Friday, January 02, 2004

Everything Old Is New Again 

Josh Marshall gives a well-deserved smack to Mike Allen at the Post for blurring Victoria Toening's role as GOP operative in a WaPo article about the "idiot defense" trial balloon being floated in the Plame case. But get a load of this premise:
"The fact that she was undercover is a classified fact, so it would not be unusual for people to know that she was agency but not know she was undercover," Toensing said.
Help me out here. I have lately begun to distrust my own memory on many things, but wasn't it barely 3 months ago that we all learned a new acronym, "NOC," which was what Plame was? Wasn't the whole point of being a NOC, which is completely different from being "undercover," that no one was supposed to know you even worked for the CIA? So assuming the idiot defense actually applied here, how is it that her afilliation was so casually maintained that White House staffer Joe Blow-Her-Cover could even be in a position to unintentionally reveal it?

As Marshall commonsensically observes, this whole trial balloon is beside the point, since everything points to the perp or perps being "guilty as sin." But there are bigger issues than frogmarching someone out of the White House, and one is disabusing the public's mind of the idea that national security is in the hands of competents, from whom it would be dangerous to remove the reins of power this November. Nothing short of a sustained, public investigation of these people is likely to accomplish that. So if push came to shove, I'd trade a criminal prosecution for a public hearing, where incompetent liars like Rice, Feith, Rove, and the rest were deposed under oath. And since that's unlikely to happen with the current regime controlling all branches of government and most of the media, with the rest apparently suffering from amnesia, it's going to be up to the Democrats to force the issue on their own.

Once they find time to take out from sniping at Dean for stating truisms about Saddam's capture, of course.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Fire and Brimstone from the Skies, Rivers and Seas Boiling, 40 Years of Darkness, Earthquakes, and Volcanos* 

Seems Mother Nature's pissed at Canada:

From salmon suffocating in warm British Columbia streams to a Newfoundland town entombed in ice, this year's bizarre weather leaves little doubt that climate change has the country in its grip, Environment Canada says....

The first item on Monday's list ...: the variety of abnormal weather that plagued British Columbia all year. It included 2,500 wildfires that forced 50,000 people to flee their homes over the summer, floods in autumn, freezing in November, and another flood in Vancouver a month ago....

The second item on the list was the spate of hurricanes that hit Canada, including hurricane Juan, which struck Halifax directly on Sept. 29. It was the first time the eye of a hurricane had hit the city since 1893.

It tore up 100 million trees, left 300,000 homes without power and destroyed marinas and harbours along the Atlantic Coast....

The other items on the list include:
  • severe winter in Eastern Canada from January to March;
  • forest fires across the country that left an annual fire-fighting tab of almost $1-billion;
  • entrenched drought on the Prairies and its attendant clouds of grasshoppers;
  • the March downpour that flooded the four Atlantic provinces and became the most expensive weather disaster in the history of the Maritimes;
  • a massive ice storm in New Brunswick in February that covered half the province with between 40 and 60 millimetres of frozen rain, closed schools for a week and left 63,000 without power or phones;
  • deadly avalanches in the Rockies that killed 28 people, making it the second deadliest year for avalanches in nearly a century;
  • heavy snow on Alberta in April and May, making it the snowiest spring on record for Edmonton and one of the worst in a century for Calgary; and
  • the sheet of ice that entombed the town of Badger, Nfld., for a week in February, covering cars, trucks and homes with ice more than a metre thick.

Jeebus. Good thing we don't live in Canada, eh? Just tighten up our borders and all will be well.

Besides, Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative surely addresses the matter.

And if all else fails, there's always tax cuts. In fact, let's just skip to tax cuts.
*Homage to that great Canadian, Dan Aykroyd, Ghostbusters.

Careful Planning 

The latest news from Homeland Security, brought to us by Lambert below, reinforces my conviction that I've unwittingly slipped into a parallel universe ruled by Monty Python:

"The practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning."

Research! Careful planning! Is there no end to their evil? Next thing you know, they'll be using dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire.

