Tuesday, July 27, 2004

This is the second night in a row that I find myself too exhausted to write or think.  So, I'm starting the end of Real Art act II tomorrow, a bit earlier than I had hoped, but, hey, Tom Tomorrow (who, along with Atrios of Eschaton, also got a blogger's press pass to the DNC; go check him out) did it when he moved; why can't I?
Anyway, I want to leave you with one last post for my absence.  I've only glanced at these articles (I make it a Real Art policy to thoroughly read any article to which I link), but they look pretty good, and definitely in keeping with the topics I've been hitting here for two and a half years.  So here you go: another one of those "look out for uncontrolled cop culture" posts.
Means "Who polices the police?" in Latin
A Houston Chronicle two part series:
1 in 3 police shootings involve unarmed people
Law enforcement officers in Harris County have shot 65 unarmed people since 1999, killing 17. These incidents represent more than a third of all local police shootings, but experts call them the most preventable.

After two unarmed teenagers were shot and killed in separate incidents last year, the Houston Chronicle analyzed 189 shootings by officers from 18 local law enforcement agencies in the past 5 1/2 years.

Officers' actions were ruled justified in nearly all of the shootings examined. A shooting can be legally acceptable if an officer believes someone's life is in danger.

But only half of those shot by police carried a gun or a knife. Another 7 percent held another object, such as a screwdriver, a piece of lumber or a pipe.

Nearly once a month, on average, police shot someone who had no weapon.
Click here for  the rest.
And part two:
Since 1999, only 5 police officers have
faced discipline after shooting civilians
Across Harris County, law-enforcement officers seldom face discipline or criminal charges in the shootings, according to a Houston Chronicle review of personnel information from 18 local agencies on 193 officers who killed or wounded citizens over the last five years. The study included the review of thousands of pages of personnel files and disciplinary records provided by the agencies, and interviews with dozens of officials.

Since 1999, only five officers faced discipline from their departments after shooting a citizen. Three received reprimands, such as letters in their personnel files. Another received a 16-day suspension after shooting a relative at a bus stop.

Only one of the officers was fired -- though investigations into some recent shootings are pending -- and three were prosecuted.

But the Chronicle review raises questions about several other incidents.

Officers received no discipline in at least four cases when internal investigations, forensic evidence and other inquiries exposed significant inconsistencies in their accounts.
And the discipline seems arbitrary.
Click here for the rest.  And click here for more on why police culture troubles me so much.
And that's it for a week or two: cue the Real Art theme song!
"Solfeggio" go!
Close curtain and fade to black...

Monday, July 26, 2004

No blogging today because madness has descended upon me.  Packing is taking up a great deal of time, but there are also numerous last minute snags.  For instance, my rush order for new parts to repair my computer that's been out since I was in Baton Rouge got screwed up and we're leaving Saturday--when I found out about it, I kicked a bag in my rage.  Then I apologized to the poor bag, which really wasn't doing anything but sitting there.  I'm tired, but I've stayed up all night (which is not really all that unusual, actually) to try to get this computer thing straightened out with customer service which opens at 7:30.  To top things off, moments ago I realized that I've lost my wedding ring somewhere among the carnage of the move. 
Go check out Eschaton.  Atrios has a press pass for the Democratic National Convention, and he's already made a few posts.

Pray for me.



Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Peace President
From WorkingForChange, uber-Texan Molly Ivins on the latest round of Republican talking points:
According to The New York Times, "several Republicans," presumably speaking for the Bush campaign, noted that American casualties in Iraq are down from last month. Actually, that is quite untrue. Forty-two Americans were killed in Iraq in June, presumed to be an unusually bloody month because it was leading up to the big handover of sovereignty. As of July 21, 43 more Americans have been killed in Iraq, with 10 days still to go in the month.

Total number of Americans killed so far is 901, but the new line is: What War? We turned it over to the Iraqis, see? Presto, it disappears, just like magic. It's their problem now. Doesn't have anything to do with us. Bush is out campaigning by calling himself "the peace president." Honest. "He repeated the words 'peace' or 'peaceful' many times, as he had done increasingly in his recent appearances," reported The New York Times from Iowa this week.
Of course, this is presaged by Bush's comment a couple of years ago that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is also a "man of peace." This was right after Sharon sent the tanks into the occupied territories for one of the biggest bloodbaths in the entire history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  Orwell had Big Brother; we've got Big Monkey.
Click here for the more GOP lies.

Dissent at the War Memorial
From the Progressive, radical historian and author of A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn, speaks at the WWII War Memorial Celebration, and unearths the previously buried wisdom of our elders:
"Yes, World War II had a strong moral aspect to it--the defeat of fascism. But I deeply resent the way the so-called good war has been used to cast its glow over all the immoral wars we have fought in the past fifty years: in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan. I certainly don't want our government to use the triumphal excitement surrounding World War II to cover up the horrors now taking place in Iraq.
"I don't want to honor military heroism--that conceals too much death and suffering. I want to honor those who all these years have opposed the horror of war."

The audience applauded. But I wasn't sure what that meant. I knew I was going against the grain of orthodoxy, the romanticization of the war in movies and television and now in the war memorial celebrations in the nation's capital.

There was a question-and-answer period. The first person to walk up front was a veteran of World War II, wearing parts of his old uniform. He spoke into the microphone: "I was wounded in World War II and have a Purple Heart to show for it. If President Bush were here right now I would throw that medal in his face."

There was a moment of what I think was shock at the force of his statement. Then applause. I wondered if I was seeing a phenomenon that recurs often in society--when one voice speaks out against the conventional wisdom, and is recognized as speaking truth, people are drawn out of their previous silence.

Click here for the rest.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Three stories I've been following, all from the Associated Press via the Houston Chronicle.
First, an update on Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry's blatant cronyism:
Lobbyist's wife leaves post amid controversy

The wife of a lobbyist with close ties to the governor has resigned from her job with the Texas Health Department, saying she feared her continued employment would distract from the efforts of the fitness campaign she was hired to lead.

