Saturday, April 30, 2005

Watch for fallout

Watch for fallout
In our opinion
Anniston Star

...Now, the Republicans are trotting out “constitutional option” as a substitute and pinning the “nuclear” phrase as an invention of the Democrats. All of this verbal shape-shifting has some doing contortions.

We’d counsel against pushing the Orwellian panic button. The change might be something as simple as a courtesy. Republicans could just be looking out for their president, who says “nook-u-ler,” while his fellow party members and most others correctly pronounce it “nook-lee-er”?

Regardless of how the option is pronounced, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid needs to be careful with how he handles the fallout. The Nevada Democrat’s suggestion of shutting down the Senate in response would be unwise. We challenge Reid and his colleagues to find a more creative way to display the outrage caused by a few rogue elephants changing the rules just so they can wedge extremist judges onto the federal bench....

Friday, April 29, 2005

Exit Poll Special

Exit Poll Special: Febble's Fancy Function
by DemFromCT
Fri Apr 29th, 2005 at 13:19:38 PDT

[editor's note, by DemFromCT] The data reports by Freeman, Brady, USCV, etc. can be found at the National Research Commission on Elections and Voting website.... What Febble has done is shown that the oft-used variable known as Within Precinct Error (WPE) is not a very good measure of sample bias. Sample bias can be introduced by such things as Bush voters refusing to talk to pollsters. In the parlance of the trade, this is known as `differential non-response' (i.e., the non-response to pollsters is different between Bush voters and Kerry voters), but it's also been widely described as reluctant (or `shy') Bush responders, or rBr (all those terms are used in various reports and critiques). It's what Edison-Mitofsky (the exit poll company) says is the likely reason for why the exit polls were wrong, and it's primarily what USCV says is `implausible', thereby supporting their conclusion that fraud is a leading possibility to explain the exit poll discrepancy. They heavily relied on WPEs to reach that conclusion, and so did many of the subsequent Daily Kos diaries.

However, Febble's Fancy Function shows that WPE obscures diagnosis of exit poll error by introducing a lot of noise into the analysis; the Fancy Function strips the noise and leaves only sampling bias. Her computer modeling of the Fancy Function demonstrates that the E-M hypothesis (that there were shy Bush voters) remains very plausible, indeed.

In addition, assuming that Febble's work stands up to peer review, it may become an equally valid way of looking at exit polls in future, in order to detect suspicious variation in sampling bias that would deserve to be looked into further.

Febble's work does not prove there was no fraud, any more than USCV's work proves there was. The exit polls are too blunt an instrument for that, and we don't have the precinct-level data that would be required for detailed analysis (what we have is state-wide averages). Nonetheless, this is a genuine contribution to the understanding of what's happened, and as such deserves recognition. If Febble's Fancy Function is applied to precinct-level data, it is quite possible (likely, even) that lingering questions about whether it is possible for 'differential non-response' to be a plausable explanation for the exit poll discrepancy would be resolved. Only E-M has that data, so further inquiries will have to wait until after mid-May, when the American Association for Public Opinion Research will have its annual meeting. Mitofsky will be there and 2004 exit polls are on the agenda.

In addition, Febble's idea happened because of this community, the forbearance and patience of the critics, the skeptics (and the skeptics of the skeptics) that allowed the free-flowing peer review over the internet that marks Daily Kos as a special place. Febble's Fancy Function was created here, and whether or not it goes on to be published and used, you've participated in the birth of an idea. That's a very neat thing to have witnessed....

Revolt of the Middle?

April 27, 2005
Revolt of the Middle?

In E.J. Dionne's column yesterday, "Revolt of the Middle", he remarked:

...[S]omething important has happened since President Bush's inauguration. America's moderates may not be screaming, but they're in revolt. Many who reluctantly supported the president and the Republicans in 2004 are turning away. The party's agenda on Social Security, judges and the Terri Schiavo case is out of touch with where moderate voters stand. Worse for Bush and his party, most moderates have a practical, problem-solving view of government and think these issues are far less important than shoring up a shaky economy and improving living standards.

The moderates have rebelled before. This period in American politics is beginning to take on the contours of the years leading up to the 1992 election. That's when Ross Perot led an uprising of the angry middle and Bill Clinton waged war on the "brain-dead politics of both parties." Bush's decision to read the 2004 election as a broad mandate for whatever policies he chose to put forward now looks like a major mistake. In fact, Bush won narrowly in 2004, and he won almost entirely because just enough middle-of-the-road voters decided they trusted him more than they did John Kerry to deal with terrorism.

That seems entirely correct to me. Bush is losing the center of American politics which, as Alan Abramowitz points out in his post on "The New Independent Voter", leans Democratic to begin with. Bush's actions seem designed to accentuate those leanings, rather than counter them, and have contributed mightily to his declining political fortunes.

The new Washington Post/ABC News (WP/ABC) poll provides exceptionally clear evidence of these declining fortunes. Bush's approval rating is now 47 percent approval/50 percent disapproval, as low as it's even been in this poll. His ratings on the economy and Iraq are, respectively, 40/56 (his second-lowest ever) and 42/57. On energy policy, his rating is 35/54. And on Social Security, his approval rating has sunk to 31/64, by far his worst rating ever.

Other results in the poll underscore how Bush is losing the political fight on Social Security....

Senate leader's stance on filibuster sparks protest at his alma mater

Senate leader's stance on filibuster sparks protest at his alma mater
April 28, 2005, 5:09 PM EDT
PRINCETON, N.J. -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's opposition to filibusters has prompted one against him on the campus of his alma mater, Princeton University.
Since Tuesday, students and local activists have been giving lengthy talks outside the university's Frist Campus Center protesting the Tennessee Republican's threat to change Senate rules to prevent Democrats from using the filibuster to block President Bush's judicial nominees. Frist Center was built with the help of a $25 million donation from the senator's family....

A Private Obsession

A Private Obsession

Published: April 29, 2005
The New York Times

American health care is unique among advanced countries in its heavy reliance on the private sector. It's also uniquely inefficient. We spend far more per person on health care than any other country, yet many Americans lack health insurance and don't receive essential care.

This week yet another report emphasized just how bad a job the American system does at providing basic health care. A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that 20 million working Americans are uninsured; in Texas, which has the worst record, more than 30 percent of the adults under 65 have no insurance.

And lack of insurance leads to inadequate medical attention. Over a 12-month period, 41 percent of the uninsured were unable to see a doctor when needed because of cost; 56 percent had no personal doctor or health care provider.

Our system is desperately in need of reform. Yet it will be very hard to get useful reform, for two reasons: vested interests and ideology.

I'll have a lot more to say about vested interests and health care in future columns, but let me emphasize one key point: a lot of big companies are essentially in the business of wasting health care resources....

Thursday, April 28, 2005

GOP 30 pick up a knife

GOP 30 pick up a knife
By Jonathan E. Kaplan and Patrick O'Connor
The Hill
Reps. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) have been meeting with 30 House Republicans over the past few weeks to coordinate a more aggressive strategy to defend Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), according to a Republican source familiar with the meetings.
Starting last night, Republican lawmakers had planned to speak on the House floor during special orders to defend their embattled majority leader. The lawmakers will say that Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans are of oversights in their record keeping and of taking trips paid for by private groups.....

The good soldier's revenge

The good soldier's revenge

In Colin Powell's battle to block Bush's nominee to the UN, far more is at stake than John Bolton's unsuitability

Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday April 28, 2005
The Guardian

From the redoubt of his retirement, former secretary of state Colin Powell is beginning to exact revenge. His sterling reputation was soiled, having lost most of the important battles within the administration during the first term. While he lamented that he had been "deceived" into presenting false information before the United Nations to justify the Iraq war, he acted as the good soldier to the end, giving every sign of desiring to fade away.

But now he has re-emerged to conduct a campaign to defeat President Bush's nomination of conservative hardliner and former undersecretary of state John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN.

In seeking to prevent the bullying and duplicitous ideologue from representing the US before the international organisation, Powell is engaging in hand-to-hand combat with his successor. Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's first true test has not arrived from abroad. Caught by Powell's flanking movement, she is trapped in a crisis of credibility, which she herself is deepening.

Powell's closest associate, his former deputy Richard Armitage, is orchestrating much of the action....

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Microsoft paying Religious Right leader Ralph Reed $20,000 a month retainer

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Microsoft paying Religious Right leader Ralph Reed $20,000 a month retainer
by John in DC - 4/26/2005 09:00:00 AM has learned that Microsoft is currently paying a $20,000 a month retainer to former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed's consulting firm Century Strategies. Which now begs the question of whether Reed was in any way involved with Microsoft's recent decision to abandon its decades long support for gay civil rights in order to curry favor with anti-gay bigots of the radical right.

Interestingly, Microsoft had Reed on retainer during the presidential election of 2000 to apparently help lobby then-candidate Bush on their anti-trust suit (he was actually first hired in the fall of 1998). The contract was terminated after Reed was criticized for a conflict of interest - Reed was working on Bush's campaign. The question arises when Microsoft and Reed revived their work relationship (most observers I've spoken to thought the contract ended five years ago), and what exactly Reed is working on now that the anti-trust issue is over.

Now, just think a minute. Microsoft finds itself under criticism from the local evangelical leader, religious right shareholders, bigoted employees and who knows who else. They don't know what to do. Who do they turn to? Well, if I'm in a religious right pickle, I'd turn to my $20,000 a month retainered religious right consultant, the former leader of the religious right, Ralph Reed....

