Thursday, July 31, 2008

And yet more satire

Lee Camp at Huffington Post "leaks" a letter from McSame to Ted Stevens, recently indicted on seven counts of accepting improper gifts from oil companies.

Who's the Elitist?

Newsweek's Andrew Romano scoffs at McCain's attempts to paint Obama as an elitist.
Simply imagine the memo David Axelrod could send to reporters about the Republican nominee. "Only a celebrity of John McCain's magnitude could star on blockbuster television shows like '24' and appear in big-budget motion pictures like 'Wedding Crashers,'" it would read. "These are not campaign commercials or news interviews, but major Hollywood productions--which is no surprise, given that he's pals with Warren Beatty. Only celebrities like John McCain own seven homes, date Brazilian models, marry blond, jet-owning heiresses worth $100 million, ring up $500,000 a month on the family credit card, forget the last time they pumped their own gas and wear $520 black calfskin loafers by Ferragamo." Get the picture?
And just what would be wrong with this memo, or a commercial with a bunch of working class Obama supporters reading the copy directly into the camera? Democrats have been wimps for far too long, and mostly never stand up and dish it out like this. Kerry didn't do it, and he got trounced. It was reported in the NY Times in 2004 that it granted anonymity to Bush campaign operatives so that they could tell the paper that they were to say that John Kerry "looks French," a reference to the fact that Kerry spoke fluent French. The article also reported that the Bush campaign was calling John Edwards "The Breck Girl of politics." These kinds of attacks, when picked up by the corporate media, snowball so fast that it's often too late for the recipient of the attack to strike back; if he does, he's often slammed for "going negative." Obama did hit back this time, pretty effectively:
"We want to have a serious debate. But so far, we've been hearing about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I do have to ask my opponent: is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what the election is about? Is that worthy of the American people? Even the media has pointed out...that McCain has fallen back into ... predictable political attacks and demonstratively false statements... Spending all this time talking about me instead of talking about what he's going to do. That's not going to lower your gas prices. That's's not help you find a job if it's been shipped overseas. It doesn't do a single thing to help the American people. It's the politics of the game. But the time for game-playing is over. That's why I'm running for President."
Watch out, McBushie! Obama's going to serve you good!

More Political Satire

This one courtesy of Bob Cesca.

Real Good.

Political Satire at its Finest

From The Times of London:

He ventured forth to bring light to the world

The anointed one's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a miracle in action - and a blessing to all his faithful followers

by Gerard Baker

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the
Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.
And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.
From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rove In Contempt

The Senate Judiciary Committee has today voted 20-14 to hold Karl Rove in contempt of Congress for failing to respond to a subpoena to face questioning on the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

I guess the wheels of government move kinda slowly, 'cuz I think most knowledgeable Americans detected his contempt for all things congressional in about 1999.

The Definition of Hubristic Arrogance

Cesca nails it.

A Songwriter to Support

I first became acquainted with Jack Johnson as the voice behind the soundtrack to Curious George, which I saw with my sons Max and Eli about two years ago. His mellow voice and gentle songs are catchy and they have stayed in my head since my kids now watch the DVD at home.

However, what's really setting Johnson apart for me is the fact that he has taken his passion for environmental causes and is put it into action in a major way. This article showcases Johnson's Brushfire Records, and the ways in which he produces records and runs his business(their studio equipment is run on solar, all lighting is energy efficient, insulation is made from torn blue jeans, all furniture is second hand). He also supports environmental organizations at the various locales where he tours, raising money and awareness at his shows. He even runs the tour buses on biodiesel, encourages recycling at the venues, and even has an "EnviroRider," aan attachment to all venue contracts that require the venue to conform to certain rules when he plays there (and it's not about bowls full of green M&Ms either).

Johnson should be supported by anyone who believes that our future depends on energy conservation, recycling, and reducing our carbon footprint. He's the real deal.

Not Putting Up with the Putsch

Just in case --

Putsch: a plotted revolt or attempt to overthrow a government, esp. one that depends upon suddenness and speed. (

The LA Times's Tim Rutten today singled out those Republicans who refused to go along with the Bush administration immoral and illegal end-run around the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. While I'm not frequently on the same page as Rutten, here he gets it right. It's always a good thing to remind partisans that all is not lost in the opposing party. There are those to whom we can reach out and look for some understanding and cooperation, and whose patriotism can actually be celebrated.

Money quote:
At some point, the American people will demand a precise accounting of how and why their government and its officials behaved in this reckless, appalling fashion. That will require following the chain of command into the White House. When it happens, you can bet that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington et al will demand every protection of the law and insist on every comma of the due process they've derided as mere inconvenience.

I'm just not sure I have that kind of faith in the American public's attention span.

Brutal NYPD Arrest Caught on Tape

It's bad enough to watch this cop beat a man who is lying on the ground with his baton. They were trying to cuff him for whatever reason, and the guy was not being 100% cooperative, so it looks like the cop started swatting him to coerce some cooperation.

But what's worse for me is 1) after the baton flies out of his hand, the cop goes to retrieve it so he can beat the guy some more; and 2) After whacking the man on both knees, the man is clearly in serious pain and starts holding his left knee, and the cop specifically hits him again and again on that injured knee.

Man's inhumanity to Man. That guy wasn't going anywhere. The officer was venting; it's that simple, and it's that wrong.

Hi, Pot, I'm Kettle

Greenwald today shakes his head after reading this AP article about Kansas Senator Sam Brownback's outrage over a plan by the Chinese government to require devices in foreign hotels to monitor email and internet traffic by its guests. Brownback at his most eloquent:
If you were a human rights advocate, if you're a journalist, you're in room 1251 of a hotel, anything that you use, sending out over the Internet is monitored in real time by the Chinese Public Security bureau. That's not right. It's not in the Olympic spirit.

Ahem. At least the Chinese government is telling you to your face that you're being monitored. Here, in the Land of the Free, we don't know if or when we are having our phone calls or emails monitored by Big Brother. In China, you fully expect the police to come knocking on your door in the middle of the night if you're blogging against the government. Here, you just never know if or when (or where) the G-men will show up to ask you a few questions about that email you sent the other day, in which you speculated how one could infect a certain high-ranking elected official with a bad case of dysentery, so that his excrement would spew out in the other direction for a change.

Huckabee Will Not Be Veep

You have to respect a man who can talk straight, even if it's only some of the time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Obama's Foreign Policy

Daniel Larison cautions Obama supporters about thinking their candidate has any fresh ideas when it comes to foreign policy. He was commenting on commentary (what else do bloggers do anyway?) by syndicated columnist Rich Lowry. The big finish:

What Lowry's column does is to remind us of just how conventional and established Obama's sort of foreign policy is, and why it is going to represent very little in the way of change from the status quo. Far from being the first transnational President, Obama will simply be continuing the bipartisan foreign policy consensus according to which the sovereignty of other states can be compromised at any time in the name of "global norms" and hegemonic interests.
Larison makes a good point. Obama may have proposed the 16 month timetable that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has indirectly endorsed and that Bush has tried to co-opt, and Obama may have promoted direct talks with Iran that Bush is now emulating by sending his #3 man in the State Department. However, he's also voted for the FISA bill that strips the 4th Amendment of any significance, and has tacitly acknowledged the effectiveness of the Surge. When it all comes down it, Obama and McSame don't look that different from each other on foreign policy. And when it all comes down to it, Obama's lofty rhetoric about working together will look like so much tissue paper blowing in the breeze when he'll be faced with decisions that affect national security or national "interests." I may be a fan of his, but something tells me that Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big Auto will wield a lot of influence over any presidential administration for the time being.

I'd very much like to be proven wrong, which is one reason why he'll get my vote in November.

Re-"perp"-licans on Parade

The latest in the Frog March pageant is none other than Alaska's Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator, who was indicted today on seven counts of failing to disclose thousands of dollars in services he received from a company that helped renovate his home.

