As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, November 11, 2005

Reforming Corporate America

Barney Frank has hit on something that will absolutely resonate with the American public: skyrocketing CEO salaries. It is unconscionable that CEO pay rises no matter a company's performance, that 10% of employer profits are larded upon the top 5 executives at the average US company, and that shareholders have absolutely no say in the matter.

Well, Barney Frank is doing something about it, and we should support him. It's H.R. 4291, known as the Protection Against Executive Compensation Abuse Act:

In response to public revulsion over the astronomical pay packages awarded to some CEOs, a House Democrat introduced legislation Thursday that would force companies to let their shareholders vote on executive compensation.

"This bill does not dictate pay levels for corporations," he said. "It sets rules for public corporations about how to go about things."

There's certainly abuse in the CEO spoils system. I'm sure the counter-argument will be that CEOs make money for their shareholders, so who cares what they get. Well, of course, the problem is that CEOs DON'T always make money for their shareholders, but they get theirs anyway:

Nell Minow, editor of The Corporate Library, a corporate governance watchdog group, praised the bill. "What's sexy about this legislation is that for the first time, it gives shareholders some veto power," she said. "If you look at people whose pay is in the stratosphere, they are movie stars, rock stars, athletes, investment bankers and CEOs.

"One of these things is not like the other. The first four are paid for their performance. Why is it that CEOs are the only ones who have absurd contracts? They're not negotiated in arm's-length transactions."

So how does this legislation work? Basically, it simply gives shareholders a window into the process, and casts sunshine on the rewards CEOs receive:

Frank's proposed legislation calls for large public corporations to include detailed summaries of CEO pay contracts in the annual proxy statements sent to shareholders. Shareholders would then have to approve those contracts. The summaries would include:

• Full disclosure of compensation, including extra goodies such as pensions, personal use of company jets, apartments and other now-hidden compensation. This proposal came in response to the revelation two years ago that former General Electric CEO Jack Welch had been granted a generous farewell package upon his retirement. The SEC sanctioned GE for not fully disclosing the details of Welch's deal.

• Full disclosure of golden-parachute agreements. Frank criticized the $153 million payout awarded to James Kilts, former CEO of Gillette, who received the windfall after selling Gillette to Procter & Gamble.

• Disclosure of the corporate policy for recapturing incentive pay awarded for faulty financial results. Frank said this portion of his proposal was designed to force CEOs to give back any bonus payments they received for hitting their numbers in a particular quarter if the results that quarter subsequently had to be restated.

Public sentiment is sharply against such abuses, and they'd be even more strongly in opposition if they had the kind of information this bill would require. This LA Times article shows that Frank's strategy is good policy and good politics:

In introducing the legislation, Frank said that executive pay took an increasing bite out of shareholder returns but often bore little relation to a company's financial performance.

He cited a study showing that in 2003 the top five executives at each U.S. public company received compensation that on average amounted to 10.3% of their employer's profit, up from 4.8% in 1993.

"This is not an assault on corporate America," Frank said, acknowledging that his measure would face strong opposition from business. "It empowers stockholders to get a handle on pay. This is all about enlightened self-interest. We're telling companies you have to do a better job. But we are not prescribing a particular solution."[...]

In 1980, the average CEO earned about 42 times the pay of the average worker, but now CEOs earn about 431 times what the average worker does, according to the AFL-CIO.

And pay is rising at a rapid clip.

The average CEO took home a 91% raise in 2004, according to Corporate Library, even as workers got raises amounting to less than 4% on average.

The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. George Miller (D-Martinez) and Martin Sabo (D-Minn.). If the measure survives the committee process, Frank is hopeful of a full House vote next year, when members of Congress will be seeking reelection.

"I think this could be an election issue," he said.

I think any Reform Democrat that believes in accountability, ethics and oversight should proudly stand with Rep. Frank on this legislation. As for those who stand against it, this is their pathetic response:

The Business Roundtable, a lobbying group for large companies, said it would oppose the measure — although spokeswoman Tita Freeman said it hadn't reviewed the proposal carefully enough to articulate why.

We're against it. We can't tell you WHY we're against it, but we're against it. Actually, if we did tell you why, the answer would be "because CEOs like their jets and their golden parachutes and their baths of cash." But that night not play well.

The great thing about this bill is the frame of protecting SHAREHOLDERS. The investor class has broadened over the years, and Democrats need to show that they are looking out for the interests of the aspirational class of (frequently) suburbanites. This good government bill allows the mass of investors to have a place at the table, and if instituted, I think, this will stimulate economic growth by passing salary packages down into R&D or, perish the thought, the rank and file.

Let's get behind this proposal by trying to get it out of committee. Forcing a full House vote on it in 2006 is crucial. The bill is coming to the House Committee on Financial Services, a huge committee (72 members) chaired by Michael Oxley of Ohio. There are a few moderates on that committee, and if we get enough we can get this to the floor.


The Push Back

Backed up against the wall by scandal and mismanagement, the Bush PR team returned fire like a cornered animal. In a democracy, obviously the President has every right to respond to charges leveled at him by the opposition. But does he really think Veteran's Day is a good time to do that? Is politics really necessary on a day of remembering the sacrifice of soldiers in battle? Is this a good time to answer critics with political rhetoric? Is this a good time to break a long-standing tradition of Presidents visiting Arlington National Cemetery to go make a political speech?

And the speech itself was deeply disingenuous.

"It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the war began,'' Bush said in a Veterans Day speech today to military families at Tobyhanna Army Depot near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. "More than 100 Democrats in the House and Senate who had access to the same intelligence voted to remove Saddam Hussein from power,'' the president said.

Of course, the resolution was about disarmament, not removal from power. Ask the President.

But I am very firm in my desire to make sure that Saddam is disarmed. Hopefully, we can do this peacefully. The use of the military is my last choice, is my last desire.

He made very clear that removing Saddam Hussein from power was the last choice and the last desire. Who's rewriting history?

Second of all, the notion that Democrats in Congress had access to the same intelligence as the White House is ridiculous. As Matthew Yglesias notes, the parts of the National Intelligence Estimate that was made available to the public made the case for Saddam having WMD. The parts of the NIE that were classified made the EXACT OPPOSITE CASE.

