Friday, April 29, 2005

Prez' Press Plop

On my hour long rush hour commute to visit my wife at the hospital (they think it has something to do with electrolytes?), I had the great good fortune to listen to BushCorp™'s CEO attempt to take Bamboozapalooza primetime.

I noted that before he got to his lies about Social Security, he felt the need to calm people's nerves about the continuing growth in gas prices. His message in a nutshell: you're SOL suckers, my DL boy Prince Abdullah's got us by the nutsack (and not in the fun way) and there's not a goddamn thing I can do about it.

Although it was nice to see a moment of what passes for honesty in this administration, Chairman Bush, had enough of the politician in him to lie to us about energy and the future.

Sure, wreck the environment and drill away, there's still no fucking way we can supply-side our way out of this mess. At least not in the near (and by near I mean within a few millions of years) term. Fossil fuels are a limited (as in not unlimited) resource. We're going to run out, sooner rather than later. And even GW's special friend the Prince can't/won't produce enough to take much of an edge off world oil prices.

The only solution that makes any sense in the near (in the next 20 years sense of the word) term is a marked increase in energy conservation measures.

And yet Presidential calls for efforts to drive less, drive slower, use energy efficient vehicles and mass transportation were strangely missing. Nope, what he wants to do is incentivize oil companies that are making billions in profits from the latest surge in prices to empty this nation's oil reserves even faster. Brilliant.

I mean seriously, the Chairman is by his own admission no fuzzy-brained intellectual, but he had a 50/50 chance to get this one right. Gas prices are a simple product of supply and demand. Supply. Demand. Choose one. Supply? Sorry, that's the wrong answer. Good-bye.

Sorry to get into a rant on energy, but it is a favored topic.

On Social Security: "means testing" as described by the Chairman means that the poorest 30%, those making $20K a year or less, won't see a reduction in promised benefits, and why not, we won't be giving them much anyway. But if you have the great good fortune of earning more than $20K a year you're shit out of luck.

On the bright side, the Chairman is doing his darnedest to make sure that more and more of us fall into the "poor" category.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A hiatus

My wife is very ill, so I doubt I'll have the time or energy for blogging for a little while. Apologies to both my loyal readers. I'm agnostic, but if you've a mind, I still wouldn't hate a kind thought or even a prayer for my dear Holly.

Cherish those you love while you may.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Another reason to hate Microsoft

As if we needed one.

You'd think producing the world's buggiest software, and dominating the market so as to eliminate alternatives would be enough to assure Microsoft's special file folder in hell.

But lately the company which makes enormous hay from trumpeting its progressive (for a huge mega-corp anyway) values has shown its real allegiance by opposing equal rights for Washington state gays and lesbians.

And now we know why.

Americablog has learned that Microsoft has had radical right pretty-boy Ralph Reed on retainer at $20k/month since 1998. Microsoft's goal was apparently to get Reed's help in lobbying Bush (for whom he was employed at the time, is that legal?) to step back from the then pending anti-trust lawsuit against MS.

Clearly Mr. Reed's advice is that to further its corporate goals MicroSoft needs to get on the right side of the religious right which holds the strings at BushCorp™.

And the amoral greedheads at MS seem only too willing to comply.

Monday, April 25, 2005

US incarceration rate highest in the world

From The New York Times:

The nation's prisons and jails held 2.1 million people in mid-2004, 2.3 percent more than the year before, the government reported on Sunday...

The Justice Policy Institute, which advocates a more lenient system of punishment than incarceration, said the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world, followed by Britain, China, France, Japan and Nigeria.

According to the government's report, there were 726 inmates for every 100,000 United States residents on June 30, 2004, compared with 716 a year earlier. Put another way, in 2004, one in every 138 residents was in prison or jail; the previous year it was one in every 140.

In 2004, nearly 60 percent of prison and jail inmates were racial or ethnic minorities, the report said. An estimated 12.6 percent of all black men age 25 to 29 were in jails or prisons, compared with 3.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.7 percent of white men in that age group, the report said.

Am I crazy, or is something very wrong when the world's bastion of freedom incarcerates nearly 1% of its population?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Gannon/Guckert: A "Special" Relationship with the White House?

The story that just keeps on giving.

In response to a FOIA request by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the Secret Service has issued documents showing that the erstwhile male prostitute cum* White House correspondant frequently visited on days when no press briefings were held or scheduled, and also frequently failed to check in or out with the secret service.

G/G made over 200 White House appearances during his 2-year career as a "journalist" for on-line "newspapers" GOPUSA and Talon News, a remarkable number for a reporter there on a day pass. But

[p]erhaps more notable than the frequency of his attendance, however, is several distinct anomalies about his visits.

Guckert made more than three dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One—which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House.

On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out. - [From Raw Story]
According to other WH correspondents, such laxness is unusual and is especially remarkable post 9/11.

Which once again raises the obvious, and still unanswered question: How did G/G get so much unobserved access. What was he up to on his after hours, "unofficial" visits? Given the closeted nature of the WH and G/G's predilictions and resume, is it too ridiculous to suggest that he was using his God given assets (allegedly 8' cut) to advance his journalistic ambitions? And with whom did he do his advancing?

Inquiring minds want to know.

[UPDATE-For an in depth look at the whole tawdry affair try John Aravosis, for a completely irresponsible intimation of the identity of G/G's main client go here. ]

I distort, you decide. (And thanks to Atrios for the heads* up)

*All puns intentional

Tilting at windmills

Shortly after my parents retired to Palm Desert in the Coachella Valley I took my first ever drive on the I-10 east from Los Angeles. After passing the San Bernardino county line and the fast-food haven of beautiful downtown Beaumont, the two highlights of the trip are the dinosaur park at Cabazon and the windmill farms of the San Gorgonio pass.

And of the two (trust me on this) the windmill farm is by far the most impressive. Acres upon acres of immense white windmills whirling in the breeze that squeezes through the pass on its trip from the Pacific Ocean to parts east. Clean, renewable energy, and they're really cool looking too. What's not to like?

Well, apparently my impressions while zipping by at 80 mile per hour (er, um, I mean 70 mph officer) are not the end of the story.

Today's Christian Science Monitor looks at some of the issues surrounding a more controversial mid-western windmill development:

Birds, including threatened and endangered species, are at the center of a dispute over a $250 million wind-turbine complex that a Chicago company wants to build in east central Wisconsin. Invenergy Wind LLC hopes to erect 133 turbines, each standing 389 feet tall, across 50 square miles of farmland just east of Horicon Marsh, a federal and state wildlife refuge described by bird experts as one of the largest and most important wetlands in the Midwest.

