Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday Night Poetry

The Long Wait

Her smile as we were eating
was meant for me
and I felt I was my brother
though I was still only a boy:
my brother was off fighting
an unwanted war,
and in my parent's house
she was lonely that night.
Taking her to dinner
made me feel like a man,
but later, when I passed her bedroom door,
I heard her crying.
I was a boy,
I thought of how her smile
was meant for me—
I wasn't my brother.
I leaned against the wall of the hallway;
I couldn't leave alone such a hurt
and so I stood guard
until the crying through the door
grew too soft to hear.



The Supreme Court and the Fourth of July

The timing of the Supreme Court decision that perhaps begins the process of holding the reckless presidency of George W. Bush accountable is symbolic since it only comes days before the Fourth of July, a time that might remind us of what our forefathers fought for so long ago while we're watching those beautiful fireworks. Terrell of Alone on a Limb has several excellent quotes but I liked this one:
"Lord, please give John Paul Stevens many more years of productive work on the Supreme Court! I know you have to take him eventually, but please, please, wait at least 935 days."

There have been many fine statements about the Supreme Court decision about Bush's phony tribunals but here's one line from a post by S.W. Anderson of Oh!Pinion I liked that gets straight to the point:
It also reveals Bush as wildly unqualified to issue this kind of order.
"Wildly unqualified." Now that sounds like an apt description the historians will be using to describe President Bush.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bayh Makes Fourth Visit to New Hampshire

Possible presidential contender Senator Evan Bayh (and former Indiana governor) made his fourth visit to New Hampsire on June 9:
U-S Senator Evan Bayh begins a two-day visit to New Hampshire today.
The Indiana Democrat has been a frequent recent visitor to New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. He was here in March, and today's visit marks his fourth trip to New Hampshire since July.

Bayh is a moderate Democrat with a mix of positions. He's the only potential Democratic presidential candidate who supported the flag burning amendment but he's also calling for withdrawal from Iraq. In Louisiana recently, he called for revenue sharing of offshore drilling but it wasn't clear whether he also supported opening tracts that have been closed for bidding for more than twenty years. An interesting development in his unofficial campaign was announced today (from the National Journal):
Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) will announce today that Thurgood Marshall Jr.will become a senior adviser to Bayh's All America PAC. Marshall was cabinet secretrary for President Clinton and a leg. affairs director for ex-VP Al Gore.

And yes -- he is the son of you know who.

Bayh, like other possible presidential candidates, has a PAC; this one is called All America PAC and can also be found at Both sites lead to a blog but it doesn't have a separate url. The blog is informative though a quick look didn't show any commenters. I liked that the sidebar on the left listed a number of blogs across the Democratic/progressive spectrum. However, one site, ohiobayh, hasn't had a post in a while (but even the biggest blogs sometimes neglect to keep their sidebar up to date).

When I post on different candidates, it's usually pretty easy to find quotes. Potential candidates like Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold, John Edwards, Mark Warner and even noncandidates like Al Gore are getting more coverage than Bayh but here's a quote I liked from Senator Bayh's official senate site:
"Every day American workers get up in the morning and already have one hand tied behind their backs because of counterfeiting and other unlawful trade practices. It's not right that when we have competitive advantage, other companies are allowed to win because they cheat."

Evan Bayh, October 15, 2005
Upon co-sponsoring legislation to protect companies
from illegal counterfeiters
Evan Bayh has two distinctions: he's a Democrat in a traditionally Republican state; and, despite being a Democrat, he's also never lost an election. Of course, having a famous last name in Indiana has helped.

It's early in the race and candidates at this point are still shaping their positions; even so, Bayh seems more cautious so far than the others. He's only 50 and his caution might be a function of thinking further down the road beyond 2008.The person he needs to distinguish himself from this time around is Mark Warner who is also a moderate and who also has been a governor. Warner and Bayh wear the moderate label better than Hillary Clinton who may have to shift her own ground to be more credible to the voters.

If voters are in the mood for a clearly moderate Democrat in 2008, Evan Bayh may have a chance. But he needs to be careful not to bend so far in a conservative direction that it will cost him the Democratic nomination.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Democrats Gaining in the Polls

The corruption of the Bush Administration and the Republican-led Congress is turning off Americans by the millions. And the failure of Bush and his fellow Republicans to do anything in Iraq except sit and watch with an occassional photo op thrown in is not impressing anyone.

USA Today has the latest polling information on the state of our political parties and Washington:
Americans are paying unusually close attention to the congressional elections in November, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. They are more inclined to deliver significant gains to Democrats than in any year since Republicans won control of the House and Senate in 1994.

Those surveyed are more concerned about national issues than local ones — a situation that favors Democrats hoping to tap discontent over the Iraq war and gasoline prices — and prefer Democrats over Republicans on handling every major issue except terrorism.


Among the findings:

• Americans are interested in the election at levels not usually seen in non-presidential years. More than a third have thought "quite a lot" about the congressional elections. Seven of 10 say they are very motivated to get out and vote this year.

• Democrats are particularly engaged: 56% say they are "more enthusiastic about voting than usual," the highest level recorded since the question was first asked in 1994. Among Republicans, 43% say they are more enthusiastic than usual.

• Americans are increasingly likely to identify themselves as Democrats. Including those who "lean" to one party or the other, 55% call themselves Democrats; 38%, Republicans. That's the biggest edge for Democrats since 1998. By 54%-38%, the registered voters surveyed say they'd vote for a Democratic congressional candidate over a Republican one if the election were held today.

In the spring of 2004, John Kerry was ahead of Bush in the polls and steadily slipped before the election; a lot of the slippage was due to Republicans games and the millions they spent undermining Democrats while effectively hiding their own problems (a lack of investigations will do that). So it's important to realize that November is more than four months off.

I'm surprised Americans still think Bush does well on terrorism. Bush has lost Somalia. He's in danger of losing Afghanistan through neglect. Osama bin Laden is still loose. Our policies in Iraq create more problems than they solve. And of course Bush's fear mongering does not serve the nation well.

Most Americans don't like to think badly of their president even when he belongs to the opposite party, but it's time to stop pretending that Bush cares about average Americans or knows what he's doing. If Bush were an honest man, he would demand to know what happened to billions that were lost during Iraq reconstruction. He would demand to know where the money has gone for rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. He would demand that money from Homeland Security go to areas of the country most at risk from terrorism. Bush has done none of these things and the Republicans in Congress not only refuse to hold him accountable but wink and nod and do a few things of their own they shouldn't be doing. Enough is enough.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How Much Can We Trust the Bush Administration

The more we find out, the more it becomes obvious that the Bush Administration is not working for the average American. The latest issue among dozens that are beginning to come out in the open is the poor job that the FDA is dong these days. Here's the story from the Denver Post:

The number of warning letters sent to companies in violation of federal food and drug safety laws has fallen by more than half under the Bush administration, according to an investigative report released Monday by a Democratic lawmaker.

The drop in enforcement actions by the Food and Drug Administration occurred even as agency inspectors continued to turn up a relatively steady number of industry violations, said Rep. Henry Waxman.

"Americans have relied on FDA to ensure the safety of their food and drugs for 100 years," the California Democrat said. "But under the Bush administration, enforcement efforts have plummeted, and serious violations are ignored. FDA can't do its job when its enforcement arm is tied behind its back."

The FDA issued 535 warning letters in 2005 to manufacturers of drug, food, medical and other products regulated by the agency, down from 1,154 in 2000, according to the report. The number of seizures of unsafe products also declined, to 20 in 2005, from 36 five years previously.

Maybe Bush's secret plan is that the Democrats will be investigating all the nonsense that has been going on during the Bush presidency for five years after Bush leaves and won't get any work done. Having no talent themselves except for an ability to bamboozle people, Bush and his associates vastly underestimate what Americans can do when it comes to reform and getting our country going again.

History Sails into New York Harbor

I love boats. I couldn't help reading more when I saw it mentioned on TV: Godspeed, a replica of one of the ships that brought settlers to the New World. Here's a story by Bill Bleyer of Newsday:
Heading up New York Harbor toward lower Manhattan yesterday morning, the relatively small and oddly shaped sailing vessel seemed like it had emerged from a time warp as it maneuvered between ferryboats, water taxis and anchored freighters.

The Godspeed's brown-and-black hull topped by four square-rigged white sails and a British flag seemed to disappear in the low clouds and persistent drizzle. But once the three-masted bark arrived off the Statue of Liberty and was greeted by two fireboats spraying water into the air, it stood out.

