Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Move America Backwards

We have written a lot of words about the true nature of Move America Forward, the astroturf front organization started by the right wing Republican public relations firm Russo, Marsh and Rogers. Over at Skiing Uphill, Hart Williams has generated a most detailed history of MAF; Russo, Marsh and Rogers; right wing talk radio and Republican heavy weights like Ed Rollins. His opus is called "Swift Boat Moms in Winnebagos or, The Astroturfing of Cindy Sheehan."

Hart delves into the machinery of the "right wing noise machine" and, in great detail, ties the major players together. It is quite a piece of work.

One of the most interesting connections that Hart makes is the close relationship between
Sacramento radio talk host, Mark Williams and MAF's "Marine Mom", Deborah Johns. Johns was MAF's figurehead leader of its "Cindy Sheehan Doesn't Speak for Me" junket to Crawford last weekend.

Johns relationship with Williams, who sits in the broadcast chair first warmed by Rush Limbaugh, goes back well before Cindy Sheehan came into the picture. Johns was part of an ugly, lynch mob that descended on a
Sacramento house whose owners have the audacity to suggest that the Bush Administration wasn't looking out for the welfare of our troops in Iraq. Read about that here and here.

Johns then went on to join with Williams and his wife in the formation of a cuddly organization called Casey's Kids (honest) that collects money to buy the basics for Iraqi children. Casey is the name of the Williams' dog. Their little charity organization was founded on
August 1, 2005, with the help of a Russo, Marsh and Rogers honcho named, Doug Lorenz. Beside his Russo, Marsh and Rogers efforts, Lorenz is also a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, the self-described "conscience of the Republican Party."

The bottom-line is that Move America Forward is a cog in the Republican Party's well oiled propaganda machine. Anything it does or says is information that is generated from offices in the White House just a few steps away from the Oval Office itself.

Read Hart's work. It is massive, detailed and well researched.

Bush's Tipping Point

Over at Newsweek, Howard Fineman suggests that Katrina may be the moment the Bush Administration hit its "tipping point." He adds Katrina, and Bush's tepid response so far, to a litany of other key moments the President will face in the next month. Looking back he says, we will find that,

"...Katrina is just such a moment. We are a big, strong country—and New Orleans will, somehow, survive—but you do get the sense, as President Bush finally arrived here after a monthlong vacation, that a political hurricane is gathering force, and it’s going to hit the capital any day."


This is, literally, an invasion of the homeland, and it will require a warlike response from a nation and a military already stretched thin. National Guard officials insist that they have enough men and women on hand to do the job, but common sense tells you that they could use the others stationed abroad. The U.S. Navy is dispatching supply ships to the region, but battling the waters that cover the region will require many more resources."

Not long ago we gathered together some posts from other blogs and the print media. The title of the post was Accountability and Leadership. We have seen neither from the Bush Administration in this time of crisis. Fineman suggests that Bush will respond, but other than efforts in Florida last year, led primarily by his brother, George Bush has a great deal of trouble responding to the needs of real people.

This might just be the "tipping point" for the Bush Administration.

Accountability and Leadership

Who won't Bush fire over the Katrina disaster? Just as in Iraq, the problems go right to the top. They belong at the feet of a man whose lack of interest in the nuts and bolts duties of his job should be apparent to us all by now. Who is the leader responsible for all of this?

For four years the Bush Administration has been talking about preparing for a terrorist nuclear or chemical attack on an American city. Billions of dollars have been diverted for security projects in venerable places like
Wyoming. At the same time the organizations responsible for coping with a disaster should it occur have been routinely short-changed or eliminated from the Homeland Security budget. Who is the leader responsible for protecting Americans?

Money needed to rebuild and upgrade levees in
Louisiana was diverted to Iraq and then wasted on no-bid contracts with Halliburton. National Guard troops desperately needed to help in Gulf Coast states are patrolling the streets of Baghdad, because there is no one else to do the job. Who is the leader responsible for this?

Over at K/O, Kid Oakland lays the cards on the table.

“…if, as initial reports have it, FEMA has been weakened and rolled into Homeland Security...we need to demand accountability. FEMA is a good program. It works. The citizens of Louisiana and Mississippi need FEMA right now, and will need the kind of support FEMA provides in the weeks and months to come. If it's been rolled into Homeland Security....then exactly WHO is the point person here? Where is the aid coming from? The response at this point seems to be ad they're making it up as they go.

We've suffered a major natural disaster. Who is the point person for our federal government? What were the contingency plans? As far as I know, aside from the President's statement, given at a press meetup on
Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld is the only figure to have spoken out. Why is that? Who is the leader here?”

Who is the leader here? It is a simple question. This disaster unfolded over a period of days. The potential magnitude of the disaster was understood as soon as Katrina cleared the Florida coast and began sucking energy from the warm gulf waters. While all this was happening, Bush vacationed and when he got tired of fishin', nappin', bikin', spittin' and brush clearin', he jumped on Air Force One and flew off to do some politicin' the friendly confines of Arizona and Coronado.

As AmericaBlog points out, newspapers are already asking why was the President sticking with his schedule, including yesterday's return to Crawford, instead of getting involved with saving lives and putting the U.S economy right.

The Arizona Republic questions Bush's decision to drop in on a retirement community on Monday, instead of getting involved with his job.

"In a way, the president of the United States is the eye of a constantly circulating political hurricane. Ordinarily, the fact that he made landfall in Arizona would be big news. The fact that there were war protesters outside the president's appearance might have meant something, too, were it not for the fact that an actual hurricane struck on the same day.

Bush could have pointed this out. He could have skipped Arizona for Washington, D.C. He could have said that war, immigration, Social Security, Medicare and the rest are important, but for this day let's put them aside, along with the rest of our personal and political special interests, and concentrate on the folks in the path of the storm."