But birds are not the whole story behind local opposition. And perhaps I'm being cynical, but since the project is heavily favored by farmers in this predominantly farming community, I suspect this dispute would be much less heated were it not for the other source of opposition: the windfarm may lower property values in adjacent properties.

The rising exurbanites that moved to the country don't want enormous windmills blocking their view of the countryside.

In fact in many areas where windfarms represent relatively little environmental impact simple NIMBY mentality is their worst enemy.

Elsewhere, resistance has been stiff. In Massachusetts, a citizens group has been fighting since 2001 to stop 130 turbines from going up in Nantucket Sound. In New Jersey, acting Gov. Richard Codey in December imposed a 15-month moratorium on coastal wind-energy developments while a commission studies their effect on marine life, tourism, and views. "There are many people who live along the coastline that are concerned about the aesthetics of these things," says Kelley Heck, a spokeswoman for the governor.

As a citizen of a state who's long battled to protect its coastlines from off-shore oil exploration, I have some sympathy for such concerns. But I have to ask, given America's increasing need for domestic energy resources, wouldn't a shiny non-polluting windmill be rather an improvement over an oil (leaking) derrick?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Video shows police handcuffing 5-year-old

Now some of my fellow bleeding heart liberals may question whether it's appropriate to ever handcuff a 5 year old. But keep in mind, this was in Florida, she might have been carrying a concealed weapon. And, as Jesus' General points out, at least they didn't use a taser.

Story: here.

Video: here.

Sanity: nowhere to be found.

Gen Y and Porn

Generation Y
The generation following Generation X, especially people born in the United States and Canada from the early 1980s to the late 1990s.
Gen Y is also the first generation to gow up with a nearly ubiquitous access to hardcore porn via, of course, the internet. Does this then indicate the fall of civilization, or something else entirely?

A recent LA Times article gives plenty of food for thought:
Sex, of course, has always sold in American culture. And hand wringing about children's exposure to it is as old as civilization. But never has adult content had a platform as powerful — and legitimizing — as the one-two punch of cable plus the Internet.

Images and subject matter that were stigmatized a generation ago now flow and multiply from one mass medium to another, turning yesterday's taboo into today's in-joke. Adult film actress Jenna Jameson has moved from X-rated DVDs and downloads to the bestselling sex manual "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" and, last year, a VH1 documentary. Dance moves once associated with strippers are as common on MTV as tight pants on rock stars. Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton are famous equally for their TV work and their downloadable bootleg sex tapes.
Whether so much sex talk distorts children's views is only beginning to be researched. Dr. Lynn Ponton, a professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco and author of "The Sex Lives of Teenagers," notes that exploring sexuality is an important part of a healthy adolescence, but the usual outlets for that aren't what they used to be.

One study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found, for example, that 70% of the nation's 15- to 17-year-olds have looked at pornography online. But an average porn site can generate as many sexual images in a minute as an entire issue of Hustler, Ponton said, and often they are exponentially more violent and explicit than the centerfolds that past generations used to stash under the mattress.
Being a man of my generation (late-boomer) I can not believe that exposing teens to so much hardcore sex is a good thing. But I do believe it presents an opportunity.

So, before we shut down the internet, let us consider an alternative. A primary danger of being exposed to web based porn is that:
"Young people don't have a lot of reference points," agreed Ralph DiClemente, professor of public health and medicine at Atlanta's Emory University, who is midway through a five-year study of children and the Internet sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. "For them, the media is reality.

"So, you're a young person, you're curious, you haven't had sex but you don't want to appear to be a neophyte. What do you do? You go on the Internet to see, how should I behave? And a lot of what they're getting is a stilted perception of reality."
Misinformation isn't dissipated by ignorance or silence, it can only be destroyed by correct information, by facts, by reality.

So instead of hyperventilating about Janet Jackson's breast on TV (an event apparently more titillating to boomer dads than their Gen Y offspring) we need to talk to our kids. And if the conversation is going to have any positive effect, the conversation will have to be considerably more frank than is customary in Puritan America.

We are waaay past the point where simple denial will do us (or our kids) any good. Pandora's box is wide open. Our choice is what to do with the changed circumstances. It's long past time for us to demystify sex, like it or not it is up to us to deal with it. Our young people's health is a stake.

Is God Talking?

You've probably heard this one:

The Big Flood

It had been raining for days and days, and a terrible flood had come over the land. The waters rose so high that one man was forced to climb onto the roof of his house.

As the waters rose higher and higher, a man in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me." So the man in the rowboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and suddenly a speedboat appeared. "Climb in!" shouted a man in the boat. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me." So the man in the speedboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters continued to rise. A helicopter appeared and over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me." So the helicopter went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually they rose so high that the man on the roof was washed away, and alas, the poor man drowned.

Upon arriving in heaven, the man marched straight over to God. "Heavenly Father," he said, "I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?" God gave him a puzzled look, and replied "I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"
Maybe it's God talking, or maybe it's the "invisible hand" of the market, (and doesn't that "invisible hand" sound like God anyway?) but is it possible that She is talking to us if we had the ears to hear?

Two articles at Google News caught my eye, appearing as they did in separate columns, though on the same screen. The first spoke of rising oil prices while the second spoke of shrinking glaciers in the Antarctic.

Co-incidence? Almost certainly.

And yet, the price of oil tells us that fossil fuel reserves are being depleted. Shrinking glaciers tell us that the Earth's climate is warming, quite likely because of human use of fossil fuels. Hmmm.

Now, as an agnostic, I am far from claiming that God is trying to tell us something.

On the other hand, if She DOES exist, is it too much of a stretch to imagine that she'd speak through Google? And if She is doing just that, is it the rowboat, speedboat or helicopter?

Friday, April 22, 2005

More Krugman on healthcare

I'll probably have some comments later, but in the meantime go read it.

Evangelical-Republican Extortion Conspiracy Unmasked

ex·tor·tion (ik-`stŏr-shən)
1. The act or practice of extorting esp. money or other property; specif The act or practice of extorting by a public official acting under color of office

From the LA Times:

Evangelical Christian leaders, who have been working closely with senior Republican lawmakers to place conservative judges in the federal courts, have also been exploring ways to punish sitting jurists and even entire courts viewed as hostile to their cause.

An audio recording obtained by the Los Angeles Times features two of the nation's most influential evangelical leaders, at a private conference with supporters, laying out strategies to rein in judges, such as stripping funding from their courts in an effort to hinder their work.
Which meshes well with earlier quotes from ethically-challenged Republican Majority Leader Tom "the Bugman" DeLay:
DeLay has spoken generally about one of the ideas the leaders discussed in greater detail: using legislative tactics to withhold money from courts.