Green Fades to Brown, Brown Fades to Black

Green Fades to Brown, Brown Fades to Black
Posted by James Wolcott

Here was an opportunity for President Bush to "think green" for a change. Or at least think unplutocratically, just for the kicky novelty of it. He could have proposed that a few of the military bases facing closure be converted into nature preserves or bird sanctuaries. But that would have been enlightened, ungreedy, and civic-minded. Instead, true to form, dedicated to the destruction of a livable environment for future generations, Bush is trying to boost his sagging poll numbers and beautify the landscape by jamming oil refineries and nuclear plants where the barracks and PXs used to be. He seems determined to ensure that his presidential legacy consists of little more than lies, lost opportunities, and ravagement.

Whether the tide has finally turned against Bush, there's no question the tone of the reporting on him has....

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Oblivious Right

The Oblivious Right

Published: April 25, 2005
The New York Times
According to John Snow, the Treasury secretary, the global economy is in a "sweet spot." Conservative pundits close to the administration talk, without irony, about a "Bush boom."

Yet two-thirds of Americans polled by Gallup say that the economy is "only fair" or "poor." And only 33 percent of those polled believe the economy is improving, while 59 percent think it's getting worse.

Is the administration's obliviousness to the public's economic anxiety just partisanship? I don't think so: President Bush and other Republican leaders honestly think that we're living in the best of times. After all, everyone they talk to says so.

Since November's election, the victors have managed to be on the wrong side of public opinion on one issue after another: the economy, Social Security privatization, Terri Schiavo, Tom DeLay. By large margins, Americans say that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and Mr. Bush is the least popular second-term president on record....

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Troubles mount in White House, Bush agenda bogged down

Apr. 22, 2005

Troubles mount in White House, Bush agenda bogged down
By William Douglas, James Kuhnhenn and Steven Thomma
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - President Bush painted his second-term vision in bold, aggressive strokes: He would reform Social Security, continue to reshape the nation's education system and remodel the nation's judiciary by appointing more conservative judges to the federal bench.
"I've earned capital in this election and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on: Social Security, tax reform, moving the economy forward, education and winning the war on terrorism," Bush told reporters two days after he won re-election.
Three months into his second term, however, Bush's bold agenda is bogged down by public skepticism about some of his proposals, growing resistance from Democrats, dissension within his party's ranks and what some analysts consider second-term hubris.
With gas prices near record highs and stock markets jittery, Bush's drive for privatized Social Security accounts has been met by deep public skepticism. His judicial nominees are stalled, his choice for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is stuck in committee, and his job-approval rating recently dropped to 45 percent, the lowest of his presidency and well below that of other recent second-term presidents.....

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Quote of the day - from James Wolcott

...It's shaping up as a very interesting spring and summer. More and more I become convinced that we will look back on Bush's flight from Texas to meddle in the Shiavo case as the moment he overplayed his hand and pissed his "political capital" out the window.

Waste, possible fraud reported at Transportation Security Administration

Waste, possible fraud reported at TSA
From Jeanne Meserve
CNN Washington Bureau
Wednesday, April 20, 2005 Posted: 4:04 AM EDT (0804 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Transportation Security Administration official spent $500,000 on art, silk plants and other decorations for a new operations center and then went to work for the vendor after leaving the agency, according to a report from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.

The report found that self-imposed deadline pressures, combined with "inappropriate decision-making by individuals who operated with unchecked autonomy" led to waste and abuse in the construction process.

The operations center, located just outside Washington, has a 4,200-foot fitness center with a towel laundry service for 79 federal employees. It also has seven kitchens equipped with refrigerators, microwave ovens, ice makers and dishwashers.

The report said that the center's offices and work stations were larger than federal standards allow and that most had cable television....

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Quote of the day

"Absolutely. We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous. And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous." Tom Delay

Bolton Vote Delay

April 20, 2005
Chris Nelson's Take on the Bolton Vote Delay: Lugar Got What He Needed to Call a Day a Day

Chris Nelson sent this out yesterday as part of his 19 April Nelson Report:

Bolton. . .it may be that Republican Senators George Voinovich and Chuck Hagel have taken a stand which will empower a Republican center to emerge and hold on other issues.

At virtually the last minute today, both stepped forward to say they weren't comfortable voting on Bolton's nomination as UN Ambassador. A Foreign Relations Committee vote cannot now occur until after a recess, on May 9, assuming Bolton does not step down, as more and more stories surface (especially allegations of possible misuse of NSA intercepts). This nomination fight has been as instructive as it has been destructive. Argued purely on its merits, the case for Bolton has been that bullying and strong convictions, even if dishonestly pursued, are not automatically disqualifying.

Certainly compelling is the argument that, barring criminal or serious moral issues, the President is entitled to nominate the UN ambassador he wants. But as we took the liberty of editorializing last night, the Bolton fight is not "merely" about the facts, at least not any more. It's now mainly about power, specifically the power to force votes on ALL the president's nominations, regardless of concerns.

That's what this so-called "nuclear option" fight with Majority Leader Bill Frist is all about. . .Frist wants to change the rules to make judicial nominations a simple majority vote, instead of the required super majority of 60. Lose on Bolton, which would take Republican "defections", and the whole power play on conservative activist judges is at risk of unraveling. ...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Chris Nelson on the Stakes for Democracy in the John Bolton and Tom DeLay Battles

Chris Nelson on the Stakes for Democracy in the John Bolton and Tom DeLay Battles

...The sad, sorry Bolton/DeLay spectacles are about total war, the kill-the-prisoners exercise of power that national US politics has become since the 2000 election. If it were merely about power, it wouldn't be so terrifying. Washington is used to that. . .it's what we exist for. But the fear, the self-loathing, the pathetic, cowardly, sniveling, excuse-making drivel from such "leaders" as Lugar, Hagel, Chafee, the entire House Republican Leadership under DeLay. . .and the ever-so-very carefully expressed angst of the Democrats. . .is about something far more dangerous to the Republic than mere political power.

What we are seeing is a fight for the political soul of the nation. We've had these before, in the existential sense. . .in my political lifetime, the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the women’s rights versus, to a certain extent, the right to life movement. But this time it's totally and completely a fight about God. . .specifically, whether God is going to rule in the United States.

The Constitution says that would be illegal, and any serious expert can tell you that not only were the Founders liberal in their interpretation of the Deity, but they intentionally enshrined a purely secular civic government, including the courts. They didn't think that Jesus had an official plan for us, much less did they think that politicians who defined their duties in secular terms were defying the word of God.

Tom Delay manifestly believes this, and it sounds like any number of Senate Republicans either agree, or lack the imagination or moral courage to disagree. . .why else would some endorse threats against Republican-appointed judges who dare to interpret the law in secular terms? This is what the Bolton fight is really about: you can't dump him, because that lets the Democrats win on both the facts and principle. . .fatal notions to a desire to pack the courts with religious and secular policy extremists.

Why else would there be the constant drumbeat of attacks on the "liberal media", except to undermine public trust in the Constitutionally provided mediator between the politicians and the people?

The Founders knew how to protect what they intended; this crowd has figured out how to undermine the very rule of law in the United States....

Energy jolt / Develop, don't conserve, is the Bush mantra

Editorial: Energy jolt / Develop, don't conserve, is the Bush mantra

Monday, April 18, 2005
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the jaws of this nation's burgeoning energy appetite, the efficiency of ceiling fans may be small potatoes. But blocking attempts to require fans to use less electricity looks like an integral part of the so-called Republican energy plan being cooked up in Washington.

Most of the plan involves -- surprise! -- $8 billion in tax breaks and other benefits for big energy companies. Very few of the measures on the fast track for passage would help free Americans from their embarrassing dependence on foreign oil, which President Bush frequently bemoans.

Only $488 million -- less than one-sixteenth -- of the tax incentives in legislation before the House Ways and Means Committee involve energy efficiency or renewable energy sources. Instead, industries would get multibillion-dollar breaks for such things as construction of electric transmission lines and natural gas pipelines.

Over in the Energy and Commerce Committee, GOP leaders pushed through an amendment to prohibit strict efficiency standards for ceiling fans that have been set or proposed in a dozen states. The measure was sponsored by Rep. Nathan Deal, Republican of Georgia, at the behest of Atlanta-based Home Depot, which sells ... a whole lot of ceiling fans.

Also on tap is legislation to get started with oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, even though exploration there is likely to produce only a six-month supply of oil a decade from now, if ever.

Conspicuous by its absence is any provision to spur badly needed conservation by requiring better gas mileage on new cars and trucks. The administration, supported by a dinosauric auto industry, continues to sneer at attempts to raise the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, stuck in place for the past decade while American motor vehicles burn up an increasing share of the country's daily oil demand.

As the price of gasoline at the pump grows at a record pace, it appears that Congress and the administration are prepared to offer the public a warmed-over energy policy. Call it "ANWR or Bust."

Monday, April 18, 2005

Must Read: Chris Nelson on the Stakes for Democracy in the John Bolton and Tom DeLay Battles

Bolton Rolls:
America Alone Alliance
Leadership League
April 18, 2005

Must Read: Chris Nelson on the Stakes for Democracy in the John Bolton and Tom DeLay Battles

This is an amazing entry in tonight's Nelson Report. It's one of the bravest essays I have read this week -- and it paints both the Democrats and Republicans amorally triangulating around the White House's winner-takes-all, win-every-battle obsession in the Tom DeLay and John Bolton fiascos.....

April 15th: You're Getting Screwed

April 15th: You're Getting Screwed
By Molly Ivins, AlterNet. Posted April 14, 2005.

As more and more rich people cheat on their taxes, the IRS is increasingly unable to go after them because it is so poorly funded. For all this, we can thank the Republican Party.

Happy tax day, fellow citizens!

