Archive for October, 2006|Monthly archive page

Quickie: Best Political Quote of the Season

The Washington Post has an article about Katherine Harris.  It has the best political quote of the year. 

“The only way Bill Nelson could lose this,” says Darryl Paulson, a political scientist (and Republican) at the University of South Florida, “is if he got himself in a drug-induced stupor and ran naked down the main street of his home town.”

According to the polls, I’m not sure even that would help. 

Other than that, the article is a good rundown of the campaign run by the woman who elected Bush. A fun read.

The Zen of Ironing

I am one of those weird individuals who can get enjoyment out of braindead activities. Like Ironing.

I actually spend time shopping for things to make my ironing experience more pleasurable. Good videos or music to accompany ironing, a comfortable ‘bar stool/thing to semi sit-on while ironing’, a first class ironing board and most importantly a good iron.

Slate has a  review of irons.  The German version of my iron, the Rowenta Advancer Iron, came in second.

This is the iron that serious ironers—the Ironistas, if you will—breathlessly recommend. “Have you tried a Rowenta?” they cry. “Oh, you simply must!” 

Mr. Ironista (shouldn’t that be Ironisto) – that’s me.

If you hate ironing. Spend some time with it. Get to know it. Trash those un-iron-albe shirts – you know the ones, with the neverending fold problem. Find a good place and good music. Get the best equipment you can afford. Make it a challenge – iron by the clock.

Ironing takes no brains, just time. Thus it frees your concousness to roam and create new and better things while doing it.

Center yourself and go find the Zen of Ironing.

Page A15 = Not News

Retorical question: Why did the Washington Post run the article about the drop in the US ranking on freedom of the press on page A15?

Some poor countries, such as Mauritania and Haiti, improved their record in a global press freedom index this year, while France, the United States and Japan slipped further down the scale of 168 countries rated, the group Reporters Without Borders said yesterday.

The news media advocacy organization said the most repressive countries in terms of journalistic freedom — such as North Korea, Cuba, Burma and China — made no advances at all.

The organization’s fifth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index tracks actions against news media through the end of September. The group noted its concern over the declining rankings of some Western democracies as well as the persistence of other countries in imposing harsh punishments on media that criticize political leaders.

On the other hand, this really got Spiegel-Online’s panties in a bunch. They ran at least two top stories and seemed scandalized. (Germany landed on place 23, a full 30 places in front of the US.) Finland, Iceland, Ireland and the Netherlands tied for number one! Hurrah Iceland!

The original press release from Reporters without Borders can be found here and here is the technique used to create the ranking.

In the case of Germany, it seems the lower ranking has to do with the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst, like a Teutonic CIA/FBI) monitoring journalists and keeping secret dossiers about them. Oh, that and the fact that the government doesn’t answer questions. Those pesky little ‘No Comment’ comments. Unless, of course, it’s in the government’s interest to comment. (Yawn)

The reasons for the US fall from grace are less than new. In fact, the reasons are so well known, the Washington Post didn’t even feel the whole thing was really news and buried the story on page A15. No freedom of the press in the US. Just not news.

And He Didn’t Even Call Back!

Some people have interesting lives.

One of those people is Julia Allison, who apparently briefly dated Senator candidate and current Congressman Harold Ford Jr. She does sum up the relationship nicely

As I said in a previous interview, he’s a politician.  After living in DC for almost five years, I would contend that they’re all douchebags, every one of them – Harold’s no more douchebaggy or less douchebaggy than any of the others.  I make an exception for Barack Obama, whom I worship slightly (how original, I know).

First, is douchebaggy a real word? Wouldn’t douchebagish be better?

But anyway. Ms. Allison now been named by the NRSC in a press release as the target of Harold Ford Jr.’s ‘nonexclusive courtship.’ Then she made Newsweek, then she was Wonkette-ed. Wow, she has a life.

Check out her side of the story. And her really cool pink ski pants!

God and Sports

Teresa, of  Anomalous Data fame, has a post up about her take on being raised a Christian. She also points to a rather disturbed (um – disturbing?) article comparing faith and sports. Something along the lines that Satan is the Pittsburgh Steelers (reading this made me wonder if this person a Broncos fan), we are on a small local team and Satan will win because he’s better. Wait no. Um… The whole thing was viserally upsetting.

Trees sums up her response on this idea with,

You don’t need God sitting on your shoulder with a harp every minute, day in and day out to be a good person.  The ability is within you.  In you mind and your heart.  Just do it.  Quit blaming your human nature, as if it only had one side, the bad one with the base urges.  Quit blaming your connection to God, as if somehow your God Pipeline got clogged that day.

It’s in you.  Everything that you are capable of is in you.  What you do is your decision.

I happen to believe that God gave us everything we need.  But you don’t have to believe that to use it.  However you got it, you have it.  You have love, power, reason, discernment, judgment, ability, drive, and resiliency.   Use it.

Her post is excellent and I strongly recommend reading it.

But on the other hand, some people are losers, others are made into losers. Not by a God, but by the very system put into place to help. The LA Times is reporting about poor people being ‘dumped’ on skid row after being released from the hospital.

The LAPD says it has opened its first criminal investigation into the dumping of homeless people on skid row after documenting five cases in which ambulances dropped off patients there Sunday. Police said the patients, who had been discharged from a Los Angeles hospital, told them they did not want to be taken downtown.

Los Angeles Police Department officials, who photographed and videotaped the five alleged dumping cases, called it a major break in their yearlong effort to reduce the number of people left on skid row by hospitals, police departments and other institutions.

Though police have documented other cases of hospitals dropping off recently discharged patients in the district, “this is the most blatant effort yet by a hospital to dump their patients on skid row against their will,” LAPD Capt. Andrew Smith said.

The article continues by pointing out that these people weren’t necessary indigent. Some not only had somewhere to go but asked to be taken there.

One patient the LAPD interviewed on videotape, 62-year-old Marcus Joe Licon, told officers that he “never wanted to go” to skid row and asked that he be dropped off at his son’s house. According to LAPD records, Licon said he was at the hospital because of problems with his knee and was released after they gave him “some painkillers and some medication.”

The real losers here aren’t the patients being dumped on skid row. They are victims – not losers. The real losers are the people doing the dumping. Those people who think that life is something that can be tossed aside, like a soda can out of a moving car. Just like the can, these people should be someone else’s problem, something for someone else to pick up. The real losers here are the hospital administrators who would define each of those dumped as ‘losers.’

So, maybe, just maybe, some people do need a God to become better. Not Trees. And probably not Brad Locke our misguided God/Sports fan. And God knows, Marcus Joe Licon probably isn’t a natural born loser.