"We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," DeLay said at an April 13 question-and-answer session with reporters.
In other words: Nice little courthouse ya got there judgie. It'd be a shame if somethin' was t' happen to it.

Apparently the Republican Congress' view on Constitutional checks and balances is much like Fox "News" concept of "Fair and balanced".

(And this just in: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.)

FBI protects bin Laden Privacy Rights?!

I always thought Michael Moore's implications regarding a Bush/bin Laden family connection were overblown. But perhaps not:

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that fights government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) has invoked privacy right protections on behalf of al Qaeda terror leader Osama bin Laden. In a September 24, 2003 declassified “Secret” FBI report obtained by Judicial Watch, the FBI invoked Exemption 6 under FOIA law on behalf of bin Laden, which permits the government to withhold all information about U.S. persons in “personnel and medical files and similar files” when the disclosure of such information “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) (2000))
Am I being too cynical here in suspecting that bin Laden's interests aren't really the ones being protected?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

House approves Oil Corp welfare bill

Not satisfied with the windfall profits the major oil companies are currently receiving from the latest boost in oil profits, the Republican House approved an $8.1 billion energy bill including both in tax breaks for fuel producers and immunity for MTBE producers.

And though House Republicans claim that the recent rise in gas prices is a motivation, even President Bush has admitted the bill will do nothing in the nera term:

"An energy bill wouldn't change the price at the pump today. I know that and you know that," Bush said in a speech Wednesday.
Screamingly absent from the bill, and virtually all media discussion is that production incentives for traditional energy sources will never have more than a marginal effect on either prices, or, much more importantly, our continued dependence on fossil fuels.

And, as I've argued before, the best near term solution for that dependence is conservation. Unfortunately, the most simple way to encourage significant conservation doesn't involve reducing gas prices. It requires raising them.

Unfortunately, few voices in power on the right or left are willing to level with us. And until that happens US energy policy will never be more than corporate welfare.

Bugman going batty

I have to assume it's just the pressure from all those ethical violations coming home to roost, either that or just the accumulated damage of years of exposure to pesticides, but regardless, Republican majority leader Tom "the Bugman" DeLay is beginning to lose it.

Ever since he got his nose tweeked by the Federal judiciary's insistance on following law rather than his personal whim in the Schiavo debacle, DeLay's gone further and further off the deep end.

The latest in the erstwhile "Hammer's" cacophony of kooky complaints is that Republican Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy uses a suspicious new tool:

“And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous.”
Internet research?! What has the world come to?

In his defense, I strongly suspect the Bugman believes that the only things you can find on the internet are nude photos of "Jeff Gannon" and Viagra ads.

Or worse, (unless you're Wonkette) nude photos of "Jeff Gannon" using Viagra.

Talk about suspicious tools.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Watch out Wall Street Journal

Apparently your Caliblogger's readability compares with the Wall Street Journal (though just slightly more sophisticated than the WSJ), and at the same time is comprehensible to people in their final year of junior high school.

What does this mean? Who knows? But it's a cool little test anyway.

Readability Results for
Readability ResultsSummary Value
Total sentences 486
Total words 6,818
Average words per Sentence 14.03
Words with 1 Syllable 4,295
Words with 2 Syllables 1,455
Words with 3 Syllables 702
Words with 4 or more Syllables 366
Percentage of word with three or more syllables 15.66%
Average Syllables per Word 1.58
Gunning Fog Index 11.88
Flesch Reading Ease 58.90
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 8.53

Cool little diagnostic test for websites here.

(Thanks to Kevin Drum for the headsup)

Energy futures up. Oh Boy!

Nothing illustrates the divide between everday Americans and the corporate world so beloved by BushCorp™ Republicans as the business page articles hailing the health of energy prices:

Energy futures up after data
By Lisa Sanders, MarketWatch
Last Update: 4:09 PM ET April 20, 2005

DALLAS (MarketWatch) - Crude and its products added to gains Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange after the Energy Department and the American Petroleum Institute reported an unexpected drop in U.S. crude and gasoline supplies.

May crude was last up 11 cents, or 0.4%, at $52.40 per barrel after trading as high as $53.10; June crude, which becomes the front contract on Thursday, gained 0.4%, or 18 cents, to $53.85 per barrel; May gasoline were flat at cents to $1.57 per gallon, having earlier touched a high of $1.5950; and May heating oil was up 0.1 cent at $1.50 per gallon.
Woohoo energy futures are up! I made a bundle on the futures exchange. Tough luck for the poor suckers who'll have to cut back on food to pay for their heating oil and enough gas to drive to their minimum wage jobs. What can I say? Stuff happens.

So. If you ever wonder why the Prez and his Wallstreet buds are so bullish on the economy while you're scraping the sofa cushions for enough change for Taco Tuesday, this is why. The megacorps are happy when oil prices go up, just more money in their pockets.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Forward, into the past!

The worldwide rise of reactionary forces continues today with the selection of German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope.

Ratzinger, former leader of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern successor to the Inquisition, is best known for his staunch opposition to liberalizing forces within the Catholic church:

As John Paul's doctrinal overseer, Ratzinger disciplined Latin American "liberation theology" theologians, denounced homosexuality and gay marriage and pressured Asian priests who saw non-Christian religions as part of God's plan for humanity.

In a document in 2000, he branded other Christian churches as deficient -- shocking Anglicans, Lutherans and other Protestants in ecumenical dialogue with Rome for years.
While John Paul II's conservatism was balanced by the courage he showed in helping to liberate his native Poland from the yoke of communist totalitarianism, Ratzinger, who will take the name Benedict XVI, shows no such promise.
Joseph Ratzinger started out as a progressive priest and was a liberal theologian during the Second Vatican Council. After the student riots during 1968, however, he began a sharp turn to the right.
So great, yet another Viet Nam era reactionary rises to power, and will join those already working to return the world to the dark ages.

It seems to me the new millenium is shaping up to be a battle both against and between the fundamentalist forces of Islam, American Puritanism, and Roman Catholicism.

I guess folks who haven't lived through or studied them are going to get a real taste of just how bad wars of religion can get.

Just Laugh!

Tom Tomorrow has the 411 on the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy!

(Subscription, or you can just click through the ad)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Guns don't kill people, children kill people

You're no doubt familiar with the NRA bumper sticker: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

While true enough, this leaves out an important point: people kill people, guns just make it easier.

A case in point from today's sad news of a 10 year old boy who shot his mother before killing himself with the "family gun":

The relatives found the mother shot in the back of the head and her son lying on the floor with a gunshot wound to his chin, Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams said.
Nowhere is the tragedy of American gun-love clearer than in the cases of killer-children. It's a simple matter of physics. If a child is strong enough to lift a firearm (handguns are especially useful for this, though Tyler Jones used a shotgun) and squeeze his index finger around a trigger, then he too can become a killer.

