Saturday, December 13, 2003

Brooks gets beaten down
&c shreds David Brooks.

Dean slightly behind Clark vs. Bush
While Dean is leading the field, a Newsweek poll says Clark has the best shot at Bush.

Easterbrook vs. even-handedness
Gregg Easterbrook tries to take us for idiots. He grossly misrepresents the opposition to the Clear Skies Act:

"Next, Bush has been widely ridiculed for proposing a "Clear Skies" bill that would require power plants to cut emissions, except greenhouse gas, by about 70 percent. Democrats in the Senate, plus quasi-Democrat James Jeffords, have fought Clear Skies with blazing fury, while editorial cartoonists have scoffed. Why are Democrats opposed to a 70 percent reduction in pollution? Because passage of the bill would give Bush an environmental victory before the 2004 election; Bush-bashing, not air quality, is the essence of the issue. Besides, Democrats know that all forms of air pollution except greenhouse gas are already declining anyway, so the harm done by power plants just isn't that great--though for posturing purposes, Democrats and enviros pretend it is a super-ultra-mega calamity.

It's true that the goals of Bush's Clear Skies legislation are approximately the same as existing targets of the Clean Air Act, so some moderates worry that if the bill passed, Bush would get credit as an environmentalist for essentially maintaining the status quo. The rub is that existing Clean Air Act power-plant regulations and "state implementation plans," which govern overall airshed quality, have led to runaway litigation, with the typical Clean Air Act rule taking ten years of legal proceedings to finalize, according to a study by Steve Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute."

The Sierra Club has a bit about this. The NRDC has written about it also. Naturally, they have a bit of an agenda, so perhaps you can better understand it through this Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial (via Common Dreams). ABC News has some on the debate over the act, too. In fact, there are plenty of sources that document why this opposition exists. Of course, Easterbrook labels it political and calls it a day.

I'm not saying that Gregg is wrong in supporting the legislation - I haven't formulated a definite opinion on the issue. But at least be fair - his readers deserve more.

WND=We're Not Drunk
WorldNetDaily has an article about a letter being sent to people living near an abortion doctor. The letter reads like this:

"Your neighbor, Dr. Vinod Goyal, 777 Thompsons Way, is an abortionist. If Mary & Joseph were pro-choice, they could have visited him to terminate the life of the Prince of Peace. Please join with us this Christmas to pray that the Holy Spirit changes Dr. Goyal's heart so that he uses his God-given talent to save babies instead of aborting them."

Hmmm. I'm pro-choice, but had God talked to me and placed the messiah in my womb, I probably wouldn't have aborted.

Gas prices up 47% since Thanksgiving
Natural gas prices are soaring.

The question now is as to whether the price surge is due to manipulation within the markets. So remember this rule of thumb: if there is never an investigation, something was up.

"If what is happening with natural gas would happen with crude oil, we'd have declared war on OPEC by now."

Gore endorsements swinging centrists
It looks like Gore's endorsement has paid off; the once hesitant DNC is warming up to Dean. 32% of DNC members support Dean as their main candidate.

On national security
Here's some of what the WaPo had to say about new FBI guidelines:

"The result is that the FBI, unhindered by the restrictions of the past, will conduct many more searches and wiretaps that are subject to oversight by a secret intelligence court rather than regular criminal courts, officials said. Civil liberties groups and defense lawyers predict that more innocent people will be the targets of clandestine surveillance."

Although I'm sure it'll help the war on terror:

"Senior FBI officials said the changes have already helped the bureau disrupt plans for at least four terrorist attacks overseas and uncover a terrorist sleeper cell in the United States, though they declined to provide details on those cases. The approach also has resulted in a notable surge in the number of counterterrorism investigations, a statistic that is classified but currently stands at more than 1,000 cases, officials said."

You know what would REALLY help bust up terror cells in the U.S.? A police state.

A raise for the (Iraqi) troops
It looks like the pay of Iraqi soldiers will have to be raised after...let's see...half of the army deserted:

"The U.S.-led coalition will reconsider the pay scale for members of the new Iraqi army after about half of the recruits deserted, the U.S. general in charge of Iraqi military operations said Saturday.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, speaking at a news conference, said the major reason for the defections was pay, specifically allowances for married soldiers who were struggling to support their families on $60 a month."

