June 30, 2007

Australia next to leave “coalition of the willing”?

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a long-time Bush backer on invading Iraq, is not denying he’s ready to pull his country’s troops out sometime next year.

Meanwhile, ham-handed BushCo diplomacy, over the Australian political opposition’s stronger commitment to that idea before next year’s elections there, rears its head again:
U.S. Ambassador to Australia Robert McCallum told Channel 10's Meet the Press program on Sunday that a plan by Opposition leader Kevin Rudd to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq, if he won power in elections to be held later this year, could create tensions between Australia and the United States.

“Ugly American” diplomacy moves forward.

June 28, 2007

More evidence that housing issues will get worse before getting better

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, argues that they not only will, they need to. First, the will:
The downward price pressure is bound to pick up steam as the wave of foreclosures gains momentum. Foreclose rates have been rising rapidly, albeit from very low levels. While the highest rates can still be found in depressed areas of the Midwest, such as Ohio and Michigan, the most rapid growth is taking place in formerly hot markets like Florida and San Diego. Nominal prices are already down by 6 percent year over year in San Diego, which translates into a real decline of close to 9 percent. As auctions of foreclosed homes proliferate, competing sellers will have to adjust their prices downward.

Baker goes on to note that sales in the last two months, for the most part, do NOT include the recent half-point uptick in mortgage rates. In other words, there’s plenty more softness, or even melting, to come; Baker expects Chinese reinvestment shifts to probably be worth another quarter-point uptick, to boot.

Next, the need to come down part of his post, based on how Wall Street and the Fed pooh-poohed the similar situation in the dot-com world at the start of the decade. A prediction of how the inflationary fallout will play out is included:
While the bulk of economic forecasters still insist that the impact of the housing collapse on the economy would be minimal, they also insisted right into 2001 that the economy was doing just fine and that the stock bubble would continue to expand. When a recession looms on the horizon, their predictions are not worth very much. …

Bubbles always collapse, and the sooner this one deflates, the less harm it will ultimately cause the economy and homeowners.

The real problem was the failure of the Fed to take the housing bubble seriously. It decided that its mandate to pursue “price stability” has nothing to do with asset prices. Alan Greenspan and his successor Ben Bernanke stood by smiling as house prices nationwide rose an average of 70 percent above trend levels.

When the market corrects and the full extent of the damage becomes apparent, redefining the Fed’s responsibilities should be a top priority. The damage from the creation and disappearance of $7 trillion dollars in housing bubble wealth swamps any possible damage that might result from a rise in the core inflation rate from 2 percent to 3 percent.

Heck, the housing bubble is just illustration No. 927 of the need to redefine Fed responsibilities — and make that stick.

Baker’s right that this collapse is nothing to celebrate. And, if he’s right about the 2-3 percent core inflation uptick, this is going to be a big, recession-related political issue next year. Democrats best take note earlier rather than later.

Bush: Iraq needs to be like Israel

Just when you think the man CANNOT get any dumber, he does:
President Bush held up Israel as a model for defining success in Iraq, saying Thursday the U.S. goal there is not to eliminate attacks but to enable a democracy that can function despite violence.

Why would you use that as an example for ANY Arab country??

Half of GOP voters OK with avowed gays in military

So, with poll results like this:
The survey of 2,000 self-described Republican voters, titled “The Elephant Looks in the Mirror 10 Years Later,” showed that ... 49 percent favored allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

why aren’t Democrats at least telling the Religious Right, in no uncertain terms, to STFU?

Half of GOP voters want universal health care

So, with poll results like this:
The survey of 2,000 self-described Republican voters, titled “The Elephant Looks in the Mirror 10 Years Later,” showed that ... 51 percent of the GOPers said universal healthcare coverage should be a right of every American.

why aren’t Democrats pushing the national healthcare issue more?

Conservative says: Impeach Cheney, but takes a glaring pass on Bush

That’s the (years-belated) demand by Bruce FeinHis nut grafs, in reviewing Cheney’s “excesses”:
The vice president asserted presidential power to create military commissions, which combine the functions of judge, jury, and prosecutor in the trial of war crimes. The Supreme Court rebuked Cheney in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Mr. Cheney claimed authority to detain American citizens as enemy combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay on the president's say-so alone, a frightening power indistinguishable from King Louis XVI's execrated lettres de cachet that occasioned the storming of the Bastille. The Supreme Court repudiated Cheney in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.

