Thursday, August 31, 2006
Marshall Wittmann has one of his typical neocon rants over at his blog Bull Moose today. Today the subject is Iran. Nothing really new or surprising but he does admit that the dreaded terrorist loving "lefties" are officially in control of the Democratic party. What is surprising is that his post has been listed on memeorandum for over three hours and no one has commented on it. That's irrelevance! Hopefully the same fate awaits his best buddy Joe Lieberman in Connecticut.
The war against fascism ended over sixty years ago. If we want to bemoan pre-9/11 thinking then it seems appropriate to point out that we have leaders who can’t get themselves past the Eisenhower era.
Lest anybody think that I am joking, I mean that literally. Since the end of WWII America has experienced a series of wars that have not infrequently demonstrated the undesirability of war as an instrument of foreign policy. These people genuinely don’t get that. Our current leaders, from Cheney and Rumsfeld down through the neoconservatives come from that small band who still think we could have won Vietnam. To illustrate what I mean, recall that back in early 2001 the new administration thoroughly neglected non-state threats in order to focus on armed states like Iraq. That made no sense when al Qaeda had repeatedly attacked us and Iraq had not. At least it made no sense to people like Richard Clarke with contemporary experience in national security.
Where was the current Bush administration during the rise of international terror? In government exile and obsessing about the past, Vietnam and Iraq. In the 2000 election only one party’s platform mentioned al Qaeda at all (the other, unsurprisingly, mentioned Iraq. Guess which). It takes a pre-1946 mindset to think that America’s enemies can be wrapped into a discernible border and bombed into submission, yet that exact theory has driven administration policy both before 9/11 and afterwards.
I think this is pretty accurate and a point the Democrats should be making. There is a threat from Islamic terrorism but the pre-1946 mindset of the neocons and the administration is only making it worse.
Fascism - definition
A totalitarian philosophy of government that glorifies the state and nation and assigns to the state control over every aspect of national life. The name was first used by the party started by Benito Mussolini , who ruled Italy from 1922 until the Italian defeat in World War II. However, it has also been applied to similar ideologies in other countries, e.g., to National Socialism in Germany and to the regime of Francisco Franco in Spain.Keith Olberman's take on Donald Rumsfeld's speech to the American Legion.
The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.Over at LewRockwell.com Jacob G. Hornberger explains how the Bush administration is like Hitler.
Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.
Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.
For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.
What many Americans fail to understand is that it is entirely possible to have democracy and dictatorship at the same time. Democracy entails the use of elections to place people into positions of power. Dictatorship entails the extent of the powers that the ruler is able to exercise after he assumes office.So let's return to the above definition.
Therefore, it is entirely possible to have a democratically elected dictator – a person who has been duly elected to office who exercises dictatorial powers. This is exactly the case of George W. Bush.
Some Americans become offended whenever critics bring up the name of Adolf Hitler in discussing the dictatorial powers that President Bush is now exercising. They miss the point. When critics bring up Hitler’s name in the context of Bush’s exercise of dictatorial powers, they’re not suggesting that Bush and Hitler are somehow equivalent evils or that Bush has committed the horrors that Hitler committed.
What they’re instead saying is that Hitler sets a good benchmark for what dictatorship involves. Therefore, he provides a good means by which to measure the powers being exercised by another ruler. If George W. Bush or any other American president exercises the same types of omnipotent powers that Hitler exercised, that should serve as a powerful wake-up call for the American people, who have long wondered how the German people could have allowed Hitler to become a dictator (see my article “How Hitler Became a Dictator”).
Therefore, the issue is not whether Bush is a “good” man, as many of his supporters contend. The issue is whether this “good” man has assumed dictatorial powers in the wake of 9/11. The issue also is whether any man, good or evil, should ever be given dictatorial powers.
A totalitarian philosophy of government that glorifies the state and nation and assigns to the state control over every aspect of national life.So does this sound like the critics of the Bush administration or the Bush administration itself?
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Foxnews asks "Will Connecticut senator's independent run help embattled GOP candidates?"As Chris Bowers says there are a number of ways to read this but none of them are good.
Joe's response? "Well, they should have thought of that before they had the primary."
Now Lieberman has a new ad where he tells voters to forget all the bad stuff and just think about the good stuff and vote for him. Of course the problem for Lieberman is there simply isn't that much good stuff.
- The ad telling people to relax and focus on the “good stuff” came out the very same day the Census Bureau reported that an increasing number of Connecticut residents are in poverty and without health insurance. Specifically, almost one in 10 Connecticut residents now lives below the poverty line and has been forced to go without health insurance at some point in the last year - dramatic jumps from just a few years ago.As Sirota points out apparently Lieberman also wants them to forget that he supported NAFTA and China PNTR that have all but destroyed Connecticut's economy. What is a nine letter word for out of touch? Lieberman of course.
- The ad telling people to relax and focus on the “good stuff” came out the same day that 50 people were killed in gun battles and suicide bomings in Iraq.
- The ad telling people to relax and focus on the “good stuff” came out the same week as the anniversary of the Katrina disaster - the same week we see that a wide swath of our own country has been left to rot after our top White House and congressional leaders did nothing to protect the area.
Medical Journal Says It Was Again Misled
For the second time in two months, The Journal of the American Medical Association says it was misled by researchers who failed to disclose financial ties to drug companies.
The journal is tightening its policies for researchers as a result.
Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, the journal's editor in chief, said her main concern was the effect on readers, who she said needed to know about researchers' financial conflicts of interest to evaluate their studies.
The latest incident, disclosed in letters to the editor and a correction in the journal on Wednesday, involves a study showing that pregnant women who stop taking antidepressants risk slipping back into depression.
Most of the 13 authors have financial ties to drug companies, including antidepressant makers, but just two disclosed their ties when the study was published in February.
The authors of the study defended their research in a letter to the editor published on Wednesday.I don't believe it - do you?
The lead author, Dr. Lee Cohen of Massachusetts General Hospital, who is on the speakers' bureau for eight drug companies, disputed that such ties could influence findings.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
By Election Day, how many Republican candidates will have come out against the Iraq war or distanced themselves from the administration's policies?After a brief pause the violence in Iraq mushroomed over the weekend.
August 2006 will be remembered as a watershed in the politics of Iraq. It is the month in which a majority of Americans told pollsters that the struggle for Iraq was not connected to the larger war on terrorism. They thus renounced a proposition the administration has pushed relentlessly since it began making the case four years ago to invade Iraq.
That poll finding, from a New York Times-CBS News survey, came to life on the campaign trail when Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), one of the most articulate supporters of the war, announced last Thursday that he favored a time frame for withdrawing troops.
Iraqi Troops Battle Shiite Militiamen In Southern City
BAGHDAD, Aug. 28 -- With American combat aircraft providing cover, U.S.-backed Iraqi troops battled radical Shiite militiamen Monday in the southern city of Diwaniyah in one of the first major clashes between the two forces. At least 20 Iraqi soldiers and eight civilians were killed, a U.S. military official said, citing initial reports. Seventy people were injured.The coalition forces took on the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr in Diwaniyah and apparently lost.
Also, a suicide bombing in Baghdad killed 15 and injured 35, capping one of the bloodiest 24 hours in Iraq in recent weeks.
The more-than-12-hour battle in Shiite Muslim-dominated Diwaniyah, about 100 miles south of Baghdad, illustrates the growing strength and confidence of the Mahdi Army militia of anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is increasingly challenging the authority of the Iraqi government and, by extension, the United States.It's no longer a matter of if Cheney's mis-adventure in Iraq is over but how many will die before they will admit it.
Some Iraqi soldiers were captured and beheaded, Iraqi army officials said. As of late Monday, it was unclear how many militiamen had died.
Monday's clashes in Diwaniyah underscored the militias' growing influence. Tensions were already high. Three days earlier, the Iraqi army had arrested three prominent supporters of Sadr, said Abdul Razak al-Nadawi, the head of the cleric's office in Diwaniyah.
