Saturday, July 15, 2006

I will not TOTALLY spoil my weekend with Bush Bashing.

I was working on Zazzle today, making greeting card templates as a productive way of NOT reading the news (not that it worked) and took a break to explore. There is some amazing artwork there, such as this remarkable print by Valerian, an artist from Vancouver, BC. The handle sounds familiar, we may have met in passing.

Anyhoo - if I could afford it, I'd buy it. Since I'm broke, as usual, it will have to live in my favorites gallery until some kind soul leaves me enough to indulge my expensive, but esquisite tastes.

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Media Matters - Interviewed yet again on MSNBC/NBC, Coulter attacked 9-11 widows for purported acts of "cruel[ty]"

Media Matters - Interviewed yet again on MSNBC/NBC, Coulter attacked 9-11 widows for purported acts of "cruel[ty]":
"COULTER: Yeah. When I'm wrong, I admit I'm wrong. I think it's cruel to be foisting a 9-11 Commission on the nation, making terrorist attacks more likely by turning it into a Clinton whitewash committee. I think it's cruel to be endorsing John Kerry for president in the middle of a war on terrorism, the guy who voted for funding the troops before voting against it. I think it's cruel to be going around claiming the president of the United States is responsible for these women's husbands' deaths. I think that's cruel because it's going to put a lot of other women at risk for becoming widows. And there are a lot of 9-11 widows out there, Norah, and I'm hearing from a lot of them who think I wasn't harsh enough."

I think BoingBoing has the best response to Ms. Coulter so far...

Conservatively Speaking, these numbers suck!

Nevada Thunder » Blog Archive » Left Behind Economics

Paul Krugman, NYTimes Select.

There are a couple of additional revelations in the 2004 data. One is that growth didn’t just bypass the poor and the lower middle class, it bypassed the upper middle class too. Even people at the 95th percentile of the income distribution — that is, people richer than 19 out of 20 Americans — gained only modestly. The big increases went only to people who were already in the economic stratosphere.

The other revelation is that being highly educated was no guarantee of sharing in the benefits of economic growth. There’s a persistent myth, perpetuated by economists who should know better — like Edward Lazear, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers — that rising inequality in the United States is mainly a matter of a rising gap between those with a lot of education and those without. But census data show that the real earnings of the typical college graduate actually fell in 2004.

In short, it’s a great economy if you’re a high-level corporate executive or someone who owns a lot of stock. For most other Americans, economic growth is a spectator sport.

A Damn Shrill Shirt

Damn. Forgot I had this oooold design on Zazzle. Topical, ain't it?

Told you so...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bad News for Cheney, Rove, Smoking Gun Barks.

Valerie Plame
CNN.COM Valerie Plame addresses the National Press Club

Plame told a news conference that "I and my former colleagues trusted the government to protect us in our jobs" and said it "betrayed that trust. I'd much rather be continuing my career as a public servant than as a plaintiff in a lawsuit."

Said Wilson: "We are under no illusions about how tough this fight will be. But we believe the time has come to hold those who use their official positions to exact personal revenge accountable and responsible for their actions." His wife said they decided to pursue the lawsuit with "heavy hearts."

Plame Sues Cheney, Rove Over CIA Leak - July 13, 2006
JULY 13--Claiming that Vice President Dick Cheney conspired with presidential adviser Karl Rove and other Bush administration officials to destroy her CIA career, Valerie Plame today filed a federal lawsuit over the leaking of her identity to reporters. Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson allege that Cheney & Co. outed her as a CIA agent in retaliation for Wilson's criticism of the White House's rationale for invading Iraq, according to a U.S. District Court complaint (a copy of which you can find below). In addition to Cheney and Rove, the lawsuit names Cheney's former top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby as a defendant. Libby is currently under indictment for lying to a federal grand jury examining the circumstances of the Plame leak. In the federal complaint, which does not specify monetary damages, but seeks compensatory, exemplary, and punitive awards, Plame and Wilson charge that the defendants's actions have led them to "fear for their safety and for the safety of their children." (23 pages)
Count One of the Preliminary Statement is trenchently apt, citing George H. W. Bush's statement in 1999: "I have nothing but contempt and anger for those that betray the trust by exposing the names of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors." Remarks at the Dedication Ceremony for the George Bush Center for Intelligence.