In the late summer of 2002, (former FL Sen. Bob) Graham had requested from Tenet an analysis of the Iraqi threat. According to knowledgeable sources, he received a 25-page classified response reflecting the balanced view that had prevailed earlier among the intelligence agencies--noting, for example, that evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program or a link to Al Qaeda was inconclusive. Early that September, the committee also received the DIA's classified analysis, which reflected the same cautious assessments. But committee members became worried when, midway through the month, they received a new CIA analysis of the threat that highlighted the Bush administration's claims and consigned skepticism to footnotes. According to one congressional staffer who read the document, it highlighted "extensive Iraqi chem-bio programs and nuclear programs and links to terrorism" but then included a footnote that read, "This information comes from a source known to fabricate in the past." The staffer concluded that "they didn't do analysis. What they did was they just amassed everything they could that said anything bad about Iraq and put it into a document."

We know this week that one of the biggest sources for prewar intel was discredited as early as January 2002. We know that Ahmad Chalabi was not vetting the intel he was receiving from suspect defectors. We know about "Curveball," a drunk who German intelligence knew was lying well before the IWR vote in October 2002. The intelligence was put through a meat grinder in the Vice President's office, removed of any balance, and sent up to the Hill with only the threats intact.

This "counter-argument," even if it were based in fact, rests on a ridiculous notion: that the Republicans were right because the Democrats were wrong too. I don't think you'll get far with a public who's turned against the war with the argument that "It's their fault because they were dumb enough to trust us!"

Here's another complete fabrication:

"Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war,'' Bush said.

"These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgment related to Iraq's weapons programs,'' he said.

He's counting on the public to be fully unaware that whether or not political pressure was placed on the intelligence community about Iraq's weapons programs WAS NOT PART OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE'S mandate. That's why Harry Reid sent the Senate into closed session last week, to force Phase II of the report, which WOULD cover the political pressure angle, to actually begin, after Sen. Roberts (Idiot-KS) delayed and obstructed the investigation. Yeah, dude, the bipartisan Senate investigation didn't find anything because THAT'S NOT WHAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR, and the Republicans in the Senate have stonewalled any attempt to actually kickstart a legitimate investigation.

This push back is not going to have any currency with the American people if it continues to rely on mistruths and obfuscations. Bush's popularity is too weak to get the benefit of the doubt anymore.



The Word for the One-terminator, Gov. Schwarzenegger of California, is contrition.

A chastened Arnold Schwarzenegger took complete blame Thursday for the thrashing he endured at the polls and pledged to be a more collaborative governor in the coming year, offering Democrats an extraordinary role in crafting his agenda.

In his first public comments since election night, Schwarzenegger said he would rely far less on campaigns and ballot fights as a governing strategy in the coming year, pushing various goals instead through slow, painstaking negotiations with his legislative adversaries if that's what it takes.

So determined is he to adopt a more centrist and inclusive approach, Schwarzenegger said, that he will ask Democrats to help him craft his State of the State speech — the blueprint for his 2006 policy goals.

Yeah, he's going to rely less on campaigning as a governing strategy... in an election year. When he's up for re-election. Right. Anyone who believes this is a co-dependent, prone to hearing "I'm sorry baby, you know I loves you" and promptly forgiving their mate of any wrongdoing. The guy cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars for absolutely no reason, waged a bitter and divisive campaign to alienate the majority of the state, called public employees "special interests" and threatened to silence their voices. Just ask the Nurses Association what they think of this hat-in-hand maneuver:

Perhaps his most dogged opponent, the nurses union, seemed unimpressed with the governor's display.

"If he had won, there would be no talk of compromise," said California Nurses Assn. Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. "In fact, two days after the election he has the same advisors. He's kept the same corporate sponsors, the ones who are on the road to China with him."

Schwarzenegger is to arrive Monday in Beijing for a trade mission.

I just don't think that Californians are going to look at the mess the One-terminator has made of state government and say "All is forgiven." Especially when in 12 months they'll have the option of throwing him out. And they won't even have to call a special election to do it.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

More Victories

The House Leadership, a day after being forced to drop the ANWR drilling provision in the budget reconciliation bill, has now dropped the whole bill:

House Republican leaders scuttled a vote Thursday on a $51 billion budget-cut package in the face of a revolt by lawmakers over scaling back Medicaid, food stamp and student loan programs.

The development was a major setback for the GOP on Capitol Hill and for President Bush, who has made cuts to benefit programs a central pillar in his budget plan.

The decision by GOP leaders came despite a big concession to moderates Wednesday, when the leaders dropped provisions to open the Arctic National Refuge to oil and gas exploration, as well as a plan allowing states to lift a moratorium on oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

"We weren't quite ready to go to the floor," Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said five hours after recessing the House for closed-door meetings aimed a picking up votes from wavering Republicans.

Look at this. Congressmen representing their districts and their constituents over the Party. We might have a democracy here after all.

Somebody needs to get Roy Blunt the hammer that Tom DeLay's been wielding all these years. I don't think they'll let him have it in prison, anyway.


Durbin Gets Shrill on Hardball

Dick Durbin just finished an interview on Hardball, where he angrily chided this "victory lap" Ahmad Chalabi has been taking around Washington this week, while still being under investigation for trading spy secrets to the Iranians.

After yet another excellent David Shuster piece looking at Chalabi's pre-war claims, Durbin came on and you could tell he was really angry. He said "I'm told that when Chalabi's motorcade went past the Justice Department, it sped up." Durbin brought up Chalabi's $330,000/month salary from the Pentagon, the ongoing investigation into his spying practices, how he "bragged" about accomplishing his goal of getting the US into Iraq, no matter how he did it.

Matthews only once tried to throw this back on the Democrats, asking "Shouldn't you have tried to stop his funding?" Durbin rightly said "We never had a vote on it." Durbin was incredulous that Chalabi was being toasted around DC when he lied to the American people, lied to Congress, allegedly fed Iran with information, and all the rest. Plus, as Matthews ominously noted, "he's in line to be the next Prime Minister."

David Frum's now trying to defend hosting Chalabi at the American Enterprise Institute. Please.

Durbin's language was dead-on. Ahmad Chalabi is a con man and a thief, and the American people know it. He is right to demand that Congress questions him on prewar intelligence and passing secrets to the Iranians. This is tough Democrats in action, and Durbin, who voted against the Iraq War, is the right person to do it.


Political Compass

Just filled mine out over at Political Compass.

Economic Left/Right: -4.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.69

Left-leaning libertarian.

Go do your own, and report back to me.


Alito Shiving the Senate?

Yesterday I wondered how truthful Judge Alito was being about his respect for precedent. I thought he needed to be challenged on this; his lip service needed to be contrasted with his record.

Well, today we learn that he has a history of lying to the Senate to get confirmed:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats on Wednesday stepped up their scrutiny of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's role in a 2002 case that they say could pose a possible conflict of interest.

