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Thursday :: Dec 29, 2005

Open Thread

Have you been working on your New Year's resolutions? One resolution the Democratic Senators should take on is to deny Alito a place on the Supreme Court. What other resolutions do you want to see?

Mary :: 6:32 AM :: Comments (5) :: TrackBack (0)
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Wednesday :: Dec 28, 2005

The Ebeneezer Claus

Money is made at Christmas out of holly and mistletoe, but who save the vendors would greatly care if no green branch were procurable? One symbol, indeed, has obscured all others--the minted round of metal. And one may safely say that, of all the ages since a coin first became the symbol of power, ours is that in which it yields to the majority of its possessors the poorest return in heart's contentment.

- George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

A poor return in heart's contentment wasn't all that many retailers got, no matter what the happy talk about how well things went, as this excerpt displays:

Holidays Deliver 'Solid' Payoff for Retailers

Retail sales posted a 'solid' gain during the holiday season — thanks in part to heavy spending on home furnishings and consumer electronics — but fell short of last year's results, according to one of the first major holiday sales reports released today.

And aren't we supposedly in the midst of realizing King George's Tax Relief-based Economic Boom? Aren't credit sales up?

Nationwide sales — including everything from gift cards and food but excluding gasoline — between Nov. 25 and Dec. 24 rose 5.2% compared to last year, according to an estimate by Mastercard Advisor's SpendingPulse report. Sales transactions over $1,000 were up 8.7%, according to the report, which is based on purchases made on Mastercard cards in addition to estimates of sales made with other cards, cash and checks.

But even this didn't quite work out as predicated by Bu$hCo:

This year's gain, which was adjusted to take into account an extra sales day, was down from the 8.1% increase registered last year.

Things might have been rosier if not for Police closing a supermarket that opened on Christmas.

An Asian supermarket violated the state's centuries-old blue laws by opening on Christmas Day, police said. Police officers closed the Super 88 Market in Boston's South Bay neighborhood around noon, sending some opportunistic shoppers home empty-handed. The blue laws require all stores -- except for convenience stores and gas stations -- to close on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
"I think it's kind of archaic," said James Creelman, a Boston resident who was turned away as he tried to enter the Super 88 to purchase butter he needed to cook Christmas dinner. "Who is some religious type to tell me I can't get a pound of butter?" he asked.

Why weren't the fundies out there picketing in protest? They weren't in church that morning, now were they?

NOTE: Before we flip the page, I will cover the two news sources that presented the inversion of the debt curve toward the end of this post.
Continue reading "The Ebeneezer Claus"
pessimist :: 7:44 PM :: Comments (13) :: TrackBack (0)
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Bush's Actions Endanger US Spy Agencies

Although Bush is incapable of understanding how damaging his secret war on American institutions has been, according to Knight-Ridder, people within the spy agencies are shocked and unhappy about finding out about Bush's deception. They believe that rather than making Americans safer in the face of ongoing terrorism, it has undermined the agencies right as they are needed. Bush doesn't believe one needs to have honest and trustworthy relationships as witnessed by his mafia-style negotiations with Democrats in the Congress or his international counterparts. For Bush, winning is all that counts and he can do anything he wants. So Bush has decided that he can abrogate treaties, break our laws, declare people enemy combatants, torture them or pass them on to others who are even happier to torture them.

Despite Bush's proclivity for lying and deception, human relations require a level of trust in the other in order to not ground to a total halt. People working in the spy agencies believed they were doing the right thing for America, but have found out that Bush has authorized numerous anti-American policies: secret prisons have been setup in far off lands, prisoners are being rendered to countries with horrific human rights records and wholesale spying on Americans is being carried out despite the legal proscriptions against it.

But the former top officials said the recently revealed program, which sidestepped a secret court, violated longtime agency practices. Those were established after the revelation of the NSA's earlier abuses in operations code-named Minaret and Shamrock.

After the 1978 law was passed, the NSA issued an internal directive known as U.S. Signals Intelligence Directive 18, barring agency employees from eavesdropping on Americans in the United States, with few exceptions.

NSA employees are required to re-read the document every six months and sign a form stating that they've done so.

"As a Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) officer, it is continually drilled into us that the very first law chiseled in the SIGINT equivalent of the Ten Commandments is that 'Thou shall not spy on American persons without a court order from FISA,'" said former NSA analyst Russell Tice.

If the NSA inadvertently intercepts the communications of a U.S. citizen or communications that mention a U.S. citizen, they are supposed to be destroyed. There are a handful of exceptions.

Can you imagine what NSA agents think now after reading and validating those guidelines for the past 4 years?

Under Bush's secret executive order, there are no rules and no limits to how long data can be kept on American citizens. After World War II, the East German spy agencies began to build up dossiers on their citizens which they then used to control every aspect of their lives. Whether this President is trustworthy or not (and I contend he has proven he is not), this is a dangerous precedent and needs to be stopped. We have seen what happens when a government encourages spying on fellow citizens - it is the antithesis of a democracy.

As people become aware of the extent of Bush's duplicity and demand accounting, one task will be to reform the agencies so that the corruption engendered under Bush's regime is cut out and the agencies will once more have clear guidelines and a clear charter that allows them to help us in the real war against terrorists.