Godspeed, a replica of one of the three ships that brought colonists to the first surviving American settlement at Jamestown in Virginia in 1607, docked at South Street Seaport and is there until July 6 as part of a six-city tour to show off the new craft launched in April.
The original was 88 feet long and carried 52 people. That's not much room on a four-month voyage. But they made it.

Global Warming Skeptic Changes MInd

Michael Shermer writes a column called The Skeptic in Scientific American. He's skeptical about all kinds of things and that can be healthy at times, if not overdone, but I was surprised to read that he was skeptical about global warming, until he met Al Gore:
My experience is symptomatic of deep problems that have long plagued the environmental movement. Activists who vandalize Hummer dealerships and destroy logging equipment are criminal ecoterrorists. Environmental groups who cry doom and gloom to keep donations flowing only hurt their credibility. As an undergraduate in the 1970s, I learned (and believed) that by the 1990s overpopulation would lead to worldwide starvation and the exhaustion of key minerals, metals and oil, predictions that failed utterly. Politics polluted the science and made me an environmental skeptic.

Nevertheless, data trump politics, and a convergence of evidence from numerous sources has led me to make a cognitive switch on the subject of anthropogenic global warming. My attention was piqued on February 8 when 86 leading evangelical Christians--the last cohort I expected to get on the environmental bandwagon--issued the Evangelical Climate Initiative calling for "national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions" in carbon emissions.

Then I attended the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in Monterey, Calif., where former vice president Al Gore delivered the single finest summation of the evidence for global warming I have ever heard, based on the recent documentary film about his work in this area, An Inconvenient Truth. The striking before-and-after photographs showing the disappearance of glaciers around the world shocked me out of my doubting stance.

I'm glad Shermer has come around; and I thought it was interesting that '86 leading evangelical Christians' caught his attention. I enjoy reading Shermer's columns, though I admit I've been tempted once or twice to send him a note reminding him that, after all, Christians created modern science in the first place; Kepler, Newton and even Galileo took their religion seriously and did not think that religion and science are incompatible. In fact, most religions of the world do not think religion and science are incompatible.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Publicly Financed Campaigns

I suppose it's a sign of the times that Americans increasingly favor voluntary contribution to publicly financed campaigns. After all, there have been too many times in the last six years when the line between a legal campaign contribution and a bribe has been razor thin. And there have been people like Rep. Cunningham who didn't bother to observe the legal niceties.

Here's a survey that was done by Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research:
• Three out of four voters support a voluntary system of publicly funded campaigns. (2) Seventy-four percent of voters support a proposal for voluntary public funding of federal elections (57% strongly) with only 16% opposed.

• Support for public financing of Congressional elections cross all party lines. Eighty percent of Democrats, 78% of Independents, and 65% of Republicans support this reform.


• The low perception voters have of congressional ethics is driving their support for this reform. Voters’ unfavorable views of Congress (36% favorable, 52% unfavorable) and lobbyists (14% favorable, 66% unfavorable) spell trouble for the Washington status quo. Voters are angry about business as usual and are demanding significant change.

I don't know what the answer is to campaign finance. It seems Congress passes campaign finance reform and immediately some politicians start looking for loopholes. And those with money are looking at the same loopholes trying to figure out how to get their money to the 'right' politicians. But we have other problems. Isn't it unfair that Rupert Murdoch can spend hundreds of millions of dollars funding Republicans through his newspapers and cable network? I don't mind people saying what they believe but when one side has far more money than the other side, we have a problem.

All most Americans want is a system that's fair and elections that are clean. Democrats aren't perfect but too many Republicans are working very hard these days to rig the system their way. Public financing may be something to think about.

Senator Biden on Dick Cheney

Apparently, Senator Biden was asked about some inane comment that Dick Cheney was making about the Bush administration's failing policy in Iraq:
BIDEN: No, I don't want to respond to him. He's at 20 percent in the polls. No one listens to him. He has no credibility. It's ridiculous.

Sounds about right.

Tom Vilsack: 2008 Dark Horse

The Des Moines Register recently took note of Governor Tom Vilsack's possible presidential aspirations on a recent visit he made to New Hampshire:
Iowans can expect to hear more in the coming months from Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack about his developing national message, something New Hampshire Democrats got a healthy dose of in the governor's first trip here as a prospective presidential candidate.


At a luncheon later for Democratic legislators, Vilsack told retired lawmaker Gloria Seldin that every American had a right to health insurance, but that the nation would resist a single government program.


"The Iraqis may not understand that at the end of all of this, it is their responsibility," Vilsack said, carefully noting his visit to Iraq in April. "The first step in the process is to make sure they understand it is their responsibility and ask them, require them, force them to show progress in recognition of that fact."

Vilsack may have to explain his Iraqi position more clearly since a majority of Iraqis appear to want the US to leave; but he is correct that Iraqis need to take charge of their future.

At a meeting of the New Democrat Network, Governor Vilsack seemed to get what many bloggers and Democratic activists have said about the need for Democrats to improve the way they campaign (he was recently at Yearly Kos, by the way); ABC News had the story:

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, another potential White House candidate, told the meeting of party progressives that Democrats should ignore the consultants and pundits and focus on Americans outside Washington.

"Listening to people out and around the country is how we should craft our message," said Vilsack, who stressed the importance of an upbeat outlook, an emphasis on shared sacrifice and the need for competent government in a post-Katrina environment.

Vilsack was elected governor in 1998 and is nearing the end of his second term; his bio says that in 1998 he was the first Democrat elected governor of Iowa in more than 30 years. He has two websites: his official governor's site and a PAC site called Heartland PAC.

A year from now we'll know who's serious about running for president. So far, the possible contenders for the Democratic nomination that are mentioned the most often include Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Russ Feingold, Mark Warner, Wesley Clark and John Kerry. Al Gore is also mentioned frequently but he may mean it when he says he's not running; that would make sense if he's serious about pushing his education program for global warming, but things can easily change in the next eighteen months. Other candidates mentioned are Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, Evan Bayh and of course Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa.

As part of a continuing series on potential Democratic presidential candidates, I hope to cover Bill Richardson or Evan Bayh in the next couple of weeks. Updated 6.26.06: And also John Kerry.

Updated 6.26.06: Many thanks to Terrell of Alone on a Limb who has collected together posts from Cold Flute on the various potential Democratic candidates in 2008; go give him a visit.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Coming Soon: The Politics of Coal

The more oil producing countries have trouble pumping enough oil to satisfy the growing world markets, the more people will be looking towards coal. But coal is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and its increased use over the next few years is expected to dump enormous amounts of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which will likely increase the problem of global warming. Coal also involves other pollution issues that are not easy to handle. The pressure to use coal will be considerable in the coming years. But the longterm risk of using coal faster than the Earth can absorb cannot be dismissed.

Here's an AP article by Bob Moen that talks about the growing problems of coal transportation and is a good survey of coal in 2006:
In the time it takes to microwave a frozen dinner, 120 more tons of coal are dumped from a railroad car at the Laramie River Station. It’s a scene that can occur 200 times a day.

To keep electricity flowing to 1.6 million homes, the power plant burns up to 24,000 tons of coal every day. Operating 24/7, the plant’s three generating units require a dependable, steady stream of coal.

This past year, however, the stream of coal was anything but steady, even though the plant is only about 100 miles from the largest producing coal mines in the United States – the Powder River Basin in northeast Wyoming, home to the nation’s top 10 producing coal mines.


“People call us the Saudi Arabia of coal. But if you don’t get it to the power plants, it doesn’t matter,” said Mike Grisso, executive director of the Alliance for Rail Competition, a shippers’ organization.

The two main shippers of U.S. coal – BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad – say they are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to ship more Wyoming coal and keep up with an ever-growing demand for power.

Anthony Hatch, an independent transportation analyst in New York, said he believes railroads will meet future demands for shipping coal. But it will take time because of the enormous task of expanding an industry that until only a few years ago was abandoning track as its business dwindled.


“It’s not increased generations causing the stockpile to go down,” Basin Electric spokesman Robb said. “It’s lack of coal deliveries.”

Other power companies are having similar supply problems. Entergy Arkansas said its coal shipments declined up to 20 percent last year, forcing it to reduce operations at two power plants in Arkansas and to buy power on the open market. Wisconsin utilities incurred nearly $50 million in extra costs last year because of interruptions in coal shipments.


•There are an estimated 275 billion tons of recoverable coal reserves in the United States, or about one-fourth of the world’s total.

The energy content of U.S. coal reserves is four times greater than the recoverable oil of Saudi Arabia and exceeds that of all the world’s known recoverable oil reserves.