But those motherfucking hospital administrators are losers. And I very and truly doubt that they have any love, power, reason, discernment, judgment, ability, drive, or resiliency – they are simply scum. Natural born scum.

And maybe a dose of God would do those administrators some good. Maybe a baseball bat would be better. And maybe, I can make God/Sports comparisons too.

Sinking in a Sea of Sand

The new policy from the Bush administration is becoming clear. When staying the course is politically wrong, change course; when all else goes wrong, claim something else was always planned; when the ship is sinking, find a new ship and say the old one belonged to Bill Clinton.

The LA Times is headlining today about a new counter-insurgency training base in Kansas,

When the Army and Marine Corps decided to rewrite their field manual on how to fight insurgents last year, [Lt. Col. John] Nagl was chosen as one of its authors. His doctoral thesis on guerrilla wars was just republished in paperback with an approving forward by the Army’s chief of staff.

But when Nagl’s two-year stint in the Pentagon ended this month, he did not, like most accomplished soldiers of his rank, take command of an armored battalion headed back to Iraq. Instead, he shipped out to this sprawling base in rural Kansas where the Army is attempting what some consider its most ambitious structural change since the Vietnam War.

Here, amid rolling fields dotted by scores of quickly built barracks, the Army is building a training base that by early next year will be turning as many as 2,000 of its most promising midlevel officers into military advisors every two months, most of them headed to Iraq.

The mission reflects the U.S. military’s vision of its long-range role in Iraq — as advisors for local forces who will be doing the actual fighting. But it represents something of a gamble as well: The effort is sucking thousands out of their normal combat deployments at a time when American forces are facing personnel shortages and violence in Iraq is surging.

On the other side of the country, the New York Times mentions the use of advisers as well.

As [Gen. George W. Casey Jr.] said Tuesday, “It’s going to take another 12 to 18 months or so till, I believe, the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security, still probably with some level of support from us, but that will be directly asked for by the Iraqis.”

Certainly, the Iraqi security forces have made some gains. The Iraqi military is larger and better trained, and has taken control of more territory in the past year. Some Iraqi soldiers have fought well. But in Baghdad, which American commanders have defined as the central front in the war, it is still a junior partner.

To improve the Iraqi forces, the American military is inserting teams of military advisers with Iraqi units. American officials also say their Iraqi counterparts are trying to use the lure of extra pay to persuade reluctant troops to come to the aid of their capital.

Last week all the papers including the Washington Post were commenting that “Stay the course” was finally and truly dead. Indeed, most Republicans, both those up for re-election and those supporting them have already given up the fight.

Many senior Republicans with close ties to the administration also believe that essential to a successful strategy in Iraq are an aggressive new diplomatic initiative to secure a Middle East peace settlement and a new effort to engage Iraq’s neighbors, such as Syria and Iran, in helping stabilize the country — perhaps through an international conference.

One point on which adherents of these sharply different approaches appear to agree is that “staying the course” is fast becoming a dead letter. “I don’t believe that we can continue based on an open-ended, unconditional presence,” said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a centrist Maine Republican. “I don’t think there’s any question about that, that there will be a change” in the U.S. strategy in Iraq after next month’s elections.

Of course, anyone who missed this week’s sniping about George W. Bush’s comment claiming he had never said “Stay the Course” must be truly deaf.

Taken individually, one could say these are simply isolated raindrops in an otherwise arid political plain. But taken together, they might seem to actually point to a plan. Augment the Iraqi forces with American advisers and pull out the main body of troops. Not only is the administration willing to change course, it might have a direction.

Someone who was there and can report first hand would be Phil Carter. He’s a lawyer who returned to uniform and spent the last year in Iraq advising courts in Diyala together with one of the State Departement’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams. His article at Slate (he also had an Op-Ed in the New York Times, Hat Tip: DefenseTech) recommends exactly this strategy. He is also well aware of the current limitations in the application if not the theory.

To combat the insurgency, America must adopt a more holistic approach than simply building up the country’s security forces. We have the seeds of this in Iraq today—the State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams. I worked closely with the PRT in Diyala to advise the Iraqi courts, jails, and police, and I saw their tremendous potential. However, having been hamstrung by bureaucratic infighting between the State and Defense departments, these teams now lack the authority, personnel, and resources to run the reconstruction effort effectively. America should reach back to one of its positive lessons from Vietnam, the “Civil Operations and Rural Development Support” program. There, the United States created a unified organization to manage all military and civilian pacification programs, recognizing that only a unified effort could bring the right mix of political, economic, and military solutions to bear on problems.

Although we copied some parts of the CORDS model in Afghanistan and Iraq when we created the PRTs, we did not go nearly far enough. It has become cliché to say that the insurgency requires a political solution; in practical terms, that means subordinating military force to political considerations and authority. Today’s PRT chiefs need to have command authority over everything in their provinces, much as ambassadors have traditionally exercised command over all military activity in their countries. We must also empower the PRTs to actually do something besides diplomacy—that means money. Like battlefield commanders, PRT chiefs need deep pockets of petty cash (what the military calls the Commander’s Emergency Response Program fund) to start small reconstruction projects and local initiatives that will have an immediate and tangible impact.

It seems to look forward, one needs to learn the lessons of the past and apply the technologies of the future.

Whether this new course will achieve what America (the American people – not the Bush administration) would consider to be victory in Iraq remains to be seen. The administration has already lost Iraq; the neocon experiment has failed miserably. For the administration, victory would have been an almost complete withdrawal of all troops in late 2004. It didn’t happen. Everything now is just damage control. For the American people, an Iraqi victory means peace and stablity in the country and the American soldiers back home. This is a hope shared, I’m sure, by most of the Iraqi populous.

I’m afraid anything now is too little, too late. No change of strategy can alter the course of events. The Iraqi civil war will have to play out with the hundreds of thousands of fatalities and the ultimate dissolution of Iraq into its components. This will be the fault of a few political theorists in Washington. But at least there is some understanding in those same circles that the original idea was flawed. Using ideas from Vietnam, the last major insurgent war America fought, is a good plan. It means looking to reality to find things that work. But than again, America also ‘lost’ Vietnam.

It’s like piloting an American Titanic through a sea of sand, all warnings were ignored – it was full steam ahead. The Titanic changed course at last minute too. It didn’t help either.

Losing Spirit?

Oh, Oh! It seems NASA/JPL is having some problems with Spirit, the rover on Mars.

“Spirit has been displaying some anomalous behavior,” said Project Manager John Callas, who noted the rover’s unsuccessful attempts to flip itself over and otherwise damage its scientific instruments. “And the thousand or so daily messages of ‘STILL NO WATER’ really point to a crisis of purpose.”

