Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saddleback Spin

By Creature

The media's spinning a win tonight for their favorite candidate, John McCain, at tonight's so-called faith forum. I watched both segments and if McCain's belligerent, hyper, insincere, anecdotal, pander-full performance counts as a win it's going to be long road to November. Barack Obama came to have an honest conversation. John McCain came to give his stump speech. It was a pitiful performance by the man who wants to be warmonger-in-chief, but when the media is grading you on a curve it's called masterful.

Shoot me now.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Four More Years?

By Libby Spencer

Josh says this has been making the rounds but I hadn't seen it before, so maybe you haven't either. It's an independent effort, outside of either campaign, but it's really well done. I'd agree it has the makings of fine ad campaign for Obama.



Meanwhile, Watertiger is on a roll this week. I couldn't pick a favorite photo so just start at the top and keep scrolling for a pictorial preview of what a McCain presidency would look like. It would certainly keep the snark industry in business for the next four years.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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See Spot Vote

By J. Thomas Duffy

What is it with these Republicans and children's books?

What did kids ever do to them?

Is this some diabolical Rovian plan?

Is there deeply guarded secret data that says you can garner millions of votes by writing a children's book?

There is, of course, the penultimate, most iconic moment - My Pet Goat.

Then, keeping it in the family, we had last year, the First Lady, Laura, and Jenna Bush, the recently married daughter of The Commander Guy pump one out, not, as one's mind might go to, a first-person account on the singles scene when traveling in South America, but, rather, on "a boy who doesn't like to read."

And, two-years ago, Darth Vader's Misses, switched genres, leaving behind steamy lesbians stories, for a children's book on a family that traveled the 50 states.

Now, Stumblin' Bumblin' John McCain's daughter is getting into the act.
















McCain Camp Targets Five to Ten-Year-Olds With Picture Book

The McCain campaign is making a play for the all-important K-5 demographic with a new picture book biography of the presumed GOP nominee, written by none other than Meghan McCain, Sen. John McCain's daughter and the head of the "Blogettes," who produce a blog about life on the campaign trail. Go ahead, take a look at the blog. Trust me.


And, from CNN;

The Simon & Schuster hardback, set to hit stores on September 2, is a brief, sentimental look at the familiar elements of McCain’s legendary biography, including his time in a Vietnamese prison and his run for the White House in 2000.

Several pages are devoted to McCain’s military background and his imprisonment in Vietnam, with relatively little attention paid to his youth (he “broke a lot of rules” in high school, the book says) and to his time in Congress.

Cindy McCain, along with Meghan's siblings Jack, Jimmy and Bridget, are described fondly in the book — but the children from McCain’s first marriage are left unmentioned.


Hmmm ... I wonder, how does she deal with Daddy's Keating Five Scandal?

Daddy, by mistake, accidentally broke some peoples' piggy banks, but he said he was really sorry about it


His first wife? ... The divorce?

Daddy wasn't, as some people say, a "flat-leaver" ... Daddy just found a better girlfriend who liked to do all the neat things Daddy likes to do ...


I'm sure the Right Wing Freak Show, the Dittoheads, the people that watch Hannity and O'Reilly, will be beating a path to the bookstores when this comes out, and there will, undoubtedly, be the inevitable book tour, with, perhaps, Meghan getting her own cruiser bus - "The Pandering Child Express".

Help Me Mr. Wizard!


Bonus Links

Wonkette: Details Leak About Presumed Worst Book Ever

The Guardian U.K.: How John McCain became a children's book hero - John McCain needs a new PR strategy for his presidential campaign. Luckily, his daughter Meghan has made him the star of an inspiring children's picture book

USA Today: Presidential race one for the books

Top Ten Cloves: Things About First Lady and Daughter Writing A Children's Book

Top Ten Cloves: Things Lynne Cheney Didn’t Get To Tell Wolf Blitzer About Her New Book














(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Friday, August 15, 2008

A no win situation

By Creature

People on the TV tell me that Obama should have canceled his vacation to deal with the Georgia-Russia crisis. Yet these same people would be telling me Obama was being presumptuous if he had. It's simply maddening.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The view from here

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I don't think I've ever posted any personal photos here at The Reaction, but it's beautiful day here in PEI -- I just got in from kayaking -- and I thought I'd post a couple of photos I took a little earlier this afternoon.

The first is the view from our deck, out over New London Bay towards Stanley Bridge (which is at the left of the distant shore), up on the north shore just west of Cavendish and PEI National Park. The second is the view from our beach, up towards the top of the bay -- you can't see them here, but there are large sand dunes around to the right, separating the bay from the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

They don't quite capture what it's really like here. It's pretty awesome.

Maybe I'll post a few more photos over the weekend. We head back to Toronto on Monday. In the meantime, I hope you're all having a great Friday.


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Reasonable people know this --

By Carol Gee

Do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Do not replace the current administration -- or Democratic members of Congress -- with another set of inept Republicans; it would be a strain the nation could not survive. Voters must select enough Democrats to assure that Congressional majorities can prevail in crucial votes. And I am not saying all Republicans need to go down to defeat. There are a number of good independent thinkers out there whom I admire. And their proposed president, John McCain could be just as bad as our current president (OCP), given his consistent mental lapses. I suspect I am not alone in this thinking.

What would we do without a little muckraking to help us find out the things voters need to know about the candidates? Looking past the law or the rules seems far too easy for Republicans. Here are just a few examples. The Federal Election Commission lawyers are claiming that John McCain may be able to change his campaign financing deal in midstream. Senator Ted Stevens says his arrest was unconstitutional. Senator Norm Coleman may be using undisclosed gifts to his personal advantage.

With possible massive economic collapse a possibility, and loss of privacy a certainty, and an ever-growing "military industrial complex" threat a reality, we do not need to replace leaders who already know about, and act to combat, these risks to the nation's well-being. If soldiers stationed in Iraq can favor Senator Obama, then Clinton supporters need to be clear-eyed voters, not angry Dem spoilers. It is time to close ranks, forgo catharsis, and get on with the general campaign. Reasonable people know this.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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"My friends, we have reached a crisis, the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War. This is an act of aggression."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So said McCain yesterday at the Aspen Institute in Colorado, providing yet more evidence -- and it's really piling up -- that he is not the straight-talking maverick with international relations expertise that some still make him out to be but a dim-witted buffoon who actually knows very little about the world and who is prepared to do and say anything to score political points, including, as in this case, exaggerate and fearmonger to the point where what he says bears absolutely no resemblance to the truth.