My favorite authority on taxes is David Cay Johnston of The New York Times, who won a Pulitzer for reporting on the terminally unsexy topic of taxes. His book Perfectly Legal -- The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super-Rich -- and Cheat Everyone Else is the single best work on public policy of recent years, I think.

Johnston reports: "Through explicit policies, as well as tax laws never reported in the news, Congress now literally takes money from those making $30,000 to $500,000 per year and funnels it in subtle ways to the super-rich -- the top one-one hundredth of one percent of Americans.

"People making $60,000 paid a larger share of their 2001 income in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes than a family making $25 million, the latest Internal Revenue Service data show. And in income taxes alone, people making $400,000 paid a larger share of their incomes than the 7,000 households who made $10 million or more."

The rest of us are subsidizing not only the super-rich, but also corporations. Fifty years ago, corporations paid 60 percent of all federal taxes. But by 2003, that was down to 16 percent. So individual taxpayers have to make up the difference, as corporate profits soar and wages fall....

Bolton worked to stop Florida recount

John Nichols: Bolton worked to stop Florida recount

By John Nichols
April 14, 2005

John Bolton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday. (AP photo/Dennis Cook)

About John

John Nichols is a native Wisconsinite, who has written for The Capital Times for the past decade.

"I'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the count."

Those were the words John Bolton yelled as he burst into a Tallahassee library on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2000, where local election workers were recounting ballots cast in Florida's disputed presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

Bolton was one of the pack of lawyers for the Republican presidential ticket who repeatedly sought to shut down recounts of the ballots from Florida counties before those counts revealed that Gore had actually won the state's electoral votes and the presidency.

The Dec. 9 intervention was Bolton's last and most significant blow against the democratic process.

The Florida Supreme Court had ordered a broad recount of ballots in order to finally resolve the question of who won the state. But Bolton and the Bush-Cheney team got their Republican allies on the U.S. Supreme Court to block the review. Fearing that each minute of additional counting would reveal the reality of voter sentiments in Florida, Bolton personally rushed into the library to stop the count....

He behaved like a madman: My horrifying John Bolton story

Melody Townsel: 'He behaved like a madman: My horrifying John Bolton story'
Posted on Monday, April 18 @ 10:04:36 EDT
This article has been read 613 times.
By Melody Townsel
Melody Townsel was stationed in Kyrgyzstan on a US AID project. During her stay there, she became embroiled in a controversy in which John Bolton was a key player. She described the incident in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members who are reviewing the Bolton nomination.
Here's the entire text of her letter:
Dear Sir:
I'm writing to urge you to consider blocking in committee the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.
In the late summer of 1994, I worked as the subcontracted leader of a US AID project in Kyrgyzstan officially awarded to a HUB primary contractor. My own employer was Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, and I reported directly to Republican leader Charlie Black.
After months of incompetence, poor contract performance, inadequate in-country funding, and a general lack of interest or support in our work from the prime contractor, I was forced to make US AID officials aware of the prime contractor's poor performance.
I flew from Kyrgyzstan to Moscow to meet with other Black Manafort employees who were leading or subcontracted to other US AID projects. While there, I met with US AID officials and expressed my concerns about the project - chief among them, the prime contractor's inability to keep enough cash in country to allow us to pay bills, which directly resulted in armed threats by Kyrgyz contractors to me and my staff.
Within hours of sending a letter to US AID officials outlining my concerns, I met John Bolton, whom the prime contractor hired as legal counsel to represent them to US AID. And, so, within hours of dispatching that letter, my hell began.
Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel - throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats.
When US AID asked me to return to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in advance of assuming leadership of a project in Kazakstan, I returned to my project to find that John Bolton had proceeded me by two days. Why? To meet with every other AID team leader as well as US foreign-service officials in Bishkek, claiming that I was under investigation for misuse of funds and likely was facing jail time. As US AID can confirm, nothing was further from the truth.
He indicated to key employees of or contractors to State that, based on his discussions with investigatory officials, I was headed for federal prison and, if they refused to cooperate with either him or the prime contractor's replacement team leader, they, too, would find themselves the subjects of federal investigation. As a further aside, he made unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe and, with a couple of team leaders, my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian (for the record, I'm not).
When I resurfaced in Kyrgyzstan, I learned that he had done such a convincing job of smearing me that it took me weeks - with the direct intervention of US AID officials - to limit the damage. In fact, it was only US AID's appoinment of me as a project leader in Almaty, Kazakstan that largely put paid to the rumors Mr. Bolton maliciously circulated.
As a maligned whistleblower, I've learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there.
John Bolton put me through hell - and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological.
I cannot believe that this is a man being seriously considered for any diplomatic position, let alone such a critical posting to the UN. Others you may call before your committee will be able to speak better to his stated dislike for and objection to stated UN goals. I write you to speak about the very character of the man.
It took me years to get over Mr. Bolton's actions in that Moscow hotel in 1994, his intensely personal attacks and his shocking attempts to malign my character.
I urge you from the bottom of my heart to use your ability to block Mr. Bolton's nomination in committee.
Respectfully yours,
Melody Townsel

Quote of the day - General Wesley Clark

"I'm a Christian. I think I'm right. Bill Frist going on that TV show, that's not the Christian right. That's the Christian wrong. They're extremists. They're wrong. The Christianity I know is about love. It's about lifting every person up. The Christian right is "taking the word of the Good Lord and twisting it to political purposes."

Read the whole piece on Daily Kos!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Automotive Apocalypse: the coming crisis

Automotive Apocalypse: the coming crisis
by Devilstower
Sat Apr 16th, 2005 at 07:30:34 PDT
Your Next Car Will Be Chinese. More than that, it'll likely be electric. Okay, maybe not your next car, but we're right on the brink of another major shift in the auto industry. The change is going to come fast. And it's going to hurt.

For forty years, we've watched the slow decline of the American motor vehicle industry. At the start of that period, the Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) held more than 90% of the American market and accounted for major sales in most markets around the world.

That was then. The Big Three (one of which is now more than half foreign owned) account for a slim majority of auto sales. General Motors has seen it's share of the market fall from 65% to 25%. Until recently, that decline has been gradual, but now it's accelerating. The American automobile industry isn't just continuing to shrink, it's on the brink of total collapse, and it threatens to bring the economy, and the nation down with it.

MSNBC puts it in the most emphatic terms possible: GM and Ford are National Security Risks

Why has is the auto industry doing so badly? They'd like to point at the workers. Give GM's Bob Lutz or Ford's Bill Ford a chance, and they'll bemoan the high wages given to American auto workers and the restrictions given by the unions. But that's not the problem.

Management will blame this on intractable labor costs. While labor costs are definitely a problem, it's time to consider a larger problem: intractable bonehead management.
Remember what we've been told about Japanese management style? They seek consensus. They favor conformity over innovation. Japan may be good at mass-production, but they don't really innovate. Well, pardon my French, but Bull and Shit.

The same Japanese managements that are derided for their conformity and slow decision-making are eating Detroit's breakfast, lunch and dinner. That's a management problem.
Ford and GM are consistently designing their vehicles for a market that's five years or ten years in the past, and pointedly refusing to look at what's ahead....

Treasury Secretary Snow, Please Resign

Apr 17 , 10:54 AM
Treasury Secretary Snow, Please Resign
by Hale Stewart
Blogging Of The President News

Since your appointment as Secretary of the Treasury, you have continually demonstrated a lack of understanding of basic economic concepts or diplomatic ability. The most egregious examples of this ineptitude are listed below. For these reasons, and in the nation’s interest, please resign to allow a more competent person to assume the Treasury’s leadership.

When asked by a Bloomberg interviewer if the 1-2 trillion dollars required for social security privitization would increase interest rates, you responded no. The markets would reward the US for effectively dealing with its problems and not demand a higher interest rate. This statement is wrong and demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of supply and demand. When a producer places more goods on the market he lowers the price of the product because it is easier to obtain. Because a bond’s price and yield are inversely related, lowering a bonds price would increase yield. In addition, the total US deficit is approximately 7.8 trillion dollars. Adding 1-2 trillion to this would increase total US debt by 12-25%. An increase of this magnitude increases the possibility of a US credit default. Creditors would demand a higher interest rate as compensation for this possibility. In short, Mr. Secretary, it is impossible for the US to issue this amount of debt without increasing interest rates. Making claims to the contrary indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of basic economic concepts.

In response to the ever increasing US trade deficit, you stated it simply shows the US is a vibrantly growing economy. In effect, the trade deficit was in a fact positive sign for the US economy. I would strongly recommend you read Paul Volcker’s comments on the trade deficit in a Washington Post editorial dated April 10, 2005, where he stated “I don't know of any country that has managed to consume and invest 6 percent more than it produces for long.” The US trade deficit is a clear sign of this imbalance. It is not a sign of economic strength. It is a sign of a country that consumes more then it makes and is unwilling to pay the bill for its excess. Characterizing the trade deficit as a positive for the economy is at best dishonest and at worst blatant disrespect for economic reality....

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sy Hersh Says

Sy Hersh Says It’s Okay to Lie (Just Not in Print)
The runaway mouth of America’s premier investigative journalist.
By Chris Suellentrop
New York Magazine
Since the Abu Ghraib story broke eleven months ago, The New Yorker’s national-security correspondent, Seymour Hersh, has followed it up with a series of spectacular scoops. Videotape of young boys being raped at Abu Ghraib. Evidence that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may be a “composite figure” and a propaganda creation of either Iraq’s Baathist insurgency or the U.S. government. The active involvement of Karl Rove and the president in “prisoner-interrogation issues.” The mysterious disappearance of $1 billion, in cash, in Iraq. A threat by the administration to a TV network to cut off access to briefings in retaliation for asking Laura Bush “a very tough question about abortion.” The Iraqi insurgency’s access to short-range FROG missiles that “can do grievous damage to American troops.” The murder, by an American platoon, of 36 Iraqi guards.

