Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Kill the Primaries

As this campaign season draws to a close, I feel fatigued. It's not as bad as the marathon that was the 2004 presidential election, but it's still bad enough that I find myself looking back fondly to California's 2003 gubernatorial recall election.

The "recall" aspect of the affair was at best dubious (as was the restriction that Gray Davis could not appear on the ballot) but otherwise the campaign season was mercifully short (just 80 days), no primaries were needed, and it was the most fun, exciting, and democratic election in Californian history. (Also the most Democratic: more Democrats ran than members of any other party... and you've got to love an election process where Larry Flynt ends up the #2 ranked Democrat in the race.)

The ballot gave us the choice of 135 candidates from all walks of life--famous, infamous, and obscure--and if that weren't enough, there were 23 write-in candidates. People of all political viewpoints were able to participate fully in the process: anyone with the $3,500 fee and 65 signatures could join, and candidates from political parties could submit signatures in lieu of the filing fee (10,000 for major party candidates, 150 for recognized minor parties, or a pro-rated fee based on the fraction of that number obtained).

The problem of splitting the vote could be overcome by instituting preference voting (discussed elsewhere on the blog). In fact, preference voting might even turn the problem on its head: a pair of popular Democrats might draw more votes than just one. And the issue might not even arise. Consider that Arnold Schwarzenegger nearly won an outright majority in that election despite the presence of the popular conservative Tom McClintock--and remember that many suspect Arnold never could have survived the standard Republican primary.

In the end, primaries do little more than restrict our choices, entrench the reigning political party machines, and foster polarization. I say we kill the primaries and throw the general election wide open. (I now await denunciations of my naivete from the other Citizens.)


Why oh why?

What wisdom ever dictated that California voters should vote on State Supreme Court justices? Better yet, why are we voting for Appellate judges? You can't find any real useful information about them. You get to vote either yes or no for their 12 year terms of office. Most voters figure the positions have to be filled and they passively vote yes. It's a waste of voter time.

The governor in this state gets to appoint justices, which voters end up rubber stamping. I say just pick your State Senate Committee and then let them decide. Attempts to be "democratic" are counterproductive in absence of useful voter information and some things really shouldn't be voted on.

Comments from the Citizens?


Sunday, October 29, 2006


Unbelievable! Jean Schmidt, just elected a short while back to Congress, decided it would be a good idea to let it known that she wants to consider having nuclear waste dumped in her district. I can't think of too many dumber things to say this close to an election. Wow. Her opponent, Victoria Wulsin, must be doing a jig!

It now looks extremely likely that Democrats will win back the house. The question is, how big of a turnaround will it be?


Saturday, October 28, 2006

It's ballot proposition time!

It's that time of year, where I link to a list of who's endorsing which ballot propositions and ask my fellow citizens what they think. Is there anything I should vote "yes" on this year, or should I do what I always do and vote "no" across the board? Discuss in the comments.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

CNN's Populism

OK, there's been a lot of Bush bashing lately and rightly so. But there are other people out there who are corrupting our society. Chicken Noodle News!

CNN has been running a number of brief stories that show that the populism of Lou Dobbs is becoming the editorial identity of CNN.

Lou Dobb's attacks on free trade are well known. The most absurd situation I saw was when Dobbs tried to debate former Labor Secretary Reich about the benefits of free trade. Reich was pro-trade and Dobbs was anti. Dobbs looked a fool with have informed rhetoric etc.

But the other day I heard CNN report that the reason the cost of college education, especially in public institutions, is rising faster than inflation is "rising professor salaries." The commentator even went so far as to say directly that "some say professors are overpaid, other disagree but we're talking about 6 figure salaries here." This is not only absurd, it's offensive. Salaries for professors are actually flat or dropping in real terms and have been for decades. Why are costs going up? Take a look at precious Johnny or Joan's dorm rooms - free cable, free DSL, free parking, movie nights, etc! Take a look at the growing number of non-education related perks that incoming students seem to demand. At the same time, their parents insist on endless tax cuts and refuse to budge on their own pet programs (understandable and rational). The result is massive cuts in public support for education. The universities have no choice but to raise tuition.
In a story today, they said that the average salary for someone with a four year degree is $51,000. Now, that's almost what I make and I'm a professor with a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. The average salary for someone with "some graduate school" is $78,000. That's considerably more than I make and I have A LOT of graduate school - and a lot of student loans to pay back. For this amount, I work 60 hours a week 50-52 weeks a year. My students are getting a lot more financial compensation for what I teach them than I get for teaching it to them. Am I overpaid? I could nearly double my salary by moving to the private sector. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitter about my job. I love it. I am upset that my career is portrayed as some sort of parasitic dodge. I'm in academia because I want to be not because of the glamorous life style and big money.

Today CNN ran a story with the tag line "Is College Worth it?" with mysterious music in the background and the tone of the commentator obviously hinting that it is not. Guess what. It is worth it, but stating the obvious isn't "sexy" so they made a big show in the lead up about how controversial their findings would be.

But CNN is all about whipping up a populist, anti-intellectual frenzy.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Harold Ford... Call Me...

This ad was taken down from Tennesee airwaves today. It is said to be racist. Watch it. What do the Citizens think? My reactions: (1) It's definitely sexist as hell. (2) It kind of made me want to vote for Ford anyway, as if the tagline were, "Corker: prudish stuckup prig."