It's difficult to disagree with "41" on this point, for in point of fact, this
is treason, both in theory and in direct effect, given Valerie Plame's direct involvement in clandestine nuclear counterproliferation. The loss of her network may well have led to increased momentum within the Iranian nuclear arms program. Indeed, it would only be prudent to assume that it did.

While this is a private action, the results of a jury trial based on these points of fact will have a profound effect on public opinion; the fact that such a suit exists at all, and is in process in the courts in Washington DC is damning.

The evidence itself is not open to significant dispute, as much of it was taken under oath during grand jury testemony in the Libby case.
Furthermore, it would seem to me that if the jury finds these charges sustainable, failure to investigate the possiblity of impeachment and criminal charges could well damn the entire Congress and the NeoConservative/Corporatist movement to political oblivion.

I would include in that not just a widespread rejection of the Republican party, but widespread shareholder revolts and/or selloffs as individuals consider both the moral, financial and potential legal impacts of association with the Administration.

Considering how much Haliburton has prospered as a result of this and other actions taken by the Vice President, coupled with the Army's sudden and long overdue decision to rebid it's core conotracts, it's not difficult to imagine the entire company imploding.

I expect this to be the first of many such suits. I anticipate a flurry of lawsuits against administration members that revolve around misinformation, vote rigging, bid rigging (and no bid contracts, massive fraud and deception.

Consider, for one thing, the costs imposed on airline travelers and airlines (and hence, airline stockholders) by the federal govenment, with no similar penalties placed on rail transit - which is clearly just as suceptable to terrorist attack. Even worse, save for one outburst of concern about a UAE port operations takeover, little attention has been paid to f
oreign operations of US ports facilities and critical infrastructure.
The failed DP World deal drew attention to the fact that most U.S. ports are managed by foreigners. Yet, while the American public was concerned about a deal with the Untied Arab Emirates (UAE), which assists the U.S. in the war on terror, but also assists HAMAS, few noticed that the Saudis have long owned a fifty percent stake in the Houston-headquartered Motiva Enterprises LLC. Saudi Arabia, of course, continues to fund the spread of radical Islam around the world.
George Bush and his family, along with Dick Cheney and various associated companies like Haliburton have many connections with the House of Saud dating back decades. Take, for instance, the former President Bush's current employment with the Carlyle Group.

Most obviously, ex-President and ex-CIA Director George Bush has been working his assets for the Washington-based Carlyle Group, a $12 billion private equity firm, since he left office. He specializes in Saudi Arabia and certainly has in interest in the Kingdom's enduring profitability.

The public-interest law firm Judicial Watch earlier this year strongly criticized this situation, pointing out in a March 5 statement that it is a "conflict of interest [which] could cause problems for America's foreign policy in the Middle East and Asia." In a Sept. 29 statement, Judicial Watch added that, "This conflict of interest has now turned into a scandal. The idea of the president's father, an ex-president himself, doing business with a company under investigation by the FBI in the terror attacks of September 11 is horrible." They demanded President Bush make his father pull out of the Carlyle Group.

Whatever the direct national security implications of inapprpriate bedfellowship between Saudi Arabia's leadership and the Bush Administration, might be is a matter of some legitimate argument. Good relationships are not generally a bad thing - until the question of where one's loyaltiy ultimately lies arises.

And here it does arise. The National Security implications of our degree of dependancy on oil, and the economic effects of fluctuating oil prices would demand, in a rational administration, a concentration on diluting the potential for economic warfare against the United States, no matter how closely allied we are with Saudi Arabia at the moment.