The Houston Chronicle reported last week that Martha "Marty" McCartt began directing the Texas Round-up festival, a program touted by Gov. Rick Perry, on July 1 with a salary of $40,000. The newspaper reported the job was not advertised or posted as normally required for state positions at that level.
That's funny: I was certain that she would resign in order to "spend more time with her family."  She really must be dedicated to her cause.
That's sarcasm, by the way.
Click here for the rest, and here for my original post.
Next, a brief on the Congressional ethics investigation of Republican House Majority Leader/Lizard King Tom DeLay making it past more GOP obstruction:
Panel declines to throw out DeLay case
The House ethics committee on Friday declined to dismiss a complaint accusing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of misusing his office to raise funds for Republicans and to marshal government resources against Democrats.

The committee said it would extend a preliminary inquiry into the charges made against the Sugar Land Republican for up to 45 days. The extension could push a decision on whether the accusations warrant a formal investigation to past Labor Day, when the fall election campaigns are in high gear.
Of course, DeLay continues to assert that the charges of ethics violations are without merit; however, the fact that the investigation has made it this far, past Republican attempts to scuttle it, shows that the Ethics Committee, at least, seems to believe that there's something worth looking into.
Click here for the rest, and here and here for earlier posts.
Finally, the mysteriously destroyed records of President Bush's Air National Guard service have mysteriously reappeared:
Pentagon releases new Bush National Guard records
The Pentagon on Friday released newly discovered payroll records from President Bush's 1972 service in the Alabama National Guard, though the records shed no new light on the president's activities during that summer.
A Pentagon official said the earlier contention that the records were destroyed was an "inadvertent oversight."

Like records released earlier by the White House, these computerized payroll records show no indication Bush drilled with the Alabama unit during July, August and September of 1972. Pay records covering all of 1972, released previously, also indicated no Guard service for Bush during those three months.
First, and obviously, this is really fishy.  It was fishy when these records, which at least one reporter contended existed as late as last month, were reported by the Pentagon as having been destroyed in the mid 1990s.  Their bizarre reconstitution raises that fishiness to the level of the smell of a Galveston beach.  I'm talking fishy on a grand scale.  It's time to reel this one in: Bush needs to be filleted and fried. 
Second, also obviously, Bush still has no proof that he actually showed up for duty during the months in question.  Frankly, it's beginning to look like Michael Moore and others who have been blasted by the entire Fox News Network are right.  Bush was a deserter during the Vietnam War.
Click here for the rest, and here and here for earlier posts.

Friday, July 23, 2004

In Texas, That Simply Means "Guilty"

The sad, sad story of Andrea Yates continues.  From the Houston Chronicle:
Yates was transferred from the Skyview Unit, a prison psychiatric facility near Rusk, to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston on Monday after lapsing into what doctors called "an acute confusional state."

Her mental and physical state had declined for the past six to eight weeks, they said.

Jutta Kennedy said her daughter, who had stopped eating and lost about 30 pounds, is under a suicide watch and has an attendant with her 24 hours a day.

Kennedy, her two sons and attorney John O'Sullivan visited Yates for a little more than an hour Thursday.

Afterward, Kennedy said her daughter seemed comforted to see her, although "she doesn't know what she is saying." After exchanging pleasantries, she said, Yates asked how the children were.

"I told her they are fine and that they are in heaven and that's the best place to be. I don't know what else to say," Kennedy said, with tears in her eyes.
Click here for the rest.
If ever there was a truly reasonable and just case for finding someone not guilty by reason of insanity, this is it.  Of course, here in the Lone Star State, that doesn't matter.  Yates is serving a life sentence for killing her five children, and she's still mad as a hatter.  I remember when the whole thing happened a while back: so many people were like "fry the bitch." 
I don't get it.  I just don't get it.

A Brief History of Mafia
Involvement in U.S.
Presidential Politics

From CounterPunch courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe:
In 1960, all three major candidates were mobbed up. JFK's father, the ex-bootlegger Joe Kennedy, dealt directly with his former associates in the Outfit, tapping them for untraceable vote-buying cash and their unrivaled vote-rigging muscle. Nixon, then vice president, had long worked his mob contacts ­ chiefly the Los Angeles gang of Mickey Cohen and New York's Meyer Lansky ­ for secret campaign funds. Meanwhile, the Chicago Outfit ­ playing both sides as always ­ sought Nixon's favor by agreeing to a CIA request for help in assassinating Fidel Castro.

Johnson was backed by the Carlos Marcello gang out of New Orleans, who paid the all-powerful Texas senator $100,000 a year to keep the legislative heat off their gambling and racing interests. Of course, this mob dime was small beer to Lyndon, whose career had been bankrolled by massive cash infusions (some of them legal) from the construction and military servicing firm Brown & Root ­ now more famous as the chief cash cow in the Halliburton empire. (Like the Outfit, Halliburton always plays both sides.)

The rest, as they say, is history. Kennedy's Outfit connections trumped Johnson's Marcello play for the nomination, then Joe's vote-riggers outmuscled Nixon's vote-riggers in the election ­ the closest in American history. Nixon felt, rightly, that he'd been robbed of a presidency he'd bought fair and square. Thus he went on to even greater illegality ­ including outright treason in his secret negotiations with Vietnamese officials to scuttle peace talks before the 1968 election ­ to ensure his perch atop the greasy pole. Millions of people would die from his expansion of a war that U.S. officials had already privately conceded was a disastrous mistake. As Russo points out, gangland's rap sheet looks like a hymnbook next to the genocidal record of the upperworld.
I guess that means that the Bush brothers' election theft of 2000 is as American as apple pie and George Washington...or pizza and Don Corleone, for that matter.
Click here for the rest.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

First they distance themselves from Whoopi
Now they distance themselves from Margaret Cho
From the Daily Kos courtesy of Eschaton:
"Margaret Cho has been "uninvited" to perform at the Unity 2004 event which is taking place at Avalon, this coming Monday, July 26, around the Democratic National Convention. The Human Rights Campaign is one of 10 GLBT groups coming together July 26 at the nightclub to "celebrate GLBT strength and unity." Asked to headline the event, Cho was preparing to preview material from her new State of Emergency tour as part of an unpaid benefit performance. She has since been "uninvited" by a spokesman for the HRC, who cited "a potential media firestorm" and referenced the recent criticism of Whoopi Goldberg's routine at a Kerry fundraiser. Unity 2004 is not officially a part of the Democratic National Convention or the Kerry campaign.  Many of the groups involved in Unity 2004 did not agree with the decision to rescind the invitation."
Man, the Green Party is looking better and better every day.