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bush Gaffe Again

Today, according to the news, Mr. Bush said Democrats were “genetically disposed” to raising taxes and are way too confident.

Ummmm... What about George Bush Senior? Read his lips and W's genes.


Google Bombing

From an idea at

Thanks to everyone for the kind words about Data Point! I will be doing more one-handed blogging these days.

There's nothing particularly interesting in the extended entry.

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert


Why Bush's Lack of Intelligence Mattered

Back in 2000 when it appeared that the next President would preside over a continuation of the brief Pax Clintonia, Republican supporters argued that it didn't matter that Bush wasn't the brightest bulb in the bunch. After all he wouldn't be called upon to do much and if something did pop up, he'd have good people around him to advise him and do the real work. Or not.

Iraq has been the best example of why it matters that our President is an unintelligent man who was spoiled as a child (and adult) by his parents and their rich friends. I've seen students like Bush. They're the ones who blow off a class for a semester and then come begging for "extra credit" to compensate for the failing grade on the final exam. That's exactly what Bush is doing now. It turns out that all that talk about "Stay The Course" that we heard from Bush wasn't really what he meant. He hasn't told us exactly what he did mean (he hasn't figured it out that far yet) but he's very clear that it's not fair of the librul media to characterize his past statements as "Stay The Course."

Sound familiar? How many version of the reason we invaded in the first place did hear? First it was that Iraq had WMDs. Then it was that Iraq was involved in 9/11. Then it was to establish Iraqi Democracy. That last one has since been scaled down to "stable" in many circles.

It was the same with Katrina. His first response was a non-response. Then when he saw that people were annoyed by this, he did a lame fly over in Air Force One. Then people were still annoyed. So he went to visit his good buddy, Trent Lott down in Mississippi and promised to get him aid so that the Senator could rebuild his vacation home. Ooops, what about that major US city under 20 feet of water? Better put the image people on that one. So they set up generators and flood lights in one of the few picturesque dry spots and did the whole "look Presidential" act.

Bush consistently screws up initial responses to crises and thinks he can just start over as if his first response never happened. He learned how to do that when he was a spoiled, unintelligent little rich boy in boarding school. There were many of us (a majority actually) who saw this and expected this. But we all know what happened.

Now we have a chance to stop the national decline. We can impose accountability on this man for the first time in his entire life! VOTE! VOTE DEMOCRAT! GET YOUR NEIGHBORS TO VOTE! GET TURN OUT UP! HUGE TURN OUT!


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Nobel Prize-Winning Joke

Dr. Peter Agre received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry this year, 2006. He was interviewed on the Colbert show. At one point during the interview, he observed with some humility that a monkey could have done such and so. Colbert asked if the monkey could get a nobel prize for throwing his own feces. After a pause, Dr. Agre replied, "That's the economics prize."

That's the most awesome economics related comment since President Truman lamented, "Give me a one-handed economist!" (he was tired of hearing, "on the one hand... but on the other hand...").


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Congratulations Bell Curve!

Hi Everyone,

A little happy news for a change! Bell Curve and his lovely wife have added a new data point to the world. An 8 pound baby girl. Bell Curve reports that both Mother and Data Point are doing fine but Daddy is having difficulty sleeping.

Speculation that Data Point has already demonstrated remarkable ability in mathematics is probably unsubstantiated.



Pulling Out Could Make Iraq Worse - We should pull out anyway

OK, about the only defense of the Republican "stay the course" policy in Iraq is that pulling out would make the situation worse (this is of course granting that the only choices are continue as before and leave). But I argue that even if pulling out would make Iraq worse we should pull out anyway.

When we pull out there will be an increase in violence. It just doesn't matter when we pull out, the situation in Iraq will deteriorate. I've seen a number of recent studies on civil wars and civil wars with third party interventions and the evidence is pretty good that "letting them fight it out" ultimately is the only solution. Third party interventions don't end civil wars, they prolong them at a lower level of violence or, at best, supress them until that third party goes away. At that point, the level of violence spikes and the belligerents resume "fighting it out."

So the question for the US is not should we stay and solve the problem or leave and let the problem get worse. Solving the problems in Iraq is not in our power. All we can do is get in the way of two or three (or more!) armed factions that have already begun to fight it out. Our choice is how long are we going to stand between the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds in Iraq? Keep in mind that every day we stand there we lose young lives, money and political capital on the world scene.

This is EXACTLY the situation many of us who opposed the war in the first place predicted. Now we have to pay the piper. The question is how many dances are we going to pay for. I say the fewer the better. Start pulling out now!


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Time to Bear Witness

Keith Olbermann's commentary tonight, 10/18/06, blows the humorous one posted below in a prior post out of the water! Finally, somebody with a microphone far greater than mine has publicly linked Bush's lies - he calls them lies - to those of Roosevelt in interning the Japanese, to Wilson in the Red Scare, and to Adams in the Alien and Sedition acts. Finally, someone has had the balls to publicly take George Bush's tedious warnings that "history will judge whether we have taken the threat seriously" and ridiculed them. Instead, he said that the real threat this generation faces is George W. Bush. Yes, he said that. Olbermann is a brave man. He also said, btw, exactly what I did, that the Military Commissions Act is not about just aliens, because if they call you an alien, there is nothing you can do to get a hearing. Would this Attorney General help you, he asked? He is right. This is not just a moment to blog, or even to vote. It time to start bearing witness by risking what really matters. I strongly recommend you all watch and pass it on to as many people as you can. Speak out. Be vocal even to those in power. And get ready to resist if they steal this election.