"They did this without any warrants," Nadawi said in an interview. "Usually, people are arrested by the police. But it was the Iraqi army who arrested them."
Soon after the arrests, Mahdi Army militiamen flooded the streets, clutching guns and engaging in minor clashes with police, said Kareem al-Musawi, 33, a resident.
"Then all the police withdrew from the streets," he said. "Then the armed men covered every street in the city."
Monday's clashes erupted after Iraqi soldiers, backed by Polish troops, attempted to raid three neighborhoods controlled by the Mahdi Army. The fighting began after midnight as explosions and gunfire rattled different parts of the city, residents said. As many as 26 mosques in Diwaniyah were damaged by Mahdi Army mortar attacks, the Iraqi army said in a statement. Shops, markets and government offices shut down, and frightened residents stayed inside their houses.
By late afternoon, the fighting had subsided. It was soon clear who had won.
"The city is fully controlled by the militia of Jaish al-Mahdi now," said Ahmed Fadhil, 45, a school teacher living in the center of Diwaniyah, using the Arabic term for Sadr's militia. "There are no police or Iraqi army in the streets of the city. I can see only the gunmen of Mahdi Army in the streets."
Monday, August 28, 2006
Karr won't be charged with JonBenet's murder
BOULDER, Colorado (CNN) -- Schoolteacher John Mark Karr will not be charged with the murder of 6-year-old beauty pageant competitor JonBenet Ramsey, Karr's attorney said Monday.Just as most of us thought John Mark Karr was just another nutcase looking for his week or two of fame. This of course presents FOX, CNN and MSNBC with a problem, they may actually have to report - well, the news. You can bet that the network folks have someone going over the news feeds looking for a missing young white woman to adopt.
"The warrant on Mr. Karr has been dropped by the district attorney," public defender Seth Temin said outside the jail. "They are not proceeding with the case."
He said a hearing scheduled later Monday afternoon has been canceled.
Temin also said he was "deeply disturbed" that authorities in Boulder brought Karr from Thailand with what appears to have been scant evidence.
Colorado authorities have not commented on their decision not to pursue charges against the man named in a warrant alleging murder, kidnapping and sexual assault on a child.
But CNN's Denver affiliate, KUSA, reported that the DNA sample taken from Karr does not match DNA found on JonBenet's body. KUSA quoted two sources in a bulletin on its Web site.
Has President Musharraf Hit Deadly Baloch Beehive?
Will President Musharraf invite the "wrath of the bees" after killing Sardar Akbar Bugti, a powerful rebel leader of Balochistan province of Pakistan on the highly sensitive border of Iran and Afghanistan? Some say that it is a matter of time before the "bees" settle down. But others fear that this killing could further destabilise Pakistan.Go read the entire post.
Ohio Governor: Strickland Lead Widens to 25 Points
During the past several months, Democratic Congressman Ted Strickland's edge over Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has ranged from four to seventeen percentage points. Now, in our latest election poll of Ohio's gubernatorial race, Congressman Strickland leads his opponent by an intimidating 57% to 32% (see crosstabs).It's also significant that Mike DeWine's Senate campaign is in a downward spiral. Of course blatant corruption has caused the entire Ohio Republican party to implode.
Last month, Strickland led 51% to 37%. The Ohio Senate race between incumbent Mike DeWine (R) and challenger Sherrod Brown (D) is much more competitive.
Hat tip to The American Prospect
But it's getting much better
BAGHDAD, Aug. 27 -- Gunmen and bombers claimed at least 69 lives in Iraq on Sunday, even as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki repeated the assertions of Iraqi and U.S. leaders that violence was easing from a wartime high set earlier this summer.Whack a mole?
While U.S. and Iraqi forces have deployed additional troops in Baghdad to deal with the surge of sectarian violence, the deadliest of the attacks Sunday occurred outside the capital, in cities to the north.With the expanded US presence in Baghdad the violence this weekend was North of that city in Khalis and Kirkuk. And in Diwaniya today:
The attention of Iraqi and U.S. officials since this spring has been focused on the rivalry between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Muslims in Baghdad. Sunday's violence, however, highlighted the country's many other dangers since the war began: rising crime and growing tensions among Iraq's other faiths and peoples.
Two dozen Iraqi soldiers were killed in fierce street fighting with Shi'ite militiamen in the city of Diwaniya on Monday in some of the bloodiest clashes yet among rival factions in Shi'ite southern Iraq.And we must not forget that eight of America's finest were also killed over the weekend violence.
Thirty seven people were killed, according to army, militia and medical sources. Five soldiers were posted missing in a battle officials said began late on Sunday when troops tried to detain men of the Mehdi Army militia of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
The Cheney presidency
GEORGE W. BUSH has been faulted in some quarters for taking an extended vacation while the Middle East festers. It doesn't much matter; the man running the country is Vice President Dick Cheney.The stealth President:
When historians look back on the multiple assaults on our constitutional system of government in this era, Cheney's unprecedented role will come in for overdue notice. Cheney's shotgun mishap, when he accidentally sprayed his host with birdshot, has gotten more media attention than has his control of the government.
Cheney is in a class by himself. The administration's grand strategy and its implementation are the work of Cheney-- sometimes Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, sometimes Cheney and political director Karl Rove.But little of this is noticed because Cheney is usually below the radar screen. As a result there is virtually no accountability.
Cheney has planted aides in major Cabinet departments, often over the objection of a Cabinet secretary, to make sure his policies are carried out. He sits in on the Senate Republican caucus, to stamp out any rebellions. Cheney loyalists from the Office of the Vice President dominate interagency planning meetings.
The Iraq war is the work of Cheney and Rumsfeld. The capture of the career civil service is pure Cheney. The disciplining of Congress is the work of Cheney and Rove. The turning over of energy policy to the oil companies is Cheney. The extreme secrecy is Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Why does this matter? Because if the man actually running the government is out of the spotlight, the administration and its policies are far less accountable.In other words Cheney is largely ignored even though he is the one calling the shots and keeping his puppet President secure in his bubble.
If Cheney were the actual president, not just the de facto one, he simply could not govern with the same set of policies and approval ratings of 20 percent. The media focuses relentless attention on the president, on the premise that he is actually the chief executive. But for all intents and purposes, Cheney is chief, and Bush is more in the ceremonial role of the queen of England.Just what many of us have been saying for over five years. As Mary says, "Hey, press. It's time to do your job and look at what's actually happening with our government." I'm not holding my breath.
Yet the press buys the pretense of Bush being ``the decider," and relentlessly covers Bush -- meeting with world leaders, cutting brush, holding press conferences, while Cheney works in secret, largely undisturbed. So let's take half the members of the overblown White House press corps, which has almost nothing to do anyway, and send them over to Cheney Boot Camp for Reporters. They might learn how to be journalists again, and we might learn who is running the government.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Rep. Harris Condemns Separation of Church, State
Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) said this week that God did not intend for the United States to be a "nation of secular laws" and that the separation of church and state is a "lie we have been told" to keep religious people out of politics.Rather than comment on this myself I will leave it to Ed Morrissey
"If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," Harris told interviewers from the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. She cited abortion and same-sex marriage as examples of that sin.
The founding fathers never intended for religion to be banned from the public square, but they certainly didn't create a theocracy, either. Secular laws allow for all people to unite in a just and open society, where all religions can practice openly without fear of government suppression. People of faith can and should serve in elected office, and of course they should apply their values to the decisions they make on our behalf, but that doesn't equate to rejecting secular law for temporal government.Thank you Ed - I mean it.
It's hard to understand what Harris means in her assertion that the founders never intended to create a nation of secular laws. The very first entry in the Bill of Rights states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion[.]" That doesn't mean that people have to be barred from religious expression in public, but it very clearly states that the new nation would stay out of the business of faith. The creators of the Constitution understood that this would bar them from passing anything but secular laws, and with just a century between them and the Roundhead revolt, that's exactly what they had in mind.
