Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Take a look.
Here's the first of the ads:
and the second:
On the eve of an important Senate committee meeting to consider the legislation, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff.
Ms. Nord opposes provisions that would increase the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make public reports of faulty products, protect industry whistle-blowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
It's a good piece, but W also dishonors our military by sending our troops on foolish missions that waste American and foreign lives. 60 Minutes did a piece on civilian deaths through American bombing raids in Afghanistan. Most of it focused on the review process that goes on before a raid is carried out; one witness, a former top Bush National Security Council staffer who approved raids in Iraq, said that if there was a chance of killing a "high-value" target like Saddam Hussein or one of his top officials, the raid would go ahead if no more than 30 civilians were likely to die. He had approved more than 50 such strikes; none of them eliminated the target. One of those interviewed for the story did note the essential truth: that we carry out air strikes in Afghanistan because we have too few troops there.
The damage done to the American military by Bush and his cronies will be long-lasting. It will damage not only the services, but the nation. It will be one of the President's great shames. Unfortunately, in that category it has a lot of competition.
Friday, October 26, 2007
If they're not careful, they'll get an unfair-competition complaint from Fox News (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party).
On GOP congresswoman, Ginny Brown-Wait (R-FL), described the bill this way, "You can take horse manure and roll it in powdered sugar and it doesn't make it a doughnut." Wonder if even the people in Tampa will stand for that.
So that's what the Repubs think of health insurance for children: horse manure.
Meanwhile, the AP reports that the Scrooge-in-Chief "accused Democratic lawmakers on Friday of wasting time by passing legislation to expand children's health coverage, knowing that he would veto it again." Sure, Mr. President, why would Congress waste its time trying to help sick kids when it could be appropriating more billions in deficit spending for the war in Iraq?
Somewhere along the line, the MSM seems to have decided to give Hillary a pass. The episode of Norman Hsu, Democratic supporter and fugitive fraudster, could have been a serious setback for Clinton's campaign, which reaped the lion's share of his largess, but the story quickly faded. Her prolonged shilly-shallying over the Iraq war is another potential disaster for her, especially among Democrat Primary voters, but that issue hasn't caught on, either.
Clinton--and, indeed, all media-savvy candidates--benefits from the slapdash and slipshod "coverage" of campaigns that has become the norm. Positions on issues are described, if at all, in a sentence or two, and debates and polls are covered as if they were real news. When something does get reported, it is likely to be a meaningless story blown out of all proportion--as with Clinton's support for a local earmark to give a million dollars for a museum of the Woodstock Concert of 1969.
So far, especially given the rage of Repubs against Clinton over the past 15 years, Hillary's free pass is as remarkable as the "new Nixon" of 1968, and even more surprising than the general failure to examine W's credentials--or the lack thereof--in 2000.
The danger for Clinton, and Democrats, is that this could change. The Woodstock story has been picked up by GOPhers who are getting desperate for things to hurl at Hillary. That one, in particular, makes an easy target, and is a simple way for them to portray her as no better than anyone else in Washington--i.e., to blur the distinction between Repubs and Democrats. The press, also eager for easy targets, could shift into attack mode on Clinton and play up attacks on her the way they aired the fake swift boat controversy in 2004; this is all the more likely because of powerful forces, such as Fox, all ready to give vent to the venom of the right.
One of the hazards for both parties this year is that they are likely to have picked their presidential candidates eight or nine months before the election, leaving plenty of time for devastating secrets (or just plain old smears) to emerge when it's too late to find someone new.
Is this anyway to run a democracy?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The people who make Sam Adams beer have sent a letter threatening legal action if two websites using the eponymous name of their product in a campaign for mayor of Portland, OR are not shut down.*
Only one problem: the sites support the candidacy of Portland city councilman Sam Adams for mayor of the City that Works.
The letter notes that the brewer "has used the trademarks SAM ADAMS and SAMUEL ADAMS since 1984." To which the councilman replied that he has been using it since 1963.
*The governor should commute that sentence, but I'm not going to bother trying to fix it.
UPDATE: The websites mentioned above have been shut down, allegedly by the threat of litigation. If you want to see the letter from Boston Beer Company, threatening legal action, look here.
