May 26, 2007

Bush’s poodle Blair gets kicked by his master one last time

Despite Tony the Pony’s claim that the U.S. was actually ready agree to “at least the beginnings” of action to fight climate change, a heavily red-penned U.S. redaction of a German talking-points document shows that The Great Poodle (apologies to Pitt) still can’t shake his habit of engaging in copious amounts of wishful thinking.

Unlike The Wishful Thinker playing Robin to The Decider’s Batman, though, other people in Europe DO get it, that BushCo has no intention of taking one meaningful action on climate issues:
The director of Greenpeace, John Sauven, said the leaked document proved Britain had failed to influence the US. “Despite his protestations to the contrary Tony Blair’s efforts to persuade George Bush of the importance of tackling climate change have singularly failed,” he said.

The scene is set for a showdown between the US and other G8 countries who want early action on climate change. Germany’s environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said the country was prepared to block decisions on other issues unless the US and other G8 members made concessions on the environment. “America doesn't want to commit to firm goals. We can’t put the global future of our children at risk because of the narrow-mindedness of individual negotiating partners.”

Exit stage right, Mssr. Blair, or Dame Nellie Melba, as Sir John Major called you.

May 24, 2007

Where’s the House Judiciary committee staff?

Given the total flop that House Judiciary engaged in with the foot-rubbing ”grilling” of Monica Goodling, it’s a very relevant question.

Where’s the committee majority staff on this? Remember, that’s how people like Bobby Kennedy and Fred Thompson got their names ... committee staff asking actual, or seemingly so, hard-hitting questions on major investigations.

Instead, as Dahlia Lithwick points out, we got this:
It’s not just that Goodling comes across as better, smarter, and more honest than Gonzales, Sampson, and McNulty put together, although she does. It’s that the committee, in expecting to question the Great Exploding Idiot Barbie today, is completely underprepared and overmatched.

Chalk up another one to the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Or the soft stupidity of a House Democratic party that is still stuck in the pre-BushCo, or even pre-Gingrich-DeLay, era of governance.

Big Oil: Biofuels latest reason to not build more refineries

So, now ExxonMobil, et al, are even picking on President Bush.

They say his call for more biofuels puts too much uncertainty in the future for them to be keen about investing in new refineries. This coming after the last, Republican-led Congress, at the pushing of “Smokey Joe” Barton, cut them new breaks, both tax and regulatory, on building new refineries in the first place.

We’re already importing about 20 percent of our refined gasoline. When, besides dealing with Iraq and the Department of Justice, will the current, Democratic-controlled Congress, start hauling Big Oil execs up for sworn-in hearings on this latest round of excuse-making vs. price-gouging?

Or, let’s create a governmental strategic gasoline reserve to accompany the strategic petroleum reserve. That would require a federal refinery or two, and kneecap Big Oil right there.

Democrats: Quivering in fear of “Big Bad Bush”

Congressional Democrats are pushing an Iraq funding bill with no timetable teeth because they’re afraid of Big Bad Bush huffing and puffing:
Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break — the second recess since the financing fight began — and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush.

Ooh, ooh, quiver in fear. Geez, if you haven’t realized now that, especially against this administration, the best defense is a good offense, you probably NEVER will.

Meanwhile, we have bullshit coming from the mouthpiece of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi:
But scores of other Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, say they have no intention of voting for the more than $100 billion sought by the White House for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan because Mr. Bush refused to accede to timelines, readiness standards and other conditions. They have said repeatedly since taking control in January that they will not turn over more money for the war without some movement toward a withdrawal.

In allowing the war money measure to reach the floor with indifferent backing from her own party, Ms. Pelosi is breaking one of the cardinal rules of her predecessor, J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, whose mantra was to legislate with the majority of the majority party.

“She is showing she is the speaker of the whole House,” said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi. “Even though she does not personally support it, she said the money will go to the troops and she is following through on that.”

No, Mr. Daly, she’s showing how much of a squish she is. If she doesn’t get a Democratic primary opponent in 2008, I will personally send money to a Green opponent in the general election, if I can.

Meanwhile, right now, the bottom-line question in the other chamber is if any Senate Democrat, Feingold if not Dodd, will stand up on the floor and do an old-fashioned filibuster, as Keith Olbermann has already starting clamoring for.

“Support the troops” a no-win proposition

Over at Washington Monthly, there’s a package of stories from recent war veterans on how Democratic presidential candidates might get their vote.