But I think I get it now: by invading Iraq without a clue what to do once we got there, we were demonstrating to the Middle East the difference between us and the Bad Guys. This is apparently what David Brooks was getting at.

If that's right, can I teleport back to my old Cartesian dimensions now? Please?

Monday, December 29, 2003

Bring it on, MBFs! 

Hillary most admired woman in America!

Go on. You know you want to.

"Better put the Old Farmer's Almanac back in your purse, Ma!" 

Ted Bridis of AP reports:

The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

Your tax dollars at work!

Glass Semi-Half Full Dept. 

From a collection of squibs in my local paper:
  • 56% in military poll support Bush on Iraq. "[R]etired officer Ralph Peters called the numbers 'a pleasant surprise.'

    "'These are tough conditions,' Peters said. 'It speaks well of the men and women in uniform that they're maintaining such high morale.'"

    Coming up: nearly 60% of White House staff still think their boss is smarter than the pointy-haired guy in Dilbert.

  • "U.S. troops yesterday uncovered about 580 57-mm rockets buried under dirt near Abayachi, a village northwest of Baghdad. 'We ruined some arms dealer's day,' said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the Army's 4th Infantry Division."

    Yeah, and the other 999 are probably thowing in the towel as I type this. That leaves only about half a million undiscovered rockets left to find.
Plus the WMDs, of course.


W's "recovery"; a Bush recovery; a "weak recovery"; a recovery that is a miserable failure.

A condition where business reporting says that "the economy" is improving or even booming, but in your personal economy (CEOs excepted) the job you have is worse, or worse than the one you had, or you still don't have a job.

UPDATE: Still true today—only more so. See above.

Lucky duckies, cooked numbers, the Wecovery, and the Ministry of Fear 

David Streitfield of the LA Times has a long insightful article on contrasting the official unemployment rate to the reality of uenemployment, underemployment, and dropping out of the work force entirely.

The nation's official jobless rate is 5.9%, a relatively benign level by historical standards. But economists say that figure paints only a partial — and artificially rosy — picture of the labor market.

To begin with, there are the 8.7 million unemployed, defined as those without a job who are actively looking for work. But lurking behind that group are 4.9 million part-time workers such as Gluskin who say they would rather be working full time — the highest number in a decade.

There are also the 1.5 million people who want a job but didn't look for one in the last month. Nearly a third of this group say they stopped the search because they were too depressed about the prospect of finding anything. Officially termed "discouraged," their number has surged 20% in a year.

Add these three groups together andthe jobless total for the U.S. hits 9.7%, up from 9.4% a year ago.

Yikes! So the numbers aren't exactly cooked; but they certainly don't reflect the very precarious and painful situation of millions of Americans who played by the rules and used to go to work every day.

And under the most optimistic scenarios, the numbers won't improve.

By any normal standard, things should have been improving on the employment front long before this point. More than 2 million jobs have been lost in the last three years, a period that encompassed a brief, nasty recession and a recovery that was anemic until recently. Even in the best-case scenario, Bush will end this term with a net job loss. That hasn't happened to a president since Herbert Hoover at the beginning of the Depression.

This despite what should be massive Keynesian stimulus—the havetax cuts for the super-rich did nothing, but the war and Homeland Security largesse should have helped. (If you've been to DC lately, have you seen all the new construction? No wonder the Beltway thinks all is well with the country!) Instead, we have the Wecovery: lots of numbers but no jobs. Even the experts are puzzled:

Many economists are mystified about why a suddenly booming economy is producing so few jobs.

"We're all sitting there and saying, 'When are they going to return?' " says Richard B. Freeman, director of the labor studies program at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Maybe I can help the NBER out, since I have some experience being unemployed, underemployed, discouraged, and self-employed...