Mary :: 4:58 PM :: Comments (42) :: TrackBack (0)
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Open Thread

It's your thing, say what you wanna say!

pessimist :: 7:23 AM :: Comments (76) :: TrackBack (0)
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Tuesday :: Dec 27, 2005

Busting The Retirement Balloon

As our wrong-wing friends like to tout, "It's easy to save for your own retirement! So why worry about the privatization of Social Security?"

As I hope to demonstrate, there is PLENTY to worry about!

Let's start with what I think would be a legitimate (to our wrong-wingers, that is!) source for retirement planning:

How Average Joes can retire rich
By Walter Updegrave, MONEY Magazine
December 16, 2005

You needn't be an investing genius to retire with a big 401(k) balance. [A] recent study by Putnam Investments shows that investing prowess isn't what matters.

It's how much you sock away.

In other words, saving more leads to, well, more savings. Not exactly a revolutionary idea, true, but it's surprising how big a bang you get by upping the percentage of salary you put in and how slight the payoff is from being a fund savant.

Putnam created Average Joe, a hypothetical 28-year-old who made the least of his 401(k) between 1990 and 2005. He contributed too little (just 2 percent of his pay [$800, or $15.39/wk], starting at $40,000 [$769.23/wk] ), invested too conservatively (only 30 percent of his assets in stocks) and owned funds that ranked well below their peers.

Ah, if only it were so simple! What this article doesn't take into account are the realities of modern life, minor little trifles like taxes, rent, and utilities, for instance.

Continue reading "Busting The Retirement Balloon"
pessimist :: 8:03 PM :: Comments (61) :: TrackBack (1)
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Wealthy Jesus

Don't care how big you are
I don't care what you worth
When it all ends up
You got to go back to Mother Earth

- Eric Burdon, Mother Earth

Kerry Packer, Australia's richest man, dies at 68

Kerry Packer, Australia's richest man whose fortune was recently estimated at US$5bn, has died at the age of 68, his family announced this morning. Forbes magazine earlier this year listed Packer as the 94th richest man in the world. A media mogul whose business empire also included petrochemicals, engineering, ski resorts, diamonds, coal mines and casinos, Packer's twin passions were polo and gambling.

Packer died overnight in his sleep. The cause of death was not immediately clear. His family's statement did not give a cause of death, but it was known that he had been battling cancer as well as having the weak heart and kidney problems. One of his former employees, Michael Pascoe, said today: 'It was almost a testimony to medical science that he did live as long as he did.'

Packer was a larger than life figure who achieved his monumental successes despite dyslexia and a bout of childhood polio myelitis that saw him spend nine months immobilised in an iron lung. He returned to school at the age of nine, having missed three years, and was never able to catch up academically.

Despite a poor health record in recent years, he had acquired a reputation of being almost immortal. In 1990 he suffered a major heart attack on the polo field and was clinically dead for eight minutes, until emergency medical officers revived him with electric shock treatment.

Afterwards he said: 'The good news is there's no devil. The bad news is there's no heaven. There's nothing.'

I guess he now knows the truth about the Biblical adage that claims "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a
needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God
". (Matthew 19:24)

If, however, things really are as he ascribed after his near-death experience, there is no reason to believe the Gospel of Matthew, is there? No reason to fear the application of Matthew 25:31-46, either: "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to Me."

Thus, the Gordon Gekkos of the modern world can shamelessly preach their otherwise unjustifiable doctrine of 'Greed is Good' to the young and impressionable, as this next post found out they are already doing recently:


If this is the kind of rebarbative pollution Sesame Street is pumping into your kids' little heads, you'll want to exercise your v-chip prerogatives and keep your kids from watching this sort of crap -- permanently!
Continue reading "Wealthy Jesus"
pessimist :: 4:36 PM :: Comments (21) :: TrackBack (0)
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Yoo and Scalito

John Yoo, who reminds me of a weaker version of Abu Gonzales who himself truly embodies the "just following orders" mentality best represented by Heinrich Himmler, did say this in his recent WaPo editorial, via Josh Marshall.

"The worst thing you could do, now that people are critical of your views, is to run and hide. I agree with the work I did. I have an obligation to explain it," Yoo said from his Berkeley office. "I'm one of the few people who is willing to defend decisions I made in government."

Do you think Alito will follow Mr. Yoo's wonderful advice? Given the recent Alito revelations regarding Roe, and Government Officials Immunity.

"Our chances of persuading the court to accept an absolute immunity argument would probably be improved in a case involving a less controversial official and a less controversial era," he wrote.

Yes, because there's nothing better than carte blanche to run roughshod over the Constitution of this Country, and no better place for someone with those beliefs than on the Supreme Court, now is there.

From the top on down, these people are anathema to Democracy, to the Constitution, to their Precioussssss Christianity, to decency, Mom, and Apple Pie, and my New Year resolution (that's an "s" there Mr Gonzales, not a "v") is to help America see that unfortunate truth.

And to help fighting Democrats like Paul Hackett and Francine Busby regain control of this out-of-control Republican Ruled Congress.