Friday, December 12, 2003

Beirut on the Tigris
The editors at the New Republic speak on how we're arming warlords in Iraq:

"Afghanistan has no shortage of problems, but one international effort to improve security there--the decommissioning of private militias--is yielding results. The United Nations, with the support of the United States, recently launched a program to convince armed fighters loyal to Afghan warlords to hand in their weapons and get training for new, nonmilitary careers. As The Christian Science Monitor reported last week, the United Nations hopes to persuade nearly 100,000 Afghans to give up their arms in the coming months.

Unfortunately, in Iraq, the Bush administration is doing exactly the opposite: In its desperation to hand security over to Iraqis before the 2004 election, the administration is considering creating armed militias. Last week, The Washington Post reported that occupation authorities are debating forming a militia unit comprising soldiers from several political parties represented on the U.S.-selected Iraqi Governing Council, including the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Iraqi National Accord (INA), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (sciri), and others. The militia will be officially tasked with assisting counterinsurgency and, in theory, will be controlled by American forces. But its men likely will owe their primary allegiance to their political bosses and might easily be tempted to use their weapons to promote their chiefs' individual agendas. In fact, since the November announcement that a caucus-elected transitional national assembly will take the place of the Iraqi Governing Council next year, unelected Council members worried about rejection in the caucuses have been lobbying Washington to allow them to retain power. Now, it appears they may have the means to do so. According to The New York Times, the militia may be charged with "the gathering of intelligence on guerrilla activities and possibly conducting house raids"--two activities that would immediately give these party-affiliated fighters power among Iraqi civilians, enabling them, for example, to intimidate voters."

Bush's take on the contracting ban
"It's very simple," Bush told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. "Our people risked their lives. Friendly coalition folks risked their lives, and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that, and that's what the U.S. taxpayers expect." Story here.

That's funny - I don't recall any contractors risking their lives. I thought that was mainly something soldiers did.

It's getting old...
John Snow is STILL talking down the dollar:

The dollar touched a lifetime low against the euro Friday after Treasury Secretary John Snow said the dollar's decline was "orderly," a comment dollar bears took as a green light to sell the currency, analysts said.

"This is a deja vu of this spring when John Snow was asked about the dollar decline. And just about when the dollar had taken a sharp drop, he said the decline had been 'orderly,' which accelerated the fall in the currency. We are seeing some of that now," said Ashraf Laidi, chief currency analyst at MG Financial Group in New York.

What happened to the strong dollar policy?

Still unprepared
Well over two years after 9/11 and after investing $2 billion, we're still ill-prepared for a biological attack.

And what else are we doing bad with? Well, stopping terror financing.

So what is Bush doing correctly in the war on terror? Well...we kicked the Taliban's ass - and don't you forget it!

UPDATE: Never mind, he screwed that up too.

Tray table advertising
The SF Gate has a great editorial on marketing whores.

"So now, after you suffer an hour of interminable security checks and the removal of your shoes and your belt and your pants and your nipple ring only to wait in line C at the airline counter for 117 minutes just to get stuck in the middle seat on that four-hour flight to Chicago . . .

And you sit down and squeeze in your arms to your sides and make yourself very small and start breathing that toxic recycled bone-dry pressurized air and realize that every single flight exposes your id to this warped artificial canned surreality that simply cannot be good for your karmic complexion . . .

And after the flight attendant ambles by with drinks and you flip down the tray table to receive your requisite 2.7 ounces of refreshing canned heavily sugared beverage in a plastic nonrecycled cup, you will see, right there on the tray, a large unavoidable advertisement for, say, Bank of America. Or Amex. Or Mercedes. Staring right back at you. For the entire flight. Joy.

Tray-table advertising is the latest thing. TTA is beginning with America West Airlines and will almost certainly be coming to a flight near you. Why? Because Madison Avenue apparently has yet to exploit and abuse every possible inch of space in the public sphere."

Read the whole article, it's hilarious.

Ridge plays to the crowd
Funny how Republicans seem to love legalizing illegal immigrants whenever they're visiting Miami....

I'm think I'm gonna Ralph
I respect everything Ralph Nader stands for, and I agree with him on a lot of it. I'm not going to talk a lot about this, because it's been talked to death. But is making a statement worth four more years of Bush? And how many times are the Greens (whom, again, I respect greatly) going to screw the rest of us over before their statement is made?

Useless polling
A recent poll says Bush will crush Dean in New Hampshire.

I'm going to be honest - this election will be very difficult. However, these polls are misleading. There is a reason few people know about Howard Dean - he's not yet the candidate. People outside of the hardcore political aficionados really don't know much about his stances. BushCo can look at these poll results and smile all they want, but if they sit back on their laurels they'll get pummeled next year.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Dead or alive sure has been a while since I first read this article.