From the LA Times story:

The indictment unsealed today says the items included: home improvements to his vacation home in Alaska, including a new first floor, garage, wraparound deck, plumbing, electrical wiring; as well as a Viking gas grill, furniture and tools. He also was accused of failing to report swapping an old Ford for a new Land Rover to be driven by one of his children.


Prosecutors said Stevens "took multiple steps to continue" receiving things from oil services company VECO Corp., and its founder, Bill Allen. At the time, the indictment says, Allen and other VECO employees were soliciting Stevens for "multiple official actions .... knowing that Stevens could and did use his official position and his office on behalf of VECO during that same time period."

VECO's requests included funding and other aid for the oil services company's projects and partnerships in Pakistan and Russia. It also included federal grants from several agencies -- as well as help in building a national gas pipeline in Alaska's North Slope Region, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

I hope Duke Cunningham has room in his jail cell. But not to worry. At 84, Stevens probably won't be there too long.

McSame's VP Pick

Not that it's going to matter in the long run, but much has been discussed about who he will pick. Here's a take from the Washington Times:

Prominent evangelical leaders are warning Sen. John McCain against picking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, saying their troops will abandon the Republican ticket on Election Day if that happens.

They say Mr. Romney lacks trust on issues such as outlawing abortion and opposing
same-sex marriage and because he is a Mormon. Opposition is particularly powerful among those who supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican presidential primaries earlier this year.

“McCain and Romney would be like oil and water,” said evangelical novelist Tim LaHaye, who supported Mr. Huckabee. “We aren’t against Mormonism, but Romney is not a thoroughgoing evangelical and his flip-flopping on issues is understandable in a liberal state like Massachusetts, but our people won’t understand that.”

The Rev. Rob McCoy, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, Calif., who speaks at evangelical events across the country, told The Washington Times, “I will vote for McCain unless he does one thing. You know what that is? If he puts Romney on the ticket as veep.”

Political blogger Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report thinks they're bluffing:
McCain & Co. know that these religious right leaders ultimately got behind the Republican campaign in exchange for nothing. McCain largely ignored them, they huffed and puffed, but once the general election campaign began in earnest, the religious right fell in line. If they seriously believe they can block Romney now, by making half-hearted threats, they’re fooling themselves.
One of Benen's readers, who goes by the name Capt. Kirk, had this unique take on McSame's pick:
McCain needs to take these people into account, he needs their votes. So I suggest he pick the Rev. Jerry Falwell as his running mate. The fact that he’s dead will assure voters that he won’t unduly influence the White House or run an office of propaganda, as we have seen during the last two terms. Also by being dead, Falwell would make McCain seem much more youthful and vigorous. If by chance, McCain falls ill, the solution would be a simple and quick Armageddon and Falwell could assume the presidency in a post rapture state of being. Surely this arrangement would satisfy holdouts like Dobson, LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Mat Staver, David Barton, Rick Scarborough, etc.
That's certainly a bold move!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Southern Fashion

Take a close look at this picture, snapped at a flea market near an Alabama WalMart.

At $6 a three-pack, that's quite a bargain!

People, this is a McCain supporter. Does anyone think an Obama candidacy is gonna sway her to vote otherwise?

Rich, Frank (Rich)

After reading Frank Rich's latest column from last Sunday, I felt as though I'd eaten an entire box of truffles all by myself. So full of irony, and wit, and painful gut blows, the piece should be read aloud to Senator Obama before any debate he has with McBush this fall. Here are some choice morsels:
Given that Mr. McCain has already used a refitted, hand-me-down Obama campaign slogan (“A Leader You Can Believe In”), it can’t be long before he takes up fist umps. They’ve become the rage among young (nonterrorist) American businessmen, according to USA Today.
What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.
[McCain's] grim-faced crusade to brand his opponent as a traitor who wants to “lose a war” isn’t even a competent impersonation of Joe McCarthy. Mr. McCain comes off instead like the ineffectual Mr. Wilson, the retired neighbor perpetually busting a gasket at the antics of pesky little Dennis the Menace.
During Mr. McCain’s last two tours of the Middle East ... the only news he generated was his confusion of Sunni with Shia and his embarrassing stroll through a “safe” Baghdad market with helicopter cover. He should thank his stars that few TV viewers saw that he was even less at home when walking through a chaotic Pennsylvania supermarket last week. He inveighed against the price of milk while reading from a note card and felt the pain of a shopper planted by the local Republican Party.
I am salivating at the idea of watching McBush at the GOP convention, stumbling over the Teleprompter, making painfully bad jokes, and being overhandled by his handlers; of listening to the debates as Obama gently turns McBush on the spit over the flames that are the issues in this election; of watching as the old media press go to greater and greater lengths to parse each word uttered by Obama in their desperate attempt to poke holes in what to me is the impenetrable presence of the Democratic candidate (unless he picks the wrong VP, that is!).

He is the presumptive US president.

More Bush Law-breaking

From the AP today. This is hardly surprising, but indicative of the Bush Admin to blame the lower ranks for being a few bad apples.

Greenwald has more to say about Bush lawbreaking here. In the aftermath of 9/11, it was entirely expected -- and probably appropriate -- for the press to wave the flag and whip up patriotic fervor by highlighting Bush's immediate moves after the event. As the weeks and months passed, however, a keener eye was needed to expose the illegal and immoral acts, and unprecedented foreign policy blunders, of the Bush Administration. But they have fallen into lock-step so completely and so unapologetically (most likely because it's what they perceive is necessary to stay in business) that they are no longer trustworthy to deliver the truth.

Even NPR has fallen into the trap. Witness this nauseating puff-piece interview with Nancy Pelosi on Morning Edition, as she plugs her new book, Know Your Power: A Message to America's Daughters. That the interviewer, Deborah Amos, failed to frame her questions about the book around her inaction as Speaker to serve as the opposition party. Pelosi and others have utterly failed to capitalize on the mandate given them by voters in 2006, and in fact has ceded more to the Bush Administration since ascending to the Speaker's role than anyone thought possible. If San Francisco is the liberal city it's supposed to be, they'll run her out of office on a rail this November.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Trailer for "W."

Oliver Stone's got a hankerin' to roast him a little Bush!

The Cluelessness of the McCain Campaign

Borrowed liberally from Andrew Sullivan's blog today:

McSame released an ad Saturday attacking Obama for not visiting with injured troops during his visit to Germany. The Pentagon would not allow campaign staff or cameras to accompany him, so Obama released a statement saying it would be "inappropriate" to make the visit as part of a campaign trip.

Pundits are expecting Obama to attack back at McSame. Plus -- and here's where the cluelessness part comes in -- McSame chides Obama for going to the gym instead of visiting with wounded soldiers. However, the image used in the ad shows Obama shooting hoops in Kuwait -- with US troops.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Stunning Pictorial

Photographer Phillip Toledano shot a beautiful series of photographs of his 98-year-old father.

To scroll through the photos, just click at the bottom of each photograph. The pictures and accompanying copy are touching. A man who truly loves his dad. What a way to say, "Thank you for my life."

"Citizen of the World"

Much chatter is going on out there about Obama's use of the phrase "citizen of the world" in his Berlin speech yesterday. James Poulos writes:
Our yearning for pan-human solidarity is an absurdity, the absurdity of the human condition, and the most utopian of all utopian ideas is the idea of a Brotherhood of Man: because the human race is not a family, just like it isn’t one big polity. We are stuck with differentiation; there is no metaphor that allows us to redefine humanity as a closer relationship than it is.

