Monday, October 02, 2006

letter: October 1, 2006

Jim Nussle’s a self-pinned op-ed, “Here's why I merit your vote: I'll energize state's future,” October 1, 2006, the Republican gubernatorial candidate outlines a series of proposals to create a more business friendly climate in the state, hinting at more corporate welfare through tax incentives and cuts thereby further eroding the state’s income and property tax base, leading to more reliance on regressive local option sales tax schemes.

The congressman’s proposals on education and health care are little more than sparkling generalities. Nussle falls back on the bromide that more of the right kind of education leads to higher wages and prosperity. The fact is that between 1979 and 2003 hourly wages for workers without college degrees fell while four-year degree holders’ compensation rose by less than a percent over that same period. His health care proposals are merely a sop to the insurance lobby.

And why does Nussle think creating a new bureaucracy will restore the public’s trust in state government? Can we trust an “inspector general” appointed by a Republican governor to investigate not only Democratic high jinx but GOP wrongdoing?

Democrat Chet Culver is only marginally better, but the voters of Iowa can do Congressman Nussle a favor and sent him back to Washington, D.C. so he can pursue a lucrative career as a K-Street lobbyist.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I don't know how I got on today

Blogger's getting really cranky and unreliable here lately. It seems that Google has bought out Blogger and there's some beta package available, but only to certain bloggers or something. Maybe it has to do with sigining up for Google's GMail. I don't know. All I do know is that it's very frustrating. I don't even know for sure if I'll be able to get back on in the immediate future. So I'm taking a few days off and think about things.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Seymour Hersh's new column posted at The New Yorker

Watching Lebanon, Washington's Interest in Israel's war.
The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the U.S. governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah—and shared it with Bush Administration officials—well before the July 12th kidnappings. “It’s not that the Israelis had a trap that Hezbollah walked into,” he said, “but there was a strong feeling in the White House that sooner or later the Israelis were going to do it.”
As I noted earlier, the "kidnapping" may have be a deliberate provocation on Israel's part. Remember the "coincidential" capture of one of the Hezbollah fighters who started all this mess back on August 8? Well hardly anybody else does either. However, the Rupert Murdoch owned New York Post ran its usual lurid tabloid-style story under the headline,KIDNAP FIEND MADE IN IRAN. This was the best reference to that incident I found after Googling several variants of "IDF captures Hezbollah kidnappers." Tangendential evidence at best that the so-called captured kidnapper was a Mossad agent, but my imagination leads me nowhere else. back to Hersh.

Much of Hersh's article deals with a perception within Israel and the Bush administration that the IDF and Israeli Ari Force's operation in southern Lebanon against Hezbollah is a template for U.S. action against Iran. The feeling was that the Israeli Air Force's destroying Lebanon's infrastructure, beside bombing miliatry postions, would united Lebanon's Christians and Sunni Muslims against Shi'ite Hezbollah. As we have seen, the bombing has lead to the opposite effect. The perception now is of a Hezbollah David standing up to an Israeli Goliath. In short, writes Hersh, the Israeli campaign is not working but to key Bush administration officials see the handwriting on the wall?
In the White House, especially in the Vice-President’s office, many officials believe that the military campaign against Hezbollah is working and should be carried forward. At the same time, the government consultant said, some policymakers in the Administration have concluded that the cost of the bombing to Lebanese society is too high. “They are telling Israel that it’s time to wind down the attacks on infrastructure.”
Underlying all is that the administration is spoiling for a fight with Iran. The NeoCons within the Bush White House are again twisting intelligence to fit their preconceived conceptions of how bombing campaigns effect a civilian population at the receiving end. Donald Rumsfeld is protrayed as being a little less than enthusiastic about Israel's bombing of south Lebanon, but if the decision is made for the U.S. to bomb Iran he's onboard.

But if Israel's bombing campaign, as wrongheaded as it is, is a run-up for a planned American bombing campaign against Iran, Hersh concludes with this analogy
Even those who continue to support Israel’s war against Hezbollah agree that it is failing to achieve one of its main goals—to rally the Lebanese against Hezbollah. “Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep on doing it,” John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School, told me. Arquilla has been campaigning for more than a decade, with growing success, to change the way America fights terrorism. “The warfare of today is not mass on mass,” he said. “You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focussed on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Letter: August 13, 2006

David Yepsen’s August 13, 2006 column, “Parties pulled to extremes,” making a tortured comparison between the 1968 presidential contest between Hubert H. Humphrey and Richard Nixon, paints a picture of a Democratic Party taken over by kooks, radicals and hippies after the primary defeat of three-term Connecticut senator and former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.