Instead of leading by example and heading back to the office to roll up his sleeves and save some lives, Bush continued on with his West Coast swing. He had an important message to deliver about prescription medication, immigration and the end of World War II.

Who is the leader here? Where is he hiding? Why is he hiding?

The Prince of Pork

More revelations today concerned Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham - the Prince of Pork.

The San Diego Union Tribune delves into the details of the process by which Cunningham was able to "earmark" specific spending to insure that his major contributors such as MZM Inc. and ACDS Inc. were guaranteed lucrative government contracts.

"Cunningham's seats on the defense appropriations subcommittee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence give him influence over the kinds of military-intelligence contracts MZM has been seeking, said Nathan Facey, a former aide to Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.

"It's one-stop shopping," Facey said of Cunningham's potential usefulness to Wade. "He can get an earmark lined up in the intelligence committee, and then he can walk it over to appropriations and say, 'It's classified, so I can't talk about it, but it's a good program.' "


"Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate staff member and frequent critic of the appropriations process, looks ruefully at the proliferation of pork.


Cunningham's suggestion that he could not significantly influence the outcome of relatively small military-intelligence contracts worth a few million dollars, doesn't square with reality, Wheeler said.

"If he did line-items in committee reports or conference reports for MZM, he understands perfectly well that he required the Department of Defense to do exactly that or there would be hell to pay," Wheeler said."

The UT points out that the chief executives of MZM and ADCS, Mitchell Wade and Brent Wilkes respectively, were responsible for political contributions of close to $800,000 to candidates in who could help them get what they wanted for their companies. And, those are just the legal, reported contributions, not included are the $700,000 overpayment for Cunningham's home, private jet air travel, free housing on a yacht purchased specifically for Cunningham by Wade.

In fact that yacht, the Duke-Stir, is the subject of another Cunningham article today. The North County Times reports that Cunningham is reneging on his June 23 promise to release his financial records relating to his use of the Duke-Stir.

"In a June 23 statement, Cunningham wrote that his attorneys were assembling the payment information for his time on contractor Mitchell Wade's boat, the "Duke-Stir," and would release it once compiled.


In his June statement, Cunningham, R-Escondido, wrote that he had paid "well over" $8,000 in dock fees and "well over" $5,000 for service and maintenance in lieu of traditional rent during the 14 months he lived on the 42-foot vessel.

The promise to make those records public in a timely manner is included in a "Personal Statement from Congressman Cunningham" that has remained posted on his congressional Web site since it was issued.

Attorney K. Lee Blalack said this week that while the 50th Congressional District lawmaker still intended to disclose the payment information, it will be kept under wraps for now.


In the June statement, however, Cunningham did know he was the subject of some kind of investigation, writing he was aware "there is now a legal inquiry under way."

The first witnesses the federal grand jury in
San Diego called were from the yacht club where the Duke-Stir was docked. Is it possible that the records that Cunningham so confidently promised to deliver might have been contradicted by information already provided to the grand jury? If that's the case, Cunningham's release of incomplete of misleading documents would probably lead to additional investigations and charges.

Why is this guy still the representative of the 50th District?

The UT story also has details concerning payoffs to Congressman Virgil Goode, another member of the Team Delay.

"Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., a member of the House Appropriations Committee, has been another target of Wade's political contributions. MZM has given $87,476 to Goode, mostly in the form of individual contributions from employees."

Why are any of these corrupt war profiteers representing the American people in Congress?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Frantic Energy...Caffeine Is Once Again Good For You!

Why don't I read 3 Quarks Daily, daily?

"Whatever Iraq is - a blunder, a miscalculation, one of the greatest policy failures in American history, a bodge, a failed humanitarian intervention, or, for what it's worth, my own personal view, a tragedy - whatever Iraq is, we know what it is not: something to be proud of. War, even a just or defensible war, is never that. War is a cart of severed limbs. In the logic of the war party, war "transforms," it "liberates"; there are "good wars" as well as bad wars. Only people who know nothing about war can use these words. There is only one criterion for a just war: is it necessary? But there is no good war."

Why have I not let the Light of Reason shine into my life?

"This is the kind of occasion for which crude language was…er, designed. Indeed, the occasion positively demands it. The entire spectacle is almost enough to make me finally believe in God."

Why have I not admitted before now, that occasionally I wander over to Go Fug Yourself. I just can't help myself. It is much like the need to rubberneck at an accident site.

"It was only seven years ago that Eva was Miss Corpus Christi. Ergo, her strutting onstage in a complex, confusing bathing suit looking every inch like a pageant princess -- not to mention the fact that she'll do anything for attention, and seriously, WHAT is going on with her hair? -- is not, in fact, terribly surprising. More shocking would have been her showing up in pants and a sweater, without makeup, while loudly declaring herself celibate. Now there's a jaw-dropper."
(Photo reference is here.)

Last admission, when I really want to know how things work, I check out Layer 9. The posts here are infrequent, but when they appear, it is like a gold nugget dropped from the sky.

For example, there is this study of the Federal debt, corrected for inflation, that shows that despite WWII and Vietnam, it wasn't until Ronald Reagan that America become a debtor nation.

This is good stuff and you can't find this and string theory and why missile defense won't work on Fox News, CNN or PBS.

Of course, you can't beat string theory for riveting reading. Clue:String theory is the basis of the whole Flying Spaghetti Monster religion. That whole story is about to break wide open.

Bush Saw This Coming AND Still Did Nothing

OK, let's give President Bush a pass on the 9/11 thing. He knew it was going to happen, but he didn't know when, where, etc.