Nuts. Firstly, it's no "yearning" to be in solidarity with other humans; it simply is a fact that we are. Language, culture, faith, customs -- these provincial/regional structures only mask the inescapable truth that we all share the same basic DNA. Secondly, why is it better to be cynical than it is to be idealistic? Idealists got us to the moon, for heaven’s sake. Idealists got us the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The "Brotherhood of Man" exists implicitly in the phrase, “all men are created equal.” And if we are created equal, then we are all brothers, we are all “citizens of the world.” It’s not just a figure of speech; it’s an ideal. And while we humans — most notably James Poulos with his comments — frequently fall short of the ideal, it does not obviate the need to reach for the ideal. We recognize the universality of being interdependent and united toward a common goal and a greater good for everyone, not just good for one group or nationality or religion.

I can be just as snarky as the next guy, but beneath it all I take nothing away from the humanity of those I snark against.

Bush and Batman, cont.

Regarding the WSJ op-ed by Andrew Klavan, about which I posted this morning, a reader writes:
How not suprising. This guy knows nothing about the history of comics. When Frank Miller's controversial Dark Knight came out, in the wake of Alan Moore's The Watchman, the point was to show that "villians" and "heroes" can be difficult to tell apart. I do see that the movie glorifies Batman's vigilantism, perhaps more than it questions it, despite Morgan Freeman's disgust with Batman's methods. Perhaps the movie did not capture enough of the gray area which permeated the comic. Or maybe the movie was just what it was, and it's easy to see things the way one wishes to see them (like the recent New Yorker cover and the attendant outcry). Alan Moore did a much more direct job of condemnding vigilantism in The Watchman, but Alan Moore is Alan Moore, and Frank Miller has never been Alan Moore.The Dark Knight was around a LONG TIME before Bush, as were these moral questions.I have to admit, my jaw dropped while reading this piece.

Moore's The Watchman is in post-production as I write this. My wife's sister is supervising it. I look forward to seeing both films.

The thing that makes me laugh about the WSJ piece is that the right-wing, which has come to be defined by the Christianists, claim to be moral absolutists. The literal word of God, and all that. What has become all too clear is that they are only absolutely as relativistic about morality as they claim we progressives are. Their opposition to abortion is offset by their support for capital punishment (and torture). Their support for American "freedom" is offset by their support for Bush's warrantless eavesdropping programs and their disdain for the Constitution.

Impeachment Hearings Today

The House Judiciary Committee today holds hearings regarding the 35 Articles of Impachment against Bush brought by Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Mostly a dog and pony show, says Glenn Greenwald.

Money quote:
Serious, responsible Beltway establishment leaders know that courtrooms and prosecutions are only for the common people and -- for our own good -- our leaders cannot, must not and should not be exposed to any of that, and must continue to be able to shield what they do from public scrutiny.
I'm struck by a thought: has it ever been the case that our government was so transparent that we could see everything it did? Is this just an instance where the government slipped up and accidentally let us see what was behind the curtain? My memory only goes back to Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, but to me those events suggest to me that there is much we common folk don't know about what's going on, and that violations of the Constitution are widespread and common among those with high security clearances. I'm not saying that makes lawbreaking OK; I never would. But no matter how much we complain or prosecute or impeach, won't this sort of thing go on and on?

"He didn't even sweat."

Report Judith Bonesky of German newspaper Bild, gushes about her opportunity to work out with Barack Obama in the Ritz Carlton Hotel gym in Berlin:

Obama (with toned arms and a strong back) puts on his headphones for his iPod to listen to pop music. He hums quietly. Then he jumps on a fitness bike. He pushes three times on the pedals -- but then can't be bothered with it.

He picks up a pair of 16 kilo (35.2 lb.) weights and starts curling them with his left and right arms, 30 repetitions on each side. Then, amazingly, he picks up the 32 kilo (70.4 lb.) weights! Very slowly he lifts them, first 10 curls with his right, then 10 with his left.

Quickly I ask: "Mr. Obama, could I take a photo?". "Of course!" he answers, before asking my name and coming over to stand next to me. "My name's Judith," I reply. "I'm Barack Obama, nice to meet you!" he says, and puts his arm across my shoulder. I put my arm around his hip -- wow, he didn't even sweat! WHAT A MAN!


Part of a story about the German press's reaction to Obama's Berlin visit. Another choice tidbit, this from Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung commentator Reymer Kleuver:
He explicitly called for German soldiers for Afghanistan -- he did not say 'more
soldiers' but that was what he meant. And Obama also indicated this:
he will want support as president to wind up the Iraq adventure.

Someone should show this man the definition of the word "explicit." But he's probably right; the U.S. "adventure" in Iraq will need international assistance to be shut down. No one's thinking that some measure of western military support won't be offered to -- and likely accepted by -- Iraq's government for some time to come. When firefighters put out a fire, they don't just walk away when they don't see flames anymore. They stick around to look for hot spots that might flare up again.

Incidentally, quite a misleading headline for the CNN story, but typical of the corporate media.

Morning Reading

Sullivan substitute Hilzoy tears into a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Edgar-award winning writer Andrew Klavan entitled, "What Bush and Batman Have in Common."

Words sort of fail me as to how Klavan could have managed this piece without making his editors vomit, but then again the WSJ is now owned by Rupe (Dogg) Murdoch. Such Bush-lionizing comes naturally.

Hilzoy goes out on a limb at the end when he compares Klavan's philosophizing to Himmler's justification for exterminating the Jews. Click on Hilzoy's link at the end for a fascinating look into the mind of a sociopath. Personally, I can imagine Bush sitting privately with his most trusted advisers on September 12, pontificating on the perceived need of good, decent Christians to rid the world of Muslims before they somehow corrupt the whole planet. Then again, he's got less than six months to go and he hasn't made much progress. Thank God for that.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pickens Can't be Picked-Off

Strange bedfellows indeed. Op-Ed Columnist Timothy Egan notes in today's NY Times that Texas oil billionaire and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens, the guy who refused to fork over $1 million after a group of Vietnam veterans provided proof that the Swift Boat Campaign against John Kerry (which was financed by him with $3 million and delivered a knockout blow to the Kerry campaign) was factually false, features an endorsement by the Sierra Club's executive director, Carl Pope, on his website.

Remember, Pickens is the guy who's proposing to spend $10 billion of his own money to create the largest wind farm in the world on the gusty plains of west Texas. He says the energy generated there could help to free up natural gas for automobiles -- and thereby reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

But how does this billionaire, who made sure Bush got re-elected, step out of that role to undermine the candidacy of John McCain? Easy: money. Pickens has read the tea leaves and knows that there's money to be made in the alternative energy business moving forward. So who does this guy think will be the kind of president that will better accomodate his bidness model? McSame, who wants us to have permanent bases in Iraq so that we can harness and control their oil, wasting federal dollars in the process? Or Obama, who has already publicly committed to pulling away from foreign oil?

Go 'head and spend them there dollars, Mr. (Slim) Pickens! Yee-haw!

Kicking the "War Hero" When He's Down

Rall debunks the idea that McSame, by virtue of being shot down over Vietnam and being a prisoner of war, is somehow a hero. Gen. Wesley Clark got roasted by the press and hung out to dry by Obama, losing any chance he may have had for a spot on the ticket (which would have been a good choice, in my opinion).

Choice quote:

Vietnam was an illegal, undeclared war of aggression. Can those who fought in that immoral war really be heroes? This question appeared settled after Reagan visited a cemetery for Nazi soldiers, including members of the SS, at Bitburg, West Germany in 1985. "Those young men," claimed Reagan, "are victims of Nazism also, even though they were fighting in the German uniform, drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis. They were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps."

Americans didn't buy it. Reagan's poll numbers, typically between 60 and 65 percent at the time, plunged to 41 percent after the visit. Those who fight for an evil cause receive no praise.

I don't buy Rall's argument that we ought to see McSame as neither a hero nor a victim (as in, McSame did enlist rather than wait to be drafted, so that differentiates him from draftees who went against their will -- the real victims).

