Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Treasury Secretary Nominee Says Failure To Ratify Kyoto Undermines U.S. Competitiveness

Treasury Secretary Nominee Says Failure To Ratify Kyoto Undermines U.S. Competitiveness
Think Progress

President Bush’s new nominee for Treasury Secretary, Goldman Sachs Chairman Henry M. Paulson Jr., not only endorses the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse emissions, but argues that the United States’ failure to enact Kyoto undermines the competitiveness of U.S. companies. Here’s a statement from the Nature Conservancy, where Paulson serves as chairman of the board:

The Kyoto Protocol is a key first step to help slow the onslaught of global warming and benefit conservation efforts…Until the United States passes its own limits on global warming emissions, innovative companies based here will lose out on opportunities to sell reduced emission credits to companies complying with the Kyoto Protocol overseas. Additionally, without enacting our own emission limits, U.S. companies will lose ground to their competitors in Europe, Canada, Japan, and other countries participating in the Protocol who are developing clean technologies.

Goldman Sachs, under Paulson’s leadership, argued that the danger from global warming is imminent and requires “urgent” action by government to reduce emissions:

[C]limate change is one of the most significant environmental challenges of the 21st century and is linked to other important issues such as economic growth and development… Goldman Sachs is very concerned by the threat to our natural environment, to humans and to the economy presented by climate change and believes that it requires the urgent attention of and action by governments, business, consumers and civil society to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

As a result, Paulson’s nomination is strongly opposed by a coalition right-wing groups seeking to cast doubt on climate science, such as the National Center for Public Policy Research, describing Paulson as “diametrically opposed to the positions of [the Bush] Administration.”

Neo-cons question Bush’s democratisation strategy

Neo-cons question Bush’s democratisation strategy
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
Published: May 29 2006 21:52 | Last updated: May 29 2006 21:52
The Financial Times

President George W. Bush has likened the “war on terrorism” to the cold war against communism.

Addressing military cadets graduating from West Point, Mr Bush reaffirmed at the weekend that the US “will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people in every nation”.

But as the US struggles to assert itself on the international stage, the president’s most radical supporters now dismiss this as mere rhetoric, and traditional conservatives are questioning the wisdom of a democratisation strategy that has brought unpleasant consequences in the Middle East.

Administration officials speak privately of a sense of fatigue over the worsening crisis in Iraq that has drained energy from other important policy issues. Senior officials are leaving – not so unusual in a second term, but still giving the sense of a sinking ship run in some quarters by relatively inexperienced crew.

Neo-conservative commentators at the American Enterprise Institute wrote last week what amounted to an obituary of the Bush freedom doctrine....

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The coward-in-chief dishonors those who served

The Rant
The coward-in-chief dishonors those who served
Capitol Hill Blue
May 30, 2006, 04:50

....And it is a sad, cruel irony that this coward, who used the National Guard to hide from war now, more than any other President, sends members of the Guard and Reserves into Iraq to die for his war based on lies and a pre-determined political agenda.

The evidence says Bush planned a war with Iraq even before taking the Presidency in the disputed 2000 election. He talked about the need to "eliminate Saddam Hussein" during the campaign, hinted at it during his inaugural speech and then ordered the Pentagon to prepare plans for an invasion as one of his first actions as President.

When the nation reeled from the shock and horror of the 9/11 attacks, Bush showed no surprise or shock. He finished reading a children's story to a group of elementary school kids, then climbed into Air Force One and calmly told his assembled group of staff and advisors that "OK, we're at war." Within hours, targets were identified, plans readied and invasion orders prepared.

In retrospect, it was all too convenient, too prepared, too scripted. A President who wanted desperately to go to war had his excuse and the backing of a shell-shocked Congress and numbed American population.

Over the last four-and-a-half years, however, realization has replaced shock and we see more clearly how manipulation of events led to a war that was always part of the plan.

As I watched Bush deliver his Memorial Day speech at Arlington Cemetery Monday, I saw a man without an ounce of grief or remorse. Bush delivered his speech in a cold, calculated way, using a day of honor for dishonorable purposes, exploiting a time of memoriam to further his political agenda.

The debacle of Iraq will forever define the Presidency of George W. Bush as a monumental failure. But that is a political failure. Bush's loyalty lies not with the American people but with special interests that have long owned him. Those interests - the Halliburtons, the vast corporate defense industrial cabal and the mercenaries who always profit from war - got what they wanted.

They won, but America lost, and that loss will haunt this nation for many, many years.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The defining issue of our time is the media

"Media Matters"; by Jamison Foser
Media Matters

The defining issue of our time is not the Iraq war. It is not the "global war on terror." It is not our inability (or unwillingness) to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. Nor is it immigration, outsourcing, or growing income inequity. It is not education, it is not global warming, and it is not Social Security.

The defining issue of our time is the media.

The dominant political force of our time is not Karl Rove or the Christian Right or Bill Clinton. It is not the ruthlessness or the tactical and strategic superiority of the Republicans, and it is not your favorite theory about what is wrong with the Democrats.

The dominant political force of our time is the media.

Time after time, the news media have covered progressives and conservatives in wildly different ways -- and, time after time, they do so to the benefit of conservatives.

Consider the last two presidents. Bill Clinton faced near-constant media obsession with his "scandals," while George W. Bush has gotten off comparatively easy.

Even many members of the media have stopped contesting this painfully obvious point, instead offering dubious justifications. Bill Clinton's "scandals" made for better stories than George Bush's, we are told, because they were simpler and easier for readers and viewers to understand. "Sex sells," while George Bush's false claims about Iraq are much harder to explain.

This excuse is simply nonsense.

First, what's so hard to understand about this? George Bush and his administration systematically distorted available intelligence to lead the nation to war on false pretenses. His administration has been marked by corruption, incompetence, lies, secrecy, and flagrant disregard for bedrock constitutional principles. None of that can be too complicated: Polls suggest that the majority of Americans believe all of those things.

Second, even if it were true that Clinton's "scandals" were easier for consumers of news to understand, the ease of explaining an affair would, if we had a serious and functional news media, be more than offset by the far greater importance of Bush's misdeeds.

Finally, this is such a grotesque distortion of the media's treatment of Clinton that it is difficult to explain by anything other than outright dishonesty.....