Oh Dubya, you gigantic failure.

OK, so maybe this is overkill...
Respectful of Otters has even more on the pitfalls of the Medicare legislation.

Breaking news!
Turns out there are some signs of corruption at Halliburton. Who knew?

Ah yes, the state of health care
So while the government can fish for flu vaccines overseas, senior citizens can't go to Canada to get medicine. Brilliant.

A heartwarming tale
Well here's a nice, positive story for you:

"I want you to always know that you are loved, especially by me," the letter says. "And always remember to be positive, polite and never give up. Love Your Friend, Makenzie."

The writer is 13-year-old Makenzie Snyder, who has been sending duffel bags and stuffed animals to foster children since she was 7. Her mission: comfort neglected children who often are shuttled between temporary homes.

"I like to cheer up foster kids who have no real family," the Bowie girl says. "They are important, but no one cares for them. They are mostly forgotten."

If only we had more people in the world like Makenzie...

As if we needed a survey to know that NASA's leadership was incompetent:

"NASA does not hold its leadership accountable for failure. . . . The more spectacularly they screw up, the higher up the food chain they go." "Nothing will change." "If NASA does not start standing up for itself in Washington, it has a very limited and sorry future ahead of it."

About 250 NASA and contractor employees who expressed these sentiments were responding to an internal Web site query posted recently. The agency has closed the site, but the comments are summarized in a brief report dated Dec. 2 and obtained by The Washington Post.

Glenn Reynolds, commie-hugger
Instapundit supporting Communists? Who woulda thunk it?

I thought the French were liberal?
Banning Muslim headscarves in drivers license photos and on passports is one thing, but banning them in all public places? Are hats illegal there also?

GOP growing wary
The Bush squad, once eager to face off with Dean, are apparently growing hesitant:

"Advisers to President Bush once relished a race against Howard Dean, but they say they have become increasingly wary of him, worried that his unconventional and intense appeal poses a threat they had once underestimated.

Various officials from throughout Bush's political organization said they view the former Vermont governor's nomination as all but inevitable -- even though no votes will be cast until next month, and some well-connected Democrats still hope to derail Dean because they fear he is running too far to the left to be viable in next fall's general election."

Yet more progress
Through Yahoo:

WASHINGTON - Plans to deploy the first battalion of Iraq's new army are in doubt because a third of the soldiers trained by the U.S.-led occupation authority have quit, defense officials said Wednesday.

Touted as a key to Iraq's future, the 700-man battalion lost some 250 men over recent weeks as they were preparing to begin operations this month, Pentagon (news - web sites) officials said.

"We are aware that a third ... has apparently resigned and we are looking into that in order to ensure that we can recruit and retain high-quality people for a new Iraqi army," said Lt. Col. James Cassella, a Pentagon spokesman.

If it's actually the "key to Iraq's future," then I guess Iraq is screwed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Addicts know little about football
The Weekly Standard remembers Rush calling Donovan McNabb overrated. I remember, too. Sorry, Rush. Looks like you can't get sports right, either.

A strange dilemma
I didn't want him to die, but I'm not entirely upset that he did.

Bad tactics
At first I didn't give much thought to the fact that the U.S. was having special teams trained by Israel on assassination. I thought that it made the parallel with Israel/Palestine seem even more realistic, but nothing more than that. What I didn't think of was this: the Bush team has been saying that the Iraqis actually love us for a while now. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that they do. Even though they love America, who DON'T they love? Israel. Now these people that love us see us working with Israel. It's a huge reminder that Israel's biggest/only ally is the U.S. Will they still love us? I'd say no.

Koppel gets his wrist tapped
The WaPo has a piece on last nights debate, but they are a little easy on Koppel, in my opinion.

Dean looking at a victory
The anti-Deanites are struggling. By the way, I don't endorse any candidate. The only E-mail I've gotten for this from someone who said Dean isn't electable. I never said he was (but I never said he wasn't).

The U.N. bites back
Quite a little skirmish is occuring between the U.S. and the U.N. The U.S. won't allow countries that opposed the war to do contracting in Iraq. Responding to that, and other U.S. policy, the U.N. made the announcement that Iraq was "too dangerous" for the organization to be in right now. Translation: "You won't let us get involved, you're on your own."

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

You can't spell crap without AP
The AP had a slight bias covering the debate tonight. And by slight, I mean so extreme that it makes me want smash my monitor in.