There’s also an in-depth analysis by Spencer Ackerman as to why those candidates shouldn’t be looking to the troops to guide their decisions, ultimately.

Spencer Ackerman's article is more important than any of the soldiers' stories in the package. He explains why “support the troops” short of “bring ’em home” is a no-win, for one thing:
Democrats have made the decision — rightly, I think — that withdrawing from Iraq is the least bad of many bad options. But they shouldn’t kid themselves into thinking that a majority of the troops doing the fighting agree with them. For soldiers like Lieutenant Wellman, this will be hard to accept. As he told me of war doubters back home, “I don’t want them to just support the troops. I want them to support the mission.”

Ackerman indicates from enlisteds through noncoms into the corps of officers, a clear majority of boots on the ground still feel this way.

He touches on some of the reasons, which I’ll go into more.

First, too many soldiers have, to put it bluntly, some degree of ADDICTION to fighting after multiple tours in Iraq. (Note Ackerman quoting a soldier about having a “hard-on” about the possibility of killing alleged terrorists.

And yes, I do believe it’s a psychological addiction. In many cases, there’s at least the beginnings of post-traumatic stress disorder behind the development.

Plus, as Ackerman also notes, and as I agree, the “boots on the ground” have a narrow, sector-localized understanding of what is “successful.” Throw in the bar of “success” continually being lowered, and to take the addiction metaphor further, Democrats risk becoming “enablers.”

The idea of “support the troops” in any way short of supporting getting them home ASAP, because “the troops” still want to fight, is a losing proposition.

Democrats, already labeled as “out of touch with the military,” may be uncomfortable with what would appear to be a patronizing position, that “the troops don’t always know best.” But, that’s the bottom line. The key, though, as Ackerman notes, is to support the troops psychologically when they get back to America. Beyond adequate funding of Veterans Administration psychological treatment, this includes stressing that they never failed in their mission, but that the mission itself was a failure of design.

Novak: This “surrender” is it for Congressional Dems on Iraq

And, forget about next year, he says:
President Bush has won a rare showdown victory over Congress simply because Democrats felt they could not afford the risk of letting a war in progress run out of money. The Democrats' problem is that this demonstrates conclusively that they are all talk on the Iraq War — a fact that their base will quickly realize. There is no way for Congress to end the war short of cutting off funds, and to cut off funds without the consent of the President is to invite a repeat of exactly the same showdown the Democrats have now already lost.

Agreed that the bottom line is another showdown. So, fine, let’s have it. More than once, if necessary.

Novak goes on to say that if Democrats won’t do more this year, they certainly won’t next year:
The bottom line is that Democrats have passed on their best chance to end the Iraq War. If they are not willing to take a risk here in a non-election year in order to force Bush to end the war, then they certainly do not have what it takes to cut off war funds in the coming presidential election year.

I totally agree. We need real action, not noise-making and posturing. However, I’m not optimistic about what we will actually get, versus what we need.

May 23, 2007

Impeachment vs. American “violent self-righteousness”


Gary Kamiya at Salon gets right to the point, in my opinion, about why impeachment hasn’t gained Democratic party traction yet:
To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness — come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we're not ready to do that.

To paraphrase, Democrats still want “imperialism lite.” (That was my biggest complaint about Andrew Bacevich’s “The New American Militarism,” is that it left the idea of “imperialism lite” on the table. The second complaint was that it never touched Peak Oil, which of course ties directly to Iraq. But, I digress.)

Kamiya goes on to talk about impeachment as an emotional, not a legal, maneuver. I agree, with the idea that the emotional fragility beneath Bush’s smirky shell can and should be “pushed.”
Read below the fold for more of Kamiya’s article and my comments:


Going beyond the Democratic Party, Kamiya says that Bush’s war crimes cut too close to the American quick for the public to really be ready for impeachment.

He adds that much of the public just isn’t ready to change its minds that much:
The unpleasant truth is that Bush did what a lot of Americans wanted him to. And when it became clear after the fact that Bush had lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, it made no sense for those Americans to turn on him. Truth was never their major concern anyway — revenge was. And if we took revenge on the wrong person, well, better a misplaced revenge than none at all.

For those who did not completely succumb to the desire for primitive vengeance but were convinced by Bush's fraudulent arguments about the threat posed by Saddam, the situation is more ambiguous. Now that his arguments have been exposed and the war has become a disaster, they feel let down, even betrayed — but not enough to motivate them to call for Bush's impeachment.