And a Safe and Healthy Holidays to all.

Duckman GR :: 11:06 AM :: Comments (13) :: TrackBack (0)
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First Allawi, And Now Chalabi May Be Excluded From New Iraqi Government

I don't think this was the way it was written up on the powerpoints in the White House or at the American Enterprise Institute.

It’s a bad time in Iraq to be an American stooge. First, Ayad Allawi’s party received fewer votes in the December 15th election than they did in the previous election, and faced the prospect of watching from the sidelines when the current governing Shiite alliance puts together a new coalition. Now word comes that Ahmad Chalabi, who was crowing about being a serious candidate for prime minister in the new government just weeks ago, may now not even get a seat in the new parliament. Why? He and his split-off party failed to get the minimum number of votes necessary to get a single seat in the 275-seat parliament. Unless the Bush boys can use their magic to make 8,000 votes magically appear for Chalabi in the next several days, he won’t get a seat and may be out of the government altogether.

See, Chalabi thought he was so personally popular that he pulled out of the governing Shiite alliance and formed his own political block just before the election, thinking he would have more bargaining power if he could be an independent force. Instead, he may be watching from the sidelines as the Shiites now can choose to ignore him and instead work on forming a national unity government with the moderate Sunnis and the Kurds, whose unifying goal is to get us out of their country by the end of 2006.

So if Chalabi and Allawi both find themselves out of power this year, who will be left to steer Iraqi oil towards the United States? No one.

See, I have no doubt that the major reason why Cheney is fighting the release of his Energy Task Force documents isn't so much his long-standing belief in unfettered executive power, but rather the reality that months before 9/11, this group of oil men were told in the White House that the Bush Administration would topple Saddam and get its hands on Iraqi oil by hook or by crook. There were already stories in the media that among the documents being reviewed and discussed at these meetings were the maps of Iraqi oil fields, so it isn't a long shot that Cheney and the PNAC/AEI soulmates were telling the oil companies to start planning for how to access these new fields and break OPEC's stranglehold on world oil supplies and prices.

One of the things that these oil execs would have been told was the grand plan to get rid of Saddam one way or another, and have him replaced with someone like Chalabi or Allawi, two guys only too willing to take our offer of installing them at the head of a new government in exchange for an Oil Ministry that let American firms carve up the country. You can almost hear the speeches by the AEI and PNAC guys to these oil execs now, about how now with the Bush team in charge, a number of dreams could now come true for Big Oil, and as a sidelight, oh yeah, we'd "liberate" the Iraqis and bring the benefits of capitalism to them while their national resources are once again plundered for our benefit. And if we can help Israel and cripple the Palestinians at the same time, great. The PNAC guys and the AEI whiz kids like Ledeen and the others could become the new "Wise Men."

Except that it won't be turning out that way. We've managed to get over 2,000 Americans and over 30,000 Iraqis killed so that Iran can now not only control Iraq, but also keep their oil from being used by the Cheney cabal for their purposes.

Don't you love it when a plan, hatched by "Wise Men", comes together?

Steve Soto :: 7:41 AM :: Comments (29) :: TrackBack (1)
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Budget Cuts On The Horizon For The Pentagon?

It looks like the cold hard reality of Bush’s fiscal recklessness have finally smacked into the Pentagon of all places. According to Tuesday’s New York Times, Rummy’s staff has begun telling the defense industry that the party is over. From the days before 9/11, Rummy has sought to transform the military from its fixation on big and costly weapons systems to a focus on Special Forces, anti-terror capabilities, and more mobility. In other words, the kind of military and force posture that John Kerry called for during the election, only to see Cheney and Bush bash him for advocating budget cuts and not understanding the true threat we face, yada yada yada.

Aside from this transformation that Rummy has wanted but never insisted upon, it appears that the administration's deficit reduction promises have forced it to tell the defense industry to expect flat budgets, if not outright cuts. Whether these cuts actually happen is another matter, but with Bush’s Medicare corporate welfare about to gobble up more and more of the budget, and his insistence that no taxes be raised, we are about to see the military come in second to tax cuts.

I'm sure China and Iran are giddy.

Steve Soto :: 12:52 AM :: Comments (18) :: TrackBack (0)
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Open Thread

Your turn.

Steve Soto :: 12:00 AM :: Comments (49) :: TrackBack (0)
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Monday :: Dec 26, 2005

Post Editorial Page Smacks Down Bush On Global Warming

For an editorial page that swallowed whatever the Bush Administration peddled on Iraq, the Washington Post’s editors seemingly have lowered the boom on any more lies from the White House when it comes to the environment. Read this pointed editorial in Tuesday’s edition which tags the White House for being untruthful about its commitment to reducing global warming.

Steve Soto :: 11:31 PM :: Comments (8) :: TrackBack (0)
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Despite Bush Poll Gains, Voters Want Democratic Gains In Congress Next Year

With every poll that comes out showing that there is still a bedrock of 35-38% support for Bush no matter what he is actually doing, it is clear that there is a sizeable part of the electorate that wants to believe the best about Bush personally, and will not be shaken from that hope until tangible evidence is staring them in the face, such as his response to Katrina, and whether or not members of his inner circle worked to destroy Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. Yet with 2006 now looming, Bush's personal numbers may not matter much anymore. The more relevant question turns on whether or not voters want the era of a rubber stamp Congress to end.