The Race to the Bottom

"The Race to the Bottom"
by Shayne Munger
Daily Kos
Thu May 25, 2006 at 05:37:41 PM PDT

The Federal Reserve prepares a Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) every three years. The latest survey, released in April 2006, measures the net worth (total assets) of all households in the nation in 2004. This survey is a summary of a complete and through analysis of the individual wealth of different groups of all Americans. This latest report shows a huge inequality of wealth between a small number of households at the top of the income scale and those of us at the bottom half. In addition this report shows that this inequality is consistently growing and is becoming a permanent part of our society. This analysis reinforces my consistent contention that we are well on our way to a third world economy. It also shows that the conservatives are succeeding in their goal of dismantling all the advances in wealth and security that were gained for the average American family through the Democratic social programs of The New Deal, The New Frontier and The Great Society.

The conservatives have made the dismantling of the American social programs the main part of their agenda since FDR took office in 1933 and after he moved to smash the inequality between the American classes that was one of the main causes of the "Great Depression". These Democratic programs led to the amazing growth of the American middle class, the establishment of an economy that was the envy of the world and to the rise of the United States a superpower that it is today.

These "economic" conservatives started their grab for power with the rise of Barry Goldwater and continued with the elections of Richard Nixon, Ronald Regan, George Walker Bush and George W. Bush and also with the Republican take over of the House of Representatives in the Mid 90s. They accomplished this by using wedge issues to ally themselves with the Dixiecrats of the South and the Christian conservative movement of the "Bible Belt". These wedge issues have been used to take advantage of the racial bigotry and the belief in religious theocracy by a large portion of the American electorate from the very beginning of the conservative movement. The economic conservatives, consisting of the very wealthy and corporate and financial leaders, got people to vote against their financial and social interests by exploiting these racial fears and their religious fanaticism. They are continuing to implement this agenda and dramatically accelerating this attack on the Democratic Party's moral values under President George W. Bush and his rubber stamp, corporate controlled, Republican Congress. To make matters worse, the Republican clone Democrats from the Democratic Leadership Council have aided and abetted them in this drive to the bottom. That is the bottom line for the wealthy and the corporate executives and the bottom of the barrel for the American family. These DLC Democrats include the likes of Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton Dianne Feinstein, Evan Bayh and Rahm Emmanuel. You can see this in their support for The WTO, the Fast Track Authority for the President, NAFTA, The Chinese Trade Agreement, The Bankruptcy Bill, CAFTA and the many other unfair trade agreements that have been a disaster for the American worker, the American middle class and the American family.

So let's look at the economic impact on the wealth of all Americans as a result of this immoral agenda that is being pursued by the wealthy and corporate lobby conservatives of this country....

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Brave and Startling Truth

A Brave and Startling Truth
Maya Angelou
American Poet, Author and Actress

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

This poem was written and delivered in honor of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

© Maya Angelou, from A Brave And Startling Truth
Published by Random House

How Bush Brewed the Iran Crisis

May 23, 2006

Paranoia as Policy

How Bush Brewed the Iran Crisis


Why did the Bush regime create a crisis over Iran?

The answer is that the Bush regime is desperate to widen the war in the Middle East.

What has Iran done? Unlike Israel, Pakistan and India, countries that developed nuclear weapons on the sly, Iran signed the non-proliferation treaty. Countries that sign this treaty have the right to develop nuclear energy. The International Atomic Energy Agency monitors their energy programs to guard against the programs being used to cloak a weapons program. Until the Bush regime provoked a crisis, Iran was cooperating with the inspection safeguards. The weapons inspectors have found no Iranian weapons programs.

There is no evidence for the Bush regime's accusation that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. What the Bush regime is trying to do is to unilaterally take away Iran's right under the non-proliferation treaty to develop nuclear energy. It is the Bush regime that is violating the treaty by attempting to deny its benefits to Iran. The Bush regime is acting illegally because of its paranoid suspicion that 5 or 10 years in the future Iran will use what it has managed to learn about uranium enrichment to develop a weapons program....

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The War on Jim McDermott

The War on Jim McDermott
Republican Leaders in D.C. Want to Destroy Seattle's Defiantly Liberal Congressman. In the Process, They May Destroy the First Amendment.
The Stranger

....What concerns McDermott most these days is the story's ending, which is still unwritten. It could very well take place at the U.S. Supreme Court. It has the potential to land McDermott in significant financial peril. And it could lead to new restrictions on the ability of the press to print stories, like the 1971 Pentagon Papers series, that rely on illegally obtained information.


The Republican legal crusade against McDermott has its roots in a 1996 ethics charge that bedeviled former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. At the time, McDermott was the ranking Democrat on the House ethics committee and Gingrich, the mastermind of the 1994 "Republican Revolution," which gave Republicans control of Congress for the first time in 40 years, was facing complaints over his use of a college course for political purposes. To settle the complaint, Gingrich agreed to pay a $300,000 fine and promised not to publicly minimize, or "spin," the charge against him.

"That was the genesis of this phone call," McDermott says, referring to a conference call that Gingrich held in secret with Republican leaders shortly after the settlement. "Essentially, he was encouraging them to figure out how to spin it," McDermott says—a direct violation of his agreement with the ethics committee.

We are sitting in McDermott's ground-floor suite in the Longworth House Office Building as he recounts this episode, a picture of Mahatma Gandhi on the wall to his left, along with a framed magazine cover showing him holding a "Bush Lied" placard. On a large bookshelf built into the wall nearby sit old copies of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a totem from his days working as a psychiatrist. Other books trace his passions: AIDS, history, politics, Africa, social health. Maps of Iraq and Afghanistan are tacked up here and there, and on the coffee table is a book titled simply Guantánamo.

McDermott, 69, has an extremely expressive face; the corners of his mouth move from near the top of his cheekbones to his jaw line depending on his mood, and his nimble gray eyebrows can be deployed to great dramatic effect. Deep wrinkles only add to the expressive potential.

With 17 years in Congress, there isn't much in politics that shocks McDermott anymore. But what happened after Gingrich secretly broke his promise still leaves McDermott smirking with incredulity. "If you wrote it in a script for a Hollywood movie," he says, "they'd laugh you out of the studio."

Gingrich's secret conference call involved several members of the Republican House leadership, and as it happened, one of those leaders, Boehner, the congressman from Ohio, was driving through Florida at the very moment his colleagues needed him to be on the phone. So Boehner pulled into the parking lot of a Waffle House and joined the conference call on his cell. The date was December 21, 1996.