When Alito became a federal appeals court judge in 1990, he promised to recuse himself from cases involving Vanguard mutual funds, because he had personal investments through the company. Yet he participated in a case decided in 2002 involving Vanguard.

Several Democrats have said they are troubled by this, though it is not clear whether it will emerge as a major issue in Alito's confirmation process.

This needs to be exposed. It's near-impossible to get inside somebody's head and determine how they will rule. But saying one thing to get confirmed and doing another does not reflect well on judicial temperament. Judges aren't supposed to say anything to get the job. That's what politicians are supposed to do.


Back to the Grand Jury

Lest anyone still think that Patrick Fitzgerald's inquiry into Karl Rove's role in the CIA leak is over, he's still questioning people under oath:

According to lawyers familiar with the case, Fitzgerald is trying to convince the grand jury that Rove made false statements during the three times he testified under oath and misleading statements to Justice Department and FBI investigators when he was first interviewed about his role in the leak in October 2003.

The attorneys told RAW STORY that Fitzgerald has called Rove’s former personal assistant, Susan B. Ralston -- who was also a special assistant to President Bush -- to testify before the grand jury for a third time, perhaps as early as Monday. She is not said to be in legal jeopardy.

Fitzgerald wants to question Ralston again about several telephone calls Rove allegedly made to a few reporters, including syndicated columnist Robert Novak, lawyers close to the investigation say. Novak first disclosed the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson in his July 14, 2003 column.

Furthermore, the attorneys said that Fitzgerald wants Ralston to clarify some of her previous testimony regarding statements she made about a phone call Rove had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

Ralston testified that Cooper’s name was not noted in the call logs from Rove’s office, those familiar with the case say.

Ralston told the grand jury that Cooper’s call to Rove was transferred to Rove’s office by the White House switchboard. She testified that the call was not logged by Rove’s office because Cooper had not called Rove’s office directly.

Sources say that Fitzgerald has obtained documentary evidence proving that scenario does not jibe with other unrelated calls to Rove’s office that were also transferred to his office by the switchboard but were logged.

One of the best contributors online to information about the leak case, ReddHead at firedoglake,

What could this mean? It could sure as hell show some state of mind in terms of wanting to hide the phone call, and that the person wanting the call kept off the books had some knowledge that what they might be doing would get them in trouble. In other words, that they might be doing something...erm...illegal. Ahem.

And that knowledge that someone might be "saying too much already" and disclosing information that should not be disclosed? Well, that just might fit right into an IIPA prosecution, depending on whether that knowledge included the fact that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert operative. If Fitz can make that nugget work, then behavior that shows Rove trying to pre-emptively cover his tracks by not properly recording the call from Matt Cooper? Well, that's just an awfully helpful little piece of information for a jury, now isn't it?

I just think that it's a joke that Karl Rove has this reputation for having a photographic memory and being a boy genius, yet his defense is that he forgot about the phone call to Matt Cooper. Add that to the deliberate dumping of phone calls related to the case as "off the books," and you have some smoke, and possibly some fire.

Rove should do the right thing and resign now rather than have to do so in the event of an indictment.


Mullah Robertson at it again

One of the more satisfying outcomes of Election Night 2005 was in Dover, Pennsylvania. The local school board has been supporting the teaching of "intelligent design" (or creationism 2.0) in school classrooms, side-by-side with evolution. The citizens of Dover promptly voted every single member of that school board out of office. This once again proves my point that if you want to stay on the local school board, never say anything in public. As soon as you're known to be on the school board, that's when you'll get voted off the school board. Otherwise you can pretty much sit there forever.

The point is, the intelligent design-evolution "debate," when subjected to the democratic process, resulted in a total vindication of evolution, and a total repudiation of intelligent design.

How was this example of democracy in action met by, say, people like Pat Robertson? Pretty much with the words "I hope you die!"

Rev. Robertson warned the people of Dover that God might forsake the town because of the vote.

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover. If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.”

Watch the video.

You can vote God out of a city? Like a restraining order?

Mullah Robertson shows his true colors with this quote. Christian love is always subsumed by Christian hate when it comes to this guy. I don't know that he's even all that respected anymore, particularly after his series of lunatic rantings this year ("We should kill the President of Venezuela!"), but as a member of the religious conservative hierarchy, Mullah Robertson's remarks should be put to every Republican politician who courts that constituency. "Do you believe that the people of Dover now deserve no help from God should a disaster strike them?"


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Couple Big Wins

What do you know? You win a couple elections, you stand up as an opposition party, you watch the majority party wither on the vine, and a couple things go right. Nothing to it.

First, ANWR drilling is dead. In the House, no less:

House leaders late Wednesday abandoned an attempt to push through a hotly contested plan to open an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling, fearing it would jeopardize approval of a sweeping budget bill Thursday.

They also dropped from the budget document plans to allow states to authorize oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts - regions currently under a drilling moratorium.

The actions were a stunning setback for those who have tried for years to open a coastal strip of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil development, and a victory for environmentalists, who have lobbied hard against the drilling provisions. President Bush has made drilling in the Alaska refuge his top energy priority.

25 House Republicans stood strong and refused to sign on to the budget bill, a priority, unless ANWR drilling was stripped out of it.

Then, Brownie finally needs to go find another heckuva job:

Former FEMA chief Michael Brown is no longer on the agency's payroll, the Homeland Security Department said Wednesday, ending nearly two months of compensation after he resigned under fire.

Brown stepped down as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on September 12 in the wake of the government's sluggish reaction to Hurricane Katrina and questions about his own disaster response experience.

He remained on the FEMA payroll until November 2, said Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke.

There's got to be another Arabian Horse Federation he can manage poorly. Pelosi and other House Democrats have been pushing for this and they finally got it.

Opposition parties oppose. The rest takes care of itself. Here's a little more proof.


The War on Terror, Hearts, and Minds

Today's callous hotel bombings in Jordan, one apparently targeting a wedding party, deserve the world's scorn. The tactic (should this turn out to be the work of al Qaeda or one of its sympathizers) of going after US allies, with the goal of causing isolation in the war on terror, continues. A similar type of plot was thwarted in Australia just a couple days ago, showing the importance of vigilant law enforcement in this struggle. Of course, John Kerry was widely derided last year for daring to suggest that law enforcement should play a role in combating terrorism.