Connecticut primary winner Ned Lamont is far from a wild-eyed, sandal wearing peacenik. He owns Lamont Digital Systems, a builder of telecommunications systems for colleges, universities and gated residential communities.

Perhaps Yepsen is confusing 1968 with the ’72 race. Then hawkish Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson undermined party nominee, anti-Vietnam War senator, George McGovern’s campaign and AFL-CIO president George Meany withheld labor’s support.

The Democratic Party, under the tutelage of Bill Clinton, Lieberman, Tom Vilsack and the Democratic Leadership council, has drifted so far to the right it is unrecognizable as the party of FDR, Harry Truman or JFK. The Democratic Party now stands for “free trade,” deregulation and more corporate welfare.

Since Ronald Reagan’s election, every time the GOP takes an extreme right position the Democrats edge that way and call it the center. But it is never enough.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Letter: August 11, 2006

By Wednesday morning, August 9, 2006, the news flashed round the country: anti-Iraq war candidate Ned Lamont had defeated incumbent and staunch Iraq war supporter Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic U.S. Senatorial primary.

Thursday morning, August 11, 2006, Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, following disclosures that British law enforce had thwarted a terrorist plot bigger than September 11, 2001, dusted of the color-coded threat level indicator, which had been mothballed since 2004.

By Friday, August 11, 2006, word leaks out of Great Britain that the Wednesday, August 10, 2006, raids that netted 23 British subjects of Pakistani origin, caught Prime Minister Tony Blair and his cabinet, all of whom were on vacation, by surprise. The British newspaper Guardian reports that Blair talked with President Bush on several occasions about the alleged plot.

Whenever the president or his political allies, in this case Democrat Lieberman, gets in trouble a new terror plot is discovered or Osama bin Laden pops up for one of his patented “death-to-America” speeches.

President Bush and advisor Karl Rove use fear as a political weapon, not win a “war on terror.”

To quote the late author Frank Herbert: “Fear is the mind killer.”

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"It's Lamont"

This is short so I'm posting the whole blog entry by Robert KC Johnson at History News Network
I just watched the post-primary speeches of Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman following Lamont’s stunning victory in the Connecticut Democratic primary. (And it was stunning: even though he led in the last two pre-primary polls, several months ago Lamont trailed by nearly 50 points.) Lamont’s speech was effective, though with politically dubious visuals: he was flanked by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson as he spoke. Lieberman’s address, meanwhile, was remarkably bitter, filled with denunciations of Lamont for personal attacks. The senator insisted he’d run as an independent.

If I had to bet on the race right now, however, I’d place my money on Lamont. The last candidate to win election to the Senate after losing his party’s nominating process was John Warner (Virginia, 1978), and his was a peculiar case: the party’s nominee died in an accident, and the GOP turned to Warner, the runner-up at the convention. I’m not aware of any senator since World War II who has lost his or her primary and then went on to win the race as an independent. Moreover, Lieberman has spent the last several weeks touting himself as a good Democrat—yet tonight criticized those in Washington who didn’t do enough to reach out to Republicans. In short, for a candidate whose strength has always been his honesty and integrity, Lieberman isn’t all that well-positioned.

In Georgia, meanwhile, Cynthia McKinney went out with a bang. Against a second-tier but competent challenger, county commissioner Hank Johnson, her share of the vote actually fell, from 47% in the runoff to 41% last night. Naturally, McKinney blamed a conspiracy: the first complaint of election improprieties appeared 14 minutes after the polls opened—a wild (untrue) allegation that only Johnson’s name was appearing on the ballot. And in a delicious irony, a male McKinney staffer bumped and grabbed the wrist of a female cameraperson attempting to cover the congresswoman. I suspect we’ve seen the last of McKinney; as for Lieberman, it will be interesting to see what level of support he can retain from national Democrats in the coming days.
In a way I'll miss Cynthia McKinney. She gave a little life, a little pizzaz, to the otherwise colorless Democratic House minority. As for Lieberman, good riddance to bad rubbish.

Lamberti:"I'm desparate for ideas. I'll say anything"

Jeff "Casey's General Store" Lamberti, Republican candidate for Iowa's Third U.S. Congressional District, is sounding like a Democrat? these days. He's definately going against Dubya's "No Child's Behind Left" program.
Republican candidate Jeff Lamberti says if he's elected to congress, he'll push to get rid of the red tape attached to federal education money.