I mean, seriously. This is the first "serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War"? Yes, it's an act of aggression by Russia -- although McCain either doesn't understand or doesn't want to admit that Bush's reckless foreign policy contributed a great deal to causing the crisis (egging on Georgia, provoking Russia, and weakening America's standing internationally) -- but there have been other acts of aggression and other rather serious crises: the Gulf War, 9/11, the Iraq War, North Korea's nuclear tests, etc. Does McCain not remember those crises, or is he just hell-bent on scoring political points by exaggerating the significance of the current conflict in Georgia and resurrecting Cold War geopolitics by vilifying Russia?

Let's face it, McCain has no clue what to do about the conflict in Georgia. His message, however, is this: "It's the Cold War all over again! I was there! I get it! Russia is the Evil Empire! I know what to do! Vote for me!"

The contrast is clear: Obama, whose forward-looking worldview has not been shaped by Cold War geopolitics and a Cold War mindset, understands that the Cold War is over and that the world is a different place, complex and multi-polar, but McCain, whose backward-looking worldview has been shaped to an extreme by Cold War geopolitics and a Cold War mindset, can't seem to get his head around the crises and challenges America and the international community currently face and will continue to face.

And where Obama offers nuanced responses and solutions to those crises and challenges (including re-engagement with the international community, diplomacy from a position of strength, the development of alternative energy to overcome dependency on foreign oil, the strengthening of America's economic base and workforce so as to remain competitive in an increasingly uncertain and competitive global market), McCain offers posturing, blustering, and an approach to foreign and national security policy that is not just obsolete but reckless and dangerous.

For all the talk, and all the mythologizing, that he is some sort of expert in such matters -- and he and his campaign are certainly pumping up his "experience" to contrast him with the younger Obama -- McCain is incredibly stupid, a man of terrible judgment and aggressive disposition who doesn't have a clue.

That's a pretty bad mix for the Oval Office.

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Low, low Limbaugh

By Capt. Fogg

I was going to begin by asking what it might take to finally discredit Rush Limbaugh, but perhaps that's not a question any sane person could answer. His personal life is so full of reprehensible behavior, his professional life is so full of reprehensible and irresponsible slurs, misrepresentations and fabrications that nobody not predisposed to irrational hatred could possible see him as a reliable commentator -- and yet he remains wildly popular and highly paid. The answer, I'm afraid, is that nothing can discredit a liar amongst a population of liars, bigots, fools, idiots, and madmen. That's a rather large population, it would seem.

Nonetheless, the statements he makes as he bounces up and down on his prodigious rump would stun anyone with a minimum of decency and honesty. He latest, as you may have heard is to defame Elizabeth Edwards for causing her husband to cheat on her. Who, he implies, would want an intelligent woman who is capable of expressing her opinion?

It just seems to me that Edwards might be attracted to a woman whose mouth did something other than talk,

giggles the gelatinous Limbaugh. But it just seems to me that's exactly what Rush's mouth does as he fellates the limp wits at the bottom of America's barrel. It seems that way to Keith Olbermann, too. Of course, the Republican Right dislikes Olbermann and would portray him as some sort of irresponsible radical, but so far I haven't seen one of them risk seeming to back Limbaugh by criticizing his indefensible and disgusting performance.

What about it Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin -- are you listening?



(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Baracky II

By Creature

The McCain mohawk is priceless. Happy Friday!



(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

French leadership, American weakness

By Michael J.W. Stickings

While the U.S. has been wallowing in its own Bush-made weakness, France -- and specifically President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner -- has been taking an admirable leadership position in response to the crisis in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Indeed, if there is to be peace between Russia and Georgia -- that is, if Russia's military onslaught is to be repelled, if Russian expansionism is to be opposed -- it will be because statesman like Sarkozy and Kouchner have more to offer than hollow tough talk, which is all that Bush and McCain have, all bark and no bite.

True, the French peace plan announced early yesterday morning basically went nowhere, with the Russians continuing their assault, whether in spite of or as a result of their (willful) (mis)interpretation of the plan, but at least it was something, at least the effort was there, at least it could form the basis of a workable plan, and at least negotiations will continue.

**********

Actually, it's hard to believe that I'm praising Sarkozy like this. And hard to believe that he's turned into such a statesman. After all, I opposed him when he ran for the presidency last year and generally find his conservatism unappealing -- he's not a national frontist or anything, but he's clearly on the right. And yet, he recently brokered talks between Syria and Lebanon, and now he's taking a leadership role in trying to find a peaceful resolution to the Russia-Georgia Conflict. Plus, he likes Obama and seems to be interested in working constructively with the U.S. on a wide range of issues.

At a time when Bush is posturing and threatening and McCain is pandering and grasping (offering his thoughts and prayers and nothing in the way of substance), it's good to know that there are leaders like Sarkozy out there, as surprising as that may be, to fill the void.

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I'm taking notice, NYT, but no cookies for you

By LindaBeth


Ha! Today The New York Times has an article about women in the section that it actually belongs (unlike their history).

Not that they deserve a congratulations for doing their freaking jobs right, but I'm taking notice.

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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Veepstakes: Biden on the move?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to the Chicago Sun-Times's Lynn Sweet, Biden is "moving up on the list of potential running mates" for Obama.

It seems to be coming down to Biden, Bayh, and Kaine -- unless Obama has a major surprise up his sleeve. As I've said before, Biden is my clear preference among the leading contenders.

Steve Clemons thinks that Bayh is "the favored candidate" to be Obama's running mate. As I've said before, I don't much care for Bayh. He's generally too "centrist" for my liking, too much the slick careerist politician, too willing to abandon Democratic principles in order to make nice with the other side. And it doesn't help that, as Taylor Marsh points out (via Steve), "he was the co-chair of the neocon pro-war Committee for the Liberation of Iraq," a group that included McCain, Lieberman, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and PNAC founder and neocon extraordinaire Krazy Bill Kristol. To me, that's enough, more than enough, to disqualify him.

I'd be fine with Kaine -- he's the governor of a key purple state (Virginia), and he and Obama apparently get along really well, but he lacks the extensive foreign policy and national security experience I think Obama needs on the ticket -- but, of these three, let it be Biden.

Chris Bowers, a solid progressive Democrat, makes a good case for him as the least bad of a fairly unappealing lot:

[A]t least Biden is in the center of the Democratic Party, rather it's right flank. Also, he is seasoned as a national campaigner, and an effective surrogate on national media. He excelled in all of the debates back in 2007, and would do well in the VP debate against anyone McCain selects. Also, given his age, he would not be an heir apparent to the nomination in 2012 or 2016. In short, he is competent, not right-wing, and would not have a stanglehold on the party once Obama is gone. I can live with that.