Another widely misunderstood aspect of winning the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims, in whose hands this global struggle remains, is outreach and relief. We did an excellent job of this during the devastating tsunami last year, which hit the predominantly Muslim country of Indonesia. However, the recent earthquake in Pakistan, which was nearly as devastating to the region, has been meet with prehcious little help from the Western world. Tristero over at Digby's blog has been making this point almost as soon as the earthquake struck, and he's dead-on correct. It may seem burdensome, we may have budget difficulties at home; but as a world superpower involved in an ideological battle with fundamentalist, radical Islam, our efforts to reach out to Muslims have a major impact on keeping the Muslim world on our side. We've lost lots of ground in the PR battle with Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and now this latest story about chemical weapons in Iraq. We cannot cede more ground here. It's a national security issue as much as a humanitarian one.

Tristero links to an Asia Times article that shows how poor we have performed in response to the earthquake, and who's stepping into the breach to fill the role.

The poor response of the international community to the greatest human tragedy in Pakistan's history is quite apparent. What is even more tragic is the tepid response of the Middle Eastern oil monarchies, whose treasuries are brimming. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait offered $100 million each, while Saudi Arabia offered $133 million. Kuwait went to the extent of publicizing its $500 million aid to Hurricane Katrina victims in the US, but comes up with a relatively measly $100 million for the victims of Kashmir.

The poor response of the international community to the victims of Kashmir was underscored by the United Nations saying that it had received only 27% of the $312 million of its flash appeal for quake relief - compared with 80% pledged within 10 days of a similar appeal to international donors after the tsunami of December 26.

What about the Islamist organizations of Pakistan; how did they respond? The same Kashmir leader told Reuters, "The jihadi groups are more sincerely taking part in relief operations. Those groups, which were branded bad by the government, are no doubt doing well and will influence people's sympathy in the future."

A number of earthquake victims attested to this reality by stating that the only prompt help they have gotten has been from Islamist groups. Even Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf agreed with the performance of the Islamist groups related to post-earthquake assistance.

We're getting schooled at the relief game, something civilized democracies all over the Western world have been doing for centuries, by al-Qaeda. I think part of it is "disaster fatigue" in the wake of all the hurricanes at home. I also think that central Pakistan doesn't have nice beaches that cater to Western tourists like Indonesia and Sri Lanka and Thailand.

But here's the upshot:

Al-Qaeda is having a field day watching the community of nations perform so deplorably in regard to the human tragedy in Pakistan. It can, quite effectively, underscore three perspectives. First, that the illegitimacy of current Muslim governments in the wake of their failure to come to the rescue of a Muslim tragedy of epic proportions does not require any further debate, from the perspectives of al-Qaeda.

Second, the seeming lack of Western concern only underscores al-Qaeda's claim that the West does not really care about what happens to Muslims, as long as the compliant and sycophant Muslim regimes continue to preside over the political status that ensures the dominance of the West. Third, given the preceding two reasons, al-Qaeda's own unrelenting insistence on the violent overthrow of all extant Muslim regimes is further established, at least in the minds of everyone who is mildly sympathetic to that organization's criticisms.

I should mention that the above-mentioned "poorly performing" Muslim monarchies, all besotted with oil profits, are all our allies as well. And a Pakistan in turmoil, a country that has nuclear weapons in danger of falling prey to al-Qaeda's ministrations, is unconscionably dangerous.

This is a scary article, and we have the power to change it by delivering more aid, and arm-twisting Western democracies and Muslim allies to do the same. We have to lead the world on this; it comes with the job of being a superpower. Turkey has offered more aid than we have. It's criminal. What's more, it's a loss on the battlefield.


FTC: Price Gouging is Awesome!

Today the Senate brought in representatives of all 5 of the major oil companies to explain why they're making historic record profits at a time when consumers are forced to pay historic record prices. I found it interesting that gas prices tumbled this week almost as soon as the Senate announced these hearings. It was almost like the jig was up. But some people still wish to carry water for price gouging.

In this AP story, "Oil Company Execs Defend Huge Profits" (wrong word: hoard, not defend), the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission made one of the most stunning statements I've ever seen in print. Head-snapping-off-your body kind of stunning.

The head of the Federal Trade Commission said a federal price-gouging law "likely will do more harm than good."

"While no consumers like price increases, in fact, price increases lower demand and help make the shortage shorter-lived than it otherwise would have been," FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras told the hearing.

This is the exact same kind of logic John "Raging Lunatic with a Porn Moustache" Stossel made in this memorable Townhall column called, yes, In Praise of Price Gouging.

Consider this scenario: You are thirsty -- worried that your baby is going to become dehydrated. You find a store that's open, and the storeowner thinks it's immoral to take advantage of your distress, so he won't charge you a dime more than he charged last week. But you can't buy water from him. It's sold out.

You continue on your quest, and finally find that dreaded monster, the price gouger. He offers a bottle of water that cost $1 last week at an "outrageous" price -- say $20. You pay it to survive the disaster.

You resent the price gouger. But if he hadn't demanded $20, he'd have been out of water. It was the price gouger's "exploitation" that saved your child.

It saved her because people look out for their own interests. Before you got to the water seller, other people did. At $1 a bottle, they stocked up. At $20 a bottle, they bought more cautiously. By charging $20, the price gouger makes sure his water goes to those who really need it.

The people the softheaded politicians think are cruelest are doing the most to help. Assuming the demand for bottled water was going to go up, they bought a lot of it, planning to resell it at a steep profit. If they hadn't done that, that water would not have been available for the people who need it the most.

Of course, the storm-ravaged residents of New Orleans can simply go to their emergency "giant pile of $20s" they left in the Superdome for safe keeping. And by only giving their money to the price-gougers, the survivors make sure their cash only goes to the businessmen that really need it.

I love "at $20 a bottle, the bought more cautiously." It's not, "at $20 a bottle, they didn't buy and their child died of dehydration." Does this guy inhabit some distant planet where everyone has endless means in every scenario? Maybe, if he belongs to a country club.

Now, Stossel is obviously a crackpot. That's why he's had such a long and distinguished career in the mainstream media. But this isn't some nonsensical columnist playing loose with economic numbers and forgetting about the people involved. This is the CHAIRMAN OF THE FTC.

And who is she? Well, according to Sourcewatch, as a lawyer at DC firm Jones Day she was a personal counsel for Chevron Texaco. Ron Wyden of Oregon actually put a hold on her nomination for this reason, which the President sidestepped with a recess appointment in August 2004. Here was Wyden's reaction to Majoras' ridiculous statement:

"That's an astounding theory of consumer protection," replied Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

This is deep into wingnut territory, suggesting that price-gouging makes everybody happy. And it's coming right out of the halls of the FTC.



