Tuesday, November 30, 2004


While my local congressman is pumping out one press release after another about the hundreds of millions of pork he has packed into the spending bill, National Science Foundation funding is severely cut.
"It's not clear whether this was simply a case where congressional leaders had to make room for pork by cutting budgets here and there, or an expression of the modern GOP's distaste for science and its adherents. But provided Democrats get their act together as an opposition party, this bill is really proving to be the gift that keeps on giving -- a mix of outrageous abuses of power, illustrations of the majority's inability to run Congress decently, and awful policy choices at the expense of the national interest."

More Evidence of Global Warming Confirmed

A controversial claim for global warming has been confirmed with more data.
A new interpretation for temperature data from satellites, published earlier this year, raised controversy when its authors claimed it eliminated doubt that, on average, the lower atmosphere is getting warmer as fast as the Earth's surface.

Now, in another study headed by the same researcher to be published Dec. 15 in the Journal of Climate, direct temperature data from other scientists has validated the satellite interpretation.
So, George, how much science is it going to take for you to come down on your polluter friends?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I am the enemy

As I consider the implications of a mindset takeover by the so-called religious right I feel compelled to announce that I stand in firm opposition. I think it is a potentially disastrous thing for our country and, because of our global influence, a potentially disastrous circumstance for the world at large.

First of all, I challenge the validity of their religions. I call them the "so-called" religious right because it is not genuinely religious at all. Fundamentalist generally hold that the purpose of life is to somehow earn enough merits or demerits to occupy heaven or hell in some speculation of the afterlife. I see it as a convenient formula by which some people exercise power and domination of others. It can even be an institutional thing. Religion can be a powerful influence because it requires an element of faith, of accepting as valid concepts that can not be proved or disproved. Once having broken the gullibility barrier it is far too easy for unscrupulous practitioners to the fantasies and speculations too far.

On the one hand I think it is admirable to have a vision of a better world and work to bring that vision into being. This is the kind of exercise of faith that pulls humans society forward and upward. I have no problem with that. In fact it is the kind of faith to which I aspire and hope.

But to the degree that the so-called religious folks look to a vision of a sinful and destroyed world of the future it bodes ill for the policies they would inflict upon the rest of us. They have cast away their hope for this earthly world and only find hope in the next one. They are little different than the fatalistic jihadist who finds it excusable to spread destruction in this world in order to achieve status in the next. When these kind of people are in power it is extremely bad news for civilization. They don't value human progress or human justice. They willingly become pawns for people seeking power for all kinds of reasons. Some are seeking the power to line their pockets, some to feed their own megalomania, and some have found that power is sufficient end in itself. But the so-called people of faith remain as a convenient power source to be harnessed by whomever can feed them the right line.

This is an old business. Much of the Old Testament is devoted to bringing people into line with religion and the fear of God as the tool. Calamities could be blamed by iniquities of which there is always a plentiful supply. Success stories could be constructed out of the distant past. And it's in the peril and judgement that the right-wing finds it's fountain of influence. While true Christianity speaks of love, forgiveness, and hope, this false Christianity harks back to the commandments and consequences of an intolerant God and is inviolable Law.

In the birthing of this country our founding fathers saw the carnage that had been wrought in their recent history when religion became allied with the state. Many of the colonists had come here to escape that deadly combination. The founders sought to avoid that evil by firmly basing our government on secular principles. And the secularism that has held forth a standard of objectivity in the policies of our country has served us all very well, even the religious-minded. Those who see our government as partner with religion do violence to our real history. I admit there has always been a tension there but this country's best moments come when we rise above sectarian concerns and act according to more universal secular ideals.

It's these secular ideals of justice-for-all, equal protection, and civic responsibility that trump sectarianism and bring us all together. It's our common ground of principles that make this country great not our wealth and not our submission to theology.

Even though I believe it is essential to guarantee religious freedom, I also believe that when religion threatens the founding secular principles of this country it borders on treason. This kind of excess needs to be vociferiously opposed and I intend to do so.

Sometimes the greatest danger to a country is genuinely from within.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The coming sh*t-storm

The country as a whole has a right to be suspicious of the right-wing so-called Christian fundamentalist influence on our foreign policy. We have to understand that these people have no interest in keeping the wheels on the wagon. They want the wheels to come off. They look to the second coming when civilization as we know it will end. They have little interest in solving the problems. If the world goes it the shitter it just confirms their belief system. These are not the people we want to have in powerful positions.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

More Unraveling

The end game of the Great Unraveliny identified by Paul Krugman begins. As our fiscal policy clown show continues, the dollar begins its inevitable slide. I wonder where we will be a year from now.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A Moral Indictment

My favorite district attorney gives Congress a well-deserved tongue-lashing.
"There is no limit to what you can do if you have the power to change the rules. Congress may make its own rules, but the public makes the rule of law, and depends for its peace on the enforcement of the law. Hypocrisy at the highest levels of government is toxic to the moral fiber that holds our communities together.

The open contempt for moral values by our elected officials has a corrosive effect. It is a sad day for law enforcement when Congress offers such poor leadership on moral values and ethical behavior. We are a moral people, and the first lesson of democracy is not to hold the public in contempt."

