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Archive for August, 2006

Fund Raising Follies

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I have received two fund raising letters from the Democrats this week. The first was from James Carville, berating me for not renewing my membership in the Democratic Party and asking for money to use in the election this year.

First of all James, I have never been a member of the Democratic Party. I have voted in Democratic primaries in Illinois, which in my mind is not the same thing as joining.

But my more serious quibble with the Ragin Cajun’s fund raising has to do with his pitch. James listed a number of Republican domestic failures – and I agreed with his criticisms -  but nowhere in the letter did he mention Iraq or terrorism.

Look at some of these recent polls. Note how in poll after poll, Iraq is at or near the top of the list of issues voters are most concerned about. Maybe the missus has James on a really short leash.

Or maybe, Carville doesn’t understand what this election is all about.

In an August 28 Bloomberg article, Carville is quoted as saying, “We have to go back to 1974 (during Watergate) to find such a favorable environment. If we can’t win in this environment, we have to question the whole premise of the party.”

What is the whole premise of the party, btw? Can the same party that is home to Feingold and Kucinich be just as nurturing to Biden and Landrieu? Just asking.

The other fund raiser I got was from Governor Bill Richardson, who did criticize the war in Iraq (as well as failures on the economy, health care and so on). But the Republicans are doing their best to conflate the war in Iraq with the war on terror aka the War against Islamic Fascism. They are also trying to depict their critics as appeasers or at least dangerously deluded (rebutted nicely by Keith Olbermann). The Democrats should keep reminding voters of the failures in both wars.

The Republicans have gotten fat on the war against terror. They are so lucky they didn’t capture bin Laden when they had the chance. Now, Osama is out there menacing all Americans. Homeland Security has no choice but to keep the alert level at orange or purple or whatever the hell it is this week.

And Osama endorsing Kerry in 2004? Priceless! Like I said, the GOP has been soooo lucky. It couldn’t have gone better if they had planned it that way.

Updated 6:41 CDT August 31, 2006

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August 31st, 2006 at 4:39 pm

Where Have You Gone Henry Ford?

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Where Have You Gone Henry Ford?  Our nation turns its increasingly impoverished eyes to you.

If anyone thinks the upward transfer of wealth is just the product of the rational working of the market place, I have these magic beans they might be interested in purchasing. For everybody else, I would argue that Bush administration policies and tax cuts have a lot to do with the rich getting richer and the poor and middle class…well, you know.

So what do we have now? More poverty, more working people without health insurance, less  purchasing power.

Henry Ford among the first big employers who paid his workers a bit more than a living wage. Did he do so out of generosity. Of course not. After all, he hired goons to make sure unions didn’t get their foot in the door at Ford Motor Company. Rather, he wanted Ford workers to be able to buy the cars they were producing.

Capital today does not seem to see the neccessity of maintaining a domestic market. As a result, one day the trade deficit will strangle the American economy. The rich will then retreat to walled , rather than merely gated, communities, the better to defend themselves against the middle class homeless.
Aint it funny how as India becomes the world’s office, the United States becomes the worlds source of cheap labour?

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August 30th, 2006 at 4:10 pm

They Got Him, Thank God

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Whew! They caught that pervy king of polygamy in Nevada or Utah or someplace. Just in time too. How much longer could the cable news anchors keep talking about the pervy John Mark Karr since he has been let go?

Lord knows, there’s nothing going on in Iraq, Afghanistan or Washington worth reporting on.

And it would only upset people to let them know what a mess the economy is in.

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August 29th, 2006 at 10:35 am

First, Do No Harm

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In the SF Chronicle yesterday, Carolyn Lochead analyzes the current state of American foreign policy in the wake of the Iraq disaster. It’s not doing so well. Quel surprise (or in English, Kel surpreez).

This is a thoughtful and substantial article not easily summarized, but I recommend reading the whole thing.

Lochead closes with these observations:

But the broad consensus is that staying the course is not working. The Iraqi death rate of the last two months translates to 40,000 a year, Diamond said, and “if that isn’t civil war, I don’t know what is.

“I literally do not know anyone outside the administration who thinks that simply staying the course we’re on now is going to work,” he said. “I know people who think we need to do a lot more. I know people who think the current level of troops is about right, but we need a very different strategy in terms of how we use them and proceed politically. I know people who think we need to start heading for the exits.”

The problem is, no one knows a way out.

“There isn’t a pretty scenario that is looming on the horizon, and that’s one of the reasons the foreign policy community hasn’t gravitated to a common position,” said Charles Kupchan, a former National Security Council official for President Bill Clinton. “There’s just lots of bad options.”