War is hell, especially when you're using chemical weapons in contravention of explicit international law.

"White Phosphorous: WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE (high explosives). We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out." [...]

We used improved WP for screening missions when HC (hexachloroethane zinc) smoke would have been more effective and saved our WP for lethal missions.

So that's confirmed, then, by the Army's own official magazine. And here's the confirmation, in a British report, that this does in fact violate international law.

5. International Law [...]

Protocol III of the 1980 UN convention on 'Weapons Which May Be Deemed To Be Excessively Injurious Or To Have Indiscriminate Effects' states that:

It is prohibited in all circumstances to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by air-delivered incendiary weapons.

'A concentration of civilians' is defined as including 'inhabited parts of cities', such as Fallujah.

In other words, white phosphorus (and MK-77, which is basically napalm, unless oyu want to hide behind technical phraseology like the US military) cannot be used as a bomb. The military has previously claimed that WP is not banned by any international treaties:

Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. U.S. forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters.

It's true that WP is not outlawed as an illumination device; it IS outlawed as a weapon. The Army contradicts itself in the Army Field Artillery Magazine, claiming that it was a versatile "munition." Munitions aren't dropped to illuminate battlefields. You don't fire "shake and bake" missions at insurgents so you can see them. You do it to kill them.

I'm sure this will be met (again) with cries of "You hate America" and "You don't want us to win the war on terror" and assorted other bullshit. When did the right become so unconcerned with law and order? (answer: when they took power) Fact: there are laws against what we're doing. Fact: we're doing them anyway. There are practical, moral, and humanitarian arguments to be made, but shove them aside for a moment. This government has been caught breaking international law over and over and over again, in the "ends-justify-the-means" name of the war on terror. We've become the outlaws. We've become the rogues. We've become what we behold (hat tip: David Mamet).

Go investigate that, Billy Frist & Denny Hastert.


Alito Shiving the Far Right?

Alito signals he'll respect precedent regarding Roe.

Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. has signaled he would be highly reluctant to overturn long-standing precedents such as the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling, a move that has helped to silence some of his critics and may resolve a key problem early in the Senate confirmation process, several senators said yesterday.

In private meetings with senators who support abortion rights, Alito has said the Supreme Court should be quite wary of reversing decisions that have been repeatedly upheld, according to the senators who said it was clear that the context was abortion.

"He basically said . . . that Roe was precedent on which people -- a lot of people -- relied, and been precedent now for decades and therefore deserved great respect," Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) told reporters after meeting with Alito yesterday. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she had a similar conversation about an hour later with Alito, who has made clear that he personally opposes abortion.

"I asked him whether it made a difference to him if he disagreed with the initial decision but it had been reaffirmed several times since then," Collins told reporters. "I was obviously referring to Roe in that question. He assured me that he has tremendous respect for precedent and that his approach is to not overturn cases due to a disagreement with how they were originally decided."

Of course, Clarence Thomas out-and-out lied to the Judiciary Committee on the subject during his hearings. Once they're on the bench, there's no accountability. It's very hard to know what to make of this, particularly when contrasted with the man's prior rulings on the subject. Pulling out this newspaper article and yelling "Alito lied to us!" isn't exactly going to cause him to resign in disgrace. I'm not accusing Alito of lying, but to me he'll have to reconcile these statements with his record in the confirmation hearings.

We're a week in. A week into the process, there was no way Harriet Miers would withdraw her nomination. Long way to go here.


John Warner

Hotline shows how the potential '08 candidates fared last night:

In VA, Sen. George Allen (R) campaigned for GOP gov nominee Jerry Kilgore, who lost. Ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) made ads for NJ GOP Gov nominee Doug Forrester, who fell short. AZ Sen. John McCain (R) traveled to nearby CA and made ads for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's initiatives, all of which went down in defeat. NY Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) campaigned for NYC Dem mayoral candidate Freddie Ferrer, who was trounced by GOP Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Warner, of course, made ads and campaigned frequently in VA with Dem gov nominee Tim Kaine, who won.

Warner's a smart ex-businessman (who unlike our current CEO President, was actually SUCCESSFUL in business) who has skyrocketing approval ratings in Virginia, where he has governed the state very well. I'm still partial to Feingold, but Warner is worth a look.

By the way, a big resounding "No" to all the establishment, mushy-middle Dems who ran up to Manchester, NH to stump for the Democratic candidate for mayor (the mayor of Manchester, NH deserves support from John Kerry, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, Evan Bayh? Politicians being politicians, pure and simple), who promptly lost. It's so transparent to run up to New Hampshire every chance you get. Warner fought for his own state and helped Tim Kaine pull out a victory (getting better numbers than Warner got in '01 in many key areas).


Up is Down

The White House is now into falsifying transcripts.

Q: Whether there’s a question of legality, we know for a fact that there was involvement. We know that Karl Rove, based on what he and his lawyer have said, did have a conversation about somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations.

MCCLELLAN: I don't think that's accurate.

Guys, there's this thing called video these days. They tape the White House press briefings every day. Sometimes people actually watch them. Sometimes news networks actually excerpt them for their broadcasts.

You can't write Scott McClellan saying "I don't think that's accurate" when he clearly says "That's accurate."

Up is Down. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.


Took It With Ease

Congratulations to the Alliance for a Better California and everyone else who soundly defeated Arnold Schwarzenegger's bid to consolidate power and silence his critics. This is a vindication of sorts for the progressive movement in the state. I want to hear dear Ahnold talking about how he's "the people's governor" after this debacle.

We all know what his response will be.  He'll talk about how the "union bosses" don't want change in Sacramento, but he'll keep fighting.  He'll try to use it as a rallying cry.  But the real question this situation brings to mind is: why was this election called in the first place?  Why were SO MANY taxpayer dollars, so many ad buys, so many corporate and union and small donor funds spent during a time of budget constraints on an election nobody wanted that yielded no positive results? The final bill for this election, which accomplished absolutely nothing, cost close to $300 million dollars.

That's an expensive lesson for California's biggest grown child. The lesson is that you can't rule with an iron fist, sidestep the legislature, deride public employees as "special interests," and expect to get away with it. Not here, anyway.

Ahnold hasn't even shown he's learned this lesson:

On a Beverly Hills stage Tuesday night next to his wife, Maria Shriver, Schwarzenegger pledged "to find common ground" with his Democratic adversaries in Sacramento.

"The people of California are sick and tired of all the fighting, and they are sick and tired of all the negative TV ads," he told supporters at the Beverly Hilton. He did not concede, saying instead that "in a couple of days the victories or the losses will be behind us."