Here is the link to text and video.


The Outside Gamble

Fusion is the turtle in the race to develop sustainable energy; it is the outside gamble that just might win.

In November, seven of the largest and richest nations in the world (China, India, the U.S., the E.U., Russia, Japan, and South Korea) will sign the final agreement to begin work on the $12 billion international thermonuclear experimental reactor, ITER. (Incidentally, the acronym no longer officially stands for anything: apparently, they decided "thermonuclear" was bad marketing.) You can find descriptions of ITER from the official ITER website, from the AAAS, and from Wikipedia.

First proposed in 1985, the giant tokomak in Cadarache, France will take 10 years to build, assuming the project stays on schedule. Second only to the International Space Station, ITER will be the most expensive international experimental collaboration in history. If ITER succeeds, its successor (oddly dubbed DEMO) should be a commercial fusion power plant up and running by 2040. The catch is that nobody knows for sure if ITER will work. It's not called "experimental" for nothing.

So far, no tokomak has ever generated more power than it consumes, but the bigger the plasma chamber, the more efficient it has become. The working assumption therefore is that if you just build one big enough, you'll get a working fusion reactor. The largest tokomak currently in existence, JET, has a plasma volume of about 40 cubic meters and produces at best 16 MW of power, only 70% of what it takes to run. ITER will have a plasma volume of over 800 cubic meters and is predicted to produce 500 MW of excess power--a tenfold amplifcation of the input power.

There are a number of physicists who believe this is the wrong approach. They worry that instabilities in the plasma field will inhibit power production; they worry about safety. They believe that the attempt to make the equivalent of a toroidal stellar core is not the way to go: instead, they believe a fundamental breakthrough in thinking--such as perhaps extremely high-powered lasers pummeling puffs of gas--might permit tabletop fusion. (Anyone remember "Mr. Fusion" from Back to the Future?)

Still, the scientific community has decided to back the horse they know best and have pushed hard for two decades to get the consortium of seven nations to pony up the billions needed for the ambitious experiment. It is astonishing to me that so few people know of this vast undertaking. Turtle though it may be, fusion is the only power source that has potential to up-end geopolitics and re-write the rules of global climate change. If ITER succeeds, November 2006 may go down in history as the beginning of the end of the era of fossil fuels. Of course, ITER will require sustained political will to see it through to its planned operational date of 2017.

Let's just hope "Cadarache" is not French for "Waxahachie."


Western Ascendance

With the exception of Tom Foley (D-WA) who lost the house to Gingrich in 1994, there has never been a Speaker of the House nor a Majority Leader of the Senate from the West. This year, if the astonishing-yet-still-plausible occurs and Democrats sweep both houses, we should have a House Speaker from California (Pelosi) and a Majority Leader from Nevada (Reid.) Just thought it was an interesting sign that the West is coming into its own politically. May they do better than Foley.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Worst. LAW. Ever.

Today President Bush signed into law the "Military Commissions Act." This formally codifies the Bush Administration's horrific practice of indefinite detention without charge, trial, or chance to appeal; it permits military tribunals to sentence people to death based on "evidence" won by torture, without even giving the accused the chance to hear the evidence against them. And perhaps worst of all, by destroying some of our most basic liberties, it makes us all more vulnerable to terrorism. Appalling.

[Update by Bell Curve] Keith Olbermann has a great take on the new law. Video embedded below. Worth a watch.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Free Lynne

Civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart will be sentenced today giving material support to terrorists, defrauding the government and making false statements becaise she failed abide by special rules the government imposed on her client,radical Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, to prevent him from communicating with his followers. She faces 30 years in prison for passing a press release to Reuters on behalf of her client. She is a wife and a 67 year old grandmother of 13. She has breast cancer. She serves mostly low-income and minority clients and is known to be quite liberal in her views. She claims that she was trying to help her client and that she was naïve about the changes to rules after 9/11. She has since repented and recognized her mistake. Her right to practice law has been stripped.

The case was originally dismissed by the US district court, but was reissued by then US Attorney General Ashcroft, who announced a new indictment of her personally. Even Ashcroft had to admit that her press release had no repercussions.

Stewart claims that she was simply providing assistance to her imprisoned client. One concern that she has is that if sentenced to 30 years in prison, she will subjected to terrorism laws that would forbid any form of communication with her family or others. It is a prime case where a US citizen, white educated, “like us” could be treated no differently than Abdel Rahman was. And in a twisted irony, it is a civil rights attorney. I don’t think such a punishment fits the crime.

I worry that this will place defenders under the same risk that journalists now face, imprisonment for doing their job. The whole thing reeks to me. What do the Citizen’s think?