It's just that easy.

And that's the problem.

For Chrissake!

Never misunderestimate what bellicose, uninformed bile will get you...if you're a leggy blonde. First GW and now Ann Coulter. Time's certainly on a roll. Be sure to catch next week's issue with that ultra-conservative islamic bad-boy Osama bin Laden.

(Michelle Malkin must be sooo pissed!)

[And, for anyone not familiar with Coulter's, um, unique manner of expression, Washington Monthly has a list of some of her greatest hits.]

God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'-Ann Coulter during an appearance on Hannity & Colmes, 6/20/01

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Paying retail for healthcare

Americans pay double what Canada and France due for health care. And astoundingly the US government alone already contributes more to this cost per capita than either of those countries. And yet in the US infant mortality is higher and life expectancy is shorter. We are obviously not getting the most bang for our healthcare bucks.

Paul Krugman, in his continuing view of the broken American health care scheme has some suggestions as to why:

Why is the price of U.S. health care so high? One answer is doctors' salaries: although average wages in France and the United States are similar, American doctors are paid much more than their French counterparts. Another answer is that America's health care system drives a poor bargain with the pharmaceutical industry.
Doctors overpaid? I'm willing to argue that another time. Big pharma gougeing us? No surprise there. Congress has been in their pockets for years.

But the big offender? Money quote here:
Above all, a large part of America's health care spending goes into paperwork. A 2003 study in The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that administrative costs took 31 cents out of every dollar the United States spent on health care, compared with only 17 cents in Canada.
Nearly a third of medical spending goes to cover admin? Sure. Think of all those medical insurance companies with their presidents and CEOs and vice-presidents of marketing all doing the same jobs as all the other presidents and CEOs and vice-presidents of marketing ad, almost, infinitum.

And it doesn't take a Ph.D. in economics to see that as long as corporations can turn a profit of the sick and dying prices for US healthcare will continue its exorbitant growth.

[UPDATE] Kevin Drum has some very interesting observations on American healthcare satisfaction:
In America, where the elderly are covered by a national system and others aren't, the elderly are more satisfied [than the general population] by a whopping 27 percentage points.

Second, even the poor are more satisfied with their healthcare than the rest of us. The poor generally rely on a combination of Medicaid, emergency rooms, and free clinics for their healthcare, a system that's hard to beat for sheer inefficiency and appalling service. But even at that, the rest of us, who are mostly covered by employer-provided health insurance, are less satisfied than the poor. The system of health coverage provided to the vast majority of American citizens is so bad that we like it even less than the jury-rigged system the poor are forced to use.
Hmmm, now why IS that?

Saturday, April 16, 2005 PAC to run ads targeting Democratic leader in House Steny Hoyer

From Raw Story: PAC will run sharp radio ads attack against the Democrats' number two in the House, Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer (D-MD) along with ten Republican congressmembers, RAW STORY has learned.
To recap the basic story on the bankruptcy bill. The bill is essentially a payoff to the lending industry designed to reduce the number of private citizens who could be protected under capter 7 bankruptcy, allowing them to, eventually, start their lives over with a clean slate.

Promoted as an answer to irresponsible scofflaws who abuse the credit system, the bill fails to account for the fact that the majority of private bankruptcies have little to do with irresponsible borrowing, and much to do with the increasing insecurity ofAmerican personal finances. And especially egregious is the bill's failure to protect those whose financial insolvency is due to medical and related emergenies, which now account for about half of all personal bankruptcies combined.

As such the bill, one would think, should be anathema to a Democratic party seeking to protect the interests of working and middle-class Americans against the depredations of the corporate plutocracy. I mean sure, the Repblicans are for it, but they sold their souls to Big Bizness long ago. But Democrats?

Sad but true. The bill garnered 14 key Democratic votes in the Senate, as well as those of 73 house Democrats (including Democratic whip Hoyer).

[Note - Especially cynical were Lieberman's votes, in typical old paradigm fashion, he voted with the Repubs in the only vote the Dems might have won, and switched his vote once the bill's passage was a done deal and his vote was meaningless- grrr.]

This brings up two points. First, the Democratic Party will never be able to courageously represent the interests of working and middle-class Americans until it can divest itself of its own corporate owners.

The second is that Democrats (as well as Republicans, and the corporate media) are going to have to realize they are operating in a new, and much broader based information environment. Time was when hypocrites like Joe Lieberman, and Joe Biden could spend all their speaking time talking up Democratic values, while making deals for corporate giveaways. No longer.

The powers that be have now to deal with literally millions of eyes watching, parsing, discussing and disseminating their every move. And every depredation exposed on the internet, by Raw Story, by Media Matters, by MoveOn, by Kos, by Atrios, by AmericaBlog, by thousands of bloggers great and small, EVERY move is subject to a smell test like never before. And, like "Jeff Gannon's" nudes, once something's on the net, it never goes away.

So to Joe "voted for it before he voted against it" Lieberman and his ilk, be forwarned. A cloture vote in 2005 may seem like something that will have little impact on the public in 2008, but such hypocrisy is now common knowledge to millions not hundreds.

And we will remember.

Terror Incidents rise 4000% in 2004!!

Or did they? We'll never know because State department hand puppet Condi Rice has killed the report that would've told us.

Of course the Republicans have their excuses:

Several U.S. officials defended the abrupt decision, saying the methodology the National Counterterrorism Center used to generate statistics for the report may have been faulty, such as the inclusion of incidents that may not have been terrorism.
But seriously, if the report had been glowing does anyone doubt it would've been hailed from the rooftops of Foggy Bottom?

Of course, optimist that I am I see hope in this Administration cover-up. Instead of merely ignoring facts or distorting them, by killing the terrorism report BushCorp™ is tacitly admitting that facts DO matter.

At least enough to hide them.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A Glitch in the matrix?

Compare two stories, this:

Twin suicide bombings on Israeli buses kill 16
By Steven Scheer

BEERSHEBA, Israel (Reuters) - Palestinian suicide bombers killed at least 16 people in simultaneous attacks on two Israeli buses on Tuesday, breaking a long lull in suchviolence and threatening to disrupt an Israeli plan to pull out of Gaza.

The bombings by the militant Islamic group Hamas in the southern city of Beersheba were the first in Israel since March and the deadliest since last October. They showed thatHamas was not a spent force, even after repeated Israeli assassinations of its leaders and the building of a West Bank barrier.
and this:
Two bus blasts in southern Israel kill 16


Associated Press

BEERSHEBA, Israel - Palestinian suicide bombers blew up two buses in this Israeli desert city Tuesday, killing 16 passengers and wounding more than 80 in an attack that ended a six-month lull in violence.