I was nearly 13 when the U.S. left Saigon, almost five years after my dad returned from his tour there. I remember feeling a sense of loss at seeing our soldiers being forced to retreat. It wasn't until a few years later that I learned how horrible our involvement there really was. In any event, I never saw the soldiers who served there through different filters: those who enlisted vs. those who were drafted. To me, anyone who puts on a uniform and marches into a foreign country under orders of their president is a hero, regardless of the morality of the mission. Soldiers don't really have the luxury of arguing with their superiors about that; they just get up and go do what they've been trained to do, trusting their leaders that there is a higher purpose. Sometimes they learn that the "higher purpose" is something not in line with America's ideals, but rather in line with some strategic political or economic interest. That doesn't take away from their service.

Rall also writes:

When McCain was shot down during his 23rd bombing sortie, he was happily shooting up a civilian neighborhood in the middle of a major city. Vietnamese locals beat him when they pulled him out of a local lake; yeah, that must have sucked.
I was similarly cynical when I first travelled overseas to entertain troops in the mid-1990s. And a lot of the guys I met over there were dumb hicks, to be sure (like the one guy who, upon learning that I was a vegetarian said, "I'm from Missouri, and I never met a cow that didn't deserve to be shot in the head."). Yet, underneath all of the cultural disconnects I had with these men and women, I respected them for being thousands of miles from home doing a job that most of us would never volunteer to do, counting the days until their tour was over and trying not to piss off the locals too much.

My dad went to Vietnam and surgically put broken soldiers back together. I'm sure some of the less injured ones were sent back into battle; the rest were sent home alive or dead. He was drafted, but he said to me that he leapt at the chance to serve because he would never get the chance to do such challenging work. Is it wrong to have put a man back together so he can go back and fight in an immoral war? I'm certain that, on the battlefield, such nuance likely never came into play for him. He did his work, trying not to get killed (which could've involved killing someone else who was trying to kill him, but he won't talk about that) so that he could return home.

Quotes for the Day

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

"Beer is the reason we know there's a god and that he loves us"- Ben Franklin

"Man cannot make a worm yet he makes gods by the dozens." - Montaigne (1553-1592)

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." - Mark Twain

"Madam, You are ugly. In the morning, I shall be sober." - Winston Churchill (in response to being told, "Sir, you are drunk!")

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option” – anonymous

Eco-Idea for Your Home

Since I'm trying to teach my kids to be good custodians of the planet (they know to recycle, to save water, etc.), I'm always looking for more things to learn so I can teach them. Recently my wife and I have been using canvas grocery bags. Dig this:

We use 380 billion plastic bags a year in the US. Each bag is used for about 25 minutes, less than 3% are recycled, and they never biodegrade. In fact, they "photodegrade," which means they break down into smaller and smaller toxic bits that contaminate soil, pollute waterways and enter our food chain. Paper bags are not a good option either; we cut down 14 million trees per year to produce 10 billion paper bags for grocery use in the US. Reusable bags cost around $1.00 each. If you use only these bags for grocery use, you'll cut out 18,000 plastic bags over your lifetime.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cake or Death!

In light of reports Monday that the British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the United States was no longer to be trusted when it said it did not torture after admitting that it had used waterboarding -- plus the fact that they pretty much admitted complicity in the matter by allowing the US to use Diego Garcia to warehouse detainees prior to extraordinary rendition -- I thought that I'd lighten it up a bit with a little Eddie Izzard. This animated Lego short film is flippin' hilarious.

Stone Nudes

An avid rock climber, my friend Byron -- who probably hasn't climbed in a while -- will love this. A gallery of nudes rock climbing. Erotic, athletic, and calendar-ready.

But How Will it Play in Peoria?

Univ. of Chicago Law Professor (and former Obama colleague) Daniel Fischel is quoted in The New Republic that he might, for the first time in his life, vote for a Democrat for president.
[H]e does really attempt to understand the points of view of other people who look at the world or a particular issue differently than he does. He's much more intellectual, much more thoughtful, much more interested in discussion, debate, and dialogue than the typical politician. And that gives me some confidence about him, even though from my perspective he's much too liberal. I've never voted for a Democrat in my entire life. He's the first one I might vote for.
Of course an academic is going to be drawn to an intellectual politician. But, as we've seen over the past two elections, average voters want to feel like they can sit down and drink a beer with their president. Or so the Republicans have said. This is how they'll frame this election again, with McCain being the affable straight shooter (albeit one with a hair-trigger temper and a tendency toward spousal abuse). Democrats need to shoot back just as straight: "We live in complicated times. After eight years of failed foreign and domestic policies created by simple thinkers, it's time that had a president who can think circles around most of us. We want and need a person like that to lead the free world."

Shocked, I say -- SHOCKED!

Joe Klein is all riled up about this statement by McCain:
This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.

Klein writes that such a statement is best left to aides rather than the candidate. "It is, shockingly, unpresidential."

Klein is right that McCain had drawn a great hand with the facts on the ground that the surge had accomplished a good deal in settling things down in Iraq. Along with the Sunni Awakening and the Sadrists unilaterally standing down, the US troop surge has truly made Iraq a safer place. He could have played that hand and taken all the chips. He could have successfully painted Obama as a naive idealist who lacked the experience and the mental toughness to lead during wartime.

However, when he gets the facts wrong about the role of the surge, and makes stupid gaffes like the one about the Iraq/Pakistani border (d'oh!), and then makes "scurrilous" off-the-cuff statements like the one above, you have to question whether McCain has the mental stability to be our leader. Of course, some will say they'll take him over "the Muslim" or "the colored [guy]" or just stay at home. That's an ignorant choice and an anti-American one too.

Obama may be a progressive and has some not so keen ideas on taxation, he has better ideas than McSame on ending this immoral war and preventing another one in Iran. To me, this is not the lesser of two evils, but simply the smarter choice. Others, like New York Daily News writer Larry Hunter, a staunch conservative, put it this way last week:
If economic damage from well-intentioned but misbegotten Obama economic schemes is the ransom we must pay him to clean up this foreign policy mess, then so be it. It's not nearly as costly as enduring four more years of what we suffered the last eight years.

Amen, brother.

McCain gets it wrong on Iraq again

This one was just too important not to circulate.

HuffPost contributor Ilan Goldenberg blasts MsSame on recent false comments he made on CBS regarding the fact that the Sunni Awakening (i.e., the time when Sunnis in Iraq, who had been fighting against Americans, actually joined Americans to fight Al Qaeda). He completely mucks up the facts as portrayed by American Generals on the ground in Iraq.

Sullivan stand-in Hilzoy chronicles the dust-up surrounding the whole mess. Money quote:
Note to self: if I ever run for President and decide to stake everything on my understanding of one thing, I should familiarize myself with the basic facts about it. I should be especially careful to do this before I say something like this about someone who got it right: "I don't know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened."

The Obama Road Trip has been better for Obama, and worse for McCain, than anyone could have imagined.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Wish I'd Written This

Sent by a reader, it's clever and original at the same time.

The final word in health and nutrition...

After an exhaustive review of the research literature, here's the final word on nutrition and health:
  1. Japanese [people] eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
  2. Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
  3. Chinese [people] drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
  4. Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
  5. Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
  • Eat and drink whatever you like.
  • Speaking English is apparently what kills you, and the U.S. Government is trying to correct that problem.

Obama on the Israel-Arab conflict

During his visit with Amman's King Abdullah, Obama said that the fault in the region is not just the Palestinians's alone. This is something you won't hear McCain, or any serious Republican, ever say.

Further, he said, "It’s difficult for either side to make the bold move that would bring about peace," adding that the Israeli government is "unsettled," while the Palestinians are "divided."

He recommends that both sides take a "look in the mirror" rather than blame the other for what's happening.