The vice president initiated kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture in Eastern European prisons of suspected international terrorists. This lawlessness has been answered in Germany and Italy with criminal charges against CIA operatives or agents. The legal precedent set by Cheney would justify a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to kidnap American tourists in Paris and to dispatch them to dungeons in Belarus if they were suspected of Chechen sympathies.

I call it ‘years-belated” because renditions in this administration are four-five years old (and were also done, though with less frequency, in the Clinton Administration). Abu Ghraib’s public whitewashinvestigation are three years old.

But, something is better than nothing, right?

However, Fein then goes from a good, straightforward bill of claims against Dick Cheney to giving George W. Bush a “get out of jail free” card on grounds of innocence, naivete, or something:

The Constitution does not expressly forbid the president from abandoning his chief powers to the vice president. But President Bush's tacit delegation to Cheney and Cheney's eager acceptance tortures the Constitution's provision for an acting president. The presidency and vice presidency are discrete constitutional offices. The 12th Amendment provides for their separate elections. The sole constitutionally enumerated function of the vice president is to serve as president of the Senate without a vote except to break ties. …

In the end, President Bush regularly is unable to explain or defend the policies of his own administration, and that is because the heavy intellectual labor has been performed in the office of the vice president. Cheney is impeachable for his overweening power and his sneering contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law.

Bush made his choice in the summer of 2000, when he accepted at face value — at least for public consumption — Cheney’s story that he, as head of the vice presidential search committee, couldn’t find a better vice presidential nominee than Dick Cheney.

To allow “The Decider” a free pass, on grounds of stupidity, or whatever, as “The Unwitting Abdicator” just doesn’t wash.

To hark back to 1776, it would be to give King George III a pass and blame all of London’s mistakes on Bute or another advisor.

Sir Walter Scott on the Cheney-Bush relationship

Wish I could take credit for this one myself, but I can’t. It is a letter to the editor (me) at my newspaper; yes, there are a few blue people in red states:
Dear editor:

Two quotes by Sir Walter Scott made 200 years ago explain the Cheney-Bush relationship: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” And, “I cannot tell how the truth may be, I say the tale as it was told to me.”

We should all be aware by now that Vice President Dick Cheney was the invader of Iraq for the purpose of controlling Iraq’s oil and further enriching corporate friends. The first quote by Walter Scott pertains to Cheney and the second explains Bush’s relationship to Cheney.

June 24, 2007

What if George Bush had been president a decade earlier?

What if he had been president in 1995, when Timothy McVeigh parked the Ryder rental truck outside of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City?

Would he have called for a Patriot Act inside the country? Would Bill Kristol had defended him then? Would Dick Cheney tried to have spirited white supremacists to Guantanamo?

Think about it.

Mechanization an answer to illegal immigration?

Robotic fruit pickers could be just that in the agricultural industry:
Vision Robotics, a San Diego company, is working on a pair of robots that would trundle through orchards plucking oranges, apples or other fruit from the trees. In a few years, troops of these machines could perform the tedious and labor-intensive task of fruit picking that currently employs thousands of migrant workers each season.

The robotic work has been funded entirely by agricultural associations, and pushed forward by the uncertainty surrounding the migrant labor force. Farmers are “very, very nervous about the availability and cost of labor in the near future,” says Vision Robotics CEO Derek Morikawa.

The trick to avoiding robotic single-mindedness that would usually flunk a task like this? Two robots — hence the two mentioned above — differentiating the labor. One hunts the oranges or whatever, the other actually picks.

When mechanization was first proposed decades ago Cesar Chavez strongly opposed it. But, he’s dead and the United Farm Workers is little more than a money-solicitation machine today, trading on his legacy.

Nonetheless, it has weighed in:
The United Farm Workers' leaders say they aren't worried about the robots, because they don't believe the machines will ever be able to do the job as well as people. Spokesman Marc Grossman predicts that mechanical hands will damage the fruit and make it unappealing for supermarket shoppers. "There are already machines that will pick wine grapes, but the high end wine growers don’t use them, because they want the quality," Grossman says.

Farmers, and growers’ groups, strongly disagree. In fact, interest is spreading beyond California:
The Washington Tree Fruit Commission started investing in the project last year, and Vision Robotics is talking to other agricultural groups with crops ranging from cherries to asparagus.

I think it’s a good idea, overall. And, in most the Southwest, the robots should be able to be solar-powered, eliminating fossil fuel issues.

That said, this won’t reduce pressures south of the border, just one area of incentives on our side.

The answer down there, or part of it? Two words: Birth control.

Anyway, given the immigration bill being back on the Senate’s platter, I wonder if this is going to get any airplay. It needs it.