Friday, October 13, 2006

Why the GOP May Lose Congress

A picture being worth a thousand words, I give you the picture and my silence, except to form my mouth into a wordless "O" of wonder.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Three Districts in Which I have lived

Hi Everyone,

I come from an academic family and academic families travel a lot - it's that kind of career. As a result I've been to more than my share of college towns either as the son of a professor who had jobs at several Midwestern colleges and universities, a student or a professor. I've lived in three Congressional districts that are increasingly interesting. These are Iowa 2, Ohio 15, and Wisconsin 8. (I've also lived in or otherwise become very familiar with Illinois 15, Indiana 4 and Minnesota 6 but those aren't that interesting right now.) All three districts have incumbent Republican representatives or are open seats currently held by Republicans and a comprehensive poll released today shows that all three have Democrats with nominal leads. Since I've lived in all three I thought I would give you a little background on them.

IA-02: This district contains a number of run of the mill rural Iowa counties. It also contains three small cities: Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids. Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa. Muscatine is an industrial port on the Mississippi with lots of union voters. Cedar Rapids is a blue collar town with lots of union voters and also home to two small liberal arts colleges. A third small liberal college (Cornell College) is in nearby Mt. Vernon. This district voted for both Gore and Kerry but has had a Republican representative for 30 years, Jim Leach. He presents himself as a moderate but when push comes to shove he does what he's told and votes with he leadership. His challenger is international relations Professor Dave Loebsack from Cornell College. The poll linked above has Loebsack up by a point. Old friends in the Cedar Rapids area tell me that the Loebsack campaign has been coming in more or less under the radar with few ads and word is they have very little money (hint hint). They say that most of the ads are for the adjacent IA 01 district in which a trailing Republican is accusing the Democrat of being - get this - a Communist! Don't worry, check out the polls for IA-01, the Dinosaur Red Baiter is way behind.

OH-15: This district contains the wealthier suburbs on the Northwest side of Columbus. The old saying used to be that politics in this district ran from "far right to utter darkness." But these people are not the bible waving fanatics that one might expect to find in such a traditionally Republican district. These are small government, balanced budget conservatives of old. They are educated, well paid and sophistocated. They are nervous about Bush's messianic rhetoric but they distrust Democrats and are generally convinced they want to abolish capitalism and take away everyone's money. Republican Deborah Pryce has been representing this district for 14 years and she is trouble now. Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy is leading by 12 points. Ohio's Republican party is having A LOT of problems. The sitting governor, Taft (yes he's related, it's Ohio after all!), pleaded no contest to a series of corruption charges but refused to resign. The Republican candidate to replace him is Ken Blackwell who was largely responsible for a whole range of election related scams in 2004. At the same time Ohio has had their own miniature Abramoff scandal involving a fund raiser for both Taft and Blackwell was involved in a fraudulent rare coin and money laundering scam. Oh, and Bob Ney, who actually rewrote legislation for Abramoff is from Ohio too. Pryce was getting some guilt by association when the Foley thing hit. My friends back in Columbus tell me it has come out that Pryce was a relatively close associate of Foley's and that may be that for Pryce. Let me just underscore this point. If the Republicans lose this seat, it could signal a massive tectonic shift in Ohio politics! It would be the most significant sign that the Columbus area is going blue and taking the rest of Ohio with it.

WI-08: This district contains Green Bay, Door County and Appleton along with a big chunk of rural Northern Wisconsin along the border with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (known locally as "da U.P." The Green Bay and Appleton areas have about 100,000 - 200,000 people each. Joe McCarthy's old stomping grounds, he was from Appleton. The John Birch Society is located here. Need I say more? In presidential election years, Republicans really hope for a big turn out in this district to counter Milwaukee and Madison. UW Green Bay is there. So are a handfull of small liberal arts colleges. But the character of the area is far from intellectual. This area is blue collar to the core. These are your typical Reagan supporting labor types. They are religious, socially conservative and have a tendency towards nationalism. They LOVE guns and hunting! Almost as much as they love beer and brats. By all rights this should be Bush Country and how! This district is open but was held by a Republican, Mark Green, before. Democrat Steve Kagen leads Republican John Gard by 2 points. Again, if this district is close to going for a Democrat, the Republicans are in big big trouble!


Oh yes, you must check this out.

The War of the Words


Well Sir, treason season started early this year . . .

The last treason case tried in the U.S. was that of Hans Max Haupt in 1947. Hans was a naturalized citizen originally from Germany. He was tried for aiding and abetting his son who was a German spy. Hans Max was sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.

The son, Herbert Hans Haupt, had been recruited by the Germans to serve as a saboteur. He and has colleagues were to blow up U.S. factories that supplied the war effort, a mission known as Operation Pastorius. There were 7 "U-boat Raiders” in total.

Hans Haupt the younger was tried and convicted of treason by military tribunal and executed in the Electric chair along with 4 of the other 6 conspirators on August 8, 1942 in the District of Columbia. It was the largest mass execution by electrocution ever conducted. The other 2 were given lesser sentences and deported.

We are now preparing to try another American, Adam Yedihe Gadahn, for appearing in Al Qaeda propaganda videos, including one in which he declared, "America's streets will run red with blood." He isn’t in custody and the timing of this is rather interesting, right before an election. You mean they don’t have another Al Qaeda number 2 to trot out for us? What a bummer.

I don’t think this Administration should be so quick to start using treason trials. That photo might come back to haunt them.