But, Katrina, this thing unfolded over a period of days. What was Bush doing while the disaster was sneaking up on him on every fucking television channel (even Fox)?

Editor & Publisher reviews the work of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and asks, "Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?"

Per AmericaBlog we see Bush and the musical version of "My Pet Goat". Bush apparently doesn't want to frighten the country music singer who presented him with the guitar.

Bush can't really do anything now. He could have made a difference two days ago if he had assumed a position of leadership. Instead he went fishing.

(photo credit AmericaBlog and Yahoo)

Screw Science...Screw Poor People...Screw America

Yes, Republican policies made things worse in New Orleans. Both the systematic gutting of environmental policy and devastating budget cuts aimed at eliminating crucial engineering projects in the New Orleans area.

Some bloggers suggest that now is not a time for partisan attacks. My answer to that is bullshit! Sure I can post the Red Cross link here, but that won't help the victims on the next killer storm as much as tossing the Republicans out of office will.

If you don't think that Bush policies and decision are part of the problem, read this about the systematic under funding of critical flood control projects in

The $750 million
Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20% incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.

The district has identified $35 million in projects to build and improve levees, floodwalls and pumping stations in St. Bernard,
Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. Those projects are included in a Corps line item called Lake Pontchartrain, where funding is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million this year to $2.9 million in 2006. Naomi said it's enough to pay salaries but little else."

Yeah, let's give George Bush and his pals a free pass on this one, too.

Pattern of Behavior

Air Force One departs Florida on September 11, 2001. President Bush is going to find a safe place to hide.

Air Force One carries President Bush to speaking engagements in Utah and Idaho, far away from that mean Cindy Sheehan. August 22, 2005.

Air Force One heads west to get President Bush out of harms way in case hurricane Katrina veers in the direction of Crawford. August 29, 2005.

Anger is Bush's Only Emotion

The current Newsweek ponders whether President Bush is feeling any heat from the emerging anti-war movement? Memo to Newsweek: Bush has never felt a human emotion in his life except anger, so your question might more accurately be - how is Bush planning to get even with the anti-war movement?

President Bush's decision to take a break from vacationing in Texas and fly up to Utah and then Idaho to squeeze in a couple of speeches before friendly audiences certainly indicates a growing White House concern over the anti-war movement.

"For a White House that professes to not care about polls, Bush’s advisers are concerned, which is why the public will see more of the president than usual during the final weeks of his month-long Texas sojourn. There will be slight tweaks in Bush’s language about the war, administration officials say, including a more somber message on the enemy the U.S. faces."

Tweaking the language and more somber (another word would be honest) assessments of the insurgency. That's the ticket. There certainly won't be any introspection or study given to how Bush and his cronies got our country into this mess, nor are we likely to see the emergence of a new Iraqi policy that might lead to a real solution to this disaster.

Of course, there are enemies to be dealt with. The list starts with Chuck Hagel, but there are lots of names, both Republicans and Democrats. We haven't heard the last word on Cindy Sheehan's punishment yet either. Swiftboating didn't work, so what now? An IRS audit? One way trip to Gitmo? As the President is fond of say, "all options are on the table."

Chickenhawk Awards....Von Clausewitz...The Usual Stuff

Steve Giliard at the News Blog brings us the KKB, Kombat Keyboard Badge. Dedicated to "those pundits who advocate the Iraq War, but refuse to serve or have family members serve, when eligible."

Eligibility is strictly limited.

"To be eligible, one must have risked nothing to advocate the war, while advocating it voiceriously."

Over at the the Pen and the Sword, Commander Jeff Huber, reminds us of the words of master strategist Carl Von Clausewitz:

“No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.”

Since there was no Classic Comics version of "Vom Kriege", we can assume that it was not on George Bush's reading list. As Commander Huber points out, the fact the President Bush was clueless doesn't mean the library over at the Project for the New American Century didn't have a couple of copies available.

"The real policy makers were (and are) the core members of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, John Bolton, Bill Bennett, and Jeb Bush, among others. (Funny how Little Brother had more to do with formulating policy and strategy that Big Brother did.)"

Alternate Brain gives us a peek at the new Iraq constitution. How could anyone feel left out of this all inclusive blueprint for democracy?

"Recognizing God's right upon us; obeying the call of our nation and our citizens; responding to the call of our religious and national leaders (and our national forces and politicians) and the insistence of our great religious authorities and our leaders and our reformers, we went by the millions for the first time in our history to the ballot box, men and women, young and old, on Jan. 30, 2005, remembering the pains of the despotic band's sectarian oppression; inspired by the suffering of Iraq's martyrs -- Sunni and Shiite, Arab, Kurd and Turkomen, and the remaining brethren in all communities -- inspired by the injustice against the holy cities (and the south) in the popular uprising and (burnt with the sorrows of the mass graves, the marches and Dujail and others); recalling the agonies of the national oppression in the massacres of Halabja, Barzan, Anfal and against the Faili Kurds; inspired by the tragedies of the Turkomen in Bashir, and as in other parts of Iraq, (the people of the western region have suffered from the liquidation of its leaders, symbols, tribal leaders and displacing its intellectuals, so we worked hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder) to create a new Iraq, Iraq of the future, without sectarianism, racial strife, regionalism, discrimination and (elimination)" ....................... and on and on and on.

That's just the preamble to the preamble. No wonder the Sunnis walked out. They were bored to death.

Finally, check out The Heritik's take on George Bush and baseball, The Fortunate Son Slides Into Home.

