Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Disposable American Worker--Only at Radio Shack!

I am just going to post this article from The Washington Post:

FORT WORTH, Texas -- RadioShack Corp. notified about 400 workers by e-mail that they were being dismissed immediately as part of planned job cuts.

Employees at the Fort Worth headquarters got messages Tuesday morning saying: "The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated."

Company officials had told employees in a series of meetings that layoff notices would be delivered electronically, spokeswoman Kay Jackson said. She said employees were invited to ask questions before Tuesday's notification on a company intranet site.

Derrick D'Souza, a management professor at the University of North Texas, said he had never heard of such a large number of terminated employees being notified electronically. He said it could be seen as dehumanizing to employees.

"If I put myself in their shoes, I'd say, 'Didn't they have a few minutes to tell me?'" D'Souza said.

Laid-off workers got one to three weeks pay for each year of service, up to 16 weeks for hourly employees and 36 weeks for those with base bay of at least $90,000, the company said.

The company announced Aug. 10 that it would cut 400 to 450 jobs, mostly at headquarters, to cut expenses and "improve its long-term competitive position in the marketplace." RadioShack has closed nearly 500 stores, consolidated distribution centers and liquidated slow-moving merchandise in an effort to shake out of a sales slump.

Shares of RadioShack rose 29 cents, or 1.6 percent, to close at $18.21 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

I can't find the words to editorialize this story, except for the title of this post. It is bad enough for corporations to lay off American workers, but to do so with a large number of workers by email? Of course, Wall Street is happy with this new form of "Human Resources" strategy regarding layoffs--cuts down on HR expenses, improves profitability, and raises the stock price.

The Disposable American Worker--Only at Radio Shack!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Graph of percentage of income going to corporate profits verses wages

Graph is from St. Louis Federal Reserve

I found this graph off The Daily Kos, and even I was surprised by it. The graph shows the percentage of national income that is going to corporate profits, proprietor's income, and compensation (wages). The source of the graph is from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, and also from The Big Picture.

Just look at that gap between corporate profits and wages.

This is from yesterday's edition of The New York Times:

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity--the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation'’s living standards--has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation'’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as "“the golden era of profitability."

Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers'’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.

At the very top of the income spectrum, many workers have continued to receive raises that outpace inflation, and the gains have been large enough to keep average income and consumer spending rising.

And here is my previous posting on the Times article.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity

Graphic on Real Wage gains. From New York Times

This is off the New York Times:

With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity--the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation's living standards--has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nationÂ’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960's. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as "the golden era of profitability."

Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers' benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.

At the very top of the income spectrum, many workers have continued to receive raises that outpace inflation, and the gains have been large enough to keep average income and consumer spending rising.

Think about this for a moment. The stagnating wages have been offset by the rising value of benefits, such as health insurance. But the problem with health insurance is that the price of health insurance has also been increasing, thus adding to companies labor costs. Instead of absorbing the costs of health insurance, companies have started passing those costs towards the workers in terms of higher health insurance premiums deducted from workers' paychecks. At the same time, wage increases have certainly gone to the top income brackets--including those of the CEOs. Thus, the inequality gap between the rich and poor has continued to increase. It is interesting how UBS investment bank has called this period as the “the golden era of profitability," and how corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960s. Lyndon Johnson had started both his Great Society program, and entered into the Vietnam War. And even Johnson's Great Society economic stimulus was added to John Kennedy's New Frontier's stimulus, which included tax cuts, economic reforms, wage, housing and medical regulations. There was a lot of economic stimulus in the 1960s, with Americans happily spending on consumer goods, and companies happily producing those consumer goods for profits. The danger of the 1960s economy was that the U.S. government was funding both this economic expansion and the Vietnam War by printing dollar bills--and not by raising taxes to pay for everything. We see the same thing happening now with Bush's tax cut stimulus and war in Iraq. And the economic benefits of globalization and productivity today have been going towards corporate profits, rather than wage increases.

What happens when wages don't increase with inflation? For one thing, consumers are going to feel like they are not getting ahead. The more of their paychecks they spend on rising health insurance premiums, or even increase energy costs, such as high gas prices, the less the consumers are going to spend on all other items. Consumers may just start reducing their spending in the U.S. economy. This will certainly cause business sales to drop, forcing business inventories to increase. Businesses will cut back on their own production, possibly laying off workers and thus exasperating the recession. Durable goods orders have dropped 2.4 percent--the first decline in durable goods orders in three months. Are businesses starting to cut back? We've already seen a drop in the housing market. In fact, sales of new homes have dropped by 4.3 percent in July, resulting in an all-time high inventory of unsold new homes at 568,000. With the sales of U.S. homes dropping, you can also bet that consumers will not be spending money to furnish their homes, thus sales could start dropping on appliances, furniture, and home furnishings. Chain store sales have dropped 0.2 percent in the week ending August 19. Compared to the same week a year ago, sales rose by 2.7 percent. Is this just a break in consumer spending, or is this the start of a trend with consumers cutting back on spending? I can't say yet. However, the August 18th consumer sentiment report shows consumer sentiment dropping from 84.7 to 78.7. Wall Street economists were expecting a reading of 83.6. Consumers may be getting pessimistic here. Finally, there is one strange statistic that I do want to toss out here. And that is that the number of first-time jobless claims has dropped by 1,000--from 314,000 to 313,000. I don't know if that is because workers are actually finding jobs, or if they have exhausted their unemployment benefits and are being dropped from the rolls.

What do all these statistics mean? I fear that we may be entering, or are already in, a serious recession. The statistics are showing a slowing economy--that much is certain. Investors are certainly getting pessimistic here. The real danger we have for this economy is the combination of high energy prices (Which have also been exasperated by the U.S. war in Iraq), and the huge U.S. budget deficit and $8 trillion dollar debt (of which the Bush tax cuts and Iraq war have also contributed to). The budget deficit and debt will certainly cause long term interest rates to remain high. The high energy prices and Iraq war could cause a spike in inflation. There is just too much uncertainty here. Interestingly enough, the central bankers and Federal Reserve are divided on where the U.S. economy is heading. Consider this:

JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming (Reuters) - Central bankers and top academics departed here on Sunday after two days of discussions on how the global economic landscape is shifting.

But they said goodbye still divided on what is perhaps the biggest question hanging over the outlook -- whether an unfolding slowdown in the U.S. economy will curb U.S. inflation without further interest-rate rises from the Federal Reserve.

"I think this is a time of a fair amount of uncertainty, because certainly there seems to be a shifting in the United States," IMF chief economist Raghuram Rajan said. "We're not quite sure if inflationary pressures are contained ... and we are also not sure how far and how quickly housing will slow."

After two years of steadily pushing benchmark borrowing costs higher, the U.S. central bank stepped to the sidelines at its last meeting on August 8, preferring to wait for more data shedding light on the outlook for growth and inflation.

A downturn in the U.S. housing market is seen cutting the wherewithal of U.S. consumers, who have been able to tap the equity fast rising home prices had provided to maintain their free-spending ways.

Former Brazilian central bank chief Arminio Fraga fretted that a slowdown in the United States, for years an engine supporting growth around the globe, could exact a big toll on economies elsewhere.

"Can the world make up for what is likely to be a slowdown in (U.S.) growth, maybe even a bigger slowdown than one expects at this point -- certainly a deeper slowdown than markets are pricing in?" Fraga asked conference participants.

So both IMF chief economist Rajan and former Brazilian central bank chief Fraga are worried that the high borrowing costs, and the slowing U.S. economic growth is going to cause major problems within the world. That is not surprising, considering that much of the world exports products to the U.S. consumer. If the U.S. consumer cuts back spending on imported goods, then foreign companies will have a backlog of inventory. Do you expect the Third World market to take up the slack for cheap Chinese goods that were once destined for the American consumer? I would also wonder how much knowledge and experience both Rajan and Fraga have had in dealing with Third World countries facing stagflation, high debt levels, dropping wages, rising poverty, inequalities between rich and poor, and stagnating economic growth. Is the United States heading down that path?