Not far away, a Florida couple, John and Alice Martin, were messing around with their police radio scanner and happened to pick up the call as the Republicans were talking about how to spin Gingrich's ethics charge. Being Democrats who followed politics, they realized whom they were hearing and decided to make a tape for posterity. Then, realizing what they had heard, they decided to tell their congresswoman, Karen L. Thurman. She, in turn, encouraged them to give the tape to McDermott because of his position on the ethics committee....

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

His Adequacy hits out over climate change

His Adequacy hits out over climate change

Charlotte Higgins
Monday May 22, 2006
The Guardian

It was a disorienting sight: the man whom many feel should be US president attired in impeccable evening dress, surrounded by Tinseltown's finest and occupying a platform at the Cannes film festival, just like Tom Hanks, Penélope Cruz and Audrey Tatou before him.
In fact Al Gore's demeanour served to demonstrate the intimacy between politics and showbiz, and, if anything, he outdid Hollywood at its own game. Whereas stars such Hanks usually exhibit self-deprecation, Mr Gore opted for the big entrance, sweeping in to applause.

Article continues

The conference moderator inquired how Mr Gore should be addressed. "Your Adequacy," replied the former vice-president. Hanks himself could not have delivered the line more smoothly. The new Gore radiates a supple charm that many felt he lacked in the 2000 campaign.
Mr Gore was in Cannes for the European premiere of An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary on the "planetary emergency" of global warming, the issue to which he has devoted himself since his election defeat. The film, directed by Davis Guggenheim, splices material from Mr Gore's own roadshow - an awareness-raising talk - with chat about his family, conversion to the environmental cause, and how the presidency slipped from him.

Responding to speculation that he might run for president again, he replied: "I don't plan to be a candidate again."

He was much less guarded about the US administration's approach to the environment. "The [American] people are way ahead of the politicians on the issue of global warming ... I believe there is a chance that within two years Bush and Cheney will be forced to change position. You can only create your own reality for so long. Mother Nature has joined this debate with a strong voice; Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call."

He said political and climate systems moved at a glacier's pace."Then suddenly [they] move swiftly when a tipping point is crossed. The whole point [of this film] is to try to move the USA and the world past that tipping point, beyond which the political system stops moving in a slow and frustrating way and actually engenders sudden and dramatic change." He added: "We are at the fork in the road. Down one path lies the point of no return, beyond which the environment degrades, threatening human civilisation. In the other direction lies hope ... those politicians left behind will be out of office." The crisis demanded "an ethical solution right now".

He is positive about the solutions. If the US accepts the successor to the Kyoto treaty, if an effort is pursued with China and India on board, if alternative sources of energy are researched - there is, he thinks, still a chance to avert the worst.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

How Does President Bush Compare with Other Wartime Presidents With Respect to Free Speech Issues?

How Does President Bush Compare with Other Wartime Presidents With Respect to Free Speech Issues?
Friday, May. 19, 2006

Lately, the Bush Administration has been talking of using the Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute the New York Times and the Washington Post. Yet these veteran newspapers' "crimes" consist merely of publishing Pulitzer-Prize-winning articles on the CIA's secret prisons, and the NSA's secret surveillance programs.

Not even Nixon sank so low. He might have initiated criminal prosecutions against the Times for printing the Pentagon Papers, yet did not.

And in other respects, the Bush Administration makes Nixon look like a piker when it comes to free speech, as well as other civil liberties issues: Its electronic surveillance of American citizens has been done in utter defiance of the law.

Does the "war on terror" justify the Administration's incursions on civil liberties? Putting this Administration's actions in historical perspective suggests the answer is a resounding no....

We Can Be Heroes

Saturday, May 20th, 2006 at 8:45 pm
Late Nite FDL: We Can Be Heroes
By Pachacutec

...Ned Lamont’s victory last night was our collective victory in the netroots and grassroots. His is the first major campaign wholly conceived and developed through our movement....

Monday, May 15, 2006

If Past Is Prologue, George Bush Is Becoming An Increasingly Dangerous President

If Past Is Prologue, George Bush Is Becoming An Increasingly Dangerous President
Friday, Apr. 21, 2006

President George W. Bush's presidency is a disaster - one that's still unfolding. In a mid-2004 column, I argued that, at that point, Bush had already demonstrated that he possessed the least attractive and most troubling traits among those that political scientist James Dave Barber has cataloged in his study of Presidents' personality types.

Now, in early 2006, Bush has continued to sink lower in his public approval ratings, as the result of a series of events that have sapped the public of confidence in its President, and for which he is directly responsible. This Administration goes through scandals like a compulsive eater does candy bars; the wrapper is barely off one before we've moved on to another.

Currently, President Bush is busy reshuffling his staff to reinvigorate his presidency. But if Dr. Barber's work holds true for this president -- as it has for others - the hiring and firing of subordinates will not touch the core problems that have plagued Bush's tenure.

That is because the problems belong to the President - not his staff. And they are problems that go to character, not to strategy.

Barber's Analysis of Presidential Character

As I discussed in my prior column, Barber, after analyzing all the presidents through Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, found repeating patterns of common elements relating to character, worldview, style, approach to dealing with power, and expectations. Based on these findings, Barber concluded that presidents fell into clusters of characteristics.

He also found in this data Presidential work patterns which he described as "active" or "passive." For example, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were highly active; Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan were highly passive.

Barber further analyzed the emotional relationship of presidents toward their work - dividing them into presidents who found their work an emotionally satisfying experience, and thus "positive," and those who found the job emotionally taxing, and thus "negative." Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan, for example, were presidents who enjoyed their work; Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon had "negative" feeling toward it.

From these measurements, Barber developed four repeating categories into which he was able to place all presidents: those like FDR who actively pursued their work and had positive feelings about their efforts (active/positives); those like Nixon who actively pursued the job but had negative feelings about it (active/negatives); those like Reagan who were passive about the job but enjoyed it (passive/positives); and, finally, those who followed the pattern of Thomas Jefferson -- who both was passive and did not enjoy the work (passive/negatives)....