One reason the jobs aren't returning is that they've gone off-shore, particularly those once well-paying IT jobs. (A friend of mine from Pennsylvania says that IT today reminds him of the steel industry in Pittsburgh in the '50s: everything's being shut down and all the plants are shuttered.) Doubtless this trend will level off at some point—in fact, after a year of experience with off-shore, some companies are discovering that it isn't as cheap, when all the factors are considered, than they thought it would be. But I think the main factor is something that Bush causes in whatever he does:


One number that has gone way up is Productivity. This has to hold the unemployment figures higher, since when companies can get more done with the same number of employees, they don't higher new ones.

Why would productivity numbers jump? Why would people do a lot more work for the same amount of money?

Fear. Fear of losing their jobs again without recourse (since the Bush economy looks bad as far as the eye can see). Fear of losing their health insurance (since the Republicans prevent universal health insurance). Fear of not running out of unemployment benefits (since the Republicans slash them). Fear of falling behind on the house, or on debt. Fear of another 9/11 causing the whole economy to tank once more.

Why do we never hear FDR's words from Bush: "The only thing you have to fear is fear itself"? Because to Bush, fear is a management tool. The Republicans manage with the lash, as befits the southern Partisan.

FInally, here's the Worst Case Scenario:

In some eyes, a nation of burger flippers, temps and Wal-Mart clerks isn't the worst scenario for the economy. The worst is that companies continue to eliminate jobs faster than they create them, setting up a game of musical chairs for the labor force.

That prospect alarms Erica Groshen, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. "If you plot job losses versus gains on a chart, it's shocking," she says.

Losses are running at about the same rate they were in 1997 and 1998, two good years for the economy. But job creation in the first quarter of 2003 — the most recent period available — was only 7.4 million, the lowest since 1993.

"If this goes on too long, you'd have to worry there's something fundamentally wrong," Groshen says. Although the economy has picked up since March, "so far I haven't seen anything that suggests job creation is picking up."

And now that the Bush deregulators have managed to poison the meat supply... Well, tofu flipping, anyone?

True North 

OK, so I tried to avoid the outside world while we were vacationing last week in the Canadian wilderness. Still, I managed to learn the following:
  • It's possible to present a political issue without resorting to an instant poll.
  • Conservatives can present their case without spraying the airwaves with spittle.
  • Liberals can present their case without having to apologize for it.
  • The poor don't have to be cast either as objects of condescension or contempt, but can be recognized simply as human beings entitled to community support.
  • Universal health care can be a bipartisan issue.
  • There are more important things to discuss than tax cuts.
I'm sure our thousands of Canadian readers will rush to correct this pollyannish judgment. For example, I realize that our northern neighbor has its share of problems, such as mad cow disease, which has apparently spread to parts of the human population. Still, it's worth being reminded that there is an entire world outside of the asylum we call home.

Bush to troops: Drop dead 

Yeah, literally too. But let's not even talk about kevlar. Lee Hockstader of WaPo reports:

[T]housands of soldiers [have been] forbidden to leave military service under the Army's "stop-loss" orders, intended to stanch the seepage of troops, through retirement and discharge, from a military stretched thin by its burgeoning overseas missions.

But there's no problem with morale, no no.

Through a series of stop-loss orders, the Army alone has blocked the possible retirements and departures of more than 40,000 soldiers, about 16,000 of them National Guard and reserve members who were eligible to leave the service this year. Hundreds more in the Air Force, Navy and Marines were briefly blocked from retiring or departing the military at some point this year.

Of course, if Bush had done any planning... And hadn't said Iraqwould be a cakewalk ...

Meanwhile, to hang onto the troops, Bush is breaking the law.

By prohibiting soldiers and officers from leaving the service at retirement or the expiration of their contracts, military leaders have breached the Army's manpower limit of 480,000 troops, a ceiling set by Congress. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, disclosed that the number of active-duty soldiers has crept over the congressionally authorized maximum by 20,000 and now registered 500,000 as a result of stop-loss orders. Several lawmakers questioned the legality of exceeding the limit by so much.

To many of the soldiers whose retirements and departures are on ice, however, stop-loss is an inconvenience, a hardship and, in some cases, a personal disaster. Some are resigned to fulfilling what they consider their patriotic duty. Others are livid, insisting they have fallen victim to a policy that amounts to an unannounced, unheralded draft.

