In memoriam

Eric Carlson (1894-1932)
William Hushka (1895-1932)


Roadmap rebirth

I thought Bush did ok at this press conference:

Bush Praises Palestinian; Tells Israel of Its Duties

It was an example where his plain spokeness served a purpose. While it remains to be seen whether his comittment to the Roadmap to Peace is worth a bucket of spit, I think he said the right things.

That being said, I'm tellin ya, Bush on the bright side is an ironic animal:

"You know, maybe somebody will run on a war platform, you know, 'Vote for me, I promise violence,' " Mr. Bush said. "I don't think they're going to get elected, because I think Palestinian moms want their children to grow up in peace.

Didn't anybody tell him? He ran on a war platform. He promised violence. And he won.


aint no religion like old tymey religion

A big fat, whoa:

Judge: Parents can't teach pagan beliefs

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals.


Scott McClellan and the case of the phantom scapegoat

I have a fantastic idea. It just came to me. Why don't we all hold our breath while we wait for the administration and the right wing cheering squad to apologize to Newsweek:

Gitmo Guards Accused of Mistreating Koran

And while we are at it, do you think we will get rich betting that the mainstream media will cover the fact that Newsweek's story has now been confirmed by several independent sources, and McClellan is backing away from his claims that the story cost
Afghan lives?


A Good Compromise?

It's said that a good compromise leaves both sides upset. I haven't been following the nuclear option showdown closely enough to comment in detail about the filibuster compromise, but that's certainly the case here.

James Dobson: "This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats."

Senator Feingold: "This is not a good deal for the U.S. Senate or for the American people. Democrats should have stood together firmly against the bullying tactics of the Republican leadership abusing their power as they control both houses of Congress and the White House. Confirming unacceptable judicial nominations is simply a green light for the Bush administration to send more nominees who lack the judicial temperament or record to serve in these lifetime positions."



Wild schemes

Nobody likes high gas prices. But people seem to put an inordinate amount of emphasis on one segment of the cost of gasoline.

There are a lot of negative externalities to driving: pollution, global warming, urban sprawl, even health problems. The gas tax is the way we make the people who cause the externalities pay for the cost.

Tim Pawlenty just vetoed a bipartisan transportation bill that included a 10 cent increase in the gas tax. Maybe, as a letter writer in the Strib suggested recently, if we rename it the "gas fee" it will be more palatable for anti-tax extremists.

Like Tim Pawlenty's new "cigarette fee". Who is he kidding? I hope Rep. Ron Erhardt re-introduces the 10-cent "transportation energy fee" tomorrow.

Staring into the headlights part II

Poll follies:

- Only 33 percent approve of the Republican led congress.

- Bush approval rating hits lowest point

- Maybe that's why Fox News in Ratings Free Fall


Bush unites left and right: They agree we're going broke

George Bush has at last succeeded in uniting somebody. He's united the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution. Both agree that the financial course Bush has charted for the country will lead to the collapse of our economy unless we implement large tax increases or cut spending by around 60%. Welcome to the Bush legacy.

With startling unanimity, they agreed that without some combination of big tax increases and major cuts in Medicare, Social Security and most other spending, the country will fall victim to the huge debt and soaring interest rates that collapsed Argentina's economy and caused riots in its streets a few years ago.

"The only thing the United States is able to do a little after 2040 is pay interest on massive and growing federal debt," Walker said. "The model blows up in the mid-2040s. What does that mean? Argentina."

"All true," Sawhill, a budget official in the Clinton administration, concurred.

"To do nothing," Butler added, "would lead to deficits of the scale we've never seen in this country or any major in industrialized country. We've seen them in Argentina. That's a chilling thought, but it would mean that."

Each of the three had a separate slide show, but the numbers and forecasts were interchangeable.

Newsweek was right, but deserves it's lumps

Re. the Newsweek retraction: Spin, spin, spinny, spin spin.

- Newsweek caved to what had to be enormous pressure by retracting the story. They also have a more in depth story of how they got their facts, if not wrong, at least unconfirmed in this particular case.