The buses exploded into flames just seconds apart and about 100 yards away from each other in the center of Beersheba - the deadliest suicide strike in nearly a year.
So my point? Some quibble about Reuters versus AP writing style? Hardly.

My point: The first story has this dateline: April 15, 2005 6:35 AM, and the second has this: Posted on Tue, Aug. 31, 2004!?

The 4/15/05 Reuters post is of a story over 8 months old!

Now the rational part of me knows this is just an in-house foul-up and that a file accidently got sent to Reuters' wire-service subscribers and got picked up by the Google algorithms.

The tinfoil hat part of me wants to scream at this as evidence of corporate news manipulation: how do you know what's real if everybody's lying?! Bwa ha ha ha ha!!!


Life is but a dream from which we all must wake.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

My latest LTE

Re: Justice O'Connor should be decrying extreme judicial activism

Thomas Sowell thinks the judiciary is over-reacting to recent criticism?

Well let's see: Republican majority leader Tom Delay warns judges will face retribution for following law instead of his wishes in the Schiavo debacle.

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) theorizes that recent judicial killings might be justified by understandable frustration with "judicial activism".

And capping it off Republican lawyer-author Edwin Vieira, addressing conservative leaders in Washington states his "'bottom line' for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin: "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' "

The full quote from Stalin: "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem."

Over-reaction indeed.

[Update - Letter published here.]

And speaking of death

It may be inevitable, but if you're rich enough, appartently the taxes thing isn't. This week Republicans will seek to make permanent their elimination of inheritances taxes for the wealthy which will cost the country close to a trillion (with a "t") dollars. This while seeking to reduce healthcare, food and housing for the poor using the excuse of "fiscal responsibility". Jeebus H. Keerist!

E.J. Dionne's brilliantly headlined column says it all:

The Paris Hilton Tax Cut

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005; Page A21

The same people who insist that critics of Social Security privatization should offer reform proposals of their own are working feverishly to eliminate alternatives that might reduce the need for benefit cuts or payroll tax increases.

I refer to the fact that House Republican leaders have scheduled a vote this week to abolish the estate tax permanently. Under a wacky provision of the 2001 tax cut designed to disguise the law's full cost, Congress voted to make the estate tax go away in 2010, but come back in full force in 2011.


The Friends of Paris Hilton realize that as federal deficits mount and rising Medicare costs loom, the case for the total repeal of the estate tax grows steadily weaker. That's why they're hoping they can sucker defenders of estate taxes into a so-called compromise that gives away the store -- the store, in this case, going to Neiman-Marcus shoppers, not to those who rely on Target.

This is an instructive moment. What we are having is not a real debate on the future of Social Security but a sham discussion in which the one issue that matters to the governing majority is how to keep cutting taxes on the wealthiest people in our country.

Those who vote to repeal the estate tax this week will be sending a clear message: They see the "crisis" in Social Security as serious enough to justify benefit cuts and private accounts. But it's not serious enough to warrant a minor inconvenience to those who plan to live on their parents' wealth.
Politicians are, of course, notoriously shameless. But the current Republican congress is re-defining the term.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Death and the whiniest generation, part 2

Maureen Dowd had an entertaining little piece in today's New York Times bemoaning the mortality of the boomer generation:

The deaths of iconic figures and the noisy debate over assisted suicide have brought boomers face to face with their nemesis. "Suddenly," The New Republic observed, "we are all speculating about the feeding tubes in our future." Boomers want to control mortality so they're looking at living wills, and legal and medical options.
Though readable as always, not only is her take sooo four days ago, she misses a key point:
it's always helpful to keep in mind the aggregate age of the baby-boom generation when considering the "next big thing". The huge popular and consumer power of this actuarial horror (disclaimer: I'm a tail-end boomer myself having been born in 1959) is difficult to overestimate as a factor in American popular culture.

Is it any wonder that in the mid 60s and early 70s , just as the post WWII generation was hitting its late teens that the "youth movement" flourished? And later in the 70s as this same generation moved into its 20s that the non-stop partying of the disco era took shape? This was followed by the coke fueled go-getters of the 80s, which also hosted the start of the housing bubble as boomers started to get jobs and couple off.

In the 90s the typical boomer self-absorption began to become focused on their off-spring and long term investments. It was the era of soccer moms, insane investing and a continuing housing bubble.

So now, when those born in 1945 and after are now looking at their 60th birthdays, is it any wonder what the next "real big news" will be? I believe all this talk of Social Security "insolvency" coupled with the ongoing unavoidable mortality of "the greatest generation" (i.e. the boomers' parents) has suddenly focused the boomer generation on what may be their last "next big thing", that is, death.
But icons have been dying for years, and Terri Schiavo wasn't the first, or, legally, the most important case in memory (boomer memory anyway, gen-Yers can be forgiven their ignorance I suppose. But the Karen Quinlan case made its way all the way to the New Jersey Supreme court in 1976, which case provided the basis for Oregon's Death with Dignity Act.

The difference is that then the boomers were in their thirties, and death, while always interesting, was a distant thought. Now on the other hand death, their own, is an increasingly unavoidable inevitablility.

I personally consider the proposition dreadful as the always self-obsessed boomer generation begins its ultimate navel-gazing exercize. But perhaps the very inevitability of the Big Sleep will ultimately shock the boomers into action. Perhaps the nation will be forced to clarilfy its flirtatious dance with death and make some rational end-of-life decisions. Perhaps the nation will "discover" that the only way it can afford medical care for the aging boomers is by insuring medical coverage for everyone.

But then I ponder the demagogues on the religious right whose entire raison d'etre is to prey on mortal fear.

I can't predict which way the balance of death will tilt, towards rational acceptance or superstitious denial, but I believe that finally, in their last years, the baby-boom generation will have the opportunity to step from their parents' shadows. Whether they, whether we, blow this opportunity as we have so many others only time will tell.

I just love the headline

From Reuters via abc:

Rumsfeld Warns on Corruption During Iraq Visit:
Apr 12, 2005 — By Charles Aldinger

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued a terse warning to Iraq's new leaders on Tuesday, urging them to avoid political purges or cronyism that could lead to corruption and sap confidence in government.
Seriously that's the U.S.' job.

Who is Michael Ledeen?

Sure he's a leading neo-con, everyone knows that. But he also may be the author of one of recent history's most famous memos, the infamous Nigerian Yellow-cake memo, which, among other things lead the US into war with Iraq (from

Editor’s Note: This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by Ian Masters with Vincent Cannistaro, the former CIA head of counterterrorism operations and intelligence director at the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan, which aired on the Los Angeles public radio KPFK on April 3, 2005.