I also found this Yahoo article of conflicting signals from Fed speakers:

BLOOMINGTON, Illinois (Reuters) - Two veteran Federal Reserve officials gave different readings on the likely course of interest rate policy on Tuesday -- but only one will be around after the next meeting to implement those views.

Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Michael Moskow said unequivocally that inflation remains a bigger threat to the U.S. economy than slowing growth, and the central bank might need to raise interest rates again.

By contrast, the soon-to-retire Atlanta Fed Bank President Jack Guynn said U.S. monetary policy was "properly calibrated" and expressed confidence that inflation was going to slow, as the Fed's own forecasts have predicted.

"I am personally comfortably with the notion that policy seems to be properly calibrated," Guynn told reporters after addressing the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta in what could be his final speech as a Fed policy-maker.

Guynn, a Federal Open Market Committee voting member this year, has announced plans to retire October 1 from the Atlanta Fed, which he has led since January 1996.

Not so fast, Moskow said.

In a speech to the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, Moskow said more increases could be needed to trim inflation, which continues to run well above the informal "comfort zone" cited by Moskow and several other Fed policy-makers.

"The risk of inflation remaining too high is greater than the risk of growth being too low. Thus, some additional firming of policy may yet be necessary to bring inflation back into the comfort zone within a reasonable period of time," Moskow said.

There is such irony in this article. First Moskow is worried about the threat of inflation, and the possibility of the Fed raising interest rates. More Fed interest rate increases will be needed to trim inflation. What is especially interesting here is that Moskow is more worried about the rapid rise of inflation, rather than the slowing U.S. economic growth. Moskow doesn't say anything about the risks of stagflation--the increase of inflation along with the slowing U.S. economic growth or recession. But what does Moskow's Federal Reserve compadre Jack Guynn say about inflation and the U.S. economy? Why, things are going swimmingly! "I am personally comfortably with the notion that policy seems to be properly calibrated," is Jack Guynn's statement to the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta. The Feds have done the right job and inflation will slow down, as Guynn is predicting here. Of course, Guynn is also retiring from the Atlanta Fed, so he would want to have this "properly calibrated" economically predicted feather stuck in his career cap. When you've got two Federal Reserve Board members making contradictory statements to the public as to the threat of inflation in the U.S. economy, you've got some serious uncertainty and trouble here.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Katherine Harris--The Keystone Kook!

Katherine Harris is seen in North Reddington Beach, Fla., in this Aug. 4, 2006, file photo. The candidate in Florida's Republican primary for U.S. Senate told a religious journal that separation of church and state is 'a lie' and God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be 'a nation of secular laws.' (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

In honor of Katherine Harris' respected Florida Senate campaign, I thought it would be nice to start a new mini-series Katherine Harris--The Keystone Kook! This is from Yahoo News:

MIAMI - U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris (news, bio, voting record) told a religious journal that separation of church and state is "a lie" and God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be "a nation of secular laws." The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will "legislate sin," including abortion and gay marriage.

Harris made the comments--which she clarified Saturday — in the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention, which interviewed political candidates and asked them about religion and their positions on issues.

Separation of church and state is "a lie we have been told," Harris said in the interview, published Thursday, saying separating religion and politics is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers."

"If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," Harris said.

Her comments drew criticism, including some from fellow Republicans who called them offensive and not representative of the party.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who is Jewish, told the Orlando Sentinel that she was "disgusted" by the comments.

Harris' campaign released a statement Saturday saying she had been "speaking to a Christian audience, addressing a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government."

The comments reflected "her deep grounding in Judeo-Christian values," the statement said, adding that Harris had previously supported pro-Israel legislation and legislation recognizing the Holocaust.

So Katherine, if I elect a Democratic Party candidate, or an openly gay candidate, or a Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist candidate, I'm actually legislating sin here? Is God going to send me to hell if I elect someone who is not approved by the Moral Majority or Republican Party? You know Katherine, the Founding Fathers never expected black people to be elected to Congress, so perhaps we shouldn't be electing black people--send them back down to the plantations! Or for that matter, how about the Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Hispanics, Jews, and any other race that doesn't reflect the White Anglo Saxon Protestant?

Is that what you're saying Katherine?

And one more thing Katherine--I don't think God chooses our rulers. The last time I read the Constitution, it was WE THE PEOPLE who have been given the power, perhaps under the grace of God, to select our leaders--both the good leaders and the bad leaders. God doesn't choose our rulers--we do. You might want to start considering that thought if you end up losing badly on Election Night.

Because you're heading that way.

Rumsfeld Unsure of Ability To Intercept Korean Missiles

This is from the Washington Post:

FORT GREELY, Alaska, Aug. 27 -- After his first look inside the nerve center of the U.S. missile defense system, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Sunday sounded a note of caution about expectations that interceptors poised in 10 underground silos here would work in the event of a missile attack by North Korea.

Asked at a news conference whether he believed the missile shield was ready for use against a North Korean missile like the one test-fired unsuccessfully on July 4, Rumsfeld said he would not be fully convinced until the multibillion-dollar defense system has undergone more complete and realistic testing.

"A full end-to-end" demonstration is needed, Rumsfeld said, "where we actually put all the pieces" of the highly complex and far-flung missile defense system together and see whether it would succeed in destroying a warhead in flight.

I just have one question to ask Mr. Rumsfeld--why the frack did we waste hundreds of billions of dollars on this "star wars" missile defense system when you are telling us that this boondoggle defense system will not even shoot down a North Korean nuclear missile? And if the United States will have trouble shooting down a North Korean missile, did you expect it to be a cakewalk shooting down a Chinese or Russian missile--how about missiles? But, I guess the Republican Party has to look after its corporate defense contractors--wasting billions of the American taxpayer's money to defend the stock shares of defense companies, and make the CEOs of those companies rich. Mr. Rumsfeld, is that the real reason for our missile defense system--to defend the military industrial complex from charges of waste and fraud?

Anti-war protests intrude on Bush's trip to Maine

Anti-war protesters rally outside the Bush compound, seen at top left, across the cove shrouded in fog, in Kennebunkport, Maine, on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2006. President George W. Bush is vacationing at his parents' house while the protest was going on. The president is spending a long weekend at the family oceanside home and plans on attending a relative's wedding. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

I wonder if Bush even saw these protestors. From Yahoo News:

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine--President Bush came to his parent's century-old summer home on the Maine coast for a little relaxation, a distant cousin's wedding and some family time. He got all that, along with a boisterous reminder nearly on his bucolic doorstep of the unpopularity of his Iraq policies.

What local police estimated were about 700 anti-war demonstrators marched Saturday to within half a mile of the Bush compound before being turned back at a security checkpoint. Called Walker's Point after the family of former President Bush's mother, the stone-and-shingle retreat covering a craggy promontory is owned by the current president's parents.

The protesters sang, chanted, beat drums, waved signs and even played fiddles to call on Bush to bring troops home.

"Bush is fiddling while the world burns, just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned," said Pippa Stanley, 15, of Richmond, Maine, who was helping with the backdrop for pair of fiddlers dressed in togas.

The group was loosely aligned with activist Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq who gained international attention when she shadowed Bush last summer while he vacationed at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll this month found that only about one-third of Americans support Bush's handling of Iraq.

Anti-war protestors carry banners while marching through Kennebunkport, Maine towards a checkpoint leading to the Walker's Point compound of former US president George H.W. Bush, where his son President George W. Bush is staying.(AFP/Mandel Ngan)

And what was the Bush administration's response to these protests?

A spokeswoman for Bush said he wasn't bothered by the demonstration that briefly took over the tiny, scenic downtown of Kennebunkport.

"As the president has said, Americans are free to protest," said White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino.

A police officer stands at a check point near the home of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, where his son President George W. Bush is staying for the weekend, as protestors call for the end of the Iraq war in Kennebunkport, Maine, August 26, 2006. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES)

You can bet that Bubble-Boy President was shielded from these protests.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Iraqis loot base after British troops leave

This is off MSNBC News:

AMARAH, Iraq - Iraqis looted a military base vacated by British troops and stripped it of virtually everything removable on Friday, an indication of possible future trouble for U.S.-led coalition forces hoping to hand over security gradually to the Iraqi government.