Note to Arnold: shut up before you bury yourself
Arnold can't seem to make things better for himself:

"California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that an independent investigation of pre-election allegations that he groped and sexually harassed women isn't necessary because "the people have spoken." He said he is focused on solving the state's fiscal problems. "

That's funny, I don't recall a vote on whether or not Arnold groped any women. Perhaps Arnold assumes that Californians wouldn't have liked him enough to elect him if they thought he had groped someone. Even if that WAS relevant, it's untrue. Doesn't he recall Clinton?

Conservatives against Bush
The righties say we're self-defeating, but look at the latest cover story for the American Conservative. File that under "things not to do anywhere close to an election year."

Don't mess with &c
The New Republic picked up on something I certainly didn't from the Kristol article on Dean: either Kristol made a big misconception, or he has a source in the Dean campaign.

I actually got something right
My early assessment of the Gore/Dean (I'd link to it if my permalinks were working correctly) appears to have been correct. Gore is backing Dean in order to swing DLCers and other hesitant New Democrats behind the probable winner, avoiding an ugly situation with the anti-Dean Democrats after the primaries.

From the WaPo
Billy Kristol admits that Dean could take the general election.

Somerby vs. NYT
The Daily Howler stops some Medicare spin.

It's the small things...
I'm not going to deny the improvement of the stock market, but I have found some sloppy work on CNN. As of now, the headline on their front page says "DOW tops 10,000." As you may know, the DOW topped 10K and then retreated. CNN mentions this, but it's quite the misleading headline. Especially since the article it links to...this titled "Stocks-slide post-Fed."

Voyeur phones?
Are camera phones an invasion of privacy? At first I thought this was ridiculous, but thinking about how discreetly someone can use them, I must say I'm starting to agree.

The phones, with their discreet lens, tiny size and ability to immediately transmit images onto the Internet or other cell phones, are a voyeur's dream.

The phones first appeared on the market in early 2001, and for the last several months, media reports out of Asia have called attention to incidents such as nude photographs of unsuspecting victims turning up on the Internet.

Their growing popularity in North America since their debut late last year has sparked similar concerns, prompting fitness centers across North America, from Los Angeles to Toronto, to begin banning or limiting cell phone use on their premises."

The other part of the Middle East
I usually try to avoid commenting on the Israeli/Palestinian issue (I've never seen any good come out of the debate), but this may be a major policy shift:

"JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Tuesday he might order a number of Jewish settlements uprooted for security reasons regardless of the state of peacemaking with the Palestinians.

Sharon, who has hinted for weeks that he was formulating a plan for unilateral steps that would be put into motion only if a stalled U.S.-backed peace "road map" collapsed, did not name the settlements or give any time frame for evacuation.

Such a move would mark a sharp departure by Sharon and his right-wing Likud party from their longstanding policy of championing settlement-building in the West Bank and Gaza Strip territories captured in the 1967 Middle East war."

The one opinion I'll be giving on this issue: I don't support the settlements, so I think this is a step forward. More importantly it may be a sign that Sharon sees the risks of Israeli expansion, which would mark a major change in the Israeli mindset.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Unsecured weapons
This is what's wrong with the way Bush is fighting the war on terror.

Gore hearts Dean?
Gore is apparently poised to endorse Dean:

"NEW YORK - Former Vice President Al Gore will endorse Howard Dean for the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, a dramatic move that could tighten Dean's grip on the front-runner's position and usher more support from wary party elite."

This is interesting. There are two possible motives with the same final intention. Either Gore actually supports Dean more than the rest of the candidates, or he is throwing his weight behind the man he sees as the inevitable winner. In both cases, the centrists in the DLC who haven't had too many good things to say about Dean may be more inclined to support him after Gore, solidifying the party behind the candidate (assuming he wins the primaries, of course, which is merely my prediction). In the end I see this as a positive development - even though Dean wasn't my first choice - because Dean's victory seems likely. It's better to unite the party regulars behind him now than to have it seem forced when the general election rolls around.

Legitimizing the lies
Instapundit keeps up the chant about Saddam's human rights abuses. Good thing too, because it'll be a constant reminder of past Republican crusades for human rights. Like the one in...uh....yeah...never....nevermind.

From the Boston Globe: why the new bill will only exacerbate Medicare woes.

"...the bill is really two bills. The first provides a much-needed, if modest and excessively complex, drug benefit. But while this new benefit is generous for some low-income seniors, it will end up raising out-of-pocket drug costs for other poor beneficiaries. And because it is poorly designed and does not include effective ways of controlling drug costs, the plan will ultimatelyleave most seniors little better off than they are today, and some worse off.