Click here for the rest. 


From AlterNet:
Democratic political strategy simply assumes that people know where their economic interest lies and that they will act on it by instinct. There is no need for any business-bumming class-war rhetoric on the part of candidates or party spokesmen, and there is certainly no need for a liberal to actually get his hands dirty fraternizing with the disgruntled. Let them look at the record and see for themselves: Democrats are slightly more generous with Social Security benefits, slightly stricter on environmental regulations, and do less union-busting than Republicans.
The gigantic error in all this is that people don't spontaneously understand their situation in the great sweep of things. Liberalism isn't a force of karmic nature that pushes back when the corporate world goes too far; it is a man-made contrivance as subject to setbacks and defeats as any other. Consider our social welfare apparatus, the system of taxes, regulations, and social insurance that is under sustained attack these days. Social Security, the FDA, and all the rest of it didn't just spring out of the ground fully formed in response to the obvious excesses of a laissez-faire system; they were the result of decades of movement-building, of bloody fights between strikers and state militias, of agitating, educating, and thankless organizing. More than forty years passed between the first glimmerings of a left-wing reform movement in the 1890s and the actual enactment of its reforms in the 1930s. In the meantime scores of the most rapacious species of robber baron went to their reward untaxed, unregulated, and unquestioned.

Click here for the rest. 


Well, we're getting into the endgame of our tenure in Houston.  Now it's time for the mad dash to get everything packed, clean the house, finish off some last minute various details, and GET THE HELL OUT OF DODGE!!!!
Consequently, my commentary will be light for the next couple of weeks, but I'll try to keep posting excerpts and links every day until a brief hiatus for the actual move itself.  I still haven't done anything about getting broadband set up in Baton Rouge, but we will have phone service, so for a time, I'll be back in normal cyberspace (as opposed to hyper-cyberspace, where spaceships go faster than the speed of light...you know, like in Star Wars).

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

From the New York Times via the Houston Chronicle:
Large worker surplus hampers growth in earnings
"There's too much slack in the labor market to generate any pressure on wage growth," said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research institution based in Washington. "We are going to need a much lower unemployment rate."
He noted that at 5.6 percent, the national unemployment rate is still back at the same level as at the end of the recession in November 2001.

Even though the economy has been adding hundreds of thousands of jobs almost every month this year, stagnant wages could put a dent in the prospects for economic growth, some economists say. If incomes continue to lag behind the increase in prices, it may hinder the ability of ordinary workers to spend money at a healthy clip, undermining one of the pillars of the expansion so far.
Click here for the rest.
And from the Houston Chronicle opinion section:
Once again, it's a bad job growth economy
The economy added 1.3 million jobs in 2004's first half. But the wage and salary graph still looks like Interstate 70 leaving Denver and heading toward Topeka.
"Five out of the last six months the real hourly wage has declined, and probably six out of the last seven months," says Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "The pie is getting larger" in the economy. "But where are the slices going?"

Not into wage and salary increases, so far.

One factor is that, for various reasons, Hoyt believes the official unemployment rate of 5.6 percent understates the number of people who want work but can't find it. With relatively more available workers, employers don't have to bid so high for their services.
But why are there so many idle workers in the first place? Why haven't companies hired at a pace to match their growing revenue?

The answer, of course, is productivity, the major U.S. economic story of the past decade. Thanks to computers, robots, division of labor and, yes, layoffs and downsizing, the United States is churning out many more products and services per worker than it once did.

In the long run, productivity is a wonderful thing; it boosts employee pay, corporate profits, public health and other key standards. But so far, in this cycle, it has mainly boosted corporate profits. Almost all of the gains of productivity have gone to shareholders; hardly any have gone to workers.

(Emphasis mine.)
Click here for the rest.
The last line in boldface says it all: this is the fallacy of neo-liberalism.  Neo-liberal economists and their politician-fans believe that deregulation of business (i.e., getting rid of anti-pollution laws, predatory lending laws, protective tarriffs for endangered industries, etc.) coupled with massive tax cuts for the wealthy equal economic growth, which supposedly helps everybody in the long run--neo-liberals, also called "supply siders," believe that "a rising tide raises all the boats." 
Sometimes this actually seems to work in the short term (even though deregulation tends to shaft consumers and destroy the environment, but I digress); indeed, if the government bleeds enough money into the wealth sector, some of those dollars are bound to be reinvested.  However, over a longer stretch of time, that short term bump loses its momentum.  That is to say, the wealthy ultimately keep most of that economic gain for themselves--there is absolutely no guarantee that they will use their tax cut and deregulation windfall to create more and better paying jobs. 
Of course, without more and better paying jobs, consumer demand goes down, taking the overall economy with it.  Then the call is raised once again for more deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy, creating another short term bump, which, again, makes neo-liberalism seem to have some validity.  I've been watching this cycle continue since I was in high school back in the early 1980s: now, we're right back where we were then, in a recession with lingering unemployment, with Republicans and some Democrats calling for more "supply side" economic measures.
Don't buy it.  It's a bunch of bullshit, and it'll get us right back where we are now in just a few years.
Actually, if we were to take neo-liberalism to it's logical conclusion, the US would look more like a typical third world country: a moderately sized wealthy class, a smaller sized middle class, and a HUGE poverty class.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