•U.S. coal production reached a record 1.133 billion tons in 2005, while consumption reached a record 1.128 billion tons. Electric generation accounted for 92 percent, or 1.039 billion tons, of all coal consumed in the United States.

The use of coal is going to be unavoidable in the coming years but the time to start bringing more alternative energy online and the time to start being more energy efficient is now. George W. Bush and the current crew in Washington do not appear to be up to the task. We need change and the American people need to be part of the solution.

Hillary Clinton Beginning to Gear Up

In the early polls, Hillary Clinton is already leading other Democrats in the race for the 2008 presidential nomination. Early polls, of course, are notoriously unreliable. There has been criticism of Hillary's support of the war in Iraq and her version of policies that some critics call Republican-lite. Her support of a flag burning amendment is one example of pure politics that critics believe is unnecessary (when someone burns a flag, it usually backfires as a political statement and has become a rare event). Pandering to the right is a political strategy many feel is best left to Republicans who in any case increasingly find themselves isolated on a wide range of issues. Bush, of course, specializes in political stunts that obscure his actions and the growing problems that face our country, and some Democrats fear an October surprise this year. More and more Democrats, though, believe the best way to deal with Bush is to face him head on.

Perhaps noticing the growing criticism of her stance on several issues, Hillary Clinton is beginning to shift her ground. Ronald Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times has a story on recent comments Clinton has made about Iraq and Democrats:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said Friday that this month's congressional debates had narrowed Democratic divisions on the war in Iraq, and she charged that Senate Republicans had "abdicated" their responsibility to question President Bush's management of the conflict.


"I actually think we have come out for a more effective road map to the goal that all of us want, which is a successful outcome — an Iraqi government that can govern itself, keep its country together, and fend off insurgents and sectarian violence," Clinton told reporters after a speech at the annual conference of NDN, an advocacy group formerly known as the New Democrat Network.

Clinton has opposed a firm timetable for complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But, like many Democratic senators, she moved closer to critics of the war by supporting a resolution, sponsored by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), that urged Bush to start troop redeployment.

On Friday, she said the measure showed Democrats coalescing around a message that seeks "success in Iraq" but stresses that the Iraqi government must understand "it cannot have an open-ended, unconditional commitment from the United States."


Clinton on Friday encapsulated many of the emerging Democratic arguments. She charged that the Senate deliberations revealed a willingness among GOP senators to "blindly follow the president" without asking questions about the war's direction.

"The Democrats may have somewhat different views about how we succeed in Iraq, but we are … unified in fulfilling our constitutional responsibilities to engage in a legitimate debate … and to offer honorable, responsible positions," she said.

Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice notes a poll that says 47% of voters would vote against Hillary; that is not a good sign. Although I have to admit a bias in favor of John Edwards, I remain open-minded about 2008, but Hillary Clinton has her work cut out for her. It's doubtful that the politics that got Bill Clinton elected in the 1990s will work in 2008; much has changed since then and those candidates who understand where our country needs to go in this era will have the advantage.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Night Poetry

I mentioned the Spanish poet, Lorca (1898-1936) and decided to post the five in the afternoon segment of "Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias."

Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias

At five in the afternoon.
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A pail of lime ready prepared
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death, and death alone
at five in the afternoon.

The wind carried away cotton wisps
at five in the afternoon.
And the oxide scattered crystal and nickel
at five in the afternoon.
Now the dove and the leopard wrestle
at five in the afternoon.
And a thigh with a desolate horn
at five in the afternoon.
The bass-string struck up
at five in the afternoon.
The bells of arsenic, the smoke
at five in the afternoon.
Groups of silence in the corners
at five in the afternoon.
And the bull alone with a high heart!
At five in the afternoon.
When snow-cold sweat began to form
at five in the afternoon,
when the bull ring was covered in iodine
at five in the afternoon.
Death laid eggs in the wound
at five in the afternoon.
At five in the afternoon.
Exactly at five o'clock in the afternoon.

A coffin on wheels in his bed
at five in the afternoon.
Bones and flutes resound in his ears
at five in the afternoon.
Now the bull was bellowing through his forehead
at five in the afternoon.
Death pangs turned the room iridescent
at five in the afternoon.
In the distance the gangrene now comes
at five in the afternoon.
Horn of the lily through green groins
at five in the afternoon.
The wounds were burning like suns
at five in the afternoon,
and the crowds burst through the windows
at five in the afternoon.
At five in the afternoon.
Ah, that fatal five in the afternoon!
It was five by all the clocks!
It was five in the shade of the afternoon!

Frederico Garcia Lorca


Curfew in Baghdad

Bush says stay the course, everything is fine, you can move along now. It doesn't wash any more, does it? Michael Signer of Democracy Arsenal has a post trying to imagine what it must be like to have a curfew at 2 in the afternoon (shades of Lorca!):
Without making any policy pronouncements or partisan postures on Iraq, it's useful now and then just to try and put yourself in ordinary Iraqis' shoes. The WaPo had a story last Sunday on the leak of a startling internal memo from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq showing that Iraqi employees at the Embassy can barely tie their shoes without worrying about being assassinated. Now today finds an unsettling story, again in the WaPo, describing the curfew that was just announced -- abruptly and with no notice -- in Baghdad:
Adding a new layer of confusion to the security crackdown gripping Baghdad, the Iraqi government today imposed a last-minute ban on pedestrian as well as vehicular traffic throughout the city.

The 2 p.m. curfew was announced late in the morning, after many people were already traveling to work or to mosques for weekly Friday prayers...
Read the whole article (and The Washington Post stories) and also the first comment. There have been some dishonest right wing Republicans talking about how much safer it is in Baghdad than it is in a number of American cities. So where are the tourists lining up to see the wonders of Baghdad? Here's a picture of what White House staffers think of the dangers of Baghdad on Bush's recent photo op trip.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Afghanistan: Another Potential Bush Failure

Bush was so eager to start his war in Iraq that the job in Afghanistan is not only left undone but Afghanistan is in danger of falling apart. If Bush is not careful, he could be known as the first American president to lose two wars. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is doable but it require resources and commitment, something that Bush has not been able to fully appreciate. Giving Rumsfeld free rein to do what he wants and leaving it at that is not the best policy.

Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and current president of Kabul University, seems to have a sober but optimistic assessment if the West can recommit itself to Afghanistan's future (original publication was in the Financial Times):

There is an emerging consensus, domestic and international, that Afghanistan is likely to slide into chaos. This misses the central point: there are assets in place that, if organised coherently, could re-establish momentum towards creating a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan. If failure is not an option for the international community, attention must be focused on renewing Afghans’ trust in a bright future to make them active partners in the fight against violence and disorder.

The problem has arisen from failure to adapt to a changed context, loss of momentum in pursuing a credible programme of development and mis-calibrated use of violence. In contrast to 2001, when there was a global consensus on the imperative of stability in Afghanistan, the regional, international and domestic environments have changed. The regional consensus has either frayed or broken, with Pakistan and Afghanistan trading accusations rather than forging the partnership that their mutual interests demand, and Russia, Iran and India sending mixed signals and taking increasingly unilateral approaches. While international consensus on state-building has been forged, the innovative mechanisms of implementation, co-ordination and monitoring required are not yet in place. Meanwhile, the public mood in troop-contributing nations is becoming sceptical of the wisdom of engagement.

it seems to me that we have paid a terrible price for Bush's quagmire in Iraq. Issue after issue is being neglected because our military is bogged as a direct result of policies that originated in the White House, Cheney's office and the Pentagon. lf we are to move forward, Bush has to stop playing politics; staying the course is not the answer.

I don't like linking and posting articles on American deaths but we as a nation need to start insisting on some realism in our policies. Here is a CNN story that several paragraphs down reports on five American deaths in Iraq:

The U.S. military Thursday reported the deaths of five troops in recent attacks near Baghdad and in Anbar province.

Four of those were Marines killed in two attacks Tuesday in Anbar. Three died when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb; the fourth died "after being attacked while conducting security operations," a military news release said.

The military also reported a U.S. soldier died Wednesday when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb south of the Iraqi capital.

And here's a story from the Waterloo/Cedar Rapid Courier that carries an AP story on four American death in Afghanistan:

Four U.S. soldiers were killed and another wounded while fighting militants in eastern Afghanistan, the military said Thursday.

The soldiers were killed in combat Wednesday in eastern Nuristan province while conducting security operations to block the movement of enemy forces, a coalition statement said.