“TALK ABOUT THE FORTUNATE SON GEORGE BUSH means talking baseball. His magical mystery tour through the NATIONAL GUARD and his COKE USE AND DENIAL can be canned for later. George Bush made money for nothing. No word about chicks for free. (Chicks for free is the story of his brother Neil. Brother Neil made money in China. And brother Marvin too. Remember Dad had a few jobs. One of them was as an ambassador . . . to China.) But George W. doesn’t like to travel.”

Come back later. We're going to introduce you to the pissed off fundamentalist splinter group of the Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster, the Order of the Vindictive Vermicelli.

We'll also look at the devastation caused along the Arizona border by voracious Mexican shoppers.

Film at 11.

911...Terrorists...Dark Days After Pearl Harbor...blah...blah....blah

Before a hand picked and secure audience, President Bush once again spewed out his line of crap regarding the war in Iraq. Standing in front of the aircraft carrier, Ronald Reagan, Bush conflated his war of choice in Iraq with World War II.

"Once again, war came to our shores that killed thousands," Bush said, likening the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to that of Pearl Harbor. He added that the difference this time around is that America faces an ideology of hate that "despises everything America stands for."

"Once again, we will not rest until victory is America's and freedom is secure," the president added."

There are no words left to describe this cowardly bullshit artist. And, fewer yet to describe the people who voted this lying sack of crap into office.

Sign The Petition

Another Words Have Power Contest!

Find anyone in this picture who is currently serving in any capacity in the United States military? No, President Bush's role as the Commander in Chief, doesn't count. He does get to wear cool, quasi-military uniforms, though.

One Pissed Off Veteran directs us to Buzzflash, where we can all sign a petition requesting that the Republican power elite send some of their children to replace the children of the poor and middle class who are fighting and dying in Iraq.

“Bush has derided the mothers and fathers of our nation's war dead for not wanting any more young American men and women to die in Iraq. "We owe them [the already killed and wounded soldiers] something," he told veterans in Salt Lake City (even though his administration tried to shortchange the veterans agency by $1.5 billion, according to Maureen Dowd). "We will finish the task that they gave their lives for."

Yet, not one -- not one -- of any of Bush's children or his nieces and nephews have volunteered for service in any branch of the military or volunteered to serve in any capacity in Iraq. Not one of them has felt the cause was noble enough to put his or her life on the line.

Think about the non-economic factors that motivate our all volunteer military. Pride, patriotism, love of country are all components that get factored into the decision to sign up in their country's armed forces. These are values that are learned at home from their parents. Imagine the values that the Bush family children must be learning from their parents.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Spend the Night With Arnold

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is pulling out all the stops to raise money so that he can tout his phony-baloney ballot measures in a special November election.

So far Schwarzenegger has raised close to $30 million this year, while he was supposed to be running the government of the state. In his most recent cross-country foray, Arnold scored $5 million and he is looking forward to weeks of frantic fund raising before November.

Arnold's attempts to connect with everyday Californians, he is obviously far more comfortable chatting up the rich and smoozing with the famous. The Sacramento Bee reports on Arnold's recent activities and plans.

"When you're governor of
California and need a boatload of cash in less than 80 days, you're going to be hanging out with some pretty wealthy people.

Like Rick Cronk, who paid $1 million for Dreyer's Ice Cream in 1977 and merged it with Nestle three years ago in a deal reportedly worth $2.4 billion. He and his wife, Janet, are hosts for a fundraiser for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the East Bay on Sept. 28.

Or Arte Moreno, owner of the Los Angeles Angels, who is throwing a Schwarzenegger fundraiser at the team's game in Anaheim on Tuesday night against the Oakland A's.

Or Michael Milken, the former junk bond guru who spent 22 months in prison for securities violations and is one of the nation's most prolific philanthropists.

Milken and his wife, Lori, were co-hosts at a sumptuous, $25,000-per-couple fundraiser for Schwarzenegger about 10 days ago near Lake Tahoe."

Arnold's fund raising is necessary to avoid embarrassment at the polls in November when a series of initiatives that he launched will be decided upon by a very unenthusiastic electorate. Several of Arnold's measures have angered powerful state unions, including teachers, nurses and firefighters. These unions are already running ad campaigns making Arnold look bad, at a time when he needs to look good to appeal to disgruntled voters.

In his time of need, Arnold had turned to the rich and powerful, including many businesses and individuals from outside the state, who have vested interests in legislation that will pass before the governor.

"He clearly gets donations from people who have business before the state and who are regulated by the state," said Larry Noble, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics.

"These are people who want to be close to the governor and they're buying access. Their business interests are tied up with his political agenda. And when he spends a lot of time raising money from wealthy donors, their interests are going to be the focus of discussions and he's going to be thinking about that when he makes decisions, no matter what he says."

No contribution is too small and no favor is impossible for Arnold. Take one of his contributors at his recent Lake Tahoe event.

"The principal sponsor of the Lake Tahoe event, for instance, was Larry Ruvo, a wealthy Nevada liquor wholesaler who gave Schwarzenegger $53,000. Ruvo also has been trying for several years to build a pier on his private Lake Tahoe property. One agency that could help determine the project's fate is the California-Nevada Regional Planning Agency; Schwarzenegger has two appointments to the agency's 15-member governing board."

As the Los Angeles Times reported last week, Schwarzenegger is also pulling in staggering amount of money from non-profit organizations that are exempt from campaign disclosure requirements. Organizations like this pay the governor's expenses and provide instant cash for campaign activities.

"One group controlled by a powerful corporate consultant pays the $6,000-a-month rent on a Sacramento hotel suite used by the governor, who is a multimillionaire. Others have funded media events and political rallies featuring Schwarzenegger and helped pay for his foreign travel. So far, five tax-exempt groups aiding Schwarzenegger have collected $3 million."

