Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Virtue of Inflation

I expect the Fed will continue to stimulate the economy even though inflation looms as a gigantic threat because Bernanke is a sniveling toddy who will do everything he can to help Republicans now and to Hell with the future. So, it's a good idea to learn to love inflation.

Sticking it to the Gooks
Using John McCain's favorite nickname for Asians. The national debt is over $9 trillion and growing at a rate of $10 billion a week. A big chunk of that debt is held by the Chinese and Japanese. With just a little hyper-inflation we can make a trillion dollars so worthless the national debt can be paid with the profits from hotdog sales at a single NASCAR event. (Of course, NASCAR may not be so exciting with the drivers pushing their cars around the track because they can't afford fuel.)

The Revenge of the Grasshopper
Remember that old Aesop fable? How annoying the ant was because he was "saving for the future?" Those smug people who pay off their credit cards every month and actually have retirement accounts, who doesn't hate them? We can laugh while inflation shrivels their nest eggs like raisins in the sun. Yeah, I know I'm mixing my metaphors but I'm in a hurry.

Solve the Demographics Problem
All those retired people living on fixed incomes are a drain on society. Watch them magically disappear (okay, slowly starve to death) when their monthly Social Security check isn't enough to buy a can of dog food.

Every Man A Millionaire
The best part is we can all be rich. With inflation, being a millionaire is no longer an impossible dream. We can all earn a million dollars a year, month, even a week. Sure, filling a gas tank may take a couple mil. But, hey, we're millionaires so, who cares?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Will Eliminating the Federal Gas Tax Do?


St. John McCain and Hillary Clinton, working as a team again, have both called for eliminating the 18.4 cent/gallon federal gasoline tax for the summer. That will roll back the pump price of gas by less than a fortnight. Nationally, gas prices averaged $3.603 yesterday. Subtracting the federal tax and the price would be $3.419. The national average gas price on April 14 was $3.389.

The tax on gasoline in the United States has an insignificant effect on the price. What is needed is an increase in the gas tax. For example, set the tax at $1 a gallon and send a check for $1,000 to to every car owner. It is revenue neutral but would have the effect of encouraging people to use less gas. Of course, this is an intelligent idea which puts it beyond the grasp of McCain or Clinton.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Poor Little Richie Rich

It's miserably hot her in SoCal, fires near LA and thermometers kissing three digits around San Diego is not our usual April weather, so maybe I'm just in a bad mood. I can't feel sympathy about the AP story that millionaires "don't feel wealthy" in this Republican economy.

When 19% of these gits with over $3 million in investments say they don't feel wealthy they mean they can't buy two brand new Beemers and a Hummer this year, vacation villas in Tuscany have gotten too pricey, and they can't afford to upgrade the trophy wife this spring. Sorry, I don't even have a few crocodile tears.

It is far easier for these millionaires to live within their means than those folks who are having a hard time earning enough salary to pay for the gasoline to get to work. What is causing the rich to whine is they no longer can afford the opulent extravagance they have grown used to. The gild in the Gilded Age is getting tarnished.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hillary's Good Idea

Probably the best idea she has had in the last six months was her proposal to hold a Lincoln-Douglas style debate with Barack Obama. If she had made the suggestion in February, back when it mattered, she might have changed the election. Unfortunately, now it just looks like a gimmick because that is all the offer is.

Moderator-focused, parallel press conference, pseudo-debates have become a staple of modern politics. I hate them. A year ago, June 2007, I urged abolishing the current debate format and replacing it with something based on the academic Lincoln-Douglas format. Since then a parade of incompetent, preening, self-important, anchormen (from the Ted Baxter/Ron Burgundy school of journalism) have made a mockery of the presidential debates.

Hillary's proposal should not be lost. It was a good idea. Obama should not dismiss the idea but shelve it temporarily and insist upon a series of one-on-one, no moderator debates with John McCain before the general election.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Flotsam Monster

It is an amorphous flotsam of trash floating just below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. It has no defined edges but is larger than Texas (twice as large), maybe larger than the United States by now. It weighs 3.5 million tons, more than all of the Blue Whales alive today. And it kills. It is like a monster-movie blob consuming all it touches.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch mimics lush feeding waters. The plastic shopping bags look like jellyfish. The Styrofoam coffee cups and discarded cigarette lighters look like fish until they are eaten. Birds, fish, and mammals eat until they are full and starve to death. The photo below shows the stomach contents of one 6-month old albatross.
Like any good monster movie creature, it is growing at a fantastic rate. It has been growing at a rate of 10-fold every year for the last half-century. It has even spawned. There is another island of trash growing off the coast of Japan.