On the Disenfranchisement of African-Americans
And the Theft of the Presidency in 2000
My favorite muckraking journalist, so despised by both the political and news media establishments in the United States that he has to work in England, is pounding away at the potential for a repeat of Jeb Bush's vote-stealing scheme that gave the election of 2000 to brother George. 
First, an essay by the man himself on how white Democrats are beginning to accept the unacceptable, that they were literally robbed of the White House:
Here's how Senator Kerry got the message. Two weeks ago, when I was in Chicago, Jesse Jackson asked me to join him for breakfast at the Marriott Hotel. To my surprise, he'd also invited Senator John Edwards. Jackson had made copies of my editorial for the San Francisco Chronicle on the missing one million votes ... and wouldn't let the wannabe Veep touch his bagel until he'd read every word.
Just when Edwards thought he could have a sip of coffee, Jackson required him to watch the segment of our BBC television special, "Bush Family Fortunes," with the latest analysis on the non-count of Black votes in Florida. In the 2000 race, 95,000 African-American votes were dumped in the Florida swamps, marked as spoiled.
Edwards, succumbing to hunger, caffeine deprivation and Reverend Jackson's intense interrogation, caved in and promised to take the message of the missing Black votes to the white side of his party.
Congresswoman Corrine Brown joined us. When she read the story and saw the film, she was ready to spit bullets. She was especially upset that British television covered the story while, in the USA, the Black story was blacked out.
The film clip would get the Congresswoman in hot water.  
Click here for the rest.
And for the inside scoop on the hot water in which Ms. Brown was thrown, Mr. Palast runs a BuzzFlash action alert on the Congressional ordeal:
The Political Lynching of Congresswoman Brown
Last Wednesday morning Corrine Brown watched an advanced copy of our new DVD, Bush Family Fortunes, including the details on how the Republican party stole the election in 2000. After seeing these facts, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a black woman w/ a height end sense of justice, walked over to the capital on Thursday and put on the record the facts she had seen.
NBC News first reported tonight about an "outburst" on the floor of the House. Turns out it was Corrine Brown (D- Jacksonville, FL) debating the request made by five Representatives to have the UN monitor U.S. Elections (see article re/their original proposal below). Turns out that House leadership answered their call with legislation forbidding any U.N. money be used to monitor elections in the U.S.
Rep. Brown then said that the House leadership had participated in a "coup d'etat" in 2000 by stealing the election and that we would need monitoring to make sure it didn't happen again. They played a tape of the leadership then shouting Brown down, slamming the gavel and telling her to get off the floor.
The House then voted along party lines - now here is the big news - TO HAVE HER COMMENTS STRICKEN FROM THE RECORD:
The House's presiding officer, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, ruled that Brown's words violated a House rule.
"Members should not accuse other members of committing a crime such as, quote, stealing, end quote, an election," Thornberry said.
Click here for the rest.
The reality is that the Republicans really did steal the election of 2000, and there's a mountain of evidence to prove it, thanks to Palast's investigative journalism.  Four years later, the conspiracy of silence upheld by politicians and journalists alike is starting to show some signs of strain, which is making the conspiracy become all the more obvious: the Republicans punished Brown for speaking the truth about their illegitimate President; then, in an act straight out of Orwell's 1984, changed the truth into untruth. 
Are you mad yet?

Monday, July 19, 2004

 'Bloggers' allowed to cover party conventions
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
More than 30 independent Web journalists have been accredited to cover the Democratic convention, and the Republicans said they'll also credential so-called bloggers.
It's the first time bloggers will be joining the thousands of newspaper, magazine and broadcast journalists at the quadrennial presidential nomination events.
Click here for the rest.
Cool.  When do I get my invitation?
Actually, this is, indeed, pretty cool.  Bloggers, biased as they are, have become an extremely important, albeit imperfect, stop-gap solution to the ongoing utter failure of the mainstream media.  The corporate news will, no doubt, continue to cover the conventions as fluff-piece, horse race journalism.  Bloggers will cover policy, which the mainstream news used to do when I was a kid.  I think Tom Tomorrow of This Modern World is going, but then he's been covering the conventions for his comic strip for some years now.  I think that Atrios of Eschaton is going, too.  I can't wait: this'll be some good stuff.

 Bush's snub of NAACP shrinks GOP 'tent'
From the Houston Chronicle:
Once touted as a `big tent' with room for all Americans, the Republican Party has taken on the look of a teepee after the president's NAACP snub.

In his first White House campaign, President George W. Bush said the Republican Party was a "big tent" under which there was room for Americans of every stripe. It's a wonderful political metaphor, but like the big-top circus it was built on, the big tent packed up and left after the 2000 campaign.
The latest evidence that the Republicans are less interested in an inclusive party than they were before Bush's election is the president's refusal to address the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which ended Thursday in Philadelphia.

Bush cited scheduling conflicts, but the excuse of being too busy to meet with the nearly century-old black civil rights organization is even more insulting than the real reason Bush didn't go: He was offended by NAACP president Kweisi Mfume and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond's harsh criticisms of his administration.
Click here for the rest.
What this essay doesn't mention is the reason that it's so easy for Bush to get away with such a snub: Republicans neither seek out, nor believe that they need African-American voters in order to win the White House, or any other elected office, for that matter.  Ever since Nixon first used the "Southern Strategy," which uses carefully coded language and policy aimed at stoking racist fear and hatred in white southern voters, the Republicans have slowly moved down the slippery slope toward racism.  Most Republicans may very well be just fine with black people on an individual basis, but their policy and politics ultimately amount to racist oppression.  Bush knows this, which means that he really has nothing to lose by blowing off the NAACP. 
For more on this, see my posts on the Trent Lott affair of 2002, here and here.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

A former student of mine, currently a senior at the school where I used to teach, just started his own politically oriented blog.  He's liberal, of course, and his information and opinions seem to be pretty good--he does have a major tendency to glorify the Democrats, however, but what the hell, at least he's not a Republican.  Do me a favor and go check him out:
I dropped by yesterday, myself, and got to have a bit of fun.  Miles, or JFK as he prefers to call himself on his blog for some reason, posted a link to the same story that I posted yesterday about Iraq's new Prime Minister murdering six suspected insurgents.  In the comments section for the post, I saw that he had garnered his very first conservative detractor.  It wasn't a particularly shrewd or clever detractor, unfortunately, but I figured that young JFK could use a hand nailing this obviously Fox news fed know-it-all.  So, for your entertainment, and because it represents the bulk of my writing for the last 24 hours, I now reproduce both the troll's opening salvo and my response to it.
First, the troll:
Anonymous said...