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Labor and Netroots

Labor and Netroots
By diogenes

(Inspired by an AlterNet article on John Edwards and his support for labor unions as part of his anti-poverty strategy, reader diogenes was inspired to write the following piece which echoes what Markos and Jerome say in Crashing the Gate: there is an extremely important bridge that needs to be built between between the netroots and labor. They seem to be fighting may of the same foes — JH)

... CCD’s [Country Club Democratic (CCD) ‘leadership’] would rather eat their children than heed their membership. They dread us more than Republicans – they have more in common with Republicans. Unions are not going to listen to dues-paying members – the leadership has more in common with the CEO’s. CCD’s are counting on us to remember the Nader factor, hold our noses and vote for their guy – then on to business as usual on the cocktail weenie and corporate jet circuit. They are not going to accommodate us, or cede an inch.

We know Feingold gets this. Dean gets it. Edwards gets it, too. I can’t tell you how smart I think it is for Edwards to bypass the leadership, and address the roots. If you want to engage unions in the netroots, forget the hierarchy. Talk to local legislative and grievance committee members – they are already activists. They’ve already butted their heads against the corporate and union hierarchy, and are ready for alternatives. So are their members. These are the folks that do the dirty work of voter turn-out.

Hooking up net activists and union activists is a huge piece of the puzzle, and good on FDL for talking responsibility into their own hands, and making things happen. If we’re going to have a democracy, we’ve got to pitch in.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bush Beats Out Nixon: Least Liked President Ever

The most despised president in history
Posted on Saturday, May 13, 2006
Bush Beats Out Nixon: Least Liked President Ever
David Swanson
Smirking Chimp

This day has been long coming. The graphs have shown it would soon be upon us: Now, here we are. With this new Harris poll, available through the Wall Street Journal, President Bush claims the titlelong held by Richard Nixon: Least Liked President Ever (or at least since there have been polls). And this data comes to us from before USA Today reported on Bush's NSA secretly monitoring our phone records.

Bush's approval rating is now at 29%, and disapproval at an astonishing 71%. Well, it's astonishing that it took so long to get there. But it's also record-setting. The best Nixon could do was 66%. Nobody else comes close. Bush is breaking new ground.

Among Democrats, 10% approve of the job Bush is doing. But that's just those wacky Democrats (although a fair number of Republicans have switched parties during Bush's reign). Among Independents, support is surely much higher. Well, not really. It's actually at 19%.

It turns out that it's only Republicans holding Bush up at 29%. A whole 67% of Republicans approve of him. 67% -- When I was in school that was a D minus.....

Friday, May 12, 2006

We have to take action

...We have to take action.

This is our moment. Our public servants are there to follow the will of the people. If the people want George Bush to stop breaking the law, then the people must, and can, make him stop.

So, here are some first suggestions to help citizens stand up to the Bush administration: Click here

Killing the CIA

Killing the CIA

In Goss, Bush found the perfect hatchet man to take vengeance on a despised agency. Now Goss is gone, scandal looms -- and the CIA is ruined.

By Sidney Blumenthal

...After the brief interim appointment of CIA professional John McLaughlin, on Aug. 10, 2004, almost three years to the day after the Aug. 6 presidential daily briefing on bin Laden, Bush named Porter Goss the new director of central intelligence. The president was looking for someone to rid him of the troublesome agency. In Goss, he thought he had discovered the perfect man for the bloody job, but the nature of the task undid Goss, and in his unraveling another scandal unfolded.

In the absence of any reliable evidence, CIA analysts had refused to put their stamp of approval on the administration's reasons for the Iraq war. Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, personally came to Langley to intimidate analysts on several occasions. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his then deputy secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, constructed their own intelligence bureau, called the Office of Special Plans, to sidestep the CIA and shunt disinformation corroborating the administration's arguments directly to the White House. "The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made," Paul Pillar, then the chief Middle East analyst for the CIA, writes in the March-April issue of Foreign Affairs. "The process did not involve intelligence work designed to find dangers not yet discovered or to inform decisions not yet made. Instead, it involved research to find evidence in support of a specific line of argument -- that Saddam was cooperating with al Qaeda -- which in turn was being used to justify a specific policy decision."

But despite urgent pressures to report to the contrary, the CIA never reported that Saddam presented an imminent national security threat to the United States, that he was near to developing nuclear weapons, or that he had any ties to al-Qaida. Moreover, analysts predicted a protracted insurgency after an invasion of Iraq. Tenet, despite the lack of cooperation from the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence, acted as backslapper for the administration's policy.

The White House was in a fury. The CIA's professionalism was perceived as political warfare, and the agency apparently was seen as the center of a conspiracy to overthrow the administration.....

....The militarization of intelligence under Bush is likely to guarantee military solutions above other options. Uniformed officers trained to identity military threats and trends will take over economic and political intelligence for which they are untrained and often incapable, and their priorities will skew analysis. But the bias toward the military option will be one that the military in the end will dislike. It will find itself increasingly bearing the brunt of foreign policy and stretched beyond endurance. The vicious cycle leads to a downward spiral. And Hayden's story will be like a dull shadow of Powell's -- a tale of a "good soldier" who salutes, gets promoted, is used and abused, and is finally discarded.

No president has ever before ruined an agency at the heart of national security out of pique and vengeance. The manipulation of intelligence by political leadership demands ever tightened control. But political purges provide only temporary relief from the widening crisis of policy failure.

New Condominium Project Goes Solar

May 10, 2006

Brockton, MA, USA: New Condominium Project Goes Solar

A $6 million project is breaking ground this week in Brockton, Mass., and will be the first all-solar, new condominium construction project in New England, according to Johnson Square Builders, the developer. Each of the townhouses at Johnson Square Village will have its own designated PV (photovoltaic or solar) systems that will save residents nearly $600 a year on energy costs.

Johnson Square Village will comprise seven residential buildings for a total of 26 townhouses. Each unit will feature an 18-panel, 3.24 kilowatt (kW) solar array that will harness the sun's energy to power appliances, computers, TVs and other electronics. The PV systems are expected to generate 4,212 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, based on New England's climate.

According to Conservation Services Group (CSG), designer of the PV systems, solar output on each home will provide more than 60 percent of the home's electrical usage. Townhouses at Johnson Square Village will be priced starting at $214,900, which includes the entire cost for the PV system. The model home and the first building are scheduled for completion this July. The remainder of the project will be completed by early 2007.

Support for the Johnson Square Village project is provided by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) and CSG. Last month, the MTC awarded Johnson Square Builders a $458,300 grant from the Renewable Energy Trust to help defray the cost of the panels and the installation.