There's a larger issue here: The willful and flagrant misdirection of the nation's resources. China's economy is growing at an annual rate of over 10 percent; our economy is projected to grow at a 2 percent rate (after accounting for population increase, etc., that's effectively no growth). China is making things; here, Facebook is valued by the market at $16 billion. When I heard Barack Obama the other night, one of the points he made was that we should be creating high-quality jobs by getting out in front in the green revolution. The point is hardly original with Obama, but the current regime is fighting a rearguard action against even admitting that there is such a thing as global warming, much less agreeing that we should do something about it. And that's not just the White House; its world view--if not its specific view of climate change--is echoed by powerful interests that want our status to remain quo.
The conventional wisdom speaks of limits: we don't have the money to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, we can't afford to take dramatic steps to clean up the atmosphere and slow global warming, we can't find the money for universal health care. (Reader AO notes that Bush vetoed S-Chip, which would have spent $35 billion on children's health care over five years, then sent Congress a request for $46 billion more for the rat-hole in Iraq, and demands that it be appropriated right now. The spineless Democratic leadership will probably go along.)
It didn't used to be that way. One of my favorite moments in The West Wing came when President Bartlet, speaking to his aide, mentions that FDR declared the US would build 50,000 airplanes in four years, and people said he was crazy. "And he was," the President continued. "We built 50,000 airplanes in one year." That was the kind of can-do spirit that used to activate America; it was what won the Second World War, created the Marshal plan to re-build a devastated world, motivated the nation when JFK promised to get to the moon in less than 10 years (we did it in eight) and provided necessary hope for the civil rights movement. Somewhere along the line, however, perhaps in the failure of the War on Poverty, we became a can't do nation.
We need to change the way we look at the world. We need to understand that we can take on great challenges, face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and prevail. And the way we will do that is not to protect the powerful, but to find goals that benefit the vast majority of our people, goals like keeping the world livable for our grandchildren, taking care of the sick and making the globe a better place for all peoples, not just American corporations.
The first step, the most important one, one that is hard but does not require wealth or power, is to change the way we think.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
A couple of weeks ago, I cited a piece by Josh Marshall about Barack Obama's campaign suggesting that, "Obama isn't so much running for the nomination in the sense of reaching out and taking it. He's trying to show us how marvelous he is (and this isn't snark, he's really pretty marvelous) so that Democratic voters will recognize it and give him the nomination."
I'm here to tell you that I was wrong, and Josh Marshall was wrong.
Last night, I saw Obama in person for the first time. It wasn't the kind of intimate gathering you may have seen in his TV ads, but a huge rally on the Boston Common--a rally organized in just a few days, since Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced that he would endorse Obama.
Forget the media story line on Obama--that he hasn't put out clear policy statements, that he hasn't been willing to mix it up, that he hasn't stated a reason for his campaign. I don't know if that was true earlier, but that wasn't the guy that I saw last night.
When he speaks to crowds of ordinary citizens, Obama is all about change. He is, truly, the only serious presidential candidate dedicated to changing the way this nation has been led for the past forty years. It's not a matter of policy, but of attitude--the idea that the nation should lead the world by example (Jimmy Carter tried this, but was ineffective), that this nation is a commonwealth (that we're all in this together), that government should help the least of us, not those who already have wealth and power.
It is fashionable to point out that Americans elected George Bush--the guy you'd rather sit around and chew the fat with--over Al Gore who, you may recall, was roundly criticized for rolling his eyes and sighing at W's fabrications. Leaving aside the fact that more voters chose Gore than Bush, that analysis misses a vital point: the character of the candidates is more important than the specifics of policy. Why? Because we don't know what the real issues will be between now and 2012. True, health care and Iraq may well continue to be the matters that concern Americans, but most presidents face challenges that were but dimly imagined--if they were thought of at all--during the campaign.
Other candidates --most notably John Edwards--talk about change, but it's a veneer. Obama seeks a new way of thinking about politics and the place of our leaders in the nation's life. In that, he stands alone. He's the guy.