One soldier was wounded in the fighting in the province's Kamdesh district and evacuated for treatment. He is in stable condition, the military said.
Bush's incompetence is limiting America's ability to manuever or respond to the growing problems in the world, problems that are having an impact on our country. Bush must either institute a draft or start drawing down in Iraq or Afghanistan. In Iraq, our presence has become the main problem and it's time to draw down. In Afghanistan, we have a true coalition of partners but they need leadership and Afghanistan needs resources and not the back burner treatment. We drove al Qaeda out of Afghanistan and the Taliban out of power. It's time to finish the job (but without Rumsfeld) and stabilize Afghanistan.

Growing Focus on Alternative Energy

It's good that different magazines and newspapers are talking more and more about the need to deal with energy issues. The July issue of Popular Science has a cover article on alternative energy along with several mini-articles on alternative energy that can be found on their website. I enjoyed browsing it but I have to say it's largely the same gee whiz stuff that they first started putting out in the 1970s during the first energy crisis. I wish these articles had more substance and challenged industry and the government to do more.

I liked this one passage though about "making energy where we use it":
When Tony Ellsworth began planning a new San Diego home for his custom-bike company, Ellsworth Bikes, he aimed from the get-go to minimize the project’s impact on both his bank account and the environment. A geothermal system heats and cools the building, and electricity is provided by rooftop solar cells, which feed excess energy back into the local electricity grid to be credited at full retail value. "It’s such a no-brainer," Ellsworth says. "Far better than building power plants and importing foreign energy." He expects to recoup the cost of the solar system—$28,000 after rebates—in four years. And his green factory even helps him cope with the stress of running a small business. "I deal with the low moments by going out back and watching the electric meter run backward," he says. "That always puts a smile on my face."
There's a great deal more that can be done by individuals but the big push will come when the government starts funding much more extensive research and development. But I hope a lot of that research goes into helping coming up with systems that farmers, ranchers, home owners, small business owners and various other individuals can use. Even schools should be involved so even kids can see the stake in their future.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bush's Press Secretary Makes WWII Gaffe

The fear-mongering of the Bush administration has included attempts to compare Bush's wars to the gravity of World War II. Anyone who knows the history of World War II ought to be skeptical of administration claims, including recent comments by Press Secretary Tony Snow. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has come across an old poll worth taking a look at:
Okay, back on Monday we discussed Tony Snow's comments about how if polls had been taken during World War II's Battle of the Bulge people would probably have been pushing for a change in the course of the war as they are now in Iraq.

That's actually an insult to the American people generally, as well as the men who fought World War II and those who supported them on the homefront.

In any case, Snow clearly believes he can get away with this malarkey because he thinks polls weren't taken at the time.

But he's wrong. They were taking them. And they pretty clearly belie Snow's whole point.

Be sure to see the poll. Bush can only wish he had such numbers.

Red Flags May Have Been Missed at Haditha

Apparently there were signs of possible problems that were missed at Haditha and not followed up with a closer look at the death of 24 Iraqis. Editors & Publishers noticed the story:
A report by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell said problems with initial accounts submitted by Marines involved in the deaths should have been apparent to commanders in the area, the Times said.

Bargewell questioned why senior military officers in western Iraq did not conduct a thorough investigation, the newspaper said. It cited a portion of his report's executive summary that was read to the Times by a U.S. Defense Department official who requested anonymity because the report had not been released publicly.

"Virtually no inquiry at any level of command was conducted into the circumstances surrounding the deaths," Bargewell wrote, according to the Times. "There were, however, a number of red flags and opportunities to do so."

For example, the 2nd Marine Division comptroller, who was responsible for making compensatory payments to the families of the dead civilians, told the division's legal counsel that he thought the incident "might require further reporting."

Obviously, there's still a lot about the Haditha story that we don't know. I should mention that the story I'm excerpting appears in Editors & Publishers but it is an AP story that is apparently based on a Los Angeles Times story. Shouldn't AP being doing its own reporting? (I can ask since I make no pretense whatsoever of being a reporter; I just nose around newspapers, magazines and websites trying to understand what's happening to our country.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ivins Writes on Congress

The best title for a political article in 2006 may be this one by Molly Ivin: "Without DeLay, Has Congress Lost Its Moral Compass?" Here's Ivin's article via Truthout:
Gee, the Republicans seem to have lost their moral compass since Tom DeLay quit. Who knew it could get worse without that pillar of rectitude from Texas? What a snakes' nest of corruption and nastiness.

The latest involves Speaker Denny Hastert and a land deal.


Also making news is California Rep. Jerry Lewis, who is in deep with a lobbying firm that is El Stinko. This wouldn't matter so much if Lewis were just another congressman, but he is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the one that hands out the money. Lewis' family and friends have profited nicely from contractors and lobbyists who court his favor. Such cozy arrangements.


Meanwhile, back on the Jack Abramoff-and-related fronts (lest we forget good old Dusty Foggo, ex-No. 3 at the CIA), a letter had been found, despite initial denials by the Department of Homeland Security, from the now-convicted ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham recommending that the government use the limo firm that allegedly ferried whores to the poker parties given by defense contractors who were paying off Cunningham.

House Republicans seem to get angry when people notice how corrupt they are. It will be interesting to see if voters make the connection this year: it's impossible to reform Congress if the same right wing Republicans are returned year after year.

Former Bush Administration Figure Convicted

Justice may grind slowly in Washington in these days of Republican dominance but things are happening that do not bode well for the image of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. MSNBC has the story on the conviction of David Safavian who was the chief of staff at the General Services Administration:
A jury Tuesday convicted a former Bush administration official of four counts of lying and obstructing justice in the first trial to be held in connection with the influence-peddling scandal of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Safavian was convicted on four of five felony counts of lying and obstruction. He had resigned from his White House post last year as the federal government’s chief procurement officer.

The verdict gave a boost to the wide-ranging influence peddling probe that focuses on Abramoff’s dealings with Congress.

There's more on the trial at TPMMuckraker and the Los Angeles Times. I can't help wondering if anyone at Las Vegas will be taking bets on how soon Bush will pardon David Safavian after the midterm elections.

I think it's important to keep in mind that Congress has refused to investigate dozens of questionable transactions that have involved Republican members of Congress as well as scores of transactions that have involved the Bush administration in the last five years; the total money involved runs in the billions of dollars. And Halliburton remains largely untouched by any significant investigations. There is good reason to believe that Jack Abramoff and Rep. Cunningham were only the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Our Constitutional Crisis Is Still Casting a Shadow

The abuses of power by the Bush Administration are still going on. Right wing Republicans in Congress still refuse to hold Bush accountable or to uphold their own constitutional responsibility. And so the drift of our democracy continues. Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerilla recently listened to Glenn Greenwald who has been talking on such matters as the NSA domestic spying and other constitutional abuses:
Just got home from hearing Glenn Greenwald speak at a Drinking Liberally event...


He communicates a real sense of urgency about our constitutional crisis, pointing out that this administration essentially claims the right to all power itself, something he says is “unprecedented.”

Someone in the audience was complaining that the Democrats have done the same things, and criticized the liberal blogosphere for acting as if electing the Democrats would fix the problem.

Glenn said while it was certainly true that this is not the first president who abused the Constitution, Bush was the first one to attack the principles on which the country was founded, and the first to use it so frequently to claim virtually unlimited power for himself.

Nixon tried the cookie jar defense. Eisenhower took four cookies, Kennedy five cookies, Johnson six cookies: what's the big deal about taking eight cookies? But the US Constitution ain't a cookie. Over a million Americans have died protecting the Constitution and the rights and protections that go with it.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert Squirming

I don't know what to make of Dennis Hastert. A lot of right wing Congressional Republicans sneaked a lot of nonsense into bills that he handled. That is, after all, what the Cunningham and Abramoff scandals are about. Such scandals can only happen if the House Speaker is very weak and doesn't know what he's doing, or if he's very aware of the funny business going on under his nose and is himself part of the problem. Given the size of the profits he made, Dennis Hastert's real estate deals don't make him out to be a fool; here's the story from the Chicago Tribune:
The complex structure of a real estate transaction in Kendall County last December left House Speaker Dennis Hastert with a seven-figure profit and in prime position to reap further benefits as the exurban region west of Chicago continues its prairie-fire growth boosted by a Hastert-backed federally funded proposed highway.

Instead of cash, Hastert (R-Ill.) took most of his share of the proceeds in land, some of it less than 2 miles from the parcels he and two partners in a land trust sold for nearly $5 million to a developer who plans to build more than 1,500 homes and commercial space on the property near Little Rock and Galena roads in Plano.