Biden might be the only non-terrible choice on the short list who also appears convincingly "presidential." (Even though I hate using that word, do people here really believe Sebelius as the President of the United States?) If he ends up as Vice-President, I won't be excited, but I will be relieved.

At this point, I'll take relief over excitement. Biden's the right pick.

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Suicide-bombing headlines specify females, never males

By LindaBeth

I had this same criticism a month or so back, the last time I saw a newspaper headline about female bombers, but I didn’t write about it then. Today, in reading The New York Times, I read: "Female Suicide Bomber Kills 2 in Iraqi Province."

Now, it’s not that I don’t understand the significance of female suicide-bombers in particular. While this story doesn’t address it, past articles with similar headlines have at least mentioned:

Fifteen other women have carried out suicide bomb attacks in Diyala Province, according to General Rubaie. Islamic rules prevent men, including security officers conducting searches, from touching women. Compounding the predicament is a scarcity of female Iraqi police and soldiers who might otherwise fill the gap.

While I am somewhat annoyed when stories, such as today’s, mention a female bomber in the headline, but don’t discuss why that’s significant in the story, I take issue more with the persistent selective gender-naming. Male suicide bombers are reported in headlines as “suicide bombers”; female suicide bombers are “named” as such. I have blogged on this in the past in discussing ex-nomination, and Ashley guest blogging over at Feministe interestingly argues that women’s gender is specified when they perpetrate acts of violence to detract from the reality that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violent acts. The repetition of women’s gender in such reports works to mask violence as a gender-neutral activity. My issue is at a more basic linguistic level. Previously I wrote:

In conversation (your own and others’), watch how people are described. Typically, we use “identity” descriptors only with reference to women, gay men, lesbians, people of color, non-Western ethnicities, (and also non-Christian religions)… in other words, the default category for a “person” is a white, hetero, male. A person is only someone “other” than that when specified.

This is what’s referred to as “ex-nomination” (coined by the semiotician Roland Bathes) -- being ‘unnamed’. What is unnamed is what is seen as a ‘natural’ commonsensical category. Those of us who are not white heterosexual men become those with “marked bodies”-bodies who must be named to be identified. In other words, people who are women, or black are designated as such (as if identifying them according to said label adds particular meaning to who they are as a person), while white hetero men are simply “people,” and are thus permitted to establish meaningful identities in ways not shaped by said societal identity labels.

These headlines bother me for that reason: that it perpetuates the assumption that an individual is a (white, hetero) male unless specified otherwise.

It’s true that we also specify male for characteristics that are deemed “female” (a.k.a. “male nurse”), which could in part account for its usage in headlines–because we assume suicide bombers to be male. But Western assumptions are no excuse for the persistent usage of gendered terms by journalists. Would it really be so hard to say “suicide bomber” in the headline and then to discuss the gender and its implications, if necessary, in the body of the story? Or since gender is in fact an issue, use male and female descriptors in the headlines? Otherwise, we reinforce the notion of male as default.

UPDATE 8/15: Funny that this is a trend I have been seeing, and as soon as I write about it, the NYT changes its pattern: see today's "Bomber Kills 18 on Shiite Pilgrimage in Iraq." The "bomber" is actually a female! Now that's a first!

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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Sasquashed!

By Carl

I would be excited by this story, if it was true. Somehow I doubt it.

The buzz created around Bigfoot’s recent discovery reached unprecedented heights, especially due to the promises about the upcoming "DNA evidence and photo evidence" releases, expected later today. The announcement was made by the Web site SearchingForBigfoot.com, which actually claims to have a real specimen.

According to the researchers involved, Mathew Whitton, Tom Biscardi and Rick Dyer, the creature is 7 feet and 7 inches tall, weights close to 500 pounds and presents features from both human and ape. Also, other details are offered on the Web site: the Bigfoot has reddish hair, black-gray eyes and its footprint measures almost 27 inches long and almost 6 inches across.

The evidence should be released later today during a news conference in California.

There's a ring of truth element that I sense is missing here. I can't put my finger on it, but I truly sense there's an elaborate hoax being perpetrated.

I'm not so certain of that feeling that I'd put any money on it at all, but just an unease, and my gut instinct. Perhaps it's the fact that the referenced website has already been taken down for exceeding it's bandwith (check it out).

Perhaps it's the fact that the website is registered to "registercom", one of those DIY website providers, as opposed to a legitimate commercial domain provider (Think "GoDaddy.com").

Or maybe it's the fact that the person behind the "search", Tom Biscardi, has a reputation for not making good on similar promises to produce a Bigfoot in the past, despite swearing he could capture one live on pay-per-view TV...for only $59.95!

Whatever. This smells funny, and I don't mean the freezer they stuck the corpse in wasn't working (see photo)

Now, all that said, I want to go on record saying that it wouldn't surprise me if we actually do have some North American great ape, perhaps even a hominid, running around the wilds of the country. There are 310 million Americans, and 160 million live within 150 miles of the coastlines.

That means there's an awful lot of wilderness for an intelligent species to hide in, spotted only rarely.

Too, there's enough circumstantial evidence to support the possibility. But not the probability, and there's the rub.

Tales of dragons, unicorns, fairies, and monsters have been with us since the first time the sun went down on a human being who had an imagination. Tales told around tribal campfires are no different than turning on the television and watching "proof" of UFOs: it's a uniting theory, that there are mysterious creatures around us. It reinforces tribal bonds, brings us closer against a potential common foe, and can be used to scare people into conformity ("Don't go in the forest at night!").

In many respects, these myths mirror organized religion, proposing a mystical being and endowing it with some form of control over us.

But...

Yes, I believe that one day we will likely find a creature who is close enough in appearance to justify calling him "Bigfoot" (unlike the one-horned goat that Barnum & Bailey circus fobbed off on us as an unicorn).

It will be a welcome reminder that, just as Christians don't know it all, neither do scientists. The difference, of course, is most scientists will admit that.

The reason I felt this was such an important story is, keep this tale in mind when your right wing friends start talking about this:

Two weeks before Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for president, conservative author Jerome R. Corsi has attacked his story with a narrative of his own: The son of an "alcoholic polygamist," Obama deals with his abandonment issues and "black rage" by experimenting with drugs and radical thought. He makes a calculated entrance into politics despite having accomplished little and having developed some "anti-American" sentiments. Once in office, he regularly manipulates the political machine and becomes a liberal who will "divide America."