"But," says the pro-business conservative, "it's in the middle of the ocean, why should I care?" I am convinced (upon no empirical evidence) that the collapse of the Pacific salmon fisheries this year is directly related to this massive dead zone in the middle of the Pacific. As this rubbish monster continues to grow it will cover more and more of the ocean and make more and more of the Pacific inhospitable to life.

Mother Nature has no weapon to fight this monster except time. It will take a quarter of a million years after we humans have died off and can no longer feed the monster for Nature to breakdown and absorb our garbage island.

The best article on this subject is from Best Life. The London Daily Mail had a short article from which I borrowed a graphic. Also US News and World Report from six years ago and Jaded Thea.

Below is part 1 of VBS.TV's video about the Great Pacific Garbage Island.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Petraeus and Iran

The reason Bush nominated David Petraeus for command of CENTCOM is to have an experienced sycophant in place for an attack upon Iran this fall.

Petraeus must be confirmed by the Senate before he can take command. The Senate should demand as the price for confirmation that Petraeus must pledge to take no military action against the sovereign territory of Iran without seeking and receiving prior approval from Congress. He should be quizzed on the Constitutional responsibilities of Congress regarding war. He should be reminded, in no uncertain terms, that the Commander-in-Chief in not empowered to declare war, that power is clearly vested solely with Congress, and that a military attack upon a sovereign territory is an act of war.

My guess is he'll dance around the subject. But, the questions must be asked so we will have grounds for future criminal prosecution of General David Petraeus for engaging in an illegal act of war without gaining permission through the Constitutional chain of command.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let's Tax Auto Fuel Inefficiency

This is a simple solution to encouraging car makers and auto buyers to invest in fuel efficient cars. Tax cars based on their inefficiency.
  • Set a target of 50 mpg (average city/highway mileage).
  • Cars doing better than this are untaxed.
  • For every 1 full mpg below 50 charge a 1% tax on the sale price.
  • Charge this tax on every new vehicle sold - cars, vans, trucks, and SUVs.
The least efficient car sold in the United States, according to the Department of Energy, is the Bentley Arnage. It averages just 12 mpg. With a list price of a quarter million dollars, the tax on this Bentley would be around $95,000. The most efficient car, the Toyota Prius, gets about 48 mpg. A 2% tax on a $24,000 would be only $480. The Chevy Silverado (18 mpg, $20,000 sale price) would have a 32% tax of $6,400.

Oppressive? Perhaps, but it is supposed to be. Right now that Chevy truck costs less than a Prius and does considerable more damage. It is only fair and proper that a Silverado buyer compensate the rest of the people for his excess consumption of gasoline that is driving up the price for everyone else. Chevrolet, on the other hand, would have a damn good reason to redesign their trucks to be more fuel efficient. It would be a win all around.

It's a pity this will never happen. Too many men, and quite a few women, equate the size of their pickup truck to the size of their penis. They feel it is their God given right to drive a two and a half ton pickup to the grocery store for a bag of chips and a cup of low-fat latte. Any politician to suggest this would not survive the lynch mobs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Earth Abides Forever

Man does not have the power to destroy the Earth. The Earth may be a small rock in a vast universe but it is still large enough to survive whatever we pitiful humans can do to her.
Mankind is not so sturdy. Humans are fragile bags of cells in a saline solution. We need the Earth to convert the sun's energy into food. We need the Earth's cycles to give us water to drink. The Earth is our home but we are parasites upon her not the rulers we pride ourselves to be.

The Earth has survived for countless eons and will survive for many more. As long as the sun shines and there is hydrogen oxide (water) the Earth will be a cradle for life. But the Earth does not care if that life is Trilobite or Sauropod or Homo Sapien.