Not one of these exclusives appeared in the pages of The New Yorker, however. Instead, Hersh delivered them in speeches on college campuses and in front of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and on public-radio shows like “Democracy Now!” In most cases, Hersh attaches a caveat—such as “I’m just talking now, I’m not writing”—before unloading one of his blockbusters, which can send bloggers and reporters scurrying for confirmation.

Every writer understands that there is a gap between the print persona and the actual self, but Hersh subscribes to a bright-line test, a wider chasm than is usually acknowledged, particularly in today’s multimedia age....

Reid Statement about reports Frist's telecast

Reid Statement about reports that Senator Bill Frist will appear in a telecast organized by conservative Christian groups that portrays the filibustering of judicial nominees as "against people of faith":

I am disappointed that in an attempt to hide what the debate is really about, Senator Frist would exploit religion like this. Religion to me is a very personal thing. I have been a religious man all my adult life. My wife and I have lived our lives and raised our children according to the morals and values taught by the faith to which we prescribe. No one has the right to judge mine or anyone else’s personal commitment to faith and religion.
God isn’t partisan.
As His children, he does ask us to do our very best and treat each other with kindness. Republicans have crossed a line today. America is better than this and Republicans need to remember that. This is a democracy, not a theocracy. We are people of faith, and in many ways are doing God’s work. But we represent all Americans, regardless of religion. Our founding fathers had the superior vision to separate Church and State in our democracy. It is a fundamental principle that has allowed our great, diverse nation to grow and flourish peacefully. Blurring the line between Church and State erodes our Constitution, and our democracy. It is a blatant abuse of power. Participating in something designed to incite divisiveness and encourage contention is unacceptable. I would hope that Sen. Frist will rise above something so beyond the pale.

Senator Hagel Employs One of John Bolton's Victims

April 15, 2005
Senator Hagel Employs One of John Bolton's Victims
Steve Clemons
How did John Bolton think he was going to get away with the emphatic testimony he gave that he did not try to get any one removed or fired from their positions and never, in any way, tried to meddle with the intelligence findings with which he was being provided by State Department intel officers?

He lied to Congress. He's done it before -- but there is certainly something odd about sending someone to deal with transparency, corruption, and management problems at the United Nations when he himself seems to operate with so many of the same behaviors as the institution he is criticizing.

Now, it turns out that Senator Hagel's foreign policy advisor, a detailee from the State Department, is one of the unnamed victims of John Bolton....

The House passed the bankruptcy bill

April 15, 2005 -- 08:43 PM EDT

The House passed the bankruptcy bill, and now we’re down to the last minutes before President Bush signs it into law.

I should be depressed, but I’m not.

Eight years ago the proponents said it was a speeding train that could not be stopped. It was written by a lobbyist and shopped to a friendly Congressman. The financial services industry was giving big money, and there was no one in the way to stop it. We slowed it down. In the meantime, more than 12 million families got some relief when they were overwhelmed with debts following job losses, illnesses, or family break ups. With all the money on just one side in the debate, that’s pretty amazing. Even now, the bill that came from the Senate to the House had a few small adjustments that will help keep the door open for more families in desperate trouble. Not bad.

But the part that makes me feel better is that this time around we finally got the message out. Even after the horse race was over and it was clear the bill would pass, the press continued to write about the bankruptcy bill—and the stories weren’t pretty. The politicians who thought this would be a free vote discovered they were wrong. The middle class is beginning to rumble, and those rumbles will change things. ...

Friday, April 15, 2005

Democrat Killer - Rethinking gun Control?

Posted March 31, 2005
Democrat Killer?
by Sasha Abramsky
The Nation
New Mexico
...Nationally, as the Democrats do the Electoral College math and realize the rising importance of the mountain and desert West to their presidential hopes, more and more are making this realpolitik calculation. If the South is now virtually unwinnable for national Democratic candidates, the party can craft a new Electoral College majority only if it can figure out how to make significant inroads into this region, into beautiful Open Road states like Nevada and New Mexico that, in 2004, went mildly Republican in the presidential election, while notching up significant victories or maintaining power for local and state Democratic Party politicians. And crafting a new stance on guns seems to a growing number of Democrats to be just the way to do that....

A new generation of nuclear warheads?

Science Friday: A new generation of nuclear warheads?
by Plutonium Page
Daily Kos
Fri Apr 15th, 2005 at 08:43:28 PDT
...Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat and one of the party's leading voices on military issues, alleged that the administration was using the scheme as a cover for developing a range of "smaller and more usable" weapons which were blocked last year by Congress.
The "smaller and more usable" weapons are the low-yield nuclear weapons known as "bunker busters", the funding for which was blocked by Congress last year. Their proposed use would be for - you guessed it - destroying underground caches of chemical or biological weapons, kind of like the ones that were supposedly in Iraq.....

Read the whole article!!!!

Taking Liberty

Taking Liberty
Liberals ignore and conservatives misunderstand America's guiding value: freedom.

By William A. Galston
The Washington Monthly

George W. Bush's second inaugural address, with its sweeping rhetoric about the spread of freedom abroad and at home, sparked strong but varied reactions. Most of the president's conservative supporters ranked it with the greatest inaugural speeches, such as John F. Kennedy's 1961 call to bear any burden and pay any price in the service of human freedom and Lincoln's sermonic 1865 meditation on the inscrutable justice of God's judgment on those who deny freedom to others. The president's liberal critics were less laudatory, agreeing instead with former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan's surprising judgment that the speech fell “somewhere between dreamy and disturbing.” Whether the speech was a display of visionary statesmanship, or an exercise in hubristic overreach, is something only history can determine. But it is not too early to say that the speech was both a wakeup call to liberals—from whose vocabulary the evocative term “freedom” has been mostly absent in recent years—and a guide to the deep flaws in the modern conservative understanding of freedom....

Calling All Dems: Stop Funding GOP Causes

April 11, 2005
Calling All Dems: Stop Funding GOP Causes

Arguably, the most under-utilized resource rank and file Democrats have at their disposal is consumer spending choice. Worse, most of us inadvertantly give money to the GOP every day by supporting corporations that fund Republican candidates, while contributing very little, if anything at all, to Democrats. Grab a burger at Wendy's, for example, and you have made a contribution to their PAC, which gives 93 percent of it's dough to the GOP. (Click here for a longer list of companies that give more than 90 percent of their PAC money to Republicans.}

But who has time to keep up with the political spending patterns of Fortune 500 companies? The Center for American Progress, that's who. The CAP's American Progress Action Fund has launched a campaign to "Tell Corporate America to Drop the Hammer," targeting five corporations that have contributed to Tom ("The Hammer") DeLay's defense fund. They are: American Airlines ($5K); Bacardi ($3K); Nissan ($5K); R. J. Reynolds ($17K) and Verizon ($5K)....

The Medical Money Pit

The Medical Money Pit
Published: April 15, 2005
New York Times

....In 2002, the latest year for which comparable data are available, the United States spent $5,267 on health care for each man, woman and child in the population. Of this, $2,364, or 45 percent, was government spending, mainly on Medicare and Medicaid. Canada spent $2,931 per person, of which $2,048 came from the government. France spent $2,736 per person, of which $2,080 was government spending.

Amazing, isn't it? U.S. health care is so expensive that our government spends more on health care than the governments of other advanced countries, even though the private sector pays a far higher share of the bills than anywhere else.

What do we get for all that money? Not much....

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Senate Republicans' Bid to Destroy the Filibuster Option

Senate Republicans' Bid to Destroy the Filibuster Option, And Push Through Ultraconservative Federal Judges:
It Seems Likely the "Nuclear Option" Actually Will Be Used
Friday, Apr. 08, 2005

A new political campaign is underway. It was launched this week.

On one side are the Bush White House and Senate conservatives. The White House seeks to pack the federal judiciary with ultra-conservative judges and justices. Ultimately, the goal is to place far-right justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Given the age of several justices, and the poor health of the Chief Justice, one or more vacancies are expected at the end of the current term, in June.)

Toward this goal, Senate Republicans - now enjoying a 55-45 majority due to the 2004 election -- are campaigning to end filibustering of such nominations. This would require a Senate rule change - an option that is referred to candidly as the "nuclear option" and euphemistically (by Republicans) as "the constitutional option." If such a change is sought, it will likely happen when one or more of Bush's pending judicial nominees return to the Senate floor this month

Ironically, it is the conservatives who seek to obliterate the Senate's two-hundred- year-old tradition of unlimited debate. Indeed, they are avid about it: On April 4, an assembly of conservative organizations held a briefing at the National Press Club -- doubtless meant to keep the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

On the other side are Senate Democrats. They are fighting to keep the filibuster precisely so that they can block the Bush White House's nominees. They believe that some of the Bush-nominated ideologues lack the necessary temperament to be a federal judge. ...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

US takes the lead in trashing planet

US takes the lead in trashing planet
By Derrick Z. Jackson | April 13, 2005
Boston Globe
FOR MORE than four years, President Bush has told us he needs to see the ''sound science" on global warming before joining the rest of the world in combating it. In June 2001, he brushed off criticism of his pullout from the Kyoto Protocol, saying: ''It was not based upon science. The stated mandates in the Kyoto treaty would affect our economy in a negative way."

A year later, Bush's own Environmental Protection Agency put out a report that the burning of fossil fuels in the human activities of industry and automobiles are huge contributors to the greenhouse effect. He publicly trashed the report, embarrassing then-EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, saying, ''I read the report put out by the bureaucracy."