In California, for the last fifty years, there has been an explosion of real estate development every time a new highway is built and that has often meant development at least five to ten miles out on either side. The same is true in many places around the nation, particularly near big cities like Chicago. It's important to keep politics and profiteers out of the decision-making process since it's too easy to make big bucks if you have insider knowledge. If that was the case with Dennis Hastert, he may have a problem. And "complex" real estate deals sound like something you might use if you were trying to hide your involvement.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Case of UN Ambassador John Bolton

It should be noted that our ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, was never confirmed by the US Senate and received his job by way of a recess appointment by Bush (ignoring Congress is one of Bush's strange ideas about democracy). Here's an article from Counterpunch by Michael Carmichael (hat tip to Cafe Politico); I haven't seen any other news account of the event and the article is perhaps a little over the top but it does seems to accurately capture something of the incompetence and arrogance of the Bush Administration.

Bush to "Stay the Course": Offers New Batch of Slogans to Win War

No one should doubt that President Bush's trip to Baghdad was anything more than a photo op. The only military operation that day was protecting and covering the president's political ass. Today in Iraq and Informed Comment are worth a visit if the reader wishes to compare Bush's rosy picture to the reality. So the debate in the House last week was just a charade designed for the midterm elections. Here's more from The New York Times (hat tip to Laura Rozen of War and Piece):
Democrats countered that the Bush administration had made a series of mistakes in Iraq and that its policies needed to be changed, not celebrated. "On every important aspect of the Iraq war, President Bush and his advisers have been wrong," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader.

" 'Stay the course,' Mr. President, is not a strategy, it's a slogan," she added. "I will vote against this resolution because it is an affirmation of President Bush's failed policy in Iraq."


Democrats asserted that Republicans had carried the politicization of foreign policy debates to new heights. They were particularly outraged that the Pentagon had distributed an "Iraq Floor Debate Prep Book" to some lawmakers with talking points defending administration policy. Some Democratic leaders also received the report, apparently in error; a Pentagon official sent a second e-mail message a few hours later, trying to recall it.

It's the last paragraph that has me burning today. The military is not a political arm of the Republican Party. If Bush's Iraq policy is failing, he needs to fire people like Donald Rumsfeld, not hand the American people a song and a dance to obscure his own incompetence and the incompetence of advisers like Rumsfeld.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

More Discussions on Blogging and Yearly Kos

I haven't specifically been looking for YearlyKos stories but I keep coming across them as I wander through various blogs. The progressive blogging community needed a convention and it finally took place. If anything, such a convention should have happened last year. Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake has more thoughts on the convention and the need for more community building:
One of the things that I found most fascinating — and fun — about the YearlyKos convention, and about my short time at the Take Back America Conference earlier this week as well — was the large number of folks who introduced themselves to me, but who had never posted a comment here at FDL. These folks, these incredibly articulate and passionate and informed folks, spent their money to come to a conference, and took the time to introduce themselves to me despite the fact that our only interaction had been that they had read something I had written at some point, and it stimulated a thought that they wanted to discuss with me in person.

Amazing. And wonderful, and humbling, all at the same time.

Americans are so hungry for leadership, for honest conversations about the very real issues that they face every day, that they were willing to plunk down their hard-earned cash, sometimes flying across the country to get there, to attend a conference where they could talk face to face about the issues that matter to them. With people who cared enough about the same problems that they not only wanted to listen, but also wanted to brainstorm about solutions to those problems because someone needs to be doing it, and they are willing to pick up the mantle if no one else will.

Given how right wing Republicans play the game, it isn't about what's good for America: it's about what's good for Republican politicians and their campaign contributors. Given how George W. Bush, Bill Frist, Dennis Hastert and Karl Rove operate, we can expect continued paralysis in Washington instead of real solutions. The biggest mistake Republicans have made is that they have given up the leadership issue. Public relations and spin can give the impression of leadership but they are no substitute for the real thing.

Cracks in the Republican Ranks on Iraq

There are times politicians can't help being politicians even when they know better. But there is much about the war in Iraq that cannot be packaged nicely for photo ops and sound bites. Terrell of Alone on a Limb takes excerpts from a Washington Post article to show House Republicans are not totally unified when it comes to supporting Bush's view of the war. The excerpts are sobering.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday NIght Poetry

Tonight's poem was written in the 18th century by William Cowper; I don't have a date for it but it easily could have been written for King George III who was born seven years after Cowper.


Great princes have great playthings. Some
have played
At hewing mountains into men, and some
At building human wonders mountain high.
Some have amasssed the dull sad years of life
(Life spent in indolence and therefore sad)
With schemes of monumental fame, and sought
By pyramids and mausolean pomp,
Short-lived themselves, t'immortalize their bones.
Some seek diversion in the tented field
And make the sorrows of mankind their sport.
But war's a game which, were their subjects wise,
Kings should not play at. Nations would do well
T'exhort their truncheons from the puny hands
Of heroes, whose infirm and baby minds
Are gratified with mischief, and who spoil,
Because men suffer it, their toy the world.

—William Cowper


New Al Gore Site

Al Gore says he's not running and I accept that at face value but he should be covered like some of the other potential democratic candidates. Here's a website called Draft Gore 2008.

I happen to like Gore in his role as a prominent Democrat willing to tell it like it is. Either way, he's become a force. The more Republicans smear him, the more you know they fear him because nothing makes Republican professionals shake in their boots than a strong, articulate Democrat.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Lee Iacocca Speaks on Bush

Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerilla has a post up featuring a quote from Lee Iacocca who has choice words for the people Bush has chosen for his administration. (She doesn't have a link for the quote but one of the commenters found one).

More and more, it sounds like the 'establishment' is turning on George W. Bush whose idea of dealing with growing problems is more public relations stunts.

Americans Still Have Negative View of Iraq War

Nothing much has changed in Iraq. Now that Zarqawi is gone, the war news is still much the same as ever. Still, a number of Americans seem susceptible to Bush's public relations moves and his numbers have slightly improved. But public relations don't win wars.

Editors & Publishers
has the numbers from the latest Gallup Poll on how Americans view our war in Iraq:
While most public opinion polls this week show a slight bounce in President Bush's approval ratings, the most recent Gallup Poll, taken June 9 to 11, reveals that Americans continue to have a negative view of what the war has really accomplished for Americans.

The numbers in the article are worth reading. I notice that most Americans are finallly recognizing how little the Iraq war is doing for America's image in the world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Safe Highways of Iraq

Bush's Press Secretary Tony Snow and White House Counsel Dan Bartlett just realize they've been drafted. (Hat tip to Today in Iraq; photo from Yahoo.)

US Popularity Sagging in the World

Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly has a table on US popularity around the world. In 1999/2000, 75% of Indonesia had a favorable opinion of the US. In 2006, only 30% have a favorable opinion. Ouch.

So far, people are still buying American goods though obviously we are buying far more of the world's goods than the world is buying our goods, hence the trade imbalance.

But think of it. For years, our number one export has been military technology. If we get any more unpopular, how much do we really want to sell military stuff to people who don't like us?

And our number two export is entertainment: our movies, music and books, etc. Should Republicans keep bad-mouthing Hollywood? Given our poor balance of payments, shouldn't they be helping and praising Hollywood?

Stop the Presses! Rove May Tell the Truth!

Well maybe. Anything Karl Rove says leaves me skeptical. And anything said about Karl Rove leaves somewhat skeptical as well. Karl Rove would never have gotten as far as he has if he weren't a master of CYA. But, for what it's worth, here's a post at No Quarter:
Not so fast.

1 We haven't yet seen a copy of the letter from Fitzgerald to Ruskin (and we need someone like former prosecutor Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake to parse Fitz's language in that letter);
2 We have had NO statement yet from the Justice Dept.;
3 There's the possibility of a sealed indictment; and
4 Even if Rove is cooperating to nail Libby or Cheney, he has no right to keep his security clearance.

"The language used by [his attorney Robert] Luskin strongly suggests that Rove got immunity in exchange for his cooperation...

And here's more from Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo:
...let's not forget the salient facts here. The question going back three years ago now is whether Karl Rove knowingly participated in leaking the identity of a covert CIA operative for the purpose of discrediting a political opponent who was revealing information about the White House's use of intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

That was the issue. From the beginning, Rove, through Scott McClellan, denied that he did any of that. There weren't even any clever circumlocutions. He just lied. From admissions from Rove, filings in the Libby case, and uncontradicted reportage, we know as clearly as we ever can that Rove did do each of those things.

So he did do what he was suspected of and he did lie about it.