We can continue to play with the Earth's climate. The Earth will change and abide. We can make the Earth inhospitable to our species but life will find a way. Perhaps some future species will develop civilization enough to ponder over the fossils mankind leaves behind. Perhaps they will marvel at a species so stupid, so arrogant as to foul the only planet we can call home.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Food Shortages in America

The above photo is a Depression-era bread line. It is also our future. The New York Sun is reporting that food shortages have begun to appear in the United States. They are sporadic, so far, popping up on both coasts and involve food staples like rice, flour, and cooking oil. However, inflation is part of our crisis with rice now selling for over one dollar per pound. So, perhaps, our future will look more like this photo.
This was Germany, same era. Food shortages and hyper-inflation was their economic plague. This is the crowd outside a bakery. The policemen, lower left, are telling the crowd that there is no bread left to buy at any price. Of course, that economic crisis lead to this...
Kinda make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the prospects of what John McCain, with his legendary explosive, irrational anger, will do, eh?

A great big hat tip to PissedOnPolitics for leading me to the Sun article. Thanks for the nightmares.

Wake Me When It's Over

I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat. ~ Will Rogers, 1935
For the sake of my sanity I have decided to tune out the Democratic presidential primary. I've made up my mind (Obama); nothing will change it. The candidates have said all they possibly can; there has been nothing new on the stump for weeks. The news coverage is befitting a professional wrestling bout - overblown banality. Supporters (especially Clintonites) are reaching ever new depths in delusional ravings. I've finished my curiosity phase where I wondered what new absurdity they would obsess over; I am now mostly terrified by the psychoses they fall prey to.

There is enough stupidity - war, corruption, economic and environmental crises - to occupy me. I don't need any more of that special kind of suicidal delirium that is a Democratic Party primary.

Friday, April 18, 2008

What Sort of Society Experiments on the Poor and Children?

If you don't visit Booman, this is worth a read. It is about scientists in the United States using human and industrial waste as fertilizer in poor, black, urban neighborhoods to study the effects on the soil. The families were bribed to participate and lied to about the potential side effects.

There are far easier ways to execute this study that do not include putting children at risk such as removing the urban soil (the approved method of clean-up) and testing it in a safe location. A proper study would have looked for unintended results, unexpected compounds resulting from mixing highly polluted urban soil with a fertilizer made with industrial waste. They only looked for lead. But, why do things right when you can have more fun messing with poor folk?

The Yahoo-AP story
Francis Holland's blog
The Agriculture Department's abstract of the Baltimore study

The answer to the above question is a cruel, evil, heartless nation.

Hillary Backers Unravel

Barack Obama scratched his cheek last night and the Hillaryites are livid.

I've seen this on a local level. A decade before Reese Witherspoon went postal in the movie "Election" a San Diego City Council candidate I knew was walking precincts in a lost cause when he cracked and started ripping out opposition yard signs. I've seen individual candidates break under the pressure of losing an election they expected to win. I've never before seen an entire population of supporters go mental like this.

Barack Obama's cheek itched last night. The Hillary supporters at TalkLeft and Taylor Marsh are convinced his reflexive scratch was a horrible affront to Clinton. It seems the finger used in the scratch was the longest available in the handset. You know, the middle one.

Read the comments to the above blogs and you will see what mass insanity looks like. It is not funny, it is not sad, it is frightening. These people have worked themselves into a paroxysm of hate. It is has not been enough to support their candidate. It has not been enough to oppose their opponent. These efforts have failed. They are reduced to overreacting to every gesture; to seeing consuming evil in every twitch. I have witnessed bitter campaigns in the past, I have never seen anything like this.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's Time to Get the TV Hosts Off the Presidential Debate Stage

I don't watch presidential debates, I read the transcript. The debates are a waste of time, partly because I read much faster than I listen but mostly because of the asinine presence of TV news talking heads.

The Wednesday debate on ABC is only the latest debacle. These debates are crafted by the networks as entertainment, something to sell chewing gum. They believe that informative discussions of issues are boring. They want sizzle. ABC's obsession with trivia was not unique. Remember last November when CNN planted the question "Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?"

I've beaten this horse until it is a rotting corpse but I will continue with the whip - Let the candidates question each other. The Lincoln-Douglas debate format would be a perfect place to start. It has a fine American heritage. The format encourages conflict (there is your entertainment, networks). It focuses on issues not minutia. And, this is the most important part, the candidates face each other without the bothersome interference of highly paid, ego driven TV talking heads.
We are asking the candidates to throw out the rule book that has stifled political debate. Each party's nominee would be expected to present and defend solutions in a one-on-one dialogue with his or her opponent. The moderator would only keep time and introduce topics. ~ Newt Gingrich, LA Times, Aug. 23, 2007
Newt is right about this (Yes I typed that and my head didn't explode). He urged nine 90-minute debates over the course of nine weeks. "Let the candidates pick the topics. Let the answers be as long as they need to be. Let the conversation be open-ended." The topics selected would show us what is most important to the candidates (nobody cares what Chris Matthews thinks). The candidates can wallow in trivia if they choose, they don't need George Stephanopoulos trying to lead them into the muck.