Besides, Christians aren't the only people who avoid sin, and not even all of us do that enough. Jews share the same sense of sin and atonement, and modern and moderate Muslims do as well. Atheists also understand the social issues involved in sin, even if they reject the concept of spiritual offense. In fact, if one wants to see what happens when someone puts a government in charge of stamping out sin, one only has to look as far as the Taliban.
From his rolling green soybean fields above a slow river in eastern Iowa, Don Shatzer looks out over the farm where he was raised, across land he and his neighbors have farmed all their lives. Below him are the garden beds where his wife Linda grows organic vegetables to safeguard the family's health, and the farm pond and beach he built for the grandkids. A few miles to the west lies the city of Waterloo, with a population of about 66,000. The sky is clear and the southwest wind sweet on a humid summer day.
Shatzer's land is some of the most fertile in North America, part of the fecund breadbasket on which a continent relies. And if New Jersey's LS Power wins the fight it has started, a 750-megawatt pulverized-coal electrical generation plant will sit right next door by 2011.
The Shatzers, along with a dedicated coalition of local citizens, have gathered 3,000 signatures on petitions against the proposed plant. They have lawn signs, car decals, a growing library of informational handouts for public meetings, and even a blog. The couple's whole lives are invested in this land. They say they have not yet begun to fight.
And they aren't alone. Across the nation, 153 new coal plants are currently proposed, enough to power some 93 million homes. Of those 153 proposals, only 24 have expressed an intent to use gasification technology, which offers a way to handle the large amounts of carbon dioxide produced by coal combustion. A recent report from the National Energy Technology Laboratory anticipates the construction of up to 309 new 500 MW coal plants in the U.S. by 2030. If NETL's projections are correct, U.S. coal-generation capacity will more than triple by 2010, with corresponding air pollution and greenhouse-gas increases.
Speculation not need is driving the construction of these plants. It is companies like LS Power and Peabody coal not utilities who are doing the construction. Both public and private utilities have to pay at least some attention to the wishes of their customers. Companies like Peabody and LS Power do not and can concentrate on profits.
Some of the 153 proposed coal plants will add capacity for existing public utilities. Others, like those by developers LS Power and Peabody, are speculative "merchant" coal plants, which ultimately intend to sell the power -- or even the plant itself -- to the highest bidder. Local need for power is not part of the calculations behind these merchant plants. The concept isn't new, but the voracious expansion plans are.
Economic projections indicate that demand for electricity will continue to rise, so developers are gambling that the need for power and the low price of western coal will make them very rich. Merchant-coal developers are also finding ways to minimize the risks posed by possible carbon regulation on the horizon. A recent Business Week analysis approvingly cites Peabody's plan to sell ownership stakes in its new plants to municipal utilities and electric cooperatives, along with 30-year Peabody coal-supply contracts. If and when federal carbon regulation pushes up the cost of coal-fired generation, a smart developer like Peabody will have insulated itself from that expense. The utilities and cooperatives will pay ever-higher prices to generate electricity, passing those costs on to the consumer -- but Peabody's profits will never falter.
Ed Morrissey weighs in.
However, for some reason, Firedoglake, MyDD, and even the normally reasonable Middle Earth Journal all claim shock and anger over this development. The same voices who called for Lieberman's expulsion from the party earlier in the week and have worked to defeat him despite a solidly Democratic voting record now fume because the man they spent the summer reviling won't endorse their other candidates. None of them answer the obvious question: if you detest the man so much, why would you want his endorsement?No Ed, I'm not surprised. Joe is interested only in feeding Joe's hubris and ego.
Lieberman is exploring the many facets of independence in American politics, and the people who forced it on him still express surprise and anger over it. The only surprise here is that they're surprised.
Joe Gandelman also has a good post where he documents that Hillary is throwing even more support to Lamont than we originally thought and that others are joining her.
But it isn't only Hillary Clinton who's loaning one of her best people to Lamont: So is Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (who would like to be Majority Leader Harry Reid).Joe Gandelan also links to The Silverwood Institute where they point out the obvious, Lieberman can't be trusted to support the Democrats if elected as an independent. Their advice to Democrats, don't get fooled again.
This suggest that Democratic party elite leadership determination to
elect Lamont and defeat Lieberman is starting to solidify.
Immediately before the primary that saw Lieberman's defeat there was considerable speculation that top Democrats, particularly those such as Hillary and Bill Clinton who had been close associates of Lieberman's for many years, would either try and find an excuse to sit on their hands during the Lamont campaign or give it perfunctory support.
That conventional wisdom now seems erroneous, speculative ancient history that many who uttered (and wrote) it would like to forget.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Lieberman refuses to back Democratic candidates
Lieberman -- who after losing an Aug. 8 Democratic primary to Ned Lamont has launched a third-party bid to hold onto his seat in the Nov. 7 general election -- was asked whether he still endorses Diane Farrell, Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy, three Democrats looking to unseat endangered Republican incumbents Chris Shays, Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson.It's all about Joe - the Democrats in Connecticut and the Democratic party be damned. Now Joe has a vested interest in the Republicans remaining in control of the House. After all the inevitable investigations that will result if the Democrats take control will also be investigating Joe himself.
"I'm a non-combatant," Lieberman declared. "I am not going to be involved in other campaigns. I think it's better if I just focus on my own race."
"It's a little awkward for me now" to endorse the Democratic candidates in the general election, he said, "since they all endorsed my opponent," Democratic primary winner Ned Lamont.
Bush is trapped in a self-generated dynamic that eerily recalls the centrifugal forces that spun apart his father's presidency. It was not until the Gulf war that the public became convinced that the elder Bush was a strong leader and not the "wimp" stereotypically depicted. Then came a recession. Bush's feeble response was not seen as merely an expression of typical Republican policy, but as a profound character flaw. If Bush was strong, why didn't he solve the problem?I guess the only question would be was it actually George W. Bush who sowed the seeds or was it Karl Rove?
The younger Bush's staggering mismanagement of the Iraqi occupation has until recently served his purpose of seeming to defy the elements of chaos he himself has aroused. By stringing every threat together into an immense plot that justifies a global war on terrorism, however, he has ultimately made himself hostage to any part of the convoluted storyline that goes haywire.
Having told the public that Iraq is central to a war on terror, the worse things go in Iraq, the more the public thinks the war on terror goes badly.
Sources from both sides say Hillary will appear at an event with Ned and fundraise for him. But perhaps more significantly, one of her senior advisors, Howard Wolfson, will be acting in an advisory role to the Lamont campaign to help them coordinate the response of national Democrats on Ned’s behalf, specifically with regard to countering the GOP-coordinated smears being lobbed by Dan Gerstein and the Lieberman campaign.A hopeful sign but as Jane says "I guess time will tell."
The Lamont campaign was very encouraged by the meeting.
Bubble, bubble, Toll’s in trouble. This week, Toll Brothers, the nation’s premier builder of McMansions, announced that sales were way off, profits were down, and the company was walking away from already-purchased options on land for future development.Yes it is a bust in the making!
Toll’s announcement was one of many indications that the long-feared housing bust has arrived. Home sales are down sharply; home prices, which rose 57 percent over the past five years (and much more than that along the coasts), are now falling in much of the country. The inventory of unsold existing homes is at a 13-year high; builders’ confidence is at a 15-year low.
A year ago, Robert Toll, who runs Toll Brothers, was euphoric about the housing boom, declaring: “We’ve got the supply, and the market has got the demand. So it’s a match made in heaven.” In a New York Times profile of his company published last October, he dismissed worries about a possible bust. “Why can’t real estate just have a boom like every other industry?” he asked. “Why do we have to have a bubble and then a pop?”