Kamiya says he thinks this is also why other items, such as the fired district attorneys/vote fraud scandal, have failed to build more steam.

Kamiya goes on to point out that the public’s original carte blanche for Bush’s Iraq invasion means that impeachment as a legal measure will never gain traction, and that it may not, as an emotional issue, gain much more traction.

Because of that, he says this is part of why Bush continues to play the war card. It keeps at least a few emotional props braced in place.

That, in turn, means that “retreat” on war funding bills is not just the wrong option, it’s the wrong option in spades. Why? It fails to further dial up the emotional thermostat. Given the emotional fragility that seems to lurk beneath this president’s smirky shell, as any halfway astute observer knows, the Democratic Congressional leadership’s failure to push harder becomes more incomprehensible all the time.


Impeachment vs. American “violent self-righteousness”


Gary Kamiya at Salon gets right to the point, in my opinion, about why impeachment hasn’t gained Democratic party traction yet:
To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness — come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we're not ready to do that.

To paraphrase, Democrats still want “imperialism lite.” (That was my biggest complaint about Andrew Bacevich’s “The New American Militarism,” is that it left the idea of “imperialism lite” on the table. The second complaint was that it never touched Peak Oil, which of course ties directly to Iraq. But, I digress.)

Kamiya goes on to talk about impeachment as an emotional, not a legal, maneuver. I agree, with the idea that the emotional fragility beneath Bush’s smirky shell can and should be “pushed.”

Read below the fold for more of Kamiya’s article and my comments:


Going beyond the Democratic Party, Kamiya says that Bush’s war crimes cut too close to the American quick for the public to really be ready for impeachment.

He adds that much of the public just isn’t ready to change its minds that much:
The unpleasant truth is that Bush did what a lot of Americans wanted him to. And when it became clear after the fact that Bush had lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, it made no sense for those Americans to turn on him. Truth was never their major concern anyway — revenge was. And if we took revenge on the wrong person, well, better a misplaced revenge than none at all.

For those who did not completely succumb to the desire for primitive vengeance but were convinced by Bush's fraudulent arguments about the threat posed by Saddam, the situation is more ambiguous. Now that his arguments have been exposed and the war has become a disaster, they feel let down, even betrayed — but not enough to motivate them to call for Bush's impeachment.

Kamiya says he thinks this is also why other items, such as the fired district attorneys/vote fraud scandal, have failed to build more steam.

Kamiya goes on to point out that the public’s original carte blanche for Bush’s Iraq invasion means that impeachment as a legal measure will never gain traction, and that it may not, as an emotional issue, gain much more traction.

Because of that, he says this is part of why Bush continues to play the war card. It keeps at least a few emotional props braced in place.

That, in turn, means that “retreat” on war funding bills is not just the wrong option, it’s the wrong option in spades. Why? It fails to further dial up the emotional thermostat. Given the emotional fragility that seems to lurk beneath this president’s smirky shell, as any halfway astute observer knows, the Democratic Congressional leadership’s failure to push harder becomes more incomprehensible all the time.

May 22, 2007

My favorite columnist, officially spied upon

Ted Rall says it is so.

THIS, my dear Bush-lickers, is why I oppose warrantless domestic wiretapping. If I had a bigger name and circulation, it could have been me, not Ted Rall:
The Republican Party held its 2004 convention at Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan, a few miles north of Ground Zero. The 9/11 attacks had occurred less than three years earlier. If you'd been running the New York Police Department, what would have been your top concern? Terrorism. Mine too. Obviously.

The NYPD, however, wasn't worried about Al Qaeda. For them, the real threat to law and order were anti-Bush protesters. Of course, it's a given that demonstrations occur at every party convention. After 9/11, however, First Amendment-protected activism was anathema to our government. Officials sought to suppress all dissent, no matter how peaceful or innocuous. So they spied on celebs scheduled to participate in anti-RNC protests, including the rappers Jay-Z and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and on R&B singer Alicia Keys.

And Ted Rall.