Lamberti says giving state and local school officials in 10 states the flexibility to use federal taxdollars as they see fit is a means of "local control" that would yield better results. "We can rely on the creativity, the innovation that can take place in states throughout the nation to find better ways to improve education," Lamberti says. "It's just important that we provide funding to the classroom and not to support bureaucrats sitting in an office building in Washington."
This sounds good but here comes the lie:
The so-called "No Child Left Behind Act" is set to expire next year, and congress will have to decide whether to vote to continue its edicts which require schools to test students to check educational progress. Lamberti says there are flaws in the law, partly because he's heard from many teachers who are flooded with too much paperwork and partly because it's too punitive. "I'm not talking about scrapping No Child Left Behind...I'm looking for ways to improve improved No Child Left Behind that focuses more on rewarding good performance," Lamberti says.
Rewarding whom, or what? How about vouchers for private schools or to home school parents to improve "No Child's Behind Left," Jeff. Platitudes, platitudes, platidudes. He's not talking about scrapping a peice of shit just giving states more freedom in how to blow the funds.

But the opposition speaks:
The president of the state teachers' union and a Democrat who serves in the state senate were quick to jump to Boswell's defense, holding a news conference immediately after Lamberti's. State Senator Jack Hatch of Des Moines says Lamberti's playing "fast and loose" with the facts about Boswell's congressional record. "The truth is Iowa students have no stronger supporter than Leonard Boswell," Hatch says. "Congressman Boswell knows that if we are truly to leave no child behind, then we must fund it."Iowa
Smilin' Jack does have a point, beside the one on his head, here. He's correct in saying Lamberti's playing fast and loose with facts. But ever the DLC appeaser Smilin' Jack just can't see an America without "No Child Left Behind." Idiot.

Speigel:"No al Qaeda connection in latest terrorist plot"

While Michale "Skelator" Chertoff is running round with what left of his hair on fire about al Qaeda masterminding the thwarted terrorits plot to blow up US bound airliners in flight, German news magazine Speigel poopoos that idea as preposterous
Security experts close to the German government say the arrested suspects need to be viewed as "passionate amateurs." That's why the disaster averted in London can't be the "official" al-Qaida attack that some expect the terror network to stage on or around the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. "As far as the delay in further attacks in the United States is concerned, the reason for that delay is not that your security measures are stopping us," Osama bin Laden threatened in one of his last speeches, in January 2006. He went on to claim that further attacks on US targets were being planned.

Israeli al-Qaida expert Reuven Paz also suspects the would-be killers arrested in Britain belong to a "new generation of jihad-seekers," which has taken shape in recent years, especially since the murder of the Islam-critical Dutch film director Theo Van Gogh in Amsterdam. These new terrorists are typically "Islamic fundamentalists with a poor Islamic education, but a great deal of motivation for jihad in the sense of terrorism. They're not waiting for al-Qaida to recruit them. They initiate their own operations, in accordance with al-Qaida's strategy," Paz told SPIEGEL ONLINE: A lot of these potential killers reside in Europe, he assumes.

Today's events suggest three things. First, the authorities are getting better at catching elusive members of the new generation of terrorists, at least towards the end of the planning stage. Second, even five years after September 11, Islamist fundamentalists are willing -- and able -- to target thousands of civilians. So the future may bring mainly "low key/low damage" attacks, which kill a relatively small number of people at a time. Of course, there will be larger-scale plots as well. They're more difficult to organize, but they still seem to exert considerable fascination for "homegrown terrorists." Third, of course: The threat posed by Islamist terrorism has more than one source.
Remember, gentle reader, this cabal of "homegrown" Islamist terrorists was caught by the British. I doubt our vaunted Department of Homeland Security can find its ass with both hands.

Lamont defeats Lieberman, terrorist plot uncovered in GB, DHS announces heightened threat alert

Y'know, I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier but from
Imagine a conversation late Tuesday night between Bush and his British Prime Minister lapdog, just as Ned Lamont declares victory. "Yo, Blair," Bush says while scarfing down a dinner role. "I gotta to do something about this sh*t. Can you finally arrest those suspected terrorists you told me about? This election business is ruining my vacation! I know you're chillin' in the Caribbean yourself right now, but it sure would be great if you could make a few calls for me ASAP."

Don't buy it? Consider this quote from a Reuters article on the story: "President George W. Bush had known about the investigation for several days, was briefed about it regularly and knew the arrests were coming, a senior administration official said." Both countries are surely monitoring several terrorist leads that could lead to arrests at any time. The British group would have been stopped eventually, but there has been absolutely no indication why it had to be today.

Just yesterday Tony Snow and Dick Cheney told America that Lieberman's loss was going to make us less safe and warned of the dangers of our supposedly weakened resolve against terrorism. What better way to drive the point home than to catch some terrorists in England immediately afterwards? Based on a quote from the U.K. Guardian, the Brits seem to have the same agenda: "The events unfolded just hours after (English Home Secretary John Reid) used a speech to a thinktank to accuse critics of the government's anti-terrorism measures of putting national security at risk through their failure to recognize the serious nature of the threat facing Britain."