Monday, October 22, 2007
While Gonzalez certainly deserves to be indicted--and, very likely, convicted--don't hang by your thumbs til it happens. Whoever is sitting in the Attorney-General's chair, the idea of indicting his predecessor will be inconceivable as long as W is in the Oval Office and Deadeye Dick in the bunker. The AG who indicted Gonzalez would disappear into one of those CIA black sites in a nanosecond.
Let's face it, the administration will do anything to keep Alberto from being tempted to tattle. Gonzalez may not be very bright--Harvard Law degree notwithstanding--but he knows where the bodies are buried. And he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who'd let interrogators pull out his fingernails without spilling the beans. (Just a thought, but shouldn't prosecutors be entitled to apply the same "enhanced interrogation" techniques on Gonzalez that he approved for use on others?) Indeed, the prospect of 7-10 in Club Fed would probably get him to start babbling like a brook.
Which would mean pardon. Bad as W's ratings are, they would nosedive if he were to issue a pardon to Gonzalez, and even more so if it came prior to a conviction. So, all strings will be pulled to make sure that no charges are brought.
(Will W. pardon Gonzalez on his way out of the Oval Office, to head off prosecution under a Democratic administration? That's a different story altogether.)
What's especially interesting about this is that the administration is still stonewalling about the number of wiretaps that it has ordered; Comcast's fee schedule is a small window into the information that remains hidden.
Raw Story got Comcast's Handbook for Law Enforcement from Secrecy News.
Friday, October 19, 2007
As some of you may recall, we lost our felines, Natasha and Shay-Shay, about 2 months apart last spring. On Sunday, the lovely Dianne and I adopted two new kitties, Miah (we added the 'h' to her given name be distinctive) and Sassafras (Sassy, of course). They are 6 months old.
A word about the people who provide foster homes for cats and dogs waiting to be adopted--they are quiet heroes. You may count human life more than that of pets; fine, that's a personal judgment and I wouldn't disagree. But these are folks who spend much time and money to save animals that would otherwise meet an untimely and, in all likelihood, unpleasant death. And they don't seek recognition; indeed, it seems that they prefer to remain almost invisible. What a contrast to all the attention-seekers who plague us!
Anyway, here are the kitties:
That's Miah on the left and Sassy on the right, helping Diane with her work. Despite their differing coloration, they are sisters; I guess we know what Mama and Papa looked like.
Okay, so Mukasey's the best we can hope for out of this lawless administration, the acting attorney-general is one of those people who, as they say, is to the right of Attila the Hun (thereby giving Attila a bad name), and the Democrats haven't got the guts to block his nomination. But, still, the nation's top lawyer ought to stand for something. Like the law and the Constitution. Tell your senators to vote for the Constitution and the rule of law, and against Mukasey.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
All of which presents Democrats with a conflict: Bush's veto--and its support by Repubs in Congress and the party's major presidential candidates--promises a Godsend for Democrats in 2008. But the outcome of today's vote means that children will go without health care. Not to put too fine a point on it, children will get sick and die who would not have had the outcome been different.
If you think this is bad, wait until you see what the Bush people try to do as their time grows really short. They will make the give-aways under Reagan and the first Bush look like child's play. All that advocates of probity and sense can do is to fight a holding action, hoping for relief after January 20, 2009.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
For instance: from yesterday's letters column:
Frank Rich focused on the administration’s role in condoning torture, the non-action of Congress in upholding our country’s moral imperatives, and the public’s silence. Well, we the people can now voice our concerns because of the elections.
As we listen to the debates — whether they be Democratic or Republican — we hear nothing about moral leadership, nothing about taking a lead in improving the world’s deteriorating environment, nothing about reinforcing the rule of law here and abroad, nothing about America regaining its role in the world as the embodiment of freedom and goodness.
While the candidates bicker about health care and tax cuts, we need to decide who can best represent American ideals and undo the harm the present administration has created all over the world. We need a leader to right what’s wrong in our country, bring us together and act as a beacon for all other countries that wish to aspire to the American dream.
Hillary, Barack, Mitt, Rudy, Chris, Fred, Joe — can you do it?