The current downturn, Mr. Toll now says, is unlike anything he’s seen: sales are slumping despite the absence of any “macroeconomic nasty condition” taking housing down along with the rest of the economy. He suggests that unease about the direction of the country and the war in Iraq is undermining confidence. All I have to say is: pop!
Now what? Until recently most business economists were predicting a “soft landing” for housing. Even now, the majority opinion seems to be that we’re looking at a cooling market, not a bust. But this complacency looks increasingly like denial, as hard data — which tend, for technical reasons, to lag what’s actually going on in the market — start to confirm anecdotal evidence that it is, indeed, a bust.So what happened? What many of us predicted over two years ago. The housing boom - and the recovery - was built on a thin, ever expanding bubble.
Why the sudden crackup? When prices were rising rapidly, some people bought houses purely as investments, betting that prices would keep going up. Other people rushed to buy houses, or stretched themselves to buy houses they couldn’t really afford, because they feared that prices would rise out of reach if they waited. And all this speculative demand pushed prices even higher. In other words, there was a market bubble.My neighbor is a real estate salesman. He sells houses in an over 55 community and has seen many of his recent deals fall through. Why? Most of the people who move to this community must sell their existing houses and now they are not selling. There is a new development on the hill behind my house. When they started building two years ago the homes were sold before they started construction. A year ago they were sold before they were finished. Today homes are sitting vacant for months after completion. Another indication - on every corner the signs "avoid foreclosure - we buy homes" signs are cropping up. It's a bitch when those ARMs come due. Yes booms are followed by busts as sure as the sunrise is followed by sunset.
But eventually prices reached a level beyond what even optimistic potential buyers were willing to pay, especially after interest rates rose a bit. (They’re still low by historical standards.) As demand fell short of supply, double-digit price increases declined into the low single digits, then went negative everywhere except in the South.
And with prices falling in many areas, the speculative demand for houses has gone into reverse, as people try to get out with a profit while they still can. There’s now a rapidly growing glut of unsold houses. This is a recipe for a major bust, not a soft landing.
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Not too long ago the blogosphere was rocking with the great debate of Intelligent Design vs Darwinism. It was an interesting debate, though I doubt much that anyone had the mind changed. Be that as it may, the whole thing got me thinking, and today ii occured to me: science is dead. We have reached the end of the Age of Science - what will come after, I don't know, but I don't think that we'll ever again have a time when Science is enshrined as some sort of god-like arbiter of right and wrong. The question now: what killed science?
A lot of different factors - but the main thing was that science could only thrive as it did from about 1650 until 1850 when everyone agreed on the rules. The prime rule of science was truth - everyone involved in science had to tell the truth to the best of their ability, and always be willing to correct one's views when new evidence called in to question previously held beliefs. What killed science was when its strongest advocates stopped telling the truth.
It was, after all, science and its enthusiasts which fell for the Piltdown Man, Haekel's embryos, eugenics, Population Bomb, ALAR, etc, etc, etc. So many bogus theories, dressed up as science, and greeted by the believers in science as the be-all and end-all of existence. After a while, it was bound to errode the foundations of science - and now it has. Science is now so intertwined with myth and political gamesmanship that whatever judgements are pronounced under the cover of science are immediately suspect - everyone who hears such things wonders when some future science will completely refute what is held as rock-solid science today.
Now like John Cole I kept on reading hoping to find some evidence that this was indeed satire. Sadly it's not, it's Mr Noonan frontal lobe that is dead, not science.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Frank Murkowski isn't just some obscure Alaskan nobody --- he was a US Senator for 22 years, a member of the most exclusive club in the world, from one of the most reliable red states. In small (population) states like Alaska, he should have been an iconic figure who stayed in office until he was forced out by term limits or death. For years he had the backing of the most important industries in the state as well as the religious right, the NRA and the Alaska GOP. And yet, he couldn't get over 20% in the Republican primary this year. And the woman who won ran against the Republican establishment.I am really beginning to think that things are going to be even worse for the Republicans than the current polls would indicate. People are really tired of the status quo and they are ready for a change. They think we have lost the war in Iraq and they heard nothing new from George W. Bush this week - just more "stay the course". And we have this:
Christian Coalition losing chapters
Three disgruntled state affiliates have severed ties with the Christian Coalition of America, one of the nation's most powerful conservative groups during the 1990s but now buffeted by complaints over finances, leadership and its plans to veer into nontraditional policy areas.Now the Republicans have taken control of the Congress and the White House on the backs of the religious right and it was the Christian Coalition that got it's members to the polls. Now these people won't vote for Democrats but if they are not fired up they will just stay home. Everyone else is just fed up. They don't like the direction the country is headed. Many Republicans don't like the very un-Republican direction of the Republican legislative behavior and corruption. This from lifelong Republican John Cole yesterday.
"It's a very sad day for our people, but a liberating day," said John Giles, president of the coalition's Alabama chapter, which announced Wednesday that it was renaming itself and splitting from the national organization. The Iowa and Ohio chapters took similar steps this year.
Giles said he and his Alabama colleagues have "a dozen hard reasons" for the action but would elaborate on only one — a perception that the coalition's leadership was diverting itself from traditional concerns such as abortion and same-sex marriage to address other issues ranging from the environment to Internet access.
Giles predicted further defections and said the coalition was now left with only a half-dozen strong state chapters and a weak presence in Washington.
As many of you are aware, I have soured on this administration, and in general, the Republican leadership. On a daily basis I look at the hardliners in my party, and feel like they are not even speaking the same language as I am. I still, however, do not feel like the Democratic party is my home, but I can say that I am the least hostile to the Democratic party that I have been for years.And of course the while the Republican voters are not fired up the Democrats are.
And one of the main reasons for that is the Democrats have not, by and large, been doing stupid things. Sure, we have a Howard Dean flare-up here and there, and every now and then we have an outburst from Kennedy or McKinney, but for the most part, the Democrats have silenced their crazies and have been content to sit back and watch the GOP make asses of themselves.
The battle for the House in this "sixth-year itch" election has proven especially volatile. As the Crystal Ball outlined at the outset of August, the vast majority of campaign developments that have taken place this summer have boosted Democratic fortunes. And in the absence of a truly major rally-around-the-flag intervening event, that unidirectional movement shows no signs of reversing course: every news day that goes by gives us more and more confidence that Republican losses in the lower chamber will number in the teens.Sabato sees 40 races is play with the Democrats needing to pick up 15 to take control.
But where in the teens? Greater or lesser than that tipping point of control, that magic number, 15? That is, of course, the question keeping both GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert and would-be speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) up at night. Although it's possible that voters could shock everyone and give the Democrats only a small gain--or a gain of several dozen--it's more likely that the 110th Congress will feature some of the smallest congressional majorities in the nation's history. One side or the other will be heartbroken to be on the short end of the stick, as a handful of votes in fewer than ten districts will almost certainly decide whose hands hold the gavels in the post-2006 House. What better reason for those voters to take the time to cast ballots in these critical midterm races!
With the crest of a pro-Democratic wave in view and the nation embroiled in a foreign war, the stakes for each party this November are higher than ever. Republicans know the end of a congressional majority would accelerate the Bush administration's descent into a lame duck lagoon and stymie the party's ability to pass any major item on its agenda. Meanwhile, Democrats know that they will likely have no greater opportunity than 2006 to capitalize on the opposition's unpopularity and make major gains this decade. Unlike the exceptions to the rule that were the past two midterm elections of 1998 and 2002, we are in the midst of the sixth year itch, and all the marbles are on the line.
Arizona 05 Republican Leans Republican Read moreSo where does that leaves us?