Now, I'm happy to take Patrick Fitzgerald's word for it, his evaluation of the evidence, that there's not enough evidence to indict Rove on any criminal charge. As Rove's defenders have long made clear, the underlying statute dealing with revealing the identities of covert operatives is very hard to bring a charge with. Same goes for making false statements or perjury. Hard to prove and you need lots of evidence as to intent and so forth.

In fact, not only am I happy to take Fitzgerald's word for it, if this is in fact the case, good for Fitzgerald. A prosecutor's role is not to punish people for malicious acts. It is to ascertain whether they've committed specific criminal acts and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain a charge.

But none of this changes the fact, for which there is abundant evidence, even admissions from Rove himself, that he did the malicious act. And he lied about doing it. Indeed, on top of that, President Bush welched on his promise to can anyone who was involved.

So, at the end of the day, it's likely that Mr. Rove lied. And lied some more. And lied so well that he's getting off the hook. I expect President Bush at any moment will award Rove the Congressional Medal of Freedom for doing such a good job at what he does.

Cheap Drinking Water

First, a caveat. I love technology stories and have been reading them for forty years. But, it seems the higher the gee whiz factor is in a technology story, the less likely it is that the 'promising' technology ever comes to pass. Still, the world has a growing water shortage and is probably going to have to turn more and more to desalination. Here's a 'promising' story from Technology Review:
A water desalination system using carbon nanotube-based membranes could significantly reduce the cost of purifying water from the ocean. The technology could potentially provide a solution to water shortages both in the United States, where populations are expected to soar in areas with few freshwater sources, and worldwide, where a lack of clean water is a major cause of disease.

The new membranes, developed by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), could reduce the cost of desalination by 75 percent, compared to reverse osmosis methods used today, the researchers say. The membranes, which sort molecules by size and with electrostatic forces, could also separate various gases, perhaps leading to economical ways to capture carbon dioxide emitted from power plants, to prevent it from entering the atmosphere.
I can see a time coming when the cities of America's Pacific coast and even cities along the coast of Texas will be required to get most of their water from desalination so that cities in the interior of America's arid west can have more water from the Columbia, Colorado and Rio Grande watersheds.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bush's Poll Numbers about the Same

With the death of Zarqawi, some people were expecting Bush to get an upward bump in the polls. But I think slowly Americans are realizing that Bush's policies are not doing us much good, if at all. CBS, for example, has Bush down to a 33% approval rating. The only thing Bush is doing to improve his numbers is changing his song and dance routine rather than addressing some very serious problems. I don't know if Americans will buy into different labeling or not, though public relations is the one thing Bush knows how to do. Still, it's still possible he'll do something meaningless that in spite of everything will improve his numbers.

The Moderate Voice has a lengthy post on Bush's poll numbers:
A new CBS News poll indicates President George Bush is still stuck in the Benny's Bargain Basement level of polling results after the death of Iraqi terrorist chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which some analysts felt would given him a substantial boost.

And a Rasmussen Reports poll echoes the CBS poll's finding: that there has been little change in perceptions of the President's handling of Iraq....

I find it worrisome that there are Americans still cutting Bush considerable slack; so many of our current problems have been inflicted by Bush and his right wing advisers. Iraq, for example, is a mess because George W. Bush doesn't know what he's doing.

ElBaradei: Iran No Immediate Threat

IAEA chief ElBaradei probably did not appreciate the way Bush treated him the last time around when UN inspectors were in Iraq and were not finding anything, but he remains a diplomat and expert trying to do a difficult job. S.W. Anderson of Oh!pinion has some observations on a Yahoo story about a speech that El Baradei gave nearly two weeks ago where he said Iran does not pose an immediate threat:

It bears mentioning that ElBaradei was right when he urged the U.S. to let U.N. inspectors searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction continue their work in early 2003. ElBaradei said there was time then, too, but President George W. Bush was convinced he knew better.

Three-plus years, nearly 3,000 dead U.S. soldiers and well over $300 billion later, we see who was right, who was wrong and what the consequences of going off half cocked are.

Would it be unkind of me to mention that ElBaradei knows more about nuclear weapons than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney combined? After all, when have Bush and Cheney ever listened to their own experts in Washington?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Much Accomplished at Yearly Kos

I have to admit I wish I had been there. From what I'm reading a number of things have been accomplished at Yearly Kos but that's for the participants to talk about in coming days. Here's a few posts that have caught my eye. First up, Mary from the Left Coaster:
• What we are doing is very important to change the climate in Washington. Barbara Boxer, Howard Dean and Harry Reid expressed thanks for what we've been doing to help them stand against the right wing machine. Boxer thanked the blogosphere for the roses and the welcome whenever she posts on dKos.


It is clear that we've started to make a difference, and we need to do more because we have a daunting task: after all we still have to take back our country.

Swopa of Needlenose wrote some real-time comments on the Valerie Plame Panel; here's one passage I liked:
10:33 am: Larry Johnson says that if you're not outraged at how Dubya and Dick Cheney ignored official intelligence and lied to the American people to start a war, "you have lost your heart and soul." Sitting a table behind me, Byron York of the National Review absent-mindedly checks his cell phone for messages.

The Washington Post reports that Senator Reid used Yearly Kos to talk about the need for an intelligence estimate on Iran (meaning, I'm sure, one that is based on the facts this time):
Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said here Saturday that he will seek greater transparency from the Bush administration about possible threats posed by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. He said he wants to prevent possible misuse of intelligence as the administration deals with the crisis.

Speaking before a partisan audience of Internet bloggers and Democratic activists, Reid said he plans to introduce legislation next week that would require a new national intelligence estimate for Iran, along with an unclassified summary that could form the basis for a public debate about possible action if Tehran continues to seek nuclear weapons.

He also said he will require Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte to demonstrate that he has in place a process to review public statements by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other officials with regard to Iran. Many Democrats allege that Bush and Cheney manipulated intelligence in making the public case for war with Iraq.

PZ Meyers has an excellent wrap-up with suggestions on The American Street but let me focus on one paragraph:
...people were enthusiastic questioners, but terrible at asking questions. Even the most lightly attended session would trigger lines of people at the microphones, waiting their turn to ask a question…and often, when people got up there, it was like they were writing a blog entry rather than asking something. They’d ramble on with their opinions before saying something anyone on the panel could address. It drove me nuts. People, good questions go right to the point; they are not exercises in showing off.

Yes, I too prefer people who ask good questions and get to the point quickly but the point of Yearly Kos to a large extent was community building and that somehow has to include letting people have their say. I have to admit I'm not sure what the compromise would be but PZ Meyers recognizes the other problem with conferences like these:
Superstar panels are boring and do not promote the netroots. Duncan + Jane + John + Markos = celebrity wanking. Duncan plus, for instance, a lesser known set of economics bloggers would have helped introduce new (to me) blogs and would grow the field. If Yearly Kos wants to use these high-profile bloggers well, give them a panel and tell them to recruit three other bloggers they think are up-and-coming and interesting, and put them into a themed discussion of their choice.

From what I'm reading, Yearly Kos has succeeded in puncturing myths about bloggers while building the community of people concerned about the serious problems facing our country. Improvements no doubt can be made but the only small mistake that was made was the name: Yearly Kos. Just the knowledge that the Daily Kos crowd was sponsoring and organizing the event would have given them the publicity and recognition that they deserve (even if I'm not always aboard with what they do). These kind of conventions need to avoid being personality-driven even though political candidates and star bloggers are going to be the attraction for most convention goers. That means the name should be changed to something more inclusive, perhaps simply Yearly Progressive Bloggers Convention. But I tip my hat. The organizers did a good thing.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Another Dose of Yearly Kos

When I was watching C-Span, I noticed some bloggers were typing while people were giving presentations; on occassion, a neighbor would lean over to a typing blogger to say something and the blogger would respond while still typing. Now that's multi-tasking! Alas, I'm noticing a mild outbreak of typos among blogs posting at Yearly Kos. But their messages are clearly getting through. Here's Stirling Newberry of The Blogging of the President who makes an articulate case for what blogs and the progressive movement are about:
I am at Yearly Kos, at the Energize America panel.

That energy is on the agenda is an important moment for the the blog universe. It moves the line. The perception that has been purveyed that the blogsphere is far left, a kind of electronic granola fest. Reporters have been shocked at the mainstream aspect of the convention - and about how ordinary the attendees. And now they are shocked that the postive vision, this isn't about "not war", it is about pro-something else.

The images, from sites at Politics TV are being complimente

This is an important point. The progressive movement has become a positive source of vision, and it draws its power from a deep emotional truth. This movement have given people back their hope, their dignity and their sense of living in an America which could be more like the America that they were promised as children.