The “robot geologist,” as NASA describes Spirit, has been operating independently for over 990 Martian sols—nearly the equivalent of three Earth years. However, scientists estimate that, in recent weeks, Spirit has been functioning on the level of a rover who has been on Mars for approximately 6,160 sols.

The Onion article later continues with,

Project organizers said the most distressing instance of erratic behavior occurred last week, when images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed that Spirit had scrawled the message ‘FUCK MARS’ in the thick, iron oxide dust that gives the planet its characteristic red color.

The fun part of that last comment is that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter really has managed to take excellent close ups of Opportunity, Spirit’s sister rover (very large version). The current image shows not only Opportunity next to Victoria crater but also the tracks leading up to it. Even if the mission engineers didn’t think up any appropriate comments to write in the Martian sand/dust.

The amount of data returned in the last couple of years from these two robots will drive many, many PhD thesis. It is an example of the best bang for the buck when spending money on space research. People (or pigs) in space might seem sexy, but the amount of science verses the amount of support necessary isn’t worth it. And there is no way a manned mission to Mars could have been extended this long.

This is an excellent example of the Bush administrations blind eye to reality and not politics. People on the moon or a manned mission to Mars make for good headlines; they resurrect feelings of the zenith of American scientific power. Unfortunately, the nadir is that Bush decided to plan this mission without funding, interest or understanding. It is a little like David Kuo’s Faith Based Initiatives – “Just give me a fucking manned thing on Mars!”

At least the Rovers aren’t as crazy. And I, for one, still haven’t lost Spirt.

 Hat Tip: Phil Plait/Bad Astronomy

A Match Made in Heaven

Popular Science is covering the current X-Prize completion Wirefly. This new X-Prize is being sponsored by the same people that funded the original X-Prize and is about trying to develop technologies for building a space elevator. There are already all kinds of controversies stories. You can also check out the coverage at Space.com. More important is the video of Al Gore’s take on the new National Space Policy during his speech.

It has the potential, down the road, to create the kind of fuzzy thinking and chaos in our efforts to exploit the space resource as the fuzzy thinking and chaos of the Iraq policy has created for us in Iraq. It is a very serious mistake in my opinion.

I present the Popular Science YouTube video in full. Take a look.

X-Prize, Al Gore and NSP: A match made in heaven? You decide.

Realities of Homelessness

There is a case study in the New York Times today with a doctor outlining one man’s decent into homelessness – an injury followed by the loss of his job, his apartment, his friendships and relationships, the move to a shelter and the treatment for depression (who wouldn’t be).

He was inconvenienced, but not bested. Homelessness, as he saw it, was a temporary state. Sleeping in an assigned bed would do while he waited for public housing. Because of his years of work, he qualified for Social Security disability payments, and he had no reason to believe that the monthly stipend would not cover an apartment. He got himself on a list.

The list was long. After a year or so, he found himself drinking. It was a comfort he could not resist. Six months later, he got into a fight at the shelter — not his fault, he argues — and lost his permanent bed. He was barred from the shelter, and descended into the rougher layer of shelters, where drinking and drugs are commonplace, there is no daily shower and residents have to stand in line for a different bed each night.

He began to look blunted, blank. This is what two years without a key will do to a man. The medication was no help. You can’t live in an antidepressant bottle.

Now he talks of railroad tracks and the uselessness of human existence. Is a human life without hope, without social contact, still liveable? Perhaps the sadder question is whether this man’s passing would even be noticed.

It’s turning cold and Christmas is coming. Stop by The Homeless Guy‘s blog and find out what you can do to help, gift bags or backpacks.

Sigh.

The Parties Over

I can’t keep myself from wondering whether the current American (and German) political woes aren’t caused by party systems and if those systems aren’t starting to crumble.

You have the various headlines about how independents are moving away from the current government. The New York Times has an article about independents in the Southwest, the LA Times explains that minority churches, once Democrat, now Republican are shifting back yet again and finally the Washington Post is headlining the fact that independents will play a key role in the upcoming elections with Republicans increasingly losing ground.

Two weeks before the midterm elections, Republicans are losing the battle for independent voters, who now strongly favor Democrats on Iraq and other major issues facing the country and overwhelmingly prefer to see them take over the House in November, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The new poll underscores how much of a drag the war threatens to be on Republican candidates in competitive races. With debate underway in Washington about possible course changes in Iraq, Americans cite the war as the most important issue in determining their vote next month more often than any other issue, and those who do favor Democrats over Republicans by 76 percent to 21 percent.

Independents are poised to play a pivotal role in next month’s elections because Democrats and Republicans are basically united behind candidates of their own parties. Ninety-five percent of Democrats said they will support Democratic candidates for the House, while slightly fewer Republicans, 88 percent, said they plan to vote for their party’s candidates.

The problem isn’t that the parties can’t appeal to a large segment of the population, but rather that the population and interest groups can’t be divided into two segments. The world far more complex than a political bioptic focus supports. With the availability of information on the internet, voters are becoming increasingly discontented with political promises along party lines not being turned into realities. This can be seen on all sides of the election.

According to the graphic accompanying today’s New York Times article, 58% of voters would prefer elections without party labels, the number of independents registered to vote in Arizona (the focus of the article) has doubled since 1994.

Closer elections and more balanced war chests, meanwhile, in races across the nation are elevating the role of independents regardless of their numbers — and changing as well the strategies of how to reach them, even as they turn their noses up at what the two-party system has become.

“The first message they’re sending to us in the political world, and to general public, is ‘Don’t assume anything,’ ” said Michael J. Frias, director of campaigns for the Arizona Democratic Party.

The number of candidates running without visible party affiliation is increasing.

I would say I am an independent and always have been. Even though I’d rate myself semi-liberal I do so only because the average of my opinions end up on the liberal side of the fence. I am pro-defense (if not pro-war); I agree with  gun ownership even if I would prefer a world without weapons; I can’t stand groups like Greenpeace simply because they put a coat of green paint on what is still standard activist lobbying (get the headlines – the facts, even better solutions, aren’t important). On the other hand I believe in social spending, limiting corporations and government supervision in areas like ecology and health. Evolution and global warming are real and HIV causes AIDS. I’d love to see universal healthcare in America if someone could figure out how to finance it (lowering medication costs, only funding proven solutions and changing what people define as healthy perhaps?).