At labor's election night party in Sacramento, union leaders were not in a forgiving mood, vowing revenge against the governor next year when he seeks reelection. They were particularly incensed that he had not given union members their due for what they believed to be a clean sweep of his agenda.

"He never apologized once for trashing every one of us," said Mike Jimenez, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. "And I can tell you, tomorrow we're not going to apologize for the way this election turned out. Tomorrow starts Round 2."

Damn straight. This arrogant fool who can't even concede that's he's been beaten is just beginning on his road to ruin.

p.s. I am upset that the "No More Sequels to True Lies or Twins" initiative didn't qualify for the ballot. I wanted to end up voting "YES" on SOMETHING.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Feels Good To Win

So far, Election Night 2005 looks a whole lot better than Election Night 2004. Democrats have retained the governor's mansion in both New Jersey and Virginia, surviving often brutally nasty campaigns from their challengers. I wouldn't read these as a referendum on the President; both these states picked Democratic governors in November 2001, when Bush's approval ratings were stratospheric just after 9/11. But it does feel good to win, and we should see what we can extrapolate out of these races to try in the national midterms next year. This is particularly true in Virginia, where Tim Kaine, a committed Christian, picked up the victory in some part by talking about his faith. In fact, the biggest attack ad against Kaine concerned his lack of support for the death penalty, which comes directly out of his Christian values (he has said he'll follow through on current law, which allows for capital punishment, so I don't know what the flap about this was anyway).

Now we'll have to see how California does. The polls close in about 20 minutes.


It's Called Original Reporting

I thought it was hilarious that Trent Lott short-circuited the secret prison "leak investigation" that the GOP-led Congress was about to undertake by dropping the bomb that the leak probably came from the Republican Senate caucus. However, I agree with this post at Kos that to believe Lott is to believe Dana Priest, the writer of the story, was simply handed this revelation on a silver platter.

The day this secret prison story broke, a friend of mine sent me the article. Well, he thought he sent me the article, but he actually sent a different article by Dana Priest written in May of last year. It was entitled "U.S. arranges to detain and interrogate terror suspects in secret." Here's an excerpt:

In Afghanistan, the CIA's secret U.S. interrogation center in Kabul is known as "The Pit," named for its despairing conditions. In Iraq, the most important prisoners are kept in a huge hangar near the runway at Baghdad International Airport, say U.S. government officials, counterterrorism experts and others. In Qatar, U.S. forces have been ferrying some Iraqi prisoners to a remote jail on the gigantic U.S. air base in the desert.

The Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where a unit of U.S. soldiers abused prisoners, is just the largest and suddenly most notorious in a worldwide constellation of detention centers that the U.S. military and CIA have operated in the name of counterterrorism or counterinsurgency operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

These prisons and jails are sometimes as small as shipping containers and as large as the sprawling Guantánamo Bay complex in Cuba. They are part of an elaborate CIA and military infrastructure whose purpose is to hold suspected terrorists or insurgents for interrogation and safe-keeping while avoiding U.S. or international court systems, where proceedings and evidence against the accused would be aired in public. Some are even held by foreign governments at the informal request of the United States.

Priest has been on this beat for a long, long time. Unlike stories from GOP operatives in the media, his don't come from single sources in the White House or Capitol Hill. They may corroborate, they may add details, but Priest is doing something so rare it should be featured on its own Wild Kingdom special: original reporting.

So you can investigate the leak all you want, but it was probably impeccably sourced by multiple officials inside and outside of the government, and it certainly did not endanger the security of the countries involved, since Priest declined to name them at the behest of the Pentagon. Then again, you're probably not going to investigate at all, are you?

UPDATE: This reader at Talking Points Memo makes a great point:

...didn’t Trent Lott himself continue to leak classified information in his comments off camera to CNN today?

If he was in that Republican only Senator’s meeting with Cheney last week and then confirms today that what was in the Dana Priest article last week was classified and discussed behind closed doors with Cheney, the CONFIRMATION of classified information has occurred.

As I recall from the whole Rove / Libby issues even the confirmation of classified information is a violation. Lott has basically confirmed today the off the books CIA prisons are real and that he got a classified briefing from Cheney. He basically confirmed the entire Wapo article, which I believe might be a violation itself!

I mentioned that he confirmed the existence of secret prisons, but didn't connect the dots in this way. To the grand jury with you, Trent!


California Special Election Roundup

All the polling was trending away from Arnold at the end of the race, and while the headline of this story puts turnout as "light," the body of it has it far stronger than I think the Republicans would want. Anecdotally speaking, many people I know voted and faced busy polling places.

And this was pretty funny. Maybe now the whole "election reform" thing will hit home:

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up to his Brentwood neighborhood polling station today to cast his ballot in the special election — and was told he had already voted.

Elections officials said a Los Angeles County poll worker had entered Schwarzenegger's name into an electronic voting touch screen station in Pasadena on Oct. 25. The worker, who was not identified, was testing the voting machine in preparation for early voting that began the next day.

Somehow, Schwarzenegger's name was then placed on a list of people who had already voted, said Conny B. McCormack, the Los Angeles County registrar.

The registrar, a Republican, then had the nerve to claim that "This is someone who breached our protocol and was playing around in advance of the election," intimating some kind of Democratic fraud. If there was fraud going on, do you think in any way someone would start with THE GOVERNOR'S vote? This simply shows how easy it is to break the supposedly wondrous, infallible touch-screen voting system.

Oh, and Breasts Not Bombs got themselves arrested in Sacramento today.

We'll have to wait and see on the results. I predict it'll be close, but the Arnold camp has to be looking at the trend lines and the turnout numbers with despair.


Taking More Leaks

Too too funny. So the GOP tried to do their false equivalence thing again today. They tried to open their own leak investigation, this one over Dana Priest's story in the Washington Post last week about secret CIA "black sites" housing terror detainees in Soviet-era prisons in Eastern Europe. It was a bicameral investigation signed by Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert.

Well, turns out that, according to one Republican Senator, the leak probably came out of the GOP's own caucus:

Another Republican, Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, said it may have been Republican senators who leaked the information to the Post. Lott told reporters that the existence of the secret prison system was discussed last week during the Republican policy luncheon, held on Capitol Hill the day before the Post story appeared.

"Information that was said in there, given out in there, did get into the newspaper," Lott said.

Asked whether he believed it was Republicans who had breached security, Lott said: "I don't know where else it came looked to me that at least one of those reports came right out of that room."

Physician (talking to Frist here), heal thyself.