If the timing of the media announcement wasn't a political ploy, the rhetoric and propaganda sure are. "It was in some respects suggestive of an al-Qaeda plot," Homeland Security Director Chertoff said. Attorney General Gonzales also noted it was "suggestive of al-Qaeda tactics," and FBI director Robert Mueller claimed "this had the earmarks [sic] of an al-Qaeda plot." They still warned that it was too early to reach any conclusions, yet had no problems with dropping the name of the feared organization to implant the connection in our heads without proof. If they don't know, they shouldn't even make the suggestion. The Bush Administration has become masterful at scaring the bejesus out of us without actually saying anything factual. They did exactly the same thing when they were trying to connect Saddam to terrorists. The lengthy press conference today had an awful lot of "we believe" and not very much "we know."
Oh, yes, I failed to mention in my earlier post that the color-coded threat alert chart has been dusted off. I believe the color for today is yellow.

Brits foil terrorist plot! Liquids banned from US flights.

I really shouldn't make light of this, but, what the heck.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government raised the security alert on passenger planes to its highest level for the first time on Thursday after Britain said it had foiled a plot to blow up flights to the United States.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also barred passengers from carrying liquids, including beverages, hair gels and lotions, aboard planes. It said travelers in both countries should expect long delays.

"Over the last few hours, British authorities have arrested a significant number of extremists engaged in a substantial plot to destroy multiple passenger aircraft flying from the United Kingdom to the United States," a statement released by the Homeland Security said.

A U.S. official who asked not to be further identified said United Airlines, Continental Airlines and American Airlines had been specifically targeted for attack.
O.K., I suppose the threat is real enough. But think of how the U.S. airlines targeted will profit.

If you plan to fly on Thursday, the Transportation and Safety Administration has prohibited all liquids, including beverages, bottled water, hair gels and lotions from being carried on board any flights. If you have liquid medication, take your prescription with you for verification. Liquid baby formula will also be checked.
Now just think about this for a minute. After the original September 11, 2001 attack security at sports stadiums and other such mass entertainment venues was tightened. Carrying bags of all types, ladies handbags, backpacks and so on, were subject to search and all contraband confiscated. Said contraband usually consisted of food items, peanuts, potato chips and so on, and beverages, alcoholic and otherwise. Of course removing any and all fan-smuggled-in food was a great boon to the on-site vendors. A terrorist could waltz in with a bomb in a seat cushion but he better not have a bag of peanuts salted-in-the-shell on him.

Now the airlines usually hand out free soft drinks and tiny bags of stale pretzels and, on longer flights, sandwichs. But I'll bet those days are numbered. Here's why:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shares in U.S. airline companies, including Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and American Airlines Inc., fell before the opening bell after British police said they foiled a plot to blow up aircraft in mid-flight between Britain and the United States.

Continental Airlines dropped 6 percent, or $1.44, to $22.77 on the Inet electronic brokerage system from a close of $24.21 on the New York Stock Exchange.

AMR Corp. (AMR.N: Quote, Profile, Research), the parent company of American Airlines, fell 6.3 percent, or $1.28 to $19.01 on Inet after a close of 20.29 on the New York Stock Exchange. Reuters
Holy crap! How will the airlines ever recover their profitability? Well, let's see, they've screwed every union in sight, whined for and got federal subsidies and sweet bankruptcy settlements. So who do you suppose the airline execs will screw next?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not the suspicious type but look for the end of free airline drinks and snacks of all kinds in the near future.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

James Van Allen dead, 91

From The Des Moines Register
James A. Van Allen, the Iowa physicist who helped propel the United States into the space age, has died. He was 91.

Van Allen was often referred to as this nation’s foremost space scientist,. He was heavily involved in the launch in January 1958, of Explorer I, this nation’s first space success after the Soviet Union was first with its Sputnik satellite.

Explorer I carried, among other things, a small Geiger counter developed under Mr. Van Allen’s direction at the University of Iowa. The device soon relayed information to Earth which led to a significant scientific breakthrough - the discovery of two belts of intense radiation that surround the planet.

The belts were named for Mr. Van Allen in recognition of his discovery.

Can't wait for Friday's "Non Sequitur" comic

From Editor &
NEW YORK The International Herald Tribune (IHT) has requested a substitute for this Friday's "Non Sequitur" comic showing Ann Coulter in a burqa.

The Aug. 11 comic continues the saga of Danae's trip to a parallel universe under her messy room, where she meets another girl named Danae. On Friday, the two of them see Coulter in a burqa.

Danae 1: "She wished to get rid of everything liberal in her life, right?"

Danae 2: "Yeah ... I guess the right to vote and own property is overrated for some people."
hmmm...Ann Coulter in a burqa. Could be an improvement.