Now comes a new study, by a bureaucracy representing just about the whole planet. It is the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, commissioned by the United Nations in 2000 at a cost of $24 million and compiled by 1,360 experts from 95 countries. It is the latest in dire reports as to how we are doing the planet in and, implicitly, how the United States puts its interests and pollution over the welfare of the rest of the planet...

The biggest tax cheats

The biggest tax cheats
By Robert Kuttner | April 13, 2005
Boston Globe
HOW CAN we possibly reduce the federal deficit and find enough money for high-quality public services without raising everyone's taxes?
Actually, there's a remarkably easy solution. The government just needs to get serious about collecting money from tax cheats. And this doesn't mean audits of ordinary taxpayers or mom-and-pop businesses -- that's not where the big cheating is.
Much of it is in the form of very complex tax shelters, deliberately designed to make the tax evasion techniques so complicated that auditors have trouble figuring out what's legal and what isn't. Much of the rest happens overseas, where affiliates of US corporations arrange to book their profits in tax havens with which the United States has no enforcement treaty.
The Internal Revenue Service recently released a report estimating that taxes owed but not collected in 2001 (the last year studied) ranged from $312 billion to $353 billion. That didn't even count much of the tax evasion by US firms offshore....

Time to go

Time to go
Republicans are speaking out at last against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
Times Union
First published: Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The wall of silence that has shielded the outrageous actions of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is crumbling. How sweet the sound.

Motivated by genuine indignation, political pressure or perhaps both, prominent Republicans are saying loudly and publicly that they've had enough. Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut is typical of them. His long criticism of Mr. DeLay cut straight to the point in a weekend interview with The Associated Press. The Republicans were standing by Mr. DeLay, Mr. Shays explained, at their own political peril.....

....It's hard to imagine anyone defending Mr. DeLay. Hard, that is, but not impossible. President Bush has done just that, which has us wondering two things -- how long that defense will last and when Karl Rove will be over to the White House for a chat with the boss.

We'd hope, too, that Rep. John Sweeney of Clifton Park would be among the leaders of the movement for Mr. DeLay to step down. Last fall it was his view that Mr. DeLay was the victim of an ethics committee that had veered out of control. Only Mr. DeLay has become a much bigger problem, both ethically and politically, since then.

Mr. Shays' warning aside, it's quite a stretch to imagine Mr. Sweeney in a tough re-election fight. The 20th congressional district seat would seem to be his as long as he covets it. All the more reason, then, for Mr. Sweeney to take the high road, leaving Mr. DeLay off in the distance.

Bush's Political Pickle

Bush's Political Pickle
By Molly Ivins, AlterNet. Posted April 12, 2005.

The Bushies are now making an effort to track terrorist money, but not without ruffling the feathers of Republican donors. What's a poor party to do? Story Tools

....This all started with a report in The New York Times last week that the administration is finding heavy sledding in its efforts to go after terrorist financing. But who could oppose such a worthy endeavor? For starters, this administration. You may recall that Bill Clinton had commenced an international effort to track terrorist money, but the Bushies, upon arriving, denounced it as yet another soft-headed multilateralist initiative and promptly abandoned it. Then came 9/11, and suddenly it was in vogue again, though experts in the field, such as Sen. Paul Sarbanes, criticized the administration's initial efforts as lukewarm and half-hearted.
The Times reports a classic "little-noted provision" (oh, the trouble caused by "little-noted provisions") in the intelligence reform bill passed by Congress in December. It gives the government new tools to go after specific suspects and, "more broadly, to analyze patterns in terrorist financing and other financial crimes. They said they were mindful of privacy concerns that such a system is likely to provoke and wanted to include safeguards to prevent misuse of what would amount to an enormous cache of financial records ... tactics ... (that) have already caused something of a backlash among banking compliance officers -- and even some federal officials, who say the effort has gone too far in penalizing the financial sector for lapses and has effectively criminalized what were once seen as technical violations."
Like what "technical violations"? Perhaps we find a hint in a recent report by the Tax Justice Network, an international group of tax experts and economists....

Drug prices outstrip inflation

Drug prices outstrip inflation
By William M. Welch, USA TODAY
Wholesale prices for popular brand-name prescription drugs rose an average 7.1% in 2004, more than twice the general inflation rate, a new study commissioned by the nation's largest seniors lobby says.

The increase is the biggest in the five years that AARP, with 35 million members, has sponsored the study. It's just slightly higher than the 7% price rise in 2003. The group, which has pushed for lower drug prices, is set to release its report today.

The findings come from an examination of prices charged by manufacturers on 195 brand-name prescription drugs widely used by Americans 50 and older. The study's authors said such increases are routinely passed on to consumers in retail prices.....

Auditors Questioned $212.3 Million in Charges From KBR

Auditors Questioned $212.3 Million in Charges From KBR
Critic of Halliburton Contracts Releases Report, Urges Hearings
By Charles R. Babcock
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 12, 2005; Page E02
Pentagon auditors have questioned $212.3 million -- about 13 percent -- of $1.69 billion that a Halliburton Co. subsidiary charged the government over the past few years, mostly for importing fuel to Iraq under a no-bid contract.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a longtime critic of Halliburton's large contracts supporting U.S. troops in Iraq, released summaries yesterday of five audit reports that the Defense Contract Audit Agency did of work performed by Kellogg Brown & Root in 2003 and 2004. Four of the five reports covered contracts to provide fuel. In one case, the auditors challenged 47 percent of the $28.7 million in spending.
In one update of an audit report that Waxman released earlier, the DCAA reduced the questioned costs from $108 million to $86.1 million out of a work order now valued at $887.3 million. In the reports on fuel imports, auditors criticized KBR for not negotiating new prices with a vendor in Kuwait after the initial rush when the war started. They also questioned why KBR agreed to pay subcontractors in Turkey more than the negotiated price for fuel after prices in the market rose suddenly....

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Quote of the Day

James Kunstler
Herbert Hoover was vilified for doing nothing about the depression that followed the stock market crash. When we look back on the years of George W. Bush we will marvel at his failure to lead, especially his failure to inform the public that our habits of daily life would have to change, that we could not continue to burn twenty million barrels of oil a day, and spend money we hadn't earned; that we desperately had to reform our suburban land development habits, that the WalMarts and other predatory corporations had to be restrained in their systematic destruction of local economies, that our railroads needed to be rebuilt, that our borders needed to be defended, that our local small farmers needed to be supported, that our industries needed to be re-scaled and retained here, that corporate chiseling had to be policed, that finance had to be qualitatively different than a craps game in some casino.
The Hooverization of George W. Bush has begun. Only it will go much worse for Bush. His fall could be so hard, swift and awful that he may not be allowed to finish his second term. That's how stunned the public and even their entrenched oligarchical elites will be as the economy tanks and our national life begins to unravel. The Republican majority will go down with him, including such arrant villians as Tom Delay and the hosts of corporate CEO chiselers who sold out their workers and their country. They can pray all the want. It won't help....

Our country has been overtaken by murderous thugs

Cindy Sheehan: 'Our country has been overtaken by murderous thugs'
Posted on Tuesday, April 12 @ 09:14:00 EDT
By Cindy Sheehan
Transcript of speech made at Riverside Church -- where Martin Luther King gave his "Beloved Community" speech -- during the groundbreaking of the "Break the Silence: Building the Beloved Community" tour. You can read about the tour and Dr. King's speech at the web site.
I've been asked to speak to you for 5 minutes or so. Please forgive me, but I'm going to take a little more than 8 minutes. The additional time that I'm going to steal from you is dedicated to my son, Casey, whose entire future was stolen from him.
My son was killed in Iraq on this day one year ago, the same day of April on which Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. From a jail in Birmingham, on April 16 1963 Dr. King wrote these words: "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence.......of the good people." ...end of quote.
And the Apostle Paul said this:
" ...those who desire to be rich fall into temptation...into a snare that plunges men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evil."....

Tanker in Chief

Tanker in Chief
Objectively, Bush is one of the least popular presidents in modern American history. So why do you have to read a sentence like that in the Prospect?

By Michael Tomasky
Web Exclusive: 04.11.05
American Prospect

Did you notice this one? A Gallup-CNN-USA Today poll at the end of last week found that 50 percent of American adults now believe that the Bush administration “deliberately misled” them about why we had to go to war in Iraq. It seems fair to say that the average respondent will have understood that “deliberately misled” is a polite way of saying the word “lie”; so, in sum, every other American adult believes the president and his apparatchiks lied us into war.

That’s an astonishing fact: The president of the United States has no credibility with half of the adult citizenry on a defining question of his tenure that happens to have sent more than 1,500 young Americans to their graves (and in another recent poll, 53 percent said the war wasn’t worth the costs). This was never remotely true of Bill Clinton or any modern president going back decades. George W. Bush defenders will invoke Harry Truman, but while it’s true that Truman was profoundly unpopular at the end of his second term over the Korean War, the American people at least didn’t blame him for lying us into it.

Combine this finding with other recent polls putting Bush’s approval rating at 44 or 45 percent, which is the lowest of any sitting two-term president at this point in his tenure in decades. Bush is objectively and without question one of the most unpopular presidents of the last 80 years: Herbert Hoover after the Depression; Truman after Korea; Richard Nixon after Watergate; Jimmy Carter after Iran. Bush is right there with them....