Men, some with their faces covered, ripped corrugated metal from roofs, carried off metal pipes and backed trucks into building entrances to load them with wooden planks. Many also took away doors and window frames from Camp Abu Naji.

“The British forces left Abu Naji, and the locals started looting everything,” 1st Lt. Rifaat Taha Yaseen of the Iraqi Army’s 10th Division told Associated Press Television News. “They took everything from the buildings.”

The plundering was likely to embarrass the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has said that Iraqi army and police plan to take over security for all of Iraq’s provinces within the next 18 months.

Iraqi police dispersed looters by firing shots into the air, said Dhaffar Jabbar, spokesman for the governor of the southern Maysan province where Amarah is located. But scores of looters returned Friday when the camp was under a small contingent of Iraqi troops.

“There are only a few soldiers at Abu Naji camp. Some of the residents were carrying weapons so they (the soldiers) did not want bloodshed and with such a big number, they could not stop them,” Jabbar said.

In the midst of the looting, one man who refused to give his name, said: “This is war loot, and we are allowed to take it.”

You know the situation in Iraq is really bad when the Iraqi population starts looting a base right after the British leave--and whatever Iraqi police forces, which are there to secure the base, simply step aside for the looters.

What do you think is going to happen once the American forces leave Iraq?

Friday Fun Stuff--Ann Coulter got slammed on Hannity and Colmes

See Ann get bitch-slapped down

I saw this on The Daily Kos late last night, but was too tired to look into it. I can't believe that the Right Wing's nuttiest of the Wing-nut's, conservative goddess Ann Coulter was completely slammed in a debate on terrorism and the war in Iraq. And what is even more amazing is that Coulter was slammed on Fox News by fill-in host Kristen Powers. WOW!

Crooks and Liars has the video here:

Quicktime Video Link

If you listen very carefully near the end, you'll hear a thump sound after Ann says "Goodnight." Apparently Ann got so pissed off that she left in a big huff and puff.

Guess she couldn't blow her usual spew of wing-nut hatred and vitriol on Faux News.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Beloit College Mindset List released

Here's a Yahoo story to make you feel you're getting old. For reference, I was born on May 5, 1965. I remember the Vietnam War, Nixon and Watergate, US-Soviet space cooperation with the Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft linkups. I remember the threat of nuclear war, and the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union. I can even remember the Saturn 5 rocket take off for one of the Apollo moon missions. I remember the Iranian hostage crisis, the various Arab oil embargos with its odd and even days. I remeber when television was limited to three network stations, a few independents, and PBS. I remember rotary phones, disco, bell-bottoms, transistor radios, five California governors, and seven U.S. presidents.

Now here's what the current crop of freshmen college students remember:

BELOIT, Wis. - For most teens starting college this fall, disposable contact lenses have always been available, wars and revolutions have always been televised, and a stamp was rarely needed for communication.

Born in 1988, incoming freshmen grew up knowing only two presidents, searching for Waldo and eating dolphin-free canned tuna.

Those are some of the 75 cultural landmarks on the Beloit College Mindset List, an annual compilation that offers a glimpse of the world view through the eyes of each incoming class. The list was released Wednesday by this private school of 1,250 in this southern Wisconsin city.

"The list isn't looking strictly for chronological accuracy," said Ron Nief, the school's director of public affairs. "It's more about capturing cultural horizons and world views."

The list gives faculty a better understanding of the cultural attitudes of the incoming class, said English professor Tom McBride, who helps Nief assemble the list.

"Once upon a time faculty could talk about the Watergate scandal. This reminds them that now they have to explain it first," McBride said.

McBride said the lists, begun in 1998, often depress people who find themselves wondering how they got so old so fast.

"But it's an illusion. It's not them getting old, it's culture that changes so fast," he said. "Trends and fashions are so short-lived that a lot happens in just 18 years."

Am I getting old, or am I just seasoned? Now here's the current Beloit College Mindset List:

Members of the class of 2010, entering college this fall, were mostly born in 1988. For them: Billy Carter, Lucille Ball, Gilda Radner, Billy Martin, Andy Gibb, and Secretariat have always been dead.

1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
2. They have known only two presidents.
3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S.
5. They have grown up getting lost in "big boxes."
6. There has always been only one Germany.
7. They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.
8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents'.
10. Thanks to pervasive headphones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.

11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
12. Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.
13. Faux fur has always been a necessary element of style.
14. The Moral Majority has never needed an organization.
15. They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.
16. DNA fingerprinting has always been admissible evidence in court.
17. They grew up pushing their own miniature shopping carts in the supermarket.
18. They grew up with and have outgrown faxing as a means of communication.
19. "Google" has always been a verb.
20. Text messaging is their email.

21. Milli Vanilli has never had anything to say.
22. Mr. Rogers, not Walter Cronkite, has always been the most trusted man in America. 23. Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.
24. Madden has always been a game, not a Superbowl-winning coach.
25. Phantom of the Opera has always been on Broadway.
26. "Boogers" candy has always been a favorite for grossing out parents.
27. There has never been a "skyhook" in the NBA.
28. Carbon copies are oddities found in their grandparents' attics.
29. Computerized player pianos have always been tinkling in the lobby.
30. Non-denominational mega-churches have always been the fastest growing religious organizations in the U.S.

31. They grew up in mini-vans.
32. Reality shows have always been on television.
33. They have no idea why we needed to ask "...can we all get along?"
34. They have always known that "In the criminal justice system the people have been represented by two separate yet equally important groups."
35. Young women's fashions have never been concerned with where the waist is.
36. They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.
37. Brides have always worn white for a first, second, or third wedding.
38. Being techno-savvy has always been inversely proportional to age.
39. "So" as in "Sooooo New York," has always been a drawn-out adjective modifying a proper noun, which in turn modifies something else
40. Affluent troubled teens in Southern California have always been the subjects of television series.

41. They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.
42. Ken Burns has always been producing very long documentaries on PBS.
43. They are not aware that "flock of seagulls hair" has nothing to do with birds flying into it.
44. Retin-A has always made America look less wrinkled.
45. Green tea has always been marketed for health purposes.
46. Public school officials have always had the right to censor school newspapers.
47. Small white holiday lights have always been in style.
48. Most of them never had the chance to eat bad airline food.
49. They have always been searching for "Waldo."
50. The really rich have regularly expressed exuberance with outlandish birthday parties.

51. Michael Moore has always been showing up uninvited.
52. They never played the game of state license plates in the car.
53. They have always preferred going out in groups as opposed to dating.
54. There have always been live organ donors.
55. They have always had access to their own credit cards.
56. They have never put their money in a "Savings & Loan."
57. Sara Lee has always made underwear.
58. Bad behavior has always been getting captured on amateur videos.
59. Disneyland has always been in Europe and Asia.
60. They never saw Bernard Shaw on CNN.

61. Beach volleyball has always been a recognized sport.
62. Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti have always been luxury cars of choice.
63. Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem. 64. LoJack transmitters have always been finding lost cars.
65. Diane Sawyer has always been live in Prime Time.
66. Dolphin-free canned tuna has always been on sale.
67. Disposable contact lenses have always been available.
68. "Outing" has always been a threat.
69. Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss has always been the perfect graduation gift. 70. They have always "dissed" what they don't like.

71. The U.S. has always been studying global warming to confirm its existence.
72. Richard M. Daley has always been the Mayor of Chicago.
73. They grew up with virtual pets to feed, water, and play games with, lest they die.
74. Ringo Starr has always been clean and sober.
75. Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics.

Poll Says Fewer View G.O.P. as Friendly to Religion

This is off The New York Times:

A new poll shows that fewer Americans view the Republican Party as "“friendly to religion" than a year ago, with the decline particularly steep among Catholics and white evangelical Protestants--constituencies at the core of the RepublicansÂ’ conservative Christian voting bloc.

The survey found that the proportion of Americans who say the Republican Party is friendly to religion fell 8 percentage points in the last year, to 47 percent, from 55 percent. Among Catholics and white evangelical Protestants, the decline was 14 percentage points.

The Democratic Party suffers from the perception of an even more drastic religion deficit, but that is not new. Just 26 percent of poll respondents said the Democratic Party is friendly to religion, down from 29 percent last year.

