectuals: cut taxes, then use the resulting deficits as an excuse for cuts in social spending. The spearing doesn't seem to be going too well at the moment, but the starving was on full display in the budget released yesterday.
No compromise, take no prisoners:
Any deficit reduction will come from spending cuts. Many of those cuts won't make it through Congress, but Mr. Bush may well succeed in imposing cuts in child care assistance and food stamps for low-income workers. He may also succeed in severely squeezing Medicaid - the only one of the three great social insurance programs specifically intended for the poor and near-poor, and therefore the most politically vulnerable.

All of this explains why it's foolish to imagine some sort of widely acceptable compromise with Mr. Bush about Social Security. Moderates and liberals want to preserve the America F.D.R. built. Mr. Bush and the ideological movement he leads, although they may use F.D.R.'s image in ads, want to destroy it.
Social Security reform is part of the plan to return the United States to the economics of the 16th century. Works very nicely with the 16th century "moral values" they are pushing.

Index of Social Security Posts

Give Peace a Chance

posted by The One True Tami at 2/08/2005 10:38:00 AM

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Palestinians, Israel announce cease-fire

Well! A cease-fire! Bless my buttons! That's amazingly good! And yes, my tongue is in my cheek, but only a little tiny bit.

I've mentioned in the past, and my mind hasn't been changed, that no one is really in charge of the people who call themselves Palestinians. There are a million groups, and none of the really violent fringe ones have ever seemed willing to honor any kind of cease-fire agreed to in the past. But wait -
Rice also announced Monday that U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Ward will act as a security coordinator and will visit the region in the next few weeks. Ward also will work on Mideast security issues with Egypt and Jordan, she said.

"Gen. Ward's mandate is on security, which after all, really has to get established and has to be moving forward in order for us to make progress," Rice said.

Ward's responsibilities will include helping the Palestinians train and equip their security forces. Among his duties, Rice said, would be monitoring compliance with Israeli and Palestinian security agreements.

"We are very clear that the parties need to live up to their obligations," she said. "We won't hesitate to say to the parties when those obligations aren't being met."

Palestinian security forces? Could this possibly mean what I think it does? That Palestinians are willing to admit that they have some responsibility to police their own people, and to try and prevent terrorist forces within their midst? Because that's the only way that peace in this region can ever work. Simply decrying terrorism in public forums is not enough, Palestinians must actually work to stop terrorists in their own ranks. Do they really want to?

Now, the next problem is, of course, getting the Israelis to stop the violence, too. How do you convince a group of soldiers who've lived their whole lives looking over their shoulders every minute to stop shooting at the suspicious? Reactions like that have kept them alive up until now, for more often than not, people were trying to kill them. Go ahead, call me paranoid, but I spent 7 months of my life in Israel, just being a student, and I got to see 2 real bombs left in the street and I once moved carefully in the opposite direction of a grenade attack one night in town. Sure, I got held up by bomb threats dozens of times and only 2 were real, and I was in town every night for 5 months, more or less, with only one grenade attack... I think you can see what I'm saying. It's been a violent place, people aren't used to the idea of not shooting.

I once again bring up the issue of feelings and desire. These people have been raised to hate each other. Hate. Not the namby-pamby idea of hate that we here in the U.S. use to express strong dislike, but the kind of hate that inspires you to try and end others' lives. We can say that there's a cease fire, but do the people want it? Is the desire for peace just something that is given lip service, because its real meaning has been lost amongst ancient feuding that outsiders can't understand? I kind of think so, and that's what makes me so pessimistic about this "road map". I'd like to see peace, but I haven't lived with the anger all my life.

(cross-posted at Tami, the One True)

Modern Imperialist Dogma

posted by Jazz at 2/08/2005 10:31:00 AM

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Be sure to stop by this link to see an example of a right wing, conservative blogger who is finally coming out of the closet and endorsing American "Imperialism." We've seen the dreams of empire being spun from the entrails of American troops on the Bushrovian spinning wheel, but it's refreshing to see a right wing blogger come out and openly embrace it rather than pretending that it's not happening. The comments section on that one might be fun reading if we're lucky.