Article III Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States of America
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Article II, Section 4
The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

By turning Iraq in to the new Al Qaeda base as well as by threatening the stability of the region, this Administration as aided the enemy. By violating international treaties, such as the Geneva Conventions and the U.N Charter, and by abrogating the U.S. Constitution on multiple fronts, this Administration has proven its hostility to the rules and laws of the United States of America and its people. They have violated their oaths of office and appointment by failing to uphold the Constitution.

Again I say, impeachment first, treason next.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A new low

Every time I think I have heard the worst thing imaginable, that the wingnuts couldn't get any lower, someone comes along and hits a new low. This time, it's Dinesh D'Souza, with his new book that will claim that 9/11 was the fault of ... get ready for it ... the left wing of America. Luckily, we have James Wolcott to eviscerate him.


The Disaster in Iraq By the Numbers

OK, I'll try to make this brief.

As of today we've spent about $333 Billion on Bush's adventure in Iraq. To put that in perspective the Iraqi GDP (that's a measure of their entire economy!) is about $94 Billion when controlled for purchasing power parity (which would actually make their economy seem bigger than if not controlled for). So we've spent more than three times the entire Iraqi economy on this war.

We've spent most of that money on military actions and equipment. What has it done for Iraq's economy?

According to the CIA's world fact book entry on Iraq, the Iraqi economy is actually shrinking by 3% per year. At the same time, Iraq's inflation rate is a whopping 33% per year. All this while between 25% and 30% of the population is unemployed. And now a new, non-partisan scientific analysis of civilian deaths in Iraq conducted by the Department of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University (famous for research in both public health/medicine and international politics) estimates that 665,000 Iraqi civilians have died since we invaded. The study estimates that the death rate in Iraq has nearly trippled since our invasion. Of course American forces are not responsible for most of those deaths. But any rational person would look at this picture and acknowledge that it will be nearly impossible for any American government, and the Bush administration especially, to make the argument that Iraq is somehow better off since we invaded. Furthermore, from a purely financial perspective it is hard to see what the American tax payers are getting for their money.

This is a situation that is of Republican making. They are in majority in both houses in Congress. The President is Republican. Democrats have been systematically shut out of most decisions and when their votes were desired for political window dressing, they were flat out lied to in order to win their temporary support.

Vote Democratic in November!


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Free Silver is Back

Want some fun? Look out for the new "liberty dollar." Yes, there are curmudgeons who want to move away from federal reserve notes back to coinage backed by gold and silver. They claim it is not inflationary. Not quite. The value of gold and silver notes fluctuates with the value of... wait for it... gold and silver. The 1849 California gold strike was inflationary, by creating money out of the ground. With population growth, however, it is deflationary. People multiply faster than gold. In fact, the crazy thing about the gold standard is that, if you try to explain it to college students today, their eyes bug out. I have often asked people to consider why gold is valuable. Answer: it is pretty and doesn't oxidize. That's it. Otherwise, it was, historically, the softest, most useless metal on earth. It has some uses now for electrical conductivity, but these only came into widespread use relatively recently. The US government is finally cracking down.

The amazing thing is that there are now millions of dollars being spent on this idiotic venture. It is, of course, even if "successful," still fraught with all the problems that free silver would have faced in the 1890s.

I personally think it's a marketing scam based on the very high prices for gold right now ($570/oz). Sell a bunch of gold to roobs, then leave them holding the bag when the market tumbles.


Unconquerable Nation

The RAND corporation hsa published an excellent monograph by Brian Jenkins: Unconquerable Nation. Jenkins served as a Captain in the U.S. Army Special Forces during the Vietnam war, and he is now one of the nation's foremost experts on terrorism. In an article excerpted from the book, Jenkins argues that we have allowed ourselves to succumb to fear.

At home, we in America have spent the past five years scaring the hell out of ourselves... What else but fear can explain the readiness of Americans to tolerate tossing aside the very Geneva Convention agreements the United States had fought to implement? What else but fear could have led Americans to even entertain public arguments in favor of torture and against any restrictions on how we might treat those in custody?

Instead of scaring us, Jenkins says the government should have been reassuring us and helping us defend ourselves.
In the wake of 9/11, Washington’s continual reminders of imminent threats induced Americans to think of themselves as victims instead of protagonists... But the federal government does not provide homeland security. Citizens do. Our most effective defense against terrorism will come not from surveillance, concrete barriers, metal detectors, or new laws. It will come from our own virtue, our courage, our continued dedication to the ideals of a free society.

Perhaps most provocatively, Jenkins says that at least some of the terrorists can be redeemed and transformed into a force for good.
Those in custody should be offered the opportunity to quit jihad, repent, publicly recant. We should not let our desire for revenge or our determination to see justice done get in the way. We must be pragmatic. We are not settling blood debts... Would it not be better to try to enlist at least a few detainees as spokesmen against al Qaeda’s brand of jihad, having them tell their stories to would-be jihadists - explaining their initial illusions and their eventual disillusionment?

Jenkins writes much, much more than I have quoted here. His book is the most lucid discussion I have ever read of how we should be fighting terrorism. It opened my eyes, and I highly recommend it.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Why Foley Matters

The graph on the left is the result of the Foley scandal. But without the information on the right, you wouldn't understand why it matters. They 10/6 portions are mirror images. These Republicans aren't teflon anymore, they're greasy. That's why Foley sticks. It is salt in voters' wounds. The two issues are just one -deceit- as they feed off one another.