The telephone poll, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, was conducted July 6 to 19 among 2,003 adults. The margin of sampling error was 3 to 4 percentage points, depending on the question.

The survey examined Americans'’ attitudes on such topics as politics, science, the Bible, global warming and Israel. But the most startling change, said John Green, senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum, was the perception of the Republican Party by its core constituency.

"“It'’s unclear how directly this will translate into voting behavior, but this is a baseline indicator that religious conservatives see the party they've chosen to support as less friendly to religion than they used to," Mr. Green said.

He speculated that religious conservatives could feel betrayed that some Republican politicians recently voted to back stem cell research, and that a Republican-dominated Congress failed to pass a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage.

"“At the minimum, there will be less good will toward the Republican Party by these conservative religious groups and a disenchantment that the party will be able to deliver on its promises," Mr. Green said.

Wait a minute, the Religious Right is feeling betrayed because the Republican Party has voted to back stem cell research and because the Republicans have not been able to pass the constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage? And I haven't even mentioned that the abortion legislation is pretty much DOA. Now this surprises me because the Republican Party has control of all three branches of government. They have their own evangelical in the White House. Congress is controlled by the Republican Party. And the two justices that have been chosen by President Bush and confirmed to Congress have received favorable ratings from the Religious Right. In fact, the Religious Right and conservatives were able to block President Bush's first selection of Harriet Miers selection to the court Is the Religious Right turning their anger against the Republican Party for not giving the Religious Right the social changes they so desired?

What is amazing about this survey is that this current Republican Party was created by ubber-strategist Karl Rove as an alliance between corporate interests and the Religious Right. Rove actively courted the Religious Right to vote Republican, and in return the Religious Right was able completely control the Republican Party's social agenda. Did Karl Rove and the Religious Right miscalculate the Democratic Party's opposition towards legislating the Religious Right's social agenda? Or did Rove simply dismiss the Religious Right's social agenda in order to concentrate on President Bush's economic agenda of tax cuts and corporate goodies give-away? Perhaps Rove saw the Religious Right as just another interest group to mine votes for the next election, tossing them a few scraps of legislative victories, such as stem cell restrictions, while ignoring the Religious Right's complete agenda. I'm not sure.

But it is an interesting thought to consider, the Religious Right's possible anger over the Republican Party for a pact that they both knowingly entered.

Bush's New Iraq Argument: It Could Be Worse

Now this Washington Post article is interesting:

Of all the words that President Bush used at his news conference this week to defend his policies in Iraq, the one that did not pass his lips was "progress."

For three years, the president tried to reassure Americans that more progress was being made in Iraq than they realized. But with Iraq either in civil war or on the brink of it, Bush dropped the unseen-progress argument in favor of the contention that things could be even worse.

The shifting rhetoric reflected a broader pessimism that has reached into even some of the most optimistic corners of the administration -- a sense that the Iraq venture has taken a dark turn and will not be resolved anytime soon. Bush advisers once believed that if they met certain benchmarks, such as building a constitutional democracy and training a new Iraqi army, the war would be won. Now they believe they have more or less met those goals, yet the war rages on.

While still committed to the venture, officials have privately told friends and associates outside government that they have grown discouraged in recent months. Even the death of al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq proved not to be the turning point they expected, they have told associates, and other developments have been relentlessly dispiriting, with fewer signs of hope.

Siege mentality and defeatism is starting to affect the Bush White House. Ever since the United States invaded Iraq, the Bush administration has been pushing this message that things are getting better in Iraq--an Iraqi constitution was being drafted, an Iraqi parliament was elected, so many Iraqi schools were being built. And yet, right after we toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, we unleashed the ethnic and religious hatreds that have been simmering in Iraq for decades, resulting in an Iraqi civil war. This Bush administration went into Iraq based on the PNAC neocon's misguided dreams on American hegemony and militaristic imperialism in the Middle East, only to see the Middle East--and the rest of the world--turn against the United States. This is the disaster that has befallen upon us--courtesy of the Bush White House.

And no amount of politically-happy-PR-spin about how things are getting better in Iraq is going to pull the United States out of the troubles she is currently in. And that is what the Bush administration has been attempting to do--trying to convince the American public that the war in Iraq is turning the corner, that the Republicans are winning the war, even as the conditions in Iraq have gotten progressively worst. The more the Bush White House pushes this discredited political spin on the Iraq war, the more foolish, incompetent, and out-of-touch-with-reality they are perceived. And with the midterm elections less than three months away, the Bush administration's arguments for staying the course in Iraq have fallen on deaf ears with the American public.

So the Bush White House and Republicans are shifting their strategy. Instead of saying that conditions are getting better in Iraq, President Bush and the Republicans are saying to the American public that if you think conditions are bad now, just wait until the Democrats take control of Congress--conditions in Iraq will get even worst. We've seen part of this strategy played out with the Republican talking points claiming that the Democrats will "cut and run," or "surrender to the terrorists" regarding Iraq. Now President Bush and the Republicans are telling the American people that if you vote Republican, then the war in Iraq will not get any worst than if you vote for the Democrats. The problem with this argument is that it was President Bush and the Republicans that got us into this war in Iraq in the first place. Continuing with the Post story:

[W]ith crucial midterm elections just 2 1/2 months away, Bush and his team are trying to turn the public debate away from whether the Iraq invasion has worked out to what would happen if U.S. troops were withdrawn, as some Democrats advocate. The necessity of not failing, Bush advisers believe, is now a more compelling argument than the likelihood of success.

Using such terms as "havoc" at Monday's news conference, Bush made no effort to suggest the situation in Iraq is improving. Instead, he argued: "If you think it's bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself."

Christopher F. Gelpi, a Duke University scholar whose research on public opinion in wartime has been influential in the White House, said Bush has little choice.

"He looks foolish and not credible if he says, 'We're making progress in Iraq,' " Gelpi said. "I think he probably would like to make that argument, but because that's not credible given the facts on the ground, this is the fallback. . . . If the only thing you can say is 'Yes, it's bad, but it could be worse,' that really is a last-ditch argument."

In other words, the Republicans are trying to shift the political debate on Iraq from their own documented policy failures in Iraq, towards blaming the Democrats for causing this failure of Iraq by suggesting vague policy options. This tactic also insulates the Bush administration's program to "stay the course" in Iraq by inciting fear in the American public that a Democratic Party's changing the course in Iraq will also cause the U.S. to lose the war in Iraq. I will admit that it is a last-ditch argument for President Bush and the Republicans for selling their continued war in Iraq to the American public, and hoping that the American public will not vote the congressional Republicans out of office.

The fear that I have is that this political tactic might just work. The key of this tactic is shifting the American public's attention away from blaming President Bush and the Republicans for getting us into Iraq, towards blaming the Democrats for proposing failed strategies that cause the U.S. to lose the war in Iraq. If the Republicans succeed in this strategy, they could maintain control of Congress. The Democrats have got to keep themselves from falling into this trap of defending themselves from Republican charges of cutting and running, or timetables of American withdrawals from Iraq. The Democrats have got to pound into the American public's skulls that it was President Bush and the Republican Party that have gotten the United States into this failed war in Iraq--again and again and again! Continue blaming the Iraq war on President Bush and the Republican Party. Continue blaming President Bush and the Republicans for "staying the course" of this Iraqi disaster. That is how the Democrats can win the debate on Iraq.

U.S. Spy Agencies Criticized On Iran

This is off the Washington Post:

A key House committee issued a stinging critique of U.S. intelligence on Iran yesterday, charging that the CIA and other agencies lack "the ability to acquire essential information necessary to make judgments" on Tehran's nuclear program, its intentions or even its ties to terrorism.

The 29-page report, principally written by a Republican staff member on the House intelligence committee who holds a hard-line view on Iran, fully backs the White House position that the Islamic republic is moving forward with a nuclear weapons program and that it poses a significant danger to the United States. But it chides the intelligence community for not providing enough direct evidence to support that assertion.

"American intelligence agencies do not know nearly enough about Iran's nuclear weapons program" to help policymakers at a critical time, the report's authors say. Information "regarding potential Iranian chemical weapons and biological weapons programs is neither voluminous nor conclusive," and little evidence has been gathered to tie Iran to al-Qaeda and to the recent fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, they say.