One thing is for sure - we would be much better off as a nation converting corn into ethonol than into high-fructose corn syrup, even given the relatively low yield per acre. At least we woudn't be so rapidly increasing the gross megatonnage of our offspring!
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Aspergers at root of Thatcherism?

Independent Online Edition > Health Medical:
"Sir Keith Joseph, the father of Thatcherism whose free market principles are still followed to some extent by Tony Blair, had a form of autism that is reflected in his political philosophy, a psychiatrist believes."
It is - I reluctantly conclude - conceivable. Thatcherism was very attractive to me, until I saw the results. And in all fairness, something of the sort was required to save Great Britain from herself at the time, though I think the medicine was taken long after the condition had passed.

Joseph - who died in 1994 - was a brilliant lawyer who served in Harold Macmillan's government in the 1960s but was prone to eccentric behaviour and errors of judgement that can be attributed to his mental condition, Professor Fitzgerald said. In the early 1970s, he was urged by friends to challenge Edward Heath for the Tory leadership but he lost any chance of winning after making a speech in Birmingham in 1974 in which he implied that the lower classes should be deterred from having children.

Professsor Fitzgerald said: "That is the kind of comment he would make and mean it from the depths of his heart but it was absolutely strange. He had a lack of empathy and he was naïve in social situations. Once attending a camping exhibition, he surprised visitors by giving a lecture on Communism. He was regarded as so eccentric that the other members of the Cabinet suspended normal rules of behaviour for him."

After accepting he had no chance of winning the leadership of the party, Joseph urged Mrs Thatcher to stand and they became close political friends. In the mid-1970s, Joseph set up the Centre for Policy Studies which developed the free market ideas of the US economist Milton Friedman and impressed them on Mrs Thatcher.

Thatcher, by contrast, was warmly and universally regarded for her warm and personable presence and fondness for the small concerns of kittens, babies and National Health Recipients.

Actually, there is a lesson here. In our way, we are like wizards; we have damn fine insights that may in some ways be superior to those of the Neurotypical, but they only as good as the Neurotypical that applies them. And putting us on the throne is to waste a perfectly good wizard.

While I would differ with the good professor that Asperger's is a "mental disability," considering the number of high-powered individuals he considers to "suffer" from the condition, I will say, and speaking personally with direct knowledge, that it is a limiting condition. We do not think "better" but we do think quite differently. We do not lack empathy, as the professor assumes, but we do not think in emotional terms.

"Thinking the unthinkable" is what we do best. And there is clearly grave need for those of us who can contemplate hard choices without suffering total nervous breakdowns.

But that's also why the naked advice of an Aspie cannot be applied unthinkingly, or simply prettied up with some Madison Avenue glitz. Asperger's thought is not a replacement for neurotypical thought, or the thought-processes of any one of a dozen other mental differences that are currently considered "disorders" when they are, in fact, merely differences. They should be considered as different perspectives with particular, powerful applications.

Consider, where would we be were it not for the highly refined and practiced perspective of the professional paranoids? I'd be inclined to say that such people are owed a great debt by the peoples of the world, for they may well be largely responsible for substituting a Cold War for a radioactively hot one.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

d r i f t g l a s s

I've been suffering from an arthritic flare which makes it hard to think and type, so I've been exploring my "ally" blogrolls, and promoting the deserving.

You know, I'm sure they need those extra couple hits a month.

d r i f t g l a s s:

"Bush/Cheney, plus a compliant Congress and a Vaseline-spined press, plus the moral, fiscal and military blank check handed to them on 9/11 was everything short of the repeal of the Emancipation Proclamation they ever wished for. It was their Conservative Wet Dream Come True, and now it's a dream from which the dare not awaken lest their heads explode like 20 million Coelacanths in Low Earth Orbit.

Instead their Beautiful Minds scuttle deeper into denial and darkness, eyes clamped tighter and tighter shut, navigating now only by the virtual light of their own retinal flashes. And in this cave within a cave within an abyss, they tell themselves they see miraculous patterns everywhere, that explain everything.