As I understand it, the debate about what to do in Iraq will soon crystallize into those who want to set a timetable for withdrawal versus those who want to keep U.S. troops there. I know which position is and will remain more popular. See Polling Report if you don’t believe me. Democratic candidates and strategists should take note and proceed accordingly.
To be fair, Lochead notes some of the Administrations’s foreign policy successes, but it seems to me that those have occurred despite the efforts of Bush and his Neocon posse. For example, improved relations with China, India and Pakistan have come about as a result of pragmatic negotiations and diplomacy and when the Administration was not repeat not acting like a bunch of bullying proctological orificises.

As to what lessons can be learned from the last generation of U.S. foreign policy disasters, I have a few observations and suggestions to make. I offer these not as a foreign policy expert nor as a trained historian, but as citizen endowed with some small measure of common sense and humanity.

  1. First, stop trying to solve every problem with force. It is not only immoral, but it doesn’t work. In fact , military violence almost always makes things worse.
  2. Talk to everybody, even our enemies.
  3. Fianlly, give up the idea that the U.S. must be a global empire. Empires have an increasingly short shelf life. Rome lasted 2000 years (if you count the Byzantines), but the Mongol Khanates lasted what, a century? The English and French empires lasted a couple of centuries and Spain less than that. The way things are going, American global hegemony will be a whisper of dust in a decade.We can’t outrun the laws of history and economics, and we’re stupid if we try.

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August 28th, 2006 at 4:21 pm

Strategy? For Iraq?

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I’ve had almost to think about this one and to be pleasantly surprised by the American news media.

During his last press conference, W was asked the following question by someone whose name is Martha, apparently:

Q: Mr. President, I’d like to go back to Iraq. You have continually cited the elections, the new government as progress in Iraq, and yet the violence has gotten worse in certain areas. You have to go to Baghdad again. Is it not time for a new strategy? And if not, why not?

BUSH: You know, Martha, you’ve covered the Pentagon; you know that the Pentagon is constantly adjusting tactics because they have the flexibility from the White House to do so.

QUESTION: I’m talking about the strategy.

BUSH: Well, the strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and their dreams, which is a democratic society. That’s the strategy.

Thanks to The Raw Story for the transcript.

Of course the press conference and Bush’s remarks have been widely covered and commented on. But I am still waiting for someone to piont out that what the President said was the current U.S. strategy is not in fact a strategy at all. He stated what may be the goal of the U.S. mission in Iraq, but came mowhere near to outlining a plan for achieving that goal.
See this for definitions of the word strategy that can be found on the web. One that seems applicable and clear to me is:

A strategy is a long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. Strategy applies to many disparate fields, such as: *Military strategy*Marketing strategies*Strategic management*Football strategy*Game theoretical strategy*Economic strategy*Neuro-linguistic programming strategy

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy

Again Bush said that “Well, the strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and their dreams, which is a democratic society. That’s the strategy.”

I am beginning to wonder if there is a strategy. I don’t even know if there is any kind of mission or goal behind the occupation of Iraq. I know, we are protecting the government of Iraq from insurgents, but for what purpose.

Last November, the White House did release a strategy document, but it failed to impress many observers, including Truth Out, who wrote at the time:

After two-and-a-half years and 2,110 US troop fatalities, the Bush administration released what it calls a “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” (NSVI). The problem is, it’s not a new strategy for success in Iraq; it’s a public relations document. The strategy describes what has transpired in Iraq to date as a resounding success and stubbornly refuses to establish any standards for accountability. It dismisses serious problems such as the dramatic increase in bombings as “metrics that the terrorists and insurgents want the world to use.” Americans understand it’s time for a new course in Iraq. Unfortunately, this document is little more than an extended justification for a President “determined to stay his course.

Everybody should read the whole thing.

That was last November. Matters have only grown more dire since then.

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August 27th, 2006 at 11:41 pm

Posted in Iraq

New Rules

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New Rule: No picking a fight with and/or giving the finger to the live studio audience.

New Rule: From now on, SOBER wingnuts only.

Maher has had Hitchens on his various shows for years now, so it should not be surprising to see him on Real Time. And I sympathize with Maher’s efforts to balance his panels ideologically (gender, however, does not seem to be a criterion). But Hitchens can’t maintain anymore, and despite his self identification as an intellectual giant, his arguments last night were in turn shallow, deceptive and childish.For example, h e tried to revive the discredited tales of a Saddam and Al Quaeda connection,  a premise Maher was unwilling to accept even for argument’s sake. And criticism of the President was met with the equivalent of “I know you are, but what am I?”
Maybe that’s the Neocon shtick these days, but I can’t see Krauthammer behaving like someone who regularly imbibes a bottle of wine and four single malts with his evening meal.  Hitchens last night looked to me like a very isolated and frustrated man. When she becomes a saint, someone should ask Mother Theresa to intercede on his behalf.