My entire life has been spend voting against what I often consider the greater evil and not voting for the greater good. I have never been able to accept the speeches and promises made during political campaigns. I truly believe most people enter politics with a supportable goal – but that goal changes. The politician goes from trying to change the system or accomplish something specific to someone trying to keep their job. This is a natural and human progression. You do what you know and what you are good at; for politicians – politics. It is the goal of the political parties to make sure their ‘company’ is more successful every election cycle but not necessarily to serve the voters. Just as it is McDonald’s goal to earn money and not serve customers. (If McDonalds could earn money without serving people, I’m sure they would. )

I’d prefer to vote for an individual’s patchwork platform and not a party’s generic program. Perhaps PACs and an increasingly independent electorate will lead to a completely different system. A system where legislators receive funds and support, not from a central pot – but from the interest groups supporting their ideas. A move away from centralized party control and discipline to a more flexible and agile system.

The move would be good but probably isn’t realistic. People love labels – Republican, Democrat, American, Tigers fan. Important or not, realistic or not, it is often the label people cling to, not the platform. So, despite my optimism, perhaps my observation that the party system is dysfunctional – neither working nor popular – while true doesn’t mean much.

Maybe the parties’ parties aren’t over yet.

Not a-Mused

I am having trouble finding something to write about. Everything I look at either seems trivial or depresses me to the point of inactivity.

Take for example the most current entry in Bagdad Burning by River. She is a twenty-something middle class Iraqi blogging from one of the hotspots in the insurrection. She puts a face on the violence, understanding both the American soldiers and hating them for what they are doing to her country. I couldn’t read much simply because it was too difficult.

You could watch the Frontline episode ‘The Lost Year In Iraq’ in case you missed the original broadcast. Summarizing the information from Assassins Gate, Cobra II and Fiasco, the show really doesn’t add anything new. But for those who haven’t read those books, you soon see how bad the administration has fumbled the GWOT-ball. It also makes an excellent bookend to the entries in Bagdad Burning.

I could point you to the case of a twenty-year teacher fired for mentioning peace in her classroom; fired because one student found it necessary to complain about her mentioning peaceful alternatives to the war. It would be interesting know more about both sides of the issue. Did she preach for peace (would that have been so bad?) but have or did she simply try to paint some gray in a world of black and white? At the same time, her son will be sent to Afghanistan. I can really understand her mother’s concern about her son, trained as a nuclear engineer in the Navy, volunteering to do duty doing something. I’m sure the Navy has lots of uses for nuclear engineers in a country without reactors. (Hat Tip: BlondeSense)

Or for those flu suffering ferret fans, I’d  point them to Cocktail Party Physics. An excellent entry in an excellent blog by Jennifer Ouellette making the connection between the flu, gene sequencing and ferrets. She shows how little I know and how badly I write.

Thus, just as the green color seems to be abandoning the leaves, my muse is deserting me. I’ll try to find something interesting or funny to write about. But at the moment, I am not a-mused.

No Post today

Just a heads up… I won’t be posting today and will be back on Monday. Have a nice weekend.

Heads Up: Dating Saddam?

Tom Engelhardt over at the Nation has an excellent Rovian conspiracy theory. The date set for Saddam’s sentencing is November 5, two days before the elections.

The US-backed special tribunal in Baghdad signalled Monday that it will likely delay a verdict in the first trial of Saddam Hussein to November 5. Why hasn’t the mainstream media connected the dots between the Saddam’s judgment day and the midterm elections?

[...]

A possible death-sentence for Saddam and his top lieutenants on November 5? Now, shouldn’t that raise a few eyebrows somewhere? If you happen to have a calendar close at hand, pull it over and take a quick look. That verdict would then come, curiously enough, just two days before the midterm elections. It’s the sort of thing that–you would think–that any reporter with knowledge of the US election cycle (no less of how Karl Rove has worked these last years) would at least note in an article. But no, you can search high and low without finding a reference to this in the mainstream media.

This is obviously designed to create a positive news blip. Pass the word and make sure the people you know realize this is an obvious political ploy to get a positive “We’re moving forward” message in the papers shortly before the elections. (November 5 is the last full newsday before Americans vote. )

I never thought I could use the following icky, but somehow appropriate sentence.

Karl Rove is clearly dating Saddam.
 

Pre-Posted Post on the National Space Policy

Remember last week when I wrote about the new National Space Policy?

Well it appears the main stream media have finally found room for the story. Even though the White House thinks the policy isn’t very important, the Washington Post squeaked it in on the front page yesterday.

President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone “hostile to U.S. interests.”

The document, the first full revision of overall space policy in 10 years, emphasizes security issues, encourages private enterprise in space, and characterizes the role of U.S. space diplomacy largely in terms of persuading other nations to support U.S. policy.

The story kept the premier spot on Spiegel-Online for almost 24 hours.

Spiegel-Online October 16, 2006 

It seems I am not alone in thinking this document is slightly more militaristic than the previous version.

The administration said the policy revisions are not a prelude to introducing weapons systems into Earth orbit. “This policy is not about developing or deploying weapons in space. Period,” said a senior administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Nevertheless, Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank that follows the space-weaponry issue, said the policy changes will reinforce international suspicions that the United States may seek to develop, test and deploy space weapons. The concerns are amplified, he said, by the administration’s refusal to enter negotiations or even less formal discussions on the subject.

I guess it’s just pesky liberals that think America would station weapons in space. Well the liberals and Spiegel-Online. (Wait they are liberal) But the gist of the entire Spiegel article is that America is preparing a solo takeover of space and is not only planning on stationing weapons there, those weapons have already been developed.

The document George W. Bush signed in September 2002 caused a political earthquake, it presented his image of a “National Security Strategy”: the USA would enforce its interests by spreading its values to every part of the world – if necessary using preventative wars to protect against threats. Also known as the “Bush doctrine,” this infamous strategy led, among other things, to the Iraq war.

Now the US Administration has drafted a similar, if slightly more carefully phrased, strategy for space – the new “National Space Policy,” inconspicuously released a few days ago on the website of Bush’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The document officially put in to words what has long been US policy. The American military has already spent billions of dollars on the development of weapons that are supposed to be stationed in space including technologies for attacks on terrestrial targets and enemy satellites. [my translation]

If you didn’t read my early post or the original by Theresa Hitchens, director of the Center for Defense Information, and Haninah Levine, a CDI science fellow please do so. The information is much more compact. Hitchens has an excellent opinion and makes her living watching the government.

One thing I didn’t mention in my previous post. The old version of the National Space Policy was a simple government document. Now, in these days of heightened security, these kinds of things need to be explicitly declassified. That’s right, the words Unclassified are on every page of the NSP. I wonder if there is a classified, far more detailed version of the document.

Gee, I (well actually DefenseTech), scooped the Washington Post!

A Pre-Posted post if you will

A Burning Desire

President Bush signed the Military Commission Act of 2006 on Tuesday. Among other things, this removes the right of Habeus Corpus.