The real way to work for change in Iran

posted by Jazz at 2/08/2005 09:59:00 AM

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As most people with at least one foot left in reality would understand, bombs aren't the answer. They rarely are. As we have seen recently, in addition to open Bush administration declarations that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb "under the guise of civilian nuclear power research", we are also hearing the litany of complaints about "human rights abuses" in Iran. In an attempt to correct the thinking of anyone who feels that the best path to human rights is at the point of a gun, Shirin Ebadi has published an editorial in the New York Times which clearly explains both the history of human rights efforts in that country and why invading them would set back those goals for decades. In case you are questioning what Ms. Ebadi's qualifications might be to speak to this subject, she is a native Iranian, the founder of the Center for Defense of Human Rights in Iran, and the 2003 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

First, she explains why progress is being made on human rights in Iran.
American policy toward the Middle East, and Iran in particular, is often couched in the language of promoting human rights. No one would deny the importance of that goal. But for human rights defenders in Iran, the possibility of a foreign military attack on their country represents an utter disaster for their cause. Iranian society has refused to be coerced into silence. The human rights discourse is alive and well at the grassroots level; civil society activists consider it to be the most potent framework for achieving sustainable democratic reforms and political pluralism.

Indeed, American readers might be surprised to know how vigorous Iran's human rights organizations are. Last fall, when security forces unlawfully detained more than 20 young journalists and bloggers because of what they had written, independent Iranian organizations like the Center for Defense of Human Rights, the Association of Journalists for Freedom of Press, and the Students Association for Human Rights campaigned for their release.

This outcry, in tandem with support from the international community and human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, led to the release of detainees. In fact, so great was the criticism of the abuses committed during these detentions that some of Iran's most senior government officials came out in favor of releasing the detainees.

Dr. Ebadi next goes on to explain how a military invasion would work against the cause of rights activists, and how American hypocrisy isn't fooling anyone in that region.

Independent organizations are essential for fostering the culture of human rights in Iran. But the threat of foreign military intervention will provide a powerful excuse for authoritarian elements to uproot these groups and put an end to their growth.

Human rights violators will use this opportunity to silence their critics by labeling them as the enemy's fifth column. In 1980, after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and inflamed nationalist passions, Iranian authorities used such arguments to suppress dissidents.

American hypocrisy doesn't help, either. Given the longstanding willingness of the American government to overlook abuses of human rights, particularly women's rights, by close allies in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, it is hard not to see the Bush administration's focus on human rights violations in Iran as a cloak for its larger strategic interests.

"The enemy's fifth column." Isn't that interesting? Particularly in light of the fact that I distinctly recall reading an entry at Power Line some time back describing anti-war activists with that exact same term.

Scene Two... Act One. The Broadway production of "George and Dick's Excellent Adventures in the Middle East" is getting ready to raise the curtain.

We're ever so popular

posted by Jazz at 2/08/2005 08:17:00 AM

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This will probably be a quote which eventually makes it into Bartlett's. Apparently the woman who is now the United States' top diplomat, Condi Rice, only 18 months ago said,
"Forgive Russia. Ignore Germany. Punish France."
This was in response to the question of how to deal with the largest European nations who wouldn't support Bush's private adventure in Iraq. You remember... those same ignorant, annoying little countries who kept on stupidly and stubbornly trying to convince everyone of their crackpot theories that we needed to keep up inspections to make sure Saddam really had WMD's, and that maybe he really wasn't involved with bin Laden?

The New York Times spoke with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier about four more years of Bush and how he plans on dealing with Condi.

The French have to coexist with President Bush for four more years, Ms. Rice is now America's top diplomat, and American-organized elections have taken place in Iraq. So for France, a new era of political realism is beginning, starting with Ms. Rice's visit to Paris on Tuesday and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's arrival in Nice the next day for a NATO defense ministers' meeting.