We need to raise hell about this.


The Crowning Failure?

The number and scope of failures of Bush's foreign policy make a stunning list.

1. Bush abandoned the Kyoto protocol, scuttling a decade of effort by the international community to build a cooperative framework to fight global climate change. In terms of both diplomacy and climatology, these lost years can never be recovered: meeting the challenge will be much harder now. We will all feel the loss of those years in the century ahead.

2. Bush let the Doha round of the world trade talks fail. Insisting on his deal or no deal, he got the latter. His stubborness will cost America jobs and will slow the development of the poorest nations.

3. Bush's war in Iraq began with a diplomatic debacle at the U.N., was compounded by a military miscalculation that scattered former Iraqi army units everywhere and left us with too few "boots" on the ground to fight them, and now Iraq has become a humanitarian catastrophe as tens of thousands lie dead and hundreds more civilians die every week. The word on everyone's lips is not "liberation" but "civil war."

4. Bush's so-called "war on terror" has failed as well. As the attacks in Madrid, London, and elsewhere demonstrate, Al Qaeda remains alive and dangerous. Osama bin Laden remains at large. Afghanistan is falling apart and the Taliban rise again, turning to ashes the lone "success" Bush had once been able to claim in the war on terror. Jihadism is on the rise around the world and America is hated more than ever before: by any measure, there is more terrorism now than ever before.

5. Bush's attempt to control Iran's nuclear program has met with zero success. His "Axis of Evil" mentality has alarmed the warmongers in Iran and given ammunition to the extremists. Mounting American casualties in Iraq, due in part to Iranian influence, reveal our impotence in the region.

Yet even so, if North Korea's small, underground nuclear explosion is confirmed,it may well represent the crowning failure of Bush's foreign policy. Recall that in the 2004 Presidential Debates, both Kerry and Bush identified nuclear proliferation--not terrorism--as the number one danger facing America.

Bush had no time for diplomacy, and abandonded everything Clinton had done. Where Clinton had held out a hand, Bush held up a finger. Bush thought he could push North Korea around if he treated North Korea as a "bad actor" and refused to negotiate. Instead, all he did was give North Korea cause for fear and anger, and he left us with no tools but bluster.

In today's explosion we see the fruits of Bush's policy toward North Korea. We would have been better off if U.S. foreign policy merely had been rudderless. Instead, our Captain looks determined to ram the ship of state into every iceberg he can find. Thanks to Bush, we have now arrived at the worst of all impasses with the North Koreans: they've got their backs to the wall and they've got nukes in their hands. God help us if they ever get their missiles working.


Gay Old Party

According to the Washington Post, Jim Kolbe (R-Tucson, AZ) was told of Foley's emails in 2000 by a couple of pages. He told them to talk to Clerk of the House. Why, exactly, did they go to Kolbe? He's the only openly gay Republican congressman. So, let's put this together. Foley comes on to teenage pages. They go to... another gay man for help. Obviously, the pages didn't confuse gays with pedophiles. Obviously, these (presumably right-wing/"christian" Republican) pages were not afraid of gay men, nor horrified by homosexual activity. Obviously, they were not told to stay away from the evil queer Kolbe, nor did they. They came to him for help.

Furthermore, these pages also plainly assumed, perhaps wrongly, that Kolbe knew Foley and could talk to him. This suggests that it is known on the hill that there is a network of gay men throughout the Republican delegation and staff, and Kolbe - being the "out" one - is sort of the contact person. Note that they did not talk to Barney Frank or the openly gay Democrats. Either they knew the politics would be deadly, or they did not assume that "all the gays knew each other," just that the Republican ones did. Interestingly, these pages must have known that telling Barney Frank would stop Foley by creating a scandal, but they chose to handle it quietly by going to Kolbe for help.

Pity he offered little. He was still more loyal to being a Republican than anything else, and did not directly communicate with Foley (it seems) or take any further steps to protect these kids. He protected his party first. Kolbe was my representative for a good number of years, a moderate Republican, and this is the first time I was ever truly disappointed in him, and disgusted. The pages thought he was a good man who would help them. So did I.


Missouri Senate Debate

I watched a portion of the Missouri Senate debate between incumbent Jim Talent, who won in a razor-thin victory over Jean Carnahan (Ashcroft's old seat - when he was beaten by the dead Mel Carnahan), and Claire McCaskill, State Auditor. This article describes much of the debate. I was surprised at how impresive McCaskill was, and how wormy and squirmy Talent was. He was asked whether GWBush was a great president. He couldn't answer. Then, for contrast, Russert threw it to McCaskill: do you think Clinton is a great president. Answer, "Absolutely I do. I have problems with his personal choices, but I've said before he's a great leader, although I wouldn't let my daughter near him." Smell that fresh air! I think she's going to win that race. She stressed her independence and Talent's connection to Big Money. She said, of stem cells, that "her faith tells her to heal the sick." Talent looked ill.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

All the king's horses and all the king's men...

According to the London Times, the Baker Commission (James A. Baker III) is going to propose dividing Iraq into three "highly autonomous" regions. I guess it worked for Caesar (omnia gallia in tres partes divisa est). Seriously thought, what do the Citizens think? I think that keeping Iraq intact is, by itself, a silly goal, insofar as its borders are arbitrary and were imposed from without by the last set of English-speaking conquerors. Still, it seems a total admission of defeat, doesn't it?


Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Constitution, Such a Pain in the Ass

I am reading Newsweek's excerpt from Bob Woodwards's new book, "State of Denial".

In the excerpt, Woodward describes Rumsfeld's frustration at what he termed the "Anchor Chain" mentality at the Pentagon. In other words, Rumsfeld wanted changes, big changes. He wrote in 2001,

The maze of constraints on the Department force it to operate in a manner that is so slow, so ponderous and so inefficient that whatever it ultimately does will inevitably be a decade or so late.

He isn't entirely incorrect in his assessment. But his approach to it was all wrong. This is part of what became known as the "Anchor Chain Memo" where Rumsfeld was laying out his idea of "transformation". What I can derive from this is the result. Contractors. Obviously, since the Pentagon was chained to its anchor, you get around that by privatizing. So we are forced to contract our work to a private firm. But guess what? The private firm doesn't really know how to do our job. So we have review their work, check, and fix it. So the government pays twice for the same thing rather than fixing its own problematic regulations, which is really a more sustainable solution. Go figure.

But here is the more shocking thing Woodward reveals. On May 1, 2006, Rumsfeld circulated a 6 page memo proposing some fixes for the mess he had created with this attempts at "transformation". This memo was called, "Illustrative New 21st Century Institutions and Approaches" (title makes no sense in English). Still deeply frustrated by the Pentagon bureaucracy (which has only gotten worse with Rummy at the helm), he wrote that not only was the DoD tangled in its anchor chain, so was the whole government, the whole world. He wrote,
"The charge of incompetence against the U.S. government should be easy to rebut if the American people understand the extent to which the current system of government makes competence next to impossible."

Yeah, I guess all those Constitutional limitations, like checks and balances are a real bureaucratic drag.

He later says in a interview with Woodward,
We're facing a set of challenges that are different than our country understands . . . they're different than our Congress understands. They're different than our government, much of our government, probably understands and is organized or trained or equipped to cope with and deal with. We are dealing with enemies that can turn inside our decision circles. . . . They [the enemy] don't have parliaments and bureaucracies and real estate to defend and interact with or deal with or cope with. They can do whatever they want. They aren't held accountable.

Wa wa. I don't see anyone holding Rummy (I could do a whole post on his poor English and tendency toward redundancy) accountable for anything. I don't see a Congress getting in his way. How can they? They are incompetent in his book and can be ignored.

Call me crazy, but, reading between the lines, it seems Rummy would be an advocate of dissolving of our current system of government and replacing it with a new one (like say, the type they have in Iraq). The man is a megalomaniac.

Bush must be impeached and he and his administration tried for treason.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Friday YouTube

US West recommended this to me and I thought I'd share it with everyone. Happy Friday!


California Gets Bluer

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a survey this week. A number of interesting findings emerged.

1. "Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to be legally married?"
Note the majorities among both Democrats and Independents. For the first time, a survey has shown more support than opposition to gay marriage among likely voters in California (albeit within the margin of error).

................. Dem Rep Ind... Likely Voters
.....Favor: 58% 27% 49% 47%
Oppose: 35% 66% 43% 46%

2. "Should immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally be allowed to apply for work permits which would allow them to stay and work in the United States, or shouldn’t they be allowed to do that?"
Note majority approval by Californians across all political parties.
................. Dem Rep Ind... All Adults
.....Favor: 67% 51% 62% 65%
Oppose: 29% 46% 35% 32%

3. "Do you think of the war with Iraq as part of the war on terrorism, or do you think of it as separate from the war on terrorism?"
Note the opinion among the Independents.
................... Dem Rep Ind... Likely Voters
Separate: 76% 32% 61% 57%
......Part of: 22% 56% 33% 40%


GOP Misses Monica

Here's the predatory behavior. It's shocking that a Congressman would flirt with disaster like this. Seems like he almost wanted to get caught. It's also totally unbelievable that his staff would not know of his predilections.


Lies of Commission and Omission

I did not believe it until I saw the screenshot. FOX News labeled former representative Mark Foley (R-FL) as a Democrat several times. Furthermore, FOX News is by far the most prominent of a handful of news outlets that were given copies of the Foley e-mails a year ago, but did nothing. If Foley really had been a Democrat, you can bet FOX would have run the story immediately as a breaking news headline. FOX's notorious bias has now become just outright lying.


By the way...

In case you've forgotten, Congress and the President removed for many the centuries-old right to Habeus Corpus last week. We all tend to focus on the latest new thing, especially if it's a juicy sex scandal. But we must not allow the really important Republican crimes to be swept under the rug and forgotten.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

National Popular Vote Update

I could only find one source where the Kindergarten Governor explains himself on vetoing the NPV bill, and here it is. The explanation is, as you might have guessed, nonsense:

This is counter to the tradition of our great nation which honors states rights and the unique pride and identity of each state
He also added that it "disregards the will of a majority of Californians", which is not nonsense, but probably wrong.

Anyway, thought you all might like to know. I have tried calling the Governor's office but couldn't get through -- I'll try again later.