Thus restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the right of assembly and association, and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house-searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property rights are permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

If you just got cold shivers reading the above passage, good. I didn’t quote the newest move toward an American dictatorship; rather it is the first paragraph of the decree signed by Hindenburg in February 1933, just after the Reichstag burned . It effectively ended the Weimar Republic and signalled the start of the Nazi regime. The next paragraph allowed the federal government, in case of danger to the public, the right to take over the state governments. Both of these provisions were enacted permanently or ‘until further notice.’ But for just a moment, an instant, you might have imagined an American Congress and an American Senate passing legislation with that language. The leap isn’t quite as far to see George W. Bush signing it. Doesn’t that give you pause to think?

I am currently reading Richard J. Evans’ ‘The Coming of the Third Reich,’ the source for the text I used above. On Tuesday, I reached the part of the book where the Reichstag is burned by the Dutch social malcontent and arsonist Marinus van der Lubbe. This happened about a week before federal elections and was used by the Nazis to ban the Communist party, the third strongest political power in pre-WWII Germany. Goebbels used the fire to whip up a feeling of fear, suggesting that the communist party was posed to overthrow the government and install a godless, evil regime.

If you have never heard of Richard Evans, he is one of the premier historians of the Third Reich. His fifteen minutes of fame outside academia came during the Irving vs. Lipstadt libel trial in 2000. David Irving sued Professor Lipstadt over her representation of him in her book ‘Denying the Holocaust’, a discussion of Holocaust ‘revisionists.’ The full transcripts and many of the expert reports can be found at Holocaust Denial on Trial. Evans wrote the expert witness report examining Irving’s validity as a historian. 

Very soon after we had begun our examination of Irving’s work along the lines sketched out above, it became clear that Irving did all of these things [i.e. deliberately manipulate and distort documents, suppress evidence, wilfully mistranslate documents , consciously use unreliable or discredited testimony, falsify historical statistics, or apply one standard of criticism to sources which undermine their views and another to those which support them]. Penetrating beneath the confident surface of his prose quickly revealed a mass of distortion and manipulation in every issue we tackled that was so tangled that detailing it sometimes took up many more words than had been devoted to it in Irving’s original account. […] A similar knotted web of distortions, suppressions and manipulations became evident in every single instance which we examined. We have not suppressed any occasion on which Irving has used accepted and legitimate methods of historical research, exposition and interpretation: there were none.

Needless to say, Irving lost the trial. In a judgement almost as entertaining and educational as the Dover ruling, Justice Gray blasts Irving, basically discrediting him as a historian or anything but an extremist, right-wing talking head. Irving now languishes in an Austrian prison for entering the country despite a court order denying his entry. This order came a direct result of Irving’s attacks on the reality of the holocaust. Naturally, I could have used the above quote to describe the distortions used by the current administration to justify the Iraq war; but that would be hyperbole.

Returning to 1933, in what would now be considered a terrorist act, an unemployed Dutch construction worker set fire to the seat of the much weakened Weimar government. Even though all evidence pointed to an isolated incident perpetrated by a deranged individual, Hitler and the Nazi government used this act as a pretext to claim that the fire had been a communist plot, a prequel to the overthrow of the government. The Nazis spread a feeling of fear and terror, projecting a threat to the country and stability in every socialist nuance.

The Stormtroopers were unleashed, smashing and destroying the offices of the communist party and the homes of the party members, who were arrested and taken to the precursors of concentration camps. While many of these people were no friends of democracy or the republic, the arrest was not for any specific crime, it was enough to be in the wrong party, at the wrong place, at the wrong time. These detainees had no right to counsel; some were tortured; some were killed. They had no recourse to justice and no possibility for appeal. Often tried under any pretext, the verdict and the penalty were clear before the trial started.

Seven years later, the first buildings in Auschwitz were being erected. Few could have foreseen the impending dangers.

To complete my nightmare, I would reach even farther back into history. The Founding Fathers were heavily influenced by the two greatest periods of democracy the world has ever known, democratic Athens and republican Rome. Both of these nations (OK, one was a nation-state – picky, picky, picky) were the most powerful entity in the areas they occupied at the time they existed, both had elections and were highly advanced technologically. One minor point is often overlooked though. Both of these experiments failed. Let’s hope that bad things don’t come in threes.

I, for one, have a burning desire not to see the Capital building set on fire in two weeks.

Heads Up: Wishful thinking

Staying on the right and just path, here’s a head up to a post by Sean Aqui at Donkelphant about the Boy Scouts.

Be careful what you ask for, because you might not like what you get.

Six years ago, the Supreme Court ruled — correctly — that a private organization like the Boy Scouts could not be forced to accept gays as either Scouts or leaders.

Since then, however, the Boy Scouts have learned a lesson about the other side of freedom of association: the rest of society can choose whether it wishes to associate with you. [emphasis in original]

This is a very interesting post. He manages to put a very personal face on what is a very sad issue.

I remember my mother basically foaming at the mouth whenever Scouting was mentioned. She considered the organisation to be just left of the Hilter Youth, an institution with similar roots by the way. I never found my mothers opinion to be justified. Scouts are what the local chapter and members make it. I knew enough of the local scouts to know they weren’t planning a right wing revolution or the immediate invasion of the Soviet Union. And I had to learn how to tie all those stupid knots by my self. Hummpf.

Anyway – sometimes, what is just turns out to also be right. But sometimes it’s just wishful thinking.

Hat Tip: Justin Gardner/The Moderate Voice

Laying Down the Law

The news today that a judge revoked Lay’s Enron conviction depresses me. But probably not for the reasons you would expect.

Both the LA Times and the Washington Post headline the story. The Post’s coverage begins

A federal judge in Houston yesterday wiped away the fraud and conspiracy conviction of Kenneth L. Lay, the Enron Corp. founder who died of heart disease in July, bowing to decades of legal precedent but frustrating government attempts to seize nearly $44 million from his family.

The ruling worried employees and investors who lost billions of dollars when the Houston energy-trading company filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2001. It also came more than a week after Congress recessed for the November elections without acting on a last-ditch Justice Department proposal that would have changed the law to allow prosecutors to seize millions of dollars in investments and other assets that Lay controlled.

With the judge’s order, Lay’s conviction on 10 criminal charges will be erased from the record. “The indictment against Kenneth L. Lay is dismissed,” U.S. District Judge Simeon T. Lake III wrote in a spare, 13-page order.

While I do feel for those who lost pensions in this case, I’m really not too disappointed that Judge Lake followed standard case law here. That’s because it looks like he followed standard case law and really didn’t have any choice. In fact, it looks like the prosecutors knew what was coming and didn’t even try to argue the case. According to the LA Times

Prosecutors offered no counter legal argument in the case, but asked Lake to hold off on a ruling until next week so Congress could consider legislation from the Justice Department that changes current federal law regarding the abatement of criminal convictions. Congress recessed for the elections without considering the legislation.