Arizona 08 Republican (OPEN) Toss-up
Colorado 07 Republican (OPEN) Toss-up
Connecticut 02 Republican Toss-up
Connecticut 04 Republican Toss-up
Connecticut 05 Republican Leans Republican
Florida 13 Republican (OPEN) Leans Republican
Florida 22 Republican Toss-up
Georgia 08 Democratic Leans Democratic
Georgia 12 Democratic Leans Democratic
Illinois 06 Republican (OPEN) Toss-up
Illinois 08 Democratic Toss-up
Indiana 02 Republican Leans Republican
Indiana 08 Republican Toss-up
Indiana 09 Republican Toss-up
Iowa 01 Republican (OPEN) Toss-up
Iowa 03 Democratic Leans Democratic
Kentucky 04 Republican Toss-up
Louisiana 03 Democratic Leans Democratic
Minnesota 06 Republican (OPEN) Toss-up
New Mexico 01 Republican Toss-up
New York 20 Republican Leans Republican
New York 24 Republican (OPEN) Toss-up
North Carolina 11 Republican Leans Republican
Ohio 01 Republican Leans Republican
Ohio 06 Democratic (OPEN) Leans Democratic
Ohio 15 Republican Leans Republican
Ohio 18 Republican (OPEN) Toss-up
Pennsylvania 06 Republican Leans Democratic
Pennsylvania 07 Republican Leans Republican
Pennsylvania 08 Republican Leans Republican
Pennsylvania 10 Republican Leans Republican
Texas 17 Democratic Leans Democratic
Texas 22 Republican (OPEN) Leans Democratic
Texas 23 Republican Leans Republican
Vermont AL Independent (OPEN) Leans Democratic
Virginia 02 Republican Toss-up
Washington 08 Republican Leans Republican
West Virginia 01 Democratic Leans Democratic
Wisconsin 08 Republican (OPEN) Leans Republican
Where does the "Ferocious Forty" leave us? Well, for starters, 31 out of 40 are currently held by the GOP, which means Democrats would need only to win 24 of the 40 to seize control of the House--a much easier feat than previously estimated.
The chart can help us estimate which scenario might play out on Election Day. First, let's assume that in a Democratic "wave" on November 7th, Democrats pick up the two GOP seats currently "leaning" to them (Texas 22nd and Pennsylvania 6th) and hold onto all of their own "leaners." Next, they pick up exactly three quarters of the tossups (an eleven seat net gain not implausible in a pro-Democratic year) and pick off just one of the GOP-held "leaners" (a somewhat conservative estimate). If this were to occur, Democrats and Republicans would be tied at 217 seats each, with potentially one additional Republican-held seat in an intriguing special circumstance
Now even the possibility of a Democratic majority in the house must make Bush and Rove quake with fear. Real investigations could result in Rove going to jail and Bush being impeached. So they need an October surprise. For an idea of what that surprise might be all we have to do is take a quick trip over to memeorandum this morning at look at the stories.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
George W. Bush sounds increasingly like your average defiant teenager. The teenager won't clean his room, and the president won't leave Iraq.As I discussed below Bush has no strategy for Iraq but in addition he has no new rationale.
The president's latest news conference was another installment of rebel with a cause that a shrinking number of Americans believe in.
''We're not leaving so long as I'm president,'' promised - or threatened - Bush.
Bring it on
Bush, the stubborn, won't leave Iraq. And even worse, he won't admit mistakes relative to getting us there in the first place, or military miscues since, when it comes to carrying out the mission, he dooms us to travel the same misguided path as long as he remains in the White House.Yes a majority now don't see a relation between Iraq and the war on terror and even a greater majority have had enough of Iraq. Nearly 60% of Americans have had enough of Dubya himself. So bring it on Karl - even the Republicans are running.
What's a nation to do? Ground the commander in chief for the rest of his term and take away his car keys?
Bush - or rather Karl Rove - wants Iraq to be the defining debate in upcoming elections. They are gambling on it. They figure they can pull off the tried-and-true Republican song and dance one more time: They scare the country and marginalize those who challenge war in Iraq as left-wing moonbats who don't understand the true nature of the terrorist threat.
Bring it on, Mr. President.
The presidential rationale for staying in Iraq is the same old, same old. People know it and are weary of it.
George W. Bush criticizing someone for not understanding the world is like … well, it's like George W. Bush criticizing someone for not understanding the world. It's sui generis: No parallel quite captures the absurdity so succinctly.Fred points out that Bush has no strategy because he really doesn't seem to know what strategy is.
As for Iraq, it's no news that Bush has no strategy. What did come as news—and, really, a bit of a shocker—is that he doesn't seem to know what "strategy" means.Yes, the Moron in Chief seems to be confusing the objective with strategy. Do you suppose this is why he has no strategy.
Asked if it might be time for a new strategy in Iraq, given the unceasing rise in casualties and chaos, Bush replied, "The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and dreams, which is a democratic society. That's the strategy. … Either you say, 'It's important we stay there and get it done,' or we leave. We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president."
There is a lot more in Kaplan's piece so read it all.
It was an absolutely riveting experience. It was the best I've ever seen him. Not only that; it may have been the best I've ever seen any politician. If I summarized what he said, it would all sound familiar: the difficult times we live in; the threat from Islamic fascism--the phrase drew an enthusiastic round of applause--the universal yearning for freedom; the need to confront evil now, with all the tools at our disposal, so that our children and grandchildren can live in a better and safer world. As he often does, the President structured his comments loosely around a tour of the Oval Office. But the digressions and interpolations were priceless.Over at The Nation David Corn saw the same news conference the rest of us did.
The conventional wisdom is that Bush is not a very good speaker. But up close, he is a great communicator, in a way that, in my opinion, Ronald Reagan was not. He was by turns instructive, persuasive, and funny. His persona is very much that of the big brother. Above all, he was impassioned. I have never seen a politician speak so evidently from the heart, about big issues--freedom, most of all.
George W. Bush keeps trying to rally popular support for his war in Iraq. But he has little to offer other than stay-the course-ism. He cannot point to progress in Iraq. Nor can he point to a plan that would seem promising. Thus, he is left only with rhetoric--the same rhetoric.Yes, that's the one I saw.
That was on display during a presidential press conference at the White House on Monday.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Smith stands for beliefs on middle ground
Now those of us who follow Gordon Smith and read his votes rather than his lips know he is a wingnut, as wingnutty as you can get. Now I wonder if the author of the article is the one who came up with the headline because for the most part the article just points out how Gordon Smith is just a smooth talking wingnut Republican political hack. Now Mr Smith will frequently say things to make independents and moderates happy. He will vote in a way to please moderates and independents when his vote doesn't really matter. When his vote will make a difference he is a wingnut all the way. Some examples of Smith's wingnuttery from the Oregonian piece.
Most Smith votes have toed the party line. Of about 200Does that sound like a moderate to you? Don't believe those headlines - read the story.
votes this year that were not unanimous, Smith voted the same way as Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist 170 times.
In comparison, he voted the same way as Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., 80 times.
On several recent controversial issues, Smith voted with Republicans. For instance, he supported the constitutional amendment to prevent flag desecration. Smith says all rights -- including freedom of expression -- have limits.
Smith, who campaigned in 2002 as an advocate of gay rights, also has supported a federal amendment to prohibit gay marriage.
"The Democratic Party is not my constituency. These are people that believe in socialism. I don't."
I'm going to move this, from Joseph at The Corpus Callosum, up from the comments section. It adds to the Headlines/Soundbites discussion.
That is a really important point -- you have to read the whole article. While doing so, you have to hold at bay the framing implied by the title -- don't let the title sway your critical thinking process.
One of my hypotheses, in the category of things I believe but cannot prove, it that the rise of "headline news" organizations is something that is leading to increased polarization of the electorate. It is much easier for politicians (of any party) to sway the population, if all the news that people get is just the headlines.
Politicians can become adept at manipulating the media to put up the headlines they want. Of course, it does not help, that the media are complicit in this.
The reason the Lamont election has all of Washington so badly freaked out and dug in is that it's revealed a crack in the long-dependable mechanism of mainstream American politics. For almost four decades now conservatives in both parties have been governing according to a very simple formula. You run against Jane Fonda and George McGovern in election season, then you spend the next four years playing golf, shooting flightless birds, and taking $25,000 speaking gigs in Aspen while you let your fundraisers run things around the office.