"The situation has changed," Mr. Barnier said in a recent interview over lunch at the Foreign Ministry, adding that Ms. Rice's instruction to punish France has been forgiven.

As usual, Bush and his war minded cohorts look to be getting a free pass from the more civilized sectors of the international community. Why? Mr. Barnier is new to the job, and his predecessor was very openly hostile towards George W. Bush and his atrocious adventure.
A low-key expert on European integration, the foreign minister lacks the domineering personality and romantic vision of France's greatness of his predecessor, Dominique de Villepin, which so infuriated State Colin L. Powell when he was secretary of state.

"I want to get to know Condi Rice, to establish a personal relationship with her," said Mr. Barnier, who has already been to Washington to meet her since Mr. Bush's re-election and pledges to visit the United States every three months.

He underscored that he is "different" from Mr. de Villepin, the man who emerged as the most vocal and relentless critic of the Bush administration's march to war against Iraq. Still, Mr. Barnier characterized his predecessor as "a friend" who is "passionate," not "arrogant."

I suppose anyone would look more moderate after that guy. Too bad, though. At least he had some spine. The French were right. Bush was wrong. It's rather pitiful to see them kowtowing now.

Invasion of the .... something

posted by Jazz at 2/08/2005 08:04:00 AM

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Not to look too much like somebody else's shameless blogwhore, but I think you might really enjoy stopping by Ron's art blog, Just Pictures, today. Check out Monday's entry, titled "Alien Flower" and click on it to enlarge. Simply incredible work, Ron.

Handing out democracies like candy

posted by Jazz at 2/08/2005 06:58:00 AM

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"Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us."
- Patrick Jake O'Rourke


Mr. O'Rourke would likely not have been very surprised at yesterday's events in Togo. For those not familiar with this charming, bucolic little paradise, here's where it's located on the continent of Africa. (click on image for full size map.)




Togo was formerly a colony of France, (like most of Africa) but won independence back in the sixties. In 1992 they got themselves a shiny new democracy with a constitution and all of the trimmings. That constitution provided that, should the president of the country die while in office, the Speaker of the Parliament would serve as president pro-tem until new elections could be held - preferably within sixty days.

Everything was going swimmingly for the fun loving Togons until the system was actually put to the test. Their president died this weekend and things, as they say... took a turn.
The United States joined the African Union and France in calling on Togo's military to respect constitutional processes Monday after the Togolese military installed the son of its former leader to succeed his father as president.

Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had ruled Togo since 1967, died over the weekend en route to medical treatment overseas.

Eyadema's son, 39-year-old Faure Gnassingbe, was named the country's president after his father's death.

The son of the ruler who was deposed in 1967 said he felt that "nothing much had changed" because the late president ran the country as a "military dictatorship" for the last 38 years anyway.

The point is that you can go into a country which did not naturally evolve a democracy and try to forcefully plant one. That doesn't mean, however, that a valid, vibrant democracy is necessarily going to evolve. Togo had a democracy "in name" for nearly four decades. But underneath, it was a dictatorship backed by the military. They were able to keep the facade in place as long as they kept the parliament in line. The mask gets ripped off, however, when the passage of power is suddenly taken over by the military and, surprise... surprise ... surprise, they give it to the previous leader's son.

Of the many object lessons available around the world, Dubya and his "nation building" team should take a peek at Togo before they start popping open the champagne bottles over the recent Iraq elections. Theocracies and puppet governments propped up by clerics are far more the order of the day over there.

Tuesday's Question

posted by Jazz at 2/08/2005 06:08:00 AM

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Are you supposed to pour the cream into the coffee or put the cream in the cup first and then pour the coffee in? And does it really matter?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Howard Dean, DNC Chair

posted by Mike at 2/07/2005 05:38:00 PM

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Howard Dean's last remaining opponent for the DNC chairmanship, Tim Roermer, just bowed out.