Do you absolutely have nothing else better to do with your life? Why not study medicine or law for Pro Bono cases? Why must you bash someone who represents you? Gore and Lieberman (BORE and LOSERMAN) couldn't even win their own state! And you are supporting someone who changes his views to suit the crowd he speaks to. No one is perfect. We have never had a perfect president. But your Bush-bashing is somewhat redundant. You must listen to everything you hear on TV. Also, Bush reads the REAL news and not the news that has a view to make a REAL judgement. I see him as a man to look up to. You REALLY need to take a step back. Do you really think you are right? I have erased the board and read the real news and come to the conclusion that I have applied here. Also, about the stupid prisoners. I bet you are one of the people who says we mistreat the POWs. How do you think they treat ours? Most POWs don't make it home. Only a few have they shown killed. These soldiers are tortured over there. And if we don't make a stand against these evil men, who will? We are the most powerful country in the world. And they were able to penetrate us. Of course you blame Bush...but the warning signs were there all through Clinton's administration. You speak with wisdom you must have earned from TV. Walk around the world and then speak. Turn off your TV...God knows kids don't know how to do that anymore!
Now, my response:
Ron said...

Hmmm. It looks like you guys have gotten hit by what they call a "troll" over on the Eschaton comment boards. It ought to be easy to wipe his ass.
Why must you bash someone who represents you?
Ahem, Bush, with his brother's help down in Florida, stole the election of 2000 in a disenfranchisement scheme that kept tens of thousands of black voters outside the polls on election day. Bush represents no one: he is a criminal who should be behind bars for this act alone.
Gore and Lieberman (BORE and LOSERMAN) couldn't even win their own state!
I have no love for those two corporate Democrats, myself, although Gore is showing some progressive spine these days, but I must point out that, even though they lost Gore's home state of Tennessee, Lieberman is from New Jersey, which they won. Get your facts straight, troll.
...supporting someone who changes his views...
Versus someone who changes his reasons for...let's see here...tax cuts for the rich, reasons to invade Iraq, and just about any other action that has had it's original rationale exposed as the bullshit it is. Politicians have to change their stances from time to time, troll, due to political reality. I can forgive that to some extent depending on the circumstances. But your hero, a talking chimp, is a straight up liar, responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent individuals. Whatever. Vote for him if you must, but you're a fool.
You must listen to everything you hear on TV.
Even though broadcast news coverage of Bush has become more objective as of late (like they had a choice after it became completely clear that there were no WMDs, no connection to al Qaeda, Abu Ghraib, etc.), the corporate news media in the US still tend to take Bush seriously even though it's now obvious to all but true believers that he's a faith-based, dim-witted, criminal. Note that the US press (except for Bloomberg) has not even mentioned the Allawi story: the real stuff that our media won't even touch is in the foreign press; it was the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia that broke the story.
I see him as a man to look up to.
You're kidding, right?
Do you really think you are right?
Are you serious? I mean, what do you think this blog is? A joke? What a patronizing and pointless question; you're completely in line with Rumsfeld, O'Reilly, Hannity, and all the other boorish big mouths on the right. Of course, he thinks he's right, silly troll!
Also, about the stupid prisoners.
You mean the young boys sodomized by US soldiers on film at Abu Ghraib? Who's stupid here?
I bet you are one of the people who says we mistreat the POWs.
Ahem, we do mistreat POWs, and it's on film. Pull your head out of the sand and admit the obvious: the US does both good and bad things; lately we're doing more of the latter.
How do you think they treat ours?
As if that justifies abandoning the civilized principles for which our nation supposedly stands. What a lame justification! "They do it, too." You're a loser, troll.
And they were able to penetrate us.
It's difficult to avoid any puns about Abu Ghraib and the word "penetrate," but I will for expediency: the real point is that the Iraqis were in no way involved with 9/11, and that is an indisputable FACT--even Bush agrees with that. No, the 9/11 terrorists mostly came from our close ally, Saudi Arabia, and the rest came from Egypt, another ally.
Aside: a study a few months back found that viewers of the Fox news channel were most likely to believe that Iraq was involved in 9/11. Not at all surprising.
Turn off your TV...God knows kids don't know how to do that anymore!
Actually, I'm 36, college educated, and don't watch a lot of television. So why don't you come over to my blog, Real Art, and pick on me for a while. It'll be fun.
This was just too damned easy.  Of course, from time to time, it really is fun to shoot fish in a barrel.  Young JFK seemed to be pleased: he responded, "Wow... game, set, match."  Actually I prefer a football metaphor like scoring a touchdown with the statue-of-liberty play or the fumble Ruskie.  At any rate, such praise is pleasing. 
All in a day's work, just another inconsequential verbal clash with a wingnut.  Hee, hee.

Perry makes pal's wife state's czar of fitness
From the Houston Chronicle:
State health officials, at Gov. Rick Perry's request, created a $40,000 fitness-promotion job for the wife of a top-dollar lobbyist with close ties to the governor.

Martha "Marty" McCartt began directing Perry's physical fitness brainchild, the once-a-year Texas Round-up festival, at the Texas Department of Health on July 1, according to an employment document created Wednesday. The Houston Chronicle had requested the document from the agency the same day.

McCartt, formerly a volunteer in the fitness program at the governor's office, will now work from her Austin home 30 hours a week and get a salary, said Texas Department of Health spokesman Doug McBride.