According to Trust Director Warren Leon, "This project addresses two critical needs in the Commonwealth -- housing and energy -- by creating healthier new, affordable homes for families and generating clean electricity that produces no harmful emissions. Working with partners like the City of Brockton, CSG and Johnson Square, we hope to change the way homes, schools and businesses are built, so that green construction becomes the standard throughout Massachusetts."

CSG CEO Stephen Cowell said, "This project dispels the myth that solar is too expensive for most people to own. Through the MTC's grant, we are able to design a project that is affordable and will help residents cut energy costs. Most importantly, by purchasing a home at Johnson Square Village, residents will be supporting the PV industry in Massachusetts."

Brockton Mayor James Harrington is excited that his city is hosting the first new, 100 percent solar condo project in the region. He said, "Brockton, throughout its history, has always been at the forefront of innovation and discovery. We are thrilled that Johnson Square Village chose Brockton to bring forth such a noteworthy project that will once again elevate our great city into the pantheon of history."

Johnson Square Village will be ENERGY STAR®-rated, meeting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) guidelines for maximum energy efficiency.

The project will also be LEED®-certified. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a program of the U.S. Green Building Council.) In addition to featuring solar energy, Johnson Square Village will have high efficiency heating systems with programmable controls and double paned low-e windows.

Another environmental feature of the project is a rain water containment system that will be used for irrigation. ENERGY STAR-qualified homes are at least 15 percent more energy efficient than a standard built home, but depending on the installed energy features, these homes can often save significantly more energy.

"Combined with the savings realized from generating solar energy, residents will be saving more than 50 percent on their energy costs every month," says John Livermore, ENERGY STAR Homes program manager at CSG.

Johnson Square Builders, LLC, is based in Brockton, Mass. CSG, of Westborough, Mass., administers the ENERGY STAR Homes new construction program and also trains builders, electricians and technicians on how to install and maintain PV systems.

The PV panels are manufactured by Evergreen Solar, Inc., of Marlborough, Mass. The homes at Johnson Square Village are listed through Premier Properties of Brockton and financed by the Community Bank of Brockton.

Parricide at the CIA?

Parricide at the CIA?
By Mark Schmitt
TPM Cafe

...We all take it for granted that Bush’s feelings about his father had something to do with the compulsion to invade Iraq. It could have been the genuine loyalty of a loving son -- Bush supposedly said of Saddam, "he tried to kill my father," sufficient proof that Saddam was evil. Or it could be a lot more complicated, such as a desire to prove to his withholding father, after decades as the inadequate older son, that he could accomplish something, something that had eluded the father himself. Or perhaps to stick it to the father for his perceived loss of nerve in not finishing the job. It’s all fodder for the psychobiographer in every one of us.

But why wouldn’t a similar analysis apply equally, or moreso, to the CIA? The elder Bush was director of the CIA when W was in his late twenties, roughly the period when he had the legendary confrontation with his father over his drinking and general loser-ness, and challenged the father to fight him, "mano a mano." The CIA building is named after his father. And I believe there is some reason to think that the elder Bush’s connection to the Agency predates his appointment as director (without buying the LaRouchite theory that places Bush 41 on the grassy knoll in Dallas). The CIA is a presence in the Bush family life in much the way that Yale is, another institution toward which Bush 43 holds a weird hostility -- and, of course, those two institutions are themselves linked.

I don’t have a very specific theory here, but it seems natural to wonder whether this almost inexplicable hostility to the CIA as an institution has some deeper roots in Bush’s complex relationship to his father.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Now is the time for a left-right alliance

Now is the time for a left-right alliance
May 10, 2006

A rebel alliance already exists that could stop Bush administration attacks on the Constitution

Thomas R. Eddlem

I'm currently a life member of the John Birch Society and formerly served on the staff of the organization for 13 years.

So why should any left-winger reading this care a fig about what I have to say?

Because of a conversation I had with another conservative magazine writer recently. In frustration at the unconstitutional excesses of the Bush administration, I blurted out to him: "The only people doing any good out there are the people at Air America." I expected to shock him with the statement, but his two-word reply shocked me: "And"

We were both exaggerating for effect, but fact is, as my journalist friend continued, "We probably only disagree on, maybe, 25 percent of the issues." I'd have put the percentage a little higher, though I tacked an ending onto his sentence: "...and those issues aren't especially important right now."

When Air America started, I told myself and my friends that it would fail because it would be redundant. The Left already controls all the television networks besides Fox, along with most of the major newspapers. But here we are a year later, and the most penetrating news analysis on television is - and I'm not exaggerating here - Jon Stewart's Daily Show on Comedy Central....

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Someone who needs help

A Day in the Life

by jurassicpork

Mon May 08, 2006 at 09:03:17 PM PDT

....So, let's pick a particular, something and someone not so remote and untouchable, something or someone identifiable that touches on several abstract but still-salient issues. What we need is a synecdoche, a small particular that's representative of a larger whole.

Here's one: Let's review a day in the life of 71 year-old Lee Sevilla and her little dog Sandy.

Every morning at seven, she wakes up and walks her dog. Then she goes to the bathroom to groom herself. If it's a work day for the 71 year-old, she goes to work. If not, she'll drive to Playa and take in a million dollar ocean view. Later, she'll go to the local library and dabble on her laptop and make prints to order for $60 apiece. At night, she walks Sandy again before retiring for the night.

Sounds idyllic, no? If that fails to tug at your heart strings, then some context is called for. Now let's play tug-o-war with those heart strings:

Substitute the expected bed with a driver-side bucket seat of a Dodge Neon. You heard me right. She's been living in one car or another since the Clinton administration, eight years ago this Christmas Day, to be more exact, which was the day the son who'd been putting her up had committed suicide.

The bathroom she uses is one at a nearby Chevron gas station (she has to take sponge baths). Every Sunday, she goes to church then treats herself to a $45 a night motel room that affords her the only bed and bath she'll see all week.

Her job pays $10 an hour but only for sixteen hours a week. Between this, her Social Security check and her tiny print business, she still makes far less than she needs for even a modest apartment. "If I could figure out how to make another $500 a month, I think I'll be fine," she says. Look at the sentence again then remember her age. At 71, she's already nine years past the point where many women begin collecting their social security. Why should anyone in their seventies have to scratch for another $125 a week just to stay off the streets?

Even with a heart condition, she doesn't go to the doctor because she can't afford the Medicare co-pays. It stands to reason that her dog of ten years, perhaps named after Little Orphan Annie's dog, hasn't been to a vet in a while.....