The shift is coming at a moment when frustration with the traditional politics is growing. The blogsphere's argument is that we are the cutting edge of political opinion, and that the shifts that have solidified here, will solidify in the country at large.

There are people in the media and on the right who have worked very hard to perpetuate myths about moderate and liberal progressives and their ideas. It's time to focus on the work that needs to be done and not on the myths.

Here's another post about Yearly Kos by Chris Bowers of MyDD who quotes an article by someone who is either clueless about Yearly Kos and the bloggers, or who is deliberately trying to mislead readers; Bowers simply breezes by the quote and focuses on the essential:
I have not yet had time to read through the entire article, mainly because I can't stop laughing at that quote. Since I am not really sure where to start picking at that paragraph, I will just focus on an old pet peeve of mine. When will people learn than wonks focus on policy, and I focus on infrastructure and strategy? Just because I write long posts does not mean I am a wonk. It means I am a hack.

I believe that this conference will make a major dent in the national media narrative on the netroots. It will also build connections among the over 1,000 netroots activists at the conference that will provide a significant boost to the both the progressive netroots and the progressive movement as a whole.
The Mahablog responds to some stereotypes about who progressive bloggers are and reminds people that anger about the Clinton impeachment is largely old history compared to the real problems now facing the nation:
First, we progressive netroots types are hugely ambivalent about the Clinton Administration. Righties seem to think we worship the ground the Big Dog walks on; this is far from the truth. Second, we have much bigger and more dangerous problems facing us now than to spin our wheels over the Clinton impeachment.

However, most of us are angry over the way the Right has smeared, slimed, demonized, marginalized, and misrepresented liberalism over the past 25 or so years. Well, I should clarify — this goes back more than 50 years, really, to the age of Joe McCarthy. And the Nixon/Agnew administration engaged in liberal baiting as well. But it was really in the 1980s, especially after Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine, that rightwing talk radio and media like Fox News began a coordinated campaign to brainwash America about the nature of liberalism, rendering the “L” word into a pejorative, as part of their campaign to take control of the federal government.

(That and the fact that many of us believe sincerely that the Republican Party — which in my childhood was associated with the centrist Dwight Eisenhower and “Republican” cloth coats — has been taken over by an extremist, hard right faction that Eisenhower would not have associated with. We progressives are closer to the center than the so-called “conservatives” who run the Republican Party, yet somehow we’ve become the extremist and the extremists are called the center.)

For the most part, I still think highly of Bill Clinton and his policies but I think the real point is that even Clinton would have to reinvent himself to deal with the problems unleashed by Bush and years of Republican neglect. Everyone who is serious about dealing with problems rather than pandering to those with the most money or the most prejudices need to understand that some hard work and hard thinking is in order.

Finally, I recommend a look at Majikthise which, starting with the June 8, 2006 post has a series of pictures from Yearly Kos.

More on YearlyKos at Firedoglake

The posters at Firedoglake have done a good job of posting a number of things on the Las Vegas conference for liberal bloggers (I noted some conservative reporters and a fair number of moderate Democratic bloggers when I caught some of the conference on C-Span). I'm not sure how often people essentially become business partners without actually meeting but this paragraph from Christy Hardin Smith says something about the blogging phenomena:
You know, one of the best things about the conference so far for me was our FDL Caucus yesterday. It’s weird, because most of us had never met before in our lives other than online, but it really felt like we were all hanging out with family. I know that sounds a little corny, but that was honestly the atmosphere in the room — okay, family that really gets excited when they talk about politics and wonky policy stuff…but still, just like family. We’re missing the rest of you who couldn’t make the trip — just wanted everyone to know that as well.
Christy Hardin Smith is the most civil and therefore, for me, the most readable of the posters at Firedoglake.

Here's some opening thoughts from Pachacutec:
These liberals think they can make a difference in national politics.

They think they have values that matter, that they can go home after a conference ready to take back their communities and their country, one person, one neighbor at a time. Totally loony.

They think the Constitution applies to all presidents, even ones with "W" as a middle initial....
And here's Jane Hamsher, who can be quite nice when she isn't being shrill:
It’s pretty funny being here at Yearly Kos. Many Big Media Bores have shown up to write about — themselves. David Ehrenstein alerts us this morning to the presence of Ad Nags , who — like his fellow NYTimser MoDo — seems obsessed (on the front page of the Times no less) with the notion that bloggers may be angling to take their place in the cocktail weenie line...

Well, that was the best I could find on Jane. But from what I saw on C-Span it looked like she did a great job on the Plamegate panel; also Joe Wilson, Murray Waas and Larry Johnson were there with thoughts on the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame and the involvement of various Bush administration figures. I'm only sorry C-Span didn't cover more of YearlyKos.

Yearly Kos and the Politicians

Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle has a story on the curious dance going on between bloggers and politicians now that the blogosphere is being taken more seriously:
While leading Democratic politicians have embraced the digital age of politics by kissing up to the 1,000 Internet-savvy bloggers convening here at the first YearlyKos convention this weekend, everybody is still trying to figure out how exactly to behave in a 21st century political courtship.

It is a question provoking much discussion among the digiterati at the first major convention inspired by a political blog, Daily Kos, which is run by Berkeley resident Markos Moulitsas Zuniga.

Many of those who identify themselves as "net- roots" activists started blogging over the past few years out of the frustration of feeling excluded from the chummy world of Washington politics. But now that Washington has come calling after seeing how much buzz and cash the blogosphere can raise, the bloggers are warily sizing up their suitors....

Actually, the article in some ways is about the stereotypes and misconceptions that the media itself has brought to the understanding of the blogosphere.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Night Poetry

Here's a poem by Siegfried Sassoon, a British soldier who wrote poetry about his experiences in World War I in the trenches.


Soldiers are citizens of death's gray land,
Drawing no dividend from time's tomorrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds and jealousies and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture-shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

—Siegfried Sassoon (1917)


Norway Hit by Meteorite

I recently read that scientists may have found under the ice where an asteroid hit Antarctica 250 millions years ago and if they're right, the asteroid may be tied to what's called the Permian extinction which wiped out most life on Earth at the time.

The meteorite that hit Norway was just a small fellow that hit somewhere in the northern mountains but it hit with the impact of an atomic bomb (hat tip to Raw Story):
As Wednesday morning dawned, northern Norway was hit with an impact comparable to the atomic bomb used on Hiroshima.

At around 2:05 a.m. on Wednesday, residents of the northern part of Troms and the western areas of Finnmark could clearly see a ball of fire taking several seconds to travel across the sky.

A few minutes later an impact could be heard and geophysics and seismology research foundation NORSAR registered a powerful sound and seismic disturbances at 02:13.25 a.m. at their station in Karasjok.

At first I didn't think the picture of the meteor streaking across the sky at 2 am was all that remarkable since the meteor in the form of a shooting star wasn't particularly bright. And then I realized it's June and it's daylight that far north!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bush's Iraq Numbers Still Slipping

Bush may get an uptick from the death of Zarqawi but things are not likely to change much in Iraq before the midterm elections. The AP-Ipsos poll now puts approval of Bush's management of the Iraq War at 33%, the lowest so far for the poll.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Now He Tells Us

The secret about Alan Greenspan is that he has made a number of mistakes over the years. Supporting Bush's tax cuts is near the top. Now Mr. Greenspan is telling us something many of us have known for thirty years. ABC News has the story:
Oil will remain an important element in meeting the future energy needs of the United States, but it does not have to be the most dominant factor. That was the testimony of former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan as he returned to a congressional witness table for the first time since leaving the Fed.

"Current oil prices over time should lower to some point our worrisome dependence on petroleum," Greenspan told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Still, higher oil prices will inevitably move vehicle transportation to hybrids, and despite the inconvenience, plug-in hybrids."

In the same ABC article, Senator Richard Lugar clarifies Greenspan's usual mumbo-jumbo:
Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., told Greenspan: "We believe that America's national security and economic well-being depend on reducing our dependence of foreign oil."
Later, in the same article, Greenspan seems to get the hint from the senators and finally says:
"We're running out of oil..."

There, that wasn't so hard to say. Perhaps Greenspan will remember that he's retired and can now speak his mind plainly. Actually, he could have done that when he was Fed Chairman, and saved us some trouble.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Small Community-Oriented Business Also Saves Energy

I grew up getting my food at least once a week from mom-and-pop diners or independent hamburger stands. I was never much of a fan of drive-in chains though I have to admit I appreciate the clean bathrooms, and now access to the internet. But there's never been a doubt for me where the customer service and the food were the best. And there are any number of things about a small business that's not driven by the corporate culture that's usually better for the community. Here's a story from Yahoo about a laundromat that's full service and that also saves energy (hat tip to Suburban Guerilla):
The most popular feature of the self-proclaimed World's Largest Laundromat is not the massive machines that wash eight loads at a time. It is the aviary.

