Saturday, January 11, 2003

Where Can I Get a $700 Tea Cozy?
Slate has an interesting and slightly amusing story about the travails of Restoration Hardware. It seems fewer people want to pay $200 for old telephones than was originally thought and the uber-upscale store has run into hard times. I suspect the reaction of most would be something akin to: Cry me a freakin' river.
Dam it! Drill it! Pave it Over!
Mr Bush has ordered the EPA to limit the authority of its officers to enforce rules to protect the nation's wetlands.

"This is just one salvo in the Bush administration's all-out assault on fundamental protections for our air, water and public health," said Gregory Wetstone, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The Bush administration has intensified its effort to undermine our landmark environmental laws."

Updated Score: Conservative 4387, Compassionate 0.
Bushonomics at Work
Unemployment up again. Bush still has a job. What about you?
More Fuzzy Math
The good folks at Spinsanity have analyzed the Bush admin's latest tax proposals and have found the White House's public campaign deceptive. (Hard to believe, eh?) Specifically:

Perhaps the most deceptive talking point is that, as Bush put it in a speech announcing the proposal on Tuesday, "Ninety-two million Americans will keep an average of $1,083 more of their own money." This is repeated in an official White House fact sheet about the proposal.

This figure is misleading, implying that most families will see their taxes cut by $1,083 in 2003. This number actually represents the total savings divided by the number of taxpayers, which is not representative of what middle-income families could expect to receive. In fact, taxpayers in the middle of the income distribution would generally receive significantly less than $1,083.

Even Uncle Dick crawled out of his hole to sell Bush's budget lies to the public. That's a good idea. Find one of the least-trusted public officials in the country and bundle him off to make more lies seem like the truth. As noted below, even Wall Street isn't buying this junk.

Spinsanity also has a thing or two to say about Mr. Cheney's lie-mongering on tax issues. Read the entire Spinsanity piece right here.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Road Rage and Coal-Black Skies
The New Republic's Gregg Easterbrook reviews former New York Times Detroit Bureau Chief Keith Bradsher's auto expose "High and Mighty: SUVs--The World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way" and produces a penetrating look at road rage, pollution, and traffic congestion. Unsurprising to anyone who has ever shared the road with an SUV--that is to say, all of us--these 'sports utility vehicles' are to blame for making all the ugly aspects of America's car culture even worse.

Mr. Bradsher makes it clear that it would be perfectly possible--and economical--to build more eco-friendly SUVs that emit virtually no measurable pollutants, but doing so is not required so Detroit does not do it. And Congress, utterly in the pay of the automakers, clings to the fiction that SUVs something called 'light trucks' rather than vehicles being used as cars by millions of American drivers. Not only does this unholy state of affairs increase pollution and roadway aggression, but it leaves the United States incresingly dependent on Middle East oil--at a time when it has become more apparent than ever that such a dependency is a very bad idea. As Mr. Easterbrook writes in his review:

Every time an SUV or light pickup leaves the showroom in the United States, fanatics smile in the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Easterbrook writes that "High and Mighty" will take its place with works like Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at any Speed" as a classic of the consumer-expose genre. I'm running out to get my copy.
Richard Perle to U.N.: Drop Dead!
White collar militarist Richard Perle--a made man from the Cheney Mafia--has told the London Daily Telegraph that the Bush admin is determined to invade Iraq whether the United Nations approves or not. While not exactly a surprise, this does demonstrate that the Bush administration's tete-a-tete with Hans Blix and UNMOVIC has been a cynical maneuver to obtain a patina of international approval to a new Iraq war. As long as the U.N. cooperated with the pre-existing agenda of attacking Iraq, the Bush admin had a use for it, but the moment the U.N. began doing its job--conducting a genuine arms-length investigation of Iraq's military capabilities--our government lost all interest.

When Bush said 'you are either with us or you're against us', he meant it. In everything.
Arikgate Continued: Sharon Blows his Top
The latest chapter in what I'm calling Arikgate (until I can think of a better name) introduces an element of comedy to the financial scandal swirling (I like that verb) around Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. Sharon took to the airwaves last night and blew his top, accusing the liberal Labor opposition and the Israeli media of conspiring to destroy him!

What's this? A liberal opposition party actually opposing a right-wing government? Liberals working in journalism? Get these people some green cards and put them all on planes for America, pronto!

I think this is going to get worse before it gets better. If it gets better. For Sharon, that is.
Even Wall Street Thinks Bush is Full of it
What to make of a right-wing Republican president who is too right wing even for Wall Street economists? No such thing, you say? Well, you'd be wrong. Wall Street economists are calling Bush's new tax cut proposal what it is: an unnecessary budget-buster that won't cure the economy, but will put us in a fiscal black hole for the forseeable future.