But their problem now is that they've fucked up Iraq and everything else so badly that they've practically made “McGovernism” mainstream. A whole generation of hacks has reached office running against George McGovern, and now Joe Lieberman is threatening to ruin things for everybody, just like Jimmy Carter wrecked the Barry Goldwater gravy train for the last generation by falling on his face against Ronald Reagan. If there is such a thing as a principle in Washington, avoiding such a catastrophe as that is it. That's why they won't let Joe die easy — no matter how much he seems to deserve it.
It looks like the Lamont/Lieberman race is closer than we had been led to believe, Chris Bowers has the details.
At his press conference yesterday he gave no indication that he'll do anything but stay the course — not just on the question of whether to pull out immediately (there is a split among Americans on that) but on the question of whether there need to be major, substantive changes to existing war policy to speed up a desired victory and pullout.Like an old west movie the administrations only strategy has been to charge in with guns blazing and then wing it. Today Eric Margolis gives us a rundown on the results of this policy from a B western.
Defeat I: Five years after Bush ordered Afghanistan invaded and proclaimed "total victory" there, US and allied forces are struggling to defend their bases and supply lines against rising attacks from a growing number of Afghan resistance groups. The war costs $1.5 billion monthly. US-ruled Afghan now produces over 80% of the world’s heroin. The US just quietly deployed thousands more troops to Afghanistan to hunt al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in a desperate attempt to save Republicans from heavy losses in November mid-term elections.That's right, the "war president" is 0 for 4. If he had been a real gunfighter he would have been planted on boot hill years ago. Instead thousands of others are dead.
Defeat II: Remember "Mission accomplished!" in Iraq? President Bush’s war in Iraq is clearly lost, but few dare admit it. The US has spent $300 billion on Afghanistan and Iraq, with nothing to show there but chaos, civil war, body bags, and growing Iranian influence in Iraq and western Afghanistan. The Bush/Cheney "liberation" of Iraq has now cost more than the Vietnam War. So much for the "cakewalk." Iraq is likely the biggest American foreign policy disaster in living memory – even worse, in many ways, than Vietnam.
Defeat III: Off in the strategic Horn of Africa, another dangerous fiasco is unfolding. The White House had CIA and Pentagon spend tens of millions bribing Somali warlords to fight Islamist reformers trying to bring law and order to their strife-ravaged nation. The Islamists whipped CIA-backed warlords and ran them out of Somalia. Following this defeat, the US has encouraged and financed ally Ethiopia – shades of Lebanon – to invade Somalia, thus raising the threat of a wider war between Somalia, Ethiopia, and its old foe, Eritrea. Meanwhile, growing numbers of US Special Forces and CIA teams are getting drawn into obscure tribal mêlées in the Horn of Africa and the Saharan regions.
Defeat IV: Lebanon is, of course, the fourth major American military disaster. Bush and Cheney encouraged Israel to launch the hugely destructive but militarily fruitless war in Lebanon as the first part of their long-nurtured plan to militarily crush Hezbullah, Syria and Iran. The Bush Administration brazenly thwarted world efforts to halt the conflict while giving Israel the green light to tear apart Lebanon. Now, just over a month later, Bush announces he will send $230 million to "help rebuild" Lebanon – the same Lebanon blasted apart by US smart bombs rushed by air to Israel.
While there may be some question as to who won the war in Lebanon there is no doubt about who lost.
America was the big loser in the Lebanon war. From Morocco to Indonesia, each night 1.5 billion Muslims watched the carnage in Lebanon on TV and blamed America. Even the poorest shepherd in Uzbekistan heard the US was airlifting the precision bombs and deadly cluster munitions to Israel used against Lebanese civilians.Is Iran still on the table for number 5?
Any hope of damping down the Islamic World’s surging hatred of the US, Britain, Australia and Israel (now add Canada) was killed in Lebanon. Even the interestingly-timed airport hysteria in London over alleged bomb plots failed to divert attention from the latest US-British Mideast policy disaster.
Yet the White House still keeps listening to absurd military advice from the same neoconservatives thirsting for conquest, oil and Muslim blood. Undaunted even by the fiasco in Lebanon, the Bush/Cheney White House is now heading into a full-blown crisis with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program.
Call this the "guns of August." All the pieces are still in place for a bigger war. Israel will keep violating the Lebanon cease-fire and attempting to assassinate its new nemesis, Hezbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Bush’s pre-November surprise remains to be unveiled. Iran is gearing up for war. Even Hezbullah may still have a few tricks up its sleeve.
The self-declared "war president" could yet have a few more defeats in store for the nation.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Amid the highly charged political infighting in Washington over what to do in Iraq, you might be excused for not noticing that a bipartisan commission quietly started work last spring with a mandate to help the Bush administration rethink its policy toward the war. Of course, anything labeled "bipartisan commission" seems almost guaranteed to be ignored by a highly partisan White House that is notoriously hostile to outside advice and famously devoted to "staying the course." But what makes this particular commission hard to dismiss is that it is led by perhaps the one man who might be able to break through the tight phalanx of senior officials who advise the president and filter his information. That person is the former secretary of state, Republican insider, and consigliere of the Bush family, James A. Baker III.Can this committee change the course of the train? I doubt it with anything short of an effective coup. George W. Bush has rejected anything that his father or his father's advisers have suggested. I don't see that changing. Billmon explains this morning.
Since March, Baker, backed by a team of experienced national-security hands, has been busily at work trying to devise a fresh set of policies to help the president chart a new course in--or, perhaps, to get the hell out of--Iraq. But as with all things involving James Baker, there's a deeper political agenda at work as well. "Baker is primarily motivated by his desire to avoid a war at home--that things will fall apart not on the battlefield but at home. So he wants a ceasefire in American politics," a member of one of the commission's working groups told me. Specifically, he said, if the Democrats win back one or both houses of Congress in November, they would unleash a series of investigative hearings on Iraq, the war on terrorism, and civil liberties that could fatally weaken the administration and remove the last props of political support for the war, setting the stage for a potential Republican electoral disaster in 2008. "I guess there are people in the [Republican] party, on the Hill and in the White House, who see a political train wreck coming, and they've called in Baker to try to reroute the train."
At this point, I would say Shrub is acting like a hedgehog on hallucinogens. His one big integrative idea -- exporting American-style "democracy" to Iraq at the point of a gun -- has proven fatally, disasterously wrong, but he can't let go of it, because it's the only idea he's got. He's fully vested in it, like a '90s e-trader who decided to throw caution to the wind, empty his retirement account and bet it all on pets.com.
I think if Shrub were ever forced to let go of his vision, his one big idea, it would not only crush his fragile ego, it would leave him completely incapable of making any sense at all out of his presidency, out of America's role in the Middle East, out of the universe.
So now he's imitating the hedgehog as literally as any human being can -- he's rolled himself up into a defensive ball, spines out. He has nothing useful to say and absolutely no strategy beyond hunkering down and passively defying reality. Which leaves the generals and the troops no choice but to hunker down with him.
But I realize many readers who have been following my evolving position on the War in Iraq know how pessimistic I have become over the last six months about the chances of that bloody land achieving anything like a stable, democratic government. For them, it may come as no surprise that I have reached a point where I believe we must make a decision as a nation about whether we want to continue our involvement – which would mean an increase in resources and a direct confrontation with Iran and Syria over their massive support for the terrorists and insurgents – or whether we should pack up and go home. In other words, escalate or leave.Rick is saying we have plan "A", escalate our involvement, or plan "B", leave. Of course there are a couple of problems with plan "A" the first of which is we really don't have the resources to escalate. The second is that Bush would have to admit that the administration had done something wrong.
Why now? And why bother writing about it?