- Chief of Staff Richard Meyers gave the most realistic assessment, saying that Afghan Riots Not Tied to Report on Quran Handling, General Says:

Air Force General Richard Myers told reporters at the Pentagon May 12 that he has been told that the Jalalabad, Afghanistan, rioting was related more to the ongoing political reconciliation process in Afghanistan than anything else.

- When I read the initial story I thought, well, that's old news. It is old news. It's beyond old news. Read the Nation's Newsweek was right. These kinds of abuses are institutional.

Does it really surprise anyone that, Newsweek or no Newsweek, some of our troops might have desecrated a Quoran? Why does it surprise anyone that released prisoners would feed this into the general population in their home countries?

C'mon right wing cheering squad, you don't honestly believe that Newsweek caused those riots do you? You don't really believe Newsweek's story was false, do you? You realize that a government source chickened out, don't you? You realize that if someone comes and tells you bad news and you shoot that person it doesn't mean the bad news never happened, don't you? For crying out loud, stop worrying about whether or not bad behavior leaks out and worry about demanding better behavior from your government. Recovery starts with honesty...You can do it.

[NOTE: I am not a fan of shoddy journalism. Newseek deserves to take it's lumps, just like Rather did. It doesn't affect the overall veracity of a story that has been independently confirmed since 2003.]

Normy runs out of gas, while the Bushies stare into the headlights

British legislator George Galloway ran Norm Coleman around in circles Thursday. Gallowway spared no one, especially are very own Normy, who could only muster a squirmy smile in the face of such a barrage. At least someone put the lie to Coleman's stupid posturing. Coleman obviously picked on the wrong guy to shore up his transparent attempt to advance his career by pounding the UN-is-a-bogeyman drum. A Galloway sampling:

"I met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him," Mr Galloway went on. "The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns, and to give him maps the better to target those guns.

Now, I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you're remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice.

"I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong.

Of course Powerline immediately started to whine about the treatement Norm Coleman recieved on Hardball. Oh, did little Normy have a hard time on a TV show? Well maybe it's because he's wrong.

You'd think those guys, and in fact every American would be jumping up and down over the revelations that the United States, and specifically cronies of the Bush administration, helped line Saddam's pockets in numbers that frankly dwarf the the oil for food "scandal."

In fact, the Senate report found that US oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.

If true, this makes Watergate kind of look like a cub scout meeting. Why again did we invade Iraq? Why did citizens of this country sacrifice soldiers? Why did tens of thousands of Iraqi's have to die? I am further from understanding this now than I have ever been.

None of this should be surprising. We would not find ourselves so divided, or at war in Iraq, or considering privatizing social security, or listening to US legislators threaten judges, or listening to dominionists spout visions of God-inspired government without a fantastic degree of hubris. Hubris in the seat of power always results in corruption and scandal. It isn't coming anymore, it's here. That's not a good thing. It's the course Bush set for us.


America's dirty secret revealed


This could be the journalistic event of the year, especially when we witness the waves of conservative apoplexy that are percolating in the discussion page, e.g.: "Class is a notion that helps nobody, and shame on the NY Times for waving the issue under peoples' noses." Well, like it or not folks, now Americans can start talking about this dirty secret again (after about six decades of silence), and hopefully the resulting discussion will start undercutting the pathological class warfare of the Bush administration.

Rocketboom on the state of things

Rocketboom has a great episode today. Newsweek, Bolton, war...


Wait a minute, this isn't where I wanted to go...

Back when Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin claimed that "his God was Bigger than the Muslim God, it was possible to think that he was an aberration. There was still plenty of Christian Warriors constructing a gigantic dome of invincibility over our troops, worshipers of doomsday, but I felt they were still very much on the fringe. I felt there was no way Congress could collectively lose its senses to the degree that it would seek to replace the US government's source of power - we the people - with an undefined, euphemistic deity - God.

Now reality is seeping in. We have an Evangelical Air Force. We have large numbers of very aggressive true believers who firmly believe that the President is divinely inspired. Thus we have the proliferation of artifacts that are the theological equivalent if a Velvet Elvis - only about a million times as vomitous - The Bush Fish. And we have Senate bill S. 520 and House version is H.R. 1070, AKA the “Constitution Restoration Act” (CRA):

In the worshipful words of the Conservative Caucus, this historic legislation will “RESTORE OUR CONSTITUTION!”, mainly by barring ANY federal court or judge from ever again reviewing “any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), concerning that entity’s, officer’s, or agent’s acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.”