Let's try it. Please. Anything would be better than the shit Charlie Gibson, Tim Russert, and their ilk have foisted upon the American body-politic these past several months.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Visitors to the Delphic Oracle

My view is unchanged that public opinion polls are only marginally better at predicting the future than reading goat entrails. But people study them, obsess over them, and imbue them with magical predictive powers. The latest ABC/Washington Post poll offers an excellent opportunity to watch how people react after a visit to the Oracle.

Daily Kos (418 posts as I type) and TalkLeft (198 posts) are all over this poll like stink on a skunk. TalkLeft is notoriously pro-Hillary with DailyKos equally pro-Barack. The poll give Obama a big margin over Clinton.

The Kossacks have been singing praises at the Oracle of ABC and generally partying like anyone who had been told that his future will be bright and cheery - which is to say as boring as a jolly drunk. The TalkLeftists reaction is far more interesting as they are like a king who has been told he will lose the upcoming war, his capital will be sacked, and his daughters raped. The reactions fall along a predictable spectrum.

The Oracle Rocks (typical DailyKos reaction)
Wow! This is huge.

The Oracle is a lying tramp
These polls have been NOTORIOUSLY wrong. And if they DO believe Obama is the nominee for the GE, it is ONLY because he and all of his minions (that includes MSM and DNC) have been SAYING he is!!!!

The Oracle wants us to lose
The relentless media attacks on Hillary and praise of Obama must be having an effect. Otherwise how could people so seriously misperceive both of them?

The Oracle just...just must be wrong
I am completely shocked so many people are clueless. Two-to-one believe Obama is the stronger GE candidate. Wow.

The Oracle is not an all-powerful seer
I distrust national polls, especially this far out from the GE, simply because they are national, and aren't sensitive enough, eg any big spikes or dips in key states are washed out.

By the by, this last one is right. Reading polling data can be a fun game but it should never be confused with reality.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Well, Duh!

A big quake likely in California. In a stunning first statewide earthquake forecast the USGS said an earthquake larger than 6.7 will occur somewhere in California within the next 30 years.

Really? Going out on a limb much? We have had four such quakes in the past 16 years. There hasn't been any 30 year period in state history without a major quake. This is Earthquake Country, guys! Could you have made a lamer prediction?

This is kind of like predicting that Florida will have a hurricane in the next 20 years. Or Kansas will have a tornado sometime in the next decade. Or that it will snow in Fairbanks next winter.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

People Have a Right to Feel Bitter

  • Wal-Mart's CEO, Lee Scott, earned $23.3 million in 2007.
  • That come to $12,000 an hour (five day work week, eight hours a day).
  • The average Wal-Mart sales associate earns $10/hour, más o menos.
  • The average Wal-Mart employee would have to work for 800 years to earn what Lee Scott got in 2007.
  • Bear Stearns CEO, James Cayne, earned $13.4 million as a reward for driving the company into bankruptcy. That was his bonus in the JP Morgan buyout. Cayne earned an additional $38 million in 2007 for his incompetence.
  • The world's 500 richest people have more wealth that the poorest 416 million.
In 1965, corporate CEOs earned 24 times the salaries of their average employee. Forty years later, in 2005, this discrepancy has increased by 1100%, it took 262 employees to equal one CEO. Source. Two years later the gap had grown to 364 to 1. Perversely, The American CEOs who get paid the best are the ones who ship the most jobs overseas. This discrepancy grew slowly during the Reagan and Bush I years. but it was during the second Clinton Administration that the new Gilded Age began (the peak ratio was 525 to 1 in the year 2000). Bush II institutionalized it.

People have a right to feel bitter. The country into which they were born has been stolen from them. The promise of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" has been replaced with hopelessness. No matter how hard they work, no matter how faithful to family, nation, or God they are, they are worse off than their parents and they know their children will be worse off than themselves. Republicans will tell them that the thieves are immigrants, liberals, and gays. Republicans are liars, paid whores who sell unreasoning hatred as a balm for bitterness.