Jerome Corsi. Tom Biscardi. P. T. Barnum.

Coincidence? Fleecing the ignorant is amazingly simple. After all, *somebody* falls for that Nigerian e-mail scam often enough that it's still popular!

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Tangled threads between the USA, Europe, and the Middle East

By Carol Gee

American and Russian astronauts man the International Space Station . . . very peacefully. As a matter of fact, U.S. astronaut Greg Chamitoff hinted that the crew had actually talked about their countries and the events This story comes from the NASA website: Station Crew Prepares for Visiting Vehicles on the ground this past week. That is all he said, but I found it very heart-warming and strangely comforting: Every night these three men, whose very lives are dependent upon each other's skill and good will, sit down to have dinner together. And they trust each other enough to talk about the news of the day, I imagine very frankly.

Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff talks to reporters from Texas

Image: Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff talks to reporters from Texas. Credit: NASA TV

The International Space Station was boosted to a higher orbit when Europe’s docked Automated Transfer Vehicle fired its engines for over 16 minutes early Wednesday morning. The orbital boost puts the station at the correct altitude for upcoming vehicle dockings. The Progress 30 cargo freighter will dock on Sept. 12 and a Soyuz spacecraft carrying the Expedition 18 crew will arrive on Oct. 14. Progress 29 will undock from the Zarya module’s Earth facing port on Sept. 1. The docked cargo craft is currently being loaded with discarded items.

Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff talked with journalists from Texas. Chamitoff described science duties inside the station’s international laboratories and mentioned he will be the second astronaut to vote from space in a presidential election.


"Peace Plan Offers Russia a Rationale To Advance," is the headline from Memeorandum's news compilation of items about the Russia-Georgia crisis (see also Ref 1 below). It links to a New York Times story that leaves out a lot. Depending on the U.S. mainstream media to tell us what is going on abroad is risky business. Key facts may be missing. So to fill in those missing pieces, I turned to other sources outside of our borders.

"US blamed over S Ossetia crisis" (8/13/08) headlines the piece at Aljazeera.net. The authors note that Mikhail Gorbachev said that the U.S. "made a serious blunder." Another source (a main Russian website) says that Russia's (see Ref 2 below) anger was triggered by the U.S. recognition of Kosovo, seeing it as a precedent for the Georgian situation. Complicating the situation is the fact of strong ties between Israel and Georgia (see the Israeli Ref 3 below). To quote Aljazeera:

The US has had stern words for Russia over its military intervention in Georgia to back South Ossietian separatists, but many analysts say that the Bush administration must share the blame for the crisis. Washington has formed a close bond with the government of Mikheil Saakashvili since he came to power in the 2003 'Rose Revolution,' offering military and economic aid and encouraging Georgia to join Nato.

. . . Tbilisi has also benefited from the Millenium Challenge Corporation, a Bush administration programme intended to reward countries for "effective governance". The corporation has signed agreements totaling $295 million, making Georgia the fourth-biggest recipient of funds.

. . . But analysts point to the presence of key natural resources as a reason for the scale of US largesse. . . "Underlying all this is a larger, more significant contest: a geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West over the export of Caspian Sea oil and natural gas," Michael Klare, the author of Resource Wars told the New American Media website.

"The United States seeks to use Georgia as an 'energy corridor' to transport Caspian energy to the West without going through Iran or Russia; to this end, it helped build the BTC pipeline across Georgia and helped beef up the Georgian military to protect it.

Brighter light shown on the threads between the U.S., Israel, Iran, Russia, and Georgia -- Informed Comment's Professor Juan Cole says much in today's post titled, "US Deters Israel from Attacking Iran; Russian Cooperation seen Key to Dissuading Tehran's Nuclear Program." To quote Cole's very logical conclusion (author's links):

You know, somehow, I just think that for Washington to get Russian cooperation for a push against Iran just got a lot more implausible, what with Bush being pushed by McCain to take a harder line in support of Georgia.

Russia may also be annoyed with Israel over its arms sales to Georgia.

Then there is this item: Israel fears war could hurt Iran effort.

The Cheney line that Russia needs to be punished, and Rice's warning that Russia will be isolated, may make them feel good. But the US is much weaker after the increase in power of the oil and gas states like Russia and Iran this year, and isn't in a position to "isolate" Russia without at the same time giving a lot of indirect aid to Iran.

Serious talks between Lebanon and Syria -- "Lebanon, Syria to work toward officially demarcating border" (8/14/08) from Haaretz.com in Israel. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed at their summit meeting in Damascus. Israel was absent, of course. To quote:

Syria and Lebanon said on Thursday they had agreed to resume the work of a joint committee to formally demarcate their borders, but Damascus said the boundaries of the disputed Shaba Farms would not be drawn until Israel withdrew from them.

. . . Syria and Lebanon agreed Wednesday to establish full diplomatic ties for the first time since they gained independence from France in the 1940s, in a step toward easing tensions between the two countries that have fueled Lebanon's turmoil.

. . . But Syria only agreed to formal ties after its influence in Lebanon was
guaranteed by the creation on Tuesday of a unity government in Beirut that gives Damascus' ally Hezbollah a strong say in decision-making.

The tangled web between the United States, Europe and the Middle East has strong threads of interdependence in Space, U.S. energy dependence on foreign nations, the arms trade, remnants of very old conflicts (such as in the Balkans and the Middle East), and declining U.S. and Israeli influence. Keeping up with foreign affairs means remembering that the only thing constant is change, and making sure to get the whole picture.

References:

  1. Memeorandum: "Russia and Georgia at war... in beach volleyball" at the Olympics.

  2. "Rice warns Russia faces isolation over Georgia" (8/14/08) from Russia's RIA Novosti. Traveling to Europe, Secretary Rice will first go to France and then to Tblilisi on the 15th, reporting back to President Bush at the Texas ranch on the 16th.

  3. "Georgia president denies Israel halted military aid due to war," from Israel's (8/14/08) Haaretz. To quote:
    . . . Earlier Wednesday, Yakobashvili [State Minister for Territorial Integration Temur Yakobashvili] told Haaretz that Israel has joined in the West's betrayal of Georgia. As the official in charge of bringing Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the fold, Yakobashvili oversaw negotiations with the Russians to end the fighting there. He warned the world that the situation would escalate into war, but the West ignored him.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Krazy Kristol and the Powell distraction

By Michael J.W. Stickings

On Fox News yesterday -- where else? -- Krazy Bill Kristol announced that Bush I loyalist and former Bush II secretary of state Colin Powell is going to endorse Obama at no less a venue than the Democratic convention in Denver later this month.