Really? Constitution Restoration Act? Restore it from what to what? I had no idea the constitution was broken and needed restoring.

Even in the face of such imbeciles as General Boykin, I believed that common sense would prevail. For the most part, American Government has been about the business of governing - providing service and protection for the people. That service and protection were provided from a slightly more liberal or slightly more conservative perspective, to be sure, but provided without particular attention to the religious beliefs of its citizens. Now, common sense is not prevailing. History is not prevailing. What is prevailing is the incessant energy and money of the Corporate Christian Right. The Constitution Restoration Act? Democrats will hoot and holler. Some pandering idiots will even vote for it. In the end it will pass.

I do not have a solution. I believe things will get much worse before common people get sick of evangelical Republicans, their corporate christian financiers and the fantastically short-sighted laws they are passing. Once the United States is fully transformed into a belligerent society of people who do not believe in science, though they cannot refute it, who literally believe the world is ending through a series of events they are in the process of creating, who oversee the conversion of all public shcools to religious schools, who marginalize gay people and all religions not their own, after we have completely lost our industrial edge and ability to compete in the sciences. Maybe then we will wake up. Or maybe not. I no longer have much faith in the outrage of common people. I know I will get criticized by our right wing readers for saying this. I know they will say it's just more liberal sky-is-falling claptrap. I am going to say it anyway. At the rate things are going I believe I can write America's epitah:

America: she died in her sleep.


The stupidity of the few

Balance when it comes to taxes is an interesting concept. I like low taxes. Who doesn't? But I also enjoy great parks, pot-hole free roads, top-notch public schools, strong police forces, public transportation, museums and all the things that make a civilized society civil. I don't particularly care to see lots of homeless people wandering around an otherwise great city, or sleeping on my doorstep. I don't think it's all that humane to just round them up and stuff our jails full of them, either. When I grow old, I think it is very helpful indeed that a safety net exists for me and others that will keep me out of the poorhouse - even though I may not need it.

There are a couple different ways to provide these things. We can organize initiatives by ourselves, pool our personal money and hire people directly to build and repair roads, provide security (police), educate our children etc. That's the way most third-world countries work. Everything is privatized, in a sense. The more you have, the more you are able to provide for yourself. Since people tend to live in areas of approximately the same economic level, wealthier groups provide themselves with a higher degree of service. This usually results in gated communities and slums.

It is very difficult to build stability in a society in this way. Because in a privatized society shared infrastructure is built only by those with wealth, the infrastructure tends to be limited and closed. Levels and quality of service delivery also varies. One road builder uses different processes and materials than another; some neighborhoods are more secure than others; poor gather with the poor; the rich buy themselves the amenities that allow them to advance in society.

The other option is of course to establish a reasonable tax code and "hire the government" to provide certain services under the assumption that government is simply better organized to provide shared services. I believe this is the fundamental organizing principle of government: Service levels. It's why I pay tax. Do I think my taxes are too high? Yes. Do I hate them? Yes. But taxes are the dues we pay as Americans to live in and opportunity rich society that regularly invests in shared infrastructure.

This is such common sense that it should be on the citizenship test. And we should remind ourselves regularly that our government exists to provide our common security and shared services. It does not exist to make me believe a certain thing, or protect my delicate sensibilities from someone else's free speech, or legislate the inside of someone's body... In the process of providing security and building common infrastructure it also fulfills the mission of protecting our constitution. When you hear people mutter about "The American Way of Life" this is what they are really talking about. This has particular relevance to the current fake debate over the so-called social security crisis. The President's plan, if it can be called that, doesn't move to either provide opportunity or invest in shared infrastructure. It is made with other intentions entirely, namely, to change the organizing principle of American Government.

In the quote below (via Kos), Dwight Eisenhower said:

Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this--in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon "moderation" in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

Consider, please, the stupidity of the negligible few in the coming weeks as they seek to sell you their agenda. Apply appropriate pressure as needed.