Presidential elections turn on the voters’ assessments of the candidates themselves. Comparisons between the two candidates trump concerns about policies. Voters’ willingness to think the best about Bush personally as compared to what they saw correctly or not in Kerry, is the reason why Bush had the success he did, even though his job approval ratings for an incumbent were poor. Although voters knew that his policies didn’t match with their own priorities, they hoped he would change somewhat in a second term and work more with Democrats. And given that we were only 38 months after 9/11, voters weren’t in a mindset that supported changing leaders. This, and the fact that we were being fed a narrative by a complicit media managed by a brutally effective White House spin operation, meant that Kerry did a fine job coming within 135,000 stolen votes in Ohio of being president.

But will the bedrock of 35-38% support for Bush, no matter what he does, guarantee that the Republicans will not suffer losses next year? By the time of the 2006 election, voters will have had six years of Bush’s policies and performance, and will have had the opportunity to reevaluate their support for him over Kerry just two years earlier. The GOP will try and nationalize this election next year as a referendum on Bush, and his policies. They will replay the 2004 playbook, by trying to demonize every Democrat as being soft on terrorism, wrong on Iraq, big spenders and taxers, and will throw in a couple of wedge issues like immigration to get the folks once again from the pews to the polls. They will make the case over and over again that is vital to elect folks to Congress that fully support Bush and his policies. But how successful will this strategy be if the number of likely voters next year who strongly support Bush is dwarfed by the number of likely voters who strongly dislike him?

A recent poll released late last week reflects that despite the spin from the NRCC and NRSC, the Democrats do in fact have an opportunity to gain significant seats next year regardless of the constant carping that reapportionment has put fewer seats in play. Even if voters still want to believe the best about Bush by November 2006, and that is a big “if” given what is still coming from the Plame inquiry, the Abramoff scandal, and what may develop on the NSA spying story, it would be natural for the country to turn towards the Democrats next year after six years of total GOP rule. The poll results bear this out, in showing that despite recent improvements for Bush himself, it hasn’t translated into a renewal of support for the GOP in Congress. In fact, Democrats are gaining support for next year while Bush personally improves his position.

Continue reading "Despite Bush Poll Gains, Voters Want Democratic Gains In Congress Next Year"
Steve Soto :: 12:30 PM :: Comments (26) :: TrackBack (0)
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The True Conservatives Check In

As if the last five years haven't proven the case, there is no way that the country will ever regain control from Bu$hCo without the support of True Conservatives. There have been some notables already involved, such as John Dean and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

But with the latest revelations of the excesses of King George, more True conservatives appear to be remembering that their nation deserves their protection as well as that of the Left for raising the alarm in the first place. Now that these excesses are out in the open, and clearly in violation of the Constitution or some other laws, there is no more cause for making excuses. These excesses aren't just going to affect the enemies of the United States, but they will in fact affect everyo citizen of this nation.

Conservative columnist Steve Chapman presents the case that Bu$h is deliberately breaking the law of the land:

Beyond the imperial presidency
Steve Chapman
Published December 25, 2005

The disclosure that the president authorized secret and probably illegal monitoring of communications between people in the United States and people overseas again raises the question: Why?

President Bush is a bundle of paradoxes. He thinks the scope of the federal government should be limited but the powers of the president should not. But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.

Even people who should be on Bush's side are getting queasy. David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, says in his efforts to enlarge executive authority, Bush "has gone too far." He's not the only one who feels that way.

What we have now is not a robust executive but a reckless one. At times like this, it's apparent that Cheney and Bush want more power not because they need it to protect the nation, but because they want more power. Another paradox: In their conduct of the war on terror, they expect our trust, but they can't be bothered to earn it.

Bush bridles at the notion that the president should ever have to ask permission of anyone. He claims he can ignore the law because Congress granted permission when it authorized him to use force against Al Qaeda. But we know that can't be true. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales says the administration didn't ask for a revision of the law to give the president explicit power to order such wiretaps because Congress--a Republican Congress, mind you--wouldn't have agreed. So the administration decided: Who needs Congress?

As Chapman states, he's not the only one who feels that way. This next post looks at some of the conservative publications that are raising the issue of impeachment as a necessary action to be taken.

Continue reading "The True Conservatives Check In"
pessimist :: 11:56 AM :: Comments (24) :: TrackBack (0)
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Loosing LIPS and Sinking SHIIPs

I have to tell you that the LIPS in the title is something I made up. It stands for Low Income Personal Security. You can think of it as the plan the Republican Party has for the 99 percenters who aren't a part of the Topper Cla$$. The idea is that they walk away from any real or implied social contract and leave all of us on our own financially. We would be completely responsible for everything from the basic necessities to health care and our retirements, all to be paid for out of our own pockets as we work our lives away.