Sidney M. Levy
Baltimore, Oct. 14, 2007
but these are certainly not central issues in the campaign, and the MSM gives a lot more space to how much money has been raised, spats between this candidate and that one, and plain old campaign gossip than it does to such vital subjects.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The Bush administration has been firm on Burma; the problem has been the Chinese who sell the Burmese oil and have refused to put any real pressure on the regime.
I fear that the only course for change now would be for thousands of Burmese to be willing to face down the army, hoping that at some point the soldiers will refuse orders to shoot.
Would you stand in the front rank of that crowd? I like to think I would, but I seriously doubt that I have that kind of courage.
W, you may recall, said in vetoing the bill sent up by a truly bi-partisan majority in Congress that he favored more money for S-Chip. What he did not say, although even the White House did not deny it, is that the amount he proposed the program would not even cover the children now insured under it.
Bush lies. Now there's a story!
Monday, October 15, 2007
As Cohen notes, "The United States is as isolated in Iraq as a great power can be. A first term spent riding roughshod over friends and vaunting 'coalitions of the willing' over alliances has not been righted by a second term of diplomacy rehabilitation. Wounds linger." Not a new thought, but one that can't be repeated too often.
"Unlawful combatant" is a creation of the Bush administration, a convenient term to hold people prisoner. Take someone who was fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan. While the United States and its allies did not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of the country, the fact is that it controlled the lion's share of Afghanistan until the US invasion. Yet the administration arrogates to itself the right to determine that a person who served in the Taliban's forces is an enemy combatant, not a POW.
Blackwater's mercenaries are combatants, yet they are not enlisted in any military service. If they engage in offensive operations, logic would suggest that they be considered outside the protections of military law.
The argument might seem academic, because it is clear that the US government will never permit its contractors to be treated the way we treat our enemies. And in the eyes of the part of the world that we most need to win over, Blackwater and its ilk have already been convicted. As yet another example of American hubris and hypocrisy, however, the issue can have important ramifications.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Yep, it's true. I've been going to Hell for some time now, and I intend to keep right on.
Did you see what Ann Coulter said about us Jews? She says we need "perfected" into Christians.
The more I see and hear people like Ann Coulter, who are sure they're headed for Heaven, the more certain I become that I don't want to spend eternity with THEM.
So, I guess there's only one other place to go....
These thoughts are prompted by an interview Jimmy Carter gave CNN. True, Carter can be pompous, self-righteous and even patronizing, but he speaks his mind honestly and without ambition, which gives him a moral authority that few other public figures can command. For instance, as he told CNN:
"Our country for the first time in my life time has abandoned the basic principle of human rights. We've said that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo, and we've said we can torture prisoners and deprive them of an accusation of a crime to which they are accused."
When the interviewer, Wolf Blitzer, pointed out that W had denied that we torture people, Carter observed sagely, "But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don't violate them, and you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate them."
Carter's not the only one saying such things, but his position gets him on outlets like CNN. That's not to be sneezed at.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
So, what happened? Numerous government agencies downloaded the video and by that afternoon it was on the Internet and transcripts were being circulated--and bin Laden's people were, presumably, finding and fixing the hole in their security.
Apparently, secrecy works only one way with the clowns in the administration, and their passion to gin up fear of bin Laden overpowers even the most rudimentary concern for protecting valuable sources.
Ah well, why are we surprised by further evidence of the administration's massive incompetence?
(More on the issue of leadership to follow.)
This is in the House remember--where Democrats have a clear, if not very large, majority.
Will they never find the backbone to stand up to Bush's assault on the Constitution? Will they ever stand for the nation that the Founders envisioned--a country that values law and liberty enough to accept the risks that an open society poses?
Up to now, I've been saying that the cure for inaction on Capitol Hill is to elect larger Democratic majorities that will keep the Repubs from hamstringing needed reforms. But the kind of pusillanimity that Democrats have shown on the war and national security leads me to question why we should even bother to work for, or contribute to Democratic candidates.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Sunday, October 07, 2007
How many of those do you think require at least 14 weeks of leave? 98.
Let's look at it from the other end: How many countries do you think have no paid maternity leave? The answer is: Four.