Condemning a terror attack today in Jerusalem, Obama added that "terrorism is so counterproductive as well as being immoral," and that attacks "the Israelis simply want to dig in and think about their security … the same would be true of any people when these kinds of things happened."

He indicated that as President he would "recognize the legitimate difficulties that the Palestinian people are experiencing right now," something he said would be "also in the interest of the Israeli people."

A balanced, thoughtful statement of support for what both sides are going through. Now, I'm a very pro-Israeli progressive myself, but I think that a US government, if it's going to be serious about helping to bring some peace to the region, needs to consider both sides equally. I'm not going to roll over and say that east Jerusalem needs to go to the Arab side, but I do think that the settlements need to slow down dramatically as a way to preserve some land for the Palestinians. Before that can happen, though, the Arabs need to find peace amongst themselves. Hamas and Fatah need to agree on how to run the country they would become. And if sanity has a place in the region, it would mean that the Hamas view that seeks to destroy Israel will have to be abandoned forever.

With Friends Like These...

As reported yesterday by UK's The Guardian:
In a damning criticism of US integrity, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said ministers should no longer take at face value statements from senior politicians, including George Bush, that America does not resort to torture in the light of the CIA admitting it used "waterboarding." The interrogation technique was unreservedly condemned by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who said it amounted to torture.
This is our #1 ally in Afghanistan, Iraq, and against global terrorism, saying that we are not to be trusted when it comes to claims that "we do not torture." This could have serious implications in the future when the US asks the UK to extradite prisoners.

Not to be satisfied with simply blaming the US, the MPs, in a multi-party approach, turned their microscope on their own government, challenging them to see that they were not used by the Americans to assist in rendition flights. As the Guardian articles notes:
The UK had repeatedly accepted assurances that it had not, but it was discovered earlier this year that two rendition planes refuelled on the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

In fact the tiny island archipelago, which I visited in summer 1995, was used as a detention center to hold US suspects, a way station when rendering suspects in US custody to countries where torture bans did not apply.

Given that the UK is calling us out on our denials about torture, while at the same admitting that it too participated in such acts, it's a pretty scathing illustration of how far we've fallen as a nation.

Obama and "Advisers"

About my earlier statement that "Obama doesn't work in a vacuum without advisers along the way, and EVERYTHING in politics is conditional", a reader writes:
You give great credence to Obama having advisers. Truman had advisers when he moved to defend S. Korea without approval by Congress. Kennedy & Johnson had advisers when they sent troops to Viet Nam without approval by Congress. Carter had advisers when he gave away the Panama Canal. Reagan had advisers when he sent forces to Panama, Grenada, etc. without approval of Congress. G. W. Bush had advisers when he sent forces to Iraq after getting approval from the UN and Congress. Advisers are necessary but are not held responsible for their advice.

True, but all the men you are referring to were Presidents. Obama is a candidate campaigning to be president. The actions he takes, the decisions he makes, have to accomplish two things: first and foremost, they have to get him elected; second, they have to look presidential. He has advisers to help him do both those things. And advisers are both necessary and held accountable. When they screw up, they usually lose their jobs at the White House or quietly resign. It's just not as public as, say, an impeachment trial.

An aside to the current Obama trip -- blogger Dave Weigel writes:
A debate over how right McCain was/how wrong Obama was over this aspect of the war is not going to [include] a debate over when to leave Iraq. I don't see any of this [inuring] to the benefit of John McCain. McCain's goading Obama to make this trip stands tall and proud as one of the dumbest blunders of the campaign. He couldn't have helped the Democrat more if he'd challenged him to a slam dunk contest. And lo and behold, Maliki is shorting McCain stock as fast as he can move it.

In a way, this has been my point of the last two posts. All McCain can do right now is avoid saying something so stupid during the Obama trip that he renders himself irrelevant. With his non-answer to Meredith Vieira yesterday, he came very close.

I think of that climactic scene at the end of Searching for Bobby Fischer, where young Josh Waitzkin offers his hand to his opponent in a draw. When the opponent refuses, Josh says, "You've lost. You just don't see it yet." In a way, Obama has seen the board, and the game, all the way to its end. When he returns from his trip, when he blasts out of Denver with the nomination, a solid VP choice, and his fundraising engine firing on all cylinders, he will engage in a few friendly, supremely staged debates with his opponent, and summarily wipe the floor with him. It won't even be a contest come September. Unfortunately, McCain's the fall guy this time like Dole was in 1996. He just doesn't see it yet.

However, I'll bet his advisers do.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Painted Into a Corner, cont.

Email exchange with a reader:
Dizzle: I actually like McCain’s response. It makes me think of a loan approval. A loan approval is technically “approved” but it is based on conditions. So, is it really approved? I think not, so is there an agreement with Maliki if it is based on conditions??? Uh, No….

Plus, the way he downplays the Maliki move and kind of shrugs it off shows his experience and the fact that Obama, who has no experience in this territory could be taken advantage of…

Me: Obama doesn't work in a vacuum without advisers along the way, and EVERYTHING in politics is conditional. There is no black and white and you and I know jack squat compared to them about particulars. He gave a non-answer, just like a conditional loan approval. "we like what we see so far, Mr. Borrower, but there are conditions and everything could change." In fact, if you read the Iraqi spokesman's statement to the press, he says this all looks good unless violence kicks up again. In other words, it's not an agreement; it's an idea right now.

Dizzle: Right. So what is wrong with McCain’s response. The situation is gray, the answer is gray…

Me: What's wrong is that he didn't say "the situation is grey so I can't give you a concrete answer." He said he knows what's going on over there. If it's so black and white to him then why can't he say, "this whole thing doesn't work because conditions on the ground don't support it?" He's not because in effect Obama scooped him on the solution.

Dizzle: I understand your argument and that is why I am interpreting his answer as exactly that, grey…he is calling out Maliki’s agreement as grey and not even a step in the right direction…He in my opinion is showing savvy and not instilling false hope of a plan, like Obama may be doing. To me, his answer is that of a straight shooter.

In reality, no one who is watching what Obama does thinks Obama is now magically in possession of all the answers to this problem. He and McSame are remarkably close on their opinions of how to solve this problem. But witness: Obama has been saying that the solution is to end this war and withdraw troops as soon as it can be done safely. McSame has been parroting the Bush doctrine, saying a timetable for withdrawal would signal disaster for the region. The Iraqi PM clearly said before Obama ever showed up that a timetable was desired. The US couldn't hammer out is Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq because it couldn't come to terms on a withdrawal timetable. Bush/McBush don't want to leave; there's oil in them thar hills! So along comes Obama, whose outlook on the Iraq War is supported, albeit cautiously, by the Iraqi PM. Now, you get McSame backpedalling and greying out his answer to a direct question from Meredith Vieira. That doesn't make him a straight shooter, that makes him a bullshit artist.

Now I leave it up to you. Please write in with your thoughts. Dizzle wants to hear them.

Painted Into A Corner

McSame is quickly losing traction in his argument that he has a better plan to deal with the Iraq War than Obama.

Just to give you some perspective on this, Obama met with Iraq PM al-Maliki, during which meeting al-Maliki voiced his agreement with Obama on the 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

Logically, then, McCain has only a couple of choices, neither of which is good: 1) He can endorse the timetable, which he has consistently said would be disastrous and a "surrender." This would basically have him cede his biggest issue to Obama and implicitly defer to Obama's judgement in the matter; or 2) He could ignore the Iraqi government's expressed wishes and prolong this war.

But wait -- McCain came up with a third option. Here's a transcript of an exchange he had this morning with Meredith Vieira on the Today Show (my emphasis):

Vieira: "Senator Obama's timetable of removing U.S. troops from Iraq within that 16-month period seemed to be getting a thumbs up by the Iraqi prime minister when he called it 'the right timeframe for a withdrawal.' He has backed off that somewhat, but the Iraqis have not stopped using the word timetable, so if the Iraqi government were to say -- if you were President -- 'we want a timetable for troops to be removed,' would you agree with that?"