Cannistaro: The documents were fabricated by supporters of the policy in the United States. The policy being that you had to invade Iraq in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and you had to do it soon to avoid the catastrophe that would be produced by Saddam Hussein’s use of alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Masters: Well, Ambassador Wilson publicly refuted the claims — particularly the 16 words in the President’s State of the Union address that the Iraqis were trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Niger. That document, I understand, was fabricated ... it originally came out of Italian intelligence...

Cannistaro: ...[D]uring the two-thousands when we’re talking about acquiring information on Iraq. It isn’t that anyone had a good source on Iraq—there weren’t any good sources. The Italian intelligence service, the military intelligence service, was acquiring information that was really being hand-fed to them by very dubious sources. The Niger documents, for example, which apparently were produced in the United States, yet were funneled through the Italians.

Masters: Do we know who produced those documents? Because there’s some suspicion ...

Cannistaro: I think I do, but I’d rather not speak about it right now, because I don’t think it’s a proven case ...

Masters: If I said “Michael Ledeen”?

Cannistaro: You’d be very close . . .
I report, you decide.

Before he was famous

Jack Abramoff has become well known of late as the conduit for illicit funds to cover Tom Delay's golf-junkets and foreign influence gathering tours. But before that he was the president of the College Republican National committee. In addition to recruiting such regressive luminaries as Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, Casino Jack was refining his techniques for voter fraud:

Before this time Jack ran the youth effort for Reagan in Massachusetts which produced 10,000 absentee ballot votes in Reagan’s 3000 vote margin of victory.
Obviously a collegiate effort, overkill on the number of votes stolen and all, but you've got to appreciate the enthusiasm. I mean do you have ANY idea how long it takes to dummy 10,000 ballots? Talk about writer's cramp.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Boomers and healthcare

Your CaliBlogger prompted a lively discussion over at Daily Kos with the x-post of Death and the whiniest generation (astute readers will note I changed the title a bit for kos, gotta keep it punchy to catch people's eyes over there). It's a great discussion and I highly recommend the article, but more importantly the many astute comments it sparked.

One of the ideas I posted later in the discussion was my hope that as the boomer generation ages it will begin to truly begin to recognize the need for fairly radical health care reform. Just to show that I'm a good day and a half of the news cycle, tomorrows New York Times will be featuring a piece by the redoubtable Paul Krugman announcing the need for health care reform and announcing it as his major focus for an impending series of articles:

Those of us who accuse the administration of inventing a Social Security crisis are often accused, in return, of do-nothingism, of refusing to face up to the nation's problems. I plead not guilty: America does face a real crisis - but it's in health care, not Social Security.

Well-informed business executives agree. A recent survey of chief financial officers at major corporations found that 65 percent regard immediate action on health care costs as "very important." Only 31 percent said the same about Social Security reform.
That Mr. Krugman is turning his very keen eye is very good news indeed. Not only is he a distinguished economist (bio here), he has also proven to be able to cut through the typical political blather and frame his points in clear and understandable terms, an ability he has amply demonstrated by taking apart brick by brick, the Republican noise machine's misrepresentation and manipilation of the Social Security debate.

And it is readily apparent the Mr. Krugman's vision is quite clear as he focuses on healthcare, a true crisis:
So what's the problem? Why not welcome medical progress, and consider its costs money well spent? There are three answers.

First, America's traditional private health insurance system, in which workers get coverage through their employers, is unraveling. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that in 2004 there were at least five million fewer jobs with health insurance than in 2001. And health care costs have become a major burden on those businesses that continue to provide insurance coverage: General Motors now spends about $1,500 on health care for every car it produces.

Second, rising Medicare spending may be a sign of progress, but it still must be paid for - and right now few politicians are willing to talk about the tax increases that will be needed if the program is to make medical advances available to all older Americans.

Finally, the U.S. health care system is wildly inefficient. Americans tend to believe that we have the best health care system in the world. (I've encountered members of the journalistic elite who flatly refuse to believe that France ranks much better on most measures of health care quality than the United States.) But it isn't true. We spend far more per person on health care than any other country - 75 percent more than Canada or France - yet rank near the bottom among industrial countries in indicators from life expectancy to infant mortality.
So those are the issues that need to be addressed, others might be listed, but Mr. Krugman's next point, and why its so important for progressives to get vocally on board. The money quote:
To get effective reform, however, we'll need to shed some preconceptions - in particular, the ideologically driven belief that government is always the problem and market competition is always the solution.

The fact is that in health care, the private sector is often bloated and bureaucratic, while some government agencies - notably the Veterans Administration system - are lean and efficient. In health care, competition and personal choice can and do lead to higher costs and lower quality. The United States has the most privatized, competitive health system in the advanced world; it also has by far the highest costs, and close to the worst results. [Emphasis mine]
So that's the battle, and if progressives and the Democratic Party have the balls to take it on, it can be the defining moment of this generation of the enlightened. But it's a battle that will make the Social Security piratization skirmishes look like mere dust devils compared to the tornado the regressive will whip up against what needs be done: remove our country's healthcare from those who's over-riding goal is profit.

In that battle I believe progressives have unaccustomed allies, most notably the (non-insurance) business community which increasingly faces the choice of paying exhorbitant health insurance costs, or face increasing losses from un-insured workers absent due to health problems that go unaddressed until they reach emergency room status.

But my main hope, God help me, is that the enormous mass of the boomer generation will, as they typically do, act in their own self interest, and support rational health care solutions.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Mortality and the whiniest generation

I've found it's always helpful to keep in mind the aggregate age of the baby-boom generation when considering the "next big thing". The huge popular and consumer power of this actuarial horror (disclaimer: I'm a tail-end boomer myself having been born in 1959) is difficult to overestimate as a factor in American popular culture.

Is it any wonder that in the mid 60s and early 70s , just as the post WWII generation was hitting its late teens that the "youth movement" flourished? And later in the 70s as this same generation moved into its 20s that the non-stop partying of the disco era took shape? This was followed by the coke fueled go-getters of the 80s, which also hosted the start of the housing bubble as boomers started to get jobs and couple off.

In the 90s the typical boomer self-absorption began to become focused on their off-spring and long term investments. It was the era of soccer moms, insane investing and a continuing housing bubble.

So now, when those born in 1945 and after are now looking at their 60th birthdays, is it any wonder what the next "real big news" will be? I believe all this talk of Social Security "insolvency" coupled with the ongoing unavoidable mortality of "the greatest generation" (i.e. the boomers' parents) has suddenly focused the boomer generation on what may be their last "next big thing", that is, death.