This could actually be a worthwhile discussion about the public's right to know what is being done in their name balanced with the leaking of classified information that could harm national security. But now that the spectre is raised that this investigation could actually turn out badly for the Republicans, I think we'll see it 86'ed in a matter of days...

...OK, a matter of hours! CNN is now reporting that Bill Frist is claiming he has not officially signed the letter authorizing the investigation. This despite the fact that the LA Times article clearly states that:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) circulated a letter asking the intelligence committees to "immediately initiate a joint investigation into the possible release of classified information to the media," about the existence of the prisons.

Sound like Fristy knows something and now wants to get out of this deal. As if he has insider information, and now he wants to sell the stock...


To Catch a Thief

This is a brilliant speech by one of the good guys in the House, George Miller:

Madam Speaker, somebody ought to call the cops. Today I am not talking about collusion, corruption and cronyism and the leaking of sensitive classified information that has irreparably damaged the national security of the United States. No, I am not talking about Scooter Libby or Karl Rove, though their involvement in outing a female CIA agent to silence her husband's criticisms of the President's Iraq policy deserves closer scrutiny.

No, I am talking about another shadowy character and administration ally, someone whose deception played a large role in leading the United States into war in Iraq. I am talking about Ahmad Chalabi. Mr. Chalabi is the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq's newly constituted government. But Mr. Chalabi also is a convicted bank swindler who, we now know, fed the Bush administration false intelligence about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and capabilities and Iraq's ties to terrorism.

Many Americans remember Mr. Chalabi as a man who convinced Vice President Cheney that the United States would be greeted as a great liberator in Iraq. Some have even said it was Mr. Chalabi who promoted the false story about Iraq's attempted purchase of nuclear material in Niger. Chalabi fed false stories about Iraq's weapons capabilities to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, a story that the Times was later forced to publicly discount.

Mr. Chalabi, who supplied information to the White House Iraq working group, a mysterious cabal, as Colin Powell's former chief of staff recently said, that hijacked U.S. foreign policy and hyped the case for war in Iraq. The bottom line is that Mr. Chalabi played a central role in the orchestrated deception leading to the invasion of Iraq.

After the administration discovered that Mr. Chalabi provided false intelligence, instead of investigating, the Department of Defense attempted to prop Mr. Chalabi up as a candidate of choice in the post-war Iraq.

Keep in mind what Mr. Chalabi did next. He was suspected of leaking classified information about U.S. intelligence capabilities to Iran. He was suspected of telling the Iranians that we had broken the code by which we were learning information about their activities.

Seventeen months ago, then National Security Adviser Rice promised an FBI inquiry into who leaked information to Iran. Seventeen months ago, and yet nothing has happened. Despite the fact that Mr. Chalabi was a prime suspect, the FBI has never interviewed him. In fact, the Wall Street Journal quotes the FBI as having said they have little active interest in this matter. Little active interest in a person who is leaking intelligence material to Iran in the middle of the war in Iraq?

Just this week the administration invited this criminal to meet with the Secretary of State and maybe even Vice President Cheney in the West Wing to discuss his candidacy for the Iraq presidency in this December's election. I would be curious to learn from the President what role granting a U.S. entry visa to a man suspected of spying for Iran plays in the administration's terrorism strategy.

I know, I quoted it liberally, but it deserved to be read. We should all wonder: just why are we giving aid and comfort, not only to a known criminal, but a possible Iranian spy?

Go read the whole thing.


Back to School

I did briefly mention the White House ethics classes in the last post, but this deserves a little more scrutiny. This is the gang that in 2000 campaigned on the theme of bringing "honor and dignity" back to the White House. Bush repeatedly said "We will not only do what is legal but what is right."

Of course it was all bullshit. They did what was illegal as long as it was right for the Republican Party. There's a lot of chatter that Karl Rove will be forced to resign whether he is indicted or not. The idea is to give the Administration a fresh start. I don't know how that would work unless everybody left from the top down. This isn't about "a few bad apples" (gee, where have we heard that before?); it's institutional. We have a Vice President deeply involved in the outing of a CIA agent, who shills for torture for that same CIA. We have a Secretary of Defense that to this day cannot equip his troops in the field, all the while authorizing torture practices and the use of chemical weapons. We have the two of them forming what the former chief of staff to the Secretary of State Col. Wilkerson called "a cabal" that drove national security policy through hyped intelligence, secret intelligence bureaus and strategic partnerships with the media. There was an entire group known as the White House Iraq Group whose entire raison d'etre was to sell a war of choice to the public based on a primary assertion of WMD that was demonstrably untrue.

You're going to give people like this ETHICS CLASSES?

Here's the punch line to the whole thing:

A senior aide said Bush decided to mandate the ethics course during private meetings last weekend with Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and counsel Harriet Miers. Miers's office will conduct the ethics briefings.

Well, at least she landed on her feet.

p.s. I really, REALLY don't want to hear this whole "But Clinton was unethical TOO" talking point. I was unaware of the "everybody does it" statute in American law. Was that used in the "Brach's Candy v. Kid in the Supermarket" case? Corruption and lax ethics should be rooted out of government, be it Democratic or Republican. Most of us on the left of the blogosphere say "That's wrong, get rid of them." Most on the right say "That's wrong, but everybody does it, so ignore it." I guess that's what they call "realpolitik." Or "willful blindness." Or something like that.


White Phosphorous story in the US media

Only about a year late, but we're finally starting to hear about this. I'm not going to link to them, but there are pictures online that show the aftermath of Napalm and WP bombing that are absolutely stomach-turning.

It's bad enough that US companies like Halliburton are ripping off the Iraqis so badly that international commissions are asking us to pay them back. (Notably, they're not asking HALLIBURTON to pay Iraq back, but the US government. I love how corporations that have no fealty to their host countries in terms of jobs or taxes come running back to them if they get in a jam.) It's bad enough that we knew that one of the main sources for prewar intelligence was boldfaced lying as early as February 2002, a year before Colin Powell made his presentation to the UN using some of the same information from that specious intelligence. It's bad enough that we're letting the Iraqi Rasputin, Ahmad Chalabi, back into this country to meet with high-level officials as he attempts to get the prime ministerial position he fully expected when he hyped up WMD claims to US officials in the run-up to war.

It's bad enough all of this stuff is coming out. It paints a picture of America as deliberately mendacious before the war, opportunistically venal during and after it, and unconcerned with the fate of the Iraqi people throughout. Now, add on top of all that the fact that we were using chemical weapons in the country? They need to take more than ethics classes in the White House these days. They need soul-cleansing courses.