According to The New York Times, “hundreds of pages of documents relating to [the NYPD’s] security preparations” released in response to a federal judge’s order show that “undercover officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, and infiltrated chat rooms. Although they identified a few people who talked about disrupting the convention, they also monitored many more people who showed no intention of breaking the law.” The Times identifies me as one of the three “highlights from the police intelligence digests”:

"A November 13, 2003 digest noting the Web site of the editorial cartoonist and activist Ted Rall. 'Activists are talking, some with barely hidden glee, about the possibility of violence', an officer wrote, describing the postings on Mr. Rall’s site.” ...
More baffling, the security “experts” totally missed the point. I didn't call for violence; I suggested avoiding the possibility of mayhem at a time that politics had turned poisonous, by moving the Republican National Convention to another, less liberal city. (The NYPD dossier repeatedly attributes quotes to me that are actually me quoting others, a glaring error that the Times repeats, presumably because the paper doesn't have access to Google.)

My original October 28, 2003 column couldn't have been more clearly opposed to violence. “As a Manhattanite,” I wrote, “I hope that the Republicans will seriously consider moving their convention somewhere else...The risk of convention-related terrorist attacks should be reason enough to not hold it in a city that paid the highest price on 9/11. A revival of 1968, with cops fouling their batons with the blood of young people, wouldn't do anyone — left or right — any good.”

Government agencies began spying on me shortly after 9/11. I have repeatedly suffered service interruptions — loud static, whispered voices, even outages — at the hands of a government whose laughably inept phone-tapping skills match its inability to respond to a hurricane or tornado. Finally, a security official at Verizon confirmed that my telephone had been tapped. “That’s already more than I should have told you,” he explained, requesting anonymity. “Under the Patriot Act we're not allowed to inform our customers about intercepts.”

Eventually I was seeing my local Verizon repair guy, who was repeatedly being summoned to my home to restore service, more often than my best friend. So I was naturally suspicious when I caught an unfamiliar man, no uniform or badge, fiddling with the posts in my building’s phone box. “Who are you and what are you doing?” I demanded. The dude knocked me down and bolted out a door into an alley. Giving chase, I watched him drive off an unmarked white van with U.S. government plates.

Why, why, does this not at all shock me?

And, what I said by way of intro? I wrote against the war staring in the summer of 2002, in print, in my small suburban Dallas newspaper chain of weeklies columns. I wrote against a “Patriot Act” three weeks after 9/11. Were I in New York, with a bigger media footprint, like Rall’s, I don’t doubt the government would have spied on me, too.

May 21, 2007

Another reason to hate Mac OS X — no application memory control

On older versions of the Mac OS, unlike with PCs, you or I the user could allocate the RAM each application used, on a control panel.

I see you can’t do that now, either.

So, just how much did Steve Gates castrate Macs to make them Unix-compatible? And, was it worth it?

Pricing incentives may mask depth of real estate slump

Like an extra half a percent price drop if Washington, D.C. is any indication.

And buyers like it, because it means putting up less cash, which makes subsidy-fueled mortgages lending to more people on the edge of being able to afford them.

March foreclosure news scare

Nationally, foreclosures are up 47 percent from last year and, more scarily, up 7 percent from February.

Why scary?

Many struggling homeowners use income tax refunds to prop up their mortgages in March, so month-to-month foreclosures usually decline.

And, the bloodletting probably still isn’t over.
“I don’t think we’ve hit the bottom of the market yet,” says Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac vice president. “We should see at least one more short-term spike,” as more subprime loans continue to go into default.


Meanwhile, many banks are allowing struggling homeowners to refinance.

The economy of the next 18 months will tell whether this is a sensible move or pounding money down a rathole. My initial vote, though, is for “rathole,” and I’m not alone.
Jason Allnut, vice president of credit loss management with Fannie Mae, says he’s heard of people refinancing time after time and never making a single loan payment. “There’s been an abuse of modifications historically, which just creates bigger losses for the investor,” he says.

Some places, it probably won’t matter. In struggling northeastern Ohio, it could take at least three-four years for a rebound.

And, mortgages resold as investment devices have less flexibility to be renegotiated.

May 20, 2007

Hire me: Let's try this again

Haven't posted this in a couple of weeks, so, let's try again:

I’m looking to relocate from conservative small-town east Texas, to a new place and position where I can better use my skills and experience.

In suburban Dallas, I was named North and East Texas Press Association Journalist of the Year, weekly division, and twice won overall competition sweepstakes from the Texas Press Association, in my circulation class, along with many individual contest category awards, such as design, news writing, editorials.

I am interested in traditional newspaper journalism as well as journalistic and non-journalistic advocacy work and other communications positions. I have more than 10 years of expeience, primarily at weeklies, but also a semiweekly and a five-day daily. Rescue me, my skills and my mindset from small-town journalism.