Kerry Questions SBA Spending on President's Social Security Tour

Kerry Questions SBA Spending on President's Social Security Tour
Copyright © 2002 Yahoo! Inc., and U.S. Newswire.
Mon Apr 11, 5:10 PM ET
To: National Desk

Contact: Marc R. Comer of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 202-224-8496
WASHINGTON, April 11 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Sen. John F. Kerry (news, bio, voting record) (D- Mass.), the top Democrat on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, recently sent a letter to the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), Hector Barreto, asking for information on the SBA's spending to promote President Bush's Social Security ideas.
"The Administration has cut the SBA and its resources to our small businesses 36 percent since 2001, the most of any Federal Agency, and spending scarce funding to market the President's Social Security proposals would raise serious concerns for this Committee," Kerry wrote.
Kerry wrote to the SBA after learning that it is one of several federal agencies that has tapped its budget to fund the travel of high-level employees as part of President Bush's "60 Stops in 60 Days" tour to promote his Social Security proposals. SBA officials have already traveled to California, Connecticut, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia as part of the tour.
In the letter, Kerry expressed concern that the SBA was using resources to garner support for the President's Social Security ideas potentially to the detriment of other SBA programs suffering from a lack of funding. Kerry requested a full account of the SBA's spending and travel related to the President's Social Security tour.

A copy of the letter is available on the Committee's website at

Monday, April 11, 2005

Inquiry on Lobbyist Casts a Shadow in Congress

Inquiry on Lobbyist Casts a Shadow in Congress
Published: April 11, 2005
New York Times
WASHINGTON, April 10 - Jack Abramoff, one of Washington's most powerful and best-paid lobbyists, needed $100,000 in a hurry.
Mr. Abramoff, known to envious competitors as "Casino Jack" because of his multimillion-dollar lobbying fees from the gambling operations of American Indians, wrote to a Texas tribe in June 2002 to say that a member of Congress had "asked if we could help (as in cover) a Scotland golf trip for him and some staff" that summer. "The trip will be quite expensive," Mr. Abramoff said in the e-mail message, estimating that the bills "would be around $100K or more." He added that in 2000, "We did this for another member - you know who."
Mr. Abramoff did not explain why the tribe should pay for the lavish trip, nor did he identify the congressmen by name. But a tribe spokesman has since testified to Congress that the 2002 trip was organized for Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Administration Committee, and that "you know who" was a much more powerful Republican, Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader and old friend of Mr. Abramoff's. Both lawmakers have said they believed that the trips complied with House travel rules.
The e-mail message of June 7, 2002, is part of a mountain of evidence gathered in recent months by the Justice Department, the Interior Department and two Senate committees in influence-peddling and corruption investigations centered on Mr. Abramoff, a former college Republican campaigner turned B-movie producer turned $750-an-hour Washington super-lobbyist.
Although there is no suggestion in public documents that any lawmaker is the target of a federal grand jury that is investigating Mr. Abramoff, disclosures about his lobbying activities have become embarrassing to prominent members of Congress.....

Foes cite progress vs. Bush agenda

Foes cite progress vs. Bush agenda
Say strategy fuels GOP infighting
By Rick Klein, Globe Staff | April 11, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Senior Democrats are increasingly confident that they have blocked Republicans plans for historic breakthroughs in legislation under GOP control of the White House and Congress, declaring that the Democratic strategy of unified opposition to major items on the leadership agenda has succeeded in turning Republicans against themselves.

Democratic leaders say the focus on opposition, rather than on their own legislative proposals, has allowed them to hold up President Bush's plans to remake Social Security. They are honing a message that highlights what they portray as Republican abuses of power, and say their new level of party discipline is forcing Republicans to wrestle with their own divisions over judicial confirmations, foreign affairs, and taxing and spending.

''The Democratic caucus has never been as unified, and you've seen it on Social Security, the budget, and judges," said Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada. ''It took a while for us to realize that we weren't in the majority. I think, though, we have learned the lesson well. And we have also learned that the majority party won't be in the majority forever....."

Ailing Health Care

Ailing Health Care
Published: April 11, 2005
The New York Times
Those of us who accuse the administration of inventing a Social Security crisis are often accused, in return, of do-nothingism, of refusing to face up to the nation's problems. I plead not guilty: America does face a real crisis - but it's in health care, not Social Security.
Well-informed business executives agree. A recent survey of chief financial officers at major corporations found that 65 percent regard immediate action on health care costs as "very important." Only 31 percent said the same about Social Security reform.
But serious health care reform isn't on the table, and in the current political climate it probably can't be. You see, the health care crisis is ideologically inconvenient.
Let's start with some basic facts about health care....

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Long Emergency

Remarks in Hudson, NY
James Howard Kunstler

....We are going to have to reorganize everyday commerce in this nation from the ground up. The whole system of continental-scale big box discount and chain store shopping is headed for extinction, and sooner than you might think. It will go down fast and hard. Americans will be astonished when it happens.
Operations like WalMart have enjoyed economies of scale that were attained because of very special and anomalous historical circumstances: a half century of relative peace between great powers. And cheap oil - absolutely reliable supplies of it, since the OPEC disruptions of the 1970s.
WalMart and its imitators will not survive the oil market disruptions to come. Not even for a little while. WalMart will not survive when its merchandise supply chains to Asia are interrupted by military contests over oil or internal conflict in the nations that have been supplying us with ultra-cheap manufactured goods. WalMart's "warehouse on wheels" will not be able to operate in a non-cheap oil economy
It will only take mild-to-moderate disruptions in the supply and price of gas to put WalMart and all operations like it out of business. And it will happen. As that occurs, America will have to make other arrangements for the distribution and sale of ordinary products.
It will have to be reorganized at the regional and the local scale. It will have to be based on moving merchandise shorter distances at multiple increments and probably by multiple modes of transport. It is almost certain to result in higher costs for the things we buy, and fewer choices of things. We are not going to rebuild the cheap oil manufacturing facilities of the 20th century.
We will have to recreate the lost infrastructures of local and regional commerce, and it will have to be multi-layered. These were the people that WalMart systematically put out of business over the last thirty years. The wholesalers, the jobbers, the small-retailers. They were economic participants in their communities; they made decisions that had to take the needs of their communities into account. they were employers who employed their neighbors. They were a substantial part of the middle-class of every community in America and all of them together played civic roles in our communities as the caretakers of institutions - the people who sat on the library boards, and the hospital boards, and bought the balls and bats and uniforms for the little league teams.
We got rid of them in order to save nine bucks on a hair dryer. We threw away uncountable millions of dollars worth of civic amenity in order to shop at the Big Box discount stores. That was some bargain.
This will all change. The future is telling us to prepare to do business locally again. It will not be a hyper-turbo-consumer economy. That will be over with. But we will still make things, and buy and sell things.....

PEAK OIL: Coming Oil shortage

PEAK OIL....Jane Bryant Quinn warns this week that we may be running out of oil:
Princeton geology professor emeritus Kenneth Deffeyes, who's writing a book due in 2005 called "Beyond Oil," waggishly names an Armageddon date: "World oil production will reach its ultimate peak on Thanksgiving Day 2005," he says. Then the long, slow decline begins.
Deffeyes is talking not about the amount of oil in the ground, but about the maximum daily pumping capacity of oil. The problem is that even as we continue to find new fields, old fields start to decline. When the decline becomes greater than new discoveries, total oil production starts to fall. This has already happened in the continental United States, which reached its peak capacity in 1970 and has been declining ever since, an event famously predicted in 1956 by geophysicist M. King Hubbert.
This is not a controversial point. What is controversial is the actual date of the global production peak. Deffeyes predicts the peak will come next year. Colin Campbell, perhaps the best known of the peak oil theorists, predicts a peak in 2008. The chart below shows Campbell's most recent calculations....


Friday, April 08, 2005

Just One Thing

Political Animal by Brian Morton
Just One Thing

Now that we are well along into our next media carnival and out of our last one, there’s probably not a better time to look at what has just happened, hindsight being 20-20. John Paul II will be buried, amid 24-hour coverage of throngs camping in St. Peter’s Square, and we will be treated to endless analyses of who the next pope may be, where he will be from, and what his politics may be. Although this one man will hold sway over a major fraction of the world’s religious faithful, look backward just a week to see where we have been.

For the previous three weeks we have been held hostage to another media carnival, this one centering over the state of one woman in Florida who was just like some 20,000 people across the nation—people in a “persistent vegetative state”—whose circumstances depend on the decisions of those who love them or, in some cases, the whims of the state.

Don’t forget that in George W. Bush’s Texas, a 6-month-old boy was removed from life support life because of a law signed by that state’s governor, now our president, that allows doctors and hospitals to discontinue life support when a patient's condition is deemed hopeless. Don’t forget that the most powerful man in Congress, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, went along with his family’s decision to allow his father to die in 1988 when, after a freak accident, Charles Ray DeLay’s quality of life had deteriorated past what any reasonable adult would consider worthwhile.

These are the politicians who, in thrall to America’s new theocracy and in complete defiance of the wishes of most of the country, attempted to intervene in the affairs of one man and his wife in Florida, solely because they saw political advantage in it. ...

It was only a matter of time for DeLay

Jonathan Chait: 'It was only a matter of time for DeLay'
Posted on Friday, April 08 @ 10:06:45 EDT
By Jonathan Chait, Los Angeles Times
In 2002, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay wanted to redraw Texas' district map to guarantee GOP gains. To pull this off, he needed Republicans to win control of the Texas Legislature, which would undertake the gerrymander.
DeLay went about raising large sums of corporate cash to plow into the Texas Statehouse races. Alas, Texas law prohibits corporations from donating money to candidates. So DeLay's group, Texans for a Republican Majority, raised $190,000 in corporate donations and sent the money to a national Republican campaign group, which in turn donated the $190,000 to individual GOP candidates for the Texas Statehouse.
DeLay is facing possible indictment for this incident. But the above paragraph doesn't contain the accusation. That's DeLay's defense. GOP lawyers say this money trading is a legal loophole. As DeLay told reporters, "When you have lawyers advising you every step of the way, it is very hard [for your opponents] to make a case stick." This defense may or may not work, but either way it doesn't quite meet the usual meaning of the word "innocent."
And that's the funny thing about the hot water DeLay finds himself in these days. He can make a plausible case that he's legally innocent of everything he's been accused of. Yet the things DeLay has admitted to are pretty bad on their own.....