Our wrong-wing friends claim to have just the solution to this dilemma! We are to take 10% of our ever-diminishing income and stash it away in some magic black investment box, and hope that these economic geniuses don't cause another 1929 and wipe everything out. We'll just ignore all of those inconvenient and ever-rising costs of living, and just find something else to do without, like food. Man can live on Ramen (R) noodles alone, can't he? Sure, and in the process, makes the family of the current Empress of Japan all the richer!

But I digress.

It would mean the end of the consumer economy, but we are rapidly being priced out of that anyway.

Our so-called government can do nothing to help the common man, but they are at the ready when it comes to doling out financial assistance to the Santa Clara life 'forms':

Companies will get federal windfalls to keep drug plans for retirees

Once the new Medicare prescription drug program goes live Jan. 1, some employers will receive a federal, tax-free windfall - in most cases worth millions - for doing absolutely nothing.

The subsidy is meant to give employers an incentive not to drop their existing drug coverage and foist their retirees onto the backs of federal taxpayers. But like everything, that, too, has a price:

An estimated $71 billion in tax-free subsidies is projected to be paid to employers over the next 10 years.

"It's YOUR Money!" as King George loves to proclaim. You just don't get to decide how it gets spent!

Continue reading "Loosing LIPS and Sinking SHIIPs"
pessimist :: 8:11 AM :: Comments (6) :: TrackBack (0)
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Open Thread

I seem to be first out of the gate today, so I'll set the pace.

Speaking of Pace, what about his insistance yesterday on Fox 'News' Sunday that the Iraqis want us out as fast as possible? how does this situation square with the circle that claims America is spreading freedom and democracy?

And what about Enron? Rick Causey could make things VERY uncomfortable for Kenny-boy and Jeff Skilling!

And what of Osama bin Forgotten? Now that his niece is getting more press than he is, is it now time for another taped broadcast?

And what of our wrong-wing friends and their claims that the economy is doing so well - for them?

If none of those topics push your buttons, then pick your own, for the comment line is now open for what ever YOU have to discuss!

pessimist :: 6:33 AM :: Comments (8) :: TrackBack (0)
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Sunday :: Dec 25, 2005

Dreaming Of A Green Xma$

Weeding out all of the happy talk from the economic news one is dismayed to discover that More evidence of a housing slowdown is underway:

Sales of new homes plunged in November by the largest amount in nearly 12 years, providing the most dramatic evidence yet that the red hot housing market over the last five years is starting to cool down. Last month’s decline was even bigger than the 8.7 percent drop-off that Wall Street analysts had been expecting. The Commerce Department reported today that new single-family homes were sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.245 million units last month, a drop of 11.3 percent from October, when sales had surged to an all-time high. Analysts are looking for home sales to dip by between 3.7 and 6 percent next year under the impact of rising mortgage rates. Analysts believe that house prices, which had been soaring at double digit rates, will moderate as well.

Foreclosures are up in Las Vegas, California, Tennessee, Missouri, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Butler county, Ohio, Cook county, Illinois, Fort Worth, Texas, Williamson County, Texas, Georgia, Denver, Detroit, Massachusetts, ....

I could go on and on.

In fact, foreclosures are up 35% nationally, with Ohio leading the nation in foreclosures.

Maybe that's why there aren't as many holiday shoppers as expected?

Continue reading "Dreaming Of A Green Xma$"
pessimist :: 1:41 PM :: Comments (28) :: TrackBack (0)
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Mixed Messages

Just the other day, as American Christians were preparing to celebrate the feast day commemorating the birth of The Prince of Peace, someone bombed a mosque in Cincinnati, prompting The Council on American-Islamic Relations to raise a $15,000 reward for information leading to the perpetrators. Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk said, "What happened here last night was wrong, hateful and evil." Rabbi Abie Ingber called the blasts at the Clifton mosque, "a deplorable, hateful act."

But what is one to expect from the $tepford $on$ of the Crawford Pioneer$, especially when Ther Leedur is performing hostile acts against Islamic mosques himself?

Continue reading "Mixed Messages"
pessimist :: 12:11 PM :: Comments (0) :: TrackBack (0)
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Jeanne’s Computer is Down

Jeanne, author of Body & Soul, has experienced computer failure and her blog will go dark unless help arrives.

Digby, author of Hullabaloo, asked for help for the first time last week. He’s been on an amazing three year run and can’t make it forever by himself.

I have done what little I can, and for the very first time ever I am asking readers to help out and drop a few dollars. From all that I can perceive of the human experience I know these two to be some of our finest Americans. These are very troubled times and we will need their wisdom very much in the coming years; thoughts of their pixels missing in the ether fills me with dread.

Merry Christmas! Peace and Jesus and Machiavelli be with you.

paradox :: 5:40 AM :: Comments (3) :: TrackBack (1)
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Merry Christmas and a Hearty Seasons Greetings

red-breasted sapsucker
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Paul Bannick

My Portland home was graced with this yard-bird for Christmas eve. May your yard have visitors as beautiful.

This is an open thread.

Mary :: 1:00 AM :: Comments (3) :: TrackBack (0)
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Saturday :: Dec 24, 2005

Noblesse Oblige

Luke 12:48 says, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

This concept has become known as noblesse oblige, which is defined here as "The essence of noblesse oblige is that social (possibly legal) pressures compel nobility to act selflessly and for the good of all."