The real thieves are a handful of Robber Barons. Corporate executives who long ago sacrificed their humanity on an altar of gold. The milk of human kindness has turned to bile in their souls. Corporate profits no longer go to the workers whose sweat earned it or to the investors whose capital was put at risk. The profits go first into CEO's own greedy hands. If a business is successful these Robber Barons keep an obscene amount of the profits. If the business fails the Robber Barons keep everything. The employees are put out of work. The investors are left with worthless stock. The CEO takes home tens of millions.

See Also: The Wretchedness of Excess,, Times are Tough for Billionaires

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bill Clinton Said It

And some of them when they're 60 they'll forget something when they're tired at 11:00 at night, too. ~ Bill talking about Hillary's Bosnia sniper misstatements
Ah, Bill, did you just say that Hillary is old and prone to getting tired and forgetful at 11:00 at night? Do we really want to be waking her at 3am with some crisis if she tends towards forgetfulness in the wee hours? Just asking, I mean you know her better than I do.

Burning Food

Sounds silly when I put it that way but how else can the biofuel industry be described? As an environmentalist I never liked the concept of converting corn into gasoline. From a purely energy concept it is wasteful. When you include fertilizers, tractors, combines, and processing, the conversion of corn to ethanol requires more energy than it creates. There is logic in small scale recycling projects that convert urban waste into fuel. Even if it is energy intensive it has the added benefit of turning waste into a useful product. But with a global population exceeding 6 billion growing food to burn is just stupid.

The biofuel industry has had a funny, or disastrous depending upon your sense of humor, side-effect. Starvation. Food riots have broken out in much of the third world. In Haiti people are slowly starving to death on a diet of dirt cookies. Food prices have climbed out of the reach of poor countries because international commodities speculators have bid up the price of food staples as fuel for wealthy countries.

The numbers are terrifying. One gallon of corn-based ethanol could feed a person for over two weeks. A twelve mile round trip to a fancy restaurant in your macho H2 Hummer deprives 40 children of an evening meal. A 15 gallon tankful of corn-based ethanol consumes more food than the average American eats in seven months.

Soylent Green Is People. Only in a reality more horrible than novelist Harry Harrison dreamt of Soylent Green is not people being turned into food it is people's food being turned into gasoline.

See Also: The biofuel hoax, Future Pundit, Truthout

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Paranoid Xenophobe Awareness Week

Wow! To think I almost completely missed it. This week, between the end of the NCAA basketball tournament and the final round of the Masters, is Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. Was there a parade with floats and balloons?

This Reichsparteitag, the last one was during the 2007 World Series, is a time to encourage "right thinking" college students to intimidate and threaten Muslim students. Also a time to sell David Horowitz's many books spewing hatred of Islam, liberals, Democrats, and free thought. It is a time when speakers advocate waging world war against Muslims on the theory that the only way to stop genocide is to host our own genocide first.

Sounds like a fun pogrom to relieve the frustrations of all those right-wing wackos who couldn't get laid during Spring Break.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

McCain's Fabled Temper

The best personality traits for a President is that he or she is calm, assertive, and balanced. Cesar Milan would call it "being the pack leader." All the best presidents displayed these traits - George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt. The ability to stay calm and assertive under stress is vital. There is a big difference between staying calm in a crisis (John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis) and having detached disinterest (George Bush during Katrina).

The worst personality trait for a President is to be unable to control his emotions. It is dangerous to the world to have a United States President governed by fear and anger. Consider the consequences of having a man who responds to stressful situations with anger having at his command a massive army and countless nuclear weapons.

McCain's History of Rage
He would disagree about something and then explode. It was incidents of irrational behavior. We've all had incidents where we have gotten angry, but I've never seen anyone act like that. ~ Former Senator Bob Smith (R-NH)
John McCain gets angry. Not just pissed but red-faced, veins popping, apoplectic. His outbursts are both legion and legend. His rage attacks are so frequent compiling a comprehensive list is impossible. The College Conservative Movement has their Top Ten list. The AP did an edited listing of his most recent uses of obscenities. Arizona News has yet a different list.