Simply put, the reason I have come to this conclusion now is that the enemies of Iraqi democracy have established a clear upper hand in the country and it is uncertain at best whether the situation can be retrieved at this point.
And the reason to write about it is equally simple; to join a growing chorus of conservatives who are becoming very critical of our involvement and try and break through the spin and myopia of the Administration which is making the situation worse by pretending that things are getting better or are not as bad as we think they are.
For if there is a victory to be had in Iraq – and one can just barely make one out in the distance amidst the blood and ruin – it will take courage on the part of the President to confront these problems and do what is necessary in order to reverse course. And this will entail both risks and probably a larger casualty count among Americans fighting there.Of course judging from the last five years it seems very unlikely that Bush would admit any mistakes. So Rick's conclusion is:
Yes we need more troops – a lot more at least temporarily. Order must be brought to Baghdad and its environs and to do that we would need, according to General Trainor, is perhaps as many as 50,000 more Americans to both police the area and ferret out insurgents and the death squads.
For that to happen, the President would have to admit he and Donald Rumsfeld have been wrong all along and that in order to achieve stability, the additional troops must be sent. It is of the utmost distress to me that this President has failed to take responsibility for past mistakes and admitted to error in prosecuting the war. The grudging admissions of mistakes just isn’t getting it done. If he is serious about winning in Iraq (and he has called Iraq the “frontline” in the war on terror”) then he is going to have to go before the American people and explain why additional troops are necessary.
But if we are not willing to do what is necessary to win, then the only sane, moral course of action is to bring the troops home as fast as humanly possible. Such a humiliation should not result in a single additional death or injury to the men and women who have performed so bravely and selflessly in the face of blunder after blunder by their superiors.Go read the entire post.
Yesterday The New York Times reported that the Internal Revenue Service would outsource collection of unpaid back taxes to private debt collectors, who would receive a share of the proceeds.Forward to the past
It’s an awful idea. Privatizing tax collection will cost far more than hiring additional I.R.S. agents, raise less revenue and pose obvious risks of abuse. But what’s really amazing is the extent to which this plan is a retreat from modern principles of government. I used to say that conservatives want to take us back to the 1920’s, but the Bush administration seemingly wants to go back to the 16th century.
In the bad old days, government was a haphazard affair. There was no bureaucracy to collect taxes, so the king subcontracted the job to private “tax farmers,” who often engaged in extortion. There was no regular army, so the king hired mercenaries, who tended to wander off and pillage the nearest village. There was no regular system of administration, so the king assigned the task to favored courtiers, who tended to be corrupt, incompetent or both.Krugman points out that we have seen this privatization - the use of mercenaries first in Iraq and then with FEMA during Katrina.
Modern governments solved these problems by creating a professional revenue department to collect taxes, a professional officer corps to enforce military discipline, and a professional civil service. But President Bush apparently doesn’t like these innovations, preferring to govern as if he were King Louis XII.
So the tax farmers are coming back, and the mercenaries already have. There are about 20,000 armed “security contractors” in Iraq, and they have been assigned critical tasks, from guarding top officials to training the Iraqi Army.
Fiefdoms and accountability
To whom are such contractors accountable? Last week a judge threw out a jury’s $10 million verdict against Custer Battles, a private contractor that was hired, among other things, to provide security at Baghdad’s airport. Custer Battles has become a symbol of the mix of cronyism, corruption and sheer amateurishness that doomed the Iraq adventure — and the judge didn’t challenge the jury’s finding that the company engaged in blatant fraud.
But he ruled that the civil fraud suit against the company lacked a legal basis, because as far as he could tell, the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004, wasn’t “an instrumentality of the U.S. government.” It wasn’t created by an act of Congress; it wasn’t a branch of the State Department or any other established agency.
So what was it? Any premodern monarch would have recognized the arrangement: in effect, the authority was a personal fief run by a viceroy answering only to the ruler. And since the fief operated outside all the usual rules of government, the viceroy was free to hire a staff of political loyalists lacking any relevant qualifications for their jobs, and to hand out duffel bags filled with $100 bills to contractors with the right connections.
Tax farmers, mercenaries and viceroys: why does the Bush administration want to run a modern superpower as if it were a 16th-century monarchy? Maybe people who’ve spent their political careers denouncing government as the root of all evil can’t grasp the idea of governing well. Or maybe it’s cynical politics: privatization provides both an opportunity to evade accountability and a vast source of patronage.If you vote for the man who would be king you get what you asked for. A return to the past - a return to the 16th century.
But the price is enormous. This administration has thrown away centuries of lessons about how to make government work. No wonder it has failed at everything except fearmongering.
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Krugman, Bush, privatization
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Now we all know where Joe Lieberman stands. John Kerry certainly does; he called Lieberman the new Cheney this morning. I think that's pretty accurate. Taylor Marsh has the details.
So where do some of the other personalities in the Democratic party fall. We will find out in the next couple of weeks. The litmus test will be if they actively campaign for Ned Lamont. Now it's really nice that many of them have endorsed Lamont but that's not enough. Are they going to side with the pro-neocon Republican Lite of the DLC or a majority of the base. Yes, they are going to have to decide who they are going to alienate. This is especially true of any who have presidential aspirations. Yes, Hillary I'm talking to you and that goes for Bill as well. Yes, Joe Biden I'm talking to youl. The next couple of weeks you need to decide - are you with us or against us?
Digby has some interesting thoughts on the special interest groups normally associated with the Democrats.
This brings me to the special interests in whom I had placed so much faith to counter such corruption. I had resisted joining in the critique of these groups because I thought they had some basis for playing both sides over the long term. But I thought they knew which side their bread was really buttered on, even so. Apparently not. Stoller describes them as having been co-opted by the corrupt system and lazily enjoying the fruits of the spoils like everyone else. I have to admit that even the most generous view shows they have lost sight of their own goals.
NARAL's continued endorsement of Lieberman is a case in point. I will bet money that if Lieberman wins the race as an independent with a majority of Republican votes, within his term he is going to change his stance on abortion. It's obvious that he is uncomfortable with the dissonance between being a social conservative and pro-choice politician, and he's been feeling around for an argument to justify it for years. He's the most likely pro-choice Senator in the country to switch. If NARAL thinks they can keep him on the reservation because they've been loyal to him, they obviously don't know who they're dealing with --- or no longer care.
For 10 minutes, the talk show host grilled his guests about whether "George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." For 10 minutes, the caption across the bottom of the television screen read, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"Now I may disagree with Joe on most things but I don't think that he is an idiot. I think that he and the other right wing pundits knew from the start that Dubya was an idiot. What they didn't realize was that Bush's answer to Rasputin, Dick Cheney, and Cheney's loyal sidekick, Donald Rumsfeld, were so delusionally mad and incompetent. They knew that George wasn't going to be calling the shots but what they didn't realize was that Shooter and Rummy would be so off the mark. Perhaps they also didn't realize how badly Bush would mangle the words that were put into his mouth.
But the host was no liberal media elitist. It was Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned MSNBC political pundit. And his answer to the captioned question was hardly "no." While other presidents have been called stupid, Scarborough said: "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth as these other people."
Bush aides were bothered by a George F. Will column [George Will - Kerry was right!] last week mocking neoconservative desires to transform the Middle East: "Foreign policy 'realists' considered Middle East stability the goal. The realists' critics, who regard realism as reprehensibly unambitious, considered stability the problem. That problem has been solved."And Buckley Too
The White House responded with a 2,432-word rebuttal -- three times as long as the column -- e-mailed to supporters and journalists. "Mr. Will's kind of 'stability' and 'realism' -- a kind of world-weary belief that nothing can be done and so nothing should be tried -- would eventually lead to death and destruction on a scale that is almost unimaginable," wrote White House strategic initiatives director Peter H. Wehner.