All of these organizations receive donations from major corporations which have vested interests in a vast array of legislation and executive activity over which Schwarzenegger has influence.

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is benefiting from millions of dollars raised by a network of tax-exempt groups without revealing that the money comes from major corporations with business before his office.

The groups are run by Schwarzenegger's closest political allies, who also represent some of
California's biggest interest groups. Unlike the governor's many campaign funds, the nonprofits are not required to disclose their contributors and can accept unlimited amounts."

For a man who said he was going to change the way things were run in
Sacramento, Arnold hasn't kept his word. He has become a bigger crook, but not a better governor. As Democratic campaign strategist Gale Kaufman puts it:

"... here is a man who got elected on the promise that he wouldn't need special interest money and wouldn't take it. He now says he needs it and he'll be happy to take it. How many promises does he get to break before no one believes anything he says?"

Spend the Night With Arnold $1,000 $500 $99 $19.99!

Holy Crap and Other Things

I turned my back for a minute and some evolutionary throwback at the Washington Post is trumpeting intelligent design as the salvation of science and, oh by the way, according to Sally Jenkins, ID is not a "form of sly creationism." Sally's column is not a form of sly journalism, either.

And, check out Mark Fiore's take on Supernatural Selection.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that One Pissed Off Veteran has update his weekly watch over the Bush Twins. Apparently, they have not enlisted in the military for the 65th consecutive week. OPOV also takes Mitt Romney to task, but that's not all that hard. I mean, let's face it if your going to start a bar fight, find a "chickenhawk" bar.

Over at K/O, the Kid has all kinds of feel good stuff about an educational approach that really works, Puente. Kid, the Republicans don't care about education. How smart do you need to be to work at Wal-Mart? Those computer guys in India figure out all the problems and run the inventory system. Education is so 1990's. But, seriously folks, if we don't change our education model, we are going to see our economy achieve "world class" status - Third World.

Oh yeah. It is not too late to get into the "Cunningham Resignation Watch" official pool. Duke could go at any minute and, if you pick that minute, you win a T-shirt.

Nothing But Contempt

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design
Bring Back the Dark Ages

Recently three prominent Republicans stepped forward and endorsed the teaching of the "notion" of intelligent design as if it were the scientific equivalent of the theory of evolution.

President George Bush and Republican Senators, Bill Frist and John McCain all contend that it is the best interest of our children that they be exposed to different scientific concepts and ideas. Of course The Onion caught the idiocy of the Republican position. (And, we have to call it the Republican position, because the political promotion of intelligent design as science is almost wholly a Republican endeavor.)

"As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling."

The Republican acquiescence to the religious right's demand that their narrow interpretation of the Bible become the source of science education in America is a direct attack on not only our children, but on the future technical competitiveness of the United States in the world economy.

The idea that every scientific principle and theory must be vetted by religious authorities would be frightening if it were proposed to the public. Instead the same result is being achieved by allowing religious philosophy to be dressed up as science and presented in school as a viable, competing scientific concept.

"To formulate a competing hypothesis, you have to get down in the trenches and offer details that have testable implications. So far, intelligent design proponents have conveniently sidestepped that requirement, claiming that they have no specifics in mind about who or what the intelligent designer might be.

If intelligent design were a scientific idea whose time had come, scientists would be dashing around their labs, vying to win the Nobel Prizes that surely are in store for anybody who can overturn any significant proposition of contemporary evolutionary biology.

George Gilder, a longtime affiliate of the Discovery Institute - the conservative organization that has helped to put intelligent design on the map in the United States - has said: "Intelligent design itself does not have any content."

Since there is no content, there is no "controversy" to teach about in biology class. But here is a good topic for a high school course on current events and politics: Is intelligent design a hoax? And if so, how was it perpetrated?"

I'm sure that the idea of allowed intelligent design or creationism to be taught as alternative to evolution or earth science or biology or physics doesn't seem threatening to Republicans. When you look at the way the Bush Administration dismisses and diminishes any scientific evidence that does not suit its purposes, you can see how it is to their advantage that the general public not be educated regarding science and scientific methods.

The problem here is that this approach is degrading science education in public schools all over the
United States. It's not just Kansas where school boards are demand that intelligent design gets its own pages in the text books. Public school districts across the country are being besieged by the faithful flock of intelligent design advocates.

Perhaps more troubling is a situation in California where a private Christian school is suing the University of California (UC) over a decision by the UC system to refuse to recognize science classes at Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta as meeting the standards of the UC system. Joining the lawsuit is the 800 plus member, Association of Christian Schools.

According to the LA Daily Breeze,

"The Calvary school lawsuit complains that in January 2004, a UC official informed Christian high schools that two Christian biology textbooks are not acceptable, and that the science course outlines are "not consistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community."

The lawsuit contends that the University of California is violating the free-speech provisions of the 1st Amendment by requiring that students seeking admission to one of its campuses meet basic standards of educational literacy, including literacy in "real" science.

"Opening a new front in the national debate over mixing religion and academics, a Christian high school has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the University of California system, alleging its rejection of the school's "Christian viewpoint" classes unfairly prevents students from meeting college admissions requirements

The textbooks in question for this "science" class came from the Bob Jones University Press. No doubt about their “fundamental” accuracy, but as to science, there might be some questions.

For example, the basic Bob Jones Biology text bills itself as achieving the following:

"While maintaining its focus on biblical integration, this two volume set covers cellular biology, genetics, biotechnology, taxonomy, origins, microbiology, botany, zoology, and human anatomy. The text also presents Christian positions on biotechnology, abortion, evolution, homosexuality, ecology, disease, and drugs."

The first unit in this text is titled, "The Science of Life and God of Life." Additional units cover topics such as "A Biblical Worldview", "Biblical Creationism", and "Noah's Ark and the Animals".