The second, darker side of the new Medicare bill is a slew of changes that have little or nothing to do with drug coverage and everything to do with special-interest demands and ideological animus toward Medicare. These include huge new subsidies for private insurers, and provisions that ensure that drug companies will be spared from their greatest fear: that Medicare will use its massive buying power to demand reductions in drug prices. Perhaps most ominous, the bill also contains elements that favor private plans and risk further degeneration of Medicare's all-in-the-same-boat structure. Six sizable "demonstration projects" are intended to introduce greater competition into Medicare; they will also likely raise costs for seniors who remain in the traditional program."

Big Corporate vs. 13 y/o girl
I'm feel sorry for the music industry. They've now sued the family of a 13-year old who downloaded songs off the Internet. It's unfortunate that so many of these suits are aimed at poverty-stricken families.

"You can't watch them 24 hours a day. By the same token, if they are able to access a site, how are they to know it's wrong?"

The problem here is that those least likely to be aware of the consequences - young children - are often the targets of these lawsuits. The RIAA is tossing lawsuits at the children of working class families and calling it an "awareness" campaign.

More Moore
There's a great post on Roy Moore over at Bark Bark Woof Woof. By the way, BBWW is a fellow Liberal Coalition member.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Dean turns the tables
In somewhat of a challenge to those speaking out about it, Dean has stated that a judge should decide whether he should have to release the sealed documents that have been causing such a fuss. Dean has clearly made a good move here: if no one follows through on the offer it looks as if the opponents backed down, and if the judge rules to keep them sealed Dean will have had no choice. The only way it wouldn't work in his favor is if they are unsealed and something damaging was in them - but he seems confident either that they won't be unsealed or that nothing politically harmful is in there.

U.S. went "off a cliff" in Iraq
When Newt Gingrich seems to be turning on Republican policy, they may have a problem.

They're done with excuses
How does the Bush team downplay the prewar intelligence fiasco? Like this:

President Bush's chief of staff dismissed as "a moot point" any lingering question about whether Bush relied on faulty intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Andy Card also rejected charges from fellow Republican Newt Gingrich that the administration's postwar policies went "off a cliff" after an impressive invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein's government.

Overall intelligence has been "very, very good," Card said Sunday. But, he added, "Intelligence is a collection of dots, and then an analysis on how those dots might be connected. Some of those dots may not be what they appear to be, and some of the connections may not have been what people would have suggested."

More than seven months after Bush declared major combat over, American inspectors have not found the weapons of mass destruction, which Bush accused Iraq of hiding and used as a major reason for going to war. Searchers have found quantities of chemicals and substances that could be used to make both weapons and legitimate civilian items.

Card deflected questions about the intelligence that led Bush to issue the warnings that Iraq was a threat to the United States because of its illegal weapons. In October 2002, Bush said Iraq had "a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for and is capable of killing millions."

Yeah. Totally moot.

Blogger was down until a few minutes ago today. Luckily it's a slow news day.

Next: faith-based oil rigs
While the Republicans insist they separate church and state, and while they don't seem to appreciate rehabilitation at all, they want to make a faith-based prison:

"TALLAHASSEE - Hard time will soon be hallowed time for nearly 800 Florida inmates who will be given the option of doing time in the nation's first prison dedicated to ''faith-based'' rehabilitation.

Gov. Jeb Bush made the surprise announcement Friday at a White House-sponsored press conference in Tampa that spotlighted President Bush's attempts to give religious organizations a greater role in solving social problems.

''For those individuals who are motivated to change their lives, programs like this can make a tremendous difference and create a pathway out of the criminal justice system,'' the governor said."

Apparently rehab through Christ is the only decent rehab. I had no idea.

Bad news for Wal-Mart
Looks like Wal-Mart picked the wrong person to let their customers trample:

"ORANGE CITY, Fla. -- A woman who was reported trampled by Wal-Mart shoppers during a holiday sale on DVD players has filed many injury claims against stores since 1987, including nine against Wal-Mart.

Patricia VanLester, a 41-year-old former Wal-Mart employee, has received thousands of dollars in injury and workers compensation settlements from the world's largest retailer, records show.

Paramedics reported finding VanLester unconscious on top of a DVD player Nov. 28 amid a frenzy of shoppers during an early-bird holiday sale. She was airlifted to a hospital, where she spent two days."

So...did Wal-Mart get unlucky, or did this lady attempt a scam and end up getting trampled more than she intended? It's something the Wal-Mart lawyers will have to be asking.