But a two-and-half -hour visit to Baghdad for a photo-op with a fake turkey makes up for all this!

"An enlistment contract has two parties, yet only the government is allowed to violate the contract; I am not," said Costas, 42, who signed an e-mail from Iraq this month "Chained in Iraq," an allusion to the fact that he and his fellow reservists remained in Baghdad after the active-duty unit into which they were transferred last spring went home. He has now been told that he will be home late next June, more than a year after his contractual departure date. "Unfair. I would not say it's a draft per se, but it's clearly a breach of contract. I will not reenlist."

Contracts? Contracts are for Halliburton, not the little guy! Get real, soldiers!

Troll prophylactic: The above paragraph is ironic.

Talk radio the Republican Internet 

Jim Rutenberg of the Times reports:

While the Bush campaign maintains a low profile on the national campaign stage — content for now to watch the Democrats beat on one another — it is aggressively working the expansive hustings of Republican-friendly talk radio, priming the grass roots faithful for battle next year.

Any of the strategic deep thinkers in the Democratic party thinking how to make this medium play for us? Perhaps the local talk shows aren't as rigid as the national ones—that is, a Democratic voice might actually get through the caller screening, even if the host and he oher callers were virulent. Alternatively, what? SMS messaging into the station's email? Democratic pirate radio stations? Mr. Trippi?

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Anti-Dean, Pro-Republican bias at WaPo 

Who knew?

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is a doctor, and a Republican. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean is a doctor, and a Democrat.

Here's WaPo's capsule bio of Frist:

Sen. Frist (R-Tenn.), a physician, is Senate majority leader.

And here, Dean:

The writer, a former governor of Vermont, seeks the Democratic nomination for president.

Both Frist and Dean have equivalent professional qualifications; both are physicians.

What conceivable (legitimate) reason could WaPo have for including Frist's qualifications, and not including Dean's?

Here is the address of the Post's (extremely overworked) Michael Getler: ombudsman@washpost.com. Perhaps he can address the issue with the WaPo's management.

It's an especially insidious "mistake," since one of the main planks of the Dean platform is universal health insurance. Since WaPo leaves out Dean's qualifications as a physician, they undercut his credibility on this matter. So often, the little things reveal so much ...

So "the economy" is going to be great, except if you don't have a job you won't get one 


The current jobless rate of 5.9 percent - down from a high this summer of 6.4 percent - is expected to still be around 5.7 percent when America votes next November.

Right. Not counting the people who aren't even looking for work anymore, of course.

The Iggles! 

Heck, I don't know anything about football. But I'm pleased for Philly. And I like to see the digital route signs on the buses flash "Go Eagles!" It's festive.

"But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites" 

Remind you of anyone? Say, the media whores, Holier-than-thou Pharisees, and hypocrites of today's Republican party?

"Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them."

Remind you of anyone? Maybe someone who'd carry a bible along with his flight suit if it would finally get him elected President?

Radical words, for a Sunday morning, eh?

Who said them? Jesus.

Meaning that there's no reason whatever for Democrats Republicans an inch on religion. Arguably, the Bennets (gambling), Limbaughs (drugs), Falwells (whores, and not just media ones), and Bushes (lies) have set back religion far more than legions of '60s diehards could. POTL, all of them; Jesus would have understood instantly.

Which is why it's good that Dean is speaking out on this issue:

"Let's get into a little religion here," Dean said at a morning meeting with voters in response to a question about his beliefs. "Don't you think Jerry Falwell reminds you a lot more of the Pharisees than he does of the teachings of Jesus? And don't you think this campaign ought to be about evicting the money changers from the temple?"

Bingo! (That one's for you, Bill Bennett.) And where are all the other candidates on this one? Still doing Bush Lite?

FUX is right on top of this, of course ("Analysts Question Dean's New Discussion of God") and we can expect the rest of the state-run media to follow. If only Dean could be like Whiney Joe—openly discussing faith, and a loser too! How ideal...

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