...I don't know why this hadn't occured to me earlier. There are many bloggers, obviously, who are adept at setting up paypal accounts. So far, this blog posting has been seen (mainly thanks to Mike Finn at Crooks and Liars. Belated thank you to Mike.) by over 1000 people. Odds are it'll be seen by at least another thousand more. If just 125 of us would agree to have a dollar taken out of our bank accounts or if we can be trusted to mail a dollar a week in, that would be enough money to set up Lee Sevilla and her dog Sandy in a small apartment. Add to that an occasional print order and I imagine that would guarantee that she would eat well, too (with no kitchen in which to cook, I imagine that's she's eating out every night except when she makes spaghetti on her hot plate at the Motel 6 every Sunday). If any bloggers reading this know how to set up a paypal account that she can access (I'll write to Lee to see if she's amenable to the idea of me setting up an internet-based email account for her, like Yahoo, for instance), let me know so we can hammer out the details. Flowery prose and hand-wringing can't be deposited at the bank but money from a paypal account can. My email address is, if you haven't already seen it on my profile. Thank you whatever you decide to do. Anyone who wishes to buy prints and/or hand-drawn postcards from Lee can send a photo or other request to Lee Sevilla at P.O. Box 5484, Playa del Rey, CA 90296 (Read article for information on how to order/help.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bush & Nixon photo finish

Jonathan Schwarz:
Bush & Nixon photo finish

Six months ago I graphed Bush and Nixon’s approval and disapproval ratings against each other. Then I did it again last week. I wasn’t planning to update it for a while—but the newest Gallup poll shows Bush’s approval rating dropping from 34 to 31%, and his disapproval rating rising from 63 to 65%.

While Bush’s approval rating is still a bit higher than Nixon’s at a comparable point, his disapproval rating now exceeds or equals that of Nixon’s in every Gallup poll except one. This sole exception is the final poll in July, 1974 just before Nixon left office, when Nixon’s disapproval rating was a single point higher at 66%.

What’s really remarkable is this is WITHOUT any congressional investigation of Bush’s misdeeds, plus an economy far better (as much as it sucks for many) than in summer 1974. So Bush really has nowhere to go but down. This one is going to make sporting history.

See Graphs

Why the anger?

An Open Letter to Richard Cohen
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 09 May 2006

....Why the anger? Because that lesson didn't take, at least with this crowd. Why the anger? Because millions of people are staggered by the idea that, yes Virginia, we have to go through this again. We have to watch soldiers slaughter and be slaughtered for reasons that bear no markings of truth. We have to watch the reputation of this great nation be savaged. We have to watch as our leaders lie to us with their bare faces hanging out.

Why the anger? It can be summed up in one run-on sentence: We have lost two towers in New York, a part of the Pentagon, an important American city called New Orleans, our economic solvency, our global reputation, our moral authority, our children's future, we have lost tens of thousands of American soldiers to death and grievous injury, we must endure the Abramoffs and the Cunninghams and the Libbys and the whores and the bribes and the utter corruption, we must contemplate the staggering depth of the hole we have been hurled down into, and we expect little to no help from the mainstream DC press, whose lazy go-along-to-get-along cocktail-circuit mentality allowed so much of this to happen because they failed comprehensively to do their job.

George W. Bush and his pals used September 11th against the American people, used perhaps the most horrific day in our collective history, deliberately and with intent, to foster a war of choice that has killed untold tens of thousands of human beings and basically bankrupted our country. They lied about the threat posed by Iraq. They destroyed the career of a CIA agent who was tasked to keep an eye on Iran's nuclear ambitions, and did so to exact petty political revenge against a critic. They tortured people, and spied on American civilians.

You cannot fathom anger arising from this?...

Orphans of the Storm

Orphans of the Storm
New York Times
Published: May 9, 2006

IF you thought that the government's response to last year's Hurricane Katrina was a shocking display of mismanagement and incompetence, you should see what's happening to the displaced children of families now trapped in FEMA's trailer parks and other shelters.

Brian Cronin

Hurricane Katrina and the floods that followed destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, forcing out more than one million people. Some families have found housing and jobs in communities that could accommodate the influx, but a far bleaker reality faces the rest.

FEMA has not released exact numbers, but school officials estimate that displaced children from Louisiana alone number more than 125,000. Most of their families were living in poverty before the hurricane. Now they subsist in tiny trailers, hastily assembled by the government in remote fields with few dependable services, little access to community resources and no sense of when they will be able to return to some version of normal life.

Several recent studies, including one by Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health and the Children's Health Fund, reveal that unmet health care needs among these displaced families are far worse than any of us imagined.

One in three children in FEMA-subsidized shelters has at least one chronic illness like asthma requiring medical care. Half of the children who had access to medical care before the storm no longer do. And although nearly half the parents in the shelters report that their children exhibit symptoms of emotional or behavioral disorders, the evaluation and treatment they urgently need is almost impossible to secure.

Health isn't the only problem for those languishing in FEMA shelters. Nearly one in four school-age children is either not enrolled in school or misses 10 days of class every month. Many who do attend school in their temporary host communities find the classrooms overcrowded, the staff exhausted and stress levels unbearably high.

Thanks to the hard work of local officials and Congressional delegations from the affected states, billions of dollars will be available to repair levees, rebuild communities and re-establish the economy of the Gulf Coast. But this will take years, far too long for the children who are now suffering and waiting in FEMA's shelters. They urgently require an emergency relief package that directly addresses their most pressing health care needs.

For $100 million — a small fraction of the billions allocated for reconstruction — the government could support a force of at least 200 pediatricians and family doctors, 100 specially trained mental health workers, 25 mobile medical units and a much strengthened school-based health care network throughout the gulf region. It could also put vital health care information in a computer database and set up virtual access to medical centers for children who can't get to specialists' offices.

We are watching the worst children's health crisis in modern American history unfold in the gulf area. After the trauma of Hurricane Katrina, this secondary disaster — again under the auspices of the United States Department of Homeland Security — may have far more serious consequences. Thousands of children are now seemingly abandoned by a federal government still unable to function effectively when it counts the most.

Irwin Redlener is the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia and the president of the Children's Health Fund.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Worst President in History?

The Worst President in History?
Posted Apr 21, 2006 12:34 PM
Rolling Stone

One of America's leading historians assesses George W. Bush
Flashback: Bush in '99 -- We Warned You!