The job, planning a 10-kilometer run and annual spring fitness festival in which Texas communities compete, was not posted or advertised as normally required for state jobs at that level, Health Department records obtained by the Chronicle show. Instead, agency officials received a waiver of that requirement from Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins, who reports directly to Perry, McBride said.
Click here for the rest.
Let's see here.  The governor creates a brand new job at a time when state governments everywhere are cutting jobs, gives that job to the wife of a big-shot lobbyist pal without allowing any other applicants, and she doesn't even have to show up at work. 
Okay, it's possible that this is legitimate.  Possible
But not probable.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

One year after "liberation"

US forces have been in Iraq for over a year now, and, surprise, surprise, it is arguably much worse for the average Iraqi than it was under Saddam's brutal tyranny.  Here are some excerpts from three articles that only hint at just how bad it is over there.
First, from ZNet, longtime British Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk on the mysterious surge in murders of Iraqi professors:
The War on Learning 
Since the Anglo-American invasion, they have murdered at least 13 academics at the University of Baghdad alone and countless others across Iraq. History professors, deans of college and Arabic tutors have all fallen victim to the war on learning. Only six weeks ago - virtually unreported, of course - the female dean of the college of law in Mosul was beheaded in her bed, along with her husband.
Just who the modern-day Mongols are remains a painful mystery of our story. Disgruntled students they are not. Baathist-hunters some of them might be - all heads of academic departments were forced to join Saddam's party - but none of the murdered Baghdad university staff were believed to be anything more than card-carriers.

Even the former president of the university, Dr Mohamed Arawi - a surgeon shot at his clinic a year ago - was regarded as a liberal, humane man. But professors now watch the doors of their lecture theatres as carefully as they do their students. And who can blame them? After all, Dr Sabri al-Bayatiy of the department of geography was shot dead only a month ago, just outside the arts department, in front of many of his students.
Other university staff suspect that there is a campaign to strip Iraq of its academics, to complete the destruction of Iraq's cultural identity which began with the destruction of the Baghdad Koranic library, the national archives and the looting of the archaeological museum when the American army entered Baghdad.

"Maybe the Kuwaitis want to take their revenge for what we did to them in 1991," a lecturer said. "Maybe the Israelis are trying to make sure that we can never have an intellectual infrastructure here.

"Yes, you suggest it could be the 'resistance'. But what is the 'resistance'? We don't know who it is. Is it nationalist? Why should they want to get rid of us? Is it religious? The arts department has become a pulpit for Islamism. But these people are part of the university.
Click here for the rest.
There's some weird, bizarre stuff going on in Iraq.  Last year when Fisk was reporting on the looting of archives and galleries (which turned out to be pretty bad, despite reports to the contrary), he also noted what seemed to be organized arsonists coming in after the looters:
The looters make money from their rampages but the arsonists have to be paid. The passengers in those buses are clearly being directed to their targets. If Saddam had pre-paid them, they wouldn't start the fires. The moment he disappeared, they would have pocketed the money and forgotten the whole project.

So who are they, this army of arsonists? I recognised one the other day, a middle-aged, unshaven man in a red T-shirt, and the second time he saw me he pointed a Kalashnikov at me. What was he frightened of? Who was he working for? In whose interest is it to destroy the entire physical infrastructure of the state, with its cultural heritage? Why didn't the Americans stop this?
Click here for this earlier report on the post-invasion chaos.
Like I said, there's something mysterious and bizarre going on in Iraq, a real X-Files, black-ops, kind of business to which our soldiers seemingly have been ordered to turn a blind eye.  This is pretty creepy if you get right down to it, and I wonder if Fisk is going to end up beheaded by "terrorists" if he keeps digging.
But here's something that's maybe even worse than the campaign to murder university professors.  A brief blurb from the London Independent courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe:
'Secret film shows Iraq prisoners sodomised'
Young male prisoners were filmed being sodomised by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, according to the journalist who first revealed the abuses there.

Seymour Hersh, who reported on the torture of the prisoners in New Yorker magazine in May, told an audience in San Francisco that "it's worse".
It's pretty short, but click here for the rest.
Seymour Hersh, you may not know, originally broke the My Lai massacre story back during the Vietnam War.  It's good to know that he's still doing the same kind of work, kicking the asses of pompous, evil US officials.  Abu Ghraib is now officially worse than it was before.  Is anybody going to pay for this crap?  And can it possibly get worse than raping young boys?
After all, it now turns out that the new, US approved, interim Prime Minister of Iraq is seemingly just as brutal and bloodthirsty as Saddam Hussein was.  From the Sydney Morning Herald courtesy of Eschaton:
Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses
Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.

They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".
And, just to drive the point home, here's the kicker:
One witness justified the shootings as an unintended act of mercy: "They were happy to die because they had already been beaten by the police for two to eight hours a day to make them talk."  
Click here for the rest (and it might ask you to register, but there's a direct link on that page that goes directly to the story).    
Remember a couple of weeks ago when I described the new US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, as the new Saddam?  This is exactly the kind of crap I was getting at.  When Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras during the bloody Reagan years, he was essentially an American proconsul, presiding over the brutal torturing and murders of dissidents and just about anybody else who got in the way.  This is standard US operating procedure when dealing with the third world: have US soldiers commit a few atrocities, and have the puppet leaders of the subjugated nation commit many, many more.  It is important to note that numerous figures in the Bush administration cut their teeth on this sort of evil when they served in the Reagan administration, but American involvement in such brutality goes even further back, as this photo reveals:
History Repeats Itself
Murder of a Suspected Vietcong by Saigon Police Chief, 1968
Photo Credit: Eddie Adams
It's happening all over again.  We'd best not bury our heads in the sand, as has happened so many times before.  We're responsible.  We're allowing our leaders to do this.  It's time to make it stop.