The 12 finches, two miniature doves and a yellow canary flirt and flitter in a cheerful glass-encased pen next to the coin machines.


But while the aviary and perks like free coffee and donuts may be the secret to the laundromat's popularity, the secret to its financial success is the banks of solar panels on the roof.

Benson figures the 36 panels save him about 2,000 dollars a month in energy costs by shouldering the bulk of the work of heating the water for his 157 washing machines, which run 24 hours a day.

"It's such a good idea business-wise and conservation-wise that they should make it the law," he said.
Hey, shouldn't the electric grid be hooked up to the exercise machines in America's gyms?

Washington Post Profile on Russ Feingold

Chris Cillizsa of The Washington Post has post in his political blog on Russ Feingold; here's a few paragraphs (hat tip to Steve Soto of The Left Coaster):
"Cautious" is not a word that comes to mind when writing about Russ Feingold.

Feingold is tired of what he says is Democrats' softness on issues. "[W]e lost because we were perceived as unable to take the tough stands," he says. (Reuters)

The Wisconsin senator was the first member of his party to propose a timeline for withdrawing American troops from Iraq last fall, and when news broke about the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping campaign, Feingold introduced a resolution to censure the president for violating U.S. law.

Political suicide, says the Democratic political establishment. Phooey, responds Feingold.

"I've heard these pundits, they are people that are paid by Democrats, many of them were in the Clinton administration, these are paid political pundits and paid political consultants who make their living coming up [to] the Capitol and telling the Democratic leadership this is a loser," Feingold says. "It is bad advice. It is advice we got in 2002 and 2004. And we lost because we were perceived as unable to take the tough stands that are needed to change the course in the fight against terrorism."

That's Russ Feingold at his finest.

In California, we have seen some fine Democrats take advice from these political consultants and of course we have seen people lose all ability to react like the capable and normal human beings they were before the consultants showed up. Has anyone ever checked the phone bills of these consultants to see if they're talking to Karl Rove? Anyway, it's nice to see that Russ Feingold knows who he is. We'll see how far he gets in the primaries in 2008.

Pew Survey Details Bush's Troubles

The Pew Poll still has 33% of Americans approving of President Bush. The most amazing thing about the Pew survey is that 19% of Americans 'very strongly' approve of the job Bush is doing. Are these people who watch Fox News 24 hours a day and never pick up a newspaper? The way I see it, though, is that the 19% represents the core of Bush's base, and this suggests that Bush has further to fall. Here's the Pew Survey (hat tip to Atrios of Eschaton):
As public approval of George W. Bush languishes at all-time low levels, supporters of the president are increasingly hard to find. In the months following his re-election, roughly half of the country rated Bush's job performance favorably. Today only a third of Americans do so, while more than half (56%) disapprove of his performance. These latest figures are based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted April 27-May 22, among a national sample of 3,204 adults, a large enough survey to allow for a more detailed breakdown of where and how opinion has changed since the election.

While the decline in support transcends ideological and demographic lines, the drop among one group – moderate Republicans – has been especially steep. Among all Republicans, Bush's job approval rating has dropped 20 percentage points since December 2004 (from 89% to 69%). This erosion of support has been most severe among Republicans describing themselves as moderate or liberal, where his rating has dropped 25 points from 81% to 56%.

Given how far to the right that Bush has gone, it is not surprising that support among moderate Republicans has been dropping. If Bush gets somewhere with his Iran initiative, he might get a small bounce in the polls but his overall foreign policy is so dismal, I doubt the bounce would last. Over time, the numbers will continue to drop if Bush 'stays the course.'

Monday, June 05, 2006

Who Does Bush Turn to for Advice?

S.W. Anderson of Oh!pinion has a post on who Bush is likely to turn to for advice on the important issues of the day.

I suppose if anyone in his family is ever sick, Bush will send a videotape to Senator Frist for expert advice. And if Bush ever develops a leaky roof at his famous ranch in Crawford, Texas, he'll call 'helluva job' Michael Brown to fix it.

Stock Market Jitters Continue

With oil prices high, Iran in the news, a new Fed Chairman worried about inflation and a floudering presidency, the stock market jitters continue; here's today's stock news from the Los Angeles Times:
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 199.15 points, or about 1.77%, to 11,048.72. Even larger losses, on a percentage basis, were posted on the Nasdaq, which fell 49.79 points, or 2.24%, to 2,169.62, and the S&P 500, which sank 22.93 points, or 1.78%, to 1,265.29.

U.S. financial markets opened lower today and crude oil prices rose as investors digested remarks made on Sunday by Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who threatened to disrupt the flow of crude oil if the United States and other countries tried to punish Iran over its nuclear program.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the implied threat, saying Iran was too dependent on oil revenue to disrupt the flow of crude.

The futures price of crude oil today hovered above $72 a barrel.

And Raw Story has an article on inflation worries:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Monday the Fed needed to be vigilant to make sure inflation stays under control even as the economy starts to shift to a slower pace of growth.

"It is reasonably clear that the U.S. economy is entering a period of transition," Bernanke told a group of bankers. "The anticipated moderation of economic growth seems now to be under way."

Despite forecasts of easing growth, the U.S. central bankchief expressed concern over core inflation, saying the pace of increase in non-food, non-energy prices measured over both the past three and past six months was at levels that "if sustained" would be at or above the upper end of the range he views as consistent with price stability.

"These are unwelcome developments," Bernanke said.

There are tens of millions of Americans who never noticed we were in an economic boom in the last two years. But thanks to Bush, the wealthy noticed. Boy, did they notice. And the rest of us have been paying the price for a sorry economic policy.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

US/Iran: Hearing Out Both Sides

After five years of the Bush noise machine, it's important to remember to hear exactly what is being said in any dialogue. President Bush and Condoleezza Rice have a nasty habit of referring to straw men that they knock down with their arguments, except that it's very hard to find the straw men in real life that they're knocking down. To have a dialogue, you have to hear the predominant arguments of the day and address those arguments; or, at least hear what the other person is actually saying, not just what the Republican spin machine says the other guy is saying. Juan Cole of Informed Comment has a post on the details of what the Iranians are actually saying:
The US media presented only a snippet from the speech of Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei of Iran on Sunday, in which he threatened to damage oil supplies to the West if the US militarily attacked Iran. He did say that, but he also announced that Iran had no intention of striking first, had not attacked and would not attack another country, and that it has no nuclear weapons program and does not want a nuclear bomb. I didn't hear any of those statements reported on television.

For some strange reason, a relatively full text of important speeches given by world leaders is almost never provided to the public by any US media in English.

If Bush's negotiations with Iran are to be taken seriously, it is important for everyone to know what the Iranians are saying. Juan Cole provides a copy of Khamenei's speech.

Keep in mind that when two nations don't see eye to eye, they can hurl speeches at each other for decades as the US and Iran have done, but a more peaceful accomodation requires getting past the rhetoric or the twenty-second sound bite. Everyone in diplomacy knows this. But it's important to know what is being said.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Republican Boondoggles Continue

The Bush Administration in an effort to play politics with Homeland Security is cutting funding to New York City and Washington, D.C. and sending the money elsewhere. James Gordon Meek of the New York Daily News provides us with his assessment (hat tip to Democratic Underground):
The Homeland Security bureaucrat who shortchanged New Yorkers' safety by $80 million implied yesterday that guarding a Nebraska cornfield from an Al Qaeda attack is the same as putting a cop with a gun on the Brooklyn Bridge.

"When you are protecting agriculture in the Midwest, you are protecting the citizens of New York City," Assistant Secretary Tracy Henke told C-Span's "Washington Journal."

Henke - a political appointee in charge of doling out $1.7 billion in security grants to cities under the highest threat of attack - cut funds to New York City and Washington by 40%, even though both are considered Al Qaeda's top terror targets.


...Mayor Bloomberg told WABC Radio yesterday, "We certainly eat food from other states, but they are kind of hard for terrorists to go after, I would argue."

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official in Washington also scoffed at the insinuation that Al Qaeda is targeting cornfields and grain stores.

"The whole DHS agro-terrorism theory doesn't hold," the official said....

Welcome once again to the alternate universe of George W. Bush. The midterm elections are only five months away and all rational discourse has ceased on the Republican side of Washington.