By now, I'll bet that you've realized that the United States is one of those four. Can you identify the others? They are:
Papua New Guinea
Friday, October 05, 2007
- The four leading GOPher candidates for President have sided with Bush's veto of children's health care. Think about this for a moment. Such conservative stalwarts as Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) voted for the bill, and are trying to get Repubs in the House to override the veto. Do Rudy, Fred, the Mittster and McCain think that the Democrats are too dumb to say--over and over--that they opposed health care for kids? Or that the voters are too dumb to care? (The answer is that Repub primary voters will not vote against anyone for supporting the veto, but some might if a candidate opposes it. That's how disconnected the party is from the rest of the nation.)
- The administration strongly opposes the bill passed by the House that would place "contractors" (i.e., mercenaries) under US law when they treat other countries like the wild west. What was the margin in the House? 389-30. What are those nuts in the White House thinking? ARE they thinking?
Thursday, October 04, 2007
According to The Times, "The decision to go forward with the hearings appeared to reflect a calculation by [Sen. Patrick] Leahy and other Democrats that they did not want to be seen as willing to leave the post unfilled after complaining so loudly of turmoil in the department under Mr. Gonzales."
Maybe, but once again Democrats are backing away from a principled confrontation with the White House because of fear--in this case, fear of public reaction. That's not showing leadership, and leadership is what the public seeks.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Domenici is the fifth Repub senator to announce that he is retiring, making it even more likely that Democrats will maintain, and even expand their majority.
(Update: TPM's Election Central has a rundown of potential candidates for the seat.)
Right. Do you believe that Clinton will outpoll Obama among black voters in any Democratic primary, even New York's? If you do, you just might want to buy some waterfront property in Florida.
I don't doubt the Gallup poll. I do doubt that it accurately represents what will happen when the people actually vote.
As the politicians say (whether they believe it or not), the only poll that counts is the one on election day.
And this is why the conventional wisdom that Sen. Clinton has the nomination all but wrapped up is wrong. She may win it, she may even be the single most likely candidate among the Democrats to win it, but the race isn't over by a long shot.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Though no friend of Justice Thomas' judicial philosophy, I did feel that the interview served to humanize him. That is a valuable contribution given the ridicule and parody to which he has been subject, mainly by those of us who disagree with his judicial philosophy. Jokes at the expense of a powerful person with whom one disagrees may be fun, but they risk turning him into a caricature.
I was especially struck by the Justice's reaction to the difficulty he had at getting a job upon graduating from Yale Law School. I fee safe in suggesting that most black graduates in the '70's would have seen such an experience as evidence that law firms were racist. To Justice Thomas, however, the cause was entirely different cause: the school's affirmative action programs, which devalued his degree. He told Croft that he still has a "15 cent" sticker on his diploma.
Croft also asked Thomas about his confirmation hearing. The Justice seemed genuinely regretful and, when Croft said, "But you won," Thomas responded with something like, "What did I win?" He went on to suggest that it was not a contest. I, for one, found his reaction heartfelt, if perhaps more bitter than the experience justified; he was, after all, before the Senate to demonstrate his competence for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.
Thomas also used the occasion to take a couple of swipes at Anita Hill, who struck back with a powerful op-ed piece in The NYT. Even if you did not see the Thomas interview, I strongly suggest that you read Hill's piece; it tells the story that those of us who represent employees who are victims of discrimination hear over and over: how, having been demeaned because of their sex or the color of their skin or their national origin, they are humiliated again by the employer's false description of their ability and work. (Hill backs up her description with facts and references to others' findings, so it is not just her opinion.)
Crooks and Liars has a link to the '"60 Minutes" interview, and some interesting comments on Thomas, including this from his colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia. When asked the difference between the two men, Scalia said, "Look, I’m a conservative. I’m a texturalist. I’m an originalist. But I’m not a nut." (Some of us would quarrel with the last assertion.)
Thomas described himself to Croft as having been a radical in his younger days. My sense is that he has the radical personality that seeks certainty in rigidity and simplification. Having been a radical on the left in college and law school, he veered all the way over to the right later. He seems to have retained all of the anger that he must have had as a young man. Unfortunately, he gives no evidence that he has much capacity for growth.