Friday, July 16, 2004

President Bush flips off young protester 
Remember a couple of weeks ago how our distinguished Vice President told a senior Senate Democrat to go fuck himself?  No?  Well, then, here's a brief recap from the Washington Post:
On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

"Fuck yourself," said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.

Leahy's spokesman, David Carle, yesterday confirmed the brief but fierce exchange. "The vice president seemed to be taking personally the criticism that Senator Leahy and others have leveled against Halliburton's sole-source contracts in Iraq," Carle said.

As it happens, the exchange occurred on the same day the Senate passed legislation described as the "Defense of Decency Act" by 99 to 1.
Click here for the rest.
You know, I've suspected for many years that some of the most pious "Christians" in America are simply putting on an act in order to get power, prestige, babes, whatever--such a thing is certainly not without precedent; indeed, the archetype of pious but hypocritical Christian leader goes back to, at least, Shakespeare's play Measure for MeasureI'm sure there are more examples but you get the idea.
In addition to the standard fare Republican cruelty to the poor, viciousness toward criminals, and cavalier attitudes toward war, it seems that these "Christian" conservatives like to indulge in a wee bit of obscenity from time to time, which, of course, is very unBiblical.  Not that I personally care how filthy one's mouth is (being a lover of dirty words, myself, I'd be a hypocrite if I had a problem with that), but it's just too hard to avoid the observation that these guys aren't really practicing what they preach.  Okay, what I really mean is that they're big fucking assholes who live by my Father's old maxim, "do as I say, not as I do."  Case in point (from jiveturkey courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe):
The single greatest event of my life 
At the front of this second bus was The W himself, waving cheerily at his supporters on the other side of the highway. Adam, Brendan, and I rose our banner (the More Trees, Less Bush one) and he turned to wave to our side of the road. His smile faded, and he raised his left arm in our direction. And then, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States of America, extended his middle finger.
Read that last sentence again.
I got flipped off by George W. Bush.
A ponytailed man standing next to us confirmed the event, saying, "I do believe the President of the U.S. just gave you boys the finger."
Click here for the rest.
One wonders what it must be like to have the most powerful man in the world shoot the finger at you.  I have some inkling; after all, every day I read the newspaper comes pretty damned close to feeling like Bush is flipping me off, but it does lack that personal touch of "compassionate conservatism."
I must admit that in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter at all if our leaders are a bit naughty at times.  However, these two incidents reveal two facts.  First, as I said above, these guys are obviously major hypocrites, cynically exploiting the devout religious views and feelings of millions of Americans for political gain; these guys are fucking evil.  Second, the fact that these gaffes are happening so publicly can only mean one thing: the denizins of the White House are really, really stressed out.  It's almost as though they can feel the noose tightening around their necks.
Here's hoping for more obscenities from Republicans.  It's a sign of their impending doom.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

My First (and Last)
Time With Bill O'Reilly

From the Nation:

I sat in the Washington studio as the taping of the show began in New York with a rant from Bill O'Reilly. He claimed that "the Factor" had established the link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and then played a clip from Thomas Kean, head of the Senate's 9/11 Commission, in which Kean said, "There is no evidence that we can find whatsoever that Iraq or Saddam Hussein participated in any way in attacks on the United States, in other words, on 9/11. What we do say, however, is there were contacts between Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Iraq, Saddam--excuse me. Al Qaeda."

I was impressed. O'Reilly, who had announced his show as the "No Spin Zone," was actually playing a balanced soundbite, one that accurately reported the commission's findings both that there was no evidence linking Saddam and 9/11, and that there was some evidence of contacts (if no "collaborative relationship") between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Maybe all those nasty things Al Franken had said about O'Reilly weren't true after all.

But suddenly O'Reilly interrupted, plainly angry, and said, "We can't use that.... We need to redo the whole thing." Three minutes of silence later, the show began again, with O'Reilly re-recording the introduction verbatim. Except this time, when he got to the part about Kean, he played no tape, and simply paraphrased Kean as confirming that "definitely there was a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda." The part about no link to 9/11 was left on the cutting-room floor.

Now it was my turn. O'Reilly introduced the segment by complaining that we are at war and need to be united, but that newspapers like the New York Times are running biased stories, dividing the country and aiding the enemy. "The spin must stop--our lives depend on it," O'Reilly gravely intoned.

Click here for the rest.

Ironically, O'Reilly is probably the most succesful spin doctor on television: there was no "connection" between Iraq and al-Qaeda, unless you count the "contacts." Of course, by that standard, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was personally "connected" to Saddam's Iraq, just as the US was "connected" to the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War--in other words, there was no connection. But that doesn't seem to bother Grand Butthole O'Reilly. No siree, screw the facts; the loudmouth's got some propagandizing to do!

Man, my Dad watches that freak every single day...my poor, poor family.


Retails sales take largest
decline in 16 months

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

America's shoppers had a tight grip on their pocketbooks and wallets in June, dropping sales at the nation's retailers by 1.1 percent. It was the largest decline in 16 months.

The buying retreat, reported today by the Commerce Department, came after shoppers had splurged in May. In that month, they pushed merchants' sales up by a strong 1.4 percent, a showing that was even better than first estimated a month ago.

Bad weather and higher energy prices were blamed for the pullback, economists say. Another possible factor: a slowdown in the growth of the nation's payrolls in June. The economy added a net 112,000 jobs last month, less than half of the amount that economists had forecast.

The 1.1 percent drop in retail sales was the largest since February 2003, when sales fell by the same amount. June's decline was shaper than the 0.7 percent drop that some economists were predicting.

The falloff was led by a sharp 4.3 percent decrease in sales at automobile dealerships, which enjoyed a sizable 3.2 percent gain in sales during May.

Click here.