He reserves his most violent fits for friends and family. He has called his wife a "cunt" in public. His BFF, Lindsay Graham, is a "little jerk." In 1995 he physically assaulted then 92 year-old Strom Thurmond, it was called a "scuffle" in the press. Like an abusive husband (oh, wait, he is an abusive husband) he apologizes so frequently his missive have acquired the nickname
McCaingrams, but he doesn't regret. He'll fly off the handle just as readily next week.

McCain Is Irrational
I was surprised how many people who have worked with and know John McCain call him irrational. Sen. Smith (above) said it. Paul Johnson (Dem), the former mayor of Phoenix, said, "
his volatility borders in the area of being unstable." Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) in 2000 said, "I didn't want this guy anywhere near a trigger," following a McCain outburst. Former Congressman John LeBoutillier (R-NY), "I think he is mentally unstable and not fit to be president."
The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me. ~ Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)
In McCain's world, there aren't legitimate differences of opinions. There is his way and there is evil. That is how he approaches issues. That is one of the reasons for conservative nervousness about him. ~ David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union
Even the more circumspect observations are damning.
I think it is a little scary. I think this guy's first reactions are not necessarily the best reactions. I believe that he acts on impulse. ~ Maj. Gen Paul Eaton
McCain has got a reputation for being a little volatile. ~ Gen. Merrill McPeak

Stephen Wayne, a political science professor at Georgetown who is studying the personalities of the presidential candidates, agrees McCain's temperament is of real concern. "The anger is there," Wayne said. If McCain is the one to answer the phone at 3 a.m., he said, "you worry about an initial emotive, less rational response." ~ Source for all of the above Mark Benjamin,
Nothing McCain has faced in his 26 years in Congress was as stressful as being President. If he cannot control his anger when faced with the minor challenges of daily life how will he react when faced with a international crisis that demands a calm and rational mind? PTSD that went untreated when he returned from Vietnam, he received no psychological treatment for the years of torture he endured, has been festering in his mind for decades. His irrational retreat into fear and anger is the natural result.

What worries me most is the chances of a psychotic episode. He has displayed an underlining imbalance and certainly has the history that would make him suspect. The Presidency carries the needed stress to trigger an episode. McCain lacks the balanced rationality of Barack Obama and the blithe indifference of George Bush. He has no defenses to draw upon. Unfortunately, we will not know if John McCain has had a psychotic episode until after the missiles have started flying and he incoherently explains why he has triggered a holocaust.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

McCain's 'Senior Moments' Add Up

Everybody has the occasionally "senior moment," even when young. I was much younger when I was delivering a talk about sea otters for the Sierra Club. I knew all of the scientific data and conservation goals, but all I could remember was what a TV reporter I had interviewed with called them - Ocean Rats. But for the life of me, at that podium I could not remember the phrase Sea Otter. Embarrassing. Never did it again.

St. John McCain reprised his gaffe confusing al Qaeda with Shi'ites today at the Petraeus hearing. When he last did it, two weeks ago, Brit Hume dismissed it as a senior moment. Perhaps, but making a mistake once is a mistake, twice is a habit. McCain's droning, expressionless, monotone questioning is suggestive of a slowing mind. His habit of making fundamental errors in what is supposed to be his strength, foreign policy, is downright frightening.

I suspect that McCain has not been clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Yet. But, accumulating an excessive number of "senior moments" is an early symptom. McCain has had a hard life. Five years of torture in a Vietnamese prison camp has done irreparable damage to his body, mind, and spirit. The damage to his body is evident in his inability to lift his arms above his head. The damage to his spirit shows in his irrational, violent, often cruel temper. We may be seeing the first clear signs of the damage to his mind. The escalating number of "senior moments" shows how badly his mental acuity is deteriorating.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Iraq: The Perfect Society for Second Amendmenters

One of the mantras of gun-nuts is that only the private ownership of firearms is keeping the United States from becoming a dictatorship. They believe the widespread possession of firearms guarantees American liberties. If a government rose that threatened them, the people have the individual firepower to fight back.

By that logic, Iraq is the perfect society. In Iraq just about everyone owns a gun. Not just some cheap Saturday-night Special, they own AK-47s. Heck, lots of them have 82-millimeter mortars they can lob into adjacent neighborhoods. When some outside force invaded with the intent of imposing control like, say the US Army, the Iraqis had the wherewithal to fight back. And they have, with a vengeance.