Note how Owwer Leedur mi$undere$timate$ how that idea is applied to him:

I'm no dictator, Bush insists

"To say 'unchecked power' basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject," he said angrily in a finger-pointing answer.
"I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country."

Which country would that be, Yore Hindni$$? Iran? Syria? North Korea? It sure isn't this one!

Continue reading "Noblesse Oblige"
pessimist :: 6:37 PM :: Comments (0) :: TrackBack (0)
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It's Christmas Eve! Do You Know Who's Entertaining YOUR GI?

There is a lot of opprobrium [thanks, mouser!] being levelled - with some justification - at popular celebrities who aren't interested in sharing their holidays with our troops sent to plunder a foreign land in the name of fighting 'terrism'. But of those who have responded, they haven't forgotten that personal political differences don't have any place in easing the emotional pain of not being home with the family for Christmas because they are - for a good reason or not - fighting our country's wars.

Stars turn backs on America's troops in Iraq

Just as the seemingly intractable nature of the war has led to a growing recruitment crisis, so the United Services Organisation, which has been putting on shows for the troops since the second world war, is struggling to get celebrities to sign up for even a short tour of duty.

"After 9/11 we couldn't have had enough airplanes for the people who were volunteering to go," Wayne Newton, the Las Vegas crooner who succeeded Bob Hope as head of USO's talent recruiting effort, told USA Today. "Now with 9/11 being as far removed as it is, the war being up one day and down the next, it becomes increasingly difficult to get people to go."

Newton said many celebrities have been wary of going because they think it might be seen that they are endorsing the war. "And I say it's not.

"I tell them these men and women are over there because our country sent them, and we have the absolute necessity to try to bring them as much happiness as we can."

Some popular entertainers are hearing that message, Wayne:

[M]any of the USO's regular performers are fierce critics of the war, among them the comic and star of Good Morning Vietnam, Robin Williams, who told USA Today he would like to return to the Middle East in the spring for what would be his fourth tour since 2002. "I'm there for the [troops], not for W," he said in a reference to the president. "Go, man. You won't forget it. You'll meet amazing people," is his message to stars that ask him about the tours.

Other critics of the war who regularly perform include the leftwing comedian Al Franken (who is headlining the current tour along with Christian hip-hop group Souljahz) and the punk legend and actor Henry Rollins, one of the Bush administrations most vocal critics.

More on Franken and the USO below the fold.

Continue reading "It's Christmas Eve! Do You Know Who's Entertaining YOUR GI?"
pessimist :: 6:04 PM :: Comments (5) :: TrackBack (0)
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Two Cent's Worth on Impeachment

Over at BuzzFlash, one person had this to say concerning the controversy surrounding impeaching George and Unka Dickie:

Would you rather have a president who gets a blow job from a pizza delivery girl but leads the nation forward or a president who is screwing the country and is rowing us back to the era of the absolute power of King George?
The practical challenge, however, is that you would have to impeach Bush and Cheney simultaneously.
Ah, but one can dream. The Busheviks haven't taken that right of ours away.


Indeed, but with the 1918 flu virus already being distributed to several labs around the nation, will there still be enough time?

Can we trust profit-seeking corporate interests with such a dangerous virus?

Whatever the reason offered for 'further research' should we not heed the voice of caution and not hand King George a reason to declare martial law and get out from under the looming impeachment he faces?

Bush opponents are calling for his impeachment and prosecution on seventeen different counts. All it will take is one alleged case of communicable human avian influenza, and all of this will be a moot point as we slip into martial law.

What say you, readers?

pessimist :: 3:43 PM :: Comments (18) :: TrackBack (0)
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A Mismeasure of Media Bias

Last week Media Matters published a critique of a paper titled "A Measure of Media Bias", by Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo (G-M for short). A number of people picked up this critique: Markos (Daily Kos - lost the link), Paul Rosenberg (MyDD), Gary Boatwright (Seeing the Forest), Brendan Nyhan, to name a few.

I just want to mention that I already published an even more detailed analysis and debunking of the paper early this year. Key excerpts were also published here at The Left Coaster as part of my series on How The Liberal Media Myth is Created.

Media Matters adds one aspect that I missed in my earlier debunking - that the authors also happen to be former members of conservative think-tanks (pardon the oxymoron). (I guess I should have checked that out but since I was trying to focus solely on the merits of the paper I had given them some benefit of doubt at the time).

The arguments I have read against the G-M paper this past week do address some of the important problems with the paper (which I discussed earlier). I want to add that my critique also addressed the fundamental problems with its methodology of using weighted-average ADA scores (not to mention its hopelessly nonsensical definition of "media bias") . Take a look if you are interested.

eriposte :: 12:53 PM :: Comments (2) :: TrackBack (0)
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Quick Hits: Novak's Knowledge; Barron's On Impeachment

Novak, in his going away interview with Wolf on CNN today, says he has known all along that Iraq didn’t have WMDs, because his sources in the military and the IAEA inspectors said so. To his credit, it is true that guys like Novak and Buchanan have been against this war from the start.

