Sunday, January 30, 2005

What the media isn't saying...

About the Iraqi Election. But lest we forget:
Moreover, as Swopa rightly reminds us all, the Bush administration opposed one-person, one-vote elections of this sort. First they were going to turn Iraq over to Chalabi within six months. Then Bremer was going to be MacArthur in Baghdad for years. Then on November 15, 2003, Bremer announced a plan to have council-based elections in May of 2004. The US and the UK had somehow massaged into being provincial and municipal governing councils, the members of which were pro-American. Bremer was going to restrict the electorate to this small, elite group.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani immediately gave a fatwa denouncing this plan and demanding free elections mandated by a UN Security Council resolution. Bush was reportedly "extremely offended" at these two demands and opposed Sistani. Bremer got his appointed Interim Governing Council to go along in fighting Sistani. Sistani then brought thousands of protesters into the streets in January of 2004, demanding free elections. Soon thereafter, Bush caved and gave the ayatollah everything he demanded. Except that he was apparently afraid that open, non-manipulated elections in Iraq might become a factor in the US presidential campaign, so he got the elections postponed to January 2005. This enormous delay allowed the country to fall into much worse chaos, and Sistani is still bitter that the Americans didn't hold the elections last May. The US objected that they couldn't use UN food ration cards for registration, as Sistani suggested. But in the end that is exactly what they did.

So if it had been up to Bush, Iraq would have been a soft dictatorship under Chalabi, or would have had stage-managed elections with an electorate consisting of a handful of pro-American notables. It was Sistani and the major Shiite parties that demanded free and open elections and a UNSC resolution. They did their job and got what they wanted. But the Americans have been unable to provide them the requisite security for truly aboveboard democratic elections.

Beyond Me

Don't these conservative fundamentalist types ever get embarrassed by utter lunacy they spread around? Don't they realize how much this kind of thing hurts their cause? Or do they go along with this because they really know they have nothing credible to offer anyway?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

He's Still "That Man"

Daniel Gross analyzes what's behind the Republican attack on Social Security.
"The New Deal era reminds national greatness Republicans like Wehner of their party's futility in a time of true national greatness. I also suspect that many Republicans are simply unable to forgive Roosevelt for what may have been his greatest and longest-lasting achievement: saving American capitalism through regulation. And since they can't tear down the Triborough Bridge or the Hoover Dam, these guys act out by going after Social Security."
For 70 years, conservatives have been telling us that the American economy—whether it's in recession or whether it's booming—is laboring under the shackles of the burdensome taxation and misguided regulation placed upon it by FDR and his successors. Somehow, stocks would do better if the SEC were weaker and we'd all be wealthier if seniors weren't guaranteed a minimum income, funded through payroll taxes. But America's economic mastery since 1945 has served as an ongoing and constant refutation of their most dearly held beliefs. It still does today. As George Melloan concedes, "The New Deal basically expanded the reach of government, and things worked out OK." Actually, they worked out great. Some people still can't get over it.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Study bolsters greenhouse effect theory, solves Ice Age mystery

Another critcism of the global warming projection bites the dust.
"Critics have pointed to the inconsistency as a flaw in scientists' theories of climate change. Scientists have argued that today's global climate change has been caused in part by buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere resulting from fossil fuel emissions.

But, critics have countered, if CO2 truly raises global temperatures, how could an ice age have occurred when a greenhouse effect much greater than today's was in full swing?

The answer: This particular ice age didn't begin when CO2 was at its peak -- it began 10 million years earlier, when CO2 levels were at a low.

'Our results are consistent with the notion that CO2 concentrations drive climate.'"

According to some other peer-reviewed reports we don't have much time left to do something about it.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Best Healthcare Anywhere

And it's not in any high-falutin' fancy hospital system. It's in that single-payer, government-run institution, the Veterans Administration.
Conservatives are forever shutting down progressive health care reform ideas by saying that the more government gets involved the worse things will be. But in the VA, you have a totally government-run healthcare system that is besting the private sector on both cost and quality. And it's a system wrapped in the patriotic colors of the American military! That doesn’t mean Democrats should start arguing for government-run health care--though they might consider Longman's intriguing suggestion that we let the VA take over bankrupt non-VA hospitals and make citizens who provide non-military national service eligible for VA care. But it sure does challenge the notion that the only way to fix our broken private-sector-dominated healthcare system is to make it even more private sector.

More trouble for Bush (hswib) science

All that particulate pollution is masking the effect of the greenhouse gases. If we do something about either one alone we're going to be in trouble. But if we do nothing, I wouldn't want to live here.

Friday, January 21, 2005

"Tabletop" Fusion is real and replicated

This is sooo cool! Evidently the shock waves of collapsing bubbles can be strong enough to cause deuterium nuclei to fuse.