George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.

From time to time, after hours, I kick back with my colleagues at Princeton to argue idly about which president really was the worst of them all. For years, these perennial debates have largely focused on the same handful of chief executives whom national polls of historians, from across the ideological and political spectrum, routinely cite as the bottom of the presidential barrel. Was the lousiest James Buchanan, who, confronted with Southern secession in 1860, dithered to a degree that, as his most recent biographer has said, probably amounted to disloyalty -- and who handed to his successor, Abraham Lincoln, a nation already torn asunder? Was it Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, who actively sided with former Confederates and undermined Reconstruction? What about the amiably incompetent Warren G. Harding, whose administration was fabulously corrupt? Or, though he has his defenders, Herbert Hoover, who tried some reforms but remained imprisoned in his own outmoded individualist ethic and collapsed under the weight of the stock-market crash of 1929 and the Depression's onset? The younger historians always put in a word for Richard M. Nixon, the only American president forced to resign from office.

Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure."....

Gas Ache

Gas Ache
America needs an Apollo-scale program to shift to renewable energy and more efficient vehicles.

By Robert Kuttner
Web Exclusive: 05.01.06
The American Prospect
America needs an Apollo-scale program to shift to renewable energy and more efficient vehicles. Politicians of both parties, particularly Republicans, are scrambling to deal with the voter pain of $3-a-gallon gasoline. President Bush wants a $100 tax rebate to help consumers pay for more costly fuel and more tax credits for people who buy (mostly Japanese-made) hybrid cars. He has revived the recurring Republican idea of drilling in Alaska's wilderness. He proposes to suspend federal purchases for the national petroleum reserve. ''Every little bit helps," Bush said, rather pitifully. Next, he'll be wearing Jimmy Carter's sweaters.

Democrats' ideas include the proposal by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey to suspend temporarily the (industrial world's lowest) federal gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon to be offset by an excess-profits tax on oil companies, a federal investigation of price gouging, and demands that Bush ''jawbone" his chums at the oil companies and in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon wants oil companies to start paying long-avoided royalties for petroleum drilled on federal lands.

The oil companies, meanwhile, are practicing damage control. Their full-page newspaper ads show (accurately) that oil profits as a percent of sales are modest. But wait a minute: the higher the retail price, the higher the profit -- and the percentage stays the same. They could make the same claim if gas went to $10 a gallon. Their profits relative to invested capital are off the charts. ExxonMobil just released its first-quarter profits: more than $8 billion -- its highest ever. ExxonMobil CEO Lee R. Raymond, who recently retired, was paid $400 million last year.

The oil companies argue that the main culprit is temporary bottlenecks in refining capacity (caused in part by those pesty environmental regulations) and that their astronomical profits are necessary because much of their boodle gets plowed back into oil exploration. But that's exactly the problem. The political and financial dominance of the oil industry, and the related premise that we mainly need more drilling, just reinforces the national illusion that we can keep running our economy on fossil fuels.....

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ridicule and Contempt

Ridicule and Contempt
By Sidney Blumenthal
The Guardian UK

Thursday 04 May 2006
An imperial president is smothering the system of checks and balances, imperiling free speech.

The most scathing public critique of the Bush presidency and the complicity of a craven press corps was delivered at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday by a comedian. Bush was reported afterwards to be seething, while the press corps responded with stone-cold silence. In many of their reports of the event they airbrushed out the joker.

Stephen Colbert performed within 10 yards of Bush's hostile stare and before 2,600 members of the press and their guests. After his mock praise of Bush as a rock against reality, Colbert censured the press by flattering its misfeasance. "Over the last five years you people were so good - over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out ... Here's how it works: the president makes decisions ... The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spellcheck and go home ... Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!".

The day after Colbert's performance, the New York Times published a front-page story on the latest phase of the administration's war on the press. Bush is weighing "the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws". Since the Washington Post exposed the existence of CIA "black site" prisons holding detainees without due process of law and the New York Times disclosed the president's order to the National Security Agency to engage in domestic surveillance without legal court warrants, the administration has applied new draconian methods to clamp down.

"Has the New York Times violated the Espionage Act?" asks an article in the neoconservative journal Commentary by Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior editor, that lays out the case for prosecution. When the Post and Times won Pulitzer prizes for their stories, William Bennett, a former Republican cabinet secretary and now a commentator on CNN, said: "What they did is worthy of jail."

At Bush's orders dragnets are being conducted throughout the national security bureaucracy in search of press sources. And the FBI subpoenaed four decades of files accumulated by recently deceased investigative journalist Jack Anderson in an attempt to exhume old classified material.

Bush takes a different attitude on his own leaking of secrets. Dozens of National Security Council documents were leaked to journalist Bob Woodward for his 2002 encomium, Bush At War. Vice-President Cheney and his staff leaked disinformation to reporters to make the case that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD. And Bush and Cheney authorised Cheney's then chief of staff Lewis Libby to leak portions of the national intelligence estimate on Iraq's WMD to sympathetic reporters in an effort to discredit a critic, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.

In January, two officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (the so-called Israel Lobby) were indicted for receiving classified material from a Pentagon official who was imprisoned. The Aipac officials are being prosecuted as if they were reporters receiving leaks; if convicted under the 1917 Espionage Act, the precedent would be ominous.

Some in the press understand the peril posed to the first amendment by an imperial president trying to smother the system of checks and balances. For those of the Washington press corps who shunned a court jester for his irreverence, status is more urgent than the danger to liberty. But it's no laughing matter.


Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is the author of The Clinton Wars.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Central Political Issue of Our Time

The Central Political Issue of Our Time

by Seneca

Wed May 03, 2006 at 02:42:22 PM PDT

I start from the precept that the universe is an organic whole in which all individuals have a part to play. Justice, duty, and virtue are determined by the part we play in the cosmic totality. The essence of being human is to be rational and social -- we must think and act and at the same time be responsible and accountable for what we think and do.

As a people, Americans have been woefully short on both counts for many years. H.L. Mencken once said: "The typical American of today has lost all the love of liberty that his forefathers had, and all their disgust of emotion, and pride in self-reliance. He is led no longer by Davy Crocketts; he is led by cheer leaders, press agents, word-mongers, uplifters. ... the only way to success in American public life is in flattering and kowtowing to the mob."