Barron’s, of all places, mentions impeachment in an editorial commentary today, arguing that the same House Judiciary Committee that was outraged about blowjobs should be at least as outraged about an executive that knowingly violates laws.

A Newsweek commentary draws parallels between the Bush Administration’s defense of its domestic spying program and the rationales used by the apartheid South African regimes for years to do the same thing.

Steve Soto :: 12:00 PM :: Comments (3) :: TrackBack (0)
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What Legal Exposure Does A Company Face From Data Mining?

Still looking for that perfect Christmas gift for the CEOs of our major telecommunications companies, after years of rising rates and mergers?

When I read the NYT story late last night that revealed the NSA has been gathering data on each of us from our emails and telephone calls for the last four years, I wasn’t surprised. The recent revelations of NSA warrant less wiretapping and other eavesdropping, absent probable cause or any due process, removed any doubt for me that the Bush Administration has established a police state of sorts without having to justify it or face any consequences from the American public. We can deal with the Bush Administration politically on this in 2006 and make them sweat about whether what they have done supposedly in the name of national security in a now terror threat alert-free world since November 2004 is really about fighting terrorism, or is really about something sinister.

But what about the companies themselves? Quite simply, in the pages and pages of privacy practices that your phone, email, and cell phone company have sent you over the last several years, all in an effort to convince you that your data will not be given out to anyone, does it mention anywhere that the company reserves the right to share data files on you with the federal government without a court order, a legal requirement to do so, due process, or probable cause? Mine don't.

The NYT piece states that the companies that provide us our everyday telephone, cell phone, and email services have been gathering information on us and giving it to the government in large files that don’t distinguish between everyday people and those who are potential threats to the country. It is the ultimate guilt-by-association scenario.

What it also means is that files may be started on innocent people in this country for no other reason that there phone call or email appeared in a batch of data or files that piqued the interest of the government because of others also in that file, again without any probable cause, or any notice to the customer or the approval of that customer. And that is where this can get really messy for Corporate America.

Continue reading "What Legal Exposure Does A Company Face From Data Mining?"
Steve Soto :: 9:02 AM :: Comments (30) :: TrackBack (3)
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Bush Broke the Law

What the spying on Americans case boils down to:

Anyone can read FISA and see that it makes it a crime to do what Bush did. That is just fact. The only question then is whether the President has the right to SECRETY VIOLATE criminal laws. That is the only real question, and I don't care how many law professors slowly rub their bears and pull their hair out trying to show how nuanced and careful they are. The answer in the United States is clear and it is that nobody can violate the criminal law, including George Bush.

If he thought the law was invalid, he could have asked a court to say that. That's what Harry Truman did (and lost and then abided by the court ruling). But Bush broke the law over and over SECRETLY, and now that he got caught, he has lawyers, like every criminal does, to say that he did nothing wrong.

Should this be an impeachable offense? I guess it comes down to what you believe should happen when the President swears to the following:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

And to uphold the laws as stated in Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution:

...he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed....

You know we live in strange times when blowjobs are considered worse than the blatant breaking of the law by the President.

Mary :: 1:30 AM :: Comments (57) :: TrackBack (0)
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Open Thread - Data Mining Edition

Guess what? The NSA has been doing large scale data mining with the active assistance of our major telecommunication companies, companies that have received favors from this administration, since 2001 and with no warrants or notice to the FISA court.

And we're just hearing about all this now. So what else is on your mind?

Steve Soto :: 12:00 AM :: Comments (17) :: TrackBack (0)
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Friday :: Dec 23, 2005

Uncle O Ain't Gonna Like This!

If this doesn't pull him out of his cushy apartments in Riyadh Tora Bora mountain cave, nothing will!

Osama's Niece Strips for US Magazine

The niece of Osama Bin Laden has posed for provocative photographs for an American magazine. She appears stripped to ostrich feather lingerie, and in a bubble bath, in photos for American GQ magazine.

Wafah Dufour, the al Qaeda leader's niece, who took her mother's maiden name after the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11 is an aspiring musician struggling to make a name for herself, GQ magazine wrote.

She says she has never met Osama bin Laden. "Everyone relates me to that man, and I have nothing to do with him," she said in the article.

"There are 400 other people related to him, but they are all in Saudi Arabia, so nobody's going to get tarred with it. I'm the only one here."

Good luck with this, young lady! You know how your co-religionists feel about this sort of exposure!

[Fair Use Notice]

pessimist :: 3:11 PM :: Comments (27) :: TrackBack (0)
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More Offal For The Wind Generator

As if the oil strike in Kurdistan isn't going to cause enough headaches for King George and the BFEE/PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse, I just discovered this new development next door to Iraq:

India, China win joint bid to buy stake in Syrian oil fields
via BuzzFlash

India and China, often fierce rivals in the race for global energy resources, have won a joint bid to buy Petro-Canada's 37 percent stake in Syrian oil fields for $573 million, a top Indian official said Wednesday. Teaming up would give Indian and Chinese more negotiating muscle as they buy up far-flung oil and gas fields, analysts say. Both countries have been scouting for oil blocks around the world to meet their surging energy demands.

And I doubt that they are going to allow George to interfere with their needs being met!