In response -- or, rather, in refutation -- Powell himself announced that he was not even going to the convention and that Krazy Kristol's announcement was simply wrong: "I do not have time to waste on Bill Kristol's musings. I am not going to the convention. I have made this clear."

In general, I think we should all avoid wasting time on Krazy Kristol's musings. He's a cynical partisan hack -- a propaganda-spewing bullshitter -- a walking, talking, living, breathing ulterior motive. Unfortunately, though, he's rather influential, a prominent neocon voice that speaks from prominent media platforms, including the NY Times, and cannot so easily be ignored.

So what's he up to here, given that it's wise not to take anything he says at face value?

Of course, Powell could be the one misleading us here. It's possible. It's not like he's ever been the most straight up guy in Washington. Maybe he intends on making a surprise appearance at the convention, an appearance that would genuinely wow the media. Maybe he intends on endorsing Obama after all, a very damaging endorsement for McCain. Hey, maybe he'll be Obama's running mate. It's possible.

But not likely. Powell is an egotistical opportunist, but he's also exceedingly cautious (except, presumably, when he's at the U.N. making fabricated cases for war) and exceedingly loyal (it's not like he's been harshly critical of Bush II and the conduct of the Iraq War and Occupation). And it just wouldn't be like him to break ranks, both with his party and with his former superiors, and endorse Obama at such a prominent event. Afterwards, maybe, once the campaign is underway in earnest, but not at the convention.

On this, I tend to think that Andrew Sullivan may be right:

It's too ballsy a move for Powell. I'm also inherently suspicious of Kristol's motives. If Powell were considering such an endorsement, Kristol would do all he can to derail it. Prematurely leaking it, creating a fire-storm and forcing Powell to deny is one way to pre-empt such a move. It's vital for the neocons to prevent Obama gaining traction with serious foreign policy machers.

I also agree with Andrew that a Powell endorsement of Obama would make sense: "Powell understands how deep a hole the US is in internationally, and how only Obama truly has a chance to get the country back on its feet. It's the impulse of a patriot. And maybe the smears have made him mad."

Maybe, but Powell has already had ample opportunity to express whatever anger and frustration he is feeling. And we haven't heard much from him. I doubt that "the smears" have finally pushed him over the edge. Also, I just don't think he's such a determined patriot. His primary impulse is military-style loyalty, not patriotism. Why else would he have done the Bushies' bidding for so long? He may have reasoned that he was doing right by his country all along, but he must have known, at least at some level, that what was right for the Bushies was hardly right for the country. Either that or he was delusional all along.

Regardless, I would welcome a Powell endorsement of Obama -- mainly because he was with the Bushies for so long and because he remains, undeservedly, an immensely credible figure in American politics -- I just don't see it happening. Or, at least, certainly not at the convention.

Which leaves us with Krazy Kristol and his ulterior motives. He has set his propagandistic sights on Powell, and there is fear behind his kraziness.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cheer squads in Beijing

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I must admit, it would not displease me in the least if the Beijing Olympics proved to be, on the whole, an abject failure. It would serve both the rapacious totalitarian cabal that runs China and the corrupt, tyranny-friendly cabal that runs the IOC right. Both China and the IOC could do with failure on a massive scale.

Alas, abject failure is a bit too much to hope for, but it seems that all is not well at the Games these days. As the WaPo is reporting:

Two weeks after announcing they had sold every one of the record 6.8 million tickets offered for the Games, Olympics officials expressed dismay at the large numbers of empty seats at nearly every event and the lack of pedestrian traffic throughout the park, the 2,800-acre centerpiece of the competition.

So what is China doing about it?

To remedy the problem, officials are busing in teams of state-trained "cheer squads" identifiable by their bright yellow T-shirts to help fill the empty seats and improve the atmosphere. They are also encouraging residents to apply for access to the heavily secured park.

That's right... cheer squads. In other words, fake fans, shadows on the wall, a regime-sponsored (and regime-protective) lie. It's what the Chinese, like other good totalitarians, do so well.

The difference here is that the lie is obvious. It's like the totalitarians have succumbed to postmodernism and are being ironic about it. "Here's the lie. It's wearing a bright yellow T-shirt. We're serious about it -- just like we're serious about oppressing the Tibetans and raping Africa and squashing any and all internal dissent to our market-happy rule -- but the world is watching, whether we like it or not, and we're keeping this smile plastered on our faces until the flame burns down."

But -- yeah, yeah -- image-manufacturing is everywhere, including in our liberal democracies, and the Olympics are (allegedly) sold out, and China will find a way to profit from the Games, likely at the expense of the Chinese people, so... whatever.

Still, even as I'm paying far less attention to these Games than to Games past -- I'm hardly watching any TV on vacation -- I'm cheering on the poor attendance with glee.

It's the least I can do.

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations" -- Presidential hopeful John McCain proving once and for all that he really has no clue.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Off the beaten path of politics

By Carol Gee

Today's post meanders along the path of the unusual, steering away from serious politics. From the ridiculous to the sublime, and points in between, it peers into the murky forest.

"Digital Drugs: New Worry For Parents?* Reports of Sounds With Drug-Like Effects Have Some Parents Spooked" -- OPINION by KIM KOMANDO -- Aug. 9, 2008. Take the time to read some of the comments following this story. They range from utter derision to reports of positive personal experiences by users. This is from ABC News. To quote:

. . . can music create the same effects as illegal drugs?

Some say that certain sounds, when played on headphones, can have a drug-like effect.
(Photodisc)This seems like a ridiculous question. But websites are targeting your children with so-called digital drugs. These are audio files designed to induce drug-like effects. All your child needs is a music player and headphones.

Understanding Binaural Beats -- There are different slang terms for digital drugs. They're often called "idozers" or "idosers." All rely on the concept of binaural beats. It is incorrect to call binaural beats music. They're really ambient sounds designed to affect your brain waves.

. . . Dr. Nicholas Theodore, a brain surgeon at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, said there is no real evidence that idosers work. But he noted that musical preference is indicative of emotional vulnerability. Trying idosers could indicate a willingness to experiment with drugs and other dangerous behavior.

Theodore added that idosers are another reason to monitor kids' Internet usage. And, he said, kids need frank talks with their parents about correct choices.

"I suspect this 'Pied Piper' phenomenon will pass rapidly and quietly," he said.