The economic tsunami, just months away

Mike Whitney: 'The economic tsunami, just months away'
Contributed by megsdad on Friday, April 08 @ 10:15:37 EDT
By Mike Whitney

"If the world's central bankers accumulate fewer dollars, the result would be an unrelenting American need to borrow in the face of an ever weaker dollar - a recipe for higher interest rates and higher prices. The economic repercussions could unfold gradually, resulting in a long, slow decline in living standards. Or there could be a quick unraveling, with the hallmarks of an uncontrolled fiscal crisis."
-- New York Times editorial
I know, from reading the comments on this web site, that many Smirking Chimp readers believe as I do, that the economic tsunami planned by the Bush administration is probably only months away. Many of us have watched helplessly as the national debt has increased 3 trillion dollars while the dollar has continued its predictable decline. At present, the dollar has fallen a whopping 38% since Bush took office, due entirely to the massive $450 billion tax cuts Bush gave away to his constituents. At the same time, myriad laws have been passed (Patriot Act, Intelligence Reform Bill, Homeland Security Bill, National ID, Passport requirements etc) anticipating the need for greater repression when the economy takes its inevitable nosedive. Regrettably, that nosedive looks to be coming sooner rather than later.
The administration is currently putting as much pressure as possible on OPEC to ratchet up the flow of oil another 1 million barrels per day (well over capacity) to settle down nervous markets and buy time for the planned bombing of Iran in June.
Like Greenspan's artificially low interest rates, the manipulation of oil production is a way of concealing how dire the situation really is. Rising prices at the pump signal an upcoming recession, (depression?) so the administration is pulling out all the stops to meet the short term demand and maintain the illusion that things are still okay. (Bush would rather avoid massive popular unrest until his battle-plans for Iran are carried out) ...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Tell Corporate America to Drop the Hammer

Tell Corporate America to Drop the Hammer
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is widely regarded as the most powerful member of Congress. DeLay's abuse of this power has encircled him in a web of scandal. He has already been admonished three times by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee and a political action committee he set up in Texas is currently the subject of a grand jury investigation.
A network of large corporate backers have come, cash-in-hand, to DeLay's defense. American Airlines, Bacardi USA, Nissan USA, RJ Reynolds, and Verizon have all contributed thousands to Tom DeLay's Legal Defense Fund.
Send a message to these corporations and tell them to stop enabling Tom DeLay's unethical behavior. Let these corporations know that unless they stop supporting Tom DeLay, you'll stop supporting them.....

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Long Emergency

The Long Emergency
What's going to happen as we start running out of cheap gas to guzzle?
A few weeks ago, the price of oil ratcheted above fifty-five dollars a barrel, which is about twenty dollars a barrel more than a year ago. The next day, the oil story was buried on page six of the New York Times business section. Apparently, the price of oil is not considered significant news, even when it goes up five bucks a barrel in the span of ten days. That same day, the stock market shot up more than a hundred points because, CNN said, government data showed no signs of inflation. Note to clueless nation: Call planet Earth.
Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, famously remarked that "people cannot stand too much reality." What you're about to read may challenge your assumptions about the kind of world we live in, and especially the kind of world into which events are propelling us. We are in for a rough ride through uncharted territory.
It has been very hard for Americans -- lost in dark raptures of nonstop infotainment, recreational shopping and compulsive motoring -- to make sense of the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life in our technological society. Even after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America is still sleepwalking into the future. I call this coming time the Long Emergency.
Most immediately we face the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie everything we identify as the necessities of modern life -- not to mention all of its comforts and luxuries: central heating, air conditioning, cars, airplanes, electric lights, inexpensive clothing, recorded music, movies, hip-replacement surgery, national defense -- you name it....

Seymour Hersh: Bush is "Unreachable"

Seymour Hersh: Bush is "Unreachable"
by Gloria R. Lalumia, BuzzFlash Columnist
Seymour Hersh visited New Mexico State University (Las Cruces) on Tuesday, March 29 as part of his speaking tour for his newest book, “Chain of Command: the Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.” He opened his presentation by announcing that he intended to discuss “what’s on my mind” and “where we think we are.” The first thing on his mind was a chilling assessment of George W. Bush.
“The President,” Hersh sighed. “Bush is as absolutely convinced he’s doing the right thing,” just as journalists are who think of themselves as white knights think they are doing the right thing. “Even if we have another thousand body bags, it won’t deter him.”
“This is where he is. He believes he won’t be measured by today, but in 5 or 10 years” in terms of the Mideast. With regard to Iraq, “he thinks it’s going well.” Iran, according to Hersh’s contacts, is “teed up.” “This is his mission,” he continued. “What does it mean?”
And then he delivered the most chilling comments of the evening. “Nothing I write” is likely to influence Bush, he said. “He is unreachable. I can’t reach him. He’s got his own world. This is really unusual and frankly, it scares the hell out of me.”
From this point on, Hersh offered a compendium of the Bush policy failures, misjudgments, and out-of-touch convictions that have fueled his fears....

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Post-Star Challenges John Sweeney to Do His Job

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Post-Star Challenges John Sweeney to Do His Job
The saga of Rep. John Sweeney and his refusal to discuss his views on privatizing Social Security with his constituents continues.
Chapter 1: In This Together asks Rep. Sweeney to hold a town hall meeting.
Chapter 2: After Rep. Sweeney does not respond, In This Together says it will hold its own town hall meeting if Sweeney does not go forward with his own. Rep. Sweeney tells two newspaper reporters the same day that he will hold a town hall meeting.
Chapter 3: Rep. Sweeney fails to schedule the town hall meeting he promised, so In This Together announces it will hold a town hall meeting of its own, scheduled for April 25.
Chapter 4: The Post-Star, the daily newspaper of Glens Falls and the southern Adirondacks challenges Sweeney in an editorial to come to a forum the paper will sponsor.

The Post-Star has offered the congressman a chance to be the key listener at a public forum on Social Security reform, during which the public will be invited to give him an earful of suggestions to help him make his decision.
In other words, the Post-Star is commendably joining In This Together in the difficult task of persuading Rep. Sweeney to DO HIS JOB AND LISTEN TO HIS CONSTITUENTS!



Pinkertons at the CPA

Pinkertons at the CPA
Iraq's resurgent labor unions could have helped rebuild the country's civil society. The Bush administration of course tried to crush them.

By Matthew Harwood

On Jan. 4, labor union leader Hadi Saleh returned to his Baghdad home after work. Five masked men laid in wait. After he entered, they jumped him, blind-folded him, and bound his hands and feet. The intruders beat and burnt Saleh on his torso and head and then choked him to death with an electrical cord. Before they left, the men strafed Saleh's body with bullets. His membership files were ransacked. This wasn't everyday violence. Saleh was, at the time of his death, international secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) and a strong player in Iraq's born-again labor movement once crushed by Saddam Hussein. The labor leader's killers are widely suspected to be remnants of Hussein's secret police, the Mukhabarat. Saleh's slaying was the most high-profile attack on Iraqi labor officials, many of whom continue to be kidnapped and killed with impunity by the insurgents. In recent months, two more trade unionists have been murdered, one while he was walking home with his children.

There is good reason for insurgents to take on the trade unionists. The IFTU supports a secular state, representative of Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurd. Its leaders have called for the insurgency to end. The union has endorsed U.N. Resolution 1546, which sets the time table for Iraq's transition into a democracy....