Their own Duh’Vinci Code spun up out of whole cloth impelled entirely by their desperate and terrible need to be right when they are so clearly and horribly wrong.

Because like the psychotic Dominionist cult from whose diseased loins modern Conservativism springs, those that still support Bush cannot allow themselves to believe they are even a little bit wrong, because if one verse of the True Faith is wrong, then what about all the others?

Once even a smidge of doubt is allowed into their mental clean room, then everything is up for grabs, and it all starts to fly apart under the weight of its own corruption.

And they walked themselves into this circle of Hell one step at a time."

All hail the illigitimate and improbable son of Westbrook Pegler and H.L. Mencken.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Spiraling Cost of Ignorance.

Seed: The American War on Science makes the urgent point that we are importing an increasing proportion of bright innovative minds from other countries; countries that are starting to actually compete for those minds.

Part of the problem, Seed mentions, is the widespread anti-intellectualism exemplified by our "decider-in-chief."

But this cannot be dismissed as a problem of the left or the right; it's a problem for everyone.

If this supply of foreign minds is threatened, as it appears to be, by a combination of market forces and government blunders, our only alternative is to cultivate a home grown supply of science professionals. That means tapping high school seniors who are doing worse in science than at any other point in the past decade, according to results from the Dept. Of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress, which was released last week.
In this light, it's clear that the religious and ideological motivations behind No Child Left Behind have failed to achieve anything positive, not even their unstated goals of causing parents to stampede towards home-schooling and private providers.

An elevated level of mediocrity is not a desirable outcome, nor is it a permissible outcome. I'm all for smaller government and see no reason why public school districts should be immune from a judicious weight-loss program, but far too many ideologues of Left and Right seem to consider the goal of an educated citizenry to be almost beside the point of their own agendas.

Now that I think of it further, I think there is a great dependence on the trusting, sheep-like ignorance of the masses by idielologues and educationalists of both Left and Right. They have become unused to being held accountable for the outcomes of their often bizarre policies.

We need to return to the fundamentals - and by that, I do not mean the simplistic rote skills advocated by the Right, nor the emphasis on inoffensive collective compliance so beloved by the Left.

By "fundamentals" I mean that we need to teach students how to learn for themselves. We need to teach critical thinking skills. And above all, first of all, these things need to be taught to teachers.

These insights are stunningly unoriginal.

Indeed, as you are manifestly reading this, and presumably sought it out, it's quite likely that you have heard it before, or even stated something quite similar yourself. So you might wonder why those in charge, directly and indirectly, of our educational institutions cannot manage to evolve some sort of system that would express perfectly what was outlined in rough strokes by Plato and Aristotle.

This reference - which has nothing directly to do with education - well illustrates why our largely self-appointed Lords and Masters of all publicly expressed philosophies seem to privately collude to encourage our collective credulity.

It's not a coincidence that multimillion dollar lobbying campaigns net billions in tax transfers year after year, no matter which party is in charge. That's simply a return on their investment. And if that doesn't work, a night with a hooker (or a staffer) in a "hospitality suite" with a hidden camera or two laying around can always loosen up any opposition you might run into along the way. Washington DC is imperial Rome, folks. It's not only worse than you think it is, it's worse than you can imagine it to be.
The problem those of us who are unaccountably immune to the amazing piles of utter bullshit presented to us as "work product" by our elected misrepresentatives are still to easily swayed by political persuasion. "Yes, but we have to maintain our majority" or "Yes, but we have to gain the majority."

We need to require a higher standard than the right color of tie and the right line of patter. We need people who's stated principles matter more than the current crop of influence peddlers and low financiers.

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Save The Voting Rights Act

The voting rights act is a tremendously important piece of legislation, designed to assure equal representation to all citizens.

The obvious question arises - what sort of person would think it a good idea to not renew the voting rights act?

I shall be watching this carefully, this is a visceral litmus test issue for a very great number of people.

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