More profits for them, less pay for us

Balance of power shifts to the employers:

"It has been harder and harder to get pay rises out of the company even though profits are good," he complains. Over the past year the problem of stagnant wages has not been confined solely to those working for companies that are heavily exposed to foreign competition. With wages across the nation failing to keep pace with inflation, an increasing number of workers are justified in feeling that they have been treading water, or worse.

U.S. real wages fall at fastest rate in 14 years:

Stingy pay rises mean many Americans will have to work longer hours to keep up with the cost of living, and they could ultimately undermine consumer spending and economic growth.

Many economists believe that in spite of the unexpectedly large rise in job creation of 274,000 in April, the uneven revival in the labour market since the 2001 recession has made it hard for workers to negotiate real improvements in living standards.

Even after last month's bumper gain in employment, there are 22,000 fewer private sector jobs than when the recession began in March 2001, a 0.02 per cent fall. At the same point in the recovery from the recession of the early 1990s, private sector employment was up 4.7 per cent.

In his second inaugural address, President Bush told us that "In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence." Wrong. In America's new ideal of freedom, citizens find the indignity and precariousness of living among wealthy management fatcats and CEO's who tell us "I got mine: screw you." In fact, "I-got-mine-screw-you" seems to be the central philosophy of the ownership society. I can't wait.


Which side are you on?

United Air Wins Right to Default on Its Employee Pension Plans. OK now I get it, declaring bankruptcy is still OK so long as you can screw thousands of workers who have sweated out their lifeblood for your benefit. Ah yes, I remember the good old days of the social contract, when rights came with responsibilities and vice versa. Now, we're gradually decending to subzero: no responsibilities, therefore no rights. Thanks for your time. Fend for yourself.

I hope the inevitable strike brings the company down, really. This cannot stand.


Yes, yes, Bush lied...But will the Run Away Bride still tie the knot?

It should not surprise anyone that some new/old dirt emerged in Britain's election. Confirmation seeped out. Bush made up his mind to invade Iraq before he had a reason to invade, then manipulated intelligence to fit his decision. Yawn.

Memo: Bush manipulated Iraq intel

WASHINGTON - A highly classified British memo, leaked in the midst of Britain's just-concluded election campaign, indicates that President George W. Bush decided to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by summer 2002 and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.

The document, which summarizes a July 23, 2002, meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair with his top security advisers, reports on a visit to Washington by the head of Britain's MI-6 intelligence service.

The visit took place while the Bush administration was still declaring to the American public that no decision had been made to go to war.

Don't the Brits get it? We in the US don't care if our leaders lie to us. We think their outrage is cute. When are those backwards islanders going to get it? Schiavo. The Runaway Bride. Michael Jackson. An out of control judiciary. Dammit, that's news. We wanna see more preachers on the news debating whether or not intelligent design belongs in a science class. We want to see more preachers on tv arguing about the secular assault on America. We want more tension and more shouting. Oh, and more flash. We want our celebrity pet bits introduced with as much drama as possible. The President figuring out how best to lie to the nation?

That just makes us change the channel.


From the department of unclear on the concept...

Minister ex-communicates members for not backing Bush

I kid you not.


Progressive tax moves forward

State's wealthiest are target of new tax plan. Although Republicans seem to think that taxing the rich will hurt job creation, look at what "jobs" they're thinking about: "Tom Hesse, of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, said the additional tax rate would hurt recruitment of top executives." Yeah, just what this economy needs, more "top executives." I think Sen. Larry Pogemiller puts it best: "This is a fair-share plan; these same people were the beneficiaries of significant federal and state tax reductions. Now we're asking them to help us over a rough spot." Even better, the DFL members in committee hastily voted down a statewide sales tax increase from 6.5 to 7.5 percent, which is in effect a tax on the poor.