You will never hear a rightwing, Republican, gun-nut say so but what the Iraqis have done is exactly what they hope Americans will do if faced with a similar situation. Citizen-soldiers (militias) using their own weapons to fight against the government is a Republican wet dream.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Is McCain a Warmonger?

Poor John McCain feels left out. Hillary gets called a monster and a whore; Barack gets called uppity and black (but never in the same sentence because that would be wrong). Poor John never gets called anything except old, which he is. Imagine how thrilled John was when Ed Schultz called him a warmonger.

Is he? We pretty much know war means armed conflict from the Old English word wyrre meaning, well, ah, war. Monger means to promote or sell from the Old Norse word manga meaning to deal or trade. Therefore, a warmonger is someone who sells war.

McCain has supported continuing the Iraq War for 100 years. He famously sang a canticle to the notion of bombing Iran. He has hinted at reigniting the Cold War with Russia. He has promised other, unspecified wars against other, unspecified enemies. McCain is selling himself as a warrior. McCain's entire campaign is based upon the premise that the United States wants more wars, new wars, and long wars. He is a salesman for the Iraq War and a salesman for future wars.

Yep, John McCain is a warmonger

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Clinton's Effect

I don't believe polls unless they agree with my observations. The 3/31 Diageo poll confirms my opinion of the effect Hillary Clinton's campaign tactics have had on the presidential race.
  1. She has damaged Obama (McCain +6, Obama -4 since mid-February).
  2. While at the same time she has damaged herself (Obama +7, Clinton -7).
It isn't the fact that Hillary has stayed in the race that is a problem, her scorched earth campaign tactics are sinking the ship. The problem is her inability to send a positive, uplifting message.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Iraq War: Quarterly Update

The Mahdi Army uprising was proof that The Surge did not create a Pax-Americana in Iraq. The American military was taking credit for the restraint of Muqtada al-Sadr but it was not the cause of that restraint. Iraq is a patchwork of competing militias of which the US Army is just another militia.

The Peshmerga is the armed force of Kurdistan. Maybe as large as 400,000 soldiers, they are loyal only to the Kurds, and are engaged in ongoing skirmishes with Turkey.
The Mahdi Army has about 50,000 fighters. They lack the central command structure of the Peshmerga and are ruled by regional warlords. They pledge loyalty to al-Sadr. The Mahdi Army is armed by the civilian government of Iran.

The Badr Corps has about 40,000 fighters and is the militia backing for the current Iraqi ruling parties. They are also the branch of the Iranian Qods Force inside Iraq.

The Awakening Councils are United States Army armed Sunni militias, maybe 80,000 fighters. While officially formed to fight al Qaeda their true purpose is to defend Sunni communities from the Shi'ite militias and the regular Iraqi army.

The Iraqi army and police force is officially 600,000 strong but individual units are controlled by different Shi'ite militias. As such, they tend to fight only when their opponent is from a different sect or a different militia.

American Military Deaths
1st quarter 2008 .... 107
4th quarter 2007 .... 98
War Total .......... 4,013

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Clinton's Gilded Age

ABC News reports the Clinton's have made over $50 million dollars during the Bush years. That probably wildly understates their wealth.

According to the report, Bill has made $47 million from more than 280 personal appearances. That is over $160,000 per speech. He got $650,000 from just four appearances representing investment bank Goldman Sachs. He got $800,000 for four days with an oddly obscure Columbian outfit called Gold Services International. I can find out virtually nothing about either the organization, their website appears moribund, or their president, Gustavo Mutis Ruiz. Still, they paid Bill Clinton $200,000 a day ($8,333 an hour assuming Bill didn't sleep) for ... what, exactly?

The Power Within, at least, exists. They paid Bill $650,000 for a few speeches in 2005. He made a repeat appearance in 2006 and his 2008 tour speaking is scheduled for two Canadian cities. Tickets are $2,000 (CAD) with a photo of Bill and only $140 (CAD) to just listen. There is the Cayman Island investment firm Yucaipa Global Partnership, which has paid Bill an unknown amount of money to be a partner in the firm and paid him $20 million just to leave it this year. Hillary Clinton got $8 million from Simon & Schuster for her book Living History. Bill Clinton got $10 million from Alfred A. Knopf for My Life.