These tiny morsels need very little explanation:

  • "Teach Your Children Well." Blog friend "betmo" who asks, "weeping jesus is nothing sacred?" It's from Media Needle. To quote:
    Parker Brothers replaces Monopoly money with Visa brand Debit card systems.

  • Top 9 best new drugs*: One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small. Take one, take them all!" By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist, Friday, August 8, 2008

  • This link is from my friend Jon: "This video made me laugh -- you should watch it: Funny or Die about "a new ad for the Republican party."
  • The dilemma for the Internet is how to make money, so ISP companies decided to advertise. And then they decided to get together. The idea of media consolidation must extend to the digital world, if it is to be realistic. And consolidation is not usually good news for consumers. It often limits access to information, drives up prices and can threaten privacy. The perfect example follows -: Google, Yahoo partially disclose terms of ad pact"* from The Raw Story/Reuters, Saturday August 9, 2008. To quote:

    Google Inc and Yahoo Inc released on Friday excerpts of a pact covering their search advertising partnership that keeps secret financial terms and the extent of other ties between the two.

    . . . Critics say the deal threatens competition for advertising that runs alongside Web searches. Congressional leaders have conducted hearings to investigate what impact the partnership could have on the Internet market. The agreement covers the United States and Canada, but not other international markets.

    . . . But the contract is heavily redacted in an area that covers "other business opportunities" and is silent about how the sharing of user data between the partners could affect the privacy of Yahoo users.

    HT to betmo for all of the *links.

    (Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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    Who's presumptuous now?

    By Creature

    I can't help but think that all this presidenting John McCain is doing on the Russia-Georgia front is going to backfire. His prancing and squawking is transparently self-serving (not to mention his top adviser has been lining his lobbying-pockets for years with Georgian money). The only thing John McCain has accomplished this week is that he has solidified his neocon credentials, and if that's a plus in a post-Iraq America, then I'm Ronald Reagan.

    (Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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    The Bush legacy

    By Carl

    I had intended a very different post this morning, until I logged into the news...

    1)
    Caucasus ceasefire holds despite war of words - The ceasefire in the Caucasus conflict appeared to be holding today as Russia reported the pullback of Georgian troops from South Ossetia and denied Georgian claims that it was deploying more troops on Georgian territory outside the disputed province.

    In particular, Moscow denied Georgian claims that 50 of its tanks were in Gori, the Georgian city near the Ossential border. The city had been abandoned by its authorities who had fled, said General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the Russian General Staff. "We cannot find anyone. How they were evacuated and what happened there is a mystery to us," he said.


    Russia continued to vent its anger on what it called Georgian aggression and atrocities as European foreign ministers gave the Union's blessing to a ceasefire accord that was brokered in Moscow yesterday by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President and current EU chairman.

    2)
    Western Aid Workers Ambushed, Killed Near Kabul - Afghan officials say gunmen have killed three foreign aid workers - all women - during an ambush in eastern Logar province.

    3)
    Lebanon Bomb Kills at Least 10 People - A bomb hidden in a briefcase exploded on a bus in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli during morning rush hour on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 30 others, the Lebanese Army said.

    Lebanon has suffered a wave of bombings in recent years, including the 2005 killing of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri, which led to political upheaval in the country. However, the attack Wednesday was the first large-scale bombing in months.

    4)
    Death toll hits 20 in Kashmir protests - Violent protests continued across Kashmir Wednesday, as the death toll from the past two days of demonstrations rose to 20, a senior police official said.

    5)
    Philippines 'Liberates' 15 Villagers From Muslim Rebels - Philippine security forces on Wednesday announced they have "liberated" 15 villages forcibly occupied by Muslim rebels since July after three days of heavy fighting in southern Philippines.

    Philippine Defense Chief Gilberto Teodoro, Jr., said the rebels retreated on Sunday after heavy air and ground assaults. More than 80,000 people displaced by the conflict in North Cotabato, have returned home.

    Teodoro's statement was confirmed by Major-General Armando Cunanan, commander of the Armed Forces Eastern Command. He confirmed that the estimated 800 Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerillas that occupied the villages have fled.

    6)
    Pakistan bomb hits military truck; at least 14 dead - At least 14 people were killed Tuesday in the roadside bombing of a Pakistani military truck, an attack authorities blamed on Islamic militants.

    The powerful blast occurred just outside Peshawar, the nearest large city to a tribal area along the border with Afghanistan that has been raked by fighting for nearly a week.

    7)
    Al-Qaida linked group takes sides in recent coup - A terror group linked to al-Qaida called for holy war in Mauritania following a coup last week that overthrew its democratically elected government.

    "You Muslims prepare for war and raise the banner of jihad. Let us shed our blood, let our limbs be dismembered until we regain the wise caliphate rule," said the statement posted Tuesday on an Islamic web site.

    The statement was signed by Abu Musab Abdulwadood, the leader of Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, a cell that has been blamed for a string of attacks in Mauritania including last year's murder of four French tourists.

    8)
    Three Security Officials Killed in W. China
    - Three security officials were killed at a roadside checkpoint in western China's Xinjiang region Tuesday when at least one assailant jumped off a passing vehicle and stabbed them to death, state media reported. It was the third deadly incident in nine days, coinciding with the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

    We were supposed to be bringing peace to the Muslim world. We were going to give them a spoonful of democracy and hold their noses and ram it down their throats until they swallowed it whole, then pat them on the head and say "Good boys! Now go out and play..." only they spit the medicine out and decided to go out and play.

    Which makes sense. Our president plays with his tin soldiers, and expects everyone else to busy themselves with their day-to-day lives, even his own people.

    What the Bush regime and their cabal do not seem to grasp is that freedom comes with a price: blood.

    Dumbya has tried to run bloodless coups across the Arabic and Muslim world, but these are not stupid people. These are nations with histories and cultures and yes, they've been thru this before, as recently as the 20th Century when the patrician states of Europe divvied up the Middle East along economic and not population lines.

    And now the djinn is out of the bottle. Now the festering violence that had simmered but remained in control, bottled up by the rational thoughts of men and women, has flared up and is spreading across the nations of Asia and even Europe like a fire that cannot be contained by mortals.

    And Bush and his cronies laugh, leaving a world far worse off than they inherited. We were at peace. We spent eight years of the Clinton Administration at peace and in prosperity, with surpluses of goodwill and good money.

    Now our dollar, so closely tied to those interests that we have antagonized, has fallen through the floor. When Bush took office, the euro purchased about 80 cents American. Now, the dollar purchases about one-third of the euro. Now our dollar, tied to the price of oil, works against us, not for us, as consumers pay more and more for gasoline and heating oil, precisely because our President has bungled the first and only mandate of his office: to faithfull execute the office of President of the United States.