Needless to say, Gov. Pawlenty intends to veto any surtax proposal, which suggests to me (especially after his brilliant casino ideas) he's only hungering for national office. Other Republican governors are blinking in the face of fiscal reality, but not Pawlenty. Maybe he was listening when flat-tax advocateGrover Norquist said this:

Those Republican governors who raised taxes or tried to raise them will never move up in national office. Mitch Daniels will never be vice president, not now. [Alabama Gov. Bob] Riley will never be vice president, not now. [Colorado Gov. Bill] Owens - who was a presidential contender - will never be a candidate.

Well hell, I'm all for kicking the man upstairs, so I can have a fiscally solvent state again. Progressive taxation is the fairest way to raise revenue, retain quality state services, and keep the state in the black.



Not as much as we needed, but better than nothing. Props to Rep. Tom Rukavina for keeping the idea alive in spite of all the dumb-ass time-wastin' going down in the House.

Me, I'm all in favor of a maximum wage. Hey, it's no more preposterous (and much more socially defensible) than letting a half-soused state legislature start chiseling an empty-headed marriage definition into stone.

Mitch hawks Iraqi dinar scam

scam, scam, scamI was over at Shot in the Dark because of match's post responding to mine about Minnesota's rogue pharmacists who refuse to do their jobs, and I was disappointed to see that Mitch's BlogAds are hawking the infamous Iraqi dinar scam.

Bet on Iraq is a con that plays on conservatives' genuine desire for Iraq to succeed. It's a con for a couple of reasons. First of all, they talk about the pre-war value of the dinar versus the dollar, and argue somewhat reasonably that the dinar should eventually rise to its pre-war value. But Saddam set that by fiat, and if the currency were freely traded, it wouldn't have been "worth" that much. Second, Iraqi dinars can't be traded outside of Iraq. So even if your investment in dinars does pay off, you won't be able to cash in without catching a flight to Baghdad. Finally, the biggest reason this is simply an out-and-out scam is that Bet on Iraq is charging significantly more for the dinars than they are worth. I appreciate that getting them out of Iraq costs money, but Bet on Iraq is, quite frankly, screwing people over with their prices.

But don't take my word for it.

Oklahoma City TV station KFOR reported on this scam: Dinar dupe: currency con man touts value of Iraqi money

Brad Sester explained in detail why this is a bad deal on his weblog: Just because one dollar currently buys something like a million and half Turkish lira ...

And Jesus' General congratulated Power Line for betting on Iraq in his own inimitable style...

dinar=toilet paper

Intelligent Design Proponents Lack Faith

Could one reason the US lags behind the world in the sciences be that we don't believe in science?

The idea of a school board evaluating the theory of evolution would be really funny, if it weren't so tragic. One wonders how often the proponents of intelligent design enter their car and pray for it to start? Do they fill up the tank with fossil fuels? One wonders why preachers don't use the Bible to design rocket ships. What can they possibly think about when they walk through a hall of Dinosaur bones?

What an appalling lack of faith it is to narrow the field of human invention and ideas to the degree that it becomes an apostasy to learn about the world in detail. If God is God, which I am pretty sure God is, then God is big enough to create evolution. Surely human attempts to describe the world using the gift of logic can only strengthen faith? Where is it written that we must disbelieve our lying eyes?


The assault on birth control hits Minnesota

At least two women in Minnesota have been turned down by pharmacists opposed to birth control.


Birth control is not a controversial issue. Neither is sex outside of marriage. Almost everyone uses birth control. As for the abstinence brigade, ye shall know them by theirleaders...

Get with the program, pharmacists. If you didn't want to dispense (proscribed, legal, ordinary, commonly-used) drugs, you shouldn't have gone to pharmacy school.

We live in a pluralistic society. That's one of our strengths. Not everyone agrees with everyone else, but everyone has to get along with each other. If you work in the public's service, you have to serve the public. All the public.

New Minnesota blog

A hearty welcome to North Star Politics, and not just because he links to us. His post on Pat Robertson's foot-in-mouth disease is worth a read.


Happy May Day

Every May for the last 20 years, an amazing event takes place in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood. In the Heart of the Beast's May Day parade is a celebration of the return of Spring...

...with awesome puppets...

And a great party...

(The Formerly Known play a set on the parade route.)

...But also a somber message about how we're treating our fellow humans and the Earth...

...with a call to action.