The fact that they asked the judge to wait for a week for new legislation is fairly immaterial because a new law probably wouldn’t have been retroactive in the first place. I am very sure Judge Lake would have been overjoyed to have been able to issue a different ruling. He just didn’t have any wiggle room.

But if I don’t find the fact that Lay got off absolutely stomach turning, what is my problem? I posted on Monday about the current legislation being considered in several western states to impose restrictions on so called ‘activist judges.’ Even though this case has nothing to do with activism nor is the legal precedent even roughly fair in many cases, this will play into the hands of the conservative forces trying to pass these laws weakening the judicial branch. If the only advertisement supporters of these measures run for the next three weeks pushes the Lay case, these laws will probably pass by landslides. That has me depressed.

Justice isn’t always about what’s right, but rather what’s just.

While in some cases the death penalty might be just, it isn’t right because it is misused, unfairly applied and often imposed in borderline cases. In the US, the death penalty is not used as a deterrent but as a political tool. It is a conservative sop to the right wing. It is clear that despite statistical evidence, that the death penalty is still being imposed on those defendants with a clear class and racial bias. The death penalty is often used cases where the political benefits to the DA outweighed the facts presented. Thus the death penalty often isn’t fair even though it is law of the land and therefore just. The law must be changed, not the judgements.

Awarding huge awards to plaintiffs in civil suits, while just, really isn’t right. Here I probably move from the left into the right side of the court. I understand awarding huge amounts in cases where the defendant is a huge multinational corporation but that often isn’t the case. Indeed, I often wonder how much of the US GNP goes into trying and insuring against this kind of litigation – both the justified and unjustified cases. The only real beneficiaries of huge lawsuits are the law firms – not the plaintiffs. I would argue the laws need to be rewritten, the case law challenged, but at the moment, the law of the land allows the lawsuits and the results are just even if the total costs are higher than people realize. Again, the law must be changed, not the judgements.

Letting a murder go because police tortured him into a confession, is just even if it doesn’t feel right. (Yeah, I know -torturing people is supposed to be OK now.) This is what legal systems are were supposed to do, protect all people – even the bad guys. Police departments need to follow the laws created and nurtured over the last centuries. This is important in order to keep the innocent from being justly accused and tried. In the current political and social climate, an unjust accusation is almost the same as a conviction – at least for the accused. Unfortunately, here the law has been changed railroaded, one hopes the judgements do not follow.

So is it right that Lay ‘get off?’ No, he should have paid, his memory should be demolished, his family should be forced to give back the money and Lay’s ashes should be scattered in an unmarked Texas feedlot. Is this ruling  just? Yes. There are few Lays and too many borderline cases no one has heard of where this type of justice is appropriate. It is right. I’m just afraid I’m one the few people who feels this way.

This is just another case of a judge laying down the law – right or weong.

Taking Liberals for a Spin

Wow! Someone even more cynical than I am. And eloquent. Wow!

Ross over at The Talent Show has a must read post about Kuo’s new book. His argument is that the religious right already has enough and knows exactly on which side their bread is buttered (and which page in the hymnal to turn to).

[...] Religious right might just be one of the most consistently rewarded interest groups in Modern American politics.

Don’t believe me?

Ask Chief Justice Roberts about his views on Abortion.

Ask public school officials how Abstinence only education is going?

Hell, ask every single outspoken Atheist or Secular Humanist about their chances of getting elected anywhere east of Los Angeles and South of Chicago.

Oh, while we’re at it, anyone out there read anything about how Americans finally kicked Intelligent Design Charlatans out of American Schools, en masse, and returned learning to the people who know something about science? Or about how the FCC stopped disproportionately responding to the complaints of a tiny minority of Religious Funduhmentalists? Ah, I didn’t think so.

Thus the recent ‘revelations’ by Tucker Carlson and the new book by David Kuo’s Tempting Faith is simply a way to get the centrist Republicans back on the right track. (Sorry)

My take is slightly different. Tucker was tossed out so Kuo’s information wouldn’t land like a complete bombshell. The Rove machine is still working on the proper spin. That spin will likely work with the exact ideas Ross is describing. Attempt to pull the center back in line while using the very tricks Kuo exposed, placing covert evangelical messages in speeches and press releases, in order to keep the evangelical right in line. This, coupled with high level meetings reassuring the mega-church leaders, who use their influence to pass the word (of God Bush Rove) down the line, will be designed to keep the the evangelical voters on tap.

Kuo seems much more sincere. He is deeply upset at what he sees as the betrayal of Christian priniples. The abandonment of the poor to push political themes – abortion, homosexuality etc. This is an example of Kuo’s naivity and not demonstrative of political realities. I really wonder if the Bush administration speaks any better of the top Republican leadership than of the top evangelicals. I somehow doubt it. I would probably even argue Kuo is right that the principles pushed by the religious right have little to do with what the bible said. (Except for the homosexual thing which the bible is really explicit on. Sad but true.) This feeling that Kuo is naive but not misguided is shared by E. J. Dionne Jr. in an OpEd for the Washington Post. He has another hope though

Exposés of hypocrisy are the mother’s milk of Washington journalism. Yet the most useful thing that could flow from Kuo’s revelations would not be a splashy exchange of charges and countercharges but rather a quiet reappraisal by rank-and-file evangelicals of their approach to politics.

I hope Kuo’s book promotes serious discussions in religious study groups around the country about whether the evangelicals’ alliance with political conservatism has actually made the world, well, more godly from their own point of view. What are evangelicals actually getting out of this partnership? Are they mostly being used by a coalition that, when the deals are cut, cares far more about protecting the interests of its wealthy and corporate supporters than its churchgoing foot soldiers?

Kuo is being cut up by some administration loyalists. That’s not surprising, but it’s painful for me. I met Kuo in the 1990s through a conservative friend and was impressed by the power of his religious faith and his passion for developing a conservative approach to helping the poor that would be as serious as liberal efforts but, in his view, more effective.

At the same time, while I do think Bush uses his evangelical born-again methods to political advantage, I also think that is one of the few areas where he is sincere. At least in the sense of following the current religious currents being formed by that segment of the population. His concerns are in banning homosexual marriages, abstenance first, abortion etc. He would prefer a unification of a church and state today and not tomorrow. And, perhaps worse, he thinks this would be good not only for the country but for the world. That is part of his worldview – it is filtered through politics or not.

Nevertheless, I really don’t think this is part of an amazingly elaborate vote trap put in place by that master spider – Karl Rove.