I really hope that the failed conservative policies of the Bush administration are remembered by voters in November. The entire neo-liberal experiment originally launched over twenty years ago is an utter disaster: "trickle down" tax cuts for the wealthy do not translate into economic growth and more jobs; the already well-to-do recipients of Bush's Santa-for-the-rich game simply keep the money for themselves. It was, as George H. W. Bush once called it, "voodoo economics" back in the 80s, and it's "voodoo economics" now.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Two recent essays, courtesy of Eschaton, from the New York Times' good guy journalist who also happens to be a Princeton econmist. First, an analysis of the cost of Kerry's health care reform plan versus Bush's massive tax cuts for the rich:

Health Versus Wealth

Catastrophic health expenses, which can easily drive a family into bankruptcy, fall into the same category. Yet private insurers try hard, and often successfully, to avoid covering such expenses. (That's not a moral condemnation; they are, after all, in business.)

All this does is pass the buck: in the end, the Americans who can't afford to pay huge medical bills usually get treatment anyway, through a mixture of private and public charity. But this happens only after treatments are delayed, families are driven into bankruptcy and insurers spend billions trying not to provide care.

By directly assuming much of the risk of catastrophic illness, the government can avoid all of this waste, and it can eliminate a lot of suffering while actually reducing the amount that the nation spends on health care.

Still, the Kerry plan will require increased federal spending. Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University, an independent health care expert who has analyzed both the Kerry and Bush plans, puts the net cost of the plan to the federal government at $653 billion over the next decade. Is that a lot of money?

Not compared with the Bush tax cuts: the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that if these cuts are made permanent, as the administration wants, they will cost $2.8 trillion over the next decade.

Click here for the rest.

This really seems to be just about the only thing that the Feds can do about health care that wouldn't rouse the ire of the politically powerful insurance industry. Of course, the real way to go is with single-payer, but Korporate Kerry would never do anything like that, so...I guess his idea is better than nothing.

Next, Krugman gives the lowdown on what House Majority Leader Tom DeLay did to warrant a House Ethics Committe investigation:

Machine at Work

Here's the puzzle: if Mr. DeLay's brand of conservatism is so unpopular that it must be kept in the closet during the convention, how can people like him really run the party?

In Mr. DeLay's case, a large part of the answer is his control over corporate cash. As far back as 1996, one analyst described Mr. DeLay as the "chief enforcer of company contributions to Republicans." Some of that cash has flowed through Americans for a Republican Majority, called Armpac, a political action committee Mr. DeLay founded in 1994. By dispensing that money to other legislators, he gains their allegiance; this, in turn, allows him to deliver favors to his corporate contributors. Four of the five Republicans on the House ethics committee, where a complaint has been filed against Mr. DeLay, are past recipients of Armpac money.

The complaint, filed by Representative Chris Bell of Texas, contends, among other things, that Mr. DeLay laundered illegal corporate contributions for use in Texas elections. And that's where Enron enters the picture.

In May 2001, according to yesterday's Washington Post, Enron lobbyists in Washington informed Ken Lay via e-mail that Mr. DeLay was seeking $100,000 in additional donations to his political action committee, with the understanding that it would be partly spent on "the redistricting effort in Texas." The Post says it has "at least a dozen" documents showing that Mr. DeLay and his associates directed money from corporate donors and lobbyists to an effort to win control of the Texas Legislature so the Republican Party could redraw the state's political districts.

Enron, which helped launch Armpac, was happy to oblige, especially because Mr. DeLay was helping the firm's effort to secure energy deregulation legislation, even as its traders boasted to one another about how they were rigging California's deregulated market and stealing millions each day from "Grandma Millie."

Click here for the rest.

This is yet another example of how America's democracy, always fragile, sometimes more responsive to the people, sometimes less, is now nothing but a massive corporate feeding trough for a ruthless gang of capitalist oink-oinks. DeLay's actions are simply the most extreme and agressive manifestation of the end of American democracy: virtually all of Congress is in on it; one cannot even be elected these days without the blessing of the US wealth sector, our true rulers.

Do people really believe that everything's going to be great if Kerry gets elected?


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Fla. Scraps Flawed Felon Voting List

From the AP via the New York Times courtesy of Eschaton, an update on an earlier Real Art post:

Florida elections officials said Saturday they will not use a disputed list that was designed to keep felons from voting, acknowledging a flaw that could have allowed convicted Hispanic felons to cast ballots in November.

The glitch in a state that President Bush won by just 537 votes could have been significant -- because of the state's sizable Cuban population, Hispanics in Florida have tended to vote Republican more than Hispanics nationally. The list had about 28,000 Democrats and around 9,500 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated.

"Not including Hispanic felons that may be voters on the list ... was an oversight and a mistake," Gov. Jeb Bush said. "And we accept responsibility and that's why we're pulling it back."

Click here for the rest.

Well, that's really nice of ol' Jeb and all, but there are a few outstanding issues here. First, the only reason this list was released to the public was because CNN and other news organizations sued the state. Second, the Hispanic thing is only part of the problem: as with the 2000 Florida voter purge, numerous African-American Democrats who are not felons have been added to the list, anyway. Finally, if I understand correctly, the exact same Republican dominated private firm who got the contract to generate the faulty list last time is doing the same thing now. "Oversight" my ass.

My bet is that this list, or some slightly altered version, ends up being used anyway. Either that or the GOP rigs the election with the new electronic voting machines which leave no record to be inspected later. You can't win for losing in GOP USA.


4 out of 5 Republicans on House Ethics
Committee Accepted Money from DeLay

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Four of the five Republicans investigating an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have received campaign contributions from DeLay's political action committee, records show.

The contributions -- $28,504 split among the four during the past seven years -- were all delivered before the ethics committee received the DeLay complaint June 15. But it is an example of awkward situations spawned by the U.S. House's decision to police itself on ethics.


It is the only House committee with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Equal representation is designed to derail purely partisan attacks. To move forward, a complaint must sway at least one member of the opposition party.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, served four years on the ethics committee, including two as chairman, and said trumping party loyalty can be difficult.

Investigating DeLay could magnify the uncomfortable moments because he is more than a financial patron of four committee members; as the House's second-ranking Republican, he's also their boss, Noble said.

This really does add insult to injury. Damned Republicans.

Click here for the rest.