In today's New York Times, the ever ascerbic Frank Rich makes the observation, though without making the connection (one of the interesting things about boomer self-absorption is its failure to see how many of its interests are merely a function of its anomalous size):

Fox's howler was in its way the most honest barometer of this entire cultural moment. The network was pulling out all the stops to give the audience what it craved: a fresh, heaping serving of death. Mr. Smith had a point when he later noted that "the exact time of death, I think, is not something that matters so much at this moment." Certainly not to a public clamoring for him to bring it on.

Mortality - the more graphic, the merrier - is the biggest thing going in America. Between Terri Schiavo and the pope, we've feasted on decomposing bodies for almost a solid month now. The carefully edited, three-year-old video loops of Ms. Schiavo may have been worthless as medical evidence but as necro-porn their ubiquity rivaled that of TV's top entertainment franchise, the all-forensics-all-the-time "CSI." To help us visualize the dying John Paul, another Fox star, Geraldo Rivera, brought on Dr. Michael Baden, the go-to cadaver expert from the JonBenet Ramsey, Chandra Levy and Laci Peterson mediathons, to contrast His Holiness's cortex with Ms. Schiavo's.
Mr. Rich goes on though to make an entirely correct point on how the culture of death is being used by the wingnut right to support its ludicrous and dangerous agenda:
Once the culture of death at its most virulent intersects with politicians in power, it starts to inflict damage on the living.

When those leaders, led by the Bush brothers, wallow in this culture, they do a bait-and-switch and claim to be upholding John Paul's vision of a "culture of life." This has to be one of the biggest shams of all time. Yes, these politicians oppose abortion, but the number of abortions has in fact been going down steadily in America under both Republican and Democratic presidents since 1990 - some 40 percent in all. The same cannot be said of American infant fatalities, AIDS cases and war casualties - all up in the George W. Bush years. Meanwhile, potentially lifesaving phenomena like condom-conscious sex education and federally run stem-cell research are in shackles.

This agenda is synergistic with the entertainment culture of Mr. Bush's base: No one does the culture of death with more of a vengeance - literally so - than the doomsday right. The "Left Behind" novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins all but pant for the bloody demise of nonbelievers at Armageddon. And now, as Eric J. Greenberg has reported in The Forward, there's even a children's auxiliary: a 40-title series, "Left Behind: The Kids," that warns Jewish children of the hell that awaits them if they don't convert before it's too late. Eleven million copies have been sold on top of the original series' 60 million.
Unfortunately, as the boomers become increasingly obsessed with their own mortality I see little hope to combat the culture of death and its corollary of desperate psuedo-religiosity and psuedo-morality. Unless gen Xers and younger are willing to take up the fight, fully cognizant of the demographic battle they are fighting.

Wolcott Alert!

New post here.

Republicans=Communists? Part 2

Ok, so yesterday's post was a little bit of snarky sophism.

Today's is not. From Dana Milbank in today's Washington Post:

Conservative leaders meeting in Washington yesterday for a discussion of "Remedies to Judicial Tyranny" decided that Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan appointee, should be impeached, or worse.

Phyllis Schlafly, doyenne of American conservatism, said Kennedy's opinion forbidding capital punishment for juveniles "is a good ground of impeachment." To cheers and applause from those gathered at a downtown Marriott for a conference on "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith," Schlafly said that Kennedy had not met the "good behavior" requirement for office and that "Congress ought to talk about impeachment."

Next, Michael P. Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said Kennedy "should be the poster boy for impeachment" for citing international norms in his opinions. "If our congressmen and senators do not have the courage to impeach and remove from office Justice Kennedy, they ought to be impeached as well."

Not to be outdone, lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."

Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.

The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem." Presumably, Vieira had in mind something less extreme than Stalin did and was not actually advocating violence. But then, these are scary times for the judiciary. An anti-judge furor may help confirm President Bush's judicial nominees, but it also has the potential to turn ugly. [Emphasis mine]
This is especially troublesome in light of earlier comments by House Majority Leader Tom Delay and Republican Texas Senator Jouh Cornyn in the aftermath of the Terry Schiavo debacle:
The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. - House Republican Leader Tom DeLay.

[W]e seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence. - Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas)
And these comments do not occur in a vacuum. Again Dana Milbank has the read on the currently very dangerous climate judges are facing:
A judge in Atlanta and the husband and mother of a judge in Chicago were murdered in recent weeks. After federal courts spurned a request from Congress to revisit the Terri Schiavo case, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said that "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) mused about how a perception that judges are making political decisions could lead people to "engage in violence."

"The people who have been speaking out on this, like Tom DeLay and Senator Cornyn, need to be backed up," Schlafly said to applause yesterday. One worker at the event wore a sticker declaring "Hooray for DeLay."
Let me also point out that these attacks are also relevant to the government's continuing assaults on journalistic integrity (Media Matters has an exhaustive roundup here).

What these attacks have in common can be seen in light of one of the functions performed by both the judiciary and the media: the protection of individual liberties against government tyranny, and most especially the protection of minorities against the tyranny of the majority.

Without these (admittedly imperfect) protectors, the individual is wholly at the mercy of demagogues and mob rule which are the main potential weaknesses of democracy.

Remember, the worst atrocities of the totalitarian Stalinist Soviet Union, were inevitably carried out by "the will of the people".

As the dingbat wing of the Republican party continues to consolidate power, we must be especially wary of which "people's" will is being carried out.


Just riffing on a comment I made over at kos.

You may recall that Chimpy and the Republighoul's second favorite catchphrase (after culture of life - see below) is the ownership society.

The Republican idea is that if you own stuff you have to take care of it and will, therefore, become a more responsible human being. Sounds good.

But everybody already owns SOME stuff, and look at how fucked up we all are. So simple ownership isn't enough, it also matters WHAT you own.

It stands to reason then, that the more important the stuff you own, the more responsible you'll be. Someone who owns a car has to be more responsible than someone who owns a bicycle (I know, Iknow, emissions, traffic, limited resources and all that, but I'm working with Republican reasoning here). Someone who owns a business is more responsible than someone who owns a home, etc.

So, to realize the Republican ideal, we must seek to make everyone owners of the most important stuff in America, the factories, the land, the intellectual property, in other words the capital assets of the entire country.

A century ago they might have called this stuff the "means of production".

So here's the Republican idea of an ownership society: that everyone (let's call them the people) should own all the stuff really worth owning (let's call this stuff the means of production).

Of course, like all Repulighoul ideas, this one is hardly original. It was hypothesized over a century ago. It might most accurately called Marxism, but communism will do.

So there you have it, Republicans are communists.

Damn pinkos!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Culture of Life

As the leadership of the Republican party and its MSM mouthpieces give non-stop attention to the death of the pope one phrase occurs repeatedly: the culture of life. This is a phrase used by the late Pontiff to describe the Roman Catholic church's opposition to contraception, abortion, the death penalty, right to death legislation, and virtually all forms of war, including, specifically, the war in Iraq.