Tsunami Early Warning

There may be an early warning signal for major subduction zone earthquakes.
"'In areas along subduction zones, like the Northwest coast of the United States, we should look to see where the land has subsided and put instruments there to monitor it,' said Jere Lipps, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and study coauthor. 'If the land continues to subside instead of relaxing back to normal, it could indicate a big earthquake and a tsunami might occur some time in the next few years.'"

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Fox News Reporter gets 0wn3d

This was truly a sweet moment. Faux falls into a pile of its own crap. It was a real Jeremy Glick moment.

A paradoxical opening

By expressing (albeit dishonestly) truly liberal ideals in his inaugural address, Bush (hswib) may have provided an opening for liberals to gain traction by championing those very same ideals before the American public, or, at worst, being able to beat the administration up with its own disingenous words. How sweet it is!

A quote for these times

Lifted shamelessly from The Washington Monthly:
"Words to remember... 'A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt...If the game runs sometime against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.'
Thomas Jefferson, 1798"

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

America Descendant

Most of the Republican establisment takes it as a given that the American economy and military will always be strong and as a result are neglecting the work that needs to be done to keep it that way. But the longer that goes on the more and more fragile it becomes. Just as Detroit used to think that the domestic auto market was their personal fiefdom, this hubris will bite hard eventually. More and more supposedly American companies have merged with international companies to stay in business. More and more government debt is held by foreign banks and governments. The US dollar is beginning to wane as the most popular reserve currency, even among drug dealers. The practice of running a bigger and bigger deficit in our government accounts only hastens the day when the Euro becomes more attractive. Unless our government begins to show that it has the capacity to generate real revenue to meet its current and future obligations, our creditors are going to make a run on the bank and get out of dollars while the getting is good.

We need to show the financial markets that we are determined to put our financial house in order or it will be too late. We need to find ways to raise tax revenue that is relatively painless and does not disrupt our markets. We need to recognize that having an overpowering military does not keep us safer, it just makes it easier for unwise heads to use it for political purposes rather than national defense. I'll have more on what I think makes for a plan of rational taxation in a later post.

Rational Taxation

First we have to recognize the presence of an L-curve in the spectrum of American incomes. When you plot incom across individuals in the order of income you can see that the curve is slowly rises across the range of people until you get to the top 1% and above. Then the amount of income becomes astronomical. The curve looks like an L laid on its back. The top 1% commands more than twice as much as the combined wealth of the bottom 80%. It's hard to justify that these elite are that much smarter or more valuable than 80% of the population. They are the beneficiaries of economic windfalls supplied by our market economy. There are two reasons to heavily tax the super-rich. Heavy taxes are not going to cause great damage to their health and financial security. And that's where all the money is! Sometimes you can make money with volume but sometimes you just need to find one buyer who can pay a million dollars for an apple.

If we can increase the tax on the super-rich and get our deficit managed it will greatly decrease the taxes everyone's children will have to pay--even the children of rich people.

Another easy source of tax revenue is a solid estate tax. There is no reason for this country to allow the propagation of capitalist aristocracies. We can easily set a sufficiently high threshold for this such that the apocryphal family farm is protected. Even if the threshold is millions of dollars a high estate tax can raise an enormous amount of revenue. Who better to get money from than dead people who can no longer make use of it?

Along with revenue increases spending cuts are also necessary. There must be strict fiscal transparency in our government. The first target for cuts should be corporate welfare programs. We need to encourage American business to develop successful business models that don't depend on the government for bailout or support. If the purpose of corporate welfare is to give jobs to disadvantaged folks we need to channel money directly into good infrastructure projects in which people can develop the skills they need to compete in the general labor market. The fruit of the government-supplied money should be things that benefit everyone, not just the stake-holders in government-supported companies.

Another spending target is the military. We need to repair our reputation around the world as a bully by limiting our capacity to behave as a bully. There should be plenty of support for rapid-response and defensive systems but we should not have ourselves in a position where we can unilaterally wage war. This capacity makes others more dependent on us for their own military needs than they should be and it makes friend nervous and enemies paranoid. If we are limited in our capacity to project force, other countries will contribute more to mutual defense requirements and unwise, unilateral adventures will be prohibitive.

One thing we have sees is that you can't fix bad spending by limiting taxes because Congress can borrow all it wants. We need to cut bad spending because of our respect for the taxpayers. Taxation is a necessary evil that needs to be strictly controlled.

As much as possible we need to get the money-raising game out of our political campaigns. The need for money invites de facto corruption of our political process. I want my congressional representatives to legislate on merit rather than money. We need to get our officials out of the business of harvesting pork. The conflict of regional disputes over who is to receive the largesse of a government project needs to be resolved by some mechanism of disinterested, incorruptible third parties rather than by whoever holds the most power in the appropriations committee.