But maybe Ross is right, this teacup thunderstorm is just there to take liberals for a spin.

Generation: Useless!

Last night on the German public radio station WDR-5 (a little like NPR) there was an extremely depressing story (in German) about the result of economic expansion coupled with social hot spots. The result is a generation of teenagers and young adults literally without any perspectives. WDR called it Generation: Useless!

Humans are extremely social creatures… and one of the central duties of human co-existence is to develop integration; therefore I find it terrible to think that someone is useless and dispensable. On the other side we have a reality in the workplace, forcing more and more people temporarily or permanently in a situation, where they not only feel useless but socially aren’t necessary and therefore forced farther and farther to the sidelines. New research speaks increasingly of exclusion. [my translation]

That quote from the social scientist, Franz Josef Krafeld sums up the current debate in Germany. A recently released study by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES, a Social Democratic think tank; Stiftung = Foundation) confirms that social divisions are increasing in Germany with the development of a new lowest class (Unterschicht – my mistranslation should become understandable shortly). This has started an avalanche of debates in the current German coalition government and in intellectual circles.

One of the most important aspects of the new FES study isn’t the existence of the new lowest class (making up about 8 percent of the German population, 4 percent the west and 20 percent in the east) but rather the fact that this class has absolutely no economic or social perspectives. Lacking enough education and anything approaching social support groups, the youth in these classes have little or no chance of escaping the trap of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time, leaving either crime, religious fanaticism,  political extremism or often all three as the only outlets. The economic and social problems are exacerbated by enormous changes in the workplace; due to modernisation and rationalisation and driven by globalisation, ´where jobs that once would have been done by low or non-qualified personal, are now being done by robots, more educated persons (who themselves find the workplace increasingly competitive) or simply directly exported to low wage countries.

WDR makes the comparison of the current social tension in some areas of Germany to that of the powder keg in north Paris this summer during the riots. In Germany there are immigration issues although these have little or nothing to do with the scale of problems seen in other countries like France, UK and the US. After the Second World War, Germany imported large numbers of what were then called ‘guest workers,’ many from Turkey. The idea was that these workers would help rebuild Germany and then go home, thus nothing  was done to integrate these men and women either linguistically or socially. The result of these policies, large numbers of a working class, often with poor knowledge of the German language coupled with religious and cultural differences, has resulted in a new ghettoisation with many cities having ‘Turkish quarters’ (Türkenviertel). Today, many of the third generation ‘guests’ have almost no chance of finding gainful employment. (To be fair, many are gainfully employed and have integrated themselves into German society while preserving their cutural differences.)

But not only do the immigrant youth have a problem. As can be seen in the statistics, former East German citizens, especially those born right around the reunification have similar problems with different causes. The absolute collapse of industry following the fall of the East German regime, followed by ineffective (and what I would call typically Democratic) attempts to shore up the economy, left large numbers of East German youth without vocational prospects. Since there was little or no work to be had, the more capable or adventurous moved west, leaving behind those too timid or those unable or unwilling to adapt to the new social structure. Here the resultant political mixture is even more vile with the resulting rise of the Neo-Nazis; a most current example being last month’s election in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern where the right extremist party NPD won 7.3 percent of the vote.

Spiegel-Online in it’s coverage (German) of the issue makes several important other points.

The study showed a paradox: although the German government has extremely high social spending levels – reaching about 30 percent of the GNP – conditions are below average. In a social ranking of 24 countries, German reached an exceedingly poor 21st place.

Also the alarming political viewpoint in large parts of the population, as the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has now determined, isn’t really new. More and more people are disappointed in democracy as was shown during the presentation a new statistical report from 2006, produced in cooperation between the German census bureau [Statistishe Bundesamt] and the Office of Political Education [Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung]. According to the report, only 38 percent of the people in the new German states believed democracy was the best governmental form for Germany. [my translation]

Do I see this as a failure of Democracy? I don’t know but I do think it shows a failure of a 4 year election cycle. Do I see any solution, political or economic? No. Not right now and that both scares and depresses me.

The ghettos being created on the edges (and indeed centers) of European cities are becoming little different from slums on the outskirts of cities like Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro or Cape Town. I really don’t know if the marginalisation of large groups of people is necessarily that new to humanity. What is new is the realisation that this marginalisation is very, very wrong. The fact that those lost souls have literally no place left and no value except as consumers of specific form of produce – marketed exclusively for those groups – makes a dark cyberpunk future seem all too more realistic.

A useless generation.

Aside: After re-reading this entry, I noticed while it might be interesting, it had absolutely nothing to do with what I wanted to talk about. I’ll have to return to this topic again.

Light Posting: Under the Weather…

Sorry for the light posting today, despite the wonderful fall weather here, I’m just not up to it today.  I’m fighting some weird bug that just doesn’t seem to want to stop bothering me. 

Hopefully more tomorrow…

Re-Judging the Courts

The LA-Times has an article up about legislation to check judicial power in many states.

Judges across several Western states could soon face new limits on their authority and threats to their independence, as conservatives campaign for ballot measures that aim to rein in what they describe as “runaway courts.”

Frustration among the right has been building for years, especially since the high court in Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. Politicians and pastors have accused judges of ignoring the public will and legislating from the bench.

The solution to having ‘activist judges?’ Let people take them to court.

That’s right. In South Dakota the ballot has a proposition that would allow private individuals to sue judges for their rulings. What would this do? It would stop any realistic judicial work. It is a populist measure designed to destroy the judicial branch of the government.

Other measures include limiting terms for top judges in Colorado, the right for residents to recall ‘dissatisfactory’ judges in Montana or the election of Supreme and Appeals court justices by geographic district in Oregon. The idea is to better reflect the (conservative) motivations and values of the communities they serve. The article continues

Supporters cast their efforts as populist and democratic, a way to make judges answer more directly to the citizens they serve. “This is a very measured and mild response to the perception that our courts are out of control,” said John Andrews, a former legislator promoting the amendment to impose term limits in Colorado.

Opponents, however, warn that the initiatives would begin to dismantle the system of checks and balances set up under the U.S. Constitution.

The idea behind having a long term judiciary is to attempt to keep populist and activist politicians and demagogues from gaining power. This is slowly losing ground against a reactionary, theocratic, conservative base.

But why do many people feel the judiciary is out of control?  Is the problem the judiciary? Is crime rampant in America? Or is it the American idea that everyone should have their day in court?

First, the explosion the relative number of attorneys in the past 30 years has had an amazing effect both on what Americans feel justice is but in how law is practiced. How significant is this effect? One way is to look at the number of people entering the bar every year. (Which was also the only online statistic I could find, I would have preferred total lawyers, but couldn’t find historical data.) The chart below shows the number of new admissions to the bar association per year verses the US poplulation.