McCain: "I have been there too many times. I've met too many times with him, and I know what they want. They want it based on conditions and of course they would like to have us out, that's what happens when you win wars, you leave. We may have a residual presence there as even Senator Obama has admitted. But the fact is that it should be -- the agreement between Prime Minister Maliki, the Iraqi government and the United states is it will be based on conditions."

In parsing this response, he basically endorses the Obama/Maliki plan himself, but throws this term "based on conditions" around to suggest to voters that Obama and Maliki are being impulsive and have not thought this all the way through. He knows better, because he's been there. Remember, this is the same guy who walked through a "safe" Baghdad market surrounded by dozens of soldiers and wearing a vest that could stop a Stinger missile:

In the 1994 film Quiz Show, when Dan Enright, the producer of the game show Twenty-One played by David Paymer, finally realizes that he's been caught rigging the results of the show, the congressional lawyer Dick Goodwin, played by Rob Morrow, tells him, "It's over, Dan. Why don't you go home and tell your family?"

Something tells me McSame won't tell his family he's lost until sometime after November 4.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Reducing one's carbon footprint

One of my oldest friend, and a faithful reader of this blog, Steve Kramer, sent me and Titus Levi an email Sunday about a new purchase he made that helps him reduce his usage of gasoline, and also his carbon footprint. He has a home-based software/internet business and, for as long as I've known him, he's been a one-car family. This email shows how with a little innovation and some commitment, a lot of people can reduce their personal dependence on foreign oil.

With his permission:

I added an electric motor to my bicycle on Thursday, and I thought I'd share my intentions and initial experiences.

First, I bought the Bionx PL500 conversion kit manufactured in Canada from Bionx from Electric Cyclery in Laguna. It cost around $2k (including sales tax) to purchase the kit and another $50 to install it on my bicycle.

I'm hoping to use it, and my Burley trailer, instead of my Honda Odyssey for most of our local transportation.

Previously, Jeanette would drive Levi to school and head to the gym (an eight mile round trip), and I would either go to the gym with Jeanette or with my cousin Miguel (who would pick me up in his car). Now, I plan to take Levi to school on the bike, then head over to the gym for my daily workout. After the workout, It's back home to get in a little work. At 11:30, I'll take the bike to El Pollo Loco for lunch, then head out to pick Levi up from school at 12:30 and bring him back home. Jeanette has made arrangements to carpool with a neighbor for her trips to the gym.

Levi's school is right next to a grocery store, so I plan to do the grocery runs with the bicycle, also.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, Levi has Karate class up the hill (a six mile round trip). It's a pretty steep hill, but I did a test run yesterday and quickly and easily zipped up it. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Levi has swimming lessons at the club house (a one mile round trip), and I plan to use the bike and trailer for that, too. Jeanette should be able to join us on her bicycle for that, as well as T-Ball practice on Saturdays.

Since these trips represent the bulk of our driving, I'm hopeful that I'll get my investment back within two years, not to mention the health benefits and outdoor enjoyment.

The Bionx system replaces the rear wheel with one that has an electric motor / generator built into the hub. It has a lithium ion battery that neatly locks and unlocks from the bicycle frame and a recharger that plugs into a wall socket (a full recharge takes three hours). It also has a controller that attaches to your handle bars. While riding, the controller lets you select from five pedaling assistance levels: none, 25%, 75%, 150% and 300%. The assistance levels are proportional to how strongly you pedal, so it feels very natural to a cyclist. A throttle on the controller allows you to move without pedaling at all. For downhill and braking, the motor changes to a generator and recharges the battery.

Using the throttle on flat ground without pedaling, I sustain 25mph. The manual claims I can get about twenty miles without pedaling on a single charge, although I haven't gone far enough in one trip to test that yet. I've read that you can get sixty miles per charge at the 25% assistance level.

While I know this isn't an ideal solution for everyone's energy cost problems, I'm very excited about the economic, health and family benefits I think we'll enjoy.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The 6 Giants of Global Profits

From the always interesting David Adams:

The 6 Giants of Global Profits by Martin D. Weiss Ph.D. (Author's pitches to invest in foreign stocks redacted)

I won't keep you guessing as to who the giants are. They're China, India, Japan, Brazil, Australia ... and Canada.
(Author did not mention Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Russia, etc. where businesses are privately owned or nationalized so investment is not possible)

There is nothing, I repeat nothing, that you do every day that is not connected to, or dependent upon, these six countries.

They make the clothes you wear. They answer the phones when you call customer service. They supply the gas for your car. They build your car. They make the paste in your toothpaste. Some of them even examine your CT scans instead of your doctor. Quietly, invisibly, they have penetrated every corner of your daily life.

China's stock market, for example, rose 131% in 2006 — nearly ten times more than ours. Even Brazil's market, despite a relatively slower economy, delivered double the gains of the S&P 500. In fact, fifty-five different foreign stock markets beat the U.S. in 2006. Now, those markets are soaring even further, still widely outperforming the Dow. China is trumping the U.S. markets. Housing woes in the U.S. are not over. They're getting worse.

China: "To Get Rich is Glorious" Chinese Premiere Deng Xiaoping spoke these words back in 1993. And indeed, that's when China unleashed an economic force unprecedented in modern history. That single, but pivotal, change in philosophy marked the beginning of China's relentless march to prosperity. And along the way, we are seeing a series of largely untold economic miracles:
* Chinese consumer spending has jumped from virtually zero to nearly $1 trillion.
* There are now over 100 cities in China with a population over 1 million. The U.S. has only nine.
* China currently boasts 1.3 billion consumers. Plus, to stimulate foreign investments, Beijing is pulling out all the stops.

China plans to boost natural gas consumption by as much as 500 percent ... invest nearly $4 billion in information technology and infrastructure ... expand fiber optic networks ... beef up mobile communications capacity ... establish digital capable HDTV transmission ... and use GPS technology for traffic control.

China is building massive skyscrapers, highways, city expressways, subway lines, and an intra-city light rail. It's expanding the Beijing airport, improving water, electric, gas, and heating facilities. All across China, the equivalent of a city the size of San Francisco is being built every two weeks. This year alone, Shanghai (with 17 million people) will complete towers with more square footage than all the available space in Manhattan combined.

Even more significant is that China just launched a rural initiative for over 800 million citizens. It plans to spend over $11 billion a year on rural education, irrigation, and medical services. And it's investing tens of billions to build 112,000 miles of rural roads — enough to circle the globe four times over. Imagine, just imagine, the raw materials and natural resources like cement, asphalt, tar and steel required to feed that kind of growth. That's why consumption of just about every imaginable resource is flying off the charts!

The Relentless Rise of India: "It's Like China 15 or 20 Years Ago."
* India is currently home to more than 1 billion people and projected to surpass China as the most populous country on Earth by 2015.
* India's economy is growing 8 percent a year — the second fastest rate in the world.
* The Indian stock market has tripled in three years — creating a record number of billionaires.

One reason: Foreign investors have poured $30 billion into India's stock market in 36 months. Just like China, India needs massive amounts of natural resources and commodities to feed its booming economy. And this is not just a passing trend. It's an economic appetite that could last for a long time. But where will China and India find the commodities, natural resources, and consumer products to feed their unbridled expansion?

A "Back Door" to Asia: Brazil!

Ever since Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ("Lula") was elected Brazil's president five years ago, she's been saying he'd wreck the economy. Lula has done precisely the opposite. He's implemented the most disciplined fiscal and monetary policy the country has seen in half a century. He has boosted Brazil's currency by 69% since he took office in January 2003. He has increased the trade surplus by 225% from $14.1 billion to $45.8 billion. And he has paid off 100% of Brazil's debts to the International Monetary Fund. To achieve all that, however, Lula had to pay a stiff price: Spartan government spending, sky-high interest rates ... and, consequently, a relatively slow economy last year. So it's only now, in his second term, that he feels he's got a firm enough financial foundation in place to go for the real prize: Big growth.