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August 26th, 2006 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Janna Levin

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So last evening I was watching the Colbert Report (there’s no such thing as too much garlic or too much irony), and his guest was a math whiz named Janna Levin, not to be confused with Jenna Elfman. Levin has written a novel called A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines. Turing machines, I have just learned, were first described by Alan Turing in (Turing 1937), and are simple abstract computational devices intended to help investigate the extent and limitations of what can be computed.

BTW I have not read Levin’s novel, only ordered it a few moments ago from Amazon.com.

Levin says this novel is “(A) story of coded secrets and psychotic delusions, mathematics and war.”

Reminds me of something else I read some time ago. What was it again? Was it this? Nope. Doesn’t quite serve.

I know, it was this. Only maybe Levin’s work is, you know, a little easier to read.

I will have to let you know.

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August 25th, 2006 at 1:05 am

Survivor: Whaaa??!!

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Yesterday, while driving from my stock brokers office to a golf date with my accountant, I happened upon some excellence in broadcasting delivered by Rush Limbaugh (no link-sorry, dittoheads). I thought he was being typically hyperbolic when he began talking about how contestants on the new season of Survivor would be organized into race based teams. Of course Rush couldn’t help himself and joked about how the African American team wouldn’t win any swimming events. Ha ha ha. I laughed so hard I had to slap my thigh.

I thought no more of it until this morning when I surfed onto MSNBC and lo and behold were two yelling heads “debating” this very factoid.

Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. I googled Survivor and found this in Lord Black’s favorite Chicago tabloid:

The new season of ”Survivor” will be a race among races.

At the start of the reality show’s 13th edition, ”Survivor: Cook Islands,” 20 contestants will be organized into four tribes divided along ethnic lines — black, white, Hispanic and Asian, CBS announced Wednesday.

I can’t wait for next season when Survivor pits Catholics, Baptists, Orthodox Jews and Sunni Muslims against each other.
I feel like boycottin’ me some sponsors. Who’s with me?

Full disclosure: I have never watched more than 5 continuous minutes of Survivor or any other reality tv show. So what do I know?

Written by slothropia

August 24th, 2006 at 9:49 am

Posted in CBS

Mike Scares the Crap Out of Big Pharma et al

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My close personal friend Buzzflash alerted me to a story in Advertising Age about the upcoming Mike Moore muckraker Sicko. Apparently, the pharmaceuticals and HMOs are stating to squirm and soil their undies in anticipation of the next Mike attack.

“A review of America’s health-care system should be balanced, thoughtful and well-researched to pin down what works and what needs to be improved,” said Ken Johnson, senior VP for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “You won’t get that from Michael Moore.”

Added a spokesman for one of the top 10 pharma companies: “We expect it will be one-sided and biased, just like his other documentaries.”

Poor dears. They may just have to put more ads on tv (and pass the cost along to you, the patient/consumer).I have long been convinced that the most important domestic issue facing the U.S. is health care, especially access to health care.

  • 45 or 47 million people (the number seems to vary from report to report) are without health insurance here.
  • People without health insurance are often treated in hospital emergency rooms, the most expensive way to deliver treatment.
  • A serious health problem can drive a family into bankruptcy.
  • Employers are at a competitive disadvantage relative to their overseas competitors because of the high and rising cost of health insurance.
  • New drugs are priced far beyond the costs of development and production.
  • The medical industries are growing richer as wealth is transferred to them from the poor and middle class.

All of these points are as true today as they were ten years ago, and there seems to be no political effort aimed at resolving any of them.

I remember when Farenheit 911 came out and there was a lot of buzz about how this one movie would ensure the defeat of W in his reelection bid. Didn’t happen. But watch that movie now. How much of it that seemed controversial two years ago is conventional wisdom today?  Maybe that change in public attitudes about Bush and Iraq will result in a power shift in November. Maybe not. But there seems to be a growing debate about things that the Republicans would rather not talk about. Here’s hoping there are at least some Democrats who do.

I have not seen Sicko and so am in no position to analyze it (which wouldn’t stop me if I were Sean, Rush or Billo).  But I am looking forward to seeing it and if I were a drug company or a health insurer, I would be mainlining antacids and changing my underwear hourly.

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August 23rd, 2006 at 3:14 pm

To Lou and Pat: Heckuva Job, Fellas

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TBogg alerted me to the Poorman’s coverage of this.

Here’s my favorite part of the story:

Some in the crowd were intoxicated. Some waved Confederate flags, while others thrust their right arms up to resemble a Nazi salute. Dozens had signs calling for tighter border control.

Thanks to all the anti-immigration whores who encourage this crap. Take a bow, Lou and Pat and Michelle and Papa Bear Bill and Reps. Tancredo and Sensenbrenner. And a special lifetime achievement bouquet to Karl for demonstrating the value of stirring up the base.

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August 22nd, 2006 at 3:24 pm