I voted

They did switch my polling place, and I'm getting anecdotal evidence about other people as well. Apparently they scaled back from 5,000 polling places in LA County to 2,500. Now THAT'S a good way to depress turnout!

I went NO on the first six propositions, yes on the last two, although I was up in the air on Prop. 80 until the last minute, and probably should have left that one blank. There's a potential cost to renewable energy in that initiative.

Go vote if you have an election scheduled in your 'hood.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Call your cell phone

So those of us in CA, NJ, VA, or any of the other states holding elections tomorrow, here's a little something you can do to help GOTV (without volunteering and all that stuff):

Call everyone in your cell phone.

I don't pretend that this is an original idea, I remember hearing about it on another post in 2004. But I put it to use then, and given that all politics is local, I think it's one of the coolest, easiest grassroots things you can do.

There's nothing to it, really: on the day of the election, just go through your entire cell phone and ask all your contacts if they've voted, and urge them to do so. The benefits are manifold:

1) At this stage of the election, people are tired of hearing from strangers asking them to vote. But a familiar voice can actually reach with that message.

2) I know I'm a little apprehensive about calling people cold, especially late in the game, because people are just overwhelmed with phone calls. But calling people you know evokes no similar distress.

3) You potentially get back in touch with some people who you haven't spoken with in a while, which can be even more effective for the core message, as well as a social boon!

I can tell you that virtually everyone I called last year got out and voted.

I plan to volunteer tomorrow in SoCal. But in between I'll be calling my entire cell phone address book. Will you do the same?


Reality Seeps Through on Hardball

You should definitely check out David Shuster's report from tonight's Hardball about the White House Iraq Group and the selling of the war in 2002. It's familiar stuff to most of us who have been paying attention, but it's truly a fantastic summary of exactly how the mighty Wurlitzer press organ was played for fools by a government intent on invasion.

They detailed how reports went from Scooter Libby, Ahmad Chalabi, and the rest of the neocons right into the hands of Judy Miller, who would dutifully report on them in the New York Times. That done, Administration officials would rush the airwaves and quote at length from Miller's stories (for which they were the source). "Even the New York Times" is saying X, Y, and Z. They play out the timeline of events, how the Administration knew the claims it was quoting in the Times were flase, yet hyped them anyway. It showed the speeches, the marketing push for war, the scare tactics, everything.

Of course, Tweety Bird Matthews appeared not disgusted, but wowed by how "tremendous" the WH marketing project was, and was all too quick to allow John Fund to blame the whole thing on the Democrats (perversely) for rolling over on the resolution, as well as the media. Although Matthews was willing to take the blame on behalf of the media's poor job in the run-up to war, Fund tried to insanely portray himself as some kind of outsider, as if the Wall Street Journal exists on the fringes of the Fourth Estate.

Then Matthews, in one sentence, summed up the state of today's modern media. "I believe everything I've heard tonight."

The transcript will eventually pop up here.


When you can't get the Vatican on your side... clearly don't have much of a case.

THE Vatican has issued a stout defence of Charles Darwin, voicing strong criticism of Christian fundamentalists who reject his theory of evolution and interpret the biblical account of creation literally.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the Genesis description of how God created the universe and Darwin's theory of evolution were "perfectly compatible" if the Bible were read correctly.
His statement was a clear attack on creationist campaigners in the US, who see evolution and the Genesis account as mutually exclusive.

I guess now the Vatican, or the Catholic hierarchy here in the US, will name those Catholic politicians who have come out in support of teaching intelligent design, and claim that they are bad Catholics, and ask that they be denied communion. I mean, that's what they did to John Kerry.

Many, many devout believers also believe in the scientific method, observable evidence and the idea that evolution exists irrespective of the literal word of the Bible. The two positions can be reconciled. The intelligent design crowd rejects all of this. And now the Vatican has rejected them.


Careful What You Wish For

This continuing story? about rioting by Muslim youths in France (that is now spreading, not only across the country, but into Belgium and Germany) has led to some peculiar cheerleading on the right. They hate France, but they hate Arabs, and they're not sure who to hate MORE.

I think this episode should be a wake-up call to those who want to turn American immigration policy into a virtual mirror of European laws and rules. France treats immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants, like shit. They let them in so they can have a pool of cheap labor, then shuttle them into ghettos (which, as we remember from a couple months ago, are combustible), make no effort toward any affirmative action so they can get out of poverty, stress French identity and national unity at the expense of cultural diversity, and ban even the wearing of head scarves in public schools. Only recently has the country even attempted to change these policies, and it clearly wasn't fast enough. I see these riots in France as a natural parallel to the riots in Watts and Detroit and elsewhere in the 1960s. That fundamentalist Islamists may try to capitalize on the unrest is probably an open question. But this is about how outsiders are treated in a closed society, exactly the type of closed society many on the far right of the immigration question want to bring to this country.

I don't know how this situation gets resolved. Lowering unemployment, improving schools and living conditions, and generally enhancing quality of life so that there isn't a permanent seething underclass is the long-term answer. In the short term, only community leaders will end the violence by community members, just like in the race riots here. There's very little the governments can do immediately, outside of imposing martial law. But it should be a lesson that you can't keep an entire group of people in chains without them wanting to break free.


Fosforo bianco contro i civili

I'll translate. It means the US is using white phosporous against civilians in Iraq. That's a chemical weapon, and it's use against anything other than equipment is banned by the UN. And that's what the Italian news service La Repubblica claims we're doing. According to this story, we're also using a new form of NAPALM. Remember napalm? Vietnam? Used to kill all vegetation in the jungle. Caused untold injuries to our own soldiers?

Two weeks ago the UK Independent ran an article which confirmed that the US had “lied to Britain over the use of napalm in Iraq”. (6-17-05) Since then, not one American newspaper or TV station has picked up the story even though the Pentagon has verified the claims. This is the extent to which the American “free press” is yoked to the center of power in Washington. [...] (UK) Defense Minister, Adam Ingram, admitted that the US had misled the British high-command about the use of napalm, but he would not comment on the extent of the cover up. The use of firebombs puts the US in breach of the 1980 Convention on Certain Chemical Weapons (CCW) and is a violation the Geneva Protocol against the use of white phosphorous, “since its use causes indiscriminate and extreme injuries especially when deployed in an urban area.”

I don't know whether or not every claim the US government has made about Saddam Hussein (used chemical weapons, tortured people, created rape rooms) was replicated by our military, but it sure looks that way. Our moral authority is so non-existent as a result of this war, that when the President stammers "We do not torture" but demands that we be allowed to do so, it's sadly consistent.