With that goal in mind, the Bank of Brazil (the equivalent to our Fed) has already slashed its benchmark interest rate 14 times, to the lowest level in recent history. And sure enough, the economy is responding: Retail sales have jumped 8.5%. Capital goods production jumped 18%. And Brazil's key stock index, the Bovespa, which rose 32.9% last year, has gone on to new highs in 2007. In just four years, Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has transformed the Brazilian economy and forged monumental deals with China. Brazil's trade balance has gone from an $8 billion deficit to a $46 billion surplus. Just recently, Brazil's state-owned oil company inked a deal to sell China 12 million barrels of crude oil. How do you get all that oil out of Brazil when its infrastructure is not up to par? No problem for China. They've offered many billions to improve Brazil's port and railway infrastructure — so they can extract natural resources more efficiently. China is also building the world's second largest dam in the Brazilian Amazon. And energy from that dam will power mines that send raw material to ... China. Brazil's natural resources are equivalent to those of the U.S. and Canada combined. But even those resources alone can't feed the needs of China, India, and all of Asia.

So these resource-gobbling giants are looking elsewhere too.

: The Strongest, Most Stable Natural Resource Nation in the World

Unlike emerging nations, Canada has all the technology and expertise it needs to exploit its vast resources.

Even more important, Canada has modern deep-water ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts — giving it easy access to both European and Asian markets. Best of all, Canada is sitting on massive deposits of gold, uranium, coal, oil and other vital resources. And they're already cashing in. Canada recently recorded its fifth-best trade surplus in history. The reason? China. Chinese importers are buying all the raw materials that Canada can sell them. That, plus a boom in mining projects and fattening margins, helps explain why the TSX-Venture exchange (Canada's small-cap market) has outperformed the S&P 500 by 153% over the past five years. Meanwhile ...
* China has bought one of Canada's largest oil companies.
* China has blanketed the country with a vast network of scouts (armed with truckloads of money) to scoop up coal mines, oil sand fields, natural gas pipelines and metals. Remember: Canada is the most modern and technologically advanced of the world's large natural resource nations.

Exploration spending for mining in British Columbia alone hit a record high of $230 million dollars in 2006, and should keep ramping up in 2007.

A New Chinese "Gold" Rush in Australia?

In the 1800s, Chinese miners flocked to Australia for the great gold rush. Today, it's happening again. Only the Chinese aren't looking for gold; they're after uranium. And they're not coming with picks and shovels. They're coming with mountains of money. Why? Because Australia happens to sit on the world's largest known deposits of uranium — with more reserves than the United States, Canada, Russia and Brazil combined. And with more than 900 new nuclear plants now being planned, the hunger for uranium is just beginning. Australia's abundant natural resources — including iron ore, nickel, coal, uranium, and more — are in such huge demand in nearby Asia, it's no surprise then that ...
* Australia's economy is now in its sixteenth consecutive year of expansion.
* Job growth has been the strongest in 17 years, dropping the jobless rate to the lowest level in more than three decades! Result: Consumer spending is growing and consumer confidence recently hit a 19-month high.
* There's no better indicator of a country's future than its currency, and the Aussie dollar recently reached its highest level since 1996.

Japan: The Sun is Rising Again!

Japan is now enjoying its longest, non-stop, sustained expansion since World War II. Automakers are soaring. Banks are thriving. Unemployment hit a record low. And the stock market doubled in 24 months. So what's the mega-force behind Japan's remarkable recovery? You guessed it — China.

Japan's trade with China jumped to $189 billion last year, the seventh straight annual record. This year, it should easily top $200 billion. Look. Just when most people were giving up on Japan a few years ago, the country was cleaning up its balance sheet and starting to capitalize on China's economic boom. At the same time, Japan is also solidifying trade and security links with Australia. It's currently the biggest buyer of that country's coal, natural gas, oil, and agricultural goods. And if the two countries hammer out a free trade agreement, both economies will get an additional boost. Tony Sagami, who recently revisited his native Japan, puts it this way:

"Everybody I talked to — from the fish vendors at Tsukiji market to the Shiseido clerks at luxury
Takashimaya department store — says their companies are making more money and they're much more optimistic about the future.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Welcome Comment on Oil Drilling

Sen. Feinstein adds to the chorus of boos over opening up new areas for offshore drilling. Money quote, not discussed on this blog earlier:

The vast majority of the outer continental shelf is already open to oil exploration: Areas containing an estimated 82% of all of the natural gas and 79% of the oil are today available to energy companies through existing federal leases. Federal agencies are issuing drilling permits at three times the rate they were in 1999 -- but that hasn't slowed oil prices during the climb from $19 to beyond $140 a barrel.

Meantime, energy companies haven't fully utilized their existing permits to drill on another 68 million acres of federal lands and waters. Exploiting these areas probably could double U.S. oil production and increase natural gas production by 75%.

And still the US only accounts for 3% of the world's supply of oil. Even with doubling production on oil, we won't make a dent in the world price.

Repeat these stats with anyone who thinks McSame is right.

Blame Feinstein, Bayh, Landrieu, and Schumer

But also Biden, Dodd, Clinton, and Obama. What for? The confirmation of Michael Mukasey as Attorney General to replace Bush henchman Alberto Gonzales. Had Feinstein, Bayh, Landrieu or Schumer (plus Thomas Carper of Delaware and Benjamin Nelson of Nebraska) voted against the confirmation (I wrote Feinstein ahead of the vote urging her to vote "nay" and now wish I'd kept the email), the vote would have been 47-46, not enough to confirm. There were also seven non-voters (the four Dem senators on the campaign trail, plus McCain, Lamar Alexander, and Cornyn), and if this had also broken on party lines, the vote would have been 50-50. Of course, Cheney would have broken the deadlock and Mukasey would still have been in the job. But it would have been the tightest vote for an AG in history. If any Dem senator had threatened a filibuster, they would have kept Mukasey at bay.

Why is this relevant? Mukasey this week refused to turn over to Congress key FBI interviews with Bush and Cheney, conducted during the Valerie Plame investigation. Basically, according to a Newsweek story Wednesday, Mukasey all but invented a new way to claim executive privilege. Calling it "the law-enforcement component," the basic argument is that if White House officials, now or in the future, knew that their interviews with FBI investigators could become public, they might not voluntarily submit to them.

Uh, Yeah Right.

No White House official, ever -- now or later -- would voluntarily submit to an FBI investigation into any matter without some serious coaching by WH counsel and without carefully scripting their answers. This is all part of the typical Bush secrecy and obfuscation that undermines the separation of powers and redefines the way our government works.

To bring this home for me in a more personal way, there's a book I read to my boys every so often, mostly when I catch them lying or cheating at something. It's called How to Behave and Why, written in 1946 by Munro Leaf, who also wrote The Story of Ferdinand. One of my favorite quotes in the book is --
How old we are isn't what counts. The two biggest questions to ask ourselves in life, at any age, are: Are most of the people I know glad that I am here? and Am I glad that I am here myself?

The underlying character issues this quote brings up perfectly illustrate how I want my sons to conduct themselves. It is so black and white and simple, that anyone at any age ought to be able to live by it. Amazing that we find it acceptable for our elected leaders to be so dishonest and so unfair.

Bush Presidential Library, redux

Sorry for the inadvertent posting.

A little Friday levity, courtesy of David Adams.