Raising taxes and demonstrating a positive revenue stream is the best thing for our economy. It keeps the dollar strong and attracts foreign investment.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The scandal sheet

For future reference.
Here are 34 scandals from the first four years of George W. Bush's presidency -- every one of them worse than Whitewater.
Well, maybe not all worse than Whitewater. But it will be interesting to refer back to this list as the Bush (hswib) administration unravels over the next 4 years.

Open Source Drugs

This sounds like an appropriate use of the open-source model.
"Only about 1% of newly developed drugs are for tropical diseases, such as African sleeping sickness and dengue fever. While patent incentives have driven commercial pharmaceutical companies to make Western health care the envy of the world, the commercial model only works if companies can sell enough patented products to cover their R&D costs and produce profits for shareholders. The model thus fails in the developing world, where few patients can afford to pay patented prices for drugs. The solution to this devastating problem, say Stephen Maurer, Arti Rai, and Andrej Sali in the premier open-access medical journal PLoS Medicine, is to adopt an 'open source' approach to discovering new drugs for neglected diseases."

Monday, January 17, 2005

Congressman Doc Hastings, In the Tank as Usual

A recent press release holds no surprises.
"'According to the latest estimates, Social Security is expected to begin paying out more than it takes in 2018 - and go broke in 2042. It's easy to see the problem that will face today's younger workers if nothing is done to strengthen Social Security.

While reforming Social Security we must avoid pitting grandparent against grandchild.

In my view, Social Security reform must be guided by three basic principles. First, those in or near retirement cannot have the rules changed on them. They have worked for years with certain expectations and their benefits must be protected.

Second, Social Security taxes must not be increased. The tax burden is too high to increase rates further for current workers or for future generations.

Third, younger workers should have the choice to invest a portion of their money in personal, protected retirement accounts.

We owe it to our seniors and to our children and grandchildren to ensure that the system they pay into will be there when they need it most.'"

What an awful batch of bull-squeeezin's!


All this bitchin' and moaning about the "left-wing media". Maybe it's time to rally the troops and show these hay-heads what a vibrant, vocal, and take-no-prisoners left-wing media really looks like!

Facts as a Megaphone

Joshua triggers on the Lowenstein article in the NY Times and adds a few zingers of his own.
"President Bush figures that as long as current retirees are assured that their checks will keep coming in for the next decade or two, that they really don't care what sort of America their young grandchildren will be living in half a century or more from now. In other words, he looks at them and sees himself. But I think America is better than that. And if the facts can speak with as big a megaphone as the president's lies, then I think we'll see that."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Social Security, solvency and political spin

"This time around, Social Security is years away from anything that honestly could be described as a financial crisis. But that has not stopped President Bush from trying to whip up enthusiasm for his proposed personal retirement accounts by warning of an imminent disaster."

Friday, January 14, 2005

Still alive

Is it time to talk about getting out now?
It seems like the Americans are losing control on everything.. They seem to be shooting everyone in their way. The guard of our school (An old man who has a difficulty hearing, and who has 9 children, and who has managed to work as a driver in his free time) got killed by the Americans with everyone who was in the car with him.. My friend's aunt got killed by the Americans too..

Also, the soldiers are still breaking into the houses of civilians. They entered some neighbors of my friend' houses and then cut all the phone lines in the street... I got worried sick about her, especially that she was too late today at school, and when we called her, the phone was ringing ad nobody answered!

Legal System oppresses poor defendants in Michigan.

A Final Solution, Michigan-style.
"Looking to decrease its appellate backlog, Michigan figured that since most indigent people wouldn't know the first thing about how to raise a winning appeal, if the state took away their lawyers, fewer of them would actually get to court. Guess what? They were right."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

President of Fabricated Crises

I like this.
"But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none."

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Best of Breed

Are there any examples of a "privatization" program that has actually worked? There are plenty of programs that were dismal failures.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Myth Busters

There is an oft-repeated myth that increased life expectancy today poses a threat to Social Security. Myth Busted!
While increasing life expectancies obviously have had some impact on total social security payouts, a big chunk of the increase in life expectancy overall has been due to reductions in the mortality of children, who never pay a cent into social security anyway.

The SSA explains:

However, as Table 1 indicates, the average life expectancy at age 65 (i.e., the number of years a person could be expected to receive unreduced Social Security retirement benefits) has only increased a modest 5 years (on average) since 1940. So, for example, men attaining 65 in 1990 can expect to live for 15.3 years compared to 12.7 years for men attaining 65 back in 1940. So the actual increase in time that males can anticipate receiving Social Security is closer to 3 years than to 14.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Letter to the Editor

Once upon a time there was a wise Hebrew in Egypt who foresaw that seven years of bountiful harvest would be followed by seven years of drought. He had some credibility with the Pharaoh and convinced the Pharaoh to establish a program of saving a portion of the bountiful harvests so there would be grain to feed the people when the times of drought and famine came. The storage plan was successful and when the droughts came there was food enough for all.