A Possible Smoking Gun

OK, remember the first rule of scandal...the cover up is the fatal mistake! Well, Kirk Fordham, a former aid to Mark Foley (R-FL) who later transferred to work for Reynolds (R-NY) has resigned his position with Reynolds and gone public with information that he personally warned senior staff at Speaker Hastert's (R-Ill) over three years ago!! This is three years before Hastert originally admitted hearing of it and two years before his current version of events. Hastert of course denies this. But then Hastert has already been caught in one outright lie about this affair and his story still conflicts with the versions of other House Republican leaders - including Reynolds and Majority Leader Boehner (R-OH).

This new revelation is critical. First, it places the original notification to the GOP leadership prior to the 2004 elections. This might explain why they didn't do anything. 2004 was expected to be very close. Second, Fordham was an aid for not just one but two of the principal actors in the affair (Foley and Reynolds) and seems to have been instrumental in sounding the alarm about Foley.

Third (and take this with a grain of salt). This places the initial decision to cover up firmly in the era of Tom Delay (R-TX). Delay was widely believed to be the real power rather than Hastert. He was also widely believed to "play hardball" with other Republicans to enforce loyalty. A friend of mine has suggested to me that if it came out that this goes back to Delay's time (it now has) it might be that Delay suppressed the information in order to hold it against Foley (a libertarian leaning Republican who might be inclined to support Delays theocratic agenda). Once Delay made that choice, he would have committed the entire GOP leadership to keeping the secret or else be exposed as covering up the scandal. This is a bit conspiratorial. But given how we have seen the current batch of Republican leaders behave it's not that crazy.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Voting in the Dark

One of Republicans' pernicious schemes to depress voter turnout is hidden in the 2005. Daylight Savings Time will no longer end on the last Sunday in October, but a week later - the first Sunday in November. Election day is the "first tuesday after the first monday" in November. So the new rules put the time change (almost) ALWAYS 48 hours before election day (unless November 1 is a Monday, as in even-numbered election years 2010, 2032, 2038 and 2060).
Right now, the last Sunday in October is 48 hours before election day only during those years listed above. The only other times that happened in an election year were: 2004, 1982, and 1976 (note: universal rules on DST not adopted until 1966).

My antipathy to DST is well known by some, but this is another reason to be angry. Grogginess will depress voting, I am sure. Was 2004 a lesson that encouraged Republicans? Did Kerry lose Ohio because it got dark earlier than people were used to? DST affects northern states more dramatically than southern ones also.

Dammit, I know this is a conspiracy...


Washington Times Calls for Hastert to Quit

The Washington Times is one of the most conservative newspapers in the United States. They have published an editorial calling on Speaker of the House Hastert to resign. This is huge. The Washington Times is normally a shameless Republican rag - second only to the WSJ for partisan editorial policy. For them to turn on the Republican Speaker of the House is a big big deal.

In other news, as I listen to the radio, NPR is also starting to interview former pages and is reporting that Republican staffers were informally warning pages to stay away from Foley as early as 2001. If the staff knew, how can the Members claim they didn't know? This sounds like it was an open secret among Republicans on the Hill for years!

Finally, NPR is starting to open up phase 3 of this. What about millions of dollars Foley raised for his reelection campaign? Some of it has been transferred to national party funds. The GOP is saying they are going to keep the money and use it to get Republicans elected around the country. We'll see what this does to their base's turnout.

The story has officialy gone way beyond the behavior of a single Congressman. This is about a GOP coverup! This is about the way we have come to expect the GOP leadership from the White House on down to behave when in positions of authority. Iraq, Katrina,... now this.

I thought I was angry about these guys before this broke. But I didn't realize how angry I could get. Let this be the end of it!! Enough!


Sunday, October 01, 2006

No Reform For You

The LA Times is reporting that yesterday, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed the 'National Popular Vote' compact that would, in effect, have established a popular vote for the President instead of the electoral college. It is not clear why he has done this, and the Gov's website says nothing about it. I cannot find the veto message online yet. For whatever reason, he has waited until the last day (9/30) then buried the veto.

The interesting thing is that Angelides would not be expected to sign the bill, because (as a party hack) he thinks that the near-guarantee of 55 EV for Democrats is more valuable than the possibility of a national popular election. One reason Arnie might have vetoed the bill is that Republicans (and Dems) use CA as a money trough, since they don't have to spend much here during a presidential election. Another possibility (which the Dems may not realize) is that, in a real national campaign, Dems could massively turn out the CA vote and obliterate the current GOP advantage from small state victories.

I'm disappointed and waiting to here what the "official" reason was, also what Angelides approach is. He would do well to do the unexpected and promise to sign the bill, since that puts him in the position of a reformer vis-a-vis Arnie. But I doubt he is that bold.


Foley More than Just a Local Scandal

This Foley-page abuse scandal is going to be big. There are now reports coming out (on and NPR) that Republican House leaders, including Speaker of the House Hastert and Majority Leader Boehner knew about Foley's behavior months before the story broke and covered it up!! NPR reported this morning that some of them may have known as long as a year. If these leads turn to out to be true it would be an unbelievable abuse of power, and even more morrally bankrupt than is usual even for this Republican leadership!

This is the only kind of abuse of power, by the way, that Republican voters will actually hold their candidates accountable for. I sincerely wish this had not happened, for the young pages' sake if nothing else. But if this is what it takes for this morrally bankrupt party to be pushed from power, I'll take it!