More Fuzzy Math

Enron collapsed. It's principals have been convicted. But this administration seems to want to use Enron-style accounting tricks as their model for government budgeting.
"Republican budget writers say they may have found a way to cut the federal deficit even if they borrow hundreds of billions more to overhaul the Social Security system: Don't count all that new borrowing.

As they lay the groundwork for what will probably be a controversial fight over Social Security, Republican lawmakers and the Bush administration are examining a number of accounting strategies that would allow the expensive transition to a partially privatized Social Security system without -- at least on paper -- expanding the country's record annual budget deficits. The strategies include, for example, moving the costs of Social Security reform 'off-budget' so they are not counted against the government's yearly shortfall."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Marriage Rights

Atrios reviews the list of rights unique to marriage that can't be covered other legal instruments. Ergo to deprive a class of people from those rights is to deny them equal protection under the law.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Welfare State, Republican-style

Daniel Gross talks about our out-of-control farm policy. Ag companies are having a banner year with lots of help from American taxpayers.

Oh, yoohoo! Rep. Hastings! Here's some spending cuts you can make. (Whoops forgot. These people are your biggest campaign contributors. Go figure.)
"The real annoyance in recent farm prosperity is that it only seems to have increased the burden of American taxpayers. Even as farm net income rose by half between 2002 and 2004, the volume of direct government payments (read: subsidies) paid to farmers rose by nearly the same amount, from $11 billion to $15.7 billion. If farmers are reaping such a green harvest, why are the rest of us subsidizing them so heavily?

The reason is that our demented farm policy has managed to get even worse recently. It's no surprise that this strangely market-distorting action has taken place in the last few years under a Republican Congress and a Republican president. Despite their self-identification as the party of entrepreneurial, competitive small business, the Bush crowd has shown itself to be a relentless advocate for non-entrepreneurial, competition-averse large businesses. Political geography also plays a role here. Many of the largest farm-goods producing states are red, and many of the largest farm-goods consuming states are blue. To a large degree, the 2002 farm bill, which is responsible for the current regime of subsidies, acts as a mechanism for transferring wealth from the people who earn lots of money in states like Connecticut and New Jersey to (mostly corporate) farmers in Kansas and Nebraska."

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Democrat wins in Montana

What's his formula? A sportsman friendly gun policy, finding the common ground of hunters and environmentalists, standing for local small business against out-of-state corporations, pointing out how Republicans had beggared the state while lining their own pockets, and by not taking any guff from anybody.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Deciding What's Salient About Gonzales

Froomkin summarizes the takes on the Gonzales nomination. But what I want to know is whether the Spirit of Justice will get to bare her breasts on national TV again.

And Phillip Carter questions his competence.
...the point remains that the White House's new nominee to head the Justice Department turned in work that would have barely earned a passing grade in law school, let alone satisfy the requirements of a job in which life and death were at stake. Perhaps more important, these early memos from Texas revealed Gonzales' startling willingness to sacrifice rigorous legal analysis to achieve pre-ordained policy results at the drop of a Stetson.
As White House counsel, Gonzales played a key role in pushing the administration to brand the Geneva Conventions "obsolete" and "quaint" and to unilaterally declare them inapplicable to al-Qaida and the Taliban. Gonzales played a key role in the decision to use Guantanamo Bay as a global detention facility because it was believed to be outside the reach of U.S. courts and the rule of law. (The Supreme Court held otherwise in Rasul v. Bush in June 2004.)

Potential Cure for Diabetes

It is inexpensive and works in mice. Diabetes is essentially an autoimmune disease in which white blood cells start attacking and killing the islet cells. A cheap, off-patent drug can be used to kill the errant white cells. And it seems that new islet cells are generated by the spleen and migrate into the pancreas and set up shop. Human trials are in the near future.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

It's the Wealth, Stupid

Via Tim Dunlop. Rick Perlstein finds the real root of the Bush win.
On his blog Polysigh, my favorite political scientist, Phil Klinkner, ran a simple exercise. Multiplying the turnout among a certain group by the percent who went for Bush yields a number electoral statisticians call "performance." Among heavy churchgoers, Bush's performance last time was 25 percent (turnout, 42 percent; percentage of vote, 59 percent). This time out it was also 25 percent—no change. Slightly lower turnout (41 percent), slightly higher rate of vote (61 percent).

Where did the lion's share of the extra votes come from that gave George Bush his mighty, mighty mandate of 51 percent? "Two of those points," Klinkner said when reached by phone, "came solely from people making over a 100 grand." The people who won the election for him—his only significant improvement over his performance four years ago—were rich people, voting for more right-wing class warfare.

Their portion of the electorate went from 15 percent in 2000 to 18 percent this year. Support for Bush among them went from 54 percent to 58 percent. "It made me think about that scene in Fahrenheit 9/11," says Klinkner, the one where Bush joked at a white-tie gala about the "haves" and the "have-mores": "Some people call you the elite," Bush said. "I call you my base."

So they proved to be. The two issues he mentioned in his post-election press conference had nothing to do with succoring God-fearing folk; instead he mentioned only "reforming" the tax code, and "strengthening" Social Security—issues of particular concern for the haves and the have-mores.
Glad we got that settled.