What worries me here is that the Bush administration is following the same path of confrontation with Iran in the same manner as the United States confronted Iraq. The Bush administration sold the American people a poorly-planned war and an intractable occupation of Iraq based on faulty intelligence that Iraq was building WMDs--when in fact, Iraq had no WMDs. Now the Bush administration is confronting Iran with ordering Iran to halt its own nuclear program--an Iranian nuclear program which U.S. intelligence hasn't a clue as to the size and scope of. The war drums are starting to pound again. Continuing with the Post story:

The House panel's report comes at a time when the Bush administration is scrambling for leverage in its effort to force Iran to suspend its nuclear program. On Tuesday, Tehran rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring it to halt its uranium-enrichment work.

For weeks, the White House has said that it would push for international sanctions if Iran failed to comply with the council's demands. But none of its allies spoke of sanctions yesterday, a day after Iran said it was willing to engage in serious discussions with the United States -- but not if it had to stop its nuclear program first.

The State Department issued a terse response to the Iranian offer yesterday, saying it fell "short" of Iran's obligations but making no mention of sanctions.

Some Republicans privately oppose President Bush's current policy of potential engagement with Iran and believe it is crumbling in the face of European reluctance to impose strict measures.

Now toss in the American public's distaste for the Bush administration's blundering war in Iraq, the continued tensions between Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, and the president's and Republican Party's dropping poll numbers less than three months before the midterm elections, and you have one clusterfracked disaster waiting to happen to the Bush White House and Republican Party. The Republican's "War on Terror" message is being ignored by the American public. The big fear that I see is that the Bush White House and Republican Party will either play up another terror fear a week, or perhaps days, before the midterm elections. And if there is no terror fear to play up at that time, then will the Bush administration consider an air attack against Iran as the last option to stop Iran's nuclear program--an air strike that would occur just before the midterm elections?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Syria: Deployment of international troops on Lebanese border is considered a "hostile" act

Talk of war in the Middle East is starting to increase again. This is from Yahoo News:

BEIRUT, Lebanon--Israel's foreign minister said Wednesday the situation in Lebanon was "explosive" while Syria's president says the deployment of international troops along the Syria-Lebanon border would be a "hostile" act.

The escalating rhetoric came as the 10-day cease-fire was shaken by the deaths of three Lebanese soldiers killed defusing a missile and an Israeli killed by a land mine in south Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora urged the U.S. to help end Israel's sea and air blockade, saying his country was making "every effort" to secure its borders.

Syrian President Bashar Assad was quoted as saying he would consider such a deployment along the Lebanon-Syria border a "hostile" move toward his country.

"First, this means creating a hostile condition between Syria and Lebanon," Assad told Dubai Television, according to excerpts released by the TV station ahead of the broadcast. "Second, it is a hostile move toward Syria and naturally it will create problems."

Assad did not elaborate on that point in the excerpts. But Finland's foreign minister, after meeting with his Syrian counterpart, said Damascus threatened to close the frontier with Lebanon if U.N. peacekeepers were deployed there.

An Aug. 11 U.N. resolution outlined a cease-fire agreement that called for a 15,000-member force of international peacekeepers and another 15,000 Lebanese army troops to deploy to southern Lebanon, as Israeli troops withdraw.

But efforts to raise the force were moving slowly with the European Union nations expected to lead it reluctant to commit troops without safeguards to ensure they do not get sucked into the conflict.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would not lift its air and sea blockade until international peacekeepers were deployed at the Beirut international airport and along the Lebanese border with Syria. Hezbollah's vast arsenal of rockets and other weapons is believed to originate in Iran and reach the guerrillas across the Syrian border.

So, Israel is demanding that international troops be deployed along the Syrian-Lebanese border, and will not lift its blockade of Lebanon until the peacekeepers are deployed. Syria considers such forces along its border with Lebanon a "hostile" act, which could mean that such peacekeepers could be attacked by Syrian forces. The cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah is still in effect, but could break down as Israel continues its blockade. And what is the United States planning to do regarding all this war talk between Israel, Syria and Lebanon? At this point, the U.S. wants to send an international peacekeeping force into Lebanon, thus creating a possible military conflict between Syria, Lebanon, and perhaps even Israel.

Talk about a complete mess.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bush urges GOP to focus on economy

President Bush, right, takes a question from Ken Herman, standing left, of Cox Newspapers during a press conference at the White House Conference Center across from the White House grounds Monday, Aug. 21, 2006 in Washington. President Bush repeatedly poked fun at Herman's suit during the press conference. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

We've got some new election news for you! Since the war in Iraq is "straining the psyche" of America, and the Republican Party, President Bush has decided to the political campaign stratigery. From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - Even though he's not running for re-election this year,
President Bush knows just what he would focus on if he were: the economy and taxes.

As Republicans face an increasingly tough political outlook, in part because of Bush's sagging approval ratings, the president offered some advice Monday to GOP candidates in the midterm elections.

"If I were a candidate ... I'd say, 'Look at what the economy has done. It's strong. We've created a lot of jobs. ... I'd be telling people that the Democrats will raise your taxes. That's what they said. I'd be reminding people that tax cuts have worked in terms of stimulating the economy," Bush told reporters at a news conference.

Since the war in Iraq is such a disaster, let's look at the Republican accomplishments in the U.S. economy as a reason why voters should keep the Republicans in control of all three branches of government. Continuing with the Republican accomplishments in the economy:

The economy has slowed in recent months, in part because of the slump in the housing market. Recent economic indicators showed a 4.8 percent jobless rate in July and 4 percent annual economic growth rate through the first half of the year.

The Labor Department recently said employers added just 113,000 new jobs in July, down from 124,000 in June.

Only 37 percent of Americans support Bush's handling of the economy, according to the Associated Press-Ipsos poll in early August. The same survey showed Bush's overall approval rating at 33 percent.

As a candidate, Bush said he would remind voters of the "philosophical difference between those who want to raise taxes and have the government spend the money, and those of us who say, 'You get to spend the money the way you want to see fit. It's your money.'"

"I'd remind people that pro-growth economic policies had helped us cut that deficit faster than we thought," he said.

In 2000, the last year of the Clinton administration, the surplus was $236 billion. The $260 billion deficit forecast for the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30, is $112 billion below previous estimates. Tax revenues contributed to the smaller deficit.

The economy has certainly been growing, but the benefits have either gone to corporations or to the rich elites. For the past six years, we've experienced the same tired, old supply-sided economic theories that have caused our budget deficit to explode from $5 trillion to almost $9 trillion dollars (We can also thank the Bush's war in Iraq for adding to the deficit). Job creation has been anemic, with high wage manufacturing and professional services jobs being outsourced overseas, only to be replaced with low wage retail and service sector jobs. Interest rates have gone up. Consumer debt levels have probably increased. So President Bush's economic policies have not helped America with the of the ubber-rich. And Bush is trying to show the GOP's success in managing the economy? I have a single question to ask you--a question that was asked by the Republican Party's own god-like hero:

Are you better off than you were six years ago?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bush is getting a mite frustrated here--another tale of two headlines

I've got two interesting little stories to toss out here. First, I have this latest YouTube video of the press conference President Bush held today.

And here is the Washington Post's story on the Bush press conference. The big surprise in this press conference is President Bush's outburst against one reporter who asked what did Iraq have to do with September 11th. Bush replied, "NOTHING!" And yet for the past four years, the Bush administration has been linking Iraq to September 11th as the primary reason for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. In other words, the president has finally admitted that he has lied to the American people. Think Progress documents the Bush administration lies of Iraq's involvement into September 11th here.

But there is more. I also have this August 16, 2006 story from the Washington Post, titled Bush Said to Be Frustrated by Level of Public Support in Iraq:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15--President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government--and the Iraqi people--had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday.

Those who attended a Monday lunch at the Pentagon that included the presidentÂ’s war cabinet and several outside experts said Mr. Bush carefully avoided expressing a clear personal view of the new prime minister of Iraq, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

But in what participants described as a telling line of questioning, Mr. Bush did ask each of the academic experts for their assessment of the prime ministerÂ’s effectiveness.