The current debate over teaching intelligent design as an alternate scientific concept in public schools has led to this. Now, private Christian schools are demanding that one of the nation's most prestigious university systems allow students to substitute classes in religious philosophy for the UC required courses in science.

Republicans have decided to pretend theology is science so that they can gain religious right votes and they don't give a damn about the consequences of their pandering.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Bush Can Run, but He Can't Hide

In the latest edition of Newsweek, columnist Eleanor Clift comes pretty close to calling President Bush the "c" word.

Now there are a lot of things that could mean, but the "c" words that most clearly apply to Bush, would be "coward", "chicken", "childish".

You pick you favorite or combine them in a sentence.

Clift points out the obvious in her piece.

"It’s the nature of this brash and impetuous president that when it comes to words, he’s a big shot, but he ducks any situation where he might have to face anyone hostile to him or his policies. In Idaho, Bush could head straight to his comfort zone, an audience of rock-solid Republicans with potential dissenters screened out. This is a president who has refused to reach out to opponents in any way, and he’s paying a political price for it."

Of course, Bush had a bit of trouble when he tried the same run and hide strategy in Utah two days earlier. Not only were there protesters in the streets of Salt Lake City, but some rude old veterans actually wore "Bullshit Protector" earflaps while the President spoke.

The bottom-line here is simple. Bush refuses to hear any argument that differs from his point of view. No one in his administration has the balls to call him on it. No one in the press has the balls to call him on it. Now, when Cindy Sheehan calls him out, he runs and hides.

It is good that Ms. Clift is finally getting some insight into the kind of man that George Bush really is. To bad she wasn't as astute five years ago.

Shout out to Farnsworth - keep you "Bullshit Protector" firmly in place.

Fineman Demands to See Democrat's Plan

Writing in this week's edition of Newsweek, Howard Fineman draws historical comparisons between the war in Iraq and Vietnam and then blames the whole mess on the failure of Democrats to present an alternative.

"Is Iraq "another Vietnam"? By that I assume he means a brutal, costly and pointless war that tears America—and the presidency of a Texan who loves his ranch—to pieces. The answer to the Hagelian[as in Senator Chuck Hagel] question: Iraq is Vietnam, but only sort of..........."

Fineman's equivocations leaves little for the reader to gain much of a foothold.

Ho Chi Minh wasn't going to invade the United States:
"Cold-blooded as the enemy was in Vietnam, he had no designs on global domination, and had no interest in bringing the war in Southeast Asia to American shores."

But, Osama bin Laden is coming for our souls:
"[Osama] in the most generous interpretation, wants to restore the Arab Caliphate in the Muslim world, and then to give the West a chance to accept Islam willingly—or face the annihilation due all infidels."

Fineman dances on both sides of each issue he bring forward and then he end with an attack on Democrats for not having a plan for what to do in Iraq and in the war on terrorism.

What the hell difference would it make if the Democrats had the perfect plan? What if Democrats put forward a plan tomorrow that would extricate American troops from Iraq with minimal casualties, while leaving a stable government behind? What if Democrats presented a plan tomorrow that would dedicate U.S. and allied soldier, police and diplomats in a concerted attack on not only Islamic terrorists, but the root causes that feed so many willing recruits into their arms?

We all know what would happen if Democrats put those plans forward..... George Bush would dismiss them out of hand and "stay the course", whatever the hell that is.

"America's Cheapest City"

The Poster City for Republican Civic Failure

San Diego has billed itself as "America's Finest City" for decades. Yet, today San Diego stands on the brink of bankruptcy. Twenty-five years of Republican stewardship have created a city that is broke and broken, needing over a billion dollar to remain solvent and billions more to repair its crumbling infrastructure.

Decades of mismanagement by acolytes of the Reagan Revolution have left San Diego with the new reputation as "America's Cheapest City."

The San Diego Union Tribune chronicles the financial collapse of America's eighth largest city in a feature report in its Sunday edition.

"We've had a culture in this town for years of, 'Don't tax me,' " said Steve Erie, a political science professor at the University of California San Diego. "It's one of the things that got us in this mess. Taxes are the third rail of recent San Diego politics. Touch it and you're dead, yet someone has got to step on the tracks."

Although the roots of this anti-tax culture go deep in the sandy coastal soil, San Diego is the double victim of the Reagan Revolution of late 1970s and early 1980s. The most obvious impact of Ronald Reagan's tenure as governor of California was his legacy legislation, Proposition 13, passed by voters after Reagan left office, with his enthusiastic support.

"Overnight, property taxes statewide were capped at 1 percent of assessed value. Cities saw their revenue drop by as much as 60 percent and have been trying to recover ever since. The situation worsened in later years when the state in 1992 began diverting cities' and counties' property tax revenue to schools.

"From Prop. 13 on, it was a daily struggle," said former City Manager John Lockwood, who was with the city for four decades. "We didn't have the revenue, but we were adding programs."

The secondary fallout of the Reagan era was the acendancy in San Diego of a Republican leadership structure fully supportive of every one of Reagan's bogus fiscal schemes. While Ronald Reagan was pushing to reduce government revenue on the state and then the national level, a generation of San Diego politicians were following in his footsteps, at least rhetorically.

Starting with Pete Wilson and extending through recently resigned, Wilson protégé, Dick Murphy, San Diego has been led by a collection of anti-government, anti-tax, Chamber of Commerce boosters, who have never been able to muster the required political nerve to place hard choices before the voters.

"San Diego has always had a champagne appetite and a beer budget," said John Fowler, a former assistant city manager who was with the city from 1960 to 1988.