This is what the country gets for showing confidence in Bush last November. Never trust a con man, folks. One of the worst is in the White House right now.
Look Who's Talking
William Saletan at Slate compares the clone hoax to another hoax. I won't spoil the secret, but it is worth the read. Check it out.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Lies, Damn Lies, and Bushonomics
Great work today at The Daily Howler exposing the non-stop budget deceptions (or spending dissembling) being woven by this White House and spread by its faithful servants in the right-wing media. As the author points out, the mainstream media, out of laziness, connivance, or plain ignorance (a good bit of the latter) rarely contradicts the steaming pile of excrement that passes for economic policy these days.
To Draft or Not to Draft
Discussion with Doxagora on the advisability of conscription in the United States. A growing number of liberals (like me) are warming to the idea--or at least some form of national service. Conservatives don't like it. Their arguments are usually couched in terms of military effectiveness, but I find it difficult not to wonder if there is more about the draft they don't like.
Say What, Now?
From Slate, the latest Bushism: "One year ago today, the time for excuse-making has come to an end."—Washington, D.C., Jan 8, 2003.
Look Out Below!
Following up my previous post about "Arikgate," a new poll out shows support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plummeting. On current projections, Sharon's right-wing Likud party would win about 27 seats in the Knesset, far less than the 41 the party projected less than a month ago. The reason for this loss of support appears to be the financial scandal swirling around Sharon. The poll does not have good news for the relatively dovish Labor party, however, because most of the support that is leaving Sharon is going to smaller parties, especially those on the Right. Look for a jumbled 'pizza parliament' in Israel again and more ambivalence on the subject of war and co-existence.
The Wrong Man
Over at USA Today, Walter Shapiro reviews former White House speechwriter David Frum's book "The Right Man" and finds a portrait of Mr. Bush as incurious, impatient, quick to anger, and possessing a poor mind for facts and figures, including those germane to his own signature tax plans. Gee, who woulda thunk it?

Despite all those qualities (or perhaps because of them), Mr Frum regards Mr Bush as 'the right man for the job.' And if that makes sense to you, you must be a very compassionate conservative indeed.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Arikgate?
Daily Kos has a long and interesting story about the financial scandal swirling around Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The BBC has its own story about the sordid affair. Basically, it involves a dodgy-looking loan Sharon got from a South African (you'd think right-wing Israelis would be careful about their contacts with white South Africans) to cover another loan he'd taken out to pay a fine for an earlier case of Likudnik political corruption. In other words, it is an actual financial scandal, as opposed to an invented one like, oh, say, Whitewater.

Couldn't have happened to a more deserving militarist. The investigation into Mr. Sharon's latest shenanigans will, conveniently, not be done before the January 28 Israeli elections, so there will be no final report to damage Mr. Sharon's campaign prior to that date. My guess, though, is that the Israelis will soon need to launch an incursion into the West Bank before this story gets any bigger.

But let us not permit all that to distract from the big issue: Will Bill Safire write a nauseating column defending his buddy Arik or will he stick the word 'gate' onto it the way he does every pumped-up Democratic scandal? What do you think?
Go to Hell, Zell!
Quasi-Republican Zell Miller (D-Ga) is retiring from the Senate, effective immediately after the 2004 elections. Who will the Dems and GOP run for the seat? Well, Max Cleland might want another shot at it for the Dems and former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn is an outside shot if he misses the game. Dem Secretary of State Cathy Cox is a possibility. For the GOP, who knows. Georgia is now crawling with Republicans, unfortunately. One does wonder if former Congressman Bob Barr will take a break from attending militia conventions to have a run at the soon-to-be vacant Senate seat. And, of course, waiting in the wings is the Georgia GOP chief Ralph Reed--former poster boy for the Christian Coalition.
The Cuba Embargo is 'a Sieve'
So scrap it.
The Beer Police, Those Jack-booted Thugs
Police in Fairfax County, Virginia (an affluent suburb of Washington, D.C.) are stopping people in bars and testing them for sobriety. Now, I don't drink, but I have to say this goes too far. Much too far. If drunk bar patrons are stumbing into their autos the police should be stopping them and administering sobriety tests. But (seemingly) randomly hassling bar patrons and administering sobriety exams is absurd. If this was being done in Northwest Washington, D.C. outside bars frequented by some of our jollier political correspondents, this story would be much bigger than it is.
Woke Up...Ate Breakfast...Ran for Presidency...Watched "The Bachelorette"...
The New Republic has a fascinating profile of Florida Democratic Senator Bob Graham. The normally low-key senator is considering a run at the presidency, likely using his experience in Congress directing the War on Terror as a selling point. If anything, Graham is more gung-ho to crush terrorists than the Bush admin, but wants to go after different targets, especially Hizbollah and Al Qaeda. The Bush admin, as we know, prefers a sitting duck like Saddam Hussein to the actual architects of the 9/11/01 atrocity. Senator Graham's rather odd personal habit of recording his smallest actions in a diary is likely to dog him in the primaries, at least--should he run.
Got it Covered
The estimable Talking Points Memo is the place to go to keep up with the latest information about the Bush admin's failed North Korean non-policy. It's an important issue--even more so than Iraq--and deserves the sort of intelligent and skeptical attention it is getting from JMM.
Get a Grip on Yourself, Kid
Pro-genocide blogger Osama Ben Virgin is, once again, discussing his twin fixations: evil Palestinians and "The Two Towers." Only now, Mr. Ben Virgin has managed to conflate the two into one big twisted mess in that oxygen-starved blancmange contained within the circumference of his skull. Behold Mr. Ben Virgin's latest rhetorical gem:

>>A thought occurred to me tonight. I'd like to throw it out there for comment, to those who have seen The Two Towers. Aren't the Palestinians and the Arab/Islamist world a lot like the psycho-evil Gollum personality? "Those tricksy Zionistses, they stole it from us. Tricksy, false! We'll poke out their eyeses. Or . . . we could have Saddam do it. Yes! That's it! We'll have Saddam do it. And then, when they're dead, we takes the precious."<<

No, Mr. Ben Virgin, 'the Palestinians and the Arab/Islamist world' are not a lot like Gollum. One is a character in a movie based on a work of fiction. The other is a nation of people you despise.

Has this pompous little twit ever actually met a Palestinian? Would he even bother if presented with the opportunity or would he shrink from it out of fear that the Palestinian in question might not be equipped with horns, goat's hooves, and eau de brimstone? I think I can guess the answer to that one.

Grab the reins, sporto.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Stop Being an Idiot, Mr. Moore
Michael Moore makes a fool of himself.
Dateless Dope Continues to Flail Away
The tiff between The Rittenhouse Review and right wing virgin blogger Osama Ben Virgin (or Ben Shapiro, as he is sometimes known) is getting nastier. I ought to be above the entire mess, but I'm not such a big person and I do enjoy a good fight. As noted above, Mr. Shapiro is a dope. He and TRR are having a bit of a set-to over various topics, including Mr. Shapiro's self-confessed virginity--a fact he blames on his Orthodox Judaism.

That's not the real reason you are a virgin, Mr. Shapiro, though I suppose it is a decent excuse in a pinch.

Down the left-hand side of Mr. Shapiro's blog appears a wealth of praise from a gaggle of slack-jawed right-wing hacks, lauding young Mr. Shapiro for being a slack-jawed right-wing hack. Shave 30 points off my I.Q. and I might be impressed. Shave 30 points off Mr. Shapiro's I.Q. and nobody would notice.
Go Stand Next to Mr. Gore, Please
Tom Daschle will not be running for president. I'd like to congratulate Mr. Daschle for his keen sense of the obvious and would further like to recommend his line of thinking to Mr. Gephardt, who must be living on a different planet from the rest of us.
That Volcano Looks Like a Missile Silo
A previously undiscovered planet has been found 5000 light years away by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Apparently, on this planet it rains iron. I'm thinking the umbrella industry will be bigger there than back here on wimpy ol' Earth, but the real question is: How long before we put these ET bastards on the Axis of Evil?
Go North Young Men
Nice article from Mary Lynn F. Jones of The American Prospect about how the North will produce the Democratic party's next presidential nominee---and why that's a good thing. As an early Kerry fan, I heartily agree.
Get Over It Already
A fine article from Dahlia Laithwick of Slate details the patchwork of legal vagaries governing (and all-too-often forbidding) the adoption of children by gay parents. The American Pediatric Association agrees there is no evidence to suggest that being raised by gay parents harms children. It's time for the American public to face facts, too.
All In Good Taste
The Republican party has tentatively decided to hold its 2004 national convention in New York City. Fine, upstanding ladies and gentlemen that they are, I'm sure Mr. Bush and Co. will not use the venue to make political hay out of the 9/11/01 terror attacks.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Mr Next
Leave it the best magazine in the world, the New Yorker to make a story about a line director at a New York City Whole Foods Market a fascinating must-read. No one else could do it.
The Unconservative Right
The New Republic has a great piece by Jonathon Chait about the Bush admin's history of lies and double-speak on the subject of budget deficits. There's nothing conservative about the Bush admin on the subject of the budget; it is more Reaganomics. Cut taxes hugely for the hugely wealthy, massive increases in defense spending (with most of it going to reliable GOP donors), and passing the resulting gigantic budget deficits off on the next generation. In the article's most surreal portion, Chait demonstrates how the Bush admin's economic 'brain trust' hold the economic policies of Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in contempt.
Cheney the Dope
More great work from Joshua Micah Marshall in The Washington Monthly, piercing the preposterous veil of competence surrounding Veep Dick Cheney. Uncle Dick has hardly done a thing right during this regime, but the mainstream press continues to believe Cheney knows what he is doing. If only more journalists had the wit and guts to write what JMM is writing.
I Throw a Mean Popcorn Fastball
Apparently, Smartphones are on their way to the United States. That's all well and good, but is there a 'turn the damn thing off because you're in a theater' button?
Well, Whoopdeefreakindoo!
Apparently, there's been no change in Mr. Bush since a smallpox vaccination he received last week. In other words, he's still a corporate whore obsessed with proving his manhood by smashing Saddam Hussein to tiny pieces.
What an Idiot
Check out this moron for a good laugh. Yes, apparently, he is serious.
Reaction to Shrub's Latest Harebrained Scheme
Kudos to The Washington Post for its story about clear-headed economists calling Shrub's dividend tax elimination plan into question. The bottom line is that this phony 'stimulus' package would not provide a significant boost to economic growth, but it would increase the budget deficit by at least $300 billion. Only to a Republican would this seem like a good idea.
Shrub's Latest Harebrained Scheme
Our unelected president's latest dim idea is to eliminate taxes on corporate dividends. The intellectual argument for this move is to boost shareholder dividends, thus providing a boost to the stock market, and eventually, the entire economy. This is balderdash. Doing as the Bush admin demands would punch a $300 billion hole in the budget, providing yet another example of how irresponsible Republican economics leads to bigger and bigger deficits and debt. Furthermore, as Daniel Gross pointed out in Slate last August, dividends are going out of style. Increasingly, investors prefer to see profits plowed back into the company to improve competitiveness and increase the stock price. This is the strategy followed by the best-performing companies of the last decade and there is no reason to think that it will change any time in the near future. All Bush's policy would do is increase the budget deficit and shove another fistfull of dollars into the pockets of the wealthy elites that have bankrolled Mr. Bush's political career.
The Daily Review NFL Playoffs Power Poll

The Standing
1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4): Word from Philly is that Donovan McNabb is taking all the snaps in practice and moving well. Good for the Eagles. Bad for everyone else. (No change.)

2. Oakland Raiders (11-5): Well-rested and battle-tested Raiders team calmly awaits arrival of hottest team in the NFL--the New York Jets. (+1)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4): Brad Johnson is healthy and Warren Sapp hasn't tasted human flesh in weeks. A gritty, but lucky Niners team had better be ready. (+1)

4. Tennessee Titans (11-5): Air McNair must be licking his chops after watching the Steelers defense give up 33 points to the Cleveland Browns. (+1)

5. New York Jets (10-7): Wow! If there is a better quarterback in the NFL than Chad Pennington right now…well, there isn't. (+2)

6. Atlanta Falcons (10-6-1): Atlanta became the first visiting team ever to win a playoff game in Wisconsin and a trembling NFL beheld the uber-quarterback of the future, Michael Vick. (+4)

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5-1): Better find some cornerbacks who can play or Air McNair will eat this team for dinner by halftime and digest it before the final gun is fired. (-1)

8. San Francisco 49ers (11-6): Okay, Mooch, enough already with how much 'heart' your team has. The comeback was great, but the Niners got lucky. And TO is a punk. A talented punk, but still a punk. (No change.)

The Fallen
9. Green Bay Packers (12-5): The first team Michael Vick has carved up in January, but certainly not the last. (-7)

10. New York Giants (10-7): Epic battle ended badly with 4th quarter collapse and stupid penalties. Offense looks great, but defense has a lot to answer for. (-1)

11. Cleveland Browns (9-8): Put up a great fight in Pittsburgh and nearly escaped with a win. Enough of this Tim Couch nonsense--give Kelly Holcombe a shot at the starting quarterback job. (+1)

12. Indianapolis Colts (10-7): Qualified for the playoffs, but never showed up for the game. These guys should be ashamed. (-1)

The Forgotten
13. New England Patriots (9-7)
14. Denver Broncos (9-7)
15. Miami Dolphins (9-7)
16. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
17. Buffalo Bills (8-8)
18. New Orleans Saints (9-7)
19. San Diego Chargers (8-8)
20. Washington Redskins (7-9)
21. Baltimore Ravens (7-9)
22. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
23. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
24. Carolina Panthers (7-9)
25. St. Louis Rams (7-9)
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)
27. Dallas Cowboys (5-11)
28. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
29. Chicago Bears (4-12)
30. Houston Texans (4-12)
31. Detroit Lions (3-13)
32. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14)
Clinton Still Helping Economy
Good story about how President Clinton's library in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas is helping to revitalize a neighborhood. Even out of office, President Clinton is doing more to help the economy than Mr. Bush. The real question, however, is whether or not the library will have any books Mr. Bush can read.
Makes You Wanna Holler
CNN is running a story of horrifying child abuse and murder.