Now anyone familiar with my views knows that I strongly disagree with the church's position on almost all of these things (opposition to the war being a main point of agreement). But regardless of my disagreement, I can still respect the self-consistency of these views, especially as they fall into line with other of the churches views on the need for charity and good works.

And it is in these prerequisites for a true culture of life that our Republican controlled government falls far short.

For even as they demagogue about the evils of abortion and an individual's right to die, Republicans continue to, not just ignore, but exacerbate the suffering of those in our society with the greatest need.

From today's New York Times:

Much as the diners at Holy Apostles peered ahead to see what was being dished up at the steam tables, soup kitchen administrators across the country are currently eying governments' trilevel budget season and wincing at all the politicians' economizing vows. They know that "budget tightening" eventually means longer lines outside their doors.

"It's a desperate thing," said the Rev. Bill Greenlaw, director of the Holy Apostles charity, one of the largest among 1,298 kitchens and pantries regularly helping more than one million residents in New York City. "Every level of government seems to have the same mantra, that these programs are vulnerable.

"We're bracing that all three levels of government are coming down at the same time."

Most immediately, food charities are pleading against further cuts in the federal emergency food and shelter program, which directly fights hunger. Last year, 48 soup kitchens closed in the city as supplies were exhausted, and hundreds of others reported to be making do by cutting back on daily portions.

Beyond that, however, administrators know that the myriad of severe program cuts looming in Washington - for everything from low-income wage supplements to health care spending for poor people - can only lead to further cuts down the revenue food chain in statehouses and city halls and, finally, longer lines of people silently begging for food.

The budget debate in the Republican-run Capitol presents a Hobson's choice between the House's five-year, $30 billion-plus in program cuts for the poor and the Senate's $2.8 billion in cuts - one-tenth the pain, but focused most heavily on nutrition programs. The compromise cuts are likely to lean toward the House, levying more than their fair budget share on the poor, even as President Bush and the G.O.P. leaders argue that still more upper-bracket tax cuts are somehow justifiable.[Emphasis mine]
And be clear, tax-cuts for the comfortable are only a part of the problem. Currently the US military budget (over $400 billion) is approaching its highest cold war levels and equals that of the rest of the world combined.

Now before you complain that we're at war, consider with whom that war is to be fought and just how effective our most expensive military programs will be aginst that threat. Stealth fighters aren't much help with suicide bombers after all.

Until this country, tis citizens and its government are prepared to re-examine the needs and functionality of the US military, culture of life will remain only a meaningless catch phrase.

Greetings and Felicitations

So glad you could join me here on my new site. A couple reasons for the change.

First and formost I wanted to give readers the opportunity to easily comment on my various rants and ravings, something I couldn't accomplish on my old Trellix site.

Further the blogger templates give me a little more flexibility in working with html code (danger Will Robinson), something I've been learning (slowly) for the past couple of years.

And finally I'm considering using to host a more work related site, but before I commit to that I want to get a good deal more accustomed to how it works.

If you'd like to access the archived material at the old site I've provided links in the sidebar. Or you can go there by clicking here.

I hope you find the new site accomodating, and I look forward to reading any comments you might have.

-Your CaliBlogger

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Tom Delay: Traitor

The Traitor

Consider: In 1977 future Republican majority leader Tom Delay travels to Russia on a trip paid for by Russian business interests.

In 1999 majority whip Tom Delay leads congressional Republicans in refusing to support an air campaign requested by President Clinton in his efforts to fight the Russian backed tyrant Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo.

This of course, aided and abetted the enemy, all while American men and women stood in harm's way.

One wonders, then, if DeLay's action was a political action based on his frothing Clinton hatred, or was that action eased by Russian petro-dollars?

Regardless, there is a name for a man who would put the lives of American soldiers at risk, either for personal political gain, or at the behest of foreign powers.

And that name is traitor.

DeLay must go.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Prescription malpractice

Mrs. CaliBlogger has two herniated discs and so suffers chronic back pain. Because of this she has been prescribed various pain-relievers and other medications over the years. It's been our experience that the many pharmacists we've dealt with over the years have been unfailingly helpful and sympathetic when dealing with her prescribed medications.

But will it always be so? What if a pharmacist decides that the opiates or derivatives she's been prescribed are morally wrong? Far-fetched? I might once have thought so. But I do so no longer.

In yet another attack by the hypocritical immoral moralists of the "religious" right, an increasing number of pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. These are the same sort of people who, if the woman became pregnant, would scream murder if she then sought an abortion. But then logic has never been their strong suit.

Happily, in another "why I'm glad I live in California" moment, the legislature here has before it two bills which would require pharmacists to fill prescriptions or face penalties for not doing so.

Two Democratic bills pending in the Legislature would require druggists to dispense all lawful drugs. Both proposals would allow California's 25,000 pharmacists to demur only if the store could ensure that the prescription would be filled by another without excessive inconvenience to the patient.
What amazes me is the silence of the medical community in the face of this attack on their professional credibility.

What amazes me further is the silence of pharmacists themselves. Clearly those who are refusing to fill orders for prescribed medicines are just a tiny fraction of the many ethical professionals who assist those in need. Were I a member of that profession I'd be working tirelessly to weed out those individuals who are not fulfilling their professional obligations and I would certainly not be leaving it to potentially wayward governmental regulation.

We've all seen the chaos that can arise when government gets too involved with medical treatment. The American Pharmaceutical Association is doing its upstanding members a disservice by remaining silent on this issue.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Brothers in Arms?

Sen. John Cornyn and Brian Nichols: Brothers in arms?

Given their disdain for the weak, the poor, students, teachers, nurses, gays and basically anyone who doesn't hold a multi-million (and preferably billion) dollar portfolio, it's wonderful to see that a Republican Senator is indeed capable of some empathy:

[Sen. John] Cornyn [R-TX] continued: "I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. . . . And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence. Certainly without any justification, but a concern that I have.

How lovely. So Senator Cornyn understands how people can become so upset with that darned activist judiciary, going and enforcing laws rather than Congress' political whims, that they just might go out and start killing judges.

It's certainly comforting that he's in good company:

Extremists on the Internet "are expressing satisfaction that they have been killed. Judge Lefkow has been vilified in these circles the past three years," explained Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL monitors a number of extremist sites on the Web and has been keeping close watch on the message traffic since the murders.

A posting on an Aryan Nations message board reads: "If you are doing the bidding of the enemy YOU ARE THE ENEMY!" [Emphasis mine]
I'm certain Senator Cornyn couldn't have said it better himself.