    That's not *some* states, Mr. Bush, but ALL states, and that means you had a fiduciary duty to this country to prevent harm. And that means not only interior to our borders but to protect us from harm outside them as well: aid workers shouldn't be killed in Afghanistan because of miserable decisions on your part that will benefit you long after you have shuffled off these (and I use the term loosely, because you clearly believe in lip service) "responsibilities".

    Indeed, it is likely that whomever handles your personal wealth has already instituted a "win-win" for you. If this were a fair and decent world, you would be made to pay restitution out of your pocket to the thousands of families of American soldiers who have died fighting your war, sir.

    Your war. Not ours. You scratch your head and wonder why the nation nearly to a man disagrees with you on this point? It is because we had no say. Indeed, we were told that dissent in a time of terror alerts was unpatriotic, as if patriotism stops outside our borders.

    Well, we see a far greater terror within and it sits in a chair in an Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and fortunately, it will be extricated, by hook or by crook, on 20 January, 2009.

    Mark that date carefully, Mr. Bush, the day you are exiled from public life, the day when even the neo-cons of the Cato Institute will refuse your calls.

    And you will watch in solitude as President Obama and those who succeed him, for indeed, you have started something that will outlast even this next generation of Presidents, successfully prosecute the global conflict that history will deem you have started single-handedly, simply because they have to. It is at that time the true mettle of your faux patriotism will be found wanting and a new paradigm of love of country will emerge.

    Americans will love them, not you. You will be reviled in ways that few Presidents can even have nightmares about. You will sit in seclusion, riding out the war on your
    thousand acres in Paraguay, believing you are safe, not even cowboying up long enough to sit through what you started at Ground Zero, America (possibly more than just a catchy phrase developed by your marketeers, an actual nuclear bombsite).

    You will not be afforded the reconstruction that even the most hated president of our time, Richard Nixon, was afforded, because Americans of all stripes will see you for what you are: a shameless, godless buffoon of disproportionate idocy, a man who took a peaceful, prosperous country and tore it apart like a little boy with an Erector set, leaving twisted metal and the burned out engines of American lives lying on the floor.

    But who could parrot talking points with the best of them.

    That, sir, is your legacy. Enjoy it.

    (Cross-posted to
    Simply Left Behind.)

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    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Congress, Bush & the Environment -- dirty little secrets

    By Carol Gee

    Today in Congress, to prevent the Bush administration from making recess appointments, there was only a pro forma session of the Senate scheduled. But things are bubbling beneath the surface, particularly on the oil/energy issue. Polls reveal that the people of the U.S. want something stronger done. And, predictably, Speaker Pelosi has reversed her position on the matter: CNN reports that Pelosi said on Larry King Live that she would be open to a vote on offshore drilling as part of a larger energy package. To quote:

    On Monday night, Pelosi said the vote would need to be part of a larger discussion that would include investing in renewable energy resources and releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Those options would help bring both immediate and long-lasting solutions to the energy crisis, she said.


    Fox to Watch the Hen House - Recess appointments may be out for our current president (OCP), but that has not stopped the administration to quietly gut the Endangered Species Ace via rule-making fiat while Congress' back is turned. The Washington Post of August 12, 2008 has the story: "Endangered Species Act Changes Give Agencies More Say," by Juliet Eilperin. To quote:

    The Bush administration yesterday proposed a regulatory overhaul of the Endangered Species Act to allow federal agencies to decide whether protected species would be imperiled by agency projects, eliminating the independent scientific reviews that have been required for more than three decades.

    The new rules, which will be subject to a 30-day per comment period, would use administrative powers to make broad changes in the law that Congress has resisted for years. Under current law, agencies must subject any plans that potentially affect endangered animals and plants to an independent review by the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the proposed new rules, dam and highway construction and other federal projects could proceed without delay if the agency in charge decides they would not harm vulnerable species.

    . . . "I am deeply troubled by this proposed rule, which gives federal agencies an unacceptable degree of discretion to decide whether or not to comply with the Endangered Species Act," said Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, who asked for a staff briefing before the proposal was announced but did not receive one. "Eleventh-hour rulemakings rarely, if ever, lead to good government -- this is not the type of legacy this Interior Department should be leaving for future generations."

    . . . An aide to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said she, like Rahal, had requested but not received a briefing. The panel is drafting a letter to Interior and will hold an oversight hearing, the aide said.

    In a statement, Boxer called the rules change "another in a continuing stream of proposals to repeal our landmark environmental laws through the back door" and added: "I believe it is illegal, and if this proposed regulation had been in place, it would have undermined our ability to protect the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the gray whale."


    McCain to Senate: No vacations -- But is this a reason to make McCain our new president? "Chutzpah Watch: McCain calls on lawmakers to spend more time on the job in Congress," is by Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report (8/5/08). To quote:

    . . . McCain told a biker rally, “Tell em’ to come back and get to work. When I’m president of the United States, I’m not going to let them go on vacation.”

    This strikes me as amusing for two reasons: the hypocrisy and the misplaced priorities.

    On the latter point, McCain hasn’t been “willing” to leave the campaign trail for anything, but all of a sudden, he’s ready to head back to his day job to tackle a coastal drilling bill that wouldn’t do any good anyway.


    Hatch Act Violation? -- "How Karl Rove’s Plan to Kill Salmon Led to a GOP Senator’s Reelection," by Jason Leopold, The Public Record August 05, 2008, reveals that Karl Rove may have tried to influence employees of the Interior Department regarding electing an Oregon Republican. To quote from the story:

    In January 2002, at a retreat in West Virginia, Karl Rove gave a PowerPoint presentation to at least 50 managers at the Department of the Interior to discuss polling data, and emphasized the importance of getting Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican, reelected that year.

    The way to get Smith reelected to another term, Rove reportedly told the Interior Department officials, would come via the agency's support of a highly controversial measure: diverting water from the Klamath River Basin to farms in the area that were experiencing unusually dry conditions, thereby supporting the GOP's agricultural base.

    If Rove and other White House officials discussed campaign strategy at federal office buildings, that would appear to be a violation of the Hatch Act. Recently, Congress launched an investigation into a briefing that J. Scott Jennings, the deputy director of political affairs, held at the General Services Administration. In the presentation, Jennings outlined polling data from the 2006 national elections and issued a list of the Republican Party's electoral targets for 2008. Jennings's presentation may violate a law known as the Hatch Act, which prohibits the use of government resources for political purposes.
    That investigation is still ongoing.