The George W Bush Presidential Library
A monument to his years in office

The George W Bush Presidential Library is now in the planning stages. The Library will include:

  • The Hurricane Katrina Room, which is still under construction.
  • The Alberto Gonzales Room, where you won't be able to remember anything.
  • The Texas Air National Guard Room, where you don't even have to show up.
  • The Walter Reed Hospital Room, where they don't let you in.
  • The Guantanamo Bay Room, where they don't let you out.
  • The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room, which no one has been able to find.
  • The National Debt Room, which is huge and has no ceiling.
  • The Tax Cut Room, with entry only to the wealthy.
  • The Economy Room, which is in the toilet.
  • The Iraq War Room. (After you complete your first tour, they make you to go back for a second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth tour.)
  • The Dick Cheney Room, in the famous undisclosed location, complete with shotgun gallery.
  • The Environmental Conservation Room, still empty.
  • The Supremes Gift Shop, where you can buy an election.
  • The Airport Men's Room, where you can meet some of your favorite Republican Senators.
  • The Decider Room, complete with dart board, magic 8-ball, Ouija board, dice, coins, and straws.
Note: The museum will feature an electron microscope to help you locate and view the President's accomplishments.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

One never truly knows how something one says or does will affect the world around him. Since the universe is, as Deepak Chopra so eloquently puts it, a Field of All Possibilities, there are an infinite number of possible outcomes for any single event.

This rather new-age explanation of the Law of Unintended Consequences points to something Bob Cesca wrote today on Huffington Post. He is commenting on Bush's fiddling while Rome burns, and McSame's very lame attempts at humor that actually point to his questionable competence as leader of the free world.

But it's this one paragraph that gave me pause, and not in a good way:
The president isn't you and me. You and I can tell whatever joke we want whenever we want because we don't have to represent 300 million people on the world stage. Your personal behavior doesn't necessarily get passed on to posterity as a reflection of an entire era in American history. So if you want to tell that gorilla rape joke to your spouse or parents, have at it. If Senator McCain wants to tell a joke like that, he embarrasses more than just himself.

So, wasn't this sort of what the Republicans were saying in the '90s when they were impeaching Clinton for lying to Congress about getting a blow job from Monica Lewinsky? I mean, if an everyday man wants to cheat on his wife with a woman willing to enable the cheating, he really only has to answer to his wife, his family, perhaps the other woman. In other words, he doesn't affect 300 million people. But if a POTUS gets a BJ in the Oval Office, repeatedly, and gets caught, isn't that going to be "passed on to posterity as a reflection of an entire era in American history"? And of course, in Clinton's case, it was, and it led in a way to Al Gore's loss and the ascension of Bush in 2000.

Well, let's put it all into perspective, though, OK? Clinton enjoyed a singularly pleasurable sexual experience in his office, violating his marriage vows, and then lied about it to Congress. Millions were spent uncovering the mess (excluding the mess on Monica's dress) and prosecuting the lying offense.

By contrast, Clinton's successor committed felonies (warrantless wiretapping on American citizens) in violation of the Fourth Amendment, lied to the world about why war with Iraq was necessary, violated the Geneva Conventions (torture) and lied about its legality, has held American civilians in military brigs for years without charges, in violation of the Sixth Amendment, and has continually lied to America about the need to stay in Iraq forever, has sanctioned the outing of a covert CIA agent (and practically pardoned the guy who actually did it). Hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted enabling this pathological liar and criminal and those who surround him.

Now, along comes an old guy who wants to be Bush's true successor, continue with his warped worldview and impose American "values" on a world not so ready to accept them. A guy who's confused a lot of the time, rarely if ever funny, and it's questionable if the guy's all that personable. He also wants to waste billions of our dollars. Given the karma surrounding Bush, it's pretty easy predict the outcome of this guy's election.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why They Haven't Attacked Us Again

Ted Rall with the inside scoop.

(Hat Tip: David Adams)

Rush on The Colbert Report

No, thank God! Not THAT Rush! I mean the greatest Canadian rock band of all time, the first band I really heard that played the musical style that would change my life forever -- Progressive Rock.

Email recipients, click here and click on the Colbert Report link on the home page. In fact it may load automatically (it's sort of random).

Who is the "Far Left?"

Interesting piece by BarbinMD at DailyKos. Seems "far left" refers to most of the country right now.
We reflect the majority opinion of this country on pretty much every issue, yet the media continues to pretend that we're the far left, the lunatic fringe. They're still unwilling to admit the obvious...we are the mainstream.

The Dollar Ain't Worth What it Used to Be!

Hat tip: Titus Levi

Huckabubba as VP?

I've written privately to friends before that the Democrats cannot afford to be dismissive of the religious right. Blogger Five Thirty Eight speculates about the Republican candidate choosing Mike Huckabee as his VP in a much broader piece about the election. The conventional wisdom is that the fundies are the "organizing engine" of the GOP. I don't disagree, but the Dems have learned this year and they have a lot of money.

I say it's a great choice for McSame. Let him run with the Christianists, right into the ground. We have all seen the eroding of support for fundamentalism since 2006, and we saw how fast Huckabee's popularity sank after his shocking win in Iowa. He may have won a few southern primaries along the way -- which in large part was expected -- but the Republicans cannot mount a southern strategy this time and expect to win. The so-called swing states like Ohio and Florida are leaning towards Obama, and states once thought to be solidly on the red side, like Virginia, have a Democratic Governor, former Governor, and Senator who are all very popular.

Huckabee exhibits likeability in many ways: he's a good communicator, he's forthright, and he's a musician (always a plus in my book). The 538 article speculates that Huckabee's radical positions won't alter the landscape all that much if he's second on the ticket:
Huckabee may have a few gaffes here and there, and he may be wildly out of the American mainstream for some of his views once those views reach sunlight, but I simply don’t think those views are going to capture enough voter attention nor be meaningfully damaging enough (as merely the VP) to outweigh the benefits Huckabee would bring the ticket. If McCain isn’t able to get any oxygen in the narrative (good or bad), how much scrutiny will his VP choice really get? Would a perceived base pander pick truly hurt McCain with the undecideds in a way that has any staying power?

I think McSame will be dragged into a most unflattering spotlight -- at least in the blogosphere -- if he chooses the radical right agenda as his "wing man." And he looks primed to do something that stupid. He's already fully embraced the neocon notion of a permanent presence in Iraq. He's already sounding more and more like Bush III than the "maverick" he was eight years ago. By embracing the religious right, his rebranding as the second coming of George W. Bush would be complete. And transforming oneself into the heir apparent of one of the nation's worst and most unpopular presidents is just fine with this progressive blogger.

For more on McSame's war position, click here. Money quote:

McCain gets a demerit for resorting to a "tried and true" cop-out. He says he will name an "Afghanistan czar"—a "highly respected national security leader, based in the White House and reporting directly to the president." He'll also appoint "a special presidential envoy to address disputes between Afghanistan and its neighbors."

A czar and an envoy—two classic enablers of executive evasion for the same war!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Update on New Yorker cover piece

An update to my earlier post about the New Yorker magazine cover art showing Obama and his wife:

Adding to my picture of McCain --burning in the fireplace is (what else?) the United States Constitution.

Christianism Watch

As reported on HuffPost, the Department of Health and Human Services, led by Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, is acting in complicity with the radical religious right. HHS is proposing that federal grant recipients should be allowed to obstruct a woman's access to contraception. How do they do that, you ask? By redefining many forms of contraception which are the preferred method of birth control for 40% of Americans as abortion.


By citing a Zogby poll which states that 49% of Americans believe life to begin at contraception, they argue that many of those who hold this belief would also believe that anything which terminated a pregnancy would be an abortion. So things like the pill, IUD, the patch, the shot, the ring, and emergency contraception would all be abortion methods. Access to these methods could thereby be restricted by recipients of federal grants.

Again, religion trumps science in the Bush administration. Superstition trumps fact. Faith trumps reason in a secular society.

As the Supertramp song "Lover Boy" goes: "So all you ladies beware."