New Memberships ABA vs US Poplulation

This shows that, in the last 40 years, the number of new lawyers has increased by a factor of five while the US population has only increased by a third. As higher education becomes more available and because attorneys traditionally have been seen as a higher income profession, the number of lawyers has increased. These well trained individuals need something to do. They then start litigating cases which would have been considered silly or at least marginal 60 years ago. They also go into lobbying and politics. If something needs legislation, it is the number of new attorneys and not the judicial branch of government.

Is there a need for so many lawyers? For some reason I don’t think the US has dropped into a new form of lawlessness. Even though, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College London, the US is raked number one in the world for prisoners per capita (738 per 100,000) and  total prisoners (2,186,230). The religious right may point to the disintegration of moral fiber, things like a new low in marriage rates. But while the US may be less safe than other western countries, the idea that crime or immorality is destroying the country is overblown.

Perhaps most damaging is the willingness to litigate in almost any situation. This is caused by an excess in attorneys, an increase in awards and higher number of situations actually taken to litigation. This is exacerbated by an increasing division between fanatics willing to push almost any position as far as they can. It is, however, also caused by large corporations such as insurance companies or big tobacco using the courts as a stopgap for avoiding responsibility.

This it isn’t the judiciary that needs replacing. It’s the mindset of the population coupled with well funded corporate legal departments that need to change. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the possibilities of turning back the clock and reducing the lawyer to person ratio remain slim.

But until that happens, let’s not re-judge our courtrooms.

Attack of the 10-foot Afghan Marijuana Plants

CNN is reporting that Canadian troops are having some difficulties.

Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy — almost impenetrable forests of marijuana plants 10 feet tall.

[...]

“We tried burning them with white phosphorous — it didn’t work. We tried burning them with diesel — it didn’t work. The plants are so full of water right now … that we simply couldn’t burn them,” he said.

Even successful incineration had its drawbacks.

I guess that last is a matter of opinion.

Anyway the original article is short and fun. Read and giggle.

Hat Tip: DefenseTech

Bushwacking the Truth

Fred Kaplan has an excellent piece up at Slate about the backstory to the current North Korean crisis. He uses a McCain campaign misstep to frame the article but the contents are pure history. This is a who did what, when kind of thing. (What won’t be written when the House Ethics Committee is finished investigating Mark Foley.)

The meat of the article is how the Agreed Framework, the US-North Korean arrangement, was bombed by the Bush administration.

The accord fell apart, but not for the reasons that McCain and others have suggested. First, the U.S.-led consortium never provided the light-water reactors. (So much for the wild claims I’ve heard lately that North Korea got the bomb through Clinton-supplied technology.) Congress never authorized the money; the South Koreans, who were led by a harder-line government than the one in power now, scuttled the deal after a North Korean spy submarine washed up on their shores.

Second, when President George W. Bush entered the White House in January 2001, he made it clear, right off, that the Agreed Framework was dead and that he had no interest in further talks with the North Korean regime; his view was that you don’t negotiate with evil, you defeat it or wait for it to crumble.

Third, a few months into Bush’s term, evidence mounted that the North Koreans had been … not quite violating the Agreed Framework but certainly maneuvering around it. Confronted by U.S. intelligence data in October 2002, Pyongyang officials admitted that they’d been enriching uranium—an alternative route (though much slower than plutonium) to getting a bomb.

It should be noted that the bomb that the North Koreans set off on Sunday was apparently a plutonium bomb, not a uranium bomb. In other words, it was a bomb made entirely in Bush’s time, not at all in Clinton’s. [my emphasis]

The entire article is well worth the read. It puts most of the current Republican rhetoric into perspective. Especially Bush’s press conference on Wednesday.

Now, if someone would just wack Bush instead of bushwacking the truth.

Quicky: Translating Politics.

For a quick snigger at the cost of Tom Reynolds, check out Damned Spot: A Foley Apology over a Slate.

Democratic Cross?

The LA Times ran a story last night about an upcoming book from a former White House aide. But in the current political climate, this won’t be just any book and this isn’t just any aide.

A new book by a former White House official says President Bush’s top political advisers privately ridiculed evangelical supporters as “nuts” and “goofy” while embracing them in public and using their votes to help win elections.

The former official also writes that the White House office of faith-based initiatives, which Bush promoted as a nonpolitical effort to support religious social service organizations, was told to host pre-election events designed to mobilize religious voters who would most likely favor Republican candidates.

The assertions by David Kuo, the former No. 2 official in the faith-based initiatives program, have rattled Republican strategists already struggling to convince evangelical voters to turn out this fall for the GOP.

The book, “Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction,” due out in stores on Monday is another example of GOP disarray. This time the sniping isn’t coming from the center of the Republican party, but from a side not normally expected, the religious right. This book is being written by a former Republican aide. According to what I am reading, the Foley scandal was leaked by a former Republican aide. Do you see a pattern here?

Keith Obermann started the whole thing by stealthily obtaining a pre-release copy of the book. (Someone from his show walked into at bookstore and asked for it. That’s investigative reporting!) Olbermann continues with the raking of the muck.

Kuo, who has complained publicly in the past about the funding shortfalls, goes several steps further in his new book.

He says some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as “the nuts.”

“National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy,’” Kuo writes.

So if I read between the lines correctly, Kuo has written a book describing his experiences in the Bush administration where he seems upset that the faith-base initiatives were politically motivated. Well – DUH!

Did anyone really think Karl Rove was a wondering preacher? I would have been surprised if he had said, “Office of Faith –Based Initiatives? How many people and how much money do you need?” Instead he is being quoted with “I don’t know – just get me a f#cking faith-based thing! Got it?” Well, yes Mr Rove, I think I do. (Aside: The New Republic  is saying that Rove pressured Mark Foley into running again even though Foley was thinking about retiring. Oops. His bad!)

Of course this isn’t new news. It isn’t even newish. From a story on Stateline.org from March 15, 2005

The Rev. Jim Dickerson is founder and pastor of the New Community Church, a highly active, interracial congregation in Washington’s inner city. He should be a perfect candidate for George Bush’s faith-based initiative, a soldier in the president’s “army of compassion.”

[snip]

I listened,” he says, “but it was quickly obvious this was just a smokescreen to recruit blacks and minorities into the Republican party by bribing them with money and access to power — even while covering up cuts in vital social programs and giving big tax cuts to the wealthy.”

Will the Democrats use this to crucify Bush? Probably not.

This book will be released four weeks before the election. Another bullet in the Democratic political revolver. And it does make a nice silver bullet. (Now, do the former Republican aides Democrats have three bullets left?)

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