You might want to rethink that Syrian Invasion, Georgie! If India were to aid Syria with their Air Force, You might not have it very easy - as recently I wrote. And, as the Blog Lord Steve Soto wrote here, China won't be averse to a piece of us either.

Our guys are good, but do you really want to get us wrapped up in too many conflicts at one time? Why, with all the troubles of your own creation facing you, you won't have time to deal with all of those much less anything external!

You'll be too busy keeping your cherry ass out of the Hague - or out of Marion!

[Fair Use Notice]

pessimist :: 2:32 PM :: Comments (5) :: TrackBack (0)
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Start The Fan, The Offal Arrives!

Today's news is going to lead to a situation that will severely test the viability of the BFEE/PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse which is masquerading as the Iraqi government.

But before I get to it - a short background:

What to Expect in Iraq after the December 15 Elections

[T]he political class is preparing for the regionalization, and potential fracturing, of the state. Sectarian violence, a constitution that favors federalism over the functioning of the state, and pressures on the U.S. to begin withdrawing military forces are colluding together to ensure Iraq's fragmented future will not come without violent dispute.

All that is needed is a lit fuse ...

The prime minister of the Kurdish northern region, Nechirvan Barzani, clearly stated the Kurdish position on the subject: "There is no way Kurdistan would accept that the central government will control our resources."

What's that burning smell?

Continue reading "Start The Fan, The Offal Arrives!"
pessimist :: 12:53 PM :: Comments (10) :: TrackBack (0)
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Fisherman's Tales

Now we know where King George found Scott McClellan!

Fisherman nabs two-mouthed trout

(AP Photo/Submitted photo, Charrye Olberding)

Clarence Olberding, 57, of Lincoln, wasn't just telling a fisherman's fib when he called over another angler to look at the two-mouthed trout.

Olberding had pulled the fish from Holmes Lake in Lincoln, Neb., on Dec. 17, 2005, when he noticed something odd about it. "I reached down and grabbed it to take the hook out, and that's when I noticed that the hook was in the upper mouth and there was another jaw protruding out below," said Olberding.

In four decades of fishing, he had never seen anything like it. It weighed in at about a pound. Olberding, who plans to smoke and eat the fish, said the hook was in the upper mouth, and that the lower one did not appear to be functional.

Don Gabelhouse, head of the fisheries division of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, hadn't seen a two-mouthed fish before, either. "It's probably a genetic deformity," he said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with it."

Olberding still planned to eat the fish.

Maybe he should instead send it to King George so he can eat it at his next Royal "Ain't No Global Warmin' " Cookout!

[Fair Use Notice strung out on the other shore line]

Continue reading "Fisherman's Tales"
pessimist :: 10:53 AM :: Comments (17) :: TrackBack (0)
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A Magical Christmas

Eric’s assistant Sarah walked into my office holding a piece of paper and said that I had to listen to a sad story. It was a letter to Santa from a little boy that lived in a garage. A cold garage. As a mother of two young children, it broke Sarah’s heart. I wasn’t similarly moved, and it faded from my consciousness as quickly as Sarah left my office.

A while later, she returned with another sad letter to Santa. Where was she getting these letters from?

Continue reading "A Magical Christmas"
Marie :: 10:28 AM :: Comments (8) :: TrackBack (0)
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Koufax Reminder

Looks like the fine folks at Wampum are still short of the funds needed to support the Koufax Awards activity. Please stop by at their site and drop them some cash, if you can afford it.

You can add your nominations here, if you haven't already done so.

P.S. My Koufax nomination list (not voting list) is below the fold. [I am sure I missed some good blogs since I wanted to get my nominations in today - so please accept my apologies in advance if your blog is not on the list. I'm sure your readers likely nominated you :-)]

Continue reading "Koufax Reminder"
eriposte :: 10:03 AM :: Comments (1) :: TrackBack (0)
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Only In Your Dreams, GI!

I'll be home for Christmas, If only in my dreams

This melancholy marker of the season written for the Greatest Generation (as they continued with the sadly necessary task of making the world safe for unrivaled American corporatism) reflected the realistic understanding that the job they were doing required that they make sacrifices - such as missing Christmas with the family - if they were going to rid the world of Hitler and Tojo. The only problem: other tyrants later rose up in their stead, and in the very land they were defending.

One thing that the GI of WWII clearly understood was the reason for being involved in it. Japan had attacked the United States in support of their effort to establish economic colonies in Asia, and Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy declared war on the US due to treaty obligations with Japan. Thus, there was nothing left but to fight the good fight and win it.

But today, things aren't quite so clear cut. Despite all the outraged outcry from the wrong-wing, there was no supportable justification for invading Iraq, no reason offered up for the invasion by Bu$hCo that stands up in the light of rational examination. Nothing to explain why 2163 Americans (as of post date) died attempting to steal control of Iraq's oil - something 159,000 U.S. troops will spend this Christmas continuing instead of being home with their families for Kwaanza/Chanukkah/Christmas where they should be.

Continue reading "Only In Your Dreams, GI!"
pessimist :: 9:59 AM :: Comments (8) :: TrackBack (0)
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