Monday, April 04, 2005

American Thermidor

American Thermidor
    By Stirling Newberry
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective
    Sunday 03 April 2005
How the cycle of deficits has kept the right in power in America.
    Many people have become worried about the hard limits to the current world economy, and particularly the place of America in it: global warming,[1] which is the limit of how much carbon we can sink into the earth's atmosphere and waters, and Hubert's theory of "Peak Oil,"[2] which predicts that production of oil will plateau and then enter a decline. Many have also become worried about the seemingly inexorable growth of America's trade[3] and budget deficits,[4] as well as the ever-spiraling imports of energy from abroad. Finally, many have become concerned about the growing inequality of the distribution of wealth [5] and the decline in real wages. [6] It makes many angry that, in a time when America seems to be strip-mining its environment, its credit and its people, we are ruled by the most reactionary American political party to take power since the days when strikers were shot by state militia units, a party that has chosen not to address any of these problems, but instead, tells us that all will be well.
    For many, the theory of why this is happening centers around the top-down media system and its vitriolic faux populism that is used to cover an agenda of concentration of power and economic elitism, and an American public that is enthralled by the political machinations of the Republican Party. For others, the root cause is corporate-driven globalization, which sets the workers of different states and different nations against each other in a grim race to the bottom. It seems inconceivable to many writers that, in an era in which so much is headed in the wrong direction, the Republicans have been in the White House 6 of the last 9 terms, and have not lost control of Congress since the elections of 1994, except during a very brief period when the Democrats wrangled the Senate based on a party switch by a Republican. Not only this, but they have controlled the debate, pushing the Democratic Party farther and farther to the right. Even while the approval numbers of both Republican President and Republican Party are below 50% in recent polls, the media treats them with kid gloves, and the Democrats defer to Bush on what the agenda of the nation should be.
    What has not been made clear to most people, even to many people who are following the deficits and problems in wages, is how all of these forces fit together and create an environment which is favorable to reactionary government and reactionary social movements. Americans are not as far to the right as the media portrays them, nor as far to the right as the Washington DC power structure behaves: Americans do not favor the war in Iraq, nor the Congress intervening in court cases, nor are they supportive of plans to cut Social Security benefits and turn the stock market into a giant uninsured savings program. And yet, the Bush agenda has moved relentlessly through Congress, and many Americans see Ronald Reagan through a haze of light, as if he set the country on a better road.
    There has been an American Thermidor,[7] a counter-revolution, one which is based on the way money and energy relate to one another. The key is not only oil, nor only money, nor only corporate concentration, but how each of these pushes the other along a cycle. Each one maintains the others in place. To understand how, it is important to look at the deficits that America faces.
    The reality is that all of the deficit problems, the energy deficit, the trade deficit, the budget deficit, and the wages and wealth deficit, are connected, each one reinforcing the others. They cannot be solved piecemeal: increasing real wages will mean that Americans will burn more oil, and import more, which means a higher trade deficit. In an environment in which other nations have energy deficits of their own, America cannot export its way to material prosperity, and so it votes for budget deficits to keep the economy propped up. This is the centerpiece of why the Republicans hold power: to undo what they have done requires a broad mandate to attack, not one deficit, but all simultaneously.
    The root of problem is that the American economy has become a giant "paper-for-oil" deal. We buy energy, both directly as energy, and indirectly by importing goods made more cheaply in other nations where people command a smaller bundle of energy.[8] Goods from China cost less, not because Chinese factories are more efficient, but because Chinese workers have a smaller claim on resources than American workers. America prints paper - in the form of Treasury debt and US assets such as stocks - to buy energy from abroad.
    Because America runs an energy deficit, and must import it, and we cannot export other goods to others to pay for it, we run a trade deficit. It is a problem because there is one scarce commodity which all others are denominated in: oil. Oil is scarce, not because there is not enough energy in the world, but because it is so much cheaper to extract energy from oil than from other sources, and oil can be used to transport goods and people.
    The competition is not over scarce energy in itself, but over a particular form of energy which can be used to substitute for everything else. There is nothing in this world that one cannot get more cheaply by using more oil to get it - whether by importing it, mechanizing its production, or using more energy to extract it. This is not only true of industry, but of people as well: Americans moved to the suburbs because it was cheaper to drive farther than to work through the problems of urbanization, and one could get a larger house with a larger yard in the bargain. As long as it was cheaper to pay rent to Saudi Arabia for the oil, because that is what we are doing, than to pay rent to the government for a working city, people chose to pay rent to OPEC rather than taxes to the government. This ability of oil to be used in place of almost everything else, and not whether there is "enough" oil, is the special property that makes it the basic scarcity of the world economy.
    But what happens when America buys energy? What does that trade deficit mean? This is the second step of the vicious circle: while many nations sell some energy, a few nations export energy, but import virtually nothing. A nation like Nigeria, with a large population, does not pile up energy wealth because it has many demands on the flow of money coming in. A nation like Saudi Arabia on the other hand, which has a small population and a much greater concentration of the control of oil, piles up profits year after year. Those profits, rather than going into developing Saudi Arabia, are poured back into the US.
    The reason oil causes a particular problem in the world economy is that one can make huge profits in an oil economy, without having the entire superstructure of a cosmopolitan, entrepreneurial, liberal and technological society around it. One cannot manufacture cars, develop technology or develop medicines without a large population of educated people, but one can run an oil economy with a relatively small core of people, many of whom can be imported. Thus, Saudi Arabia does not need to pour most of its profits back into its own nation to stay competitive.
    This means the trade deficit creates an investment deficit: the US takes in more investment from the rest of the world than it sends out to the rest of the world.[9]
    However, with investment pouring in from nations where the investors are also the government, more and more control over the US economy at its highest levels is in the hands of the wealthy of nations like Saudi Arabia. Should they chose to pull their wealth from the US, or even simply stop rolling over their financing, the result would be a rapid drop in the value of US stocks and assets. This is what happened in the Summer of 2002.[10] To prevent investors in these countries from gaining control, the developed world, and particularly the US, is forced down a particular path: it must cut taxes on our wealthy, so that they match the taxes on the wealthy of Saudi Arabia. The "race to the bottom" starts at the top. This cutting of revenues is what drives the US budget deficit: without the reduction in revenues from upper-bracket tax rates being lowered, and without the interest on the National debt, there is no financial crisis. This means that the trade deficit, combined with the nature of a few energy exporting states, creates the budget deficit.
    The money then comes back to the United States at the top of the economy - in the purchase of financial stocks primarily - and then filters downward. This "top down economy," called "trickle down economics," means that America cannot invest in getting out of the energy trap, because the very people who hold the purse strings have no interest in ending it. The only way to slow the process is by, as you should guess, holding real wages flat, because if people earn more, they burn more oil, and make the trade deficit worse.
    The reason Reaganomics was put in place then, and remained in place even after the Democrats took back both the Congress and, by 1992, the Presidency, is that no single point on the circle could be broken: raise real wages, and the trade deficit gets worse, raise tax rates by enough to rapidly wipe out the deficit, and face the prospect of foreign ownership of the "commanding heights" of the American economy. Instead of finding a way off of the dependence on foreign oil, and instead of untangling money from oil, Reaganomics used cuts in capital gains taxes and upper-income marginal income tax rates, and the increase in FICA taxes as a regressive tax to reduce consumption as a way of allowing foreign investment to pour into America. The cost was that wages would have to stay flat in real terms, and that corporations and stock wealth would have to grow almost without limit.
    This means that the reason Reagan won, and gradually pulled the media and much of the public mood behind him, was that in a world which is zero sum - and the amount of oil being the basis of profit meant it was zero sum - people become conservative, grasping at whatever bits of their bundle of ultimate scarcity they hold. It meant that allowing the rich to become richer was essential to keep America under the control of Americans. It meant that corporations had to be allowed to become larger and larger, so that they were harder and harder to hold accountable through political means. It also created another vicious circle: Americans had more and more of their wealth in their homes, which created more pressure for sprawl, which, in turn, created more and more demand that gasoline prices remain low, so that people could trade cheap energy to pay less for expensive land.
    The process became a vicious circle because larger and larger corporations with more and more wealth at the top became the dominant political force. Natural selection of a political kind took over: attempts to change one of these features of the economy met with disaster. Raise wages, and inflation returned; raise taxes, and autonomy was threatened; cut oil consumption, and other nations would consume more oil to sell to the United States. In other words, progressivism ebbed because there seemed to be no single point of attack that did not involve a dramatic energy austerity, and the resulting reduction in American standards of living. Over and over again, Democratic politicians, from Carter in 1980, to Mondale in 1984, all the way to Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004, warned of the consequences of energy dependency, unequal wages and corporate consolidation, but failed to create a large political coalition capable of producing what Arthur Schlesinger calls the golden moment in American politics: a progressive president with a progressive working majority in Congress.
    The vicious cycle is this: that a cheap energy deficit created a trade deficit, creating an investment deficit, which then created the political pressure for a wages and wealth deficit, which, in turn, made the cheap energy deficit worse, and even more political pressure for even more inequality of wealth and to keep the one lever Americans still had - the ability to drive further to keep costs down, since they could no longer strike or organize to raise real wages. This started the cycle all over again. This is the key to the move to the right - by creating an economy which is determined by the scarcity of one commodity: oil, and a money system which bends around the dynamics of that one commodity, an environment is fostered in which people think as conservatives first. It also means that many of the problems that the progressive movement has identified over the years are symptoms, and not original causes, of the lurch to the right in American politics.
    The only Democratic politician capable of creating a large policitical constituency was Bill Clinton, and he failed when he tried to take the problem head-on with a "Carbon Tax," because Americans would not give up the ability to burn oil to lower other costs: housing costs by driving farther, consumption costs by shopping around, government costs by being able to play one state against the others. Instead Clinton came up with a more complex plan, one that offered a more circuitous, but more politically palatable way out of the paper-for-oil trap.
    Clinton's economic program, called "Rubinomics," was driven by the financial wizardry of Bob Rubin, and by the technology policy spearheaded by Albert Gore. It was meant to create a boom in new technology - the "New Economy," which would create private asset wealth that foreigners would buy. Thus instead of selling National Debt and financial leverage, the United States could, instead, sell speculative assets such as internet stocks. This substitution of entrepreneurial paper for government paper was the key part of Clinton's attempt to loosen the American economy from the stranglehold of the paper-for-oil cycle. It was almost genius.

    It almost worked.

    What it was, and why it failed, are a topic for another day. But answering that question will clarify why the New Economy and technology became a way, not to escape the paper-for-oil trap, but to exacerbate it, and why Peak Oil is very likely to lead, not to a more progressive future, but, on the contrary, to one in which reactionary forces will consolidate power, rather than lose power.

    [1] The National Resources Defense Council has a page devoted to the Bush record on Global Warming
    [2] and
    [3] Even the Republican Congressional Budget Office admits that there is a long term decline in America's trade position
    [4] The treasury has a raw table since 1950: and a table of the interest on that debt
    [5] fair has some useful graphs:
    [6] There have been many surveys of this, some charts I put together are here:
    [7] My original article with this title is here: It includes graphs of the energy deficit: and the investment deficit: you can see from the energy deficit graph, the most reliable way to reduce America's energy deficit is to hold a recession.
    [8] The term is from Amartya Sen's groundbreaking work on famines, in which he points out that famines are not caused merely by the shortage of food, but by a circumstance in which people are not entitled, under their political and economic system, to "legitimately" claim enough food to feed themselves with the wages they are capable of earning.
    [9] For an example of how the trade and investment deficits link together, there is this Washington Post article:

    [10] Even before it hit bottom, it was being called a "crash": there is a wikipedia article here: