Saturday, January 1, 2005

Contest the vote

Via Skippy yesteday:

william rivers pitt, over at truthout, tells us that rep. john conyers, along with some reps from ohio, is planning to contest the ohio electoral vote count on jan. 6, and has sent a letter to every senator asking for support (he only needs one).

[. . .]

And today:

a friend sent us the link to contest the as we reported earlier, rep. john conyers is looking for just one senator (all that's needed, as he and several representatives are planning to do so) to contest the electoral vote this week.

sign the petition
to get your senator to join rep. conyers. you can do it online, as well as read the latest news:

[. . .]

Saturday Cattle Dog Blogging

The Princess practicing her pathetic look.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

I'm done for the day, probably. The Mrs. and I are doing what we always do on New Years. We're just gonna be hanging out, probably watch a movie or two, and she's gonna cook all sorts of international dishes that we like. We also partake in the alcoholic products from whatever region's foods she's making.

This year it's French, caviar (she's making a French dish with it), escargots, buncha cheeses and pates, and a duck breast salad, the recipie she conned from one of the chefs aboard the QM2. We probably won't be awake for the ball drop (yes, some New Yorkers don't give a shit about Times Square), but we'll be up at our usual 4 a.m. and get the highlights. We'll start the party again too.

Not many reflections on the Old Year. I like looking toward the possibilities of the future. We took a hit in November, but hopefully we'll learn and hit back in the mid-terms and beyond. We'll do better.

I wish my partners, KR and Gord, and their families, all the best of luck, health, and good fortune. Also to my fellow bloggers of the Reality-based Community and the readers, have a happy and safe New Year.

Think twice about drinking and driving tonight. If it was just your drunk ass splattered against a tree it would be one thing. Think about the poor, innocent slobs you're gonna take with you.

Happy New Year everybody!

Snow Day

If you saw Fixer's post you know I have things to do, but I thought I'd take a break, have some coffee and a smoke, and share a little about life in Paradise. It has quit snowing for the moment and the Sun is shining brightly. How long it will last, I don't know, but right now it's beautiful. Reminds me of an old joke: "When I woke up this morning, it looked nice out. So I left it out."

I spent about an hour already this morning digging out the wife's pickup and blowing a path down the driveway for her. I cleared the driveway yesterday and today's snow was knee deep.

Now, like all locals, I have a snowthrower. However, my machine is in two parts in my garage since the augur drive gear setup did a world-class imitation of a hand grenade a couple of weeks ago. I ordered the parts on Dec. 13. I expected them to be here at least when I got back from my Christmas trip to the coast, but due to an incredible combination of human errors, it was not shipped as of this past Tuesday when I called the parts house, which is in Porterville CA, near Bakersfield. It's on the way now, but the irony is that since my original order, we had two weeks of sunny and warm (relatively) weather which would have been good for wrenchin'. Murphy is laughing his ass off somewhere.

Thanks to the good graces of my next-door neighbor Bill, I have the use of his machine whenever I need it. This is a life-saver. My driveway is eighty feet long, two cars wide, and sloped down to the street. If you stood looking at two feet of snow with a cordless snowthrower, aka shovel, as your only means of snow removal, you'd move to Hawaii. I cleared my driveway with a shovel about once before I bought my first machine, which threw a rod after fourteen winters. Shovels are very useful for detail work and I have an amazing collection of them.

Here's the rub: Since Bill has been so kind, I feel obligated to clear his snow as well as mine. He says I needn't bother, but I'd feel shitty if I didn't. His driveway is about the same size as mine, but steeper. It's also about twenty-five years newer than mine and ices up a lot worse. Picture me being chased backwards down a driveway by the snowthrower, head first, the snowthrower gaining on me all the way, and you get the idea. Also, I clear his mailbox approach from wherever the plow went by so the mail carrier can drive his right-hand drive Skibaru up to it and shove the mail out the window into it. Otherwise, no mail. This is Bill's pet peeve, and I do this so I won't have to hear about it. He'll rant at great length, with great volume, about how the plow driver should plow closer to his mailbox.

Speaking of snowplows, the saving grace the last couple of days is that the plow hasn't been by here. Those things leave a humongous berm across the driveway and I haven't wanted to have to deal with it, but deal with it I shall, of that there is no doubt. Sometimes ten feet wide and three feet high, of compacted snow, it's all a snowthrower can do to get through it, and shovel work is usually required.

Bill has a 6.5hp Honda. They must have bigger horses in Japan or something, because the machine is fantastic. The rule of thumb around here is that you need 8 horse minimum, but the little Honda works really good. When it's really eatin'("EAT, you sunofabitch! EAT!") snow, the engine starts pulling real hard, like a motorcycle going up a hill at speed. Let go of the drive lever until it pitches the accumulated snow out, it picks up revs again, and off you go. For a little sneezer, the rig's got heart, like "The Little Engine That Could".

The snow we've got now is not exactly powder, but it's not the wet, heavy "Sierra cement" either, which is good. The machine does most of the work, of course, but it gets physical, believe me. There's a lot of horsin' it around, jerkin' it hither an' thither. It's a workout, so you know why my ol' lard ass gets tired.

Point is, my next machine's gonna be a Honda. Gotta fix the old one or it's just so much junk, but Mrs. G has already suggested that I check out the payment plan. I think I'll go with an 11 or 12 horse model. Now, if they come with radio control....

There's a certain amount of cultural and social content to standin' around in the snow, too. This morning I got to chat with a neighbor that I don't know while he was taking a stroll. That was cool. I warned him that the Mad Lady of Indian Pine Road was about to come flyin' backwards out of the driveway and we shot the shit 'til the crisis was past. I also got honked at to get out of the way by a lady(?) in a Lexus SUV. Figures. But, to give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she was just making sure I knew she was there.

Check out the Truckee Web Cam. The snow you see is all since Wednesday. The town is full of tourists and students on their holiday and most of 'em don't know whether to shit or go blind over our bountiful snow. What us locals like to do is get us some popcorn and go sit on the main drag and watch 'em try to drive around in it. $40K worth of SUV and they ain't got a clue. Entertaining as all get out, but then, it doesn't take much to amuse us simple hill folk.

That's all for now. Later, folks.

Absolutely Disgusting

Since Bush has been in office, I don't disgust as easily as I used to, but this one takes the fucking cake. From Raw Story.
RAW STORY has discovered that the Westboro Baptist Church leaders known for picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the young college student brutally murdered in Wyoming in 1998, have released the following statement regarding the tsunamis which hit Southeast Asia earlier in the week.

The statement, which was posted on their website Wednesday alongside dozens of other archived "press releases," thanks God for the tsunami and for the death of any gay Swedish vacationers who perished at the time.

I'm not going to try to reproduce the actual article. It's in fonts and styles reminiscent (to me anyway) of old fashioned stuff. You owe it to yourself to go see this unconscionable tripe. Methinks this so-called minister got scared by a penis at some time in his life.

If we don't see any MSM coverage of this I won't be surprised. Even though this church is obviously on the leading edge of the lunatic fringe, our fearless media haven't got the balls to to take on so-called christians for any reason.

Payback 2

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 30 - President Pervez Musharraf announced in a nationwide television address on Thursday that he would continue as the army chief despite his pledge last year to give up the post by the end of 2004.

"I have decided to retain both offices," he said. "In my view, any change in internal or external policies can be extremely dangerous for Pakistan."

He added that he was responding to "the voice of the majority."

[. . .]


Amazing what you can do with a 'mandate'. I talked about this a couple days ago. Wonder why Bush isn't saying anything about Musharraf retaining power instead of moving Pakistan toward democracy? I mean, that's why we attacked Iraq, right? We wanted to build a democracy there. At least, that's the latest excuse. How come none of our Islamic allies in the region are democracies? Okay, maybe Egypt, though that's a stretch. We make alliances with kings and despots when it suits, but we'll force democracy on the one who 'tried to kill my daddy'.


Travis notices something:

So I just went online to get the story on the resignation of all 700 employees of the Iraqi electoral commission, and I came across this:

The radical Ansar al-Sunnah Army and two other insurgent groups issued a statement Thursday warning that democracy was un-Islamic. Democracy could lead to passing un-Islamic laws, such as permitting homosexual marriage, if the majority or people agreed to it, the statement said.

Really, I am speechless. Here we are in the middle of a hideous war, and we find common ground between the Bush league and the terrorists. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Fucking incredible.

Where's Gordon?

If you're wondering why Gordon's posts have been few and far between lately, I got this email from him this morning:

I've been busy. 3 ft. of snow in the last 24 hrs. Check the cam.

Tired ol' Gord

Not that he has to explain his whereabouts to me, but the 'cam' he's talking about is the Truckee City web cam(Go look). I thought we got buried in the beginning of the week. I feel like a girly-man now.

A little late

A follow up to this two days ago:

. . . If Bush were a statesman, he would have flown to Jakarta and announced his solidarity with the Muslims of Indonesia (which has suffered at least 40,000 dead and rising).

This morning

[. . .]

The president’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has experience with extensive hurricane damage in Florida, will travel with [SECSTATE]Powell. A congressional delegation headed by Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, a former U.S. foreign service officer, is scheduled to visit Thailand and Sri Lanka next week.

[. . .]

The standard Chimpy MO [modus operandi for you trolls]. Do as little as possible until someone calls you on it, then do as little as possible until you're off the hook.

It'll happen again

[. . .]

Set up an early warning or detection system against natural disasters? It looks good on paper, but who will foot the bill? Asia has weathered countless natural disasters that have claimed millions of lives. In the medium term, the odds of a tsunami disaster of this scale happening again are rather small. Governments certainly will pragmatically take their chances rather than devote resources to a project akin to an insurance policy against a natural disaster which may or may not happen again for many years.

There are many far more pressing problems on Asian governments' agendas. Natural disasters are perceived fatalistically as unavoidable. It's easier and cheaper to lose a few sheep from the flock to the wolves, than it is to go to the trouble of seeking new pastures free from wolves. Cynical as it may sound, that is the old way for Asia and last Sunday's disaster won't change it.


Until the value of human life goes up in that part of the world, natural disasters will continue to wreak havoc. The only reason we're (U.S. government) paying so much attention in the first place is because white, Western folk were involved. I don't see us show so much concern when thousands die in Bangladesh every year from the floods in the rainy season. If the Primate Proletariat hadn't been shamed into it, they'd have ignored the situation completely.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


Just a word about the blog links in the sidebar. I don't make a big deal when I add to it. If they're on the list, it means that I read 'em. I think I'm the keeper of the roll anyway (though all of us have the power), and I stop by every page at least a couple times a week. Some a couple times a day. Just because I list you, don't feel obligated to do the same for The Brain. I'd like to think you list us because you enjoy reading our rants and diatribe, and maybe we get you thinking a little bit. The reverse is true. If your blog doesn't do something for me, I won't list it, whether or not you have us on your blogroll in 5 different places. If your blog isn't political and Left-leaning at the least, it ain't happening. So please, don't bother letting me know you listed our blog so I should list yours. To those of you who do list us, thank you very much. To those readers, and especially the other bloggers whom I respect, who leave your comments (good or bad) here, thank you very much as well. This is a wonderful community.

And I almost forgot. Congratulations to the team here at The Brain and all our fellow bloggers.

It's called a plea bargain

My partner Gordon will be happy to see this:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Prosecutors agreed to drop an illegal campaign contribution charge against Sears, Roebuck and Co. in exchange for its cooperation in an investigation of contributions to a political action committee associated with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

[. . .]

Under the agreement, Sears will cooperate with Texas officials in their prosecution and investigation of other people for any offense related to the corporate contribution that Sears made. O'Leary said Sears also will give $100,000 to the University of Texas for a campaign finance law awareness program.

[. . .]

I hope old Tommy the Bug-boy didn't think Sears would put their ass on the line to protect him. They're covering their bottom line and they'll leave DeLay swinging in the breeze. Let's hope they got some good shit to 'cooperate' with. Link via Lambert.

What it boils down to

Ezra's a smart guy:

. . .Conservatives believe in America the fighter, America the country with the largest military and the most advanced bombing technology. Liberals believe in America the idea, the America of the Marshall Plan and the Declaration of Independence. . .

That's what it is, after all. Bludgeon vs. Stiletto.

The transformation is complete

Via Melanie:

[. . .]

Republican elders who warned of endless war are purged. Those who advised Bush that Saddam was building nuclear weapons, that with a light military force the operation would be a "cakewalk", and that capturing Baghdad was "mission accomplished", are rewarded.

The outgoing secretary of state, fighting his last battle, is leaking stories to the Washington Post about how his advice went unheeded. Secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld, whose heart beats with the compassion of a crocodile, clings to his job by staging Florence Nightingale-like tableaux of hand-holding of the wounded while declaiming into the desert wind about "victory". Since the election, 203 US soldiers have been killed and 1,674 wounded.

Full story

Now that the last of the dissenters within the administration have been cached or just plain run out of town, the bubble has been sealed with Bush inside. Lets see what they fuck up next. Syria? Iran? I wonder if the rest of the world will rise up against us, just as they did against Germany sixty years ago.


WASHINGTON - Pakistan, the United States' premier ally in the "war on terrorism", has laid down the agenda for the Bush administration for the next four years on what it expects in exchange for continued cooperation to hunt down al-Qaeda.

On the menu is a slew of demands, ranging from continued economic aid to a generous flow of weapons. But above all is the expectation of a long-term relationship, especially in light of what Washington is building with India under the title of the "Next Steps in Strategic Partnership".

[. . .]

But what was noted by observers was the language he used to deliver the message. He sounded more like a teacher telling a pupil the level of performance he expected from the Americans, said diplomatic observers. He seemed to be drawing a clear parallel between payment and delivery, which led to questions whether the changes in policy that Pakistan has pursued post-September 11, 2001, have been made because they are good for Pakistan, or because they bring US arms and aid.

[. . .]

Even though the Bush administration has embraced Pakistan as a key and indispensable ally in its "war on terrorism" and publicly defended Musharraf on every issue - from the Khan affair to the re-emergence of the Taliban to his refusal to relinquish his post as army chief as promised - the US media and many congressmen and senators have repeatedly raised questions about Pakistan's commitment to the United States. Editorials in respected newspapers have questioned the reliability of Pakistan as an ally, and whether the US is giving Musharraf a pass despite the many problems.

[. . .]

From Asia Times.

We have to give the little cutthroat a pass, or he'll give bin Laden the run of the country. Or at least he can threaten that eventuality. See, the problem with Bush's foreign policy is that the Devil is holding too many of his markers. Musharraf is calling his in now. I mean, you didn't think Musharraf went along out of the goodness of his heart,did you? Wonder what more the Saudis will get out of Ol' Dubya since the Pakistanis appear to be able to dictate terms to him. In light of bin Laden's new threats against the Saudi regime, and the resultant effects:

Saudi security forces say they have killed seven suspected militants connected to two car bomb attacks in the capital Riyadh. The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television station said the seven were suspected of involvement in the bombings against the interior ministry and a security forces camp which left several people wounded. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, has been battling a wave of al Qaeda-linked violence.

We might be propping up the Oil Kings against their own people in the near future. If the Saudi street begins to rise up, it won't be long before our troops will be sent to support them. Hey, it's the 'War on Terror', right? Gotta mortgage the nation and squander the lives of its children. Fucking inept simpletons. We're being played and Chimpy Inc. is too stupid to notice.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Been bitching about this too. Angry Bear:

Fannie Mae

Raines is finally out at Fannie Mae. The company seems to be in increasing difficulties, with recent investigations by regulatory agencies finding that Fannie Mae has hidden about $9 billion in losses over the past few years, basically by using the same accounting trick that WorldCom used a few years ago. It's unclear at this point how much of this Raines is to blame for, but it is increasingly clear that we'll be reading more bad news about Fannie Mae through 2005. And because of Fannie Mae's sheer size (about $1 trillion each in assets and liabilities), bad news for Fannie Mae could well mean bad news for the US's financial system in general.

The Reptile


Donald the Reptile Rumsfeld

Tell us the truth about Fallujah, tell us the truth about Iraq

A war zone is a great filter for the truth and when the United States of America says it is sending in camera crews with the troops to record what is happening, after all the hype and spin and lies, the suspicions arise that there is in fact a cover-up going on, a massive cover-up, especially when one confronts the official version of events with the information circulating on the Internet.

Is it just chatter that the US Armed Forces sustained thousands of casualties in Fallujah? Is it just chatter that thousands of wounded are spirited out of the country at night-time? Is it just chatter that burials take place under cover of darkness? Is it just chatter that the whole campaign has been disastrously mismanaged from the beginning, that US troops are at the mercy of snipers, booby-traps and counter-offensives which kill and maim tens of soldiers every day?

[. . .]

After the Russians' long and bloody history, when they say shit like this, you gotta wonder.

[. . .]

Is it true, Mr. Rumsfeld, that you used a machine to sign your name on letters of condolences? Couldn't you even be bothered to put pen to paper? Not that this is in the slightest surprising. After the lies, after the torture scandal, after the illegal murders, what to expect from a reptilian man with cold blood cursing through his veins who is the personification of every reason why the United States of America of the Bush regime has the status of most hated nation in the hearts and minds of the international community at the end of 2004?

So, the grandsons of Stalin look at us this way. How far have we fallen in four short years?

Being smart

Which Chimpy and Co. isn't. Juan Cole:

[. . .]

. . . If Bush were a statesman, he would have flown to Jakarta and announced his solidarity with the Muslims of Indonesia (which has suffered at least 40,000 dead and rising).

[. . .]

Mighta cleared up a few problems in the Mid-East. Maybe nothing big, but we could have started to build some goodwill with the Islamic street but instead, every Muslim from Cairo to Lahore can say the word 'stingy'.

Optimistic New Yorkers?

Not when I see this. Via Glen:

As the Bush administration looks to revamp the tax code, New York officials say they are particularly worried about one idea being considered: eliminating the federal deduction for state and local taxes.

If the president pursues this plan, New York State would lose about $37 billion per year in federal tax deductions, more than almost any other state, according to Internal Revenue Service data. The change would affect about 3.2 million households in New York, three-quarters of which are middle- and low-income, tax records indicate.

"This change would be one of the worst things for New York to came out of Washington in a long time," said Senator Charles E. Schumer. "But if they take this route they can expect a serious fight."

With a 7.7 percent maximum state income tax rate, the second-highest in the country behind California's 9.3 percent, New York would be especially affected because its residents use those taxes to take large federal deductions. About 38 percent of households in New York file for some sort of federal deduction of state and local taxes.

New York City residents, who also pay city income taxes, would be especially hard hit as they could expect an 11 percent increase in the amount they pay the I.R.S., or an increase of about $3.4 billion, said Ronnie Lowenstein, director of the city's Independent Budget Office.

[. . .]

Here, lemmie just bend over and spread my cheeks. Especially when I read this yesterday:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Homeland Security Department has allowed federal grants for improving security at America's ports to be spent on low priority problems rather than the most serious vulnerabilities, the agency's outgoing watchdog says.

[. . .]

I just love being dry-fucked. So, even though New York is a prime target, and they want to milk us for more taxes, heaven forbid we should get our share of Homeland Security money. You can bet Cheyenne, Wyoming gets more than its share.

Upcoming Legislation

Dan Greenburg of the New Yorker writes this article about "Expected Legislation From The President". Go read. It'll make your day. Samples:
The Healing a Divided America Act: Shocked and saddened by the divisive nature of the recent Presidential campaign, President Bush will attempt to reach out to and pacify the two warring cultures in our country. Accordingly, a twenty-foot-high concrete security wall, topped by electrified razor wire, will be constructed as a barrier between blue states and red. Democrats and Republicans will have thirty days to relocate to blue states and red states, respectively, or else they will be placed in attractive government relocation camps for their own safety and comfort.

The Tax Simplification Act: Beginning in 2005, all taxpayers in the top one-per-cent income bracket will pay a flat one-per-cent tax, taxpayers in the top two-per-cent bracket will pay a flat two-per-cent tax, and so on.

The Endangered Species Preservation Act: All endangered species will immediately be preserved by a national corps of expert taxidermists.

The Keeping Our Young People Out of Harm’s Way Act: All young persons age eighteen or over will be placed out of harm’s way in training facilities where they will be issued M-16 rifles and taught how to defend themselves in the event of an attack from a hostile power, or, if the country is not attacked, how to defend themselves when dropped off in countries desperately in need of regime change.

The Separation of Church and State Act: There will be no separation of church and state.

The last two seem to be nearly accomplished. There are plenty more. If you didn't read the article, go back now and do so.

I think this Greenburg guy's a hopeless optimist, like all those New Yorkers!


And just something to think about as I head off to the shop.

It seems I've gotten a hold of this Democratic leadership thing (below and here), or the lack of it, and I was wondering. Is it time to form a 3rd party? A party of the Left? Leave the Democrats in the Center to play the Georgetown Party Circuit while this new party concentrates on the grass roots? Would it be a conglomeration (i.e. Greens, Socialists, Independents, etc.) or a start-from-scratch type affair?

I don't have answers, just wondering. But it seems we've been at the status quo for far too long, especially if a corrupt, incompetent moron like the one we have gets elected once. I'm sorry, but we invented the process, it's time we realized it's broken.


The poor woman had the misfortune to die during one of the greatest natural cataclysms in human history. TBogg says it well:


Susan Sontag

A dumbed-down America just got quite a bit dumber.

If that's possible...

Update: 14:35:

Wolcott has a little to say too.

Do you know who we are?

Kid Oakland at Kos:

[. . .]

And worse, they are so caught up in their inside the beltway, high-stakes power games that even if we screamed our lungs out over here in our little corner of the universe....we'd still appear as this tiny fraction of the equation. Be a dear and weight the pro-Dean, blog-driven dissent by any extra factor or two, would you, Harry....

We are bloggers and citizens, and our politics should no longer be about them....our politics should reflect who we are and who we fight for. In fact, the question I have tonight is not who will be chair of the DNC, but, with all due respect, if all we're doing is shoring up a "business-as-usual party" why should I care?

When I walk the streets and see my brothers and sisters..I know exactly who I'm fighting for. When I hold a newborn in my arms and think of my own life half over, I know who I'm fighting for. When I think of the rainbow of citizens every election day going to and from work at the West Oakland BART station, I realize how hollow the rhetoric coming from our Democratic leadership has been. When I think of Paul Wellstone, and all that his political life stood for, what direction that life was pointed in, I know the answer to my question.

It's not simply that the heads of Democratic Congressional delegations have seen fit to nominate an anti-choice, "concede before we've begun to fight" on Social Security's that in doing so they've proven to me that they have nothing whatsoever to do with our lives.

[. . .]

Been saying this for a while. The Dem leadership is as out of touch with us as Bush 1 was in the grocery store.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Hey, big spender

Eric Alterman:

Next time you hear some politician or conservative pundit blather on about what a generous country we are, remember this; we’re devoting less than half of what Bush is planning to spend on his own inauguration to helping people recover from one of the worst natural disasters in human history. I suppose it’s just a coincidence that we’re reading this on the very same day.

[. . .]

Fuck those brown-skinned, idol-worshipping, non-Jesus-loving, pygmies. We is havin' a hoedown! Link via WTF??

The Big Rock Candy Mountain

After readin' Fixer's post just below, I couldn't resist posting this song. I heard the late John Hartford sing it on PBS the other night.
One evening as the sun went down and the jungle fire was burning
Down the track came a hobo hiking and he said boys I'm not turning
I'm headin for a land that's far away beside the crystal fountains
So come with me we'll go and see the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains there's a land that's fair and bright
Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars are all empty and the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees
Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains all the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs
The farmer's trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay
Oh, I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall and the wind don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains you never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew and of whiskey too
You can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains the jails are made of tin
And you can walk right out again as soon as you are in
There ain't no short handled shovels, no axes saws or picks
I'm a goin to stay where you sleep all day
Where they hung the jerk that invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

I'll see you all this coming fall in the Big Rock Candy Mountains

Don' wanna wait 'til Fall. Wanna go now ! Waah-h!

I only wish

The Year in Review, from Bubba:

[. . .]

President Al Gore's "Brooklyn Project" to achieve American energy independence bears fruit as the first solar/hydrogen hybrid car, the Ford Sunburst, rolled off the assembly line. The car runs primarily on power generated by its super efficient-solar panels with supplemental power from light-weight hydrogen fuel cells. The fuel cells run on hydrogen produced at the Pacific Solar Farm, which extracts storable hydrogen fuel from seawater using power generated by a mammoth array of solar panels floating off the coast of California.

[. . .]

One can dream . . .

The message

From Ezra at Pandagon:

[. . .]

That's mostly right. The real challenge for the left is making people care about anything once it slips off the front page. Hey America? What happened to those stolen munitions? What about that bureaucrat who got browbeat into concealing the true cost of Medicare? Come to think of it, who did out Valerie Plame? What was all that stuff about Tom DeLay's ethics? Didn't the troops need more armor or something? And wasn't there some controversy over Bush knowingly using bad intelligence to lead us to war?

[. . .]

See, we're back to business as usual at Democratic Headquarters. Who's doing any yelling besides the bloggers? Seems like the nitwits in Congress are all on their knees with their mouths open, waiting to fellate the Repubs for any little crumbs they might magnanimously decide to throw across the aisle. WTF? Did we just wipe the memory banks, and the slate, clean after 2 November? Is there anybody on our side who can get a message out there and make it stick? I mean, can we hire the Swift Boat Liars' media guy? Because he sure got that bullshit out and made it stick. And when Steve Gillard says:

Wow, I'm not the only one who thinks she's both incompetent and an idiot. If she can't explain a core belief of the people who pay her, then why the fuck are they paying her?

She is simply not competent at her job and no one will say so.

about Donna Brazile (Gore-Lieberman campaign manager), you know we got problems. Can we get some competents in leadership positions (Howard Dean for DNC Chair, for instance), even if it means hiring 'em away from the Repubs? Jesus H. Christ, no wonder the moron got his 'mandate'.

The Year of Reverse Instant Karma

So you think everything went way wrong in '04 and you can't figure it out? You're not the only one. Joel Stein in the LATimes:
A year in which failure was rewarded and success was punished. It was the year of celebrating the undeserving. The year, to put it simply, of Paris Hilton. There were no consequences for anything. I know people who didn't vote and not one of them died despite P. Diddy's best intentions. There was genocide in Sudan, but no one could be bothered to stop it.

Donald Rumsfeld got to keep his job. Michael Ovitz got to keep his money. Bill O'Reilly got to remain the mouthpiece of manly conservatism even though we discovered that his idea of phone sex involves taking a woman to a Caribbean hotel and massaging her with a loofah. His idea of rough sex is exfoliating.

Good deeds were actually punished. The only voice in the Cabinet who warned that Iraqis wouldn't be throwing tulips at our feet, Colin Powell, was pushed out of the Cabinet. After two presidents who went unscathed for ducking the draft, John Kerry's bravery was questioned for serving in Vietnam. For the first time, Howard Stern was not the perpetrator behind someone having her top removed on television and yet he was the one punished by the FCC. The authors of the 9/11 report — the first readable government document in 200 years — didn't get their names on the book or a piece of the action for the NBC miniseries being made by Ron Howard.

Yep. It was a topsy-turvy year indeed. I'm calling it "The Year Stupidity Won". Not one to remember fondly, but one we better not forget or it will be known throughout history as "The Year America Began To Die". By the choice of 51% of its own people.

Kerik's Nanny

This is a week old, but I've been away. Paul Krassner has found the nanny who some doubt even existed and interviews her in The Nation. Krassner has written many books about dope and the counterculture and apparently keeps up with the times.
Q. So, Maria, how does it feel to have people doubt that you exist?

A. I regret it very much. I am alive and tricking.

Go read it. It's not long, and will brighten your day.

Portrait of a brother

Morrigan pays tribute to her [Oops, gender malfunction, sorry.-The F-man.] brother in several parts. A great piece, or pieces as it were.

Go read.

Monday, December 27, 2004

God's will

[Note: Moving this to the top so it stays there today. Please help if you can. - The F-man.]

From David at 42:

[. . .]

I can't think of too many more scary ways to die than drowning in the dark in your own house, or being swept up by a 40-foot wave and smashed into a tree or building. What a horrific disaster... I'm sure that some preacher somewhere today blamed it on those brown heathens who were just asking for it by messing around with those non-Jesus religions.

I been waiting for it since I heard about the disaster. Sorta like Falwell on 9/11. If you want to help these poor people, and if you have the cash after Materialism Eve and Consumption Day:

*Save the Children
Asia Earthquake/Tidal Wave Relief Fund
54 Wilton Road, Westport, CT 06880
*Link via Skippy

Update: 10:20:

Another link if you want to help:

*American Red Cross International Relief Fund

*Link via Matt Yglesias

Update: 13:15:

Lots more links here.

Update: 18:15:

A blog dedicated solely for "News and information about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts."

Reality-based Conservatives?

Found this rooting around at Kos:

[. . .]

For contemporary America, the “it” is the setting in full motion of an aggressive, reckless, militarized foreign policy, viewed as lawless by much of the world—one whose almost inevitable outcome is nuclear war. While Pinochet and Franco and for most of his reign Stalin kept within their own borders, Bush has ambitions of global scope. Of course they are idealistic ambitions, beautiful ambitions. The spread of democracy—especially if it springs up from a country’s indigenous institutions and populace—is a very good thing. But the Bushites now see democracy’s spread as necessary for America’s own survival. The world, particularly the Muslim world, must become democratic now, or we will perish. The neoconservatives in the administration believe that democracy will spread only if the president commits more and more troops to Iraq and topples the regimes in Tehran and Damascus. As alarming as the neoconservatism of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Danielle Pletka, and John Bolton is, more alarming is the spirit that has spread in its wake—a kind of neoconservativism without a graduate degree.

You see it on certain blogs and hear it in the rants of some of the most widely listened to right-wing talk-radio hosts. If the Arabs don’t want to be democratic, we should nuke them. We have no choice but to nuke them for our own safety. It’s a vulgarized neoconservatism —no one from the American Enterprise Institute speaks like this (in public). But this talk is around in the heartland and growing, and it is wind in the sails of the new administration.

[. . .]

From The American Conservative, believe it or not. The real Conservatives are starting to get nervous. They're seeing skyrocketing deficits, the mess in Iraq, and they're realizing how fucked up Chimpy Inc. really is. They're afraid that Bush and, more importantly, the people who tell him what to think, are starting to believe their own bullshit. Wonder how that Rapture Index is doing?

Input please

Does anyone who comes here use Netscape's browser? I try to optimize this site to it displays well with the popular browsers, but I don't have Netscape and I'd like to know if there are any problems viewing the page. Looks fine in Firefox and IE. Lemmie know. (This goes for AOL folks too.)

No Representation Without Taxation

Found a piece about mixing politics and religion by Avery Walker at Raw Story. The writer lays into Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson pretty good and further lays bare their phony bullshit and agenda-driven pseudo-Christianity. Good story.
People accused of witchcraft were almost always a threat to the community in some other way—either financial or social. Liberals often forget that religion wasn’t the reason for witchcraft “outbreaks;” it was an excuse. Religions have used government to do their dirty work, yes, but far more common are politicians who use religion to justify immoral beliefs and policies. These men are not clergy becoming involved in politics, they are politicians disguising themselves as clergy.

Jerry Falwell, for instance, was in favor of segregation in the 50s and 60s, but now seems just fine with sharing the sidewalk with a Darkie. Did God flip-flop, or is Falwell just a scumbag politician who used religion to justify social injustice? Falwell’s more offensive comments and patently still-evident racism are funny, but he at least, seems to mean well. Remember that when paired with “politician,” the word “scumbag” is barely an insult.

Pat Robertson is often quoted as having called feminism a, “Socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” And here, I just thought it was a belief in equal rights and opportunities for both sexes.

Repeatedly throughout the Presidential campaign, I found myself wondering why it was seen as a contradiction for John Kerry to be a pro-choice Catholic, but nobody raised issue with George W. Bush being a pro-war, anti-poor Methodist. The Methodist Church is relatively liberal, while the same cannot be said for our President. You’d never know it by Bush’s rhetoric, but the United Methodist Church has been debating gay rights since 1972. The Church’s current slogan is “The United Methodist Church: Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” I think the Bush Administration policy is, "Open heart? Open mind? Hit the door."

Throughout history, we find that whenever the Church becomes a political power, it ceases to be a religious body and becomes a political one with far too much power. The church becomes a branch of government, and is, in essence, lost. Religion is a great way to keep simple people in line, and politicians know that.

The head of state becomes the head of church, and their whims become those of God. Catherine the Great was the head of the Russian Church, and even though she was considered a liberal leader at the beginning of her reign, she gave ex-lovers serfs by the thousands. “Sorry things didn’t work out, babe. Have seven thousand human beings.” God’s work? (The only sovereign who springs to mind as having doled out government posts to more male ex-lovers than Catherine was James I. You might recognize his name from the cover of your Bible.) When it was suggested that she tax the incredibly wealthy Church, the proposition couldn’t be taken seriously. The clergy was more powerful than the Czarina.

Much of this is facilitated by the fact that human beings have a megalomaniacally arrogant tendency to assume that their personal and cultural values are shared by God. There are people in this country, for instance, who equate a pure form capitalism with Christianity, in spite of the fact that one in nine verses of the New Testament is devoted to the responsibilities of the rich to the poor.

You see, any person who believes Jesus Christ to be the savior of their own soul, and of those of the world, probably took notice of the fact that he was executed on religious grounds, for political reasons. And the moral, all at once, boys and girls, is… When you mix politics and religion, very bad things happen. I could go on and on about Crusades and Holy Wars, but if your Savior being whipped and nailed to a cross isn't enough to drive the point home, I can't imagine what is. But religion generally isn’t the reason; It’s merely a means.

Later, many came to realize that when religion becomes a tool of the government, its true purpose is lost. There are many churches in America who understand this. They just don’t lobby for it, because… well, that would be mixing politics and religion.

When someone laid a bit of a trap, encouraging Christ to speak out about taxes, he replied that one should, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." In doing so, Christ temporarily avoided being drawn into the politics of the day. Smart guy, that Jesus. Hope he has a happy birthday, and a long chat with everyone in the religious right.

I felt the writer didn't go into the taxation of religion quite enough, but all in all a good article.

The main point, that government uses religion as a tool, is particularly germane to the current mis-administration of our country.

If the political religionists want a voice in government, they should pay taxes like the rest of us. They have been getting a free ride for too long using God's name in the pursuit of power and wealth. Some of these guys, no, make that a lot of these guys, have amassed empires of income and real property over the years absolutely tax-free. They won't give up the perks without a fight that no American politician has the guts to pursue, so I know I'm shoveling shit against the tide, but I have felt this way for a long time. My tinfoil hat is getting a little warm.

I understand that many churches use their wealth for good purposes, and that could be a deduction, fine and dandy. Normal expenses and overhead, too, like any business, which is what this is all about.

Hit the bastards in the wallet and maybe some of 'em will shut the fuck up about matters that don't concern them, like how you or I should live our lives.

Who's in charge here?

Might as well paint 'CIA' on the side. Fucking idiots. From WaPo via Melanie:

The airplane is a Gulfstream V turbojet, the sort favored by CEOs and celebrities. But since 2001 it has been seen at military airports from Pakistan to Indonesia to Jordan, sometimes being boarded by hooded and handcuffed passengers.

The plane's owner of record, Premier Executive Transport Services Inc., lists directors and officers who appear to exist only on paper. And each one of those directors and officers has a recently issued Social Security number and an address consisting only of a post office box, according to an extensive search of state, federal and commercial records.

[. . .]

According to airport officials, public documents and hobbyist plane spotters, the Gulfstream V, with tail number N379P, has been used to whisk detainees into or out of Jakarta, Indonesia; Pakistan; Egypt; and Sweden, usually at night, and has landed at well-known U.S. government refueling stops.

[. . .]

You're the fucking Agency, with a bigger operating budget than most countries' GDP. Aside from the moral aspects of whisking detainees all over the world to be tortured for information, how the fuck did the press and hobbyists find out which plane you're using to do it? Who is running the fucking show over there? You're the fucking C-I-A, for chrissakes.

Update: 16:40:

Steve Gillard has more . . . much more.

Bend over, grandma

LA Times via Pandagon:

[. . .]

But the surpluses have turned into record deficits. President Bush is not about to take back his tax cuts, but in setting spending levels in the budget that he will deliver to Congress in the new year, he will single out a loser — perhaps several — for every winner.

[. . .]

But it is widely expected that, to help Bush keep his promise of cutting the deficit in half over five years, the budget will "maintain strict discipline," as the president said at a news conference last week.

Arguing that the costs are only vaguely known, budget writers may also decide not to include the outlays needed to cover the additional costs of the war in Iraq or the transition to proposed private Social Security accounts.

Interest groups know which programs are vulnerable to cuts — and are circling the wagons around them.

Medicare and Medicaid are prominent on Bush's likely hit list.

[. . .]

The ultimate losers, he said, would be the elderly insured by Medicare. Before Congress reversed the cuts scheduled for 2004 and 2005, he said, a survey showed that 24% of family doctors would stop taking new Medicare patients if the cuts held up.

[. . .]

The National Governors Assn. says state budgets are under siege even without more federal Medicaid cuts. The association's chairman and vice chairman, Govs. Mark R. Warner of Virginia and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, said last week in a letter to congressional leaders that it was "unacceptable in any deficit reduction strategy to simply shift federal costs to states, as Medicaid continues to impose severe strains on state budgets."

[. . .]

This will be just like No Child Left Behind. Cut the federal budget by shifting the tax burden to the states. NCLB has raised some folks' property taxes around here by 45%. How much you figure this 'budget discipline' will cost us? Thanks for that $300 a couple years ago, (p)resident Dicknose. I really needed that 'tax cut'.

Left behind

Via Kevin at the american street:

[World News]: Beijing, Dec 27 : China has launched the first backbone network of the next-generation Internet, CERNET2, breaking US monopoly and allowing the Communist giant to dramatically narrow its gap with world leaders, officials and experts said today.

Eight departments of the Chinese Government said CERNET2 has become formally operational from December 25.

"We were a learner and follower in the development of the first generation Internet, but we have caught up with the world's leaders in the next-generation Internet, become a first mover, and won respect and attention from the international community," director of the expert committee of the China Education and Research Network (CERNET), Wu Jianping said.

CERNET2 is the biggest next-generation Internet network in operation in the world and connects 25 universities in 20 cities. The speed in the backbone network reaches 2.5 to 10 gigabits per second and connects the universities at a speed of 1-10 gigabits per second.

[. . .]

You can thank the wave of anti-intellectualism washing over this country. I'm willing to bet that in 20 years, we'll be calling this the Century of the Dragon. They're gonna out-sell us, out-buy us, and out-think us. Don't say I didn't warn ya.

Day off

Long Island got blasted last night and it's still snowing here. 8 inches so far and they say it'll keep up for a couple more hours. Since I have a 30 mile drive to work, and the fact the plows haven't even considered coming down my street yet (nobody has considered coming down my street), my ass is staying in. Even the Long Island Expressway is closed in parts, and that's 2/3 of my trip. My life ain't worth it, just to fix somebody's piece of shit car. I'm getting old. Was a time I'd attempt it, just for the thrill of it. Puh, I might be crazy, not stupid . . . anymore.

Update: 08:00:

Just went up to the gas station to fuel up Mrs. F's Explorer. One of the local cops was parked in the station, sitting in his car. I went over to him to ask if he was stuck. He said no, just that they wrecked so many cars during the night, that spares are in short supply. He was sitting there until he got a call, instead of cruising around. It's shitty out, and they want the Mrs. to go to a meeting. Assholes. Thankfully, it's only a few miles from here. Oh, and just a note about the Explorer. This latest one of hers (2002) is one of the most sure-footed vehicles (civilian) I've ever driven in the snow. We've had it a little over 2 years and it has yet to let me down. Didn't even bother digging out my 2WD Ranger.

Reggie's in heaven . . . not

At least not according to Genia:

[. . .]

I almost decided to keep my mouth shut about White's anti-gay remarks, but after I made my post I did a quick check of a few popular conservative blogs and noticed the GOP soldiers are already embracing White and holding open the gates of heaven -- as if his anti-gay hatred has earned him a seat next to God. It hasn't. Hatred in any form doesn't earn you a seat next to God. It doesn't even earn you the last seat in the back of the bus to heaven.

I respect the dead. I feel bad for White's family; they have lost someone they all love; however. Yes, HOWEVER. I will not sit by and pretend the man was a saint because he played football and bashed homosexuals. I can guarantee you none of the GOP's soldiers will give a rat's ass for Chelsea Clinton when Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton kick the bucket.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Frank Burns eats worms

Just watching a M*A*S*H* rerun and thinking: How many guys like Frank Burns are running the show in Washington?

Loose nukes . . . again

From NYT:

[. . .]

"This was the first time we had ever seen a loose copy of a bomb design that clearly worked," said one American expert, "and the question was: Who else had it? The Iranians? The Syrians? Al Qaeda?"

[. . .]

Nearly a year after Dr. Khan's arrest, secrets of his nuclear black market continue to uncoil, revealing a vast global enterprise. But the inquiry has been hampered by discord between the Bush administration and the nuclear watchdog, and by Washington's concern that if it pushes too hard for access to Dr. Khan, a national hero in Pakistan, it could destabilize an ally. As a result, much of the urgency has been sapped from the investigation, helping keep hidden the full dimensions of the activities of Dr. Khan and his associates.

There is no shortage of tantalizing leads. American intelligence officials and the I.A.E.A., working separately, are still untangling Dr. Khan's travels in the years before his arrest. Investigators said he visited 18 countries, including Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, on what they believed were business trips, either to buy materials like uranium ore or sell atomic goods.

[. . .]

The one guy who we can prove peddled nuclear secrets to anyone with money, never received any 'justice'. He's sitting in his mansion under house arrest (that's real punishment), because Bush sold his soul to that little cutthroat in Pakistan. We should have bombed them into nonexistence along with the Taliban. Oh, that's right, we fucked that up too. But at least we got all them WMDs Saddam had. Oh, that's right . . .

Tweaks 2

Well, I'm done doing the major fucking with this site. A couple little tweaks over the next couple days. Comments welcome. Hopefully it's easy on old eyes (like mine).

And by the way, welcome back, Gord.

Truck Lag, Newsweek, and the 10 Undercovered Stories of '04

If you get the idea that this post and the two below seem to be sort of heavily relying on Newsweek,well, you're right. We drove home from the Coast yesterday, Christmas Day, hoping to avoid the worst of the traffic and give Mrs. G a day of rest before she goes back to the mines. If we did avoid the traffic, God help those who are driving North-South in California today.

Anyway, we collected our mail on the way home and there was a Newsweek. I was tired after eight hours in the saddle so all I did last night was read it. I thought there were some mighty good articles, so today, being in the throes of Truck Lag and consequently lazy, those are what I am posting.

Elinor Clift has a good article on the 10 undercovered stories of 2004. Read it. Her piece is only on line.
From Iraq casualties to health care to evolution, these are the issues that should have received more attention from the media in 2004.

Go read the whole issue. It's the year-end summary and has lots of good photos, cartoons, quotes and articles. Great in the bathtub while lettin' them tired-and-sore-making toxins out.

I hope to be back to normal by tomorrow. That probably raises more questions than it answers.

The Spirit of the Season

With all the brouhaha about "Merry Christmas" v. "Happy Holidays", Political Correctness and the secularization of Christmas, I think Anna Quinn nails it in Newsweek. Good piece. Read it.
"Humbug!" cried Scrooge before he got a chance to spend the night practicing a little empathy, and that's the best word to sum up the current hue and cry about the demise of Christmas. While cars zoomed by with trees lashed to their roofs and worshipers crowded the pews to listen as John the Baptist prepared the way, a wave of organized outrage suggested that Christmas is being driven out of existence. Who killed it? Liberal orthodoxy, secular humanism. Whenever people start throwing around science-fair phrases it's a bet that they want their opinions to sound inviolate because they are not.

So the silly annual examples are trotted out, the schools that censor Christmas carols, the townships that insist that the evergreen decorated with lights is a holiday tree. No one searches his soul about how we came to this pass. It has little to do with separation of church and state or liberal politics and everything to do with the way the blunt cudgel of Christianity has been heedlessly used, the tyranny of the majority. After years of Jewish parents' sitting through school concerts listening to the words "It is the night of our dear savior's birth," maybe oversensitivity was inevitable, since any other kind of sensitivity had been in short supply.

From the trials of witches in Salem to the talking-head evangelists of the present day, we have a rich tradition of faith-based bullying in this country (my emphasis). "The fact is, 96 percent of us celebrate Christmas," said a representative of a swat team of lawyers organized "to serve the body of Christ" by orchestrating challenges to inadequate public celebration. Humbug. One study estimates roughly 75 percent of Americans are Christian; the rest are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostics. "We must never allow our children to forget that this is a Christian nation," Jerry Falwell recently said from the pulpit. Humbug. Two out of three Americans in one poll said they oppose any attempt to make it so by constitutional amendment.

Christmas is being observed exactly where it ought to be, at homes, in our hearts, among friends and families. The modern movement to exhibit it in town squares and mall food courts is precisely what has led to the secularization of one of our most solemn holy days. That's why some Jewish leaders have been uncomfortable with reducing the Chanukah menorah to a dueling religious symbol, paired with a Christmas tree for the sake of equal time. Faith is not a photo op.

So if people are really worried about keeping Christ in Christmas, they might personally exhibit tolerance and charity, kindness and generosity. It is the ultimate exercise of style over substance to whine about the absence of "O Holy Night" at public events. The real point is in taking the lyrics to heart: "Truly he taught us to love one another/His law is love and his gospel is peace." And if saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" offers someone who is not of your faith more comfort and joy—well, 'tis the season for both.

I like her sentiment, but I am finding it a real challenge to exhibit "tolerance and charity, kindness and generosity" to a certain 51% of the American people right now. Fuck 'em.

Peddling the Wrong Crisis

It seems Bush is good at inventing and installing crises where none existed before he showed up with his schemes to enrich his homeys at our expense. This article in the January 3 Newsweek by the Wall St. Editor, Allan Sloan.
President Bush's economic conference last week was a great show—if you like watching sales meetings. The conference, billed by the White House as a "frank discussion" about the president's economic program, was really a two-day infomercial that was short on "info,'' long on "mercial.'' Attendees, who had been screened by the White House, applauded at all the right places. Bush closed the conference with a dire warning about Social Security. "The longer we wait," he said, "the more expensive the solution becomes. The crisis is now."

I wasn't invited to the meeting, of course. But if I'd had a shot at the microphone, I'd have asked Bush why he thought Social Security was a crisis requiring immediate action but was ignoring a far larger and more immediate problem. To wit: the one he created a year ago when he pushed a Medicare prescription-drug plan through Congress without providing money to pay for it.

Everything's relative. Bush talked about Social Security's being a $10.4 trillion problem. That's how much you'd have to give Social Security today for it to continue paying benefits indefinitely under its current formula. But the shortfall in Bush's Medicare drug program is $17 trillion. In other words, the problem that Bush himself created a year ago is two thirds again as large as Social Security's problem (my emphasis). What's more, the drug plan starts costing taxpayers big bucks just a year from now, in 2006. We'll borrow it, of course. Social Security, for all its flaws, will take in more than enough cash to pay for itself for a dozen years even if nothing changes. So which is a "crisis"? A $17 trillion problem that starts next year, or a $10.4 trillion problem that starts in 2018? You don't need a math genius to answer that question.

I've written for years that Social Security has big long-term problems that need to be addressed, and the sooner the better. I praised Bush during the 2000 campaign for daring to broach the topic. My problem with Bush's proposal—or more accurately, with what I expect him to propose, since nothing formal has yet emerged—is that he's using fuzzy math to promise a free lunch. He rhapsodizes about private accounts—but doesn't mention that the trade-off is a cut of 40 or 50 percent in Social Security's guaranteed benefit.

If absolutely nothing changes, there will be a Social Security "crisis." But you can put the program back on course with a few tweaks—including small private accounts, if you like. You can raise the retirement age; modify the benefit formula; raise the wage base on which Social Security taxes are collected ($90,000 in 2005); trim payments for high-end folks like me. Bush, though, has ruled out many of these remedies because he wants to make good on his pledge not to change benefits or raise taxes.

Bush would put a big hole in the Social Security safety net at the very time that corporations are doing the same with pensions. Companies are dumping "defined benefit" pensions based on salaries and replacing them with plans that force employees to bear the risk of investing successfully. If we hadn't had a bull market spanning an entire generation, no one would dare propose letting tens of millions of unsophisticated investors risk Social Security money in the stock market. The bull, born in 1982, died almost five years ago, but fond memories of it linger.

Even as Bush urges average people to trust Social Security money to the market, big-time players like corporate pension funds are growing less optimistic about what the future holds. "The people running these funds know that the bull market's over, and they have been reducing their earnings estimates for the past three years," says Chris McNickle, a managing director of Greenwich Associates. General Motors, one of America's most highly regarded pension managers, has trimmed its holdings of U.S. stocks and bonds. "We wanted to reduce our exposure to large swings in the market," says GM spokesman Jerry Dubrowski.

If Bush really wants to have a meeting of the minds about Social Security, he might consider talking with people who have views different than his. And he might want to do something about his prescription-drug program before it eats us all alive.

To kinda sum it up so my little pea brain can understand it: Bush gave away the store on Seniors' prescription benefits, in a manner that only benefits his Big Pharma buddies, and installed a $17 Trillion crisis where none existed which starts to impoverish the American people in the next year or two, while at the same time he is going to "fix" a crisis that doesn't start for twelve years by giving away what's left of the store to his Wall Street buddies so they can start impoverishing the American people in the next year or two. That sound about right?

I guess Bush feels he has to get our money into his pals' hands before the '06 elections or he won't get the chance.

As far as Bush talking with people whose views differ from his, fat fucking chance.

The asshole has the "moral values" of a Snake-Oil salesman.

Christmas reading

For those interested: Chapter 6 of Empires is up at creativity . . .

Also, I'm gonna be doing a little screwing with the template here today. Got some issues with this one, namely too many Java script problems. So bear with me.

Inauguration Schedule

From Jesus' General:

[. . .]

9:00 A. M. - Catholic League president William Donohue delivers the invocation, asking the Lord to smite the anal-sex loving Jews in Hollywood.

9:30 - Donald Rumsfeld uses an AT4 Light Anti-Armor Weapon to destroy a tank, thus proving his contention that armoring Humvees is not all that important. The families of any attendees killed during this demonstration will receive a thank you letter personally stamped with Sec. Rumsfeld's signature by an E-4 in the Pentagon's mail office.

10:00 - Alberto Gonzalez does an interpretive dance based on his torture memos.

10:30 - Secretary of State nominee Condoleeza Rice pays tribute to her husband by reading an original poem called, "I Guess They Weren't Kidding When They Said that Bin Laden was determined to attack inside the U.S."

[. . .]

Funny stuff.

Housing starts

Been saying this since summer (here, here, and here).

[. . .]

Sales of new homes plunged 12 percent last month, the biggest drop since a 23.8 percent fall in January 1994, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.125 million units. But industry analysts played its significance down, saying applications for new mortgages still were at healthy levels.

“I would not view this report as the beginning of a significant downturn,” David Berson, chief economist for mortgage financing giant Fannie Mae in Washington.

[. . .]


However, leave us not forget that the top two nitwits at Fannie Mae have had to step down under shady circumstances, so anything that comes out of there is suspect.

Housing and mortgage refinancing have been keeping the economy moving along. That, and corporate cost-saving measures (read: layoffs and contract renegotiations). With that old nitwit Greenspan promising he'll continue to steadily raise interest rates through at least the first half of '05, look for housing starts to fall again next month, regardless of what the 'experts' say. Remember, they all, directly or indirectly, work for Bush.

A real indicator will be when they get all the holiday spending numbers sorted out. By Christmas Eve, most places weren't anywhere near their last year's totals. Well, except for high-end concerns. Seems the rich are breaking all records for spending. I guess those tax cuts are really working, huh? If the consumer confidence indexes take a hit, watch the economic forecasts also take a turn downward. At least in the reality-based world, that is.

While Nero fiddles

Does this disturb anyone besides me?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered China wide access to his country's vast energy resources, including oilfields and the possibility of increased direct crude supplies.

The offers were contained in a bilateral energy accord signed in Beijing late on Thursday following talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, the presidential press office in Caracas said.

[. . .]

Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter, ships more than half its daily oil output to the US, but since taking office the leftist Chavez has sought to reduce its economic dependence on the nearby US market.

"Venezuela is making a major energy offer to China because China has become the world's second biggest energy importer," the Venezuelan president said in Beijing on Thursday.

[. . .]


So, we have the Chinese gaining a bigger foothold in the Western Hemisphere, developing oil resources that could, should, have been ours. While I'm all for conservation, there are some realities here. We do have a great thirst for petroleum, and the Chinese are direct competitors for resources. With demand at an all-time high, and production reaching the same plateau, instead of trying to strike a deal with Chavez, the Bush administration did their best to overthrow him.

Our inept foreign policy has left us on the outside looking in, a continuation of the diplomatic damage caused by the rejection of Kyoto and the folly in Iraq. Opening ANWR up to drilling will certainly not make up the difference. If they were smart, they'd work a deal with the Russians to help them develop the vast perto-resources under Siberia. That's if the Chinese don't make a deal with 'em first, or just decide to take it.