"During my early years, ... we tried to do everything in the least expensive way possible – our public improvements, grading. There was even an aversion to charging developers any amount of money (for public facilities). If we can't do it ourselves, we said, we shouldn't charge the developers."

"San Diego may have had a taste for big-ticket programs and initiatives, but when it came to basic services, elected leaders have been penurious. The police force has one of the slimmest ratios of officers to population among the nation's larger cities, and the fire and police departments regularly complain about obsolete, aging equipment."

City leaders seldom demonstrated any courage in addressing the financial shortcomings of the San Diego system. Massive population growth and private development combined with low unemployment, extensive military spending and rapidly expanding tourism to allow civic leaders to avoid tough decisions.

"While other metropolitan areas have devised lucrative fees and taxes like admission taxes, rental car fees and levies on users of electricity, gas and cable TV, San Diego has been loath even to ask voters for permission to charge for residential trash collection.

On average, San Diego's general fund takes in about $546 annually from each of its 1.3 million residents. That is less per capita than most of California's major cities, according to a Union-Tribune study of data from California Controller Steve Westly's office."

While the leaders of other California cities found ways to pay for public services and improvements, San Diego's leaders avoided placing even the most basic financial requests before voters.

"Faced with deep budget cuts in February 1990, the council considered as many as five revenue-raising measures, including a repeal of the People's Ordinance [a 1919 law prohibiting the city from charging for trash collection] and a 5 percent tax on commercial and industrial users of various utilities like gas and electricity.

By the following month, the council had reversed course on all but one, a $25 million bond issue to complete a public safety communications system, which ultimately was approved by voters.

In 1992, the council voted to ask San Diegans to begin paying for trash collection. A week later, the council withdrew the measure, saying it was responding to an angry public.

In what became a running joke at City Hall, the council tried a third time – in 1993 – to get the trash measure on the ballot. Within a couple of weeks, the council had backed down again."

Not only would city leaders fail to muster the courage to ask San Diego residents to pay for trash collection, they would also fail to take any action that might cause the San Diego business community any financial discomfort.

"One of the most common strategies was to impose a utility users tax, which was done in Los Angeles, San Jose, Sacramento, Long Beach and San Francisco. That tax became the third-largest source of tax revenue for cities in 1995, accounting for about $1.2 billion, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Not so in San Diego. Elected leaders headed in the opposite direction, once passing a motion that directed the city manager never to mention "utility" and "tax" in the same sentence in a manager's report, McGrory said.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles and San Francisco increased their hotel room tax to 14 percent, but in San Diego, recent ballot measures seeking to raise the current room tax of 10.5 percent failed, making it one of the lowest rates in the state among large cities. The last time San Diego raised the tax was 11 years ago, when the council boosted it by 1.5 cents on the dollar to help pay for the convention center expansion and a proposed downtown sports arena, which was never built."

Of course, with the city spending more than it was collecting, the money had to come from somewhere. With city politicians unable to tell voters that they couldn't afford city services and, with those same politicians unwilling to address additional revenue streams, the only option left was to start taking money from the city itself.

"Forget San Diego's civic-boosting sobriquet, "America's Finest City." Jack McGrory, a former city manager who saw the councils regularly vacillate on taxes, is fond of calling San Diego "America's Cheapest City."


"This isn't rocket science. You can't continue to add services and not have revenues for them."

In order to cope with the soaring annual costs of the pension system and provide relief to a city budget battered by a recession, McGrory devised a financial strategy in 1996 that began the pattern of underfunding the retirement system while increasing benefits. He points out that his plan included a safety net requiring a balloon payment if the fund's assets fell below a certain level.

Six years later, on the advice of his successor, former City Manager Michael Uberuaga, the City Council continued the underfunding but ignored the safety net trigger.

McGrory, who now oversees real estate investments for Price Entities, has said his plan was "fiscally responsible" because of the safety net. However, a law firm hired by the city reported last year that the balloon payment, initially thought to be $25 million, would probably have been closer to $500 million for 2004 and 2005."

With the need to cover $1.4 billion to restore the money taken from the city's pension system, continue to provide public services and find more than the more than $3 billion required to repair and upgrade its worn out infrastructure, it is hardly a surprise that the question of bankruptcy is a major issue in the city's current mayoral campaign.

The city's bond rating is below the "junk" level, so additional borrowing isn't feasible. If the real estate bubble bursts, or even just leaks a bit, city revenues will decline to a level that will force either wholesale cuts in services, massive tax and fee increases or bankruptcy. Still San Diego politicians can't muster the courage to face tough choices.

"No question, San Diego is being governed by a council nervous about the prospect of raising taxes or fees, said Deputy Mayor Toni Atkins.

"The council doesn't want to put taxes on the ballot, nor raise taxes," she said. "None of the mayoral candidates would talk about it either. The council hasn't had the political will to be honest with the public about what we can afford to do and what we can't."

San Diego isn't an isolated incident. It is an object lesson. What Republicans did in San Diego is what they are doing on the national level. Tax cuts without comensurate reductions in government services. Government funded by borrowing money collected for retirement benefits. It's the same pattern and it's cut from that same old cloth.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Someone Has to Die

"You have to support the war,

because you're an American"

The New York Times reports on some of the sacrifice that President Bush is encouraging.

"I wouldn't have the energy to protest like her [Cindy Sheehan]," said Patricia Marsh of Omaha, whose daughter, Tricia Jameson, 34, a medic in the Army National Guard, died on July 14 when a bomb exploded near her ambulance. "Grieving wipes you out, it takes your life away. But even if I had the energy and I was against the war, I would think I was dishonoring what my daughter gave her life for. She believed she was doing a good thing."