    Earlier dirty little secrets - A link from "betmo from CREW, Citizens for Responsibility Ethics in Washington: "Citizens diverting campaign funds to Kin," Loophole in Ethics Rules Is One That the Senate Did Not Close Last Year. It always comes back to this, those dirty little violations of ethical campaigning.

    (Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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    When is a crime not a crime?

    by Capt. Fogg

    "Professionalism is alive and well at the Justice Department,"

    says Michael Mukasey and I'm sure he's right, but just what is it that the Bush Action Team is professional about? Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, the Attorney General said
    "not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime."

    So when is breaking the law not a crime? I think we know: not when the professional lawbreakers do it.

    Mukasey has announced, according to USA Today, that "former Justice Department officials will not face prosecution for letting improper political considerations drive hirings of prosecutors, immigration judges and other career government lawyers."

    Not that it's not against the law and it's not as though there is no evidence and testimony that the law was broken. It's just that certain people are above laws meant for the proletariat. Certain people belong to the class of übermenschen. Just ask the Nazis Bush administration.

    (Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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    More! More! More!

    By Carl

    Oh lord, this can't help but
    seal the deal for Barack Obama:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, according to a new report from Congress.

    The study by the Government Accountability Office, expected to be released Tuesday, said about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes over the same period.

    Collectively, the companies reported trillions of dollars in sales, according to GAO's estimate.

    "It's shameful that so many corporations make big profits and pay nothing to support our country," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who asked for the GAO study with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

    An outside tax expert, Chris Edwards of the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, said increasing numbers of limited liability corporations and so-called "S" corporations pay taxes under individual tax codes.

    "Half of all business income in the United States now ends up going through the individual tax code," Edwards said.

    I added that last bit of the story to present a reasonable condition to the headline, but also to rebut it, slightly.

    It's true that many corporations are so-called "individual corporations", LLCs and S-Corporations where the income is essentially passed thru to the shareholders for tax purposes.

    The problem, one the Cato Institute fails to note, is the compliance with this when filing tax forms.

    The
    IRS estimates that roughly $300 billion in undeclared income just vanishes somewhere between the corporations' books and the shareholders' tax returns each year.

    At a 35% tax bracket, that ain't small potatoes, taxwise!

    Too, where Cato makes it appear that this problem is almost solely a function of the tax liabilty shifted to the individual business owner, in truth, the GAO report shows that "about 25 percent of the U.S. corporations not paying corporate taxes were considered large corporations, meaning they had at least $250 million in assets or $50 million in receipts."

    That's each, not collectively. When you are talking about trillions in revenues, $50 million is a small piece, so this is not an insignificant number of tax evaders.

    In plain English, what does this mean?

    It means that the entities -- people and corporations -- that beneift most from the bounty of resources of this great nation, its people, land, and other natural resources, are not giving back in a commensurate fashion as payment for these resources.

    In other words, they are stealing our country out from under us, and either refusing to pony up reparations or are off-shoring your tax dollars in their Cayman Island bank accounts!

    John McCain would encourage this by extending Bush's tax cuts and specifically, his capital gains, estate and dividend tax breaks that benefit the richest one percent of this nation far more than Barack Obama's middle class tax cut would benefit the middle classes of America.

    And the middle class outnumbers the wealthy, but make that case and you're declaring class warfare.

    I think it's about time we did just that. After all, class warfare has already been declared on the middle class!


    (Cross-posted to
    Simply Left Behind.)

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    Russia, Georgia, and yet another foreign policy failure for the Bush Administration

    By Michael J.W. Stickings

    Much has been written about the Russia-Georgia War of 2008 (i.e., the Russian invasion of Georgia) -- see, for example, Carol's recent round-up of reaction -- but make sure to check out Fred Kaplan's fine piece at Slate on "the Bush Administration's feckless response to the Russian invasion," from which I quote:

    Regardless of what happens next, it is worth asking what the Bush people were thinking when they egged on Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's young, Western-educated president, to apply for NATO membership, send 2,000 of his troops to Iraq as a full-fledged U.S. ally, and receive tactical training and weapons from our military. Did they really think Putin would sit by and see another border state (and former province of the Russian empire) slip away to the West? If they thought that Putin might not, what did they plan to do about it, and how firmly did they warn Saakashvili not to get too brash or provoke an outburst?

    It's heartbreaking, but even more infuriating, to read so many Georgians quoted in the New York
    Times
    — officials, soldiers, and citizens — wondering when the United States is coming to their rescue. It's infuriating because it's clear that Bush did everything to encourage them to believe that he would. When Bush (properly) pushed for Kosovo's independence from Serbia, Putin warned that he would do the same for pro-Russian secessionists elsewhere, by which he could only have meant Georgia's separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Putin had taken drastic steps in earlier disputes over those regions — for instance, embargoing all trade with Georgia — with an implicit threat that he could inflict far greater punishment. Yet Bush continued to entice Saakashvili with weapons, training, and talk of entry into NATO. Of course the Georgians believed that if they got into a firefight with Russia, the Americans would bail them out.

    Well, here's the deal:

    a) The U.S. isn't about to bail out the Georgians. Warmongering neocons like Kagan and Kristol are talking tough, and ignorantly comparing Putin to Hitler, but they have no serious and workable plan.

    b) Bush enticed Saakishvili, but he was never serious about coming between Georgia and Russia on behalf of Georgia. Indeed, Bush's support for Georgia, and Georgian democracy was as hollow as the rest of his "pro-democracy" rhetoric. That is, it's all talk. Basically, Bush set up Saakishvili and Georgia. Anyone who was paying any attention to what has been going on in Russia, and in the region, realized that this sort of response from Putin (or his puppet Medvedev) was possible.

    c) Bush blew it and doesn't seem to have a clue what to do now. Diplomacy? This has been a presidency that has avoided diplomacy whenever and wherever possible. A military response? Absolutely not -- for that would mean war with Russia. (And aren't Bush and Putin good friends? Didn't Bush once peer into Putin's soul and see a kindred spirit? Well, maybe they are more kindred than most people think.)

    d) Cheney reportedly told Saakishvili personally that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered." But what is the answer? Bush and Cheney and the rest of the tough-talking warmongers certainly don't have it.

    All of which leaves Georgia at Russia's mercy, or lack thereof, and Saakishvili (and the rest of us who desire a diplomatic resolution) to look elsewhere for leadership and statesmanship of the sort that is required by a crisis such as this.

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