The Other Christian Values

Here are the kind of Christian values with which I can identify. My hero, Jim Wallis, has a word.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The options in Iraq

William R. Polk as a guest on Juan Cole. It's a well-done analysis. Three options: really ugly, pretty darn ugly, and exit with grace. The latter requires going public with the stated intention of leaving at the earliest possible and turning over the policing to a UN Peacekeeping force. Guerilla activity has historically died off when the occupier has admitted defeat and turned the country over to the indigenous population (Algeria, Ireland, Vietnam, et al). "Staying the course" is the worst possible scenario.

Moving Target watch

Bush (hswib) stated deficit goal: "cut in half in 5 years." Analysts are looking at that. Fiscal deficit for fiscal 2004 was $413 billion. By that standard the goal would be a deficit of $207 billion for fiscal 2009. But the White House says that they are committing to half of an earlier projected deficit for 2004 of $521 billion. By this standard the goal for fiscal 2009 should be a deficit of $261 billion. For those into long-term bets, there's your spread.


Given the current state of affairs politically, now may be the time to profit from the great mass of true believers out there. If one had wagered against the success of any of the administration policies or gambits in recent years one could have made a tidy bit of cash. There is no reason to expect that systemized failure to turn around in the future. Furthermore there apparently is a fertile field of folks who remain true believers despite all the contrarian evidence. This presents a unique opportunity to profit from them. It would have been a simple thing to take a wager against the Bush (hswib) jobs bill actually achieving the success it predicted. Not only would one have made some money but the loser be led to see that his faith may have been misplaced. Since this administration has a pattern of redefining success when the real numbers come in, the performance measurement by which the bet is settled would have to be clearly spelled out beforehand. What do you think?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Going Forward

Liberal Oasis suggests that we recapture the government by going into "Government in Exile" mode. We need to articulate a clear vision of what a Democratic government would do differently. LO suggests a unifying principle to hang our hats on.
"Belief in the ability of a representative, responsive and accountable government to address certain community problems and protect personal freedoms."

A Most Informative Red-Blue Map

America is more purple than the what you see on the TV news graphics. Even in red states there are some profoundly blue areas and vice versa.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


I originally started this blog to give vent to my frustrations with the policies of this country under the Republican administration. As I have matured in my understanding I learned that just giving voice to my concerns doesn't amount to more than a bucket of warm spit. Regardless of the depth of my personal feelings and convictions they are no more significant in this world than the next person who never devoted more than 5 seconds thinking about it. It does no good to just become more and more shrill. In the end none of the message penetrates into the heads of the clueless and uncaring.

I greatly fear that the pinnacle of American moral culture is now behind us. The train wreck will continue undeterred as far as we can project into the future. Rational reason has failed. As repulsive as it may seem, all that is left is the cruelest of object lessons lived out in real suffering and mayhem. All the bad things that our shrillness has projected lay in store for our country and our world. Just as our most pessimistic imaginations have been exceeded in the past four years we can only envision that pessimism will continue to be eclipsed by real events. One can only hope that the complete and utter depravity of the right wing becomes apparent even to the most casual observer. Now it's those casual observers who are truly calling the shots in this country.

The moral compass of America is no more. Newspeak is the language of the future. Only the coming unmitigated disaster can hope to return us to our senses.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Anecdotal Trend Reading

I was encouraged today when a colleague who is generally a Republican voter told me that he is so upset with Bush (hswib) and his cast of enablers that not only is he going to vote for Kerry, he is also going to vote a straight Democratic ticket. He wants to run the bum out of town and the horse that he rode in on.

Head in Sand Department

It's time to pull our heads out.
The most comprehensive international assessment of Arctic climate change has concluded that Earth's upper latitudes are experiencing unprecedented increases in temperature, glacial melting and weather pattern changes, with most of those changes attributable to the human generation of greenhouse gases from automobiles, power plants and other sources.

The 144-page report is the work of a coalition of eight nations that have Arctic territories -- including the United States, which has hosted and financed the coalition's secretariat at the University of Alaska.

The findings, which reflect four years of study, confirm earlier evidence that the Arctic is warming far more quickly than the earth overall, with temperature increases in some northern regions exceeding by tenfold the average 1 degree Fahrenheit increase experienced on Earth in the past 100 years.
Or we could just send the report back for more study until we get the answer the administration wants like we did with all those intelligence reports on Iraq. Wouldn't want to reduce greenhouse gases on a whim or anything. Someone's profits might go down.

Bush (hswib) stem cell lines are dead ends

All the stem cell lines permitted by the Bush policy are contaminated dead ends.
But because Bush-approved research is limited to the older lines, federally-funded scientists cannot take advantage of newer stem cells grown on alternative scaffoldings.

This “significantly” limits the value of the federally-funded research, says Snyder. “It renders [the government-approved cells] incredibly suspect. All work should be done with fresh lines,” he says.
New stem cell lines could be developed from embryoes that are just headed for the dumpster otherwise. Ethical dilemma: toss it in the garbage or use it to improve medical research? That's a tough one all right.