"“I sensed a frustration with the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq generally--that we continue to lose a lot of lives, it continues to sap our budget," said one person who attended the meeting. "“The president wants the people in Iraq to get more on board to bring success."

Another person who attended the session said he interpreted Mr. BushÂ’s comments less as an expression of frustration than as uncertainty over the prospects of the new Iraqi government. "“He said he really didn'’t quite have a sense yet of how effective the government was," said this person, who, like several who discussed the session, agreed to speak only anonymously because it was a private lunch.

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. "I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States," said another person who attended.

The war in Iraq has become a complete mess. The country has destabilized into three ethnic and religious groups that are now engaged in a civil war with each other. The American-backed Iraqi government is powerless to do anything to keep the country together. American public opinion polls have turned against the war. And with the president's own job approval rating polls down in the gutter, there is a lot of worry within the GOP establishment that President Bush's failed policies in Iraq will hurt the GOP in the congressional midterm elections. All of this bad news has been buffeting the Bush White House, forcing the Bush administration to adopt a siege mentality against anyone who questions their policies or their PR-spin. In addition, President Bush has backed himself into a corner by claiming that the American occupation of Iraq will continue to "stay the course." The president refuses to change his policies in Iraq, no matter how much more worst the situation in Iraq degenerates into. Any change in the policy on Iraq by the Bush White House will probably be an admission by the Bush administration that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was a complete failure. And this president refuses to admit that Iraq is a failure.

So what does all this mean? I would say that President Bush is starting to lose it. Iraq has become an even greater quagmire than the Bush administration could ever handle. It is starting to show now with this press conference. The fact that the Washington Post published a story detailing President Bush's frustration with Iraq shows the inability of the Bush administration to do anything in Iraq without destructive consequences. And as the midterm elections get closer, we can expect Iraq and terrorism to dominate the news headlines. The Bush administration will continue their failed PR-spin of their disastrous war in Iraq, and their incessant, non-existent terror warnings as a means to strike fear in the American public to vote Republican. And yet as the true story of the Iraqi disaster continues to unfold, the facts of the war will contradict the Bush PR-spin and talking points. Will it be enough to dampen the Bush PR-spin and shift control of Congress from the GOP to the Democrats? I can't say yet.

It is going to be interesting.

Judge Tosses One Charge Against Padilla

Well, this is interesting. From The Wasington Post:

MIAMI -- A federal judge on Monday threw out one count in the terror indictment against alleged al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla and his co-defendants, concluding that it repeated other charges in the same indictment.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke leaves intact two other terror-related counts against Padilla and the others alleging a conspiracy to provide material support to Islamic extremist causes worldwide.

The count that was dropped charged a conspiracy to "murder, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country."

Cooke ruled that charge was unnecessary because the alleged illegal acts were already covered by the other terror-related counts in the indictment. Prosecuting all three charges, she said, would violate the Constitution's ban against double jeopardy, or prosecution of the same charges twice.

Well, this is another black eye for the Bush administration. Padilla was arrested and held, without being charged, for three years as the Bush administration attempted to declare this American-born citizen an "enemy combatant." According to CNN:

Padilla was arrested in May 2002 returning from overseas at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. He initially was detained as a material witness in the investigation of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

President Bush designated him an enemy combatant the following month and turned him over to the military.

Padilla, who the government alleges has al Qaeda ties, was added to the South Florida indictment in November. Two co-defendants -- Adham Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi -- also have pleaded not guilty.

A fourth defendant, Mohamed Hesham Yousef, is in custody in Egypt. The whereabouts of a fifth defendant, Kassem Daher, is not known.

The indictment alleges the men belonged to a North American terrorist support cell and intended to carry out jihad, or holy war, in foreign countries.

Padilla was originally accused of -- but never charged with -- being a potential "dirty bomber," plotting to detonate a crude radioactive device in the United States, and later scheming to blow up apartment buildings using natural gas.

The issue here is that the Bush administration attempted to circumvent Padilla's legal rights as an American citizen--first by labeling him as an "enemy combatant," and then locking Padilla up and throwing away the key, thus declaring that all enemy combatants had no legal rights. If anything, Padilla was a test case to see if the Bush administration could throw American citizens into jail without due process. And so far, the Bush administration has lost on this case. That is not to say that Padilla should go free, but rather that Padilla should go through the criminal justice system as all other defendants. Padilla has every right to access of legal counsel, the right to cross-examine witnesses, the right to hear and review the evidence supporting the charges against him. He should have the right to a trial by jury. And if he is found guilty, then he should be punished--otherwise he should be freed. That is the greatest power of our criminal justice system--the ability to provide a fair and impartial hearing and judgment against those individuals charged with committing crimes.

Friday, August 18, 2006


I saw this on The Daily Show, and even I had to laugh at the absurdity of CNN trying to jump on the fear bandwagon. This is from You Tube:

GOP backs doctor as write-in for DeLay

Houston City Councilwoman Shelly Sekula-Gibbs chats with reporters before a vote that selected her as the official write-in candidate to run for Rep. Tom Delay's seat after a meeting by Republican precinct chairs at a church in Pearland, Texas Thursday, August 17, 2006.(AP Photo / Michael Stravato)

How about another exciting episode from The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour! This is also from Yahoo News:

PEARLAND, Texas - Texas Republican leaders, unable to replace former Rep.
Tom DeLay's name on the November ballot, sounded confident about the party's chances of holding onto his congressional seat after they voted to support the write-in campaign of a Houston city councilwoman.

Party precinct chairmen from DeLay's 22nd Congressional District met Thursday night and chose Dr. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a dermatologist serving her third term on the city council, as the favored Republican candidate.

DeLay, dogged by allegations of money laundering, resigned from Congress a few months after winning the Republican primary. The party wanted to replace him on the Nov. 7 ballot, but the courts ruled against it, leaving the GOP leadership scrambling to find a write-in candidate who could win.

The party faces a tough race against Democrat Nick Lampson, a former congressman. Libertarian Bob Smither also is running.

"Tonight we start the grassroots Republican campaign that this district is well known for," Sekula-Gibbs said. "It is a district that has over 60 percent Republicans and we will turn them out."

Sekula-Gibbs said Friday that the war on terrorism will be a focus of her campaign.

"I have heard from the base that it is critical we support the war on terror and we protect our country from acts of violence against our citizens," she said. "So supporting the president's war on terror is extremely important to me."

The Republicans are really scraping the bottom of the barrel here. They couldn't take DeLay's name off the ballot, so they are trying to get an unknown dermatologist to fill in as a write-in candidate. And what is Sekula-Gibbs' big campaign message for the voters in Sugarland? Why--the Great War on Terror of course! Support the War! Support the president! Democrats such as Nick Lampson are traitors who will surrender to the terrorists!

I don't know about you, but the message is getting pretty stale here. But wait--there's more:

Sekula-Gibbs said she also supports limited government, fair taxation and defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

So, Sekula-Gibbs supports limited government (cut all domestic spending except defense and national security), fair taxation (tax cuts for the ubber-rich), and defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman (ban gay marriage, discriminate against gays).

Sekula-Gibbs sounds like a pretty stale candidate.

8 candidates fight for Ney's seat

This is an interesting little Yahoo News story:

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Eight candidates beat the deadline to vie for scandal-scarred Rep. Bob Ney (news, bio, voting record)'s congressional seat in a special election next month, including two men who lost races in the spring primary and the Republican state lawmaker Ney wants to take his place.

If their petitions are approved, the eight will compete Sept. 14 to replace Ney on the November ballot in a race drawing widespread attention as Democrats try to retake control of the U.S. House.

Ney dropped his re-election campaign last week, citing the strain of an intensifying corruption investigation that has focused for months on his dealings with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney denies wrongdoing and has not been charged.

The six-term Republican congressman, along with House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, asked state Sen. Joy Padgett to run.

Joining her on the ballot — provided each filed at least 50 valid signatures of registered Republican voters from the 18th Congressional District — will be Ralph Applegate, who finished last in the May 2 Democratic primary, and James Brodbelt Harris, who received less than one-third of the vote against Ney in the Republican primary.