But that's only part of the problem.
Seneca's diary :: ::

Tom Frank has the essence of what I want to say in his book "What's the Matter With Kansas": the terminal stupidity of the Democrats is largely to blame for the "backlash" that puts those whose economic status should make them vote Demoratic vote Republican instead. All this is due to the Democrats' abandonment of the groups and of the fundamental issue of economic justice that comprised their coalition of voters and their agenda of ideas through the post-WW II era. They have sold out and simply become Republican "light," conceding the economic ground.

Not until Democrats return to an earlier view, one articulated by a Republican president, will they begin to lead. Democrats need to look back at Theodore Roosevelt, who said: "The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means."

From this much follows. The central issue in politics is and ought to be seen as where to draw the line here -- how much of the public's burden is fairly carried by the rich now?

But Democrats appear merely to have bought into the Republican game of hiding in plain sight using culture wars and social issues to mask the real political issues of our times, which IMHO are fundamentally economic in nature: energy policy, health care, jobs, pensions, trade policy and this country's crumbling sanitation and transportation infrastructure -- and all of this flowing from the continuing laissez faire looting of the country, the growing divide between haves too much and haves not enough.

The problem at the center of all this is the headlong fall into laissez faire capitalism, which we escaped from with great pain in the post-Civil War era. Learning nothing from our own history, we are doomed to repeat a lot of it....

Comparing Bush to Hitler

Comparing Bush to Hitler
May 4, 2006, 06:56
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Compare George W. Bush to Adolph Hitler and you piss off some people, inflame others who either agree or disagree, and start a debate over when criticism of a public official goes too far.

"You go too far with the Hitler comparison," reads a typical email from one of the Republican lemmings who still think Bush has some redeeming qualities. "It's unfair."

Perhaps, but unfair to whom? I'm not sure it's possible to be unfair to Bush, the man who promised "the most ethical administration in history" but delivered, instead, the most corrupt, scandal-ridden, dishonest government I've seen in 40 years of writing about, or working in, politics.

Perhaps it is unfair to Hitler. Adolph was, after all, a powerful public speaker with an incredible command of his native language. Dubya is a pathetic speaker who has trouble stringing enough words together to form a simple declarative sentence.

Yet such comparisons become more and more evident. Hitler rode roughshod over the laws of his country, ignored civil liberties, called those who opposed him "unpatriotic," and created a powerful secret police that spied on citizens of Germany.

Sound familiar? It should. Bush routinely ignores the laws of the land, tramples on civil liberties, calls those who oppose him "unpatriotic," and has created the powerful, secretive Department of Homeland Security to spy on citizens of his country....

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

John Sweeney Paid Wife on Commission for Fundraising

John Sweeney Paid Wife on Commission for Fundraising
By Paul Kiel - March 22, 2006, 2:00 PM
TPM Mukerraker

Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY), like Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), paid his wife on commission for campaign fundraising, a highly unusual arrangement that means that the Sweeneys benefitted personally from every contribution. Ethics experts we spoke to earlier this week about Doolittle's wife said that they'd never heard of a similar arrangement. Well, we found one. And it might explain why the Justice Department recently examined Sweeney's financial records.

Like Doolittle's wife, Sweeney's wife Gayle Ford had no known prior fundraising experience before working for her husband's campaign. Her rate, 10 percent, was more modest than Julie Doolittle's 15 percent, but her company Creative Consulting has made a substantial income since 2003 from Sweeney: $49,209 in fees variously described as "fundraising" or "consulting" on FEC reports.

Details of the Sweeneys' arrangement come from a piece last year in Albany's Times Union. Sweeney's spokesperson Melissa Carlson confirmed those details and told us that there was nothing remarkable about his wife's work, saying that a number of members of Congress have family members on their payroll. She also said that the 10 percent fee was standard for what people in the business make, and that Sweeney's wife "knows the people in the community in our district" and only does fundraising there - they have another fundraiser who works in D.C.

It's true that a number of Members have family on the payroll, but this is the only example that we could find, besides Doolittle, of a family member being paid on commission.

There is another respect in which the Sweeneys resemble the Doolittles. Doolittle has refused to disclose Julie Doolittle's other clients, but the ones we know about are Jack Abramoff and Ed Buckham, two lobbyists. And Gayle Ford's only other work was for Powers, Crane, & Co., a lobbying firm. Also known as PCC Consulting, the Albany-based firm represents a number of clients lobbying the federal government. How much Ford earned from that work isn't disclosed in House records.

Last year, two aides from the Justice Department pulled the financial disclosure records of Rep. John Sweeney, along with those of a number of other lawmakers and aides. The others made sense as possible subjects of interest in the Abramoff investigation, but Sweeney didn't. What was the Justice Department investigating? We couldn't figure it out.

Carlson had no explanation for why the Justice Department might be examining Sweeney's records, only saying that "they are public records, anybody's free to examine them" and that "many people do look at them."

Now, are we sure that this is why the Justice Department is looking at Sweeney? No. But it's been repeatedly reported that lawmaker's arrangements with their wives interest investigators, as with Tom DeLay's wife Christine, who worked for DeLay and for Buckham.

And certainly this is a stronger explanation than idle curiosity.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dollar Starts the Big Slide Against Major Currencies

Dollar Starts the Big Slide Against Major Currencies
By David Smith
The Sunday Times UK

Sunday 30 April 2006

The dollar has embarked on a big decline that will see it fall against all leading currencies, according to analysts.

The plunge is being prompted by America's $800 billion (£438 billion) current-account deficit, they say.

The dollar has been under pressure following last weekend's meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bankers, which emphasised "global imbalances" and said currencies should reflect economic fundamentals. Then China raised its key interest rate to 5.85%, its first hike for months, and Ben Bernanke, the new Federal Reserve chairman, hinted that American rates would pause at 5% after a rise in May.

Analysts say that without interest-rate support, the dollar will be weighed down heavily by America's imbalances.

"I think this is it," said Tony Norfield, global head of currency strategy at ABN Amro. "The dollar has been supported by high yields but markets are saying that is no longer enough. The question for policymakers is going to be how to manage the dollar's decline. It won't be a one-way street but the fall is likely to be biggest against Asian currencies."

The euro has already risen to an 11-month high of more than $1.26, while the dollar is at a three-month low of 113.70 against the yen. The Canadian dollar, known by traders as the "loonie", rose to a 28-year high on Friday, boosted by a hike in Canadian interest rates.....