"You have to support the war," Mrs. Marsh said, "because you're an American."

Patricia Marsh is in mourning for her daughter, who died in Iraq because George Bush wanted the political capital that comes with the title of "war president".

Reuters today reports that in his weekly radio address, President Bush called on Americans like Patricia Marsh for "more sacrifice".

"Our efforts in
Iraq and the broader Middle East will require more time, more sacrifice and continued resolve," said Bush, who has spent most of August on vacation at his 1,600- acre (648-hectare) ranch.

Doesn't President Bush recognize the cognitive dissonance that his calls for sacrifice made while in the midst of a record breaking five week presidential vacation create for many Americans?

Maybe President Bush and his fellow Republicans don't care what people think as long as enough young Americans, like Tricia Jameson, are willing to sign up to fight their wars for them. Take the Republican Governor of
Massachusetts, Mitt Romney for example.

According to the Boston Herald, Mitt was asked if any of his five military age sons were planning on heeding George Bush's call for sacrifice.

"No, I have not urged my own children to enlist.I don't know the status of my childrens' potentially enlisting in the Guard and Reserve” Romney said, his voice tinged with anger."

Some Americans are starting to realize that when it comes to the demand for sacrifice, Republicans like Bush and Romney have a much easier time requesting it of others than then do looking to their own family and friends.

"Massachusetts residents can enlist in the National Guard up to age 39.Romney's five sons range in age from 24 to 35. Neither the Romney children nor the governor have served in the military, Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer said.

More than 1,100 guardsmen and women from
Massachusetts are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, a guard spokeswoman said. According to federal statistics, 28 Massachusetts soldiers have been killed so far.

“I don't think you should be so ‘rah-rah' for a war that you aren't willing to send your own family members to,'' said Rose Gonzalez, 30, of Somerville, whose mother, a state employee, was deployed to Iraq in January.’ If he thinks the war is so just and so important and we shouldn't pull out, then he should encourage his own sons to go.”

Nancy Lessin, a spokeswoman for Military Families Speak Out, said if Romney aspires to be president he should consider the sacrifice made by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the father of four sons all of whom enlisted in World War II.

“This is just one more politician who is willing to risk the lives of our loved ones and celebrate sending them off into a war that we never should have in,'' Lessin said.

President Bush and his Republican enablers contend that the war on terror is the great struggle of the 21st Century. Bush describes it as the moral equivalent to World War II, yet neither he nor any Republican leader is willing to make any personal appeal to his or her own children to place themselves in the front lines of this great crusade.

Hat tip to Blue Mass. Group.

Praise to Allah for George Bush!

They're Celebrating in Tehran

Over at Whiskey Bar, Billmon tells us who is happy with the way things are going in Iraq.

"A senior Iranian cleric welcomed on Friday the establishment of an Islamic republic in Iraq and hailed the country’s new constitution as one based on “Islamic precepts.”

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who heads the powerful ultra-conservative Guardian Council, told worshippers in Tehran’s Friday prayers, “Fortunately, after years of effort and expectations in Iraq, an Islamic state has come to power and the constitution has been established on the basis of Islamic precepts.”

“We must congratulate the Iraqi people and authorities for this victory,” he said.

Jannati, who is a top confidant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that all justice-seeking counties of the world “have no model other than the Islamic revolution in Iran to turn to.”

So this is what we are fighting for in Iraq? To earn the praise of hard line Islamists in Iran?

Every reason and rationale for the war in Iraq has been proven false and yet the Bush Administration and its surrogates continue to tell lies about WMD, Al Queda connections, blah, blah, blah. Now the final rationale, bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq, has fallen apart.

No constitution. No piece of paper with words on it will bring Iraq together as a country. So, America's best are dying so that Iraq can fragment along sectarian and religious fault lines and Iranian ayatollahs can observe the triumph of Islamic extremism and complement its authors.

Chief among those authors - George W. Bush.

(Photo by Billmon)

Fire the Lying Bastards

Democratic Veteran links us to a post at the DCCC weblog by Stirling Newberry, titled simply, "You're Fired!"

Read it and share it with other. Here are a few highlights:

"The Republicans rode into power in the off-year elections of 1994, promising that they would reform Congress. They pointed to scandals, and argued that the real problem was that Congress exempted itself from the rules everyone else had to play by.


"Now 10 years later on, the emptiness of that promise has become obvious to more and more Americans. The approval numbers of the Republican leaders in Congress, and Congress itself, are now below 30%, mirroring the decline in George Bush's popularity.


"For decades Republicans promised that if they got in charge, they could do more with less because of all of the Democratic "waste, fraud and abuse". Instead, under the undivided government of Bush, DeLay and Frist, budget deficits have ballooned, and billions have turned up missing or unaccounted for in Iraq. The Republican leadership promised a Congress that would be run like a business. However, it seems safe to say that if a business were run the way Congress is, it would be under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"But incompetence is only the start, corruption in the Republican leadership is also becoming increasingly obvious. And step by step corruption has been revealed that rockets to the highest levels of the Republican Party leadership


"The tragedy is that the Republican Congress has really been about vandalizing the checks and balances in Congress itself... It used to be that there were deliberative mechanisms built into the House and Senate rules - these have, one by one, been tossed aside. This is great if you want to hammer through unpopular legislation early in the morning, but not so good for accountability to the people.


"Now ask yourself, if you did the job your boss hired you for as badly as Tom DeLay has done the job you've hired him for, wouldn't you be looking at a pink slip?

"So what's stopping you from giving Tom Delay his?

Admit it, it is time to send a simple message to a bunch that has the biggest payroll in the world, and still can't break even:

"You're fired!"

There is lots more to Newberry's post, plus excellent links. Read it for yourself.