Also filing petitions by Thursday's deadline were Dover Mayor Rick Homrighausen; Holmes County Commissioner Rick Feickert; John Bennett, Ney's Cambridge-based coordinator of veterans affairs; Gregory Zelenitz of Belmont County; and Samuel Firman of Coshocton County.

The winner will face Democrat Zack Space, Dover's law director, in the Nov. 7 general election.

I don't think the Republican Party was expecting this to happen, when they pushed to have Padgett replace Ney's spot on the ballot. Now the Republicans have an inter-party fight for Ney's spot on the ballot, and the skeletons are coming out. Consider this in the story:

Harris, a financial analyst, came out firing at Padgett, suggesting her personal and corporate bankruptcies make her unfit to help set the federal budget.

"Bankruptcy is not a badge of honor and it is an ethical and professional disqualification from representing Ohio Republicans and taxpayers in Congress," he said.

Padgett was treasurer of an office supply Company in 2005 when it filed for federal bankruptcy protection and defaulted on a Small Business Administration loan. Padgett guaranteed $837,000, then filed for personal bankruptcy protection in June on that debt.

This crap is coming up from the Republican Party--not the Democrats. In other words, the Republicans are charging each other of being involved in the "culture of corruption." And I have to wonder if the Ohio Republicans are listening as this fight is taking place over the next six weeks. In the meantime, the Democrats can sit back and enjoy the show as they continue taking their own pot-shots in this crazy special election primary.

Bush: Judges "simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live."

I got this off Yahoo News:

CAMP DAVID, Md.--President Bush said those who agree with a federal judge that his warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional "simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live."

"This country of ours is at war," the president said Friday. "And we must give those whose responsibility it is to protect the United States the tools necessary to protect this country in a time of war."

The day before, a federal judge in Michigan struck down the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program, ruling it was an unconstitutional infringement on the right to privacy and free speech. Upon Bush's orders, the Justice Department appealed within hours.

"I strongly disagree with this decision. Strongly disagree," he said of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in a case brought by the
American Civil Liberties Union.

Bush suggested he sees the issue as a politically potent one in a year when most of Congress is up for re-election, and GOP control of the Capitol is in danger.

"I made my position clear," he said. "It'll be interesting to see what other policymakers — how other policymakers react."

This president is completely frickin' insane--he's lost it! Bush is claiming that a federal judge doesn't understand the "nature of the world we live in?" And because the judge doesn't understand the "nature of the world we live in" that judge had to strike down the NSA's illegal domestic spying program?

The only person who doesn't seem to understand the "nature of the world (and the United States) we live in" is President Bush himself. We live in a country where our rights and freedoms are protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We have the freedom of speech, the freedom of privacy, and the freedom of unwarranted searches and seizures by the government. The NSA wiretapping program allows the government to domestically spy on American citizens by skirting, ignoring, and rejecting these constitutional rights that we have. This NSA spying program has been instituted without the need for the administration to get a search warrant from a judge. Mr. President--that is illegal under the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Bush administration could have instituted the wiretaps first, and then have gone to the FISA courts to obtain a warrant 72 hours after first instituting the wiretaps. But that would still require getting a search warrant from a judge, which would require "probable cause." And if the judge says no, then the wiretap is nixed. The Bush administration doesn't like sharing power with the other two branches of government--President Bush would rather accumulate totalitarian power upon himself. Bush even said it would be easier to run the country as a dictatorship--"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier; there's no question about it." George Bush may have been joking about it, but the fact that he publicly made this statement shows the disdain and contempt he has for our constitutional system of checks and balances. This man's corrupted desire was not to become president of the United States, but rather become its first dictator. And for six years, he has been well on his way of achieving this goal.

That is--until a federal judge stomped him.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Federal Judge: Tobacco firms deceived smokers

I'm not sure where this story is going. From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - A federal judge ruled Thursday that the nation's top cigarette makers violated racketeering laws, deceiving the public for years about the health hazards of smoking, but said she couldn't order them to pay the billions of dollars the government had sought.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler did order the companies to publish in newspapers and on their Web sites "corrective statements" on the adverse health effects and addictiveness of smoking and nicotine.

She also ordered tobacco companies to stop labeling cigarettes as "low tar," "light," "ultra light" or "mild," since such cigarettes have been found to be no safer than others because of how people smoke them.

In her ruling, the judge said, "Over the course of more than 50 years, defendants lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as 'replacement smokers,' about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke (second-hand smoke)."

Kessler said that adoption of a national stop-smoking program, as sought by the government, "would unquestionably serve the public interest" but that she was barred by an appeals court ruling that said remedies must be forward-looking and not penalties for past actions.

The government had asked the judge to make the companies pay $10 billion for smoking cessation programs, though the Justice Department's own expert said $130 billion was needed.

So U.S. District Judge Kessler claims that the tobacco companies have deceived American smokers for the past fifty years about the dangers of smoking to their health, so that the big tobacco companies could continue to make huge profits from legally selling an addictive drug. But this same judge claims she can't do anything to punish the tobacco companies because of a previous ruling by an appeals court saying the companies must pay for forward-looking remedies, rather than paying penalties for past actions. What I would have to wonder is that if the big tobacco firms deceived smokers for profit, would this open up the tobacco companies to a new deluge of personal lawsuits from individuals asking to recoup their own health care costs, or even the costs needed to make them quit smoking? And what of the states? Are they going to sue to force the tobacco companies to pay for anti-smoking programs or programs to allow citizens to quit smoking? Or will the states try to force the tobacco companies to pay for current and future health care costs that is attributed to current smokers?

It certainly is interesting speculation here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Americans are in an anti-incumbent mood

I found another story off the Washington Post, titled House Incumbents at Risk, Poll Finds:

Most Americans describe themselves as being in an anti-incumbent mood heading into this fall's midterm congressional elections, and the percentage of people who approve of their own representative's performance is at the lowest level since 1994, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Eighty-one percent of Democrats say the war was not worth fighting, and 70 percent feel that way "strongly." A majority of Democrats, 54 percent, say a candidate endorsing Bush's Iraq policy would be less likely to get their vote, compared with 37 percent for whom it would not make much difference. Two in three Democrats say it is time to begin decreasing troop levels in Iraq, although only one in four supports immediate withdrawal.

Especially worrisome for members of Congress is that the proportion of Americans who approve of their own representative's performance has fallen sharply. Traditionally, voters may express disapproval of Congress as a whole but still vote for their own member, even from the majority party. But 55 percent now approve of their lawmaker, a seven-percentage-point drop over three months and the lowest such finding since 1994, the last time control of the House switched parties.

"That's dramatic," said Republican consultant Ed Rollins, who was White House political director under President Ronald Reagan.

Some Republican strategists said they fear it may be enough for Democrats to hammer home on the troubles of the country. "There's just a frustration that a lot of things are going wrong and nobody in Washington understands," Rollins said. "Even though the Democrats haven't really picked up the ball and offered an alternative, the numbers keep getting worse and worse."

The poll mirrored results of surveys at this point 12 years ago, just three months before Republicans swept out Democratic majorities from both houses of Congress. Fifty-three percent now call themselves anti-incumbent, while 29 percent describe themselves as inclined to reelect lawmakers -- almost precisely the same percentages as in June 1994.

The Republicans are pretty much convinced that the "War on Terror" is an issue that favors them over the Democrats. The problem with the Republican thinking is that they've been constantly linking the "War on Terror" with the war in Iraq. With reports coming out showing that Iraq has pretty much degenerated into an ethnic and religious civil war, it destroys the Republican's argument that they are the stronger political party to fight this "War on Terror." Consider that 80 percent of the Democrats feel the Iraq war is not worth fighting for, and that 2/3rds of the Democrats feel it is time to start pulling out. This is a major political shift, polarizing the party lines. You can bet that the Republicans are going to have trouble trying to steal away conservative Democrats, moderates or perhaps even independents if they are also feeling the same anger against President Bush and the Republican Party. And with the country in such a sour, angry mood, the Republican Party may find it hard to call out their own base of support--who may just stay home and not vote out of anger against Bush and the Republicans. Whereas, the Democrats may find it easier to turn out their own base because of the anger against Bush and the Republicans. So this is an interesting situation developing.