This is the same thing that has been done with Social Security. It was foreseen that the retirement of the boomers was going to stress the system and payroll taxes were raised in the past above what was needed for current benefits and the excess was placed in the Trust Fund. The current administration has borrowed from that trust fund to pay for tax cuts and to fight an questionable war. Social Security is in trouble only if the federal government defaults on its debts to the trust. When today's pharaoh says that Social Security is short of money, he is saying that he has emptied the granaries so he could give food to rich people and fight his own private war.

Don't let this despot pay back the money he has given to his rich friends by reducing benefits and diverting revenue out of the system! Pharaoh, let the working people go!

UPDATE: The letter that actually appears in the Tri-City Herald will have been edited down to the TCH 200 word limit.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Crying Wolf

is dangerous.
"Much intelligence information is -- quite rightly -- classified and not available for external scrutiny. You basically have to take the administration's word for it that something's happening if they say it's happening. But right now, neither he nor I nor any other sensible person has any intention of taking their word for it about anything. But what if Bush says something that is true and won't be believed, either by the public or by foreign governments and populations? Real threats might go ignored because we've all lost confidence in the government's truth-telling abilities. It's the administration that cried wolf, and it's a dangerous situation."


Time to stop describing them as desperate, methinks. Committed and dedicated perhaps.

New Herpes Vaccine Shows Promise

By slicing and dicing the genome of the virus they have a vaccine that is completely harmless but ore that triggers a good, strong immune nesponse.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Krug on the coming SSA scam

The Krug speaks:
"he people who hustled America into a tax cut to eliminate an imaginary budget surplus and a war to eliminate imaginary weapons are now trying another bum's rush. If they succeed, we will do nothing about the real fiscal threat and will instead dismantle Social Security, a program that is in much better financial shape than the rest of the federal government."
"The long-term cost of the Bush tax cuts is five times the budget office's estimate of Social Security's deficit over the next 75 years. The botched prescription drug bill passed in 2003 does more, all by itself, to increase the long-run budget deficit than the projected rise in Social Security expenses."

Basic Gonzales Incompetence.

Don't forget about the Bernie Kerik debacle.
"So if stated plainly, the White House line is: Alberto Gonzales looked at a man with known and thick mob ties, and decided he would be an appropriate man to head up domestic security. Alberto Gonzales looked at a man with a record of abusing power, and decided he should be in charge of a $40 billion budget. Alberto Gonzales thought that a man who catastrophically blew our attempt to build an Iraqi police force, then left after 3 months, should oversee our nation's long-term security upgrades. And that's without even getting into workplace harrassment, unethical affairs, and miscellaneous graft."


Some quotes from digby about what the "new reality" is based upon.
"It is intense tribalism that fuels the right wing, not ideology. In fact their ideology mostly flows from their tribalism. It fuels their resistence to redistribution of even the smallest amount of wealth (the 'wrong' people will be helped) and it fuels their hyper nationalism (those 'other' people are our enemies.) They make no distinctions between the 'wrong' and the 'other', it is anyone who isn't like them. "
"The reason that the Senate of the United States is about to confirm a man who designed an illegal system of detention and torture against any Muslim or Arab (and others to come, no doubt) is because a fair number of people in this country believe that 'they're all alike.' Terrorists today, commies yesterday, japs, gooks, wogs, niggers everyday. It is a measure of progress, I suppose, in the fact that this hispanic man is even given the opportunity to make his bones with executions, torture and lifetime detention for public relations purposes. Still, one wonders how long it would take, were he to stray from the party line, for someone to call Rush and say, ' I couldn't understand why I disliked him so much...'"
"Too bad about this whole globalism thing. These people are going to be very, very angry for eternity. But then they always have been, haven't they? At one time I thought our history of immigration and assimilation would be what kept us on top during this transition. I was wrong. Our original sin of slavery is probably what's going to lead to our downfall. It's infected us much too deeply for us to be able to handle the responsibility of being the world's only superpower. When you get right down to it, it's why a majority of the country supported the invasion of Iraq -- all Arabs are the same --- and that horrible miscalculation is very likely to be our Waterloo. "

Monday, January 03, 2005


The Sumatra quake not only caused a devastating tsunami but also shifted the island of Sumatra 36 meters to the southwest. Furthermore it increase the Earth's spin.

Saturday, January 01, 2005