ABC's estimate of $50 million grossly understates the wealth the Clinton's have accumulated the past seven-plus years. Make it closer to $100 million. The post-presidential gravy-train has been very good for the Clintons. No wonder they want a second spin around the track.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Different Concept of Xenophobia

Philippe Sands article in Vanity Fair, The Green Light, is a fascinating read from which many details of the growth of the war criminal class in the United States can be discovered. For me, the final paragraph contains the hidden angst that must infect the architects of the Guantanamo torture camps. They can never leave the country without fear of arrest for their violations of international law.

There have been examples of people, Augusto Pinochet is one, who have been arrested and tried outside their homelands for crimes against humanity. Crimes for which they had received immunity from prosecution at home. Not just George Bush, whose protected under diplomatic immunity expires on January 20, 2009, and Donald Rumsfeld are at risk. The soldiers who committed the tortures, the lawyers who facilitated the crimes by crafting artful exclusions from both American and International law are at risk as well. John Yoo, for example, might be attending an international symposium in Helsinki some day in the future and be awakened early one morning by a gentle knocking on his hotel door. He is under arrest, a uniformed man explains, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

These are prominent people used to having the run of the free world. Yet now and for the rest of their lives whenever they pull out their passports they will have to think. Is it safe to travel to Helsinki, or Paris, or Beijing? Will this trip be my last? Will the time finally come when I will have to pay for my part in the obscene treatment of prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay? Fear of foreigners indeed.

Photo is of the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

SHOCKING NEWS:Hillary Will Be McCain's Veep

I got a phone call early this morning from a friend who has been active in the Democratic Party for nearly 35 years. She was very distraught. She had discovered that there is a secret agreement between Hillary Clinton and John McCain for Hillary to be McCain's Vice-President.

I will not reveal my friend's name. She says she fears for her life and I believe her. She told me how she found this out but I have decided to keep that secret because it might reveal her identity.

How It Began
On February 6, the day after Super Tuesday, Clinton's pollster Mark Penn had a breakfast meeting with his friend, business associate, and McCain aide Charles Black. The idea was born at that meeting. Penn and Black spitballed the idea to their candidates and both expressed interest. While Clinton had not yet committed to the plan she instructed Penn to do very secret polling on the subject. In a preliminary agreement, both McCain and Clinton agreed to not attack each other.

As Clinton's February losing streak began she broached the subject with the very top of her campaign, Bill Clinton and Maggie Williams. Bill wanted to move forward and secure a deal immediately, Maggie wanted to wait until after the Ohio and Texas primaries. At this point only a half-dozen people in the Clinton campaign knew about the proposal. My contact doesn't know how many McCainites knew.

In mid-February, my contact doesn't know the exact date or location, Bill Clinton and John McCain had a summit meeting to discuss the proposal. At that meeting they hashed out the details and actually put the plan in writing. The next day (this was sometime after the Virginia primary) Hillary called McCain directly and agreed to the plan.

The Plan
My contact says she has seen a copy of the plan initialed by Bill Clinton and McCain.
  • The Clinton campaign will use the remainder of the Democratic primaries to weaken Barack Obama.
  • McCain will announce Hillary is his Vice-President during the Republican Convention.
  • Hillary will change her party registration to Independent.
  • McCain agrees to serve one term as President and then step down in favor of Hillary.
  • With the exception of key media players this agreement is to be kept top secret.
The plan lists only one media player by name, Rupert Murdoch. My contact tells me that Hillary and McCain held a conference call with Murdoch in February; his consent was considered vital. Other media players known to have been informed in March are Rush Limbaugh, Richard Mellon Scaife, and Tim Russert. My contact and I agree that David Hiller (LA Times) will soon be told. These media people will be used to lay the groundwork for the public announcement and get positive media coverage afterwards.

Within the campaigns (at least the Clinton campaign, my contact has no inroads into the McCain camp) this plan is to be kept secret. Only the most vital senior staffers know about it (I know how my contact discovered the plan but I shall keep that secret to protect her). The current thinking is that Hillary will be able to keep at least half of her supporters, that their loyalty is to her and not to the party. McCain will lose some religious conservatives but Limbaugh's and Murdoch's support will limit the damage.

Obviously, this is not something that I can independently confirm. But, my contact is reliable and I believe her. I believe her anger at the plan and I believe her fear of discovery. I have done what I can to protect her including changing some of her (his?) descriptions.