Should we appoint the Seven Dwarfs to the Supreme Court?

The United States Supreme Court

All I can say here is that this is truly scary. More Americans can name the seven dwarfs than they can name the Supreme Court justices:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three quarters of Americans can correctly identify two of Snow White's seven dwarfs while only a quarter can name two Supreme Court Justices, according to a poll on pop culture released on Monday.

According to the poll by Zogby International, commissioned by the makers of a new online game on pop culture called "Gold Rush," 57 percent of Americans could identify
J.K. Rowling's fictional boy wizard as Harry Potter, while only 50 percent could name the British prime minister, Tony Blair.

The pollsters spoke to 1,213 people across the United States. The results had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Just over 60 percent of respondents were able to name Bart as Homer's son on the television show "The Simpsons," while only 20.5 percent were able to name one of the ancient Greek poet Homer's epic poems, "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey."

Asked what planet Superman was from, 60 percent named the fictional planet Krypton, while only 37 percent knew that Mercury is the planet closest to the sun.

Respondents were far more familiar with the Three Stooges -- Larry, Curly and Moe -- than the three branches of the U.S. government -- judicial, executive and legislative. Seventy-four percent identified the former, 42 percent the latter.

Twice as many people (23 percent) were able to identify the most recent winner of the television talent show "American Idol," Taylor Hicks, as were able to name the Supreme Court Justice confirmed in January 2006,
Samuel Alito (11 percent).

And while we're at it, here's the latest promotional pic to Walt Disney's upcomming remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Where is this country heading to....

WaPost has some interesting spin on the polls

I found this story off The Washington Post, titled Parsing the Polls: Is a Democratic Wave Building? It is a fascinating little article looking at the roundup of the latest political polls:

In a March Parsing the Polls we looked at the edge Democrats held over Republicans on a generic ballot question, which, in essence, asks: "If the congressional election were held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate in your district or the Republican candidate?"

At the time, we decided that although Democrats' advantage signaled considerable unrest in the country toward the majority party in Washington, it was too early in the cycle to draw any broad conclusions about what the generic ballot numbers meant for the fall.

The results have certainly changed after six months:

At the time, the average of the last five national polls testing the generic ballot showed Democrats with a 13.4 percent margin. Fast forward six months and that margin has actually increased. Take a look:

Political party approval table from Washington Post

Add those numbers up and the average Democratic generic edge has grown to 14.8 percent -- with 84 days left before the election.

How about President Bush's approval ratings:

Presidential job approval table from Washington Post

Here's the Congressional approval rating:

Congressional approval table from Washington Post

And is the country heading in the right or wrong direction? You decide:

Country heading in right or wrong direction? Table from Washington Post

So is now the time to conclude that a Democratic wave is building that will sweep Republicans out of a House majority in November?

The answer, according to Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg, is a guarded yes.

"If you take an average of the last three or four polls, because any one can be an outlier in either direction, you can determine which way the wind is blowing, and whether the wind speed is small, medium, large or extra-large," said Cook. "The last three generics that I have seen have been in the 18 or 19 point range, which is on the high side of extra large. That suggests the probability of large Democratic gains."

"The generic surely reflects voters dissatisfaction with the President and his party and their inclination to support Democrats in the fall," agreed Rothenberg. "The size of the Democrats' generic advantage also can't be ignored. It too suggests the likelihood of a partisan wave, even though it does not guarantee the fate of any individual Republican incumbent."

I will say that the results from each poll in each of the respected tables are all very similar. And looking at those numbers, it tells me that the Republican Party is in deep trouble regarding the short-sighted failed policies they have enacted over the past six years. The Republicans are in control of all three branches of government. They have control of the corporate media. The failures of Iraq, Katrina, the scandals and corruption, or even the jobless recovery are all the responsibilities of President Bush and the Republican Congress--no bipartisanship here with the Democrats. And the American people are starting to realize it.

Consider this little conclusion from the story:

Crunching the numbers, President Bush's average job approval number in the polls cited above is 36 percent while his average disapproval is 58 percent. The average approval rating for Congress is even more dismal -- 29.6 percent and its disapproval is 62.3 percent. Approximately 26 percent of those tested in the survey above are satisfied with the direction of the country while a whopping 69 percent are dissatisfied....

What does this bevy of numbers mean for the fall? It means that the national environment is clearly slanted in Democrats' favor at the moment and barring some sort of major national event will stay that way all the way through November. A slanted playing field has the capacity to bring normally non-competitive Republican-held seats into play -- widening Democrats' margin for error if they hope to take back the House.

I would even go on to say that the Republicans know that they will lose one or both houses of Congress. The goal here for the midterm elections would be to stem the losses using whatever legal, illegal, or unethical means that are necessary. It is interesting to note here that the Republicans seem more eager to tacitly endorse Joe Lieberman's independent campaign for the Connecticut Senate seat over that of Republican Alan Schlesinger. They have tried to legally remove Tom DeLay's name off the Texas ballot, and failed. But at the same time, the Republicans were able to set up a special primary election to replace Ohio congressman Bob Ney on the ballot. And finally, the House Republicans have about $40 million to spend on the House races--so expect a lot of messages on terror fears.

It is going to be a nasty 3 months.

Is Bush an idiot?

I found this off Dependable Renegade, and even I was surprised. The original source is Raw Story, which reported a debate on MSNBC's Scarborough Country as to whether President Bush was an idiot.

Here is the original link to the MSNBC story.

Is George Bush an idiot? To be honest, I'm not sure. I'll admit that I may have called Bush an idiot here in numerous posts on Oh Well, while criticizing his domestic and foreign policy disasters. I believe he is inarticulate--that he doesn't have the command of the English language, or the media savvy skill in presenting his message, vision and political policy to the American people.

The real problem with George W. Bush is that the presidency is just too big of a job for his intellectual curiosity and capacity--the Oval Office is too big for his britches. George Bush does not have the executive leadership skills, the intellectual skills, the curiosity, or even the media presentation skills that are necessary to tackle this demanding job. He never had the skills to pick the best people to compliment him and the office--I'll admit that he picked some very top people who worked in the previous Nixon, Reagan, and first Bush administrations, but Bush never had the strength, wisdom, or even cajones to say no to even stronger-willed men such as Cheney, or Rumsfeld, regarding policy issues. Thus, the neocons took over Bush's foreign policy to launch their disastrous war in Iraq. Bush never had the intellectual curiosity to discuss and debate policy options--Iraq is another prime example for asking what the worst-case scenario could be. He never had the cajones to ask his father, George H.W. Bush for advice about Iraq--instead claiming he listens to a "higher father." He never had the imagination to realize or understand the problems of Katrina, or to even consider options the federal government could enact in order to stem the suffering caused by that disaster. Bush also never had any cajones to fire his top staff members who were engaged in scandal--Karl Rove and Dick Cheney's involvement in Katrina, Donald Rumsfeld's involvement in allowing the U.S. military to conduct torture on Arab prisoners.

My first impression of George W. Bush, when he came on the presidential scene in 2000, was that Bush was a Woody Doll from Disney's Toy Story. When you pull Woody's string back, Woody made the same five or six sayings from his little recorder. George W. Bush was the same way--he said the same policy statements to five or six issues. The big statement he had was his gigantic tax cut--we must cut taxes to give this surplus back to the American people, we must cut taxes because we're in a recession and the tax cuts will stimulate the economy, we must cut taxes because there is a giant killer asteroid heading to earth. I'm now realizing that Bush isn't just a Woody Doll, but rather he was a presidential puppet--carefully marketed to the American people as just a regular guy you want to have a beer with and shoot the breeze on a warm summer's night. A presidential puppet, whose corporate interests, rich elites, religious right, and PNAC neocons happily pulled his strings to institute short term political policies to benefit their own short-sighted interests at the long-term expense of our country. And I'm not sure that George Bush even realizes that he is still a puppet in this political game. George Bush was used by men with greater intelligence and capacity then he would ever have. And when Bush's second term is finally over, he will be thrown away into history like so much trash. The puppet-masters will laugh at Bush's gullibility in providing their outrageous fortune and desires. The American public will scorn Bush for leading the country into disaster.

And George W. Bush will continue to be a failure.