William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of the National Review and an icon of the Ronald Reagan-era conservative movement, caused a stir earlier this year when he wrote that "our mission has failed" in Iraq -- just a few months after Bush hosted a White House tribute to Buckley's 80th birthday and the magazine's 50th anniversary.So what are these attacks on Bush all about? They are about trying to salvage the failed neocon ideology - they are about trying to convince people that It's not the ideology but the execution.
America has a long history of vigilantism, and contrary to how some on the left try to confuse vigilantism with lynching, they are quite different institutions. In incidents such as the South Carolina Regulators of the eighteenth century, of the California gold fields, in San Francisco in 1851 and 1856, vigilantism has often been more a form of popular tribunalism than lynching.I'd like to give you a few moments for your head to stop reeling from that barrage of insanity, but a shortage of time forces us to press on and take apart these manic ramblings. (Sad, isn't it, that we now live in a country where such analysis is even needed and the author can't simply be written off as a potentially dangerous loon and provided with a nice new jacket with arms that tie in the back?)
Very well, then. Here we go. First of all, in the very few and exceedingly rare cases where there might have been some justification for limited, short term vigilantism by citizens, it's found pretty much exclusively in our early history where there was little to no effective government in place to provide adequate legal protection to the citizens. The South Carolina Regulators movement which Cramer admires so took place in the 1760's. We weren't even a nation yet. Granted, those regulators seemed to have been filling a pressing void in governmental protection and were later recognized for their service against gangs of outlaws. However, as so often happens, their fellows allowed others in nearby areas to spread that sort of "movement' and it quickly went where such activity almost always leads.
Next door in North Carolina, they quickly took up a Regulators movement of their own. They didn't care for the tax assessment policies in the area (and probably with good cause, I must admit.) But rather than turning to any sort of appeal process or electing new officials who would be more responsive to the needs of the tax base, they decided to go the vigilantee route.
Efforts to reform the assessment of taxes and fees were unsuccessful; the courts and assembly were not responsive and seemed to favor the causes of the wealthy tidewater elements. Regulator groups arose to close down local courts (which in this era were analogous to county commissions) and suppress tax payments; rioting broke out in several counties. In May 1771, Governor William Tryon led militia forces against the Regulators and defeated them handily at Alamance Creek.This is hardly the worst of it, though. What about that (in)famous vigilantee movement in San Francisco in 1856 of which Clayton is so admiring? There were groups of citizens who thought that prostitution and gambling were getting out of hand. A couple of men wound up being killed in disputes over the moral compass of the city, and the two shooters (James King and Charles Cora) were PUT IN JAIL because of it, pending their trials. A large scale vigilantee committee was formed.
Now, Lord forbid any of you evil lefty Democrats should go confusing vigilantism with lynching. Shame on you!
Outraged citizens organized a Vigilance Committee, which ultimately enrolled over six thousand men, particularly merchants, clerks, and skilled workers' groups whose members were likely to be permanently settled in San Francisco. These men included most of San FranciscoÂs white ethnic groups, with the notable exception of Irish Catholics who were virtually excluded.See? No harm done! It's just a form of "popular tribunalism" as Clayton Cramer so aptly points out. What are you progressives getting your panties in a bunch over anyway?
The vigilantes' first act was to raid the jail, where they captured both William Casey and Charles Cora, King's murderer and the man who best symbolized all that King had fought against in his reform rhetoric. As King's funeral procession wound through the city on May 22, Casey and Cora were "tried" before the executive committee and hanged.
During the next three months, the committee hanged two more men and exiled over two dozen others (mostly Irish-Catholic Democrats) for alleged political crimes. In addition, the vigilantes conducted illegal searches, suspended the law of habeas corpus, confiscated federal arms, subverted state and local militias, sought to oust elected city officials, and even imprisoned a justice of the state supreme court.
It's almost refreshing to see somebody like Cramer come out of the closet and endorse this sort of activity as a way to control all of the followers of Islam on the planet. I mean, you nearly have to admire that sort of adherencee to a line of insane rhetoric and devotion to whatever the "cause" of neoconservatism has deteriorated into. And this is still America, at least for the time being, so people such as Cramer (just as the KKK et. al.) must be allowed to freely air their views. But he also serves as a useful tool for people still clinging on to some semblance of sanity to call out the right wing Cheney supporters for exactly what they are: fear mongering hate merchants.
British holidaymakers staged an unprecedented mutiny - refusing to allow their flight to take off until two men they feared were terrorists were forcibly removed.
The extraordinary scenes happened after some of the 150 passengers on a Malaga-Manchester flight overheard two men of Asian appearance apparently talking Arabic.
(Note: The Brits use the term "Asian" to refer to people of the Middle East.)
And it's not just in Britain. We've got another one close on its heels here in the US.
A Winnipeg doctor is demanding an official apology and compensation from United Airlines after being kicked off a flight in the U.S. this week, an incident he has characterized as "institutionalized discrimination." Dr. Ahmed Farooq, a Muslim, was escorted off an airplane in Denver on Tuesday. According to Farooq, reciting his evening prayers was interpreted by one passenger as an activity that was suspicious.Sadly, this doesn't even come as a surprise anymore. The efforts of this administration and its mouthpieces on the right wing have apparently succeeded in convincing a large number of otherwise civilized people that we are not fighting a group of radical, criminal terrorists, but are in fact engaged in a war with the religion of Islam itself. While not yet documented in our laws, it has apparently become a de facto illegal act to be Traveling While Muslim.
To see what's fueling this fire of self-destruction, take a look at the reactions to this blatantly panic-driven case of fear driven profiling discrimination from some of the more "notable" rightie bloggers.
From Capt. Ed.
The incident shows that citizens will start imposing their own solutions to flight safety in the absence of demonstrably intelligent security while attempts at attacks continue:Solutions to flight safety? What was the specific threat to flight safety on this particular plane being solved here? Keep in mind that the news report indicates that the two passengers in the first story had already passed all of the normal security clearance checks and were sent on their way the next day with an expense paid stay overnight at a local hotel while they waited for another flight. There was nothing going on with them. In the second story I linked, the passenger was forced to find accommodations and take a later flight at his own expense. He was basically told, "too bad."
From one of the biggest loons on the right wing:
Haven't authorities told us over and over to be vigilant and trust our instincts in these situations? Yet now we have a UK Homeland Security spokesperson denigrating British citizens for doing exactly that.There's a substantial difference between "trusting your instincts" and taking the flight control process into your own hands. Refusing to fly on the plane because somebody who looks different than you on board is one thing. You're free to take a boat or walk/swim to your destination if you wish. Holding up the flight for everyone and eventually having the brown skinned people removed before the plane can depart is something else entirely. Oh, and notice the key use of the word "vigilant" above. Can you say vigilantee"? I knew you could.
And scraping the bottom of barrel, continuing on the vigilant theme, we have this clown's message to the government regarding the incident:
If we, the general public, see no reason to believe that you take our safety and wellbeing seriously, and G-d knows that there is no reason to believe that after five years of you playing Russian Roulette with our lives, then we'll just have to take care of matters ourselves.Take matters into our own hands, eh? Yes, that's worked so well historically.
I remember being accused of hyperbole or hysteria when I was alarmed over the racist fear mongering of Michelle Malkin, one of the worst perpetrators of these scare tactics on "teh internets" and her endorsement ointermentnt camps. It doesn't seem so very far away now. There's already a movement underway to make Muslims carry "special" ID cards so they can be identified. Special re-education camps for them are no longer impossible, reading the cards today.
Remember, my little public minded private law enforcers... when we turn a blind eye to the group lynching the colored feller who had the temerity to whistle at the white girl, the next time they may just be stringing up a guy who was just bringing some potatoes home from the market. I'm sure Dr. Ahmed Farooq feels really welcome these days, and is just ever so grateful to be living in the "free and open society" of our perfect western, democratic culture.
UPDATE! More on blatant vigilantism being endorsed by the right wing. Be sure to check this out.