Ladies and gentlemen, the new chair of the Democratic National Committee ... Howard Dean.

Thank frickin' God.

Now let's see where he goes from here. *keeps fingers crossed*

Israel to "pray for failure"

posted by Jazz at 2/07/2005 01:47:00 PM

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Meanwhile, in a different corner of the Middle East, Radical Jewish Cleric Yitzhak Batzri announced that the faithful at 100 synagogues around the country would be praying this week for the failure of an upcoming summit between Ariel Sharon and Mahmud Abbas, the new Palestinian leader.

(Hey! Before you EVEN start in on me, we have featured Radical Shiite Clerics, Radical Sunni Clerics and Radical Christian Clerics like Pat Robertson. Everyone gets a turn, ok?)

My reaction to this is no different than my reaction when the Palestinians pull almost exactly the same crap. You don't want there to be a peaceful settlement of your never ending holy war? Fine. But leave us out of it, please. Sharon seems willing to give up a few apples in order to get the rest of the bushel home safely. It looks like his people are going to try to stop that from happening. He probably knows how Abbas feels now, since some of the Palestinians are already calling for his head because he's willing to talk to Sharon.

This is a sad, sad, sad story.

Beer is no longer "cool" even in Germany

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/07/2005 01:35:00 PM

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Germany and beer have long been synonymous. But that is changing. With Monday's closing of two large breweries, the crisis facing the industry appears to be deepening. An aging population is partly to blame. But beer, as it turns out, just isn't cool anymore.
I lived in Germany for two and half years the late 60's and early 70's. One of the joys of living in Munich was beer, lots of beer. I got over the initial shock of people have beer for breakfast and some of my best memories are sitting in a beer garden on a warm summer night. Well Der Speigel reports that With Brewery Closures, Germany Faces Brauereisterben(brewery purchases).
The threatening new word made its appearance on the German media stage in the mid-1990s. Brauereisterben. Dubbed after the term for Germany's dying forests, the word predicted the decline of the nation's breweries. The frothy favorite of thirsty Germans, the beer brewing industry started warning 10 years ago, was heading for a crisis. More and more beer-swilling Teutons seemed to be turning away from hops and malt and towards a healthier lifestyle of designer water and juice. To traditionalists in Germany and abroad, for whom the words "Germany" and "beer" belong together like sauerkraut and bratwurst, it's a horror come true.
It's a sad day indeed. Germany without beer is like Hungry without paprika.

Deep Throat to Soon Be Unmasked?

posted by Mike at 2/07/2005 01:07:00 PM

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Former White House counsel John Dean advises us through the Los Angeles Times that Deep Throat is about to be unmasked:

Bob Woodward, a reporter on the team that covered the Watergate story, has advised his executive editor at the Washington Post that Throat is ill. And Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Post and one of the few people to whom Woodward confided his source's identity, has publicly acknowledged that he has written Throat's obituary.


According to this Wikipedia article, people widely considered to be potentially be Deep Throat (and who are still alive) are Charles W. Bates, Stephen Bull, Pat Buchanan, W. Mark Felt, Fred F. Fielding, L. Patrick Gray, Alexander Haig, Henry Kissinger, Robert Kunkel, Raymond Price, and Ben Stein.

Not to be ghoulish, but anyone know if any of them are sick?

(And yes, that's Ben Stein the actor. Used to be a Nixon speechwriter, evidently!)

I have to admit, though, I am wondering if it's one other person who had often been considered, the United Nations Ambassador at the time ... a rather unknown gentleman by the name of George H.W. Bush.

This would make special sense if you consider Woodward's comment on Larry King Live last August:

We will tell that story, and it's a — it's kind of one of the last missing pieces of the puzzle. And I think once people see who it is and exactly what happened, will understand why the super secrecy and the confidentiality, and why it was not revealed for such a long time.


Should be interesting, whenever it develops.